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    Purposes of Roderic.— The Carriage of Imogen.— Her Contempt of Riches.

    “What’s up now, you two?” he called, sharply. “This isn’t clearing up!”

    Chapter 14

    I affirm no such thing. As mankind improve, the number of doctrines which are no longer disputed or doubted will be constantly on the increase: and the well-being of mankind may almost be measured by the number and gravity of the truths which have reached the point of being uncontested. The cessation, on one question after another, of serious controversy, is one of the necessary incidents of the consolidation of opinion; a consolidation as salutary in the case of true opinions, as it is dangerous and noxious when the opinions are erroneous. But though this gradual narrowing of the bounds of diversity of opinion is necessary in both senses of the term, being at once inevitable and indispensable, we are not therefore obliged to conclude that all its consequences must be beneficial. The loss of so important an aid to the intelligent and living apprehension of a truth, as is afforded by the necessity of explaining it to, or defending it against, opponents, though not sufficient to outweigh, is no trifling drawback from, the benefit of its universal recognition. Where this advantage can no longer be had, I confess I should like to see the teachers of mankind endeavoring to provide a substitute for it; some contrivance for making the difficulties of the question as present to the learner’s consciousness, as if they were pressed upon him by a dissentient champion, eager for his conversion.

    In the result, eight out of the seventeen survivors of my party resolved to stand by the brig. It is just that I should record their names. They were Brooks, M’Gary, Wilson, Goodfellow, Morton, Ohlsen, Hickey, and Christian.

    “Chief Salamander did warn you of this long ago,” grumbled Dr. Carvalho.

    In the evening she seemed a little calmer, and, making me sit at the foot of the bed, she told me many times how much she loved me. She smiled at me, but with an effort, for in spite of herself her eyes were veiled with tears.

    In speaking of L?lia elegans, I said that those Brazilian islanders who have lost it might find solace could they see its happiness in exile. The gentle reader thought this an extravagant figure of speech, no doubt, but it is not wholly fanciful. Indians of Tropical America cherish a fine orchid to the degree that in many cases no sum, and no offer of valuables, will tempt them to part with it. Ownership is distinctly recognized when the specimen grows near a village. The root of this feeling, whether superstition or taste, sense of beauty, rivalry in magnificence of church displays, I have not been able to trace. It runs very strong in Costa Rica, where the influence of the aborigines is scarcely perceptible, and there, at least, the latter motive is sufficient explanation. Glorious beyond all our fancy can conceive, must be the show in those lonely forest churches, which no European visits save the "collector," on a feast day. Mr. Roezl, whose name is so familiar to botanists, left a description of the scene that time he first beheld the Flor de Majo. The church was hung with garlands of it, he says, and such emotions seized him at the view that he choked. The statement is quite credible. Those who see that wonder now, prepared for its transcendent glory, find no words to express their feeling: imagine an enthusiast beholding it for the first time, unwarned, unsuspecting that earth can show such a sample of the flowers that bloomed in Eden! And not a single branch, but garlands of it! Mr. Roezl proceeds to speak of bouquets of Masdevallia Harryana three feet across, and so forth. The natives showed him "gardens" devoted to this species, for the ornament of their church; it was not cultivated, of course, but evidently planted. They were acres in extent.

    The other rough sketch — it is hardly more — is in a manner complete; it was unfortunately deemed complete enough to be brought out in a magazine as a serial novel. This was to do it a great wrong, and I do not go too far in saying that poor Hawthorne would probably not have enjoyed the very bright light that has been projected upon this essentially crude piece of work. I am at a loss to know how to speak of Septimius Felton, or the Elixir of Life; I have purposely reserved but a small space for doing so, for the part of discretion seems to be to pass it by lightly. I differ therefore widely from the author’s biographer and son-inlaw in thinking it a work of the greatest weight and value, offering striking analogies with Goethe’s Faust; and still more widely from a critic whom Mr. Lathrop quotes, who regards a certain portion of it as “one of the very greatest triumphs in all literature.” It seems to me almost cruel to pitch in this exalted key one’s estimate of the rough first draught of a tale in regard to which the author’s premature death operates, virtually, as a complete renunciation of pretensions. It is plain to any reader that Septimius Felton, as it stands, with its roughness, its gaps, its mere allusiveness and slightness of treatment, gives us but a very partial measure of Hawthorne’s full intention; and it is equally easy to believe that this intention was much finer than anything we find in the book. Even if we possessed the novel in its complete form, however, I incline to think that we should regard it as very much the weakest of Hawthorne’s productions. The idea itself seems a failure, and the best that might have come of it would have been very much below The Scarlet Letter or The House of the Seven Gables. The appeal to our interest is not felicitously made, and the fancy of a potion, to assure eternity of existence, being made from the flowers which spring from the grave of a man whom the distiller of the potion has deprived of life, though it might figure with advantage in a short story of the pattern of the Twice-Told Tales, appears too slender to carry the weight of a novel. Indeed, this whole matter of elixirs and potions belongs to the fairy-tale period of taste, and the idea of a young man enabling himself to live forever by concocting and imbibing a magic draught, has the misfortune of not appealing to our sense of reality or even to our sympathy. The weakness of Septimius Felton is that the reader cannot take the hero seriously — a fact of which there can be no better proof than the element of the ridiculous which inevitably mingles itself in the scene in which he entertains his lady-love with a prophetic sketch of his occupations during the successive centuries of his earthly immortality. I suppose the answer to my criticism is that this is allegorical, symbolic, ideal; but we feel that it symbolises nothing substantial, and that the truth — whatever it may be — that it illustrates, is as moonshiny, to use Hawthorne’s own expression, as the allegory itself. Another fault of the story is that a great historical event — the war of the Revolution — is introduced in the first few pages, in order to supply the hero with a pretext for killing the young man from whose grave the flower of immortality is to sprout, and then drops out of the narrative altogether, not even forming a background to the sequel. It seems to me that Hawthorne should either have invented some other occasion for the death of his young officer, or else, having struck the note of the great public agitation which overhung his little group of characters, have been careful to sound it through the rest of his tale. I do wrong, however, to insist upon these things, for I fall thereby into the error of treating the work as if it had been cast into its ultimate form and acknowledged by the author. To avoid this error I shall make no other criticism of details, but content myself with saying that the idea and intention of the book appear, relatively speaking, feeble, and that even had it been finished it would have occupied a very different place in the public esteem from the writer’s masterpieces.

    Then Kissy came up, her stint done, and climbed, not so decorously this time, into the boat, and tore off her kerchief and goggles and sat panting quietly in the stern. Finally she looked up and laughed happily. 'That is twenty-one. Very good. Now take my weights and pick and see for yourself what it is like down there. But I will pull you up anyway in thirty seconds. Give me your watch. And please do not lose my tegane, my pick, or our day's fishing will be over.'

    It seemed hopeless to pursue the inquiry any farther, but it was clear that in spite of Holmes's ruse we had no proof that Barrymore had not been in London all the time. Suppose that it were so -- suppose that the same man had been the last who had seen Sir Charles alive, and the first to dog the new heir when he returned to England. What then? Was he the agent of others or had he some sinister design of his own? What interest could he have in persecuting the Baskerville family? I thought of the strange warning clipped out of the leading article of the Times. Was that his work or was it possibly the doing of someone who was bent upon counteracting his schemes? The only conceivable motive was that which had been suggested by Sir Henry, that if the family could be scared away a comfortable and permanent home would be secured for the Barrymores. But surely such an explanation as that would be quite inadequate to account for the deep and subtle scheming which seemed to be weaving an invisible net round the young baronet. Holmes himself had said that no more complex case had come to him in all the long series of his sensational investigations. I prayed, as I walked back along the gray, lonely road, that my friend might soon be freed from his preoccupations and able to come down to take this heavy burden of responsibility from my shoulders.

    In order to arrive at Beckford in time for morning school, he had to start from the house at eight o'clock punctually. This left little time for poetical lights. The consequence was that when Lorimer, on the following afternoon, demanded the poem as per contract, all that Pringle had to show was the copy which he had made of the poem in the book. There was a moment's suspense while Conscience and Sheer Wickedness fought the matter out inside him, and then Conscience, which had started on the encounter without enthusiasm, being obviously flabby and out of condition, threw up the sponge.

    He pronounces her name, which Janice always has trouble remembering, so easily; it brings home to her that Ronnie and this slut had been lovers, some weekend down at the Jersey Shore, back before Harry got to know her himself, which had always galled him, though Janice could never see that he had the right to mind. But Harry had been like that: he thought he had a lot of rights, just by being his wonderful self.


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