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hastily, the leaders turned the weird figures and faces to the moonlight. "Ye Gods! the Druids!"*

The words were full of undefinable terror. Claudius, though sightless and voiceless, had heard. With the subtile sense which deep anxiety often develops, he associated his Christian slave with the name of dread. He turned toward Decius, whose undisguised voice, in the involuntary exclamation, he had just heard. His attitude was one of intense questioning. Decius felt the force of the blind and dumb appeal and rebuke, but he made no sign. Detailing two of the men to carry the prisoner to the scene of the night's revelry, he instructed the others to dispose of the dead bodies. As the last ghastly form disappeared beneath the newly turned sod, Decius turned away and sought his tent.

The moon sank behind the forest trees, her light struggling fitfully through their majestic ranks, and the darkness and chill of the hour, before the dawn fell upon the camp. And chill, and dark, and gloomy were the spirits of the men who, a few brief hours. before, caroused and sang and shouted.


The camp had become thoroughly alarmed over the events of the night, and an investigation was set on foot by the imperator. When Claudius was carried back, and Decius had returned, the former was at once released from his bonds, and both were placed under arrest and carried before their commander. Claudius was wild with impatience. He knew that his slave was in danger, but he did not fully know its nature or extent. He was not allowed to question Decius regarding the events of the night,

* The Druids were heathen priests in ancient Gaul and Britain. They were regarded with great reverence by the Celtic races. The great stone altars and circles at Stonehenge, and other places in England and France, are supposed to have been temples of worship and sacrifice, erected by the Druids. The best authorities on the worship of this priestly class are of opinion that human sacrifice formed a part of their religious observances. The victims chosen for sacrifice were often the purest, noblest and most beautiful of their people.

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and his impatience was increased by the vagueness of his knowledge.

At length he and Decius stood before the imperator. Thither also, witnesses of the night's events had been summoned. The. questioning was brief, but the facts brought out were like hot irons to the soul of Claudius. When the discovery of the bodies of the Druids was mentioned, Claudius started to his feet, and confronted Decius. "And you kept me blind and dumb and helpless when you knew that my slave was exposed to nameless danger?"

Decius' sole answer was a supercilious, indifferent smile.

Mastering his anger, and turning respectfully to the imperator, Claudius said, "I crave but one favor. I care not what is decided against me, nor against him who has so wronged me. I ask only permission to take a small command and rescue the maiden. When I return, the question of this man's punishment, or mine, can be decided. I ask that she be saved from her peril first, and without delay."

The imperator had seen and heard enough to determine his decision. He turned to Claudius and told him he was exonerated, and at liberty to attempt the rescue of the girl. "But," he said, in a deprecating tone, "do you think it worth the effort? She is

but a slave, and surely she can be replaced with no danger and but little cost-"

"She can never be replaced," Claudius interrupted almost angrily.

"Eheu!" drawled Decius, in a mocking voice. "My poor Claudius is no longer master even of himself. This beautiful slave is his owner, not he hers."

"Enough!" said the imperator, sternly interrupting Claudius' angry rejoinder. Still more sternly he continued: "Decius, you have inspired rebellion in the camp. For the sake of a personal quarrel, you have endangered the lives of my soldiers. You have broken your oath, as an officer, to preserve discipline and respect order! You are placed under arrest, so to remain during my pleasure. Guards, secure him!"

No one knew just how it happened, the thing was so quickly done. Decius sprang to his feet and felled with his fist the foremost guard. The advance of the others was checked for one

instant, and that delay gave Decius his freedom. Darting like lightning to the door, he reached the open space without. Seizing sword and shield from a startled soldier, he rushed into the forests near the camp. As he disappeared from view, these words were flung back to the imperator's tent: "Let Claudius seek his slavemistress, and his friend Decius; for, by Jupiter, he will find us close together!"

They knew that immediate pursuit was useless, for the forests were full of malcontents who had long since deserted from the Roman standard, and would gladly welcome and protect such a leader as Decius.

Claudius at once left the imperator's tent, and organized his party of rescuers; and before the sun had risen, weary though he was, he had commenced the march.

In the meantime, the captors of the unfortunate girl were making a hurried march toward their forest fastnesses. They offered her no violence. Indeed, their manner toward her was most respectful-almost reverential. They apparently knew that she was of the same race with themselves. They would as soon think of defiling one of their sanctuaries in the ancient woods, as of offering insult to such a one. And yet the girl's soul was possessed by a sickening dread. She knew something of the mystic rituals the Druids performed in secret places, and the very reverence shown her was a confirmation of her fears. She walked with bowed head, but occasionally she raised her eyes toward heaven, in mute appeal for succor.

As they plunged farther and farther into the woods, they slackened their speed, and occasionally stopped to rest. By a process known only to men accustomed to life in the forest, they carefully obliterated their trail, thus securing themselves from danger of immediate pursuit. To the girl, the sight of the stately forests from which she had been carried to Rome six years before, brought back vivid memories. She recalled her father; she thought of the anguish it caused him when wife and children were torn from him by the ruthless hand of Rome. She thought of the mother and brother from whom she had been dragged by her Roman owner. Then she thought of the playmate who had wandered with her through those woods, his springtime heart over

flowing with devotion, his boyish hands always ready to help her. She was surprised at the clearness with which these memories came back to her, and the feelings they inspired. She was possessed with a sense almost of serene content, like the feeling of a long absent traveler returning to his native woods.

After several days of journeying, during which time they stopped for occasional rest and refreshment in British villages, they reached a plain. Here were strange stone structures, hidden from the outer world by a circular wall formed of immense stones set on one end and surmounted by stone caps. Within this outer circle was a smaller one, surrounding two ovals and a large, flat stone.

The solemnity of the demeanor of the maiden's venerable conductors was intensified, as they came in view of the cairn, and joined a concourse which had already assembled there. They were performing mystic rites, which were awe-inspiring in their weirdness. Stately figures, robed in white, formed in procession, and marched around the outer circle, chanting solemnly and burning incense. The reverent figures, the solemn incantations, the light of torches, and the smoke of the incense, added to the stateliness of the stone structure, produced a feeling of profound awe in the hearts of spectators.


These things the maiden saw as she was led toward the chanting priests. The secret rites were new and strange to her. Although they produced in her a feeling of awe, appealing to her sense of the mystical and sublime, yet to her Christian soul they were revolting, pagan mummery. She stood there drinking in all the beauty of the scene, and trying to fathom its meaning. the ceremonies were concluded, and the participants approached the girl's escorts and held an earnest consultation with them. Then they retired to their tents for the night. The maiden was given some female attendants, who led her to one of the most luxurious tents, bathed and anointed her, gave her of their choicest food, and bade her go to rest. Lying on the downy couch provided for her, she thought of the strange events of the preceding days, unti lulled by the slow singing of her attendants, she fell into a dreamless sleep.

Long before dawn, she was awakened by the bustling move

ments of her attendants. From the scraps of conversation, she was able to understand, she learned that they were at a general rendezvous of the Druidical priests, where they had gathered to participate in mystic rites. Those who had captured her were from a distant part of the island. They had found her while on their way to the gathering place. Why they had brought her what part they expected her to take in the mysterious ceremonies-her attendants did not say.

When they saw that she was awake, they approached her with the greatest deference, and anticipated her every wish. As the day broke, she heard joyous chantings from the wood which bordered the plain. Looking in that direction, she saw a procession of white-robed priests, emerging from the wood. They bore branches of mistletoe which they had cut from oaks with golden sickles at midnight. With reverent, joyous songs, they bore the sacred plant toward the cairn.

The girl was quickly dressed, and again choice food was provided for her repast. Then a white robe was placed on her, and she was escorted without the tent, where the priests bearing the mistletoe received her. Bowing before her repeatedly, they crowned her with wreaths of mistletoe, and led her toward the cairn. Wonderingly she followed. The outer and the inner circle were passed, and they stopped before a large, flat stone.


(For the Improvement Era.)

Farewell, my Marguerite, for I must leave thee now-
A last fond look within thy sad, dark eyes,
Reflecting glories rare of Paradise-

Then love's soft, clinging kisses on thy fair, white brow.

It is so hard to part, my own, my Marguerite

There, lay thy head once more upon my breast,
That e'er shall be thine own safe place of rest,
When, after years of parting, we shall meet.

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