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0105_001E Spy Rock Henry van Dyke

Section III.

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"I promised to give you an explanation to-day--to take you on one of my long walks. Well, there is only one of them. It is always the same. You shall see where it leads, what it means. You shall share my secret--all the wonder and glory of it! Of course I know my conduct, has seemed strange to you. Sometimes it has seemed strange even to me. I have been doubtful, troubled, almost distracted. I have been risking a great deal, in danger of losing what I value, what most men count the best thing in the world. But it could not be helped. The risk was worth while. A great discovery, the opportunity of a lifetime, yes, of an age, perhaps of many ages, came to me. I simply could not throw it away. I must use it, make the best of it, at any danger, at any cost. You shall judge for yourself whether I was right or wrong. But you must judge fairly, without haste, without prejudice. I ask you to make me one promise. You will suspend judgment, you will say nothing, you will keep my secret, until you have been with me three times at the place where I am now taking you."

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By this time it was clear to me that I had to do with a case lying far outside of the common routine of life; something subtle, abnormal, hard to measure, in which a clear and careful estimate would be necessary. If Keene was labouring under some strange delusion, some disorder of mind, how could I estimate its nature or extent, without time and study, perhaps without expert advice? To wait a little would be prudent, for his sake as well as for the sake of others. If there was some extraordinary, reality behind his mysterious hints, it would need patience and skill to test it. I gave him the promise for which he asked.

At once, as if relieved, he sprang up, and crying, "Come on, follow me!" began to make his way up the bed of the brook. It was one of the wildest walks that I have ever taken. He turned aside for no obstacles; swamps, masses of interlacing alders, close-woven thickets of stiff young spruces, chevaux-de-frise of dead trees where wind-falls had mowed down the forest, walls of lichen-crusted rock, landslides where heaps of broken stone were tumbled in ruinous confusion--through everything he pushed forward. I could see, here and there, the track of his former journeys: broken branches of witch-hazel and moose-wood, ferns trampled down, a faint trail across some deeper bed of moss. At mid-day we rested for a half-hour to eat lunch. But Keene would eat nothing, except a little pellet of some dark green substance that he took from a flat silver box in his pocket. He swallowed it hastily, and stooping his face to the spring by which he had halted, drank long and eagerly.

"An Indian trick," said he, shaking the drops of water from his face. "On a walk, food is a hindrance, a delay. But this tiny taste of bitter gum is a tonic; it spurs the courage and doubles the strength--if you are used to it. Otherwise I should not recommend you to try it. Faugh! the flavour is vile."

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The Blue Flower
Henry van Dyke

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