« AnteriorContinuar »
hills. But she, too, went forward :-the festive hour came on :--the tournaments were held with magnificence, and to the satisfaction of the assembled crowds :-De Guiscald returned to the abode of his ancestors :and his daughter followed in her train.
We shall not stop to detail what occurred in the interval. Deceitful as is the human heart-0, how deceitful !-such a delineation would lead us to scenes with which maturer judgment might scarcely mingle, if it would not forget the evanescent nature of all sublunary enjoyment. Alas! who that will cast one fleeting thought on the moments of delirium, amidst which those hours of mirth and gaiety began and ended, can avoid mingling a sigh with the reflection, that the long lapse of ages has closed on every eye that sparkled in the jocund throng, and silenced in death the pulse of every bosom that then beat so high.
It will be sufficient for our narrative to mention, that an affection of the most tender kind, elicited by this casual meeting, threw ever after a shade, whether of joy or sorrow the sequel will more fully reveal, over the lives of Arnold de Weimar and Margaret de Guiscald. From that hour, the daughter of Guiscald carried a wound, which chilled the current that hitherto had rioted in her heart, and taught her, that the cheek whereon the rose now blushes, as if it would hide the mournfulness of the lily, may, ere to-morrow's sun has set, behold its bright honours withered, and replaced for ever by the paleness of its gentle companion. Her character henceforward assumed a seriousness which indicated that all was not at rest within. Not that seriousness is the certain mark of a mind ill at ease. No, O no! Rather is it, oftentimes, as the tinge which autumn throws over the brightness of the more luxuriant seasons-softening it into that shade of solemnity which reflection loves.
< 'Tis well
The buoyant levity of her disposition was succeeded by the quietude of thoughtful gloom. Some might have imagined that there hung round her mind a mantle which despondency had given it; and perhaps their suspicions would not have been wholly without foundation.
Arnold, soon after, attended his father to the war which the head of the Germanic Empire was then carrying on against France. Here he was early signalized by his valour and military talents. No danger daunted, no difficulties overcame him ; and though often on the very verge of destruction, he was as often rescued either by his intrepidity or some skilful
Under the command of Arnold de Weimar, the troops went to the conflict assured of victory; and seldom did it occur that he brought them worsted from the field. Thus time passed. Fame flapped her purple wings around him; and many an eye contemplated him where the mingled emotions of envy, wounded pride, congratulation, or affection, were visible. Something, withal, there was, in his demeanour, which appeared unaccountable to casual observation; and perhaps, indeed, there was some latent fountain opened in his soul, whence flowed a current not always fathomable even by himself. Soinetimes, a cloud overcast his brow—but it was such as precedes the car of morning, soon to evanish over her onward path : sometimes, a sigh stole from him, deep-drawn, it might be, but heard by others only as some unmeaning sound : now,
found in retirement, and sedulous of high and heavenly things : while again he was hurried forward with the gayest of the thoughtless throng.
Decorum, however, the strictest decorum, was never violated by Arnold de Weimar. No; not even amidst the licence of feudal warfare, did the breath of opprobrium ever cast a stigma on his virtue. Higher principles, than those which, alas ! too commonly rule in camps, held the reins of his deportment; and to these we may add, that there gradually developed itself in his heart a germ, which can only open in the light of heaven, and whose blossom can alone live in the uncontaminated atmosphere of unpolluted moral rectitude:-we had almost said, within the hallowed sphere of that celestial truth, which throws a sweet halo of tranquillity around its favoured objects, marking them as the disciples of Him, who, as " he was fairer," so was he purer,
i than the children of men.”. Arnold now cherished an affection, which daily unfolding itself as he grew to manhood, at length matured in all its vigour in his riper age. Margaret de Guiscald was his guiding star. To her Hope turned, as the passion-flower to the god in whose smile alone she displays her modest bosom; and, in her if Joy awhile reposed, all around him wore a hue, almost more than belongs to the sombre pilgrimage of life. Oftentimes did he meet the sarcastie sneer of the libertine that crossed his way; and often was he held up to derision as the “ immaculate Arnold.” But, to him, the consciousness of approving heaven, and the thought-for may we lay aside a feeling, which, though rising not above earth, is sacred to the well-tutored mind ?— the thought, that he might one day offer a hand untarnished, even by the breath of reproach, to her, now close to him almost as the pulse that was warm within his heart :- to him, these were principles of action, too dear to be yielded to the shafts of scorn, or to be less esteemed from the jeers of impunity and crime..
Some years had now elapsed since first he saw the daughter of Guiscald. The war had been protracted to a length unusual in feudal times : campaign had succeeded to campaign, and from season to season it had raged with undiminished rancour and violence. Arnold, however, weary as he was of much he had to contend with, was still acknowledged the bravest of the brave—was still the idol of his father, and even particularly distinguished by the monarch under whose banners he served. But time,onward, ever-fleeting time,-at length brought a cessation of hostilities. A truce was agreed on between the belligerent powers to consider the terms of a treaty, and peace was eventually concluded.
Dismissed from the toils of the camp, Arnold flew to the hills that gave him birth. Hope lent him wings; and he arrived on the confines of his paternal domains, elated with every anticipation that can embalm the portion of humanity. Margaret de Guiscald was on his lips-before his eyes—within his heart. Earth seemed too little for the joy he beheld in prospect: for he doubted not-the young heart seldom turns aside to evils that may spring from the womb of casualty-he doubted not, but the path of felicity that lay before him would only terminate in the full completion of his fond, illimitable desires.—But ah! how little know. we what another dawn may bring! To-day, our hemisphere may be fair and unclouded, and our sun may even set without a shadow on its crimson ray :-yet, with to-morrow may come storm and tempest:--and that orb, which we hoped would have gilded our horizon with tinges of unalloyed loveliness, may be veiled in darkness-almost we might have said, in the energetic language of no human tongue-in " the blackness of darkness for ever!"
to As late on yester-eve I paced the shore,
I heard the signal-gun at distance roar:
ARNOLD hastened first to the embraces of her from whose gentle bosomi he had been fed, and who had, in the days of years now irrevocably mingled with the stream of time, so often sung his infant sorrows to rest. Long had she watched him with all a mother's tenderness, as he opened from infancy to boyhood, and from boyhood as he matured to man. The flush of health, gathered from the breeze of the mountains, that adorned his cheek ;-the smile of gladness that played upon his lips, responsive to the buoyancy of a breast yet unvisited by care; the generous emotion that lightened over his brow;-all went to her heart with the quickness of sympathy, and with the full energy of that joy which revels in the soul of a mother, over whom Hope still waves the banner of peaceful expectation. But once-we wait not to trace further the labyrinth of thought-once let that banner have drooped, and what before was the prelude of pleasure will be changed into the signal of all that can wring the bosom, or unfold the avenues of despondency and anguish. But, possibly, the feelings of Evelinda de Weimar were of that kind, on which circumstances operate with a force for which it is oftentimes difficult to account. Those circumstances in her case-and we need not pursue more minutely the narrative of her retired and unostentatious, but not unuseful, life-were connected with that barbarous law of the feudal times, which permitted the sovereign to dispose of the daughters of his vassals in marriage, without any regard to their wishes. She had submitted without a murmur to the severe dispensation, and had endeavoured, in the assiduous discharge of every relative duty, to forget the tender link which had united her hopes indissolubly with those of another, who survived only a few months her espousals with the Lord of Weimar; so much was he attached to her, and with a wound so deadly did the tidings of her nuptials reach him.
Evelinda, as we have said, was all that the full flow of a mother's fondness could render her; nor will it be matter of surprise, if we find her rejoicing, but she rejoiced with trembling in the intelligence arriving at intervals from afar, of the rising fame of Arnold. Her tears and prayers attended him; and with many an uncomplaining sigh had she reflected on the danger to which he was exposed. Neither were thoughts of her husband unmingled with these sensations; nor in these supplications was he forgotten, though round him nature had thrown a veil, on which she had long been unable to look without horror. Anxiously had she anticipated the arrival of the soldiers. The very toils they had endured, the very risks they had run, were alike causes of gratulation and delight; alike tending to fix more indelibly upon the table of affectionate reminiscence, the images over which imagination was not unwilling to hover ; on which love and tenderness were not displeased to ruminate.
The night had been consumed in that agitation, so well understood by those who have been separated for any protracted period from friends endeared, when the hour of their re-union again approaches. As the evening was falling on the distant hills, she had gone out to cast her eye towards the road by which she expected them to return. The clouds hung darkly on the mountains, and a tempest seemed to be issuing from the north. Now the eagle passed as fleeing to covert for the night; while on the far summits, the wolf was heard preparing for plunder, howling dismally through the gusts that ever and anon swept downward from the heights. The mother gazed, but the road was soon veiled in obscurity, and the last tall oak of the up-lands was now indiscernible in the the west. She descended to the castle, and there revisited every spot which she fancied might meet with more than casual observation from her long absent relatives : and retouched every little object, which memory told her they had formerly regarded with interest or affection. Night came:—they came not with the night ; and the toll of the spire had already warned the watchman of its noon.
“ In windy darkness riding on the clouds," passed in gloomy meditation over her meridian, looking occasionally as with a menacing aspect on the world below. In that solemn hour, it was, that Evelinda bowed her knees; for amidst her sorrows and anxieties she had ever found relief in pouring out her heart to Him, who is ever more ready to hear than we are to pray. She bowed her knees in supplication, and soon felt the balm of consolation diffused over her exhausted spirits. O! there is a power in prayer, unsearchable by human ken, and unknown to the heart as yet uninstructed in the ways of peace ! a power, which the world may deride, indeed, but which sheds a sweet effulgence round the dying pillow of the christian, and which has supported martyrs in the midst of flames and torment. This sacrifice concluded, she laid her head on the pillow—but not as once, did it impart relief. Distress is wakeful, and sleep shed not its refreshing dews on the eyes of Evelinda de Weimar. The morning had not yet dawned when she arose.
She did not expect them with its earliest approach—and the sun beamed on the hills, without their arrival. He ascended — still she heard them not; and he was already declining, when the tramp of horses echoed from the side of the valley whence the road conducted to the castle.
She hastened to greet them--and husband and son, safe and uninjured, were in a moment locked within her arms. De Weimar, whose character we have already briefly sketched, loved his amiable partner - who could have done otherwise than love one so mild, so gentle, and withal so fair ? and he clasped her to his heart in a strict embrace.
The cords of filial affection were strong in the bosom of Arnold—for virtue winds through every avenue of the soul where it abides—and he clung tenderly to the neck of his parent. She wept again and again; and the cheeks of husband and son alternately were bedewed with her tears. The one she loved—though often had she felt heavy the conjugal tie, as the partner of her wedded vows: the other was cherished amidst all that wild and indescribable emotion which thrills the maternal heart. Ah! who save a mother, can follow the labyrinth of a mother's love? Who can