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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesLeila; Or, The Siege Of Granada - Book 1 - Chapter 4. The Father And Daughter
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Leila; Or, The Siege Of Granada - Book 1 - Chapter 4. The Father And Daughter Post by :jasonroland Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :3545

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Leila; Or, The Siege Of Granada - Book 1 - Chapter 4. The Father And Daughter

BOOK I CHAPTER IV. THE FATHER AND DAUGHTER

The chamber into which Leila retreated bore out the character she had given of the interior of her home. The fashion of its ornament and decoration was foreign to that adopted by the Moors of Granada. It had a more massive and, if we may use the term, Egyptian gorgeousness. The walls were covered with the stuffs of the East, stiff with gold, embroidered upon ground of the deepest purple; strange characters, apparently in some foreign tongue, were wrought in the tesselated cornices and on the heavy ceiling, which was supported by square pillars, round which were twisted serpents of gold and enamel, with eyes to which enormous emeralds gave a green and lifelike glare: various scrolls and musical instruments lay scattered upon marble tables: and a solitary lamp of burnished silver cast a dim and subdued light around the chamber. The effect of the whole, though splendid, was gloomy, strange, and oppressive, and rather suited to the thick and cave-like architecture which of old protected the inhabitants of Thebes and Memphis from the rays of the African sun, than to the transparent heaven and light pavilions of the graceful orientals of Granada.

Leila stood within this chamber, pale and breathless, with her lips apart, her hands clasped, her very soul in her ears; nor was it possible to conceive a more perfect ideal of some delicate and brilliant Peri, captured in the palace of a hostile and gloomy Genius. Her form was of the lightest shape consistent with the roundness of womanly beauty; and there was something in it of that elastic and fawnlike grace which a sculptor seeks to embody in his dreams of a being more aerial than those of earth. Her luxuriant hair was dark indeed, but a purple and glossy hue redeemed it from that heaviness of shade too common in the tresses of the Asiatics; and her complexion, naturally pale but clear and lustrous, would have been deemed fair even in the north. Her features, slightly aquiline, were formed in the rarest mould of symmetry, and her full rich lips disclosed teeth that might have shamed the pearl. But the chief charm of that exquisite countenance was in an expression of softness and purity, and intellectual sentiment, that seldom accompanies that cast of loveliness, and was wholly foreign to the voluptuous and dreamy languor of Moorish maidens; Leila had been educated, and the statue had received a soul.

After a few minutes of intense suspense, she again stole to the lattice, gently unclosed it, and looked forth. Far, through an opening amidst the trees, she descried for a single moment the erect and stately figure of her lover, darkening the moonshine on the sward, as now, quitting his fruitless search, he turned his lingering gaze towards the lattice of his beloved: the thick and interlacing foliage quickly hid him from her eyes; but Leila had seen enough--she turned within, and said, as grateful tears trickled clown her cheeks, and she sank on her knees upon the piled cushions of the chamber: "God of my fathers! I bless Thee--he is safe!"

"And yet (she added, as a painful thought crossed her), how may I pray for him? we kneel not to the same Divinity; and I have been taught to loathe and shudder at his creed! Alas! how will this end? Fatal was the hour when he first beheld me in yonder gardens; more fatal still the hour in which he crossed the barrier, and told Leila that she was beloved by the hero whose arm was the shelter, whose name is the blessing, of Granada. Ah, me! Ah, me!"

The young maiden covered her face with her hands, and sank into a passionate reverie, broken only by her sobs. Some time had passed in this undisturbed indulgence of her grief, when the arras was gently put aside, and a man, of remarkable garb and mien, advanced into the chamber, pausing as he beheld her dejected attitude, and gazing on her with a look on which pity and tenderness seemed to struggle against habitual severity and sternness.

"Leila!" said the intruder.

Leila started, and and a deep blush suffused her countenance; she dashed the tears from her eyes, and came forward with a vain attempt to smile.

"My father, welcome!"

The stranger seated himself on the cushions, and motioned Leila to his side.

"These tears are fresh upon thy cheek," said he, gravely; "they are the witness of thy race! our daughters are born to weep, and our sons to groan! ashes are on the head of the mighty, and the Fountains of the Beautiful run with gall! Oh that we could but struggle--that we could but dare--that we could raise up, our heads, and unite against the bondage of the evil doer! It may not be--but one man shall avenge a nation!"

The dark face of Leila's father, well fitted to express powerful emotion, became terrible in its wrath and passion; his brow and lip worked convulsively; but the paroxysm was brief; and scarce could she shudder at its intensity ere it had subsided into calm.

"Enough of these thoughts, which thou, a woman and a child, art not formed to witness. Leila, thou hast been nurtured with tenderness, and schooled with care. Harsh and unloving may I have seemed to thee, but I would have shed the best drops of my heart to have saved thy young years from a single pang. Nay, listen to me silently. That thou mightest one day be worthy of thy race, and that thine hours might not pass in indolent and weary lassitude, thou hast been taught lessons of a knowledge rarely to thy sex. Not thine the lascivious arts of the Moorish maidens; not thine their harlot songs, and their dances of lewd delight; thy delicate limbs were but taught the attitude that Nature dedicates to the worship of a God, and the music of thy voice was tuned to the songs of thy fallen country, sad with the memory of her wrongs, animated with the names of her heroes, with the solemnity of her prayers. These scrolls, and the lessons of our seers, have imparted to thee such of our science and our history as may fit thy mind to aspire, and thy heart to feel for a sacred cause. Thou listenest to me, Leila?"

Perplexed and wondering, for never before had her father addressed her in such a strain, the maiden answered with an earnestness of manner that seemed to content the questioner; and he resumed, with an altered, hollow, solemn voice:

"Then curse the persecutors. Daughter of the great Hebrew race, arise and curse the Moorish taskmaster and spoiler!"

As he spoke, the adjuror himself rose, lifting his right hand on high; while his left touched the shoulder of the maiden. But she, after gazing a moment in wild and terrified amazement upon his face, fell cowering at his knees; and, clasping them imploringly, exclaimed in scarce articulate murmurs:

"Oh, spare me! spare me!"

The Hebrew, for such he was, surveyed her, as she thus quailed at his feet, with a look of rage and scorn: his hand wandered to his poniard, he half unsheathed it, thrust it back with a muttered curse, and then, deliberately drawing it forth, cast it on the ground beside her.

"Degenerate girl!" he said, in accents that vainly struggled for calm, "if thou hast admitted to thy heart one unworthy thought towards a Moorish infidel, dig deep and root it out, even with the knife, and to the death--so wilt thou save this hand from that degrading task."

He drew himself hastily from her grasp, and left the unfortunate girl alone and senseless.

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