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Example in this ebook THE CHALLENGE. “There are more things in heav’n and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”—Hamlet. There was a shallop floating on the Wye, among the gray rocks and leafy woods of Chepstow. Within it were two fair girls reclining: the one blending the romantic wildness of a maid of Italy with the exquisite purity of English nature; the other illuming, with the devotion of a vestal, the classic beauty of a Greek. There was a young and learned bachelor sitting at the helm. Study had stamped an air of thoughtfulness on his brow; yet a smile was ever playing on his lips, as his heart felt the truth and influence of the beautiful life around him. Listen, gentle reader, we pray thy courtesy and thy patience, as a rude unskilful pen traces the breathed thoughts of these wanderers of the Wye. Castaly. We have roamed, dear Ida, among the classic lands of the far-off Mediterranean: we have looked, from her pinnacles of snow, on the silvery gleaminess of Switzerland, and from purple sierras on the sunny splendour of Spain; yet these English meadows, with their fringes of wild bloom, come o’er the heart with all the freshness of an infant’s dream. Yon majestic crag of Wyndcliff is flinging its purple shadows athwart the water, and floods of golden glory are streaming through the beech-woods of Piercefield: and see, our little sail, white as the wing of a swan, is wafting us towards Abbey Tintern, along this beautiful valley, where the river almost doubles on itself; meandering among its mead-flowers and its mosses, as loth to leave its luxuriant bed. Listen! the breath of evening is among the trees that dip in the ripple of the Wye their leaves of shivering gold. What a scene for minions of the moon to revel in! Say, shall we charm the lingering hours of this midsummer night among the ivied cloisters of the abbey? But where is Astrophel, our moon-struck student, who, like Chaucer’s scholar, keeps ——“at his bed’s head, A twenty books clothed in black and red, Of Aristotle and his philosophy?”—— They have not taught him courtesy, or he would not steal away from the light of our eyes to commune with owls and ivy-bushes. Yet we promise him our smile for your sake, Evelyn. Indeed, I am thinking his mysteries will chime in admirably with the solemnity of this lone abbey. We appoint him master of our revels. Evelyn. Let your smile be in pity, fair Castaly, on the illusions of Astrophel. Ensconced in his dark closet, within a charmed ring of black-letter folios, he has wofully warped his studies, and has read himself into the belief that he is a GIFTED SEER. Yet love him, lady, for his virtues; for his history is a very paradox. His heart is melting with charity for the beings of earth, yet his mind is half-weaned from their fellowship. At his imminent peril, he leaps into the Isis to save a drowning boy, and the world calls him misanthrope, withal. It is the fate indeed of many a cloistered scholar, whose ——“desires are dolphin like, And soar above the element they live in.” Such is Astrophel. Ida. He looks his part to perfection. There is a shadowy expression in his dark eye, as it were poring over the volume of his own thoughts. Beneath the slender shaft of yon eastern window, behold this proselyte to the sublime science of shadows. He approaches. Ev. The hour is on him yet.—Astrophel! Astrophel. Whisper, and tread lightly, Evelyn, for this is haunted ground. Underneath this velvet turf rest the mouldering bones of a noble. I have held communion in my slumber with the spirit by which they were once animated and moved; and the mysteries of the tomb have been unfolded to me. The eidōlon of Roger Bigod has thrice come across my sight. Cast. A ghost! To be continue in this ebook....