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The more poetic of the party expressed their great admiration of the imaginative power that marked this graphic description of a storm. “Such a description,” observed Mrs. Gracelove, comes with more impressiveness to the mind when recited in a locality so congenial with the subjectmutter of the poetry, and where tempests of perhaps equal force annually expend their fury.”
She now proposed, as their meal was concluded, that they should resume the explorations of the mountain.
The invitation was most willingly responded to; the individuals of this happy family group amusing themselves in various ways, according to their respective tastes. The little Maria employed herself in searching for the flowers that grew wild on the mountain,-her predilection for which the reader will no doubt remember, in connexion with her own little flower-garden at home, and the disgrace she incurred in visiting her floral treasures on a very wet day. Her mamma and sister drew forth their sketch-books, while her papa took Edmund to a perpendicular line of rocks, where the various strata were exposed to the eye,
him a lesson on geology; a study in which he himself was much interested. As to Jasper, and his schoolfellow Stately, they entertained themselves, the while, with the intellectual game of leap-frog.
“ These rocks," said Mr. Gracelove to his son, to whom he had, on various occasions, given instructions on the principles of the science, " are of primitive origin, and are chiefly composed of porphyry, amygdaloyd, greenstone, grauwacke, argillaceous clay-slate, granite, gneiss, fellspar, and concretionary schist. These elements,” he observed, are common to the range of mountains in the vicinity of Keswick. Hornblende forms, also, a large constituent portion of many of the rocks around us; while copper pyrites, and lead ore, are found in some of the veins that run through these elevated regions.”
While the internal structure of the earth was thus dilated upon by the father, for the information of his eldest son, the interesting products of its surface were not altogether lost sight of by the kind mother, with the view of gratifying her youngest daughter. For as often as the inquisitive little Maria had collected half a dozen specimens of flowers, of a description she had never seen before, and of which the starry saxifrage was the most numerous, she ran to her mamma, with great delight, to ascertain their names and qualities. Nor were ber many questions at all wearisome to her affectionate parent. She would at once lay down her pencil, while she examined Maria's pet flowers, and tell her their botanical names in English, accompanied by any other knowledge respecting them which she might possess.
This wise mother always encouraged an inquisitive turn of mind in her children, on all profitable subjects ; and regarded instruction by question and answer, particularly in the younger members of her family, as more impressive on the attention and memory than that derived from books. At the same time, she by no means discarded the use of the latter; considering each auxiliary to the other. Maria was finally delighted by her mamma intimating to her, that her little floral specimens should be carefully placed in moss, moistened with water, and that Thomas should carry them home for her, in order to be planted in her garden at Derwent Cottage.
At length the sketches were all finished; the geological lessons concluded; the roots of the wild flowers placed in moss; and the game at romps had subsided into quietude. In fact, each member of the party was fully satisfied with the enjoyment of the day's excursion.
The donkeys were, therefore, again in requisition; and mounting their humble steeds, the happy group commenced their descent to the peaceful valley of the Derwent.
They had scarcely, however, reached the first terrace, in their downward course, when one of those beautiful illusions, which are only to be seen on lofty mountains, was suddenly presented to their delighted eyes, as if produced by the fabled wand of a magician.
A light fleecy cloud, which no one knew whence it had come, but which no doubt had circulated from the opposite side of the mountain, came sweeping silently along towards them; and, in a few minutes afterwards, the magnificent scene which they had been so long gazing upon, in all its boundless extent and variety, totally disappeared from before them. Mountains, lakes, vallies, precipices, ocean with her islands, and two sister kingdoms in the far perspective, –all had vanished, just as the rainbow melts away even while the eye rests upon it.
The vapour, in which they were now enveloped, was so far thin and transparent, as to be perfectly illuminated by the light of the sun, and yet so far dense as to prevent the eye from piercing through it. The appearance of it was like revolving folds of liquid silver floating in the air, and almost seemed—so lovely was the vision—as if it were the chariot of some celestial messenger, bending her course to earth on a mission of love and mercy.
The admiration and surprise of the whole party exceeded all the excitement they had previously experienced. An almost breathless emotion kept them, for a short time, silent, in the contemplation of the marvellous effect so rapidly produced. It appeared to them like a dream of enchantment, when they considered that but a few short moments before and their eyes were wandering in delight and wonder over an unlimited space
nature's fairest creation-stretching away in a direct line to a distance of fifty miles, and embracing an innumerable diversity of objects—and that now they were inclosed as if they had been within the walls of a prison, without a single object to rest upon beyond the length of an arm extended from the person.
Soon, however, their exclamations found utterance, as the revolving cloud alternately opened and closed again as it passed along. At one instant its sportive gyrations would form an irregular vista, through which a momentary glimpse was obtained of the lost valley beneath ; first one object appearing and then another, with all the changeable and beautiful varieties of the kaleidoscope; while a succeeding undulation of the vapoury element would as suddenly roll over the magic orifice, and enshroud everything again in an impenetrable veil.
These fairy-like illusions continued their playful movements for some time, till, at length, the bright phantom swept fairly past them, with its long illumined train, and the wide world of beauty lay once more before them, in all its animated life and loveliness.
With imaginations most pleasingly excited by what they had just beheld, and almost doubting the reality of the vision presented to their senses, the wondering party now continued their descent of the mountain.
An uninterrupted flow of remark and exclamation on the extraordinary sights they had witnessed, filled up the remainder of the way to Derwent Cottage. Nor did the prolific topics of conversation cease with their arrival at home; for during the rest of the day and evening, Skiddaw, the monarch of the Cumberland vallies, with his glorious panorama, and last, though not least, the unexpected phantasmagoria that concluded the whole, were the theme of every tongue, and, very probably, their dream through the night.
THE fête champêtre on the summit of Skiddaw was followed, a few days afterwards, by a dinner party at Derwent Cottage, made expressly for the purpose of receiving, for the first time, the fashionable owners of Stately Hall.
It was intended, as expressed in the invitation, that the party should meet in social and friendly intercourse, without form or ceremony, which is ever an enemy to that freedom of the heart which forms the charm of conversation.
In addition to the two principal persons already named, four other friends of the family made their appearance at the appointed time; consisting of the Rev. Augustus Davies and his wife, and two ladies resident in the neighbourhood, who united their benevolent exertions with those of Mrs. Gracelove in collecting subscriptions for the Bible and Church Missionary Societies.
The six invited guests, therefore, together with the worthy host and his amiable wife, and their eldest son and daughter, Edmund and Laura, formed a compact little circle of ten ; a number which was preferred to a more numerous party, inasmuch as it admitted of the conversation becoming general ; and consequently afforded the opportunity, if a good idea, or a profitable subject were proposed by any one present, of its being partaken of by the rest of the company.