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a rapture of delight which I can only recall,
not express ; again and again was I roused by
the voice of the master in front, shouting to me
to come on, and warning me of the danger of
losing sight of the rest of the company ; and
again and again I obeyed, but without any per-
ception of the peril.

The intention was to cross the hills into the
valley of the Lauterbrunnen, not, however, by
the path now so well known, but by another way,
hardly a path, with which the master and some
of the boys were familiar enough. It was my
first experience of anything like real climbing.
As we passed rapidly over a moorland space,



AMONG THE MOUNTAINS. 261

broken with huge knolls and solitary rocks,
something hurt my foot, and taking off my
shoe, I found that a small chiropodical opera-
tion was necessary, which involved the use of
my knife. It slipped, and cut my foot, and I
bound the wound with a strip from my pocket-
handkerchief. When I got up, I found that my
companions had disappeared. This gave me
little trouble at the moment, for I had no doubt
of speedily overtaking them ; and I set out
briskly in the direction, as I supposed, in which
we had been going. But I presume that, in-
stead of following them, I began at once to in-
crease the distance between us. At all events,
I had not got far before a pang of fear shot
through me — the first awaking doubt. I called
—louder — and louder yet ; but there was no re-
sponse, and I knew I was alone.

Invaded by sudden despair, I sat down, and
for a moment did not even think. All at once
I became aware of the abysses which surrounded
the throne of mv isolation. Behind me the
broken ground rose to an unseen height, and
before me it sloped gently downwards, without
a break to the eye, yet I felt as if, should I make



21)2 WILFRID OUMBERMEDE.

one wavering movement, I must fall down one of
the frightful precipices which Mr. Forest had
told me as a warning lay all about us. I actually
clung to the stone upon which I sat, although
I could not have been in more absolute safety
for the moment had T been dreaming in bed.
The old fear had returned upon me with a ten-
fold feeling of reality behind it. I presume it
is so all through life : it is not what is, but what
may be, that oftenest blanches the cheek and
paralyzes the limbs ; and oftenest gives rise to
that sense of the need of a God which we are
told nowadays is a superstition, and which he
whom we call the Saviour acknowledged and
justified in telling us to take no thought for the
morrow, inasmuch as God took thought for it.
I strove to master my dismay, and forced my-
self to get up and run about ; and in a few
minutes the fear had withdrawn into the back-
ground, and I felt no longer an unseen force
dragging me towards a frightful gulf. But it
was replaced by a more spiritual horror. The
sense of loneliness seized upon me, and the first
sense of absolute loneliness is awful. Indepen-
dent as a man may fancy himself in the heart



AMONG THE MOUNTAINS. 263

of a world of men, he is only to be convinced
that there is neither voice nor hearing, to know
that the face from which he most recoils is of
a kind essential to his very soul. Space is
not room ; and when we complain of the over-
crowding of our fellows, we are thankless for
that which comforts us the most, and desire its
absence in ignorance of our deepest nature.

Not even a bird broke the silence. It lay
upon my soul as the sky and the sea lay upon
the weary eye of the ancient mariner. It is
useless to attempt to convey the impression of
my misery. It was not yet the fear of death,
or of hunger or thirst, for I had as yet no ade-
quate idea of the vast lonelinesses that lie in a
mountain land : it was simply the being alone,
with no ear to hear and no voice to answer
me — a torture to which the soul is liable in
virtue of the fact that it was not made to be
alone, yea, I think, I hope, never can be alone ;
for that which could be fact could not be such
horror. Essential horror springs from an idea
repugnant to the nature of the thinker, and
which therefore in reality could not be.

My agony rose and rose with every moment



264 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

of silence. But when it reached its height,
and when, to save myself from bursting into
tears, I threw myself on the ground, and began
gnawing at the plants about me — then first
came help : I had a certain experience, as the
Puritans might have called it. I fear to build any
definite conclusions upon it, from the dread of
fanaticism and the danger of attributing a
merely physical effect to a spiritual cause. But
are matter and spirit so far asunder ? It is
my will moves my arm, whatever first moves
my will. Besides, I do not understand how,
unless another influence came into operation,
the extreme of misery and depression should
work round into such a change as I have to
record.

But I do not know how to describe the
change. The silence was crushing or ra-
ther sucking my life out of me — up into its
own empty gulfs. The horror of the great
stillness was growing deathly, when all at
once I rose to my feet, with a sense of power
and confidence I had never had before. It was
as if something divine within me awoke to out-
face the desolation. I felt that it was time to



AMONG THE MOUNTAINS. 265

act, and that I could act. There is no cure for
terror like action : in a few moments I could
have approached the verge of any precipice — at
least without abject fear. The silence — no
longer a horrible vacancy — appeared to tremble
with unuttered thinkings. The manhood with-
in me was alive and awake. I could not recog-
nise a single land-mark, or discover the least
vestige of a path. I knew upon which hand
the sun was when we started; and took my
way with the sun on the other side. But a
cloud had already come over him.

T had not gone far before I saw in front of
me, on the other side of a little hillock, some-
thing like the pale blue grey fog that broods over
a mountain lake. I ascended the hillock, and
started back with a cry of dismay : I was on
the very verge of an awful gulf. When I think
of it, I marvel yet that I did not lose my self-
possession altogether. I only turned and strode
in the other direction — the faster for the fear.
But I dared not run, for I was haunted by pre-
cipices. Over every height, every mound, one
might be lying — a trap for my destruction. I
no longer looked out in the hope of recognizing



266 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

some feature of the country; I could only re-
gard the ground before me, lest at any step I
might come upon an abyss.

I had not walked far before the air began to
grow dark. I glanced again at the sun. The
clouds had gathered thick about him. Sudden-
ly a mountain wind blew cold in my face. I
never yet can read that sonnet of Shakspere's,

Full many a glorious morning I have seen

Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye,
Kissing with golden face the meadows green,

Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy ;
Anon permit the basest clouds to ride

With ugly rack on his celestial face,
And from the forlorn world his visage hide,

Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace, —

without recalling the gladness when I started
from home and the misery that so soon follow-
ed. But my new spirits did not yet give way.
I trudged on. The wind increased, and in it came
by and by the trailing skirts of a cloud. In a
few moments more I was wrapped in mist.
It was as if the gulf from which I had just
escaped had sent up its indwelling demon of
fog to follow and overtake me. I dared hardly



AMONG THE MOUNTAINS. 267

go on even with the greatest circumspection.
As I grew colder, my courage declined. The
mist wetted my face and sank through my
clothes, and I began to feel very wretched. I
sat down, not merely from dread of the preci-
pices, but to reserve my walking powers when
the mist should withdraw. I began to shiver,
and was getting utterly hopeless and miserable
when the fog lifted a little, and I saw what
seemed a great rock near me. I crept towards
it. Almost suddenly it dwindled, and I found
but a stone, yet one large enough to afford me
some shelter. I went to the leeward side of it,
and nestled at its foot. The mist again sank,
and the wind blew stronger, but I was in com-
parative comfort, partly because my imagina-
tion was wearied. I fell fast asleep.

I awoke stiff with cold. Rain was falling in
torrents, and I was wet to the skin ; but the
mist was much thinner, and I could see a good
way. For awhile I was very heartless, what
with the stiffness, and the fear of having to spend
the night on the mountains. I was hungry too,
not with the appetite of desire but of need. The
worst was that I had no idea in what direction



268 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

I ought to go. Downwards lay precipices — up-
wards lay the surer loneliness. I knelt, and
prayed the God who dwelt in the silence to help
me ; then strode away I knew not whither —
up the hill in the faint hope of discovering some
sign to direct me. As I climbed the hill rose.
When I surmounted what had seemed the
highest point, away beyond rose another. But
the slopes were not over-steep, and I was able
to get on pretty fast. The wind being behind
me, I hoped for some shelter over the highest
brow, but that, for anything I knew, might be
miles away in the regions of ice and snow.

I had been walking I should think about an
hour, when the mist broke away from around
me, and the sun, in the midst of clouds of dull
orange and gold, shone out upon the wet hill.
It was like a promise of safety, and woke in me
courage to climb the steep and crumbling slope
which now lay before me. But the fear re-
turned. People had died in the mountains of
hunger, and I began to make up my mind to
meet the worst. I had not learned that the ap-
proach of any fate is just the preparation for
that fate. I troubled myself with the care of



AMONG THE MOUNTAINS. 269

that which was not impending over me. I tried
to contemplate the death-struggle with equa-
nimity, but could not. Had I been wearier and
fainter, it would have appeared less dreadful.
Then, in the horror of the slow death of hunger,
strange as it may appear, that which had been
the special horror of ray childish dreams re-
turned upon me changed into a thought of com-
fort : I could, ere my strength failed me utterly,
seek the verge of a precipice, lie down there,
and when the suffering grew strong enough to
give me courage, roll myself over the edge, and
cut short the agony.

At length I gained the brow of the height,
and at last the ground sank beyond. There
was no precipice to terrify, only a somewhat
steep descent into a valley large and wide. But
what a vision arose on the opposite side of that
valley ! — an upright wilderness of rocks, slopes,
precipices, snow, glaciers, avalanches ! Weary
and faint as I was, I was filled with a glorious
awe, the terror of which was the opposite of fear,
for it lifted instead of debasing the soul. Not a
pine-tree softened the haggard waste ; not a
single stray sheep of the wind's flock drew one



270 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

trail of its thin-drawn wool behind it ; all was
hard and bare. The glaciers lay like the skins
of cruel beasts, with the green veins yet visible,
nailed to the rocks to harden in the sun ; and
the little streams which ran down from their
claws looked like the knife-blades they are,
keen and hard and shining, sawing away at the
bones of the old mountain. But although the
mountain looked so silent, there came from it
every now and then a thunderous sound. At
first I could not think what it was, but gazing
at its surface more steadily, upon the face of a
slope I caught sight of what seemed a larger
stream than any of the rest; but it soon ceased
to flow, and after came the thunder of its fall :
it was a stream, but a solid one — an avalanche.
Away up in the air the huge snow-summit glit-
tered in the light of the afternoon sun. I was
gazing on the Maiden in one of her most savage
moods — or to speak prose — I was regarding
one of the wildest aspects of the many-sided
Jungfrau.

Half way down the hill, almost right under
my feet, rose a slender column of smoke, I
could not see whence. I hastened towards it,



AMONG THE MOUNTAINS. 271

feeling as strong as when I started in the
morning. I zig-zagged down the slope, for it
was steep and slippery with grass, and arrived
at length at a good-sized cottage, which faced
the Jungfrau. It was built of great logs laid
horizontally one above the other, all with
notches half through near the end, by which
notches, lying into each other, the sides of the
house Avere held together at the corners. I
soon saw it must be a sort of roadside inn.
There was no one about the place, but passing
through a dark vestibule, in which were stores
of fodder and various utensils, I came to a room
in which sat a mother and her daughter, the
former spinning, the latter making lace on a
pillow. In at the windows looked the great
Jungfrau. The room was lined with planks ;
the floor was boarded ; the ceiling, too, was of
boards — pine-wood all around.

The women rose when I entered. I knew
enough of German to make them understand
my story, and had learned enough of their
patois to understand them a little in return.
They looked concerned, and the older woman
passing her hands over my jacket, turned to



272 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

her daughter and commenced a talk much
too rapid and no doubt idiomatic for me
to follow. It was in the end mingled with
much laughter, evidently at some proposal of
the mother. Then the daughter left the room,
and the mother began to heap wood on the fire.
In a few minutes the daughter returned, still
laughing, with some garments, which the mo-
ther took from her. I was watching everything
from a corner of the hearth, where I had seated
myself wearily. The mother came up to me,
and, without speaking, put something over my
head, which I found to be a short petticoat
such as the women wore ; then told me I must
take off my clothes, and have them dried at the
fire. She laid other garments on a chair beside
me.

" I don't know how to put them on," I ob-
jected.

" Put on as many as you can," she said laugh-
ing, " and I will help you with the rest."

I looked about. There was a great press in
the room. I went behind it and pulled off my
clothes ; and having managed to put on some
of the girl's garments, issued from my conceal-






AMONG THE MOUNTAINS. 273

merit. The kindly laughter was renewed, and
mother and daughter busied themselves in ar-
ranging my apparel, evidently seeking to make
the best of me as a girl, an attempt favoured
by my pale face. When I seemed to myself
completely arrayed, the girl said to her mother
what I took to mean, " Let us finish what we
have begun ;" and leaving the room, returned
presently with the velvet collar embroidered
with silver and the pendent chains which the
women of most of the cantons wear, and put it
on me, hooking the chains and leaving them
festooned under my arms. The mother was
spreading out my clothes before the fire to
dry. •

Neither was pretty, but both looked womanly
and good. The daughter had the attraction of
youth and bright eyes ; the mother of goodwill
and experience ; but both were sallow, and the
mother very wrinkled for what seemed her
years.

"Now," 1 said, summoning my German,
" you've almost finished your work. Make my
short hair as like your long hair as you can,
and then I shall be a Swiss girl."

VOL. I. T



274 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

I was but a boy, and had no scruple concern-
ing a bit of fun of which I might have been
ashamed a few years later. The girl took a
comb from her own hair and arranged mine.
When she had finished, " One girl may kiss
another," I said ; and doubtless she understood
me, for she returned my kiss with a fresh laugh.
I sat down by the fire, and as its warmth crept
into my limbs, I rejoiced over comforts which
yesterday had been a matter of course.

Meantime they were busy getting me some-
thing to eat. Just as they were setting it on
the table, however, a loud call outside took
them both away. In a few moments two other
guests entered, and then first I found myself
ashamed of my costume. With them the mo-
ther re-entered, calling behind her, " There's
nobody at home ; you must put the horses up
yourself, Annel." Then she moved the little
table towards me, and proceeded to set out the
meal.

" Ah ! I see you have got something to eat,"
said one of the strangers, in a voice I fancied I
had heard before.

" Will you please to share it ?" returned the



AMONG THE MOUNTAINS. 275

woman, moving the table again towards the
middle of the room.

I thought with myself that, if I kept silent,
no one conld tell 1 was not a girl ; and, the
table being finally adjusted, I moved my seat
towards it. Meantime the man was helping his
companion to take off her outer garments, and
put them before the fire. I saw the face of
neither until they approached the table and sat
down. Great was my surprise to discover that
the man was the same I had met in the wood
on my way to Moldwarp Hall, and that the girl
was Clara — a good deal grown — in fact looking
almost a woman. From after facts, the meet-
ing became less marvellous in my eyes than it
then appeared.

I felt myself in an awkward position — indeed
I felt almost guilty, although any notion of
having the advantage of them never entered
my head. I was more than half inclined to run
out and help Annel with the horses, but I was
very hungry, and not at all willing to postpone
my meal, simple as it was — bread and butter,
eggs, cheese, milk, and a bottle of the stronger
wine of the country, tasting like a coarse

T 2



276 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

sherry. The two — father and daughter evi-
dently — talked about their journey, and hoped
they should reach the Grindelwald without more
rain.

" By the way," said the gentleman, " it's
somewhere not far from here young Cumber-
mede is at school. I know Mr. Forest well
enough — used to know him at least. We may
as well call upon him."

" Cumbermede," said Clara ; " who is he V

" A nephew of Mrs. Wilson's — no, not nephew
— second or third cousin — or something of the
sort, I believe. — Didn't somebody tell me you
met him at the Hall one day?"

" Oh, that boy— Wilfrid. Yes ; I told you
myself. Don't you remember what a bit of fun
we had the night of the ball ? We were shut
out on the leads, you know."

"Yes, to be sure, you did tell me. What
sort of a boy is he ?"

" Oh ! I don't know. Much like other boys.
I did think he was a coward at first, but he
showed some pluck at last. I shouldn't won-
der if he turns out a good sort of fellow ! We
were in a fix !"



AMONG THE MOUNTAINS. 277

" You're a terrible madcap, Clara ! If you
don't settle down as you grow, you'll be get-
ting yourself into worse scrapes."

" Not with you to look after me, papa dear,"
answered Clara, smiling. "It was the fun of
cheating old Goody Wilson, you know !"

Her father grinned with his whole mouthful
of teeth, and looked at her with amusement —
almost sympathetic roguery, which she evident-
ly appreciated, for "she laughed heartily.

Meantime I was feeling very uncomfortable.
Something within told me I had no right to
overhear remarks about myself; and, in my
slow way, I was meditating how to get out of
the scrape.

" What a nice-looking girl that is !" said
Clara, without lifting her eyes from her plate —
I mean for a Swiss, you know. But I do like
the dress. I wish you would buy me a collar
and chains like those, papa."

"Always wanting to get something out of
your old dad, Clara ! Just like the rest of you
always wanting something — eh ?"

" No, papa ; it's you gentlemen always want



278 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

to keep everything for yourselves. We only
want you to share."

" Well, you shall have the collar, and I shall
have the chains.— Will that do f '

44 Yes, thank you, papa," she returned, nod-
ding her head. "Meantime, hadn't you better
give me your diamond pin? It would fasten
this troublesome collar so nicely !"

" There, child !" he answered, proceeding to
take it from his shirt. " Anything else V 9

" No, no, papa dear. I didn't want it. I ex-
pected you, like everybody else, to decline
carrying out your professed principles."

" What a nice girl she is," I thought, " after
all !"

" My love," said her father, " you will know
some day that I would do more for you even
than give you my pet diamond. If you are a
good girl, and do as I tell you, there will be
grander things than diamond pins in store for
you. But you may have this if you like."

He looked fondly at her as he spoke.

" Oh, no, papa ! — not now at least. I should
not know what to do with it. I should be sure
to lose it."



AMONG THE MOUNTAINS. 279

If my clothes had been dry, I would have
slipped away, put them on, and appeared in my
proper guise. As it was, I was getting more
and more miserable — ashamed of revealing who
I was, and ashamed of hearing what the speak-
ers supposed I did not understand. I sat on
irresolute. In a little while however, either the
wine having got into my head, or the food and
warmth having restored my courage, I began
to contemplate the bolder stroke of suddenly
revealing myself by some unexpected remark.
They went on talking about the country, and
the road they had come.

" But we have hardly seen anything worth
calling a precipice," said Clara.

" You'll see hundreds of them if you look out
of the window," said her father.

" Oh ! but I don't mean that," she returned.
" It's nothing to look at them like that. I
mean from the top of them — to look down, you
know."

" Like from the flying buttress at Moldwarp
Hall, Clara f' I said.

The moment I began to speak, they began to
stare. Clara's hand was arrested on its way



280 WILFRID CUMBERMEDE.

towards the bread, and her father's wine-glass
hung suspended between the table and his lips.
I laughed.

" By J ove !" said Mr. Coningham — and added
nothing, for amazement, but looked uneasily at
his daughter, as if asking whether they had
not said something awkward about me.

" It's Wilfrid !" exclaimed Clara, in the tone
of one talking in her sleep. Then she laid
down her knife, and laughed aloud.

" What a guy you are !" she exclaimed.
" Who would have thought of finding you in a
Swiss girl ? Really it was too bad of you to sit
there and let us go on as we did. I do believe
we were talking about your precious self! At
least papa was."

Again her merry laugh rang out. She could
not have taken a better way of relieving us.

" I'm very sorry," I said ; " but I felt so awk-
ward in this costume that I couldn't bring my-
self to speak before. I tried very hard."

" Poor boy !" she returned, rather more mock-
ingly than I liked, her \iolets swimming in the
dews of laughter.

By this time Mr. Coningham had apparently



AMONG THE MOUNTAINS. 281

recovered his self-possession. I say apparently,
for I doubt if he had ever lost it. He had only,
I think, been running over their talk in his
mind to see if he had said anything unpleasant,
and now, re-assured, I think, he stretched his
hand across the table.

" At all events, Mr. Cumbermede," he said,
" ice owe you an apology. 1 am sure we can't
have said anything we should mind you hear-
ing ; but "

" Oh !" I interrupted, " you have told me no-
thing I did not know already, except that Mrs.
Wilson was a relation, of which I was quite
ignorant."

" It is true enough though."

" What relation is she then ?"

" I think, when I gather my recollections of
the matter — I think she was first cousin to
your mother — perhaps it was only second
cousin."

" Wiry shouldn't she have told me so, then?"

" She must explain that herself. / cannot
account for that. It is very extraordinary."

" But how do you know so well about me,
sir — if you don't mind saying ?"



282 WILFRID OUMBERMEDE.

" Oh ! I am an old friend of the family. I
knew your father better than your uncle though.
Your uncle is not over-friendly, you see."

" I am sorry for that."

"No occasion at all. I suppose he doesn't
like me. I fancy, being a Methodist "

"My uncle is not a Methodist, I assure you.
He goes to the parish church regularly."

" Oh ! it's all one. I only meant to say that,
being a man of somewhat peculiar notions, I
supposed he did not approve of my profession.
Your good people are just as ready as others,


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