Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

66 O daughter of Babylon who art to be destroyed, happy shall he be that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.

Happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones !''

The whole atmosphere seemed to vibrate sensibly with the power of a voice that was scarcely heard louder than a whisper. The eye of the singer blazed; his cheek flushed; his bosom heaved convulsively; and as he concluded, his hand clutched, as if by an unconscious motion, the handle of a long knife that appeared, for the first time, beneath his cloak.

At this moment, a sound of sobbing was heard from a corner of the room where one of the women sat apart; and Ishmael, starting from his trance, few towards the mourner, and stealing his arm round her waist, appeared to whisper some words of consolation or assurance in her ear. She wept, however, for some

as one who would not be comforted ; ” but at length ceasing suddenly at something he said, she turned round to look in his face, and in the action the veil fell from her head.

Carl saw with surprise that she was not “ a daughter of their people.” She was a young creature, apparently under sixteen, delicately fair, and exquisitely beautiful; and when, after gazing for a moment, she rested her head confidingly upon her supporter's shoulder, the mingled expression of meekness, helplessness, and woman's devotion, that sat like moonlight upon her face, brought the tears into his eyes. Adonijah looked upon the scene with a peculiar malignity of expression ; and the young Jewess who had requested the song, and who seemed to be his granddaughter, turned away her head. Carl could see her

time

clenched hand tremble with emotion, as it touched without resting on her knee.

Reflecting at length, that, in his present state of exhaustion, arising from fatigue both of body and mind, he should

prove

but a sorry escort in a journey which seemed to promise danger, our adventurer signified his wish to lie down to rest, if not to sleep, till he should be called upon to depart. This was thought nothing more than reasonable; and unnoticed by the two lovers -- for such they seemed—who were now too much engaged with each other to observe what was passing, he retired into the next apartment, and stretched himself upon a mattress that lay invitingly upon the carpetless floor.

His eyes were closing, his thoughts wandering, and the clouds of slumber descending upon his brain, when suddenly he was aroused by a light tread at a few paces distance, and looking up he saw the Gentile girl, followed by Ishmael the Jew, pass across the room towards a door in the farther end.

“ I will call thee,” said the latter," when it is time; and in the meantime sleep, for the sake of mercy, as soon as thou canst, for I dread the effect of this journey on so fragile and beautiful a frame !"

“How can I sleep, O Ishmael ? she replied in a tremulous voice; “I already feel as if I were asleep, and walking in some terrible dream. Strange things and strange forms are around me; I am hurried into circumstances of which I know not the nature, nor the beginning, nor the end ; and he who swore to love and cherish me, and divide with me his house and home, his heart and soul, and the inmost thoughts of his mind-his lips are silent, and his brow cold and dark ?"

.

[ocr errors]

“ If thou knewest my heart,” said Ishmael, in strong agitation, “thou wouldst not torture me thus !” 6 Let me know it then! I have shown

you

mine to the very bottom. I have forsaken all for you— home, family, friends, country, religion. I have addressed

you

in the words and in the spirit of your own Ruth, “whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my

God. Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried; the Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me!'”

Light of mine eyes !” exclaimed Ishmael clasping her in his arms : “thou hast so spoken ; thou hast so done. Like the gentle Moabitess herself thou hast left thy kinsfolk behind, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore. Thou hast loaded me with the gifts of thy love, which are more precious than the gold of Ophir; and what man can give in return, that will I give, to the last drop of blood in my veins !”

“ I demand not blood; the very name makes me shiver, and the sight of yours would kill me. Give

your confidence; I have a right to ask it. Whither go we? Why tarried we so long for the young minstrel, whose delicate white hand seems better acquainted with the harp than with the sword ? On what errand so momentous and so rapid are we sped, that to perform it we must cross the wildest tract of the country where no name of power is heard save that of the demon Schinderhannes ?

“ He will not harm us," said Ishmael, quickly.
“How are you assured of this ?”
“ Because he dares not.'

Why dares he not ? ”

me

66

Because_"

Say on! Entire confidence or nothing !” " Because — " and after an internal struggle that blanched his cheek with the whiteness of death, he placed his lips to her ear. A stir took place, the nature of which Carl could not at once distinguish by the puny light of their taper ; but in another instant he saw that the young woman had fainted. As Ishmael carried her silently into the inner room, the folds of a species of coarse drapery that covered the part of the wall near which they had stood, opened suddenly and a head was thrust through. He recognised the features of the grand-daughter of Adonijah, who looked after the lovers with a glance that made him shudder. The next moment the light disappeared.

Even this adventure, interesting as he thought it at the time, did not long banish sleep from the overwearied

eyes

of Carl Benzel. When he was called by the young Jew, he found the travellers, consisting of Adonijah, and his grand-daughter Leah, Ishmael, and the Gentile girl, Magdalene, together with five others of the house of Israel, prepared to go forth.

It was not yet daylight, but on a passport being presented by Adonijah, the gates were opened to them; and leaving the city of Trèves behind, the little party directed their steps towards the dreary and savage heights of the Hohe-Wald.

CHAPTER V.

THE EXODUS INTO THE WILDERNESS.

The passage over the Hohe-Wald was more tedious than the Jews had expected. Long after the sun had risen, it was still night upon the earth; the day broke, as it were, behind the scene, and the travellers continued to walk on in darkness. By the colour of the mist alone could they perceive that the dawn was come; and even when at length they were able to catch some fitful glimpses of the sky, the prospect was but little mended. There were no clouds, or rather all was cloud. The whole expanse of the firmament was packed, as it were, with masses of vapour of the same dark leaden hue, the grotesque forms of which could with difficulty be distinguished one from the other. In the east an immense globe, several times larger than the ordinary disk of the sun, and as red as blood, hung low in the heavens. It exerted no particular power even in its own immediate vicinity, but looked with the same deep, dull, baleful glare upon the whole scene.

Nothing could be more dreary than the road pursued by the travellers. It lay through a succession of vast forests that crowned the steeps of the moun

[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinuar »