« AnteriorContinuar »
I, a loue woman, most weak and human, plead for their
waiting wives. Thou canst not let them perish; up, Lord, in Thy strength
and save From the scorching breath of this terrible death on the
cruel winter wave. Take Thou my babe and watch it, no care is like to
Thine, And let Thy power, in this perilous hour, supply what
lack is mine."
And so her prayer she ended, and rising to her feet, Turned one look to the cradle nook where the child's
faint pulses beat; And then with softest footsteps retrod the chamber floor, And noiselessly groped for the latch, and oped and crossed
the cottage door. The snow lay deep, and drifted as far as sight could reach, Save where alone the dank weed strewn did mark the
sloping beach. But, whether 'twas land or ocean, or rock, or sand, or snow, Or sky o’erhead, on all was shed the same fierce fatal glow. And thro' the tempest bravely Jane Conquest fought By snowy deep, and slippery steep to where her goal lay: And she gaind it, pale and breathless, and weary, and
sore, and faint, But with soul possess'd with the strength, and zest, and
ardour of a saint. Silent and weird, and lonely amid its countless graves, Stood the old grey church on its tall rock perch, secure
from the flood's great waves. And beneath its sacred shadow lay the hamlet safe and
still, For howsoever the sea and the wind might be, 'twas quiet
under the hill. Jane Conquest reached the churchyard, and stood by the
old church door; But the oak was tough, and had bolts enough, and her
strength was frail and poor.
So she crept through a narrow window and climbed the
belfry stair, And grasp'd the rope, sole chord of hope, for the mariners
in despair. And the wild wind help'd her bravely, and she wrought
with an earnest will, And the clamorous bell spake out right well to the hamlet
under the hill. And it roused the slumb’ring fishers, nor its warning
task gave o'er; Till a hundred fleet and eager feet were hurrying to the
shore; And then it ceased its ringing, for the woman's work was
done; And many a boat that was now afloat showed man's work
was begun. But the ringer in the belfry lay motionless and cold, With the cord of hope, the church-bell rope, still in her
frozen hold. How long she lay, it boots not, but she woke from her
swoon at last, In her own bright room, to find the gloom and the grief
of the peril past. With a sense of joy within her, and the Christ's sweet
presence near, And friends around, and the cooing sound of her babe's
voice in her ear; And they told her all the story, how a brave and gallant
few O'ercame each check and reached the wreck, and saved
the hapless crew; And how the curious sexton had climbed the belfry stair, And of his fright, when, cold and white, he found her
lying there, And how, when they had borne her back to her home
again, The child she left, with a heart bereft of hope, and wrung
with pain, Was found within its cradle in a quiet slumber laid,
With a peaceful smile on its lips the while, and the wasting
sickness stay'd. And she said 'twas Christ that watched it, and brought it
safely through, And she praised His truth, aud His tender ruth, who had
saved her darling too.
of the bell.
UNCLE ROLAND'S TALE.
BY LORD LYTTON.
It was in Spain, no matter where or how, that it was my fortune to take prisoner a French officer of the same rank that I then held—a lieutenant; and there was so much similarity in our sentiments that we became intimate friends. He was a rough soldier whom the world bad not treated well; yet he never railed at the world, and maintained he had had his deserts. Honour was his idol, and the sense of honour paid him for the loss of all else.
There was something similar in our domestic relationships. He had a son-a boy–who was all in life to him next to his country and his duty. I too had then such a son. We were accustomed to talk of these children, to picture their future, to compare our hopes and dreams. We hoped and dreamed alike. A short time sufficed to establish this intimacy. My prisoner was sent to headquarters, and soon afterwards exchanged.
We met no more till last year. Being then at Paris I inquired for my old friend, and learned that he was living at R–, a few miles from the capital. I went to visit him. I found his house empty and deserted. That very day he had been led to prison, charged with a terrible
crime. I saw him in that prison, and from his own lips learned his story.
His son had been brought up, as he fondly believed, in the habits and principles of honourable men, and having finished his education came to reside with him. The young man was accustomed to go frequently to Paris. The father thought it natural, and stripped his age of some comforts to supply luxuries to the son's youth.
Shortly after the young man's arrival, the neighbourhood was alarmed by reports of night robberies on the road. Men masked and armed plundered travellers, and even broke into houses. The police were on the alert.
One night an old brother officer knocked at my friend's door late. He came down in haste when his servant woke and told him that his old friend, wounded and bleeding, sought an asylum under his roof. The wound, however, was slight. The guest had been attacked and robbed on the road. The next morning the proper authority of the town was sent for. The plundered man described his loss—some billets of five hundred francs in a pocket-book on which was embroidered his name and coronet. The guest stayed to dinner. Late in the forenoon the son looked in. The guest started to see him. My friend noticed his paleness. Shortly afterwards, on pretence of faintness, the guest retired to his room, and sent for his host. “My friend,” he said,
“My friend," he said, “can you do me a favour? Go to the magistrate and recall the evidence I have given."
“Impossible!” said the host; "what crotchet is this?”
The guest shuddered. “ Peste !” said he, “I do not wish in my old age to be hard on others. Who knows how the robber may have been tempted? Who knows what relations he may have-honest men—whom his crime would degrade for ever. Good heavens! if detected, it is the galleys, the galleys!”
“ And what then? The robber knew what he risked." “ But did his father know it?"
A light broke upon my unhappy comrade in arms. He caught his friend by the hand. “ You turned pale at sight of my son? Where did you ever see him before ? Speak.”
· Last night on the road to Paris. The mask slipped aside. Call
back my evidence.” . “ You are mistaken,” said my friend, calmly. “I saiv my son in his bed, and blessed him before I went to my own."
“I will believe you," said the guest," and never shall my hasty suspicion pass my lips. But call back the evidence."
The guest returned to Paris. The father conversed with his son on the subject of his studies. He followed him to his room, waited till he was in bed, and was then about to retire, when the youth said:
“Father, you have forgotten your blessing."
The father went back, laid his hand on the boy's head and prayed. He was credulous. Fathers are so. He was persuaded that his friend had been deceived. He retired to rest and fell asleep. He woke suddenly in the night, and felt as if a voice had awakened him. A voice which said : “Rise and search.” He rose at once, struck a light, and went to his son's room. He knocked-once -twice-thrice—no answer. He went down the stairs and passed to the stables. His own horse was there, not his son's. He stole back, crept into the shadow of the wall by the son's door, and extinguished the light.
Before daybreak my friend heard the back door opened gently. A foot ascended the stair, a key creaked in the door of the room close at hand—the father crept through the door into that chamber behind his unseen son.
He heard the clink of the tinder box. A light was struck. It spread over the room ; but he had time to place himself behind the window-curtain which was close at hand. The figure before him stood a moment or so motionless, and seemed to listen, for it turned to the right, to the left, its visage covered by the black, hideous mask which is worn at carnivals. Slowly the mask was removed. Could that be his son's face—the son of a brave man? It was pale and gbastly with scoundrel fears. The base drops stood on the brow. He looked as a coward looks when death stands before him.
The youth walked, or rather skulked, to the secretaire,