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This brief record of one that had lived, and suffered, and thankfully found refuge in that dark mould, made a great impression upon me; I went again and again to read it, although I knew it so well, and I wondered whether the dead had been male or female—had died in youth or old age, and then I felt how little it mattered either way, since the turmoil of life was over.
Long years passed away, and amid different interests, and in other places, I never forgot that grave. A short time ago I went into Derbyshire, I was oppressed at the time with a later sorrow, and change of scene was deemed necessary for me. The grand peak scenery, the old heath-clad hills, the grey ivycovered rocks, rising abruptly, like the walls of some time-defying fortress; the dark ravines overhung with darker fir trees, beneath which the mountain brooks passed along, sometimes noisily over fragments of the fallen stone, sometimes lying quietly in their deep beds, looking like shadowed mirrors, and in either character bursting only at intervals upon eye and ear; the lovely, quiet vallies, each, like that of Rassalas; seeming to shut out the world, and to hold commune only with its own peacefulness; might well have absorbed the attention of a sojourner like myself. My old habits of solitary wandering made me weary of the constant companionship of my kind, lighthearted friends, and in order to ramble alone, I rose on several occasions with the early dawn, and sallied forth before others were astir. How exhilarated I felt with the grey sky above, and the old everlasting hills around, and the glistening, bubbling waters, and the glens and vallies beneath me! Ah, there is much to be enjoyed and learned in self communion amid the solitudes of nature, where the inner life speaks eloquently to the outer, and exults in its own dominion over all time and all change! Rising abruptly from the valley in which my friends dwelt, was one very high mountain, deemed almost inaccessible from any point within three or four miles. Being ambitious in a small way, or perhaps wilful, I found especial pleasure in scrambling as well as I might up the steep side of this almost perpendicular ascent. To do myself justice, I had a motive beyond that of mere caprice. I had observed that smoke sometimes issued from a certain point high up the mountain, and I had been told that an aged man had made his abode in the cave from which this issued, that be held communion with no one, and never came into the valley. He had lived there five or six years, yet no one seemed to think or care anything about him, and I was astonished at people's apathy. He might be in sorrow, he might be in want, yet seeking no aid, he found none. Presently I became more selfish: for the painfulness of stern
realities and regrets, from the monotony of every-day existence, here was promise of relief—an actual adventure! I needed not to be told at that time, that all chivalrous feeling had passed from the earth; but surely, I thought, if I can manage to mount up to the abode of this recluse after so perilous a fashion, he will receive me with some courtesy. Being determined to have my way for once, I kept my own counsel, and at about four o'clock on a fine morning, I set out on my expedition. A quarter of an hour's laborious walk brought me to the point from which the mountain towered up with almost the steepness of a wall. At the base it had not looked near so formidable, and I sat down to rest with a very decided intention to retrace my steps. The sun was yet far behind the distant hills, and a light vapour filled the valley. Conspicuous above every other object there, was the tower of the old village church. I had always loved church-yards, and the concatenation of ideas brought back to my remembrance the grave in the burial ground at Chelsea. “There,” I repeated, “ the wicked cease from troubling; there the weary be at rest.” There was no sign of life around; the dreamers and the dreamless were alike sleeping beneath
me, and I once more cast my eyes towards the summit of the mountain. What a hard old monster it looked ! like some natures I had met with upon earth, never to be propitiated, never to be gained upon. If I achieve anything here, I said, it must be by my own unaided effort; there was not a shrub to cling to, scarcely an inequality in the rocky soil; and yet there was a zigzag sort of track just perceptible, as if, at some time or other, it had been worn by human steps. Seizing upon this idea, I once more took courage, and to make short of what was to me a very long matter, I just managed to reach a height from which it was frightful to look up or down. How at last I managed to get down again, I do not know; I had a roll that made my head giddy, and when I had leisure to examine my hands and elbows, I found a rather formidable array of minor bruises. Nothing daunted by my first failure, I made many subsequent attempts, in the last of which I found myself too high up to venture down again. The higher I went, however, the safer footing I found, and I felt pretty secure, seated on a projection of the dark, moss-covered rock. I was satisfied with what I had achieved, and for the moment left the future to take care of itself. The scene beneath and around me was grand in the extreme, and I was lost in admiration. The sun had risen high enough to pour a flood of glorious light on the valley below me, where lay the quiet village homesteads, with their gardens, and orchards, and luxuriant hedge-rows, and green English lanes ; and the old baronial hall, about which there
were so many traditions, and which had been tenantless, time out of mind. Farther on, the scene yet lay in deep shadow, save where some mountain vista let in a stream of sunshine, whose effect, where it fell,--across a dense mass of dark trees, stretching away over rich corn-fields to the quaint old Saxon bridge, half smothered in ivy, and along the glittering river, broken into tiny water-falls, and winding away to the western verge of the valley,—was rich in the extreme. On every side the scene was enclosed in a succession of hills, peak towering above peak. What might have been the end of my adventure I do not know; I had just begun to consider that I should be missed, and so occasion some consternation amongst my friends, when I found my arm firmly grasped from behind. My first impulse was terror, and had the grasp been less firm, I should have reached the valley sooner than I intended.
“Don't be frightened,” said a venerable, weather-beaten looking man, whom I knew at once to be the recluse; “you are quite safe now. I have watched and wondered at your attempts to come up here, and never expected you would have got so far. You must allow me to help you higher up, for it is impossible to go down now." A lesson, this, for climbers of all kinds. Being fairly in the man's clutches, and away from all help, I felt the extent of my folly, and vowed never to forgive myself. Fright kept me silent, and when we shortly arrived at the very safe, terrace-like space that stretched to a considerable distance before the spot on which the old man made his abode, he left me for a moment, and returned with a small can, filled with sparkling spring water, of which my white lips and trembling limbs had given him assurance I stood in need. I found voice to thank him, and now looked about me with some confidence. In less time than it takes to narrate, I had noted everything; that is, the personal appearance and dress of the man, and the black-looking hole that formed the entrance to his dwelling-place. We were yet below the top of the mountain, which at this point seemed to project over us. Had I met the recluse in any ordinary spot of earth, I should have set him down at a glance for an especially shrewd, worldexperienced man. His eyes were bright and piercing as an eagle's ; his mouth was particularly expressive of decision and firmness, and his broad forehead, over which the white hair floated wildly, was bold and open. For his age, which I thought could not be less than between sixty and seventy, he was a well-preserved man, notwithstanding the weather-beaten appearance which his exposure to all weathers in that high latitude gave him. His chief article of dress was a large loose coat, of some such material as the home-made fringe worn by the Irish. I had seated
myself on one of the natural benches formed by the rock, and the old man also seated himself at a very respectful distance. He looked at me very fixedly with his keen eye, and I observed that his hard features were gradually relaxing into a smile. We are a couple of originals, I believe, thought I to myself, and he seems to know it, and I laughed outright.
“I am glad to hear that,” said the old man : “I began to fear that, in common with many others, you possessed only one kind of courage, and that I had frightened it away. But this is no laughing matter; do you know that you have had a very narrow escape
from destruction ?” “Well, I suppose I have,” said I, half ashamed of my exploit, and hardly knowing what to say.
“What were you thinking about down yonder, where I found you seated so quietly just now?”
“Nothing in particular, except the scenery,” said I, which was the truth.
“And so, for the sake of a fine view, you willingly risked the loss of life?
I could not acknowledge that my chief motive was to see him, therefore I merely said that I believed I had been very silly, and that I had at no time been particularly distinguished for wisdom. "Well,” said the recluse, smiling very kindly, “I am glad it is no worse. I should have warned you, by shouting, on several occasions, had I dared to do it, and you never gave me the opportunity of helping you, until you found a convenient spot for viewing the scenery. I assure you, you have tried my courage as well as your own; had you been aware of my approach, and lost your self-possession, the consequences would have been fatal. It is astonishing how one like yourself, apparently used to gentle nurture, should have ventured upon such a toilsome and perilous adventure as this."
He made a mistake about the gentle nurture; my experiences were nearly all bitter, and my nurture had been rough.
“ How far shall I have to walk, in order to reach the valley ?” I asked.
Nearly three miles,” he replied; “ when you are sufficiently rested, I will show you the way. I am sorry I have no refreshment to offer you of which you could care to partake. As you may be well aware, I am not prepared for, or accustomed to visitors.
A short silence ensued on both sides. I was astonished by the intelligence of my new acquaintance; his language was more than correct, it was polished; and his manner was above all comparison with any specimen of modern politeness that I have been fated to meet with,—he was courteous as a knight
August, 1848. – VOL. LII.-NO. Ccvili,
errant of old. I was quite conscious that a man who had voluntarily renounced society, would little like being so intruded upon, (and his own forbearance made me ashamed of lingering) yet I did not like to go so soon; and perhaps be perceived this
, for with true politeness he changed the subject, and directed my attention to the scenery for which he imagined I had risked so much.
“ This is indeed a glorious view !” he exclaimed ; " and it is a glorious gift to be enabled to appreciate fully the wonderful works of God. Doubtless his eye was upon you when, rapt in contemplation of the beauties his hand had scattered around, you remained unconscious of the peril that encompassed you. To him, rather than to myself, or to any chance, you owe the privilege of still living :-praise be to God!”
The earnest and reverent manner in which these words were spoken, as well as the words themselves, stirred my spirit more powerfully than any sermon I had ever heard. How much indeed I had to be thankful for, and how little I had thought of thankfulness ! My heart swelled to my throat, and my eyes filled with tears. Again the recluse seemed to comprehend my thoughts, and with the instinctive delicacy known to so few, he again changed the subject.
“ Doubtless you marvel at my leading a lonely life up here, much as you admire the scenery. Men do not usually devote a life to the sole contemplation of these things. You have not been unfortunate enough, or have not lived long enough, to comprehend how far earthly trial may make an individual thankful for the comparative happiness of solitude and quiet.”
Ah ! had I not I-how little we know of one another, how little we ever can know! I do not recollect what I said in reply -what we most wish to say is generally left unsaid, or has no voice, save for the ear of God. Shortly afterwards there was a stir in the valley; I was missed, and there was a hue and cry after me. The recluse was the first to perceive this, and he directed my attention to it. He went into his cave, and returned with a long pole, to which he had attached something that looked like a small sail; and this he waved about to attract attention. I waved my handkerchief, and at length we were perceived. The people looked like atoms beneath us, yet we could hear their shouts.
“Your friends will doubtless meet you," said the old man; “I will perform my part by leading you into the way.” This he did most kindly: and by the way I promised, at his own request, that I would never again undertake an adventure so perilous. In return, he said he should be glad to see me, if I would visit him in a more legitimate manner. This was what I