ALROY awoke about two hours after midnight. His companions were
in deep slumber. The moon had set, the fire had died away, a few
red embers alone remaining; dark masses of shadow hung about the
amphitheatre. He arose and cautiously stepped over the sleeping
bandits. He was not in strictness a prisoner; but who could trust
to the caprice of these lawless men? To-morrow might find him their
slave, or their companion in some marauding expedition, which might
make him almost retrace his steps to the Caucasus, or to Hamadan.
The temptation to ensure his freedom was irresistible. He clambered
up the ruined wall, descended into the intricate windings that led
to the Ionic fane,*
that served him as a beacon, hurried through the silent and starry
streets, gained the great portal, and rushed once more into the
A vague fear of pursuit made him continue his course many hours
without resting. The desert again became sandy, the heat increased.
The breeze that plays about the wilderness, and in early spring
is often scented with the wild fragrance of aromatic plants, sank
away. A lurid brightness suffused the heavens. An appalling stillness
pervaded nature; even the insects were silent. For the first time
in his pilgrimage, a feeling of deep despondency fell over the soul
of Alroy. His energy appeared suddenly to have deserted him. A low
hot wind began to rise, and fan his cheek with pestiferous kisses,
and enervate his frame with its poisonous embrace. His head and
limbs ached with a dull sensation, more terrible than pain; his
sight was dizzy, his tongue swollen. Vainly he looked around for
aid; vainly he extended his forlorn arms, and wrung them to the
remorseless heaven. Almost frantic with thirst, the boundless horizon
of the desert disappeared, and the unhappy victim, in the midst
of his torture, found himself apparently surrounded by bright and
running streams, the fleeting waters of the false mirage!
The sun became blood-red, the sky darker, the sand rose in fierce
eddies, the moaning wind burst into shrieks and exhaled more ardent
and still more malignant breath. The pilgrim could no longer sustain
Faith, courage, devotion deserted him with his failing energies.
He strove no longer with his destiny, he delivered himself up to
despair and death. He fell upon one knee with drooping head, supporting
himself by one quivering hand, and then, full of the anguish of
baffled purposes and lost affections, raising his face and arm to
heaven, thus to the elements he poured his passionate farewell.
ĎO life! once vainly deemed a gloomy toil, I feel thy sweetness
now! Farewell, 0 life, farewell my high resolves and proud conviction
of almighty fame. My days, my short unprofitable days, melt into
the past; and death, with which I struggle, horrible death, arrests
me in this wilderness. 0 my sister, could thy voice but murmur in
my ear one single sigh of love; could thine eye with its soft radiance
but an instant blend with my dim fading vision, the pang were nothing.
Farewell, Miriam! my heart is with thee by thy fountainís side.
Fatal blast, bear her my dying words, my blessing. And ye too, friends,
whose too neglected love I think of now, farewell! Farewell, my
uncle; farewell, pleasant home, and Hamadanís serene and shadowy
bowers! Farewell, Jabaster, and the mighty lore of which thou were
the priest and I the pupil! Thy talisman throbs on my faithful heart.
Green earth and golden sun, and all the beautiful and glorious sights
ye fondly lavish on unthinking man, farewell, farewell! I die in
the desert: ítis bitter. No more, oh! never more for me the hopeful
day shall break, and the fresh breeze rise on its cheering wings
of health and joy. Heaven and earth, water and air, my chosen country
and my antique creed, farewell, farewell! And thou, too, city of
my soul, I cannot name thee, unseen Jerusalemí
Amid the roar of the wind, the bosom of the earth heaved and opened,
swift columns of sand sprang up to the lurid sky, and hurried towards
their victim. With the clang of universal chaos, impenetrable darkness
descended on the desert.