« PreviousContinue »
some hours behind us; not a vestige of a town or even cottage was within sight or hope, and this city of the dead" appeared to be the sole refuge for my unfortunate friend, who seemed on the verge of becoming the last of its inhabitants.
In this situation, I looked round for a place where he might most conveniently repose:--contrary to the usual aspect of Mahometan burial-grounds, the eypresses were in this few in number, and these thinly scattered over its extent: the tombstones were mostly fallen, and worn with age:-upon one of the most considerable of these, and beneath one of the most spreading trees, Darvell supported himself, in a half-reclining posture, with great difficulty. He asked for water. I had some doubts of our being able to find any, and prepared to go in search of it with hesitating despondency—but he desired me to remain; and turning torŞuleiman, our janizary, who stood by us smoking with great tranquillity, he said, "Suleiman, verbana su,” (i. e. bring some water,) and went on describing the spot where it was to be found with great minuteness, at a small well for camels, a few hundred yards to the right: the janizary obeyed. I said to Darvell, “How did you know this?"-He replied “From our situation; you must perceive that this place was once inhabited, and could not have been so without springs: I have also been here be: fore."
“You have been here before!-How came you never to mention this to me? and what could you be doing in a place where no one would remain a moment longer than they could help it?!
To this question I received no answer. In the
mean time, Suleiman returned with the water, leaving the serrugee and the horses at the fountain. The quenching of his thirst had the appearance of revi. ving him for a moment; and I conceived hopes of his being able to proceed, or at least to return, and I urged the attempt. He was silent-and appeared to be collecting his spirits for an effort to speak. He began.
“This is the end of my journey, and of my lifeI came here to die: but I have a request to make, a command for such my last words must be You will observe it?"
“Most certainly; but have better hopes."
“I have no hopes, nor wishes, but this conceal my death from every human being."
“I hope there will be no occasion; that recover, and
“Peace !-it must be so : promise this.” “I do."
“Swear it, by all that". He here dictated an oath of great solemnity.
“There is no occasion for this I will observe your request; and to doubt me is_"
“It cannot be helped - you must swear.
I took the oath: it appeared to relieve him. He removed a seal ring from his finger, on which were some Arabic characters, and presented it to me. He proceeded
“On the ninth day of the month, at noon precisely, (what month you please, but this must be the day,) you must fling this ring into the salt springs which run into the bay of Eleusis: the day after, at the
same hour, you must repair to the ruins of the temple of Ceres, and wait one hour.”
As I observed that the present was the ninth day of the month, his countenance changed and he paused. As be sate, evidently becoming more feeble, a stork, with a snake in her beak, perched upon a tombstone near us; and without devouring her prey, appeared to be steadfastly regarding us. I know not what impelled me to drive it away, but the attempt was useless; she made a few circles in the air, and returned exactly to the same spot. Darvell pointed to it, and smiled: he spoke-I know not whether to himself or to me--but the words were only, “'Tis well!"
“What is well? what do you mean?"
“No matter: you must bury me here this evening, and exactly where that bird is now perched. You know the rest of my injunctions.”
He then proceeded to give me several directions, as to the manner in which his death might be best concealed. After these were finished, he exclaimed, “You perceive that bird ?"
"Doubtless: there is nothing uncommon in it; it is her natural prey. But it is odd that she does not devour it.”
He smiled in a ghastly manner, and said, faintly, "It is not yet time! As he spoke, the stork flew
away. My eyes followed it for a moment, it could hardly be longer than ten might be counted. I felt Darvell's weight as it were, increase upon my shoulder, and turning to look upon his face, perceived that he was dead!
I was shocked with the sudden certainty which could not be mistaken-his countenance in a few minutes became nearly black. I should have attributed so rapid a change to poison, had I not been aware that he had no opportunity of receiving it unperceived. The day was declining, the body was rapidly altering, and nothing remained but to fulfil his request. With the aid of Suleiman's atagban and my own sabre, we scooped a shallow grave upon the spot which Darvell had indicated: the earth easily gave way, having already received some Ma- , hometan tenant. We dug as deeply as the time permitted us, and throwing the dry earth upon ali that remained of the singular being so lately departed, we cut a few sods of greener turf from the less withered soil around us, and laid them upon his sepulchre.
Between astonishment and grief, I was tearless.