Page:Once a Week, Series 1, Volume II Dec 1859 to June 1860.pdf/118

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January 28, 1860.]



I was a runner in the games. I saw the assembled throng. I heard their murmurs when they saw my form. I had fleetness—we started. The circus was small, very small. I found I drew after me a weight. I knew no such game—it was new, but I would run. I ran faster and faster; the pace was killing me; my eyes started from their sockets, the golden apple rolled before me—I stooped for it—I fell, and all was dark once more.


I woke. I was a gladiator. Once more the arena, and still so small. I saw my foe. He was so like myself! He must have fought just before, the fresh blood was on his face. I moved cautiously—he was gone—I watched—moved again—he came back. I lifted my hand to strike, I was not free—neither was he—it was a new game, but I would fight. He raised his fist—I struck at his face with all my force—I hit him—but we both fell—he was under. He was bound to me! I struck again and again. I had killed him now. Again and again I struck—he moved. I seized him by the throat. We rolled over and over each other—and then he was quite still. I watched and drank, and slept while I watched.


“I woke again; it was dark. I was a prisoner chained to—what?—a stone—a wet stone! Ha! ha! they had tied me with ropes, with knotted ropes! I felt for a knife—I had none—I could not see.

“They forgot the prisoner’s teeth! I gnawed and twisted the ropes all the long night—they were old and rotten—they stank in my nostrils; but I gnawed on, and I was free once more.

“I was free! I ran, I jumped, I leaped. I danced to wild music that seemed close to me. I was free! I was in the wild woods once more—the trees waved, the wind kissed my cheek as of yore. I lay down beneath a tree and slept. I dreamed of Virginia—she came to me—sat beside me—she was soon to be my bride. My heart leapt at the thought. She was my bride now—I led her from the temple. The day passed, the night came, I lay beside my bride. I pressed her to me—she answered not—she was cold!


“I awoke. I was not mad now; but where was I? It was the same place—the old square opening to the sky, the same gurgling of the wine fountain, my chains on my wrists. But the foul odour! I could not breathe. And that—what was that? No! it could not be she. It was she—shall I ever forget that sight.

“I see it now—my God! I see it now,” shrieked the old man, “that putrid mass, bruised, torn, mutilated—without a trace of humanity about it—the bones showing through the torn shreds of skin, the flesh eaten—yes, eaten away! Those ears in which I whispered words of love—those eyes in which I saw my happiness—those lips that I pressed so lovingly to mine—those tender breasts on which I’d hoped to see my children hang—gone!—gone!—all were gone; and in their place the eyes from their fleshless sockets glared on me, while the lipless teeth seemed to gnash at me from that ghastly skull. Armless too—and the arms!—I started. The bones were in the fetters still—her fetters. They still hung to mine. I was free in all but them.

“I looked round and saw the mirror; the matted beard, the blood-stained savage face showed me all!

“One window was open now. I leapt, caught the sill, and was out, running as if for life to get that sight from mine eyes. It would not go; never went—never has gone! Thirty years itthis ravening horror—has been before me. I have seen everything through that, as through a veil. It was growing indistinct. Ye have called it back again. I see it now. My God!—my God! I see it now!” and the old man would have fallen, but that his judges caught him and laid him on the couch.

A few minutes and he revived. His voice was weak and trembling.

“Fabulus, forgive me that I could not see her die. Brethren, forgive me that I could not eat your feasts of flesh.” He paused, raised himself into a sitting posture; his eyes strangely bright. “Brethren, before I depart, I would pray with ye once more.” His hands were uplifted in prayer; the voice came low and faint. “Our Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; thy will be done in earth, as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and—forgive us our trespasses,—as we forgive them that trespass against us——” A spasm crossed his face, his chest heaved as with a mighty effort; his voice, low before, burst out now with a violence that shook the walls. “Help me, oh God! I must,——I will,——I do forgive thee. Sporus, thou, even thou, art now forgiven——Christus have mercy, have mer——— it has gone—gone!” He struggled, knelt, leaned forward as though he saw something in the air, stretched out the old withered arms to grasp the phantom, while a smile of happiness unspeakable lighted up the pallid features.

“Virginia! I come—I come!”—then fell back into their arms—dead.


It was night; the sun had set. He was with Virginia now.

It was gone for ever.

A. Stewart Harrison.


It could hardly be expected that at this time of day any fresh illustration would arise of the old Covenanter cast of character. In days of religious persecution, especially during the struggle between the High Church and the Puritans, there was a Judaic type of the Christian character conspicuous in every society in which the Calvinistic aspect of the Reformation was more or less established. We are all familiar with this order of character in history and in fiction; and it is preserved for future generations, not only in English, but in German, French, and American literature. In New England, above every other country, the old type is familiar: for the region was settled, and for a long time governed, by the Judaic Christian confessors who are venerated under the title of the Pilgrim Fathers. Not even there, however,