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1The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Mansion, by Henry Van Dyke
3This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
4almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or
5re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
6with this eBook or online at
9Title: The Mansion
11Author: Henry Van Dyke
13Illustrator: Elizabeth Shippen Green
15Release Date: December 15, 2011 [EBook #38312]
17Language: English
25Produced by Jen Haines, Suzanne Shell and the Online
26Distributed Proofreading Team at (This
27file was produced from images generously made available
28by The Internet Archive/Canadian Libraries)
38    The Mansion
40    [Illustration: [See page 57 "BUT HOW HAVE I FAILED SO WRETCHEDLY?"]
47    BY
53    [Illustration]
56    NEW YORK AND LONDON . M . C . M . X . I
70The Mansion
73There was an air of calm and reserved opulence about the Weightman
74mansion that spoke not of money squandered, but of wealth prudently
75applied. Standing on a corner of the Avenue no longer fashionable for
76residence, it looked upon the swelling tide of business with an
77expression of complacency and half-disdain.
79The house was not beautiful. There was nothing in its straight front
80of chocolate-colored stone, its heavy cornices, its broad, staring
81windows of plate glass, its carved and bronze-bedecked mahogany doors
82at the top of the wide stoop, to charm the eye or fascinate the
83imagination. But it was eminently respectable, and in its way
84imposing. It seemed to say that the glittering shops of the jewelers,
85the milliners, the confectioners, the florists, the picture-dealers,
86the furriers, the makers of rare and costly antiquities, retail
87traders in luxuries of life, were beneath the notice of a house that
88had its foundations in the high finance, and was built literally and
89figuratively in the shadow of St. Petronius' Church.
91At the same time there was something self-pleased and congratulatory
92in the way in which the mansion held its own amid the changing
93neighborhood. It almost seemed to be lifted up a little, among the
94tall buildings near at hand, as if it felt the rising value of the
95land on which it stood.
97John Weightman was like the house into which he had built himself
98thirty years ago, and in which his ideals and ambitions were
99incrusted. He was a self-made man. But in making himself he had chosen
100a highly esteemed pattern and worked according to the approved rules.
101There was nothing irregular, questionable, flamboyant about him. He
102was solid, correct, and justly successful.
104His minor tastes, of course, had been carefully kept up to date. At
105the proper time, pictures by the Barbizon masters, old English plate
106and portraits, bronzes by Barye and marbles by Rodin, Persian carpets
107and Chinese porcelains, had been introduced to the mansion. It
108contained a Louis Quinze reception-room, an Empire drawing-room, a
109Jacobean dining-room, and various apartments dimly reminiscent of the
110styles of furniture affected by deceased monarchs. That the hallways
111were too short for the historic perspective did not make much
112difference. American decorative art is _capable de tout_, it absorbs
113all periods. Of each period Mr. Weightman wished to have something of
114the best. He understood its value, present as a certificate, and
115prospective as an investment.
117It was only in the architecture of his town house that he remained
118conservative, immovable, one might almost say Early-Victorian-Christian.
119His country house at Dulwich-on-the-Sound was a palace of the Italian
120Renaissance. But in town he adhered to an architecture which had moral
121associations, the Nineteenth-Century-Brownstone epoch. It was a symbol
122of his social position, his religious doctrine, and even, in a way,
123of his business creed.
125"A man of fixed principles," he would say, "should express them in the
126looks of his house. New York changes its domestic architecture too
127rapidly. It is like divorce. It is not dignified. I don't like it.
128Extravagance and fickleness are advertised in most of these new
129houses. I wish to be known for different qualities. Dignity and
130prudence are the things that people trust. Every one knows that I can
131afford to live in the house that suits me. It is a guarantee to the
132public. It inspires confidence. It helps my influence. There is a text
133in the Bible about 'a house that hath foundations.' That is the proper
134kind of a mansion for a solid man."
136Harold Weightman had often listened to his father discoursing in this
137fashion on the fundamental principles of life, and always with a
138divided mind. He admired immensely his father's talents and the
139single-minded energy with which he improved them. But in the paternal
140philosophy there was something that disquieted and oppressed the young
141man, and made him gasp inwardly for fresh air and free action.
143At times, during his college course and his years at the law school,
144he had yielded to this impulse and broken away--now toward
145extravagance and dissipation, and then, when the reaction came, toward
146a romantic devotion to work among the poor. He had felt his father's
147disapproval for both of these forms of imprudence; but it was never
148expressed in a harsh or violent way, always with a certain tolerant
149patience, such as one might show for the mistakes and vagaries of the
150very young. John Weightman was not hasty, impulsive, inconsiderate,
151even toward his own children. With them, as with the rest of the
152world, he felt that he had a reputation to maintain, a theory to
153vindicate. He could afford to give them time to see that he was
154absolutely right.
156One of his favorite Scripture quotations was, "Wait on the Lord." He
157had applied it to real estate and to people, with profitable results.
159But to human persons the sensation of being waited for is not always
160agreeable. Sometimes, especially with the young, it produces a vague
161restlessness, a dumb resentment, which is increased by the fact that
162one can hardly explain or justify it. Of this John Weightman was not
163conscious. It lay beyond his horizon. He did not take it into account
164in the plan of life which he made for himself and for his family as
165the sharers and inheritors of his success.
167"Father plays us," said Harold, in a moment of irritation, to his
168mother, "like pieces in a game of chess."
170"My dear," said that lady, whose faith in her husband was religious,
171"you ought not to speak so impatiently. At least he wins the game. He
172is one of the most respected men in New York. And he is very generous,
175"I wish he would be more generous in letting us be ourselves," said
176the young man. "He always has something in view for us and expects to
177move us up to it."
179"But isn't it always for our benefit?" replied his mother. "Look what
180a position we have. No one can say there is any taint on our money.
181There are no rumors about your father. He has kept the laws of God and
182of man. He has never made any mistakes."
184Harold got up from his chair and poked the fire. Then he came back to
185the ample, well-gowned, firm-looking lady, and sat beside her on the
186sofa. He took her hand gently and looked at the two rings--a thin
187band of yellow gold, and a small solitaire diamond--which kept their
188place on her third finger in modest dignity, as if not shamed, but
189rather justified, by the splendor of the emerald which glittered
190beside them.
192"Mother," he said, "you have a wonderful hand. And father made no
193mistake when he won you. But are you sure he has always been so
196"Harold," she exclaimed, a little stiffly, "what do you mean? His life
197is an open book."
199"Oh," he answered, "I don't mean anything bad, mother dear. I know the
200governor's life is an open book--a ledger, if you like, kept in the
201best bookkeeping hand, and always ready for inspection--every page
202correct, and showing a handsome balance. But isn't it a mistake not to
203allow us to make our own mistakes, to learn for ourselves, to live
204our own lives? Must we be always working for 'the balance,' in one
205thing or another? I want to be myself--to get outside of this
206everlasting, profitable 'plan'--to let myself go, and lose myself for
207a while at least--to do the things that I want to do, just because I
208want to do them."
210"My boy," said his mother, anxiously, "you are not going to do
211anything wrong or foolish? You know the falsehood of that old proverb
212about wild oats."
214He threw back his head and laughed. "Yes, mother," he answered, "I
215know it well enough. But in California, you know, the wild oats are
216one of the most valuable crops. They grow all over the hillsides and
217keep the cattle and the horses alive. But that wasn't what I meant--to
218sow wild oats. Say to pick wild flowers, if you like, or even to chase
219wild geese--to do something that seems good to me just for its own
220sake, not for the sake of wages of one kind or another. I feel like a
221hired man, in the service of this magnificent mansion--say in training
222for father's place as majordomo. I'd like to get out some way, to feel
223free--perhaps to do something for others."
225The young man's voice hesitated a little. "Yes, it sounds like cant, I
226know, but sometimes I feel as if I'd like to do some good in the
227world, if father only wouldn't insist upon God's putting it into the
230His mother moved uneasily, and a slight look of bewilderment came into
231her face.
233"Isn't that almost irreverent?" she asked. "Surely the righteous must
234have their reward. And your father is good. See how much he gives to
235all the established charities, how many things he has founded. He's
236always thinking of others, and planning for them. And surely, for
237us, he does everything. How well he has planned this trip to Europe
238for me and the girls--the court-presentation at Berlin, the season
239on the Riviera, the visits in England with the Plumptons and the
240Halverstones. He says Lord Halverstone has the finest old house
241in Sussex, pure Elizabethan, and all the old customs are kept up,
242too--family prayers every morning for all the domestics. By-the-way,
243you know his son Bertie, I believe."
245Harold smiled a little to himself as he answered: "Yes, I fished at
246Catalina Island last June with the Honorable Ethelbert; he's rather a
247decent chap, in spite of his ingrowing mind. But you?--mother, you are
248simply magnificent! You are father's masterpiece." The young man
249leaned over to kiss her, and went up to the Riding Club for his
250afternoon canter in the Park.
252So it came to pass, early in December, that Mrs. Weightman and her two
253daughters sailed for Europe, on their serious pleasure trip, even as
254it had been written in the book of Providence; and John Weightman, who
255had made the entry, was left to pass the rest of the winter with his
256son and heir in the brownstone mansion.
258They were comfortable enough. The machinery of the massive establishment
259ran as smoothly as a great electric dynamo. They were busy enough, too.
260John Weightman's plans and enterprises were complicated, though his
261principle of action was always simple--to get good value for every
262expenditure and effort. The banking-house of which he was the chief,
263the brain, the will, the absolutely controlling hand, was so admirably
264organized that the details of its direction took but little time. But
265the scores of other interests that radiated from it and were dependent
266upon it--or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, that contributed
267to its solidity and success--the many investments, industrial,
268political, benevolent, reformatory, ecclesiastical, that had made
269the name of Weightman well known and potent in city, church, and
270state, demanded much attention and careful steering, in order that
271each might produce the desired result. There were board meetings of
272corporations and hospitals, conferences in Wall Street and at Albany,
273consultations and committee meetings in the brownstone mansion.
275For a share in all this business and its adjuncts John Weightman had
276his son in training in one of the famous law firms of the city; for he
277held that banking itself is a simple affair, the only real difficulties
278of finance are on its legal side. Meantime he wished the young man to
279meet and know the men with whom he would have to deal when he became a
280partner in the house. So a couple of dinners were given in the mansion
281during December, after which the father called the son's attention to
282the fact that over a hundred million dollars had sat around the board.
284But on Christmas Eve father and son were dining together without
285guests, and their talk across the broad table, glittering with silver
286and cut glass, and softly lit by shaded candles, was intimate, though
287a little slow at times. The elder man was in rather a rare mood, more
288expansive and confidential than usual; and, when the coffee was brought
289in and they were left alone, he talked more freely of his personal
290plans and hopes than he had ever done before.
292"I feel very grateful to-night," said he, at last; "it must be
293something in the air of Christmas that gives me this feeling of
294thankfulness for the many divine mercies that have been bestowed upon
295me. All the principles by which I have tried to guide my life have
296been justified. I have never made the value of this salted almond by
297anything that the courts would not uphold, at least in the long run,
298and yet--or wouldn't it be truer to say and therefore?--my affairs
299have been wonderfully prospered. There's a great deal in that text
300'Honesty is the best'--but no, that's not from the Bible, after all,
301is it? Wait a moment; there is something of that kind, I know."
303"May I light a cigar, father," said Harold, turning away to hide a
304smile, "while you are remembering the text?"
306"Yes, certainly," answered the elder man, rather shortly; "you know I
307don't dislike the smell. But it is a wasteful, useless habit, and
308therefore I have never practised it. Nothing useless is worth while,
309that's my motto--nothing that does not bring the reward. Oh, now I
310recall the text, 'Verily I say unto you they have their reward.' I
311shall ask Doctor Snodgrass to preach a sermon on that verse some day."
313"Using you as an illustration?"
315"Well, not exactly that; but I could give him some good material from
316my own experience to prove the truth of Scripture. I can honestly say
317that there is not one of my charities that has not brought me in a
318good return, either in the increase of influence, the building up of
319credit, or the association with substantial people. Of course you have
320to be careful how you give, in order to secure the best results--no
321indiscriminate giving--no pennies in beggars' hats! It has been one of
322my principles always to use the same kind of judgment in charities
323that I use in my other affairs, and they have not disappointed me."
325"Even the check that you put in the plate when you take the offertory
326up the aisle on Sunday morning?"
328"Certainly; though there the influence is less direct; and I must
329confess that I have my doubts in regard to the collection for Foreign
330Missions. That always seems to me romantic and wasteful. You never
331hear from it in any definite way. They say the missionaries have done
332a good deal to open the way for trade; perhaps--but they have also
333gotten us into commercial and political difficulties. Yet I give to
334them--a little--it is a matter of conscience with me to identify
335myself with all the enterprises of the Church; it is the mainstay of
336social order and a prosperous civilization. But the best forms of
337benevolence are the well-established, organized ones here at home,
338where people can see them and know what they are doing."
340"You mean the ones that have a local habitation and a name."
342"Yes; they offer by far the safest return, though of course there is
343something gained by contributing to general funds. A public man can't
344afford to be without public spirit. But on the whole I prefer a
345building, or an endowment. There is a mutual advantage to a good name
346and a good institution in their connection in the public mind. It
347helps them both. Remember that, my boy. Of course at the beginning you
348will have to practise it in a small way; later, you will have larger
349opportunities. But try to put your gifts where they can be identified
350and do good all around. You'll see the wisdom of it in the long run."
352"I can see it already, sir, and the way you describe it looks
353amazingly wise and prudent. In other words, we must cast our bread on
354the waters in large loaves, carried by sound ships marked with the
355owner's name, so that the return freight will be sure to come back to
358The father laughed, but his eyes were frowning a little as if he
359suspected something irreverent under the respectful reply.
361"You put it humorously, but there's sense in what you say. Why not?
362God rules the sea; but He expects us to follow the laws of navigation
363and commerce. Why not take good care of your bread, even when you give
364it away?"
366"It's not for me to say why not--and yet I can think of cases--" The
367young man hesitated for a moment. His half-finished cigar had gone
368out. He rose and tossed it into the fire, in front of which he
369remained standing--a slender, eager, restless young figure, with a
370touch of hunger in the fine face, strangely like and unlike the
371father, at whom he looked with half-wistful curiosity.
373"The fact is, sir," he continued, "there is such a case in my mind
374now, and it is a good deal on my heart, too. So I thought of speaking
375to you about it to-night. You remember Tom Rollins, the Junior who was
376so good to me when I entered college?"
378The father nodded. He remembered very well indeed the annoying
379incidents of his son's first escapade, and how Rollins had stood by
380him and helped to avoid a public disgrace, and how a close friendship
381had grown between the two boys, so different in their fortunes.
383"Yes," he said, "I remember him. He was a promising young man. Has he
386"Not exactly--that is, not yet. His business has been going rather
387badly. He has a wife and little baby, you know. And now he has broken
388down,--something wrong with his lungs. The doctor says his only chance
389is a year or eighteen months in Colorado. I wish we could help him."
391"How much would it cost?"
393"Three or four thousand, perhaps, as a loan."
395"Does the doctor say he will get well?"
397"A fighting chance--the doctor says."
399The face of the older man changed subtly. Not a line was altered, but
400it seemed to have a different substance, as if it were carved out of
401some firm, imperishable stuff.
403"A fighting chance," he said, "may do for a speculation, but it is not
404a good investment. You owe something to young Rollins. Your grateful
405feeling does you credit. But don't overwork it. Send him three or four
406hundred, if you like. You'll never hear from it again, except in the
407letter of thanks. But for Heaven's sake don't be sentimental.
408Religion is not a matter of sentiment; it's a matter of principle."
410[Illustration: "It is not a good investment"]
412The face of the younger man changed now. But instead of becoming fixed
413and graven, it seemed to melt into life by the heat of an inward fire.
414His nostrils quivered with quick breath, his lips were curled.
416"Principle!" he said. "You mean principal--and interest too. Well,
417sir, you know best whether that is religion or not. But if it is,
418count me out, please. Tom saved me from going to the devil, six years
419ago; and I'll be damned if I don't help him to the best of my ability
422John Weightman looked at his son steadily. "Harold," he said at last,
423"you know I dislike violent language, and it never has any influence
424with me. If I could honestly approve of this proposition of yours, I'd
425let you have the money; but I can't; it's extravagant and useless. But
426you have your Christmas check for a thousand dollars coming to you
427to-morrow. You can use it as you please. I never interfere with your
428private affairs."
430"Thank you," said Harold. "Thank you very much! But there's another
431private affair. I want to get away from this life, this town, this
432house. It stifles me. You refused last summer when I asked you to let
433me go up to Grenfell's Mission on the Labrador. I could go now, at
434least as far as the Newfoundland Station. Have you changed your mind?"
436"Not at all. I think it is an exceedingly foolish enterprise. It would
437interrupt the career that I have marked out for you."
439"Well, then, here's a cheaper proposition. Algy Vanderhoof wants me to
440join him on his yacht with--well, with a little party--to cruise in
441the West Indies. Would you prefer that?"
443"Certainly not! The Vanderhoof set is wild and godless--I do not wish
444to see you keeping company with fools who walk in the broad and easy
445way that leads to perdition."
447"It is rather a hard choice," said the young man, with a short laugh,
448turning toward the door. "According to you there's very little
449difference--a fool's paradise or a fool's hell! Well, it's one or the
450other for me, and I'll toss up for it to-night: heads, I lose; tails,
451the devil wins. Anyway, I'm sick of this, and I'm out of it."
453"Harold," said the older man (and there was a slight tremor in his
454voice), "don't let us quarrel on Christmas Eve. All I want is to
455persuade you to think seriously of the duties and responsibilities
456to which God has called you--don't speak lightly of heaven and
457hell--remember, there is another life."
459The young man came back and laid his hand upon his father's shoulder.
461"Father," he said, "I want to remember it. I try to believe in it. But
462somehow or other, in this house, it all seems unreal to me. No doubt
463all you say is perfectly right and wise. I don't venture to argue
464against it, but I can't feel it--that's all. If I'm to have a soul,
465either to lose or to save, I must really live. Just now neither the
466present nor the future means anything to me. But surely we won't
467quarrel. I'm very grateful to you, and we'll part friends. Good-night,
470The father held out his hand in silence. The heavy portière dropped
471noiselessly behind the son, and he went up the wide, curving stairway
472to his own room.
474Meantime John Weightman sat in his carved chair in the Jacobean
475dining-room. He felt strangely old and dull. The portraits of
476beautiful women by Lawrence and Reynolds and Raeburn, which had often
477seemed like real company to him, looked remote and uninteresting. He
478fancied something cold and almost unfriendly in their expression, as
479if they were staring through him or beyond him. They cared nothing for
480his principles, his hopes, his disappointments, his successes; they
481belonged to another world, in which he had no place. At this he felt
482a vague resentment, a sense of discomfort that he could not have
483defined or explained. He was used to being considered, respected,
484appreciated at his full value in every region, even in that of his own
487Presently he rang for the butler, telling him to close the house and
488not to sit up, and walked with lagging steps into the long library,
489where the shaded lamps were burning. His eye fell upon the low shelves
490full of costly books, but he had no desire to open them. Even the
491carefully chosen pictures that hung above them seemed to have lost
492their attraction. He paused for a moment before an idyll of Corot--a
493dance of nymphs around some forgotten altar in a vaporous glade--and
494looked at it curiously. There was something rapturous and serene about
495the picture, a breath of spring-time in the misty trees, a harmony
496of joy in the dancing figures, that wakened in him a feeling of
497half-pleasure and half-envy. It represented something that he had
498never known in his calculated, orderly life. He was dimly mistrustful
499of it.
501"It is certainly very beautiful," he thought, "but it is distinctly
502pagan; that altar is built to some heathen god. It does not fit into
503the scheme of a Christian life. I doubt whether it is consistent with
504the tone of my house. I will sell it this winter. It will bring three
505or four times what I paid for it. That was a good purchase, a very
506good bargain."
508He dropped into the revolving chair before his big library table.
509It was covered with pamphlets and reports of the various enterprises
510in which he was interested. There was a pile of newspaper clippings
511in which his name was mentioned with praise for his sustaining power
512as a pillar of finance, for his judicious benevolence, for his
513support of wise and prudent reform movements, for his discretion
514in making permanent public gifts--"the Weightman Charities," one very
515complaisant editor called them, as if they deserved classification as
516a distinct species.
518He turned the papers over listlessly. There was a description and a
519picture of the "Weightman Wing of the Hospital for Cripples," of
520which he was president; and an article on the new professor in the
521"Weightman Chair of Political Jurisprudence" in Jackson University,
522of which he was a trustee; and an illustrated account of the opening
523of the "Weightman Grammar-School" at Dulwich-on-the-Sound, where he
524had his legal residence for purposes of taxation.
526This last was perhaps the most carefully planned of all the Weightman
527Charities. He desired to win the confidence and support of his rural
528neighbors. It had pleased him much when the local newspaper had spoken
529of him as an ideal citizen and the logical candidate for the
530Governorship of the State; but upon the whole it seemed to him wiser
531to keep out of active politics. It would be easier and better to put
532Harold into the running, to have him sent to the Legislature from the
533Dulwich district, then to the national House, then to the Senate. Why
534not? The Weightman interests were large enough to need a direct
535representative and guardian at Washington.
537But to-night all these plans came back to him with dust upon them.
538They were dry and crumbling like forsaken habitations. The son upon
539whom his complacent ambition had rested had turned his back upon the
540mansion of his father's hopes. The break might not be final; and in
541any event there would be much to live for; the fortunes of the family
542would be secure. But the zest of it all would be gone if John
543Weightman had to give up the assurance of perpetuating his name and
544his principles in his son. It was a bitter disappointment, and he felt
545that he had not deserved it.
547He rose from the chair and paced the room with leaden feet. For the
548first time in his life his age was visibly upon him. His head was
549heavy and hot, and the thoughts that rolled in it were confused and
550depressing. Could it be that he had made a mistake in the principles
551of his existence? There was no argument in what Harold had said--it
552was almost childish--and yet it had shaken the elder man more deeply
553than he cared to show. It held a silent attack which touched him more
554than open criticism.
556Suppose the end of his life were nearer than he thought--the end
557must come some time--what if it were now? Had he not founded his
558house upon a rock? Had he not kept the Commandments? Was he not,
559"touching the law, blameless"? And beyond this, even if there were
560some faults in his character--and all men are sinners--yet he surely
561believed in the saving doctrines of religion--the forgiveness of
562sins, the resurrection of the body, the life everlasting. Yes, that
563was the true source of comfort, after all. He would read a bit in the
564Bible, as he did every night, and go to bed and to sleep.
566He went back to his chair at the library table. A strange weight of
567weariness rested upon him, but he opened the book at a familiar place,
568and his eyes fell upon the verse at the bottom of the page.
570"_Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth._"
572That had been the text of the sermon a few weeks before. Sleepily,
573heavily, he tried to fix his mind upon it and recall it. What was it
574that Doctor Snodgrass had said? Ah, yes--that it was a mistake to
575pause here in reading the verse. We must read on without a pause--_Lay
576not up treasures upon earth where moth and rust do corrupt and where
577thieves break through and steal_--that was the true doctrine. We may
578have treasures upon earth, but they must not be put into unsafe
579places, but into safe places. A most comforting doctrine! He had
580always followed it. Moths and rust and thieves had done no harm to his
583John Weightman's drooping eyes turned to the next verse, at the top of
584the second column.
586"_But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven._"
588Now what had the Doctor said about that? How was it to be
589understood--in what sense--treasures--in heaven?
591The book seemed to float away from him. The light vanished. He
592wondered dimly if this could be Death, coming so suddenly, so quietly,
593so irresistibly. He struggled for a moment to hold himself up, and
594then sank slowly forward upon the table. His head rested upon his
595folded hands. He slipped into the unknown.
597       *       *       *       *       *
599How long afterward conscious life returned to him he did not know. The
600blank might have been an hour or a century. He knew only that
601something had happened in the interval. What it was he could not tell.
602He found great difficulty in catching the thread of his identity
603again. He felt that he was himself; but the trouble was to make his
604connections, to verify and place himself, to know who and where he
607At last it grew clear. John Weightman was sitting on a stone, not far
608from a road in a strange land.
610The road was not a formal highway, fenced and graded. It was more like
611a great travel-trace, worn by thousands of feet passing across the
612open country in the same direction. Down in the valley, into which he
613could look, the road seemed to form itself gradually out of many minor
614paths; little footways coming across the meadows, winding tracks
615following along beside the streams, faintly marked trails emerging
616from the woodlands. But on the hillside the threads were more firmly
617woven into one clear band of travel, though there were still a few dim
618paths joining it here and there, as if persons had been climbing up
619the hill by other ways and had turned at last to seek the road.
621From the edge of the hill, where John Weightman sat, he could see the
622travelers, in little groups or larger companies, gathering from time
623to time by the different paths, and making the ascent. They were all
624clothed in white, and the form of their garments was strange to him;
625it was like some old picture. They passed him, group after group,
626talking quietly together or singing; not moving in haste, but with a
627certain air of eagerness and joy as if they were glad to be on their
628way to an appointed place. They did not stay to speak to him, but they
629looked at him often and spoke to one another as they looked; and now
630and then one of them would smile and beckon him a friendly greeting,
631so that he felt they would like him to be with them.
633There was quite an interval between the groups; and he followed each
634of them with his eyes after it had passed, blanching the long ribbon
635of the road for a little transient space, rising and receding across
636the wide, billowy upland, among the rounded hillocks of aerial green
637and gold and lilac, until it came to the high horizon, and stood
638outlined for a moment, a tiny cloud of whiteness against the tender
639blue, before it vanished over the hill.
641For a long time he sat there watching and wondering. It was a very
642different world from that in which his mansion on the Avenue was
643built; and it looked strange to him, but most real--as real as
644anything he had ever seen. Presently he felt a strong desire to know
645what country it was and where the people were going. He had a faint
646premonition of what it must be, but he wished to be sure. So he rose
647from the stone where he was sitting, and came down through the short
648grass and the lavender flowers, toward a passing group of people. One
649of them turned to meet him, and held out his hand. It was an old man,
650under whose white beard and brows John Weightman thought he saw a
651suggestion of the face of the village doctor who had cared for him
652years ago, when he was a boy in the country.
654[Illustration: "Welcome! Will you come with us?"]
656"Welcome," said the old man. "Will you come with us?"
658"Where are you going?"
660"To the heavenly city, to see our mansions there."
662"And who are these with you?"
664"Strangers to me, until a little while ago; I know them better now.
665But you I have known for a long time, John Weightman. Don't you
666remember your old doctor?"
668"Yes," he cried--"yes; your voice has not changed at all. I'm glad
669indeed to see you, Doctor McLean, especially now. All this seems very
670strange to me, almost oppressive. I wonder if--but may I go with you,
671do you suppose?"
673"Surely," answered the doctor, with his familiar smile; "it will do
674you good. And you also must have a mansion in the city waiting for
675you--a fine one, too--are you not looking forward to it?"
677"Yes," replied the other, hesitating a moment; "yes--I believe it must
678be so, although I had not expected to see it so soon. But I will go
679with you, and we can talk by the way."
681The two men quickly caught up with the other people, and all went
682forward together along the road. The doctor had little to tell of his
683experience, for it had been a plain, hard life, uneventfully spent for
684others, and the story of the village was very simple. John Weightman's
685adventures and triumphs would have made a far richer, more imposing
686history, full of contacts with the great events and personages of the
687time. But somehow or other he did not care to speak much about it,
688walking on that wide heavenly moorland, under that tranquil, sunless
689arch of blue, in that free air of perfect peace, where the light was
690diffused without a shadow, as if the spirit of life in all things were
693There was only one person besides the doctor in that little company
694whom John Weightman had known before--an old bookkeeper who had spent
695his life over a desk, carefully keeping accounts--a rusty, dull little
696man, patient and narrow, whose wife had been in the insane asylum for
697twenty years and whose only child was a crippled daughter, for whose
698comfort and happiness he had toiled and sacrificed himself without
699stint. It was a surprise to find him here, as care-free and joyful as
700the rest.
702[Illustration: That free air of Perfect Peace]
704The lives of others in the company were revealed in brief glimpses as
705they talked together--a mother, early widowed, who had kept her little
706flock of children together and labored through hard and heavy years to
707bring them up in purity and knowledge--a Sister of Charity who had
708devoted herself to the nursing of poor folk who were being eaten to
709death by cancer--a schoolmaster whose heart and life had been poured
710into his quiet work of training boys for a clean and thoughtful
711manhood--a medical missionary who had given up a brilliant career in
712science to take the charge of a hospital in darkest Africa--a
713beautiful woman with silver hair who had resigned her dreams of love
714and marriage to care for an invalid father, and after his death had
715made her life a long, steady search for ways of doing kindnesses to
716others--a poet who had walked among the crowded tenements of the great
717city, bringing cheer and comfort not only by his songs, but by his
718wise and patient works of practical aid--a paralyzed woman who had
719lain for thirty years upon her bed, helpless but not hopeless,
720succeeding by a miracle of courage in her single aim, never to
721complain, but always to impart a bit of her joy and peace to every one
722who came near her. All these, and other persons like them, people of
723little consideration in the world, but now seemingly all full of great
724contentment and an inward gladness that made their steps light, were
725in the company that passed along the road, talking together of things
726past and things to come, and singing now and then with clear voices
727from which the veil of age and sorrow was lifted.
729John Weightman joined in some of the songs--which were familiar to him
730from their use in the church--at first with a touch of hesitation, and
731then more confidently. For as they went on his sense of strangeness
732and fear at his new experience diminished, and his thoughts began to
733take on their habitual assurance and complacency. Were not these
734people going to the Celestial City? And was not he in his right place
735among them? He had always looked forward to this journey. If they were
736sure, each one, of finding a mansion there, could not he be far more
737sure? His life had been more fruitful than theirs. He had been a
738leader, a founder of new enterprises, a pillar of Church and State, a
739prince of the House of Israel. Ten talents had been given him, and he
740had made them twenty. His reward would be proportionate. He was glad
741that his companions were going to find fit dwellings prepared for
742them; but he thought also with a certain pleasure of the surprise that
743some of them would feel when they saw his appointed mansion.
745So they came to the summit of the moorland and looked over into the
746world beyond. It was a vast, green plain, softly rounded like a
747shallow vase, and circled with hills of amethyst. A broad, shining
748river flowed through it, and many silver threads of water were woven
749across the green; and there were borders of tall trees on the banks of
750the river, and orchards full of roses abloom along the little streams,
751and in the midst of all stood the city, white and wonderful and
754When the travelers saw it they were filled with awe and joy. They
755passed over the little streams and among the orchards quickly and
756silently, as if they feared to speak lest the city should vanish.
758The wall of the city was very low, a child could see over it, for it
759was made only of precious stones, which are never large. The gate of
760the city was not like a gate at all, for it was not barred with iron
761or wood, but only a single pearl, softly gleaming, marked the place
762where the wall ended and the entrance lay open.
764A person stood there whose face was bright and grave, and whose robe
765was like the flower of the lily, not a woven fabric, but a living
766texture. "Come in," he said to the company of travelers; "you are at
767your journey's end, and your mansions are ready for you."
769John Weightman hesitated, for he was troubled by a doubt. Suppose that
770he was not really, like his companions, at his journey's end, but only
771transported for a little while out of the regular course of his life
772into this mysterious experience? Suppose that, after all, he had not
773really passed through the door of death, like these others, but only
774through the door of dreams, and was walking in a vision, a living man
775among the blessed dead. Would it be right for him to go with them
776into the heavenly city? Would it not be a deception, a desecration, a
777deep and unforgivable offense? The strange, confusing question had no
778reason in it, as he very well knew; for if he was dreaming, then it
779was all a dream; but if his companions were real, then he also was
780with them in reality, and if they had died then he must have died too.
781Yet he could not rid his mind of the sense that there was a difference
782between them and him, and it made him afraid to go on. But, as he
783paused and turned, the Keeper of the Gate looked straight and deep
784into his eyes, and beckoned to him. Then he knew that it was not only
785right but necessary that he should enter.
787They passed from street to street among fair and spacious dwellings,
788set in amaranthine gardens, and adorned with an infinitely varied
789beauty of divine simplicity. The mansions differed in size, in shape,
790in charm: each one seemed to have its own personal look of loveliness;
791yet all were alike in fitness to their place, in harmony with one
792another, in the addition which each made to the singular and tranquil
793splendor of the city.
795As the little company came, one by one, to the mansions which were
796prepared for them, and their Guide beckoned to the happy inhabitant to
797enter in and take possession, there was a soft murmur of joy, half
798wonder and half recognition; as if the new and immortal dwelling were
799crowned with the beauty of surprise, lovelier and nobler than all the
800dreams of it had been; and yet also as if it were touched with the
801beauty of the familiar, the remembered, the long-loved. One after
802another the travelers were led to their own mansions, and went in
803gladly; and from within, through the open doorways, came sweet voices
804of welcome, and low laughter, and song.
806At last there was no one left with the Guide but the two old friends,
807Doctor McLean and John Weightman. They were standing in front of one
808of the largest and fairest of the houses, whose garden glowed softly
809with radiant flowers. The Guide laid his hand upon the doctor's
812"This is for you," he said. "Go in; there is no more pain here, no
813more death, nor sorrow, nor tears; for your old enemies are all
814conquered. But all the good that you have done for others, all the
815help that you have given, all the comfort that you have brought, all
816the strength and love that you have bestowed upon the suffering, are
817here; for we have built them all into this mansion for you."
819The good man's face was lighted with a still joy. He clasped his old
820friend's hand closely, and whispered: "How wonderful it is! Go on,
821you will come to your mansion next, it is not far away, and we shall
822see each other again soon, very soon."
824So he went through the garden, and into the music within. The Keeper
825of the Gate turned to John Weightman with level, quiet, searching
826eyes. Then he asked, gravely:
828"Where do you wish me to lead you now?"
830"To see my own mansion," answered the man, with half-concealed
831excitement. "Is there not one here for me? You may not let me enter it
832yet, perhaps, for I must confess to you that I am only--"
834"I know," said the Keeper of the Gate--"I know it all. You are John
837"Yes," said the man, more firmly than he had spoken at first, for it
838gratified him that his name was known. "Yes, I am John Weightman,
839Senior Warden of St. Petronius' Church. I wish very much to see my
840mansion here, if only for a moment. I believe that you have one for
841me. Will you take me to it?"
843The Keeper of the Gate drew a little book from the breast of his robe
844and turned over the pages.
846"Certainly," he said, with a curious look at the man, "your name is
847here; and you shall see your mansion if you will follow me."
849It seemed as if they must have walked miles and miles, through the
850vast city, passing street after street of houses larger and smaller,
851of gardens richer and poorer, but all full of beauty and delight. They
852came into a kind of suburb, where there were many small cottages, with
853plots of flowers, very lowly, but bright and fragrant. Finally they
854reached an open field, bare and lonely-looking. There were two or
855three little bushes in it, without flowers, and the grass was sparse
856and thin. In the center of the field was a tiny hut, hardly big enough
857for a shepherd's shelter. It looked as if it had been built of
858discarded things, scraps and fragments of other buildings, put
859together with care and pains, by some one who had tried to make the
860most of cast-off material. There was something pitiful and shamefaced
861about the hut. It shrank and drooped and faded in its barren field,
862and seemed to cling only by sufferance to the edge of the splendid
865"This," said the Keeper of the Gate, standing still and speaking with
866a low, distinct voice--"this is your mansion, John Weightman."
868An almost intolerable shock of grieved wonder and indignation choked
869the man for a moment so that he could not say a word. Then he turned
870his face away from the poor little hut and began to remonstrate
871eagerly with his companion.
873"Surely, sir," he stammered, "you must be in error about this. There
874is something wrong--some other John Weightman--a confusion of
875names--the book must be mistaken."
877"There is no mistake," said the Keeper of the Gate, very calmly; "here
878is your name, the record of your title and your possessions in this
881"But how could such a house be prepared for me," cried the man, with a
882resentful tremor in his voice--"for me, after my long and faithful
883service? Is this a suitable mansion for one so well known and devoted?
884Why is it so pitifully small and mean? Why have you not built it large
885and fair, like the others?"
887"That is all the material you sent us."
891"We have used all the material that you sent us," repeated the Keeper
892of the Gate.
894"Now I know that you are mistaken," cried the man, with growing
895earnestness, "for all my life long I have been doing things that must
896have supplied you with material. Have you not heard that I have built
897a school-house; the wing of a hospital; two--yes, three--small
898churches, and the greater part of a large one, the spire of St.
901The Keeper of the Gate lifted his hand.
903"Wait," he said; "we know all these things. They were not ill done.
904But they were all marked and used as foundation for the name and
905mansion of John Weightman in the world. Did you not plan them for
908"Yes," answered the man, confused and taken aback, "I confess that
909I thought often of them in that way. Perhaps my heart was set upon
910that too much. But there are other things--my endowment for the
911college--my steady and liberal contributions to all the established
912charities--my support of every respectable--"
914"Wait," said the Keeper of the Gate again. "Were not all these
915carefully recorded on earth where they would add to your credit? They
916were not foolishly done. Verily, you have had your reward for them.
917Would you be paid twice?"
919"No," cried the man, with deepening dismay, "I dare not claim that. I
920acknowledge that I considered my own interest too much. But surely not
921altogether. You have said that these things were not foolishly done.
922They accomplished some good in the world. Does not that count for
925"Yes," answered the Keeper of the Gate, "it counts in the world--where
926you counted it. But it does not belong to you here. We have saved and
927used everything that you sent us. This is the mansion prepared for
930As he spoke, his look grew deeper and more searching, like a flame of
931fire. John Weightman could not endure it. It seemed to strip him naked
932and wither him. He sank to the ground under a crushing weight of
933shame, covering his eyes with his hands and cowering face downward
934upon the stones. Dimly through the trouble of his mind he felt their
935hardness and coldness.
937"Tell me, then," he cried, brokenly, "since my life has been so little
938worth, how came I here at all?"
940"Through the mercy of the King"--the answer was like the soft tolling
941of a bell.
943"And how have I earned it?" he murmured.
945"It is never earned; it is only given," came the clear, low reply.
947"But how have I failed so wretchedly," he asked, "in all the purpose
948of my life? What could I have done better? What is it that counts
951"Only that which is truly given," answered the bell-like voice. "Only
952that good which is done for the love of doing it. Only those plans in
953which the welfare of others is the master thought. Only those labors
954in which the sacrifice is greater than the reward. Only those gifts in
955which the giver forgets himself."
957The man lay silent. A great weakness, an unspeakable despondency and
958humiliation were upon him. But the face of the Keeper of the Gate was
959infinitely tender as he bent over him.
961"Think again, John Weightman. Has there been nothing like that in your
964"Nothing," he sighed. "If there ever were such things, it must have
965been long ago--they were all crowded out--I have forgotten them."
967There was an ineffable smile on the face of the Keeper of the Gate,
968and his hand made the sign of the cross over the bowed head as he
969spoke gently:
971"These are the things that the King never forgets; and because there
972were a few of them in your life, you have a little place here."
974       *       *       *       *       *
976The sense of coldness and hardness under John Weightman's hands grew
977sharper and more distinct. The feeling of bodily weariness and
978lassitude weighed upon him, but there was a calm, almost a lightness,
979in his heart as he listened to the fading vibrations of the silvery
980bell-tones. The chimney clock on the mantel had just ended the last
981stroke of seven as he lifted his head from the table. Thin, pale
982strips of the city morning were falling into the room through the
983narrow partings of the heavy curtains.
985What was it that had happened to him? Had he been ill? Had he died
986and come to life again? Or had he only slept, and had his soul gone
987visiting in dreams? He sat for some time, motionless, not lost, but
988finding himself in thought. Then he took a narrow book from the table
989drawer, wrote a check, and tore it out.
991He went slowly up the stairs, knocked very softly at his son's door,
992and, hearing no answer, entered without noise. Harold was asleep, his
993bare arm thrown above his head, and his eager face relaxed in peace.
994His father looked at him a moment with strangely shining eyes, and
995then tiptoed quietly to the writing-desk, found a pencil and a sheet
996of paper, and wrote rapidly:
998"My dear boy, here is what you asked me for; do what you like with it,
999and ask for more if you need it. If you are still thinking of that
1000work with Grenfell, we'll talk it over to-day after church. I want to
1001know your heart better; and if I have made mistakes--"
1003[Illustration: "God give us a good Christmas together"]
1005A slight noise made him turn his head. Harold was sitting up in bed
1006with wide-open eyes.
1008"Father!" he cried, "is that you?"
1010"Yes, my son," answered John Weightman; "I've come back--I mean I've
1011come up--no, I mean come in--well, here I am, and God give us a good
1012Christmas together."
1021End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of The Mansion, by Henry Van Dyke
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