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The Blessed.

(Concluded from page 371.)

Founded on Facts.

By Marian Hartog

Truly did Miriam appreciate the affection with which the mother of her betrothed had treated her since she had been orphan, and it was no slight alleviation of her fears, when she knew that Rebecca, the eldest and favourite sister of Moses, who was on the point of marriage, was, with her husband, to accompany her on her voyage.

Over the laughing sea of summer, as if rejoicing in its freedom, bounded the vessel that conveyed Miriam from the fair shores of England to the land which he who was all on earth to her had adopted for his own.

A few weeks more, and Miriam was a wife, surrounded by luxuries of which she had never dreamed: her slightest wants anticipated, her slightest wish obeyed, almost before it was expressed; and almost adored by him whose image was enshrined in the innermost depths of her own warm heart. She was happy now as mortal well might be; and if, at times, as she wandered on the palmy shore, her tears fell mingling with the blue Atlantic, which kissed alike the strand. of the sunny land in which she dwelt, and the fair shores of merry England, in whose green bosom slept all of her race, they were tears of resigned melancholy, rather than of that passionate, heart-searing grief that had fallen like a blight on the morning of her life.

Six short and happy months glided by like so many summer days, without shadow or cloud to mar their beauty: when the pest of those fair, deceitful climates made its appearance in the island.

The yellow fever, that dread prime minister of death, stalked in triumph through the land, smiting the young and beautiful, the virtuous and good, with the same remorseless ruthlessness, with which he struck down age and infirmity, vice and infamy; and the Hebrew merchant escaped not the fangs of the pestilential disease.

Oh, with what wild agony the young wife prayed for the safety of her husband! How bitterly she wept when first she heard his delirious ravings. But they told her she must leave him or control her emotions; and she did control them, and strove to be patient under this new trial. Like some ministering angel she moved through the darkened chamber, with tread so noiseless that it made no echo. With untiring affection she moistened the hot lips and fanned the fevered brow of the unconscious object of her tender solicitude. Day and night she sat beside his bed, watching, tending, and praying, with patient gentleness; now ministering to his wants, smoothing the pillow on which he rested his aching head, and cooling the burning air he breathed with perfumed waters, and now singing, with bird­like sweetness, low, soothing lays, to lull him to repose.

Rebecca besought her to leave the infected chamber, the very air of which was heavy with disease and destructive of vitality, and allow a black nurse to supply her place; but she would not resign her post to the hireling or slave.

In vain did the sister urge the necessity of a purer air, of refreshment, and repose. In vain did she urge the folly, the sinfulness of willfully exposing herself to the danger of infection. The wife was firm; she felt no fatigue; she needed no refreshment.

Without him life would be but a worthless possession, a lamp from which the light was gone out for ever, and the tainted atmosphere would not harm her, while she watched by her husband. Such were Miriam’s arguments, and Rebecca found it was in vain to oppose such unselfish self-sacrificing affection with the counsels of prudence. The dictates of reason were not equal to combat the sophistries of love.

Her love, her devotion were boundless, and when all others <<406>>had ceased to hope for his recovery, she nourished it yet in her heart; fostering the faint spark with the warmth of her deep-seated affection.

At length she was rewarded, slowly and painfully though it was that Moses recovered. The hopes at first held out were faint; but still there was hope. First came back the fading spark of reason, then the light returned to his eyes, and the prostrated frame recovered a portion of its former energies. He was restored to her; she was not widowed; and never from human heart arose a purer hymn of gratitude than that which ascended from the grateful Miriam’s, as she was once more clasped in the warm embrace of her husband, and heard him murmur in her ear “The life you have preserved, my Miriam, shall be spent in rendering yours happy!”

But the grim destroyer was not to be so lightly balked of his prey; even as Rebecca had foretold, the poisoned breath of disease was rankling in the heart’s blood of the devoted wife; and as her husband recovered, so her strength became prostrated. Naturally of a delicate constitution, and worn out by watching and fatigue, she fell an easy prey to the disease.

Fever ran riot through the blue veins that swelled beneath her snowy skin, and scorched cheek and brow with his burning fingers. Her soft eyes burned with an unearthly light, and from the pale, parched lip fled the rosy hue of life.

“She cannot live,” was the mournful reply of the physician, in answer to the earnest inquiries of Rebecca. “Poor young thing, the most fatal symptoms have appeared; earthly skill will avail her nought; nothing short of a miracle can save her.”

It was the close of the burning day, and in the little Synagogue were assembled those who came to pray to the God of mercy to pour the balm of health through the fevered veins of the dying, whose life had been sacrificed at the altar of conjugal devotion.

Through the vaulted roof swelled the mingled voices, blending in the solemn prayer. Oh, there is nought to touch the human heart and awaken its devotion, like the prayers of the afflicted, bowing at the shrine of the Mighty One, who is equal to save or to destroy.

The deep, powerful voices of the men trembled as they prayed; for all felt deeply for the sufferings of the young wife, who, like <<407>>some fair exotic, had withered beneath the scorching heat of the strange land.

There was something awful in that solemn scene, something sublime and soul-touching in the dead, breathless stillness, that pervaded the sacred building, as with trembling hand, and blanched cheek, the Reader opened the holy volume, and sought for a new name for the dying one. A thrill of horror passed through every heart, and the strong frame of manhood shook like a shaken reed, as in low and broken tones, he read from the first verse of the twentieth chapter of Numbers: “And Miriam died there, and was buried there.” There was a startling  incidence between the passage accidentally selected, and the fate of her for whom they came to pray, that chilled the hearts of those who heard. Every man looked at his neighbour, but none spoke, and with a cold thrill, the Reader closed the volume, and, leaving the House of Prayer, they moved slowly and silently toward the dwelling of Samuel.

“Pass not within those gates,” said an aged negro to the sad congregation. “The foot of the stranger should not cross the threshold of the house of the dead.”

It was but too true; even while they were praying for her renewed health, the soul had forsaken its earthly tenement; she had left her childhood’s home for the land of the stranger, and in the pathetic words of Scripture, “Died there, and was buried there!”