« PreviousContinue »
impenetrable gloom. After a short parley with himself, he entered the porch; and seizing a massy iron knocker at the gate, lifted it up, and, hesitating, at length struck a loud stroke. The noise resounded through the whole mansion with hollow echoes. All was still again! He repeated the stroke more boldly, and louder.-Another interval of silence ensued!-A third time he knocked; and a third time all was still! He then fell back to some distance, that he might discern whether any light could be seen in the whole front. It again appeared in the same place, and quickly glided away as before.-At the same instant, a deep, sullen toll sounded from the turret. Sir Bertrand's heart made a fearful stop!-He was a while motionless; then terror impelled him to make some hasty steps towards his steed-but shame stopped his flight; and, urged by honour, and a resistless desire of finishing the adventure, he returned to the porch, and working up his soul to a full steadiness of resolution, he drew forth his sword with one hand, and with the other lifted up the latch of the gate. The heavy door, creaking upon its hinges, reluctantly yielded to his hand-he applied his shoulder to it, and forced it open. He quitted it, and stepped forward-the door instantly shut with a thundering clap. Sir Bertrand's blood was chilled!-He turned back to find the door, and it was long ere his trembling hands could seize it -but his utmost strength could not open it again. After several ineffectual attempts, he looked behind him, and beheld, across a hall, upon a large stair-case, a pale blueish flame, which cast a dismal gleam of light around. He again summoned forth his courage, and advanced towards it-It retired. He came to the foot of the stairs; and after a moment's deliberation, ascended. He went slowly up, the flame retiring before him, till he came to a wide gallery.-The flame proceeded along it, and he followed in silent horror, treading lightly, for the echoes of his footsteps startled
him. It led him to the foot of another stair-case, and then vanished. At the same instant another toll sounded from the turret-Sir Bertrand felt it strike upon his heart. He was now in total darkness; and, with his arms extended, began to ascend the second stair-case. A dead cold hand met his left hand, and firmly grasped it, drawing him forcibly forwards-he endeavoured to disengage himself, but could not—he made a furious blow with his sword, and instantly a loud shriek pierced his ears, and the dead hand was left powerless in his-He dropped it, and rushed forwards with a desperate valour.
The stairs were narrow and winding, and interrupted by frequent breaches, and loose fragments of stone. The stair-case grew narrower and narrower, and at length terminated in a low iron gate. Sir Bertrand pushed it open-it led to an intricate winding passage, just large enough to admit a person upon his hands and knees. A faint glimmering of light served to show the nature of the place. Sir Bertrand entered-A deep hollow groan resounded from a distance through the vault. He went forwards; and, proceeding beyond the first turning, he discerned the same blue flame which had before conducted him-He followed it. The vault, at length, suddenly opened into à lofty gallery, in the midst of which a figure appeared, completely armed, thrusting forwards the bloody stump of an arm, with a terrible frown and menacing gesture, and brandishing a sword in his hand. Sir Bertrand undauntedly sprung forwards; and, aiming a fierce blow at the figure, it instantly vanished, letting fall a massy iron key. The flame now rested upon a pair of ample folding doors at the end of the gallery. Sir Bertrand went up to it, and applied the key to a brazen lock -with difficulty he turned the bolt-instantly the doors flew open, and discovered a large apartment, at the end of which was a coffin rested upon a bier, with a taper burning on each side of it. Along the room on
both sides were gigantic statues of black marble, attired in the Moorish habit, and holding enormous sabres in their right hands. Each of them reared his arm, and advanced one leg forwards, as the knight entered; at the same moment the lid of the coffin flew open, and the beli tolled. The flame still glided forwards; and Sir Bertrand resolutely followed, till he arrived within six paces of the coffin. Suddenly a lady, in a shroud and black veil, rose up in it, and stretched out her arms towards him-at the same time the statues clashed their sabres, and advanced. Sir Bertrand flew to the lady, and clasped her in his arms-she threw up her veil, and kissed his lips; and instantly the whole building shook as with an earthquake, and fell asunder with a horrible crash.
Sir Bertrand was thrown into a sudden trance; and, on recovering, found himself seated on a velvet sofa, in the most magnificent room he had ever seen, lighted with innumerable tapers, in lustres of pure crystal. A sumptuous banquet was set in the middle. The doors opening to soft music, a lady of incomparable beauty, attired with amazing splendour, entered, surrounded by a troop of gay nymphs, more fair than the Graces. She advanced to the knight; and, falling on her knees, thanked him as her deliverer. The nymphs placed a garland of laurel upon his head; and the lady led him by the hand to the banquet, and sat beside him. The nymphs placed themselves at the table; and a numerous train of servants entering, served up the feast, delicious music playing all the time.
Sir Bertrand could not speak for astonishment-he could only return their honours by courteous looks and gestures.
After the banquet was finished, all retired but the lady; who, leading back the knight to the sofa, addressed him in these words
CONTENTMENT IN PROSPERITY
THERE are very few questions which have more puzzled philosophers, than one in particular relating to the regimen of ourselves in prosperity and adversity. The contest was never finally determined, whether it was the greater bravery to moderate ourselves in plenty, or to bear up with constancy under the pressures of want. The dispute, I think, is not very material; but the necessity of contentment appears manifestly from both sides, in order to enjoy any felicity in either condition.
Murmuring and complaint generally proceed from the difference of men's situations in life. The sordid are apprehensive they shall never have enough; and the profuse want more to animate their extravagance. They who have but small fortunes cannot relish the scantiness of moderation; grandeur and gaiety do not always sit easy on the wealthy; and the necessitous are dissatisfied that they are exposed to the severity of indigence.
A strange variety of passions thus daily distract the human mind, and for want of knowing how to be easy, too many make themselves miserable. But all these repinings are in reality criminal: man is properly his own tormentor; he disquiets himself in vain ; and by neglecting the observation of one easy virtue, he never tastes the fruit of genuine contentment.To regulate our desires, and limit our pleasures, is what I mean by contentment in a plentiful conditiona state which requires great circumspection to keep the passions from running into excess !
Prosperity is a trying and dangerous state, in which, as we exercise our judgment, we shall display either
the greatest folly, or the most exemplary wisdon. Good fortune is apt to delude us with its smiles, and strangle us in its embraces. It unbends the mind, and slackens its powers; and by a fraudulent gratification of sense it insensibly steals away the use of our reason. Many have stood inflexible under the shock of poverty, who have afterwards fallen a sacrifice to a plentiful fortune.
Temptations to a fatal security are too prevalent, when the mind is lulled into carelessness and neglect. We apprehend no difficulty, because we feel none; and we promise ourselves safety, because a treacherous confidence blinds us to our danger.
But when fortune smiles, let us rouse up our circumspection. Our passions then require a tight rein, lest our actions should hurry us into insolence and presumption. Confidence in our possessions is too apt to obliterate the remembrance of duty; and too great an opinion of our own merit, sometimes creates a forgetfulness of our dependence on God.
The desires, it is plain, have a tendency to violence; and an easy affluence, instead of satisfying, pushes them on to further gratifications. When the heart is thus enlarged, and the spirits too volatile, we are naturally inclined to embark in new undertakings: we are insensible of any difficulties which should stop us in our career, and, for want of proper restraint, our desires hurry us into extravagance, which seldom ends in any thing but ruin.
Thus fallen from the summit of grandeur, we shall become the objects of scorn and contempt. Whilst our fields stood thick with corn, and our garners abounded with all manners of stores, the sycophants were ready to attend our tables, din our ears with compliment, and try to persuade us that we were more than men but no sooner is the scene changed, and a såd alteration appears in our circumstances, than these infamous animals all vanish, and (like vermin which