“DEAR old Visionary!” It was the epithet usually applied to Everett Gray by his friends and neighbors. It expresses very well the estimation in which he was held by nineteen-twentieths of his world. People couldn’t help fooling affection for him, considerably leavened by a half-pitying, half-wondering appreciation of his character. He was so good, so kind, so gifted, too. Pity he was so dreamy and romantic, et cetera, et cetera.
Now, from his youth up, nay, from very childhood, Everett had borne the character thus implied. A verdict was early pronounced on him by an eminent phrenologist who happened to be visiting the family. “ A beautiful mind, a comprehensive intellect, but marvellously unpractical, — singularly unfitted to cope with the difficulties of every-day life.” And Everett’s mother, hanging on the words of the man of science, breathless and tearful, murmured to herself, while stroking her unconscious little son’s bright curls,— “ I always feared he was too good for this wicked world.”
The child began to justify the professor’s dictum with his very first entry into active life. He entertained ideas for improving the social condition of rabbits, some time before he could conveniently raise himself to a level with the hutch in which three of them, jointly belonging to himself and his brother, abode. His theory was consummate ; in practice, however, it proved imperfect, — and great wrath on the part of Richard Gray, and much confusion and disappointment to Everett, were the result.
Richard, two years younger than Everett by the calendar, was at least three older than he in size, appearance, habits, and self-assertion. He was what is understood by “a regular boy”: a fine, manly little fellow, practical, unsensitive, hard-headed, and overflowing with life and vigor. He had little patience with his brother’s quiet ways; and his unsuccessful attempts at working out theories met with no sympathy at his hands.
After the affair of the rabbits, his experiments, however certain of success he deemed them, were always made on or with regard to his own belongings. The little plot of garden-ground which he held in absolute possession was continually being dug up and refashioned, in his eager efforts to convert it successively into a vineyard, a Portuguese quinta, (to effect which he diligently planted orange-pips and manured the earth with the peel.) or, favorite scheme of all, a wheat-field, — dimensions, eighteen feet by twelve, —-the harvest of which was to provide all the poor children of the village with bread, in those hard seasons when their pinched faces and shrill, complaining cries appealed so mightily to little Everett’s heart.
Nevertheless, and in spite of all his care and watching, it is to be feared that very few of the big loaves which found their way from the hall to the village, that winter, were composed of the produce of his cornfield. More experienced farmers than this youthful agriculturist might not have been surprised at the failure of his crop. He was. Indeed, it was a valiant characteristic of him, throughout his life, that he never grew accustomed to failure, however serenely he took it, when it came. He grieved and perplexed himself about it, silently, but not hopelessly. New ideas dawned on his mind, fresh designs of relief were soon entertained, and essayed to be put in practice. These were many, and of various degrees of feasibility,— ranging from the rigorously pursued plan of setting aside a portion of his daily bread and butter in a bag, and of his milk in a can, and bestowing the little store on the nearest eligible object, up to the often pondered one of obtaining possession of the large barn in the cowfield, furnishing the same, and establishing therein all the numerous houseless wanderers who used to come and ask for aid at the hands of Everett’s worthy and magisterial father.
That father’s judicial functions caused his eldest son considerable trouble and bewilderment of mind. He asked searching questions sometimes, when, of an evening, perched on Mr. Gray’s knee, and looking with his wondering, steadfast eyes into the face of that erewhile stern and impassible magistrate. The large justiceroom, where the prisoners were examined, had an awful fascination to him ; and so had the little “strong-room,” in which sometimes they were locked up before being conveyed away to the county jail. Often, he wandered restlessly near it, looking at the door with strange, mournful eyes ; and if by chance the culprit passed out before him, under the guardianship of the terrible, red-faced constable,— Everett’s earliest and latest conception of the Devil, — how wistfully he would gaze at him, and what a world of thought and puzzled speculation would float through his childish mind !
Once, he had a somewhat serious adventure connected with that dreadful strong-room.
There had been a man brought up before Mr. Gray, charged with poultry-stealing; and he had been remanded for further examination. Meanwhile, he was placed in the strong-room, under lock-and-key,— Roger Manby, as usual, standing sentinel in the passage. Now Roger’s red face betokened a lively appreciation of the sublunary and substantial attractions of beef and beer; and it seems probable that the servants’ dinner, going on below-stairs, was too great a temptation for even that inflexible constable to resist. Howbeit, when the prisoner should have been produced before the waiting bench, he was nowhere to be found. He had vanished, as by magic, from the strong-room, without bolt being wrenched, or lock forced, or bar broken. The door was unfastened, and the prisoner gone. Great was the consternation, profound the mystification of all parties.
Roger was severely reprimanded, and officers were sent off in various directions to recapture the offender.
Mr. Gray seldom alluded to his public affairs when among his children ; but that evening he broke through the rule. At dessert, with little Everett, as usual, beside him, he mentioned the mysterious incident of the morning to some friends who were dining with him, adding his own conjectures as to the cause of the strange disappearance.
“ It is certain he was let out. He could not have released himself. Circumstances are suspicious against Manby, too; and he will probably lose his office. Like Cæsar’s wife, a constable should be beyond suspicion, and he must be dismissed, if”-----
“Oh, papa!” — and Everett’s orange fell to the floor, and Everett’s face was lifted to his father's, all-aglow with eager, painful feeling,
“ You don’t like old Roger,” said Mr. Gray, patting his cheek. “ Well, it is likely you won’t be troubled by him any more.”
“ Oh, papa ! oh, papa I Roger is an ugly, cross man. But he didn’t, — he didn’t ”-----
“ Didn’t what, my boy?”
“ Let the man out. He was in the kitchen all the time. I heard him laughing.”
“ You heard him ? How ? ”
“I — I—oh, papa ! ”
The curly head sunk on the inquisitor’s shoulder.
“ Go on, Everett. What do you mean ? Tell me the whole truth. You are not afraid to do that ? ”
“ No, papa.”
He looked up, with steady eyes, but cheeks on which the color flickered most agitatedly.
“ I only wanted to look at the man ; and the men had left a ladder against the wall by the little grated window ; and I climbed up, and looked in. And, oh ! he had such a miserable face, papa! And I couldn’t help speaking to him.”
“ Well, go on.”
The tone was not so peremptory as the words ; and the child, too ignorant to be really frightened at what he had done, went on with his confession, quite heedless of the numerous eyes fixed upon him with various expressions of tenderness, amusement, and dismay. And very soon all came out. Everett had deliberately and intentionally done the deed. He had been unable to withstand the misery and entreaties of the man, and he had slipped down the ladder, run round to the unguarded strong door, and with much toil forced back the great bolt, unfastened the chain, and set the prisoner free.
“ And do you know, Everett, what it is you have done? — how wrong you have been ? ”
“ I was afraid it was a little wrong,”— he hesitated; “but,”—and his courage seemed to rise again at the recollection, —“ it would have been so dreadful for the poor man to go to prison ! He said he should be quite ruined,— quite ruined, papa; and his wife and the little children would starve. You are not very angry, are you ? Oh, papa ! ”
For Everett could hardly believe the stern gaze with which the magistrate forced himself to regard his little son; and sternly uttered were the few words that followed, by which he endeavored to make clear to the childish comprehension the gravity of the fault he had committed. Everett was utterly subdued. The tone of displeasure smote on his heart and crushed it for the time. Only once he brightened up, as with a sudden hope of complete justification, when Mr. Gray adverted to the crime of the man, which had made it right and necessary that he should be punished.
“ But, papa,” eagerly broke in the boy, “he hadn’t stolen the things. He told me so. He wasn’t a thief.”
“ One case was proved beyond doubt.”
“ Indeed, indeed, papa, you must be mistaken,” cried Everett, with tearful vehemence; “he couldn’t have done it; I know he couldn’t. He said, upon his word, he hadn’t.”
It was impossible to persuade him that such an asseveration could be false. And when the little offender had left the room, various remarks and interjections were indulged in,— all breathing the same spirit.
“ What a jolly little muff Everett is ! ” was his brother Dick’s contingent.
“ Innocent little fellow !” said one.
“ Happy little visionary ! ” sighed another.
And Everett grew in years and stature, and still unconsciously maintained the same character. It is true that he was a quiet, sensitive boy, with an almost feminine affectionateness and tenderness of heart,— and that keen, exquisite appreciation both of the joyful and the painful, which is a feminine characteristic, too. Yet he was far enough from being effeminate. He was thoughtful, naturally, yet he could be active and take pleasure in action. He was always ready to work, and feared neither hardship nor fatigue. When the great flood came and caused such terror and distress in the village, no one, not even Dick, home from Sandhurst for the midsummer holidays, was more energetic or worked harder or more effectually than Everett. And the boys (his brother’s chums at Hazlewood ) never forgot the day when Everett found them ill-treating a little dog; how he rescued it from them, single-handed, and knocked down young Brooke, who attacked him both with insults and blows. Dick, not ill-pleased, was looking on. He never called his brother a “ sop ” from that day, but praised him and patronized him considerably for a good while after, and began, as he said, “ to have hopes of him.”
But the two brothers never had much in common, and were, indeed, little thrown together. Everett was educated at home ; he was not strong, and was naturally his mother’s darling, and she persuaded his father and herself that a public school would be harmful to him. So he studied the classics with the clergyman of the parish, and the lighter details of learning with his sister. Between that sister and himself there was a strong attachment, though she, too, was of widely differing temperament and disposition. Agnes was two years older than he,— and overflowing with saucy life, energy, and activity. She liked to run wild about the woods near their house, or to gallop over the country on her pony, —to go scrambling in the hedges for blackberries, or among the copses for nuts. The still contentment that Everett found in reading, — his thoughtful enjoyment of landscapes or sunset, or flower,— all this might have been incomprehensible to her, only that she loved her dreamy brother so well. Love lends faith, and faith makes many things clear; and Agnes learned to understand, and would wait patiently beside him on such occasions, only tapping her feet, or swinging her bonnet by its strings, as a relief for the superabundant vitality thus held in check. And she was Everett’s confidante in all his schemes, wishes, and anticipations. To her he would unfold the various plans he was continually cogitating. Agnes would listen, sympathizingly sometimes, but reverently always. She never called or thought him a Visionary. If his plans for the regeneration of the world were Utopian and impracticable, it was the world that was in fault, not he. To her he was the dearest of brothers, who would one day be acknowledged the greatest of men.
And thus Everett grew to early manhood, till the time arrived when he was to leave home for Cambridge. It was his first advent in the world. Hitherto, his world had been one of books and thought. He imagined college to be a place wherein a studious life, such as he loved, would be most natural, most easy to be pursued. He should find a brother-enthusiast in every student; he should meet with sympathy and help in all his dearest aspirations, on every side. Perhaps it is needless to say that this young Visionary was disappointed, and that his collegiate career was, in fact, the beginning of that crusade, active and passive, which it appeared to be his destiny to wage against what is generally termed Real Life.
He was considerably laughed at, of course, by the majority of those about him. Some few choice spirits tried to get up a lofty contempt of his quiet ways and simple earnestness,—but they failed, —it not being in human nature, even the most scampish, to entertain scorn for that which is innately true and noble. So, finally, the worst that befell him was ridicule,— which, even when he was aware of it, hurt him little. Often, indeed, he would receive their jests and artful civilities with implicit good faith ; acknowledging apparent attentions with a gentle, kindly courtesy, indescribably mystifying to those excellent young men who expended so much needless pains on the easy work of “ selling Old Gray,”
However, from out the very ranks of the enemy, before he left college at the end of his first term, he had one intimate. It would, perhaps, be difficult to understand how two-thirds of the friendships in the world have their birth and maintain their existence. The connection between Everett and Charles Barclay appeared to be of this enigmatical order. One would have said the two could possess no single taste or sentiment in common. Charles was a handsome, athletic fellow, warm-hearted, impassioned, generous, and thoughtless to cruelty. He had splendid gifts, but no application,— plenty of power, but no perseverance. Supposed to be one of the most brilliant men of his years, he had just been “ plucked,” to the dismay of his college and the immense wrath of his friends. Everybody knew that Barclay was an orphan, left with a very slender patrimony, who had gained a scholarship at the grammarschool. He was of no family,— he was poor, and had his own way to make in life. It was doubly necessary to him that he should succeed in his collegiate career. It was probably while under the temporary shadow of the disgrace and disappointment of defeat, that the young man suddenly turned to Everett Gray, fastened upon him with an affection most enthusiastic, a devotion that everybody found unaccountable. He had energy enough for what lie willed to do. He willed to have Everett’s friendship, and he would not be denied. The incongruous pair became friends. Whereupon, the rollicking comrades, who had gladly welcomed Barclay into their set, for his fun and his wit and his convivial qualities, turned sharp round, and marvelled at young Gray, who came of a high family, for choosing as his intimate a fellow of no birth, no position. Not but that it was just like the Old Visionary to do it; he’d no idea of life,— not he; and so forth.
During the next term, the friendship grew and strengthened. Everett’s influence was working for good, and Barclay was in earnest addressing himself to study. He accompanied Everett to his home at the long vacation. And it ought to have surprised nobody who was acquainted with the rationale of such affairs, that the principal event of that golden holiday-summer was the falling in love with each other of Everett’s sister and Everett’s friend. Agnes was the only daughter and special pride of a rich and wellborn man. Barclay was of plebeian birth, with nothing in the world to depend on but his own talents, which he had abused, and the before-named patrimony, which was already nearly exhausted. It will at once he seen that there could hardly be a more felicitous conjunction of circumstances to make everybody miserable by one easy, natural step ; and the step was duly taken. Of course, the young people fell in love immediately,— Everett, the Dreamer, looking on with a sort of reverent interest that was almost awe; for the very thought of love thrilled him with a sense of new and strange life,— unknown, unguessed of, as heaven itself, but as certain, and hardly less beautiful. So he watched the gradual progress of these two, who were passing through that which was so untrodden a mystery to him. If he ever thought about their love in a more definite way,'it was —oh, the Visionary! — to congratulate himself and everybody concerned. He saw nothing but what was most happy and desirable in it all.
He knew no one so worthy of Agnes as Barclay, whom, in spite of all his faults, he believed to be one of the noblest and greatest of men ; and he felt sure that all that was wanting to complete and solidify his character was just this love for a good, high-souled woman, which would arouse him to energy and action, sustain and encourage him through all difficulties, and make life at once more precious and more sacred.
Unfortunately, other members of the family, who were rational beings, and looked on life in a practical and sensible manner, were very differently affected by the discovery of this attachment. In brief, there ensued upon the éclaircissement much storm on one side, much grief on the other, and keen pain to all,— to none more than to Everett. Our Visionary’s heart swelled hotly with alternate indignation and tenderness, as he knew his friend was forbidden the house, heard his father's wrathful comments upon him, and saw his bright sister Agnes broken down by all the heaviness of a first despair. You may imagine his passionate denunciation of the spirit of worldliness, which would, for its own mean ends, separate those whom the divine sacrament of Love had joined together. No less easily may be pictured the angry, yet half-compassionate reception of his vehemence, the contemptuous wave of the hand with which the stern old banker deprecated discussion with one so ignorant of the world, so utterly incapable of forming a judgment on such a question, as his son. His mother sat by, during these scenes, trembling and grieved. It was not in her meek nature to take part against either husband or son. She strove to soothe, to soften each in turn,— with but little effect, it may be added. For all he was so gentle and so loving, Everett was not to be persuaded or influenced in this matter. He took up his friend’s cause and withstood all antagonism, resisted all entreaties to turn him from his fealty thereto.
Ay, and he bore up against what, was harder yet to encounter than all these.
Charles Barclay’s was one of those natures which, being miserable, are apt to become desperate. To such men, affliction seems to be torture, but no discipline. But our humanity perceives from a level, and therefore a short-sighted point of view. We may well be thankful that the Great Ruler sees above and around and on all sides the creatures to be governed, the events to be disposed.
Charles Barclay went to London. One or two brief and most miserable letters Everett received from him, — then all a blank silence. Everett's repeated appeals were unanswered, unnoticed. It might have been as if Death had comebetween and separated these lovers and friends, except that by indirect means they learned that he was alive and still in London. At length came more definite tidings, and the brother and sister knew that this Charles Barclay, whom they loved so well, had plunged into a reckless life, as into a whirlpool of destruction, — that he was among those associates, of high rank socially, of nearly the lowest morally, whom he had formerly known at college. Here was triumph for the prudent father,— desolation to the loving woman, —and to Everett, what ? Pain, keen pain, and bitter anxiety,— but no quailing of the heart. He had too much faith in his friend for that.
He went after him to London. — he penetrated to him, and would not be denied. He braved his assumed anger and forced violence ; he had the courage of twenty lions, this Visionary, in battling with the devils that had entered into the spirit of his friend. The struggle was fierce and lengthened. Love conquered at last, as it always does, could we so believe. And during the time of utter depression into which the mercurial nature then relapsed, Everett cheered and sustained him,-—till the young man’s soul seemed melted within him, and the surrender to the good influence was as absolute as the resistance had been passionate.
“ What have I done, what am I,” he would oftentimes; say, “that I should be saved and sustained and loved by you, Everett ? ” For, truly, he looked on him as no less than an angel, whom God had sent to succor him. It was one of those, problems the mystery of which is most sacred and most sweet. In proportion as the erring man needed it, Everett’s love grew and deepened and widened, and his influence strengthened with it almost unconsciously to himself. He was too humble to recognize all that he was to his friend.
Meanwhile, imagine the turmoil at home, in respect of Everett’s absence, and the errand which detained him. No disguise was sought. The son wrote to his mother frankly, stating where he was, and under what circumstances. He received a missive from his father of furious remonstrance ; he replied by one so firm, yet so loving withal, that old Mr. Gray could not choose but change his tone to one of angry compassion. “ The boy believes he’s doing right. Heaven send him a little sense ! ” was all he could say.
But there came a yet more overwhelming evidence of Everett’s utter destitution of that commodity. A mercantile appointment was offered to Charles Barclay in one of the colonies, and Everett advanced the large sum necessary to enable his friend to accept it. To do this, he sacrificed the whole of what he possessed independently of his father, namely, a legacy left to him by bis uncle, over which he had full control. It must be years before he could be repaid, of course, — it might be never ! But, rash as was the act, he could not be hindered from doing it. His father raged and stormed, and again subsided into gloomy resignation. Henceforth he would wonder at nothing, for his son was mad, unfit to take part in the world. “A mere visionary, and no man,” the hapless parent said, whenever he alluded to him.
When Everett returned, Charles Barclay was on his way to Canada, vigorously intent on the new life before him. Agnes drew strength and comfort from the steadfast look of her brother’s eyes, as he whispered to her, “ Don’t fear. Trust God, and be patient.” The blight fell away from her, after that. If she was never a light-hearted girl again, she became something even sweeter and nobler. They never talked together about him, for the father had forbidden it; and, indeed, they needed not. Openly, and before them all, Everett would say when he heard from his friend. And so the months passed on.
Then came the era in our Visionary’s life, — an era, indeed, to such as he ! — the first love. First love,—and last,— to him it was nothing less than fateful. It was his nature to be steadfast and thorough. He could no more have transferred the love that rose straightly and purely from the very innermost fire of his soul than he could have changed the soul itself. Not many natures are thus created with the inevitable necessity to be constant. Few among women, fewer yet among men, love as Everett Gray loved Rosa Beauchamp.
When they became aware of this love, at his home, there ensued much marvelling. Mr. Gray cordially congratulated himself, with wonder and pleasure, to think that actually his mad boy should have chosen so reasonably. Captain Gray, home on leave, observed that Old Everett wasn’t such a that as he seemed, by Jove ! to select the daughter of an ancient house, and a wealthy house, like the Beauchamps of Hollingsley. The alliance was in every way honorable and advantageous. The family was one of the most influential in the county; and a lady’s being at the head of it — for Sir Ralph Beauchamp bad died many years before, when his eldest son was but a child, and Lady Beauchamp had been sole regent over the property ever since —made it all the pleasanter. Everett, if he chose, might be virtual master of Beauchamp ; for the young baronet was but a weak, good-natured boy, whom any one might lead. Everett had displayed first-rate generalship. “ These simple-seeming fellows are often deeper than most people,” argued the soldier, wise in his knowledge of the world: "you may trust them to take care of themselves, when it comes to the point. Everett’s a shrewd fellow.”
The father rubbed his hands, and was delighted to take this view of the ease. He should make something of his son and heir in time. Often as he had regretted that Richard was not the elder, on whom it would rest to keep up the distinction and honor of the family, he began to see an admirable fitness in things as they were. Everett was, after all, better suited for the career that lay before him, in which he trusted he would not need that knowledge of mankind and judgment on worldly matters that were indispensable to those who had to carve their own way in life. "It is better as it is,” thought the father, unconscious that he was echoing such an unsubstantial philosophy as a poet's.
And so the first days of Everett’s love were as cloudless and divinely radiant as a summer dawn. But events were gathering, like storm-clouds, about the house of Gray. Disaster, most unforeseen, was impending over this family. For Mr. Gray, though, as we have said, a practical and matter-of-fact man, and having neither sympathy nor patience with "visionary schemes or ideas,” had yet, as practical men will do, indulged in divers speculations during his life, in one of which he had at last been induced to embark to the utmost extent. Of course, it seemed safe and reasonable enough, even to the banker’s shrewd eyes ; but, nevertheless, it proved as delusive and destructive as any that ever led a less worldly man astray. The fair-seeming bubble burst, and the rich man of one day found himself on the morrow virtually reduced to beggary. All he had had it in his power to risk was gone, and liabilities remained to the extent of twice as much. The crash came, the bank stopped payment, and the unhappy man was stricken to the dust. He never lifted up his head again. The shrewd man of the world utterly succumbed beneath this blow of fate; it killed him. Old Mr. Gray died of that supposed disease, a broken heart,— leaving a legacy of ruin, or the alternative of disgrace, to his heir.
The reins of government thus fell into Everett’s hands. “ The poor Grays! it’s all over with them ! ” said the pitying world. And, indeed, the way in which the young man proceeded to arrange his father’s affairs savored no less of the Visionary than had every action of his life theretofore. Captain Gray, who hastened home from his gay quarters In Dublin, on the disastrous news reaching him, found his brother already deeply engaged with lawyers, bills, and deeds.
“ You know, Richard, there is but one thing to be done,” he said, in his usual simple, earnest way; “ we must cut off the entail, and sell the property to pay my father's debts. It is a hard thing to do,— to part with the old place; but it would be worse, bitterer pain and crueler shame, to hold it, with the money that, whatever the worldly code of morality may say, is not ours. There must be no widows and orphans reduced to poverty through us. Thank God, there will be enough produced by the sale of the estate to clear off every liability, — to the last shilling. You feel with me in this matter ? ” he went on, confidently appealing to his brother; yet with a certain inflection of anxiety in his voice. It would have wounded Everett cruelly, had he been misunderstood or rebuffed in this. “ You have your commission, and Uncle Everett’s legacy, and the reversion of my mother’s fortune, which will not be touched. This act of justice, therefore, can injure no one.”
“ Except yourself, — yourself, old fellow,” said Richard, moved, in spite of his light nature. He grasped his brother’s hand. “ It’s a noble thing to do; but have you considered how it will affect your future? You, with neither fortune nor profession, —how do you propose to live? And your marriage, — the Beauchamps will never consent to Rosa becoming the wife of a — a ”-
“ Not a beggar, Richard,” Everett said, smiling, “ if that was the word you hesitated about; no, I shall be no beggar. I have plans for my own future;—-you shall know of them. Our marriage will, of course, be delayed. I must work, to win a home and position for my wife.” He paused,—looked up bravely,— “It is no harder fate than falls to most men. And for Rosa, — true love, true woman as she is, she helps me, she encourages me in all I do and purpose.”
Captain Gray shrugged his shoulders. “Two mad young people!” he thought to himself. “ They never think of consequences, and it’s of no use warning them, I suppose.”
No. It would have been useless to “warn” or advise Everett against doing this thing, which he held to be simply his duty. And it was the characteristic of our Visionary, that, when he saw a Duty so placed before him, he knew no other course than straightly to pursue it, looking neither to the right hand nor to the left, unprevented by obstacles, and fearless of consequences.
So in this case. His brother advised a temporizing course, — to mortgage the estate, for instance, and pay a moiety of the debts. It was surely all that could be expected from a man who had not actually incurred them. And then he might still be the nominal owner of Hazlewood, -—he might still marry Rosa.
“ While, if you do as you propose,” argued the Captain, “ (and you know, of course, old fellow, I fully appreciate your noble and honorable feeling in the matter,) you ruin your own hopes; and I can’t see that a fellow is called upon to do that, as a point of filial duty. What are you to do ? that’s the thing. It isn’t as though you had anything to fall back upon, by Jove ! It’s a case of beggaring yourself”-----
“ Instead of beggaring other people,” Everett Said. “ No, Richard,— I cannot see either the justice or the wisdom of what you propose. I will not cast the burden on other shoulders. As my father’s representative, I must abide the penalty of his mistake,—and I only. I cannot rest while our name is as the catchword of ruin and misery to thousands around us, less able to bear both, perhaps, than I, who am young and strong., — able to work both with head and hands.”
“ But think of Rosa !” said his brother. “ How do you get over that ? Isn’t her happiness worth some consideration ?”
“ It has been my thought, night and day, ever since,” Everett said, in a low voice. “ It has come between me and what I felt to be the Right, more than once. You don’t know what that thought has been, or you would not challenge it against me now.”
“ Well, well,—I only want you to look on all sides of what you are about to do, and to count the cost beforehand.”
Everett smiled quietly. As if “ the cost” were not already counted, felt, and suffered in that deep heart of his ! But he said nothing.
“ In the next place, what do you propose to do ? ” pursued his brother. "Will you enter a profession ? Can’t say you’re much adapted for a lawyer; and perhaps you’re too tender-hearted for a doctor, either. But I remember, as a boy, you always said you should like to be a clergyman. And, by Jove ! when one comes to think of it, you’ve a good deal of the cut of the village priest about you. What do you say to that ? ”
“ Nothing. I have other plans.” And Everett proceeded briefly to tell him these. He had heard from Charles Barclay, now high in the confidence of one of the leading mercantile firms of Montreal; and through him, he had obtained the offer of an appointment in the same house.
Richard Gray listened to all this, with ill-concealed amusement twitching the corners of his mouth. He thought the idea of his brother’s turning man-of-business one of the “ richest ” he had ever heard.
“ With your hard head and shrewd notions, I should say you were likely to make a sensation in the mercantile world.” he observed. “ It’s a hopeful scheme, altogether. Oh, hang it ! ” proceeding from sarcasm to remonstrance, “ that’ll never do, Everett! You'll be getting into some precious scrape or other. You’re not the fellow for a merchant’s office, trust me. Now something in the way of a government appointment is much more like it. A pleasant, poetical sort of sinecure, — there are lots of them to be had. You just trundle down for an hour or two everyday, write letters, or poems, or whatever you like, with the official stationery, and receive your salary quarterly, You can’t do any mischief in a place like that. Now that’s the sort of thing for you, — if one could get hold of some of those fellows in power. “ Why ! ” brightening with the sudden flash of an idea, "there are the Beauchamps themselves ! They’ve a legion of influential relatives. Couldn’t they get you into a snug berth ? Oh, the Devil! ”—for Everett’s look was not to be mistaken,— “if you bring your high-flown ideas of dignity and independence into this plain, practical question of subsistence, it’s all up with you. Do you mean to tell me that you seriously think of this Canada scheme ? ”
“Have you informed Lady Beauchamp of your intention of becoming a merchant’s clerk ? I should like to see her face when you tell her; she’s such a shrewd old soul; and when a woman does take to the sharp and worldly style of thing, it’s the very deuse ! Expect no indulgence in that quarter.”
“ I don’t ask it. Rosa, of course, cannot become my wife till I am able to give her a worthy home. Her mother will not wish to cancel our engagement in the mean time.”
“The dense she won’t! Trust her ! ” the consolatory brother rejoined. "Why, it will be her first natural step. The idea of her daughter betrothed to a merchant’s clerk is preposterous on the face of it. You yourself must see that.”
“No, I don’t,” Everett said, smiling.
“ Oh, I suppose you intend to make a large fortune in a twelvemonth, and then return and marry?”
“No, — but in ten years,— less than that, God helping me,—if I live, I will return and marry Rosa.”
“ You don’t say so ? And poor little Rosa is to wait patiently for you all that time ! By Jove ! a modest expectation of yours ! It’s a likely notion that Miss Beauchamp will remain unmarried for ten years, because you choose to go to Canada.”
“ She will never marry, if she does not marry me,” Everett said, with simple gravity. “ It is not alone the outward sacrament of marriage that sanctifies a union. The diviner and more vital consecration that binds us together, it is too late, now, to seek to undo.”
“ Oh, hang it! It’s of no use talking poetry to me. I don’t understand that sort of thing,” Captain Gray frankly said. “I’ll tell you what, — it'll never do to take those transcendental ideas with you into the world. All very well to poetize and maunder about in quiet Hazlewood ; but, by Jove ! you’ll find it won’t do in practical life. Take my word for it, if you go to Canada, long before the ten years are out, Rosa Beauchamp will be wooed and won over again. ’Tisn’t in nature that it should be otherwise. In books, very likely, those sort of things happen often enough, — but not in real life, my dear fellow, I assure you. When you return, it will be to find her a thriving matron, doing the honors of one of the neighboring mansions. Make up your mind to that. Foresee your future, before you decide.”
Everett smiled, sadly, but trustfully. His brother’s arguments neither persuaded nor disturbed him. He stood very quiet and thoughtful. Visionary-like, he saw pictures of the future, indeed, — but very different from the one just drawn. He was not afraid.
And Captain Gray left him unconvinced and unmoved. It was not probable the two brothers would see this matter in the same light. They stood on different levels. They must be content to differ.
The next conference on the subject was between Everett and Lady Beauchamp ; and the mother of Rosa was, it must be admitted, a rather formidable person to encounter in such wise. She was a busy, clever, worldly woman,— kindhearted, too, and with both a strong will and strong affections. She was one of those people in whom even an astute observer might often be deceived, by failing to give her credit for certain good qualities which are commonly coexistent with worldliness, — especially in a woman. There was a spice of something better latent amid her shrewdness and hard-headed sagacity; the echo of more generous aspirations lingered through all the noise of this earth’s Babel in her heart. And so, when she heard of Everett’s resolve to pay his father’s debts by parting with the property, her better and higher nature warmed to the young man; and though she protested against his Quixotism, and frowned, and talked of prudence, and so forth, her busy brain was, in fact, all the while setting itself to work for his benefit. She was, in a way, fond of the young man. No woman is quite insensible to that chivalrous deference which a Visionary like Everett always manifests to womanhood, collective and individual. And though she certainly held him to be rash, foolish, unfit to deal with the world, “poetical,” (a capital crime in her eyes,) and dreamy, she yet liked him, and was glad to discover a plan whereby the objections to his marriage with her daughter, under the present adverse circumstances, might be smoothed away.
She was sitting at her big desk, strewn with accounts, in the sober-looking library where she always spent her mornings, and she rose to receive her prospective son-in-law, with an aspect serious and business-like, yet not stern.
“ Well, my dear Everett, what is all this that I hear about you ? A very, very sad affair, of course ; but you must come and tell me how you intend to act. Yes, yes,—I’ve heard something about it; but I don’t quite understand the state of the case. I want to have a talk with you.”
And she leaned her comely face upon her plump, white hand, while gravely listening to Everett's brief statement of what he had already done, and what were his plans for the future.
“You will sell Hazlewood, pay your father’s debts, and begin life on your own account, by going to Canada and becoming a merchant's clerk!” She then recapitulated his plans in a sharp, pitiless tone. “ Very well! and we have only to bid you good-bye and wish you success. Is it so ? For it appears to me that my daughter is left entirely out of your calculations, and very properly so. You cannot, as a merchant's clerk on a hundred a year, marry Rosa Beauchamp, I presume.”
“ No,” Everett said, steadily, and holding her, as it were, with his earnest eyes, “ I cannot have Rosa for my wife till I am able to give her a home worthy of her; but you will not refuse to sanction our engagement during the years in which I shall work for that home ? ”
Lady Beauchamp tapped the table with her fingers in an ominous manner.
“ Long engagements are most unsatisfactory, silly, not to say dangerous things. They never end well. No man ought to wish so to bind a young girl, unless he has a reasonable chance of soon being in a position to marry her. Now I ask you, have you such a chance ? If you go to Canada, it may be years before you return. Just look at the thing in a common-sense light, and tell me, can you expect my daughter to wait an indefinite time, while you go to seek and make your fortune ? ”
She looked at him with an air of bland candor, while thus appealing to his “ common sense.” Everett’s aspect remained unchanged, however, in its calm steadfastness.
“ I would not bind her,” he said, “unless she herself felt it would be a comfort and a help, in some sort, during the weary years of separation, so to be bound. And that she does feel it, you know, Lady Beauchamp.”
“ My dear Sir, you are not talking reasonably,” she rejoined, impatiently. “A young girl like Rosa, in love for the first time, of course wishes to be bound, as you say, to the object of her first love. But it would be doing her a cruel injustice to take her at her word. Surely you feel that ? It is very true, she might not forget you for six months, or more, perhaps. But, in the course of time, as she enters on life and sees more of the world and of people, it is simply impossible that she should remain constant to a dreamy attachment to some one thousands of miles away. She would inevitably wish to form other ties; and then the engagement that she desires to-day would be the blight and burden other life. No. I say it is a cruel injustice to let young people decide for themselves on such a point. Half the misery in the world springs from these mistakes. Think over the matter coolly, and you will see it as I do.”
“ It is you who do Rosa injustice,” Everett answered, and paused. “ Were it to be as you wish,” he added, “ and we to separate utterly, with no outwardly acknowledged tie to link us, no letters to pass between us, no word or sign from one to the other during all the coming years,—suppose it so,—-you would shadow our lives with much unnecessary misery; but you are mistaken, if you think you would really part us. You do not understand.”
“ Nonsense ! You talk like a young man in love. You must be reasonable.”
Lady Beauchamp, by this time, had worked herself into the usual warmth with which she argued all questions, great and small, and forgot that her original intention in speaking to Everett had only been to set before him the disadvantages of his plans, in order that her own might come to the rescue with still greater brilliancy and effect.
“You must be reasonable,” she repeated. “ You don’t suppose I have not my child’s happiness at heart in all I plan and purpose ? Trust me, I have had more experience of life than either of you, and it is for me to interpose between you and the dangers you would blindly rush upon. Some day you will both thank me for having done so, hard and cruel as you may think me now.”
“ No, I do not think you either hard or cruel. You are mistaken, simply. I believe you desire our happiness. I do not reproach or blame you, Lady Beauchamp,” Everett said, sadly.
“ Come, come,” she cried, touched by his look and manner to an immediate unfolding of her scheme, “ let us look at things again. Perhaps we shall not find them so hopeless as they look. If I am prudent, Everett, I am not mercenary. I only want to see Rosa happy. I don’t care whether it is on hundreds a year, or thousands. And the fact is, I have not condemned your plans without having a more satisfactory one to offer to your choice. Listen to me,”
And she proceeded, with a cleared brow, and the complacency of one who feels she is performing the part of a good genius, setting everything to rights, and making everybody comfortable, to unfold the plan she had devised, by which Everett’s future was to be secured, and his marriage with Rosa looked to as something better than a misty uncertainty at the end of a vista of years.
Everett must go into the Church. That was, in fact, the profession most suited to him, and which most naturally offered itself for his acceptance. His education, his tastes, his habits, all suited him for such a career. By a happy coincidence, too, it was one in which Lady Beauchamp could most importantly assist him through her connections. Her eldest son, the young baronet, bad preferment in his own gift, which was to say, in hers; and not only this, but her sister’s husband, the uncle of Rosa, was a bishop, and one over whom she, Lady Beauchamp, had some influence. Once in orders, Everett’s prosperity was assured. The present incumbent of Hollingsley was aged; by the time Everett was eligible, he might, in all probability, be inducted into that living, and Rosa might then become his wife. Five hundred a year, beside Miss Beauchamp's dowry, with such shining prospects of preferment to look forward to, was not an unwise commencement; for Rosa was no mere fine lady, the proud mother said,—she was sensible and prudent; she would adapt herself to circumstances. And though, of course, it was not such an establishment as she well might expect for her daughter, still, since the young people loved one another, and thought they could be happy under these reduced circumstances, she would not be too exacting. And Lady Beauchamp at last paused, and looked in Everett’s face for some manifestation of his joy.
Well,— of his gratitude there could be no question. The tears stood in his earnest eyes, as he took Lady Beauchamp’s hand and thanked her,— thanked her again and again.
“There, there, you foolish boy! I don’t want thanks,” cried she, coloring with pleasure though, as she spoke. “ My only wish is to see you two children happy. I am fond of you, Everett; I shall like to see you my son,” she said. “ I have tried to smooth the way for you, as far as I can, over the many difficulties that obstruct it; and I fancy I have succeeded. What do you say to my plan ? When can you be ordained ? ”
Everett sighed, as he released her hand, and looked at her face, now flushed with generous, kindly warmth. Well he knew the bitter change that would come over that face,—the passion of disappointment and displeasure which would follow his answer to that question.
He could never enter the Church. Sorrowfully, but firmly, he said it,—with that calm, steady voice and look, of which all who knew him knew the significance. He could not take orders.
Lady Beauchamp, at first utterly overwhelmed and dumfbunded, stood staring at him in blank silence. Then she icily uttered a few words. His reasons,— might she ask ?
They were many, Everett said. Even if no other hindrance existed, in his own mind and opinions, his reverence, for so sacred an office would not permit him to embrace it as a mere matter of worldly advantage to himself.
“ Grant me patience, young man ! Do you mean to tell me you would decline this career because it promises to put an end to your difficulties ? Are you quite a fool ? ” the lady burst out, astonishment and anger quite startling her from all control.
“ Bear with what may at first seem to you only folly,” Everett answered her, gently. “ I don’t think your calmer judgment can call it so. "Would you have me take upon myself obligations that I feel to be most solemn and most vital, feeling myself unfitted, nay, unable, rightly to fulfil them ? Would you have me commit the treachery to God and man of swearing that I felt called to that special service, when my heart protested against my profession ? ”
“ Romantic nonsense ! A mere matter of modest scruples! You underrate yourself, Everett. You are the very man for a clergyman, trust me.”
But Everett went on to explain, that it was no question of under-estimation of himself.
“ You do not know, perhaps,” he proceeded, while Lady Beauchamp, sorely tried, tapped her fingers on the table, and her foot upon the floor,— “ you do not know, that, when I was a boy, and until two or three years ago, my desire and ambition were to be a minister of the Church of England.”
“Well, Sir, — what has made you so much better, or so much worse, since then, as to alter your opinion of the calling ? ”
“ The reasons which made me abandon the idea three years since, and which render it impossible for me to consider it now, have nothing to do with my mental and moral worthiness or unworthiness. The fact is simply, I cannot become a minister of a Church with many of whose doctrines I cannot agree, and to which, indeed, I can no longer say I belong. In your sense of the word, I am far from being a Churchman.”
“ Do you mean to say you have become a Dissenter?” cried Lady Iieauchamp; and, as if arrived at the climax of endurance, she stood transfixed, regarding the young man with a species of sublime horror.
“ Again, not in your sense of the term,” Everett said, smiling; “for I have joined no sect, attached myself to no recognized body of believers.”
“ You belong to nothing, then ? You believe in nothing, I suppose?” she said, with the instinctive logic of her class. “ Oh, Everett! ” real distress for the moment overpowering her indignation, “ it is those visionary notions of yours that have brought you to this. It was to be expected. You poets and dreamers go on refining your ideas, forsooth, till even the religion of the ordinary world isn’t good enough for you.”
Everett waited patiently till this first gust had passed by. Then, with that steady, calm lucidity which, strange to say, was characteristic of this Visionary’s mind and intellect, he explained, so far as he could, his views and his reasons. It could not be expected that his listener should comprehend or enter into what he said. At first, indeed, she appeared to derive some small consolation from the fact that at least Everett had not “ turned Dissenter.” She hated Methodists, she declared,— intending thus to include with sweeping liberality all denominations in the ban of her disapproval. She would have deemed it an unpardonable crime, had the young man deserted the Church of his fathers in order to join the Congregation, some ranting conventicle. But if her respectability was shocked at the idea of his becoming a Methodist, her better feelings were outraged when she found, as she said, that he “ belonged to nothing.” She viewed with dislike and distrust, all forms of religion that differed from her own ; but she could not believe in the possibility of a religion that had no external form at all. She was dismayed and perplexed, poor lady ! and even paused midway in her wrathful remonstrance to the misguided young man, to lament anew over his fatal errors. She could not understand, she said, truly enough, what in the world he meant. His notions were perfectly extraordinary and incomprehensible. She was deeply, deeply shocked, and grieved for him, and for every one connected with him.
In fact, the very earnestness and sincerity in their own opinions of a certain calibre of minds make them incapable of understanding such a state of things. That a man should believe differently from all they have been taught to believe appears to them as simply preposterous as that he should breathe differently. And so it is that only the highest order of belief can afford to be tolerant; and, as extremes meet, it requires a very perfect Faith to be able to sympathize and bear patiently with Doubt.
There was no chance of Lady Beauchamp’s “ comprehending ” Everett in this matter. There was something almost pathetic in her mingled anger, perplexity, and disappointment. She could only look on him as a headstrong young man, suicidally bent on his own ruin,— turning obstinately from every offered aid, and putting the last climax of wretchedness to his isolated and fallen position by “ turning from the faith of his fathers,” as she rather imaginatively described his secession from Orthodoxy.
And, as may be concluded, the mother of Rosa was inexorable, as regarded the engagement between the young people. It must at once be cancelled. She could not for one moment suffer the idea of her daughter’s remaining betrothed to the mere adventurer she considered Everett Gray had now become. If, poor as he was, he had thought fit to embrace a profession worthy of a gentleman, the case would have been different. But if his romantic notions led him to pursue such an out-of-the-way course as he had laid out for himself, he must excuse her, if she forbade her child from sharing it. Under present circumstances, his alliance could but be declined by the Beauchamp family, she said, with her stateliest air. And the next minute, as Everett held her hand, and said good-bye, she melted again from that frigid dignity, and, looking into the frank, manly, yet gentle face of the young man, cried,—
“Are you quite decided, Everett? Will you take, time to consider? Will you talk to Rosa about it, first ?”
“ No, dear Lady Beauchamp. I know already what she would say. I have quite decided. Thank you for all your purposed kindness. Believe that I am not ungrateful, even if I seem so.”
“ Oh, Everett, — Everett Gray ! I am very sorry for you, and for your mother, and for all connected with you. It is a most unhappy business. It gives me great pain thus to part with you,” said Lady Beauchamp, with real feeling.
And so the interview ended, and so ended the engagement.
Nothing else could have been expected, every one said who heard the state of the case, and knew what Lady Beauchamp had wished and Everett had declined. There were no words to describe how foolishly and weakly he had acted. “ Everybody ” quite gave him up now. With his romantic, transcendental notions, what would become of him, when he had his own way to make in the world ?
But Everett had consolation and help through it all; for Rosa, the woman he loved, his mother, and his sister believed in him, and gloried in what other people called his want of common sense. Ay, though the horrible wrench of parting was suffered by Bosa every minute of every day, and the shadow of that dreadful, unnatural separation began to blacken her life even before it actually fell upon her, — through it all, she never wavered. When he first told her that he must go, that it was the one thing he held it wise and right to do, she shrunk back affrighted, trembling at the coming blankness of a life without him. But after a while, seeing the misery that came into his face reflected from hers, she rose bravely above the terrible woe, and then, with her arms round him and her eyes looking steadfastly into his, she said, “ I love you better than the life you are to me. So I can bear that you should go.”
And he said, “ There can be no real severance between those who love as we do. God, in His mercy and tenderness, will help us to feel that truth, every hour and every day.”
For they believed thus, — these two young Visionaries, — and lived upon that belief, perhaps, when the time of parting came. And it may be that the thought of each was very constantly, very intimately present to the other, during the many years that followed. It may be that this species of mental atmosphere, so surrounding and commingling with all other things more visibly and palpably about them, did cause these dreamers to be happier in their love than many externally united ones, whose lot appears to us most fair and smooth and blissful. Time and distance, leagues of ocean and years of suspense, are not the most terrible things that can come between two people who love one another.
And so Everett Gray, his mother, and his sister, went to Canada. A year after, Agnes was married to Charles Barclay, then a thriving merchant in Montreal. When the people at home heard of this, they very wisely acknowledged “ how much good there had been in that young man, in spite of his rashness and folly in early days. No fear about such a man’s getting on in life, when once he gave his mind to it,” and so forth.
Meanwhile, our Visionary----But what need is there to trace him, step by step, in the new life he doubtless found fully as arduous as he had anticipated ? That it was a very struggling, difficult, and uncongenial life to him can be well understood. These reminiscences of Everett Gray relate to a long past time. We can look on his life now as almost complete and finished, and regard his past as those in the valley look up to the hill that has nothing between it and heaven.
Many years he remained in Canada, working hard. Tidings occasionally reached England of his progress. Rosa, perhaps, heard such at rare intervals,— though somewhat distorted, it may be, from their original tenor, before they reached her. But it appeared certain that he was “getting on.” In defiance and utter contradiction of all the sapient predictions there anent, it seemed that this dreamy, poetizing Everett Gray was absolutely successful in his new vocation of man-of-business.
The news that he had become a partner in the firm he had entered as a clerk was communicated in a letter from himself to Lady Beauchamp. In it he, for the first time since his departure, spoke of Rosa; but he spoke of her as if they had parted but yesterday ; and, in asking her mother’s sanction to their betrothal now, urged, as from them both, their claim to have that boon granted at last.
Lady Beauchamp hastily questioned her daughter.
“ You must have been corresponding with the young man all this time ? ” she said.
But Rosa’s denial was not to be mistaken.
“ He has heard of you, then, through some one,” the practical lady went on ; “ or, for anything he knows, you may be married, or going to be, married, instead of waiting for him, as he seems to take it for granted you have been all this time.”
“ He was right, mother,” Rosa only said.
“ Right, you foolish girl ? You haven’t half the spirit I had at your age. I would have scorned that it should have been said of me that I ‘ waited ’ for any man.”
“ But if you loved him ? ”
“ Well, if he loved you, he should have taken more care than to leave you on such a Quixotic search for independence as his.”
“ He thought it right to go, and he trusted me ; we had faith in one another,” Rosa said; and she wound her arms round her mother, and looked into her face with eyes lustrous with happy tears. For, from that lady's tone and manner, despite her harsh words, she knew that the opposition was withdrawn, and that Everett’s petition was granted.
They were married. It is years ago, now, since their wedding-bells rung out from the church-tower of Hazlewood, blending with the sweet spring-air and sunshine of a joyous May-day. The first few years of their married life were spent in Canada. Then they returned to England, and Everett Gray put the climax to the astonishment of all who knew him by purchasing back a great part of Hazlewood with the fruits of his commercial labors in the other country.
At Hazlewood they settled, therefore. And there, when he grew to be an old man, Everett Gray lived, at last, the peaceful, happy life most natural and most dear to him. No one would venture to call the successful merchant a Visionary ; and even his brother owns that “ the old fellow has got more brains, after all, by Jove! than he ever gave him credit for.” Yet, as the same critic, and others of his calibre, often say of him, “ He has some remarkably queer notions. There’s no making him out, — he is so different from other people.”
Which he is. There is no denying this fact, which is equally evident in his daily life, his education of his children, his conduct to his servants and dependants, his employment of time, his favorite aims in life, and in everything he does or says, in brief. And of course there are plenty who cavil at his peculiar views, and who cannot at all understand his unconventional ways, and his apparent want of all worldly wisdom in the general conduct of his affairs. And yet, somehow, these affairs prosper. Although he declined a valuable appointment for his son, and preferred that he should make his own way in the profession he had chosen, bound by no obligation, and unfettered by the trammels of any party, — although he did this, to the astonishment of all who did not know him, yet is it not a fact that the young barrister’s career has been, and is, as brilliant and successful as though he had had a dozen influential personages to advance him ? And though he permitted his daughter to marry, not the rich squire’s son, nor the baronet, who each sought her hand, but a man comparatively poor and unknown, who loved her, and whom she loved, did it not turn out to be one of those marriages that we can recognize to have been “ made in heaven,” and even the worldly-wise see to be happy and prosperous ?
But our Everett is growing old. His hair is silver-white, and his tall figure has learned to droop somewhat as he walks. Under the great beech-trees at Hazlewood you may have seen him sitting summer evenings, or sauntering in spring and autumn days, sometimes with his grandchildren playing about him, but always with one figure near him, bent and bowed yet more than his own, with a still sweet and lovely face looking placidly forth from between its bands of soft, white hair.
How they have loved, and do love one another, even to this their old age ! All the best and truest light of that which we call Romance shines steadily about them yet. No sight so dear to Everett’s eyes as that quiet figure, — no sound so welcome to his ears as her voice. She is all to him that she ever was,— the sweetest, dearest, best portion of that which we call his life.
Yes, I speak advisedly, and say he is, they are. It is strange that this Visionary. who was wont to be reproached with the impracticably of all he did or purposed, the unreality of whose life was a byword, should yet impress himself and his existence so vividly on those about him that even now we cannot speak of him as one that is no more. He seems still to be of us, though we do not see him, and his place is empty in the world.
His wife went first. She died in her sleep, while he was watching her, holding her hand fast in his. He laid the last kisses on her eyes, her mouth, and those cold hands.
After that, he seemed to wait. They who saw him sitting alone under the beech-trees, day by day, found something very strangely moving in the patient serenity of his look. He never seemed sad or lonely through all that time,— only patiently hopeful, placidly expectant. So the autumn twilights often came to him as he stood, his face towards the west, looking out from their old favorite spot.
One evening, when his daughter and her husband came out to him, he did not linger, as was usual with him, but turned and went forward to meet them, with a bright smile, brighter than the sunset glow behind him, on his face. He leaned rather heavily on their supporting arms, as they went in. At the door, the little ones came, running about him, as they loved to do. Perhaps the very lustre of his face awed them, or the sight of their mother’s tears ; for a sort of hush came over them, even to the youngest, as he kissed and blessed them all.
And then, when they had left the room, he laid his head upon his daughter’s breast, and uttered a few low words. He had been so happy, he said, and he thanked God for all, — even to this, the end. It had been so good to live ! — it was so happy to die ! Then he paused awhile, and closed his eyes.
“ In the silence, I can hear your mother's voice,” he murmured, and he clasped his hands. “ O thou most merciful Father, who givest this last, great blessing, of the new Home, where she waits for me! — and God’s love is over all His worlds ! ”
He looked up once again, with the same bright, assured smile. That smile never faded from the dead face ; it was the last look which they who loved him bore forever in their memory.
And so passed our Visionary from that which we call Life.