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"Can you ask, Zara, and do you forget, that it is a whole year, an age since I have seen you?"
"It is indeed a long weary time, and it has changed you much, Antonio."
"In all things else, perhaps, but not in my devotion to you. But you are paler, Zara, than when we parted, and your voice is more low and melancholy than I have ever heard it. I fear you have not lived happily as you were wont. A soldier's mistress should never repine at his absence."
"I could not be gay, while Greek swords were striking for liberty, and while you, Antonio, were hazarding your life; but now that you are here, and I listen to you and see you."
"And feel this warm kiss upon your cheek.".
"I am happy indeed."
"You have lived too much in your own sad fancies, and while I remain I must contrive some diversion for you. Suppose we excite a conspiracy in Scio, by way of amusement."
"Yes, and so romantic. You shall assume the manly toga; the costume of an Albanian chief will become that dark beauty of yours right well; and with your eloquence of words and looks we shall soon get up an insurrection. To tell the truth, Zara," he continued more seriously, "it was not love alone that brought me here; our cause is going forward nobly, and the Sciots must give to it all their strength and influence. These degenerate countrymen of ours must be awakened from their lethargy, and I have come to rouse them." And thus, from trifling to serious, from serious to trifling, he wandered on, and Zara was sad no longer.
Time passed, and Antonio had not appealed to his countrymen in vain. The Sciots responded to his call, and were only waiting a favorable opportunity to evince their patriotism. At this juncture, history informs us that two adventurers, with troops from Samos, landed on the island. The Sciots rose. A considerable force sent out against them was repulsed, and the whole body of the Turks were finally driven into the citadel and there besieged. The Greeks, however, had no means of securing their advantage from want of cannon to batter down the walls, and they were forced to wait in anxious suspense, till artillery might be sent them from abroad. Their hopes were frustrated, and all their plans destroyed by the arrival of a Turkish fleet of fifty sail, which anchored in the bay, and immediately began to bombard the town. Their faithless allies, the Samians, at the first appearance of the enemy, had deserted them, and sought safety in flight. Under the guns of the castle thousands of Turkish troops were disembarked. Some resistance was attempted, but all resistance was in vain. Hordes of barbarians rolled on and thronged the coast, fit instruments for the horrible tragedy which had been planned in the divan of the sultan, and was now soon to be enacted.
That day had worn wearily with Zara. Hour after hour she had heard the firing of cannon from the fleet; she knew that the Turks were landing; she had seen at a distance, troops passing and repassing across the country, and her lover came not. A thousand doubts, a thousand misgivings, harassed her mind. The sun had set, and yet she had received no tidings from Antonio. The booming of the cannon broke incessantly on her ear, and sounded like a knell to all her hopes. Her anxiety was now increased to agony. Her heart beat with joy as she heard a quick step along the corridor. It approached the apartment. Was that her lover's step? The door opened, and a stranger stood before her.
"I have come !"
"I know you not; who are you?"
"You will know me sooner than you think-one whom you once despised, one whom your scorn has made a seared and blasted thing. But I bear no malice, lady; no, I am merciful compared with you. I have come to save you. Listen! the people of Scio are doomed to inevitable, indiscriminate massacre." A red light fell across the room. "Hah! at work so soon? Lady, do you doubt me, look! Scio is in flames! The work of pillage and slaughter has commenced. The fiends will soon be here-a boat lies moored below, in which I will convey you to a place of safety-away! away!"
"Villain! no. What means that Moslem dress? Apostate from your country and your God! If I must perish, I will perish here; not to thee will I owe my safety."
"No! well, listen to me, and be calm as I am: mark me. 'Twas I who urged upon the Sultan the strong necessity of taking summary vengeance on the Sciots. 'Twas I who poured upon the shore these swarms of merciless barbarians. 'Twas I who ordered the burning of yonder town. 'Twas I that slew thy lover-perhaps you like me better now."
"Miscreant! back, lay not your hand upon me. Oh God!" She caught a slender dagger from her girdle, and assumed an attitude of self-defense. "I am not so weak and timid as you think."
"This is folly: I am wasting time." He seized her by the wrist, and with a smile of pity, forced the weapon from her delicate hand. She fainted.
The last words of gratuitous cruelty, "'twas I that slew thy lover," false as they were, had done their office, and Constantine, lifting her in his arms, bore her swiftly away.
As long as it was possible, Antonio, with a few brave Greeks, made head against the enemy. He saw that the enterprise in which he had toiled so long had failed, but he could not bear tamely to relinquish the field. Overpowering numbers at length forced him to retire, and he sullenly watched from a distance the landing of the enemy. From what he had already witnessed of Turkish warfare, he soon suspected the scene that would ensue. The thought of Zara
flashed upon his mind-giving a few brief orders to those under his command, he hastened towards her home. What he heard and saw by the way increased his alarm. Yells and groans, and the report of musketry, rose from the city, while, here and there, the flames had begun to burst forth. Now and then, a crowd of women and children, frantic with fear, crossed his path, seeking for safety in the country. He hurries forward-the house is now in sight, but all is dark and desolate; he crosses the threshold-no one answers to his call; he reaches her apartment-it is empty.
He hastens again from the house. Following with his eye the path that led to the shore, he caught a glance of Constantine moving swiftly forward with his burden.
With the fierceness of a maniac, he bounds down the declivity. Constantine hears his pursuer, and quickens his pace. He is near the boat. On! on! if you would save your bride. Too late-too late. Yet there is one, though a desperate resource. Antonio's pistol rings upon the air. Hah! he staggers with his burthen, but struggles forward-in vain-he supports his sinking form against a rock, while his life blood ebbs fast away. With the look of a baffled fiend, he turns towards his pursuer. Rage and disappointment writhe his lip, while his brow grows pale in death. He seeks his sash, and a stiletto gleams in the moonlight. What means that strange, ghastly smile? Oh God! he cannot mean the blow is struck, and as he sinks to the earth, the life blood of Zara mingles with his own upon the sands. In an instant her lover kneels over her, but she hears him not, she answers him not. Thy pure soul has fled, unconscious of the blow thy 'demon lover' dealt. Thou hast gone ere the storm had desolated thy beautiful island-home-ere the sorrows of thy country had entered into thy soul. It is well with thee, sweet enthusiast, it is well with thee as thou art.
Antonio knelt over her, and called loudly upon her name, but he only heard it repeated, as if in derision, by the echoes of the cliffs. That tremendous moment when doubt struggles against a dreadful certainty passed by, and he knew that she was dead.
Pride, wealth, ambition, glory, what now are they to him? One word from those pale lips, one ray of light from those darkened eyes were worth them all.
The bodies were found the next morning on the spot where they had fallen, but Antonio had disappeared. He was never seen again in his native island. Life with him had ceased to have any attractions, and he sought release from it in the most desperate engagements with the enemies of Greece. He perished in battle, but not till he had obtained the glad assurance that the cause in which he had suffered so much would eventually triumph. As for Zara,
"She sleeps well,
STORY AND SENTIMENT,
OR, CONVERSATIONS WITH A MAN OF TASTE AND IMAGINATION.
'His thoughts were not the thoughts of other men.'
In the spring of 18-, in consequence of ill health I betook me to one of those lovely vallies on the Connecticut, where the traveler if he has taste enough to look about him, may find grouped within the circuit of half a mile, one of the loveliest villages in the world. Its clear warm airs gently tempered by the winds of the ocean-the freshness and verdure of the landscape sloping gradually backward from the water side-the high hills which surround it, still covered with dark and rolling forests, as when first the white man took possession of them-and the thousand other natural beauties which are ever found in quiet New England villages, made me bless the fate which carried me thither, and the hour I made it my home.
My first want was a companion. From my boyhood, the book of nature was familiar. I had loved to ramble by woods and streams— gather flowers on meadow and hillside-and, with some favorite book, something to pleasure me, while away the mornings in many a gay bewilderment of fancy. But from the peculiarity of my disease, the bliss of solitary thought was denied me; while my natural bent which was quiet and meditative, it was thought might be indulged in to a degree, if shared with some gentle and kindred spirit. This lack was supplied me. I had been accustomed to observe in my rambles a pale thoughtful looking man, whose peculiarly fine countenance made me wish his acquaintance. This was brought about in some ordinary way, and would little interest the reader-so I pass it at once; but the result of that acquaintance, the knowledge I gained from it, the pleasure I derived from his friendship, are things to be forgotten by me never; and it is with reminiscences of my intercourse with this individual, that I intend to supply myself with subject matter for these occasional papers. So much was I delighted with him, that the first morning of our acquaintance I committed to paper the results of our conversation; so I have but little to do, save copying as from a register, such passages as I deem will be entertaining-which thing I hope to do in an unostentatious manner, at the same time throwing in such reflections as I think apposite, and rambling backwards and forwards as suits the mood of my mind. If I please, my time is well spent.
I must first give you a description of him, gentle reader, and the place in which I found him, even if it take up my whole sheet. Conceive yourself then on a little eminence about fifty yards removed from the water side, the ground sloping gradually to the stream; and conceive a small, low-roof'd farm house upon it with its windows facing the east, and its white roof partly covered and quite shaded by a clump of tall beech trees; and after you have looked at the creeper, and wild rose, and honeysuckles that grow in profusion about the door, you may stand and listen to the sound of the clearest, sweetest, sparkling little rivulet, that ever gushed from its native bed, to go and mix its sweet waters with the weltering waves of the ocean.
You may now stand with your back towards the farm-house, and look down before you. The broad Connecticut sweeps majestically by, its clear surface crinkled only by the sportings of some wanton fish as it darts through it, dashing a shower of pearls into the sunbeams; or perchance the form of a water fowl as it skims unwarily over it, gently catching the liquid on its pinions to scatter it off again with the next evolution. The soft piles of white clouds that sleep in the upper heaven, are as moveless below you; and as the startled dor-hawk sweeps out from the wood behind, and wends his course across to the distant mountains, you may watch his small form on the water growing fainter and fainter, till it becomes a speck and fades from the vision.
Now enter with me the dwelling. Is it not a scholar's dwelling? That finely stocked library, with its newly-dusted curtain of green cotton-stuff-that row of antique busts over the mantel-piece-that engraving of the fiery Byron-that fine one of Scott-and that pleasing one of the gentle and melancholy Cowper-say, do you like it? A table stands in the middle of the room, and on it are books of a dozen languages—some thumbed and turned down as if they had seen good service, and others uncut as fresh from the bookseller's. Here's the antiquarian Homer. There's the mellifluous Anachreon. This is the shrewd Horace and there's the philosophic Seneca. How worn they all are! No common one surely is the spirit of this place-But you shall see him.
He sits by the table, writing. There's a forehead for you, shaded with fine dark hair-there's an eye, deep, crystaline, full-there's a cheek, delicate, perhaps too delicate and above a prominent chin, there's the pale thin lip of the scholar. His countenance is gentle, but there's something of severity about the small closed mouth, and in the glitter of that eye and yet all is calm, all is serenity, all is gentleness. No dark passions have had commission to mark that noble forehead-no feverish and fiery ambition have dared to light their hectic taper on that cheek—all is natural. And his voicethat is gentle too-woman would not wish softer. And now he smiles-how gentle! There's so much of peace in it, you feel its gentleness.