Wesley had preached under varying conditions in different parts of England, but never under such as prevailed on this Sunday, when he set out in the early morning with his friend, Mr. Hartwell, for the pulpit among the crags which he had occupied several times during his previous stay at Porthawn.

When he set out from the Hartwells' house the grey sea-mist, which had been rolling round the coast and through the valley of the Lana for several days past, was as thick as a fog. It was dense and confusing to one who faced it for the first time. It was so finely grey that one seemed to see through it at first, and boldly plunged into its depths; but the instant that one did so, its folds closed over one as the dense waters of the sea do over a diver, and one was lost. Before one had recovered, one had the feeling of being smothered in a billow of grey gauze, smooth as silk that has been dipped in milk, and gasped within the windings of its folds. It was chilly, with the taste of the salt sea in its moisture. It took the heart out of one.

“This is nothing, sir,” said Mr. Hartwell. “Lay your hand upon my arm and you will have no trouble: I could find my way along our cliffs through the thickest weather. I have been put to the test before now.”

“I am not thinking so much of ourselves as of our friends whom we expect to meet us in the valley,” said Wesley. “How, think you, will they be able to find their way under such conditions?”

“I do not assume that this mist is more than a temporary thing—it comes from the sea well-nigh every Summer morn, but perishes as it rolls over the cliffs,” said Mr. Hartwell.

“It was clinging to the ridges of the valley slopes when I rode through, almost at noon yesterday,” said Wesley.

“Stragglers from the general army that we have to encounter here,” said the other. “When the phalanx of sea-mist rolls inland, it leaves its tattered remnants of camp followers straggling in its wake. I believe that when we reach the place we shall find ourselves bathed in sunshine.”

“May your surmise prove correct!” said Wesley.

And so they started breaking into the mist, feeling its salt touch upon their faces and hearing the sound of the waves breaking on the beach below them. It was curiously hollow, and every now and then amid the noise of the nearer waves, there came the deep boom from the distant caves, and the sob of the waters that were choked in the narrow passage between the cliffs and the shoreward limits of the Dog's Teeth.

They had not gone more than half a mile along the track that led to the pack horse road, when they heard the sound of voices, near at hand, with a faint and still fainter far-off hail. The next moment they almost ran into a mixed party of travellers on the same track.

Mr. Hartwell was acquainted with some of them. They came from a hamlet high up in the valley a mile from Ruthallion.

“We are bound for the preaching,” said one of them. “What a wandering we have had for the past two hours! We lost our way twice and only recovered ourselves when we gained the horse road.”

“We are going to the preaching also,” said Mr. Hartwell.

“How then does it come that we meet you instead of overtaking you?” asked the other.

There was a silence. The halloa in the distance became fainter.

“One of us must be wrong,” said Wesley.

“We don't match our knowledge against Mr. Hartwell's,” said the spokesman of the strangers.

“I am confident that I know the way,” said Mr. Hartwell. “I only left the main track once, and that was to cut off the round at Stepney's Gap.”

“On we go then, with blessings on your head, sir,” said the other man. “Friends, where should we ha' landed ourselves if we had fallen short of our luck in coming right on Mr. Hartwell? Would we not do kindly to give a halloa or twain to help those poor hearts that may be wandering wild?” he added, pointing in the direction whence the hail seemed to come.

“Ay, 'twould be but kind,” said an old man of the party. “Oh, 'tis a dread and grisly mishap to be wandering wild in an unknown country.”

Forthwith the younger ones sent out answering hails to the halloas that came to them. But when the next sounds reached their ears like echoes of their own shouts, it seemed that they came from quite another quarter.

“I could ha' taken my davy that the lost ones was off another point o' the compass,” said the old man.

“No, Comyn,” said another. “No, my man, they came from thither.”

He pointed straight in front of him.

“From where we stand that should be the Gap,” said Mr. Hartwell.

“A special comfortable place to be wandering wild in is the Gap, for if you walk straight on it carries you to the mighty ocean, and if you walk back you will reach your own home safe, if it be in that direction,” said the old man with emphasis.

“Was this mist far up the valley?” Wesley enquired.

“Not more than a league, sir,” replied the old man. “'Twas a sunlit morn when we made our start, and then it came down on us like a ship in full sail. There goes another hail, and, as I said, it comes from behind us. Is there one of us that has a clear throat. 'Kish Trevanna, you was a gallery choir singer in your youth, have you any sound metallic notes left that you could cheer up the lost ones withal? Come, goodman, be not over shy. Is this a time to be genteel when a parson's of the company, waiting to help and succour the vague wanderers?”

“The call is for thee, Loveday, for didst not follow the hounds oft when there was brisk work in Squire's coverts?” said the man to whom the appeal was made.

“We must hasten onward,” said Mr. Hartwell, making a start. “'Tis most like that we are overtaking whomsoever it be that was shouting a hail. Forward, friends, and feel your way to the pack-horse road.”

The whole party began to move, Mr. Hartwell and Wesley leading, and before they had proceeded for more than two hundred yards they heard the sound of talking just ahead of them, and the next moment a group of men loomed through the mist. Friends were also in the new party.

“Were you them that sang out?” asked one of them.

“Only in answer to your hail; we be no cravens, but always ready to help poor wanderers,” replied the talkative old man.

“We did not sound a note before we heard a hail,” said the questioner in the new party. “We have not strayed yet, being bound for the preaching.”

“Have you been on the horse road?” asked Hartwell.

“The horse road? Why, sir, the horse road lies down the way that you came,” said the other.

“Surely not, my friend. How could we have missed it?” said Hartwell.

“If 'twasn't for the fog I could walk as steady for it as a mule,” said the old man. “Ay, friends, us any mule under a pack saddle, for I have traversed valley and cleft an hundred times in the old days, being well known as a wild youth, asking your pardon for talking so secular when a parson is by. I am loath to boast, but there was never a wilder youth in three parishes, Captain Hartwell.”

(Mr. Hartwell had once been the captain of a mine.)

“Surely we should be guided by the sound of the sea,” said Wesley. “A brief while ago I heard the boom of waters into one of the caves. If we listen closely we should learn if the sound is more distinct and thereby gather if we are approaching that part of the cliff or receding from it.”

“Book-learning is a great help at times, but 'tis a snare in a streaming fog, or in such times of snow as we were wont to have in the hard years before the Queen died in her gorgeous palace,” remarked the patriarch.

“One at a time, grandfather,” said a man who had arrived with the last party. “There's not space enough for you and the ocean on a morn like this. Hark to the sea.”

They stood together listening, but now, through one of the mysteries of a fog, not a sound from the sea reached them. They might have been miles inland.

“I have been baffled by a fog before now,” said a shepherd. “Have followed the bleat of an ewe for a mile over the hills, and lo, the silly beast had never left her lamb, and when I was just over her she sounded the faintest.”

“Time is passing; should we not make a move in some direction?” said Wesley. “Surely, my friends, we must shortly come upon some landmark that will tell us our position in a moment.”

“I cannot believe that in trying to cut off the mile for the Gap I went grossly astray,” said Mr. Hartwell. “I am for marching straight on.”

“Straight on we march and leave the guidance to Heaven,” said Wesley.

On they went, Wesley marvelling how it was that men who should have known every inch of the way blindfold, having been on it almost daily all their lives, could be so baffled by a mist. To be sure Mr. Hartwell had forsaken the track at one place, but was it likely that he had got upon a different one when he had made his detour to cut off a mile of their journey.

On they walked, however, their party numbering fourteen men, and then all of a sudden the voice of the sea came upon them, and at the same moment they almost stepped over the steep brink of a little chasm.

“What is this?” cried Hartwell. “As I live'tis Gosney hollow, and we are scarcely half a mile from my house! We have walked a good mile back on our steps.”

“Did not I tell you how I followed the ewe?” said the shepherd. “'Tis for all the world the same tale. Sore baffling thing is a sea-mist.”

“The valley will be full o' lost men and women this day,” remarked the old man.

There is no condition of life so favourable to the growth of despondency as that which prevails in a fog. The most sanguine are filled with despair when they find that their own senses, to which they have trusted for guidance and protection, are defeated. The wanderers on this Sunday morning stood draped by the fog, feeling a sense of defeat. No one made a suggestion. Everyone seemed to feel that it would be useless to make the attempt to proceed to the crags where the preaching was to be held.

“Think you, Mr. Wesley, that this state of weather is the work of the Fiend himself?” asked the talkative old man. “I know 'tis a busy question with professing Christians, as well as honest Churchmen—this one that pertains to the weather. Stands to reason, for say I have a turnip crop coming on and so holds out for a wet month or two, while a neighbour may look for sunshine to ripen his grain. Now if so be that the days are shiny my turnips get the rot, and who is to blame a weak man for saying that the Foul Fiend had a hand in prolonging the shine; but what saith my neighbour?”

“Hither comes another covey of wandering partridges,” said one of the first party, as the sound of voices near at hand was heard.

“Now, for myself, I hold that 'tis scriptural natural to say that aught in the matter that pertains to the smoke of the Pit is the Devil's own work, and if such a fog as this comes not straight out the main flue of——”

The old man's fluency was interrupted by the arrival of the new party, Nelly Polwhele and her father.

“You are just setting out for the preaching, I suppose; so we are not so late as we feared,” cried the girl. “Still, though we shall certainly not be late for the preaching, however far behind we may be, we would do well to haste.”

Wesley surely felt less despondent at the cheery greeting of the girl. He laughed, saying:

“'Tis all very well to cry 'Haste,' child; know that it Has taken us a whole hour to get so far.”

“Is't possible that you have been out for an hour, sir?” she cried. “Surely some man of you was provident to carry with him a compass on such a morn as this?”

“You speak too fast, maid; book-learning has made thee talkative; a mariner's compass is for the mariners—it will not work on dry land,” said the old man.

“Mine is one of the sort that was discovered since your sensible days, friend—ay, as long agone as that; it works on land as well as on sea. If a bumpkin stands i' the north its finger will point dead to him. Wouldst like to test it thyself?” said Nelly's father. Before the old man had quite grasped his sarcasm, though it was scarcely wanting in breadth, he had turned to Mr. Hartwell, displaying a boat's compass in its wooden box.

“'Twas Nelly bade me carry it with us,” he Said. “I worked out all the bearings o' the locality before we started, and I can make the Red Tor as easy as I could steer to any unseen place on the lonely ocean. Here we be, sir; west sou'west to the Gap, track or no track; then west and by nor'-west a little northerly to the lift o' the cliff, thence south-half-east to the Red Tor. Up wi' your grapples, friends, we'll be there before the sermon has begun or even sooner if we step out.”

Wesley, and indeed all of the party except perhaps the pessimistic old man, whose garrulity had suffered a check, felt more cheerful. Hartwell clapped Polwhele on the back, saying:

“You are the man we were waiting for. Onward, pilot; we shall reach the Tor in good time, despite our false start and the delay it made to us.” They started along the track, Polwhele at their head, and Wesley with Mr. Hartwell and Nelly immediately behind him.

“There's a whole sermon in this, child,” said the preacher.

“A whole sermon, sir?” said she.

“There should be only one sermon preached by man to men, and this is it,” said Wesley. “The poor wandering ones standing on a narrow causeway, with danger on every side, and the grey mist of doubt in the air. The sense of being lost—mark that, dear child,—and then the coming of the good Pilot, and a complete faith in following Him into the place of safety which we all seek. There is no sermon worth the preaching save only this.” On they went, Polwhele calling out the bearings every now and again, and as they proceeded they came upon several other travellers, more or less forlorn—all were hoping to reach the Red Tor in time; so that before the abrupt turn was made from the pack-horse track, there was quite a little procession on the way.

Never had Wesley had such an experience as this.

Out from the folds of the impenetrable mist that rolled through the hollows of the low mounds that formed that natural amphitheatre, came the sound of many voices, and the effect was strange, for one could not even see that a mass of people was assembled there. The hum that the newcomers heard when still some distance away became louder as they approached, and soon they were able to distinguish words and phrases—men calling aloud to men—some who had strayed from the friends were moving about calling their names, and occasionally singing out a hail in the forlorn hope of their voices being recognised; then there came the distressed wail of a woman who had got separated from her party, and with the laughter of a group who had got reunited after many wanderings. There was no lack of sounds, but no shape of men or women could be distinguished in the mist, until Wesley and his party were among them. And even then the dimly seen shapes had suggestions of the unreal about them. Some would loom larger than human for a few moments, and then vanish suddenly. Others seemed grotesquely transfigured in the mist as if they had enwrapped themselves in a disguise of sackcloth. They seemed not to be flesh and blood, but only shadows. Coming suddenly upon them, one felt that one had wandered to another world—a region of restless shadows.

How was any man to preach to such a congregation? How was a preacher to put force into his words, when failing to see the people before him?

When Wesley found himself on the eminence where he had spoken to the multitude on his first coming to Cornwall, and several times later, he looked down in front of him and saw nothing except the fine gauze of the grey clouds that rolled around the rocks. He stood there feeling that he was the only living being in a world that was strange to him. He thought of the poet who had gone to the place of departed spirits, and realised his awful isolation. How was he to speak words of life to this spectral host?

He had never known what fear was even when he had faced a maddened crowd bent upon the most strenuous opposition to his preaching: he had simply paid no attention to them, and the sound of his voice had held them back from him and their opposition had become parched. But now he felt something akin to terror. Who was he that he should make this attempt to do what no man had ever done before?

He fell upon his knees and prayed aloud. Light—Light—Light—that was the subject of his prayer. He was there with the people who had walked in darkness—he had walked with them, and now they were in the presence of the One who had said “Let there be Light.” He prayed that the Light of the World might appear to them at that time—the Light that shineth through the darkness that comprehended Him not. He prayed for light to understand the Light, as the poet had done out of the darkness of his blindness.

“So much the rather, Thou Celestial Light,

Shine inward and the mind through her way

Irradiate; there plant eyes; all mists from thence

Purge and disperse that I may see and tell

Of things invisible to mortal sight.”

And after his prayer with closed eyes, he began to preach into that void, and his text was of the Light also. His voice sounded strange to his own ears.

It seemed to him that he was standing in front of a wall, trying to make his words pass through it. This was at first; a moment later he felt that he was speaking to a denser multitude than he had ever addressed before. The mist was before his eyes as a sea of sad grey faces waiting, earnest and anxious for the message of gladness which he was bringing them. His voice rose to heights of impressiveness that it had never reached before. It clove a passage through the mist and fell upon the ears of the multitude whom he could not see, stirring them as they had never been stirred before, while he gave them his message of the Light.

For close upon half an hour he spoke of the Light. He repeated the word—again and again he repeated it, and every time that it came from his lips it had the effect of a lightning flash. This was at first. He spoke in flashes of lightning, uttered from the midst of the cloud of a night of dense blackness; and then he made a change. The storm that made fitful, fiercer illumination passed away, and after an interval the reiteration of the Light appeared again. But now it was the true Light—the light of dawn breaking over a sleeping world. It did not come in a flash to dazzle the eyes and then to make the darkness more dread; it moved gradually upward; there was a flutter as of a dove's wing over the distant hills, the tender feathers of the dawn floated through the air, and fell upon the Eastern Sea, quivering there; and even while one watched them wondering, out of the tremulous spaces of the sky a silver, silken thread was spread where the heaven and the waters met—it broadened and became a cincture of pearls, and then the thread that bound it broke, and the pearls were scattered, flying up to the sky and falling over all the waters in beautiful confusion; and before the world had quite awakened, the Day itself gave signs of hastening to gather up the pearls of Dawn. The Day's gold-sandalled feet were nigh—they were shining on the sea's brim, and lo! the East was bright with gold. Men cried, “Why do those feet tarry?” But even while they spoke, the wonder of the Morn had come upon them. Flinging down his mantle upon the mountains over which he had stepped—a drapery of translucent lawn, the splendour of the new light sprung upward, lifting hands of blessing over the world, and men looked and saw each other's faces, and knew that they were blest.

And the wonder that he spoke of had come to pass. While the preacher had been describing the breaking light, the light had come. All unnoticed, the mist had been dissolving, and when he had spoken his last words the sunlight was bathing the preacher and the multitude who hung upon his words. The wonder that he told them of had taken place, and there did not seem to them anything of wonder about it. Only when he made his pause did they look into each other's faces as men do when they have slept and the day has awakened them. Then with the sunlight about them, for them to drink great draughts that refreshed their souls, he spoke of the Light of the World—of the Dayspring from on High that had visited the world, and their souls were refreshed.

And not one word had he said of all that he had meant to say—not one word of the man whom he had come so far to reprove.

No one was conscious of the omission.

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