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my own age, rather like his sister, only that his
eyes were blue, and his hair a lightish brown.
A tremulousness about the mouth betrayed a
nervous temperament. His skin was very fair
and thin, showing the blue veins. As he did
not speak, I sat for a little while watching
him, without, however, the least speculation
concerning him, or any effort to discover his
character. I have not even yet reached the point
of trying to find people out. I take what time
and acquaintance disclose, but never attempt
to forestall, which may come partly from trust,
partly from want of curiosity, partly from a dis-
inclination to unnecessary mental effort. But as
I watched his face, half-unconsciously, I could
not help observing that now and then it would
light up suddenly and darken again almost in-
stantly. At last his father turned round, and
with some severity, said :

"You do not seem to be making any ap-
proaches to mutual acquaintance. Charles, why
don't you address your companion 1"



238 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

The words were uttered in the slow tone of
one used to matters too serious for common
speech.

The boy cast a hurried glance at me, smiled
uncertainly, and moved uneasily on his seat.
His father turned away and made a remark to
the coachman.

Mr. Osborne was a very tall, thin, yet square -
shouldered man, with a pale face, and large
features of delicate form. He looked severe,
pure, and irritable. The tone of his voice, al-
though the words were measured and rather
stilted, led me to this last conclusion quite as
much as the expression of his face ; for it was
thin and a little acrid. I soon observed that
Charlie started slightly, as often as his father
addressed him ; but this might be because his
father always did so with more or less of ab-
ruptness. At times there was great kindness in
his manner, seeming, however, less the outcome
of natural tenderness than a sense duty. His
being was evidently a weight upon his son's,
and kept down the natural movements of his
spirit. A number of small circumstances only
led me to these conclusions ; for nothing remark-



AWAY. 239

able occurred to set in any strong light their
mutual relation. For his side Charles was always
attentive and ready, although with a prompti-
tude that had more in it of the mechanical
impulse of habit than of pleased obedience. Mr.
Osborne spoke kindly to me — I think the more
kindly that I was not his son, and he was
therefore not so responsible for me. But he
looked as if the care of the whole world lay on
his shoulders ; as if an awful destruction were
the most likely thing to happen to every one,
and to him were committed the toilsome chance
of saving some. Doubtless he would not have
trusted his boy so far from home, but that the
clergyman to whom he was about to hand him
over was an old friend, of the same religious
opinions as himself.

I could well, but must not, linger over the
details of our journey, full to me of most varied
pleasure. The constant change, not so rapid as
to prevent the mind from reposing a little upon
the scenes which presented themselves ; the
passing vision of countries and peoples, man-
ners and modes of life, so different from our
own, did much to arouse and develop my



240 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

nature. Those flashes of pleasure came upon
Charles's pale face more and more frequently ;
and ere the close of the first day we had begun
to talk with some degree of friendliness. But it
became clear to me that with his father ever
blocking up our horizon, whether he sat with
his broad back in front of us on the coach-box,
or paced the deck of a vessel, or perched with
us under the hood on the top of a diligence, we
should never arrive at any freedom of speech.
I sometimes wondered, long after, whether Mr.
Osborne had begun to discover that he was
overlaying and smothering the young life of his
boy, and had therefore adopted the plan, so
little to have been expected from him, of send-
ing his son to foreign parts to continue his
education.

I have no distinct recollection of dates, or
even of the exact season of the year. I be-
lieve it was the early Summer, but in my me-
mory the whole journey is now a mass of con-
fused loveliness and pleasure. Not that we had
the best of weather all the way. I well recol-
lect pouring rains, and from the fact that I dis-
tinctly remember my first view of an Alpine



AWAY. 241

height, I am certain we must have had days of
mist and rain immediately before. That sight
however, to me more like an individual revela-
tion or vision than the impact of an object upon
the brain, stands in my mind altogether isolated
from preceding and following impressions —
alone, a thing to praise God for, if there be a
God to praise. If there be not, then was the
whole thing a grand and lovely illusion, worthy,
for grandeur and loveliness, of a world with a
God at the heart of it. But the grandeur and
the loveliness spring from the operation of natu-
ral laws ; the laws themselves are real and
true — how could the false result from them ? I
hope yet, and will hope, that I am not a bubble
filled with the mocking breath of a Mephis-
topheles, but a child whom his infinite Father
will not hardly judge because he could not be-
lieve in him so much as he would. I will tell
how the vision came.

Although comparatively few people visited
Switzerland in those days, Mr. Osborne had
been there before, and for some reason or other
had determined on going round by Interlachen.
At Thun we found a sail-boat, which we hired

VOL. I. R



242 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

to take us and our luggage. At starting, an
incident happened which, would not be worth
mentioning, but for the impression it made upon
me. A French lady accompanied by a young
girl approached Mr. Osborne — doubtless per-
ceiving he was a clergyman, for, being an
Evangelical of the most pure, honest, and narrow
type, he was in every point and line of his
countenance marked a priest and apart from his
fellowmen — and asked him to allow her and
her daughter to go in the boat with us to
Interlachen. A glow of pleasure awoke in me
at sight of his courtly behaviour, with lifted hat
and bowed head ; for T had never been in the
company of such a gentleman before. But the
wish instantly followed that his son might have
shared in his courtesy. We partook freely of
his justice and benevolence, but he showed us
no such grace as he showed the lady. I have
since observed that sons are endlessly grateful
for courtes}^ from their fathers.

The lady and her daughter sat down in the
stern of the boat ; and therefore Charley and I,
not certainly to our discomfiture, had to go
before the mast. The men rowed out into the



AWAY. 243

lake, and then hoisted the sail. Away we went
careering before a pleasant breeze. As yet it
blew fog and mist, but the hope was that it
would soon blow it away.

An unspoken friendship by this time bound
Charley and me together, silent in its begin-
nings and slow in its growth — not the worst
pledges of endurance. And now for the first
time in our journey, Charley was hidden from
his father : the sail came between them. He
glanced at me with a slight sigh, which even
then I took for an involuntary sigh of relief.
We lay leaning over the bows, now looking up
at the mist blown in never-ending volumed
sheets, now at the sail swelling in the wind
before which it fled, and again down at the
water through which our boat was ploughing
its evanescent furrow. We could see very little.
Portions of the shore would now and then ap-
pear, dim like reflections from a tarnished mir-
ror, and then fade back into the depths of cloudy
dissolution. Still it was growing lighter, and
the man who was on the outlook became less
anxious in his forward gaze, and less frequent
in his calls to the helmsman. I was lying half

R 2



244 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

over the gunwale, looking into the strange-
coloured water, blue dimmed with undissolved
white, when a cry from Charles made me start
and look up. It was indeed a God-like vision.
The mist yet rolled thick below, but away up,
far away and far up, yet as if close at hand,
the clouds were broken into a mighty window,
through which looked in upon us a huge moun-
tain peak swathed in snow. One great level
band of darker cloud crossed its breast, above
which rose the peak, triumphant in calmness,
and stood unutterably solemn and grand, in
clouds as white as its own whiteness. It had
been there all the time ! I sunk oq my knees
in the boat and gazed up. With a sudden
sweep the clouds curtained the mighty window,
and the Jungfrau withdrew into its Holy of
Holies. I am painfully conscious of the help-
lessness of my speech. The vision vanishes
from the words as it vanished from the bewil-
dered eyes. But from the mind it glorified it
has never vanished. I have been more ever
since that sight. To have beheld a truth is an
apotheosis. What the truth was I could not
tell ; but I had seen something which raised me



AWAY. 245

above my former self and made me long to
rise higher yet. It awoke worship, and a be-
lief in the incomprehensible divine ; but admit-
ted of being analysed no more than, in that
transient vision, my intellect could — ere dawn-
ing it vanished — analyse it into the deserts of
rock, the gulfs of green ice and flowing water,
the savage solitudes of snow, the mysterious
miles of draperied mist, that went to make up
the vision, each and all essential thereto.

I had been too much given to the attempted
production in myself of effects to justify the
vague theories towards which my inborn prepos-
sessions carried me. I had felt enough to believe
there was more to be felt ; and such stray scraps
of verse of the new order as, floating about, had
reached me, had set me questioning and testing
my own life and perceptions and sympathies by
what these awoke in me at second-hand. I had
often doubted, oppressed by the power of these,
whether I could myself see, or whether my
sympathy with Nature was not merely inspired
by the vision of others. Ever after this, if such
a doubt returned, with it arose the Jungfrau,
looking into my very soul.



24(5 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

" Oh Charley !" was all I could say. Our
hands met blindly, and clasped each other. I
burst into silent tears.

When I looked up, Charley was staring into
the mist again. His eyes, too, were full of
tears, but some troubling contradiction pre-
vented their flowing : I saw it by the expres-
sion of that mobile but now firmly-closed
mouth.

Often ere we left Switzerland I saw similar
glories : this vision remains alone, for it was the
first.

I will not linger over the tempting delight of
the village near which we landed, its houses
covered with quaintly-notched wooden scales
like those of a fish, and its river full to the brim
of white-blue water, rushing from the far-off
bosom of the glaciers. I had never had such
a sense of exuberance and plenty as this river
gave me — especially where it filled the planks
and piles of wood that hemmed it in like a
trough. I might agonize in words for a day
and I should not express the delight. And, lest
my readers should apprehend a diary of a tour,
I shall say nothing more of our journey, remark-



AWAY. 247

ing only that if Switzerland were to become as
common to the mere tourist mind as Cheapside
is to a Londoner, the meanest of its glories
would be no whit impaired thereby. Some-
times, I confess, in these days of overcrowded
cities, when, in periodical floods, the lonely
places of the earth are from them inundated, I
do look up to the heavens and say to myself
that there at least, between the stars, even in
thickest of nebulous constellations, there is yet
plenty of pure, unadulterated room — not even a
vapour to hang a colour upon ; but presently I
return to my better mind and say that any man
who loves his fellow will yet find he has room
enough and to spare.



248



CHAPTER XVI.



THE ICE-CAVE.



T\URING our journey, Mr. Osborne had seldom
*J talked to us, and far more seldom in
speech sympathetic. If by chance I came out
with anything I thought or felt, even if he did
not disapprove altogether, he would yet first
lay hold of something to which he could object,
coming round only by degrees, and with differ-
ences, to express consent. Evidently with him
objection was the first step in instruction. It
was better in his eyes to say you were wrong
than to say you were right, even if you should
be much more right than wrong. He had not
the smallest idea of siding with the truth in you,
of digging about it and watering it until it grew
a great tree in which all your thought-birds
might nestle and sing their songs ; but he must



THE ICE-CAVE. 249

be ever against the error — forgetting that the
only antagonist of the false is the true. " What,"
I used to think in after-years, " is the use of
battering the walls to get at the error, when the
kindly truth is holding the postern open for you
to enter, and pitch it out of window."

The evening before we parted, he gave us a
solemn admonishment on the danger of being
led astray by what men called the beauties of
Nature — for the heart was so desperately wicked
that, even of the things God had made to slwiv
his power, it would make snares for our destruc-
tion. I will not go on with his homily, out of
respect for the man ; for there was much earnest-
ness in him, and it would utterly shame me if I
were supposed to hold that up to the contempt
which the forms it took must bring upon it.
Besides, he made such a free use of the most
sacred of names, that I shrink from representing
his utterance. A good man I do not doubt he
was ; but he did the hard parts of his duty to
the neglect of the genial parts, and therefore
was not a man to help others to be good. His
own son revived the moment he took his leave
of us — began to open up as the little red flower



250 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

called the Shepherd's Hour-Glass opens when the
cloud withdraws. It is a terrible thing when
the father is the cloud, and not the sun, of his
child's life. If Charley had been like the greater
number of boys I have known, all this would
only have hardened his mental and moral skin
by the natural process of accommodation. But
his skin would not harden, and the evil wrought
the deeper. From his father he had inherited a
conscience of abnormal sensibility ; but he could
not inherit the religious dogmas by means of
which his father had partly deadened, partly
distorted his ; and constant pressure and irri-
tation had already generated a great soreness of
surface.

When he began to open up, it was after a sad
fashion at first. To resume my simile of the
pimpernel — it was to disclose a heart in which
the glowing purple was blanched to a sickly
violet. What happiness he had, came in fits
and bursts, and passed as quickly, leaving him
depressed and miserable. He was always
either wishing to be happy, or trying to be sure
of the grounds of the brief happiness he had.
He allowed the natural blessedness of his years



THE ICE-CAVE. 251

hardly a chance : the inoraent its lobes appeared
above ground, he was handling them, examin-
ing them, and trying to pull them open. No
wonder they crept underground again ! It may
seem hardly credible that such should be the
case with a boy of fifteen, but I am not mis-
taken in my diagnosis. I will go a little further.
Gifted with the keenest perceptions, and a
nature unusually responsive to the feelings of
others, he was born to be an artist. But he
was content neither with his own suggestions,
nor with understanding those of another ; he
must, by the force of his own will, generate his
friend's feeling in himself, not perceiving the
thing impossible. This was one point at which
we touched, and which went far to enable me
to understand him. The original in him was
thus constantly repressed, and he suffered from
the natural consequences of repression. He
suffered also on the physical side from a tend-
ency to disease of the lungs inherited from
his mother.

Mr. Forest's house stood high on the Grindel-
wald side of the Wengern Alp, under a bare
grassy height full of pasture both Summer and



252 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

Winter. In front was a great space, half mea-
dow, half common, rather poorly covered with
hill-grasses. The rock was near the surface,
and in places came through, when the grass
was changed for lichens and mosses. Through
this rocky meadow now roamed, now rushed,
now tumbled one of those Alpine streams the
very thought of whose ice-born plenitude makes
me happy yet. Its banks were not abrupt, but
rounded gently in, and grassy down to the
water's brink. The larger torrents of Winter
wore the channel wide, and the sinking of the
water in Summer let the grass grow within it.
But peaceful as the place was, and merry with
the constant rush of this busy stream, it had,
even in the hottest Summer day, a memory of
the Winter about it, a look of suppressed deso-
lation ; for the only trees upon it were a score of
straggling pines — all dead, as if blasted by light-,
ning, or smothered by snow. Perhaps they
were the last of the forest in that part, and
their roots had reached a stratum where they
could not live. All I know is that there
they stood, blasted and dead every one of
them.



THE ICE-CAYE. 253

Charley could never bear them, and even dis-
liked the place because of them. His father
was one whom a mote in his brother's eye re-
pelled. The son suffered for this in twenty ways
— one of which was that a single spot in the
landscape was to him enough to destroy the
loveliness of exquisite surroundings.

A good way below lay the valley of the
Grindelwald. The Eiger and the Matterhorn
were both within sight. If a man has any sense
of the infinite, he cannot fail to be rendered
capable of higher things by such embodiments
of the high. Otherwise, they are heaps of dirt,
to be scrambled up and conquered, for scram-
bling and conquering's sake. They are but
warts, Pelion and Ossa and all of them. They
seemed to oppress Charley at first.

" Oh, Willie," he said to me one day, " if I
could but believe in those mountains, how happy
I should be ! But I doubt, I doubt they are but
rocks and snow."

I only half understood him. I am afraid I
never did understand him more than half.
Later I came to the conclusion that this was
not the fit place for him, and that if his father



254 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

had understood him, he would never have sent
him there.

It was some time before Mr. Forest would
take us any mountain ramble. He said we must
first get accustomed to the air of the place, else
the precipices would turn our brains. He al-
lowed us, however, to range within certain
bounds.

One day soon after our arrival, we accompani-
ed one of our schoolfellows down to the valley
of the Grindelwald, specially to see the head of
the snake-glacier, which having crept thither can
creep no further. Somebody had even then
hollowed out a cave in it. We crossed a little
brook which issued from it constantly, and en-
tered. Charley uttered a cry of dismay, but I
was too much delighted at the moment to heed
him. For the whole of the white cavern was
filled with blue air, so blue that I saw the air
which filled it. Perfectly transparent, it had
no substance, only blueness, which deepened
and deepened as I went further in. All down
the smooth white walls evermore was stealing
a thin veil of dissolution ; while here and there
little runnels of the purest water were tumbling



THE ICE-CAYE. 255

in tiny cataracts from top to bottom. It was
one of the thousand birthplaces of streams, ever
creeping into the day of vision from the unlike
and the unknown, unrolling themselves like the
fronds of a fern out of the infinite of God. Ice
was all around, hard and cold and dead and
white ; but out of it and away went the water
babbling and singing in the sunlight.

" Oh Charley !" I exclaimed, looking round in
my transport for sympathy. It was now my
turn to cry out, for Charley's face was that of a
corpse. The brilliant blue of the cave made us
look to each other most ghastly and fearful.

"Do come out, Wilfrid," he said; "I cannot
bear it."

I put my arm in his, and we walked into the
sunlight. He drew a deep breath of relief, and
turned to me with an attempt at a smile, but his
lip quivered.

"It's an awful place, Wilfrid. 1 don't like it.
Don't go in again. I should stand waiting to see
you come out in a winding-sheet. I think there's
something wrong with my brain. That blue
seems to have got into it. I see everything
horribly dead."



256 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

On the "way back he started several times,
and looked round as if with involuntary appre-
hension, but mastered himself with an effort,
and joined again in the conversation. Before we
reached home he was much fatigued, and com-
plaining of headache, went to bed immediately
on our arrival.

We slept in the same room. When I went up
at the usual hour, he was awake.

" Can't you sleep, Charley f" I said.

" I've been asleep several times," he answer-
ed, " but I've had such a horrible dream every
time ! We were all corpses that couldn't get to
sleep, and went about pawing the slimy walls of
our marble sepulchre — so cold and wet ! It was
that horrible ice-cave, I suppose. But then you
know that's just what it is, Wilfrid."

" I don't know what you mean," I said,
instinctively turning from the subject, for the
glitter of his blue eyes looked bodeful. I did
not know then how like he and I were, or how
like my fate might have been to his, if, instead
of finding at once a fit food for my fancy, and
a safety-valve for its excess, in those old ro-
mances, I had had my regards turned inwards



THE ICE-CAVE. 257

upon myself, before I could understand the
phenomena there exhibited. Certainly I too
should have been thus rendered miserable, and
body and soul would have mutually preyed on
each other.

I sought to change the subject. I could
never talk to him about his father, but he had
always been ready to speak of his mother and
sister. Now, however, I could not rouse him.
" Poor mamma !" was all the response he made
to some admiring remark ; and when I mention-
ed his sister Mary, he only said, " She's a good
girl, our Mary," and turned uneasily towards
the wall. I went to bed. He lay quiet, and I
fell asleep.

When I woke in the morning, I found him
very unwell. I suppose the illness had been
coming on for some time. He was in a low
fever. As the doctor declared it not infectious,
I was allowed to nurse him. He was often de-
lirious and spoke the wildest things. Especial-
ly, he would converse with the Saviour after
the strangest fashion.

He lay ill for some weeks. Mr. Forest would
not allow me to sit up with him at night, but I

VOL. I. S



258 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

was always by his bedside early in the morning,
and did what I could to amuse and comfort him
through the day. When at length he began to
grow better, he was more cheerful than I had
known him hitherto ; but he remained very weak
for some time. He had grown a good deal
during his illness, and indeed never looked a
boy again.



259



CHAPTER XVII.



AMONG THE MOUNTAINS.



/~\XE Summer morning we all got up very
^ early, except Charley, who was unfit for
the exertion, to have a ramble in the mountains,
and see the sun rise. The fresh friendly air,
fall of promise, greeting us the moment we
crossed the threshold ; the calm light which,
without visible source, lay dream-like on the
hills ; the brighter space in the sky whence ere
long the spring of glory would burst forth tri-
umphant ; the dull white of the snow-peaks,
dwelling so awful and lonely in the mid hea-
vens, as if nothing should ever comfort them or
make them acknowledge the valleys below ; the
sense of adventure with which we climbed the
nearer heights as familiar to our feet on ordi-
nary days as the stairs to our bedrooms ; the

s 2



2(30 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

gradual disappearance of the known regions
behind us, and the dawning sense of the illimit-
able and awful, folding in its bosom the homely
and familiar — combined to produce an impres-
sion which has never faded. The sun rose in
splendour, as if nothing more should hide in the
darkness for ever ; and yet with the light came
a fresh sense of mystery, for now that which
had appeared smooth was all broken and mot-
tled with shadows innumerable. Again and
again I found myself standing still to gaze in


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