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S. Barnabas, 437.
Veni Sancte Spiritus, 350.
Whitsun Day, 427.
Rising from the turf where youth reposed,
.. the huge book of Faëry Land lies closed,
And those strong brazen clasps will yield no more." On the lovely shores of the Bosphorus, not far from Constantinople, there stood a few years since a picturesque villa, which was at that time the residence of an English gentleman and his family. It was placed in a somewhat isolated position on the brow of a gentle hill, and was surrounded on all sides by trees and flowering shrubs, while the beautiful gardens belonging to it were so extensive that they sloped downwards almost to the very edge of the sea. A broad verandah ran round three sides of the house, where its inmates spent most of their time in fine weather, in order that they might enjoy the view to be obtained from it, which was one of almost dreamlike beauty and grace, and there on a bright evening of early spring Mr. and Mrs. Amherst sat side by side and gazed in silence at the exquisite scene around them.
To the right lay the world-famous city, which usually could be only dimly discerned from that point, but its golden domes and slender minarets had caught the rays of the setting sun, and stood out then in strong relief against the blue unclouded sky, while among the fairy palaces that lined the shore the Sultan's summer home, known as the “Marble Cradle,” shone in the sudden light like a temple of snow. To the left the white houses of Buyukdere and Therapia gleamed through the rich foliage of the trees, which afforded such a grateful shade to those who fled to their inviting bowers from the scorching
streets of the city, when the fierce eastern sun rendered them insupportable, at least to the foreign residents there; and in front, so still, so fair, that one could almost have fancied it reflected the crystal sea that lies around the Throne of Glory, the sunlit Bosphorus smiled in its wondrous beauty, scarce disturbed at that evening hour by any passing vessels. Over its bright waters might be seen however the ceaseless flashing of snow-white wings, as the strange birds flitted to and fro, which have acquired the name of " les ames damnées,” because they never for an instant stay their flight, and are believed by the foreign sailors to be the souls of the lost, condemned to wander ever wearily from shore to shore, seeking rest in vain. Beyond this shining mirror that reflected every delicate hue of the sunset sky—the Asiatic coast lay dark in the shadow of the vast cypress grove which marked the almost limitless kingdom of the Turkish dead, 1—and far away in the dim distance could be seen the two castle-crowned promontories, which form the gate of the Euxine, and separate its storm-tossed billows from the peaceful Bosphorus in all its soft and tranquil beauty.
It was a fair scene truly upon which the Amhersts gazed in the lovely light of that calm evening hour, but it may be, had any been near them who knew what is meant by the “enthusiasm of humanity," that he would have turned away from all the charms of nature to look with far deeper interest upon themselves. The most indifferent observer could hardly have failed to recognise in them a beautiful spectacle of faithful and enduring love, as they sat there in a silence that was eloquent of their perfect comprehension of one another's thoughts. They were both far advanced in life, but striking in appearance still, and equally distinguished by an unmistakable air of refinement and high breeding. The old man's face was charming, full of vivacity and talent which shone from the bright blue eyes that seemed to gleam with undimmed fire despite the silvery whiteness of his hair, and yet characterised by a remarkable expression of gentleness and almost childlike simplicity,-he held the hand of his life-long companion clasped within his own in a grasp as firm and tender as if she were still the
1 There is a verse in the Koran which announces that the Turkish empire will one day pass from Europe altogether, and exist only for Asia. In this persuasion for many centuries past the Turks have brought all faithful Mussulmans to be interred on the Asiatic shore, so that their burial places at Scutari are of enormous extent, some of the tombs, bearing inscriptions as early as the eighth century, standing side by side with those of the present era.
young bride he had wooed and won nearly half a century before among the green fields of her English home. She was only a few years younger than himself, and her locks too were white as snow, silky and abundant that they could scarce be retained under the matronly cap she wore,—there was evidence of a stronger intellect than her husband's, in the lines of her low broad forehead and in the depths of her dark eyes, but they were turned on him with a look of love which was reverential from its very intensity. Theirs had been, and was, a perfect union in heart and mind,- -no shade of discordance had ever marred it for a moment, though many sorrows and cares had been borne together,—they had lost several of their elder children, and of the two youngest who were left to them still, one was a source of constant pain,-even as they sat there silently their thoughts were dwelling sadly on their fallen fortunes and many grievous perplexities,
- but pure and true as in the day when they stood before the Altar where their troth was plighted, the flame of their fond affection burned within their faithful hearts; one shadow only had ever dimmed its brightness and that came from the certainty which lay before them, that sooner or later an hour must come when death would part them, and pity for the desolation of the survivor, whichever it might be, made the thought terrible to both.
Some accidental circumstance had on one occasion led to a conversation between them, in which they made the discovery that it had been the habit of both, unknown to each other, to pray daily and nightly through all the years of their union, that it might please their FATHER in Heaven to recall them to His presence in the selfsame moment, or if that were too exquisite a happiness to win, at least to grant that a sure hope of speediest departure might lighten the anguish of that one, on whom the load of still enduring life would then be laid. They questioned with each other when this unconscious agreement in practice was revealed to them, whether their mutual petition had been presumptuous and too bold a seeking to influence the purposes of Providence as to their measure of discipline on earth, but they ventured to hope that it had not been so, because they found that both alike had ever added to their supplication the submissive words, that however deep their own desire, deeper still was their hope that the Holy Will of the LORD would alone be done. So they feared not to continue night and day the offering of that prayer, and it was rising from their spirits as they sat there silent with their hands so firmly linked in a
tender clinging grasp. The sun was sinking rapidly as it ever does in those eastern climes, and they watched its last ray sweeping down like a golden path that led from earth to the gate of heaven, till with a sudden flash of radiance over the distant hills, it vanished quite behind them, and then instantly as if it had been the voice of the expiring day uttering a swanlike dirge for its departure, there arose a strange musical sound—awaking in all directions at the same instant, loud and distinct from the villages near and faintly soft in the far distance where the great city lay. It was the call to evening prayers which is uttered from the minarets of every mosque within the Moslem's land, unfailingly at the precise moment when the sun goes down finally below the horizon line. Only for a few instants it seemed to fill the quivering air with its solemn appeal, and then as it died away on every side the weird accents were caught up by a pure sweet voice which echoed them with a perfect imitation from the garden below the villa, and sent them thrilling up as it seemed to the very sky, in tones so clear and beautiful that it was like the melodious pealing of a silver bell. Mr. and Mrs. Amherst looked round to each other with a smile of pleasure as the lovely sounds fell on their ear.
There is our Francie in the garden as usual,” said the old man as he bent forward and gazed eagerly towards a path which wound upwards from the shore, “but I do not see her, where is she?” A slight dimness of eyesight had for some time previously been a token of his advanced age, of which his watchful wife was perfectly aware in secret, but Mr. Amherst himself was quite unconscious of it, his health had been generally so good throughout the whole of his temperate and blameless life that he could not realize the possibility of any physical infirmity overtaking him. He always believed there must be a mist in the air or that the lamp was not properly trimmed when the keen eyes which had served him so long failed to show him all he desired to see--he glanced on this occasion somewhat impatiently from right to left in search of his daughter.
“ There she is,” said Mrs. Amherst, “I can see her white dress among the trees, --she is coming this way.”
“She can make herself heard if not seen,” said Mr. Amherst, smil. ing. “She will astonish her cousin in England if she treats him to the Muezzin's Call when he asks for a song."
“ He will think her voice so beautiful, that he will be glad to hear her in any way she pleases, I expect,” replied his wife.