Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

lar, and suddenly calling to remembrance the ghastly appearance and fearful reports made by his servants, he stood for some moments rivetted to the spot, with his eyes fixed on the light, which still continued to gleam steadily though faintly from the same quarter. Determined however to ascertain from what cause it proceeded, and almost ashamed of the childish apprehensions he had betrayed, he cautiously, and without making the least noise, approached the west entrance of the church; here the light however appeared to issue from the choir, which being at a considerable distance, and toward the other end of the building, he glided along its exterior, and passing the refectory and chapter-house, re-entered the church by the south portal near the choir. With footsteps light as air he moved along the damp and mouldering pavement, whilst pale rays gleaming from afar faintly glanced on the shafts of some pillars seen in distant perspective down the great aisle. Having now entered the choir, he could distinctly perceive the place from whence the light proceeded, and, on approaching still nearer, dimly distinguished a human form kneeling opposite to it. Not an accent however, reached his

[blocks in formation]

ear, and, except the rustling noise occasioned by the flight of some night-birds along remote parts of the ruin, a deep and awful silence prevailed.

The curiosity of Courtenay being now strongly excited, though mingled with some degree of apprehension and wonder, he determined to ascertain, if possible, who the stranger was, and from what motives he visited, at so unusual an hour, a place so solitary and deserted; passing therefore noiseless along one of the side aisles separated from the choir by a kind of elegant lattice work, he at length stood parallel with the spot where the figure was situated, and had a perfect side view of the object of his search. It appeared to be a middle aged man who was kneeling on a white marble slab near the great altar, and before a small nich in the screen which divides the choir from the east end of the church; in the nich was placed a lamp and a crucifix; he had round him a coarse black garment bound with a leathern girdle, but no covering on his head, and, as the light gleamed upon his features, Edward was shocked at the despair that seemed fixed in their expression: his hands were clasped together, his eyes turned towards heaven, and heavy and convulsive sighs at intervals escaped from his bosom, whilst the breeze of night, lifting at times his disordered hair, added peculiar wildness to a countenance which, though elegantly moulded, was of ghastly paleness, and had a sternness and severity in its aspect, and every now and then displayed such an acute sense of conscious guilt, as chilled the beholder and almost suppressed the rising emotions of pity. Edward, who had impatiently witnessed this extraordinary scene, was about to address the unhappy man when groans as from a spirit in torture, and which seemed to rend the very bosom from which they issued, prevented his intention, and he beheld the miserable stranger prostrate in agony on the marble. In a few minutes however he arose and drawing from beneath his garment an unsheathed sword held it stretched in his hands toward heaven, whilst his countenance assumed still deeper marks of horror, and his eyes glared with the lightning of frenzy. At this instant, when apprehensive for the event, Edward deemed it highly necessary to interfere, and was stepping forward with that view, his purpose was suddenly

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

arrested by the sound of distant music, which stealing along the remote parts of the Abbey in notes that breathed a soothing and delicious harmony, seemed the work of enchantment, or to arise from the viewless harps of spirits of the blest. Over the agitated soul of the stranger it appeared to diffuse the balm of peace; his features became less rigid and stern, his eyes assumed a milder expression, he crossed his arms in meek submission on his bosom, and as the tones, now swelling with the richest melody of heaven, now tremulously dying away in accents of the most ravishing sweetness, approached still nearer, the tears started in his eyes, and coursing down his cheeks bathed the deadly instrument yet gleaming in his grasp; this, however, with a heavy sigh he now placed in the nich, and bowing gently forward seemed to pray devoutly; the convulsions which had shaken his frame ceased; tranquillity sat upon his brow, whilst in strains that melted into holy rapture every harsh emotion, the same celestial music still passed along the air and filled the compass of the Abbey.

Courtenay, whose every faculty had been

nearly absorbed through the influence of this unseen minstrelsy, had yet witnessed with sincere pleasure, the favourable change in the mind and countenance of the stranger, who still knelt before the lamp, by whose pale light he beheld a perfect resignation tranquillize those features which a few minutes before had been distorted by the struggles of remorse, for such had been the soothing and salutary effects of harmony in allaying the perturbations of a wounded and self-accusing spirit, that hope now cheered the bosom so recently the mansion of despair.

Whilst Edward, in sacred regard to the noblest feelings of humanity, forbore to interrupt the progress of emotions so friendly to virtue and contrition, the music, which had gradually, and with many a dying close, breathed fainter and fainter on the ear, now, in tones that whispered peace and mercy, and which sounded sweet as the accents of departed saints, melted into air, and deep silence again pervaded the Abbey. This however, continued not long, for in a few moments was heard the echo of light footsteps, and presently Courtenay, by the glimmering of the lamp,

« PredošláPokračovať »