Изображения страниц

and lamenting, some trying to comfort and sustain those who were weaker than they, others calmly awaiting their fate.

3. Then, at a word from the conqueror, a herald went forth, and, waving his hand before the gathered multitude, began to count. Each on whom fell the fatal number ten was to be given at once to the sword. But at the outset a difficulty arose.

4. Near the head of the line Télésile and the governor were placed; and the devoted girl, watching the movements of the herald, and hearing him count aloud, saw by a rapid glance that the dreaded number was about to fall upon her father. Quick as thought she slipped behind him and placed herself at his other side. Before the old man was aware of her object, the doom which should have been his had fallen upon his daughter. He stood for a moment stupefied with astonishment and grief, then called out to the herald, "Justice! justice!"

5. "What is the matter, old man?" demanded the herald, before passing on.

[ocr errors]

The count is wrong! there is a mistake! Not her!" exclaimed the father, as the executioners were laying hands upon Télésile,-" take me, for I was the tenth!"

6. "Not so," said Télésile, calmly. "You all saw that the number came to me."

"She put herself in my way, she took my place,—on me! let the blow fall on me!" pleaded the old man; while she as earnestly insisted that she was the rightly chosen victim.

7. Amazed to see two persons striving for the privilege of death at their hands, the butchers dragged them before Charles the Bold, that he might decide the question between them.

8. Charles was no less surprised at beholding once more the maiden and the old man who had already appeared before him, and at learning the cause of their strange dispute; for he knew not yet that they were parent and child.

Notwithstanding his violent disposition, the conqueror had a heart which pity could sometimes touch, and he was powerfully moved by the sight that met his eyes.

9. "I pray you hear me!" cried Télésile, throwing herself at his feet. "I am a simple maiden; my life is of no account; then let me die, my lord duke! But spare, oh, spare him, the best, the noblest of men, whose life is useful to all our unhappy people!"

10. "Do not listen to her!" exclaimed the old man, almost too much affected to speak; "or if you do, let her own words confute her argument. You behold her courage, her piety, her self-sacrifice; and I see you are touched! You will not, you cannot, destroy so precious a life! It is I who am now worthless to my people. My days are almost spent. Even if you spare me, I have but a little while to live."

11. Then Télésile, perceiving the eyes of Charles bent upon her with a look of mingled admiration and pity, said, "Do not think there is anything wonderful in my conduct; I do but my simple duty; I plead for my father's life!"

12. "Yes, I am her father," said the old man, moved by a sudden determination. "And I am something more. My lord duke, behold the man on whom you have sworn to have revenge. I am he who defended the city so long against you. Now let me die!”

13. At this a multitude of people broke from the line in which they had been ranged, and, surrounding the governor and his daughter, made a rampart of their bodies about them, exclaiming, "Let us die for him! We will die for our good governor!"

[ocr errors]

14. All the better part of the rude Charles's nature was roused. Tears were in his own eyes, his voice was shaken by emotion. Neither shall die!" he cried. "Old man! fair maiden! I spare your lives; and for your sake, the lives of all these people. Nay, do not thank me; for I have gained in this interview a knowledge which I could

never have acquired through years of conquest,-that human love is greater than kingly power, and that mercy is sweeter than vengeance!"

15. Well would it have been for the rash Charles could he have gained that knowledge earlier, or have shaped his future life by it even then. Still fired by ambition and the love of power, he went forth to fight Duke René, who now appeared with an army to relieve his fair city of Nancy. A battle ensued, in which Charles was defeated and slain; and in the midst of joy and thanksgiving, the rightful duke entered and once more took possession of the town.

16. Warmly as he was welcomed, there were two who shared with him the honors of that happy day, the old man who had defended Nancy so long and well, and the young girl whose heroic conduct had saved from massacre one-tenth of all its inhabitants.



LISTEN, my children, and you shall hear

Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,

On the eighteenth of April in Seventy-five:
Hardly a man is now alive

Who remembers that famous day and year.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

By land or sea from the town to-night,

Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch

Of the North Church tower, as a signal light,—
One, if by land, and two, if by sea;

And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,

For the country-folk to be up and to arm."


Then he said "Good night!" and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where, swinging wide at her moorings, lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war:

A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon, like a prison bar,

And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.


Meanwhile his friend, through alley and street
Wanders and watches with eager ears,
Till, in the silence around him, he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers
Marching down to their boats on the shore.


Then he climbed to the tower of the church,
Up the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry-chamber overhead,

And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the somber rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,—
Up the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen, and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town,
And the moonlight flowing over all.


Beneath, in the church-yard, lay the dead
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went

Creeping along from tent to tent,

And seeming to whisper, "All is well!"

[graphic][merged small][merged small][subsumed]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »