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Spy Rock Henry van Dyke

Section III.

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When we clambered up on Spy Rock, he was more subdued and reserved than he had been the first time. For a while he talked little, but scanned view with wide, shining eyes. Then he began to tell me stories of the places that we could see--strange stories of domestic calamity, and social conflict, and eccentric passion, and hidden crime.

"Do you remember Hawthorne's story of 'The Minister's Black Veil?' It is the best comment on human life that ever was written. Everyone has something to hide. The surface of life is a mask. The substance of life is a secret. All humanity wears the black veil. But it is not impenetrable. No, it is transparent, if you find the right point of view. Here, on Spy Rock, I have found it. I have learned how to look through the veil. I can see, not by the light-rays only, but by the rays which are colourless, imperceptible, irresistible the rays of the unknown quantity, which penetrate everywhere. I can see how men down in the great city are weaving their nets of selfishness and falsehood, and calling them industrial enterprises or political combinations. I can see how the wheels of society are moved by the hidden springs of avarice and greed and rivalry. I can see how children drink in the fables of religion, without understanding them, and how prudent men repeat them without believing them. I can see how the illusions of love appear and vanish, and how men and women swear that their dreams are eternal, even while they fade. I can see how poor people blind themselves and deceive each other, calling selfishness devotion, and bondage contentment. Down at Hilltop yonder I can see how Dorothy Ward and John Graham, without knowing it,without meaning it--"

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"Stop, man!" I cried. "Stop, before you say what can never be unsaid. You know it is not true. These are nightmare visions that ride you. Not from Spy Rock nor from anywhere else can you see anything at Hilltop that is not honest and pure and loyal. Come down, now, and let us go home. You will see better there than here."

"I think not," said he, "but I will come. Yes, of course, I am bound to come. But let me have a few minutes here alone. Go you down along the path a little way slowly. I will follow you in a quarter of an hour. And remember we are to be here together once more!"

Once more! Yes, and then what must be done?

How was this strange case to be dealt with so as to save all the actors, as far as possible, from needless suffering? That Keene's mind was disordered at least three of us suspected already. But to me alone was the nature and seat of the disorder known. How make the others understand it? They might easily conceive it to be something different from the fact, some actual lesion of the brain, an incurable insanity. But this it was not. As yet, at least, he was no patient for a mad-house: it would be unjust, probably it would be impossible to have him committed. But on the other hand they might take it too lightly, as the result of overwork, or perhaps of the use of some narcotic. To me it was certain that the trouble went far deeper than this. It lay in the man's moral nature, in the error of his central will. It was the working out, in abnormal form, but with essential truth, of his chosen and cherished ideal of life. Spy Rock was something more than the seat of his delusion. it was the expression of his temperament. The solitary trail that led thither was the symbol of his search for happiness--alone, forgetful of life's lowlier ties, looking down upon the world in the cold abstraction of scornful knowledge. How was such a man to be brought back to the real life whose first condition is the acceptance of a limited outlook, the willingness to live by trust as much as by sight, the power of finding joy and peace in the things that we feel are the best, even though we cannot prove them nor explain them? How could he ever bring anything but discord and sorrow to those who were bound to him?

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The Blue Flower
Henry van Dyke

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