Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

Or whispered some old ocean tale,

Of daring capture, leader brave, Or weary chase of some strange sail,

A pirate on the Indian wave.

And the laboring seamen at the wheel,

Who felt the billow's fiercest force, Smiled at the song, and seemed to feel

A joy in their careering course. They met the wave with careless jest,

And laughing hauled the tiller back : All through the ship, no sailor's breast

Heaved sadder that the night was black.

VII.

And what if they had known that death,

Was rattling in the thunder's crash! Or coming in the tempest's breath,

Or speeding on the lightning's flash! What if they heard, from ocean's caves,

A summons from their unknown deeps, Where the long coral willow waves,

Above the sailor while he sleeps.

VIIL

No voice perchance had trolled a song,

The head and heart in prayer would bow; But Death had been their mate too long,

To scare them with his gloomy brow:
And bravely would they meet the foe,

The only one at whose command
They strike their country's banner low,

And yield to his unconquered hand.

Yet still unharmed swept on the ship,

Like monarch of the surging sea, And still broke forth from joyous lip

The merry jest of thoughtless glee. And proudly would their noble bark

Its gallant crew triumphant borne, And through that night so wild and dark

Rode safely to the breaking morn :

But from a gathered cloud o'erhead,

- Which long had muttered sounds of wrath, Its scapeless bolt, the lightning sped,

Remorseless in its fiery path :
It struck the ship and tore its strength

Like frailest workmanship away,
And strewed at wide and scattered length

Its timbers on the angry spray.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

And yet the years passed on; the maid

Grew old in sorrow, or forgot,
The mother in the tomb was laid,

But still the lost, long-lost came not ;
But with the beautiful and brave,

Of many an age forever o'er,
Their home is now beneath the wave,

Till earth and sea shall be no more.
Chicago, Ilinois, Feb., 1850.

THE MYSTERIOUS P YR A MID.

BY ZRNRY J. BRENT.

• Truth is stranger than fiction,' for who could have invented the Arabian Nights' Tales, those veritable narratives of conjugal confidence and credulity? Who again, may I ask, would ever have dreamed of • Robinson Crusoe,' that island-story of the far-off Pacific Seas, unless there had been truth at the bottom ? Aladdin's lantern was a true story, as every body who has travelled in Eastern lands can testify; and Poor Robinson Crusoe' was no fable, for he did live and did have a home on his rocky island, and his tomb-stone is now to be seen in the eastern section of Scotland; a time-stained and moss-covered monument of a man who, when living, was not more alive than he is now, that his bones are by themselves solitarily crumbling in their tomb.

Did not Numa, the moon-lover and the nymph-believer, go into his cavern and hold converse with Egeria, the Roman statesman-maid ! And did not the sybil-books inculcate from knowledge gained in the spirit-land wisdom, and breathe prophecy to the hardened city-buildingwolf-bred Románs ? Out upon incredulity; for where is the historian who has not made manifest the fact, that the great steeple-chaser, Quintus Curtius, leaped alive into the yawning pit of the seven-hilled city, that craved and hungered for an honest man? Out then, I say, upon incredulity, and let us stick to our belief in things that are founded upon facts.,

History is made up of events that tell of other matters than that Xerxes, the great militia-general of Persia, invaded Greece, and met the Leonidas of Patriotism at the pass of Thermopylæ. History is rife with the undercurrent of events that concern more the imagination than the legal and moral impressions of our nature; and while I lend a willing ear to the stories of Philip and Alexander, his conquering heir, I turn no deaf or unbelieving organ to the wondrous story of the Pythoness, and believe, ay, religiously believe, that Jupiter was a god, and high Olympus was his throne.

Therefore, without multitudinous words and endless preparation, let me proceed to my story. There reigned in the dry season of Egypt's existence a king, who is described as being a miser. The history relates of him that his portrait was engraved upon the Obelisk of Luxor, that now stands, and which I have often seen standing, upon the Place de la Concorde at Paris, a city still in a flourishing condition in France. You will believe me when I tell you that I have often gazed upon the venerable but rather Shylockish countenance of this worthy monarch, as sauntering down the Champs Elysée, I have stopped at the base of the column of granite, that immortal, almost eternal monument of the arts and literature of the land of the Nile.

The King it seems wore a crown, one composed apparently of an

iron circle, studded with brilliants. His forehead is low, and avarice has set its seal upon his nose. It shoots out from his profile like a raggatherer's hook, and seems ever on the alert to smell out hidden money, whether its proprietor's own or any body else's.

It shows an advanced state of the arts in Egypt, this portrait of the King of Mummidom; and grateful am I, and so should others be, to the ingenious limner who stamped the portait of his master upon the everlasting granite. Little did that venerable ruler or that inspired artist dream that they should help to adorn the city of barbarous Gaul, or that an outside barbarian of a new world would print them in caredispelling KNICKERBOCKER.

The king was a miser, and ordered a stone-mason to build him a small pyramid, a sort of stone purse, in which to lock up his enormous wealth. Money was not loaned out at interest in those days, and Wallstreet was, happily for those simple people, ủndreamed of. So the worthy king had a pyramid built, and during a long winter's night he had his hordes quietly carted to his treasury. By breakfast time, as the king was eating his dog-meat sausage, his factotum reported to him that the deposit had been made, and lo! and behold the key!

Saddle me,' cried the king, dropping his Bologna, “and quickly, my chesnut mare, The Desert.''. .

The slave bowed his head low and reverentially, and in a few seconds the neigh of a caparisoned steed was heard at the palace gate. · He is mounted, he of the deep copper-colored face, he of the chiffonnier nose, and with the speed of the electric telegraph he is scouring the plain. A cloud of dust obscures the horizon, and when an instant after the veil of uplifted sand has been removed, no eye can discern the king, for he has entered his pyramid and his horse is hitched in the shade on the other side. I dare not enter there, for the king has locked himself in, and doubtless is gloating over his enormous and dazzling store. Diamonds, rubies, charmed bracelets, antique rings, worn before and after the flood by Noah and his family, stuffs and rich drugs, golden candlesticks and pearl-headed canes, and images in gold of crocodiles with emerald eyes, amber full of flies, silver lizards and bronzed serpents, and countless other objects, rare and miraculously formed.is, · The king has left his golden bower and is at dinner. Egypt had its cooks and its kitchens, and its kings and rulers dined, and dined well. From a palace let us walk into an humble house; the house of the stone-mason who had built the pyramid.

He is stretched upon his couch; he is drawing his breath feebly, and the doctor has shaken his perfumed curls, and waved an everlasting adieu. In fine, the good old gentleman is about dying, and dying too of a very severe and dangerous illness. The to-be widow is leaning over his couch. She is sad, and has a crocodile squint in her left eye that is tearful. Her right eye is out and does nothing. Two youths stand also by the bedside of the departing Egyptian, the soon-to-be mummy. They are his sons, two idle boys, who had done nothing to earn a living save by holding horses and sweeping the crossings of their native town. The stone-mason, having been the architect of the King's

treasury, had nothing to leave to his children save a secret and a blessing. What he had put up he could pull down; and as his bill for work at two dollars and fifty cents a day had not been paid by his sovereign, he had no compunctions of conscience. He beckoned to BabaBebi, his eldest and laziest son, to draw near. The youth obeyed.

I have a secret,' said the father, and before I die I will tell it to you.' It was a fortunate thing he thought of telling it before he died, because afterward it was very probable he would not be able to do so. This reflection is made not by me, but by historians. •I built, you know, the pyramid for that old curmudgeon, King Thapa-Thepis. He has got all his treasure in it, and he goes there nightly to see it. When he leaves he locks the door and puts his seal upon it, so that if any one gets in they have to break the wax, and the King will find him out.

• There are no windows to the pyramid,' continued that most excel. lent of parents, and therefore there is but one way of getting in, and that is through the door.' Here old Tekel-Bebi gave a knowing look at his son, who winked away a tear and then was all attention. "Perhaps there is another way of getting into that strong box, and perhaps there is a stone-mason who knows it. By the tail of the holy crocodile there is! Four blocks up on the side fronting the east there is a stone that turns upon a pivot. The eye of a holy Ibis might search in vain to find it, but it is there. It is four stones up from the right corner looking to the east. Touch it where you see a rude and very small mark, as if made by the slip of the chisel, and lo! you can get in. There is a corresponding mark on the inside, so that by pressing it you can get out.' And thus finishing the thread of his discourse, he recommended his bronze-colored soul to the protection of the holy crocodile and Ibis, and took his departure for the catacombs of Egypt.

If the worthy Tekel-Bene was not embalmed in the memory of his surviving widow and children, he was certainly embalmed in the swad. ling clothes of the tomb, as any unbelieving skeptic can prove, by stepping down to Barnum's Museum, who has his remains preserved. They can be seen at any time of the day or night, English giant included, for two shillings, children half price.

Well, old Tekel-Bebi being dead, his heirs looked around them and bethought of the pyramid. The widow, too proud to take in washing, and too old to think of marriage, entered her right of dower to the secret, and edged on her hopeful offspring to the venture of a midnight visit to the treasury department. During the day it was but natural that the sons of the lamented Tekel-Bebi should walk around the pyramid. It was their father's work, and they felt a natural pride in this monument of his skill and genius. They said and thought less of his roguery. They easily discovered the accident that had happened to the chisel, and they took a note of it. What worthy sons to linger thus near the slightest trace of their father's labors !

That night the toilette-table of Mrs. Tekel-Bebi sparkled with a few rare stones of some nameless value, but to be had at half price, and the dining hall displayed a sumptuous supper. Money is a great procurer of good things, and the widow and her sons were happy then, for they had their fill of meats and drinks.

« AnteriorContinuar »