« السابقةمتابعة »
tice at our hands. Our many little readers, who have read so many of Mr. Neale's tales, both in separate volumes, and in our own Magazine, will be glad, we are sure, to be told that there is another glorious book in store for them. And in noticing this and another little book we shall give them their corner here. It is a tale of persecution, laid about A. D. 300, when multitudes were driven into deserts and mountains, and perished by hunger, and thirst, and cold, and diseases, and robbers, and wild beasts. It traces, in the shape of a journal, the varying fortunes of a Christian family, consisting of a father and mother,-named Basil and Thecla, and three children, John, aged sixteen, Cyrilla, fourteen, and Philip, about ten, during their many troubles, after having been driven from their house at Ombi, in Upper Egypt. The descriptive powers of Mr. Neale are brought into fullest play; and the many scenes through which we are called upon to pass, are described with such life-like reality, that we seem not so much to read of, as to be actually present with the fugitives. The Sand-storm is a remarkable instance of this. Out of many thrilling chapters, we can only select two. And first, the "Cave of S. Charilaus," in which, after many troubles and weary journeys, they take refuge :
"The moon rose, for it was now rather past the full. Over those wild, sandy wastes she poured a golden haze; stubs of trees and rocks, and the tall herbage by the side of the stream, cast gaunt and unnatural shades; the dew fell heavy and cold. Passing from their old home, laden as the strength of each person allowed, the wanderers prepared to follow Euthymius. He led the way, bearing, in spite of all that could be said, a bag of flour, sufficient, it might have been thought, to tire a far younger man,
"Take courage, my children,' said he, as they began to
descend the hill; 'out of these troubles, I doubt it not, GOD will give you deliverance.'
"It was a very solemn scene, as, sometimes in shadow, and sometimes in the full glare of the moon, they passed to their new abode. Over one hill after another, each wilder than that which had gone before,—the rocks taking more fantastic shapes, —the rifts and chasms growing deeper and more rugged,— more and more intense solitude, deeper and deeper awe of the pathless and cruel desert. For more than an hour they thus passed on; hardly a word was spoken; the moon was a quarter of the way to her height. At length they began to ascend a hill, steeper than any they had yet seen; and presently Euthymius halted at a spot where four bushes grew close together.
"This is the place, my children,” he said. It is several years since I have been here, and the entrance is more overgrown than it was; but I am right, nevertheless.'
"Diphilus came up. 'Best to touch the bushes as little, as possible,' said he; there is no occasion to call attention to our hiding-place.'
'You say true, my son,' replied Euthymius; yet, let them observe it as they may, they will find it no easy task to make an entrance.' As he spoke, he pushed aside the bushes, and showed a large, grey, mossy stone, that seemed to lie carelessly embedded in the earth.
"Pull that out,' said he.
"Diphilus accordingly attempted to do so; but the task was beyond his strength. His master came to his help, and the stone was moved.
"This is the cave,' said the hermit; 'follow me.'
"He knelt down, and groped his way into the aperture; the rest followed. A strange, cold blast of wind met them. The cave rose in height; they could presently stand upright. There was light before them; and they found that it was, in fact, a kind of tunnel through the hill, and opened on the other side, half-way up the face of a precipice. Basil came forward, and looked out from this opening on the ravine, lying in dark shade; and on the opposite hill, on which the unclouded moon was shining gloriously.
"Have I made you understand? If you had stood at the bottom of that ravine, you would have seen the mouth of the cave half-way up the precipice; opening, so to speak, on to nothing, and apparently inaccessible. The height from the bottom might be sixty feet; and from the cavern to the top of the precipice was something less. But the cave had been used, in earlier times, as a place of refuge, and its secret had been handed down among one or two of the oldest and most tried Christians, ever since the persecution of Decius, fifty years before. A rope ladder was hung from pegs that projected along one side; towards the entrance, in a hollow of the cave-wall, lay a quantity of what had been loose earth, though now somewhat caked together by long neglect; one or two iron pots, rusty with the disuse of many years, a hatchet, and some remains of faggots that appeared to have been laid in as fuel. The tenants-in former years had here and there amused themselves by engraving their names on the somewhat soft rock. Thus you might read, in one place, 'I, Charilaus, took refuge in this place;' and another sentence had afterwards been added, The holy martyr, Charilaus, suffered in the Thebais under Proclus.'
"But he was not discovered here,' said Euthymius, when John pointed out the words to him; 'neither heard I ever of any man that was. Charilaus, like a true Priest, was not content to abide in hiding while his people were suffering: wherefore he went back and perished with them,-or, I should rather say, entered into eternal life at their head. But now attend; for it much concerns you to know the best means of safety. As soon as I am gone away,-'
"But you will not leave us, good father?' cried Thecla.
"I must, my daughter; I have other work to do. But I will bear you in mind; and, if GOD wills, I will surely visit you again. But listen: as soon as I am gone forth, block up the entrance of this cave with the earth you see here; it was therefore left, and it has so been used. It is scarcely possible that any one should then discover this entrance; and, if they should even notice the mouth of the cave, they will think it impossible that any one should have entered there. Be of good cheer, and
commit yourselves to GOD, and He will bring you out of the heart of the earth again.'
"But you will not leave us now, holy sir?' said Basil.
"I will tarry with you this night, and help you to establish yourselves here: to-morrow, I must depart.'
"Sir,' said Diphilus, 'it were well if this very night we filled the cask with water. If the soldiers should gain any scent of where we are, before we are provided in that respect, we may be driven either to deliver ourselves up to them, or to die of thirst.'
"It is well said, my son,' answered Euthymius. 'I will show you where the spring is; it lies about four hundred paces from the cave. Follow me.'
"Basil and Diphilus went forth with the hermit; the rest remained to get things in the best order they might."
The place of their refuge was discovered by the soldiers who went in quest of them; and they were compelled to quit it in all haste, and set out into the desert once more. The last chapter is as follows::
"The soldiers remained some days longer in the cave of S. Charilaus, searching in all directions, but to no purpose, for us. At length the centurion, concluding that we must have perished, as so many others had done, of hunger and thirst, and not thinking himself likely to attain any great reward for our capture, determined to return.
My father and Basil, when once they had left the river, felt tolerably secure that no successful pursuit could be made after them. The soldiers would, in the first place, have to go to Apollonopolis, which, for all that appeared, they could only reach on foot; then they would have to state the circumstances that had occurred to the Augustal Prefect; and, after that, more time would be lost in equipping a sufficient number of soldiers to have any chance in pursuing the fugitives.
'Without, therefore, overtasking their camels, my father and our slave made a good day's journey on that, and on the three
following days. They had kept somewhat to the south of the route which we had taken when we left Egypt, in order to avoid any chance falling in with the soldiers at Zericah, or on the road thither. Their design was to pass the Oasis on the south, and then, keeping to their right hand, to re-enter it from the east. They knew not, of course, where we were: they were in the greatest alarm for our safety; but they determined to direct their course to Thmuis, according to the direction which Diphilus had received from Euthymius.
"On the afternoon of the fifth day, they entered a rocky country, which had the reputation of being infested with wild beasts. Diphilus would gladly have avoided it: but as many of the springs were now dry, and the wells few and far between, it was necessary to choose the most direct course, in order to prevent fatal consequences from a disappointment as to water. Their road lay along a narrow, sandy plain, skirted on each side by parallel ridges of hills, or rather black rocks, running at right angles to the valley itself. Once or twice on the preceding days, they had seen a lion in the distance; and though under no great apprehension of being attacked, during that time of the year, while it was light, they had chosen their encampments with great care, and had never ventured both to sleep at one time. Early on this afternoon, their attention was attracted by a larger lion than any they had yet seen, who was occupying himself in a way entirely new to my father:-he had, as I have said, travelled but little in the desert. There was, about three hundred yards from their route, an isolated rock, having a gradual ascent on one side, and a precipitous fall towards the other; its height might be something more than that of a man. They observed the lion take his position on the top of this rock, and then spring with all his might from the summit. This he did four or five times, as if he were trying to reach a given distance. At length he seemed to have attained it: on which he ascended the rock no more, but trotted off slowly in the same direction which the travellers were taking.
"That lion is after mischief,' said Diphilus; 'they always