Frances Peck.

Vaga; or, A view of nature. A novel .. (Volume 2) online

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nomy, physic, and philosophy ; and
the fragments of Egyptian architec-
ture evince a perfect finish : but the
antiquity that chiefly excites my curio-
sity, is so deeply immersed in obscu-
rity, as to defy the researches of his-
tory itself."

" Do you mean the pyramids?"
said Osmond.

" Yes," replied our heroine; " I
allude to their seeming uselessness. —
The great pyramid we passed in our

l5



225 VAGA.

way to this city, may be a prodigy of
archi|jeQt4ire; but, to all appearance,
the structure, when raised, was void
of utility.*'

" Nay," said the chief; " though
we cannot speak from positive evi-
dence, it is generally supposed, that
the pyramids were intended as tombs
for the kings."

" I am aware," replied Vaga, *' that
there are many idle accounts, relative
to the original intention of these cele-
brated edifices. Some story-tellers
insist that the great pyramid " was
!' built at the expense of a courtezan,
" famous for the immense wealth be-
" stov/ed on her by her gallants:" —
and others assert, that as " Rhodope
" was bathing herself at Naucrates,
" an eagle carried away one of her
** sandals, and dropped it near Psam-
*' miticus, at Memphis. The monarch



VAGA. 227

" was so struck m^^^^^^ beauty, that
" he ordered strieftnjjojry to be made
*' for the owneiy^njiKifried her, and
" afterwards raised V'this monument
'*' to her memory."

The Bey having discussed the past
and present situation of Eg^ypt; the
spirit and character of its antiquities;
its modern government and manners;
together with the poHtical circum-
stances of the Turkish empire, at
this period ; — the company sepa-
rated for the night. Vaga, occupied
with each new accession to her pas-
sion for knowledge, felt her impati-
ence grow, to visit those places,
famous in history for adventures
and facts, as already treated on.

The following day was employed
by Vaga, Chili, and Benigma, in see-
ing whatever was worthy of notice
in Grand Cairo. They were conducted



228 VAGA.

by Osmond, and his suite, first through
the old, then into the new town.

The castle, which defends the city,
was the next object of their attention.
It is a beautiful antique ; and its works
are most extensive. Several of the
apartments are in tolerable preserva-
tion ; pictures, in Mosaic work,, adorn
the pannels, disposed between fluted
columns of white marble, which sup-
port the domed ceiling. — The famous
Saladine is said to have been the
founder of this castle.
' In the evening, Osmond's palace
and gardens were again illuminated;
and witnessed a repetition of the Turk-
ish dance, and chorus, by singing
girls ; concluded, as before, with a
sumptuous feast.

Thus, with a diversity of new enter-
tainments, six happy days sped their
rapid flights — At night, when Vaga



VAGA. 229

sought her chamber, the spangled
vault of heaven, shining through the
* casement, directed her thoughts to a
review of the planetary system, under
the name of astronomy.

The evening star, in its superior
lustre eclipsing every other planet in
the circle — *^ There," said Vaga, (in-
tently gazing on the soft and voluptu-
ous sky), Venus rises west of the sun ;
nor, after he sets, quits the course of
the luminary, but in the evening east-
ward shines ! Hence, as the forerunner
of Phoebus, Venus is a problem placed
in the heavens, being the first and the
last."

She paused- • • -and, seating herself
at the lattice, her mind was for some
time so entirely occupied by her
thoughts on philosophy, that she, in
a great degree, lost sight of the anxi-
ous care, which, during the latter part



230 VAGA.

of that day, had checked her spirits ;
till having too far pursued the enthu-
siastic course her ideas had taken, she
yielded, without a struggle, to the op-
pression at her heart.

*' O Osmond!" thought she;
" what spell have you bound around
me, that thus my heart shrinks from
the approaching hour that shall wit-
ness a separation — the necessity of
which powerfully appeals to every
sense of delicacy and honour? — How
is it," continued she, weeping, " that
the magic influence of this man's vir-
tue, instead of adding to the energy
of my character, seems to have reduced
it!' •••Oh! spirit of my father! — O
Angelo ! awaken within me !• • • 'Let
your almost unexampled resolution
brace, with more than my sex's
strength, this woman's heart of mine;
— for, though I do not fear a derelic-



r



<



VAGA. 231

tion in my principles, yet, in this fever
of life, I tremble at the weakness of
infirm nature ; and, in spite of every
effort, start from the force of the Bey's
distress at parting, knowing that his
seeming resignation is but a partial
concealment of his sorrow."* • • -Sigh-
ing deeply, and shedding a torrent of
tears, as she poured out her passion,
she exclaimed : —

'* The feeling that sympathizes in
the grief of a fellow-being, let it affect
— it cannot disgrace me ! — My heart
may sink in my breast; but it will
never grow cold, till I am no more ! "
• • • 'Casting her eyes on the luxuriant
gardens underneath, a soft, but bril-
liant, colouring seeming to repose on
every object, • • • • how deep — how
beautiful, was the scene ! An uni-
versal pause ! All nature, wrapped in



232 VAGA.

sleep — save the moon, that lighted
the tender character of the land-
scape.

" Happy, happy retreat!" thought
Vaga, '* adorned by the presence, and
blessed with the distinguished excel-
lence, of the princely Osmond ! Haunt
of nature, love, and peace! here, time,
like the joys of our youth, quick, and
trackless, flies • • • • Yet, when I leave
these tranquil vales, shall I not bear in
ray heart's remembrance the lovely
scene?"

After thus indulging in the silence
of retirement, Vaga concluded her
meditations with prayer; and having
betaken herself to her couch — balmy
sleep with delicious poppies strewed
her pillow. — She rose with the new
day, refreshed, and cheerful ; and the
morning air wafting the fragrance of



VAGA. 233

flowers and fruits, she walked out to
inhale its sweet breath.

The sun had just risen, and dew-
drops bespangled the earth. — Vaga
sought the coolest shade in the
garden ; and as she threw herself
on a seat, hearing a rustling near
her, alarmed lest Osmond should
have watched her steps, and desir-
ous to avoid all private conversation
with him, she precipitately took to
flight; but her speed was soon ar-
rested by the soft supplication of a
female voice. On turning round her
head, she discovered Cora in pursuit
of her.

The Circassian, devoutly bending
before our heroine, caught her offered
hand - *-" Most noble of women!"
she cried, '' pardon this intrusion. —
I feel what I am — and I am sensible
of all I owe to you, I would not



234 VAGA.

offend either my lord's commands,
or the customs of your country, by
my presence, had I the power to
resist my will'*-'! come, lady,
urged by a something in my mind,
that, as yet, lias not formed itself
into words. •••• Say it is instinct;
say it is the heart, that guides me

• •••this meeting with Vaga is ne-
cessary to my peace. — Lady," con*
tinned she, " to morrow's dawn, I
understand, is fixed for your depar-
ture; and you are going, — oh ! how
distant !• • • -This I know, and more •

• • • • Osmond may see Vaga again ;
but Cora never!"

Vaga, struck by the last impressive
sentence, as she revolved it over in
her mind, a painful impression pressed
heavily on her heart- • • -She coloured -
crimson deep — and it was some mo-
ments before she could speak.



VAGA. 235

" Cora," said she at length, *' that
I am pleased with Osmond's delicacy,
with regard to you and myself, I shall
not pretend to deny ; and if any thing
could increase my high opinion of the
Bey, it is his decorous observance of
me, in the present instance. The rules
of society, as established for the good
of the community, are divine laws:
and their influence on English man-
ners I consider the highest distinction
Great Britain boasts. - • • -What I have
said/' continued Vaga, " applies ex-
clusively to the customs of the country
I call mine — and, acting as I have
done by Cora, her iniiate innocence
cannot possibly take alarm, concerning
her situation, sanctioned in Egypt by
religion itself. — ^Thus far with candour
I have spoken; and now, (her lips
quivering), I must press the subject
farther, and see one dark hint, dropped



Q36 VAGA.

by the betrothed of Osmond, fairly
unveiled, and given to the light. —
Cora will then speak out, and frankly
tell me, Have I ever, by my conduct,
unwittingly given her pain?"

" Lady," replied the Circassian,
reddening, " that is a question I
cannot answer ! — Oh ! no ! no ! for,
when we feel the most, we speak the

least Here, bursting into tears,

and falling on her knees, with im-
passioned energy she added : —

Ya Allah! God of my forefathers,
bless the Vaga ! — May Cora's grateful
prayers draw down an host from hea-
ven, to guard and guide the wanderer!"
— Again she indulged her tears ; again
her heart laboured, as if it would burst;
and again looking up to heaven, she
once more, with feeling and with fer-
vour, blessed her friend.

Not more inscrutable and obscure



^ VAGA. 237

.ke ™,,«,., o. ..e ,„„. ...

the windings of the human heart—
If one may so say, Cora, at this mo-
ment, was animated by two souls —
one, under the direction of simple
affection and gratitude — the other, ^
exercising, without control, the ca-
pricious humour of a selfish passion,
in a mean mind.

Strange contradiction this! Unfa-
thomable as nature's depth! But, oh!
how faithful to her secret operations !
— The image of Vaga's excellence
elevated the mind of the Circassian,
till Osmond's power over her heart
tempted her to descend from her
altitude* •• 'Yet did Cora doubt the
source of her own tears; and, mistaken
in their application, would willingly
impose upon herself, that it was the
approaching departure of Vaga that
affected her.



338 VAGA.

Our heroine was the pupil ^f
nature ! It was all sensation with
her, as she felt ev^ery thing, almost
before she understood any thing.
Her eyes were settled on Cora;
and, while she gazed, penetrated by
her grief, with a trembling hand she
drew her gently towards her; and
seeming to think how insufficient all
attempt at consolation must be on
this occasion, — hung over her, lost
in melancholy reverie.

The tenderness in Vaga's manner
only served to increase Cora's agita-
tion. She uttered several imperfect
sentences, almost unconscious of what
she said ; and then, wishing Vaga
every future happiness, spoke of the
intended journey with all the solicit-
ude of anxious affection.

" Lady!" cried she, " these coun-*,
tries, however awful to the lone



VAGA. 239

adventurer, you may traverse without
fear ! — Secure in Osmond's protection ;
with a guard of honour in the advance,
the Bedouin Arab, rapacious and for-
midable as he is, will never provoke a
battle with the Mamlouk. But, should
the most ferocious legion of the desert
dare an attack, the troop, headed by
the Bey • • • •

At this break, Cora, apparently un-
d^r a failure of mind, paused : her eyes
watched Vaga's countenance, her lips
trembled, and her features became
fixed.

Vaga, powerfully impressed by the
scene, and supposing she had now
come at the cause of this poor crea-
ture's inquietude — over-joyous at the
idea of bringing her heart relief — be-
gan to explain away the mistake re-
lating to the chief,

Cora was r^eserved in her reply.



240 VAGA.

She appeared thoughtful : — and, mus-
ing for a while, on a sudden asking a
few questions concerning the Mam-
louk escort, hastily inquired, " Whe-
ther Osmond had yet announced the
Moorish captain appointed to com-
mand the guard?"

" Yes," replied Vaga ; " and I feel
inspired with the utmost confidence
in his character."

" He is a miracle of valour," said
Cora; " and, by way of distinction,
generally styled the worthy • • • •

The presence of a slave interrupted
the discourse. ••• 'She beckoned Cora
forward ; who, waving her hand for
the slave to retire, hastily rising, said
with quickness : —

" Lady ! 'tis the signal that my lord
is returned from the bath, and I must
not venture to linger longer here : but,
before I utter a last farewell, ere I part



VAGA. 24 i

from vou for ever — suffer me to
breatlie one maternal hope • • • • one
fond prayer ! "

Tears again interrupted her words;
and once more casting herself on her
knees; in a voice half stifled by exces-
sive emotion : — *' O Vaga !" she cried,
'* my heart will not be restrained !
Our days are numbered ; and a mourn-
ful presentiment tells me, that mine
have not long to run.* • • -The august
Osmond, a prey to hopeless love, may,
like me, fall earlv • • • • Most noble
lady ! think then of him — think of
Cora's children ! — you are their first,
and, I hope, will continue their best
friend 1 — Oh ! let not the Bey go down
before his time* •••but to protect a
motherless offspring — pity, and save,
the dear father of my babes ! "

During this speech, our heroine ex-
perienced a sensation, as if her temples

VOL. II. - M



242 VAGA.

were bound round with iron — an ach-
ing seized her in the back of her head
— and her senses failing her, she leaned
against a tree.

Cora ascribing her silence to a pro-
found consideration of the subject;
with solemn earnestness again repeated,
that her fate was at hand • • • • and
strenuously renewing the prayer on
which her hopes and wishes rested,
spoke of Osmond, and her children, in
terms so truly genuine, that, in the
unstudied phrase, every word forced
its way to the heart.

Vaga's suspended faculties, roused
by the pathetic pleader, dissolving in-
to tears, she could only listen and
weep : but those tears were the dearest
assurances of comfort to Cora; for
they told, in the best manner, a com-
bination of feelings and sentiments,
just to the occasion ; but, in their pc-



VAGA. 243

ciiliarity, only to be expressed by the
silent meltings of the heart.

The Circassian, in this interview,
had stirred up a sort of self-rebellion
in the opinion and ideas of our heroine,
that showed her, at intervals through
the day, a traitor both to her head and
her heart.

In spite of her reason and enlarged
observation, the superstitious forebod-
ing, in the conversation of Cora,
deeply impressed her- • • -she shrunk
from it with an emotion of self-re-
proach ; and, when Osmond appeared
before her, an inexplicable apprehen-
sion pressed so suddenly on her heart,
that she could scarcely support the in-
ternal tremour which shook her soul.

The Bey, on the contrary, in his
self-possession, evinced a complete
triumph over himself. If tender in his
manner, he was yet placid, and unagi-

M 2



244 VAGA.

tated ; and if he expressed anxiety, it
was not on the account of bis own
private sorrow, but for Vaga's bealtb,
and comfort; knowing bow much of
fatigue and privation she must neces-
sarily endure in her route through the
depths of a vast desert ; destitute of all
supplies, and uninhabited, save by a
race of Arabs, habituated to live in a
state of wretchedness and famine.

" Yet, my Vaga !" said he, '• pursue
the will of your father ! Finish the
work you have so well begun ! Go
on in the study of mankind, and be
instructed ! Love nature, and admire
the beauties of art ! " Then seeming to
lose sight of the lover in the character
of the host, all the vigour of his soul
sparkling in his eyes, he did the ho-
nours of his palace to the admiration
of every person present; and was that
evening superior to himself.



VAGA. 245

The resolution manifest in such a
conduct, was worthy of Osmond. —
Vaga eyed him with mute astonish-
ment ! — Divinely pre-eminent man !
thought she; you express the perfec-
tion of the soul ; for, your bodily fire,
lefined from animal impurities, the
mortal, in you, is a summary of hea-
venly blessedness ! • • • -And I shall take
this precept to my bosom, and lay it
to my heart. When the passions of
the mortal part are swallowed up in
the powers of the mind — man is, in-
deed, a celestial creature upon earth !

A festival, in honour of the Nile, is
annually celebrated, at Grand Cairo,
about the seed-time of the year; and
this happened to be the time it occur-
red. On this occasion, the men and
women assembled on the banks of the
river, danced, and sung hymns, in ce-
lebration of these generous waters,



5245 VAGA.

and their phcenomena. They wore
chaplets of roses on their heads, and
carried branches of laurel in their
hands; and, in the night-time, walked
with lighted torches up and down the
streets, repeating their cries of joy,
and singing innumerable sonnets, suit-
ed to the occasion.

After performing this ceremony, re-
curring to their favourite chief, the
Bey — the name of Osmond was re-
echoed with enthusiasm — and the cha-
racter of the hero eulogized by the
people, with one accord they bore
away toward his palace, shouting, as
they went along —

" Osmond Bey ! — Commander ! —
Prince !^ — Our lord ! — Our ruler ! — Live
for ever!"' • • 'Then decking the por-
tico and doors of the palace with
sprigs of laurel— entwined with myrtle
and roses, the enthusiastic multitude



VAGA. 247

again expressed their undeviating
homage.

This event gave a charming effect
to the pleasures of the last day. The
approaching separation seemed forgot-
ten in the triumph and joy of the
scene : and when it was time to retire,
Osmond, in his usual manner, took
leave of his friends, apparently unwil-
ling to cloud the impression of the
past with a formal farewell : — but
looking the sentiment of regret, that
intruded on his happiness- • • •" God
be with you, my Vagal" cried he.
" Chili, and Benigma*, good night!" —
His voice faltered ; and, turning away,
he hastily quitted the room.

This heroic resolution drew tears of
admiration and friendship from both
Chili and Benigma; while our heroine,
animated with a portion of her lover's
firmness, crossed her hands upon her



248 VAGA.

bosom* • • -seeming to confine her se-
cret anguish there* •••and smiHngly
turning her face upwards, — with a
composed countenance, retired to rest,
for the night.



END OF THE SECOND VOLUME.



Printed by J. Moycs, Greville Street, London.



UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS-URBANA



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Online LibraryFrances PeckVaga; or, A view of nature. A novel .. (Volume 2) → online text (page 8 of 8)