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A STRANGE STORY.

BY THE AUTHOR OF " MY NOVEL," " RIENZI," &c.

CHAPTER LXVIII.

THAT night as I was employed in collecting
the books and manuscripts which I proposed to
take with me, including my long-suspended
physiological work, and such standard authorities
as I might want to consult or refer to in the
portions yet incompleted, my servant entered to
inform me, in answer to the inquiries I had sent
him to make, that Miss Brabazon had peacefully
breathed her last an hour before. Well! my
pardon had perhaps soothed her last moments;
but how unavailing her death-bed repentance to
undo the wrong she had done!

I turned from that thought, and glancing at the
work into which I had thrown all my learning,
methodised into system with all my art, I
recalled the pity which Mrs. Poyntz had expressed
for my meditated waste of mind. The tone of
superiority which this incarnation of common
sense accompanied by uncommon will, assumed
over all that was too deep or too high for her                                 comprehension, had sometimes amused me; thinking
over it now, it piqued. I said to myself, " After
all, I shall bear with me such solace as
intellectual occupation can afford. I shall have
leisure to complete this labour, and a record that
I have lived and thought may outlast all the
honours which worldly ambition may bestow
upon an Ashleigh Sumner!" And, as I so
murmured, my hand, mechanically selecting the books
I needed, fell on the Bible that Julius Faber
had given to me.

It opened at the Second Book of Esdras,
which our Church places amongst the Apocrypha,
and is generally considered by scholars to have
been written in the first or second century of
the Christian era.* But in which, the questions
raised by man in the remotest ages, to which
we can trace back his desire "to comprehend
the way of the Most High," are invested with a
grandeur of thought and sublimity of word to
which I know of no parallel in writers we call
profane.

* Such is the supposition of Jahn. Dr. Lee,
however, is of opinion that the author was contemporary,
and, indeed, identical, with the author of the Book
of Enoch.

My eye fell on this passage in the lofty
argument between the Angel whose name was Uriel,
and the Prophet, perplexed by his own cravings
for knowledge:

"He (the Angel) answered me, and said, I
went into a forest into a plain, and the trees
took counsel,

"And said, Come, let us go and make war
against the sea, that it may depart away before
us, and that we may make us more woods.

"The floods of the sea also in like manner
took counsel, and said, Come, let us go up and
subdue the woods of the plain, that there also
we may make us another country.

"The thought of the wood was in vain, for
the fire came and consumed it.

"The thought of the floods of the sea came
likewise to nought, for the sand stood up and
stopped them.

"If thou wert judge now betwixt these two,
whom wouldst thou begin to justify? or whom
wouldst thou condemn?

"I answered and said, Verily it is a foolish
thought that they have both devised; for the
ground is given unto the wood, and the sea also
hath his place to bear his floods.

"Then answered he me, and said, Thou hast
given a right judgment, but why judgest thou
not thyself also?

"For like as the ground is given unto the
wood, and the sea to his floods: even so they
that dwell upon the earth may understand
nothing, but that which is upon the earth: and
He that dwelleth above the heavens may only
understand the things that are above the height
of the heavens."

I paused at those words, and, closing the
Sacred Volume, fell into deep unquiet thought.

CHAPTER LXIX.

I HAD hoped that the voyage would have had
some beneficial effect upon Lilian; but no effect,
good or bad, was perceptible, except, perhaps, a
deeper silence, a gentler calm. She loved to sit
on the deck when the nights were fair, and the
stars mirrored on the deep. And once, thus, as
I stood beside her, bending over the rail of the
vessel, and gazing on the long wake of light
which the moon made amidst the darkness of an
ocean to which no shore could be seen, I said to
myself, " Where is my track of light through
the measureless future? Would that I could
believe as I did when a child! Woe is me, that
all the reasonings I take from my knowledge

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