Page images


we will not do ourselves, we will guarantee to you, in the most solemn manner, the preservation of your life," and each kneeling down, kissed the holy book with devoutest reverence, and raising their right hand to heaven, swore as they had mentioned. “ Now kneel down," said the mysterious visitant, while the other, without speaking, drew from beneath his cloak a long and glittering dagger, that flashed brightly in the gloom of the apartment. Cold perspiration started to the pale brow of Kaunitz, but conscious how futile, even dangerous, would be resistance, and breathing an inward prayer to his Maker for support, he did as he was directed. The words were dictated to him, which slowly and reverently were repeated by Kaunitz, sacredly pledging himself, at the forfeit of his life, not to disclose any thing he might see. He was then allowed to rise, and the other, advancing up and holding the dagger to his throat, said, while his teeth gnashed with savage fierceness, “Should that oath be broken, no power on earth shall save you from our wrath. The fate of Kartz will serve you for a warning." The clergyman spoke not, but recollected, with innate shuddering, a converted Jew pedlar, who was murdered in the market-place about two years before, with circumstances of appalling mystery, and to which the utmost exertions of the government could never find a clue.

Kaunitz now felt himself a passive instrument, and offered no resistance to the strangers as they bandaged his eyes with such scrupulous care that he was severely hurt by the tightness of the stricture.

He was led to a carriage standing near the door, which, the moment the parties were seated, drove off at a furious rate; in what direction, the terrified clergyman could not at all conjecture. Thus they continued for a considerable time; and as they still went on, the feelings of Kaunitz partook more of wonder than alarm, as he felt convinced, by the frequent turnings, and the uninterrupted rattling of the pavement, that they were going, not into the country, but were traversing, over and over again, evidently to deceive him, the different streets of the city. The companions in the extraordinary proceeding maintained an imperturbable silence, and when the long continuance of their drive allowed the feelings of Kaunitz to wander from the more immediate terror by which he was at first engrossed, he indulged in a thousand agonizing speculations as to what could be the object of this mysterious adventure. The evident rank of the strangers, their fierce anxiety for his presence, their dreadful adjuration to secresy, and their awful denunciations of vengeance-all oppressed his mind with a terrible anxiety of fruitless conjecture. Secresy so jealously guarded, must, he had no doubt, have some dark object for its purpose—what, he felt totally unable to divine; and with a mind full of the gloomiest forebodings, he threw himself upon the protection of his Maker, and with a trembling heart, awaited the result.

For nearly four hours, Kaunitz conjectured the carriage continued its circumgyrations, and when it did stop at last, his feelings were wound to such an intensity of excitement, that his heart audibly throbbed against his side. As he was led down from the vehicle, he could not help remarking, that he stepped not upon the soil or the sward as if he had been in the

country, but upon flags, smooth and well worn. Such conjectures, however, though carefully noted in his mind, found no betrayal in his conduct. He was conducted through a large hall or apartment, and then over such apparently interminable flights of stairs and ranges of passages, that the building which enclosed them must have been vast as a palace of romance. He at last found himself at rest, and his feelings were wound up to a tension of painful curiosity and dread, as his stern conductors were removing the bandage from his eyes, which was no sooner accomplished than they left the apartment.

Kaunitz found himself alone, in a spacious saloon. The furniture was of the richest character; one solitary lamp of massive silver, burning near an inlaid sofa, partially revealed a dome-like roof, and walls glittering with fresco paintings or costly tapestry, while rows of chrystal, depending from superb chandeliers, and flinging back the dim light in a thousand fairy hues, gave a shadowy splendor to the room, comporting well with the minister's idea of its eastern gorgeousness. There was, notwithstanding, something ominous in the dull silence of that vast apartment, which shaded the heart of Kaunitz with a dread he was unable to shake off; and in the unnatural quiet, his morbid ear thought it could detect stifled noises looming in dull distinctness, as if a multitude was hushed by force or fear into a startling stillness, more fearful than the loudest clamor. In this state of excited apprehension was he standing, irresolute and alarmed, when the door suddenly opened, and a tall figure in a cloak and mask entered, leading by the hand a lady, whose graceful and slender form was ill concealed by a deep black veil which completely covered her from head to foot. She was led in silence to the sofa, and the instant she was seated her conductor withdrew, without saying a word, locking the door behind him. While the young minister, in visible alarm, awaited the full developement of this mysterious adventure, he could not help gazing upon the lady with feelings of deep compassion, as the victim of some nefarious scheme, in which she was probably to be an unwilling agent. No person again immediately entered the room, and in a short time the lady removed the veil which enveloped her person. Oh, God! to what a thrilling agony were those sensations deepened, when Kaunitz recognised the very features, so long, so indelibly imaged on his soul. A thousand feelings of slumbering love and delicious recollection, called into instant life by that remembered glance, gushed in deep suffusion to his face, and an instant re-action sent them back as coldly to his heart. It was indeed that lovely creature, for whom, without knowledge and without consciousness, he had from the first entertained an interest that trembled into intensest passion; and for whom, even now, with no other claims than those innate yearnings of the heart, he felt awakened within him sympathies and prepossessions of profoundest force. The alteration in her countenance, since the time he had seen her, was indeed fully calculated to awaken similar feelings in one whose recollections were not half so warm as his own. The exquisite symmetry of her features had given way to lines of care and anguish, and the roseate tinge of beauty on her cheek, once delicate and fair, as if impressed with an angel's pencil,

[ocr errors]

was turned into a snow-like paleness, faintly streaked with carmine, as if the pride of woman's loveliness was unwilling to leave its favorite throne. Yet still there was a hush of sweetness in the very composure of those softened features, that wakened a finer and more touching thrill within the heart, than could the full bloom and radiance of her charms. Kaunitz saw that the burning blush on his own cheek, called up an answering suffusion in the wasted features of the lady, but it was of that purely intellectual emotion with which earth and its feelings has no community whatever, and the embarrassed young man felt himself greatly relieved, when the lady requested him to be seated, and addressed him in tones which, though weak and feeble, were of the sweetest courtesy—“I know not, sir, under what circumstances you have been brought here; perhaps they were violent; but there never was any human being I desired so ardently to see.” Kaunitz answered her with some confusion, that he would forgive any violence which would make him the means of rendering her a service. "Ah,” said she, taking his hand, and fixing her large dark eyes upon him, with an expression that touched his soul, “ you little know the service you shall have to render me, or the relationship in which we stand to each other." The young minister colored again, and his heart almost stopped within him, as he felt a scalding tear drop upon his hand. She continued, “ You do not know me, but still I venerate you as my deliverer, my instructor, as my father.” Kaunitz, with new sympathy, deeply awakened, begged of her to explain. “You will not think it strange that I should use such language when you hear my story; though you may have, perhaps, seen me in your church ; yet-start not-I am a Jewish maiden, and was educated in the deepest abhorence of that Jesus of whom I have often heard you speak in the most delightful terms. I might have remained so forever, and been like thousands of my sex and persuasion, happy and admired in my ignorance. But I had a young and beautiful friend, to whom, though proscribed by my relatives and a christian, I was passionately attached. But in the very pride of her young beauty, she was stricken by disease-alas! destined to be mortal. As I watched by her bedside one evening she took my hand, and said to me, in a tone which sunk into my heart, for it was such as I had never heard her use before, ' Zora, will you promise me one thing, and I will die happy ? I promised her solemnly, for I would have promised her any thing. 'Zora, then,' said she, 'dearest Zora, will you only engage to love my Saviour ?' The tears gushed from her eyes as she spoke, and they gushed from mine too; for I was horrified at her request. But she continued, 'Oh, I am too weak to tell you of the happiness and delight you would feel. But will you go and hear the minister of whom you have often heard me speak ? He can tell you of the power of the religion of Jesus better than a dying girl. Oh, Zora, do tell me, that you will go ?! She looked at me with such an earnestness of agony in her countenance, that I assured her I would do all she asked; and in delight she pressed my hand close to her bosom, for she was too exhausted to speak. In a short time I felt her grasp become weak and clammy, and, oh, mercy! she died even while holding my hand.” Here the tears of the beautiful girl choked

her utterance, and Kaunitz, who well recollected the lamented young lady of whom she spoke, freely mingled his own, at this affecting narrative of her last moments. The lady seemed deeply touched by his emotion, and in a short time continued a narrative, to Kaunitz now become intensely interesting—“That request, so earnestly entreated ;--and so solemnly registered to the dead, you may be sure was kept, though it cost me many a pang of strange and shuddering reluctance. At length, deeply disguised, I hired a close carriage and went alone, for I dared not trust another with my secret, to the place she had mentioned. It was to your chapel. You cannot appreciate the conflict of my feelings when, alone and unprotected, I found myself in a place and among a people I had always looked upon with abhorrence and detestation. But I had not listened to you long before I forgot every other feeling in a glow of awakened tenderness. It was of my own and ever dear Maria you were speaking; and you described her loveliness, her purity, her resignation, in a manner which filled my soul with the most exquisite emotion ; but when you came to speak of her death, and to dilate on the efficacy of faith in the Redeemer, in the awful moments of dissolution, my soul was touched with wonder. 'And is this' said I, 'the Jesus I have heard reviled ? My very heart sunk within me at the reflection, and I thought God himself must for ever condemn me for my impiety. I was in fact wretched in my mind, until you, as it were, opened the portals of heaven, and pointed out my departed friend, robed as an angel, singing the praises of her Saviour in an eternal paradise; and declared, that transcendent bliss would be the lot of all, who, like her, would take that Saviour for their portion ; then, oh, then--my soul seemed to have changed its residence-s0 new, so delicious were the hopes and the feelings awakened in me; and I vowed that night, if I were not too great an outcast for mercy, I would live so as to join my lost and loved companion in her bright abode. That evening I purchased a New Testament, and words would be insufficient to tell the delight, the rapture with which I perused the wondrous story of Redeeming love. In a short time I found my chief delight consisted in attending your ministry, and in reading over the precious record of salvation. In spite of doubt and darkness I soon experienced the sweet serenity of being reconciled with God; and I sometimes fancied my beloved Maria was hovering near me on her wings of light, to cheer me in my path, and to assure me of reward. Alas! my hopes were early overcast. Hitherto conscious of the irreconcileable enmity of my friends, I had kept to my own bosom the fearful secret of my altered opinions. But whether from observation or suspicion ; they soon viewed me with a jealous eye; and great was my horror one night on leaving your chapel, to find that the carriage which had hitherto conveyed me was gone. In the midst of my embarrassment, my father and my brother drove up, and I was conveyed home more dead than alive between terror and alarm. Since that time, oh, could you know what I have suffered ; every comfort was removed, and the most systematic aud relentless persecution adopted. Once disco

ed, I well knew the iron opposition of my friends never could be softened ; and I besought of the Jesus I had dared to love, to give me strength for the terrible

« PreviousContinue »