“And what has that to do with your cloud-making theory?” demanded Thor, with scorn.
“The perfect human attributes,” replied Balder, unruffled, “correspond to the region of condensation,—the cold place, you understand.”
“Do they? Well?”
“The constant condensation of the warm current from below corresponds to the taking on of these attributes by a ceaseless succession of human souls. Filling out the Divine character, they lose identity, and so make room for others.”
“What are these attributes?”
“They are ineffable,—they are omniscience,—the comprehension of the whole creative idea.”
“You expect me to believe that,—eh?” growled Thor.
“If I could believe you understood it, dear old sceptic!” returned Balder, with affectionate irreverence, throwing his arm across his father’s broad shoulders. “I say that every soul of right capacity, living for culture, and not afraid of itself, will at last reach that highest point. It is the sublime goal of man, and no human life is complete unless in gaining it. Many fail, but not all. I will not! No, I am not blasphemous; I think life without definite aim not worth having; and that aim, the highest conceivable.”
Thor, having stared in silence at his descendant, came out with a stentorian Viking laugh, which Balder sustained with perfect good-humor.
“Ho, ho!—the devil is in you, son!—in those black eyes of yours,—ho, ho! No other Helwyse ever had such eyes,—or such ideas either! Well, but supposing you passed the condensation point, what then?”
Balder, who was entirely in earnest about the matter, answered gravely,—
“I cease to be; but what was I becomes the pure, life-giving, spiritual substance, and enters into fresh personalities, and so passes up again in endless circulation.”
“Hum! and how with the evil ones, boy?”
“As with all waste matter; they are cast aside, and, as distinct souls, are gradually annihilated. But they may still manure the soil, and involuntarily help the growth of others. Sooner or later, in one or another form, all come into use.”
“For all I see, then,” quoth Thor, “your devils come to the same end as your gods!”
“There is the same kind of difference,” returned the philosopher, “as between light and earth,—both of which help the growth of flowers; but light gives color and beauty, earth only the insipid matter. I would rather be the light.”
“Another thing,” proceeded Thor, ignoring this distinction; “admitting all else, how do you account for your region of condensation?”
“By the necessity of perfection,” answered Balder, after some consideration. “There would be no meaning in existence unless it tended towards perfection. But you have hit on the unanswerable question.”
Thor shook his head and huge grizzled beard. “German University humbug!” growled he. “Get you into a scrape some day. The cloud’s not made in that way, I tell you! Come, let’s go back to the inn.”