Dreams of Completion, Part One
6 April 1829
It’s the same dream as last night. The manuscript is finished, and Joseph gives it to Oliver to take to the printer. Joseph waits in a room made of oak on a chair made of pine. Oliver doesn’t come back. Joseph begins to grow nervous, he paces. Oliver doesn’t come back. He’s been gone too long, think Joseph, maybe he’s turned the pages back into gold, then melted them down and sold them.
No. Joseph turns and sees Oliver sitting in the pine chair. Oliver’s head is in his hands. He’s moaning. What is it, Oliver? says Joseph. What happened?
I fear I’ve lost my soul, says Oliver. Oh Joseph, I’ve lost the manuscript—all of it. The whole thousand and one pages.
Joseph realizes, of course, that it’s his own fault. He realizes now that before Oliver left for the printer’s, when they were so happy to be done, Oliver asked if he could show the manuscript to his wife. NO said the Spirit--but such was the mood of swaggering celebration, such was the sweet remission in the long ache of translation that reached down into sockets of Joseph’s eyes, that Yes he said Show her the plates, show them to anyone.
And now Oliver had, and it was Joseph’s fault that she had taken the pages from Oliver’s hands and in front of his face she had burned them, all of them—except one, which she would keep and change to prove the book a fake if Joseph ever produced it again.
It was Joseph’s fault, but anger still rose hot in his throat against her for the burning. He walked straight up to her—yes, she was there in the room! her back turned toward him, her face to the oak wall. He grabbed her shoulder, and turned her toward him—but try as he might, he could not see her face.
Joseph woke in a cold sweat. He tried to calm his heart by telling himself slowly again and again: Oliver doesn’t have a wife.