There was once an aged man who lived upon an exceeding high mountain for many years; but, as his strength began to decline, he found the ascent so tedious for his feeble steps that he went into the valley to live.
It was very hard for him to give up the view from its lofty height of the sun which sank so peacefully to rest. Long before the sleepers in the valley awoke, he was watching the golden orb as it broke through the mists and flung its beauties over the hills.
“This must be my last day upon the mountain top,” he said. “The little strength which is left me I must devote to the culture of fruit and flowers in the valley, and no longer spend it in climbing up and down these hills, whose tops rest their peaks in the fleecy clouds. I have enjoyed many years of repose and grandeur, and must devote the remainder of my life to helping the people in the valley.”
At sunset the old man descended, with staff in hand, and went slowly down the mountain side. Such lovely blossoms, pink, golden, and scarlet, met his eye as he gazed on the gardens of the laborers, that he involuntarily exclaimed, “I fear I have spent my days not wisely on yonder mountain top, taking at least a third of my time in climbing up and down. Richer flowers grow here in the valley; the air is softer, and the grass like velvet to the tread. I’ll see if there is a vacant cottage for me.”
Saying this, he accosted a laborer who was just returning from his toil: “Good man, do you know of any cottage near which I can rent?”
“Why! you are the old man from the mountain,” exclaimed the astonished person addressed.
“I am coming to the valley to live. I am now seeking a shelter.”
“Yonder,” answered the man, “is a cottage just vacated by a man and wife. Would that suit you?”
“Anything that will shelter me will suit,” was the answer. “Dost thou know who owns the house?”
“Von Nellser, the gardener. He lives down by the river now, and works for all the rich men in the valley.”
“I’ll see him to-night,” said the old man, and, thanking his informant, was moving on.
“But, good father, the sun has already set; the night shades appear. Come and share my shelter and bread to-night, and in the morning seek Von Nellser.”
The old man gladly accepted his kind offer. “The vale makes men kindly of heart and feeling,” he said, as he uncovered his head to enter the home of the laborer. A fair woman of forty came forward, and clasped his hand with a warmth of manner which made him feel more at ease than many words of welcome would have done.
The three sat together at supper, and refreshed themselves with food and thought.
He retired early to the nice apartment assigned him, and lay awake a long time, musing on the past and the present. “Ah, I see,” he said to himself, “why I am an object of wonder and something of awe to the people of the valley. I have lived apart from human ties, while they have grown old and ripe together. I must be a riddle to them all–a something which they have invested with an air of veneration, because I was not daily in their midst. Had it been otherwise, I should have been neither new nor fresh to them. How know I but this is God’s reserve force wherewith each may become refreshed, and myself an humble instrument sent in the right moment to vivify those who have been thinking alike too much?”
He fell asleep, and awoke just as the sun was throwing its bright rays over his bed. “Dear old day-god,” he said, with reverence, and arose and dressed himself, still eying the sun’s early rays. “One of thy golden messengers must content me now,” he said, a little sadly. “I can no longer see thee in all thy majesty marching up the mountain side; no longer can I follow thee walking over the hill-tops, and resting thy head against the crimson sky at evening: but smile on me, Sun, while in the vale I tarry, and warm my seeds to life while on thy daily march.”