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Well, then, Mr. Murray, I should think that these two passages would impress you with peculiar force."
Raising the book, she read with much emphasis : "Thou pursuest after wisdom, O Melampus! which is the science of the will of the gods; and thou roamest from people to people, like a mortal driven by the destinies. In the times when I kept my night-watches before the caverns, I have sometimes believed that I was about to surprise the thoughts of the sleeping Cybele, and that the mother of the gods, betrayed by her dreams, would let fall some of her secrets. But I have never yet made out more than sounds which faded away in the murmur of night, or words inarticulate as the bubbling of the rivers.'
'Seekest thou to know the gods, O Macareus! and from what source, men, animals, and elements of the universal fire have their origin? The aged ocean, the father of all things, keeps locked within his own breast these secrets; and the nymphs who stand around sing as they weave their eternal dance before him, to cover any sound which might escape from his lips, half opened by slumber. Mortals dear to the gods for their virtue have received from their hands lyres to give delight to man, or the seeds of new plants to make him rich, but from their inexorable lips— nothing!'
"Mr. Murray, am I correct in my conjecture?" "Quite correct," he answered, smiling grimly.
Taking the book from her hand he threw it on the table, and tossed his cigar into the grate, adding in a defiant, challenging tone:
"The mantle of Solomon did not fall at Le Cayla on the shoulders of Maurice de Guérin. After all he was a wretched hypochondriac, and a tinge of le cahier vert doubtless crept into his eyes."
"Do you forget, sir, that he said, 'When one is a wanderer, one feels that one fulfils the true condition of humanity?' and that among his last words are these, ‘The stream of travel is full of delight. Oh! who will set me adrift on this Nile?':
"Pardon me if I remind you, par parenthèse, of the preliminary and courteous En garde! which should be pronounced before a thrust. De Guérin felt starved in Languedoc, and no wonder! But had he penetrated every nook and cranny of the habitable globe, and traversed the vast zaarahs which science accords the universe, he would have died at last as hungry as Ugolino. I speak advisedly; for the true Io gad-fly, ennui, has stung me from hemisphere to hemisphere, across tempestuous oceans, scorching deserts, and icy mountain ranges. I have faced alike the bourrans of the steppes, and the Samieli of Shamo, and the result of my vandal life is best epitomized in those grand but grim words of Bossuet: On trouve au fond du tout le vide et le néant!' Nineteen years ago, to satisfy my hunger, I set out to hunt the daintiest food this world could furnish, and, like other fools, have learned finally, that life is but a huge mellow golden Ösher, that mockingly sifts its bitter dust upon our eager lips. Ah! truly, on trouve au fond du tout le vide et le néant!”
"Mr. Murray, if you insist upon your bitter Ösher simile, why shut your eyes to the palpable analogy suggested? Naturalists assert that the Solanum, or apple of Sodom, contains in its normal state neither dust nor ashes; unless it is punctured by an insect, (the Tenthredo), which converts the whole of the inside into dust, leaving nothing but the rind entire, without any loss of color. Human life is as fair and tempting as the fruit of 'Ain Jidy,' till stung and poisoned by the Tenthredo of sin."
All conceivable suaviter in modo characterized his mocking countenance and tone, as he inclined his haughty head and asked:
"Will you favor me by lifting on the point of your dissecting knife this stinging sin of mine to which you refer? The noxious brood swarm so teasingly about my ears that they deprive me of your cool, clear, philosophic discrimination. Which particular Tenthredo of the buzzing swarm around my spoiled apple of life would you advise me to select for my anathema maranatha?"
"Of your history, sir, I am entirely ignorant; and even if I were not, I should not presume to levy a tax upon it in discussions with you; for, however vulnerable you may possibly be, I regard an argumentum ad hominem as the weakest weapon in the armory of dialectics—a weapon too often dipped in the venom of personal malevolence. I merely gave expression to my belief that miserable useless lives are sinful lives."
DANIEL BEDINGER LUCAS.
DANIEL BEDINGER LUCAS is a native of Charlestown, West Virginia, and has reputation as a lawyer, orator, and judge. He was a soldier in the Confederate Army and wrote his fine and best known poem, "The Land Where We Were Dreaming," in 1865. He has served in the State Legislature. His sister was also a poet and her verses are included in the "Wreath of Eglantine."
Memoir of John Yates Bell.
Ballads and Madrigals.
Wreath of Eglantine, and other Poems,
THE LAND WHERE WE WERE DREAMING.
Fair were our nation's visions, and as grand
Children were we in simple faith,
But god-like children, whom nor death
Proud were our men as pride of birth could render,
And when they spoke, their voices' thrill
At morn the mocking-bird was mute and still,
And we had graves that covered more of glory
And in our dream we wove the thread
And suffered long our own immortal dead,
Our sleep grew troubled, and our dreams grew wild;
Of light, red comets tossed their fiery manes
A figure came among us as we slept
At first he knelt, then slowly rose and wept;
Then bowed farewell, and walked among the stars,
*By permission of the author.