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ject in the distant horizon was perfectly and unnaturally clear. The rocks at the top of the mountain ridge seemed as distinct as if they had been twenty yards, instead of a mile and a half off; the stunted bushes that grew amongst them seemed pencilled out against the sky. There was such an intense stillness, that the little river Deste in the plain far below could be heard murmuring over its rocks.
They were looking up to the ridge of the mountain. Now, crowning a little brow which formed its very highest point, there was a huge boulder, in shape something like an uncouth square, and leaning a little forward over the valley. Every child in the village knew it well; and it went by the name of "Dom Sebastian's dining table,” because, men said, that unfortunate king had taken his dinner on the turf by its side, not long before his last fatal expedition to Africa.
Now, you are to understand that the ground for perhaps half-a-dozen yards immediately in front of this rock, sloped down very gently and gradually; but, after that, the mountain side broke steeply away, craggy and precipitous, and sometimes almost perpendicular, right down to Antonia's cottage.
Both the friends happened to have their eyes fixed on this rock. "Look," said Francisca, "it is moving!" "What is moving ?" inquired Maria.
"Why, Dom Sebastian's table. I am sure it is not
Moving! nonsense," returned Maria. And as they again looked steadily at it, it seemed quite stationary.
"It is moving indeed," shrieked out Francisca, after the lapse of another minute. "What shall we do? It will come straight down upon us here!"
As she spoke, the rock lost its balance, and turned fairly over. "O, the baby!" cried Maria; "I promised its mother not to leave it." And she was darting off towards the cottage, when her friend caught her.
"You shall not go, Maria," she said. "It is running into certain destruction.'
"But I will go," cried Maria, tearing herself away. "I will either save the baby, or lose my own life.'
"Then go by yourself," said Francisca. "S. Mary preserve us-do but look!" She herself turned, and ran towards the village, still watching the rock. For all this, which it takes me so long to tell, did not take five seconds to happen. The rock turned over three or four times, each more swiftly than the other. Then, coming to the edge of the level ground, it leapt sheer down on to that boulder which I had seen shattered in pieces. They who heard the sound say, that it was more fearful than any, even than mountain, thunder. It was not a bellowing noise like that, but a kind of tremendous hum, which seemed to vibrate through everything, as if the mountain itself must be shaken to pieces. At the same time, a fearful wind sprang up, and, just as the boulder finished its first leap, Maria appeared with the infant at the door of the arbour. In less time than it takes to think it, arbour, cottage, garden, and road leading to it were swept away under the fall of the rock. Swept away is too faint a word; they were positively annihilated. There was an immense oak-tree which stood right in the way of the leap, with great, massy timber, and branches forty yards in diameter. That oak tree was so completely destroyed, that nothing but the smallest splinters could here and there afterwards be found. That was the second leap of the rock. At the third, it cleared the whole village of Val' de Passos, and buried itself in a down far below.
And what became of Maria and the baby?
At first Francisca stood, as if spell-bound, on the spot where she was. Then, without giving another glance at the wreck behind her, she rushed into the village. Every one was in the little narrow street. Scarcely anybody knew what had happened; some thought that the end of the world was come; most believed that it was an earthquake. Father Manoel, the parish priest, was the first to point out what had really occurred.
"But, what is it, my child ?" he inquired of Francisca, who was far too much agitated to be able to speak, and from whom it took some time to obtain an intelligible account of what she had seen.
"Let us go up," said the good priest, sadly, when he
had heard all, "let us go up to where Antonia's cottage stood. No one go down to her mother till I can bear her the tidings myself. First let us see if we can learn more than we now know."
Every one followed. The priest went on hurriedly, and led the way straight up the road. When they were near the spot, the women began to draw back, as if expecting some dreadful sight.
"You will see nothing," said old Pedro, who contrived to keep up with them; no one will ever see a fragment of her till the Resurrection day."
The wreck down the mountain side was dreadful. Here and there rocks and turf had been ploughed up, and tons of mould and of crushed granite driven out on this side and on that. The spot where the cottage had stood, had changed its very form; old men that had known it all their lives, would have been unable to recognize it now.
"And of course," I said, as the guide paused, "no one ever discovered any trace of poor Maria ?"
"Maria, Senhor," he answered, "many years after that was the best wife and the best mother in Paradella, over the hill, yonder," and he nodded in that direction.
"But how was it possible that she should have escaped ?"
"Only GoD and our Lady know," he replied, as he crossed himself, "but so it was. In some way or other the rock had passed over her at the moment it swept away the garden. They found her and the child both lying in a kind of hollow place that had not been touched, and both, seemingly, dead. But the women got round them, and brought water, and so forth, and both one and the other recovered. And, as old Jeronimo the soldier used to say, the most wonderful part of all was, that the wind of the rock did not kill Maria and the child; for every one that has served in the army knows that the wind of a cannon ball will kill a man almost as well as the cannon ball itself. However, that is the plain story, as near as I can tell it you; and there are plenty of people alive to bear me out in it. And now, Senhor, here we are at Nossa Senhora da Atalaya."
J. M. N.
THE WHEAT AND THE TARES.
THIS parable of the wheat and tares explains the third stage in the growth, of CHRIST's kingdom. The first parable of the series shows the reason why the seed, though it came from Heaven did not grow up in all the places in which it was sown. The second prophesies and accounts from natural causes for the apparent want of success which will and must attend the most energetic efforts. In the first then the seed is sown; in the second it is buried; here we find it having passed through these stages; it has sprung up; it is evidently growing. But in this stage there is a greater discouragement than anything that has yet befallen the sower. It is something to grieve over that which should have produced fruit, but has not; it is something to curb the natural impatience which requires some evidence of success; but it is a far greater trial of faith that the harvest should spring; that the soil should prove itself to be fertile; but that there should be tares among the wheat-that besides the indifferent, the cold-hearted, the persecutors, the maligners, a man's foes should be among his own household, that the very brethren of the faith should be false. Well may the faithful, yet despairing servants-they into whose hands the divine seed has been committed-they who are conscious that they have themselves done their duty honestly and faithfully-well may such as these draw back from their labours in utter despondency, exclaiming, "Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in thy field; whence then hath it tares ?"
We lose much of the force of this parable by the faulty translation in our English version of the Bible. The parable means much more than that two different crops will grow on the same soil at the same time. It means that the sowers themselves are unable to distinguish the good from the bad; that they have no means of knowing whether, when they see the crop before their eyes,
that crop is anything more than a pretence and a show. The word which we render tares describes a grass which, though absolutely barren and useless, it is impossible to distinguish from the blade of real wheat; it is that spoken of in the Psalms as "the grass which withereth before it be grown up, wherewith the mower filleth not his hand, neither he that bindeth up the sheaves his bosom."
This discovery is by far the greatest discouragement which can possibly fall upon God's faithful servants, because its tendency is to shake their confidence in every thing. They cannot but be conscious of the faithfulness of their own labours; they have sown the seed committed to them; they have waited patiently through the time of deadness, till it has sprung up: it has sprung up, but a great portion of the crop is bad, and they cannot tell the bad from the good. Can it be? is it possible? could the seed from which such a crop has sprung have been bad from the beginning? Didst thou not sow good seed in thy field? Whence then hath it tares? We see the first faint traces of unfaithfulness in this question; there is the shadow of a doubt implied in the seed and in the greater Sower Himself. And this is not an imaginary case. On the contrary, it is the most common form of unfaithfulness that we have-the most common because the most reasonable. It is a fact; it is a thing that all can see, that the baptized do fall away from grace given; that the field sown with GOD's seed, and sown by GoD's servants does produce tares; it is patent, it cannot be denied, though no one can see the extent of the mischief; and the half faithful, yet doubting servants stand aloof, and think in their own hearts either that the seed is not good, or that it could not have been sown at all in a soil which produces such a crop; either that there is no such thing as regeneration in baptism, or that for some reason or other, the baptized cannot have been regenerated. The question implies a doubt somewhere, and there can be no doubt as to the existence of the tares.
This is a most natural doubt-so natural, so, we may almost say, excusable that our LORD condescends to