BY REV. DR. MURDOCK.
We arrived at "the House" in a most
unfavorable time for seeing anything, and were strongly tempted to
return immediately. It was just that kind of sky which below gives
the "blues." The dreary, dense mist that enveloped the
entire range, was mournful; and, as the wind blew from the
north-east, there was no prospect of the sky being cleared till the
Newfoundland banks had exchanged these vapory sheets for a robe of
sunshine. The cloud was as damp as clouds are anywhere that I have
known. I have heard of Lapland fogs, and had felt Scotch mists,
but this was equal to any of these for its penetrating quality.
Starch and gum shrank into mournful, skin-like flaccidity; and
to use the inelegant expression of a fellow-visitor, whose sobriquet
was "Tom," "Kate's ringlets were no more like seraphs'
locks than Old Bay's tail."
It was in vain that we fled from the outside of
the house to the inside, as the cloud went with the air, and a
perfect vacuum was impossible. Chairs, tables, mantel-pieces,
stood in dewy beads; and even the beds had that sticky touch
you feel at the "Ocean House" after two days stormy
weather. Though there was a constant fire kept up in the parlor, it
did not to us, the "new arrived," exhibit that bliss which
a kindled hearth presents to the youthful imagination anticipating
A lugubrious-looking man here stepped up, and
with the most rueful-looking countenance declared, that "This
was awful! I came here," said he, "a week ago, all the way
from Cape Cod, for the sole object of getting a look, and here
I have seen nothing ; and to be laughed at in the bargain.'' "I
shall not go back," said Tom,"without my story. I have seen something
worth telling." "And pray what shall you tell them that you
saw " said the sad man, "except across the dinner-table;
and scarcely that far, if I may guess from your good judgment on
cookery." " Why," said " Tom," with perfect nonchalance,
" I shall tell them I have seen the greatest fog that I
have ever seen in my life!" "And, my dear sir," said
the gentleman with the book, "you can now preach from that text,
'All baptized in the cloud' " "Or that other
one," said the lady, "being compassed about with so great a
cloud of witnesses."
Now, thought I, there may be more in this
darkness than was dreamed of in my first philosophy. I will remain,
and perhaps I may catch some of the inspiration from this happy
family. But I was disturbed in my cogitations by a buzz among the
guests near the door, and all I could hear was that the house was
"going past on the outside." A waiter was quieting an old
lady by telling her that all was quite firm at the foundations, for
it was built on a rock.
We were all on the piazza in a few moments, and
there, sure enough, was the perfect image of the vast building,
plainly impressed upon a thicker cloud than the general envelope
that had covered us. It was a great mass of vapor, moving from north
to south, directly in front, and only about two hundred feet from us,
which reflected the light of the sun, now beginning to appear in the
west, from its bosom, like a mirror, in which the noble Corinthian
pillars, which form the front of the building' were expanded like
some palace built by the Titans for the entertainment of their
antediluvian guests. I had read of Catherine of Russia's famous
palace of ice, all glittering with the gorgeousness that now
beautifies the Kremlin; and how frequently that is produced, as
emblematic of human glory; but here was something that more than
recalled my early impressions of Aladdin's lamp, or of the magician's
The visionary illusion was moving with the
cloud, and ere long we saw one pillar disappear, then another. We,
ourselves, who were expanded to Brobdignags in size, saw the gulf
into which we were to enter and be lost. I almost shivered when my
turn came, but there was no eluding my fate; one side of my face was
veiled, and in a few moments the whole had passed like a dream. An
instant before, and we were the inhabitants of a "gorgeous
palace," but it was the "baseless fabric of a vision,"
and now there was left "not a wreck behind."
After tea, and the lamps lit, the different sets
were seen discussing the events of that day ; and it would
fill a book to report the half of the really interesting
conversations that were held. The book man was lecturing, upon optics
and showing "Kate" how the laws of light were to be
understood, on reflection and refraction; and how these
effects were produced this afternoon by the rays striking a certain
angle of incidence; all of which was Greek to me.
"Uncle," said " Kate,"
" tell us what you were thinking of during that wonderful
vision." " Oh, yes," said the mother, " you have
traveled, brother, in the old world, and can enlighten us."
"My story has a moral to it," said the clergyman, for I
found he was one. "The mysteriously grand temple we have beheld
in the cloud has brought to my mind the fleeting nature of all
earthly temples. When I first saw the Parthenon at Athens, looking
out on the Aegean Sea from the highest point of the Acropolis, I said
there is man's finest workmanship passing, after it has stood two
thousand years. Again, I saw on Calton Hill, Edinburgh, how the proud
Scotchmen attempted to imitate their ancient models, and failed.
Their Parthenon is already like a ruin. And here, on a higher
eminence still, stands a building that, at a distance, rivals
both in appearance, till you come near and find that it is but
wood, and shall pass away sooner than either of those I have referred
to. But to-day, as if in mockery of all earthly greatness, we have
seen an airy Parthenon passing by us like a dream. Truly,
"'This world is all a fleeting show,
For man's illusion given.'"
There was nothing to be seen next day, and the
greater part was spent in hope of conjuring up something before it
was done. About three o'clock I heard the cry of "A rainbow! a
rainbow!" and on looking down towards the river I perceived that
the right limb of a large bow was already formed. It gradually took
its proper shape, until its colors came all out in their
completeness. The shower was falling on the river, and supposing that
to be the cord, the extent must have been twenty miles in length,
with a span in proportion. It was such a token as Noah saw from
Ararat, rising on the plain of Shinar.
It was interesting to listen to the remarks of
the spectators -- moralizing, poetizing, and philosophizing. A young
wife and mother stood next me, wrapt in admiration, and asked of her material
husband if he did not think "that would make a noble gateway for
the 'house made without hands,' that we saw yesterday ? "
"Umph! " said the careful father, "pick up your
raisins there, you little fool. What is that you said, my dear, about gate-posts?"
" Oh, see," said the really enraptured wife, "what a
gem is there. See! see! the sun is tinting that cloud with gold, till
it looks like a throne in the heavens." The deep solemn voice of
the grave man was repeating in an undertone, "And there
was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto to an
emerald. And the city had twelve gates, and every several gate was
one pearl." "Tom " was not behind the rest with his
word. The idea of that being an entrance to the palace of yesterday
caught his fancy, and he was repeating, with variations,
"Still seem as in my infant days,
A glorious gateway given,
For happy spirits to alight,
Between the earth and heaven."
The shower passed to the eastward, and the
great bow fell flat upon the black surface, and did appear like a
fallen arch, the remnant of departed glory.
I must take for granted that the ride to the
falls and the general features of the region are known; but this day
was remarkable for new objects of interest to me.
Standing on the south-west point, after going
round below the cascade, I became drenched and almost
suffocated with the steam, which rose through the air so thick
that I could not see across the boiling caldron, and was glad to
stand still and take breath. So much rain had fallen for a week, the
torrent was greater than I had ever seen it before. It seemed that I
was standing within the crater of a volcano, deep and fearful. After
steadying my feet and my head, my eyes caught the iris of a rainbow
of uncommon brilliancy. At first I was inclined to believe myself
under some visual delusion, and that in my eagerness to retain the
image of what I had already seen that day, this was but the spectrum
of that other rainbow. But as I looked up I saw the sun
reflected from millions of prisms, hung on every tree and blade of
grass around. And from the point where I stood, round to the opposite
side of the gulf, there was one solid mass of variegated glory. It
seemed to be one jewel, upon which I might have walked with ease.
After the first surprise, I discovered that I stood within the rays
of this brightness. Was it presumption in me to feel enraptured, with
the bow of promise around my head, and the rock of ages beneath my
feet? Blessed emblem of hope and immortality!
The sun had now gained the full ascendancy in
the heavens, and his setting gave us the hope of a bright morning and
we retired to rest to-night, congratulating ourselves on the
wonderful things we had seen this day.
In the dark of the morning I heard gentle feet
going through the long passages, and, afraid of being late, I
hastened to the east side of the house, where the greater part of the
guests were before me ; and after looking at the sky, and then at the
spectators, I thought of the Psalmist's words, "I wait for thee,
as they that wait for the eyelids of the morning."
Except a few scattered clouds the dawn was
purer than the crystal, for it was unassociated with any material
thing. It brought all the beautiful things of this world to
remembrance. An infant's eyes opening for the first time on a world
of sin. The cactus in full flower, with its purple and azure mingling.
Two small clouds, half way up the sky, towards
the north-east, caught the earliest tints of glory : then, higher up,
another became so white that it was at last painful to look at. In my
eagerness to see all and catch the first glance of the sun himself,
my eyes were dazzled so that I was almost blinded. It was therefore a
great relief to hear a voice cry out from one of the windows, Look
below! look below!
And we all looked, but the whole scene was
unutterably grand. The sea! the sea! many voices said at once. From
the verge of the cliff, as far as the eye could reach, it was rolling
vapor ; the waves rose and fell in hills and deep valleys, coming on
like the tide and retiring; and I caught myself involuntarily
listening for the dash of the surge. But the silence was alarming.
The sea so measureless; so disturbed to the eye; so near, and yet so speechless
to the ear. It was not a dead sea, for it moved; but it was
the movement of oblivion. How melancholy to think on the thousands of
buried homes, wrapt in that cold cheerless sheet; and we up here,
basking in the beams of heaven's own brightness.
The two clouds nearest the east had become
solid gold, we thought nothing could be brighter, till a moment after
the king himself appeared. It was as if the helmet of a conqueror had
risen on the top of a hill; but there he was himself, unexcelled. His
actual presence produced a sudden tremor, and tears gushed
plentifully at the sight.
We had now time to look beneath, and already
there was an evident movement, as if some great commotion was taking
place beneath, at the centre. But it was the sun now making himself
felt, like the Spirit of God moving on the face of chaos, when he
said, "Let there be light, and there was light." We were
waiting for the "dry land"
The vapory mass began to move more rapidly, and
assume every fantastic shape that the imagination gave it.
Monstrous giants rose, ruled, and departed like
the despots of antiquity. Ossian, before his blindness, must have
beheld the like, ere he described Fingal's combat with the misty
demon. And so did Milton, doubtless, while "holy light"
entered his early eye; when from the "alpine heights" he
saw the celestial and infernal armies, as here, deploying, then
closing, then recoiling in terrific fury.
"Uncle," said the sensitive girl,
"tell me what you see there." "Oh, child,
child, I see, I see what is unspeakable. There is Tophet sending
forth its smoke; look at that yawning gulf, was ever anything so
capacious ; and there beyond is Mount Sinai in awful hidden
darkness." "Yes, brother," said the mother, "but
look up higher, and tell me what you think of those clouds that have
become separated from the rest, and that are now already tinged with
heaven's gold." "Oh, it was in such a chariot as that my
Master ascended, when a cloud received Him out of their sight; "
and the solemn man wept like a child. In about an hour from sunrise
the several fleeces had been lifted up from the earth, till the hills
with which I was familiar became apparent, but still huge and awful.
And there the river ran dark, in the mist, like the mysterious Styx
of the region of Pluto; and as the clouds passed over it they seemed
to be fleets of departed nations who were there navigating their
shadowy barks, joyless and hopeless. What a contrast between that
gloomy region and the rich panorama that is spread out here at noon.
Then that river reminds one of the "river of life, clear as
crystal," and of that world, when the veil of mystery will be
removed, and we shall look no more through a glass darkly.