« AnteriorContinuar »
LEGENDARY LORE. BY ARCHÆUS.
THE ONYX RING.
Part II. CHAPTER I.
Hastings was lying on some straw, Hastings could not catch much of the under a canopy of blankets and can conversation, but found that they were vass, with a gipsy man and two or disputing about him. Suddenly the three boys beside him, when he was gipsy took him by the hand and pulled roused by a rough voice exclaiming him towards the entrance, when the “ Come, my lad, if you want to see other said, “ Come in, then," and this job, you must be up and stirring." opened the door. The gipsy and He then remembered that before his Hastings followed him, and found lying down he had settled to accom. themselves in a low unfurnished room, pany some of the men of the party, with a candle on the floor. The man, who were in league with smugglers, who was tall and bulky, and dressed for the purpose of helping to land and as a farmer, looked at Hastings, and run a cargo, which, owing to the said, " Who are you?" Hastings shortness of the nights, was at this answered that he was nothing but a season a difficult undertaking. The wanderer for amusement, who had party consisted of four men besides known much of gipsies in his time, Hastings, and it was evident, from their and continued to make friends with tone and manner, that he had contri. all he met. The man looked at him ved to obtain their entire confidence, with a sharp but quiet eye, and said, They walked for two or three miles at « Well, I daresay you are honest, but a swift pace till they came out upon you are running in the way of mis. the further side of a high bank, from chief that does not concern you. Go which the dark line of the sea was up here—and make no disturbance." faintly visible between two cliffs. So saying he opened a small door Here they climbed up a steep ascent, at the foot of a narrow staircase, and covered with brushwood, at one side held the candle to light the way up. of the road, and remained still for ten Hastings saw that resistance would be minutes, till their leader whispered, useless, and walked up the stairs till “ Hush-all right,” and pointed out a he found himself in another small light down below them, apparently room, where there was hardly a trace from a cottage window. They then of light. crept along a path above the road for He heard the door locked at the a hundred yards, till they reached a bottom of the staircase. Feeling point where they again clambered about him, he found that there was no down upon the highway, and after furniture within his reach; and his crossing it moved on in a field towards next object of interest was the window. a stile, where they all passed into the Through this he saw the grey line of orchard of a farm-house, and found the sea and the mass of cliff on one there at least fifty other men assembled side, but could distinguish nothing for the same object. Hastings per- more. The waves were plainly to be ceived, by the sounds from a neigh, heard beating at regular intervals on bouring barn, that it was full of horses. the beach. He had not spent five There was a good deal of whispering minutes in the room when he heard a among the men, and they evidently whistle and then a swift trampling of expected at every moment to receive men and horses, and the whole throng the signal for rushing to the beach. seemed dashing downwards to the The gipsy leader felt his way, with his shore. Then came a pistol-shot, and followers, along the orchard hedge— then several, and then a roar of voices. for in the shadow of the trees it was The rush sounded as if returning pitch-dark-until they reached the nearer and nearer to the farm house. house, where he spoke to a man who Again some scattered shots were fired, stood leaning against the door-post. and now Hastings thought he distinguished the voice of an officer giving of a respectable house. They seated orders. Here the tumult approached him on the bricks at the door, with his close to him, and it flashed upon his back against the door-post, knocked mind that if the smugglers should violently to rouse the inmates, and retreat, and he be found in their head. then all ran off. quarters, his position as a gentleman Their alarum succeeded, and in a and a naval officer would be very dis- few minutes a servant came to the agreeable. He, therefore, forced open door and opened it, accompanied by the window, leapt out at a venture, her master, wrapped only in a dressa and fell among a crowd of people, ing-gown. When he saw a man lying spraining his leg so violently as to at the door in the weak light of dawn, give him severe pain. There were he enquired who he was, and what was many voices loud around him, and the matter. Hastings told his name, clamour and curses expressed the as. and said that he was a friend of Sir tonishment that his fall had occasioned. Charles Harcourt, had met with an But he had sufficient presence of mind accident, and was in so much pain he to ask for help in the gipsy speech, would beg to be taken into the house, and the consequence was, that one of and to be allowed to reserve his story his former companions recognised him, for another time. and called another to his assistance. The gentleman said that his name Between them they lifted Hastings was Musgrave, and that he was the up, and carried him off at full speed clergyman of the parish, and promised through the retreating hurly-burly. to do all in his power to relieve the The king's men still hung upon their sufferings of the stranger. He helped rear, and prevented them from relax. to carry him in and lay him on a bed, ing in their pace. But most of the and, on hearing of the injury to the loaded horses had gone on before, and limb, sent for the nearest surgeon. the remainder now dispersed in differ- He, on his arrival, pronounced that the ent directions as the roads opened on recovery was likely to require several either hand. Still a body of more days, during which the patient must than a dozen men held together about remain where he then was. He also Hastings, and twice his bearers were ordered the proper applications. After relieved. The pain now became so he was gone, Mr Musgrave earnestly sharp that he begged they would leave assured his new guest that he was him at the first house. Two or three most happy to have an opportunity of of the leaders consulted for a moment, assisting any human being in distress, and then they all went on again in and tbat he need be under no uneasi. silence for a quarter of an hour. It ness as to remaining there so long as was now twilight, and Hastings could it should be convenient to him. Hastsee that they stopped at a small gate, ings was now a little more at ease, and which they opened, and followed a could thank him for his kindness, short brick-paved path up to the door which he gladly accepted.
CHAPTER II. Mr Musgrave was an unmarried Hastings felt himself, he knew not clergyman, whose whole look and why, rebuked in the presence of Musmanner bore the impress of devotion. grave, although the clergyman spoke Delicacy, purity, gentleness, fervour, to him but little, and that with the were combined in his countenance with most courteous and even friendly gooda shade of pensive melancholy. A thin will. But, while the traveller felt that ascetic-looking face, a high narrow his host had no sympathy with his forehead, a slight and bending figure, pursuits or character, he perceived in and a demeanour of the most careful him an elevation and self-denial which politeness ; over these was thrown an made it impossible to regard him as air of abstraction, which kept him an inferior, insensible to some higher apart from intimacy with any circle of kind of excellence. He did not atsociety. The Bible was the world he tempt to speak on religious, or, as lived in, and from it he looked out Hastings would have termed it, prointo the actual world as we look from fessional topics. But it was obvious the earth into the dim atmosphere, or that nothing local and temporary infrom an island over the sea.
terested him strongly, and yet that his mind was most fully strained by The dreaming and monkish oddity perpetual thoughts of momentous im- of these thoughts struck him as quite portance.
unlike any thing he had known among It was, of course, by his care that, intelligent men, and led his thoughts on a small table beside the bed, there away to the Parsees and Santons of was a Bible laid. When, some hours the East, and to one or two strange old after the arrival of Hastings, he came fragments of Christian hymns which to pay his guest a visit, he laid another he had heard under picturesque and volume beside the Scriptures, which, impressive circumstances in Spain and on subsequent examination, appeared at Jerusalem. Something unusual, he to be a Prayer-book; and after he was knew not what, seemed clinging to him, gone, a servant, who came in with and he felt half relieved, half intersome refreshments, added a third book, rupted by the entrance of Sir Charles which the patient found to be a volume Harcourt, to whom Musgrave had of hymns. In weariness and listless. sent tidings of the traveller's condiness he took up this and opened it at tion. He had now to shape his story the following verses, which he read as plausibly as he could, in order to through, and which seemed to him so avoid unnecessary ridicule from his strange that he then went through friends. A midnight ramble with the them a second time. But the impres. gipsies he could not but acknowledge, sion which they made on him was that and his reputation for hare-brained of a perplexing and enticing riddle, adventure was well enough established rather than of any definite meaning to make any thing of the kind credible. which he could fully grasp.
Sir Charles promised to send him books, and to come to see him. But
Hastings could not help fancying that, “ See, through nature's blackest night, under an exterior of the most amicable Shines a more than sunny light!
politeness, his friend was inwardly God, a man by human birth,
laughing at him. He felt pleased at Comes to die for man on earth.
his departure, and said to himself, 2.
“ With all his taste and fashion, he is
but a poor ladylike creature.” “ Shouts of joy and songs of love O'er the captive sound above ;
In the afternoon Musgrave came Forth from evil's hopeless prison,
again to see him. The hymn, and the Man is raised, for Christ has risen.
fancies it had suggested, were seething in his brain, and he felt a little stronger
interest than before in the clergyman “ Mount, then, up, my soul, to God, who sat beside his bed and asked if Soar from off this earthly sod;
he could render him any service. Mount to God beyond the skies,
Hastings thanked him, and said, “ No." Christ is risen, and bids thee rise.
He then closed his eyes, and added, 4.
“ It seems to me very strange that I “ Fly this dreary stormy shore;
should be here now, with you sitting Rise where Christ is gone before ; by me. The last time I was laid up Fear not God himself to see,
it was by a wound received in a lion. Christ, his image, lives in thee.
hunt among the Caffres. I was con5.
fined for three weeks in one of their “ Face to face, O Father, now
huts, and attended by a copper-colour
ed girl, who had never seen another Frowns no more thy starry brow; Why should we our Maker shun,
European. She sang to me the songs Now thy life and ours are one ?
of her tribe in a low droning voice, and told me stories of their chases
after the cameleopard and the rhino“ Men may dare thy light to scan; ceros. She spoke of their charms By thee sits the Son of Man :
against snake-bites and poisoned arMen may soar to highest Heaven,
rows, and of the powers of their AmaGod as man to earth is given.
kiras or witch-doctors. Then she 7.
brought me drink in a calabash, and « Thou to us in Christ art come,
morsels of broiled antelope, and fanned Come to call thy children home;
me with a fan of leaves. Even now, Thou in him hast left the skies,
when I shut my eyes, I can bardly But that we in him may rise."
help fancying that I am a stranger in
that African village, and when I hear " No doubt. But while in this state a step at a distance, I have before me of existence I take the best that it can for a moment the image of that poor supply, and that is movement, change, savage girl, though few European exertion, enjoyment." footsteps are as light as hers." Mus- « If we have not something of hea. grave seemed interested, and asked ven even here, I fear we can hope for him about his travels, which Hastings but little of it hereafter. Peace and spoke of with eagerness and vivacity life are not at war with each other, While he talked it seemed as if the but each in the highest sense requires round green world were spinning un. and includes the other. Perhaps this der him, while he occupied some starry is a kind of truth of which in all your post, and looking down described each travels you have not experienced the country at the moment that the real reality." map revolved beneath his eye. Cities, " Certainly I have never managed nations, landscapes, races of animals, to be asleep and awake at the same seas of islands, fleets, caravans, and time." adventures, arose, and shifted, and “ Well, if I took your own illustrapassed away like dreams.
tion, I should say that the true peace When he paused, Musgrave looked of the spirit of man is not to be found upward and then at him, and said in when it is the slave of its dreams, but a subdued voice, “ In any of your when it is the lord of its thoughts. travels, Mr Hastings, did you ever And this is also the state in which it find peace of mind ?".
is most conscious of enjoying the He was silent for a minute, and deepest and fullest life. But I will then replied, “No, I never sought it; not trouble you with disputing. I I should not know what to do with it if only wish you would believe that there I had it. But I found ever-varying, is one region of human existence in never-ceasing excitement, and I sup- which you have not yet sufficiently pose that is as much as earth can fur. travelled, and which is not the mean. nish.”
est or poorest." As much indeed,” said Musgrave. Neither desired to continue the con66 For peace we must look elsewhere,” versation, and Musgrave soon again
“ To heaven?" asked the other.- left Hastings to himself.
That strange hymn continued to so unlike his usual life, he became at float round the pillow, and the image last thoroughly impatient. One day of the clergyman perpetually returned he gave vent to this feeling, in words to him. The traveller felt, that in of something like displeasure, while Musgrave's deep and fervent sincerity speaking to Musgrave. The clergy. of devotion, there was a kind of power man's pale cheek coloured slightly, by which he had never before been and, as was his fashion, he paused for influenced. So, in bodily suffering, a moment before he spoke. He then in mental disturbance, and in discon- said to Hastings that he feared his tent at his own inaction, his life went society was burthensome, and begged on from day to day. Sir Charles Har- his pardon if it were so, but assured court sent him the books he had pro. him that he had been in the habit of mised, which were new and fashion- visiting him only in hopes of being able novels, and took no hold of his in some way useful or agreeable. The mind. Musgrave passed with him an patient felt much ashamed at his own hour or two daily, and he never could folly, entreated forgiveness, earnestly shake off the impression made by his thanked Musgrave for all his kind. manner and language. When he ness, and begged him to continue his found this image wearisome, he could visits as often as might be convenient not rid himself of it as he had been to him. Indeed, he added, his host's used to do when any thing annoyed company sometimes gave him a kind him, by shooting out into action, for of strange obscure pleasure, such as he was confined by his injured limb he had never but once before experi, to the room he had been first placed enced. in. Vexed and fretted at a stillness « Nine years ago," he said, “I was travelling in Armenia, and the night I should not believe in its existence. fell while I was examining some noble Farewell. Remember the measure of ruins on the banks of the Araxes, with the divine song thou hast but now the peak of Ararat in view before me. heard ; and remember me.' I secured my horse in a pook of the “ He turned away, and in a modecayed and shattered buildings, and ment was hidden by a massive pier. lay down beside him for the night, The feeling that his presence gave me when I heard at a great distance the I have never since experienced till I sound of men's voices singing a hymn, met with you." which, to my present recollection, had Musgrave seemed much surprised much the rhythm and tone of one that and confused at this remark, but they struck me in your hymn-book. The parted for the night in very friendly singers were, doubtless, monks engag- terms. It was now the close of the ed in their evening devotions. I rose week which Hastings had spent in a and went a few paces in the direction bodily inactivity hardly ever known of the sound to listen, when I saw a to him before. That evening he figure moving among the ruins, as if spent, hour after hour, in reviewing coming towards me, from the river. the innumerable images of the past, As he drew nearer, leaning on his which floated before him, and somestaff, I saw by the moonlight that he times in forming plans for the future. much resembled pictures I have met At last it was deep night, and he with of Saint Joseph, the husband of heard the clock of the neighbouring Mary. When close at hand, he look- church strike twelve. The last stroke ed at me intently, and I felt that I had had scarcely trembled away over the never seen so venerable a being. He churchyard when he recollected the then addressed me in the Armenian destiny to which he was subject, and tongue, of which I had learnt some saw standing before him, in the brightthing from the Mekhitaristes of San ness of reality, the different beings in Lazaro at Venice, and he said, “My whose lot he had so lately sharedson, thou seekest many things on Edmonstone - Harcourt - Wilsonearth ; but the one thing which thou and, lastly, Hastings. As in none of needest thou seekest not; else wouldst these had he been perfectly happy, and thou find it with less journeying.' as little in his last character as in any
"" And what,' I said, " Father, is of the former ones, he remembered, that ?'
at the same time, that the power of 66 Peace.'
the ring was not ended, and with little 6Hast thou then found it?' hesitation he breathed upon it, and «•If I knew it not, then, like others, named the name of Musgrave.
Musgrave went through the duties and wiser man, with a true and warm, of his station with an exemplary zeal but ennobled human heart, than as a and devotion. But his heart was in seraphic phantom breathing always his solitude, where in private study, some celestial air, and having, instead meditation, and prayer, he cherished of life-blood, an immaterial spirit. the mild and musing temper of an He performed, however, his Sunday eremite. The world that he outward duties with meek and graceful fer. ly lived in lay at a distance from his vour, and the worst and most embru. apprehension; nor was he ever truly ted of those who heard him at least at ease and joyous but when he felt carried away the impression that he himself in an imaginary heaven con. was a sincerely good and godly man. versing only with visionary beings The next day, as indeed almost every and the transfigured personages of day, he spent some hours in visitsacred story, or lost in the flaming ing different members of his flock. beatitude of prayer and praise. He The cottages of the poor opened was respected, and even beloved by very various prospects of human life, his parishioners, but as a creature of which, as such merely, had to him but another race, a chance visitor to them little meaning. In all the best, as from a different state of existence. much as in the worst, he saw only ilThey thought of him less as a better lustrations of the futility of all human