The Canterbury Pilgrims

  • THE CANTERBURY PILGRIMS

  • Narrator

    The summer moon, which shines in so many a tale, was beaming over a broad extent of uneven country.

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  • Some of its brightest rays were flung into a spring of water, where no traveller, toiling, as the writer has, up the hilly road beside which it gushes, ever failed to quench his thirst.

  • The work of neat hands and considerate art was visible about this blessed fountain.

  • An open cistern, hewn and hollowed out of solid stone, was placed above the waters, which filled it to the brim, but by some invisible outlet were conveyed away without dripping down its sides.

  • Though the basin had not room for another drop, and the continual gush of water made a tremor on the surface, there was a secret charm that forbade it to overflow.

  • I remember, that when I had slaked my summer thirst, and sat panting by the cistern, it was my fanciful theory that Nature could not afford to lavish so pure a liquid, as she does the waters of all meaner fountains.

  • Narrator

    While the moon was hanging almost perpendicularly over this spot, two figures appeared on the summit of the hill, and came with noiseless footsteps down towards the spring.

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  • They were then in the first freshness of youth;

  • nor is there a wrinkle now on either of their brows, and yet they wore a strange, old-fashioned garb.

  • One, a young man with ruddy cheeks, walked beneath the canopy of a broad-brimmed gray hat;

  • he seemed to have inherited his great-grandsire's square-skirted coat, and a waistcoat that extended its immense flaps to his knees;

  • his brown locks, also, hung down behind, in a mode unknown to our times.

  • Narrator

    By his side was a sweet young damsel, her fair features sheltered by a prim little bonnet, within which appeared the vestal muslin of a cap;

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  • her close, long-waisted gown, and indeed her whole attire, might have been worn by some rustic beauty who had faded half a century before.

  • But that there was something too warm and life-like in them, I would here have compared this couple to the ghosts of two young lovers who had died long since in the glow of passion, and now were straying out of their graves, to renew the old vows, and shadow forth the unforgotten kiss of their earthly lips, beside the moonlit spring.

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    Josiah

    β€œThee and I will rest here a moment, Miriam,”

  • Narrator

    said the young man, as they drew near the stone cistern,

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    Josiah

    β€œfor there is no fear that the elders know what we have done;

  • and this may be the last time we shall ever taste this water.”