« AnteriorContinuar »
near, or he would have contrived to make his way to us; but neither of us recognised your voice- in the cry which alarmed us.
"That is not very surprising," replied his companion, "for you never could have heard me cry in like manner before, and I dare say my voice sounded quite unlike itself."
Now I saw in my dream that they had advanced as far as the spring which is at the bottom of the hill, and by it sat an old man, who seemed to have the charge of it; he was drest like a hermit, and his face was handsome even in age: with a benevolent countenance and manner, he invited them to drink of the pure water.
"I perceive," said he, "that you are pilgrims, bound for the celestial country, but," continued he, "methinks your looks are sorrowful; be not disheartened at the sight of the steep and rugged hill before you, for when you have tasted of this excellent spring you will feel yourselves invigorated."
"It is not," replied Paul, "the thought of the difficult ascent which awaits us that makes us appear sad!"
"What is it, then?" asked the hermit, whose name was Sure-Trust.
THE HERMIT. 4]
"Then," said Paul, "it is the anxiety we are in respecting the brother of this young maiden, who is also my cousin, and has been my companion since the time I set out from the Town of Trouble, our native place, till this day, but now we know not where he is."
"Sit ye down beside me," said their compassionate auditor, " whilst we talk further of this business."
Then I saw that they were all three seated on the bank by the way-side, the old man between the two young pilgrims, who both eagerly inquired of him if he had seen any one in the road resembling Luke, whose person they described.
He considered a few moments, and then said: "I remember, about noon, seeing afar off a youth like the figure you mention, coming, as I thought, this way, but not quickly, for he seemed ever and anon to pause, as if in doubt, and look around him; but my eyes are waxed dim from age, and the distance was too great for me to discern very distinctly, but I could perceive that during his seeming indecision one came up to him from the left side of the road, and appeared to talk with him, and after awhile walked back from whence he came, taking the other with him. Now I have a suspicion who this man is, but, as I said before, I could not see clearly enough to be certain whether my surmises were correct."
"Oh!" cried Grace, "tell us, dear sir, who and what the man was who persuaded my brother to turn with him out of the straight road!"
"My good maiden," replied their venerable companion, "it would be only adding to your uneasiness to mention more particularly what I feel yet doubtful about, but I tell you what I will do: though my life is usually passed in solitude and contemplation, and I have thereby acquired the name of the Hermit, I am not without a friend or relative, both which are combined in a young man named Philemon, who is the only son of my late niece. I instructed him from his childhood, and he is much attached to me — indeed, there is nothing he would not do to serve me; him will I commission to investigate this matter, for he is acquainted with all who dwell in these parts."
"We feel thankful for your promised exertions in our cause," replied Paul; "but how shall we know whether they are successful?"
"If, as I trust, they be so," answered he, " it shall not be long before you hear of, if not see, your beloved relative."
Just as he said this, a young man of about fourand- twenty, of a prepossessing countenance and agreeable figure, suddenly approached, cordially greeting the old man.
"This," said the latter, " is my nephew, of whom I spoke." Then, taking Paul's hand, continued :— "You and Philemon must hot be strangers, but have fellowship with each other."
"That," said Paul, "I already feel to be my desire." And he spoke as he thought, for there was something in the physiognomy of the new comer, which, though seen for the first time, interested him in his favour. Then I saw that Sure-Trust took his nephew aside, and spoke to him in a low voice, and almost immediately after, the latter, bidding his uncle and the travellers a hasty adieu, left them; when he was gone, their venerable new-found friend addressed them thus :—
"The shades of evening are now closing around us, and you will be in danger of being overtaken by darkness before you can reach the top of the Hill Difficulty; if you will accept such poor accommodation as I can offer for the night, you are heartily welcome; and you will then have the daylight before you on the morrow." Paul and his cousin thankfully accepted his hospitable offer. "My humble dwelling," said he, " is hard by, and I will shew you the way." He then led them to a picturesque dell under the side of the hill, and scarcely a quarter of a mile from the spot they had left was situated the small habitation of the good Hermit, which seemed to be half cave, half cottage, and nearly hid from view by the impending foliage, now glowing in autumnal hues, which adorned the high bank wherein it was partly formed: a small simple gate of twisted boughs admitted them to the interior, which, on first entering, was dark; but their host, lighting a lamp that hung from the top, they found themselves in a small, but pretty, grotto-like room, the sides of which being of granite, tastefully interspersed with moss, glittered in the rays of light cast on them from the lamp. After they were seated, the old man made them partake of his frugal but palatable supper, consisting of dried figs, dates, and almonds, to which he added some new milk and a few bunches of grapes for his guests, "For," said he, "you must, I am sure, be tired and hungry;" which was, indeed, the case, neither of them having eaten since the morning. During their repast they asked the Hermit to tell them something of himself and his life, but this not