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however, to call in the lawyer when they fancy
their rights invaded. Ha ! ha ! But no one
has a right to complain of another because he
doesn't choose to like him. Besides it brings
grist to the mill. If everybody liked every-
body, what would become of the lawsuits *?
And that would unsuit us — wouldn't it, Clara?"

" You know, papa dear, what mamma would
say T

" But she ain't here, you know."

" But / am, papa ; and I don't like to hear
you talk shop," said Clara coaxingly.

" Very well ; we won't then. But I was only


explaining to Mr. Cumbermecle how I supposed
it was that his uncle did not like me. There
was no offence in that, I hope, Mr. Cumber-
mede !"

" Certainly not," I answered. " I am the only
offender. But I was innocent enough as far as
intention goes. I came in drenched and cold,
and the good people here amused themselves
dressing me like a girl. It is quite time I were
getting home now. Mr. Forest will be in a way
about me. So will Charley Osborne."

" Oh yes," said Mr. Coningham, " I remember
hearing you were at school together somewhere
in this quarter. But tell us all about it. Did
you lose your way V

I told them my story. Even Clara looked
grave when I came to the incident of finding
myself on the verge of the precipice.

" Thank God, my boy !" said Mr. Coningham
kindly. "You have had a narrow escape. I
lost myself once in the Cumberland hills, and
hardly got off with my life. Here it is a chance
you were ever seen again, alive or dead. I
wonder you're not knocked up."

I was, however, more so than I knew.


" How are you going to get home V he

"I don't know any way but walking," I

" Are you far from home V '

" I don't know. I daresay the people here
will be able to tell me. But I think you said
you were going down into the Grindelwald. I
shall know where I am there. Perhaps you will
let me walk with you. Horses can't go very
fast along these roads."

" You shall have my horse, my boy."

" No. I couldn't think of that."

" You must. I haven't been wandering all
day like you. You can ride, I suppose ?"

" Yes, pretty well."

" Then you shall ride with Clara, and I'll walk
with the guide. I shall go and see after
horses presently."

It was indeed a delightful close to a dreadful
day. We sat and chatted a w T hile, and then
Clara and I went out to look at the Jungfrau.
She told me they had left her mother at Inter-
laken, and had been wandering about the Ber-
nese Alps for nearly a week.


" I can't think what should have put it in
papa's head," she added ; " for he does not care
much for scenery. I fancy he wants to make
the most of poor me, and so takes me the grand
tour. He wanted to come without mamma, but
she said we were not to be trusted alone. She
had to give in when we took to horseback,

It was getting late, and Mr. Coningham came
out to find us.

"It is quite time we were going," he said.
" In fact we are too late now. The horses are
ready, and your clothes are dry, Mr. Cumber-
mede. I have felt them all over."

" How kind of you, sir !" I said.

" Nonsense ! Why should any one want
another to get his death of cold ? If you are to
keep alive, it's better to keep well as long as
ever you can. Make haste though, and change
your clothes."

I hurried away, followed by Clara's merry
laugh at my clumsy gait. In a few moments I
was ready. Mr. Coningham had settled my bill
for me. Mother and daughter gave me a kind
farewell, and I exhausted my German in vain


attempts to let them know how grateful I was
for their goodness. There was not much time,
however, to spend even on gratitude. The sun
was nearly down, and I could see Clara mounted
and waiting for me before the window. I found
Mr. Coningham rather impatient.

"Come along, Mr. Cumberrnede; we must
be off," he said. " Get up there."

" You have grown, though, after all," said
Clara. " I thought it might be only the petti-
coats that made you look so tall."

I got on the horse which the guide, a half-
witted fellow from the next valley, was holding
for me, and we set out. The guide walked
beside my horse, and Mr. Coningham beside
Clara's. The road was level for a little way,
but it soon turned up on the hill where I had
been wandering, and went along the steep side
of it.

" Will this do for a precipice, Clara ?" said her

. " Oh ! dear no," she answered ; " it's not
worth the name. It actually slopes out-

Before we got down to the next level stretch


it began again to rain. A mist came on, and
we could see but a little way before ns.
Through the mist came the sound of the bells
of the cattle upon the hill. Our guide trudged
carefully but boldly on. He seemed to know
every step of the way. Clara was very cool,
her father a little anxious, and very attentive to
his daughter, who received his help with a
never-failing merry gratitude, making light of
all annoyances. At length we came down upon
the better road, and travelled on with more

" Look, Clara !" I said, " will that do ?"

" What is it f" she asked, turning her head in
the direction in which I pointed.

On our right, through the veil, half of rain,
half of gauzy mist, which filled the air, arose a
precipice indeed — the whole bulk it was of the
Eiger mountain, which the mist brought so near
that it seemed literally to overhang the road.
Clara looked up for a moment, but betrayed no
sign of awe.

" Yes, I think that will do," she said.

" Though you are only at the foot of it ?" I


" Yes, though I am only at the foot of it," she

" What does it remind you off I asked.

"Nothing. I never saw anything it could
remind me of," she answered.

" Nor read anything ?"

" Not that I remember."

" It reminds me of Mount Sinai in the Pil-
grims Progress. You remember Christian was
afraid because the side of it which was next
the wayside did hang so much over that he
thought it would fall on his head."

" I never read the Pilgrims Progress" she
returned, in a careless if not contemptuous tone.

" Didn't you % Oh, you would like it so
much !"

" I don't think I should. I don't like religious

" But that is such a good story !"

" Oh ! it's all a trap — sugar on the outside of
a pill ! The sting's in the tail of it. They're
all like that. / know them."

This silenced me, and for a while we went on
without speaking.

The rain ceased; the mist cleared a little;


and I began to think I saw some landmarks I
knew. A moment more, and I perfectly under-
stood where we were.

" I'm all right now, sir," I said to Mr. Coning-
ham. " I can find my way from here."

As I spoke I pulled up and proceeded to dis-

" Sit still," he said. " We cannot do better
than ride on to Mr. Forest's. I don't know him
much, but I have met him, and in a strange
country all are friends. I daresay he will take
us in for the night. Do you think he could
house us ?"

" I have no doubt of it. For that matter, the
boys could crowd a little."

" Is it far from here?"

" Not above two miles, I think."

" Are you sure you know the way ?"

" Quite sure."

" Then you take the lead."

I did so. He spoke to the guide, and Clara
and I rode on in front.

" You and I seem destined to have adventures
together, Clara," I said.

" It seems so. But this is not so much of an



adventure as that night on the leads," she

" You would not have thought so if you had
been with me in the morning."

" Were you very much frightened V

" I was. And then to think of finding you !"

" It was funny, certainly."

When we reached the house, there was great
jubilation over me, but Mr. Forest himself was
very serious. He had not been back more than
half an hour, and was just getting ready to set
out again, accompanied by men from the village
below. Most of the boys were quite knocked
up, for they had been looking for me ever since
they missed me. Charley was in a dreadful
way. When he saw me he burst into tears, and
declared he would never let me go out of his
sight again. But if he had been with me, it
would have been death to both of us : I could
never have got him over the ground.

Mr. and Mrs. Forest received their visitors
with the greatest cordiality, and invited them
to spend a day or two with them, to which,
after some deliberation, Mr. Coningham agreed.




THE next morning he begged a holiday for
me and Charley, of whose family he knew
something, although he was not acquainted with
them. I was a little disappointed at Charley's
being included in the request, not in the least
from jealousy, but because I had set my heart
on taking Clara to the cave in the ice, which I
knew Charley would not like. But I thought
we could easily arrange to leave him somewhere
near until we returned. I spoke to Mr. Coning-
ham about it, who entered into my small scheme
with the greatest kindness. Charley confided
to me afterwards that he did not take to him —
he was too like an ape, he said. But the im-
pression of his ugliness had with me quite worn
off; and for his part, if I had been a favourite

u 2


nephew, he could not have been more complai-
sant and hearty.

I felt very stiff when we set out, and alto-
gether not quite myself; but the discomfort
wore off as we went. Charley had Mr. Coning-
ham's horse, and I walked by the side of Clara's,
eager after any occasion, if but a pretence, of
being useful to her. She was quite familiar
with me, but seemed shy of Charley. He looked
much more of a man than I ; for not only, as I
have said, had he grown much during his ill-
ness, but there was an air of troubled thought-
fulness about him which made him look con-
siderably older than he really was; while his
delicate complexion and large blue eyes had a
kiud of mystery about them that must have
been very attractive.

When we reached the village, I told Charley
that we wanted to go on foot to the cave, and
hoped he would not mind waiting our return.
But he refused to be left, declaring he should
not mind going in the least ; that he was quite
well now, and ashamed of his behaviour on the
former occasion ; that, in fact, it must have been
his approaching illness that caused it. I could


not insist, and we set out. The footpath led
us through fields of corn, with a bright sun
overhead, and a sweet wind blowing. It was a
glorious day of golden corn, gentle wind, and
blue sky — with great masses of white snow,
whiter than any cloud, held up in it.

We descended the steep bank; we crossed
the wooden bridge over the little river ; we
crunched under our feet the hail-like crystals
lying rough on the surface of the glacier ; we
reached the cave, and entered its blue abyss.
I went first into the delicious, yet dangerous
looking blue. The cave had several sharp angles
in it. When I reached the furthest corner I
turned to look behind me. I was alone. I
walked back and peeped round the last corner.
Between that and the one beyond it stood Clara
and Charley — staring at each other with faces
of ghastly horror.

Clara's look certainly could not have been
the result of any excess of imagination. But
many women respond easily to influences they
could not have originated. My conjecture is
that the same horror had again seized upon
Charley when he saw Clara ; that it made his


face, already deathlike, tenfold more fearful 1
that Clara took fright at his fear, her imagina-
tion opening like a crystal to the polarized light
of reflected feeling ; and thus they stood in the
paralysis of a dismay which ever multiplied
itself in the opposed mirrors of their counten-

I too was in terror — for Charley, and certainly
wasted no time in speculation. I went forward
instantly, and put an arm round each. They
woke up, as it were, and tried to laugh. But
the laugh was worse than the stare. I hurried
them out of the place.

We came upon Mr. Coningham round the
next corner, amusing himself with the talk of
the half-silly guide.

" Where are you going f ' he asked.
" Out again," I answered. " The air is op-

" Nonsense ! " he said merrily. " The air is as
pure as it is cold. Come, Clara ; I want to ex-
plore the penetralia of this temple of Isis."
I believe he intended a pun.
Clara turned with him ; Charley and I went
out into the sunshine.


" You should not have gone, Charley. You
have caught a chill again," I said.

" No, nothing of the sort," he answered.
" Only it was too dreadful. That lovely face !
To see it like that — and know that is what it
is coming to !"

" You looked as horrid yourself," I returned.

"I don't doubt it. We all did. But

" Why, just because of the blueness," I an-

" Yes — the blueness, no doubt. That was all.
But there it was, you know."

Clara came out smiling. All her horror had
vanished. I was looking into the hole as she
turned the last corner. When she first appear-
ed, her face was " like one that hath been seven
days drowned ;" but as she advanced, the decay
thinned, and the life grew, until at last she
stepped from the mouth of the sepulchre in all
the glow of her merry youth. It was a dumb
show of the resurrection.

As we went back to the inn, Clara, who was
walking in front with her father, turned her
head and addressed me suddenly.


" You see it was all a sham, Wilfrid !" she

" What was a sham ? I don't know what you
mean," I rejoined.

" Why that," she returned, pointing with her
hand. Then addressing her father, " Isn't that
the Eiger," she asked — " the same we rode
under yesterday ? "

" To be sure it is," he answered.

She turned again to me.

" You s%e it is all a sham ! Last night it
pretended to be on the very edge of the road
and hanging over our heads at an awful height.
Now it has gone a long way back, is not so
very high, and certainly does not hang over. I
ought not to have been satisfied with that pre-
cipice. It took me in."

I did not reply at once. Clara's words ap-
peared to me quite irreverent, and I recoiled
from the very thought that there could be any
sham in nature ; but what to answer her I
did not know. I almost began to dislike her ;
for it is often incapacity for defending the
faith they love which turns men into perse-


Seeing me foiled, Charley advanced with the
doubtful aid of a sophism to help me.

" Which is the sham, Miss Clara ?" he asked.

" That Eiger mountain there."

"Ah! so I thought,"

" Then you are of my opinion, Mr. Osborne f"

" You mean the mountain is shamming, don't
you — looking far off when really it is near I"

"Not at all. When it looked last night as if
it hung right over our heads, it was shamming.
See it now — far away there !"

" But which, then, is the sham, and which is
the true f It looked near yesterday, and now it
looks far away. Which is which V

" It must have been a sham yesterday ; for
although it looked near, it was very dull and
dim, and you could only see the sharp outline
of it."

"Just so I argue on the other side. The
mountain must be shamming now, for although
it looks so far off, it yet shows a most contra-
dictory clearness — not only of outline but of sur-

" Aha !" thought I, " Miss Clara has found her
match. They both know he is talking non-


sense, yet she can't answer him. What she was
saying was nonsense too, but I can't answer it
either — not yet."

I felt proud of both of them, but of Charley
especially, for I had had no idea he could be so

" What ever put such an anwer into your head,
Charley V I exclaimed.

" Oh ! it's not quite original," he returned.
" I believe it was suggested by two or three
lines I read in a review just before we left home.
They took hold of me rather."

He repeated half of the now well-known
little poem of Shelley, headed Passage of the
Apennines. He had forgotten the name of the
writer, and it was many years before I fell in
with the lines myself.

" The Apennine in the light of day
Is a mighty mountain dim and gray,
Which between the earth and sky doth lay ;
But when night comes, a chaos dread
On the dim starlight then is spread,
And the Apennine walks abroad with the storm."

In the middle of it I saw Clara begin to titter,
but she did not interrupt him. When he had


finished, she said with a grave face, too grave
for seriousness :

" Will you repeat the third line — I think it
was, Mr. Osborne ?"

He did so.

" What kind of eggs did the Apennine lay,
Mr. Osborne ?" she asked, still perfectly serious.

Charley was abashed to find she could take
advantage of probably a provincialism to turn
into ridicule such fine verses. Before he could
recover himself, she had planted another blow
or two.

"And where is its nest? Between the earth
and the sky is vague. But then to be sure it
must want a good deal of room. And after all,
a mountain is a strange fowl, and who knows
where it might lay ? Between earth and sky is
quite definite enough ? Besides, the bird-nest-
ing boys might be dangerous if they knew
where it was. It would be such a find for
them !"

My champion was defeated. Without
attempting a word in reply, he hung back and
dropped behind. Mr. Coningham must have
heard the whole, but he offered no remark. I


saw that Charley's sensitive nature was hurt,
and my heart was sore for him.

" That's too bad of you, Clara," I said.

"What's too bad of me, Wilfrid?" she re-

I hesitated a moment, then answered —

" To make game of such verses. Any one
with half a soul must see they were fine."

" Very wrong of you, indeed, my dear," said
Mr. Coningham from behind, in a voice that
sounded as if he were smothering a laugh ; but
when I looked round, his face was grave.

" Then I suppose that half soul I haven't
got," returned Clara.

" Oh ! I didn't mean that," I said, lamely
enough. " But there's no logic in that kind of
thing, you know."

" You see, papa," said Clara, " what you are
accountable for. Why didn't you make them
teach me logic V 9

Her father smiled a pleased smile. His
daughter's naivete would in his eyes make up
for any lack of logic.

" Mr. Osborne," continued Clara, turning
back, " I beg your pardon. I am a woman, and


you men don't allow us to learn logic. But at
the same time you must confess you were
making a bad use of yours. You know it was
all nonsense you were trying to pass off on me
for wisdom."

He was by her side the instant she spoke to
him. A smile grew upon his face ; I could see
it growing, just as you see the sun growing be-
hind a cloud. In a moment it broke out in

" I confess," he said. u I thought you were
too hard on Wilfrid ; and he hadn't anything at
hand to say for himself."

" And you were too hard upon me, weren't
you ? Tavo to one is not fair play — is it now !"

" No ; certainly not."

"And that justified a little false play on my
part r

" No, it did not" said Charley, almost fiercely.
" Nothing justifies false play."

" Not even yours, Mr. Osborne V replied Clara,
with a stately coldness quite marvellous in one
so young ; and leaving him, she came again to
my side. I peeped at Mr. Coningham, curious
to see how he regarded all this wrangling with


his daughter. He appeared at once amused and
satisfied. Clara's face was in a glow, clearly of
anger at the discourteous manner in which
Charley had spoken.

" You mustn't be angry with Charley, Clara,"
I said.

" He is very rude," she replied indignantly.

" What he said was rude, I allow, but Charley
himself is anything but rude. I haven't looked
at him, but I am certain he is miserable about it

" So he ought to be. To speak like that to a
lady, when her very friendliness put her off her
guard ! I never was treated so in all my life."

She spoke so loud that she must have meant
Charley to hear her. But when I looked back,
I saw that he had fallen a long way behind,
and was corning on very slowly, with dejected
look and his eyes on the ground. Mr. Coning-
ham did not interfere by word or sign.

When we reached the inn he ordered some
refreshment, and behaved to us both as if we
were grown men. Just a touch of familiari-
ty was the sole indication that Ave were not
grown men. Boys are especially grateful


for respect from their superiors, for it helps
them to respect themselves ; but Charley sat
silent and gloomy. As he would not ride back,
and Mr. Coningham preferred walking too,
I got into the saddle and rode by Clara's side.

As we approached the house, Charley crept
up to the other side of Clara's horse, and laid
his hand on his mane. When he spoke Clara
started, for she was looking the other way and
had not observed his approach.

" Miss Clara," he said, " I am very sorry I was
so rude. Will you forgive me f"

Instead of being hard to reconcile, as I hadfear-
ed from her outburst of indignation, she leaned
forward and laid her hand on his. He looked
up in her face, his own suffused with a colour
I had never seen in it before. His great blue
eyes lightened with thankfulness, and began to
fill with tears. How she looked, I could not
see. She withdrew her hand, and Charley
dropped behind again. In a little while he came
up to my side, and began talking. He soon got
quite merry, but Clara in her turn was silent.

I doubt if anything would be worth telling but
for what comes after. History itself would be


worthless but for what it cannot tell, namely,
its own future. Upon this ground my reader
must excuse the apparent triviality of the things
I am now relating.

When we were alone in our room that night
— for ever since Charley's illness we two had had
a room to ourselves — Charley said,

" I behaved like a brute this morning, Wil-

" No, Charley ; you were only a little rude
from being over-eager. If she had been seri-
ously advocating dishonesty, you would have
been quite right to take it up so; and you
thought she was."

" Yes ; but it was very silly of me. I dare-
say it was because I had been so dishonest my-
self just before. How dreadful it is that I am
always taking my own side, even when I do
what I am ashamed of in another ! I suppose I
think I have got my horse by the head, and the
other has not."

" I don't know. That may be it," I answer-
ed. " I'm afraid I can't think about it to-night,
for I don't feel well. What if it should be your
turn to nurse me now, Charley V


He turned quite pale, his eyes opened wide,
and he looked at me anxiously.

Before morning I was aching all over : I had
rheumatic fever.





[" SAW no more of Clara. Mr. Coningham
■*• came to bid me good-bye, and spoke very-
kindly. Mr. Forest would have got a nurse
for me, but Charley begged so earnestly to be
allowed to return the service I had done for
him that he yielded.

I was in great pain for more than a week.
Charley's attentions were unremitting. In fact
he nursed me more like a woman than a boy ;
and made me think with some contrition how
poor my ministrations had been. Even after
the worst was over, if I but moved, he was at
my bedside in a moment. Certainly no nurse
could have surpassed him. I could bear no one
to touch me but him : from anyone else I dread-


ed torture ; and my medicine was administered
to the very moment by my own old watch,
which had been brought to do its duty at least

One afternoon, finding me tolerably comfort-
able, he said,

" Shall I read something to you, Wilfrid ?"

He never called me Willie, as most of my
friends did.

" I should like it," I answered.

" What shall I read?" he asked.

" Hadn't you something in your head," I re-
joined, " when you proposed it?"

" Well, I had ; but I don't know if you would
like it."

"What did you think of, then f"

" I thought of a chapter in the New Testa-

" How could you think I should not like

that r

r " Because I never saw you say your prayers/"

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Online LibraryGeorge MacDonaldWilfrid Cumbermede (Volume 1) → online text (page 13 of 14)