Robert Williams Dale.

The Congregationalist online

. (page 52 of 110)
Online LibraryRobert Williams DaleThe Congregationalist → online text (page 52 of 110)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

recorded by himself in a Latin note found on the blank leaf
of his study Bible. After the record of a peculiarly beautiful
and refreshing dream, which he had some years before, he

But what of the same kind I sensibly felt, throngh the admirable
bounty of my God, and the most pleasant, cpmforting influence of the
Holy Spirit on October 22, 1704, far surpassed the most expressive worda
my thoughts can suggest. I then experienced an inexpressibly pleasant
melting of heart, tears gushing out of my eyes for joy that God should
shed abroad His love abundantly through the hearts of men, and that for
this very purpose mine own should be so signally possessed, and by Hia
blessed Spirit.

We may ask, with his biographer, " Who shall say with
what special tokens of benignant regard the Supreme Being
might think fit to refresh the spirit of His long-tried and
faithful servant on the eve of the last fearful conflict ? or

Digitized by



-with vrhat prelibations of heaven his gracious Master might
condescend to honour his fidelity and obedience ? "

Howe spent some of his closing days in the composition of a
•work expressive of his own rich religious experience. *' On
Patience iii Expectation of Future Blessedness " was its re-
markable title, and it shows that so glorious were his thoughts
of heaven, and so intense his desire to depart, that he had to
practise an unwonted form of self-denial to remain willingly
in a world which, alas ! so many of us are loth to leave.
During his illness he received the visits of his friends. The
wish expressed in a sermon, preached on the death of Mrs.
Esther Sampson, was fulfilled :

In short, it were desirable (if God see good) to die amidst the pleasant
friends and relatives who were not ill-pleased that we lived ; that living
and dying breath might mingle and ascend together in prayers and praises
to the blessed Lord of heaven and earth — the God of ourselves ; if then
we conld but part with consent — a rational and joyful consent. Other-
wise, to die among fEishionable bemoanings and lamentations, as if we
despaired of futurity, one would say (with humble submission to the
Divine pleasure), Lord, let me rather die alone — in perfect soUtude— in
some unfrequented wood, or on the top of some far remote mountain,
where none might interrupt the solemn transactions between Thy glorious,
blessed self and my joyfully, departing, self-resigning soul. But in all
this (he beautifully adds) we must refer ourselves to God's holy pleasure,
who will dispose of us, living and dying, in the best, the wisest, and the
kindest way.

One can see his majestic countenance and his calm, bright
eye, as Death's finger touches him, lying upon his couch
in wainscoted apartment at the beginning of the last
century. The door opens, and there comes a visitor whose
history has been marked with strange events— the son of
the only man who ever sat on England's throne without a
crown — bom when his father was a country gentleman, and
brought up with no ambitious expectations; then raised to
occupy for a while his noble father^s chair of state, and then
led down unheeded into the paths of private life — *tis Bichard
Cromwell. Howe had been his chaplain, and they cherished
for each other a mutual regard. The Divine had seen him
amidst the splendour of a court and the scenes of adversity,
and had witnessed in both conditions the display of virtues
which commanded his admiration. He spoke of him always
in the highest terms. This interview between the ex-Protector

Digitized by



and his late chaplain is one of the many interviews which
history tells us of — the minute details, the accurate report of
which curiosity would fain recover from the shades of oblivion.
But the words they uttered have for ever died away, save that
an indistinct but sweet echo of them still lasts, in a brief
sentence of Dr. Calamy's : " There was a great deal of serious
discourse between them ; tears were freely shed on both sides,
and the parting was very solemn, as I have been informed by
one who was present on the occasion."

One or two of Howe's dying utterances are distinctly pre-
served. He said once to his wife, ** Though he thought he
loved her as well as it was fit for one creature to love
another, yet if it were put to his choice whether to die that
moment or to live that night, and the living that night would
secure the continuance of his life for seven years to come, he
would choose to die that moment." And in the same spirit
he remarked to an attendant one morning, after being relieved
from the intense sufferings of the previous night, "He was
for feeling that he was alive, though most willing to die, and
lay the clog of mortality aside." When his son was lancing
his leg to diminish his sufferings, Howe inquired what he was
doing, and observed, " I am not afraid of dying, but I am
afraid of pain." His pain soon afterwards terminated for
ever, and on April 2, 1705, his spirit entered those regions of
ineffable repose and joy after which he had so long and
fervently aspired.




It was now time to cross to the east side of the glacier and
ascend the track over the side of the Mettenberg, and so down
to Grmdelwald. One slip in descending the last shelf of the
ice did no harm, and brought a pleasant smile to Christian
Schlapp's countenance. He was in good humour, and, per-
haps impressed by my abstinence, brought out the cognac

Digitized by



flask no more. Up we went by the rough but admirable
ladder which lands you high on the moimtain side, and here
we saw the glacier to full advantage — its serpentine curvature
from near the base of the Schreckhom coming into view.

We made slow progress, and all the. fault was mine. Every-
thing detained me, and I detained my guide. Extra francs I
knew would soothe his soul at the end of the day. In one
incident his interest quite equalled mine. This was an
avalanche — not a dead one but a living one — down the pre-
cipices of the Eiger. I felt my shoulder seized, and a cry of
delight came from Schlapp's lips. At the same instant a roar
as of guns discharged in the heavens drew my eyes towards
Eiger. Yes, there it was, a snow river crashing down the
sides of the mountain. It tumbled from rock to rock exactly
as billows rush over rocks in their way. The time it took
to reach the foot of the mountain and add itself to the fleecy
burden on the ice, gave us a better idea of the height of
the Eiger than we had gained from its arithmetical state-
ment as 13,042 feet. The best of it was; that while this
avalanche was descending, its rear was overtaken by the van
of a second. This lengthened and accelerated the snow-stream»
and completed the satisfaction of my guide and his charge.

Another cause of delay was the uprising of the moon above
the white, jagged ramparts of the Yiescherhomer. A cathe-
dral of pure snow, with spires 13,000 feet high, bathed in
intensest moonlight, could not but arrest our steps. York
Minster by moonlight was nothing to this, though I once
nearly lost a train on account of it. The whole southern
view seemed to be filled with the ghostly Umbs and mass of
the mountain. A mantle of unbroken snow covered the
Kirchet to its left, and the green glassy tints of the Yiescher
glacier below gave it a brilliant footstool. The moon caught
every protuberant rock, revealed every hollow, and gave
exquisite effect to the alternating lines of stone and snow.

But while this pale pageant was showing in the recesses
of the mountains to the south, a far more gorgeous show was
unfolding about the northern side of the Eiger. Far up
above the glacier this mountain towered with scarcely a touch
of snow upon it. Its eastern side is riven and gashed with
the most stupendous clefts^ and upon these the last flames

Digitized by



of the strnset were working their marvels of colour. Here
and there the mountain is broken by vast, almost semicircular,
gaps, and into these, as into retired bays of the sea, the
crimson cloud-waves poured and rippled until a Bay of Naples
seemed to extend across the heavens. The frost-like beauties
of the southern view, and the ardent colours blushing about
the northern, formed a contrast as impossible to represent in
words as to efface from recollection.

"Longing, lingering looks behind" were, however, con-
suming too much time, and night had almost fallen when
we reached the little hut for refreshments, about two miles
above Grindelwald. Here I had the luxury of paying mine
host Bohren-Wettach Is. 6d. for a bottle of lemonade — ^the
handsomest price, I think, I ever paid for any beverage. . The
charge seemed to impart quite an aristocratic flavour to our
potations. It was an amusing set-off against this item that
I and the guide, two strong, hungry men just off the ice, had
as much bread-and-butter as we cared to eat for Is. Sd. jointly.
The good man deserved all he got however, for it must take
prodigious toil to get provisions up there, and few travellers'
pass that way. He heard Schlapp say that we had seen an
avalanche, and with twinkling eyes and a nod to the guide he
stated that the charge for seeing an avalanche was three
francs. I continued the pleasantry by saying that as we had
really seen two avalanches, I feared three francs would hardly
pay him for his trouble.

It was now time to hurry down. No more looks of admiration
cast behind. Planting our alpen-stocks on whatever came,
and spurred perhaps by the limonade^ we descended at a very
rapid pace. Three-quarters of an hour over the rocks brought
us to the grassy slopes of the Mettenberg, and over these we
hurried at such a pace that at last the guide cried "stop,"
and planted himself on the grass for ten minutes' rest. The
far-scattered lights of farms and dairies in the Liitschen Thai
twinkled above Grindelwald, and joined their sparks to the
host of heaven. Away to the hills, over the valley of Lauter-
brunnen, all was dim and restful. The Mattighom, the
Rothihorn, and the other mountains which flank the Grosse
Scheidegg path to the left, were under the same palL Of
course the peaks of the Wetterhorn were out of sight behind

Digitized by



the shoulder on which we sat. While we rested! on the grass
my guide's merit received its reward in a proper number of
francs, and I thanked him heartily for his sound and good-
tempered service, hoping to go a little higher with him when
next at Gydisdorf.

When we got to the hotel, the fashionable visitors were
listening to some itinerant singers from Italy in a gas-heated
room ; but I found my foot- sore friend better employed in
interrogating the moonlit grandeurs above him. I found him
moreover, a richer man than I had left him in the morning
by several sketches he had made of local scenes while I had
been cutting the ice far away.

At six o'clock the next morning we passed out of Grindel-
wald by the Grosse Soheidegg route, leaving the " warm pre-»
cincts " of the hotel Schwarzer Adler with some regret, and
not without gratitude for the care there taken of us. We
soon came opposite the Ober-Grindelwald Gletscher, its
head thrust forward into the valley some distance in advance
of its shrinking sister, whose cold pulses we had felt the
night before. Strictly, the Ober is much shorter than the
Unter glacier, but the ice-field of which it is the terminal
point to the north-west is practically unbroken from the
Lii^schen to the Aare. It crosses the backbone of the Ober-
land, along the sides of the Schreckhomer (18,886 feet), and
extends thence, in the Lauter-Aar and Unter-Aar glaciers, to
within some six miles of the Grimsel Spital ; in all, a magnifi**
cent ice-band of some eighteen miles clasping the two valleys.

Early as it was, the instinct which leads men to gain a
livelihood from small coins had brought several individuals
out of their beds in the hope of lightening our purses. The
first artist appeared about two miles out of Grindelwald, and
developed considerable resources of wind and gunpowder.
With the first he blew a curved horn, longer than his own
body, sending a sort of bugle-call into the Wetterhom,
whose stupendous mass now lay, for six miles, close to us on
the right. For an instant, the notes seemed to be lost in the
mountain ; but they soon came back to entrance the listener.
What the mountain did to them was a mystery, but they came
back no longer the breath of man, but like trumpet tones of

Digitized by



The wind before it woos the harp
Is but the wild and tuneless air ;
Which as it passes through the chords
Changes to music rare.

As long as the sounds came only from the lips of the Swiss
peasant, straining there with starting eyes, swollen veins,
and panting breast, effort and weakness seemed to cling to
them ; but they returned from the Wetterhorn gorges glorified
with new power : as if some colossal organ, built into the
Oberland masses, had suddenly felt a superhuman touch
along its keys, the notes ran out in a loftier and more
mystical tenor than one had hoped to hear in this world.
The explosion of the cannon had a less pleasing but quite
as grand an effect, seeming to let loose the whole brood of
thunders and avalanches that haunt the frozen heights.

Half-way up the pass one of the party mounted, a man and
some horses from Grindelwald having caught us up. The
rest of us followed on foot, well content to go slowly under
the Wetterhorn precipices, and more at liberty to look back
on the lovely, chalet-dotted oasis behind us.

When at eleven o'clock the top of the pass was cleared
(6,484 feet), we for the first time took in the splendid valley,
from the Wengem Alp eastward to our point of view, and
from the Faulhom southward to the long wall of the Ober-
land mountains. Everywhere beauty lay in the lap of awe.
Gydisdorf and its cow-pastures made one still, green picture,
framed with dark buttresses below and terrific ice- walls above.

But upon this scene, before we had had two minutes to
take it in, the curtain of a storm was suddenly let down. The
rapidity of its descent was marvellous. Wide wings of mist
swept down the Wengem ; other clouds fell from the ridges
to north and south, and the clouds closed in until Gydisdorf
was left like a jewelled stripe upon their moving robes.
But in another instant this too was gone and chaos was
upon us. Scarcely had we hurried through the doors of the
little Grosse Scheidegg inn, which stands alone at the top of
the pass, than peals of thunder and pouring rain told us
how happily our arrival was timed.

Parties from the Faulhom now began to arrive in a
drenched condition, having had to make theu: way as best

Digitized by



tbey could through the storm. We soon had the little room
lively with guests, of whom we were pleased to find a majority
were English. Two maiden ladies of advanced years were of
course among the new-comers. You cannot go far in Switzer-
land without meeting couples of brave spinsters from England.
Why they should go in twos, is a problem which has tasked
the understanding and provoked the satire of younger persons
of both sexes, who of course never look forward to a time
when the marriage-bell will be tied up for them.

Twenty minutes sufficed to tear to pieces the veil so rapidly
flung upon mountain and valley, and soon afterwards we were
descending by the Reichenbach towards Meyringen. By that
time the lost world of green leaf and sparkling ice had come
smiling back. Other happy influences, too, were accorded us.
An excellent London vicar and his daughter, with a lady and
gentleman friend, overtook us, and joined in cheery talk.
Their appearance on tHe scene had a sensibly exhilarating
effect upon the spirits of a young bachelor pf our party. So
we passed on, the sharp precipices of the Wellborn now on
our right, and our course descending rapidly through a forest
of pines. The- stream forks near the Bosenlaui Gletscher,
and there our party left the vicar's, but rejoined them lower
down, at a point where the glacier came into view behind us.
For some time we walked forwards while looking backwards,
the iris-tinted face of the glacier draiwing all eyes. The soul
of the rose and of the lily seemed to have passed into the ice,
giving it the beauty which belongs to a living thing.

But dreams have to fight for their life in Switzerland when
the barometer is low. Down came the rain, until the torrents
in mid-air rivalled the hoarse Beichenbach at our feet.
The river became a series of falls, and the rain a series of
waterspouts. But bad weather was good for the ntadcap
stream, and made it tumble and rave through its gorges as if
it had never liked itself so well. With dripping hair and
sodden feet we trudged on, rejoicing in the roaring torrent, in
the tangled skein of water-falls streaming over the spurs of
the Tschingelhom, and at last in the sudden view of Hasli
Thai which broke upon us. In a moment the foreground
seemed to open, and Meyringen stood out before the moun-
tains that hem in the Aare valley.
VOL. xm. 84

Digitized by



We were well nigh floated into the h<6tel, but all hearts
were light, and none more so than the vicar's daughter. Her
pedestrian powers and blithe spirit surprised us at every point,
and for days it fell out that we were never many hours sepa-
rated from her father's party.

The next day it rained until about eight in the evening, and
my friends chose to stay in to dry clothes, recover equilibrium,
and improve acquaintance with the vicar's party. But I had
read Tyndall's account of Urbach Thai, a narrow opening out
of the Aare valley at Innertkirchen, whence it swings round
and climbs for ten or twelve miles to the foot of the great
Gauli Gletscher. I resolved to try it, without however any
wish to imitate Tyndall's exploration of the Lauter-Aar
glacier, which he attempted by this route. It was ten o'clock,
butihere was time for the thirteen miles to the Matten Alp,
and home again for dinner.

Before entering the Urbach valley — ^bo narrow and concealed
by rocks and trees as almost to elude notice — you must drop
from the high road into the lovely basin of Hasli im Grund,
the only piece of open valley in the Grimsel route for some
sixteen miles. The hill you cross just above the basin is the
Kirchet, and from its crest the first view of the valley was too
delightful for words. One could only sit down and let the
scene take possession of the soul. There is, I remember, a
view in Langdale, as you enter it from the head of Duddon
vale, not unlike it. Creeping down from the hills one morn-
ing in 1879 after being out, lost in the dark, all night, I saw
Langdale open like a green cup brimming over with sunlight.
The encircling hills were the goblet, the red dawn was the
wine. The Innertkirchen view had a deeper wine-cup, and its
mountain rim was silvered with snow that had fallen in the
night» But the form and beauty of the scenes were strongly

And now — for nine hours — good-bye to carriages, houses,
and tourists. We are an enthusiastic party of one in Urbach
Thai. The pale Aare, tinged with the hues of its glacial
source, winds its white thread through the valley to our left,
but the Urbach is rioting in its pools under us. It has a fall
here, not ranked among the ''lions " of the district, but call-
ing for one note of admiration. A rocky basin receives the

Digitized by



whole force of the stream. Once in the basin, it reels about
in the wildest delirium, until, finding one narrow ^throat of
exit, it crushes itself through and goes in thunder down the
gorge. To get close to the cauldron I let myself down among
the rock-perched pines, and passing on to an overhanging
ledge where a solitary tree bent over the water, I held on to
its stem and looked down. The head swam with the tumbling
and booming of the river. The cataract came down in a wide,,
compact column, and inside its wall of foam ran a green core*
like a bar of precious stone, showing splendidly in the sun-
light. But in an instant the sheeted emerald was dashed into>
milk-white spray and whirled from rock to rock in maddest

On I went between the steep sides of the Thai, which grew
lonelier and grander at every mile's advance. A dozen water-
falls laced the black limestone spurs of the Hohjagib. Goats
came out of the untended goat-huts, with bells tinkling at
their necks, and their eyes set curiously to see a human
being go that way.

I was soon overtaken by a storm. It was a day of storm in
Switzerland. To the west, about Geneva, we read that houses
were set on fire by lightning, and the thunder-peals alarmed
the bravest. In the Urbach Thai we made up in rain what
we were denied in thunder. But what of the rain in such a
place ! Bain on pavement and sign-boards, lamp-posts and
policemen, may make London dull, but on tree and river it is
only a new baptism of power.

The path had wound upwards some thousands of feet. It now
lay, in a faint, broken line, often only just large enough for one
foot, along a rocky gallery in the mountain-side. The river
was just visible far below, for great pine forests now sloped
between it and the path. Across the valley, and far iip the
opposite spurs, lay the road to the Dossenhom hut, where the
night is passed for the Wetterhom ascent.

I soon had company — a bright-faced boy, toiling with a
sack of something'to one of the Alps on the Dossenhorn route.
We could speak little to each other, but his beautiful &ce
cheered the silence.

It was now nearly five o'clock, and we were nearing the
Schrattem Alp, mentioned in Baedeker as affording '* accom-

Digitized by



modation.*' This must have meant accommodation for goats.
A few of these creatures looked tilnidly at us from their huts,
but of residence or food for man I saw none.

*' Any bread and cheese here ? " I asked the youth.

*' No ; no Brod und Kdse here."

"How many hours before I get any ? "

'* Two hours from here — at the Matten Alp."

One's heart fell, after nearly eight hours' walking, to hear
that there was no com in Egypt. I tried to feed on the glory
of the scene, but it hardly met the case.

The good boy now b^gan a spoken and gesticulatory argu-
ment in favour of my going with him, instead of proceeding
to the Matten Alp. I demurred. He plied the *'Brod und
Ease " view of the matter very earnestly, and promised me
those commodities much sooner on his route than on mine.
The lad's interest in me was touching. He watched my every
movement, and evidently thought I was " hardly bestead and
hungry." He wanted to help me if he could.

Was it " zwei Stunden " — two hours — before I could get
food? A brilliant thought now struck me. What has the
lad got in his sack ? Is there bit or scrap of anything eat-
able there ? Thfct was now the question.

"What have you here?" I asked, tapping his sack with'
the point of my stick.

" Bread and boots," he replied.

It was laughable. There was a little baker's shop on the
boy's back all the time, while we were measuring the distance
to the nearest huts on the mountains. In a moment I showed
him my purse, and in the next his sack was ofif his back and
opened, displaying a layer of boots spread over a column of
loaves ! The sight was heart-melting. Of course there was
nothing to eat with the bread except the boots, but one was
too keen to need cheese or butter. My difficulty had not
been to make anything go down, but to find something to go
down. I gave the boy a half-franc piece and a pocket-knife,
and he at once cut two slices off one of the loaves and set me
to work. "Food and beverages " were now before me in sack
and stream; and dipping the top of my flask-case in the
torrent, I drank to the dear bread-carrier of Urbach Thai.
And how he smiled to see me dispose of his dry bread !

Digitized by



Where the river trends to the right I parted from him,
sorry to see his sweet, honest face pass into the mist that now
crept upwards on all sides. We parted with affectionate

Online LibraryRobert Williams DaleThe Congregationalist → online text (page 52 of 110)