of men for the purpose of more fervent prayer and more holy meditation; others, that he visited his home, or some other distant country. The more superstitious believed that he had, by a kind of metempsychosis, taken a new shape, which, by some magical or supernatural power, he could assume and put off at pleasure. This opinion was perhaps the most prevalent, as it gained a colour with these simple people, from the chemical and astronomical instruments he possessed. In these he evidently took great pleasure, and by their means he acquired some of the knowledge by which he so often excited their admiration.
He soon distinguished me from the rest of his visitors, by addressing questions to me relative to my history and adventures; and I, in turn, was gratified to have met with one who took an interest in my concerns, and who alone, of all I had here met with, could either enter into my feelings or comprehend my opinions. Our conversations were carried on in English, which he spoke with facility and correctness. We soon found ourselves so much to each other's taste, that there was seldom an evening that I did not make him a visit, and pass an hour or two in his company.
I learnt from him that he was born and bred at Benares, in Hindostan; that he had been intended for the priesthood, and had been well instructed in the literature of the east. That a course of untoward circumstances, upon which he seemed unwilling to dwell, had changed his destination, and made him a wanderer on the face of the earth. That in the neighbouring kingdom of Siam he had formed an intimacy with a learned French Jesuit, who had not only taught him his language, but imparted to him a knowledge of much of the science of Europe, its institutions and manners. That after the death of this friend, he had renewed his wanderings; and having been detained in this village by a fit of sickness for some weeks, he was warned that it was time to quit his rambling life. This place being recommended to him, both by its quiet seclusion, and the unsophisticated manners of its inhabitants, he determined to pass the remnant of his days here, and, by devoting them to the purposes of piety, charity, and science, to discharge his duty to his Creator, his species, and himself; "for the love of knowledge," he added, "has long been my chief source of selfish enjoyment."
Our tastes and sentiments accorded in so many points, that our acquaintance ripened by degrees into the closest friendship. We were both strangers—both unfortunate; and were the only individuals here who had any knowledge of letters, or of distant parts of the world. These are, indeed, the main springs of that sympathy, without which there is no love among men. It is being overwise, to treat with contempt what mankind hold in respect: and philosophy teaches us not to extinguish our feelings, but to correct and refine them. My visits to the hermitage were frequently renewed at first, because they afforded me the relief of variety, whilst his intimate knowledge of men and things—his remarkable sagacity and good sense—his air of mingled piety and benignity,—cheated me into forgetfulness of my situation. As these gradually yielded to the lenitive power of time, I sought his conversation for the positive pleasure it afforded, and at last it became the chief source of my happiness. Day after day, and month after month, glided on in this gentle, unvarying current, for more than three years; during which period he had occasionally thrown out dark hints that the time would come when I should be restored to liberty, and that he had an important secret, which he would one day communicate. I should have been more tantalized with the expectations that these remarks were calculated to raise, had I not suspected them to be a good-natured artifice, to save me from despondency, as they were never made except when he saw me looking serious and thoughtful.
The Brahmin's illness—He reveals an important secret to Atterley— Curious information concerning the Moon—The Glonglims—They plan a voyage to the Moon.
About this period, one afternoon in the month of March, when I repaired to the hermitage as usual, I found my venerable friend stretched on his humble pallet, breathing very quickly, and seemingly in great pain. He was labouring under a pleurisy, which is not unfrequent in the mountainous region, at this season. He told me that his disease had not yielded to the ordinary remedies which he had tried when he first felt its approach, and that he considered himself to be dangerously ill. "I am, however," he added, "prepared to die. Sit down on that block, and listen to what I shall say to you. Though I shall quit this state of being for another and a better, I confess that I was alarmed at the thought of expiring, before I had an opportunity of seeing and conversing with you. I am the depository of a secret, that I believe is known to no other living mortal. I once determined that it should die with me; and had I not met with you, it certainly should. But from our first acquaintance, my heart has been strongly attracted towards you; and as soon as I found you possessed of qualities to inspire esteem as well as regard, I felt disposed to give you this proof of my confidence. Still I hesitated. I first wished to deliberate on the probable effects of my disclosure upon the condition of society. I saw that it might produce evil, as well as good; but on weighing the two together, I have satisfied myself that the good will preponderate, and have determined to act accordingly. Take this key, (stretching out his feverish hand,) and after waiting two hours, in which time the medicine I have taken will have either produced a good effect, or put an end to my sufferings, you may then open that blue chest in the corner. It has a false bottom. On removing the paper which covers it, you will find the manuscript containing the important secret, together with some gold pieces, which I have saved for the day of need—because—(and he smiled in spite of his sufferings)—because hoarding is one of the pleasures of old men. Take them both, and use them discreetly. When I am gone, I request you, my friend, to discharge the last sad duties of humanity, and to see me buried according to the usages of my caste. The simple beings around me will then behold that I am mortal like themselves. And let this precious relic of female loveliness and worth, (taking a small picture, set in gold, from his bosom,) be buried with me. It has been warmed by my heart's blood for twenty-five years: let it be still near that heart when it ceases to beat. I have yet more to say to you; but my strength is too much exhausted."
The good old man here closed his eyes, with an expression of patient resignation, and rather as if he courted sleep than felt inclined to it: and, after shutting the door of his cell, I repaired to his little garden, to pass the allotted two hours. Left to my meditations, when I thought that I was probably about to be deprived for ever of the Hermit's conversation and society, I felt the wretchedness of my situation recur with all its former force. I sat down on a smooth rock under a tamarind tree, the scene of many an interesting conference between the Brahmin and myself; and I cast my eyes around—but how changed was every thing before me! I no longer regarded the sparkling eddies of the little cascade which fell down a steep rock at the upper end of the garden, and formed a pellucid basin below. The gay flowers and rich foliage of this genial climate—the bright plumage and cheerful notes of the birds—were all there; but my mind was not in a state to relish them. I arose, and in extreme agitation rambled over this little Eden, in which I had passed so many delightful hours.
Before the allotted time had elapsed—shall I confess it?—my fears for the Hermit were overcome by those that were purely selfish. It