What was to be done? And could any thing be done? Could he escape? Where from and where to? He was certain, and had been for some time, from many circumstances, that he was watched. Could he hope that the vigilance which observed all his movements would scruple to prevent any which might be inconvenient? He felt assured that, to quit that palace alone, was not in his power. And were it, whither could he go? To whom was he to appeal? And about what was he to appeal? Should he appeal to the Holy Father? There would be an opportunity for that to-morrow. To the College of Cardinals, who had solemnized yesterday with gracious unction his spiritual triumph? To those congenial spirits, the mild Assessor of the Inquisition, or the president of the Propaganda, who was busied at that moment in circulating throughout both the Americas, all Asia, all Africa, all Australia, and parts of Europe, for the edification of distant millions, the particulars of the miraculous scene in which he was the principal actor? Should he throw himself on the protection of the ambiguous minister of the British crown, and invoke his aid against a conspiracy touching the rights, reason, and freedom of one of her majesty's subjects? He would probably find that functionary inditing a private letter to the English Secretary of State, giving the minister a graphic account of the rare doings of yesterday, and assuring the minister, from his own personal and ocular experience, that a member of one of the highest orders of the British peerage carried in the procession a lighted taper after two angels with amaranthine flowers and golden wings.
Lothair remained in his apartments; no one approached him. It was the only day that the monsignore had not waited on him. Father Coleman was equally reserved. Strange to say, not one of those agreeable and polite gentlemen, fathers of the oratory, who talked about gems, torsos, and excavations, and who always more or less attended his levee, troubled him this morning. With that exquisite tact which pervades the hierarchical circles of Rome, every one felt that Lothair, on the eve of that event of his life which Providence had so long and so mysteriously prepared, would wish to be undisturbed.
Restless, disquieted, revolving all the incidents of his last year, trying, by terrible analysis, to ascertain how he ever could have got into such a false position, and how he could yet possibly extricate himself from it, not shrinking in many things from self-blame, and yet not recognizing on his part such a degree of deviation from the standard of right feeling, or even of commonsense, as would authorize such an overthrow as that awaiting him—high rank and boundless wealth, a station of duty and of honor, some gifts of Nature, and golden youth, and a disposition that at least aspired, in the employment of these, accidents of life and fortune, at something better than selfish gratification, all smashed—the day drew on.
Drew on the day, and every hour it seemed his spirit was more lone and dark. For the first time the thought of death occurred to him as a relief from the perplexities of existence. How much better had he died at Mentana! To this pass had arrived the cordial and brilliant Lord of Muriel, who enjoyed and adorned life, and wished others to adorn and to enjoy it; the individual whom, probably, were the majority of the English people polled, they would have fixed upon as filling the most enviable of all positions, and holding out a hope that he was not unworthy of it. Born with every advantage that could command the sympathies of his fellow-men, with a quick intelligence and a noble disposition, here he was at one-and-twenty ready to welcome death, perhaps even to devise it, as the only rescue from a doom of confusion, degradation, and remorse.
He had thrown himself on a sofa, and had buried his face in his hands to assist the abstraction which he demanded. There was not an incident of his life that escaped the painful inquisition of his memory. He passed his childhood once more in that stern Scotch home, that, after all, had been so kind, and, as it would seem, so wise. The last words of counsel and of warning from his uncle, expressed at Muriel, came back to him. And yet there seemed a destiny throughout these transactions which was; irresistible! The last words of Theodora, her look, even more solemn than her tone, might have been breathed over a tripod, for they were a prophecy, not a warning.
How long he had been absorbed in this passionate reverie he knew not but when he looked up again it was night, and the moon had touched his window. He rose and walked up and down the room, and then went into the corridor. All was silent; not an attendant was visible; the sky was clear and starry, and the moonlight fell on the tall, still cypresses in the vast quadrangle.
Lothair leaned over the balustrade and gazed upon the moonlit fountains. The change of scene, silent and yet not voiceless, and the softening spell of the tranquillizing hour, were a relief to him. And after a time he wandered about the corridors, and after a time he descended into the court. The tall Swiss, in his grand uniform, was closing the gates which had just released a visitor. Lothair motioned that he too wished to go forth, and the Swiss obeyed him. The threshold was passed, and Lothair found himself for the first time alone in Rome.
Utterly reckless, he cared not where he went or what might happen. The streets were quite deserted, and he wandered about with a strange curiosity, gratified as he sometimes encountered famous objects he had read of, and yet the true character of which no reading ever realizes.
The moonlight becomes the proud palaces of Rome, their corniced and balconied fronts rich with deep shadows in the blaze. Sometimes he encountered an imperial column; sometimes he came to an arcadian square flooded with light and resonant with the fall of statued fountains. Emerging from a long, straggling street of convents and gardens, he found himself in an open space full of antique ruins, and among them the form of a colossal amphitheatre that he at once recognized.
It rose with its three tiers of arches and the huge wall that crowns them, black and complete in the air; and not until Lothair had entered it could he perceive the portion of the outer wall that was in ruins, and now bathed with the silver light. Lothair was alone. In that huge creation, once echoing with the shouts, and even the agonies, of thousands, Lothair was alone.
He sat him down on a block of stone in that sublime and desolate arena, and asked himself the secret spell of this Rome that had already so agitated his young life, and probably was about critically to affect it. Theodora lived for Rome and died for Rome. And the cardinal, born and bred an English gentleman, with many hopes and honors, had renounced his religion, and, it might be said, his country, for Rome. And for Rome, to-morrow, Catesby would die without a pang, and sacrifice himself for Rome, as his race for three hundred years had given, for the same cause, honor and broad estates and unhesitating lives. And these very people were influenced by different motives, and thought they were devoting themselves to opposite ends. But still it was Rome—republican or Caesarian, papal or pagan, it still was Rome.
Was it a breeze in a breezeless night that was sighing amid these ruins? A pine-tree moved its head on a broken arch, and there was a stir among the plants that hung on the ancient walls. It was a breeze in a breezeless night that was sighing amid the ruins.
There was a tall crag of ancient building contiguous to the block on which Lothair was seated, and which on his arrival he had noted, although, long lost in reverie, he had not recently turned his glance in that direction. He was roused from that reverie by the indefinite sense of some change having occurred which often disturbs and terminates one's brooding thoughts. And looking round, he felt, he saw, he was no longer alone. The moonbeams fell upon a figure that was observing him from the crag of ruin that was near, and, as the light clustered and gathered round the form, it became every moment more definite and distinct.
Lothair would have sprung forward, but he could only extend his arms: he would have spoken, but his tongue was paralyzed.
"Lothair," said a deep, sweet voice that never could be forgotten.
"I am here," he at last replied.
"Remember!" and she threw upon him that glance, at once serene and solemn, that had been her last, and was impressed indelibly upon his heart of hearts.
Now, he could spring forward and throw himself at her feet, but alas! as he reached her, the figure melted into the moonlight, and she was gone—that divine Theodora, who, let us hope, returned at last to those Elysian fields she so well deserved.
"They have overdone it, Gertrude, with Lothair," said Lord Jerome to his wife. "I spoke to Monsignore Catesby about it some time ago, but he would not listen to me; I had more confidence in the cardinal and am disappointed; but a priest is ever too hot. His nervous system has been tried too much."
Lady St. Jerome still hoped the best, and believed in it. She was prepared to accept the way Lothair was found senseless in the Coliseum as a continuance of miraculous interpositions. He might have remained there for a day or days, and never have been recognized when discovered. How marvelously providential that Father Coleman should have been in the vicinity, and tempted to visit the great ruin that very night!
Lord St. Jerome was devout, and easy in his temper. Priests and women seemed to have no difficulty in managing him. But he was an English gentleman, and there was at the bottom of his character a fund of courage, firmness, and commonsense, that sometimes startled and sometimes perplexed those who assumed that he could be easily controlled. He was not satisfied with the condition of Lothair, "a peer of England and my connection;" and he had not unlimited confidence in those who had been hitherto consulted as to his state. There was a celebrated English physician at that time visiting Rome, and Lord St. Jerome, notwithstanding the multiform resistance of Monsignors Catesby, insisted he should be called in to Lothair.
The English physician was one of those men who abhor priests, and do not particularly admire ladies. The latter, in revenge, denounced his manners as brutal, though they always sent for him, and were always trying, though vainly, to pique him into sympathy. He rarely spoke, but he listened to every one with entire patience. He sometimes asked a question, but he never made a remark.
Lord St. Jerome had seen the physician, alone before he visited the Palazzo Agostini, and had talked to him freely about Lothair. The physician saw at once that Lord St. Jerome was truthful, and that, though his intelligence might be limited, it was pure and direct. Appreciating Lord St. Jerome, that nobleman found the redoubtable doctor not ungenial, and assured his wife that she would meet on the morrow by no means so savage a being as she anticipated. She received him accordingly, and in the presence of Monsignore Catesby. Never had she exercised her distinguished powers of social rhetoric with more art and fervor, and never apparently had they proved less productive of the intended consequences. The physician said not a word, and merely bowed when exhausted Nature consigned the luminous and impassioned Lady St. Jerome to inevitable silence. Monsignore Catesby felt he was bound in honor to make some diversion in her favor; repeat some of her unanswered inquiries, and reiterate some of her unnoticed views; but the only return he received was silence, without a bow, and then the physician remarked, "I presume I can now see the patient."
The English physician was alone with Lothair for some time, and then he met in consultation the usual attendants. The result of all these proceedings was that he returned to the saloon, in which he found Lord and Lady St. Jerome, Monsignore Catesby, and Father Coleman, and he then said: "My opinion is, that his lordship should quit Rome immediately, and I think he had better return at once to his own country."
All the efforts of the English Propaganda were now directed to prevent the return of Lothair to his own country. The cardinal and Lady St. Jerome, and the monsignore, and Father Coleman, all the beautiful young countesses who had "gone over" to Rome, and all the spirited young earls who had come over to bring their wives back, but had unfortunately remained themselves, looked very serious, and spoke much in whispers. Lord St. Jerome was firm that Lothair should immediately leave the city, and find that change of scene and air which were declared by authority to be indispensable for his health, both of mind and body. But his return to England, at this moment, was an affair of serious difficulty. He could not return unattended, and attended, too, by some intimate and devoted friend. Besides, it was very doubtful whether Lothair had strength remaining to bear so great an exertion, and at such a season of the year—and he seemed disinclined to it himself. He also wished to leave Rome, but he wished also in time to extend his travels. Amid these difficulties, a Neapolitan duke, a great friend of Monsignore Catesby, a gentleman who always had a friend in need, offered to the young English noble, the interesting young Englishman so favored by Heaven, the use of his villa on the coast of the remotest part of Sicily, near Syracuse. Here was a solution of many difficulties: departure from Rome, change of scene and air—sea air, too, particularly recommended—and almost the same as a return to England, without an effort, for was it not an island, only with a better climate, and a people with free institutions, or a taste for them, which is the same?
The mode in which Lady St. Jerome and Monsignors Catesby consulted Lord St. Jerome on the subject took the adroit but insidious form of congratulating him on the entire and unexpected fulfilment of his purpose. "Are we not fortunate?" exclaimed her ladyship, looking up brightly in his face, and gently pressing one of his arms.
"Exactly everything your lordship required," echoed Monsignore Catesby, congratulating him by pressing the other.
The cardinal said to Lord St. Jerome, in the course of the morning, in an easy way, and as if he were not thinking too much of the matter, "So, you have got out of all your difficulties."
Lord St. Jerome was not entirely satisfied, but he thought he had done a great deal, and, to say the truth, the effort for him had not been inconsiderable; and so the result was that Lothair, accompanied by Monsignore Catesby and Father Coleman, travelled by easy stages, and chiefly on horseback, through a delicious and romantic country, which alone did Lothair a great deal of good, to the coast; crossed the straits on a serene afternoon, visited Messina and Palermo, and finally settled at their point of destination—the Villa Catalano.
Nothing could be more satisfactory than the monsignore's bulletin, announcing to his friends at Rome their ultimate arrangements. Three weeks' travel, air, horse exercise, the inspiration of the landscape and the clime, had wonderfully restored Lothair, and they might entirely count on his passing Holy Week at Rome, when all they had hoped and prayed for would, by the blessing of the Holy Virgin, be accomplished.
The terrace of the Villa Catalano, with its orange and palm trees, looked upon a sea of lapiz lazuli, and rose from a shelving shore of aloes and arbutus. The waters reflected the color of the sky, and all the foliage wag bedewed with the same violet light of morn which bathed the softness of the distant mountains, and the undulating beauty of the ever-varying coast.
Lothair was walking on the terrace, his favorite walk, for it was the duly occasion on which he ever found himself alone. Not that he had any reason to complain of his companions. More complete ones could scarcely be selected. Travel, which, they say, tries all tempers, had only proved the engaging equanimity of Catesby, and had never disturbed the amiable repose of his brother priest: and then they were so entertaining and so instructive, as well as handy and experienced in all common things. The monsignore had so much taste and feeling, and various knowledge; and as for the reverend father, all the antiquaries they daily encountered were mere children in his hands, who, without effort, could explain and illustrate every scene and object, and spoke as if he had never given a thought to any other theme than Sicily and Syracuse, the expedition of Nicias, and the adventures of Agathocles. And yet, during all their travels, Lothair felt that he never was alone. This was remarkable at the great cities, such as Messina and Palermo, but it was a prevalent habit in less-frequented places. There was a petty town near them, which he had never visited alone, although he had made more than one attempt with that view; and it was only on the terrace in the early morn, a spot whence he could be observed from the villa, and which did not easily communicate with the precipitous and surrounding scenery, that Lothair would indulge that habit of introspection which he had pursued through many a long ride, and which to him was a never-failing source of interest and even excitement.
He wanted to ascertain the causes of what he deemed the failure of his life, and of the dangers and discomfiture that were still impending over him. Were these causes to be found in any peculiarity of his disposition, or in the general inexperience and incompetence of youth? The latter, he was now quite willing to believe, would lead their possessors into any amount of disaster, but his ingenuous nature hesitated before it accepted them as the self-complacent solution of his present deplorable position.
Of a nature profound and inquisitive, though with a great fund of reverence which had been developed by an ecclesiastical education, Lothair now felt that he had started in life with an extravagant appreciation of the influence of the religious principle on the conduct of human affairs. With him, when heaven was so nigh, earth could not be remembered; and yet experience showed that, so long as one was on the earth, the incidents of this planet considerably controlled one's existence, both in behavior and in thought. All the world could not retire to Mount Athos. It was clear, therefore, that there was a juster conception of the relations between religion and life than that which he had at first adopted.
Practically, Theodora had led, or was leading, him to this result; but Theodora, though religious, did not bow before those altars to which he for a moment had never been faithless. Theodora believed in her immortality, and did not believe in death according to the ecclesiastical interpretation. But her departure from the scene, and the circumstances under which it had taken place, had unexpectedly and violently restored the course of his life to its old bent. Shattered and shorn, he was willing to believe that he was again entering the kingdom of heaven, but found he was only under the gilded dome of a Jesuit's church, and woke to reality, from a scene of magical deceptions, with a sad conviction that even cardinals and fathers of the Church were inevitably influenced in this life by its interest and his passions.
But the incident of his life that most occupied—it might be said engrossed—his meditation was the midnight apparition in the Coliseum. Making every allowance that a candid nature and an ingenious mind could suggest for explicatory circumstances; the tension of his nervous system, which was then doubtless strained to its last point; the memory of her death-scene, which always harrowed and haunted him; and that dark collision between his promise and his life which then, after so many efforts, appeared by some supernatural ordination to be about inevitably to occur in that very Rome whose gigantic shades surrounded him; he still could not resist the conviction that he had seen the form of Theodora and had listened to her voice. Often the whole day, when they were travelling, and his companions watched him on his saddle in silent thought, his mind in reality was fixed on this single incident and he was cross-examining his memory as some adroit and ruthless advocate deals with the witness in the box, and tries to demonstrate his infidelity or his weakness.
But whether it were indeed the apparition of his adored friend or a distempered dream, Lothair not less recognized the warning as divine, and the only conviction he had arrived at throughout his Sicilian travels was a determination that, however tragical the cost, his promise to Theodora should never be broken.
The beautiful terrace of the Villa Catalano overlooked a small bay to which it descended by winding walks. The water was deep, and in any other country the bay might have been turned to good account; but bays abounded on this coast, and the people, with many harbors, had no freights to occupy them. This morn, this violet morn, when the balm of the soft breeze refreshed Lothair, and the splendor of the rising sun began to throw a flashing line upon the azure waters, a few fishermen in one of the country boats happened to come in, about to dry a net upon a sunny bank. The boat was what is called a speronaro; an open boat worked with oars, but with a lateen sail at the same time when the breeze served.
Lothair admired the trim of the vessel, and got talking with the men as they ate their bread and olives, and a small fish or two.
"And your lateen sail—?" continued Lothair.
"Is the best thing in the world, except in a white squall," replied the sailor, "and then every thing is queer in these seas with an open boat, though I am not afraid of Santa Agnese, and that is her name. But I took two English officers who came over here for sport and whose leave of absence was out—I took them over in her to Malta, and did it in ten hours. I believe it had never been done in an open boat before, but it was neck or nothing with them."
"And you saved them?"
"With the lateen up the whole way."
"They owed you much, and I hope they paid you well."
"I asked them ten ducats," said the man, "and they paid me ten ducats."
Lothair had his hand in his pocket all this time, feeling, but imperceptibly, for his purse, and, when he had found it, feeling how it was lined. He generally carried about him as much as Fortunatus.
"What are you going to do with yourselves this morning?" said Lothair.
"Well, not much; we thought of throwing the net, but we have had one dip, and no great luck."
"Are you inclined to give me a sail?"
"Have you a mind to go to Malta?"
"That is business, signor."
"Look here," said Lothair, "here are ten ducats in this purse, and a little more. I will give them to you if you will take me to Malta at once; but, if you will start in a hundred seconds, before the sun touches that rock, and the waves just beyond it are already bright, you shall have ten more ducats when you reach the isle."
"Step in, signor."
From the nature of the course, which was not in the direction of the open sea, for they had to double Cape Passaro, the speronaro was out of the sight of the villa in a few minutes. They rowed only till they had doubled the cape, and then set the lateen sail, the breeze being light, but steady and favorable. They were soon in open sea, no land in sight. "And, if a white squall does rise," thought Lothair, "it will only settle many difficulties."
But no white squall came; every thing was favorable to their progress; the wind the current, the courage, and spirit of the men, who liked the adventure, and liked Lothair. Night came on, but they were as tender to him as women, fed him with their least coarse food, and covered him with a cloak made of stuff spun by their mothers and their sisters.
Lothair was slumbering when the patron of the boat roused him, and he saw at hand many lights, and, in a few minutes, was in still water. They were in one of the harbors of Malta, but not permitted to land at midnight, and, when the morn arrived, the obstacles to the release of Lothair were not easily removed. A speronaro, an open boat from Sicily, of course with no papers to prove their point of departure—here were materials for doubt and difficulty, of which the petty officers of the port knew how to avail themselves. They might come from Barbary, from an infected port; plague might be aboard, a question of quarantine. Lothair observed that they were nearly alongside of a fine steam-yacht, English, for it bore the cross of St. George; and, while on the quay, he and the patron of the speronaro arguing with the officers of the port, a gentleman from the yacht put ashore in a boat, of which the bright equipment immediately attracted attention. The gentleman landed almost close to the point where the controversy was carrying on. The excited manner and voice of the Sicilian mariner could not escape notice. The gentleman stopped and looked at the group, and then suddenly exclaimed: "Good Heavens! my lord, can it be you?"
"Ah, Mr. Phoebus, you will help me!" said Lothair; and then he went up to him and told him every thing. All difficulties, of course, vanished before the presence of Mr. Phoebus, whom the officers of the port evidently looked upon as a being beyond criticism and control.
"And now," said Mr. Phoebus, "about your people and your baggage?"
"I have neither servants nor clothes," said Lothair, "and, if it had not been for these good people, I should not have had food."
Phoebus, in his steam-yacht Pan, of considerable admeasurement, and fitted up with every luxury and convenience that science and experience could suggest, was on his way to an island which he occasionally inhabited, near the Asian coast of the gean Sea, and which he rented from the chief of his wife's house, the Prince of Samos. Mr. Phoebus, by his genius and fame, commanded a large income, and he spent it freely and fully. There was nothing of which he more disapproved than accumulation. It was a practice which led to sordid habits, and was fatal to the beautiful. On the whole, he thought it more odious even than debt, more permanently degrading. Mr. Phoebus liked pomp and graceful ceremony, and he was of opinion that great artists should lead a princely life, so that, in their manners and method of existence, they might furnish models to mankind in general, and elevate the tone and taste of nations.
Sometimes, when he observed a friend noticing with admiration, perhaps with astonishment, the splendor or finish of his equipments, he would say: "The world think I had a large fortune with Madame Phoebus. I had nothing. I understand that a fortune, and no inconsiderable one, would have been given had I chosen to ask for it. But I did not choose to ask for it. I made Madame Phoebus my wife because she was the finest specimen of the Aryan race that I was acquainted with, and I would have no considerations mixed up with the high motive that influenced me. My father-in-law Cantacuzene, whether from a feeling of gratitude or remorse, is always making us magnificent presents. I like to receive magnificent presents, but also to make them; and I presented him with a picture which is the gem of his gallery, and which, if he ever part with it, will in another generation be contended for by kings and peoples.
"On her last birthday we breakfasted with my father-in-law Cantacuzene, and Madame Phoebus found in her napkin a check for five thousand pounds. I expended it immediately in jewels for her personal use; for I wished my father-in-law to understand that there are other princely families in the world besides the Cantacuzenes."
A friend once ventured inquiringly to suggest whether his way of life might not be conducive to envy, and so disturb that serenity of sentiment necessary to the complete life of an artist. But Mr. Phoebus would not for a moment admit the soundness of the objection. "No," he said, "envy is a purely intellectual process. Splendor never excites it; a man of splendor is looked upon always with favor—his appearance exhilarates the heart of man. He is always popular. People wish to dine with him, to borrow his money, but they do not envy him. If you want to know what envy is, you should live among artists. You should hear me lecture at the Academy. I have sometimes suddenly turned round and caught countenances like that of the man who was waiting at the corner of the street for Benvenuto Cellini, in order to assassinate the great Florentine."
It was impossible for Lothair in his present condition to have fallen upon a more suitable companion than Mr. Phoebus. It is not merely change of scene and air that we sometimes want, but a revolution in the atmosphere of thought and feeling in which we live and breathe. Besides his great intelligence and fancy, and his peculiar views on art and man and affairs in general, which always interested their hearer, and sometimes convinced, there was a general vivacity in Mr. Phoebus and a vigorous sense of life, which were inspiriting to his companions. When there was any thing to be done, great or small, Mr. Phoebus liked to do it; and this, as he averred, from a sense of duty, since, if any thing is to be done, it should be done in the best manner, and no one could do it so well as Mr. Phoebus. He always acted as if he had been created to be the oracle and model of the human race, but the oracle was never pompous or solemn, and the model was always beaming with good-nature and high spirits.
Mr. Phoebus liked Lothair. He liked youth, and good-looking youth; and youth that was intelligent and engaging and well-mannered. He also liked old men. But, between fifty and seventy, he saw little to approve of in the dark sex. They had lost their good looks if they ever had any, their wits were on the wane, and they were invariably selfish. When they attained second childhood, the charm often returned. Age was frequently beautiful, wisdom appeared like an aftermath, and the heart which seemed dry and deadened suddenly put forth shoots of sympathy.
Mr. Phoebus postponed his voyage in order that Lothair might make his preparations to become his guest in his island. "I cannot take you to a banker," said Mr. Phoebus, "for I have none; but I wish you would share my purse. Nothing will ever induce me to use what they call paper money. It is the worst thing that what they call civilization has produced; neither hue nor shape, and yet a substitute for the richest color, and, where the arts flourish, the finest forms."
The telegraph which brought an order to the bankers at Malta to give an unlimited credit to Lothair, rendered it unnecessary for our friend to share what Mr. Phoebus called his purse, and yet he was glad to have the opportunity of seeing it, as Mr. Phoebus one morning opened a chest in his cabin and produced several velvet bags, one full of pearls, another of rubies, others of Venetian sequins, Napoleons, and golden piastres. "I like to look at them," said Mr. Phoebus, "and find life more intense when they are about my person. But bank-notes, so cold and thin—they give me an ague."
Madame Phoebus and her sister Euphrosyne welcomed Lothair in maritime costumes which were absolutely bewitching; wondrous jackets with loops of pearls, girdles defended by dirks with handles of turquoises, and tilted hats that; while they screened their long eyelashes from the sun, crowned the longer braids of their never-ending hair. Mr. Phoebus gave banquets every day on board his yacht, attended by the chief personages of the island, and the most agreeable officers of the garrison. They dined upon deck, and it delighted him, with a surface of sang-froid, to produce a repast which both in its material and its treatment was equal to the refined festivals of Paris. Sometimes they had a dance; sometimes in his barge, rowed by a crew in Venetian dresses, his guests glided on the tranquil waters, under a starry sky, and listened to the exquisite melodies of their hostess and her sister.
At length the day of departure arrived. It was bright, with a breeze favorable to the sail and opportune for the occasion. For all the officers of the garrison, and all beautiful Valetta itself, seemed present in their yachts and barges to pay their last tribute of admiration to the enchanting sisters and the all-accomplished owner of the Pan. Placed on the galley of his yacht, Mr. Phoebus surveyed the brilliant and animated scene with delight. "This is the way to conduct life," he said. "If, fortunately for them, I could have passed another month among these people, I could have developed a feeling equal to the old regattas of the Venetians."
The gean isle occupied by Mr. Phoebus was of no inconsiderable dimensions. A chain of mountains of white marble intersected it, covered with forests of oak, though in parts precipitous and bare. The lowlands, while they produced some good crops of grain, and even cotton and silk, were chiefly clothed with fruit-trees—orange and lemon, and the fig, the olive, and the vine. Sometimes the land was uncultivated, and was principally covered with myrtles, of large size, and oleanders, and arbutus, and thorny brooms. Here game abounded, while from the mountain-forests the wolf sometimes descended, and spoiled and scared the islanders.
On the sea-shore, yet not too near the wave, and on a sylvan declivity, was along, pavilion-looking building, painted in white and arabesque. It was backed by the forest, which had a park-like character from its partial clearance, and which, after a convenient slip of even land, ascended the steeper country and took the form of wooded hills, backed in due time by still sylvan yet loftier elevations, and sometimes a glittering peak.
"Welcome, my friend!" said Mr. Phoebus to Lothair. "Welcome to an Aryan clime, an Aryan landscape, and an Aryan race! It will do you good after your Semitic hallucinations."
Mr. Phoebus pursued a life in his island partly feudal, partly Oriental, partly Venetian, and partly idiosyncratic. He had a grand studio, where he could always find interesting occupation in drawing every fine face and form in his dominions. Then he hunted, and that was a remarkable scene. The ladies, looking like Diana or her nymphs, were mounted on cream-colored Anatolian chargers, with golden bells; while Mr. Phoebus himself, in green velvet and seven-leagued boots, sounded a wondrous twisted horn, rife with all the inspiring or directing notes of musical and learned venerie. His neighbors of condition came mounted, but the field was by no means confined to cavaliers. A vast crowd of men, in small caps and jackets and huge white breeches, and armed with all the weapons of Palikari, handjars and ataghans and silver-sheathed muskets of uncommon length and almost as old as the battle of Lepanto, always rallied round his standard. The equestrians caracoled about the park, and the horns sounded, and the hounds bayed, and the men shouted, till the deer had all scudded away. Then, by degrees, the hunters entered the forest, and the notes of venerie became more faint and the shouts more distant. Then, for two or three hours, all was silent, save the sound of an occasional shot or the note of a stray hound, until the human stragglers began to reappear emerging from the forest, and in due time the great body of the hunt, and a gilded cart drawn by mules and carrying the prostrate forms of fallow-deer and roebuck. None of the ceremonies of the chase were omitted, and the crowd dispersed, refreshed by Samian wine, which Mr. Phoebus was teaching them to make without resin, and which they quaffed with shrugging shoulders.
"We must have a wolf-hunt for you," said Euphrosyne to Lothair. "You like excitement, I believe?"
"Well, I am rather inclined for repose at present, and I came here with the hope of obtaining it."
"Well, we are never idle here; in fact, that would be impossible with Gaston. He has established here an academy of the fine arts, and also revived the gymnasia; and my sister and myself have schools—only music and dancing; Gaston does not approve of letters. The poor people have, of course, their primary schools, with their priests, and Gaston does not interfere with them, but he regrets their existence. He looks upon reading and writing as very injurious to education."
Sometimes reposing on divans, the sisters received the chief persons of the isle, and regaled them with fruits and sweetmeats, and coffee and sherbets, while Gaston's chibouques and tobacco of Salonica were a proverb. These meetings always ended with dance and song, replete, according to Mr. Phoebus, with studies of Aryan life.
"I believe these islanders to be an unmixed race," said Mr. Phoebus. "The same form and visage prevails throughout; and very little changed in any thing—even in their religion."
"Unchanged in their religion!" said Lothair, with some astonishment.
"Yes; you will find it so. Their existence is easy; their wants are not great, and their means of subsistence plentiful. They pass much of their life in what is called amusement—and what is it? They make parties of pleasure; they go in procession to a fountain or a grove. They dance and eat fruit, and they return home singing songs. They have, in fact, been performing unconsciously the religious ceremonies of their ancestors, and which they pursue, and will forever, though they may have forgotten the name of the dryad or the nymph who presides over their waters."
"I should think their priests would guard them from these errors," said Lothair.
"The Greek priests, particularly in these Asian islands, are good sort of people," said Mr. Phoebus. "They marry and have generally large families, often very beautiful. They have no sacerdotal feelings, for they never can have any preferment; all the high posts in the Greek Church being reserved for the monks, who study what is called theology. The Greek parish priest is not at all Semitic; there is nothing to counteract his Aryan tendencies. I have already raised the statue of a nymph at one of their favorite springs and places of pleasant pilgrimage, and I have a statue now in the island, still in its case, which I contemplate installing in a famous grove of laurel not far off and very much resorted to."
"And what then?" inquired Lothair.
"Well, I have a conviction that among the great races the old creeds will come back," said Mr. Phoebus, "and it will be acknowledged that true religion is the worship of the beautiful. For the beautiful cannot be attained without virtue, if virtue consists, as I believe, in the control of the passions, in the sentiment of repose, and the avoidance in all things of excess."
One night Lothair was walking home with the sisters from a village festival where they had been much amused.
"You have had a great many adventures since we first met?" said Madame Phoebus.
"Which makes it seem longer ago than it really is," said Lothair.
"You count time by emotion, then?" said Euphrosyne.
"Well, it is a wonderful thing, however it be computed," said Lothair.
"For my part, I do not think that it ought to be counted at all," said Madame Phoebus; "and there is nothing to me so detestable in Europe as the quantity of clocks and watches."
"Do you use a watch, my lord?" asked Euphrosyne, in a tone which always seemed to Lothair one of mocking artlessness.
"I believe I never wound it up when I had one," said Lothair.
"But you make such good use of your time," said Madame Phoebus, "you do not require watches."
"I am glad to hear I make good use of my time," said Lothair, "but a little surprised."
"But you are so good, so religious," said Madame Phoebus. "That is a great thing; especially for one so young."
"Hem!" said Lothair.
"That must have been a beautiful procession at Rome," said Euphrosyne.
"I was rather a spectator of it than an actor in it," said Lothair, with some seriousness. "It is too long a tale to enter into, but my part in those proceedings was entirely misrepresented."
"I believe that nothing in the newspapers is ever true," said Madame Phoebus.
"And that is why they are so popular," added Euphrosyne; "the taste of the age being so decidedly for fiction."
"Is it true that you escaped from a convent to Malta?" said Madame Phoebus.
"Not quite," said Lothair, "but true enough for conversations."
"As confidential as the present, I suppose?" said Euphrosyne.
"Yes, when we are grave, as we are inclined to be now," said Lothair.
"Then, you have been fighting a good deal," said Madame Phoebus.
"You are putting me on a court-martial, Madame Phoebus," said Lothair.
"But we do not know on which side you were," said Euphrosyne.
"That is matter of history," said Lothair, "and that, you know, is always doubtful."
"Well, I do not like fighting," said Madame Phoebus, "and for my part I never could find out that it did an good."
"And what do you like?" said Lothair. "Tell me how would you pass your life?"
"Well, much as I do. I do not know that I want any change, except I think I should like it to be always summer."
"And I would have perpetual spring," said Euphrosyne.
"But, summer or spring, what would be your favorite pursuit?"
"Well, dancing is very nice," said Madame Phoebus.
"But we cannot always, be dancing," said Lothair.
"Then we would sing," said Euphrosyne.
"But the time comes when one can neither dance nor sing," said Lothair.
"Oh, then we become part of the audience," said Madame Phoebus, "the people for whose amusement everybody labors."
"And enjoy power without responsibility," said Euphrosyne, "detect false notes and mark awkward gestures. How can any one doubt of Providence with such a system of constant compensation!"
There was something in the society of these two sisters that Lothair began to find highly attractive. Their extraordinary beauty, their genuine and unflagging gayety, their thorough enjoyment of existence, and the variety of resources with which they made life amusing and graceful, all contributed to captivate him. They had, too, a great love and knowledge both of art and nature, and insensibly they weaned Lothair from that habit of introspection which, though natural to him, he had too much indulged, and taught him to find sources of interest and delight in external objects. He was beginning to feel happy in this islands and wishing that his life might never change, when one day Mr. Phoebus informed them that the Prince Agathonides, the eldest son of the Prince of Samos, would arrive from Constantinople in a few days, and would pay them a visit. "He will come with some retinue," said Mr. Phoebus, "but I trust we shall be able by our reception to show that the Cantacuzenes are not the only princely family in the world."
Mr. Phoebus was confident in his resources in this respect, for his yacht's crew in their Venetian dresses could always furnish a guard of honor which no Grecian prince or Turkish pacha could easily rival. When the eventful day arrived, he was quite equal to the occasion. The yacht was dressed in every part with the streaming colors of all nations, the banner of Gaston Phoebus waved from his pavilion, the guard of honor kept the ground, but the population of the isle were present in numbers and in their most showy costume, and a battery of ancient Turkish guns fired a salute without an accident.
The Prince Agathonides was a youth, good looking and dressed in a splendid Palikar costume, though his manners were quite European, being an attach to the Turkish embassy at Vienna. He had with him a sort of governor, a secretary, servants in Mamlouk dresses, pipe-bearers, and grooms, there being some horses as presents from his father to Mr. Phoebus, and some rarely-embroidered kerchiefs and choice perfumes and Persian greyhounds for the ladies.
'The arrival of the young prince was the signal for a series of entertainments on the island. First of all, Mr. Phoebus resolved to give a dinner in the Frank style, to prove to Agathonides that there were other members of the Cantacuzene family besides himself who comprehended a first-rate Frank dinner. The chief people of the island were invited to this banquet. They drank the choicest grapes of France and Germany, were stuffed with truffles, and sat on little cane chairs. But one might detect in their countenances how they sighed for their easy divans, their simple dishes, and their resinous wine. Then there was a wolf-hunt, and other sport; a great day of gymnasia, many dances and much music; in fact, there were choruses all over the island, and every night was a serenade.
Why such general joy? Because it was understood that the heir-apparent of the isle, their future sovereign, had in fact arrived to make his bow to the beautiful Euphrosyne, as though he saw her for the first time.
Very shortly after his arrival at Malta, Mr. Phoebus had spoken to Lothair about Theodora. It appeared that Lucien Campian, though severely wounded, had escaped with Garibaldi after the battle of Mentana into the Italian territories. Here they were at once arrested, but not severely detained, and Colonel Campian took the first opportunity of revisiting England, where, after settling his affairs, he had returned to his native country, from which he had been separated for many years. Mr. Phoebus during the interval had seen a great deal of him, and the colonel departed for America under the impression that Lothair had been among the slain at the final struggle.
"Campian is one of the beat men I over knew," said Phoebus. "He was a remarkable instance of energy combined with softness of disposition. In my opinion, however, he ought never to have visited Europe: he was made to clear the backwoods, and govern man by the power of his hatchet and the mildness of his words. He was fighting for freedom all his life, yet slavery made and slavery destroyed him. Among all the freaks of Fate nothing is more surprising than that this Transatlantic planter should have been ordained to be the husband of a divine being—a true Hellenic goddess, who in the good days would have been worshipped in this country, and have inspired her race to actions of grace, wisdom, and beauty."
"I greatly esteem him," said Lothair "and I shall write to him directly."
"Except by Campian, who spoke probably about you to no one save myself," continued Phoebus, "your name has never been mentioned with reference to those strange transactions. Once there was a sort of rumor that you had met with some mishap, but these things were contradicted and explained, and then forgotten: and people were all out of town. I believe that Cardinal Grandison communicated with your man of business, and between them every thing was kept quiet, until this portentous account of your doings at Rome, which transpired after we left England and which met us at Malta."
"I have written to my man of business about that," said Lothair, "but I think it will tax all his ingenuity to explain, or to mystify it as successfully as he did the preceding adventures. At any rate, he will not have the assistance of my lord cardinal."
"Theodora was a remarkable woman on many accounts," said Mr. Phoebus, "but particularly on this, that, although one of the most beautiful women that ever existed, she was adored by beautiful women. My wife adored her; Euphrosyne, who has no enthusiasm, adored her; the Princess of Tivoli, the most capricious being probably that ever existed, adored; and always adored, Theodora. I think it must have been that there was on her part a total absence of vanity, and this the more strange in one whose vocation in her earlier life had been to attract and live on popular applause; but I have seen her quit theatres ringing with admiration and enter her carriage with the serenity of a Phidian muse."
"I adored her," said Lothair, "but I never could quite solve her character. Perhaps it was too rich and deep far rapid comprehension."
"We shall never perhaps see her like again," said Mr. Phoebus. "It was a rare combination, peculiar to the Tyrrhenian sea. I am satisfied that we must go there to find the pure Hellenic blood, and from thence it got to Rome."
"We may not see her like again, but we may see her again," said Lothair; "and sometimes I think she is always hovering over me."
In this vein, when they were alone, they were frequently speaking of the departed, and one day—it was before the arrival of Prince Agathonides—Mr. Phoebus said to Lothair: "We will ride this morning to what we call the grove of Daphne. It is a real laurel-grove. Some of the trees must be immemorial, and deserve to have been sacred, if once they were not so. In their huge, grotesque forms you would not easily recognize your polished friends of Europe, so trim and glossy and shrub-like. The people are very fond of this grove, and make frequent processions there. Once a year they must be headed by their priest. No one knows why, nor has he the slightest idea of the reason of the various ceremonies which he that day performs. But we know, and some day he or his successors will equally understand them. Yes, if I remain here long enough—and I sometimes think I will never again quit the isle—I shall expect some fine summer night, when there is that rich stillness which the whispering waves only render more intense, to hear a voice of music on the mountains declaring that the god Pan has returned to earth."
It was a picturesque ride, as every ride was on this island, skirting the sylvan hills with the sea glimmering in the distance. Lothair was pleased with the approaches to the sacred grove: now and then a single tree with gray branches and a green head, then a great spread of underwood, all laurel, and then spontaneous plantations of young trees.
"There was always a vacant space in the centre of the grove," said Mr. Phoebus, "once sadly overrun with wild shrubs, but I have cleared it and restored the genius of the spot. See!"
They entered the sacred circle and beheld a statue raised on a porphyry pedestal. The light fell with magical effect on the face of the statue. It was the statue of Theodora, the placing of which in the pavilion of Belmont Mr. Phoebus was superintending when Lothair first made his acquaintance.
The Prince Agathonides seemed quite to monopolize the attention of Madame Phoebus and her sister. This was not very unreasonable, considering that he was their visitor, the future chief of their house, and had brought them so many embroidered pocket-handkerchiefs, choice scents, and fancy dogs. But Lothair thought it quite disgusting, nor could he conceive what they saw in him, what they were talking about or laughing about, for, so far as he had been able to form any opinion on the subject, the prince was a shallow-pated coxcomb without a single quality to charm any woman of sense and spirit. Lothair began to consider how he could pursue his travels, where he should go to, and, when that was settled, how he should get there.
Just at this moment of perplexity, as is often the case, something occurred which no one could foresee, but which, like every event, removed some difficulties and introduced others.
There arrived at the island a dispatch forwarded to Mr. Phoebus by the Russian ambassador at Constantinople, who had received it from his colleague at London. This dispatch contained a proposition to Mr. Phoebus to repair to the court of St. Petersburg, and accept appointments of high distinction and emolument. Without in any way restricting the independent pursuit of his profession, he was offered a large salary, the post of court painter, and the presidency of the Academy of Fine Arts. Of such moment did the Russian Government deem the official presence of this illustrious artist in their country, that it was intimated, if the arrangement could be effected, its conclusion might be celebrated by conferring on Mr. Phoebus a patent of nobility and a decoration of a high class. The dispatch contained a private letter from an exalted member of the imperial family, who had had the high and gratifying distinction of making Mr. Phoebus's acquaintance in London, personally pressing the acceptance by him of the general proposition, assuring him of cordial welcome and support, and informing Mr. Phoebus that what was particularly desired at this moment was a series of paintings illustrative of some of the most memorable scenes in the Holy Land and especially the arrival of the pilgrims of the Greek rite at Jerusalem. As for this purpose he would probably like to visit Palestine, the whole of the autumn or even a longer period was placed at his disposal; so that, enriched with all necessary drawings and studies, he might achieve his more elaborate performances in Russia at his leisure and with every advantage.
Considering that the great objects in life with Mr. Phoebus were to live in an Aryan country, amid an Aryan race, and produce works which should revive for the benefit of human nature Aryan creeds, a proposition to pass some of the prime years of his life among the Mongolian race, and at the same time devote his pencil to the celebration Semitic subjects, was startling.
"I shall say nothing to Madame Phoebus until the prince has gone," he remarked to Lothair; "he will go the day after to-morrow. I do not know what they may offer to make me—probably only a baron, perhaps a count. But you know in Russia a man may become a prince, and I certainly should like those Cantacuzenes to feel that after all their daughter is a princess with no thanks to them. The climate is detestable, but one owes much to one's profession. Art would be honored at a great, perhaps the greatest, court. There would not be a fellow at his easel in the streets about Fitzroy Square who would not be prouder. I wonder what the decoration will be? 'Of a high class'—vague. It might be Alexander Newsky. You know you have a right, whatever your decoration, to have it expressed, of course at your own expense, in brilliants. I confess I have my weaknesses. I should like to get over to the Academy dinner—one can do any thing in these days of railroads—and dine with the R. A's in my ribbon and the star of the Alexander Newsky in brilliants. I think every academician would feel elevated. What I detest are their Semitic subjects—nothing but drapery. They cover even their heads in those scorching climes. Can any one make any thing of a caravan of pilgrims? To be sure, they say no one can draw a camel. If I went to Jerusalem, a camel would at last be drawn. There is something in that. We must think over these things, and when the prince has gone talk it over with Madame Phoebus. I wish you all to come to a wise decision, without the slightest reference to my individual tastes or, it may be, prejudices."
The result of all this was that Mr. Phoebus, without absolutely committing himself, favorably entertained the general proposition of the Russian court; while, with respect to their particular object in art, he agreed to visit Palestine and execute at least one work for his imperial friend and patron. He counted on reaching Jerusalem before the Easter pilgrims returned to their homes.
"If they would make me a prince at once, and give me the Alexander Newsky in brilliants, it might be worth thinking of," he said to Lothair.
The ladies, though they loved their isle, were quite delighted with the thought of going to Jerusalem. Madame Phoebus knew a Russian grand-duchess who had boasted to her that she had been both to Jerusalem and Torquay, and Madame Phoebus had felt quite ashamed that she had been to neither.
"I suppose you will feel quite at home there," said Euphrosyne to Lothair.
"No; I never was there."
"No; but you know all about those places and people—holy places and holy persons. The Blessed Virgin did not, I believe, appear to you. It was to a young lady, was it not? We were asking each other last night who the young lady could be."
Time, which changes every thing, is changing even the traditionary appearance of forlorn Jerusalem. Not that its mien, after all, was ever very sad. Its airy site, its splendid mosque, its vast monasteries, the bright material of which the whole city is built, its cupolaed houses of freestone, and above all the towers and gates and battlements of its lofty and complete walls, always rendered it a handsome city. Jerusalem has not been sacked so often or so recently as the other two great ancient cities, Rome and Athens. Its vicinage was never more desolate than the Campagna, or the state of Attica and the Morea in 1830.
The battle-field of western Asia from the days of the Assyrian kings to those of Mehemet Ali, Palestine endured the same devastation as in modern times has been the doom of Flanders and the Milanese; but the years of havoc in the Low Countries and Lombardy must be counted in Palestine by centuries. Yet the wide plains of the Holy Land, Sharon, and Shechem, and Esdraelon, have recovered; they are as fertile and as fair as in old days; it is the hill-culture that has been destroyed, and that is the culture on which Jerusalem mainly depended. Its hills were terraced gardens, vineyards, and groves of olive-trees. And here it is that we find renovation. The terraces are again ascending the stony heights, and the eye is frequently gladdened with young plantations. Fruit-trees, the peach and the pomegranate, the almond and the fig, offer gracious groups; and the true children of the land, the vine and the olive, are again exulting in their native soil.
There is one spot, however, which has been neglected, and yet the one that should have been the first remembered, as it has been the most rudely wasted. Blessed be the hand which plants trees upon Olivet! Blessed be the hand that builds gardens about Sion!
The most remarkable creation, however, in modern Jerusalem is the Russian settlement which within a few years has risen on the elevated ground on the western side of the city. The Latin, the Greek, and the Armenian Churches had for centuries possessed enclosed establishments in the city, which, under the name of monasteries, provided shelter and protection for hundreds—it might be said even thousands—of pilgrims belonging to their respective rites. The great scale, therefore, on which Russia secured hospitality for her subjects was not in reality so remarkable as the fact that it seemed to indicate a settled determination to separate the Muscovite Church altogether from the Greek, and throw off what little dependence is still acknowledged on the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Whatever the motive, the design has been accomplished on a large scale. The Russian buildings, all well defended, are a caravanserai, a cathedral, a citadel. The consular flag crowns the height and indicates the office of administration; priests and monks are permanent inhabitants, and a whole caravan of Muscovite pilgrim and the trades on which they depend can be accommodated within the precinct.
Mr. Phoebus, his family and suite, were to be the guests of the Russian consul, and every preparation was made to insure the celebrated painter a becoming reception. Frequent telegrams had duly impressed the representative of all the Russias in the Holy Land with the importance of his impending visitor. Even the qualified and strictly provisional acceptance of the Russian proposition by Mr. Phoebus had agitated the wires of Europe scarcely less than a suggested conference.
"An artist should always remember what he owes to posterity and his profession," said Mr. Phoebus to Lothair, as they were walking the deck, "even if you can distinguish between them, which I doubt, for it is only by a sense of the beautiful that the human family can be sustained in Its proper place in the scale of creation, and the sense of the beautiful is a result of the study of the fine arts. It would be something to sow the seeds of organic change in the Mongolian type, but I am nor sanguine of success. There is no original fund of aptitude to act upon. The most ancient of existing communities is Turanian, and yet, though they could invent gunpowder and the mariner's compass, they never could understand perspective.—Man ahead there! tell Madame Phoebus to come on deck for the first sight of Mount Lebanon."
When the Pan entered the port of Joppa they observed another English yacht in those waters; but, before they could speculate on its owner, they were involved in all the complications of landing. On the quay, the Russian vice-consul was in attendance with horses and mules, and donkeys handsomer than either. The ladies were delighted with the vast orange-gardens of Joppa, which Madame Phoebus said realized quite her idea of the Holy Land.
"I was prepared for milk and honey," said Euphrosyne, "but this is too delightful," as she travelled through lanes of date-bearing palm-trees, and sniffed with her almond-shaped nostrils the all-pervading fragrance.
They passed the night at Arimathea, a pretty village surrounded with gardens enclosed with hedges of prickly pear. Here they found hospitality, in an old convent, but all the comforts of Europe and many of the refinements of Asia had been forwarded for their accommodations.
"It is a great homage to art," said Mr. Phoebus, as he scattered his gold like a great seigneur of Gascony.
The next day, two miles from Jerusalem, the consul met them with a cavalcade, and the ladies assured their host that they were not at all wearied with their journey, but were quite prepared, in due time, to join his dinner-party, which he was most anxious they should attend, as he had "two English lords" who had arrived, and whom he had invited to meet them. They were all curious to know their names, though that, unfortunately, the consul could not tell them, but he had sent to the English consulate to have them written down. All he could assure them was, that they were real English lords, not travelling English lords, but in sober earnestness great personages.
Mr. Phoebus was highly gratified. He was pleased with his reception. There was nothing he liked much more than a procession. He was also a sincere admirer of the aristocracy of his country. "On the whole," he would say, "they most resemble the old Hellenic race; excelling in athletic sports, speaking no other language than their own, and never reading."
"Your fault," he would sometimes say to Lothair, "and the cause of many of your sorrows, is the habit of mental introspection. Man is born to observe, but if he falls into psychology he observes nothing, and then he is astonished that life has no charms for him, or that, never seizing the occasion, his career is a failure. No, sir, it is the eye that must be occupied and cultivated; no one knows the capacity of the eye who has not developed it, or the visions of beauty and delight and inexhaustible interest which it commands. To a man who observes, life is as different as the existence of a dreaming psychologist is to that of the animals of the field."
"I fear," said Lothair, "that I have at length found out the truth, and that I am a dreaming psychologist."
"You are young and not irremediably lost," said Mr. Phoebus. "Fortunately, you have received the admirable though partial education of your class. You are a good shot, you can ride, you can row, you can swim. That imperfect secretion of the brain which is called thought has not yet bowed your frame. You have not had time to read much. Give it up altogether. The conversation of a woman like Theodora is worth all the libraries in the world. If it were only for her sake, I should wish to save you, but I wish to do it for your own. Yes, profit by the vast though calamitous experience which you have gained in a short time. We may know a great deal about our bodies, we can know very little about our minds."
The "real English lords" turned out to be Bertram and St. Aldegonde, returning from Nubia. They had left England about the same time as Lothair, and had paired together on the Irish Church till Easter, with a sort of secret hope on the part of St. Aldegonde that they might neither of them reappear in the House of Commons again until the Irish Church were either saved or subverted. Holy Week had long passed, and they were at Jerusalem, not quite so near the House of Commons as the Reform Club or the Carlton, but still St. Aldegonde had mentioned that he was beginning to be bored with Jerusalem, and Bertram counted on their immediate departure when they accepted the invitation to dine with the Russian consul.
Lothair was unaffectedly delighted to meet Bertram, and glad to see St. Aldegonde, but he was a little nervous and embarrassed as to the probable tone of his reception by them. But their manner relieved him in an instant, for he saw they knew nothing of his adventures.
"Well," said St. Aldegonde, "what have you been doing with yourself since we last met? I wish you had come with us, and had a shot at a crocodile."
Bertram told Lothair in the course of the evening that he found letters at Cairo from Corisande, on his return, in which there was a good deal about Lothair, and which had made him rather uneasy. "That there was a rumor you had been badly wounded, and some other things," and Bertram looked him full in the face; "but I dare say not a word of truth."
"I was never better in my life," said Lothair, "and I have been in Sicily and in Greece. However, we will talk over all this another time."
The dinner at the consulate was, one of the most successful banquets that was ever given, if to please your guests be the test of good fortune in such enterprises. St. Aldegonde was perfectly charmed with the Phoebus family; he did not know which to admire most—the great artist, who was in remarkable spirits to-day, considering he was in a Semitic country, or his radiant wife, or his brilliant sister-in-law. St. Aldegonde took an early opportunity of informing Bertram that if he liked to go over and vote for the Irish Church he would release him from his pair with the greatest pleasure, but for his part he had not the slightest intention of leaving Jerusalem at present. Strange to say, Bertram received this intimation without a murmur. He was not so loud in his admiration of the Phoebus family as St. Aldegonde, but there is a silent sentiment sometimes more expressive than the noisiest applause, and more dangerous. Bertram had sat next to Euphrosyne, and was entirely spell-bound.
The consul's wife, a hostess not unworthy of such guests, had entertained her friends in the European style. The dinner-hour was not late, and the gentlemen who attended the ladies from the dinner-table were allowed to remain some time in the saloon. Lothair talked much to the consul's wife, by whose side sat Madame Phoebus. St. Aldegonde was always on his legs, distracted by the rival attractions of that lady and her husband. More remote, Bertram whispered to Euphrosyne, who answered him with laughing eyes.
At a certain hour, the consul, attended by his male guests, crossing a court, proceeded to his divan, a lofty and capacious chamber painted in fresco, and with no furniture except the low but broad raised seat that surrounded the room. Here, when they were seated, an equal number of attendants—Arabs in Arab dress, blue gowns, and red slippers, and red caps—entered, each proffering a long pipe of cherry or jasmine wood. Then, in a short time, guests dropped in, and pipes and coffee were immediately brought to them. Any person who had been formally presented to the consul had this privilege, without any further invitation. The society often found in these consular divans in the more remote places of the East—Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem—is often extremely entertaining and instructive. Celebrated travellers, distinguished men of science, artists, adventurers who ultimately turn out to be heroes, eccentric characters of all kinds, are here encountered, and give the fruits of their original or experienced observation without reserve.
"It is the smoking-room over again," whispered St. Aldegonde to Lothair, "only in England one is so glad to get away from the women, but here I must say I should have liked to remain behind."
An individual in a Syrian dress, fawn-colored robes girdled with a rich shawl, and a white turban, entered. He made his salute with grace and dignity to the consul, touching his forehead, his lip, and his heart, and took his seat with the air of one not unaccustomed to be received, playing, until he received his chibouque, with a chaplet of beads.
"That is a good-looking fellow, Lothair," said St. Aldegonde; "or is it the dress that turns them out such swells? I feel quite a lout by some of these fellows."
"I think he would be good-looking in any dress," said Lothair. "A remarkable countenance."
It was an oval visage, with features in harmony with that form; large dark-brown eyes and lashes, and brows delicately but completely defined; no hair upon the face except a beard, full but not long. He seemed about the same age as Mr. Phoebus, and his complexion, though pale, was clear and fair.
The conversation, after some rambling, had got upon the Suez Canal. Mr. Phoebus did not care for the political or the commercial consequences of that great enterprise, but he was glad that a natural division should be established between the greater races and the Ethiopian. It might not lead to any considerable result, but it asserted a principle. He looked upon that trench as a protest.
"But would you place the Nilotic family in the Ethiopian race?" inquired the Syrian in a voice commanding from its deep sweetness.
"I would certainly. The were Cushim, and that means negroes."
The Syrian did not agree with Mr. Phoebus; he stated his views firmly and, clearly, but without urging them. He thought that we must look to the Pelasgi as the colonizing race that had peopled and produced Egypt. The mention of the Pelasgi fired Mr. Phoebus to even unusual eloquence. He denounced the Pelasgi as a barbarous race: men of gloomy superstitions, who, had it not been for the Hellenes, might have fatally arrested the human development. The triumph of the Hellenes was the triumph of the beautiful, and all that is great and good in life was owing to their victory.
"It is difficult to ascertain what is great in life," said the Syrian, "because nations differ on the subject and ages. Some, for example, consider war to be a great thing, others condemn it. I remember also when patriotism was a boast, and now it is a controversy. But it is not so difficult to ascertain what is good. For man has in his own being some guide to such knowledge, and divine aid to acquire it has not been wanting to him. For my part I could not maintain that the Hellenic system led to virtue."
The conversation was assuming an ardent character when the consul, as a diplomatist, turned the channel. Mr. Phoebus had vindicated the Hellenic religion, the Syrian, with a terse protest against the religion of Nature, however idealized, as tending to the corruption of man, had let the question die away, and the Divan were discussing dromedaries, and dancing-girls, and sherbet made of pomegranate, which the consul recommended and ordered to be produced. Some of the guests retired, and among them the Syrian with the same salute and the same graceful dignity as had distinguished his entrance.
"Who is that man?" said Mr. Phoebus. "I met him at Rome ten years ago. Baron Mecklenburg brought him to me to paint for my great picture of St. John, which is in the gallery of Munich. He said in his way—you remember his way—that he would bring me a face of Paradise."
"I cannot exactly tell you his name," said the consul. "Prince Galitzin brought him here, and thought highly of him. I believe he is one of the old Syrian families in the mountain; but whether he be a Maronite or a Druse, or any thing else, I really cannot say. Now try the sherbet."
There are few things finer than the morning view of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. The fresh and golden light falls on a walled city with turrets and towers and frequent gates: the houses of freestone, with terraced or oval roofs, sparkle in the sun, while the cupolaed pile of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the vast monasteries, and the broad steep of Sion crowned with the tower of David, vary the monotony of the general masses of building. But the glory of the scene is the Mosque of Omar as it rises on its broad platform of marble from the deep ravine of Kedron, with its magnificent dome high in the air, its arches and gardened courts, and its ornaments glittering amid the cedar, the cypress, and the palm.
Reclining on Olivet, Lothair, alone and in charmed abstraction, gazed on the wondrous scene. Since his arrival at Jerusalem he lived much apart, nor had he found difficulty in effecting this isolation. Mr. Phoebus had already established a studio on a considerable scale, and was engaged in making sketches of pilgrims and monks, tall donkeys of Bethlehem with starry fronts, in which he much delighted, and grave Jellaheen sheiks, who were hanging about the convents in the hopes of obtaining a convoy to the Dead Sea. As for St. Aldegonde and Bertram, they passed their lives at the Russian consulate, or with its most charming inhabitants. This morning, with the consul and his wife and the matchless sisters, as St. Aldegonde always termed them, they had gone on an excursion to the Convent of the Nativity. Dinner usually reassembled all the party, and then the Divan followed.
"I say, Bertram," said St. Aldegonde, "what a lucky thing we paired and went to Nubia! I rejoice in the Divan, and yet, somehow, I cannot bear leaving those women. If the matchless sisters would only smoke, by Jove they would be perfect!"
"I should not like Euphrosyne to smoke," said Bertram.
A person approached Lothair by the pathway from Bethany. It was the Syrian gentleman whom he had met at the consulate. As he was passing Lothair, he saluted him with the grace which had been before remarked, and Lothair, who was by nature courteous, and even inclined a little to ceremony in his manners, especially with those with whom he was not intimate, immediately rose, as he would not receive such a deputation in a reclining posture.
"Let me not disturb you," said the stranger, "or, if we must be on equal terms, let me also be seated, for this is a view that never palls."
"It is perhaps familiar to you," said Lothair, "but with me, only a pilgrim, its effect is fascinating, almost overwhelming."
"The view of Jerusalem never becomes familiar," said the Syrian, "for its associations are so transcendent, so various, so inexhaustible, that the mind can never anticipate its course of thought and feeling, when one sits, as we do now, on this immortal mount."
"I presume you live here?" said Lothair.
"Not exactly," said his companion. "I have recently built a house without the walls, and I have planted my hill with fruit-trees, and made vineyards and olive-grounds, but I have done this as much—perhaps more—to set an example, which, I am glad, to say, has been followed, as for my own convenience or pleasure. My home is in the north of Palestine, on the other side of, Jordan, beyond the Sea of Galilee. My family has dwelt there from time immemorial; but they always loved this city, and have a legend that they dwelt occasionally within its walls, even in the days when Titus from that hill looked down upon the temple."
"I have often wished to visit the Sea of Galilee," said Lothair.
"Well, you have now an opportunity," said the Syrian; "the north of Palestine, though it has no topical splendor, has much variety and a peculiar natural charm. The burst and brightness of spring have not yet quite vanished: you would find our plains radiant with wild-flowers, and our hills green with young crops; and, though we cannot rival Lebanon, we have forest glades among our famous hills that, when once seen, are remembered."
"But there is something to me more interesting than the splendor of tropical scenery," said Lothair, "even if Galilee could offer it. I wish to visit the cradle of my faith."
"And you would do wisely," said the Syrian, "for there is no doubt the spiritual nature of man is developed in this land."
"And yet there are persons at the present day who doubt—even deny—the spiritual nature of man," said Lothair. "I do not, I could not—there are reasons why I could not."
"There are some things I know, and some things I believe," said the Syrian. "I know that I have a soul, and I believe that it is immortal."
"It is science that, by demonstrating the insignificance of this globe in the vast scale of creation, has led to this infidelity," said Lothair.
"Science may prove the insignificance of this globe in the scale of creation," said the stranger, "but it cannot prove the insignificance of man. What is the earth compared with the sun? a molehill by a mountain; yet the inhabitants of this earth can discover the elements of which the great orb consists, and will probably ere long ascertain all the conditions of its being. Nay, the human mind can penetrate far beyond the sun. There is no relation, therefore, between the faculties of man and the scale in creation of the planet which he inhabits."
"I was glad to hear you assert the other night the spiritual nature of man in opposition to Mr. Phoebus."
"Ah! Mr. Phoebus!" said the stranger, with a smile. "He is an old acquaintance of mine. And I must say he is very consistent—except in paying a visit to Jerusalem. That does surprise me. He said to me the other night the same things as he said to me at Rome many years ago. He would revive the worship of Nature. The deities whom he so eloquently describes and so exquisitely delineates are the ideal personifications of the most eminent human qualities, and chiefly the physical. Physical beauty is his standard of excellence, and he has a fanciful theory that moral order would be the consequence of the worship of physical beauty, for without moral order he holds physical beauty cannot be maintained. But the answer to Mr. Phoebus is, that his system has been tried and has failed, and under conditions more favorable than are likely to exist again; the worship of Nature ended in the degradation of the human race."
"But Mr. Phoebus cannot really believe in Apollo and Venus," said Lothair. "These are phrases. He is, I suppose, what is called a Pantheist."
"No doubt the Olympus of Mr. Phoebus is the creation of his easel," replied the Syrian. "I should not, however, describe him as a Pantheist, whose creed requires more abstraction than Mr. Phoebus, the worshipper of nature, would tolerate. His school never care to pursue any investigation which cannot be followed by the eye—and the worship of the beautiful always ends in an orgy. As for Pantheism, it is Atheism in domino. The belief in a Creator who is unconscious of creating is more monstrous than any dogma of any of the Churches in this city, and we have them all here."
"But there are people now who tell you that there never was any Creation, and therefore there never could have been a Creator," said Lothair.
"And which is now advanced with the confidences of novelty," said the Syrian, "though all of it has been urged, and vainly urged, thousands of years ago. There must be design, or all we see would be without sense, and I do not believe in the unmeaning. As for the natural forces to which all creation is now attributed, we know they are unconscious, while consciousness is as inevitable a portion of our existence as the eye or the hand. The conscious cannot be derived from the unconscious. Man is divine."
"I wish I could assure myself of the personality of the Creator," said Lothair. "I cling to that, but they say it is unphilosophical."
"In what sense?" asked the Syrian. "Is it more unphilosophical to believe in a personal God, omnipotent and omniscient, than in natural forces unconscious and irresistible? Is it unphilosophical to combine power with intelligence? Goethe, a Spinozist who did not believe in Spinoza, said that he could bring his mind to the conception that in the centre of space we might meet with a monad of pure intelligence. What may be the centre of space I leave to the daedal imagination of the author of 'Faust;' but a monad of pure intelligence—is that more philosophical than the truth, first revealed to man amid these everlasting hills," said the Syrian, "that God made man in His own image?"
"I have often found in that assurance a source of sublime consolation," said Lothair.
"It is the charter of the nobility of man," said the Syrian, "one of the divine dogmas revealed in this land; not the invention of councils, not one of which was held on this sacred soil, confused assemblies first got together by the Greeks, and then by barbarous nations in barbarous times."
"Yet the divine land no longer tells us divine things," said Lothair.
"It may or it may not have fulfilled its destiny," said the Syrian. "'In my Father's house are many mansions,' and by the various families of nations the designs of the Creator are accomplished. God works by races, and one was appointed in due season and after many developments to reveal and expound in this land the spiritual nature of man. The Aryan and the Semite are of the same blood and origin, but when they quitted their central land they were ordained to follow opposite courses. Each division of the great race has developed one portion of the double nature of humanity, till, after all their wanderings, they met again, and, represented by their two choicest families, the Hellenes and the Hebrews, brought together the treasures of their accumulated wisdom, and secured the civilization of man."
"Those among whom I have lived of late," said Lothair, "have taught me to trust much in councils, and to believe that without them there could be no foundation for the Church. I observe you do not speak in that vein, though, like myself, you find solace in those dogmas which recognize the relations between the created and the Creator."
"There can be no religion without that recognition," said the Syrian, "and no creed can possibly be devised without such a recognition that would satisfy man. Why we are here, whence we come, whither we go—these are questions which man is organically framed and forced to ask himself, and that would not be the case if they could not be answered. As for churches depending on councils, the first council was held more than three centuries after the Sermon on the Mount. We Syrians had churches in the interval: no one can deny that. I bow before the Divine decree that swept them away from Antioch to Jerusalem, but I am not yet prepared to transfer my spiritual allegiance to Italian popes and Greek patriarchs. We believe that our family were among the first followers of Jesus, and that we then held lands in Bashan which we hold now. We had a gospel once in our district where there was some allusion to this, and being written by neighbors, and probably at the time, I dare say it was accurate, but the Western Churches declared our gospel was not authentic, though why I cannot tell, and they succeeded in extirpating it. It was not an additional reason why we, should enter into their fold. So I am content to dwell in Galilee and trace the footsteps of my Divine Master, musing over His life and pregnant sayings amid the mounts He sanctified and the waters He loved so well."
The sun was now rising in the heavens, and the hour had arrived when it became expedient to seek the shade. Lothair and the Syrian rose at the same time.
"I shall not easily forget our conversation on the Mount of Olives," said Lothair, "and I would ask you to add to this kindness by permitting me, before I leave Jerusalem, to pay my respects to you under your roof."
"Peace be with you!" said the Syrian. "I live without the gate of Damascus, on a hill which you will easily recognize, and my name is PARACLETE."
Time passed very agreeably to St. Aldegonde and Bertram at Jerusalem, for it was passed entirely at the Russian consulate, or with its interesting and charming inmates, who were always making excursions, or, as they styled them, pilgrimages. They saw little of Lothair, who would willingly have conversed with his friend on many topics, but his friend was almost always engaged, and, if by some chance they succeeded in finding themselves alone, Bertram appeared to be always preoccupied. One day he said to Lothair: "I tell you what, old fellow, if you want to know all about what has happened at home, I will give you Corisande's letters. They are a sort of journal which she promised to keep for me, and they will tell you every thing. I found an immense packet of them on our return from Cairo, and I meant to have read them here; but I do not know how it is—I suppose there is so much to be seen here—but I never seem to have a moment to myself. I have got an engagement now to the consulate. We are going to Elisha's Fountain to-day. Why do not you come?"
"Well, I am engaged too," said Lothair. "I have settled to go to the Tombs of the Kings to-day, with Signor Paraclete, and I cannot well get off; but remember the letters."
The box of letters arrived at Lothair's rooms in due season, and their perusal deeply interested him. In their pages, alike earnest and lively, and a picture of a mind of high intelligence adorned with fancy and feeling, the name of Lothair frequently appeared, and sometimes accompanied with expressions that made his heart beat. All the rumors of his adventures, as they gradually arrived in England, generally distorted, were duly chronicled, and sometimes with comments, which intimated the interest they occasioned to the correspondent of Bertram. More than once she could not refrain from reproaching her brother for having left his friend so much to himself. "Of all your friends," she said, "the one who always most interested me, and seemed most worthy of your affection." And then she deplored the absolute ruin of Lothair, for such she deemed his entrance into the Roman Church.
"I was right in my appreciation of that woman, though I was utterly inexperienced in life," thought Lothair. "If her mother had only favored my views two years ago, affairs would have been different. Would they have been better? Can they be worse? But I have gained experience. Certainly; and paid for it with my heart's blood. And might I not have gained experience tranquilly, in the discharge of the duties of my position at home—dear home? Perhaps not. And suppose I never had gained experience, I still might have been happy? And what am I now? Most lone and sad. So lone and sad that nothing but the magical influence of the scene around me saves me from an overwhelming despondency."
Lothair passed his life chiefly with Paraclete, and, a few weeks after their first acquaintance, they left Jerusalem together for Galilee.
The month of May had disappeared, and June was advancing. Bertram and Saint Aldegonde no longer talked about their pair, and their engagements in the House of Commons. There seemed a tacit understanding between them to avoid the subject; remarkable on the part of Bertram, for he had always been urgent on his brother-in-law to fulfil their parliamentary obligation.
The party at the Russian consulate had gone on a grand expedition to the Dead Sea, and had been absent for many days from Jerusalem. They were conveyed by one of the sheiks of the Jordan valley. It was a most successful expedition—constant adventure, novel objects and habits, all the spell of a romantic life. The ladies were delighted with the scenery of the Jordan valley, and the gentlemen had good sport; St. Aldegonde had killed a wild-boar, and Bertram an ibex, whose horns were preserved for Brentham. Mr. Phoebus intensely studied the camel and its habits. He persuaded himself that the ship of the desert entirely understood him. "But it is always so," he added. "There is no animal that in a week does not perfectly comprehend me. Had I time and could give myself up to it, I have no doubt I could make them speak. Nature has endowed me, so far as dumb animals are concerned, with a peculiar mesmeric power."
At last this happy caravan was again within sight of the walls of Jerusalem.
"I should like to have remained in the valley of the Jordan forever," said St. Aldegonde.
"And so should I," whispered Bertram to Euphrosyne, "with the same companions."
When they had returned to the consulate, they found the post from England had arrived during their absence. There were dispatches for all. It is an agitating moment—that arrival of letters in a distant land. Lord St. Aldegonde seemed much disturbed when he tore open and perused his. His countenance became clouded; he dashed his hand through his dishevelled locks; he pouted; and then he said to Bertram, "Come to my room."
"Anything wrong at home?"
"Not at home," said St. Aldegonde. "Bertha is all right. But a most infernal letter from Glyn—most insolent. If I do return I will vote against them. But I will not return. I have made up my mind to that. People are so selfish," exclaimed St. Aldegonde, with indignation. "They never think of any thing but themselves."
"Show me his letter," said Bertram. "I have got a letter too; it is from the duke."
The letter of the Opposition whip did not deserve the epithets ascribed to it by St. Aldegonde. It was urgent and courteously peremptory; but, considering the circumstances of the case, by no means too absolute. Paired to Easter by great indulgence, St. Aldegonde was passing Whitsuntide at Jerusalem. The parliamentary position was critical, and the future of the Opposition seemed to depend on the majority by which their resolutions on the Irish Church were sent up to the House of Lords.
"Well," said Bertram. "I see nothing to complain of in that letter. Except a little more urgency, it is almost the same language as reached us at Cairo, and then you said Glyn was a capital fellow, and seemed quite pleased."
"Yes, because I hated Egypt," said St. Aldegonde. "I hated the pyramids, and I was disappointed with the dancing-girls; and it seemed to me that, if it had not been for the whip, we never should have been able to escape. But things are very different now."
"Yes, they are," said Bertram, in a melancholy tone.
"You do not think of returning?" said St. Aldegonde.
"Instantly," replied Bertram. "I have a letter from the duke which is peremptory. The county is dissatisfied with my absence. And mine is a queer constituency; very numerous and several large towns; the popularity of my family gained me the seat, not their absolute influence."
"My constituents never trouble me," said St. Aldegonde.
"You have none," said Bertram.
"Well, if I were member for a metropolitan district I would hot budge. And I little thought you would have deserted me."
"Ah!" sighed Bertram. "You're discontented, because your amusements are interrupted. But think of my position, torn from a woman whom I adore."
"Well, you know you must have left her sooner or later," urged St. Aldegonde.
"Why?" asked Bertram.
"You know what Lothair told us. She is engaged to her cousin the Prince of Samos, and—"
"If I had only the Prince of Samos to deal with, I should care little," said Bertram.
"Why, what do you mean?"
"That Euphrosyne is mine, if my family will sanction our union, but not otherwise."
St. Aldegonde gave a long whistle, and he added, "I wish Bertha were here. She is the only person I know who has a head."
"You see, my dear Granville, while you are talking of your little disappointments, I am involved in awful difficulties."
"You are sure about the Palace of Samos?"
"Clear your head of that. There is no engagement of any kind between him and Euphrosyne. The visit to the island was only a preliminary ceremony—just to show himself. No doubt the father wishes the alliance; nor is there any reason to suppose that it would be disagreeable to the son; but, I repeat it—no engagement exists."
"If I were not your brother-in-law, I should have been very glad to have married Euphrosyne myself," said St. Aldegonde.
"Yes, but what am I to do?" asked Bertram, rather impatiently.
"It will not do to write to Brentham," said St. Aldegonde, gravely; "that I see clearly." Then, after musing a while, he added: "I am vexed to leave our friends here and shall miss them sadly. They are the most agreeable people I ever knew. I never enjoyed myself so much. But we must think of nothing but your affairs. We must return instantly. The whip will be an excuse, but the real business will be Euphrosyne. I should delight in having her for a sister-in-law, but the affair will require management. We can make short work of getting home: steam to Marseilles, leave the yacht there, and take the railroad. I have half a mind to telegraph to Bertha to meet us there. She would be of great use."
Lothair was delighted with Galilee, and particularly with the blue waters of its lake slumbering beneath the surrounding hills. Of all its once pleasant towns, Tiberias alone remains, and that in ruins from a recent earthquake. But where are Chorazin, and Bethsaida, and Capernaum? A group of hovels and an ancient tower still bear the magic name of Magdala, and all around are green mounts and gentle slopes, the scenes of miracles that softened the heart of man, and of sermons that never tire his ear. Dreams passed over Lothair of settling forever on the shores of these waters, and of reproducing all their vanished happiness: rebuilding their memorable cities, reviving their fisheries, cultivating the plain of Gennesaret and the country of the Gadarenes, and making researches in this cradle of pure and primitive Christianity.
The heritage of Paraclete was among the oaks of Bashan, a lofty land, rising suddenly from the Jordan valley, verdant and well watered, and clothed in many parts with forest; there the host of Lothair resided among his lands and people, and himself dwelt in a stone and castellated building, a portion of which was of immemorial antiquity, and where he could rally his forces and defend himself in case of the irruption and invasion of the desert tribes. And here one morn arrived a messenger from Jerusalem summoning Lothair back to that city, in consequence of the intended departure of his friends.
The call was urgent, and was obeyed immediately with that promptitude which the manners of the East, requiring no preparation, admit. Paraclete accompanied his guest. They had to cross the Jordan, and then to trace their way till they reached the southern limit of the plain of Esdraelon, from whence they counted on the following day to reach Jerusalem. While they were encamped on this spot, a body of Turkish soldiery seized all their horses, which were required, they said, by the Pacha of Damascus, who was proceeding to Jerusalem, attending a great Turkish general, who was on a mission to examine the means of defence of Palestine on the Egyptian side. This was very vexatious, but one of those incidents of Eastern life against which it is impossible to contend; so Lothair and Paraclete were obliged to take refuge in their pipes beneath a huge and solitary sycamore-tree, awaiting the arrival of the Ottoman magnificoes.
They came at last, a considerable force of cavalry, then mules and barbarous carriages with the harem, all the riders and inmates enveloped in what appeared to be winding-sheets, white and shapeless; about them eunuchs and servants. The staff of the pachas followed, preceding the grandees who closed the march, mounted on Anatolian chargers.
Paraclete and Lothair had been obliged to leave the grateful shade of the sycamore-tree, as the spot had been fixed on by the commander of the advanced guard for the resting-place of the pachas. They were standing aside and watching the progress of the procession, and contemplating the earliest opportunity of representing their grievances to high authority, when the Turkish general, or the seraskier, as the Syrians inaccurately styled him, suddenly reined in his steed, and said, in a loud voice, "Captain Muriel!"
Lothair recognized the well-known voice of his commanding officer in the Apennine, and advanced to him with a military salute. "I must first congratulate you on being alive, which I hardly hoped," said the general. "Then let me know why you are here."
And Lothair told him.
"Well, you shall have back your horses," said the general; "and I will escort you to El Khuds. In the mean time you must be our guest;" and he presented him to the Pacha of Damascus with some form. "You and I have bivouacked in the open air before this, and not in so bland a clime."
Beneath the shade of the patriarchal sycamore, the general narrated to Lothair his adventures since they were fellow-combatants on the fatal field of Mentana.
"When all was over," continued the general, "I fled with Garibaldi, and gained the Italian frontier at Terrni. Here we were of course arrested by the authorities, but not very maliciously. I escaped one morning, and got among the mountains in the neighborhood of our old camp. I had to wander about these parts for some time, for the Papalini were in the vicinity, and there was danger. It was a hard time; but I found a friend now and then among the country people, though they are dreadfully superstitious. At last I got to the shore, and induced an honest fellow to put to sea in an open boat, on the chance of something turning up. It did, in the shape of a brigantine from Elba bound for Corfu. Here I was sure to find friends, for the brotherhood are strong in the Ionian Isles. And I began to look about for business. The Greeks made me some offers, but their schemes were all vanity, worse than the Irish. You remember our Fenian squabble? From something that transpired, I had made up my mind, so soon as I was well equipped, to go to Turkey. I had had some transactions with the house of Cantacuzene, through the kindness of our dear friend whom we will never forget, but will never mention; and through them I became acquainted with the Prince of Samos, who is the chief of their house. He is in the entire confidence of Aali Pacha. I soon found out that there was real business on the carpet. The Ottoman army, after many trials and vicissitudes, is now in good case; and the Porte has resolved to stand no more nonsense either in this direction—" and the general gave a significant glance—"or in any other. But they wanted a general; they wanted a man who knew his business. I am not a Garibaldi, you know, and never pretended to be. I have no genius, or volcanic fire, or that sort of thing; but I do presume to say, with fair troops, paid with tolerable regularity, a battery or two of rifled cannon, and a well-organized commissariat, I am not afraid of meeting any captain of my acquaintance, whatever his land or language. The Turks are a brave people, and there is nothing in their system, political or religious, which jars with my convictions. In the army, which is all that I much care for, there is the career of merit, and I can promote any able man that I recognize. As for their religion, they are tolerant and exact nothing from me; and if I had any religion except Madre Natura, I am not sure I would not prefer Islamism; which is at least simple, and as little sacerdotal as any organized creed can be. The Porte made me a liberal offer, and I accepted it. It so happened that, the moment I entered their service, I was wanted. They had a difficulty on their Dalmatian frontier; I settled it in a way they liked. And now I am sent here with full powers, and am a pacha of the highest class, and with a prospect of some warm work. I do not know what your views are, but, if you would like a little more soldiering, I will put you on my staff; and, for aught I know, we may find your winter-quarters at Grand Cairo—they say a pleasant place for such a season."