Page images
PDF
EPUB

not to look at Peter, and said to the other, in a slow, deliberate manner, as he glanced around at the women and children, “Let the Indians inflict a little just chastisement upon these religious beings; let these innocent people have for once a taste of hell.” For a second he paused and then added in ferocious tones, "See that not one escapes.”

There was a moment's hesitation; even the Tories were startled at the cruelty of the order. Peter Van Arnum saw there was only one thing for him to do, and he instantly jumped down from the pulpit and faced the amazed Tory.

“For God's sake, man, have pity on these defenceless women and children. If you must have blood, kill—kill me, but spare these innocent creatures, who can in no way injure you. Let me do for all.”

“I'll take you at your word, domine,” Butler said in a strange, low voice, and raised his pistol until it covered the head of the preacher.

"Art thou ready to meet thy God?” he asked in mock solemnity.

"I pray thee, don't blaspheme thy Maker," said Peter, dropping his eyes and folding his hands on his breast.

There was silence for a few seconds which seemed hours to the breathless spectators, and Butler dropped his arm. "Come, gentlemen,” he said shortly, "we have other game more valuable than this." He strode towards the door as if half ashamed of his clemency. Before leaving he turned to the Rev. Peter Van Arnum and said, “You are a brave man, domine.” With that, he was gone.

There was a moment's silence, and then Peter, his eyes swimming with grateful tears, stretched out his arms over his beloved people and said: "Let us thank God."

C. M. W., '03.

PROFESSOR HOLLIWAY'S DISCOVERY.

Professor Holliway was spending his summer vacation in one of the small fishing towns on the eastern coast of Maine. He was known among the guests as “The Professor,” and I learned from the single bell-boy, who was the first one to address him as a dignitary, that he was a retired professor of archæology in one of the minor state universities of the West and had come with his only daughter for the summer. The arrival of the Professor was as refreshing as an east breeze, for the boarders had begun to settle into that regular routine of piazza gossip and the conventionalities of vacation time.

I should probably have known no more of the Professor than I have told, had it not been for a singular thing, a most novel and extraordinary discovery in which he made me his sole confidant. The facts of this discovery and the results attending it I will give as nearly as I remember, with the aid of notes and observations made at the time in my diary.

The northern coast of Maine, as the reader may know, is a much broken shore made up of innumerable bays and headlands, due, no doubt, to the action of the heavy storms and high tides, to which this part of the American coast has from earliest times been subjected. The Professor made this the subject of a very interesting lecture which he delivered before the guests in the parlors of the hotel and which has since been printed in the government reports of the coast survey. The three weeks of fine weather which followed the coming of the Professor was finally broken by a terrible storm. About noon of the day of the storm the hotel barometer began to fall and by three o'clock all the shutters and windows of the building had been closed. A little later the storm, which had been announced by faint rumblings far out at sea, came nearer and nearer and finally broke with terriffic force upon the coast. The fishermen of the small town could be seen in their oil-skins hurrying with all speed to give their smacks a safer mooring. Soon a premature night began to settle down upon everything, and we caught glimpses of the shore only by the flash of the lighthouse lamp, which came at intervals. Long after the other guests had gone to bed the Professor and I sat watching the storm from my windows. Once we saw the rockets of a ship in distress and heard the answering boom of the six-pounder at the life-saving station. "The Lord's Noblemen," said the Professor as he pointed to a dozen sturdy men who were launching a boat in a merciless sea. Then a deeper night set in, and the Professor and I retired.

It was not until late on the following afternoon that the storm gave signs of subsiding. The receding of the sea showed deep gullies along the beach and a great amount of wreckage which had been thrown high on the rocks. About eight o'clock the moon broke through the clouds as if to assert its original authority over wind and wave and bathed the shore afresh in its yellow light.

The Professor, as was his daily custom, slung the strap of an oil-skin sack and started for the beach to find possible additions to his collection among the many mineral forms which the sea had uncovered, while I retired to my room to work on a chemical analysis with which I was busying myself at that time. I had hardly worked an hour on my distillation when I heard the gentle knock of the Professor at my door. On opening the door I was met with—“A most extraordinary find, Doctor, a most extraordinary find," and the Professor's face fairly beamed as he advanced and laid his sack with a great deal of care upon the table. “Not a Venetian vase," I ventured, as I noticed his precaution, but the only reply I received was, “A most extraordinary find,” as he fumbled at the strings of the sack. I was not kept long in suspense, for soon the knots were untied and he drew forth an oddly-shaped vessel, the like of which I had never seen before. On a closer examination the vessel seemed to be made of a fine blueish clay, which, the Professor said, was only to be found on the coast of Wales. The jar had been highly baked, for on being

us.

rapped it gave a metallic ring not unlike that of iron, but it was much lighter than any ore and would easily float, as we found it to be hermetically sealed. The jar was most curiously figured with what seemed to be a religious story. Then the Professor left the room and returned with a much crippled book on Norman Archæology. “As I surmised," he said, "it is the handiwork of the Druid Priests." He rubbed his hands in almost childish glee. "Yes, here it is, a drinking jar of the Celtic Druid, only preserved specimen now in the British Museum," and he turned to a plate which appeared to be a copy to the minutest detail of the vessel before

The old man was now trembling as he bade me light my alcohol lamp, while he examined the wax in the throat of the jar. "You will assume all responsibility, Professor," I said, as the wax began to drip before the blue flame of the lamp. “We may be uncorking a Geni who will give us no end of trouble.” Indeed, I expected to see smoke issue from the jar and to hear a sepulchral voice coming from nowhere, and saying, "At thy service, Master." But none came and the only noise in the room was the constant dripping of the wax, and the Professor rubbing his hands together and chatting in an under-tone. Finally the wax gave way entirely, there was a little puff of air, and the Professor's hand plunged into the jar and returned with a parchment which was seared and yellowed with age. We noticed a peculiar fragrance in the room, a faint smell of incense which rose from the jar as if from an altar which had long since fallen to decay, but still retained the odor of the sacrifice.

I shall never forget the picture of the old Professor as he stood with his hoary head bowed in reverence and said: “Doctor, we are standing in the presence of our fathers.” He unwound the parchment which was tied with the thongs of a sheep-skin. It was covered with writing which I recognized as a mixture of Saxon and Norman of about the conquest period.

I will not enter further into the description of the manuscript, but will turn immediately to its contents which I take from my note-book, where I made as faithful a copy as the condition of the original would permit. The manuscript was dated 1161 A.D., from St. David's Head, which is the most westerly headland of Wales.

Hitherto I have written with my sword, and my manuscript has been the walled towns of mine enemies, but I have made change of my armor and mail for a monk's scowl and gown. How many times during the past twelve-month have I wished myself at the well-filled table of Vortigen, only I know. The blood of my warhardened father is within me. How many times we have dashed to sea, leaving our lands in the care of our women and slaves, to land again and ravage and plunder. We have sacrificed a tithe of our prisoners in honor of our gods, leaving behind the red lights of their burnings, and have gone farther to being again. Yea, we were gluttonous, carving our hogs and filling our bodies with their flesh. We have swallowed down deep draughts of ale, and and all the spiced drinks which do cheer and stimulate.

We have kept the fierce Jutes from our shores, beating back their two-sailed barks with our spikes and arrows. Well do I remember Rowena, my mother, God rest her soul, and how at the friendly feast of Hawsa, when drunk with wine, and soothed by the music of the minstrel, we allowed our swords to slip from our sides. Then did Hawsa order his warriors and henchmen to fall upon us and well nigh killed all save Vortigen my father, Rowena and myself.

Rowena now lies pining at the Danish court of Ethelbert across the sea; my poor father plays the jester for Hawsa the Conqueror, while I, Eric, the direct heir to the lands of Mertia, Wessex and Kent am sold as a layman to these Druid Priests, to be given as a sacrifice should I show rebellion. Rebellion I have shown. Only yesterday were the gods about to be propitiated by the Bishop. A beautiful Saxon girl with flaxen hair and eyes as fearless as the sea on which I look from my cell window was to be put to the knife, when I broke from my place among the charters and

« PreviousContinue »