Miser Farrel's Bequest
THE literary exercises in the Thatcher Theatre had been of unusual interest; the honorary degrees had been bestowed upon celebrities, great and small, with the usual accompaniment of whispered criticism ; and the attending crowd had retired for such meditation as the Centennial festival might excite. The Library was closed for the night, when the janitor received the order to open it for visitors, and to illuminate that corner of the building in which the Mather Safe guarded its precious deposits. The rocket-sticks lay upon the trampled grass ; the lamps, arranged in colored letters to form the names of Peckster and other dead benefactors of the College, had twinkled their two hours of encouragement to future testators, and gradually flickered out. All the reporters save one had left the scene, and were writing up the festival in the offices of their respective journals. Only the young gentleman who was to “ do ” the Centennial for the Daily Adviser had been commanded to remain upon the ground until the small hours of the morning. Something might yet happen that should go into that fullest account of the proceedings which must appear in to-morrow’s issue. Not that this respectable director of opinion was invariably more wakeful than its contemporaries, but, being widely recognized as annalist of the College, this was an occasion for special vigilance. Soon after the electric light had flashed forth in the interior of the Library, the lingering reporter saw the Rev. Charles Greyson enter the building, with a lady upon his arm. They were followed by two porters bearing a wooden box, of the pattern which is used for the transportation of pictures. It evidently contained a heavier burden than could be made up of canvas and gilding, for the bearers staggered as they passed up the steps.
“ It is quite impossible that the Professor should be with us to-night,” said Mrs. Hargrave. “ We sail from New York to-morrow afternoon, and it was necessary that he should precede me, to make the final preparations for our voyage. I shall deposit the manuscripts in his name.”
“ His absence is not to be regretted,” replied the rector. “ Varella’s work can now be exposed to view before consignment to its coming century of darkness. Mr. Peckster will make a great effort in coming here. It is right that he should see the portrait before paying the heavy cost of its storage, and this would be prevented by the presence of its subject.”
“ Certainly,” assented the lady, with decision. “ Nothing could be more distasteful to my husband than the mode of expressing their love for him which his friends have chosen. In a less degree it is repellent to me also. Dr. Hargrave’s great work has been the discovery of means whereby man’s soul may get the better of its clog the body. Any map of the features — be it drawn never so deftly — must resemble Guido’s masterpiece with the triumphant archangel left out.”
“ Wait till you see what the artist has done! ” exclaimed Mr. Greyson, in a tone of confidence. “ His work gives subtle recognition to the fact you mention. The soul of the man is seen behind the features ; or I might almost say that the body has been transformed to spirit by the imaginative genius of the painter, and then precipitated upon the canvas. The College will one day prize it far above the Copley portrait of old Gideon, for it represents the very flower of his benefaction.”
“ The last flower,” sighed Clara, — “ the last before the great Professorship was cut down and left to wither.”
“You shall make it blossom again in the tropics, where the very weeds are brilliant and spicy. Perchance it shall there bloom to some gorgeous wonder that might pass for preternatural in our temperate zone! ”
Mr. Greyson’s rhetoric was kindly meant. Empty he knew it was ; yet what better balm can ministers find in cases of feminine trouble ? Clara Hargrave felt all a woman’s shrinking from a sphere of action other than that into which she had been born. She dreaded the exchange of old lamps for new ones, even though Aladdin’s talisman was to be gained by the bargain.
The lady and her companion passed on to that part of the building where a cluster of electric lights threw their radiance upon Miser Farrel’s cabinet. It was the choicest corner in this granary of brain-sustenance. Broad-seated chairs here stretched out arms soft and elastic with the deftest mixture of spring and padding that upholstery could devise. Here Culture — personified with a capital letter — might select its book, and loll away the hours in measureless content. The cases on the right of the Safe were devoted to publications of a highly reformatory character, which radiated the glow of their Utopias upon the frigid institutions of the past. On the left, the theological shelves stretched away into an obscurity resembling that of the “ den ” where Bunyan consulted dream literature to such excellent purpose. One sometimes fancied that this cavernous alcove was festooned with the metaphysical cobwebs spun by our Puritan divines, and that the buzzings of Scripture texts caught in their subtle meshes was faintly audible.
The bearers of the picture were told to set down their burden, and begin the work of once more exposing it to the light. This must necessarily consume some moments, as the packing had been arranged to offer the best defiance to time. The inner case of zinc, which immediately surrounded the canvas, had been imbedded in dry sand, like that which after eighteen hundred years gave up the mural decorations of Pompeii as fresh as when the artist left them. No word was spoken. Clara Hargrave needed all the comfort that her luxurious chair was capable of affording. She had a constant sense of recoil from the exile before her, while her eyes were fascinated by the tomb-like structure which was presently to add new treasures to its many trusts.
The Safe had been enlarged, with some degree of mercy for its dead contriver. It had, indeed, been suggested that a modern decorator should be let loose to play his Gothic pranks upon the exterior ; but better counsels had finally prevailed, and the simple oaken panels had merely been extended twenty feet on either side of the original inclosure. The new wood had been darkened to the time-stained hue of the older work, and even mock worm-holes had been inserted by dexterous twistings of the gimlet. It was sad to look upon this sepulchre of recorded human experience for which, could it have been audibly uttered, our time would be the richer. Clara had met women who had here buried knowledge wrung from the bitter subjection of their lives, — knowledge vital to the welfare of the race, but of which the code of social usage forbade their living lips to hint. Might it not be that some of these precious deposits were withheld from use for too long a period, so that when at last produced they would appear as ancestral babblement, with which a better-behaving age had no concern ? Doubtless the sardonic sagacity of Farrel had contemplated such miscarriages ; yet growths and fructifications from valuable seeds were certainly more probable when these were scattered upon the better soil which the years would prepare for their reception.
These musings were interrupted by the arrival of Mr. Ephraim Peckster, who, leaning upon the arm of Dr. Bense, advanced tremulously from the darker portion of the Library.
“ You must sit down at once, my dear sir,” said the doctor, as he bent over a chair to deposit his patient with the least possible jar. “ Remember you are not here with my approval. If I am to take you back again to Brandon Avenue, you must obey orders. There, don’t try to talk ; it will tire you. See, they are just ready to show the portrait.”
The last handful of sand had been removed, and the zinc case was being lifted from its wooden envelope. The cover was next slid from the front, and the image of Ernest Hargrave was exposed to view.
“ Tell me that I have not praised this work too highly! ” cried the rector eagerly. “ Am I wrong, Dr. Bense, in saying that it puts Affonso Varella in the front rank of living artists ? ”
The doctor returned no immediate answer to the question. His gaze was fixed upon the canvas. He made a sign to have it placed at a slightly different angle ; then he rose and advanced towards it, shading his eyes with his hand. Seeming to recollect himself, he moved a little to the left, in order not to obstruct the view of the sitters. There was silence for several minutes; then Dr. Bense started, gathered himself together, and appeared to fumble through his memory for some laudatory phrase of art-criticism. It was of no use ; the conventional eulogy had as false a ring as the conventional epitaph. There was no label to attach to such a surprise as this.
“Yes, you are wrong in saying that this painting places Varella in the front rank of living artists,” was the reply that at length was slowly uttered. “ It places him well in advance of that front rank. It is a great piece of portraiture; done in a manner somewhat sketchy, to be sure, but the work of a master-hand. A face to be studied like a book; yet what book can teach all that is to be learned from such coloring ! I say that only a genius can so bring before us the essential man. Why, there are touches here that entice the spirit through the flesh.”
Considering that the doctor’s little book on the Body proved that there was no spirit capable of this liberation, the reader may inquire whether this last remark has not been misreported. Not at all. May not a professor pen a sonnet to the rising sun, and then hurry to his class-room to demonstrate the stationary position of that luminary? In dressing our ideas in language, we must put up with the poor fit of ready-made clothing, or — to change the metaphor — we shall find it difficult to serve up the wisest proposition without a few sprigs of folly by way of garnish.
Clara Hargrave felt all the fascination of the portrait. To show a great man, who was so great as never to imagine himself to be one, — that she conceived to be the gist of the problem presented to the young Brazilian. And he had solved it; this was the leading idea that his work conveyed. What a supernatural light he had thrown about the head! The eyes and forehead glowed with the masculine intelligence which had lifted her out of a frivolous past, and strengthened those wonderful faculties that had lain dormant and unsuspected. There was a majestic simplicity in the pose of the figure ; there was the characteristic energy in the action of the hand. Alas, that a century must elapse before this picture could take its place among those of the honored sons of the College ! Here had her husband’s work been done; here, until recent years, had his name been held in reverence. She knew the value of his later studies ; she believed his future fame was secure. Was not this enough?
No, it was not enough. How shall a woman’s passionate heart wait through the lagging years to see its hero crowned! Clara longed to project her being far onward in the path of time, — onward, even to that next centennial station, when the Mather Safe would yield up its deposit to a grateful world. Under the guidance of Hargrave she had made short, wavering flights into the future, but never had she traveled beyond the decade of years which were next approaching. There was a sudden cry of the spirit, inaudible to those about, yet audible above the loudest uproar to ears that were trained to receive its vibrations. “ Would that I could be swept forward to that moment of satisfaction which lies beyond the stretch of any mortal life ! Would that I could be transported to the elevation only to be reached by those unborn, after the race has climbed a hundred weary steps! Might I stand there but for an instant, to look back upon this distant presenttime as a mere limbo of dead fashions and falsities ! But no; the wild desire is baffled by the nature of things. I must crush down this craving for the impossible ! ”
“ Nothing is impossible to the human soul when, emancipated by knowledge, it wills to exercise its highest prerogative.”
A familiar voice uttered the words. Clara raised her eyes, and saw the figure of her husband. She knew that it was not in his mortal body, but in its astral counterpart, that Ernest Hargrave was with her. Yet he was present just as really as the Thibetan Sage was present to Colonel Henry S. Olcott, in New York, on that memorable occasion when the stranger condescended to puncture the hallucination bubble of psychical societies by leaving his turban by way of visiting-card. Is it objected that the President of the Theosopliical Society is not versed in any natural science ? What, then, are we to do with the testimony of the eminent professor of anatomy and biology, whose ornithological works are so confidently commended to students ? Shall we tell them to bow to the authority of Dr. Elliott Coues upon the flight and migration of birds, and reject the narrative of his own flight and migration in gasiform duplicate of his physical body from the house of Judge Thomas in Cincinnati to that of an accomplished lady in Washington ?
“ There is no distance between us,” continued the shadowy Professor; “whatever you wish is as clear and lucid to me as if I were yourself. Not in vain have I sought orderly intercourse with beings of another sphere, — never for an instant permitting them to command me ; always commanding them to do my pleasure. The sublime Brotherhood over which I go to preside will succeed in experiments far more difficult than that which you rashly pronounce impossible. Know that there are forms, rites, invocatory processes, by which the soul may be separated from the frail tenement it inhabits, and for a moment be absorbed in grand and exalted entity, to which there is no then and there, but all is now and here. Your desire is indeed born from the weaker part of your nature ; yet if its gratification will strengthen your hands for our future work, I dare not withhold my assistance. Give me steady coöperation. As you feel the pressure of my hand upon your forehead, will that your will shall merge in mine. Will that the yielding and intuitive characteristics of the feminine mind shall have absolute supremacy. Fear nothing. There must come a rocking motion, that shall stir the pulse and make the heart beat high. What you are to see and hear must be crowded into a few moments of earthly time. The limit of resistance wavers ; the ideal expansion will presently be reached. Be self-possessed ; I confide you to those who will be faithful. There . . . there ... let the head fall back upon the cushion — so — now you are off! ”
A hot intensity of inward life, a sense of being covered only by the thinnest film of matter, a consciousness of dashing onward at headlong speed, and the sensitive knew that her wish had evoked a power able to gratify it. A tide of life richer than mortals know pulsated through the veins. Old memories, perchance of former lives, which the soil of earth had covered, but not extinguished, were sailing by her side. Only a gossamer thread held the spirit to its late habitation ; there was a shudder in the thought!
Presently there came a dreamy Lethean influence, as if one were swinging through masses of gray vapor. Whiter and whiter grew these dingy mists, till at length they lay along the path like huge snowbanks. Presently they broke, revealing chasms, from whose sides blew stormy blasts that beat and blustered about the fragile traveler. Movement ever quickening, without sense of whence or whither ! When the propulsive power faltered, a hail of pelting atoms — ultimate atoms, eternal, uncreated, indivisible — renewed its energy. Off beyond time limits ; the personage with the scythe and hour-glass panted in the rear as vainly as in Dr. Johnson’s prologue. There was a confusion of little units rushing to cohere into units of more complexity ; and these in their turn clashed together, perchance to form one of Mr. Mill’s possible worlds, where five shall be the product of two and two, where bodies shall move in the direction of the greatest resistance, and where little boys shall be kept after school to demonstrate that the angles of a triangle must always exceed two right angles.
The flying voyager knew that what she saw was not reality, but the best available expression of reality. The truth must he given in symbol and shadow, because it can enter the human spirit only by the use of imagery with which it is acquainted.
And now the line of travel ran beside a headlong-dashing stream. Might this not be the Current of Events, which was posting madly to the ever-widening ocean of the past ? It was evident that many startling experiences were dancing by in the rapids, each one of which would in its season be caught and put in capitals for the latest intelligence column of the newspapers. Alas, the photography of memory was not instantaneous enough to snatch the least of them as they darted on.
Presently, as the interminable succession of barren spaces were sweeping by, a withering inquiry presented itself. Would it be possible to stop this fearful journey upon that petty bank and shoal of time upon which Clara Hargrave had wished to stand ? There appeared to her to be incalculable chances against so successful an issue to the flight. Yet what might not be accomplished by those intelligent forces to which Ernest had confided her !
Far in the distance flashed out a beacon light. Brighter and brighter it blazed, until it dazzled like a sun. Then clouds drifted before it. and the beams were tempered to the mellow noon of an autumn day. There was no consciousness of shock, and yet the forward rush had ceased. Again the sensitive seemed to be clothed with her full physical personality ; again she was a finite being among other finite beings. The walls of the Thatcher Theatre shut her in, but the seats were filled with strangers, with whom she could enter into no relations of action and reaction. A little segment of her nineteenth century was all that she was permitted to affect for good or for evil, and that lay dim and faded in the historic past.
Strange that there was no color in the scene. A sombre grayish texture seemed to be cut into the outlines of men and women who were listening to the orator as he pronounced the commemorative address. On the left of the speaker stood two easels bearing portraits, each covered by a curtain emblazoned with the seal of the College.
“ All, all are strangers,” sighed Clara, looking about her ; “ alas, there is not one familiar face that might brighten at my greeting! ”
No, she was wrong; for there on the extreme right of the platform — that is, on the speaker’s right — sat President Cooley, clad in the academic robe in which she had seen him announce the honorary degrees from this very place, upon that very day, a hundred years ago. How pleasant and natural it was to find him here, to know that one person from her century had been permitted to bear her company ! It was like the Professor’s thoughtfulness to have so arranged it. But there was something strange about it, too ; for Dr. Cooley appeared to have grown to gigantic proportions, and there was constraint in the motionless attitude in which he absorbed the eloquence that was poured upon the air. Only a concentration of attention, such as is sometimes seen in the hypnotic subject, could keep a man so still. Not a motion, when the speaker turned to compliment him upon the broad and liberal spirit in which he had administered the affairs of the College. Surely a slight inclination of the head would be only decent after the delivery of this passage. But the President had been hurried off suddenly, and perhaps found no time to pack up his manners. Still, it was provoking to see him sitting there as if he had been carved out of stone. The explanation could no longer be avoided : how stupid she was to have missed it! Of course it was no living President Cooley upon whom her eyes rested. Hargrave, when differing most with his superior officer, always acknowledged the wonderful impulse he had given to the College, and declared that posterity would see that he had a statue. Well, Ernest was as right in this as he was in everything else. There, to be sure, sat the President in “glory’s marble trance,” as that last-century poet, Dr. Holmes, had called this chilly reincarnation.
The sensitive started, as one of the rhetorical periods that were falling from the platform culminated with the familiar name of “ Peckster,” — a vocable that seemed to stick in the trumpet of fame as badly as Byron’s Amos Cottle. Yes, the orator was speaking of that ancient family, so long extinct, of their once famous Professorship, and of the eminent men who successively had filled its Chair.
“ It is the last and greatest of these,” continued the speaker, “ whom to-day we hold in especial remembrance. No man did more than Ernest Hargrave to establish that science of the Higher Psychology which the learned of his time appear to have regarded as another name for cerebral physiology. In contrast to the teaching of the mechanical biologists who were then in the ascendant, he showed that mind was imperishable, and that the specific activities which seemed to accompany it were really wrought by its influence upon a basis of inferior vitality and lower organization. The ancient doctrine that nature made no leaps received from him its final quietus. He pointed to the leap in the development of protoplasm, to the leap in the manifestation of intellectual faculty, and then proved a third leap from a visible to an invisible plane of existence. The proof he offered, which we now recognize as strictly scientific, was rejected by those then controlling academic endowments ; the Peckster Professor shared the fate of Kepler in astronomy, of Harvey in physiology, and — to go back only thirty years — of George B. Cotley in aerial navigation. It is needless to speak of the work subsequently done by the Director of the Brazilian Brotherhood of Psychologists, for its value is recognized by all educated men. While our Northern scientists seemed bent upon proving the utter dependency of what passed for the spiritual part of man upon his physical organization, their banished associate demonstrated that the power of the spiritual over the physical was supreme and absolute. A mastery of his Advanced Exercises for Will-Practice is today required by the College as a condition for the doctorate of laws. It is scarcely credible that former recipients of this degree knew nothing of laws higher than those which were lobbied through legislatures, or devised by the standing committee of a club. I need not remind you how the sobering influence radiated from that Southern Brotherhood tempered the fury of the Social Revolution, the close of which, it is said, our oldest graduate can dimly remember. History tells us how the vibrating psychoplasm supplied by Professor Hargrave ever tended to communicate its rhythms to the heated heads which, for a time, controlled the State, and threatened the very existence of this College. But I dare not longer detain you from the event which is to render this day memorable. The Mather Safe has at last given up a portrait by Affonso Varella, whose death, at the age of twentysix, was the saddest loss that art has ever sustained in this Western hemisphere. The great Professor, who a century ago looked upon a world half puzzled and half scornful, now meets a later generation which sends its choicest representatives to do him honor. In your name, in the name of your successors, — yes, even in the name of those who once rejected him, — I welcome Ernest Hargrave back to this venerable Hall.”
As the last word was spoken, the curtain fell from one of the pictures, and Copley’s Gideon Peckster, surrounded by a frame of exquisite workmanship, was disclosed to view. A sunbeam, which for the first time brought color into the scene, fell upon the features of this ancient benefactor, whose lips seemed to smile approval as the noblest result of his foundation was at last recognized. As the veil was removed from the second picture, a murmur of delight ran through the theatre. Was the canvas translucent ? Surely its opaque texture was penetrated by a lustre not of this world. The spiritual ingredients which the artist had mixed with his paints were potent, after their century of seclusion. The excitement swelled to a tumult of homage ; an enlightened generation knew and honored Ernest Hargrave even as his wife had known and honored him in the time gone by. What were exile, what were martyrdom, now ! Cheerfully, gratefully, she would fling away the comfortable surroundings of her life, since she had been permitted to see the light of that noble spirit reflected in increased splendor from another age.
Now that the great desire of Clara Hargrave had been gratified, another feminine instinct promptly asserted itself, and she directed her gaze upon the ladies’ dresses with insatiable curiosity. She had time to perceive that a modification of the Greek costume, whose key-note was liberty, was generally worn; it offered no restraint to the organic functions which give free play to the nobler powers of the mind. How could she go back to the absurd constructions with which her contemporaries were accustomed to fetter themselves ? She would seize the opportunity of making an exhaustive study of fabric, cut, and pattern. But as she bent her mind upon this very practical investigation, the Theatre began to waver and twinkle like the wick of a candle that has reached its socket. Indeed, nothing was fixed but the statue, which, doubtless from the solid nature of its material, seemed disinclined to partake of the general instability. Yet notwithstanding this satisfactory distinctness, it appeared to diminish in size, and to grow more lifelike. Was that a flicker of intelligence in the eyes ? Why, the sculptor must have had the genius of Varella ; he had actually cut speculation into those flinty orbs. Clara could only look wonderingly on, while the hands gradually assumed the color of living flesh, and then, moving upwards, whisked off the graceful academic drapery, and disclosed Dr. Cooley clad in all the ugliness of the contemporary swallow-tail.
“ My dear Mrs. Hargrave,” said the President kindly, “youhave been a little faint; let me take you into the air. Or stay ; if the Treasurer will open that window, it may do as well. Here, drink this water; you will feel better presently.”
“ I am quite myself, thank you,” replied the lady, after a brief pause. “ I was somewhat confused. Yes, I — I have been away — far away.”
“ Ah, that is very true ; you are indeed going far away,” assented Dr. Cooley compassionately. “I am sure no one can wonder that you feel a little hysterical at the thought of leaving your friends in the North. But think what opportunities to win distinction Professor Hargrave will be offered! I still call him Professor, because once a professor, always a professor. I believe that’s the rule, — unless we except professors of religion, eh, Mr. Greyson ? ”
“We have many backsliders who forfeit all right to the title,” said the rector.
“ That is sad enough,” responded the President. “ Let us hope that if any professors of science have been tempted to stray from the narrow path, they will take warning before it is too late. Do you know that I want your husband to send us the bones of a Toxodon, set up as he would know how to place them ? Please use your influence, Mrs. Hargrave. You may tell him that if the College received such a gift, I should feel bound to mention it in my quarterly report.”
Clara could not help smiling at the naïveté of the inducement. Ernest might have his price, but it was no longer to be reckoned in such currency as this. She sobered herself sufficiently to assure the President that the Toxodon was likely to be forthcoming, as Dr. Hargrave had no intention of abandoning his science, though for a time it might be subordinated to other work.
“ I must ask President Cooley to open the Safe at once,” interposed Dr. Bense. “We have been waiting here more than half an hour for his arrival, and every moment tells against Mr. Peckster, who ought to be in bed in his own house. The stimulus of an unusual excitement keeps him up ; but if the emotional strain should be carried beyond a certain point, I cannot answer for the consequences.”
“ Is that box, which these men were screwing up as I came in, the only deposit?” asked the President “The bulk is larger than we usually accept ; but for Mr. Peckster we have voted to stretch our regulations. We are to keep it for a hundred years, if I am rightly informed.”
“ That is the understanding,” said Dr. Bense. “ It is then to be opened, and its contents given to the College. But to answer your inquiry, there is one other consignment. I hold in my hand a parcel of manuscript, which Mrs. Hargrave, in the name of her husband, adds to the other writings he has placed in the Safe. All are to be kept for fiftyyears, and are then to be given to the last minority candidate for the Gorley Professorship of Psychology, — a man who, in the judgment of Dr. Hargrave, is likely to be freer from the trammels of precedent than the actual winner of the Chair.”
“ There need be no delay beyond the necessary formalities of registration,” said Dr. Cooley. “ Mr. Treasurer, will you try your key in that lock ? Thank you. Now it is my turn. There ; our wizard’s cave is open,, and ready to lay its enchantment upon whatever is offered. A storehouse rich in potential energy that shall one day become dynamic ! Fortunately, we are exempt from taxation, so there is no assessor’s estimate of the worth of its contents.”
The doors, which swung heavily apart, disclosed only a small portion of the dusky prison, from which no executive magistrate held the right of pardon. A suppressed rustle seemed to come from the interior. Possibly it was the Past brushing by the Present, to confer with the Future ; or it may have been the whispers of dead men, who confided their secrets to a posterity as non-existent as themselves.
The heavy portrait-case was now lifted by its bearers, who, preceded by the Treasurer, bore it into the Safe. The President then received the package from the hands of Dr. Bense, and placed it in a certain iron pigeon-hole numbered 249, and marked with the name " Hargrave.” Then the doors were closed ; the keys of the proper officials threw the bolts of their respective locks ; and the bequest of Miser Farrel held its new consignments with a clutch that only Father Time might relax.
During these proceedings, Mr. Greyson had been writing in a huge folio, whose covers were decorated with the Farrel arms quartered with those of the College. It contained a list of the deposits in the Safe ; each being provided with a number, motto, or other device to insure its certain identification.
“ All is now ready for the signatures,” said the rector at length. “ Mrs. Hargrave, will you come first ? Please put your name there, on the second line from the bottom. That is quite right. Now, Mr. Peckster, we will turn the page, and make ready for you. You need not rise, sir. I will bring the book, and here is a pen full of ink. Write just after the words, ‘ And my will is that the above-described deposit remain in the Mather Safe for one hundred years, and that it be then presented to the College in the name of my ancestor, Gideon Peckster.’ ”
The representative of the last-named personage appeared to find some difficulty in placing his autograph just where it was wanted. It was, however, approximately accomplished, being finished with the assistance of Mr. Greyson, who guided back the uncertain hand in order that the t in the last syllable might receive its proper crossing.
“ There is one other little ceremony that belongs to the occasion,” said Dr. Cooley in his blandest manner. “ and as soon as it is performed we will all escort Mr. Peckster to his carriage. The College is, unhappily, forced to ask for payment in advance, for really we can have no guarantee that the consignees will think that they have received treasures worth the accumulated fees for freight and storage. Thank you, Mrs. Hargrave ; the usual check payable to the order of our Treasurer: yes, that is quite correct. By the way, did you see the sonnet upon the Mather Safe that was printed in yesterday’s Adviser ? The poet compares it to an aqueduct that carries living waters through a stretch of underground darkness, till at length they rise to refresh a city far below the horizon. Unfortunately, the analogy is only partial, for we are without the means of collecting rates from the distant takers,”
“ Please to help me rise,” said Mr. Ephraim Peckster. “ I am provided with a check for the necessary payment, and — perhaps I can say a few words, before the lights are put out.”
Grasping the hand of the rector, the invalid lifted himself from the luxurious padding of his chair, and then straightened to a figure with more of the stiffening of manhood in it than had lately been apparent. He advanced towards the President, and handed him a slip of corn-colored paper.
“ I fear we must trouble Mr. Peckster to add one more cipher to the amount written here,” said Dr. Cooley, after a little hesitation. “ The Regents voted that our keys required an unusual lubrication before they could open the doors of the Safe for so large a deposit.”
“Then I am very sorry that I did not bring my check-book,” replied Mr. Peckster courteously.
“ Give yourself no uneasiness on that account,” rejoined the President. “I carry check-blanks upon all the banks, a habit of mine which, I can assure you, has been of much advantage to the College.”
“ It is growing dark,” said Mr. Peckster. “ Dr. Bense is a good friend of the higher education, and he may write whatever you wish. Let him fill the blank on the Mellin Trust Company, and I will sign it.”
“ He may write whatever I wish ? ” repeated Dr. Cooley interrogatively.
“ Ah, my dear Mr. Peckster, I fear you do not quite mean that. For if I were to have my wish, I think it would be that you would give Dr. Bense permission to square the initial figure as well as to annex the missing cipher.”
Ephraim Peckster, although in an unusually giving mood, recoiled at the enormous liberality of this proposition. The ancestral light faded from the features, while the brows contracted to the peculiar knot known to the sheep of the Pasture, when they were tardy in presenting themselves for the shearing of quarter-day. The shrinking was only for an instant; and then the attributes of old Gideon broke through the countenance more strongly than before. It was a symptomatic fact which the doctor noted with uneasiness.
“ I accept your amendment,” said a voice which seemed too vigorous for the feeble invalid from whose lips it issued. “ I shall only ask the Treasurer to delay presenting the check for three days : I have no such sum at present on deposit.”
“ He shall delay for three weeks, my good sir, if you say the word,” was the cordial response of President Cooley. “ Believe me, you will never regret this pious benefaction. In one way or another, we are able to make good returns for what we get. Had you come earlier in the evening, you would have seen rose-colored lights arranged to form the names of those who have remembered us : they were symbolic of the hue in which our College chroniclers are accustomed to set forth the facts of their mortal pilgrimage.”
A look of stern decision, which darkened Mr. Peckster’s face, repelled this kindly meant suggestion. Words came slowly and with effort: “ My being, attenuated of much of its mortal substance, is even now assuming relations with a state where a man’s thoughts of himself are the only life-history which need concern him. As the nerve of sense is paralyzed, a second consciousness, long overlaid, rises to clearness, coherence, intensity. Let no one be bribed to mask for others the fearful shadows that must there haunt me ! . . . But let me sign the check that Dr. Bense has written. Give it to me at once, for I know not how soon the play will be over.”
“ This is the passing humor of a tired man, for which a good night’s sleep is the certain remedy,” said the President tenderly. But he made a sign to Dr. Bense to write what was wanted with all speed; for if the play should be indeed near its ending, it was clear that the College Library was no place for the catastrophe of the fifth act.
“Here, my dear sir,” continued Dr. Cooley, as he held out the check upon which the physician had written the result of the little sum that had been set him. “ Try this quill, — there is no metallic pen that writes so easily, — and accept the privilege of the situation. Ah, it is a strange privilege, after all! To think that years of honest labor shall not so earn the gratitude of the College as the few dots and pothooks you are to put upon this paper! Yes, we have here a notable contrast.”
“ The contrast is awful,” murmured the old man; “ it is mockery to say that reason and religion will never find a way to avoid it. I am humbled, nay, crushed, with the thought that I, who have stumbled and seen so dimly, am yet permitted to do something to give others a better guidance.”
All weariness went out of the hand as the name was written ; never had so bold a signature been seen upon the paper of Ephraim Peckster. It was observed that the family name bore a wonderful likeness to the strong-featured autographs of ancestor Gideon: there was the swirling loop to the k, and the dashing wave which followed the concluding r. This was not surprising to Dr. Bense, who knew that there are certain inherited substrata which may function for the first time after some special bodily failure ; these testify to a kinship from which all the active life has grown away.
“ Everything is pleasantly finished,” said Dr. Cooley, rubbing his hands with pardonable satisfaction. “ Now we will get Mr. Peckster into his coat, and into the fresh air, where the carriage is waiting. He will feel like another man when once outside our musty Library, and will ride home happy with the remembrance of the good thing he has done for us.”
But the black moment could no longer be postponed. A New England family had spent or wasted such force as was in it, and local history would know its members no more. The last representative of his name perceived that the Satis lusisti ! had been spoken. There was an instant of painfully acute consciousness, a fearful throbbing in the ears, a convulsive movement of the throat, as if some one thrust back the cry which fought for utterance. The solid walls of the building seemed to fall and bear something to the earth. Dr. Bense caught something in his arms, — but it was not Ephraim Peckster. The wrench was over, and the great transformation — which was no transformation — was accomplished.
No transformation. Clara Hargrave saw the group about the thing that had been laid gently upon the floor; she saw Dr. Bense on his knees beside it; she heard him murmur something about the “ inhibitory cardiac apparatus,” — and there was Ephraim Peckster standing before her, clothed as when in the body. Yes, gentlemen of the Society for Psychical Research, in spite of the ponderous dress difficulty, the fact can be given to you in no better words than those that have just been written. Of course they are inadequate, — absurdly inadequate. Go to the arctic regions, and use the forms of speech belonging to the climate in lecturing upon tropical forests or electrical communication. A garden becomes a dirty snowdrift that breaks into colored spots, like a man with the small-pox; the telegraph is a fishingline stretched between two huts, along which runs a little animal with a bit of blubber in his mouth. Such grotesque adumbration we must put up with in conveying the facts of one zone to the inhabitants of another. Shall we do better in attempting to translate spiritual perceptions into forms of language unfitted, to receive them ? We can only reverse the fable, and show the lion in the hide of the ass.
It is improbable that Ephraim Peckster subsisted in neumenal existence precisely as he appeared to the sensitive. Consciousness can never give us a complete representation of the sensory impulse which occasions a perception. It concerns us only to know that, as the man had lost no quality that was really his, the modification of character given by clothes persisted. Take the lawn sleeves from your bishop, and compel him to officiate in a fancy bathing-dress, and you strip him of an important part of his personality. Now the fact to be conveyed is that death deprives a man of no essential part of his being. The form upon which Dr. Bense was trying the resources of his art never had any life of its own; the glazing eye had never seen, the dull ear had never heard. Sensation is of the spiritual body. If the form and moving of the machine had been express and admirable, it was because a visitant from another range of being had animated it. No transformation. There stood the feeble residuum of the Peckster family just as inheritance, circumstance, self-indulgence, had made him: or rather, just as he had made himself by offering no efficient resistance to these witchcrafts of the flesh. The face, which in earth-life bore traces of the nobler living of old Gideon, was now absolutely symbolic of character. It showed the man exactly as he was : not what he had persuaded himself that he was; not what his money had bribed others to represent him. Vainly might rose-water religionists promise their patron Dives a higher life and a happier future. The sensitive shuddered as she perceived that to such as Ephraim Peckster there opens a lower life and a darker future, long, terrible, — whether hopeless or endless, who shall say ?
The bustle and buzz of excited murmurs which succeeded the shock were scarcely heard by Clara Hargrave, whose nerves of outer sense were numbed as she gazed at the mystery before her. It was not until what had happened was understood by her companions, and their hasty exclamations had been duly uttered, that Mr. Greyson’s voice came to her almost like that of one who is speaking an unknown tongue : —
“ Should we not send for a coroner, or for the officer who represents him ? ” “ Absolutely unnecessary,” said Dr. Bense, with decision. “ The matter is perfectly simple, — the sudden stopping of a long-debilitated heart. The books are full of just such cases.”
“ There is a question,” said Dr. Cooley, with some hesitation, “ which, under the circumstances, should be considered without delay. I regret to thrust it forward at this painful moment, but the fact that I am here in a fiduciary capacity leaves me no alternative. What is the value of that check ? I call you all to witness that Mr. Peckster signed it with a full knowledge of what he was doing. Added to the funds I have been slowly accumulating, the amount here written is sufficient to establish the long-desired Chair of Heredity, — a focus from which light, spreading in divergent rays, shall increase the efficiency of every department of the College. I speak only such words as the tenderest friend of him who lies there might utter, when I inquire whether the life that has just vanished like a dream has left something behind it which may be of substantial benefit to the world. Again I ask, What is the value of the check ? ”
The Treasurer, who seemed to be appealed to, waited for a moment, and then, extending his arm, drew an ellipse upon an imaginary blackboard.
“ Then we must appeal to the moral sense of the Duke; we have the strongest claim upon him ! ”
The Treasurer shrugged his shoulders, as if to intimate that the moral sense of that eminent aristocrat was probably overgrown by the weedy harvests he had been at the pains to cultivate.
“ Cannot you get special legislation ? ” inquired Dr. Bense. “ Surely there are ways in which the College can bring pressure to bear upon the average country member! ”
“ Ex post facto law-making happens to be unconstitutional,” replied the Treasurer regretfully. “ I don’t think we can provide a lobby potent enough to surmount that obstacle.”
The little council was somewhat soured by this final checkmate. It was marvelous that a scheme of the universe, which the College had always patronized as on the whole well arranged and agreeable, should have such fatal flaws in it!
“ I see the solution of our difficulty! ” exclaimed the Treasurer suddenly. “ I was stupid not to have thought of it. Although the check has now no value as a money-order, it may be worth much as evidence of a claim against the executor of the estate. As a gift to the College it is nothing; but how if we can show that it was an intended payment for value received? The consideration was, of course, our pledge to give a century of storage in the Mather Safe to a most unusual and cumbrous deposit. This view of the matter will bring the case into Court; and, once there, Hensleigh will take care of us. If we go to a jury, there will be a chance for his rhapsodic stop. What an opportunity to make an eloquent plea for letters! Why, there has been nothing like it since the trial of the poet Archias ! ”
“ I cannot take your hopeful view of the situation,” said the President sadly. “ I have had bitter experience of the resources of legal zigzagging, and of the prejudices of twelve average citizens. If justice were done, this check would be good for the amount Mr. Peckster intended to convey to us ; but I should sleep more easily to-night if I saw a name which meant money written across the back of it.”
“ I fear it would have no legal significance, under the present circumstances,” said the Treasurer doubtfully.
“ It would have a moral significance,” replied Dr. Cooley, with decision, “ and that would be sufficient with the class of benefactors who in time past have aided the College.”
“ You shall have a name, then,” said Clara Hargrave, rising in response to the imploring gesture of a being visible to her alone. “ Give me the pen. . . . There! What I have written means that if the Courts fail you, the Professorship shall still be founded. For some time past I have set aside property to endow a Chair of even greater importance than that which is so near the heart of the President. Well, the time is against me. It appears I was born too soon to enrich the College in the way I should like. I accept the conditions of my age, and will do for it what I can.”
“ Your action is worthy of a wellbalanced masculine mind ! ” exclaimed Dr. Bense ; “and what better can I say of it ? ”
“ Say that it is not unworthy the wife of Professor Hargrave, and I shall be fully satisfied,” replied the lady, as she resumed her seat.
The pecuniary shadows being thus measurably dissipated, the flutter belonging to the situation was resumed. The janitor was summoned, and dispatched for functionaries who lie in wait for such occasions, and who often seem to be affected by an astonishing polarity which attracts them to the spot where their services are wanted.
The excited reporter telephoned to his journal that the obituary, so long set up, might see the light in the morning’s issue, and then proceeded to write out the particulars that were to bring a thrill of sensation to many breakfast-tables.
There was a hurried, informal consultation held with Mr. Greyson by the two College officers. The funeral would certainly take place at St. Philemon’s; any day but Thursday would suit the President. Seats must of course be reserved for the Council of Regents : some of them would have gone in any case, but, under the peculiar circumstances, it was imperative that they should go as a body; they should be conspicuously present.
The grounds about the Library were at the acme of their desertion when the tired janitor was permitted to close the building. The grass, crushed by the throng of celebrators, had begun to revive with the moisture of the dew. No flush in the east announced that another day was approaching, yet there was a faint twittering of sparrows, indicating a drowsy faith that the sun must rise as usual, even though a figure of the moneyed weight and substance of the late Ephraim Peckster would be undiscernible in the show.
How strange is the craving to see newspaper accounts of sights or transactions concerning which we happen to be much better informed than the reporter who chronicles them ! There must have been many things in the morning issue of the Daily Adviser of which Dr. Bense was ignorant, yet he passed them by to read the narrative of last night’s scene in the College Library, about which his information was perfect. It seems as if we could not fully realize what we have done or witnessed until we get it in type, and are instructed how to regard it by the editorial pronoun of multitude.
“ Yes, my dear, the Adviser gives the facts with a fair amount of correctness,” said Dr. Bense, when released from the fascination which the morning paper exerts upon the masculine mind. “ Here are the comments, cut up into little paragraphs of some dozen lines each, as the fashion now is. If we can persuade little Dora to keep quiet for a few minutes, I will read them to you.”
The doctor addressed Mrs. Bense, who was sitting at the waiter-side of the breakfast-table. He referred to a flaxenhaired child, whose six summers of experience had been filled with alternate visions of vivid joys and sorrows, with fairy intimacies, and with silly conclusions.
“ Come, little Dora, leave off rattling the shovel, and sit upon grandpapa’s knee, and hear him read all about poor Mr. Peckster.”
“ Does the story end with a question ? ” asked little Dora doubtfully. She had been bewitched by a certain tale of a barbaric princess, which a version of her grandfather’s had brought within the grasp of the childish imagination. “ Does Mr. Peckster’s story end with a question, just like Mr. Stockton’s ? ”
“ There are few stories that do not, my dear,” replied the doctor sadly,
“ and if is generally easier to see the question than to come at the answer.”
“ Then I will find out the question, and you shall tell me the answer ! ” exclaimed the child, shaking her curls, and laughing at her own suggestion of this happy division of labor.
“Well, then, attend to the reading; and remember to keep quiet even if you don’t understand it.”
So saying, Dr. Bense adjusted his spectacles, and proceeded to give the wisdom of the Adviser all the advantage of a good voice and correct emphasis : —
“ 'The death of Mr. Ephraim Peckster, whose obituary will be found in another column, will produce a profound sensation in this community. He was Treasurer of the Lucullus Land Company, Trustee of the Demas Institute for Distressed Travelers, Vice-President of the Metamora Club, and held other offices of responsibility and trust. He was an honorary member of the National Osteological Association, a body that will now add one more to the interesting collection of memoirs in which its associates are celebrated. Mr. Peckster was likewise connected with several dining-clubs, and the sumptuous hospitalities of his mansion on Brandon Avenue will long be remembered. His relations with the College have always been most friendly, and the rumor that they had of late become somewhat strained should be treated as idle gossip. It is gratifying to state that the famous Pasture has been much enlarged by the operations of its late proprietor in Western lands, and that its productiveness was never greater. We had forgotten to mention that Mr. Peckster was at one time talked of for the gubernatorial chair, — a position for which, it is needless to say, he had very important qualifications. Had his friends been permitted to bring forward his name, we regard it as more than probable that we might to-day be called upon to mourn the Chief Magistrate of the Commonwealth.’
“ The Adviser is equal to the occasion, as it always is,” remarked the admiring reader. “ I think Peckster held a good deal of its stock. The sudden recollection of a contingency which permits winding up with that sonorous chief-magistrate business is a fine touch of journalistic art. But, stop ! here is something else that concerns us : —
“ ‘ The abolition of the Peckster Professorship, followed so immediately by the death of the last bearer of the name of its founder, is an impressive circumstance. We understand that the occupant of the late Chair of Osteology sails from New York this afternoon for his future home in Brazil. We need not enlarge upon the opportunities for legitimate investigation that will there be open to him. It is to be hoped that he will give his exclusive attention to those gigantic bones of the palæontozoic age which belong to the field of research in which he has already acquired such high distinction. We advise him to confine himself to the scientific coördination of the laws and phenomena of osseous deposit. Would that it were unnecessary to emphasize our friendly counsel ! But the communication signed " Regent, on the fourth page, coming from a source entitled to the highest consideration, justifies a plainness of language that we would gladly have avoided. It is now unnecessary to deny that the impairment of Professor Hargrave’s usefulness to the College was a leading consideration in abolishing the Peckster Professorship. His unhappy reversion to those forms of thought which, in our savage ancestors, characterized the earlier steps of the evolutionary movement separated him from the exponents of modern science who have given the College its present high position. Fortunately, Dr. Hargrave has now an opportunity to abandon the chimæras which have deprived him of the Professorship. His power of combining and coördinating the facts obtained in his legitimate sphere of observation is unquestionably remarkable ; he may yet give the world a book worthy of the author of Centres of Ossification, and receive the doctorate of laws which the College would hasten to bestow. We advise him, then, to renounce at once and forever those vaporous mysticisms which tend to culminate in the perilous doctrines of Rousseau. Let him remember that our highest medical authorities regard this aspiration to work in the void as the sign of a mental deficiency, which may at any time increase to positive mental disorder. For the initial degeneracy having set in, its morbid development is certain to follow, and the end is not difficult to prefigure.’ ”
“ That seems to be very judicious advice,” said Mrs. Bense, after the pause that followed this dismal vaticination.
“ It probably comes from the same pen that writes the Regent communication,” observed the doctor. “ Of course it is the only view of the situation which can justify the action of the Council. Luckily, a man of Hargrave’s consciousness of inward strength has no occasion to lean upon the College.”
“ But surely you agree witli that finesounding editorial ? ”
“ Well, not altogether,” answered Dr. Bense. “ The truth is, Hargrave has got at facts — and they are facts — which cannot be forced into relation with the facts of physiology and pathology with which I am familiar. He is sustained by a wife who absolutely trusts him, and who knows — or thinks she knows — that his work in the transcendental sphere will not only build up his own character to the noblest poise of manhood, but will bestow an infinite blessing upon the world.”
“ And who will be right, the Lady or the Adviser ? ” suddenly broke in little Dora, seizing the only question that seemed to flicker out of the sombre discourse she had imperfectly understood.
“ Ah, I cannot answer that question, dear Dolly ; so you must jump down, and let grandpapa go to his patients.”
“ But can nobody answer it ? ” persisted the child.
“ Well, I can’t think of anybody just at present,” responded the doctor reflectively. “ Though, to be sure, we might apply to a gentleman who lives many miles off, and who has written a very nice book about astronomy, which you shall read when you ’re a little older.”
“ Oh, do let’s ask him ! ” cried Dora, catching at the suggestion.
“ Very well, then : if you can manage to write down the question concerning the Lady and the Adviser, we will mail it to this good gentleman, who, as I was saying, knows about astronomy, and political economy, and so many other things.”
“ Do you really think, grandpapa, that he knows more about the other things than Professor Hargrave ? ”
Dr. Bense started ; he doubted if Judge Hensleigh himself had ever put a more searching interrogation. Fortunately, there was no Court to commit him for contempt if he declined to answer.
“ You must ask no more questions, Miss Dolly Bense. See, here is an envelope : I will address it to the learned gentleman we were speaking of, and perhaps he will refer your inquiry to the wise association of which he is the chief. There, now ; I have written very plainly, so that you can read it: To the President of the Society for Psychical Research.”
J. P. Quincy.