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THE HERMITAGE. 45
from impertinent curiosity, which is apt to actuate some young people, but from the interest they felt about him.
"My former life," replied he, "has been one of trial and vicissitude, and I have lived long enough, my young friends, to feel the truth of Solomon's words, that 'all is vanity and vexation of spirit;' my childhood and youth were passed in the sunshine of prosperity, and even luxury, and from the fond kindness of my parents and other friends I had not a wish ungratified: yet I must say (without meaning to boast) that my wishes were neither unlawful nor immoderate, and I loved my parents with grateful affection. But just as I had attained the age of twenty-eight, when youth is become manhood, and successive years had habituated me to the easy and pleasant life I led, I was suddenly hurled, as it were, from my dream of delight to comparative poverty, hardship, and contempt, by the treachery and base ingratitude of a distant relative, whom I had called and believed my friend."
"Oh !" said Grace, "how you must have felt such a reverse!"
"It was, indeed, a sore trial," answered their narrator. "Nor was this all, for, by the most artful misrepresentation and falsehood, he contrived to supplant me in the affections of the virtuous but too credulous maiden to whom, with the full approbation of our respective parents, I was to have been united. This accumulation of evils, though by earnest supplication of the Divine Spirit I endeavoured, and was enabled, to bear with resignation to the will of Him who, when He permitteth the persecutions of the wicked, often turneth them to the ultimate benefit of the innocent, preyed gradually on my health and peace of mind; and I left my home to seek in change of place some mitigation of my sorrow, taking an affectionate leave of my dear father and mother, with whom my fair fame remained untarnished—not alone on account of their partiality, but from the security they felt in the efficacy of those religious principles they had ever inculcated on my mind. From their precepts, but more from His example, who was 'despised and rejected' on earth, I practised the lesson (which, I confess, was at that time a difficult one,) of forgiving and praying for my enemy. Had I, however, wished for revenge on him, it would in a short time have been gratified, for only a few months after his marriage, an accidental death suddenly deprived him of the bride he had decoyed The Hermit's Story. 47
from me. Such events are, in common language, called accidental; though in that instance, as in many others, the retributive hand of Providence might easily be traced; and for herself, poor thing, it was a mercy that she had only a short time to live with a man whose real character she could not long have remained in ignorance of."
"And did you ever hear," asked Paul, "what became of the man afterwards?"
Hermit. I heard nothing of him for nearly eight years, and then I was told that he had sunk lower and lower in vicious courses; the mask of dissimulation, under which he had so long concealed his wickedness, was at length detected and pushed aside; his love of money drew him into dishonest practices, which ended in imprisonment and the contempt of all his former associates: but whether these sad consequences of his conduct ever led him to serious reflection and repentance, or whether he was cut off in the midst of his sins, I never learned. For myself, I was, after a time, enabled to say with David,' It is good for me that I have been afflicted,' for if I had always enjoyed uninterrupted prosperity, might I not, like many others in similar circumstances, have thought too much of this present land, where we have no abiding place, and too little of that glorious country which we all hope to reach? It is truly said, that prosperity is a more dangerous trial than adversity; and, perhaps, without the refining fire of the latter, I should have been one of those apparently fortunate but really most unfortunate ones who are doomed to have their portion in this world. But it gets late," remarked the good old man, "and time will not allow of my entering more at length into my history: suffice it to say, that during a long life, chequered with more of temporal ill than falls to the lot of most persons, I never lost my hope and humble confidence in the great Disposer of all things; and thus I gained my name of ' Sure-Trust.' Since I was appointed keeper and dispenser of the famous spring at the foot of this hill, my patient expectation has been rewarded by the enjoyment of peace and tranquillity, the cheerful society of Philemon, and, occasionally, that of travelling pilgrims like yourselves, who have sojourned awhile in my quiet abode."
Paul. "In your patience possess ye your souls," is a Divine precept, which you seem to have followed with benefit to yourself.
Hermit. I am thankful that I was enabled to do
THE JOURNEY RESUMED. 49
so, for I have observed in my long life that patience, like some other passive virtues, is too much disregarded by mankind, who, from the want of it, make themselves suffer twice as much as the misfortunes inflicted on them would alone cause.
Now I saw that they rose to betake themselves to rest for the night, their kind host insisting on giving up his adjoining apartment to Paul, and conducting Grace to a small one which was called Philemon's, having been his when a boy, and occupied occasionally by him still; while the old man himself rested on a couch in the room they were then in.
The sun had risen more than an hour before either of the pilgrims awoke the next morning, for the anxious excitement and weariness of the previous day made them sleep soundly, and they each felt strengthened and refreshed when they joined the Hermit, who welcomed them to a cheerful breakfast; and after conversing with Paul of all that had befallen him and his lost companion previously to his arrival there, and reassuring him that he would do all in his power to gain intelligence of poor Luke, he conducted him and Grace to the foot of the Hill Difficulty again, giving them to drink of the pure water of the spring, which flowed into a large basin