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Spy Rock Henry van Dyke

Section II.

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"If you find the life broad enough, I ought not to be cramped in it."

"Ah, but I have compensations."

"One you certainly have," said I, thinking of Dorothy, "and that one is enough to make a man happy anywhere."

"Yes, yes," he answered, quickly, "but that is not what I mean. It is not there that I look for a wider life. Love--do you think that love broadens a man's outlook? To me it seems to make him narrower--happier, perhaps, within his own little circle--but distinctly narrower. Knowledge is the only thing that broadens life, sets it free from the tyranny of the parish, fills it with the sense of power. And love is the opposite of knowledge. Love is a kind of an illusion--a happy illusion, that is what love is. Don't you see that?"

"See it?" I cried. "I don't know what you mean. Do you mean that you don't really care for Dorothy Ward? Do you mean that what you have won in her is an illusion? If so, you are as wrong as a man can be."

"No, no," he answered, eagerly, "you know I don't mean that. I could not live without her. But love is not the only reality. There is something else, something broader, something----"

"Come away," I said, "come away, man! You are talking nonsense, treason. You are not true to yourself. You've been working too hard at your books. There's a maggot in your brain. Come out for a long walk."

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That indeed was what he liked best. He was a magnificent walker, easy, steady, unwearying. He knew every road and lane in the valleys, every footpath and trail among the mountains. But he cared little for walking in company; one companion was the most that he could abide. And, strange to say, it was not Dorothy whom he chose for his most frequent comrade. With her he would saunter down the Black Brook path, or climb slowly to the first ridge of Storm-King. But with me he pushed out to the farthest pinnacle that overhangs the river, and down through the Lonely Heart gorge, and over the pass of the White Horse, and up to the peak of Cro' Nest, and across the rugged summit of Black Rock. At every wider outlook a strange exhilaration seemed to come upon him. His spirit glowed like a live coal in the wind. He overflowed with brilliant talk and curious stories of the villages and scattered houses that we could see from our eyries.

But it was not with me that he made his longest expeditions. They were solitary. Early on Saturday he would leave the rest of us, with some slight excuse, and start away on the mountain-road, to be gone all day. Sometimes he would not return till long after dark. Then I could see the anxious look deepen on Dorothy's face, and she would slip away down the road to meet him. But he always came back in good spirits, talkable and charming. It was the next day that the reaction came. The black fit took him. He was silent, moody, bitter. Holding himself aloof, yet never giving utterance to any irritation, he seemed half-unconsciously to resent the claims of love and friendship, as if they irked him. There was a look in his eyes as if he measured us, weighed us, analysed us all as strangers.

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The Blue Flower
Henry van Dyke

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