Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Count Julian; or, The Last Days of the Goth >> Chapter VII >> Page 30

image of pageExplore Inside

Page 30

Novel (Romance) | William Taylor & Co. | 1845 - 1846
Transcription 30 COUNT JULIAN; ORS
of them watched all night—they say that ' they beheld an eagle fall right down from the sky, as if it had descended from heaven, carrying a burning fire-brand, which it laid upon the top of the house, and fanned with its wings,' until it blazed, and thus came the fire, which, as we know, was dreadful and all-consuming. Didst thou hear this story, Romano ? "
Another smile overspread the lips of Romano as he heard this legend, which was the tradition for ages after among the common people of Spain ; and Oppas saw by his smile that the ancient man knew a far truer story of the conflagration. He replied :
" The story is an idle one, my brother Oppas ; it was no bird, no messenger from heaven, which consumed the house. It was this hand, my brother, that bore the torch and set the fire to the house within. These hands piled the fuel ; and, with my brothers, I sang praises to Heaven, even while the flames danced around us and licked the high walls overhead. We saw them cling like serpents to the roof, and we cried aloud in our rejoicing. A divine spirit seemed to move us all, for we shouted and clung to cone another, even while the flames gathered strength and body, find there seemed no escape for us but by passing through them to the far secret pas-sage which opens upon the Tagus. Yet when we would have gone, for the roof began to crumble and the wall rocked around us, the flame-wall suddenly parted from before us at the mouth of the narrow passage, even as the waters of the sea divided at the bidding of Moses before the flight of the Israelites; and we knew from this sign, and from others, that the blessing of God was upon our work, and that He would now have us leave it."
And sayest thou, Romano, that this work was thine, and not that of Heaven ? Methinks it Both not become thy humility to say so, and thou halt grown proud because the Lord hath so distinguished thee above all thy fellows. It was Heaven's deed, and not thine, my brother—though thy hands may have been employed by the Blessed Father to do his purposes. They were then no longer thy hands, but the hands of Heaven, Romano ; and thou shouldst be heedful not to let thy heart forget its place of humility, in the high honor to which it is uplifted."
Thy reproof is just, my brother, and the scourge to-night shall be the penance which shall subjugate my vain and rebellious flesh.'
The venerable zealot folded his arms upon his breast and looked up to heaven as he spoke these words, with an aspect of most towering humility. His pride had been duly increased by the artful sophistry of Oppas. But the archbishop had not done with him.
Thy speech was a vain one, my brother, for the deed which thou didst had a voice in thy own heart, which counselled it. Wilt thou say that that voice was thine own, my brother ? Alas, no !—whence came thy authority ? "" Of a truth," said Romano, " it must have been a voice from God."
It was, Romano ; and because thou wert within the chambers of the house, and not without to see with thine own eyes, wilt thou pretend to deny the things of their sight to others ? Wilt thou, in thy heart's vain confidence, presume to say that be-cause thy hands were chosen to put the fire within which consumed the house, that God sent not another messenger, even from the heavens, to light the flame without ? Know'st thou not that the flames raged even more furiously without the tower than they could have done within ? "" There is reason in what thou say'st, my brother. Thou art strong, and I am weak," replied Romano.
" Truly do 1 believe, Romano, what the people declare ; and further, my brother, Inasmuch as thou wert chosen by Heaven to do thy spiriting in secret, hidden by the