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“ Wise men are ye, doubtless,” said Audax ; “ but, prithee, stay us not to listen to your doubts. If it be so that the night is coming, why, even let us make our way while it is day. They who go boldly forward, are more likely to reach their goal, I ween, than they who loiter here to talk of it.”
“ You may do even as you will,” rejoined Frivolus. “ I care little for the beginning or the end, since the midway is thus delightful. I mind not very much if it please you to stay here, at least till I have culled these flowers so beautiful.”
But, while some doubted, some trusted, and some trifled, I perceived that they all continued to go
forward, without any effort to find another path. Prudens went sighing on, with many a prophecy of future danger: Rationalis ceased not to argue on the impossibility of any such danger existing : Audax continued to deride them both, and Frivolus was too busy with his flowers to give heed to any thing. Buť however much divided in opinion, and disposed to argue, they were perfectly agreed in practice; for all went blithely forward. It was now I first observed among them one whose appearance was strangely different from the rest. While all beside were smil. ing, the deepest shade of sorrow hung upon his brow. The subdued and sober stillness of his walk was strongly contrasted with the airy lightness of his companions. There was in his countenance an inscrutable expression of mental anguish, veiled, but not hidden, by a smile of patient acquiescence. The sigh that he heaved not, seemed imprisoned in his bosom only to burst it the more surely. The tear that fell not from his dimmed and sunken eye, was as if suspended there, lest the shedding of it should relieve his anguish. He was not old, and yet there were lines of more suffering in his countenance than
could be crowded into twoscore years. The swollen lip and pallid cheek of careful watchfulness, the languor and exhaustion of a body spent and over-worn by too much endurance, were strangely intermixed with an air of calm and firm determination, that seemed preparing to meet another blow. I marvelled much what manner of person this might be, that looked so sorrowful when all around were gay; that seemed as if he had taken to himself the miseries of them all, and, like the pack-horse of some lightsome troop, was bearing the burden of which each one had made haste to rid himself. His soft, submissive eye was for the most part bent
ground. I should have thought him indifferent to what was passing round him, had I not observed that he looked sometimes towards the cliff with anxious earnestness, as if measuring its growing height, and sometimes towards the sea, now rapidly approaching. I even fancied there was an expression of growing apprehension, as he watched its progress. And then he looked at his companions as if he would have spoken, but knew not how to gain a hearing. And indeed it was not easy, for they were vastly talkative and busy, one with the other, and paid to more attention to him than if they knew him unworthy of regard. “ Do they really know this ?” I considered within myself; “ for else it might seem that his sorrow at least should move them to compassion. Since he has travelled thus far in their company, he cannot be unkown to them: and yet he walks, of all contemned and disregarded, as if he were a stranger, and alone. I would, at least, that he might speak."
And scarcely had I formed the wish, when I saw the Man of Sorrows advance more closely towards his blithe companions, from whom he had walked hitherto
me little space apart; and with a voice
that seemed to issue from the bottom of a breaking heart, “ Pause here a moment, travellers,” he said, “ and listen you to my words.” I waited the effect of this address—but no one paused, and no one listened: while the pensive stranger continued to regard them with an air of anxious and alarmed solicitude. And now I thought his pallid countenance grew almost beautiful by the love, and tenderness, and pity, that lighted up his features. “Pause, travellers," he repeated in a louder tone, “ for danger cometh upon us as a thief in the night, and no man heeds its coming." Eyes were now turned upon him, as if content to hear; but scorn and derision was in all of them, and no one slackened his
pace. The Man of Sorrows spoke—“ Travellers on a road of which ye know not the dangers or the end, listen to the voice of one who takes care for
you, though you take none for yourselves. You are bound, ye say, to yonder fair city, whose towers scarcely yet are visible in the distance; but this is not the way. Your senses deceive you. There is between us and our distant home a pass, which no man ever yet has crossed. Full well I know the spot. The darkening cliff hangs frowning over it, bare and inaccessible to human footstep. The boiling surge breaks on the rocks beneath, and fills up the cavern many a fathom deep. The seamew scarcely dares to build his nest upon the heights, lest the tempest rock his cradle to the deep. No vessel ever cast an achor there, or ventured near to rescue them that perish. Of all who go that way, not one returns; for, ever as the rising tide flows in upon their path, and closes their retreat, those who are nigh to that tremendous passage, go into it, and perish, Be warned while it is day, for the night cometh in which no man can escape.” And he lifted up his humid eyes, as if to
see how far the evening-star had gone down: but there were many hours yet before its setting. The party marked it too, and smiled. “I know not,” said Audax,“ why we should mar the pleasures of the day by thinking of the night. When the danger is at hand, it will be time enough to think of an escape.
Methinks thy malice envies us our present good, since thou art so eager to empoison it with fear. Are we to turn us from our beaten course, because a soured and distorted fancy sees ills that no man besides thee ever told of? We
way our fathers went before us, and doubtless shall rejoin them where they are. And yonder multitude, still moving in the distance are they, too, all deceived, and only thou so wise? How camest thou by thy knowledge ?” And he turned himself away with a sneer, and listened no more to the discourse.
“ Thou art a fool,” said Rationalis ; “for, unless thou hast been there, how canst thou know the issue of the path? And if thou hast, there is some retreat, it seems, since thou hast found it. I can see much to prove that this should be our path, and only thy single word to say to us nay. As wise men, therefore, it behoves us to take the side of probability; to be guided by the things we see, and not to be diverted from our purpose by fanciful representations of what, by thy own confession, no man who has tried it e'er returned to tell.” And he looked on the admonitor with the contemptuous pity of one who waits an answer to what he believes unanswerable.
Frivolus looked up with a smile; but, not exactly understanding the matter in dispute, and concluding it was no business of his, left them to settle it as they might, and returned to his amusements.
But Prudens drew closer to the side of him who warned them, and seemed disposed to listen to his VOL. II.
counsels. “Knowest thou, then,” he said, “ a safer and a better path? For ere we quit the one we are pursuing, it befits us that we find another.
Well I see we walk between two barriers, that
become impassable; the way already narrows, and I am not without my apprehensions. But where is the remedy ? Path see I none but this.”
- There is a remedy,” replied the Man of Sor. rows. “I know a path—it is steep and difficult indeed, and trodden but by few. No man will exchange for it this smooth and flowery way, if he believe not that destruction waits him here. Yonder it winds between the crevices of that tall cliff. We shall find many openings to it as we proceed, but each one becomes more difficult than the last, and if we go too far, we may seek for it in vain. Could we but reach the summit of the cliff
, the way, though stony, is secure, and the prospect beautiful."
6 We should do well to abide thy counsel,” replied Prudens, “if what thou sayest be true. And if I were but sure of it, I would not hesitate to leave all and follow thee. But the path you bid us to, looks gloomy and little promising ; nor perceive I well why such a one should be the only way to the place we seek. He who invites us thither would surely make it more accessible. I am almost disposed to leave the company and go with thee; but they will mock us, and with reason, should it appear we have taken unnecessary trouble, and gained but toil and deprivation for our pains. Better that we be not rash, but try a little how this path may bear.” And so he betook himself to other matters. And they all with one accord turned their backs
their monitor, and forgot at once his warning and himself.
And I looked if in his patient eye there was a gleam of anger for their scorn. But no. A thicker