« PreviousContinue »
When I awoke, I was on my own couch, in my ruined home. How I came there I knew not; but I was calm ; I was nerved to meet my destiny. My doom seemed no longer horrible. I looked upon myself as a being of power, sent forth ’t is true by Fate; but the evil was yet tempered with mercy.
Almost without a sigh, I left Carnac and journeyed to Cairo. The stranger
had been there; and I seemed impelled by some resistles power to linger round each spot he had made sacred by his tread.
Before leaving the land of my birth, I felt a desire to visit the Castle and Joseph's Hall. I beheld with mingled delight and sadness, each spot that time had not reduced to ruin; and could not help exclaiming as I contemplated the magnificent hall with its beautiful pillars of red granite, “Where, now, are the lips that first sanctioned with their praise these splendid works of art? Where the glad eyes that gazed delightedly upon them? Where the pride and ambition that fired the owner ? And where shall I be, a century hence, when the foot of the traveller shall press, as mine does now, this marble floor ? -- where ? I ascended the terrace and viewed Grand Cairo, with its gardens, fountains, mosques and minarets stretched at my feet; the ruinous town of Bulac; the grand aqueduct; the majestic stream of the Nile; and those eternal monuments of human skill, the pyramids, which, though some miles distant, are from thence distinctly seen.
Sad were the thoughts that passed through my mind as I gazed upon them; and I sighed, “A century hence, another, and another, and the traveller will gaze with delighted eye on this magnificent scene, lost in wonder, as I am now, at the grandeur and beauty before me.' promised,' I murmured, 'to know the past and the future ; yet the light
• I was
has not dawned on me. May not my doom be equally false? May not the past have been a dream? At this moment a voice broke on my ear, saying:
MAIDEN, if thou seekest power,
Take thy stand by Joseph's well.' A feeling of awe crept over me as the voice ceased. It was unlike any I was wont to hear; and I thought it strange it should be unaccompanied with music. But strange as was the hour, and the place, I resolved to be, at the time, on the spot.
By that well I stood, before the appointed hour. I had time to contemplate the place. A stair-case, cut in the solid rock, winds round the well, leaving a thick partition between them, with a few small windows, which, by day, gave but a scanty light, and now, as the faint Alickering of the lamp shone fitfully through them, it bore the appearance of that dark pit where demons make their home.
Soon the solemn tones of the midnight bell fell on my ear; and, as each stroke sounded, I felt my breath grow short; a cold dew stood on my brow, and my heart sunk within me as I never before had felt it ; no, not in all my sorrows. I had counted eleven one more: the last stroke had sounded! A bright flame of purple light seemed to float on the top of the well; and, to my horror and amazement, standing on the brink, I beheld Ambrosine. Oh, how terrible the feeling that then came over me! The recollection of the past, the peril of the present, flashed in quick succession through my mind, while he blandly smiled on me. • Ellspeth,' he said, 'the bark of the stranger is on the billow; but there is peril in his way. He is thinking of home and friends he will never see. Loud howls the wind through the rent sails; the sea runs mountains high; and soon the bark will be a wreck. Behold !
Soon the loud roar of the ocean burst on my ear; the surface of the well seemed a troubled sea; there rolled a ship without a rudder, at the mercy of the mountain wave; a loud crash, and the mast was gone by the board; and clinging to the capstan, I beheld the stranger! Pale and ghastly was his face. He cast his eyes, methought, imploringly on me. I involuntarily stretched my arms toward him; while Ambrosine said : Thou canst save him if thou wilt.'
Oh, how? Tell me, how? I exclaimed, forgetting all the past in my anxiety for him I loved.
Place,' said Ambrosine, while his eyes sparkled, “place thy right hand within mine, and stand here by my side.'
At this moment the music I had been accustomed to hear came on the breeze. Ambrosine trembled; his eyes rolled fearfully; and his body writhed, as if in agony, while a voice chanted :
“We come without bidding,
We come without charm,
To shield thee from harm.
There's a name at which demons
In reverence must bow:
And he'll fly from thee now.'
I had no fear. I exclaimed aloud : “In the name of God, I charge thee, leave me!' A sulphurous flame covered the top of the well, and Ambrosine, with a wild shriek, disappeared. I lost all recollection. .
When I opened my eyes, as from a sound and refreshing slumber, I was in Joseph's Hall, and bending over me an aged man; while a lamp which stood on the floor enabled me to see his countenance. Oh, how sweetly mild it seemed! as if Peace in his heart had erected her throne, and from his mild eyes dispensed her balmy influence. His garment was of coarse cloth; a cross hung from his girdle, and a scallop-shell adorned his hat in front.
• Come with me, unhappy one,' he said, and my rude couch shall offer thee repose.
How came I here? I asked. . Desire not to know,' was his reply. • The tongues that lie not, called me to thy aid. Lone one, rise and lean on me; sheltered thus, thou art safe.' And he extended over me the cross that hung by his side.
I rose, and by him was led to a small apartment, that seemed little more than a closet, compared with the magnificent hall we had left. It contained a bed, a wooden bench, a stool, and a table. In one corner a fragment of marble stood ; and on it was raised a rudely-cut wooden cross. He led me to his couch, gave me a few drops of some cordial, and bade me seek repose. I closed my eyes, but not to rest. A recol. lection of the fearful events of the night barred the approach of sleep. The present scene was new to me. It was evident that the peace which beamed in the aged man's eye was in some way connected with that cross: he had extended it over me, and said under that protection I was safe. Long I watched him with half-closed eye-lids, and deeply I pondered as to the meaning of that cross. I saw him kneel in reverence before it, as he said, in subdued accents, Oh, Thou, who diedst to save sinners, have mercy on this suffering daughter of mortality. Number her as one of Thy flock; soften the asperity of her fate, and make her an inheritor of thy kingdom.' Some power impelled me to rise, and in a moment I was kneeling by his side. • Oh tell me,' I asked, as I gently laid my hand on his arm, what is the meaning of this cross, and why kneel you here in prayer for one so lone and lost as I
He replied not, but grasping my hand, he still prayed. After a brief interval he rose, and placing me on the rude bench, took a seat by my side. Tell me, unhappy one,' he said, "whither it is thy wish to wander.'
· Alas!' I replied, 'I am a poor doomed maiden; and something whispers me I am guilty too. Thou art, I think, some holy man, that, by a worship I have never known, hast won thyself a bright inheritance above. If so, look kindly on one who, if she has erred, has done so from ignorance, and not from waywardness of will. No mother tended me with fostering care, as I have since learned it is a mother's wont to do. Bred on a mountain, 'neath a father's eye, with books for compa
nions, and the bright stars alone for worship, many years passed ere I saw one of my own sex. I stand, even now, but on the threshold of the world; a babe in all save sorrow : yet am I doomed to go, alas ! I know not whither.'
• Thou need 'st not tell thy tale of wo to me, lone one ; alas ! I know it well. Sore art thou beset; but every evil has its attendant good. Even thou, mid thy dark doom, may have some gleams of sunshine. All our enjoyment is by comparison. In thy wanderings through the world, thou wilt find those to whose sufferings thy doom were mercy. Thou art yet free from crime. May 'st thou ever be so ; for oh! be assured, the torments of the damned are nought to an accusing conscience ! He covered his face with his hands, and wept.
He soon regained his composure; and looking out, See,' he said, “the rosy dawn of morning is tinging the eastern sky, and warns me that thy time with me is brief. For thee, maiden, the bark waits that must bear thee to another land. Fain would I accompany thee, and lighten the loneliness of thy way; but it may not be; I too have a des. tiny to fulfil : how much 't is mixed with thine hereafter, thou may 'st know. Take thou this,' he said, as he threw over my neck a small silver chain, to which was suspended a cross. • If the Evil One assail thee, rely upon thy guardian spirits and this cross. Cherish it with care. It is the anchor on which thou canst rest thy hope of bliss beyond the grave; 't is the magic key that opens Heaven's portal to repentant sin
More thy doom forbids me say, until in other lands we meet again. All is prepared for thy voyage.' He took from his bosom a casket: “Take thou this,' he continued ; ' 't is that for which men peril their souls, and make sweet peace a stranger to their pillow. 'Tis wealth! the world's great magnet. To win it, men pursue their fellow. men as hunters chase the panting roe; nor use it often wisely when 't is won. Of all this, yet thou knowest nothing. Away; fulfil thy destiny. But, e'er we part, hear me say this: Nigh to the throne of Grace an angel sits with open book, whose province 't is to write down every act of kindly love and charity. When, then, thou seest trembling age, with its too oft ill-matched attendant, want, or, when the shivering orphan, with tearful eye, holds forth its trembling hand for charity, deny not the boon; but give, give freely : so shall thou, when thy dark doom 's fulfilled, find on that book a bright array of Godly deeds to welcome thee to glory.'
Învoluntarily I sunk on my knees; I bent my head in mute adoration to the ground. When, after a short space,
I was alone : but I saw, as if in the mirror of my mind, the bark that was to bear me on my voyage. I no longer felt depressed. A gleam of happiness, I had hitherto not known, awoke in my heart new feelings. My spirit seemed light as the morning breeze that fanned my cheek. The gloom of the past gave way to the promise of the future.
With a feeling of delight I took my way to the ship. All was indeed prepared. Every thing gave promise that I was expected. The scene was new to me. Even my knowledge of the future could not draw from my mind the wonder of the present.
But when the vast expanse of ocean first met my view, my delight was boundless. The words of the
holy man came to my mind : `Even thou, mid thy dark doom, may have some gleams of sunshine. I felt the truth : the sunshine of the mind was mine. As I gazed upon the ocean, I almost envied the sea-birds, as they dipped their wings, in seeming wantonness, into the water. When, turning from thence, I cast my eyes around, and beheld nought but boundless sea and sky, I felt I was alone with God. Had a doubt of the soul's immortality ever crossed my mind, that moment would have banished it; for I felt that I was in the presence of Him “who holdeth the waters in the hollow of His hand.'
Our voyage was prosperous, and in due time my feet pressed a stranger soil. I felt no regret at having left my home mid the ruins. I strove to forget the past, and enjoy the present; yet I often gazed on the miniature of the stranger till tears dimmed my eye; and when, at times, my heart would swell with sorrow, that small silver cross would, as by magic, glide into my hand; and with it still came calmness. I felt, too, that for me good spirits were ever on the wing, obedient to my call; yet I had not sought their aid since I left my home. The fate that awaited others it was given me to know; and often did my words of warning cause the wondering passer-by to gaze on me with fear.
Wandering one calm summer's day on the margin of a beautiful river, not many miles distant from where I left the bark that bore me from my native land, the gentle murmur of the water, as it kissed its pebbled bed, and then sped swiftly on, as if to hide from my view beneath the branches that overhung the stream, had thrown me into a revery, from which I was roused by the appearance of a structure which seemed, like thought, to have been raised on the instant; for on that very spot, but a moment before, I had beheld a hazel grove, and at its edge a snow-white thorn, from which the thrush, in mellow notes, had poured its joyous song. The notes still lingered on my ear; yet that grove seemed now the interior of a chapel : I saw the altar ; a bridal train advanced
up the aisle. As I gazed in mute astonishment, I felt my hand gently touched ; and looking down, I beheld by my side what I at first thought a child, but on looking in his face, 1 perceived all the appearance of manhood. His hands and feet were small in proportion to his frame; his face was not unpleasant to look upon ; and there was a sparkle in his small gray eye, that spoke of mischief and of mirth.
Who art thou ?' I exclaimed, as I gazed with wonder on the dwarf, ish elf. He said, in a small sweet voice:
• I AM the Ben-Shie's dark, gray man,
That dwells in yonder glen;
O'er moorland, moss and fen.
Gilds grove and flowery lea,
To mortals lone like thee.'
I cast my eyes toward the chapel. It was no longer to be seen, There was the hazel grove as I first beheld it ; the thorn-tree, too, was there; and the thrush, from its branches, still poured forth its cheerful song. I turned to speak to my dwarfish friend : he, too, was gone,