THUS THE SUMMER
passing away; a summer of
toil, of interest, of something that was not
pleasure, but which went deep into my heart, and
there became a rich experience. I found myself
looking forward to years, if not to a lifetime, to
be spent on the same system. The Community were
now beginning to form their permanent plans.
One of our purposes was to erect a Phalanstery (as
I think we called it, after Fourier; but the
phraseology of those days is not very fresh in my
remembrance) where the great and general family
should have its abiding-place. Individual
members, too, who made it a point of religion to
preserve the sanctity of an exclusive home, were
selecting sites for their cottages, by the
wood-side, or on the breezy swells, or in the
sheltered nook of some little valley, according as
their taste might lean towards snugness or the
picturesque. Altogether, by projecting our minds
outward, we had imparted a show of novelty to
existence, and contemplated it as hopefully as if
the soil, beneath our feet, had not been
fathom-deep with the dust of deluded generations,
on every one of which, as on ourselves, the world
had imposed itself as a hitherto unwedded bride.
myself had often discussed these
prospects. It was easy to perceive, however, that
he spoke with little or no fervor, but either as
questioning the fulfilment of our anticipations,
or, at any rate, with a quiet consciousness that
it was no personal concern of his. Shortly after
the scene at Eliot's pulpit, while he and I were
repairing an old stone-fence, I amused myself with
sallying forward into the future time.
come to be old men," I said, "they will
call us Uncles, or Fathers--Father Hollingsworth
and Uncle Coverdale--and we will look back
cheerfully to these early days, and make a
romantic story for the young people (and if a
little more romantic than truth may warrant, it
will be no harm) out of our severe trials and
hardships. In a century or two, we shall every
one of us be mythical personages, or exceedingly
picturesque and poetical ones, at all events.
They will have a great public hall, in which your
portrait, and mine, and twenty other faces that
are living now, shall be hung up; and as for me, I
will be painted in my shirt-sleeves, and with the
sleeves rolled up, to show my muscular
development. What stories will be rife among them
about our mighty strength," continued I, lifting a
big stone and putting it into its place; "though
our posterity will really be far stronger than
ourselves, after several generations of a simple,
natural, and active life! What legends of
Zenobia's beauty, and Priscilla's slender and
shadowy grace, and those mysterious qualities
which make her seem diaphanous with spiritual
light! In due course of ages, we must all figure
heroically in an Epic Poem; and we will
ourselves--at least, I will--bend unseen over the
future poet, and lend him inspiration, while he
said Hollingsworth, "to be trying how
much nonsense you can pour out in a breath."
you would see fit to comprehend," retorted
I, "that the profoundest wisdom must be mingled
with nine-tenths of nonsense; else it is not worth
the breath that utters it. But I do long for the
cottages to be built, that the creeping plants may
begin to run over them, and the moss to gather on
the walls, and the trees--which we will set
out--to cover them with a breadth of shadow. This
spick-and-span novelty does not quite suit my
taste. It is time, too, for children to be born
among us. The first-born child is still to come!
And I shall never feel as if this were a real,
practical, as well as poetical, system of human
life, until somebody has sanctified it by death."
occasion for martyrdom, truly!" said
as any other!" I replied. "I wonder,
Hollingsworth, who, of all these strong men, and
fair women and maidens, is doomed the first to
die. Would it not be well, even before we have
absolute need of it, to fix upon a spot for a
cemetery? Let us choose the rudest, roughest,
most uncultivable spot, for Death's garden-ground;
and Death shall teach us to beautify it, grave by
grave. By our sweet, calm way of dying, and the
airy elegance out of which we will shape our
funeral rites, and the cheerful allegories which
we will model into tombstones, the final scene
shall lose its terrors; so that, hereafter, it may
be happiness to live, and bliss to die. None of
us must die young. Yet, should Providence ordain
it so, the event shall not be sorrowful, but
affect us with a tender, delicious, only
half-melancholy, and almost smiling pathos!"
to say," muttered Hollingsworth, "you
will die like a Heathen, as you certainly live
like one! But, listen to me, Coverdale. Your
fantastic anticipations make me discern, all the
more forcibly, what a wretched, unsubstantial
scheme is this, on which we have wasted a precious
summer of our lives. Do you seriously imagine
that any such realities as you, and many others
here, have dreamed of, will ever be brought to
do," said I. "Of course, when the
reality comes, it will wear the every-day,
common-place, dusty, and rather homely garb, that
reality always does put on. But, setting aside
the ideal charm, I hold, that our highest
anticipations have a solid footing on
half believe what you say," rejoined
Hollingsworth; "and as for me, I neither have
faith in your dream, nor would care the value of
this pebble for its realization, were that
possible. And what more do you want of it? It
has given you a theme for poetry. Let that
content you. But, now, I ask you to be, at last,
a man of sobriety and earnestness, and aid me in
an enterprise which is worth all our strength, and
the strength of a thousand mightier than we!"
be no need of giving, in detail, the
conversation that ensued. It is enough to say,
that Hollingsworth once more brought forward his
rigid and unconquerable idea; a scheme for the
reformation of the wicked by methods moral,
intellectual, and industrial, by the sympathy of
pure, humble, and yet exalted minds, and by
opening to his pupils the possibility of a
worthier life than that which had become their
fate. It appeared, unless he over-estimated his
own means, that Hollingsworth held it at his
choice (and he did so choose) to obtain possession
of the very ground on which we had planted our
Community, and which had not yet been made
irrevocably ours, by purchase. It was just the
foundation that he desired. Our beginnings might
readily be adapted to his great end. The
arrangements, already completed, would work
quietly into his system. So plausible looked his
theory, and, more than that, so practical; such an
air of reasonableness had he, by patient thought,
thrown over it; each segment of it was contrived
to dove-tail into all the rest, with such a
complicated applicability; and so ready was he
with a response for every objection--that, really,
so far as logic and argument went, he had the
matter all his own way.
I, "whence can you, having no means of
your own, derive the enormous capital which is
essential to this experiment? State-street, I
imagine, would not draw its purse-strings very
liberally, in aid of such a speculation."
the funds--as much, at least, as is needed
for a commencement--at command," he answered.
"They can be produced within a month, if
reverted to Zenobia. It could only be
her wealth which Hollingsworth was appropriating
so lavishly. And on what conditions was it to be
had? Did she fling it into the scheme, with the
uncalculating generosity that characterizes a
woman, when it is her impulse to be generous at
all? And did she fling herself along with it?
But Hollingsworth did not volunteer an
explanation. "And have you no regrets," I
inquired, "in overthrowing this fair system of our
new life, which has been planned so deeply, and is
now beginning to flourish so hopefully around us?
How beautiful it is, and, so far as we can yet
see, how practicable! The Ages have waited for
us, and here we are--the very first that have
essayed to carry on our mortal existence, in love,
and mutual help! Hollingsworth, I would be loth
to take the ruin of this enterprise upon my
it rest wholly upon mine!" he answered,
knitting his black brows. "I see through the
system. It is full of defects--irremediable and
damning ones!--from first to last, there is
nothing else! I grasp it in my hand, and find no
substance whatever. There is not human nature in
you so secret in your operations?" I
asked. "God forbid that I should accuse you of
intentional wrong; but the besetting sin of a
philanthropist, it appears to me, is apt to be a
moral obliquity. His sense of honor ceases to be
the sense of other honorable men. At some point
of his course--I know not exactly when nor
where--he is tempted to palter with the right, and
can scarcely forbear persuading himself that the
importance of his public ends renders it allowable
to throw aside his private conscience. Oh, my
dear friend, beware this error! If you meditate
the overthrow of this establishment, call together
our companions, state your design, support it with
all your eloquence, but allow them an opportunity
of defending themselves!"
not suit me," said Hollingsworth. "Nor
is it my duty to do so."
it is!" replied I.
not in passion, but like
not argue the point," said he. "What I
desire to know of you is--and you can tell me in
one word--whether I am to look for your
co-operation in this great scheme of good. Take
it up with me! Be my brother in it! It offers
you (what you have told me, over and over again,
that you most need) a purpose in life, worthy of
the extremest self-devotion--worthy of martyrdom,
should God so order it! In this view, I present
it to you. You can greatly benefit mankind. Your
peculiar faculties, as I shall direct them, are
capable of being so wrought into this enterprise,
that not one of them need lie idle. Strike hands
with me; and, from this moment, you shall never
again feel the languor and vague wretchedness of
an indolent or half-occupied man! There may be no
more aimless beauty in your life; but, in its
stead, there shall be strength, courage,
immitigable will--everything that a manly and
generous nature should desire! We shall succeed!
We shall have done our best for this miserable
world; and happiness (which never comes but
incidentally) will come to us unawares!"
his intention to say no more. But,
after he had quite broken off, his deep eyes
filled with tears, and he held out both his hands
murmured, "there is not the man in
this wide world, whom I can love as I could you.
Do not forsake me!"
look back upon this scene, through the
coldness and dimness of so many years, there is
still a sensation as if Hollingsworth had caught
hold of my heart, and were pulling it towards him
with an almost irresistible force. It is a
mystery to me, how I withstood it. But, in truth,
I saw in his scheme of philanthropy nothing but
what was odious. A loathsomeness that was to be
forever in my daily work! A great, black ugliness
of sin, which he proposed to collect out of a
thousand human hearts, and that we should spend
our lives in an experiment of transmuting it into
virtue! Had I but touched his extended hand,
Hollingsworth's magnetism would perhaps have
penetrated me with his own conception of all these
matters. But I stood aloof. I fortified myself
with doubts whether his strength of purpose had
not been too gigantic for his integrity, impelling
him to trample on considerations that should have
been paramount to every other.
to take a part in your enterprise?" I
"She!--the beautiful!--the gorgeous!" I
"And how have you prevailed with such a woman to
work in this squalid element?"
base methods, as you seem to suspect,"
he answered, "but by addressing whatever is best
and noblest in her."
looking on the ground. But, as
he often did so--generally, indeed, in his
habitual moods of thought--I could not judge
whether it was from any special unwillingness now
to meet my eyes. What it was that dictated my
next question, I cannot precisely say.
Nevertheless, it rose so inevitably into my mouth,
and, as it were, asked itself, so involuntarily,
that there must needs have been an aptness in it.
to become of Priscilla?"
at me fiercely, and with
glowing eyes. He could not have shown any other
kind of expression than that, had he meant to
strike me with a sword.
you bring in the names of these women?"
said he, after a moment of pregnant silence.
"What have they to do with the proposal which I
make you? I must have your answer! Will you
devote yourself, and sacrifice all to this great
end, and be my friend of friends, forever?"
name, Hollingsworth," cried I,
getting angry, and glad to be angry, because so
only was it possible to oppose his tremendous
concentrativeness and indomitable will, "cannot
you conceive that a man may wish well to the
world, and struggle for its good, on some other
plan than precisely that which you have laid down?
And will you cast off a friend, for no
unworthiness, but merely because he stands upon
his right, as an individual being, and looks at
matters through his own optics, instead of yours?"
me," said Hollingsworth, "or be against
me! There is no third choice for you."
then, as my decision," I answered. "I
doubt the wisdom of your scheme. Furthermore, I
greatly fear that the methods, by which you allow
yourself to pursue it, are such as cannot stand
the scrutiny of an unblessed conscience."
will not join me?"
said the word--and certainly can never
have it to say, hereafter--that cost me a
thousandth part so hard an effort as did that one
syllable. The heart-pang was not merely
figurative, but an absolute torture of the breast.
I was gazing steadfastly at Hollingsworth. It
seemed to me that it struck him, too, like a
bullet. A ghastly paleness--always so terrific on
a swarthy face--overspread his features. There
was a convulsive movement of his throat, as if he
were forcing down some words that struggled and
fought for utterance. Whether words of anger, or
words of grief, I cannot tell; although, many and
many a time, I have vainly tormented myself with
conjecturing which of the two they were. One
other appeal to my friendship--such as once,
already, Hollingsworth had made--taking me in the
revulsion that followed a strenuous exercise of
opposing will, would completely have subdued me.
But he left the matter there.
was all! I should have been thankful for
one word more, even had it shot me through the
heart, as mine did him. But he did not speak it;
and, after a few moments, with one accord, we set
to work again, repairing the stone-fence.
Hollingsworth, I observed, wrought like a Titan;
and, for my own part, I lifted stones which, at
this day--or, in a calmer mood, at that one--I
should no more have thought it possible to stir,
than to carry off the gates of Gaza on my back.
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