صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

"Oh no, not if you and my father were with me," cried Theodora.

"But suppose we were not," said De Rushton gravely. "But I hope the best, love,-I believe the best. Now there is another thing. If we both are fortunate enough to make our escape together, of course our home is England. If anything happens to me, I should have wished that you went there nevertheless; you would have had a warm welcome from my father at Rushton, and my sisters would have loved you as if you had been one of them always. But your father is all for the Morea or Lesbos. So you are safe, of course it matters comparatively little where; only one thing I have done, that you should know. I have written to my father, Sir Henry de Rushton, telling him of our marriage, and preparing him to love you dearly. This letter I have entrusted to the captain of a Venetian merchantman, who proposes to sail for Italy with the first fair wind; and thence, in process of time, there is no doubt that it will safely reach England. It might be necessary, you know, that our marriage were known and acknowledged there; and I have therefore procured a counter signature of it from the Cardinal; it might affect more than ourselves."

Theodora blushed, and presently said, “But I shall hear of you to-morrow, Edward; you will let me know how things go with you. It will be so dreadful to have the long hours go on, and not a word."

"Most certainly, love," replied the Great Acolyth; " and Lord Manuel will be of great use to us both. He will be well able to bear messages; though certainly not to take any part in the defence."

"But oh, Edward, do not be rash to-morrow! I do not wish to say anything that might hinder you from doing your duty; but do not throw away your chance of life, and mine of happiness. We have been, even with all the misery of the siege, so very, very happy together."

"And so we shall be yet, my own love-I feel persuaded of it. All the care that I can take of myself, I will; of that be well assured. Dearest, all my fear is for you. I am not afraid for you while you are concealed, only for the few hours that it will necessarily take you to

get free from the city. You know not what a fearful spectacle to-morrow night will be. may."

GOD grant you never

Theodora turned very pale, and shuddered; but presently, throwing her arms round her husband's neck, she whispered something into his ear.

"No," he said, very solemnly; "no: nothing can justify that, even if it comes, which God of all His mercy forbid!-to the very worst, nothing can make self-murder right. We may resist to the very utmost-we may provoke others to take away our lives; but to lay hands on ourselves is to shut ourselves out from salvation. Do not think of it, Theodora! The very thought is dangerous. Will you promise me this ?"

"I will," she whispered.

"And now," he said more gaily, "I think that I hear the Lady Choniatis and her daughter. Most probably I shall see you again to-night; but I will bid you good-bye now, in case I should not be able."

He folded her in his arms; and had but just released her when Burstow entered the room, to announce the arrival, under his escort, of Maria and Euphrasia Choniatis.

"Bid them come up," said Theodora. better here."

"We shall be

And Sir Edward went down stairs to fetch them, and spoke as cheerfully as he could.

“A fine warm evening, madam. Dear Euphrasia, you must let me call you so now, for you must learn to look on me as a brother. Manuel and I are as good as brothers; so the rest follows, does it not? Theodora is upstairs; please you to come ?" And he led the

way.

They were presently joined by Manuel Chrysolaras, and shortly afterwards by Phranza; and the whole scheme of concealment was gone over and over again. The last person that joined the little party was Nicetas Choniates, and shortly after his arrival, supper was served. The servants were, however, dismissed, that the conversation might be the freer; and in telling over the events of the day, and the fears of to-morrow, an hour, or an hour and a half, slipped away.

"Lord Acolyth," said Phranza at length, "were it not well that we attended the Cæsar? It must now be hard on the fifth hour of night, and the council is summoned for midnight."

"One thing more," said Theodora; "I had almost forgotten it. What am I to do in respect to the servants, and more especially Maria ?"

"You may depend upon it," said De Rushton, "that they will give you no choice in the matter; they will take refuge in S. Sophia, the moment the danger is imminent; even had they the choice of concealment, they would not accept it."

"You are right," said Phranza: "and God grant that they may be right, too. But counsel them against it, Theodora; bid them rather hide themselves where they may till the first madness of the sack is over."

"And whatever happens," added De Rushton, "the plan we have made holds. We may, or may not, any of us meet again; but till midnight, to-morrow, Theodora, I charge it upon you, do not stir from the ice-house. If we once lose trace of you, it may be ruin to all. me this."

"I do most solemnly," she replied.

Promise

"And you also promise it, Euphrasia," said Manuel. "I do."

"Then we have nothing to do but to say farewell. Theodora, love, I promise to see you after the council if I can," said De Rushton, "but you must go to bed,-and to sleep if you may. So must you," he added, "turning to Maria Choniatis ;-and you, fair Euphrasia.' "I will try," replied Theodora. "We all will try." Then came the parting; and a bitter parting it was. Phranza at length, laying his hand kindly on De Rushton's shoulder, said, "Come, my good lord, come! This is sad work-let it be short."

And he and the Acolyth, together with Chrysolaras, who insisted on accompanying them to the council, and the Exarch Choniates, were soon on their way to the Cæsar.

CHAPTER XXXIII.

"Before my GOD, I might not this believe,
Without the evidence and true avouch
Of mine own eyes."

Hamlet.

AGAIN We must avail ourselves of our privilege as historians, and convey our readers into the bed-room of the Lady Theodora De Rushton.

It was nearly midnight. Maria was engaged in disengaging her hair from the chain of pearls, which, after the custom of the times, she wore twisted in it. Theodora herself seemed utterly weary and wretched; yet she was speaking earnestly.

"You must, if you choose to do it, Maria; I cannot hinder you. But I wish you would for once hear advice. Your master thinks it madness to suppose that S. Sophia, in case of the worst, will be any defence.

"My master is a Latin," said Maria, rather pertly.

"You forget yourself, Maria;-and what is due to me. My father is not a Latin-nor the Lord Manuel Chrysolaras, -nor the Exarch Choniates;-and they all think so too. Gennadius says, madam, that God will never permit the Turks to pollute the Great Church. Before they do that, deliverance will come."

[ocr errors]

"I know he does, Maria.

But if holiness could have protected any place, surely it would have been the Holy Sepulchre yet the infidels twice took it."

"He has told us the truth from the beginning, and he will not deceive us now," said Maria. "He said that the Latins would not help us; he said that we should be reduced to extremities; has he not spoken the truth ?" "He has," replied Theodora. "What he said was not unlikely to come to pass, and it has come to pass. But is this sufficient reason, think you, for believing him in prophesying a miracle of so wonderful a kind and that has hardly happened since the beginning of the world? Is it enough to make you blindly trust your life and honour to such a vague uncertainty? For you must know, that if S. Sophia be not supernaturally protected

to-morrow, it will be the very centre of danger; you will be taken as in a trap, the prey of the first soldier that happens to see you.'

[ocr errors]

"You cannot frighten me, madam,” said Maria.

"Silly girl," replied Theodora. "I am most grieved that I cannot. But remember, your ruin will lie at your own door; I have warned you."

[ocr errors]

But suppose,

for one moment, that what Gennadius says should be true," Maria pleaded.

"In that case," replied her mistress, "if you conceal yourself here, you will be equally safe. If he speaks truth, you are none the worse for taking my advice; if he speaks falsely, you are ruined by not attending to it."

There was a pause of a few minutes, during which Maria proceeded with her mistress's toilet. At length she said, "My mind is made up, madam; I shall go to S. Sophia's."

replied Theodora. "I And there was another pause. room that opens from this," "I do not like being so en

Then Gop preserve you!" have done what I could." "You shall sleep in the said the Lady De Rushton. tirely alone.

[ocr errors]

Very well, madam."

"Light the small lamp-I do not want much lightand then leave me.'

Maria did so; and having wished, and been wished by, her mistress, "good night," she betook herself to old Anastasia, a kind of housekeeper under Sir Edward's steward, to bewail with her the Azymite tendencies of her mistress in that she would not give credence to the words of Gennadius. This they did at some length, and with the help of a bottle of choice wine, of which Anastasia partook more liberally, and Maria more sparingly, they arrived at the conclusion that there was no cause for apprehension, except to those who pertinaciously rejected the warnings of Gennadius.

In the mean time Theodora had knelt before the icon of the Panaghia, and had committed herself and her husband, to the mercies of her SON, She rose with a lightened heart, and, after some half-hour's sad, yet not altogether sad, thoughts, closed her eyes.

« السابقةمتابعة »