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A DAY OR TWO IN THE OLDEN TIME.
BY A NEW CONTRIBUTOR.
It is related of Justin Martyr that, while a young man, walking upon a certain occasion on the seashore near Alexria, and meditating doubtfully on the immortality of the soul, he met a stranger of venerable appearance, who aoted him, and discovering the subject of his thoughts, revealed to him the doctrines of the Gospel on that subject. tin shortly after embraced Christianity-became one of the brightest ornaments of the church-and suffered martyrn at Rome, at a very advanced age. From this text the following sketch was produced, which may be considered her as a fanciful outline of what inight have befallen any Christian in the days of Rome's fierce domination, than as thfully following the history of any real personage.]
part worthy of his mighty spirit, shall yet find in The sun was setting over the wide waste of sand infinite perfection an object on which to expend nich surrounded the ancient city of the great Alex- those treasures of thought and feeling which corrode der. The sultry heal of a summer day was be hidden here in his heart, or are wasted on idols as nning to give place to a refreshing coolness. All vain as yonder vapor which rises from the sea." as calm and still-the bustle of the mighty city, Absorbed in meditation, he had not perceived until intly heard in the distance, seemed to enhance the now that another was approaching, walking at a slow liet of the solitary shore upon which walked one pace along the margin of the sea. As the stranger one and in deep thought. He was a man in his came nearer, the young philosopher could not avoid buthful prime, but clad in the grave robes of one observing him with interest. He was apparently voted to the study of philosophy, and his face was very aged. Long locks of white hair streamed on arked with the lines of much thought and study. his shoulders and mingled with the hair of a beard ometimes he moved slowly on, his eyes fixed on equally as white. His robe was arranged with careie sand which the retiring lide had left a firm and ful soberness, and in his hand he carried a staff, ven fooling. Anon he paused to look at the play of though his erect and firm figure did not seem to need le little waves, as they came murmuring in, and its support. In his clear, bright eye, his ruddy cheek urled their light foam over the last traces of his foot- and benign expression, appeared intelligence, health teps. Far as the eye could reach, the blue waters and goodness, all the beauty of a green old age, all of the Mediterranean spread themselves, scarcely the charm of the fully ripened autumn of life. As gitated by the faint breeze, and reflecting, in a long they drew nearer each other, the stranger looked ine of undulating light, the glory of the selling sun. earnestly on the young philosopher, who regarded is the bright luminary sunk, the eye of the wanderer him with increasing interest. ested on it, and a shade of deep melancholy gathered “Dost thou know me, my son," said the old man, ver his face.
at lengih, “That thou lookest on me so earnestly ?" "Another day thou hast fulfilled thy task, O sun! The young man bowed reverently as he answered. and done thy Maker's bidding-again thou hidest thy- “ No, father; but I wondered to see one like thee self in the ocean's bosom, to arise to-morrow with here at such an hour." renewed splendor. Thou art no enigma, to give the “I am here,” replied the stranger, " to meet one lie to all the conclusions of philosophy. Clear as who promised to be with me at this place. But what, thy light is the purpose for which thou wast hung on my son, brings thee to this lonely spot, when yonder high; steady as ihy Maker's will is ihy bright obe- busy city is thronged with whatsoever can minister dience. Thou fulfillest thy destiny--but man, man- to pleasure or the thirst of knowledge ?" I and such as I-alas! we but resemble these useless " It is therefore I am here; for it is when alone waves which foam out their little moment and vanish with the great Author of Nature, among his works, on the barren sand. Alas! shall it never be that we that we can best seek that highest wisdom which is shall find a solution of the mystery of our being? learned only by meditating on His nature and the end How aimless, how useless, appears our existence. of our being. The fountains of divine philosophy Confined to this narrow stage, how vain are our may be found even here in the cold sea-sand.” mighty energies, our inexhaustible wishes, our in- “Alas! my son, and if they be, of what avail shalt finite hopes. Where now,” he exclaimed, as turn- thou find them? The sand upon which the showers ing to retrace his steps, his eye was caught by the descend vainly for centuries, is not more barren nor towers and temples of the distant city, lit by the sun more unstable than that philosophy of which thou with transitory splendor, “where now is the mighty makest thy boast." hero who founded yonder city? He is gone forever " I boast not-I am but a seeker aster Truth." from the stage of being, as little regarded or remem- Ay, so say all you philosophers; but what profit bered as the dust which the hurrying crowd tramples shalt thou have of that truth which cannot be prao in its streets. O for some certainty, some assurance ticed in life, nor console thee at death ?” that this life is not all; that bereafter permitted to “My father, was but now that I lamented to awake from the sleep of death, man shall yet fill a myself my own useless and aimless existence, and the vanity of those speculations wherewith we strive | like manner revealed to man that truth concernig in vain to pierce the mystery of our being. There his own destiny which it is most important for a are moments when that foundation of reason on to know?" which I build my hopes of eternal life seems to shift “ That it is, indeed,” replied the young phisbeneath my feet, as unstable as this sand; when life pher,“ on which we build our hopes. It is rear and its purposes, death and its consequences, seemable, and it may be hoped that God will yet mak: to me a mystery more unfathomable than yonder sea. such a revelation-but, alas! it is only a hope." What assurance have I that my existence will not “My son, my son, it is nolonger a faint, uncern terminate like that of the beasts which perish? What hope, it is a matter of perfect certainty, and if the certainty that, with my mortal frame, this spirit which wilt abide by my words thou wilt find it so, and I feel within me shall not also die and disappear for shall give thee, after a season, a peace past all under ever? It is true, there are many probabilities that standing. If thou wilt but submit thyself to G the soul is immortal, nature and reason seem alike to teaching thou shalt no longer grope as the blinds teach that it is so, but still I have no assurance, still noonday, but a light above the brightness of 3 that mighty hope at times seems vain, often it is heavens shall shine into thy soul." eclipsed entirely, and my soul is shrouded in dark- The young man bowed his head, and crossed to ness."
arms upon his breast, as he sadly replied, "Goão “My son, what wouldst thou give to one who teaching-but where, O, my father, may it be fouth could give thee an assurance, a positive certainty, save where I have vainly sought-among his works that thy hopes of immortality are not vain ?"
The old man, without reply, drew a manisering “Did there exist one able to give me that assurance from his bosom, and laying his hand on the arm of I would deem the devotion of my whole life a poor the other they walked forward together over the relurn for so vast a blessing. But thou mockest me smooth sand, while he read aloud high and burdis with so vain a hope. No created being is able to words, which the ear of his companion drank eagert give me such assurance, or is worthy of belief did in. Upon that silent shore, in the still erening air, he promise it. No—the great Maker of my spirit arose that clear voice, ultering to the esiopisto alone can reveal to me if it be immortal; but where sense of the young heathen philosopher ihe argument shall I seek him to ask for that revelation ? He is to of Paul the Apostle, in which he persuades the Cobe found only in his own works, and I can but go rinthians of the resurrection of the dead. He read a back to that school, and strive by meditation on Him and the other listened as one in a dream, and the sun to strengthen my spirit in the only faith which gives had gone down over the wide sea and outspread any value to life.”
sands where they walked alone, and one silree star The stranger regarded the young man with a long came forth in the west, the lovely Vesper, and looked and wistful gaze.
at its image in the quiet wave, as the old man read "Wouldst thou believe me, my son, were I to tell with tears which would not be restrained, the migtas thee that I possess that assurance ? that I am as firmly conclusion, “O Death, where is thy sting? O Grare, convinced of my existence after death, as I am that where is thy victory?" I am now a living, breathing man? that I feel an absolute certainty that you and I will meet, immortal spirits, before the throne of God, who is the Judge of
CHAPTER II. all men?”
Behold another scene in the shifting panorama d's The young philosopher smiled mournfully, regard-life. In a poor and humble chamber, oa à mean ing the aged man with a look of affectionate piry.
couch, lay one dying. It is evening, and he is also “ Thou thinkest now that this is delusion, but it is Fearfully sounds the gasping breath and the low nien, a truth, a hope full of immortality. Listen, my son; terrible is the look cast upward in anguish. The has God left himself without a witness of his own hurrying tread of the busy multitude is beard with existence? Is it not written on the heavens and on out, the sound of music and merry voices, and the earth in characters as clear as the light that he is, trampling of steeds and ratiling of wheels, and so and that his hand hath made all these things? Be- he lies there alone. He is aged and poor, and hs hold the sun which performs his daily task so per- kindred have forsaken him, for the heathen cread fectly, the stars which write all over the heavens taught nothing better than the leaving such as be ta the story of God's glory. Go forth into the field and struggle alone with the last enemy. The light of behold his work. See him preparing the bright cloud, evening waxes fainter and fainter, and now a step which the winds gently upheave, from whose bosom is heard on the threshold, and a form enters, diralt drops the softening shower-how richly the grass seen in the fading twilight. It is the same we beheld springs in the valley-how the golden grain steals on the seashore hearkening to the words of eternal splendor from the sunbeam which has smiled on it so life. The seed there sown germinated soon onder long-how his hand is ever at work providing for the culture of that faithful teacher. In that beart i the wants of his creatures, and ever reminding men found a good soil, and it sprung up, and bore frcia by this silent ministry that he is the Author and manifold of faith and temperance and heaveals ts Giver of every good and perfect gift. If God hath dom. That divine word taught him to seek us sos so clearly revealed the great truth of his own exist-fering fellow mortals and minister to their necessitas ence, is it not reasonable to suppose that he hath in This was not his first visit to this poor dying DIR,
ind he was welcomed even now with joy and gratis dying eyes opened. How full of consolation was ude. How gently did he smooth the pillow, how that look! He pressed the hand that still held his; a lenderly support the sinking frame, how kindly bathe faint, sweet smile stole over his face, and he whisthe brow and wet the parched lips. Philosophy had pered in a tone so low that the eager ear of the not taught him this. O, no! occupied in high medio listener could scarcely catch it. " Thanks be unto tation, she swept past the couch of suffering humanity; God who giveih us the victory through Jesus Christ is commercing with the skies," she forgot that man's our Lord!” They were the last words. As the golden mission is to his fellow man, and that his life's busi- sun rose once more to light the towers and temples ness is to do, not altogether to think. Christ had of the city, he sent one rich beam into that humble taught this young disciple a new, a different and a chamber. The Christian was alone with the dead better lesson; and he sat there now, patient and now. He had composed the body in decent order humble beside the dying man, regarding him, not as with his own hands, and reverently covered it over. an atom, soon to be swept from an aimless existence, The face was still visible, but no distortion was there; but as an immortal spirit shaking off encumbering the lips were gently closed, and the eyes, as if in clay and preparing for a new and glorious state of slumber; the white locks fell quietly down over the being. With his own hands the young Christian hollow temples and wasted cheeks, and over all was lighted the little rude lamp which hung from the written the fulfillment of the promise, “Thou shalt ceiling, and sat down on a low stool by the bed-side, keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed upon and drawing a manuscript from the folds of his robe, Thee.” Awful is the presence of Death always; and read aloud the same hallowed words he had first when he has set his seal on the aged servant of God, heard on the sea-shore in the still twilight of a summer there is a holiness there which every human spirit evening long past away. Sometimes he paused to must low down before. No matter how rude the add a word of comment or explanation, and when form, how coarse the features-with his plastic hand he had finished reading, he kneeled down to pray. he moulds them into lines of superhuman grandeur. He was famed even then in the schools of philosophy. He robs the face of the hues of life, and it becomes He had been the envy of his fellow.disciples in the
as pure as marble. He touches the white hair, and academic grove for his profound wisdom and various ir falls into beautiful repose. He breathes on the learning. But had one of those fellow-students stood distorted brow and smoothes every wrinkle. We there and beheld him, he would have scorned him. know that the messenger who has wrought this He kneeled on the stone floor. The dim light of the wondrous change is none other than the servant of lamp fell on his bowed head and long, dark robe, and God, that he is the last commissioned of the ministerlit faintly the couch of the dying beggar. The only ing spirits to the earthly tabernacle, that he hath no sounds to be heard were the voice of earnest, heart- more that he can do, and he compels us to look on felt prayer, and the quick breathing which told that his handiwork and stand in awe. life was ebbing fast with him for wham that prayer Long did the young Christian gaze on the face of was offered with trembling accents and tears fast the dead with solemn thoughts and unuttered prayers falling. But, ah! there was a presence there better --not, indeed, for the departed spirit, for he knew that than philosophy, greater than Plato, holier than with that his business was accomplished and over Socrates, “higher than the kings of the earth,” even for ever-but for himself, that his latter end might be of Him “that sitteth on the circle of the heavens,” such. His thoughts, not unnaturally, went forward and saith “ To this man will I look-even to him that into the distant future, and speculated on his own is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my dying hour, and he wondered what might be its acword."
companiments. He prayed that it might be as peaceful The whole night through the young Christian was as this he had just witnessed, that he might descend a patient watcher by the bed of death. Once he had into the grave as a shock of corn fully ripe ; that he wasted the midnight oil in the study of vain wisdom might lie down with the sweet consciousness that his and salse philosophy, utterly forgetful that thousands work was done, and la is reward sure. With no un lay all about him perishing in ignorance and misery. hallowed curiosity did he strive to pierce the future, Now how rich was his reward when the glazing eye but had some evil genius been permitted at that moopened with a gleam of intelligence, and the pale lips ment to lift the veil which hid his own death-scene, murmured the sweet hope of pardon, or strove to how would he have shrunk and shuddered, and his frame the language of some remembered promise yet young faith fainted in the contemplation. from the word of God. The noise of the great city had long ago subsided. Solemn, indeed, was the
CHAPTER III. stillness; and the spirit of that faithful watcher almost quailed when the King of Terrors laid hold of his It was a bright, busy day in Imperial Rome. Never victim with the last, inexorable grasp. Long did he had her resplendent sun shone more brightly on her struggle in that savage hold with agony not to be de- marble palaces, her gorgeous temples, her lovely scribed. At last it was over, and he lay calm and groves and gardens. The scented air stole in through scarcely breathing. The beams of the cold, pale open windows, where sat secluded lovely damsels dawn stole in and dimmed "the ineflectual fire," of and noble matrons; and it wantoned, 100, over humthe lamp, as the young man bent over that form to bler homes, where little children played and sung ascertain if life yet lingered in it. As he did so the and shouted joyously. It fanned the cheek of the pale student, as he paced the lonely grove in silent hold him a companion of “just men made perice. meditation, and lighily touched the troubled brow of To-day he will quit his dungeon and miserable a the orator as he took his way to the forum. It wooed ments, and wear 10-morrow a crown of glory an: the captive, in his cell, to dream of freedom and long-robes of righteousness. remembered home. In the streets were heard quick As these promises and hopes crowded upon Es footsteps, and loud, merry voices. Traffic went on mind, bis meditation was disturbed by a long, [37 in the crowded mart, and pleasure was pursued in sullen roar, which seemed to shake the ground be the luxurious halls of the noble. Here, flower- rested on. He started up with anguish and terror : crowned guests reclined at the banquet, listening to his face. He listened. Again it came, distince sweet music, while yonder the squalid miser counted than before, with a sharper, deeper cadence. Hii his gold, and there a fair young mother smiled upon shuddered visibly, and his face grew paler in the dis her children. Just the same passions crowded into light, and large drops of sweat broke out upon bis human hearts that day, just the same delusions were forehead. The third time it was repeated, and te followed, the same pleasures felt, and the same griefs all was silent. He listened long, with strained a deplored on that bright day in Imperial Rome, as now and eye, which seemed to pierce his dungeon wa's agitate, or delight, or torture us who have beheld that but he heard no more. He sunk back, and covers great city a living tomb.
his face prayed in an agony. Now, 100 well he knes While all this went on in the fresh air and sunshine what was to be his doom. He had heard the voice of a summer-day, far down, beneath the earth which of his executioner. It was the desert lion roaring upheld the city, were other and sadder sights. In for his prey. Now he remembered that in these those terrible caverns, which run in veins of darkness caverns were confined the Christians reserved fæ under its foundations, which travelers now fearfully martyrdom, and, in still lower cells, the wild beast explore by forch-light, human beings, guilty of no 10 which they were to be surrendered in the bloody crime but that of bearing the name of Christians, amphitheatre. It is no wonder that mortal terror, were shut up, expecting, hoping no release until for a season, took possession of the soul of the aged summoned 10 a frightful death. In a solitary cell, Christian. He shrunk with unutterable horror when small, damp and noisome, lighted by a dim lamp, an he thought of the savage beast, rendered fiercer by aged man sat alone. It is easy to picture to ourselves protracted hunger; of the crowded amphitheatre, the the hideous gloom, the walls sweating unwholesome gazing eyes, the exulting shouls, the unpitying havapors, the oppressive thickness of the air, never man hearts. It was long before he could bring bimstirred by a fresh breath from heaven, the jar of water self to look beyond these and upward to Him and mouldy crust, the miserable garments, the pallid who sat enthroned on high and watched tenderis face and emaciated form of a prisoner in such a place. the falling sparrow. He was a Christian bera, It is less easy to guess what might be the thoughts of but he was also a man. His sensitive human one sitting there in expectation of an instant sum frame, his natural human will shuddered and remons to execution. More than seventy years had volted at the execution of this frighưul doom, and laid their weight upon him. His hair was quite it was not until hours had passed, and he had wrestled white, but his eye was bright and beaming, his whole mightily in prayer, that he learned to coatemp.ate : countenance informed with a noble, thoughtful ex. calmly. Then great consolations were vouchsafed pression, and beautified, despite of man's cruelty, him; his crown glittered bright before him, the peso with benevolence. It was plainly to be seen that sage to death was shown him as short, though ternble, only the outer tabernacle of the spirit was suffering the hereafter, long, long and glorious, even glory for and declining, while that within was burning brighter ever and ever. Above all he was shown the eros; and higher as the mortal part drew toward extinction. and, O, how inexpressibly dear was the Lord who He knows that his days are numbered, but he medi. hung there, and how sweet was that most beautifd tates peacefully on the change which awaits him. of all the promises, “ God himself shall wipe away He knows that his death will be painful and igno- all tears." minious, but he knows not yet the exact manner of It needs not to tell how his furious jailors burst in it—at least, it will be the end of his long course, and upon his solitude. How they dragged him to the then remain only the reward and rest. He has now arena. How, when the blindness from ibe intoler. nearly arrived at a long-desired period, and he finds able sunlight had passed, he beheld the crowded all the sweetness of that immortal hope which first rank on rank of eager spectators, and heard the dawned upon his soul on the sea-shore beside far- shout which greeted a fresh victim. He looked distant Alexandria. It seems as if that glorious faith upward to the clear, blue sky, where soft, lovely could only be known in its perfection of consolation clouds floated here and there, and he inhaled the in such a dungeon, and a waiting such a doom; and sweet, elastic air. There was the usual ofier of re promise after promise from the word of God comes prieve, pardon, life, at the cost of a single act of upon his memory, making that living grave "all idolatry. There was heard at the same instant, the glorious within." Yea, it will be a blessed change. savage roar of the hungry lion, now kep! Dear in To-day he will be done forever with sin and sorrow, waiting for his prey. There was the shout of triumph and to-morrow he will be " where the wicked cease when that last offer was refused, calmly, contempfrom troubling." To-day be will take farewell of atuously. Then he quickly found himself alone in the world lying in wickedness, and 10-morrow will be- l vast arena. Other victims had been there beiure
He saw the blood, hastily and slightly covered | Amphitheatre was solitary and deserted. But the ae looked round once more; alas! there was no sun, with his mighty eye, looked down upon the guilty man eye to pily, and no hand to spare. With a spot, and his hot beam drank up a portion of the fresh und the mighty beast was in the arena, and close blood, and the winds of heaven sighed round it, and ron him.
the clouds came and cast their shadows over it; and It was soon over. This was the conclusion of the centuries have passed since then, and still the sun y's spectacle, and plebeian and patrician Romans and winds and clouds have gone about it, day after ere
on their way homeward, talking of this and day, and still the eye of God beholds, and its dumb at, merrily, carelessly; and the so lately crowded I walls and crumbling arches cry aloud for vengeance.
GAME-BIRDS OF AMERICA.NO. X.
THE RAIL. (Rallus. LINNÆUS.)
TAKEx altogether, the generic characters of the the view above; but ihis very circumstance enables everal kinds of Rail may be stated to be as follows: the experienced egg-hunter to distinguish the spot at he bill longer than the head, straight or slightly the distance of thirty or forty yards, though imperpurved, compressed at the base, and cylindrical 10- ceptible to a common eye. The eggs are of a pale ward ihe lips, the upper mandible channeled, the clay color, sprinkled with small spots of dark red, nostrils opening longitudinally at the base of the bill and measure somewhat more than an inch and a half in the grooves, open through and through, but in in length by an inch in breadth, being rather obtuse part closed with membrane ; legs very stout, bare of at the small end. These eggs are delicious eating, feathers to some distance above the tarsal joints, far surpassing those of the domestic hen. The height with three long toes to the front and one to the rear,
of laying is about the first of June, when the people articulated on the tarsus, the front toes free or di- of the neighborhood go to the marshes an egging, as vided to their bases; the wings of mean length and it is so called. So abundant are the nests of this rounded, the first quill being shorter than the second, species, and so dexterous some persons at finding and the third and fourth the longest in the wing. them, that one hundred dozen of eggs have been col
The Clapper Rail, or Mud Hen, is one of the most lected by one man in a day. At this time the crows, remarkable, and like its relative, the Corncrake of the minx, and the foxes, come in for their share, but, England, makes its note heard all the night long. It not content with the eggs, these last often seize and is fourteen inches in length and eighteen in the devour the parents also. The bones, feathers, wings, stretch of the wings; the bill is two inches and a &c., of the poor mud hen lie in beaps by the hole of quarter long, slightly bent, and of a reddish brown the minx, by which circumstance, however, he himcolor; the upper part is black, and streaked with dull self is often detected and destroyed.” It seems as if brown; the chin and streak over the eye are the very elements were in conspiracy against these brownish-white; the fore neck and breast are reddish- birds; they “ are subject to another calamily of a brown; the flanks and vent black, with white tips 10 more extensive kind; afier the greater part of the the feathers; the coverts of the wings are dark eggs are laid there sometimes happen violent northchestnut-brown, and the tail-feathers and quills dusky, east tempests that drive a great sea into the bay, without any margins; the legs are dull brown, and covering the whole marshes; so that at such times the irides dark red. This species is very common, the Rail may be seen in hundreds floating over the during the summer, through all the latitudes of the marsh in great distress; many escape to the main United States, keeping near the sea.coast, as it pre- land, and vast numbers perish. On an occasion of fers the salt marshes to the waters of the interior. this kind I have seen, at one view, thousands in a It is a very noisy bird, especially during the night single meadow, walking about exposed and bewiland before rain, which are, of course, the times when dered, while the dead bodies of the females, who the molusca crustacea, and other small animals, upon perished on or near their nesis, were strewed along which it feeds in the marshes, are in the greatest ac
the shore. The last circumstance shows how strong tivity, and most easy to be obtained.
the vie of maternal affection is in these birds, for, of Wilson's account of the casualties to which it is the great number which I picked up and opened, not exposed in the breeding season, is so graphic, that we one male was to be found among them, all were shall in part quote il. “About the iwentieth of May,” females; such as had not yet begun to sit probably . he says, "they usually begin building and laying escaped. These disasters do not prevent the surat the same time; the first egg being usually dropped vivors from recommencing the work of laying and in a slight cavity lined with a little dry grass pressed building anew; and instances have occurred in which for the purpose, which, as the eggs increase to their their eggs have been iwice destroyed by the sea, and usual complement, is gradually added to till it rises yet in two weeks the nests and eggs seemed as 10 the height of twelve inches or more, doubtless to numerous as ever. If all is well, the young are secure it from the rising of the tides. Over this the soon able to run aboul, which they do with great long, salt grass is artfully arched, 10 conceal it from swiftness, and tread the grass and other marsh plants