THE magician, overwhelmed and confounded with uninterrupted disappointment, was now ready to give himself up to despair. "I have approached the indexible fair one,' cried he, "by every avenue that leads to the female heart. And what is the amount of the advantages I have gained? I tempted her with riches. But riches she considered with disdain; they had nothing analogous to the temper of her mind, and her uncultivated simplicity regarded them as superfluous and cumbersome. I taught her to listen to the voice of 'flattery; I clothed it in all that is plausible and insinuating; but to no purpose. She was still upon her guard; all her suspicions were awake; and her integrity and her innocence were as vigilant as ever. Incapable of effecting any thing under that form she had learned to detest, I laid it aside. I assumed a form most prepossessing and most amiable in her eyes. Surely if her breast had not been as cold as the snow that clothes the summit of Snowdon; if her virtue had not been impregnable as the groves of Mona, a stratagem, omnipotent and impenetrable as this, must have succeeded. She beheld the figure of him she loved, and this was calculated in a moment of distress to draw forth all her softness. She beheld the person of him in whom she had been wont to find all integrity, and place all confidence, and this might have induced her to apprehend no danger. And yet with how much tender passion, with how distressful an indignation, with what tumultuous sorrow did she witness his supposed crime? What then must I do? What yet remains ? I love her with a more frantic and irresistible passion than ever. I cannot abstain from her. I cannot dismiss her. I cannot forget her. Oh Imogen, too lovely, all-attractive Imogen, for you I stand upon the very brink of fate! Nor is this all. Soon should I leap the gulph, soon should forget every prudent and colder prospect in the tumult of my soul, did not that cursed specter ever shoot across my path to dash my transports, and to mar my enjoyments. Which way shall I turn? To leave her, that is impossible. To possess her by open force and manly violence, that my fate forbids. My understanding is bewildered, and my invention is lost. Medoro!"
Medoro received the well known signal, and stood before Roderic. He waited not to be addressed, he read the purposes of the heart of the magician. "Roderic," cried he, "this moment is the crisis of you[r] destiny. The occasion, to which the curse pronounced upon you by the inimical specter refers, has already in part taken place. You HAVE SUED TO A SIMPLE MAID, WHO BY YOUR CHARMS HAS BEEN TAUGHT TO HATE THE SWAIN THAT ONCE SHE LOVED. It only remains that she should persevere in the resistance she has hitherto made, and that A SIMPLE SWAIN, perhaps her favored Edwin, should defy your enchantments. Think then of the precipice on which you stand. Yet, yet return, while it is in your power. One step in advance beyond those you have already taken may be irretrievable. Alas, Roderic, it is thus that I advise! but I foresee that my advice will be neglected. The Gods permit to the invisible inhabitants of air, when strongly invoked by a mortal voice, to assist their vises and teach adroitness to their passions; but they do not permit an invocation like this to receive for its reward the lesson of moderation, and the attainment of happiness.
"Go on then, Roderic, in the path upon which you are inflexibly determined. You succeeded not in the stratagem of flattery; but it served to take off the keen. ness of the aversion of Imogen. She contemplates you now with somewhat less of horror, and with a virtuous and ingenuous fear of un-candidness and injustice upon your account. Neither have you succeeded in that deeper stratagem and less penetrable deceit, the assumption of the form of him she loved. It has however served to weaken her prepossessions, and relax the chains of her attachment. She is now the better prepared to receive openly and impartially the addresses of a stranger swain. Thus even your miscarriages have furthered your design. Thus may a wise general convert his defeats into the means of victory. Think not how ever again to approach her in the coolness of reason, and the sobriety of the judgment. Hope not by temptation, by flattery, by prejudice, to shake the immutable able character of her mind. There is yet one way un-essayed. You must advance, if you would form the slightest expectations of victory, by secret and invisible steps. Her virtue must be surrounded, entangled and enmeshed, or ever her suspicions be awakened, or her integrity alarmed. This can be effected only by the instrumentality of pleasure. Pleasure has risen triumphant over many a heart that riches could not conquer, and that ambition could not subdue. What though she has resisted temptation under the most alluring form, when her thoughts were collected and all around was silence? Let the board of luxury be spread. Let the choicest dainties be heaped together in unbounded profusion. Let the most skillful musicians awake the softest instruments. Let neatness, and elegance, and beauty exhibit their proudest charms. Let every path that leads to delight, let every gratification that inebriates the soul be discovered. If at that moment temptation approach, even a meaner and less potent temptation may then succeed. The night advances with hasty feet. Night is the season of dissipation and luxury. Be this the hour of experiment, and let the apprehensive mind of Imogen be first assiduously lulled to repose. Here, Roderic, you must rest your remaining hopes. There is not another instrument can be discovered, to disarm and vanquish the human mind. If here you fail, the Gods have decreed it they will be obeyed Imogen must be dismissed from the enchanted halls of Rodogune."
With these words the goblin disappeared. The warning he had uttered passed unheeded, but the magician immediately prepared to employ this last of stratagems. Summoning the train of attendants of either sex that resided in the castle' he directed them some to make ready the intended feast, and some to repair to the apartment of Imogen. The preparations of the enchanted castle were not like those of a vulgar entertainment. Every thing was accelerated by invisible agents The intervention of the retinue of Roderic was scarcely admitted. The most savory viands, the most high flavored ragouts, and the most delicious wines presented themselves spontaneously to the expecting attendant. The hall was illuminated with a thousand lusters that depended like stars from the concave roof, and were multiplied by the reflection of innumerable mirrors. The whole was arranged with inconceivable expedition,
In the mean time a few of the more distinguished attendants of her own sex repaired to the presence of Imogen. They found her feeble, spiritless and disconsolate. come," exclaimed their leader, in an accent of persuasion; "comply, my lovely girl, let not us alone have reason to complain of your unfriendliness and inflexibility." Imogen was fatigued and she wished not for repose. Grief and persecution had in a former instance inspired her with the love of solitude. But her feelings were now of another kind. The disgrace and ingratitude of Edwin had wounded her in the tenderest point, and she could not think of it but with inexpressible anguish. She was for the first time afraid of her own reflections, and desirous to fly from herself. "Yes, exclaimed she, "and I would go, if you will promise me that it shall not be to the presence of Roderic. The castle and the fields, the freshness of the morning air and the gloom of a dungeon, are equal to me, provided I must be kept back from the arms of my beloved parents, and their anxious and tender spirits must still be held in suspense. But indeed I must not, I will not, be continually dragged to the presence of the man I hate. It is ungenerous, unreasonable, and indecent. What is the meaning of all this compulsion? Why am I kept here so much against my will? Why am I dragged from place to place, and from object to object? Surely all this cannot be mere caprice and tyranny. There must be in it some dark and guilty meaning that I cannot comprehend. Oh shepherdesses! if ye had any friendship, if any pity dwelt within your bosoms, ye would surely assist me to escape this hated confinement. Point but the way, show me but the smallest hole, by which I might get away to ease and liberty, and I would thank you a thousand times. You, who appear the leader of the throng, your brow is smooth, your eyes are gentle and serene, and the bloom of youth still dwells upon your face. Oh," added the apprehensive Imogen, and she threw herself upon her knees "do not bely the stamp of benevolence and clemency that nature has planted there. Think if you had parents as I have, whose happiness, whose existence, are suspended upon mine, if you abbhorred, and detested, and feared your jailer as I do, what would be your feelings then, and how you would wish to be treated by a person in your situation. Grant me only the poor and scanty boon, that you would then conceive your right. Dismiss me, I intreat you. I cannot bear my situation My former days have all been sunshine, my former companions have all been kindness. I have not been educated to encounter persecution, and misfortunes, and horrors. I cannot encounter them. I cannot survive it."
As she pronounced these words, she sunk, feeble, languid, and breathless, upon the knees of the attendant. They hastened to raise her. They soothed her ingenuous affliction, and assured her that she should not be intruded upon by him of whom she had formed so groundless apprehensions. Since then she was invited to partake of a slight refreshment accompanied only by persons of her own sex, she did not long hesitate, and was easily persuaded to acquiesce. The unostentatious kindness of the invitation, and the modesty of the entertainment she expected, dissipated her fears. It was from solitude that she now wished to escape; and it was to that simple and temperate relaxation that she had experienced among the inhabitants of Clwyd, to which she was desirous to repair.
She was conducted towards a saloon, which had less indeed of a sumptuous and royal appearance, but was more beautiful, more gay, more voluptuous, and more extatic than that which had been the scene of the temptation of the morning. The profuseness of the illuminations outdid the brightness of the meridian sun. The table was spread in a manner to engage the eye and allure the appetite. Every vessel that was placed upon it was of massive silver. And in different corners of the apartment heaps of the most fragrant incense were burning in urns of gold. The viands were of a nature the most stimulating and delicious; and the wines were bright and sparkling and gay. As Imogen approached, a stream of music burst upon her ear of a kind which hitherto she had never witnessed. It was not the sonorous and swelling notes of praise; it was not the enthusiastic rapture of the younger bards; it was not the elevated and celestial sounds that she had been used to hear from the lyre of Llewelyn. But if it was not so swelling and sublime, it was soft, and melodious, and insinuating, and overpowering beyond all conception. You could not listen to it without feeling all the strings of your frame relaxed, and the nobler powers of your soul lulled into a pleasing slumber. It was madness all. The ear that heard it could not cease to attend. The mind that listened to it was no longer master of itself.
Imogen entered the hall, and was received by a train of nymphs, some of them more beautiful than any she had yet seen, and all attired with every refinement of elegance and grace. Their hair was in part braided round their bright and polished foreheads, and in part it hung in wavy and careless ringlets about their slender necks, and heaving bosoms. Their forms were veiled in loose and flowing folds of silk of the finest texture, and whiter than the driven snow. The robes were not embroidered with gold and silver; they were 'not studded with emeralds and diamonds; but were adorned on every side with chaplets of the fairest and freshest flowers. Their heads were crowned with garlands of amaranth and roses. Though their conduct were tainted with lasciviousness, and their minds were full of looser thoughts, yet, awed by the virtuous dignity of Imogen, they suppressed the air of dissolute frolic, and taught by the guileful lessons of their lord, endeavored to assume the manners of chaste and harmless joy.
The shepherdess, struck with the objects which so unexpectedly presented themselves to her eyes and her ears, started back with involuntary astonishment "Is this," cried she, "the artless feast, and this the simple fare of which you invited me to partake?" "Imogen," replied the principal nymph, "we were willing to do you honor, and the preparation we have made is slight compared with that which the roof can afford. We considered your fatigue and your extraordinary abstinence, and we were willing to compensate them by pleasant food, and a grateful refreshment.' "And is such the grateful refreshment, and such the simple and unaffected relaxation that your minds suggested? Alas, were I to approach this board, it Would be to me a business and not an amusement, an exertion and not a relief. A feast like this is an object foreign and unpleasing to my eyes. The feasts of the valley are chestnuts, and cheeses, and apples. Our drink is the water of the limpid brook, or the fair and foaming beverage that our Hocks afford. Such are the enjoyments of sobriety; such are the gratifications of innocence. Virgins, I am not weary of the simplicity of the pastoral life. I hug it to my bosom closer, more fondly than ever."
"Amiable, spotless maiden! we admire your opinions, and we love your person. gut virtue is not allied to rigor and austerity. Its boundaries are unconstrained, and graceful, and sweeping. It is a robe which sits easily on those who are formed to wear it. It gives no awkwardness to their manner, and puts no force upon their actions Partake then, my Imogen, in those refreshments we have prepared for your gratification. If this be not duty, it is not crime. It is a venial and a harmless indulgence. Do not then mortify friends that have sought to please you, and refuse your attention to the assiduities we have demonstrated."
"No, my gentle shepherdess, it is in vain you plead. I would willingly qualify my refusal; but I must withdraw. The more you press me, the farther it is necessary for me to recede. In the morning of this very day, I was simple, and incautious, and complying. But now I have experienced so many wiles and escaped so many snares, that this heart, formerly so gentle and susceptible, is cased in triple steel. I can shut my eyes upon the most splendid attractions. I can turn a deaf ear to enticements the most alluring, and sounds the most insinuating. This is the lesson ÑI thank him for it that your lord has taught me. You must not then detain me. I must be permitted to retire." And saying this she withdrew with trembling speed. In vain they insisted, in vain they pursued. Imogen escaped like a bird from the fowler, nor looked behind. Imogen was deaf to their expostulations, and indurate and callous as adamant to their persuasions.
The disappointment of Roderic, when he learned of this miscarriage of his great and final attempt was extreme. He coursed up and down the saloon with all the impatience of a wild boar pierced by the spear of the hunter, or a wolf from whom they have torn away her young. He vented his fury upon things inanimate. He tore his hair, and beat his breast, with tumultuous agony. He imprecated with a hoarse and furious voice a thousand curses upon those attendants who had permitted his captive to escape. Through the spacious hall, where every thing a moment before had worn the face of labored gaiety and studied smiles, all was now desolation, and disquiet, and uproar. And urged as the magician had been by successive provocations, he was ready to overstep every limit he might once have respected' and to proceed to the most fatal extremities.
In this situation, and as Roderic was hastening with a determined resolution to follow to the apartment of Imogen, information was suddenly brought to him, that a young stranger, tall and graceful in his form, and of a frank and noble Countenance' had by some unknown means penetrated beyond the precipices with which the enchanted castle was surrounded, and in spite of the resistance of the retinue of the magician had entered the mansion. The dark and guilty heart of Roderic immediately whispered him "It is Edwin. It is well. I thank the Gods that they do not hold this aspiring soul in a long and dreary suspense! Let the destinies overtake me. I am prepared to receive them. Death, or any of the thousand ills that fortune stores for them she hates, could not come in a more welcome hour. Oh Imogen, lovely, adorable Imogen, how vain has been my authority, how vain the space of my command! Let then my palaces tumble into ruin Let that wand which once I boasted, shivered in a thousand fragments be cast to all the winds of heaven! I will glory in desolation and forlornness. I will wrap myself in my poverty. I will retire to some horrid cave in the midst of the untamed desert, and shagged with horrid shades, that outgloom the blackness of the infernal regions. There I will ruminate upon my past felicity. There I will tell over enjoyments never to return. I will make myself a little universe, and a new and unheard of satisfaction in the darkness of my reflections, and the depth of my despair.
"And yet surely, surely the Gods have treated me severely, and measured out to me a hard and merciless fate. What are all the felicities I talk of, and have prized so much? Oh, they were seasoned, each of them, with a bitter infusion! Little, little indeed have I tasted of a pure and unmixed happiness. In my choicest delights, I have felt a vacancy. They have become irksome and tedious. I have fled from myself; I have fled from the magnificence of my retinue, to find variety. And yet how dearly am I to pay for a few gratifications which were in fact no better than specious allurements to destruction, and flowers that slightly covered the pit of ruin! In the bloom of manhood, in the full career of youth to be cast forth an UNPITED, NECESSITOUS, MISERABEE VAGABOND! All but this I could have borne without a sigh. Were I threatened with death, in this opening scene of life, I could submit with cheerfulness. But to drag along a protracted misery, to be shut out from hope, and yet ever awake to every cruel reflection and every bitter remorse This is too much!"
From this dream of unmanly lamentations Roderic was with difficulty recovered by the assiduities of the attendants. At length incited by their expostulations to the collectedness of reflection and the fortitude of exertion, he determined, with that quickness of invention with which he had been endowed at his birth, upon a plan to elude, if possible, the perseverance of Edwin, and the menaces of his fate. Recollecting that his person was not unknown to the swain, he communicated his instructions to those who were about him, and withdraw himself into a private apartment.
It was Edwin. The instructions of the Druid of Elwy had relieved him from the insupportable burden that had begun to oppress his mind. Persuaded by him he had submitted to seek the refreshment of sleep. But sleep shed not her poppies upon his busy, anxious head. His mind was crowded with a thousand fearful phantoms. A child of the valley, he was a stranger to misfortune and misery. Upon the favored sons of nature calamity makes her deepest impression, and an impression least capable of being erased. And yet Edwin was full of courage and adventure; he asked no larger boon than to be permitted to face his rival. But his inquietude was the offspring of love; and his wariness and caution originated in the docility of his mind, and his anxious attachment to innocence and spotless rectitude.
Having passed the watches of the night in uneasy and inexhaustible reflections, he sprung from his couch as soon as the first dawn of day proclaimed the approaching sun, and took a hasty leave of the hospitable hermit. Issuing from the grotto, be bent his steps, in obedience to the direction of Madoc, to that secret path, which had never before been discovered by any mortal unassisted by the goblins of the abyss. Before he reached it the golden sun had begun to decline from his meridian height. He passed along the winding way beneath the impending precipices, which formed a dark and sullen vault over his head. Ever and anon large pieces of stone, broken from their native mass, and tumbling among the craggy caverns, saluted his ear. Now and then he heard a bubbling fountain bursting from the rock, which presently fell with a loud and dashing noise along the declivity, and was lost in the pebbles below. The only light by which his steps were guided, was that which fell in partial and scanty streams through the fissures of the mountain, and served to discover little more than the shapelessness of the rocks, and the uncultivated horrors of the scene.
Through these Edwin passed un-appalled. His heart was naturally firm and intrepid, and he now cased himself round with the armor of untainted innocence and unsullied truth. It was not long before he came forth from this scene of desolation to that beautiful and cultivated prospect which had already enchanted the heart of Imogen. To him it had advantages which in the former case it could not boast. He could contrast its gaiety and brightness with the obscure and dismal scene from which he had escaped. Nor was he struck only by the verdure of the prospect, and the vividness of its colors, he also beheld the enclosure, not, as his amiable mistress had done, from a terrace adjoining to the mansion; but from the last point of the rock from which he was ready to descend. The mansion therefore was his principal point of view from this situation. It stood upon a bold and upright brow that beetled over the plain below. The ascent was by a large and spacious flight of marble steps. Its architecture was grand, and simple, and commanding It was supported by pillars of the Ionic order. They were constructed of ivory and jet, and their capitals were overlaid with the purest gold. An object like this to one who had never before seen any nobler edifice than a shepherd's cot, or the throne of turf upon which the bards were elevated at the feast of the Gods, was surprising, and admirable, and sublime in the highest degree.
"And this," exclaimed the gallant shepherd, "is the residence prepared for infamy and lust. The sun pours upon it his light with as large a hand, the herbage, the flowers and the fruits as fully partake of the bounteous care of nature, as the vales of simplicity and the fields of innocence. How venerable and alluring is the edifice I behold! Does not peace dwell within, and are not the hours of its possessor winged with happiness? Had my youth been spent among the beasts of the forests, had not my ears drank in the sacred instructions of the godlike Druids, I might have thought so. But, no. In vain in the extensive empire that the arts of sorcery and magic afford, shall felicity be sought. What avails all this splendor? and to hat purpose this mighty profusion? All the possessions that I can boast, are my little flock, my wattled cottage, and my slender pipe. And yet I carol as jocound a lay, my heart is as light and frolic, and the tranquility of self-acquittal spreads her wings as wide over my bosom, as they could were I lord of a hundred hills and called all the streamlets of the valley my own. The magician possesses a large hoard of beauty, and he can wander from fair to fair with unlimited and fearless license. All merciful and benign beings, who dwell above this azure concave' give me my Imogen! Restore her safe and unhurt to these longing, faithful arms ! Let not this arbitrary and imperious tyrant, who grasps wide the fairest productions of thy creation with a hundred hands, let him not wrest from me my solitary lamb, let him not seize for ever upon that companion, in whom the most expansive and romantic wishes of my heart had learned to be satisfied.'
Such were the beautiful and virtuous sentiments of Edwin, as he beheld the empire of his rival from the head of the rock, and as he crossed the glade that still divided him from the object of all his exertions. From the eminence upon which he had paused for a few contemplative moments, the distance had appeared narrow and trifling. But the equal height of the ground upon which he stood, and of that which afforded a situation for the palaces of Roderic, had deceived him. When he looked towards the scene that was to form the termination of his journey, the glade below escaped from his sight. But when he descended to the plain, it was otherwise. One swell of the surface he had to traverse succeeded another; and the irregularity of the ground caused him sometimes to be lost, in a manner, in the length of the way, and took from him the consolation of being able so much as to perceive the object of his destination. As he passed the hills, and climbed each successive ascent, a murmur rose in his bosom; his impatience grew more and more ungovernable, and the eagerness of his pursuit taught him to imagine, that his little labor would never be done.
Every performance however of human exertion has its period; and Edwin had at length surmounted the greater part of the distance, and now gained a larger and more distinct view of the castle. But by this time the sun was ready to hide himself in the ocean, and his last rays now gleamed along the valley, and played in the party-colored clouds. Meanwhile a dark spot, which had for some time blotted the brightness of the surrounding azure, expanded itself. The shades gathered, the light of the sun was hid, and the blackness of the night forestalled. The wind roared among the mountains, and its terrors were increased by the hollow bellowings of the beasts they harbored. The shower began; it descended with fury, and Edwin had scarcely time to gain the protection of an impervious thicket that crowned the lawn. Here he stood and ruminated. The solemnity of the scene accorded with the importance of his undertaking. The pause was friendly. He composed his understanding, and recollected the lessons of the hospitable hermit. He fortified himself in the habits of virtue, and, with a manly and conscious humility, recommended this crisis of his innocence to the protection of heaven.
The shower ceased, but the darkness continued. He had too well marked however the bent of his journey during the continuance of the day, to permit this to be any considerable obstacle. In the mean time it doubled and rendered more affecting the sinless of the night. Nothing was to be heard but the low whispers of the falling breeze, and the murmurs of the prowling wolf that now languished and died away upon the ear. This was the moment in which magic lords it Supreme, in which the goblin breaks forth from his confinement, and ranges unimited in the nether globe; and in which all that is regular and all that is beautiful give place to the hunger of the savage brute, and the witcheries of the sorcerer. gut Roderic was otherwise engaged. His heart was employed in inventing guile, and was lulled into un-apprehensive security. But Edwin was heroic. His bosom swelled with the most generous purposes; and he trusted unwaveringly in that guardianship that is every where present, and that eye that never slumbers.
He entered the walls of the enchanted castle. The novelty of the appearance of a stranger within the circle of those mountains which no vulgar mortal had yet penetrated, the dignity of his appearance, and the boldness of his manner, at first distracted the attendants from the performance of that, which might have seemed most natural in their situation, and awed them into passiveness. He still wore that flowing and graceful garb, which was appropriated by the inhabitants of Clwyd to the celebration of public solemnities. He had passed through the midst of the shower, and yet one thread of his garment was not moistened with the impetuousness of its descent. His face wore a more beautiful and roseat glow than was native to its complexion. His eye was full of animation and expressiveness. Expectation, and hope, and dignity, and resolution had their entire effect in his appearance. "It is a celestial spirit!" cried they. "It is a messenger from the unseen regions!" and they sought in his person for the insignia that might confirm and establish their conjecture.
But such was not the imagination of Roderic. The master-guilt to which he was conscious, was ever ready to take the alarm upon any unexpected event; and he had immediately conjectured, by a kind of instinctive impression, who was this new and unwelcome guest. However unguarded and unprepared had been his retinue, they had recollected themselves sufficiently to detain Edwin in the avenue of the mansion, till they had received the orders of their lord. These were immediately communicated; and the magician withdrew himself till the proper period should arrive for his appearance to the swain.
Edwin, when he had entered the palace of Roderic, had been desirous, if it were possible, to push forward to the presence of his rival, without making any previous inquiries, or admitting of a moment's pause. The frequency however of the domestics had disappointed his purpose, and he was detained by them in spite of his efforts "What means," cried he, "this violence? I must enter here. I will not be delayed. My purpose admits not of trifling and parley. To me every moment is big with fate." He said. For Edwin disdained the employment of falsehood and disguise He lifted the javelin in his hand, but his heart was too full of gentleness and humanity rashly to employ the instrument of death. His tone however was resolute, and his gesture commanding, and the astonished attendants were uncertain in what manner to conduct themselves.
At this instant a domestic, who had received the instructions of his lord, entered the court. He had the appearance of superior dignity; and removing the attendants who pressed with rudeness upon the shepherd, he inquired of him the cause of his intrusion. "Lead me," cried Edwin, "to the lord of your mansion. My business is important and pressing, and will not admit of being communicated to any other ear. Whence this difficulty? Innocence does not withdraw from the observation of those who are desirous to approach it; and a manly courage is not apprehensive of an enemy."
"Young stranger," replied the domestic, "you are misinformed. This mansion knows not a lord. It belongs solely to proprietors of the softer sex, whom fortune has indulged as you perceive with every thing that is calculated to give new relish to the pursuits of life, and beguile the lazy foot of time. It is our boast and Our honor to serve these damsels. And could my report add one ray to their luster, I would tell you, that they are fair as the peep of the morning, and more fragrant than beds of violets and roses. It is their command, that humanity should be extended by all around them, not only to man, but to the humblest and weakest animals. Though you have entered their residence by mistake, we shall but fulfill the service they expect in furnishing you with every assistance and every accommodation in our power. If you are hungry, come in and partake of the liberal plenty the castle affords. If you thirst, we will cheerfully offer you the capacious goblet and the richest wines. If you are fatigued with the travel of the day, or have wandered from your path and are benighted in your journey, enter their mansion. The accommodations are large, and they are all free for the use of the poor, the necessitous, the unfortunate and the miserable."
Edwin listened with astonishment to the narration. He was not used to the address of falsehood; and strongly warned as he had previously been of the iniquity of the train, the ingenuousness of his mind induced him at first without reflection to yield an easy credit to the story that was told him. It was related with fluency, plausibility, and gravity; and it was accompanied with a manner seemingly artless and humane, which it was scarcely possible for one un-hackneyed in the stratagems of deceit to distrust and contradict.
"Surely," replied Edwin, "I cannot be wholly mistaken. At least has there not a young shepherdess just arrived here, tall, tender and beautiful, and whose flaxen tresses are more bright than gold, and more abundant than the blossoms in the spring?"
Before the officious domestic could reply to his inquiries, two of the nymphs, who had been attired for the feast of Imogen, came into the outer apartment in which the shepherd was, and advanced toward him. "These are my mistresses," cried the attendant. Edwin approached them with respect, and repeated his former inquiries. They were the most beautiful of the train of Roderic. They were clad in garments of the whitest silk, and profusely adorned with chaplets of flowers Their appearance therefore was calculated to give them, in a shepherd's eye, an air of sweetness and simplicity that could not easily be resisted.
One of them was tall and majestic, and the other low, and of a shape and figure the most alluring. This appeared to be like a blossom in May, whose colors discovered to the attentive observer all their attractions, without being expanded to the careless eye: And that might be supposed to be a few summers farther advanced to a delicious maturity. The majesty of the one had nothing in it of the gross, the indelicate, and the forbidding; and the softness of the other was attempered with inexpressible propriety and grace. Both of them were gentle and affable. But the affability of the former took the name of benignity and condescension, and the affability of the latter was full of harmless gaiety, and a cheerful and unpretending spirit of society.
"We cannot, replied the elder, attend to your inquiries here. The apartment is comfortless and inhospitable. You appear fatigued. And we pretend not, young stranger' merely to contribute what is in our power to relieve the uneasiness of your mind, we would also refresh your wearied frame. Come in then, and we will afford you every satisfaction we are able. Enter the mansion, and partake of the plenty the Gods have bestowed upon us, and which we desire not to engross to ourselves." During these words Edwin surveyed his fair entertainers with wonder and admiration. But enchanting as they were, they found not the avenue to his heart. There Imogen reigned alone, and could not admit of a rival. Even though upon a slighter occasion, and at less important moment, the purity of his mind, that virtue so much esteemed among the swains, could have been tainted, yet now that his undertaking whispered him, "Imogen alone is fair!" now that he feared for her safety, and hoped every moment to arrive at the dreaded, pleasing period of his anxiety, he could but be constant and be faithful. He recollected the sage instructions of the Druid of Elwy: and his resolutions were unshaken as the roots of Snowdon.
He accepted their invitation. Immediately, as upon a signal, an hundred flambeaux lighted the area and lined the passage to the saloon of pleasure. The nymphs placed themselves on each side of the shepherd, and in this manner they passed along. If Imogen had been struck with the profuseness of the illumination, the richness of the plate, the sumptuousness of the viands and the wines, and the fragrant clouds of incense that filled the apartment, how much more were they calculated to astonish the soul of Edwin! He had comparatively passed through no previous scenes; he had not been led on step by step; and the voluptuousness of the objects that now presented themselves before him had been unknown and unexpected The train of the subordinate attendants of the magician filled the apartment with beauty and with grace, and seemed to pay the most unreserved obedience to the nymphs that at first addressed him.
But before the shepherd had time to examine the objects that surrounded him, the musicians awaked their instruments, and all his faculties were engrossed with soft melody and enchanting sounds. The instrumental performance was illustrated and completed with a multitude of harmonious voices, and those who sang were each of them of the softer sex.
"What are the possessions most eagerly courted among mankind? Which are the divinities by mortals most assiduously adored? This goodly universe was intended for the seat of pleasure, unmixed pleasure. But a sportive, malicious divinity sent among men a gaudy phantom, an empty bubble, and called the shadow Honor In pursuit of a fancied distinction and a sounding name, the children of tile earth have deserted all that is bland and all that is delicious. Labor, naked, deformed' and offensive, they willingly embrace. They brave hardship and severity. They laugh at danger. From hence they derive the virtue of resolution, the merit of self-denial, and the excellence of mortification.
"But heaven did not open wide its hand, and scatter delight through every corner of the universe, without intending that they should be enjoyed. Enjoyment, indulgence, and felicity are not crimes. Abstinence, self-denial and mortification have only a specious mien and a fictitious merit. Did all mankind obey their fallacious dictates, the unlimited bounties of nature would become a burden to the earth, and fill it with pestilence and contagion. The soil would be oppressed with her own fertility; the herds would over multitude their lords; and the crowded air would be darkened with the plumes of its numerous inhabitants. The very gems that now lie buried in the bosom of the ocean, would then bespangle its surface, and the dumb tenants of the watery tracts, inured to their blaze, would learn to leave the caverns of the sea and gaze upon the sun. "Mortals, open your hearts to the divinity of pleasure! Why should he be in love with labor, who has a capacious hoard of choice delights within his reach? Why should we fly from a present good that we possess, to a future that we do not comprehend? Is this the praise we owe the bounteous Gods? Can neglect and indifference to their gifts be gratitude? This were to serve them like a timorous and trembling slave beneath the eye of an austere and capricious tyrant; and not with that generosity, that enthusiasm, that liberal self-confidence, which are worthy of a father, a patron and a friend.
"Ye that are wise, ye that are favored of propitious heaven, drink deep of the cup of pleasure. The sun has now withdrawn his splendid luster, and his flaring beams. The period of exercise is past, and the lids of prying curiosity is [are] closed. Night is the season of feast and the season of gaiety. In the graver hours of activity and industry, sobriety may be proper. It may then be fit to listen to the dictates of prudence, and pay some attention to the prejudices of mankind. The sternness of age and the austerity of censoriousness are now silent. Now pleasure wears a freer garb; and the manners of enjoyment are more frank and unrestrained. The thinness of indiscretion and the airy forms of inadvertence are lost and annihilated amid the shadows of the night.
"Now the numerous inhabitants of the waters come forth from their oozy beds and play and flounce in the beams of the moon. Round the luminary of the night the stars lead up the mystic dance, and compose the music of the spheres. The deities of the woods and the deities of the rivers come out from their secret haunts, and keep their pastimes un-apprehensive of human intrusion. The elves and the fairies repair to their sports, and trip along the velvet green with many-twinkling feet. Let us imitate their amiable alacrity and their cheerful amusements.
"What has sleep to do with the secrecy and silence of the night? It is the hour of pleasure unrestrained and free. It is the hour in which the empire of beauty is complete, and those mysteries are disclosed which the profaner eye of day must never behold. Ye that are wise, ye that are favored of propitious heaven, drink deep of the cup of pleasure! The festive board is spread before you; the flowing bowl is proffered for your acceptance. Beauty, the crown of enjoyment, the last perfection of society, is within your reach. Be wise and taste. Partake of the munificence the Gods vouchsafe"
As the song proceeded the two nymphs, who had first appeared to Edwin, and Since attended him with the extremes" officiousness, endeavored by every artful blandishment to engage his attention, and rivet his partiality. They exerted themselves to suppress the grossness, inelegance and sensuality to which they had commonly been habituated, and to cover the looseness of the passions with the veil of simplicity, delicacy, and softness. As the music ceased, the master of the spectacle came forth from his retreat. But his figure was no longer that which bespoke the magician' and which Edwin had already seen. He appeared in the form of a youth of that age in which the frolic insignificance of childhood gives place to the eagerness' the enthusiasm and the engaging manners of blooming manhood. His habit was that of a cup bearer. His robes were of azure silk, and floated in graceful folds as he passed along. The beauty of his person was worthy of the synod of the Gods. His features had all the softness of woman without effeminacy; and in his eye there sat a lambent fire which bespoke the man, without roughness, and without ferocity. In one hand he bore a crystal goblet full of every potent enchantment, and which rendered him who drank for ever a slave to the most menial offices and the most wanton caprices of his seducer. In the other hand he held loosely, and as if it had been intended merely to give a completeness to his figure and a gracefulness to his step, that irresistible wand by which the majesty of man had often been degraded, and the reluctant spirit had been conjured up from the caverns of the abyss. The goblet he delivered to the elder nymph, who presented it, with inimitable grace and a bewitching condescension, to the gallant shepherd.
Edwin had the fortitude of a hero, but he had also the feelings of a man. He could not but be struck with the beauty of the nymphs, he could not but be surprised with the profuseness of the entertainment, and the richness of the preparations. The soul of Edwin was full of harmony. It had been one of his earliest and most ruling passions. No shepherd excelled him in the skill of the pipe, no shepherd with a sweeter or more sonorous voice could carol the rustic lay. Even the figure assumed by Roderic, his garb, his step, his gesture had something in them of angelic and celestial without the blaze of divinity, and without the awfulness that surrounds the godlike existences, that sometimes condescend to visit this sublunary scene. The shepherd took into his hand the fatal bowl.
In the midst however of all that was attractive, and all that was unknown Edwin had not forgotten the business that had brought him hither and the lessons of Madoc The visage of Imogen, ever present to his soul, suggested these salutary reflections. By her assistance he strengthened all his resolutions, and gave vigor to the heroism of his mind. Through the memory of Imogen he derived a body, and communicated a visible form to the precepts of rectitude; and virtue wore all those charms that had the most un-controled empire in his bosom. Half way to 05 lips he raised the cup of vise, and inexorable fate sat smiling on the brim. He paused; he hesitated. By an irresistible impulse of goodness he withdrew the fatal draft. He shed the noxious composition upon the ground, and hurled from him with indignation the vessel in which it had been contained.
Roderic beheld the scene with deep emotion, and was agitated by turns with a thousand passions. He saw the issue with confusion, despondence and fury. The roseat smiles of the cup bearer vanished; and, without the notice and consent of his mind, his limbs resumed their wonted form, and his features confirmed the suspicions of the shepherd, that he was now confronted with his mortal enemy. Thrice the magician invoked the spirit of his mother, and thrice he conjured the goblins, the most potent that ever mix in the mortal scene. He lifted the wand in his hand. It was the fiery ordeal that summons human character to the severest trial. It was the judgment of God in which the lots are devoutly committed to the disposal of heaven, and the enthroned Divinity, guided by his omniscience of the innocence of the brave, or the guilt of the presumptuous, points the barbed spear, and gives a triple edge to the shining steel. If the shepherd had one base and earth-born particle in his frame, if his soul confessed one sordid and sensual desire, now was the time in which for his prospects to be annihilated and his reputation blotted for ever, and the state and empire of his rival to be fixed beyond the power of human machinations to shake or subvert it. "Presumptuous swain!" cried the sorcerer, "what folly, what unmeaning rashness has brought you within the circle of my incantations? Know that from them no mortal has escaped; that by them every swain, whom adventurousness, ignorance, or stratagem has introduced within these limits, has been impelled to assume the savage form, and to herd with the most detestable of brutes. Let then thy foolhardiness pay the penalty which my voice has ever annexed to it. Hence to thy fellows! Go, and let their hated form belly the reason thou shalt still retain, and thy own voice affright thee, when thou shalt groan under irremediable misery!"
The incantation that had never yet failed of its hated purpose was pronounced in vain. Edwin had heard it un-appalled. He wore the amulet of Madoc. He opposed to it the unconquered shield of spotless innocence. Even in the midst of the lordly despotism and the imperious haughtiness of his rival, he had been conscious to the triumph which nothing but the calmness of fortitude and the serenity of virtue can inspire. He was mindful of the precepts of the Druid. While Roderic was overwhelmed with disappointment and despair, he seized the wand of the magician, and with irresistible vigor wrenched it from his hand. He struck it with violence upon the ground, and it burst into a thousand shivers. The castle rocked over his head. Those caverns, which for revolving years had served to hide the iniquity and the cruelty of their possessor, disclosed their secret horrors. The whole stupendous pile seemed rushing to the ground. A flood of lightning streamed across the scene. A peal of thunder, deafening and tremendous, followed it. All now was vacancy. Not a trace of those costly scenes and that magnificent architecture remained. The heaven over-canopied the head of Edwin. The clouds were dissipated. The light of innumerable stars gave grandeur to the scene. And the silver moon communicated a milder luster, and created a softer shade. Roderic and his train, full of pusillanimity and consternation, had fled from the direful scene, and vanished like shadows at the rising of the sun.
No mortal, but our lovers, had ever entered the enchanted mansion without having their characters disgraced, and their hearts thronged with all those hateful and dissolute passions, which distinguished the band of Roderic. No mortal was there, but our lovers, of the numerous inhabitants of this bad edifice, who had not shrunk from the earthquake and the solemnities that accompanied its subversion Edwin and Imogen were alone. The shepherdess had listened to all the horrors of the scene with a gloomy kind of satisfaction. "What new wonders," cried she, "are now to be disclosed? What purpose are they intended to answer! The amendment' or the destruction of my betrayer? But it is well. Though the elements mix in inextricable confusion, though the earth be destroyed, yet has innocence no cause to fear. Alas, though I myself should be buried in the ruin, why should I apprehend, or why lament it? I was happy; untaintedly, uninterruptedly happy. But I am miserable. I am confined here in a loathsome, detested prison. Even my conduct is shut up with difficulties, and my bosom disquieted with the conflict of seeming duties. Even Edwin, the swain to whom my heart was united, and from whose memory my integrity derived new strength is corrupted, depraved and base. Let then destruction come. I will not lament the being cut off in the bloom of youth. I will not shed one tear, or feel one fond regret, but for the calamity and disappointment of my parents."
But however the despair of Imogen armed her courage against the concussions of nature, she yet felt that delicacy of constitution which characterizes the most lovely of her sex, and that amiable timidity which often accompanies the most invincible fortitude. When the thunder roared with so fearful violence, when the mansion burst in ruins over her head, she stood, trembling and breathless, at the tumult around her. Her safety was the first object of the attention of Edwin; and when she recovered her recollection she found herself in the arms of her lover. 'My fair one, my Imogen," cried he, "have I recovered you through so many obstacles, and in the midst of so numerous dangers? Oh, how must our affection, the purest, brightest, that ever lighted a human breast, be endeared by our mutual calamities! But virtue is ever triumphant, virtue is never deserted of the watchful care of heaven. My trials, my lovely shepherdess, have been feeble indeed, when compared with yours. Your integrity is unrivaled, and your innocence has surpassed all that the bards have sung in their immortal lays. Come then, oh, dearer, far dearer than ever to this constant heart, come to my arms! Let delay be banished. Let the veil of virgin bashfulness be laid aside. And let us repair together to the presence of your parents to ask an united blessing."
While Edwin thus poured forth the raptures of his heart, Imogen turned towards him a languid eye, full of soft and silent reproach. She retired from him with involuntary horror. "No, shepherd," cried she, and waved her hand with graceful indignation. "Like you I approve the justice of the Gods in the banishment Roderic But I think that justice would have been more complete, had it included in its vindictive appearance the punishment of the base, degenerate Edwin. Unworthy Edwin, to how vile and earth born sentiments has your heart been conscious! But go. Hence from my sight! The very spectacle of that form which I had learned to love is mildew and contagion to my eyes. Oh, Edwin, for your sake I will distrust every attractive form and every ingenuous appearance. The separation, my swain, is hard. The arts of Roderic came not near my soul, but your baseness has fixed an indelible wound. But think not cherish not the fond mistake that I will ever forget your ungenerousness in the hour of my distress and forlornness, or receive that serpent to my heart again."
As she pronounced these words, she hastened to fly from her imaginary enemy. Edwin detained her by a gentle violence. With much intreaty and a thousand soft blandishments, he wrung from her the story of her indignation. He related to her the tale of Madoc, and told her of the magic arts of his rival. He fully explained the scene of the pretended repentance of Roderic, and the seduction he had attempted to practice under the form of Edwin. As she listened to the wondrous story, Imogen trembled at the unknown dangers with which she had been environed, and admired more than ever the omnipotence of that virtue which had been able to lead her safely through them all. The conviction she received of the rectitude and fidelity of Edwin was to her, like the calm breath of zephyr, which succeeds the tremendous storm upon the surface of the ocean; and like that sovereign balm, which the sage Druids pour into the wounds of the shepherd, and restore him at once to salubrity and vigor. The amiable pair repaired with speed, and arrived with the dawn of the sun to the cottage of Imogen. At the sight of them the venerable Edith reared her drooping, desponding head, and the cheeks of the hoary father were bedewed with the tears of transport. Such were the trials of our lovers, and of correspondent worth was the reward they received. Long did they dwell together in the vale of Clwyd, with that simplicity and attachment which no scenes but those of pastoral life can know. Their happiness was more sensible than that of the swains around them in that they had known a reverse of fortune. And their virtue was the purer and the more benevolent, in that they had passed through the fields of trial; and that only through the ordeal of temptation, and an approved fortitude, they had arrived to the unmixed felicity, and the uninterrupted enjoyment they at length possessed.
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