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THE rlLGRIM8. Tub sun ahone brightly on the turretted walla of Vallis Florida, and the beautiful vale in which it stood glowed in all the ripe effulgence of summer's splendour: yet the scene bore a saddened aspect; the foresters stood carelessly about the castle gate, the dogs ran idle through the court yard, and the falcon's hoarse voice was heard reproachfully from the perch where he sat impatient for the hand that was wont to carry him to the field in pursuit of his quarry. The bugle's notes had not startled the dull ear of time for at least ten days, and every thing around indicated an absence of life and gaiety. The cause might have been divined from the sorrowful looks of the domestics who glided silently through the apartments, or across the yard, as if they dreaded awakening the echoes of the place. Every thing bespoke the infliction of a recent calamity; and such the lordly proprietor, Raymond Fitzour, considered the illness of his lady, who now lay oppressed with sickness upon her splendid pallet. Only three weeks before, and she appeared at the altar, in all the attractions of youth and beauty, when she bestowed her fair hand upon the envied Raymond. The event was followed by every demonstration of joy: the followers of the ancient and proud house of Fitzour were feasted with a sumptuousness unknown even to these improvident times, and all felt that anew era of happiness had commenced in their happy valley. The gay and gallant bridegroom participated in the exultations of his vassals; in the hattle-field he had won laurels enough to create envy in a veteran; and though still young in everything but heroic deeds of chivalry, he had fought beneath the blessed cross upon the plains of Palestine, helped to humble the haughty Saracen, and knelt in pious reverence upon the tomb where once reposed the body of Him who had purchased, by his blood, the redemption of a thankless world. Though rich in honours, and inheriting a fair estate, he felt tliat the beautiful Angelique had, in bestowing on bim her hand, conferred
no small favour. She had selected him from a hundred suitors, and his love and his vanity conspired to make him happy. But ere the honeymoon—that blissful season of rapturous and thrilling delight—had passed, a blight fell upon his joy; the fair bride drooped, and the leech's skill was in vain exerted to haffle the disease. Medicine failing, the dark sorceresses of the neighbourhood, who held unholy consultations with forbidden spirits, were appealed to, but with no better success; and the minister of religion was reluctantly called on to pTepare one too good for this world for admission into the next.
When the good priest had performed the last rites which the church prescribed, he went in search of the lord of the castle for the purpose of preparing him, by pious consolations, for the great loss he was about to suffer. He found him in the little oratory attached to the chapel, kneeling before the altar, his hands raised in an attitude of fervent prayer, and his eyes upturned beseechingly to Heaven. He was so wrapt in his devotions that he heard not the entrance of the pious clergyman, and it was not until the good father's obtestations became louder than his own, that he was apprised of his presence. Raymond, awakened from bis reverie, turned joyfully to the priest, exclaiming, 'my dame is better, is she not?'
'Alas! not so,' replied the priest,' my death-bed skill cannot offer you the consolation of hope.'
'Say not so, good father. I tell you the dame is— will be better. I have a vow in heaven more potent than the leech's skill; and St. Decuman has promised in my name that if Angelique revive, I will return thanks to Heaven at the holy sepulchre. I'll do more; a convent dedicated to the virgin shall be munificently endowed, and thou, good man, shall be its first abbot.'
Whether it were the last words or the pious vehemence of Raymond which prevailed, it is useless to conjecture; certain it was that the priest became filled, all at once, with holy confidence, and was eloquent in enforcing the obligations all good christians lay under of fulfilling vows so solemnly made. His arguments did not fall on harren ground: they fructified in the bosom of Raymond, and with a pardonable familiarity with the commerce of heaven, he regarded his terms as accepted, and from that moment looked forward with pious confidence towards the establishment of his lady's health.
His hopes were not disappointed: to the great joy of every one but her physician, whose prognostics had been falsified, the lady enjoyed that very night a sound sleep, was much better the next day, and in less than a week was able to walk abroad in the pure light of heaven. Such a manifestation of miraculous interference was not to be disregarded, and accordingly Raymond publicly announced his intention of setting out for Jerusalem: Angelique did not oppose his j ourney; for her the vow was made, and it would argue a strange ingratitude to deny heaven its slight recompense for its mighty operations. Before starling for (be scene of man's redemption and of Christian bravery, the neighbouring gentry were invited to Vallis Florida: it was a right joyous and merry meeting; and the tankard was often emptied to the safe return of Fitzour. There was one guest who seemed to have intervals of sadness amidst the flow of mirth; but it was of a softened and tender kind. Being asked the reason, he sighed, and, taking Raymond by the hand, said, * Permit me to be the companion of your journey V
'You, De Clare,' returned Fitzour, laughing,' why you forget that I am going to pray, not to fight; and I am greatly mistaken if you have not forgotten your pater and ave.'
* True,' said De Clare, 'I am fairly obnoxious to mirth; but a life passed in the tented field has need of penitence. My offences are my own—God can forgive them, and to God I'll now apply. I am resolved—Fitzour, I'll accompany you to the sepulchre.'
There was an earnestness in his manner which subdued every inclination to ridicule, and though Ravmond did not much like the man, for lie had been one of Angelique's rejected suitors, he consented that he should accompany him on his pilgrimage. The following day a vast concourse of persons were assembled at Maidenhead to witness their departure: the heart of no one was sorrowful save that of the young bride; and, as she gave her lord the last farewell embrace, a sad prescience fell upon her heart that they should not meet again but in sorrow.
That day two months two youthful pilgrims, with stately tread, and heads aloft, bespeaking a proud bearing, were seen approaching the cedars of Lehanon. The spot was then, as now, a resting-place for weary travellers; and the unprotected palmer was secured from Saracen violence by a strange police, who were literally what they professed to be—soldiers of Christ. The plumed helmet pressed a stern brow, and the lance trembled in the stirrup-hold, while the beads hung from the girdle, and the cross, the symbol of peace, was displayed on the white garment, the unostentatious dress of a Knight of St. John of Jerusalem. Our pious pilgrims had no sooner stretched their weary limbs on the hank beneath the cedars of Lehanon, than two of these knight-errants rode up, and gracefully saluted them with the usual words,' Salve Domine.' The air and manner of the pilgrims bespoke them of superior birth, and the scallops on their coarse habits testified that this was not the first journey they had made to the scene of Christian redemption and Hebrew miracle. These circumstances served as additional recommendations in the eyes of the warrior monks, and, accordingly, they took the palmers under their immediate protection. When the moon arose in all the beauty of oriental loveliness, the knights alighted and eagerly entered into conversation with the strangers. Raymond was delighted with the suavity of their manners, and the extent of their information; he inquired after some of his companions in arms who had remained in Jerusalem, and volunteered an account of the reasons which induced him to undertake a second journey to the sepulchre. Of Angelique he spoke with the fervency of one who loved intensely, and when he dwelt upon the happiness which awaited his return, De Clare was observed to smile with an expression of countenance which approximated to the malicious: it might have been only the shadow of an intervening bough. Fitzour gave it no further thought, and at day-break they renewed their pilgrimage.
The warrior monks rode beside them until they arrived at the next Christian post, where two other knights supplied their place. In this manner they reached in security the city of Jerusalem. At that moment one at least felt all the enthusiasm of holy and noble associations: he could not abstract his mind from local emotions; and wisely thought that whatever withdraws us from the power of our senses, or makes the past, the distant, and the future, predominate over the present, advances us in the dignity of thinking beings.* His was no frigid philosophy, no habitual devotion; his heart was warm, his soul was sincere, and the history of religion, as he stood upon ground hallowed by the footsteps of the Redeemer, recurred to him with holy vividness: his spirit was exalted, and his soul melted, as it were, with thoughts too sublime for utterance, too vivid for description. Without a moment's delay he hurried bis companion to the site of the sepulchre; an aged Christian was in attendance to point out the topography of the place; his venerable aspect, his white locks and flowing beard, commanded respect, but Raymond heeded him not: he dropped on his knees beneath the shade of a tall oriental tree, and, leaning bis closed hands on a fragment of a ruined temple, poured out his ardent soul to him who had sanctified the place. De Clare's piety, if not more sincere, appeared more vehement: he listened attentively to the guide's narrative, and at sight of a fragment of sculpture, representing a scene in the stable at Bethlehem, he endeavoured to conceal the violence of his emotion by covering his eyes with his hands. The ancient Christian was greatly edified, and, too charitable to suppose any one * Johnson'* Journey to the Western. Isles.