Imágenes de páginas

The night was drawing on apace, and the question was raised, how were they to pass it? The gentlemen, though a little extra clothing would have been acceptable, might have managed without any serious inconvenience : but there was the lady! They seated her as comfortably as circumstances permitted, under shelter of some bushes, with her head upon a low bank, and Lord Byron took off his coat, a light summer one; and wrapped her in it. She earnestly protested against this, arguing that all ought to fare alike, and that not one, even herself, should be aided at the inconvenience of another. And the last argument she brought in was, that he might catch his death of cold. .

“And of what moment would that be ?” was his reply. “I should leave nobody behind to mourn or miss me.”

Few of them, probably, had ever spent such a night as that. Tormented by physical discomfort without, by anxious suspense within, for the greater portion of them there was no sleep. Morning dawned at last-such a dawn! It found them as the night had left them, foodless, shelterless, and with hope growing less and less. It was a mercy, they said amongst themselves, that there was water in the island. And so it was; for an unquenched thirst, under Italia’s sun, is grievous to be borne. ;

It was in the afternoon of this day, that a loud, joyful cry from Cyclops caused every living soul to rush towards him, with eyes full of brightness, and hearts beating, for they surely thought that a sail was in sight. And there were no bounds to the anger and sarcasm showered upon poor Cyclops, when it was found that his cry of joy proceeded only from the stupid fact of his having found the water-cask.

“ You are a fool, Cyclops,” observed the Count G., in his own emphatic language.

" I supposed it had gone off in the gondola,” apologised Cyclops. “I never thought of looking into this overshadowed little creek, and there it has been, ever since yesterday.”

" And what if it has ?" screamed the count. “ Heaven and earth, man! are you losing your senses? We cannot eat that.”

“And we can't get astride it and swim off to safety,” added the marquis, fully joining in his friend's indignation. But the more practical Frenchman caught Cyclops' hand :

“My brave fellow!” he exclaimed, “I see the project. You think that by the help of this cask you may be enabled to bring us succour.”

“I will try it," uttered the man; and the others comprehended, with some difficulty, the idea that was agitating Cyclops' brain. He thought he could convert the cask into a “sort of boat,” he explained.

" A sort of boat !” they echoed.

6. And I will venture in it,” continued the gondolier. 6 If I can get to one of the inhabited isles, our peril will be at an end.”

“ It may cost you your life, Cyclops," said Lord Byron.

“But it may save yours, signor, and that of all here. And for my own life, it is being risked by famine now.”. .. · "You are a noble fellow !” exclaimed Lord Byron, “If you can command the necessary courage

* I will command it, signor," interrupted the man. “ Which of you fellows," he continued, turning to the gondoliers, “ will help me to hoist this cask ashore ?"

“Stay !" urged Lord Byron. “ You will have need of all your energy and strength, Cyclops, if you start on this expedition, therefore husband them. You can direct, if you will, but let others work."

And Cyclops saw the good sense of the argument, and acquiesced.

There were two large clasp-knives among the four boatmen, and, by their help, a hole was cut in the cask, converting it into-well, it could not be called a boat, or a raft, or a tub-converting it into a something that floated on the deep. The strongest sticks that could be found, were cut as substitutes for a pair of oars : the frail vessel was launched, and the adventurous Cyclops hoisted himself into it.

They stood on the edge of the island, nobles and gondoliers, in agonising dread, expecting to see the cask engulfed in the waters, and the man struggling with them for his life. But it appeared to move steadily onwards. It seemed almost impossible that so small and frail a thing could bear the weight of a man and live. But it did, and pursued its way on, on; far away on the calm blue sea. Perhaps God was prospering it.

Suddenly a groan, a scream, or something of both, broke from the lips of all. The strangely-constructed bark, which had now advanced as far as the eye could well follow it, appeared to capsize, after wavering and struggling with the water.

“ It was our last chance for life," sobbed the countess, sinking on the bank in utter despair.

“I do not think it went down, signorina," observed one of the gondoliers, who was remarkable for possessing a good eyesight. “The waves rose, and hid it from our view, but I do not believe it was capsized.”

“I am sure it was," answered several despairing voices. “What does the English lord say ?”.

“I fear there is no hope,” rejoined Lord Byron, sadly. “But my sight is none of the best, and scarcely carries me to so great a distance."


The small, luxuriant island lay calm and still in the bright moonlight. The gondoliers were stretched upon the shore sleeping, each with his face turned to the water, as if they had been looking for help, and had fallen asleep watching. Near to them lay the forms of three of their employers; and, pacing about, as if the mind's restlessness permitted not of the body's quietude, was Lord Byron ; dreamily moving hither and thither, musing as he walked, his brow contracted, and his eye dark with care. Who can tell what were his thoughts—the thoughts of that isolated man? Stealthily he would pass the sleeping forms of his companions: not caring so much to disturb their rest, as that he might have no witnesses of his hour of solitude. Had they been sleepless watchers, the look of sadness would not have been suffered to appear on his brow. Not far off, reclined the contessa, her head resting on the low bank. She had fallen asleep in that position, overcome with hunger and weariness, and her features looked cold and pale in the moonlight. Lord Byron halted as he neared her, and bent down his face till it almost touched hers, willing to ascertain if she really slept. Not a movement disturbed the tranquillity of the features, and, were it not for the soft breathing, he might have fancied that life had left her. There was no sound in the island to disturb her sleep; all around was still as death; when, suddenly, a sea-bird few

across over their heads, uttering its shrill scream. Her sleep at once became disturbed : she started, shivered, and finally awoke.

“What was that?” she exclaimed.

“Oply a sea-bird,” he replied. “I am sorry it disturbed you, for you were in a sound sleep."

“ And in the midst of a delightful dream,” she answered, “for I thought we were in safety. I dreamt we were all of us back again: not where we started from to come here, but in your palace at Ravenna, and there seemed to be some cause for rejoicing, for we were in the height of merriment. And Cyclops was sitting with us; sitting with us, as one of ourselves, and reading-don't laugh when you hear it—one of your great English newspapers.”

He did not laugh. He was not in a laughing mood.

6 Do you believe in dreams?” she continued. “Do you think this one is an omen of good, or ill? Will it come true, or not?"

He smiled now. “ Those sort of dreams are no omens," he replied. “It was induced only by your waking thoughts. That which you had been ardently wishing for, was re-pictured in the dream.”

“I have heard you say," she continued, “that what influences the mind in the day, influences the dreams in the night. Is it so ?”

“When the subject is one that has continued and entire hold upon us, most probably a sad one ; never absent from our heart, lying there and cankering it; never told to, and never suspected by others: then, our dreams are influenced by our waking thoughts.”

“You discovered this, did you not, in early life?” she asked.

“Ay, ay !” he answered, turning from her sight, and dashing the hair from his troubled brow. Need it be questioned whose form rose before him, when it is known, though perhaps by few, for the fact was never mentioned by himself but once, that his dreams for years had been of Mary Ann Chaworth.

“ Oh, but it will be horrible to die thus of famine !" she exclaimed, her thoughts reverting to all the frightful realities of their position.

“Do not despair yet," he replied. “ While there is life, there is hope. That truth most indisputably applies to our position here, if it ever applied to any."

He resumed his restless pacing of the earth, leaving the countess to renew her slumbers, if she could. And she endeavoured to do so, repeating to herself, by way of consolation, the saying which he had uttered, “L'ultima che si perde è la speranza."

The long night passed; the first hours of morning followed ; and, still, the means of escape came not. They had been more than forty hours without food, and had begun to experience some of the horrible pangs of famine. The only one of all the party now asleep, was Lord Byron. He was worn out with fatigue and vain expectation. The remainder of the unfortunate sufferers stood on the edge of the isle, straining their eyes over the waters, for the hundredth time.

Gradually, very gradually, a speck appeared on the verge of the horizon. It looked, at first, like a little cloud, so faint and small that it might be something, or it might be delusion. The gondolier, he with the quick sight, pointed it out. Then another gondolier discerned it, then the third, then Count G. Finally, they all distinguished it. Something was certainly there : but what ?

A long time or it seemed long-of agonised doubt; suspense; hope; and they saw it clearly. A vessel of some sort was bearing direct towards them. The lady walked away, and aroused Lord Byron from his heavy sleep.

“ You have borne up better than any of us,” she said, “ though I do believe your nonchalance was only put on. But you must not pretend now to be indifferent to joy."

“ Is anything making for the island ?” he inquired. But he spoke with great coolness. Perhaps that was “put on ” too.

“ Yes. They are coming to our rescue." “You are sure of this ?” he said.

“Had I not been sure, you should have slept on," was her reply. “A vessel of some description is bearing direct towards us.”

He started up, and, giving her his arm, proceeded to join the rest..

It was fully in view now. And it proved to be a galley of six oars, the gallant Cyclops steering.

So he and his barrel were not turned over and drowned then! No; the distance and their fears had deceived them. The current had borne himself and his cask towards an inhabited island, lying in the direction of Ragusa. A terrible way off, it seemed to him, but the adventurous gondolier reached it with time and patience, greatly astonishing the natives with the novel style of his embarkation. Obtaining assistance and provisions, he at once proceeded on his return, to rescue those he had left behind.

The galley was made fast to the shore--faster than the gondola had been ; and Cyclops, springing on land, amidst the thanks and cheers of the starving group, proceeded to display the coveted refreshments. A more welcome sight than any, save the galley, that had ever met their eyes.

“Oh God be thanked that we have not to die here !" murmured the countess to Lord Byron. “Think what a horrible fate it would have been-shut out from the world !"

“For me there may be even a worse in store,” he answered. “We were a knot of us here, and should at least have died together. It may be that I shall yet perish a solitary exile, away from all.

“Do put such ideas away,” she retorted. “It would be a sad fate, that, to close a career such as yours.” . “Sad enough, perhaps : but in keeping with the rest,” was his reply, a melancholy smile rising to his pale features, as he handed her into the boat, preparatory to their return.

Up to a very recent period, there was an old man still living in Italy, a man who, in his younger days, had been a gondolier. His name-at any rate, the one he went by-was Cyclops. It was pleasant to sit by his side in the open air, and hear him talk. He would tell you fifty anecdotes of the generous English lord, who lived so long, years ago, at Ravenna. And if he could persuade you to a walk in the blazing sun, would take you to the water's edge, and display, with pride and delight, a handsome gondola. It was getting the worse for wear then, in the way of paint and gilding, but it had once been the flower among the gondolas of the Adriatic. It was made under the orders of Lord Byron, and when presented to Cyclops was already christened - THE CASK.



No. XII.—PROFESSOR R. C. TRENCH. The Church hath its poets, as the world hath, and Professor Trench is of them. Perhaps the most Wordsworthian of them. His strains have not the melodious chime of Keble's “ solemn church music,” as Thackeray reveringly characterises the - Christian Year;" nor have they the glistening decorations of Milman, or the sonorous dignity of Croly, or perhaps the gentle tenderness of Moultrie, or the cathedral awe and dim religious light of Isaac Williams. But they have depth without bathos, while the vastly more popular verses of Robert Montgomery have bathos without depth; and if inferior in picturesque diction and vivid suggestiveness to the best things of Charles Kingsley, they have none of that “ Keepsake”. prettiness, and “ Annual” efflorescence, which mark the lyrics of the Dale and Stebbing order. “ Justin Martyr,” and “Poems from Eastern Sources,” “Sabbation,” “Honor Neale,” and other his more elaborate metrical essays, are dear to a select audience of thinking hearts—they are truthful and refined, the effusions of a benign, spiritual naturehealthy and pure in tone, and, though pensively attuned to the still sad music of humanity, they are inspired with the gladdening, elevating evangelism of Christianity. Mr. Trench has his mannerisms, and now and then his seeming obscurities, which pertain, however, only to the surface of his composition. Thus, in his “ Century of Couplets,” will be found, as the terse requirements of the subject might imply, many a line that asks to be scanned as well as read-scanned for the sake both of sense and metre; and though the result will prove that the poet has thought himself clear, it may sometimes leave doubts as to the delicacy of his ear. This defect in the matter of rhythmical beauty, is more patent in the blank verse of his longer pieces, which usually wants relief and colour-albeit Christopher North has praised it as excellent of its kind. Mr. Trench is probably most effective in stanzas of the description we are about to quote—where some historic incident or biographic tradition is graphically told, and made the text of a quietly emphasised memento, addressed to the universal conscience. The following lines were suggested by a passage in Elphinstone's “ History of India :"

Lo! an hundred proud pagodas have the Moslem torches burned,
Lo! a thousand monstrous idols Mahmoud's zeal has overturned.
He from northern Ghuznee issuing, thro' the world one word doth bear,-
“God is ONE ; ye shall no other with the peerless One compare!"
Till in India's furthest corner he has reached the costliest shrine
Of the Brahmin's idol-tending-which they hold the most divine.
Profits not the wild resistance ; stands the victor at the gate,
With this hugest idol's ruin all his work to consummate.
Ransom vast of gold they offer, pearls of price and jewels rare,
Will he hear their supplication, and that only image spare.
Then he answered: “God has armed me, not to make a shameful gain,
Trafficking for hideous idols, with a service false and vain ;

« AnteriorContinuar »