"I trust you may find it so," said the old gentleman, who seemed rather
embarrassed, and desirous of avoiding the observation which Clifford's
wild talk drew on them both. "You have my best wishes for it."
"For Heaven's sake, dear Clifford, be quiet!" whispered his sister.
"They think you mad."
"Be quiet yourself, Hepzibah!" returned her brother. "No matter what
they think! I am not mad. For the first time in thirty years my
thoughts gush up and find words ready for them. I must talk, and I
He turned again towards the old gentleman, and renewed the conversation.
"Yes, my dear sir," said he, "it is my firm belief and hope that these
terms of roof and hearth-stone, which have so long been held to embody
something sacred, are soon to pass out of men's daily use, and be
forgotten. Just imagine, for a moment, how much of human evil will
crumble away, with this one change! What we call real estate--the solid
ground to build a house on--is the broad foundation on which nearly all
the guilt of this world rests. A man will commit almost any wrong,--he
will heap up an immense pile of wickedness, as hard as granite, and
which will weigh as heavily upon his soul, to eternal ages,--only to
build a great, gloomy, dark-chambered mansion, for himself to die in,
and for his posterity to be miserable in. He lays his own dead corpse
beneath the underpinning, as one may say, and hangs his frowning
picture on the wall, and, after thus converting himself into an evil
destiny, expects his remotest great-grandchildren to be happy there. I
do not speak wildly. I have just such a house in my mind's eye!"
"Then, sir," said the old gentleman, getting anxious to drop the
subject, "you are not to blame for leaving it."
"Within the lifetime of the child already born," Clifford went on, "all
this will be done away. The world is growing too ethereal and
spiritual to bear these enormities a great while longer. To me,
though, for a considerable period of time, I have lived chiefly in
retirement, and know less of such things than most men,--even to me,
the harbingers of a better era are unmistakable. Mesmerism, now! Will
that effect nothing, think you, towards purging away the grossness out
of human life?"
"All a humbug!" growled the old gentleman.
"These rapping spirits, that little Phoebe told us of, the other day,"
said Clifford,--"what are these but the messengers of the spiritual
world, knocking at the door of substance? And it shall be flung wide
"A humbug, again!" cried the old gentleman, growing more and more testy
at these glimpses of Clifford's metaphysics. "I should like to rap
with a good stick on the empty pates of the dolts who circulate such