Imágenes de páginas
[merged small][ocr errors]

This, then, is to be a story, may it please you, in which jackdaws will wear peacock's feathers, and awaken the just ridicule of the peacocks; in which, while every justice is done to the peacocks themselves, the splendor of their plumage, the gorgeousness of their dazzling necks, and the magnificence of their tails, exception will yet be taken to the absurdity of their rickety strut, and the foolish discord of their pert squeaking; in which lions in love will have their claws pared by sly virgins; in which rogues will sometimes triumph, and honest folks, let us hope, come by their own; in which there will be black crape and

white favors; in which there will be tears under orange-flower wreaths and jokes in mourning coaches; in which there will be dinners of herbs with contentment and without; and banquets of stalled oxen where there is care and hatred-ay, and kindness and friendship, too, along with the feast. It does not follow that all men are honest because they are poor; and I have known some who were friendly and generous, although they had plenty of money. There are some great landlords who do not grind down their tenants; there are actually bishops who are not hypocrites; there are liberal men even among the Whigs, and the Radicals themselves are not all aristocrats at heart.

[ocr errors]


On account of his severe strictures upon the Georges, Thackeray was accused of disloyalty. This charge he thus confuted at a dinner given to him in Edinburgh in 1857.


HAD thought that in these lectures I had spoken in terms not of disrespect or unkindness, and in feelings and in language not un-English, of Her Majesty the Queen; and wherever I have had to mention her name, whether it was upon the banks of the Clyde or upon those of the Mississippi, whether it was in New England or in Old England, whether it was in some great hall in London to the artisans of the suburbs of the metropolis, or to the politer audiences of the western end,-wherever I had to mention her name it was received with shouts of applause and with the most hearty cheers. And why was this? It was not on account of the speaker; it was on account of the truth; it was because the English and the Americans-the people of New Orleans a year ago, the people of Aberdeen a week ago—all received and acknowledged with due allegiance the great claims to honor which that lady has who worthily holds that great and awful situation which our Queen occupies. It is my loyalty that is called in ques

tion, and it is my loyalty that I am trying to plead to you. Suppose, for example, in America —in Philadelphia or in New York-that I had spoken about George IV in terms of praise and affected reverence: do you believe they would have hailed his name with cheers, or have heard it with anything like respect? They would have laughed in my face if I had so spoken of him. They know what I know and you know, and what numbers of squeamish loyalists who affect to cry out. against my lectures know,—that that man's life was not a good life; that that king was not such a king as we ought to love, or regard, or honor. And I believe, for my part, that in speaking the truth, as we hold it, of a bad sovereign, we are paying no disrespect at all to a good one. Far from it. On the contrary, we degrade our own honor and the sovereign's by unduly and unjustly praising him; and the mere slaverer and flatterer is one who comes forward, as it were, with flash notes, and pays with false coin his tribute to Cæsar.

[graphic][subsumed][merged small]



JDWARD BULWER was born in Norfolk, England, in 1805. He was a petted child of delicate health, and was prepared for Cambridge by his mother. At college he won the chancellor's medal. by a poem, and throughout his early life wrote continually, principally poems and stories, which have now fallen out of public notice. His first work to attract attention was "Pelham," a novel which was published when he was twenty-three years old.

He was married in 1827, but unhappiness resulted. He separated from his wife nine or ten years later. He was a thorough scholar and wrote with the greatest care, supplying in this way what he is thought to have lacked in genius. He entered Parliament in 1852, and filled a post in the government for some years, and was raised to the peerage as Baron Lytton in 1866.


His most famous works are his historical novels, "The Last Days of Pompeii" and "Rienzi"; his plays, "The Lady of Lyons," "Richelieu," and "Money." His last published novel, "Kenelm Chillingly," is thought by most critics to be his best work, although "The Last Days of Pompeii" is far better known. At his death, in 1873, he had published some fifty volumes, and left a mass of material, including the incomplete story "Pausanias the Spartan," which was edited by his son.



Glaucus, an Athenian, falsely convicted of murder, has been condemned to face the lion in the Roman amphitheater armed only with the little "stilus" with which he is supposed to have slain Apæcides.

and co-mate, one last embrace ! Bless me-and farewell!"

The Christian opened his arms; he clasped the young heathen to his breast; he kissed his forehead and cheek; he sobbed aloud; his tears flowed fast and hot over the features of his new friend.

HE door swung gratingly back-the gleam of spears shot along the wall.

"Glaucus the Athenian, thy time has come," said a loud and clear voice; "the lion awaits thee."

"I am ready," said the Athenian. "Brother

"Oh! could I have converted thee, I had not wept. Oh, that I might say to thee, 'We two shall sup this night in Paradise!


"It may be so yet," answered the Greek, with a tremulous voice. They whom death parts now may yet meet beyond the grave; on the earthoh! the beautiful, the beloved earth, farewell forever! Worthy officer, I attend you."

Glaucus tore himself away; and when he came forth into the air, its breath, which though sunless was hot and arid, smote witheringly upon him. His frame, not yet-restored from the effects of the deadly draught, shrank and trembled. The officers supported him.


Courage," said one; "thou art young, active, well knit. They give thee a weapon! Despair not, and thou mayst yet conquer."

[ocr errors]

Glaucus did not reply; but ashamed of his infirmity, he made a desperate and convulsive effort and regained the firmness of his nerves. They annointed his body, completely naked save by a cincture round his loins, placed the stilus (vain weapon) in his hand, and led him into the arena.

And now, when the Greek saw the eyes of thousands and tens of thousands upon him, he no longer felt that he was mortal. All evidence of fear, all fear itself, was gone. A red and haughty flush spread over the paleness of his features; he towered aloft to the full of his glorious stature. In the elastic beauty of his limbs and form; in his intent but unfrowning brow; in the high disda. and in the indomitable soul which breathed visibly, which spoke audibly, from his attitude, his lip, his eye, he seemed the very incarnation, vivid and corporeal, of the valor of his land; of the divinity of its worship; at once a hero and a god!

[merged small][ocr errors]

"yet there is no sun. Would that those stupid sailors could have fastened up that gap in the awning!"

"Oh, it is warm indeed. I turn sick-I faint!" said the wife of Pansa; even her experienced stoicism giving way at the struggle about to take place.

The lion had been kept without food for twenty-four hours, and the animal had, during the whole morning, testified a singular and restless uneasiness, which the keeper had attributed to the pangs of hunger. Yet its bearing seemed rather that of fear than of rage; its roar was painful and distressed; it hung its head-snuffed the air through the bars-then lay down-started againand again uttered its wild and far-resounding cries. And now in its den it lay utterly dumb and mute, with distended nostrils forced hard against the grating, and disturbing with a heaving breath the sand below on the arena.

The editor's lip quivered, and his cheek grew pale; he looked anxiously around-hesitated-delayed; the crowd became impatient. Slowly he gave the sign; the keeper, who was behind the den, cautiously removed the grating, and the lion leaped forth with a mighty and glad roar of release. The keeper hastily retreated through the grated passage leading from the arena, and left the lord of the forest-and his prey.

Glaucus had bent his limbs so as to give himself the firmest posture at the expected rush of the lion, with his small and shining weapon raised on high, in the faint hope that one well-directed thrust (for he knew that he should have time but for one) might penetrate through the eye to the brain of his grim foe.

But to the unutterable astonishment of all, the beast seemed not even aware of the presence of the criminal.

At the first moment of its release it halted abruptly in the arena, raised itself half on end, snuffing the upward air with impatient signs, then suddenly it sprang forward, but not on the Athenian. At half-speed it circled round and round the space, turning its vast head from side to side with an anxious and perturbed gaze, as if seeking some avenue of escape; once or twice it

endeavored to leap up the parapet that divided it from the audience, and on falling uttered rather a baffled howl than its deep-toned and kingly roar. It evinced no sign either of wrath or hunger; its tail drooped along the sand instead of lashing its gaunt sides, and its eye, though it wandered at times at Glaucus, rolled again listlessly from him. At length, as if tired of attempting to escape, it crept with a moan into its cage, and once more laid itself down to rest.

The first surprise of the assembly at the apathy of the lion soon grew converted into resentment at its cowardice; and the populace already merged their pity for the fate of Glaucus into angry compassion for their disappointment.

The editor called to the keeper: "How is this? Take the goad, prick him forth, and then close the door of the den."

As the keeper with some fear, but more astonishment, was preparing to obey, a loud cry was heard at one of the entrances of the arena; there was a confusion, a bustle,-voices of remonstrance suddenly breaking forth, and suddenly silenced at the reply. All eyes turned, in wonder at the interruption, toward the quarter of the disturbance; the crowd gave way, and suddenly Sallust appeared on the senatorial benches, his hair disheveled-breathless-heated-half exhausted. He cast his eye hastily around the ring. "Remove the Athenian!" he cried ; " haste—he is innocent! Arrest Arbaces the Egyptian-he is the murderer of Apæcides!"'

[ocr errors]

"Art thou mad, O Sallust! said the prætor, rising from his seat. "What means this raving?" "Remove the Athenian !—Quick! or his blood be on your head. Prætor, delay, and you answer with your own life to the emperor! I bring with me the eye-witness to the death of the priest Apacides. Room there, stand back, give way. People of Pompeii, fix every eye upon Arbaces; there he sits! Room there for the priest Calenus!"

Pale, haggard, fresh from the jaws of famine and of death, his face fallen, his eyes dull as a vulture's, his broad frame gaunt as a skeleton, Calenus was supported into the very row in which Arbaces sat. His releasers had given him sparingly of food;

but the chief sustenance that nerved his feeble limbs was revenge!

"The priest Calenus-Calenus!" cried the mob. "It is he! No-it is a dead man! "It is the priest Calenus," said the prætor, gravely. "What hast thou to say?"

"Arbaces of Egypt is the murderer of Apæcides, the priest of Isis; these eyes saw him deal the blow. It is from the dungeon into which he plunged me-it is from the darkness and horror of a death by famine-that the gods have raised me to proclaim his crime! Release the Athenian he is innocent!"

"It is for this, then, that the lion spared him. A miracle! a miracle!" cried Pansa.

[ocr errors]

"A miracle! a miracle!" shouted the people ; "remove the Athenian-Arbaces to the lion!"

And that shout echoed from hill to vale-from coast to sea-" Arbaces to the lion!"

"Officers, remove the accused Glaucus-remove, but guard him yet," said the prætor. "The gods lavish their wonders upon this day."

The waves of the human sea halted for a moment to enable Arbaces to count the exact moment of his doom! In despair, and in terror which beat down even pride, he glanced his eye over the rolling and rushing crowd; when, right above them, through the wide chasm which had been left in the velaria, he beheld a strange and awful apparition; he beheld, and his craft restored his courage.

He stretched his hand on high; over his lofty brow and royal features there came an expression of unutterable solemnity and command.

"Behold!" he shouted with a voice of thunder, which stilled the roar of the crowd: "Behold how the gods protect the guiltless! The fires of the avenging Orcus burst forth against the false witness of my accusers!"'

The eyes of the crowd followed the gestures of the Egyptian, and beheld with dismay a vast vapor shooting from the summit of Vesuvius in the form of a gigantic pine tree; the trunk, blackness-the branches, fire!-a fire that shifted and wavered in its hues every moment, now fiercely luminous, now

[ocr errors]

of a dull and dying red, that again blazed terrific- | mighty splash in the agitated sea, fell that awful ally forth with intolerable glare!


There was a dead, heart-sunken silence, through which there suddenly broke the roar of a lion, which was echoed back from within the building with the sharper and fiercer yells of its fellowbeast. Dread seers were they of the Burden of the Atmosphere, and wild prophets of the wrath to come!

No longer thought the crowd of justice or of Arbaces; safety for themselves was their sole thought. Each turned to fly-each dashing, pressing, crushing against the other. Trampling recklessly over the fallen, amid groans and oaths and prayers and sudden shrieks, the enormous crowd vomited itself forth through the numerous passages. Whither should they fly? Some, anticipating another earthquake, hastened to their homes to load themselves with their more costly goods and escape while it was yet time; others, dreading the showers of ashes that now fell fast, torrent upon torrent, over the streets, rushed under the roofs of the nearest houses, or temples, or sheds

Then there arose on high the universal shrieks of women; the men stared at each other, but were dumb. At that moment they felt the earth shake under their feet; the walls of the theater trembled; and beyond in the distance they heard the crash of falling roofs; an instant more, and the mountain cloud seemed to roll toward them, dark and rapid, like a torrent; at the same time-shelter of any kind-for protection from the it cast forth from its bosom a shower of ashes mixed with vast fragments of burning stone! Over the crushing vines, over the desolate streets, over the amphitheater itself; far and wide with many a

terrors of the open air. But darker, and larger, and mightier spread the cloud above them. It was a sudden and more ghastly Night rushing upon the realm of Noon!

« AnteriorContinuar »