there was something subduing in the influence of that silent and solemn and awful presence; one seemed to meet the immutable, the indestructible, the eternal, face to face, and to feel the trivial and fleeting nature of his own existence the more sharply by the contrast. one had the sense of being under the brooding contemplation of a spirit, not an inert mass of rocks and ice--a spirit which had looked down, through the slow drift of ages, upon a million vanished races of men and judged them; and would judge a million more--and still be there, watching unchanged and unchangeable, after all life should be gone and the earth have become a vacant desolation.
while i was feeling these things, i was groping, without knowing it, toward an understanding of what the spell is which people find in the alps, and in no other mountains; that strange, deep, nameless influence which, once felt, cannot be forgotten; once felt, leaves always behind it a restless longing to feel it again--a longing which is like homesickness; a grieving, haunting yearning, which will plead, implore, and persecute till it has its will. i met dozens of people, imaginative and unimaginative, cultivated and uncultivated, who had come from far countries and roamed through the swiss alps year after year--they could not explain why. they had come first, they said, out of idle curiosity, because everybody talked about it; they had come since because they could not help it, and they should keep on coming, while they lived, for the same reason; they had tried to break their chains and stay away, but it was futile; now they had no desire to break them. others came nearer formulating what they felt; they said they could find perfect rest and peace nowhere else when they were troubled: all frets and worries and chafings sank to sleep in the presence of the benignant serenity of the alps; the great spirit of the mountain breathed his own peace upon their hurt minds and sore hearts, and healed them; they could not think base thoughts or do mean and sordid things here, before the visible throne of god.
i sat by the lake side in a place where the rushes went down into the water, and there steeped my wrists and laved my temples. if i could have done so with any remains of self-esteem, i would now have fled from my foolhardy enterprise. but (call it courage or cowardice, and i believe it was both the one and the other) i decided i was ventured out beyond the possibility of a retreat. i had out-faced these men, i would continue to out-face them; come what might, i would stand by the word spoken.
the sense of my own constancy somewhat uplifted my spirits, but not much. at the best of it there was an icy place about my heart, and life seemed a black business to be at all engaged in. for two souls in particular my pity flowed. the one was myself, to be so friendless and lost among dangers. the other was the girl, the daughter of james more. i had seen but little of her; yet my view was taken and my judgment made. i thought her a lass of a clean honour, like a man's; i thought her one to die of a disgrace; and now i believed her father to be at that moment bargaining his vile life for mine. it made a bond in my thoughts betwixt the girl and me. i had seen her before only as a wayside appearance, though one that pleased me strangely; i saw her now in a sudden nearness of relation, as the daughter of my blood foe, and i might say, my murderer. i reflected it was hard i should be so plagued and persecuted all my days for other folks' affairs, and have no manner of pleasure myself. i got meals and a bed to sleep in when my concerns would suffer it; beyond that my wealth was of no help to me. if i was to hang, my days were like to be short; if i was not to hang but to escape out of this trouble, they might yet seem long to me ere i was done with them. of a sudden her face appeared in my memory, the way i had first seen it, with the parted lips; at that, weakness came in my bosom and strength into my legs; and i set resolutely forward on the way to dean. if i was to hang to-morrow, and it was sure enough i might very likely sleep that night in a dungeon, i determined i should hear and speak once more with catriona.
this ever-faithful friend had not so entirely lost sight of me as to be ignorant of my present abode, and it is probable that, in her heart, she did not regret the circumstance, from an idea that it might furnish the means of my moral regeneration.
and as she sauntered in the bazaar one morning, and heard innes's steps and voice behind her, her mind became one acute surmise as to whether he could possibly postpone the announcement any longer. but he immediately made it plain that this was his business in stopping to speak to her.
'good morning,' he said, and then, 'my wife comes tomorrow.' he had not told her a bit of personal news, he had made her an official communication, as briefly as it could be done, and he would have raised his hat and gone on without more words if madeline had not thwarted him.
'what a stupidity for him to be haunted by afterward!' was the essence of the thought that visited her; and she put out a detaining hand.
"that was the manner in which the jungle was made by tha; and so the tale was told to me."
"it has not lost fat in the telling," bagheera whispered, and mowgli laughed behind his hand.