Page images

Disraeli had made several efforts to enter Parliament. He was now successful as a representative of the borough of Maidstone. His first speech in the House of Commons was received with shouts of laughter. The clamor compelled him to sit down; but before he did so, he said: "I have begun several times many things, and have succeeded at last. I will sit down now, but the time will come when you will hear me." A tragedy, Alcaros (1839), was his next literary effort. In this year he married the wealthy widow of Mr. Wyndham Lewis. Coningsby (1844), and Sibyl, or the Two Nations (1845), two semi-political novels, are intended to portray the public men of the time, and the English people during the Chartist agitation. Tancred, or the New Crusade (1847), takes its hero to the Holy Land, relates his adventures and records his soliloquies and conversations. Disraeli was now recognized as a leader in the House of Commons. His reputation as a speaker was established by his attacks on the free-trade policy of Sir Robert Peel. He was immersed in politics. His only literary productions for many years were the Life of Isaac Disraeli (1849), and Lord George Bentinck; a Political Biography (1862). In 1852 he was made Chancellor of the Exchequer, which office he again held in 1858 and in 1865. He was the chief supporter of the Reform Bill of 1867, extending suffrage to the rural population. In 1868 he became Prime Minister, and was offered a peerage. This he declined for himself, but accepted for his wife, who was made Viscountess of Beaconsfield. He now reappeared as a novelist, in

Lothair (1870), which had an enormous circulation. In 1874 he again became Prime Minister, and in 1877 took his seat in the House of Lords, as Earl of Beaconsfield. Another novel, Endymion, published in 1880, was his last literary work.


In this wise they proceeded for a few minutes, until they entered a beautiful and moonlit lake. In the distance was a mountainous country. At length the boat reached the opposite shore of the lake, and the Prince of the Captivity disembarked. He disembarked at the head of an avenue of colossal lions of red granite, which extended far as the eye could reach, and which ascended the side of the mountain, which was cut into a flight of magnificent steps. The easy ascent was in consequence soon accomplished, and Alroy, proceeding along the avenue of lions, soon gained the summit of the mountain. To his infinite astonishment, he beheld Jerusalem. That strongly marked locality could not be mistaken at his feet were Jehoshaphat, Kedron, Siloa: he stood upon Olivet; before him was Sion. But in all other respects, how different was the landscape to the one he had gazed upon a few days back, for the first time! The surrounding hills sparkled with vineyards, and glowed with summer palaces, and voluptuous pavilions, and glorious gardens of pleasure. The city, extending all over Mount Sion, was encompassed with a wall of white marble, with battlements of gold, a gorgeous mass of gates and pillars, and gardened terraces, lofty piles of rarest materials, cedar, and ivory, and precious stones, and costly columns of the richest workmanship, and the most fanciful orders, capitals of the lotus and the palm, and flowing friezes of the olive and the vine. And in the front a mighty temple rose, with inspiration in its very form-a temple so vast, so sumptuous, there required no priest to tell us that no human hand planned that sublime magnificence!

"God of my fathers," said Alroy, "I am a poor, weak thing, and my life has been a life of dreams and visions,

and I have sometimes thought my brain lacked a sufficient master. Where am I? Do I sleep or live? Am I a slumberer or a ghost? This trial is too much." He sank down and hid his face in his hands: his over-exerted mind appeared to desert him; he wept hysterically. Many minutes elapsed before Alroy became composed. His wild bursts of weeping sank into sobs, and the sobs died off into sighs. And at length, calm from exhaustion, he again looked up, and lo! the glorious city was no more! Before him was a moonlit plain, over which the avenue of lions still advanced, and appeared to terminate only in the mountainous distance. This limit, the Prince of the Captivity at length reached, and stood before a stupendous portal, cut out of the solid rock, four hundred feet in height, and supported by clusters of colossal caryatides. Upon the portals were graven some Hebrew characters, which, upon examination, proved to be the same as those upon the talisman of Jabaster.


And so, taking from his bosom that all-precious and long-cherished deposit, David Alroy, in obedience to his instructions, pressed the signet against the gigantic portal. The portal opened with a crash of thunder louder than an earthquake. Pale, panting, and staggering, the Prince of the Captivity entered an illimitable hall, illumined by pendulous and stupendous balls of glowing metal. On each side of the hall, sitting on golden thrones, was ranged a line of kings, and as the pilgrim entered, the monarchs rose, and took off their diadems, and waved them thrice, and thrice repeated, in solemn chorus, "All hail, Alroy! Hail to thee, brother king! Thy crown awaits thee!

The Prince of the Captivity stood trembling, with his eyes fixed upon the ground, and leaning breathless against a column. And when at length he had recovered himself and dared again to look up, he found the monarchs were reseated; and from their still and vacant visages, apparently unconscious of his presence. And this emboldened him, and so staring alternately at each side of the hall, but with a firm, perhaps desperate step, Alroy advanced. And he came to two thrones which were set apart from the others in the middle of the

hall. On one was seated a noble figure, far above the common stature, with arms folded and downcast eyes. His feet rested upon a broken sword, and a shivered sceptre, which told he was a monarch, in spite of his discrowned head. And on the opposite throne was a venerable personage, with a long flowing beard, and dressed in white raiment. His countenance was beautiful, although ancient. Age had stole on without its imperfections, and time had only invested it with a sweet dignity and solemn grace. The countenance of the king was upraised with a seraphic gaze, and as he thus looked up on high, with eyes full of love and thanksgiving and praise, his consecrated fingers seemed to touch the trembling wires of a golden harp.

And farther on, and far above the rest, upon a throne that stretched across the hall, a most imperial presence straightway flashed upon the startled vision of Alroy. Fifty steps of ivory, and each step guarded by golden. lions, led to a throne of jasper. A dazzling light blazed forth from the glittering diadem and radiant countenance of him who sat upon the throne-one beautiful as a woman, but with the majesty of a god. And in one hand he held a seal, and in the other a sceptre. And when Alroy had reached the foot of the throne, he stopped, and his heart misgave him. And he prayed for some minutes in silent devotion, and without daring to look up, he mounted the first step of the throne, and the second, and the third, and so on, with slow and faltering feet, until he reached the forty-ninth step. The Prince of the Captivity raised his eyes. He stood before the monarch face to face. In vain Alroy attempted to attract his attention, or to fix his gaze. The large black eyes, full of supernatural lustre, appeared capable of piercing all things, and illuminating all things; but they flashed on without shedding a ray upon Alroy. Pale as a spectre, the pilgrim, whose pilgrimage seemed now on the point of completion, stood cold and trembling before the object of all his desires and all his labors. But he thought of his Country, his People, and his God, and while his noiseless lips breathed the name of Jehovah, solemnly he put forth his arm, and with a gentle firmness grasped the unresisting sceptre of his

[graphic][merged small][merged small]
« EelmineJätka »