IT was hard for the company of rejoicing friends, at the hotel in Magnolia, to part from each other. Mr. Blessing had tact enough to decline Joseph’s invitation, but he was sorely tempted by Philip’s, in which Madeline heartily joined. Nevertheless, he only wavered for a moment ; a mysterious resolution strengthened him, and taking Philip to one side, he whispered:
“ Will you allow me to postpone, not relinquish, the pleasure ? Thanks ! A grave duty beckons, — a task, in short, without which the triumph of today would be dramatically incomplete. I must speak in riddles, because this is a case in which a whisper might start the overhanging avalanche ; but I am sure you will trust me.”
“ Of course I will ! ” Philip cried, offering his hand.
“ Foi de Belsain ! ” was Mr. Blessing’s proud answer, as he hurried away to reach the train for the city.
Joseph looked at Philip, as the horses were brought from the stable, and then at Rachel Miller, who, wrapped in her great crape shawl, was quietly waiting for him.
“ We must not separate, all at once,” said Philip, stepping forward. “ Miss Miller, will you invite my sister and myself to take tea with you this evening ? ”
Philip had become one of Rachel’s heroes ; she was sure that Mr. Blessing’s testimony and Joseph’s triumphant acquittal were owing to his exertions. The Asten farm could produce nothing good enough for his entertainment, — that was her only trouble.
“ Do tell me the time o’ day,” she said to Joseph, as he drove out of town, closely followed by Philip’s light carriage, " It’s three days in one to me, and a deal more like day after to-morrow morning than this afternoon. Now, a telegraph would be a convenience ; I could send word and have chickens killed and picked, against we got there.”
Joseph answered her by driving as rapidly as the rough country roads permitted, without endangering horse and vehicle. It was impossible for him to think coherently, impossible to thrust back the single overwhelming prospect of relief and release which had burst upon his life. He dared to admit the fortune which had come to him through death, now that his own innocence of any indirect incitement thereto had been established. The future was again clear before him ; and even the miserable discord of the past year began to recede and form only an indistinct background to the infinite pity of the death-scene. Mr. Blessing’s testimony enabled him to look back and truly interpret the last appealing looks, the last broken words ; his heart banished the remembrance of its accusations, and retained only—so long as it should beat among living men — a deep and tender commiseration. As for the danger he had escaped, the slander which had been heaped upon him, his thoughts were above the level of life which they touched. He was nearer than he suspected to that only true independence of soul which releases a man from the yoke of circumstances.
Rachel Miller humored his silence as long as she thought proper, and then suddenly and awkwardly interrupted it. “Yes,” she exclaimed; “there’s a little of the old currant wine in the cellar-closet ! Town’s-folks generally like it, and we used to think it good to stay a body’s stomach for a late meal,—as it’ll be apt to be. But I’ve not asked you how you relished the supper, though Elwood, to be sure, allowed that all was tolerable nice. And I see the Lord’s hand in it, as I hope you do, Joseph ; for the righteous is never forsaken. We can't help rejoice, where we ought to be humbly returning thanks, and owning our unworthiness ; but Philip Held is a friend, if there ever was one ; and the white hen’s brood, though they are new-fashioned fowls, are plump enough by this time. I disremember whether I asked Elwood to stop — ”
“ There he is ! ” Joseph interrupted ; “ turning the corner of the wood before us ! Lucy is with him, — and they must both come ! ”
He drove on rapidly, and soon overtook Elwood’s lagging team. The horse, indeed, had had his own way, and the sound of approaching wheels awoke Elwood from a trance of incredible happiness. Before answering Joseph, he whispered to Lucy: —
“What shall we say? It’ll be the heaviest favor I’ve ever been called upon to do a friend.”
“ Do it, then ! ” she said : “ the day is too blessed to be kept for ourselves alone.”
How fair the valley shone, as they came into it out of the long glen between the hills ! What cheer there was, even in the fading leaves ; what happy promise in the mellow autumn sky ! The gate to the lane stood open ; Dennis, with a glowing face, waited for the horse. He wanted to say something, but not knowing how, shook hands with Joseph, and then pretended to be concerned with the harness. Rachel, on entering the kitchen, found her neighbor, Mrs. Bishop, embarked on a full tide of preparation. Two plump fowls, scalded and plucked, lay upon the table !
This was too much for Rachel Miller. She had borne up bravely through the trying days, concealing her anxiety lest it might be misinterpreted, hiding even her grateful emotion, to make her faith in Joseph’s innocence seem the stronger; and now Mrs. Bishop’s thoughtfulness was the slight touch under which she gave way. She sat down and cried.
Mrs. Bishop, with a stew-pan in one hand, while she wiped her sympathetic eyes with the other, explained that her husband had come home an hour before, with the news ; and that she just guessed help would be wanted, or leastways company, and so she had made bold to begin; for, though the truth had been made manifest, and the right had been proved, as anybody might know it would be, still it was a trial, and people needed to eat more and better under trials than at any other time. “You may not feel inclined for victuals ; but there’s the danger ! A body’s body must be supported, whether Or no.”
Meanwhile, Joseph and his guests sat on the veranda, in the still, mild air. He drew his chair near to Philip’s, their hands closed upon each other, and they were entirely happy in the tender and perfect manly love which united them. Madeline sat in front, with a nimbus of sunshine around her hair, feeling also the embarrassment of speech at such a moment, yet bravely endeavoring to gossip with Lucy on other matters. But Elwood’s face, so bright that it became almost beautiful, caught her eye : she glanced at Philip, who answered with a smile ; then at Lucy, whose cheek bloomed with the loveliest color j and, rising without a word, she went to the latter and embraced her.
Then, stretching her hand to Elwood, she said: “ Forgive me, both of you, for showing how glad I am ! ”
“ Philip ! ” Joseph cried, as the truth flashed upon him ; “ life is not always unjust ! It is we who are impatient.”
They both arose and gave hands of congratulation ; and Elwood, though so deeply moved that he scarcely trusted himself to speak, was so frankly proud and happy, — so purely and honestly man in such a sacred moment, — that Lucy’s heart swelled with an equally proud recognition of his feeling. Their eyes met, and no memory of a mistaken Past could ever again come like a cloud across the light of their mutual faith.
“The day was blessed already,” said Philip, “but this makes it perfect.”
No one knew how the time went by, or could afterwards recall much that was said. Rachel Miller, with many apologies, summoned them to a sumptuous meal ; and when the moon hung chill and clear above the creeping mists of the valley, they parted.
The next evening, Joseph went to Philip, at the Forge. It was well that he should breathe another atmosphere, and dwell, for a little while, within walls where no ghosts of his former life wandered. Madeline the most hospitably observant of hostesses, seemed to have planned the arrangements solely for his and Philip’s intercourse. The short evening of the country was not half over, before she sent them to Philip’s room, where a genial wood-fire prattled and flickered on the hearth, with two easy-chairs before it.
Philip lighted a pipe and they sat down. “ Now, Joseph,” said he, “ I ’ll answer ‘Yes ! ’ to the question in your mind.”
“You have been talking with Bishop, Philip ? ”
“No; but I won’t mystify you. As I rode up the valley, I saw you two standing on the hill, and could easily guess the rest. A large estate, in this country, is only an imaginary fortune. You are not so much of a farmer, Joseph, that it will cut you to the heart and make you dream of ruin, to part with a few fields ; if you were, I should say, get that weakness out of you at once ! A man should possess his property, not be possessed by it.”
“ You are right,” Joseph answered ; “ I have been fighting against an inherited feeling.”
“ The only question is, will the sale of those fifty acres relieve you of all present embarrassments ? ”
“ So far, Philip, that a new mortgage of about half the amount will cover what remains.”
“ Bravo ! ” cried Philip. “ This is better than I thought. Mr. Hopeton is looking for sure, steady investments, and will furnish whatever you need. So there is no danger of foreclosure.’'
“Things seem to shape themselves almost too easily now,” Joseph answered. “ I see the old, mechanical routine of my life coming back : it should be enough for me, but it is not; can you tell me why, Philip ? ”
“Yes: it never was enough. The most of our neighbors are cases of arrested development. Their intellectual nature only takes so many marks, like a horse’s teeth ; there is a point early in their lives, where its form becomes fixed. There is neither the external influence, nor the inward necessity, to drive them a step further. They find the Sphinx dangerous, and keep out of her way. Of course, as soon as they passively begin to accept what is, all that was fluent or plastic in them soon hardens into the old moulds. Now, I am not very wise, but this appears to me to be truth ; that life is a grand centrifugal force, forever growing from a wider circle towards one that is still wider. Your stationary men may be necessary, and even serviceable; but to me — and to you, Joseph — there is neither joy nor peace except in some kind of growth.”
“ If we could be always sure of the direction ! ” Joseph sighed.
“That’s the point!” Philip eagerly continued. “ If we stop to consider danger in advance, we should never venture a step. A movement is always clear after it has been made, not often before. It is enough to test one’s intention ; unless we are tolerably bad, something guides us, and adjusts the consequences of our acts. Why, we are like spiders, in the midst of a million gossamer threads, which we are all the time spinning without knowing it ! Who are to measure our lives for us ? Not other men with other necessities ! and so we come back to the same point again, where I started. Looking back now, can you see no gain in your mistake?”
“Yes, a gain I can never lose. I begin to think that haste and weakness also are vices, and deserve to be punished. It was a dainty, effeminate soul you found, Philip, — a moral and spiritual Sybarite, I should say now. I must have expected to lie on roseleaves, and it was right that I should find thorns.”
“I think,” said Philip, “the world needs a new code of ethics. We must cure the unfortunate tendencies of some qualities that seem good, and extract the good from others that seem evil. But it would need more than a Luther for such a Reformation. I confess I am puzzled, when I attempt to study moral causes and consequences in men’s lives. It is nothing but a tangle, when I take them collectively. What if each of us were, as I half suspect, as independent as a planet, yet all held together in one immense system ? Then the central force must be our close dependence on God, as I have learned to feel it through you.”
“Through me ! ” Joseph exclaimed.
“ Do you suppose we can be so near each other without giving and taking ? Let us not try to get upon a common ground of faith or action : it is a thousand times more delightful to discover that we now and then reach the same point by different paths. This reminds me, Joseph, that our paths ought to separate now, for a while. It is you who should leave, -—but only to come back again, ‘ in the fulness of time.’ Heaven knows, I am merciless to myself in recommending it.”
“ You are right to try me. It is time that I should know something of the world. But to leave, now — so immediately — ”
“ It will make no difference,” said Philip. “ Whether you go or stay, there will be stories afloat. The bolder plan is the better.”
The subject was renewed the next morning, at breakfast. Madeline heartily seconded Philip’s counsel, and took a lively part in the discussion.
“ We were in Europe as children,” she said to Joseph, “and I have very clear and delightful memories of the travel.”
“ I was not thinking especially of Europe,” he answered. “ I am hardly prepared for such a journey. What I should wish is, not to look idly at sights and shows, but to have some active interest or employment, which would bring me into contact with men. Philip knows my purpose.”
“ Then,” said Madeline, “ why not hunt on Philip’s trail ? I have no doubt you can track him from Texas to the Pacific by the traditions of his wild pranks and adventures ! How I should enjoy getting hold of "a few chapters of his history ! ”
“ Madeline, you are a genius ! ” Philip cried. “ How could I have forgotten Wilder’s letter, a fortnight ago, you remember ? One need not be a practical geologist, to make the business report he wants ; but Joseph has read enough to take hold, with the aid of the books I can give him ! If it is not too late ! ”
“ I was not thinking of that, Philip,” Madeline answered. “ Did you not say that the place was — ”
She hesitated. “ Dangerous ?” said Philip. “ Yes. But if Joseph goes there, he will come back to us again.”
“ O, don’t invoke misfortune in that way ! ”
“Neither do I,” he gravely replied ; “but I can see the shadow of Joseph’s life thrown ahead, as I can see my own.”
“ I think I should like to be sent into danger,” said Joseph.
Philip smiled : “ As if you had not just escaped the greatest! Well, — it was Madeline’s guess which most helped to avert it, and now it is her chance word which will probably send you into another one.”
Joseph looked up in astonishment. “ I don’t understand you, Philip,” he said.
“ O Philip ! ” cried Madeline.
“ I had really forgotten,” he answered, “that you knew nothing of the course by which we reached your defence. Madeline first suggested to me that the poison was sometimes used as a cosmetic, and on this hint, with Mr. Blessing’s help, the truth was discovered.”
“ And I did not know how much I owe to you ! ” Joseph exclaimed, turning towards her.
“ Do not thank me,” she said, “ for Philip thinks the fortunate guess may be balanced by an evil one.”
“ No, no ! ” Joseph protested, noticing the slight tremble in her voice ; “ I will take it as a good omen. Now I know that danger will pass me by, if it comes ! ”
“ If your experience should be anything like mine,” said Philip, “you will only recognize the danger when you can turn and look back at it. But, come ! Madeline has less superstition in her nature than she would have us believe. Wilder’s offer is just the thing; I have his letter on file, and will write to him at once. Let us go down to my office at the Forge ! ”
The letter was from a capitalist who had an interest in several mines in Arizona and Nevada. He was not satisfied with the returns, and wished to send a private, confidential agent to those regions, to examine the prospects and operations of the companies and report thereupon. With the aid of a map the probable course of travel was marked out, and Joseph rejoiced at the broad field of activity and adventure which it opened to him.
He stayed with Philip a day or two longer, and every evening the fire made a cheery accompaniment to the deepest and sweetest confidences of their hearts, now pausing as if to listen, now rapidlymurmuring some happy, inarticulate secret of its own. As each gradually acquired full possession of the other’s past, the circles of their lives, as Philip said, were reciprocally widened ; but as the horizon spread, it seemed to meet a clearer sky. Their eyes were no longer fixed on a single point of time wherein they breathed. Whatever pain remained melted before them and behind them into atmospheres of resignation and a wiser patience. One gave his courage and experience, the other his pure instinct, his faith and aspiration ; and a new harmony came from the closer interfusion of sweetness and strength.
When Joseph returned home, he at once set about putting his affairs in order, and making arrangements for an absence of a year or more. It was necessary that he should come in contact with most of his neighbors, and he was made aware of their good-will without knowing that it was, in many cases, a reaction from suspicion and slanderous gossip. Mr. Chaffinch had even preached a sermon, in which no name was mentioned, but everybody understood the allusion. This was considered to be perfectly right, so long as the prejudices of the people were with him, and Julia was supposed to be the pious and innocent victim of a crime. When, however, the truth had been established, many who had kept silent now denounced the sermon, and another on the deceitfulness of appearances, which Mr. Chaffinch gave on the following Sabbath, was accepted as the nearest approach to an apology consistent with his clerical dignity.
Joseph was really ignorant of these proceedings, and the quiet, self-possessed, neighborly way in which he met the people gave them a new impression of his character. Moreover, he spoke of his circumstances, when it was necessary, with a frankness unusual among them; and the natural result was that his credit was soon established on as sound a basis as ever. When, through Philip’s persistence, the mission to the Pacific coast was secured, but little further time was needed to complete the arrangements. By the sacrifice of one fourth of his land, the rest was saved, and intrusted to good hands during his absence. Philip, in the mean time, had fortified him with as many hints and instructions as possible, and he was ready, with a light heart and a full head, to set out upon the long and uncertain journey.
I. JOSEPH TO PHILIP.
CAMP—, ARIZONA, October 19, 1868.
SINCE I wrote to you from Prescott, dear Philip, three months have passed, and I have had no certain means of sending you another letter. There was, first, Mr. Wilder’s interest at —, the place hard to reach, and the business difficult to investigate. It was not so easy, even with the help of your notes, to connect the geology of books with the geology of nature; these rough hills don’t at all resemble the clean drawings of strata. However, I have learned all the more rapidly by not assuming to know much, and the report I sent contained a great deal more than my own personal experience. The duty was irksome enough, at times ; I have been tempted by the evil spirits of ignorance, indolence, and weariness, and I verily believe that the fear of failing to make good your guaranty for my capacity was the spur which kept me from giving way. Now, habit is beginning to help me, and, moreover, my own ambition has something to stand on.
I had scarcely finished and forwarded my first superficial account of the business as it appeared to me, when a chance suddenly offered of joining a party of prospecters, some of whom I had already met: as you know, we get acquainted in little time, and with no introductions in these parts. They were bound, first, for some little-known regions in Eastern Nevada, and then, passing a point which Mr. Wilder wished me to visit (and which I could not have reached so directly from any other quarter), they meant to finish the journey at Austin. It was an opportunity I could not let go, though I will admit to you, Philip, that I also hoped to overtake the adventures, which had seemed to recede from me, rainbow-fashion, as I went on.
Some of the party were old Rocky Mountain men, as wary as courageous; yet we passed through one or two straits which tested all their endurance and invention. I won’t say how I stood the test; perhaps I ought to be satisfied that I came through to the end, and am now alive and cheerful. To be sure, there are many other ways of measuring our strength. This experience would n’t help me the least, in a discussion of principles, or in organizing any of the machinery of society. It is rather like going back to the first ages of mankind, and being tried in the struggle for existence. To me, that is a great deal. I feel as if I had been taken out of civilization and set back towards the beginning, in order to work my way up again.
But what is the practical result of this journey ? you will ask. I can hardly tell, at present: if I were to state that I have been acting on your system of life rather than my own, — that is, making ventures without any certainty of the consequences, — I think you would shake your head. Nevertheless, in these ten months of absence I have come out of my old skin and am a livelier snake than you ever knew me to be. No, I am wrong ; it is hardly a venture, after all, and my self-glorification is out of place. I have the prospect of winning a great deal where a very little has been staked, and the most timid man in the world might readily go that far. Again you will shake your head ; you remember “ The Amaranth.” How I should like to hear what has become of that fearful and wonderful speculation !
Pray give me news of Mr. Blessing. All those matters seem to lie so far behind me, that they look differently to my eyes. Somehow, I can’t keep the old impressions ; I even begin to forget them. You said, Philip, that he was not intentionally dishonest, and something tells me you are right. We learn men’s characters rapidly in this rough school, because we cannot get away from the close, rough, naked contact. What surprises me is that the knowledge is not only good for present and future use, but that I can take it with me into my past life. One weakness is left, and you will understand it. I blush to myself, — I am ashamed of my early innocence and ignorance. This is wrong; yet, Philip, I seem to have been so unmanly, — at least so unmasculine ! I looked for love, and fidelity, and all the virtues, on the surface of life; believed that a gentle tongue was the sign of a tender heart; felt a wound when some strong and positive, yet differently moulded being approached me! Now, here are fellows prickly as a cactus, with something at the core as true and tender as you will find in a woman’s heart. They would stake their lives for me sooner than some persons (whom we know) would lend me a hundred dollars, without security! Even your speculator, whom I have met in every form, is by no means the purely mercenary and dangerous man I had supposed.
In short, Philip, I am on very good terms with human nature ; the other nature does not suit me so well. It is a grand thing to look down into the canon of the Colorado, or to see a range of perfectly clear and shining snow-peaks across the dry sageplains ; but oh, for one acre of our green meadows ! I dreamed of them, and the clover-fields, and the woods and running streams, through the terrific heat of the Nevada deserts, until the tears came. It is nearly a year since I left home : I should think it fifty years !
With this mail goes another report to Mr. Wilder. In three or four months my task will be at an end, and I shall then be free to return. Will you welcome the brown - faced, full - bearded man, broad in cheeks and shoulders, as you would the — but how did I use to look, Philip ? It was a younger brother you knew; but he has bequeathed all of his love, and more, to the older.
II. PHILIP TO JOSEPH.
COVENTRY FORGE, Christmas day.
When Madeline hung a wreath of holly around your photograph this morning, I said to it as I say now: “ A merry Christmas, Joseph, wherever you are ! ” It is a calm, sunny day, and my view, as you know, reaches much further through the leafless trees ; but only the meadow on the right is green. You, on the contrary, are enjoying something as near to Paradise in color, and atmosphere, and temperature (if you are, as I guess, in Southern California), as you will ever be likely to see.
Yes, I will welcome the new man, although I shall see more of the old one in him than you perhaps think, — nor would I have it otherwise. We don’t change the bases of our lives, after all : the forces are differently combined, otherwise developed, but they hang, I fancy, to the same roots. Nay, I ’ll leave preaching until I have you again at the old fireside. You want news from home, and no miserable little particular is unimportant. I’ve been there, and know what kind of letters are welcome.
The neighborhood (I like to hover around a while, before alighting) is still a land where all things always seem the same. The trains run up and down our valley, carrying a little of the world boxed up in shabby cars, but leaving no mark behind. In another year, the people will begin to visit the city more frequently ; in still another, the city people will find their way to us ; in five years, population will increase and property will rise in value. This is my estimate, based on a plentiful experience.
Last week, Madeline and I attended the wedding of Elwood Withers. It was at the Hopetons, and had been postponed a week or two, on account of the birth of a son to our good old business-friend. There are two events for you ! Elwood, who has developed, as I knew he would, into an excellent director of men and material undertakings, has an important contract on the new road to the coal regions. He showed me the plans and figures the other day, and I see the beginning of wealth in them. Lucy, who is a born lady, will save him socially and intellectually. I have never seen a more justifiable marriage. He was pale and happy, she sweetly serene and confident; and the few words he said at the breakfast, in answer to the health which Hopeton gave in his choice Vin d’Aï, made the unmarried ladies envy the bride. Really and sincerely, I came away from the house more of a Christian than I went.
You know all, dearest friend : was it not a test of my heart to see that she was intimately, fondly happy? It was hardly, any more, the face I once knew. I felt the change in the touch of her hand. I heard it in the first word she spoke. I did not dare to look into my heart to see if something there were really dead, for the look would have called the dead to life. I made one heroic effort, heaved a stone over the place, and sealed it down forever. Then I felt your arm on my shoulder, your hand on my breast. I was strong and joyous ; Lucy, I imagined, looked at me from time to time, but with a bright face, as if she divined what I had done. Can she have ever suspected the truth ?
Time is a specific administered to us for all spiritual shocks ; but change of habit is better. Why may I not change in quiet as you in action ? It seems to me, sometimes, as I sit alone before the fire, with the pipe-stem between my teeth, that each of us is going backward through the other’s experience. You will thus prove my results, as I prove yours. Then, parted as we are, I see our souls lie open to each other in equal light and warmth, and feel that the way to God lies through the love of man.
Two years ago, how all our lives were tangled ! Now, with so little agency ot our own, how they are flowing into smoothness and grace ! Yours and mine are not yet complete, but they are no longer distorted. One disturbing, yet most pitiable, nature has been removed ; Elwood, Lucy, the Hopetons, are happy ; you and I are healed of our impatience. Yes, there is something outside of our own wills that works for or against us, as we may decide. If I once forgot this, it is all the clearer now.
I have forgotten one other, — Mr. Blessing. The other day I visited him in the city. I found him five blocks nearer the fashionable quarter, in a larger house. He was elegantly dressed, and wore a diamond on his bosom. He came to meet me with an open letter in his hand.
“ From Mrs. Spelter, my daughter,” he said, waving it with a grand air,— “an account of her presentation to the Emperor Napoleon. The dress was — let me see — blue moiré and Chantilly lace ; Eugdéie was quite struck with her figure and complexion.”
“ The world seems to treat you well,” I suggested.
“ Another turn of the wheel. However, it showed me what I am capable of achieving, when a strong spur is applied. In this case the spur was, as you probably guess, Mr. Held,—honor. Sir, I prevented a cataclysm ! You of course know the present quotations of the Amaranth stock, but you can hardly be aware of my agency in the matter. When I went to the Oil Region with the available remnant of funds, Kanuck had fled. Although the merest tyro in geology, I selected a spot back of the river-bluflfs, in a hollow of the undulating table-land, sunk a shaft, and — succeeded ! It was what somebody calls an inspired guess. I telegraphed instantly to a friend, and succeeded in purchasing a moderate portion of the stock — not so much as I desired — before its value was known. As for the result, si monumentum quœris, circumspice ! ”
I wish I could give you an idea of the air with which he said this, standing before me with his feet in position, and his arms thrown out in the attitude of Ajax defying the lightning.
I ventured to inquire after your interest “ The shares are here, sir, and safe,” he said, “ worth not a cent less than twenty-five thousand dollars.”
I urged him to sell them and deposit the money to your credit, but this he refused to do without your authority. There was no possibility of depreciation, he said : very well, if so, this is your time to sell. Now, as I write, it occurs to me that the telegraph may reach you. I close this, therefore, at once, and post over to the office at Oakland.
Madeline says: “A merry Christmas from me ! ” It is fixed in her head that you are still exposed to some mysterious danger. Come back, shame her superstition, and make happy your
III. JOSEPH TO PHILIP.
SAN FRANCISCO, June 3, 1869.
Philip, Philip, I have found your valley !
After my trip to Oregon, in March, I went southward, along the western base of the Sierra Nevada, intending at first to cross the range ; but falling in with an old friend of yours, a man of the mountains and the sea, of books and men, I kept company with him, on and on, until the great wedges of snow lay behind us, and only a long, low, winding pass divided us from the sands of the Colorado Desert. From the mouth of this pass I looked on a hundred miles of mountains ; there were lakes glimmering below ; there were groves of ilex on the hillsides, an orchard of oranges, olives, and vines in the hollow, millions of flowers hiding the earth, pure winds, fresh waters, and remoteness from all conventional society. I have never seen a landscape so broad, so bright, so beautiful!
Yes, but we will only go there on one of these idle epicurean journeys of which we dream, and then to enjoy the wit and wisdom of our generous friend, not to seek a refuge from the perversions of the world ! For I have learned another thing, Philip : the freedom we craved is not a thing to be found in this or that place. Unless we bring it with us, we shall not find it.
The news of the decline of the Amaranth stock, in your last, does not surprise me. How fortunate that my telegraphic order arrived in season ! It was in Mr. Blessing’s nature to hold on ; but he will surely have something left. I mean to invest halt of the sum in his wife’s name, in any case ; for the “prospecting” of which I wrote you, last fall, was a piece of more than ordinary luck. You must have heard of White Pine, by this time. We were the discoverers, and reaped a portion of the first harvest, which is never equal to the second ; but this way of getting wealth is so incredible to me, even after I have it, that I almost fear the gold will turn into leaves or pebbles, as in the fairy tales. I shall not tell you what my share is : let me keep one secret, — nay, two, — to carry home !
More incredible than anything else is now the circumstance that we are within a week of each other. This letter, I hope, will only precede me by a fortnight. I have one or two last arrangements to make, and then the locomotive will cross the continent too slowly for my eager haste. Why should I deny it ? I am homesick, body and soul. Verily, if I were to meet Mr. Chaffinch in Montgomery Street, I should fling myself upon his neck, before coming to my sober senses. Even he is no longer an antipathy : I was absurd to make one of him. I have but one left ; and Eugénie’s admiration of her figure and complexion does not soften it in the least.
How happy Madeline’s letter made me! After I wrote to her, I would have recalled mine, at any price ; for I had obeyed an impulse, and I feared foolishly. What you said of her " superstition ” might have been jest, I thought. But I believe that a truehearted woman always values impulses, because she is never at a loss to understand them. So now I obey another, in sending the enclosed. Do you know that her face is as clear in my memory, as yours ? and as — but why should I write, when I shall so soon be with you ?
THREE weeks after the date of Joseph’s last letter Philip met him at the railroad station in the city. Brown, bearded, fresh and full of joyous life after his seven days’ journey across the continent, he sprang down from the platform to be caught in his friend’s arms.
The next morning they went together to Mr. Blessing’s residence. That gentleman still wore a crimson velvet dressing-gown, and the odor ot the cigar, which he puffed in a rear room called the library (the books were mostly Patent Office and Agricultural Reports, with Faublas and the Decamerone), breathed plainly of the Vuelte Abajo.
“ My dear boy ! ” he cried, jumping up and extending his arms, “ Asten of Asten Hall ! After all your moving accidents by flood and field, back again ! This is — is — what shall I say ? compensation for many a blow of fate! And my brave Knight with the Iron Hand, sit down, though it be in Carthage, and let me refresh my eyes with your faces ! ”
“ Not Carthage yet, I hope,” said Joseph.
“ Not quite, if I adhere strictly to facts,” Mr. Blessing replied, “although it threatens to be my Third Punic War. There is even a slight upward tendency in the Amaranth shares, and if the company were in my hands, we should soon float upon the topmost wave. But what can I do? The Honorable Whaley and the Reverend Dr. Lellifant were retained on account of their names ; Whaley made president, and I, —being absent at the time developing the enterprise, not only pars Magna but totus teres atque rotundas, ha ! ha ! — I was put off with a Director’s place. Now I must stand by, and see the work of my hands overthrown. But ’t is ever thus ! ”
He heaved a deep sigh. Philip, most heroically repressing a tendency to shriek with laughter, drew him on to state the particulars, and soon discovered, as he had already suspected, that Mr. Blessing’s Sanguine temperament was the real difficulty ; it was still possible for him to withdraw, and secure a moderate success.
When this had been made clear, Joseph interposed.
“ Mr. Blessing,” said he, “ I cannot forget how recklessly, in my disappointment, I charged you with dishonesty. I know, also, that you have not forgotten it. Will you give me an opportunity of atoning for my injustice ? — not that you require it, but that I may, henceforth, have less cause for selfreproach.”
“ Your words are enough !” Mr. Blessing exclaimed. “ I excused you long ago. You, in your pastoral seclusion — ”
“ But I have not been secluded for eighteen months past,” said Joseph, smiling. “It is the better knowledge of men, which has opened my eyes. Besides, you have no right to refuse me ; it is Mrs. Blessing whom I shall have to consult.”
He laid the papers on the table, explaining that half the amount realized from his shares of the Amaranth had been invested, on trust, for the benefit of Mrs. Eliza Blessing.
“ You have conquered —uincisti ! ” cried Mr. Blessing, shedding tears. “ What can I do ? Generosity is so rare a virtue in the world, that it would be a crime to suppress it ! ”
Philip took advantage of the milder mood, and plied his arguments so skilfully that at last the exuberant pride of the De Belsain blood gave way.
“What shall I do, without an object, — a hope, a faith in possibilities?” Mr. Blessing cried. “ The amount you have estimated, with Joseph’s princely provision, is a competence for my old days ; but how shall I fill out those days ? The sword that is never drawn from the scabbard rusts.”
“But,” said Philip, gravely, “you forget the field for which you were destined by nature. These operations in stocks require only a low order of intellect ; you were meant to lead and control multitudes of men. With your fluency of speech, your happy faculty of illustration, your power of presenting facts and probabilities, you should confine yourself exclusively to the higher arena of politics. Begin as an Alderman ; then, a Member of the Assembly ; then, the State Senate ; then — ”
“ Member of Congress ! ” cried Mr, Blessing, rising, with flushed face and flashing eyes. “ You are right! I have allowed the necessity of the moment to pull me down from my proper destiny ! You are doubly right ! My creature comforts once secured, I can give my time, my abilities, my power of swaying the minds of men, —come, let us withdraw, realize, consolidate, invest, at once ! ”
They took him at his word, and before night a future, free from want, was secured to him. While Philip and Joseph were on their way to the country by a late train, Mr. Blessing was making a speech of an hour and a halt at one of the primary political meetings.
There was welcome through the valley, when Joseph’s arrival was known. For two or three days the neighbors flocked to the farm to see the man whose adventures, in a very marvellous form, had been circulating among them for a year past. Even Mr. Chaffinch called, and was so conciliated by his friendly reception, that he, thenceforth, placed Joseph in the ranks of those “impracticable” men, who might be nearer the truth than they seemed : it was not for us to judge.
Every evening, however, Joseph took his saddle-horse and rode up the valley to Philip’s Forge. It was not only the inexpressible charm of the verdure to which he had so long been a stranger, — not only the richness of the sunset on the hills, the exquisite fragrance of the meadow-grasses in the cool air, — nay, not entirely the dear companionship of Philip which drew him thither. A sentiment so deep and powerful that it was yet unrecognized, — a hope so faint that it had not yet taken form, — was already in his heart. Philip saw, and was silent.
But, one night, when the moon hung over the landscape, edging with sparkling silver the summits of the trees below them, when the air was still and sweet and warm, and filled with the diffused murmurs of the stream, and Joseph and Madeline stood side by side, on the curving shoulder of the knoll, Philip, watching them from the open window, said to himself: “They are swiftly coming to the knowledge of each other ; will it take Joseph further from my heart, or bring him nearer ? It ought to fill me with perfect joy, yet there is a little sting of pain somewhere. My life had settled down so peacefully into what seemed a permanent form ; with Madeline to make a home and brighten it for me, and Joseph to give me the precious intimacy of a man’s love, so different from woman’s, yet so pure and perfect! They have destroyed my life, although they do not guess it. Well, I must be vicariously happy, warmed in my lonely sphere by the far radiation of their nuptial bliss, seeing a faint reflection of some parts of myself in their children, nay, claiming and making them mine, as well, if it is meant that my own blood should not beat in other hearts. But will this be sufficient ? No ! either sex is incomplete, alone, and a man’s full life shall be mine ! Ah, you unconscions lovers, you simple-souled children, that know not what you are doing, I shall be even with you, in the end ! The world is a failure, God’s wonderful system is imperfect, if there is not, now living, a noble woman, to bless me with her love, strengthen me with her self-sacrifice, purify me with her sweeter and clearer faith! I will wait: but I shall find her ! ”