Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic]

fainted at the sound, which, pausing for some time, again swelled upon the wind, and at last died away in shrill melancholy shrieks; again all was silent, and again the same fearful noise struck terror to his soul. Whilst his mind was thus agitated with horror and apprehension, a dim light streaming from behind, accompanied with a soft, quick, and hollow tread, convinced Sir Gawen that something was pursuing him, and struck with wildering fear, he rushed unconscious down the steps; the vault received him, and it's portals swinging to their close, sounded as the sentence of death. A dun fætid smoke filled the place, in the centre of which arose a faint and bickering flame. Sir Gawen approached, and beheld a corpse suspended over it by the neck; it's fat dropped, and the flame, flashing through the vault, gleamed on a throng of hideous and ghastly features, that now came forward through the smoke. Sir Gawen, with ihe desperate valour of a man, who sees destruction before him, ran furious forward; an universal shriek burst forth ; the corpse dropped into the fire, which,rising with tenfeld brilliance, placed full in view the dreadful form of his infernal guide, dilated into horror itself; her face was pale as death, her eyes were wide open, dead, and fixed; a horrible grin sat lipon her features ; her lips, black and half putrid, were drawn back, disclosing a set of large blue teeth ; and her hair, standing stifly erect, was of a withered red. Sir Gawen felt his blood freeze within him, his limbs forgot to move; the face, enlarging as it came, drew near, and swooning, he fell forward on the ground. Slow passed the vital fluid through the bosom of Sir Gawen, scarcely did the heart vibrate to it's impulse ; on his pallid forehead sat a chilly sweat, and frequent spasms shook his limbs : but, at length, returning warmth gave some vigour to his frame; the energy of life became more diflused ; a soothing languor stole upon him; and, on opening his eyes, rushed neither the images of death nor the rites of witchcrait; but the soft, the sweet, and tranquil scenery of a summer's moonlight night. Enraptured with this sudden and unexpected change, Sir Gawen rose gently from off the ground; over his head towered a large and majestic oak, at whose foot, by some kind and compassionate being, he concluded he had been laid. Delight and gratitude dilated his heart, and advancing from beneath the tree, whose gigantic branches spread a large extent of shade, a vale, beautitul and romantic, through which ran a clear and deep stream, came full in view : he walked to the edge of the water, the moon shone with mellow lustre on it's surface, and it's banks, fringed with shrubs, breathed a perfume more delicate than the odours of the East. On one side, the ground, covered with a vivid, soft, and downy verdure, stretched for a considerable extent to the borders of a large forest, which, sweeping round, finally closed up the valley ; on the other, it was broken into abrupt and rocky masses swarded with moss, and from whose clefts

grew thick and spreading trees, the roots of which, washed by many a fall of water, hung bare and matted from their craggy beds.

Sir Gawen forgot, in this delicious vale, all his former sufferings, and giving up his mind to the pleasing influence of curiosity and wonder, he determined to explore the place by tracing the windings of the stream. Scarcely had he entered upon this plain, when music of the most ravishing sweetness filled the air; sometimes it seemed to float along the valley, sometimes it stole along the surface of the water; now it died away anong the woods, and now, with deep and mellow symphony, it swelled upon the gale. Fixed in astonishment, Sir Gawen scarcely ventured to breathe; every sense, save that of hearing, seemed

absorbed; and when the last faint warblings melted on his ear, he started from the spot, solicitous to know from what being those more than human strains had parted; but nothing appeared in view; the moon, full and unclouded, shone with unusual lustre, the white rocks glitter in her beam; and, filled with hope, he again pursued the wind ings of the water, which, conducting him to the narrowest part of the valley, continued their course through the wood. Sir Gawen entered by a path smooth, but narrow and perplexed, where, although it's branches were so numerous that no preference could be given, or any direct route long persisted in, yet every turn presented something to amuse, something to sharpen the edge of research. The beauty of the trees, through whose interstices the inoon gleamed in the inost picturesque manner, the glimpses of the water, and the notes of the nightingale, who now began to fill the valley with her song, were more than sufficient to take off the sense of fatigue, and he wandered on, still eager to explore, still panting for further discovery. The wood now became more thick and obscure, and at length almost dark, when the path taking suddenly an oblique direction, Sir Gawen found hiniself on the edge of a circular lawn, whose tint and softuess were beyond compare, and which seemed to have been lightly brushed by fairy feet. A number of fine old trees, around whose boles crept the ivy and the woodbine, rose at irregular distances; bere they iningled into groves, and there, separate and emulous of each other, they shook their airy summits in disdain. The water which had been for some time concealed, bow murmured through a thousand beds, and visiting each little flower, added vigour to it's vegetation and poignancy to it's fragrance. Along the edges of the wood and beneath the shadows of the trees, an innumerablc host of glow-worms lighted their innocuous fires, lustrous as

of Golconda ; and Sir Gawen, desirous yet longer to enjoy the scene, went forward with light footsteps on the lawn: all was calm, and except the breeze of night, that sighed soft and sweetly through the world of leaves, à perfect silence prevailed. Not many minutes, however, had elapsed, before the same enchanting music, to which he had listened with so much rapture in the vale, again arrested his ear, and presently he discovered on the border of the lawn, just rising above the wood, and floating on the bosom of the air, a being of the most delicate form : from his shoulders streamed a tunic of the tenderest blue, his wings and feet were clothed in downy silver, and in his grasp le had a wand, white as the mountain snow. He rose swiftly in the air, his brilliance became excessive from the lunar rays, his song

echoed through the vault of night, but having quickly diminished to the size and appearance of the evening star, it died away, and the next moment he was lost in ether. Sir Gawen still fixed his eye on that part of the Heavens where the vision had disappeared, and shortly had the pleasure of again seeing the star-like radiance, which in an instant unfolded itself into the full and fine dimensions of the beauteous being, who, haying collected dew from the cold vales of Saturn, now descended rapidly towards the earth, and waving his wand as he passed athwart the clouds, a number of like forn and garb flew around him, and all alighting on the lawn, separated at equal distances on it's circumference, and then shaking their wings, which spread a perfume through the air, burst into one general song. Sir Gawen, who, apprehensive of being discovered, had retreated withiu the shadow of some mossy oaks, now waited with

the gems

eager expectation the event of so singular a scene. In a few moments a bevy of elegant nymphs, dancing two by two, issued from the wood on the right, and an equal number of warlike knights, accompanied by a band of minstrels, from that of the left. The knights were clothed in green; on their bosoms shone a plate of burnished steel, and in their hands they grasped a golden targe and lance of beamy lustre. The nymphs, whose form and symmetry were beyond whatever poets dream, were dressed in robes of white, their zones were azure dropt with diamonds, and their light brown hair, decked with roses, hung in ample ringlets. So quick, so light, and airy was their motion, that the turf, the flowers, shrunk not to their gentle pressure; and each, smiling on her favourite knight, he flung his brilliant arms aside and mingled in the dance.

Whilst they thus flew in rapid measures o'er the lawn, Sir Gawen, forgeting his situation, and impatient to salute the assembly, involuntarily stept forward, and instantaneously a shrill and hollow gust of wind murinured through the woods, the moon dipt into a cloud, and the knights, the dames, and aërial spirits, vanished from the view, leaving the amazed Sir Gawen to repent at leisure of his precipitate intrusion; scarcely, however, had he time to determine what plan he should pursue, when a gleam of light flashed suddenly along the horizon, and the beauteous being whom he first beheld in the air, stood before him; he waved his snowy wand, and pointing to the wood, which now appeared sparkling with a thousand firès, moved gently on. Sir Gawen felt an irresistible impulse which compelled him to follow, and having penetrated the wood, he perceived many bright rays of light, which, darting like the beams of the sun through every part it, most beautifully illumined the shafts of the trees. As they advanced forwards, the ra. diance became more intense and converged towards a centre; and the fairy being, turning quickly round, commanded Sir Gawen to kneel down, and having squeezed the juice of an herb into his eyes, bade him now proceed; but that no niortal eye, unless it's powers of vision were increased, could endure the glory that would shortly burst upon them. Scarcely had he uttered these words, when they entered an amphitheatre ; in it's centre was a throne of ivory inlaid with sapphires, on which sat a female form of exquisite beauty, a plain coronet of gold obliquely crossed her flowing hair, and her robe of white satin tiung negligent in ample folds. Around her stood five and twenty nymphs clothed in white and gold, and holding lighted tapers; beyond these were fifty of the aërial beings, their wings of downy silver stretched for flights and each a burning taper in his hand; and lastly, on the circumference of the amphitheatre shone one hundred knights in mail of tempered steel; in one hand they shook aloft a targe of massy diamond, and in the other flashed a taper. So excessive was the reflection, that the taxges had the lustre of an hundred suns, and, when shaken, sent forth streams of vivid lightning; from the gold, the silver, and the sapphires rushed a flood of tinted light, that, mingling, threw upon the eye a series of revolving hues. Sir Gawen, impressed with awe, with wonder, and delight, fell prostrate on the ground, whilst the fairy spirit advancing, knelt, and presented to the queen a chrystal vase. She rose, she waved her hand, and smiling, bade Sir Gawen, to approach. Gentle stranger,' shc exclaimed, ' let not fear appal thine heart, for to him whom courage, truth, and piety have distinguished, our friendship and our love is given. Spirits of the blest we are, our sweet employment to befriend the wretched and the weary, to lull the torture of anguish, and the horror of despair. Ah! never shall the tear of innocence, or the plaint of sorrow; the pang of injured merit, or the sigh of hopeless love, implore our aid in vain. Upon the moon-beam do we float, and, light as air, pervade the habitations of men: and hearken, () favoured mortal! I tell thee, spirits pure from vice, are present to thy inmost thoughts; when terror and when madness, when spectres and when death surrounded thee, our influence put to flight the ministers of darkness; we placed thee in the moonlight vale, and now, upon thy head I pour the planetary dew; from Hecate's dread agents it will free thee, from wildering fear and gloomy superstition.' She ended, and Sir Gawen, impatient to express his gratitude, was about to speak, when suddenly the light turned pale and died away, the spirits fled, and music, soft and sweet; was heard remotely in the air. Sir Gawen started, and in place of the refulgent scene of magic, he beheld a public road, his horse cropping the grass which grew upon it's edge, and a village at a little distance, on whose spire the rising sun had shed his earliest beams.

DIFFERENCE AND AGREEMENT.

BY MRS. BARBAULD.

T was Sunday morning. All the bells were ringing for church, and the

. Here numbers of well-dressed persons, and a long train of charity children, were thronging in at the wide doors of a large, handsome church. There a smaller number, almost equally gay in dress, were entering an elegant meeting-house. Up, one alley, a Roman Catholic congregation was turning into their retired chapel, every one crossing himself with a finger dipt in holy-water as he went in. The opposite side of the street was covered with a train of Quakers, distinguished by their plain and neat attire, and sedate aspect, who walked without ceremony into a room as plain as themselves, and took their seats, the men on one side and the woinen on the other, in silence. A spacious building was filled with an overflowing crowd of Methodists, decent and serious in demeanour; while a small society of Baptists in the neighbourhood quietly occupied their humble place of assembly.

Presently the different services began. The churches resounded with the solemn organ, and with the indistinct murmurs of a large body of people, following the minister in responsive prayers. From the meetings were heard the

slow psalm and the single voice of the leader of their devotions. The Roman Catholic chapel was enlivened by strains of music, the tinkling of a small bell, and a perpetual change of service and ceremonial. A profourd silence and unvarying look and posture, announced the self-recollection and mental devotion of the Quakers.

« EelmineJätka »