Page images


An un

what weather! The fire in purgatory would not be too much this

And truly the north wind was making its sharp influence felt. The
Aames blazed more brightly on the hearth, and the thermometer had
fallen to zero in this large room.

“What a night!” continued the Raven. Verily, they must all be
quaking with fear down stairs ; the servants will dream that they see
ghosts, and to-morrow stories about them will be invented everywhere.
You are not afraid, Gabrielle ?"
No, Suzanne,” she answered, in a sad and calm voice.

They remained a long time without exchanging a word; the one was
absorbed in her own sorrowful reflections, the other muttered her Pater-
noster while stirring the fire. By degrees the noises in the street
ceased; as deep a silence reigned outside as in the chamber of the dead.
Nothing was to be heard but the voices of the watchmen, who cried the
hour and knocked the pavement with their iron staves.

The old woman had fallen asleep. Gabrielle drew near to her, with a slight shudder; it now seemed to her that she was alone, and her fears returned. conquerable uneasiness took possession of her ; her heart seemed to grow chill, and her forehead was covered with a cold perspiration. She hid her face against the mantelpiece, that she might see nothing. Then her imagination peopled the chamber with phantoms: she fancied she felt their cold breaths on her shoulders. This miserable state did not last many minutes. Gabrielle passed her two hands over her eyes, as if to dispel these horrible visions, and, turning hastily, she glanced round the room. Everything which belonged to the deceased was still lying about in confusion : his watch, hanging at the head of the bed, was still going ; his sword was on an arm-chair with his hat, and his knee-buckles shone on the chest of drawers. According to custom, the looking-glasses had been covered, in order that the dead figure might not be reflected. The waxcandles burned slowly around the bed, and cast a pale light on everything, more gloomy than darkness itself

. Gabrielle examined with a steady eye that pallid face, and for the second time her fears disappeared. She now only felt a melancholy pity, and she wept. He whom death had just taken was young, and his features had lost nothing of their manly beauty. His mouth appeared half opened by a slight smile; the shade of his long eyelashes seemed to conceal a look; one would have said that he was sleeping, so much repose and serenity were there on his forehead.

To die—to die so young ! is it possible?” thought Gabrielle. “Why did the soul leave that body? Suppose he were only asleep! Sleep resembles death! Oh, God! Thy almighty power could awake him! Thy breath is only wanting to raise him! And yet to-morrow he will be lowered into the grave: he will disappear for ever from this world! To-morrow he will be laid in the earth, under the feet of the living ! Oh, God! my God! how fearful is death!”

The young girl, immovable and pale as he whose premature end she deplored, no longer turned her looks aside from the funeral bed; silent tears Aowed down her cheeks; she was as if lost in the contemplation of this dismal scene. But the power of religion soon awakened in her; her thoughts revolved towards another world; she considered that the soul


was not dead like the body, and that he for whom she prayed looked down with gratitude upon her. A lively faith and sudden hope revived in her. She fancied that beyond this world she saw him under a human form, full of strength and youth for eternity. She raised her eyes to heaven, as if it would open before her and disclose to her the end of the mystery, the beginning of which she saw here below.

Just then the watchman passed, and his monotonous voice repeated under the windows: " It is midnight!" Gabrielle glanced again towards the bed, and screamed, while suddenly springing back:

“Oh, God! the corpse has moved !" Suzanne woke up with a start. " What is it? what is the matter with you ? Good Heavens! what

?" Gabrielle, with a fixed gaze and trembling lips, pointed to the bed with her finger, while she repeated : “ The corpse

has moved !"

ails you


Calm is the hour as man at Thebes or Memphis
Sepulchred for three thousand parted years
In an unrifled tomb, for here all life
Is hush'd in like repose, dead without death.
The streets deep shadowed, and the waning night
Solicit meditation. Man is not
Save in the ideal of his daily round,
And repetition of life-wearying cares.
Grateful beneath this fane to stand awhile,
And mark the silvery light that the bright beams
Slant from the rising east, the heavens unclouded,
Pour in rich floods along the storied windows
Athwart dim aisles, o'er mouldering monuments
Recording vainly names that lived in vain
’Mid fashion's tawdry circle, bones forgotten,
That with the subterranean Zeus moulder.
Fane of the piety of other times,
Still in thy manhood ʼmid a world of

And wrecks of Roman ruin once renowned,
How beautiful thou art at this lone hour,
Child of the unremembered generations !
Silent thou speakest, for the eye can compass
What nature's hieroglyphics tell the vision
Of things that ear could never comprehend,
The hoary Mentor of a perish'd age
Bending o'er generations of the dead
Thy venerable arches; hands long dust
Turned them, and left no name to swell the deed,
Or tell their tale, no, not a furrowed face,
One record of the buried yesterday,
Its friends and enemies and names of worth!
Alone thine aspect, venerable shrine,
Exacts poetic worship, for high thought

By thee is kindled, and the waves of time
Come rolling in their mute unreckoned years,
And on their foam wars, spoils, and triumphings
Of men and nations, and the past world's clangour.
Seasons, days, moons bright as the crescent now
That frets with silver, buttress, arch, and turret,
Have pass'd and left thee beautiful in age,
But sad in beauty, as a vestal maid
Leading a sacrificial offering forth,
Just garlanded, to die a spotless vietim.
Once did the organ's note in strain sublime
Make tremble all thy columns, when at night
The Dies Iræ solemnly was chanted,
And like an exhalation rose the prayer,
The supplication to the Omnipotent,
For awful mercy and the hope of heaven.
How lovely fair appear the sheeted lines
Of molten silver through thy airy windows
Streaming aloft, while underneath the shadows
Deepen in contrast with the living light,
As if an unseen charm had made it glow,
Or eastern magic taught in Bagdad's clime.
The matin hour now peals with strong vibrations
Of wall, and roof, and monumental tablet,
High over those who ne'er shall bear it more,
No, never more.

While earth its circuit runs,
Dust heaps on dust. The young, mature,
The aged, commingle all. Who the grief can gauge
Of perished generations o'er the perished
That lived, and mourned, and died before themselves,
Up to the birth of time, as we mourn ours !
Distant and long the day in Hebrew lore
When saddened man first gathered up death's prey,
Seeking with pious care to give it shelter
From beast and tempest, when he reared a tomb
For a brief record of the soul departed,
Graving the name that told-alas, how vain !
His expectation that the piety
Duty bestowed on dust and desolation
Would save some fragment from enduring time.
The act was pious, and in early days
Men made their oath by a forefather's ashes,
A faith still trusting to a fond remembrance,
A strong affection born in human hearts,
Ending, as all of earth, in disappointment.
How the chimes break on the repose of night,
Like mortal hopes to die in blank illusion;
The sad and mellow tones prolonged by echo
Now seem unearthly, now like angel notes
Proclaiming peace, they steep the soul in rapture,
Soft, silent, opening again, until the air
Becomes inebriate with harmony,
Wooing it like a melancholy lover.
So delicate the heavenly tones respire,
As if they feared to wake the mouldering dead.
But the morn lightens into garish day-
Memento of dead ages, fare thee well!




[ocr errors]






In the first spring-time of the year, Holy Mother Veronica sat in her pleasant little chamber, which was panelled with maple wood, and filled with early flowers, and delicate carvings, and the soft-hued heads of saints, and had as little of conventual gloom as though it had been a boudoir in a château rather than an Abbess's soi-disant " cell” in Monastica; for they are no ascetics, but enjoy life in their way, those innocent, child-like, sunny-natured nuns of Moldavian Monastica.

Mother Veronica sat deep in thought, the sun upon her silvered hair, primroses and an antique vellum “ Horæ” lying together in her lap—the fresh gifts of Nature with the worn manual of Superstition-venerable and happy in her serene old age. The primroses were untouched, the missal lay unread, Mother Veronica was looking out at the blue mountain line, and thinking of the stranger to whom she had felt almost that mother's tenderness which her life had not known, though in her eyes he was godless and a lost soul, a grand Pagan whom it was hopeless to save ; thinking wistfully, for she believed that on earth she would never see him again. Suddenly she heard in the convent aisle without, the iron ring of a tread more like that of the Knights Templar, who had once held Monastica, than like the subdued, slow step of her order ;-Mother Veronica started and listened ; could it be that the Virgin had heard her prayers, and allowed her to see the heathen who was, perchance, so wrongly dear to her? She hardly hoped it; yet she listened with longing anxiety. It was very sinful to so wish to behold the mere mortal life of a heretic !

But that he was such an infidel, Mother Veronica wholly forgot when the door unclosed, and a sister ushered in Erceldoune. She could have wept with her thanksgiving !

“Ah, my son, the blessing of Heaven rest on you !" cried the Abbess, stretching out her hands to Erceldoune with fervent welcome. “I never thought to see you here again. It is good—very good—to have remembered us, and come back from your great world to Monastica !"

"Far from it, madam," answered Erceldoune, bending lower to the simple, venerable woman than he had ever bent to the proud patrician coquettes of Liramar. “It would be sorely ungrateful if I could enter Moldavia without seeing those to whom I owe it that I am not now rotting in its pine-woods."

And you are recovered-entirely ?”

[ocr errors]


"Entirely. My strength is wholly returned.”

Her hands still holding his, Mother Veronica drew him nearer to the light, looking upward at him with as much pride and tenderness as though he had been her son by blood instead of by the mere title of the Church; then a sudden remembrance lightened her aged face and sunken eyes with all the innocent eagerness of a life which lives in solitude, where each chance trifle is a rare and wondrous event. “Ah! my son—I forgot-I have so much to tell

you. the woman of your picture !"

6 You have! And she- .?"
The blood Aushed the dark bronze of Erceldoune's face; his

eyes flashed, his voice was rapid and impetuous.

“She saved your life, -yes; but it is all so strange! Listen-I will

I have seen

tell you

“Do, for God's sake! And she?!!

“Oh, my son, do not take a holy name in vain for a woman's perishable beauty!” said Mother Veronica, with plaintive reproof, while Erceldoune crushed his heel into the maple-wood floor in a sore effort to contain his soul in patience. “ It was about a month ago that at a Salutation to the Virgin, to which, you know, strangers come sometimes from Piatra, even sometimes as far as from Ronan and Jassy, I lifted my eyes during the service-I cannot tell how I came to do so wicked a thingand I saw-ah! I thought I should have fainted!—in the shadow of another aisle, living before me, the glorious beauty that you painted in our altar-piece! I never sinned so deeply in my life before, but, though I never raised my eyes again, I thought of nothing but her all through the mass. If she tempted me so, how must she have tempted the souls of men! She is more lovely even than your portrait

“But her name—her country ?” broke in Erceldoune, impatiently. “Why have withheld from me that she"

“ My son, I will tell all I know if you do not hasten me!" pleaded Mother Veronica, while Erceldoune leaned against the casement, with his arms folded and his head bent down to hear, silently and without a sign, for-he knew that he betrayed himself. “When the Salutation was over, Sister Eunice came and told me that a lady sought to see me; I bade her bring her here, and it was here I saw her—the woman of your picture, with those deep marvellous eyes, and that hair which is like light. Ah! how wicked it is that a mere earthly beauty of form can touch us and win us as can never all the spiritual beauty of the saints ! One sees at once that she is of noble rank, and young, but she is a woman of the world. She apologised to me with a proud grace, that the base-born never can have, my son (though we ought to believe that the Father has made all equal), and said she came to ask of a stranger who had been succoured by us in the autumn, and been cured of dangerous wounds; had he suffered much—had he been wholly restored ? Then I knew that what we had deemed your delirium had been the truth, and that this was she who had saved you ; but I said nothing of that, only answered her fully of your illness and of your cure, and then added to her, as it were carelessly, that in your convalescence you had painted an altar-piece for Monastica—would she like to see it? She assented-she has a voice as low and rich as music and I led her to

« EelmineJätka »