Part 6, Chapter 1

Part VI

Chapter 1

A SCORCHING SUN, a blue and burning sky, on every side lofty ranges of black and barren mountains, dark ravines, deep caverns, unfathomable gorges!

A solitary being moved in the distance. Faint and toiling, a pilgrim slowly clambered up the steep and stony track.

The sultry hours moved on; the pilgrim at length gained the summit of the mountain, a small and rugged table-land, strewn with huge masses of loose and heated rock. All around was desolation: no spring, no herbage; the bird and the insect were alike mute. Still it was the summit: no loftier peaks frowned in the distance; the pilgrim stopped, and breathed with more facility, and a faint smile played over his languid and solemn countenance.

He rested a few minutes; he took from his wallet some locusts and wild honey, and a small skin of water. His meal was short as well as simple. An ardent desire to reach his place of destination before nightfall urged him to proceed. He soon passed over the table-land, and commenced the descent of the mountain. A straggling olive-tree occasionally appeared, and then a group, and soon the groups swelled into a grove. His way wound through the grateful and unaccustomed shade. He emerged from the grove, and found that he had proceeded down more than half the side of the mountain. It ended precipitously in a dark and narrow ravine, formed on the other side by an opposite mountain, the lofty steep of which was crested by a city gently rising on a gradual slope.

Nothing could be conceived more barren, wild, and terrible than the surrounding scenery, unillumined by a single trace of culture. The city stood like the last gladiator in an amphitheatre of desolation.

It was surrounded by a lofty turreted wall, of an architecture to which the pilgrim was unaccustomed: gates with drawbridge and portcullis, square towers, and loopholes for the archer. Sentinels, clothed in steel and shining in the sunset, paced, at regular intervals, the cautious wall, and on a lofty tower a standard waved, a snowy standard, with a red, red cross!

The Prince of the Captivity at length beheld the lost capital of his fathers.35