Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: In Both Worlds
Author: Holcombe, William Henry
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In Both Worlds" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                            IN BOTH WORLDS.

                                   BY
                         WM. H. HOLCOMBE, M. D.,
             AUTHOR OF “OUR CHILDREN IN HEAVEN;” “THE SEXES:
                     HERE AND HEREAFTER,” ETC., ETC.


PHILADELPHIA
_J. B. LIPPINCOTT & CO_
1870.



       Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1869, by
                         J. B. LIPPINCOTT & CO.,
In the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the United States, for the
                                 Eastern
                        District of Pennsylvania.


LIPPINCOTT’S PRESS,
PHILADELPHIA.



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                CONTENTS.


                                 PAGE
I.
CAST OUT                           17
II.
CLOUDS GATHERING                   29
III.
NIGHT BY THE DEAD SEA              39
IV.
IN THE WILDERNESS                  50
V.
THE BANQUET                        60
VI.
THE CHAMBER OF MAGIC               75
VII.
SAVED                              93
VIII.
BREAD ON THE WATERS               105
IX.
SACRIFICE                         119
X.
AT ATHENS                         132
XI.
HELENA                            141
XII.
THE HALL OF APOLLO                149
XIII.
MY FIRST DEATH                    159
XIV.
MY SPIRITUAL BODY                 171
XV.
THE WORLD OF SPIRITS              184
XVI.
THE CHRIST ABOVE NATURE           193
XVII.
JUDGMENT OF THE JEWS              203
XVIII.
IMAGINARY HEAVENS                 214
XIX.
THE MAGICIANS IN HELL             225
XX.
FRIENDS IN HEAVEN                 236
XXI.
THE SPIRITUALLY DEAD              250
XXII.
BACK TO EARTH                     261
XXIII.
IMPRISONED                        271
XXIV.
BURIED ALIVE                      280
XXV.
WHAT HAD HAPPENED                 292
XXVI.
THE CITY OF COLONNADES            305
XXVII.
HELENA AGAIN                      320
XXVIII.
TO THE LION                       334
XXIX.
CHRISTIAN CANDLES                 344
XXX.
THE GREAT COMBAT                  355
XXXI.
FREE                              367
XXXII.
WHAT REMAINS?                     378

                         [Illustration: Ornament]



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                           A STRANGE DISCOVERY
                               IN LIEU OF
                                A PREFACE.


                         [Illustration: Initial]

Many years ago I was enjoying in the harbor of New York the charming
hospitalities of the officers belonging to one of the finest vessels in
the British Navy. The company was gay, cultivated and brilliant. Student
and recluse as I then was, I was perhaps more delighted than any one
present with the conversation of those practical and polished men of the
world.

After supper I was attracted to a small group of earnest talkers, of whom
the surgeon of the ship seemed to be the centre and oracle. He was
speaking of exhumations a long time after death, of mummies and
petrifactions and other curious transformations of the human body. He
stated that he had examined some of the skeletons which had been dug out
of the ruins of Herculaneum. The bones were almost perfect after the lapse
of eighteen hundred years. The complete exclusion of air and water seemed
to be the only thing necessary to an indefinite preservation.

The chaplain of the vessel endeavored to give the conversation an æsthetic
and semi-religious turn by analyzing the feelings of mingled awe,
melancholy and curiosity with which most men survey the remains of a human
form—feelings always heightened by the antiquity of the relic, and by the
dignity of the person who lived and loved and labored in it.

“The fundamental idea,” said he, “is a profound respect for the human body
itself as the casket which has contained the spiritual jewel, the soul.”

“Yes,” remarked the surgeon; “nothing but the lapse of a people into
cannibalism can obliterate that sentiment. When the Egyptian embalmers
were ready for their work, a certain person came forward and made the
necessary incisions for taking out the entrails. He immediately fled away,
pursued by volleys of stones and curses from all the others. Hence also
the dissections of the dead by medical students are conducted with the
utmost secrecy and caution.”

“Schiller,” said I, “makes one of his heroes remark that the first time he
plunged his sword into a living man, he felt a shudder creep over him as
if he had desecrated the temple of God.”

“Besides the feeling of reverence,” continued the clergyman, “we have the
awe which death naturally inspires, the melancholy excited by the vain and
transitory nature of earthly things; and lastly, a tender and curious
interest for the brother-soul which has tasted the sweetness of life and
the bitterness of death, and passed onward to those hidden but grander
experiences which await us all.”

“Those shocking Egyptian mummies,” said one of the officers, “are so
disgusting that a strange horror is mingled with the gentler emotions you
describe.”

“I experienced that feeling,” said another, “on reading an account of the
exhumation of the remains, or rather the opening of the coffin, of King
Charles I., two hundred years after he had been beheaded. It was
increased, doubtless, by the idea of the separated head and body, and the
strange and lifelike stare of the king’s eyes, which collapsed like
soap-bubbles when they were exposed to the air.”

“There was something of the picturesque in that finding of a dead body by
some little children who were playing in a grotto in France. It was seated
on a stone bench and perfectly petrified, retaining, however, a sweet and
placid expression of countenance. The man was an old hermit, who
frequently retired into the deepest chamber of the grotto for religious
contemplation.”

“Imagine yourself,” said I, “in the silence and shadows of Westminster
Abbey, peering through some crevice in an old vault and getting a sight of
the shrunken dust of Shakespeare.”

“Passing from imagination to fact,” said solemnly the old surgeon, “I have
seen the body of a man lying upon the ground where it had lain undisturbed
for eighteen hundred years.”

“Eighteen hundred years!” exclaimed several voices at once.

“Yes, eighteen hundred years; and I was the first person who set eyes upon
him from the day of his death until I got into the cavern where he
perished.”

“A romance! a romance!” cried the minister. “Come, doctor, be
communicative and tell us all about it.”

“It is not a romance,” said the doctor, “but the facts were certainly very
curious.

“When I was a young assistant surgeon, attached to the sloop-of-war
Agamemnon, we were skirting leisurely the eastern shores of the
Mediterranean, and anchored one morning in sight of the ruins of the
ancient city of Sidon and opposite the westernmost spurs of Lebanon, the
Mont Blanc of Palestine.

“There is only one picture grander than a view of Mount Lebanon from the
sea, and that is a view of the sea from Mount Lebanon. I enjoyed the
former so keenly that I determined to obtain the latter also. We got up a
party of genial and stout fellows to ascend one of the highest peaks,
armed with pick-axes, to obtain geological specimens on our way.

“We had advanced but a short distance up one of the cliffs, when we
started from the scanty undergrowth some little animal—a wolf or jackal or
wild dog, all of which abound on Mount Lebanon. We all joined noisily in
the chase, and soon ran the frightened creature into one of the deep
crevices or fissures made in the earth by the tempestuous rains of that
region. Our picks were immediately brought into play, and in a short time,
to our very great astonishment, instead of digging the fugitive out of a
little hole in the ground, we opened our way into what was evidently the
rear or back part of a cave of considerable dimensions.

“Our party crawled in one after another, myself leading the way. The
contents of the place arrested our attention so strongly that we forgot
the object of our chase, which had buried itself in some holes or burrows
at the side of the cavern. The floor was of a yellowish-white limestone,
and all eyes were immediately directed, in the rather dim light, to the
figure of a man outstretched upon it.

“Yes, it was a man whose entire body, clothing and all, had dissolved into
one blended mass, and so long ago that it looked rather like a great
bas-relief of the human form projecting from the lighter-colored floor.

“The shape of the head and of the long hair and beard was complete. One
outstretched arm lay along the floor, and the fingers could be traced by
little ridges separate from each other. The protuberances of all the bony
parts showed that the skeleton still resisted the disintegrating process
of decay.

“What an awful death he must have experienced! For there was not a single
other object in the small space which remained of the cavern; not a stone
which might have served for a seat or a table; not an earthen vessel which
might have contained a draught of water.

“The fate of this unhappy being was evident. Whether he had lived in the
cavern or whether he had taken refuge in it from some great storm, he had
clearly rushed to the back part of it to escape some enormous landslide
and caving in at the front, which had opened toward the sea. He had been
buried alive! Having exhausted the little air that remained to him,
stricken down by terror, despair and suffocation, he had rendered up his
soul to the great Giver in silence, darkness and solitude.

“These facts were so obvious that we all lifted our hats before speaking a
word; thus paying the tribute of human sympathy to a fellow-creature
eighteen hundred years after he had ceased to need it.”

“How did you fix upon the date of his death?” asked the chaplain.

“You will see. A large cylindrical case of bronze was lying upon the
breast of the dead man. He must have valued it highly, for he had clasped
it to his bosom in the agonies of death. It was hermetically sealed with
such ingenuity that we found considerable difficulty in breaking it open.
It contained a parchment of great length, and rolled tightly around a
little brass rod. The parchment was closely written in beautiful Greek
characters. It was perfectly preserved. Two small gold coins fell out of
the white dry sand with which the case had been filled. One of them bore
the inscription of Tiberius Cæsar, and the other was stamped in the ninth
year of the reign of the emperor Nero. Thus in the accidental grave of its
author had his book been safely preserved amid all the mutations of the
world.”

The old doctor stroked his gray beard in silence, and I exclaimed:

“Who do you suppose this unfortunate man to have been?”

“That was revealed in the manuscript, but unfortunately not one of our
party could read Greek. I sent the case with its contents to an old uncle
of my mother, who had a little curacy near Binghamton. He was a great
Greek scholar, and devoted to his classical studies the little time he
could spare from the game of whist. I had a good deal of curiosity on the
subject, and wrote several times to my uncle from different parts of the
world before he condescended to reply. His answer was in substance this:
that the manuscript purported to be the autobiography of Eleazor or
Lazarus, whom Christ raised from the dead; that it was probably the work
of some heretic monk or crazy philosopher of the second or third century;
that, interwoven with romantic incidents in this world and the other, it
gave expression to many absurd and false doctrines; in fine, that it was
not worth my reading, and that I had better devote myself dutifully to
killing his Majesty’s enemies on the high seas, than to searching old
caverns for apocryphal documents which impugned the sacred verities of the
Apostolic Church.

“And so,” concluded the old surgeon, “I have never thought any more about
it.”

“Your uncle was no doubt right in his conjectures and wise in his advice,”
said the young chaplain. “The number and extent of the apocryphal
impositions upon the early Christian Church are almost incredible.”

“Were you satisfied,” said I, “with your good uncle’s opinion?”

“I have always believed,” replied the doctor, evasively and with a roguish
twinkle of his eye, “that if the manuscript had contained the Thirty-nine
Articles by anticipation, my uncle would have pronounced it divinely
inspired.”

“What became of it?” I inquired.

“Oh, it was sealed up again and sent to the nursery as a plaything for the
children. It is probably still in the possession of one of my cousins.”

The strange story of the old surgeon made a profound impression upon me;
for in spite of the incredulity of all the other listeners, I believed
from the first that the dust of that cavern was the dust of Lazarus, the
brother of Martha and Mary, and that the manuscript contained something of
genuine value to the Church and the world.

The opinion of the old curate and the echo of the young chaplain did not
weigh a feather in my estimation. Young as I was, I had acquired that rare
faculty of thinking for myself. Besides, I had had learned enough of human
nature to know that legal reforms are rarely suggested by lawyers; that
doctors always make war on a system of medicine better than their own; and
that priests instinctively repudiate anything which demands a
re-examination of the fundamental doctrines of their theological systems.

I had an inextinguishable desire to possess that manuscript, and set
myself earnestly about it. I cultivated the acquaintance of the genial old
surgeon, and contrived to render myself useful to him on more than one
occasion. When he sailed for England I extorted from him a promise that he
would send me the manuscript of Lazarus which his orthodox uncle has so
flippantly condemned.

A good many years passed away, and I heard nothing from him. At length
came a package, and a letter from England couched in very handsome terms,
a part of which ran thus:

“My beloved father on his deathbed made up the parcel which I now send
you, and requested me to transmit it to you with the following message,
which he made me write down as the words fell from his lips:

“‘Forgive your old acquaintance for neglecting until death the matters of
the dead. Read what Lazarus says, while I go in person to verify or
invalidate his story. I have lived passably well, and I die comparatively
happy. Good-bye!’”

I drew a deep sigh to the memory of the old surgeon, and set immediately
to work studying and translating the manuscript. I found that a difficult
task. It was not written in very classical Greek, and besides, was full of
Hebraisms, which sometimes obscured the sense. There were not only many
obscure things, but many things irrelevant, and many which would be
regarded as absurd and even childish in the present age.

It soon became clear that a literal translation of the manuscript would
not be of any great interest to the general reader. I determined to take
the astounding facts narrated, as a skeleton or framework around which to
build up a story of my own. This book is therefore a modern romance
founded upon ancient facts. The original might be called a prose poem.
Indeed, much of it is in the poetical form; the description of Helena, for
instance, in the eleventh chapter.

The key to the whole book is, that here are the views and experiences of a
man who, by what we may call a supernatural accident, was led into states
of thought two thousand years in advance of his contemporaries.

I present it to the public in a dress of the nineteenth century, hoping it
will reverse the decision of the old curate, who understood Greek and
whist better than he did the inappeasable hunger of the soul after the
unknown, and perhaps, alas! the unknowable.



                         [Illustration: Ornament]

                             In Both Worlds.



                                    I.


                               _CAST OUT._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

A serene and happy old age may delight in recalling the glory and the
dream of youth, of which it is the crown and the fulfillment; but the
wretched and desolate, nearing the grave, revert seldom to the past things
of a life they are eager to exchange for a better.

A solemn sense of duty to mankind impels me to be my own biographer.

My story is the most wonderful in the world: so wonderful that the men of
the present age cannot comprehend or believe me. I am spiritually alone.

None before me have penetrated consciously into the invisible world:
examined its structure and its people: and returned to his fellow-men,
enriched and burdened with its awful secrets.

This have I done.

I am Lazarus of Bethany, whom Christ raised from the dead.

I have lived and died, and live again; and I await a second time the
bitterness of death.

“Lazarus,” said they, “is asleep or dead. That is all.”

Ah! how little did they know!

When I returned from the spiritual world, I had more wisdom than all the
ancients, than all the magi, than all the prophets. I could have enriched
the Church of God with spiritual treasures. I could have given light to
every mind and joy to every heart. I could have satisfied the hidden
hunger and thirst of the human soul. I was not permitted to do it. They
would have rejected my gold and my frankincense and my myrrh. They would
have turned from my offerings of spiritual truth as a wild beast turns
from a man when he offers it bread.

I have lived many ages too soon. I will write what I have seen and heard.
The world of mind will grow with the coming centuries into the capacity of
comprehending what I alone now comprehend. These premature utterances will
then be understood.



I was born in the little village of Bethany, which sits upon the eastern
slope of Mount Olivet, embowered all summer in leaves and fruit. There
were four children in the family; and our mother died in giving birth to
Mary, the youngest and most beautiful. Our father was a man of great
wealth and high social position, and we were reared in the lap of luxury.

My earliest recollection is that of playing in a large, terraced garden
with my brother and two little sisters. The garden was full of olive,
pomegranate, orange and date trees, and adorned with a great many shrubs
and flowers. It was cool, fragrant and shady, and we sported about the
tomb of our mother, which was cut in the solid rock, as merry and innocent
as the birds and butterflies which shared with us the peace and beauty of
the summer day.

I was ten years of age when Samuel, my younger brother, was taken from us.
It was the first real grief of my life. Although five years old when my
mother died, I was too young to remember the incidents. The angels are so
near us in our infancy, that the troubles of the world, which are
afterward engraved in marble, are then only written in water.

Little Samuel died calling my name. Oh that I could have obeyed his call,
and followed him into that bright and peaceful sphere in which I saw him
long afterward, and in which I shall soon see him again!

Early on the day of his burial our father went into the chamber where lay
his little white body covered all over with whiter flowers. He knelt
beside it and wept bitterly. He seemed unconscious that his three little
ones had followed him, and stood pale and trembling at the door. When we
heard the voice of his weeping we crept forward to the feet of our little
brother and wept also. Our father kissed us all tenderly, and controlling
his emotions and steadying his voice, he repeated from memory the
beautiful verses of Scripture which describe the grief and resignation of
King David at the loss of his child.

The body of our little brother was deposited in a niche in the rock close
to the dust of his mother. The garden was avoided as a playground for a
long while. I was busy with my books, Martha with her dolls—both rendered
thoughtful beyond our years. One day little Mary ventured into the garden
alone, but presently came running back and buried her golden head in her
sister’s lap in a shower of tears which needed no explanation. Who can
read the little child’s heart? Perhaps some playmate bird had called to
her: “Rosebud! rosebud! where is your brother?”

Then came the years of school and opening thought and expanding faculties,
and the first appearance of affections and passions, no longer the
dewdrops of the spring morning, but the beginnings of deep and swift
currents in the course of life.

My sisters were remarkable women, differing in style and character; yet
each a perfect picture of female loveliness!

Martha grew tall and firm and straight, with long black hair and black
eyes, a brunette complexion and a finely-cut oval face. She was the
impersonation of a pure and intelligent womanhood. She was active,
observant and critical. She regulated her life by lofty principle as well
as by noble impulse, and there was something about her that always
impressed you with the idea that she was brave and strong as well as
gentle and pure.

Mary was fragile in form, willowy and graceful in motion, soft and winning
in manners. Her eyes were blue and sparkling with the tender dew of
sentiment. The lily and the rose contended for supremacy on her face, and
sunbeams nestled always in her hair. She was the impersonation of a loving
and love-awakening womanhood. Her voice, her smile, her tear, expressed in
the most extraordinary manner the sensitive emotions of her soul.

Mary was my lily; Martha my rose. Martha was my ruby; Mary my pearl.
Martha was reason; Mary was sentiment. Martha was wisdom; Mary was love.
Martha was faith looking fixedly at the stars; Mary was charity looking
trustfully beyond them to God.

My father took a deep interest in the education and general training of
his children. He provided us with the best teachers in every branch, but
let nothing escape his own watchful supervision. It was greatly due to his
intelligent care and the inspiring stimulus of his affection, that we
attained a degree of mental and social development rarely witnessed in
children of our age.

A dark cloud hung over this good and wise father and his happy little
household.

His health had been gradually failing for a long time. He grew languid,
lost appetite, and became slow in his gait and stiff in his motions. He
abandoned his business in the city, and rarely went out of the house. He
declined receiving visitors, until our home, which had been so gay and
brilliant, became quite deserted and lonely. But his mental condition
underwent a change altogether incommensurate with his physical symptoms.
He became silent and melancholy, and so unlike his former patient and
sweet self! He repulsed every attempt on our part to inquire into the
nature or cause of his troubles. His mental faculties were also greatly
weakened.

We could not comprehend the meaning of all this. We became very unhappy.
We knew he was wealthy, honored and beloved—in possession of all that men
covet for good or evil ends. The country was in a state of profound
repose. It was incredible that the mere approach of sickness and death,
could so change the character of a good and brave man.

My father was now frequently closeted with Caiaphas, a young priest of
stately appearance and ingratiating manners. I became very anxious to
learn the subject of these prolonged interviews. I once questioned
Caiaphas at the gate about my father’s condition; but he evaded me
adroitly. At last my curiosity, prompted by filial love, triumphed over my
sense of propriety, and I crept to my father’s door one night, when he and
Caiaphas were together, and applied my ear to the keyhole. For a long time
the tones were too low for me to catch any meaning; but my father suddenly
raised his voice in an excited manner—

“I assure you he is a thief and a robber, and addicted to magic. O
Caiaphas! save my children and their property from this monster!”

I was terrified at these words, and slipped away in the darkness. There
was the secret of my father’s grief. He expected to die very soon, and was
anxious for the fate of his children when he was taken from them. I wept
on my bed nearly all night at the idea of losing my good parent. But who
was this monster he so much dreaded? That set me to thinking.

When a man died, his minor children and property passed under the
guardianship of his next of kin. My father had no brothers in Judea, for
his only brother had wandered off more than thirty years before. He was an
eccentric character who forsook his religion and changed his name. Beyond
that we knew nothing of him. Nor did my father even know where to find
him.

His only sister was married to Magistus, a citizen of Bethany. She was a
confirmed invalid and never seen. In the event of my father’s death we
would fall to their care. Magistus then was this terrible monster, a thief
and a magician. I was confirmed in this conclusion by the fact, that my
father and Magistus had long been on bad terms; and my father was not the
man to withdraw his friendship from a worthy person.

Magistus was a thin, sallow, ugly old man, with an immense hooked nose
like the beak of a bird of prey. His black eyes were small, fierce and
sly. He had a long dingy beard which he had twisted like a screw.
Notwithstanding this sinister appearance, he had the reputation of being a
good and wise man. People speak well of a rich man who seems always to
retire modestly from the public eye. Magistus moreover was a great friend
of the priesthood and a favorite with the priests.

I could not reveal to my sisters the approaching death of our father and
the fears he had expressed about our legal guardian. I was astonished and
somewhat relieved when he passed the warmest eulogy upon Caiaphas the next
morning, and told us to look to him for comfort and to rely on him for
help in the greatest emergencies. What astonished me still more was, that
this reliable friend never visited my father again.

We were greatly distressed that no medical aid was called in. The
suggestion was always repudiated with a strange earnestness. Whatever the
disease was with which our father was afflicted, he was plainly growing
worse and worse. At last he refused to quit his chamber, or to admit any
one into it. He commanded a little food and water to be placed upon a
table on the gallery underneath his window; and what was singular, he only
took it in during the night when no one saw him. These things threw us
into the saddest consternation. We began to fear that he was losing his
reason. We were frantic with excitement. We determined to see him and
nurse him. We knocked at his door and window and entreated him to show
himself to his children.

At last he called out in a voice which showed he had been weeping:

“Calm yourselves, my children! and pray to God. A great evil has come upon
us, which can be concealed but a little longer. My soul is overwhelmed
with misery, but my heart beats for my children with the tenderest love.
Ask me nothing at present; it is more than I can bear. If you love me and
would obey me, keep away entirely from my chamber. Let no one come into
the house—and least of all, your uncle Magistus.”

We were reassured of his love and his rationality by these words; but they
filled us with a vague terror and overwhelmed us with sorrow. We had no
one to appeal to, no one to consult. We were commanded to keep everybody
away. Thus several weeks of fearful suspense rolled by. The neighbors
began to inquire about my father. His seclusion became the wonder and talk
of the village. The interrogations, always disagreeable, became absolutely
impertinent. The mystery had excited suspicion.

Worse than all, Magistus became a regular visitor to the gate. He
questioned the porter in the subtlest manner. He obtained from him the
facts that my father had never received any medical attention, that he had
concealed himself in his chamber, and had not been seen for weeks, even by
his children. He evinced the liveliest satisfaction. “The apple will soon
drop,” said he aloud to himself. All this was faithfully reported to us.
Three little sparrows in a nest among the green leaves, could not have
been in greater trepidation with an ugly bird of prey gazing at them from
a neighboring branch.

The dénouement approached. We were whispering our sorrows together one
day, seated by the little fountain in the inner courtyard of the house,
upon which the door of our father’s chamber opened. Suddenly voices and
footsteps were heard approaching. A moment after Magistus appeared,
followed by a venerable-looking old priest and stately Roman centurion. My
sisters clung to me in terror.

Without noticing us, the party rapped loudly on my father’s door, and
commanded him to come forth. “In the name of the Mosaic law,” said the
priest; “and by order of the Roman governor,” added the centurion. The
words were repeated in a louder voice: the door slowly opened and my
father stepped out, exclaiming, “Unclean! unclean!”

All fell back several paces.

“The scourge of God!” said the priest with deep solemnity.

“Damnable Eastern plague!” muttered the Roman soldier.

“Incurable! incurable!” exclaimed Magistus.

It was the leprosy!

That ghoul of diseases, which slowly devours a living victim, had made
fearful ravages upon my poor father’s frame. His eyebrows and eyelashes
were gone; his chin and ears were much swollen, and a pearl-white scaly
ulcer deformed his forehead; his hands had a sickly and withered
appearance.

We now understood the meaning of his strange conduct. The disease began
first about the joints and the covered parts of his body. As soon as it
broke out on the skin, the poor man had shut himself up to conceal his
affliction and to avoid contaminating his family. Knowing himself stricken
with a disgusting and incurable malady, which would exclude him from
society and drive him away from his children, he bore the burden of his
awful secret alone. Magistus had discovered his condition, and anxious to
revenge himself upon virtues he could not imitate, and to get possession
of the property, he laid the case before the authorities, and insisted
that the law of separation should be executed upon his brother-in-law.

As the unhappy man stood in the doorway, he turned his eyes upon the pale
faces of his terrified children, and, silently wringing his hands, looked
upward to heaven. He was turning away, when all three of us sprang forward
at once, and with cries which would have moved the coldest heart, fell at
his feet and clung about his knees.

“Touch me not! my sweet children!” he exclaimed, in a hoarse and feeble
voice. “Touch me not. It is all over! Caiaphas will befriend my orphans.”

He had not finished the words before several strange domestics, who had
rushed in at a signal from Magistus, proceeded to drag us from the spot.

“Away with them!” said the hideous old man, fiercely. “Confine them in the
farthest room. We want no young lepers—no more scourges of God.”

“If it were a scourge of God,” cried I, struggling to escape, “it would
have been sent upon you and not upon my noble father.”

We were carried weeping out of the courtyard. Looking back to the door, we
saw the unhappy man waving his last adieu to us with his poor, sickly,
withered hands.

The Mosaic law against the unfortunate leper was cruelly severe; but the
Roman power which occupied the country and feared the ravages of leprosy
among the soldiery, added greatly to its force and to the stringency of
its execution.

The leper was sentenced to a social and civil death far more terrible to a
man of sensibility than the mere separation of soul and body. He was
driven from the face of his fellow-men, and dwelt in caves and hollow
trees and deserted ruins. No one was permitted to touch him, to approach
him, or even to speak to him. He was compelled to cry out, Unclean!
unclean! so as to warn every one of his dangerous proximity. He became
literally the wild man of the woods and the mountains and the desert—the
companion and sometimes the prey of wild beasts.

Those who had friends and money had little huts erected for them in remote
but safe places, and were amply provided with food and even luxuries by
servants who deposited the articles upon the ground at a considerable
distance from their habitations.

Such was the fate of our good and generous father—the idol of our hearts
and the model of all social and heroic virtues.

We spent the night in tears, and the next day in an agony of grief. I do
not know who witnessed the dreadful ceremonies of the law. He was examined
by the proper inspectors, and pronounced unclean and incurable. He was led
into the great highway. The people stood afar off. The priest in a loud
voice pronounced the curse of God upon him—the service of the dead over
the living body. He cut him off from the congregation of Israel. The
guards then drove him before them into some uninhabited place, and he
disappeared from the sight of men.

He was always visible, however, to the hearts of his three little orphans.
We followed his steps with filial vigilance. We saw him toiling along in
the sand of the desert, and we shared his burden of heat and hunger and
thirst. We saw him seated under a palm tree, or in the shadow of some
great rock, and we felt the sorrows of his thoughts as if they were our
own. We saw him kneeling by the brook, and we mingled our prayers with
his. We saw him sleeping in his lonely hut, lighted only by the moon, and
we were comforted by his dream of angels and heaven.

                         [Illustration: Ornament]



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                   II.


                           _CLOUDS GATHERING._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

We were now orphans, and of that kind most to be pitied, who have fallen
into the hands of a cold and selfish step-uncle. He had a father’s power
over us, without a father’s affection to regulate and sanctify it. There
was no one to supervise his conduct toward us; no appeal from his baseness
or cruelty, unless his acts were so flagrant and unconcealed as to call
down the vengeance of the laws.

This uncle whom we so much dreaded and had so much reason to dread, wore
at first a smooth and pleasing mask. He came every day to see us, and
endeavored by as much civility and kindness as he could counterfeit, to
soften our feelings and satisfy us with our condition. He professed the
deepest sympathy for our poor father’s calamity. He regretted the severity
of the Jewish and Roman laws on the subject of leprosy, but excused them
as a necessary protection to society. He assured us that our father had a
comfortable lodge on the border of the wilderness, and that servants were
despatched every other day with fresh supplies of food and wine and water.
This assurance brought tears to our eyes and comfort to our hearts.

When the storm of our grief had abated a little, we requested to see our
aunt; for we yearned for the presence and sympathy of woman. Magistus
conducted us over to his residence which adjoined our own, but fronted
upon another street. A high brick wall separated his garden from ours. He
had a door cut in this wall so as to facilitate the passage from one house
to another. His mansion was completely concealed from the public eye by a
thick grove of trees which surrounded it. In the most retired chamber of
this quiet and really beautiful place, we found Ulema, my father’s invalid
sister.

She was a middle-aged woman of extreme thinness and pallor. Her face was
waxen-colored and ghastly. There was a wild terrified expression about her
black eyes, which was absolutely painful. She had evidently been a great
sufferer in mind and body. She received us with a faint, sickly smile, and
then her features assumed an expression of profound pity. We supposed this
was on account of the loss of our father. We did not know the reasons
which the poor woman had for pitying any one who came within the shadow of
Magistus.

After the interchange of a few commonplaces, our uncle cut short the visit
on the plea of Ulema’s feeble and nervous condition. This visit was
repeated every Sabbath after the morning sacrifice. Magistus always
accompanied us, and drew us away as quickly as possible. My aunt had
always the same expressions of terror and pity. Thus our repeated
interviews added nothing to our knowledge of her character. In vain we
petitioned Magistus to let us live with our aunt, or to let us visit her
oftener, or to let us stay longer.

Our own home was sadly changed. The furniture, the pictures, the statues,
the fountain, the flowers, were all the same, but there was an air of
silence and melancholy about the whole place, as if the inanimate objects
had felt and shared the misfortunes of the orphan children. There was a
different sphere around us, a different light upon us. The organizing and
unitizing spirit was gone;—the good and wise father, who made all happy
and cheerful about him, and held his little household together in the
sweet bonds of perfect order and peace.

It was a cruel act of Magistus to substitute servants and creatures of his
own for those who had been with us from our infancy. We were soon
surrounded by strange faces, so that our father’s house began to appear to
us, what it really was, a prison. The domestics of an establishment
acquire in time a coloring from the kind of life within it, as insects are
colored by the leaves and bark of the trees they inhabit. Ours were
respectful, obedient and cheerful; these were cunning, insolent and
dishonest.

The chief butler or head servant was, however, a good character, who plays
a remarkable part in my story. He was an African about thirty years of
age, very black and homely. He was a eunuch, and dumb. These
disadvantages, which at first excited a feeling of repulsion, were atoned
for by a singular kindness, deference and sympathy, which were displayed
in his features and manners. The other servants held him in great awe; for
he had been brought from Egypt about three years before by a magician, and
was supposed to be gifted with supernatural power.

It was this advantage in command, as well as a certain kind of talent,
industry and reliability, which induced Magistus to give him the supreme
charge of both households. He had been with us but a few days, before he
had quite won our hearts by his friendly attentions and evident sympathy
for our distress. I, who had been made suspicious by my father’s opinion
of our guardian, detected in the face of Ethopus (for that was his name)
the same expression of pity which shone in the features of our sick aunt.

All this, however, he concealed from Magistus with the greatest care; for
he was always cold and impassive toward us in the presence of his master.
Unfortunately Ethopus was dumb. His communications at this time might have
been of incalculable service to us. I endeavored to learn something of the
habits and character of my uncle from the other servants, but on that
subject they were as dumb as Ethopus; for whenever I approached it, they
manifested signs of fear, and invariably put the finger on the lip.

I became dissatisfied with this secresy. I resolved to teach Ethopus to
read and write, so that he might tell me his own story, and initiate me
into the mysteries and dangers of my position. He comprehended my idea at
once, and came to me secretly at hours when he knew Magistus was absent.
He had made some little progress,—though the difficulties of the first
steps were very great,—when one evening Magistus walked slyly in and
surprised us at our studies. We had been betrayed by one of the servants,
who all acted as spies on each other.

Magistus was in a towering passion. He beat Ethopus severely,
notwithstanding my protestations that I alone was to blame—and drove him
from the room.

Turning fiercely upon me, he exclaimed:

“Do you not know the crime, the danger of teaching that man to write?”

“Oh, uncle!” said I, “what harm is there in bestowing the light of
knowledge upon a poor dumb slave?”

“He was made dumb to keep him from betraying secrets.”

“Horrible!” said I.

“Not my secrets,” he added, cautiously, “but his former master’s. If Simon
Magus thought he could write, he would come all the way from Egypt to cut
his heart out of his body.”

After that event, the sphere of Ethopus’ duty was changed, so that we
rarely saw him.

Several weeks passed away, and we wondered why Caiaphas, from whom our
father expected so much, did not come to see us. He was to aid and
befriend us, and, as I hoped, to deliver us from the control of Magistus.
He had evidently promised all that to our dear father. The priestly
authorities, if properly applied to, surely would not permit the children
of a good and devout man to continue under the influence of a thief and
magician.

Caiaphas at last came. His visit was short: his manner constrained but
polite. He sympathized briefly with our affliction; explained and defended
the Mosaic laws against leprosy; eulogized our father in eloquent terms;
and congratulated us on having such a worthy uncle, who would train us so
carefully in the faith, and who would make our home so happy.

And this was the result of the secret interviews with my father, and of
his solemn warnings against Magistus as a thief and a magician! I was
puzzled and disappointed. I could not help saying:

“Did you know, O Caiaphas! that my father entertained a very different
opinion of this good uncle?”

“Remember, my son,” said he, somewhat abashed, “that your father was very
sick, and his mind greatly impaired. There was no foundation whatever for
his unhappy suspicions. Obey your uncle like good children, and you will
find him all I have represented him to be.” He then retired.

I was too young and ignorant of the ways and wiles of the world, to
suspect that this priest had been all along in collusion with Magistus,
and was to share with him in the plunder of the orphans of his friend.

The words of my father rang in my ear and continually haunted my mind: “He
is a thief and robber, and addicted to magic.”

I asked my uncle one day, in a very quiet manner, his opinion of magic.

He looked at me severely and answered:

“What are the words of Moses on the subject? Listen: ‘A man or a woman
that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to
death. They shall stone them with stones.’”

This did not convince me that my father was in error.

Months passed; and a gradual and saddening change was creeping over our
life and its surroundings. I had detected no robbery, no magical
practices; but I had no faith in my uncle. Cautious and reticent as he
was, he could not conceal some of the ugly points of his character. He was
violent and cruel in his dealings with his slaves. He was addicted to
falsehood, and in both opinion and practice was destitute of charity. His
strict observance of the ceremonial law and his intense ritualism, could
not conceal from me the fact that his heart was wholly untouched by the
spiritualizing influences of true religion.

He ceased after a while to take us to see our aunt. Our teachers in
various branches were not re-engaged, or were dismissed. Education came to
a stand-still. Company was excluded from our house. His own was opened at
night to suspicious characters. By bribing one of his servants one dark
night, I obtained admission to his courtyard, and discovered, by muffled
sounds of music and dancing, that a bacchanalian revelry was going on
underground. He sometimes betrayed the next day, in his face and manner,
the effect of these midnight orgies.

In the mean time my beautiful sisters pined, neglected and sorrowful.
Magistus rarely visited them; and when he did, he was guilty of coarse
familiarities which shocked and repelled them. I summoned courage, boy as
I was, on one of these occasions to reproach him bitterly for these
things; for neglecting our education, our dress, our manners, our
comforts; and for falling himself into habits which would certainly lead
to the ruin of us all. He stared at me insolently, and said that I had
better get my father’s friend Caiaphas to revise his guardianship.

Like a man who sits helpless in a boat without oars, gliding down a swift
current, and hears the far-off but inevitable cataract, I contemplated the
dark future that awaited us. I grieved for my sisters more than for
myself. We had just been mourning together one day over our sad fate, when
Magistus came into the room. He had held a long private interview that
morning with a strange man of gigantic size and very coarse manners, whose
appearance, as he entered the guest-chamber, excited my gravest
suspicions.

“You complain so bitterly,” said he, looking reproachfully at me, “of the
general decay and ruin into which everything about here, animate and
inanimate, is falling, that it is surprising you have not yet intimated
your doubts about your father getting his proper supply of provisions.”

“Oh no, uncle!” said Mary, tenderly, “you could not forget so sacred a
duty as that. Surely no one ever hinted such a thing. The thought of it
would drive me mad.”

“I wish you to satisfy yourselves perfectly upon that point,” he
continued, in the tone of a man who thought himself aggrieved. “A trusty
servant is to convey to him a basket of things the day after to-morrow.
Let Lazarus accompany him. Let his daughters send some little presents.
His son can see him and even speak with him at a distance. He can see his
lodging and satisfy himself that he is comfortably situated.”

“Without confessing, uncle,” said I, “that this visit is necessary for my
faith in your attention to my father, I concede that it will give me very
great pleasure.”

“How long will he be gone?” said Martha.

“Is there no danger?” said Mary.

“He will run no risk and will return the same night,” said Magistus,
answering both questions in a breath.

This visit occupied our thoughts continually, and we delighted to imagine
what joy it would give our poor father. I was out of bed before daylight
that morning, impatient to start. I partook heartily of an extempore
breakfast which Ethopus provided me. That personage to my surprise seemed
sad and abstracted. I could say nothing to him, however, for Magistus was
present. I kissed my sisters good-bye at the door of their room, for they
too could not sleep for excitement. Magistus waved his adieu at the front
door. I walked through the courtyard with Ethopus, who carried a covered
basket on his arm.

We were near the gate, when Ethopus coming close to me slipped something
into my hand. It was a long, thin, bright dagger. I concealed it
immediately in my bosom.

“Ethopus thinks there will be danger,” said I, to myself.

I would perhaps have said something, but I observed the porter admitting a
person through the gate, whose entrance at that hour in the morning caused
me the greatest surprise.

It was a woman; and at the age of sixteen a woman occupies a great deal of
the field of vision before the masculine eye. This woman was very
young—not more than fifteen, although perfectly mature. She was very
beautiful—so beautiful that everybody must have turned to look after her.
Her eyes were large, soft and hazel; her hair brown and wavy; her cheeks
blended roses and pearls: her mouth small and curved like a bow; her voice
and smile perfectly bewitching—all that I took in at a glance: nor did it
need the splendid ear-rings and brilliant necklace and scarlet robe she
wore, to impress it very deeply on my mind.

She bade me good-morning with the sweetest smile imaginable, and with the
affable, self-possessed manner of a woman much older than herself.
Startled and abashed, I could do nothing but bow profoundly and hurry into
the street where Ethopus had given the basket to the person who was to be
my guide.

I made signs to Ethopus, by a kind of pantomime we had acquired, to keep a
watchful eye on my sisters. He replied by an affirmative motion of the
head and a deep sigh, which was evidently on my own account.

This woman was destined, under the leadings of Providence, to make a
greater and more lasting impression on my soul than all others. And this
was our first meeting: I a bashful boy; she a strange woman, too gaudily
dressed, entering my father’s house at a strange hour. So two ships might
pass each other on the Great Sea, merely exchanging signals of
good-morning—ships destined long afterward to convoy each other beyond the
Pillar of Hercules into the infinite unknown!

This woman was Mary Magdalen.

                         [Illustration: Ornament]



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                   III.


                         _NIGHT BY THE DEAD SEA._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

With my thoughts fluctuating between the extreme beauty of Mary Magdalen
and the danger which Ethopus seemed to apprehend, I walked some distance
without regarding my new companion.

When I did so, I was surprised and puzzled at his appearance. He was a
young man of singularly handsome features, the only drawback being a nose
which was a little too aquiline. His black hair curled in short ringlets
close to his head, and his face was thoroughly bronzed by sun and tempest.
His dress was rather that of some foreigner attached to an Assyrian or
Egyptian caravan, than the coarse and simple clothing of a Hebrew servant.
And then there was something bold and free in his bearing, which precluded
the idea that he was a menial either in character or condition.

“Are you engaged in my uncle’s service?” said I.

He shifted the heavy basket from one arm to the other, and made no reply.

I repeated my question in a louder tone; but he did not seem to hear me,
looking straight ahead at the road before him.

“This handsome fellow is both deaf and dumb,” said I to myself. “My uncle
has a curious passion for silent people.”

Debarred the pleasure of conversation, I relapsed into reverie. I
determined to make a use of this visit which my uncle little anticipated.
I resolved to approach my father boldly, contagion or no contagion, and
have an interview with him. I wanted to tell him of the neglected and
unhappy condition of his children, of our increasing repugnance to
Magistus, and of the indifference or treachery of Caiaphas. I wanted his
advice. He could surely direct me to friends in the city, whose assistance
might arrest our impending ruin.

Made happier by that resolution, as if it had already accomplished
something, I let my mind revert back to the woman I saw at the gate, and a
new cause of uneasiness arose as I reflected upon that accidental meeting.
Boyish and inexperienced as I was, I discovered something in the dress and
manner of the early visitor, which whispered to me that she was not a
suitable companion for my sisters. She certainly was not a domestic. Who
could she be? What could she want at our house just after daybreak?
Perhaps she came to see Magistus on business. It was not the hour or the
place for that. Perhaps she was one of the midnight revelers whom I heard
singing and dancing in the basement story of my uncle’s secluded
residence. That idea startled me more than all. I determined to get back
home by rapid walking before nightfall, and explore this disquieting
mystery.

We had passed over hill and dale through a highly-cultivated country, full
of vineyards and gardens and orchards, full of sweet little villages and
beautiful rural villas. This did not last long, and we turned in a
south-easterly direction. The villages disappeared; the houses became more
sparse and humble; the trees became more stunted and bare; the rocks
larger and the road more difficult. At the point where the highway leads
down the steep hills toward Jericho and the plain of the Jordan, my guide
turned suddenly due south into a rough, barren and wild country, where
there was no road at all.

The sounds of life faded behind us. Vegetation almost wholly disappeared.
No animals were to be seen but a few goats far away browsing among the
rocks. The birds seemed to refuse to accompany us further. The silence of
the desert fell gradually upon us. This was the wilderness of Judea.

We were winding downward to the Salt Sea, that great watery waste, in
whose silent deeps Sodom and Gomorrah lie buried; on whose shores stand
bleak and desolate mountains full of sulphur springs; the gloom without
the glory of nature; the home of wild beasts and lepers and robbers and
demons; mountains fearful in their nakedness and solitude; evil genii
guarding in stern silence the eternal sleep of the lost cities of the
plain.

I grew uneasy and melancholy as we approached these famous and dangerous
places. The taciturnity of my guide, together with an increasing shadow on
his expressive face, magnified my apprehensions almost into fears. I felt
my boyish weakness and inexperience by the side of this strong, rough,
silent man of the wilderness, who now seemed to my excited imagination to
have got into his native element, and to be a part of the lonely and
supernatural region into which we had entered.

Our attention was suddenly drawn to a neighboring eminence by sounds of so
strange a character, that it was impossible to say whether they were
animal or human. Four lepers appeared in sight, almost naked, holding up
their long, withered arms, and screeching out from their hoarse throats
and swollen lips their hideous cry,

“Unclean! unclean!”

I trembled at this sad spectacle and gazed intently, expecting and afraid
to recognize my poor father in the group. My guide suddenly laid his hand
upon my shoulder, and we both stood still. He then set the basket upon the
ground, made signals to the lepers to approach, and drew me away from the
spot. A horrible chorus of guttural thanks came up from the leprous
creatures, who awaited our departure before pouncing upon the acceptable
present.

“Oh, sir!” said I, resisting my guide, and forgetting that he was deaf and
dumb, “you have given my father’s food to those unhappy wretches! Where is
my father? Oh, take me to him!”

He stopped and looked me full in the face.

“Oh yes!” I continued, in a supplicating tone; “that basket has food and
wine for my poor father, the leper, and a bouquet and a letter from
Martha, and a pair of sandals from little Mary—”

Overcome with emotion I burst into tears.

The guide drew a deep sigh; and when I looked up into his face it was
radiant with a sweet and benevolent expression. He had either heard me or
he comprehended intuitively the nature of my distress. He shook his head
and made a deprecating gesture with his hand. He then drew me off
strongly, but so gently that I was partially reassured, and walked meekly
at his side, overwhelmed with surprise and sorrow.

After passing over several rough ridges we turned into a deep ravine. The
guide made me go in front. The pathway down this narrow gorge, this cleft
between two mountains, was rough and dangerous. There were deep holes or
pits upon one side, and frightfully overhanging rocks upon the other. It
was so dark and precipitous in some places that I could scarcely believe
we were not descending into the bowels of the earth. We suddenly emerged
from this monstrous fissure on a little mound made by the soil washed down
from above, and found ourselves on the shore of the Dead Sea.

I had never seen such an expanse of water before, and was charmed with the
sight. Away to the left was the plain of the Jordan and the sacred river
of that name, invisible at a distance among its reeds and rushes. Opposite
arose the reddish-brown mountain chain which borders the sea on the west.
Far down to the right stretched a range of high hills of a bluish gray
color. In front, and widening away to the south, lay the mighty surface of
the sea, shining like a burnished mirror in the noon-day sun. A fine
breeze was blowing; but there was only a faint ripple on the water, for
its heavy salt waves can scarcely be stirred by the wind—like the soul of
a wicked man, which cannot be moved by the Spirit of God.

I was recalled from that delicious reverie into which every one is
transported by a view of the sea; for my guide pointed to a clump of
stunted trees or rather large bushes near the beach. Half hidden by them
was a tent of alternate white and red canvas, in front of which a large
boat was drawn up on the sand. Two rough-looking fellows lay in the boat
asleep. There was no human habitation anywhere about this lonely spot.
These people belonged on the other side of the sea. They were ready for
flight in a moment. They were wild, roving, secretive, fugitive. They were
engaged in some unlawful business. I had fallen into the hands of robbers.

These disquieting thoughts passed through my mind as we approached the
tent. Hearing our footsteps on the sand, the chief came out of it. He was
tall and sinewy, a man of unusual weight and size. He was clad in a
richly-embroidered crimson robe, with a splendid scimitar, jewel-hilted,
at his side. A long beard, stained of a golden yellow by some vegetable
dye, gave him a grotesque and never-to-be-forgotten appearance. All this
barbaric ornament did not prevent me from recognizing the strange, coarse
man who held the long interview with Magistus two days before. Then he was
disguised; now his character was apparent.

We stood before him. My guide made a low obeisance and said in a clear
voice:

“Barabbas! I have obeyed your orders!”

My astonishment on discovering that my robber-guide was neither deaf nor
dumb, was turned into another channel when Barabbas exclaimed:

“Well done! Bind him tightly with the old Persian. If Beltrezzor’s ransom
does not arrive by sunrise, we will make way with them both together.”

My uncle had betrayed me into the hands of the Ishmaelite to be murdered.
There could be no doubt that the atrocious assassin had taken every
precaution to prevent escape or failure. Resistance was impossible. There
were four men in sight, either one of whom could have overpowered me in a
moment. My heart sank in despair when my guide led me behind the tent, and
bound me securely to a little tree, without evincing the least remorse or
care at his own part in this shameful and cowardly transaction.

I now surveyed my fellow-prisoner, who was tied to another tree close to
me. His gray hair and beard showed that he had passed considerably beyond
the meridian of life. He had a serene and rather handsome face, full of
thought and benevolence. Young and inexperienced as I was, I perceived by
a kind of intuition that my companion in distress was a cultivated and
superior man. He wore a rich Eastern robe and a bright-colored turban. He
was smoking a long pipe curiously carved and twisted. He surveyed me
quietly and nodded kindly to me, evidently pitying my childish terror and
despair.

“We shall be murdered to-morrow!” I gasped.

“I learned a proverb in India,” said the old man. “Brahma writes the
destiny of every one on his skull. No man can read it”—and watching his
smoke fade into air, he slowly continued, “and even the gods cannot avert
it.”

I was astonished at his coolness; but his fatalism did not console me.

“To die—to die!—to leave my poor sisters unprotected and to see them no
more—Oh, it is horrible!”

“Not to be,” said the Persian, in a voice of singular depth and sweetness,
“not to be is better than to be; and not to have been is better than all.”

In spite of myself and my fears, the calm and almost spiritual halo which
seemed to surround this strange old man, began to quiet my agitation and
to divert my thoughts from my impending fate.

“Are you a philosopher?” said I.

“I think,” he replied; and drawing a long whiff from his pipe, he
illustrated his remark by lapsing into a profound reverie.

I contemplated this serene philosopher a long time in silence, and made up
my mind that he must have a good many beautiful things to think about as
he sat there, bound and under sentence of death, smoking so placidly upon
the arid shore of that dreadful sea.

When he indicated, by knocking the ashes from his pipe, that he had
ascended from the ocean of dreams into which he had dived, I asked him how
he had fallen into the power of these miscreants.

“Speak evil of no one, my son! Leave wicked names to the wicked. These
gentlemen live upon the road and in the wilderness. They pay special
attention to travelers, to caravans, and to small and remote villages.
They cure some people of that chronic disease we call life, and they
permit others to ransom themselves by large quantities of that evil thing
we call money. They have set me down in the latter class, and I am
awaiting a remittance from a friend in Jerusalem.”

“Suppose your friend is dead, or absent from the city, or cannot raise the
sum required, or refuses to do it?”

He pointed to the sea, shrugging his shoulders, and exclaimed:

“What is written, is written.”

When it was quite dark my guide of the morning brought us a little food.
The old Persian ate heartily, but I could barely taste it. The guide
whispered in my ear, “Be silent and wakeful,” and departed.

“Now sleep, my son,” said my philosophic companion; “trust in God and
sleep. Our angels and good genii befriend us most powerfully when asleep.
When awake we scare them away by our villainous thoughts. Sleep.”

The whispered words of the guide had inspired me with a vague hope, and I
preferred trusting to his advice rather than to the invisible guardians of
our sleep. I was therefore silent and wakeful. The moon went down long
before midnight.

The hours passed away slowly, slowly, marked only by the coming up of the
white stars from behind the eastern hills; while the long minutes were
told by the dead plash of the water against the beach.

There were feasting and drinking and singing in the tent of Barabbas. This
was kept up until long after midnight. Then there was silence, and the
loud snoring as of some one in a drunken sleep.

It became very dark. The voices of man and nature were hushed. The hours
passed, and all things seemed to sleep except the stars which continued to
climb the heavenly dome, and the sad, gray sea which pushed feebly against
the desert beach, and myself cruelly orphaned and betrayed, thinking
alternately of home and death.

“Death at sunrise!” I exclaimed, thinking aloud to myself.

“The sun has not risen,” whispered the Persian.

And Hope, the undying consoler within us, took courage at the words of the
old man and at the slow-footed pace of the night; and thought it was long,
long till the morning, and that the angel of Life might still come, and
relieve from his awful watch the angel of Death.

An hour more of silence that could be felt, and of unutterable
suspense—and a hand was laid softly upon my shoulder. The rope that bound
me was disengaged, and my deliverer drew me stealthily along the beach,
and away from the tent where Barabbas lay dreaming of plundered caravans
and cruel uncles who enriched him for the murder of their nephews.

The guide did not speak until we stood on the mound at the mouth of the
great ravine, where the Dead Sea first broke upon my sight.

“You are free,” he said. “You are a child, abused and betrayed. You shall
not be murdered. Robber as I am, there is something in my heart which is
touched by your sorrows. Go back to life, if not to happiness. God perhaps
will deliver you from Magistus, as He has through me delivered you from
Barabbas.”

“Come with me,” said I; “leave this wretched and dangerous life in the
wilderness. Share our fate and fortune in Bethany.”

“Do not speak of it,” he answered; “it is impossible. Hasten on your
journey, or all may be lost.”

“But,” said I, clinging to him, “Barabbas will kill you when he finds I
have escaped.”

“No! I have contrived against that. I am cunning and I shall succeed.”

“The poor old Persian will be murdered!”

“No! He will be ransomed to-morrow. Away!” he continued excitedly; “a
moment’s delay may be fatal. Away!”

“Stay!” said I, eagerly; “tell me the name of my benefactor, that I may
repeat it in my prayers.”

“I have no name, no home. I am the Son of the Desert.”

He hurried softly away toward the tent, and I crept up the ravine in the
darkness.

                         [Illustration: Ornament]



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                   IV.


                           _IN THE WILDERNESS._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

Afraid of the dark and fearful gorge, full of rocks and pitfalls and
unseen dangers; afraid of the unpeopled desert which awaited me above;
afraid of wild beasts, serpents, lepers and evil spirits; afraid of the
silence and solitude of night by the Salt Sea; afraid of all things behind
me and all before; I ascended cautiously and painfully the narrow path, if
path it might be called, praying to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
for protection.

I, who had never been out of my father’s house at that hour of the night
in my life, thus found myself amid a complication of circumstances which
might have appalled the stoutest heart.

I had ascended two-thirds of the way, when my keen ear caught upon the
night-wind the subdued but rough voices of several persons who were
descending the ravine. My heart stood still and I almost fainted with
affright. Fortunately, I remembered that I had just passed, a little lower
down, a large side-fissure or chink in the great rock wall of the ravine.
I went back with the utmost speed and caution, and got safely concealed in
the black crevice before the objects of my terror came along.

They were no doubt some of the party of Barabbas, who were returning with
or without the ransom of the old Persian. They were talking of ransom with
oaths and laughter as they passed. I held my breath in suspense; nor did
my heart recover its natural beat until they had descended a good
distance, and their voices floated faintly upward like the mutterings of
lost souls in some horrible abyss.

I was now afraid to start again lest I should meet another detachment of
the robbers. I waited a long time, listening intently. It suddenly
occurred to me that when the robbers reached the tent of Barabbas, my
escape would be discovered, and the swiftest runners despatched to
overtake me. This thought brought the cold drops to my forehead; and I
hurried breathless all the way up the ravine, actually thinking that I
heard the footsteps of men behind me, and voices calling my name.

Escaped from the robbers, I fell into the arms of the desert. I could have
extricated myself from the new danger if the sun had been shining. But the
day rose dark and cloudy, and I could not tell whether I was going east or
west, north or south. I failed to recognize any of the spots we had passed
the day before. I walked rapidly up and down the bare hills, over the
rough gullies and through the sandy hollows. After some hours of this
exhausting travel, both mind and body being on the stretch, I was shocked
on discovering that I had been moving in a circle, and was near the mouth
of the ravine again.

I would have stretched myself upon some rock in despair; but my dangerous
proximity to Barabbas and his men, revived my fears and gave supernatural
strength to my body. I fled away as fast as I could over new hills and
gullies and sandy bottoms. It must have been two or three hours after
noon, when I reached a hill overlooking a deep, narrow valley, the dry bed
of some nameless brook, which, in the rainy season, poured along over the
sands its little tribute to the sea. Thoroughly exhausted with hunger,
thirst, fatigue, loss of sleep, fear and despair, I lay down upon the
hillside. Lost in the wilderness, thinking of the still worse conditions
of my father and sisters, my misery was too deep for tears. A strange
torpor crept over my senses, and I fell into that profound slumber in
which the weary are strengthened and the sorrowful comforted.

When I awoke, the setting sun, just freed from clouds, was shining in my
face.

How life-giving, faith-giving, hope-giving is a sight of the sun, wrapping
his mantle of softened glory about him, and descending trustfully to sleep
in the kingdom of night, assured that Aurora will open duly her palace of
pearl, and his golden chariot with its fiery steeds issue forth in the
morning!

So does the Soul sink only to rise; sleep only to wake; die only to live:
ever changing in state, ever the same in substance.

I was thus drawing new vigor from the rays of the sun, when a voice of
heavenly sweetness broke upon my ear, a voice chanting this beautiful
Scripture:

  “As the hart panteth after the water-brooks,
  So panteth my soul after thee, O God!
  My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God:
  When shall I come and appear before God?”

“Are there angels as well as demons in the desert?” said I, to myself.

A jutting brow of the hill concealed from me the source whence these
sounds appeared to issue. I arose and advanced to explore the mystery.
Rounding the intervening slope, I saw a young man seated upon a stone at
the mouth of a large cavern. His quick eye detected me in a moment, and he
advanced to meet me. He wore a single garment wrought of the finest
camel’s hair, which was secured about his waist by a leathern girdle.
Simple toilet! But when you looked at his fine head with its long black
hair curling about his bare neck, and his beautiful oval face soft as a
girl’s, full of all saintly thoughts and heavenly emotions, you knew that
you were in the presence of one who was clad interiorly in fine linen and
purple.

“Good sir,” said I, “behold an unhappy youth, who has just escaped death
by robbers, and is lost in this terrible wilderness!”

“One must have lived long in the desert to find his way out of it such a
dark day as this. It will be clear to-morrow, and I will pilot you into
the great highway. Meantime you are welcome to my poor hospitalities—a
cave for roof, a bed of skins, water to drink, wild honey and locusts to
eat; that is all.”

“I gladly accept your offer; and were your proffered gifts still more
humble, they would be sanctified by the light of brotherly love you throw
upon them.”

I seated myself on the stone while he went into the cave and brought forth
his simple food and drink, of which I partook heartily.

“To whom am I indebted for this kind reception?” I inquired, as I finished
my meal.

“I am John,” he answered, “the son of Zacharias; and I dwell in the desert
until the time of my showing unto Israel.”

A deep human groan from the interior of the cavern now startled me, and I
sprang from my seat.

“What is that?” I exclaimed.

“My poor old patient has awakened. I must go and examine him.”

“He takes in the sick as well as the wandering,” said I to myself. “Surely
the angels must protect him in some peculiar manner.”

John came forward again with an anxious countenance. “Alas!” said he, “the
old man has rapidly changed. He fell into a soft slumber an hour ago, but
he is now plainly dying. I knew he was very ill, for he has raved all day
about his children and some magicians who wish to destroy them.”

At these words a fearful tremor seized me. I could not speak. I sprang
past the young man, and in a moment was kneeling at the side of my father!
I seized his withered hand and covered it with kisses.

“My father! my father! Do you not know your son, your only son?”

The young hermit looked on in tears.

The old man slowly opened his eyes and cast a bewildered look, first at
me, and then at John.

“Yes—you are angels,” he said, “who have come to welcome my spirit into
paradise.”

He breathed heavily. I sank down weeping. John came forward with a little
basin of water. “There is no time to be lost,” said he in a low tone.

“Do you believe in God, and in Moses his lawgiver, and in the prophets his
servants?”

“I do! I do!” said the old man, eagerly.

“Do you repent of your sins, and pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you?”

“I do! and God be merciful to a miserable sinner!”

“Then I baptize you with water, the emblem of purification,—and in the
name of the Lord, the only God, into his spiritual Church and into the
hope of immortal life.”

Thus saying, he sprinkled some water on the old man’s forehead. His own
face shone with a meek and holy radiance. My father closed his eyes and
seemed to sleep.

Suddenly he started, frowning, as if some great pain had changed the
current of his thought.

“Tell my son to beware of his uncle. He is a magician.”

“Here is your son!” I exclaimed, eagerly; “here is your son! Oh, speak to
me, my father!”

He did not notice my grief; but, pointing slowly to John the Baptist, he
said, solemnly:

“Behold the prophet of God!”

He then looked fixedly upward; and as I followed his glance to the roof of
the cave, his spirit passed away beyond the blue dome, beyond the stars
and the sun, beyond the entire realm of nature, into the paradise of Moses
and the prophets.

I spent the night in prayer and tears by my father’s dead body.
Occasionally the young prophet broke in upon the stillness of the air with
his silvery voice, chanting the sweet verses of Scripture. I was sorely
tempted to rebel against the providence of God, which permitted such a
good man as my father to be so cruelly dealt with. The presence, however,
of the young prophet, was in itself a sermon, a blessing, a help to
resignation. One could not be skeptical or even critical in his luminous
atmosphere of peace and love. I reflected that there were many great
mysteries which my youthful and inexperienced mind could not at present
comprehend, and returning faith assuaged the grief it could not remove.

The next day about noon the young prophet offered a prayer over the
corpse, and we consigned it to a humble grave dug by our own hands in a
large cavern near by. I observed that there were four other graves in the
same spot.

“Yes,” said John, meekly, “this is my little cemetery. Here I bury my dead
in ground consecrated to the Lord. This was a robber who was wounded in a
fray and left by his comrades. He dragged his bleeding limbs into the
desert. I found him and bore him to my home. I preached to him the new
gospel of repentance and faith, and he died in my arms weeping like a
child over the sins of his youth. He who occupies that grave was a madman,
who broke his chains, and drove every one from him with knives and stones
until he met me in the wilderness. He followed me to my cave, and would
sit contented at my feet hearing me sing or read or pray. Under that mound
is a poor slave who fled, mutilated and frenzied, from a cruel master. I
kissed the wounds I could not heal; and he died clasping my hands
smilingly to his lips. And that last one is the grave of another poor
leper like your father, forsaken even by his wretched companions—but not
forsaken by the Lord, whose Word I obeyed when I tended him in his long
illness.

“I call it consecrated ground,” he continued; “for these poor people are
the children of God. The leper is cured of his leprosy; the slave is free;
the madman is sane; the robber is forgiven.”

“What induces you,” said I, “to lead this strange, lonely life, so full of
self-sacrifice, so full of terrors and dangers?”

“The Spirit of God!” he said, solemnly.

“Are you not afraid of the silence, the solitude, the darkness of the
desert?”

He replied in the words of Scripture:

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the
strength of my life: of whom shall I be afraid?”

I felt awed in the presence of this young man, who was not more than ten
years older than myself. I was better satisfied to leave my father’s ashes
in his keeping, than if I had built above them the most splendid monument
of Pentelican marble or Corinthian brass.

After a frugal meal we started for the public road. It was ten long miles
to the nearest highway, and it was ten more from that to Bethany. We
discoursed, as we walked along, about spiritual things; and although I did
not understand half he said, he spoke with such eloquence and sincerity
that he convinced me he had some great mission in the world. We parted a
little before sunset with mutual embraces and blessings. I dropped some
grateful and admiring tears as I gazed after the heavenly-minded hermit,
picking his way with his long staff through the rough places, until he
disappeared from sight over the brown, bare hill.

It was not until the comforting and sustaining power of his presence was
withdrawn, that I recognized how exhausted and helpless and lonely I was.
Fatigue, fear, excitement, sorrow, loss of sleep and inadequate
nourishment, had considerably shattered my nerves; and now to appear
suddenly in the presence of an uncle who thought he had murdered me, was a
difficult and perhaps a dangerous task. I would gladly have turned in any
other direction; but my sisters were in the power of the monster who had
plotted my assassination. Nothing but a vague fear that those lovely women
were in some trouble or distress, gave strength to my tired limbs and
courage to my aching heart.

Night came on, and I had to advance more slowly. The full moon was shining
halfway down the western sky, but a dark cloud had risen from the ashes of
the sunset, and was advancing upward. It was important that I should make
all the haste I could, before the light of the moon was obscured by that
ascending blackness. To get out of the road might be to lose the whole
night.

I moved so rapidly that I became exceedingly tired. If I sat down to rest,
a mysterious fear impelled me to rise and press forward to Bethany. I have
faith in those secret attractions, those silent monitors, those
inexplicable warnings. A minute’s repose of muscle, a minute’s
recuperation of breath, and I started again with renewed energy.

A wind came up behind the cloud and drove it furiously onward. It covered
the moon and all was dark. I groped my way. I stumbled over obstacles. I
advanced slowly. It was late, late in the night, when I entered the
village of Bethany. No lights were visible; no sounds were heard. I
traversed the streets alone. I passed my uncle’s residence, brimful of
maledictions against its wicked proprietor. Soon my father’s house loomed
up before me. I saw the long white wall in front of it, and the parapet of
the house-top darkening above.

Suddenly a strong blast of wind stirred all the trees of the village. It
sighed along the deserted streets and up into the sky. It lifted the lower
edge of the cloud from the moon which shone out, low down, just above my
father’s house, as it were with a sudden brilliancy.

It revealed to me two astonishing things.

One was a large, strange, gilded vehicle drawn by two powerful horses
standing before the gate.

The other was the figure of a woman on the house-top, between me and the
moon—a woman with flowing robes and disheveled hair, raising her arms
wildly to heaven, while a man was approaching her in the attitude of
striking.

It was my sister Martha!

With a cry of horror I sprang against the gate, which gave way before me.

                         [Illustration: Ornament]



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                    V.


                              _THE BANQUET._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

I am too deeply impressed with the vanity of our worldly affairs in
comparison with the verities of the spiritual life, to employ my own time
or engage a reader’s attention with a biography, however pleasing or
romantic, unless there was a subtle connecting link, which I expect to
reveal, between the facts narrated and those eternal truths which
overshadow all others in importance.

I, alone of all mankind, have lived consciously in both worlds long enough
to discover their relations to each other. What my fellow-men have seen
only on the surface, I have examined interiorly. I have seen the secret
springs of human pride, ambition, passion and folly. I have seen the souls
of men as they appear in the sight of angels. And my instructions in that
world were all based upon my experiences in this.

It is now necessary to drop for a while my personal narrative, and to go
back and relate, from the evidence of others, what happened in Bethany
during my absence.

My sisters had been left with our atrocious uncle, like two lambs under
the guardianship of a wolf. One capable of assassinating his nephew, a
mere youth, would not hesitate at any wickedness against his beautiful
nieces. This man’s character was so cruel and wicked, that some
explanation is needed of the singular maturity of diabolism to which he
had attained.

Magistus had neither religion nor honor. Honor binds us in duty to our
neighbor, as religion binds us both to God and the neighbor. It is a moon
which shines brilliantly in the absence of the sun. The light of honor is
also but the reflected light of religion. When both shine together, honor
is absorbed and swallowed up in the more effulgent blaze of religion. The
soul without religion or honor, is like the earth without sun or
moon—cold, dark, desolate, hideous.

Such was the soul of Magistus.

Irreligion, like drunkenness, is sometimes inherited. The father of
Magistus was a scoffer and sensualist. Fatal incubus of moral deformity
descending from father to son! In this he was typical of the age. The
hereditary pressure toward hell was so great, that a few more centuries of
transmission would have brought the world into perfect sympathy with the
lower regions. The advent of the Lord arrested that for a while.

Without religion or honor man is very close to hell. The veriest barbarian
has some faint idea of natural religion, and some feeble impulse of
natural honor, which distinguish him from the beasts and unite him to his
kind. These are barriers against the influx of infernal life. He is
ignorant of the devils within him, and the devils within him are ignorant
of him. Wise and blessed provision! Were he brought into conscious rapport
with his own attendant evil spirits, he would soon be one with them. Their
life in hell and his life on earth would be animated by the same breath.

This had happened to Magistus.

Not that he was a barbarian. He was an educated, cultivated man,
accustomed to the luxuries and full of the suavities of civilized life.
Civilization and religion are not synonymous. Hell itself has a stupendous
civilization. Magistus was a Pharisee by profession: a ritualist, and a
strict observer of feast-days and ordinances and ceremonies. That,
however, was not the man, but only his outer garment—his cloak. Supposed
by the world to be virtuous and honest, this wealthy and reputable
Pharisee was spiritually a whited sepulchre, full of dead men’s bones and
all uncleanness.

He was a spiritualist, a sorcerer, a necromancer, a magician. He at first
sought and became familiar with these people, with their studies and arts,
from natural curiosity. It was very pleasant to call up his dead father
and various dead friends, and converse with them. It was agreeable to know
that they were all happy, and advancing in various degrees toward the
infinite divine perfection. They showed him wonderful things. They
performed miracles in his sight greater than those which the magicians of
Egypt performed before Pharaoh.

Then they told him that the Jewish Scriptures were not divinely inspired,
but a medley of fables, passable poetry and childish philosophy. He had
already suspected this; and he congratulated the spirits on possessing a
critical genius so similar to his own. He finally acquired, from these
supernatural instructors, a grand system of philosophy, revealing the
divinity of nature and the laws of progress.

Having become convinced that there are great and subtile powers emanating
from the spiritual world, unknown to most men, he determined to avail
himself of those powers for his own private ends. He became a secret pupil
and disciple of magicians and wizards. He communicated with spirits and
permitted them to take possession of him, soul and body, so that they
spoke through his mouth and wrote through his hand and came at his call.

He learned all the tricks and spells of legerdemain, the arts and formulas
and incantations of magic, and the rites and ceremonies of the black art
in its broadest sense. He obtained means of seeing objects at any
distance, of producing hallucinations or optical illusions, of personating
the dead, of finding hidden treasures, of reading men’s thoughts, of
sowing enmity between friends, of discovering secrets, and a thousand
other astounding and almost incredible things.

The soul is not destroyed in a moment: it is the work of years. The evil
spirits and demons with whom he was thus brought into contact, slowly
poisoned the fountain-head of character; extinguished his reverence, his
modesty, his respect for marriage; undermined his conscience; swept away
all religious and even social and civil scruples; and fired and sustained
all his evil propensities; so that, externally a faithful disciple of
Moses, he was interiorly a devil, governed only by the love of self and
the world.

This formidable hypocrite, the most of whose wealth had been obtained by
secret frauds, and was not unstained with blood, had his dwelling in the
centre of an immense area surrounded by lofty walls and concealed by a
dense grove of trees. He received no visitors but those who came to him at
night, and for no good purpose. He had the character of a recluse, devoted
to sacrifice and prayer. He thus indulged his secret vices and carried on
his diabolical incantations unsuspected. The dark shadows of his princely
mansion enveloped a degree of Assyrian luxury scarcely exceeded by the
Caprean court of the emperor Tiberius.

Caiaphas, the priest, was his best friend, who shared his private
pleasures and maintained by constant applause his public reputation for
sanctity and honor.

The influence of evil spirits who possess us is at first gentle and
subtile, coinciding with our own inclination. Thinking to lead, we are
led. When a man is chained so that he can no longer resist, they urge him
headlong to a crisis. They fire his evil passions; they blind his
perverted intellect; they inflate his pride and self-conceit; they make
him scornful and regardless of others, impatient of all barriers to his
self-gratification, and assure him of boundless immunity and protection.
In this state of horrible fantasy and inflamed passion, he is ready to
trample upon all laws human and divine.

To this fearful point in his spiritual life had Magistus arrived.

When my father was driven into the wilderness, Caiaphas and my uncle
plotted together how to get speedy and sole possession of his great
wealth. To get rid of or destroy his children was the first, and, indeed,
the only thing necessary. But they resolved to allow some months to
elapse—to let our misfortunes die out from the public memory, and even
ourselves be quite forgotten. Hence the seclusion, the solitude, the
systematic neglect to which we were subjected.

The plan was finally matured. The boy was to be decoyed into the
wilderness and murdered by Barabbas. It was to be given out that he was a
wild, incorrigible lad, who had run away from home and joined a band of
robbers. After a few months a letter was to be received from Barabbas,
whose fame as an outlaw was widespread, giving the particulars of his
death in an attack of the party upon some caravan. This was to settle the
matter for ever in the public mind.

It was more difficult to dispose of my sisters than of myself. A hundred
schemes were suggested by the inventive villains, but all rejected or
suspended. It was finally agreed to draw them out and test their
characters, to make experiments upon them, to see what could be done with
them. It was a delicate task; but Magistus had boldness and cruelty for
anything, and Caiaphas was to back him incessantly with his private
counsel and his public support. He had already begun his insidious work,
by lamenting to sundry influential persons, with sanctimonious regrets,
that the daughters of his old and dear friend exhibited so early a
singular perverseness of character and disregard of their social and
religious obligations. The result, he added, of that laxity of discipline
and passion for individual liberty, which characterized the unhappy leper.

The first and best instrument of evil is always a woman. Mary Magdalen,
left an orphan without relatives at a very early age, had fallen into the
hands of a strolling showman, who taught her to sing and dance,
accompanying herself on the timbrel. Her extraordinary beauty attracted
attention in the streets of Jerusalem, and she soon passed into the
possession of one of those connoisseurs who study the anatomy as well as
the philosophy of art. She quickly disappeared from sight; and it was
rumored that she had been sent to Ashkelon to serve in the gorgeous temple
of Ashtoreth, the Venus of Assyria. She had gone one dark night no further
than Bethany, and had buried her talents and her shame in the princely
mansion of Magistus.

On the morning of my departure this serpent was introduced into the
dove-cote. Magistus represented her as a distant relative whom he had
invited to spend several weeks with his nieces, hoping that her gayety of
spirits would lighten the constant gloom of his little charges. The
children, dazzled by her great beauty and won by her free and affectionate
manner, were delighted with their new companion. She entertained them with
curious stories of what she had seen and heard, refraining from any
allusion which might reveal her true life and character.

But the plot of the two arch-demons did not work as they had calculated.
Indeed, it worked in a way quite opposite to their expectations. They had
counted on the corrupting influence of a bold, fascinating woman on the
gentle and unsophisticated thoughts and feelings of innocent girls. They
had not counted, cunning and sagacious as they were, on the possible
influence of the girls upon Mary Magdalen.

That influence was astonishing. When she felt the pure and innocent sphere
which surrounded the lovely sisters, a change came over the subtle
emissary of Magistus. She forgot the instructions of her masters. The
memories of her old life seemed to die out, and the unseen angels of her
better nature to wake into strange activity. Young herself, more sinned
against than sinning, her pity was awakened for these young creatures
against whom such wicked ones were conspiring.

She made them tell her all about their poor father, and wept with them at
the story. She took them into the garden and played over the green knolls,
and ran in the graveled walks, and gathered flowers, and sang little
childish songs, as if she were a child again. She asked a thousand
questions about our mother and little Samuel, and about the babyish
sayings and doings of my little sisters and myself. She frequently
exclaimed “Oh, I am so happy! This is the happiest day of my life! Oh that
I could live for ever so!”

Pausing before the tomb of my mother, and looking at a little vase of
fresh flowers which stood before it, she suddenly fell upon her knees,
exclaiming wildly:

“O God! if I could have offered flowers, also, at the tomb of a mother, it
might have been different!”

She burst into a flood of tears; and the sisters endeavored to console
her—not knowing the true nature of her wound—by kissing her cheeks and
mingling their tears with hers.

They were interrupted in these sweet offices of mutual sympathy, by the
voice of a servant asking Mary Magdalen if she had forgotten that she had
to prepare herself and her companions for the grand supper at the house of
Magistus.

She arose from the ground, and slowly recovering her composure, led the
astonished children through the gate in the garden wall toward the house
of our uncle. On the way she told them that Magistus had prepared a
handsome entertainment for herself and them, and as a charming surprise to
their brother, who was expected to return with good news from the father
just about the hour of the feast. They need not be frightened, for
Caiaphas alone was to be present.

We had never entered any portion of our uncle’s great mansion except the
small wing which contained the reception-room and the long passage which
led to the private chamber of our invalid aunt. The three women now passed
up a flight of marble steps into a portico leading into a vast hall,
ornamented with statues and with vases filled with flowers. Hurrying
through this hall, Mary lead them up another flight of stairs which had a
gilded balustrade, into two exquisite bed-chambers which opened into each
other.

The bedsteads were of carved ivory, exceedingly beautiful; the canopies,
of blue silk fringed with gold; the coverlets, of fine linen and purple,
curiously embroidered. The divans, the couches, the chairs, the tables,
were all gems of graceful art. The floor was of polished cedar, with
gilded moulding around the wall. The ceiling was a splendid stucco-work on
which scenes were painted in brilliant colors; in one room, Actæon peeping
from behind the trees at Diana and her nymphs in their crystal bath; and
in the other, Venus beating her breast and tearing her hair at sight of
the blood-stained thigh of Adonis.

The whole atmosphere was freighted with the most delicious and
exhilarating perfumes. There were chests of drawers full of the richest
female clothing, the fruit of the rarest material and the finest
needlework. There were caskets lying open and revealing ear-rings and
necklaces and bracelets of the most dazzling beauty. The sisters were
overwhelmed with wonder and delight. They had never seen such things
before; for our father, rich as he was, was plain, frugal and
unostentatious in his tastes and habits.

“These are all ours,” said Mary Magdalen, “the gifts of our good uncle who
delights to make us happy. Come, let us dress for the supper.”

Domestics came at her call, and the ladies were attired in robes of the
greatest magnificence. Their hair was dressed in the most graceful manner,
sparkling with alternate flowers and gems. “All this is for Lazarus,” said
the sisters to each other, as they followed Mary Magdalen, blushing at
themselves, down into the supper-room in a deep basement almost under
ground.

The supper-room was as gorgeously furnished as the bed-chambers. The table
was placed on a raised platform at one end of the room, leaving a great
space for which our bewildered visitors could not imagine the use. The
ceiling had a splendid painting of Aurora driving the chariot of the sun,
attended by the Muses and the flying Hours. The walls were adorned with
solid upright mirrors of polished brass. In every niche and corner was
some exquisite marble, some nude figure from the Grecian mythology; the
most beautiful of which was Leda caressing the swan, concealing within its
white form the passionate soul of Jove.

Caiaphas and Magistus reclined upon silken couches at a table which was
loaded with savory viands and vessels of gold and silver containing
delicious wines, and ornamented with brilliant vases of fruits and
flowers. The scene was lighted by hundreds of wax candles of as many
colors as the rainbow.

As soon as the women were handed to their places at the table, Martha
exclaimed:

“And why could not poor aunt Ulema be brought down to enjoy this charming
feast?”

And Mary added:

“And Lazarus, where is he?”

Ulema and Lazarus were the last persons in the world whom the host would
have invited to his banquet. He paid no attention to Martha’s question. To
Mary’s he replied by drawing a parchment from his bosom.

“Listen!” said he; “a letter from Lazarus!”

The faces of the young girls grew anxious.



“DEAR UNCLE:

“Excuse me for spending the night with my father. He is better, happy and
well provided. But I have many things to say to him, and my visit has
given him so much pleasure. I know I must submit on my return to the law
of purification, which will separate me many days from my sweet sisters.
Take them to your own house and make them happy. I will return to-morrow.

                                                      “Your loving nephew,
                                                                “LAZARUS.”



Magistus looked up: the sisters were weeping.

“I was half angry at first,” he said, “at this strange disobedience. On
reflection, I am satisfied. It confers immense happiness on both father
and son; and their consultations may be of great service to you all. And,
besides, it gives me such a good opportunity to become better acquainted
with my charming nieces.”

He passed the manuscript to my sisters, who inspected it closely. It was
my handwriting without doubt. The reader need not be told that it was a
base forgery; for at that very moment my poor father was ill in the cave
of John the Baptist, and I was bound in expectation of death on the shore
of the Salt Sea.

My sisters appeared to resume their composure and the feast proceeded,
although they partook very lightly of its delicacies. Musicians came in,
and the harp, the timbrel, the flute, the cymbals, the drum, and the
silver bugle enlivened the entertainment. Caiaphas and Magistus grew warm
and witty and convivial over their wine, which they pressed in vain upon
the timid girls. Even Mary Magdalen merely sipped it in deference to both
parties.

What a delicate thermometer is the heart of a young girl! Without
thinking, how innocent! Without reasoning, how wise! A thoughtful shadow
crept over Martha’s face. Mary sank into a deep reverie, from which the
playful sallies of the rest could not arouse her. These young girls were
thinking, and their thoughts ran in the same channel.

The sudden change of Magistus from indifference to suavity; this gorgeous
and secluded feast; Lazarus and his father away off in the wilderness;
their poor aunt shut up in her sick chamber; this strange woman who wept
so bitterly in the garden: these pagan pictures and statues so revolting
to their chaste religious instincts: the lights; the music; the noisy
laughter of these usually sedate men; all these things overwhelmed them
with sudden apprehensions and vague terror. Each divined the feelings of
the other by some secret sympathy; and bursting into tears at the same
moment, they both rose from their seats.

“Stay!” exclaimed Magistus, nourishing his wine-cup and maddened by its
contents—“Stay! you lose the cream and essence of the feast. I will show
you now how the dancing-girls of Babylon intoxicate the king of Assyria.”

At these words they fled from the room.

“Follow them,” said Caiaphas to Mary Magdalen, “and quiet their
apprehensions.”

“Put your babies to bed,” roared Magistus, “and come back yourself.”

I will not describe the new parties who were introduced to the feast, nor
how it degenerated into a revel, and the revel into an orgy. Mary Magdalen
did not return to the supper-room; and long after midnight the drunken
master of the house was borne off to a sleep from which he ought never to
have awakened, and to dreams of conquests which he never achieved.

The shadow of other spheres more powerful than his own, was already
approaching to thwart his plans and change his destiny!

An hour after all was quiet, a strange sound was made at the back gate in
the wall nearest the lodging-rooms of the domestics of the establishment.
It was a double sound; the first part of it being a loud and peculiar
whistle, the last part a powerful and startling hiss or rattle. The first
sound seemed to summon some one to appear; the second, to threaten him if
he did not obey. The first was a call; the second a menace.

There was one person on the premises, and only one, who knew the full
meaning of that strange summons. He trembled on his couch when he heard
it. Great drops of sweat came out on his forehead as he listened. He
strove to rise as if to obey it, but fell back as if paralyzed with fear.
The call was twice repeated with a weird ferocity in its tone; and the
black eunuch, Ethopus, staggered from his chamber and groped his way into
the open air and to the gate. He opened it softly with a private key, and
stepped into the street. Do not men, like moths, fly sometimes stupidly
into the candle of danger?

A remarkable vehicle, drawn by two great black horses and driven by a
hideous black servant, stood in the street. It was showily gilded, and had
several little doors and windows in it. It resembled the chariots on which
mountebanks and jugglers perambulated the country, but was of larger size
and more tastefully constructed.

Ethopus paid no attention to this equipage. Right before him stood an
object capable of inspiring him with the deepest horror. It was a tall
figure with a huge yellow serpent coiled about his neck and body, and a
leopard standing quietly at his side. The leopard growled and the serpent
hissed as the black man approached their master.

“Be quiet, Moloch!” he said to the leopard. “Hush, Beelzebub,” he
whispered to the snake. “This is a friend and fellow-servant.”

The poor black prostrated himself in the dust before this mysterious
night-visitor and his bestial attendants. He signified his total
submission by raising the man’s foot and placing it on his head as he
groveled on the ground. When he released it, he kissed it with the most
abject servility. His abasement was extreme.

“That is right, Ethopus!” said his master, “that is right. I rejoice to
find you in such a becoming frame of mind. Conduct me promptly to the
secret chamber of magic. Then return to my servant and give him suitable
accommodations. Inform Magistus of my arrival early in the morning. I have
come on a grand errand to this village of Bethany.”

Ethopus obeyed these orders without noise. All was at length silent.
Perhaps all slept: the drunken proprietor, the wicked priest, the
remorseful Magdalen, the frightened eunuch, the strange guest, and Mary
and Martha locked in each other’s arms, their beautiful faces bathed in
tears, and their sweet souls dreaming that their angel-mother was watching
them from heaven.

                         [Illustration: Ornament]



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                   VI.


                         _THE CHAMBER OF MAGIC._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

There are few sights more touching than that of a man struck speechless in
the course of disease, yet retaining his mental faculties. Death perhaps
approaches; weighty business presses on his mind; solemn secrets demand
revelation; confessions of soul struggle for utterance. He makes
inarticulate sounds, incomprehensible gestures. He writhes; he moans with
the burden of thoughts he cannot express. His eyes speak and plead with a
mute eloquence. His ideas play upon his countenance like lambent
lightning, but die away, voiceless, indefinite, unrevealed.

Such was the state of Ethopus, the dumb eunuch, the day after the
treacherous banquet. There was a great solitude about the house; for
Magistus, Caiaphas, and Simon Magus the magician, made an early and
prolonged visit to Jerusalem. Mary Magdalen took the sisters over the
beautiful and extensive grounds, and paid another visit to the tomb of our
mother, carrying some exquisite flowers in her own hand as a little
offering to the maternal shade. Ethopus flitted about here and there in a
state of unaccountable excitement. He followed the sisters all day at a
respectful distance; and when his duties called him off imperatively, he
went precipitately about everything until he could assure himself again
that they were free and out of danger.

“Ethopus has something extraordinary on his mind,” said Martha, to
herself; but she did not communicate her observation to her timorous and
sensitive sister.

The case was evidently this: Ethopus had discovered the plot of Magistus
against us all, and he felt certain that the arrival of the magician boded
no good. He was struggling between his disinterested affection for us and
his intense fear of his wicked masters. He felt his own weakness,
increased by his inability to speak; and he was laboring to devise some
plan by which the sisters could be brought to share his knowledge, and to
concert measures of escape from some impending catastrophe.

He seemed to divine that Martha was more thoughtful, courageous and
trustworthy than her sister. It was late in the afternoon when he made her
a signal, seen by herself alone, to follow him. She understood his
meaning, and contrived to withdraw without exciting the suspicion of her
companions. Ethopus conducted her to the chamber of Ulema. Scarcely giving
her time to exchange kisses with her aunt, he pushed her into a little
recess in the wall which was concealed by a hanging curtain. Between the
folds of this, Martha could peep cautiously into the room. In a few
moments Magistus entered.

He seemed hurried and flustered, and had a dark frown upon his brow.

“No message from Barabbas to-day. Something has gone wrong. Put this woman
to sleep immediately.”

Ethopus adjusted a large mirror of polished metal on a table. Ulema arose
from her couch without speaking a word, and seated herself in a chair
about four feet in front of the mirror and gazed steadfastly into it.
Magistus stood a little one side, and made rapid passes with his hands and
arms from her head to her feet, nearly touching her body. His black eyes
were fixed fiercely upon her face, and his heavy breathing could be heard
by Martha at every pass he made.

There was silence for several minutes, during which Ulema gazed
steadfastly into the mirror. Martha could not help doing the same; and she
gazed at the mirror until a strange, tingling, bewildered sensation began
to creep over her frame, and she averted her eyes to escape its magical
fascination.

The victim of this singular experiment now became rigid, and made a
convulsive sound as if in a severe spasm. Martha was terribly frightened;
but her aunt suddenly became relaxed with a profound sigh. Magistus took a
long needle and passed it through the skin of her hand. She did not
flinch. He then put something which seemed to be a lock of hair into her
palm, and closed the fingers tightly upon it.

“Follow this person,” said he, “wherever he is, and tell me what you see.”

The woman began, after a long pause:

“I am in a great wilderness of bare hills full of rocks and sand. The
sense of solitude is terrible. It is cloudy but windy—and the sun will
soon shine in the west.”

“But the youth?—the youth?” cried Magistus, impatiently.

“Wait a moment. The youth? I must find him. Bless me! how he has wandered!
how many circles! Ah! there he is! I see him stretched at full length upon
the ground.”

“That is good!” said Magistus eagerly; “that is good. He lies dead upon
the ground. Go on.”

“He is not dead,” said the oracle slowly; “his heart still beats: he
sleeps.”

“Not dead?” screeched the old man, “what say you, not dead? Is he not
wounded? Is he not stabbed? Is he not bleeding?” he continued in the
highest excitement.

“No!” said the woman calmly; “he is not dead, he sleeps.”

“Do you see no gashes upon his body?”

“No, I see only a bright new dagger.”

“Furies!” exclaimed Magistus; “he has escaped me. I have been deceived.”

Turning suddenly upon the woman, he seized her by the throat:

“Do you tell me the truth?”

“I tell you what I see. I fabricate nothing. I am now attracted around the
hill. Ah! I see a young man with the face of an angel coming forth from a
cave. He sings. Oh how sweetly he sings!”

“Angels and devils!” roared Magistus; “you have seen or reported falsely.”

With that he seemed overwhelmed by a paroxysm of rage, and began beating
the poor woman violently about the head and arms with a black rod he took
from the table. She made no resistance, and did not seem to feel the
blows. Ethopus raised his hands deprecatingly, and Martha was about to cry
out from her place of concealment, when a low, fierce growl, from
underneath the floor apparently, startled all of them but Ulema, who heard
it not.

Simon Magus was feeding his leopard.

“The Master has returned,” said my uncle, “I will consult him immediately.
He may deliver me from this difficulty.”

He left the room. Ethopus made rapid passes from her knees upward, and
Ulema awoke. She rubbed her hands and eyes, looked wonderingly around her
and exclaimed:

“I have had a long, painful sleep, and I must have seen sad things. Did I
give him satisfaction?”

Ethopus shook his head sadly.

“Alas!” said she, with a distressed and puzzled air, “when will this cruel
imprisonment cease, and this strange life of visions which I never
remember?”

Martha now came forward and threw herself weeping upon the neck of her
aunt. For a long time these sorrowful women exchanged those kisses and
tears which are consolations. They then unburdened their hearts to each
other. By questioning Ethopus and interpreting his pantomimic answers as
well as they could, they learned that some secret dangers surrounded them,
and that Ethopus wished Martha to spend the night in the chamber of her
aunt. Martha thought it best to rejoin Mary immediately, and explain to
her that Ulema was quite indisposed, and get her to sleep with Mary
Magdalen, and permit the older sister to comfort and nurse the invalid.
All of which was easily accomplished.

Ulema had been confined for years in that little room by her husband as
the subject and victim of his magical art. She was a clairvoyant of
extraordinary power; and when put asleep by the shining mirror and the
waving hands, she would follow any clue given her, and the greatest
physical obstacles seemed only penetrable shadows in the path of her
mysterious vision.

She was thus employed by her husband to advance the schemes of his
unscrupulous spirit. She was made to read the thoughts of others, so that
Magistus became possessed of any man’s or any woman’s secret life whenever
he chose. He obtained information in this manner which enabled him to make
lucrative transactions in business, to plot in the dark against whomsoever
he pleased, to destroy the peace of families, and to acquire a reputation
for superior and almost miraculous wisdom.

She had long ceased to be anything but a mere tool in her husband’s hands.
She was locked up and taken care of as any other valuable instrument would
have been. She was visited and inspected only when her services were
required. Love, sympathy, interchange of sentiments, all this had ceased.
She received nothing from him but contempt and threats. She lived within
hearing of his midnight revels. She bore the ravages of these things in
her pale and tearful face, with its sad and terrified expression.

Ethopus came softly into the room about midnight, and after many gestures
expressive of the supreme necessity of caution and silence, he conducted
the two women on tip-toe through a narrow passage. Near the end of this he
paused, and pressing on a secret spring, he discovered a sliding panel in
the wall. This opened and admitted them into a large, empty room. This
room was only for the ventilation of a more interior and secluded
apartment. A series of movable slats effected the communication between
the two chambers. The light streaming through the shutters showed that the
inner room was occupied. Looking down through the apertures, with very
little danger of being discovered, the women beheld, six or eight feet
before them, the floor of the secret chamber of magic.

Ethopus left them as stealthily as a cat, after placing them in the best
position to see and hear what was going on in the den of sorcery. He
pressed Martha’s hand to his heart before he departed. Perhaps he wished
to show how deeply he felt for them; perhaps also to intimate how deeply
he suffered. Perhaps he asked for help as well as sympathy. The poor, dumb
African would not only save them, if possible, from their subtle enemies,
but would enlist the knowledge and power of a superior race, to effect his
own deliverance from the crushing thraldom they had imposed upon him.

A thousand or two thousand years hence, magic as a science and an art will
have ceased to exist. Generations unborn will enjoy the leafage and fruit
of that sacred tree of Christianity, whose little seed we have seen
planted in the dark ground. The hells now opened will be closed; the
superstitions now triumphant will be a myth; the languages now living will
be dead; the arts now flourishing will have perished; the civilization now
dominant will be a historic shadow. Those who find this manuscript and
give it to the world, will not be able to comprehend the meaning, or to
believe the truth, of the strange things I am going to relate—and yet they
are true.

Magic, which pervades to a greater or less extent all nations, and in some
shape influences all individuals, had its origin in the corruption and
perversion of the sacred truths of religion. It is the life of all false
systems, the voice of their oracles, the inspiration of their prophets,
the power of their mighty men. It was the medium by which evil spirits
took possession of their victims. It is the falsity which antagonizes
truth; the darkness opposite to light; the hell arrayed against heaven. To
be under magical influence, is to be assaulted, betrayed, possessed,
governed, by demons.

Simon Magus, who believed himself attended by Moloch and Beelzebub, two
princes of hell, under the respective forms of a leopard and a serpent,
was the most remarkable sorcerer in the time of Christ. He was a Samaritan
by birth, but had spent his youth in Egypt, where he became addicted to
the black art, and thoroughly conversant with all its mysteries. He was
supposed by most men to be an Egyptian, and he took no pains to correct
the mistake.

He was a man of unquestionable genius and boundless ambition. He was of
majestic presence, bending weaker spirits easily to his will. He was brave
to desperation, and eloquent as if he had been fed in his youth by the
bees of Attica. He was the secret chief and leader of thousands of persons
addicted to magic in different countries. His word was regarded as law;
his power as irresistible; his wisdom as inscrutable.

Magicians generally resorted to remote caves and deserted ruins for their
rites and incantations. Many of the most splendid temples, however, of the
pagan religions, had private chambers devoted to their use. So also did
the palaces of many kings, and the princely mansions of wealthy and
powerful men. The magicians of Jerusalem and its neighborhood had a secret
council-room in the quiet house of Magistus, in which they held their
infernal conclave at every visit of the Master.

The two women peeped cautiously into this chamber of mystery. The floor
and the ceiling were both covered with black cloth, the latter having a
great many stars flaming upon it in imitation of night. Through them a
vast comet trailed its fiery form. The walls were painted with figures of
the most disgusting objects which creep on the earth, or fly in the air,
or swim in the sea. Some of these figures had the heads of men and women:
others had the heads of monsters attached to naked bodies in the human
shape.

On a raised platform of black marble, and in a great arm-chair covered
with crimson silk, sat Simon Magus, wearing a white robe of dazzling
lustre, a leopard skin loosely thrown over his shoulders, and a gilt crown
surmounted by an eagle with outspread wings. He wore also a massive gold
chain around his neck, from which was suspended a little sapphire image,
which was supposed to guide the Egyptian priest to the truth, as the
breast-plate of precious stones did the Jew.

The short black hair of Simon Magus curled close to his head, and he had
no beard after the fashion of his adopted country. His forehead was white
as pearl and both wide and lofty. His eyes were large and brilliant. His
whole face was illumined by the grand fires of intellect and passion. His
expression was too proud to be pleasing, too fierce to be beautiful. He
was a man to strengthen the heart of his friends, and to make his enemies
tremble.

A large black table was before him, brilliantly painted with the signs of
the zodiac. In the centre of it stood an image or idol made of black stone
or ebony, having the head of a man, the breast and fore-feet of a lion,
and the hind quarters of a goat. The serpent was coiled on the platform at
his right hand; the leopard crouched at his left. A splendid globe of
crystal hung from the ceiling constituting a lamp, burning perfumed oil
and shedding a rose-colored light over the scene.

In this mystic and formidable presence stood twelve or fifteen men with
bowed heads, down-hanging hands, and attitudes of the deepest humility.
The women recognized only the faces of Magistus and Caiaphas. The former
stood nearest to the table. Simon was addressing them in terms of
reproachful eloquence:

“You have made no progress in our sublime mysteries during the past year.
You have acquired no new powers over the spiritual world. You have not
even given me information of the least importance. Alas! you are devoid of
genuine ambition, without which whoever deals with spirits becomes a slave
and not a master.”

His voice became more sonorous and his eye more scornful as he warmed with
his subject:

“Your tastes, your character, your life, are low and vulgar and sensual.
You employ the powers of magic for paltry and contemptible ends. To obtain
reputation for cunning and foresight; to get good bargains out of your
neighbors; to cheat some widow out of her property; to find stolen or
buried treasure and appropriate it to yourselves; to pry into the secrets
of men’s bed-rooms and store-rooms and kitchens; to seduce silly maidens;
to create trouble between husbands and wives; to inflict all kinds of
petty and scurvy revenges upon your enemies,—that is all you do with our
venerable and awful art. The grander destiny which awaits us all by the
development and centralization of our powers, your vulgar passions do not
permit you to see or to appreciate.

“My example has been almost in vain. My spirit of self-sacrifice in
achieving my lofty ends, is a mystery to your sluggish and ignoble souls.
I have endured hunger and thirst and wakefulness and nakedness and heat
and cold and solitude and plagues and wounds for mastery in the great path
I have chosen. I have traversed the world from the frozen seas to the
chasms of torrid heat. I have contended with wild beasts and with their
guardians, the great spirits, by land and water. I have conquered the
serpent and the leopard. The vulture lights on my shoulder like a sparrow;
the lion crouches at my feet like a dog. Arch-demons come at my bidding,
and hundreds of lesser spirits swarm at the signal of my curse.”

He became violently excited; his eyeballs glared around in frenzy, and he
continued in a fierce whisper:

“It would freeze your cowardly souls only to hear the spells, the
incantations, the blasphemies I employed; the watchings, the tortures, the
combats, I endured, before I brought Moloch and Beelzebub into subjection
to my will. See there, how I have burned their names into my flesh with
pencils of iron heated to whiteness!”

He turned back the sleeves of his robe from his white arms, and held them
out. Upon one arm in great red letters was the word Moloch, on the other
the word Beelzebub.

“It was dreadful! dreadful!—but henceforth they are mine.”

The serpent writhed and protruded his tongue. The leopard showed his white
teeth, but dropped his yellow head between his paws.

“I have told you,” he continued, scornfully, “what constitutes your
ambition. Now I will tell you mine. To me belongs the glory of having
organized magic and associated magicians. I found them a horde of
wandering hunters; I shall make them an invisible phalanx of soldiers. I
have more than two thousand magicians, in seven different countries, who
obey me as one man. By concerted action we have obtained the secret
history, the hidden life of all the governors, consuls, warriors, kings
and great men throughout that vast region. I am maturing my plans to get
them all under my sovereign control. Other conquerors operate from
without, by sword and spear and catapult. I conquer from within, by hope
and fear and lust and passion and terror. Unseen, unsuspected, unknown,
with legions of invisible soldiers, I shall get possession of all their
treasures, all their palaces, all their thrones!

“Do you not see it?” he exclaimed, wildly, starting to his feet. “The
lever which truly moves the world lies always on the spiritual side of our
life. I advance from the right quarter to my designs. I shall subdue the
souls and bodies of men. I shall possess myself of all they possess. I
shall become emperor of Rome—yea, monarch of the world. Further still:—I
shall advance from realm to realm, from sphere to sphere in the spiritual
universe, marshaling around me my hosts of conquering spirits. I shall
pronounce the Unspeakable Name. My own name shall become Unspeakable!”

While the magician’s imagination soared away in this flight of boundless
ambition, his form dilated; a fierce red flush came over his face; his
eye, fired with a baleful brilliancy; and the maniac stood forth the very
impersonation of that Self-Love which is the moving and controlling genius
of hell.

His hearers trembled at his words and manner.

He sunk back into his chair and leaned his brow upon his hand. No one
disturbed his reverie. All were spellbound by the speaker’s enthusiasm.
After several minutes he raised his head and continued in a subdued tone:

“But, alas! my friends! this glorious dream is far from accomplishment. If
we had only to conquer the race of men, the difficulties would not be
insuperable. But our fiercest fight is on the spiritual side. All are
contending for the same prizes—power and glory. When we have beaten back
the shining ones whom they call angels, our combat begins with each other;
for each demands all for himself.

“Yet I despair not”—he added, after another pause and with a certain
sadness in his manner—“I despair not of realizing my inexpressible dream.
I have come into possession lately of an ancient and wonder-working
formula, whereby I hope to take many steps forward. Listen!

“I discovered by secret means only to be acquired in Egypt, that in a
certain wild spot of the Lybian desert one of the oldest and greatest
cities of the world was buried in the sand; a city so old that it has no
historical record; a people inconceivably wicked, in comparison with whom
the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were children sporting in the golden dawn
of innocence. This city and these people had been overwhelmed by the same
Power which buried the cities of the plain in the Salt Sea.

“I found this spot. By the aid of spiritual powers I burrowed my way into
their buried palaces and temples. I exhumed their remains. I made food and
drink of their ashes. The spirits who accompanied me fled away, and I was
left alone. I blended my being with that of the lost people. I became a
skeleton among skeletons, a shade among shades. I conquered. I drew voices
out of the silence, forms out of the darkness, life out of death. I
summoned with difficulty and danger the ruling spirits of the perished
race. I mastered their master. I made him my slave. I compelled him to
disgorge the secrets of the wilderness and the grave. I have enriched
myself with treasures of knowledge and power, of which no man even
dreams.”

Intense excitement pervaded his listeners—fear of the man and stupefaction
at his words.

“I will show you,” he continued—“by a strange art I have acquired, I will
show you this new demon who is also one of the oldest. I have summoned
this antediluvian monster to-night. He stands before me face to face, like
man to man. You cannot hear his voice nor see his shape; but you shall
feel his presence and mark his shadow on the wall.”

He now let down a large white curtain against the wall, to the top of
which it had been rolled like a great map. He resumed his seat and drew
forth a curious cup from a drawer in the table. It had words and figures
engraven upon it. He gazed intently into the cup, and pronounced some
words in an unknown tongue.

A moment of awful silence ensued, every one gazing steadfastly at the
curtain and hearing the beating of his own heart. Suddenly a strange,
benumbing, paralyzing sensation invaded the nerves of all present. It was
the approaching sphere of the antediluvian spirit.

“See!” said the magician hoarsely, “See! He comes!”

And sure enough! Like the shadow of a man which the moon makes when it is
going down, there crept a shadow up over the curtain; dim, wavering,
misshapen, which slowly settled into distincter form, and stood with
bended head and sweeping beard, with tottering knee and outstretched arms,
like a very old man of gigantic size begging alms.

All shuddered at the presence of this terrific spirit, more than Saul at
the rising of Samuel in the cave of the witch of Endor.

“From this most ancient arch-demon of our art,” continued Simon, pointing
to the shadow, “I have extorted a method of incantation which promises
more power and glory than all the combined rites and amulets in the world.
He will confirm what I say.”

The shadow slowly turned its old and hideous face toward the audience and
made an affirmative motion with its head. It then passed away from the
curtain like the shadow of a cloud creeping over a field of grain. All
breathed more freely.

“This formula will procure me a liquid of such potent magnetic virtue,
that a single drop of it put into a glass of wine will bind the woman who
drinks it, entirely and for ever, soul and body, to the man who
administers it. She will surrender friends, home, name, fame, everything
to his wishes.

“Miserable sensualists that you are,” he exclaimed, raising his voice and
confronting his cowering audience, “the use for which you would chiefly
value this inestimable secret has no attractions for me. My spirit looks
upward, not downward. I scorn pleasure. I love glory and power. Through
woman I shall conquer man. Woman herself shall be the agent of
transferring all that husbands, lovers, brothers, sons, friends possess,
to the great magician who shall be a god in her eyes.”

“Glorious ambition!” exclaimed Caiaphas.

“When I have achieved the conquest of the world,” said the earnest madman,
“I will resign the women to you, as a conqueror throws the treasures of a
sacked city to the soldiers who have won him a crown.”

“And the liquid?” inquired Magistus—“how is it to be obtained?”

“That brought me hither from my subterranean palace in Egypt, where I was
initiated into the sacred mysteries by Isis herself.”

All ears paid him the strictest attention.

“I must obtain the body of a young girl and convey it to the buried city
of the sands, where Ja-bol-he-moth, whom you saw just now, will assist me
in the magical rites. We must take her alive. I have made every
preparation. I have a vehicle specially constructed for concealment. That
will convey us to Joppa whence I have just come. From there to Alexandria
by a vessel which awaits me. Thence to the Lybian desert.”

“And the young woman?” asked Caiaphas.

“She must be pure as the snow nearest heaven: innocent as the babe tended
by angels: beautiful as Aurora when she treads the golden pavement with
her feet of pearl: loving as the heart of Spring when she gives her life
to the earth: holy as the spirit of prayer which breathed from the lyre of
King David.”

“And what would you do with this peerless maiden?” said some one in the
group.

“Are you acquainted with the processes and powers of magic, and do you ask
such a question? Do you know the virtues of the dust of a dove’s heart? of
the ashes of a viper’s tongue? of the pulverized bones of a babe’s head?
of the blood of a living man? Can you not imagine what subtile forces we
may extract from the essences of a virgin body?”

“Has your oracle directed you where to find this wonderful woman?” asked
Magistus.

“My presence here is a warrant that it has. That woman is a Jewess, of the
tribe of Benjamin, the youngest child, born at the death of her mother.”

These were the last words heard by either Ulema or Martha. These
affrighted women had been the silent witnesses and auditors of the
extraordinary scene I have described. With increasing amazement and terror
they found themselves unable to stand, and they sank softly upon the
floor. When the object of Simon’s visit to Bethany began to reveal itself,
they trembled with intense fear. When the horrible idea took distinct
shape in her mind, Martha had almost burst into a wild shriek of agony.
The shriek was with great difficulty suppressed. The terror and agony were
borne in upon the young soul, and she fell into a long and fearful swoon
which seemed death itself.

After a long, long time, when all was still and dark, Ethopus approached
as softly as he had departed. He aroused Ulema from her trance of grief,
and the two bore the unreviving form of Martha back to the chamber. She
was laid upon the bed; and as Ethopus passed out of the door, Ulema saw
him by the dim light of the stars lifting his face and hands earnestly to
heaven.

                         [Illustration: Ornament]



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                   VII.


                                 _SAVED._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

After Martha came out of her swoon, the night was spent in consultation
between the two women as to the surest method of averting the catastrophe
which impended. It was determined that the sisters should escape from the
house early in the morning, and appeal for help to some worthy and
influential residents of Bethany, friends of my father. They were so sure
of obtaining succor and deliverance, that they became quite cheerful as
the sunlight broke above the hills.

Magistus suddenly entered the room, and their hearts sank within them as
they noticed the silent ferocity of his countenance. Without saying a word
he clasped iron rings upon their ankles and wrists, and chained them
securely to the bed-posts. Their tears, cries, inquiries, supplications,
were all in vain. He took no notice of them whatever, and locked and
bolted the door behind them, leaving them bound and in despair.

A different but equally painful scene occurred in the chamber of Mary
Magdalen. Mary, my sister, had just awakened with a deep sigh, and began
narrating an ominous dream which had disturbed her night’s rest, when a
loud knock was heard at the door, and a strange voice commanded them to
dress and come forth immediately. They sprang up in great trepidation and
obeyed the order. On opening the door they turned back into the room with
a loud shriek.

Simon Magus stood before them with his serpent and leopard. He had these
creatures about him almost constantly. It was to keep them in good
training, for his personal protection, to excite wonder, to inspire awe,
and to enforce his authority. They were admirable adjuvants to his
pretensions and power. Every one quailed before them.

He assured the women that his pets should not hurt them, if they followed
him in silence, turning neither to the right nor to the left. There was no
alternative but to obey. He conducted them to our father’s residence
through the gardens and the gate in the garden wall. He had given every
point a recent inspection. He passed into the inner courtyard, and led
them down a flight of steps to a room in the cellar used by two of the
domestics as a bed-chamber. Here he locked and bolted them in and retired.

Thus were the sisters secured without the possibility of communication or
escape. The conspirators took every possible precaution. No one was
permitted to leave the grounds, or to come in during the day. Magistus or
Simon kept the black eunuch continually in sight. Whether his agitated and
anxious manner betrayed him, or whether the magician really read his
thoughts, his masters suspected that Ethopus meditated a revolt against
the snares which had fascinated the leopard and the serpent. He was
closely watched.

The situation of this poor fellow was very touching. His dark face was an
index of a darkened soul, not by evil but by the absence of light. Under
his homely exterior was a brave and generous heart. He was born and reared
in a barbaric land, full of strange beasts and birds and stranger men,
where Nature herself is wild and savage. He had been the victim of
incredible oppression and cruelty. It is wonderful that the last spark of
human feeling had not been trodden out from his spirit.

It spoke well for the native richness of the soil when good seed sprang up
so luxuriantly as soon as planted. From the day he became acquainted with
my sisters and myself, a new life had dawned upon him. Friendly voices,
gentle words, kindly looks, sympathizing deeds, were food and drink to his
amiable and child-like nature. His soul grew and expanded under them as
flowers under dew and sunlight. Sincere attachment to us and hatred of our
common enemies took possession of the whole man. He was ready for any
labor, any danger, any sacrifice in our behalf.

Imagine the mental tortures of this humble and voiceless friend, when he
saw the terrible fate which was impending over us, and found himself so
helpless to avert it or to assist us!

Thus passed away the long, dreary, gloomy day—the day of my father’s
funeral. It was spent by my sisters in prayer and tears and unavailing
struggles to escape or to make themselves heard. Mary Magdalen identified
herself thoroughly with the gentle and innocent child with whom she was
imprisoned. She taxed her ingenuity to the utmost to give her consolation
and hope; and when invention failed, she resorted to tears.

“Do you ever pray to God?” said little Mary.

“To which God?” asked Mary Magdalen.

“Which God? There is but one God!”

“Magistus has the statues of a dozen gods and goddesses in his house; and
he says that all of them answer prayer when they are presented with
splendid gifts.”

“Jehovah, the only God,” said the child with sweet solemnity, “heareth the
prayer of the humble and contrite heart. He heareth the poor and needy,
and lifteth up all who are cast down.”

“How beautiful!” exclaimed Mary Magdalen with a deep sigh; and she fell
into a profound reverie with downcast eyes, while a solitary tear, the
first pearl of genuine repentance, trickled down her cheek.

About nightfall Simon Magus unlocked the door and called Mary Magdalen out
of the room. He closed the door behind her, so that Mary could not hear
what he said. He put into her hands two cups of different patterns
containing milk.

“This one,” said he, “you will give to the child; this you will drink
yourself. Be careful and not forget. Your life depends upon it. If you
fail to obey me, I will feed your body piecemeal to my leopard.”

Terror-stricken as well by his manner as his words, she took the cups
mechanically from his hands and passed into the room. He carefully locked
the door again.

Bewildered by this new blow, she took her seat in silence, a cup in each
hand. She strove to collect her thoughts. Poison to Mary or death to
herself! That was the alternative. Her nature was impulsive and
passionate. She reached her conclusions quickly, and she acted upon them
instantaneously.

“What is my wretched life worth in comparison with hers?” was the silent
language of her heart, “What attraction has life for me, poor, guilty,
forlorn, forsaken thing?” She drank from the cup intended for Mary.

“What is the matter,” said my sister, who had noticed her singular
abstraction and agitation. “What are you drinking?”

“Only some milk. I was so frightened by that terrible man that I forgot
what I was doing. Excuse me for drinking first. Here is a cup for you.”

The unsuspecting child drank it eagerly, having passed the whole day
suffering from both hunger and thirst. Taken after fasting, poisons act
quickly. It was not long before Mary Magdalen began to have strange
swimmings in the head and benumbing sensations along the course of all her
nerves. She felt sure that her death was approaching.

“Mary,” said the brave girl, “when you are delivered from these dangers
and your brother comes home and I go away, will you remember me
sometimes?”

“You will not go away.”

“Oh yes. I shall go away, far, far away.”

“You shall live with us always,” said Mary.

“I cannot! I cannot! When I am gone, and they tell you evil and cruel
things of me, will you think of me kindly and love me still?”

“I will not believe them.”

“But if you should believe them, would you love me still? I cannot live
without your love.”

“I will love you for ever,” said Mary, throwing her arms around her neck.
“Why do you speak so sadly? You frighten me. What is the matter?”

“I am sleepy, so sleepy,” said Mary Magdalen, stretching herself on the
couch.

Mary knelt at her side, chafing her hands, with some vague foreboding
rising on her mind.

“Oh do not go to sleep so early. Do not leave me alone in the dark. Talk
to me.”

“Mary,” said the stupefied woman slowly and with difficulty, “does Jehovah
who accepts the offering of a contrite heart, ever receive into his heaven
a very great sinner?”

“Certainly, certainly!” said the child.

“Then pray for me.”

No words, no shaking, no supplications, no frantic screams could arouse
her again; and Mary beat her bosom and tore her hair in the extremity of
grief at the side of her inanimate friend.

About an hour before midnight four men stood in the inner courtyard of my
father’s house. Caiaphas and Simon Magus were engaged in earnest
conversation. Magistus turned to the black mute whom he had compelled to
accompany him everywhere, and said:

“I shall go half a day’s journey with Simon. We will start now in ten
minutes. Haste to the stables where his chariot and servant are in
waiting. Drive quietly around to the front gate of this house. Here is the
key to Ulema’s chamber. After we have gone, not before, give those women
some food.”

Ethopus departed. He left the gate in the garden wall open. He hurried to
Ulema’s room. He released the astonished women. He drew them out upon the
gallery. He pointed eagerly to the garden gate and over to my father’s
house. It was all he could do. He was wild with excitement, and the
gestures of the dumb man were those of despair. He then ran toward the
stables.

The women started on their dangerous journey, not knowing what was to be
done. They hurried along the flowery walks in the greatest trepidation. On
ascending our terraced garden, Ulema, weak, sick and overwhelmed with
emotion, fainted and fell. Martha tried in vain to revive her. Time was
flying. Faint screams now issued from the house. Mary was being abducted!
She started up and without thinking,—for thought would have paralyzed her
efforts,—rushed to the rescue alone.

The miscreants had descended into the cellar. Great was their astonishment
to find Mary Magdalen in a profound stupor and the little Mary weeping at
her side.

“This delays us,” said Simon, with great vexation. “That traitorous woman
has taken the opiate herself. It will be necessary to bind and gag the
little one. No sounds must issue from the chariot, no suspicions be
excited.”

It was during this terrible process of binding and gagging that the
screams were made which Martha heard in the garden. It was effected; and
the three men were bearing the silent and muffled body through the
courtyard, when Martha rushed toward them with a loud shriek of
supplication.

“Silence!” thundered Simon, “would you betray us?” And uncoiling his great
serpent from his neck (the leopard was locked up in the chariot), he threw
it toward her. “Strike her!” he said, in a hissing tone. The serpent, as
if acting intelligently, made an immense coil of its body and raised its
head threateningly toward Martha. She fled in terror up the stairway
leading to the flat top of the house.

“Pursue her!” said Simon to Caiaphas—“pursue her and keep her silent with
your dagger until we have escaped.”

Caiaphas bounded after her. She turned and faced him on the house-top. He
threatened to plunge the dagger into her heart if she made a sound. She
backed before him to the parapet. It was at that moment when the moon,
suddenly emerging from the cloud, revealed to me, as I was approaching my
father’s house, the two figures; my sister raising her arms wildly to
heaven, and the wicked priest threatening to strike.

At that moment I entered the courtyard and confronted Magistus and Simon,
who were bearing my sister toward the gate. I drew the dagger Ethopus had
given me, and plunged it into the side of Magistus who was nearest to me.
He sank upon the ground with his burden, uttering a deep groan. Simon
rushed upon me and in a moment we were engaged in a deadly struggle. He
was a man of astonishing strength. He threw me at last upon the ground and
had nearly wrested my dagger from me, when Ethopus who had been concealed
behind the gate sprang to my assistance. He dragged the magician back by
the shoulders, and at the same instant there was a loud scream from Martha
on the parapet, and the sound of voices and footsteps at the gate. Two
persons rushed in to our aid; and Simon suddenly springing from us all,
escaped into the street, and in a second the wheels of his chariot rattled
away with the utmost rapidity.

Caiaphas, seeing that his party was vanquished, fled away through the
garden to the house of Magistus. Martha hurried down and rejoined her
friends below. Ethopus brought lights as quickly as possible, although I
had already recognized in the new-comers the good old Persian whom
Barabbas held prisoner, and my late deliverer who had styled himself the
Son of the Desert.

Mary was released from her wrappages and threw herself alternately into
the arms of brother and sister. Ethopus enjoyed this scene with gestures
of frantic delight. The happy party was suddenly startled by the groans of
the wounded man, who had dragged himself away and was leaning against the
wall of the house, bleeding profusely.

We laid him on the floor of the reception-room, and the Son of the Desert,
who was an adept in such matters, stanched the blood and bandaged his
hurt, pronouncing it severe but not mortal. When Magistus opened his eyes
and saw the old Persian bending over him, he stared at him with amazement,
and stammered forth:

“Surely this is my renegade brother-in-law, who has renounced the name and
religion of his fathers and calls himself Beltrezzor.”

He was right. Beltrezzor was our uncle, our father’s only brother, our
next of kin, our legal guardian!

This recognition gave us all the greatest delight. After mutual
congratulations we hastened to recover poor Ulema from her trance, and to
convey her and her wounded husband to their own home. Mary Magdalen was
brought up into an airy, upper room, and every effort was made to rouse
her from her comatose state; but in vain. A good nurse was placed at her
bedside charged to render her every attention.

The Son of the Desert spent the night under our roof, and proceeded the
next morning to Jerusalem with Beltrezzor. He refused to appear at the
table with the women and declined all the rewards and presents which our
gratitude induced us to offer.

It seems that Beltrezzor’s friend had sent one-half of the ransom by the
robbers who passed me going down the ravine, promising the other half in
two days after, on the delivery of Beltrezzor himself at Jerusalem.
Barabbas had entrusted the Son of the Desert with that mission. The old
man had been slow in his movements, and night with its black cloud had
overtaken them before reaching the highway. Reflecting that the trumpets
of the Roman soldiery had sounded the evening tattoo, Beltrezzor had
luckily suggested that they should turn aside into Bethany, where he had a
brother whom he had not seen for thirty years. They came close behind my
own weary footsteps, and I have told the result.

The second day after these surprising events, Mary Magdalen disappeared
suddenly to our great regret, leaving no clue by which she could be
traced. She awoke from her artificial sleep about daylight, and the nurse
supplied her with food, and told her the wonderful things which had
happened. She went away, notwithstanding the remonstrances of the nurse.

“Tell them,” said she, “that I rejoice at their good fortune, and that I
love them so much that I lift the shadow of my presence from the sunshine
of their peace.”

Poor Magdalen!

My new and real uncle, Beltrezzor, had a bargain to make with Magistus and
his young friend, the hypocrite Caiaphas. It was easily affected. We were
in possession of facts which would have exposed them both to public
infamy, and have cut short the ambitious career of the talented priest.

Silence on our part was purchased at the following price:

Beltrezzor was a pagan, and objections might be raised in the Jewish
Sanhedrim to his taking possession of a Jewish estate and the charge of
Jewish orphans. Magistus and Caiaphas were to obviate these objections,
and to secure him the legal guardianship.

Ethopus was to be declared a freedman.

Beltrezzor, my sisters and myself were to be permitted to visit Ulema
every Sabbath so long as she lived.

In addition to his liberty, Beltrezzor presented Ethopus with a precious
stone of considerable value, upon which was engraved a mystic name. This
gem had great reputation in the magical fraternity for releasing its
possessor from the spell of the most powerful enchantment. Whether some
change really came over his spirit, or whether his imagination did the
work, Ethopus acted as if some great burden had been lifted from his soul.
He entered at once into our service, and his gratitude seemed only equaled
by his humility.

Beltrezzor took possession of my father’s estate, and to our great joy
determined to reside at Bethany during our minority. Under his judicious
and liberal management everything soon blossomed like the rose. He adorned
our residence with all the chaste and beautiful treasures of architecture
and art. He surrounded my charming sisters with every luxury that the most
cultivated fancy could suggest. He devoted himself especially to our
education, and our house became the favorite resort of all that was most
learned and brilliant in Jewish society.

Thus several years passed happily away, overshadowed by no cloud. If a
tear ever came into our eyes, it was consecrated to the memory of our dear
father, and to the reflection that he had perished so sadly in the
wilderness, without knowing the good fortune which was in store for his
children.

                         [Illustration: Ornament]



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                  VIII.


                          _BREAD ON THE WATERS._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

The impression made upon our minds by these extraordinary events was
ineffaceable. After three days and nights of perilous adventure and
suffering, from a youth I became a man. From little girls, my sisters
became women. There was ever afterward about us a pensiveness, a gravity
of manner, a too early maturity of thought, which excited the pity of
those who had known us during our father’s life, when a happy childhood
broke forth into smiles and pleasures, like a genial spring blossoming out
into perfumes and flowers.

Our six months of domestic life under the management of Magistus, with its
gloom, its neglect, its suspicions, its want of love and liberty, stood in
painful contrast with the merry sports, the delightful peace and the
religious sunshine of our father’s household. It was night compared with
day. But the unmasking of the characters of Caiaphas and Magistus was a
rude shock to our tender spirits. We had revealed to us at one view the
utmost depths of human depravity. We had stood consciously amid the
hideous and revolting spheres of hypocrisy, sensuality, robbery and
murder. There was a leprosy of the soul as well as of the body; there were
wild beasts of the spirit; there was a wilderness of the mind; there was a
death masquerading in the garments of life; and we had seen them all. We
had looked into hell.

This early and deep insight into the fearful connection between evil
spirits and wicked men, and their combined influence over the world, was
in one sense salutary. The recoil from the bottomless abyss into which we
had peeped, produced a rapid and unusual development of the moral nature.
In my sisters it took a religious, in myself a philosophical turn.

Those young girls, constitutionally pious and full of gratitude to God,
sought renewed strength and comfort in the exercises of faith and
religious duty. They devoted themselves to prayer and the study of the
Scriptures. With the womanly nature of the vine, which must cling to
something of firmer texture and stronger growth, they attached themselves
trustingly to the priests and scribes and doctors of the law, with a
natural and pardonable feeling. But they avoided Caiaphas.

I do not remember that I ever felt any decided respect or love for the
religious institutions of my country. I was born, I suppose, with the
element of veneration for the past left out of my mental organization. I
never could understand why men look back to the infancy and childhood of
the race for the oracles of wisdom. It is rather the business of each
century to scrutinize rigidly the inheritance it has received from the
preceding century, and to reject everything which is worthless,
unphilosophical and immature.

I was largely indebted to my father for my progressive temperament. He
despised pretension and ceremony. He conformed his life rather to the
spirit than to the letter of the law. His understanding sturdily revolted
against the mysterious and improbable. We were not trained after the
strict manner of the Pharisees, but with that freedom of action which does
not crush the individuality of the child. The reformer, the innovator, the
man of new ideas and life, is seldom born of the narrow-minded literalist
and bigot of an old system. The father is generally an intermediate link
between the old and the new; adhering loosely to the old himself, and
prophesying, inarticulately perhaps, the emancipation of his son from the
thraldom of the past.

When we get rid of the conventionalisms of an old and perishing system, we
become peculiarly open and sensitive to the grand intuitions of natural
religion. The gorgeous ceremonies of the temple made little impression
even on my boyish fancy: they were tiresome and disgusting to my riper
years. But I melted into tender admiration at the thought of John the
Baptist, praying and toiling in the wilderness, unseen of men, trusting in
God, and receiving to his loving bosom and care, the leper, the robber and
the lost ones of the world.

One of the teachers provided me by my excellent uncle Beltrezzor, was a
Greek; and the study of that wonderful language and literature led me
still farther away from the influence of Judaism, corrupted and failing as
it was. I was not slow to assert that the poetry of Æschylus and Homer
charmed me more than that of David and Isaiah; and that the philosophy of
Plato exceeded in value all the learning of the Scribes.

My heretical opinions, candidly avowed on proper occasions, but never
obtruded, had a gradual effect in breaking the spell of enthusiasm which
bound my sisters to the priesthood and the ritual. But the examples and
conversations of Beltrezzor had a still greater influence in lifting their
minds out of that narrow and exclusive circle of thought, in which the
typical Jew is born, lives and dies.

Beltrezzor was a man of most beautiful and lovely character. Simple in his
own tastes and dress, frugal in his own habits, but generous and even
lavish to others; cheerful and polite; active and industrious; truthful
and unselfish; full of liberal opinions and tender sympathies; he charmed
all who knew him by the purity and nobleness of his mind and the suavity
of his manners. One of the most opulent and honored men in his adopted
country, and an inveterate traveler by habit, he had quietly settled down
in the little village of Bethany to consecrate several years of his life
to our education and happiness.

Yet the model man, the like of whom we had never seen in Priest or Scribe,
was in our eyes a renegade and a pagan. He had abandoned the doctrines and
precepts of Moses for those of Zoroaster. His religion, which appeared so
sweetly in his life, was a puzzle to us, for we expected to discover its
quality in its outward observances. The following manifestations of the
religious spirit were all we ever detected: He sometimes looked from his
window at the rising sun, and muttered something like a prayer with bowed
head. He always spoke of Fire with a strange reverence, and said it was
synonymous with Power and Beauty. He kissed his hand to the first star he
saw in the evening. On the last day of every year, he had fruits, flowers,
wine and rice brought into his chamber, as offerings to the spirits of his
departed friends, who, he believed, visited him on that occasion.

Behold the simple ceremonial upon which was based so much goodness of
heart and so much wisdom of thought!

“Who was Zoroaster?” asked Martha one day of her uncle.

“Zoroaster, my child, was the friend and companion of Abraham. They lived
together in Haran until the Great Being, Ormuzd, the King of Light, called
Jehovah by the Jews, summoned them both to leave their country and fill a
sacred mission. Zoroaster went to the east and Abraham to the west.
Zoroaster like Moses received the book of God on the top of a burning
mountain, and gave laws to the people.”

“What kind of laws, uncle?”

“The essential moral teachings are as much like those of Moses as twin
sisters are like each other.”

“Then you do not worship idols?”

“No—we detest them.”

“You do not worship any of the gods of the pagan nations?”

“No, my child! There is but one God, Ormuzd, King of Light. All religions
come from him. Some are purer and more perfect than others. All true
prophets and priests are his servants. False priests and magicians are in
league with evil spirits. They are children of Ahrimanes.”

“If there is such fundamental identity, why then, uncle, do you prefer the
religion of Zoroaster to that of Moses?”

“Because its ritual is more simple, beautiful and sublime; because its
doctrines are more rational and philosophical; because the people who
believe it and live it, are more liberal and loving and enlightened than
the Jews; because it brings the soul nearer to the Power and Beauty of the
sun.”

“Uncle,” said Mary, affectionately kissing his hand, “are all the
worshipers of Ormuzd as good and pure and sweet-tempered as you are?”

The old man blushed: “The teachings of Zoroaster tend to make men far
purer and better than I.”

The sisters sank into a deep reverie. They had a glimpse of that great
world of moral light and beauty, which lay entirely outside of the limits
of the Jewish faith. They gazed on it with wonder.

“But, uncle,” said Martha, “in the great day of judgment will not the
unbelievers be sentenced to eternal punishment?”

“In the last day, my child, all the metals in the world will melt with
heat, and all human souls, living and dead, will pass in judgment through
the fiery element. To the good it will feel like a fragrant bath of warm
milk; to the evil it will be a torrent of burning lava. It will consume,
however, nothing but the wicked lusts of the heart. Evil will thus be
destroyed; and all men, freely forgiven by Ormuzd, will unite in a
universal chorus of love and praise.”

The sphere of our uncle’s life and character taught us charity for even
renegades and pagans; and the beauty and rationality of his singular
doctrines made me suspect that truth had temples elsewhere than in Judea.
I became fairly emancipated from the Jewish Church, and looked for the
regeneration of mankind to the ennobling and purifying influence of
knowledge, which, I believed, would finally illumine the world with its
waves of rosy light. Beautiful and illusive dream!

My sisters, disgusted as they soon became, with the fanatics, hypocrites
and impostors who thronged the temple, were not ready to cut loose from
the faith of Moses or the ceremonies of the law. They deplored the
corruptions and deadness of the Church. They shrank from the ritualists
who had no religion, and from the devotees who had no love in their
hearts. They sought consolation by looking eagerly for the Messiah, who
was to restore the sceptre to Israel and rekindle the embers of faith and
piety in the church.

Martha and Mary pondered upon all they had ever heard or read on this
wonderful subject. Born of a virgin, “the Prince of Peace, the Mighty
Counselor, the Everlasting Father,” was coming in the flesh? They
delighted to search the Scriptures for traces and predictions of his
birth, his appearance and his mission. They loved to walk in the grove of
olives which crowned the mount in rear of our house, whence they could see
the marble colonnades of the temple and its vast roof all fretted with
golden spikes, while they conversed arm in arm on their favorite theme.

Thus were we being secretly prepared by the experiences and circumstances
of our life, for the reception of the new and strange religion of Christ.
The thoughtful analysis of the past history of any human life, will reveal
here and there the movings of the finger of God. We do not see the divine
providence as an event approaches, but only after it has transpired.
Jehovah showed his back, not his face to Moses.

Some may be surprised at the idea that certain minds were _prepared_ for
the reception of the Christian religion by processes directed by divine
providence. They suppose that every one who saw the miracles and heard the
words of Christ, could have believed in him and followed him if he had
chosen. It is a mistake. There were many noble and pious Jews, to whose
minds the words and miracles of Christ had no weight whatever; who
rejected him unhesitatingly as a dreamer or an impostor. They were not
prepared to receive him.

There have been several revelations or dispensations of Divine Truth; and
there will unquestionably be more. The new revelation is seldom or never
received by the adherents of the old. The force of the decaying system is
first broken by schism. After schism comes a spirit of free inquiry, and
skepticism is developed. The old foundations are broken up; new ideas, new
influences, new life start forth. Then comes the possibility of a renewed
development, a reconsideration of principles, the evolution of higher and
more spiritual truth.

This fact was illustrated in the early days of Christianity. The first
disciples were not the leading spirits and great lights of the old
dispensation, who regarded themselves as the special guardians of
religious truth. That class misunderstood Christ and rejected him. The men
and women who forsook all and followed him had no special reverence for
the Jewish law and its ceremonies. Singularly enough, they were not
persons of strong religious convictions, however holy their life became
after receiving the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. They had outlived or
spiritually outgrown the Jewish dispensation. They cared little or nothing
for the opinions of priest or scribe. They stood aloof from the Jewish
ceremonial with skeptical indifference, waiting for Providence to give
them something radically new. They knew Christ by intuition; their spirits
had been organically prepared for his reception.

Christ rejected the Jewish Church long before it rejected him. He
neglected its ceremonies; he violated its laws; he disregarded its
superstitions; he ignored its magnates; he chose his associates from the
publicans and sinners of civil life, and his disciples from the publicans
and sinners of the moral world. If he ever comes again, the same phenomena
will recur; for the Divine laws repeat themselves, like the return of
comets and the revolutions of the sun.

I was acquainted with most of the persons who organized the infant Church
of Christ. There were within my knowledge but two exceptions to the
general law, that those who acknowledged the Messiah first and most
cordially, were outside of the orthodox pale. Thomas Didymus was a rigid
Pharisee and ritualist. He believed nothing which he could not see with
his own eyes and touch with his own hands. He was the least spiritual of
all the disciples.

Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, was a man of ardent imagination,
intense faith and great genius. His mind, however, was cast in the
antiquated mould; and he was a stickler for orthodox observances. No logic
or rhetoric, however eloquent and convincing, could ever have shaken him
from his Pharisaic attachments. The miraculous interposition of heaven was
necessary to turn him from the service of the Jewish Sanhedrim.

Not without influence also in preparing us for the new era, was the
character of John the Hermit, afterward known as John the Baptist. For
several years we paid two annual visits to the tomb of our father, and to
the cave of the extraordinary young man who had befriended him in his last
illness. One of these visits was made when the angel of spring had touched
the snow-wreaths of winter with her silver wand and turned them into
flowers. The other was made when the forests of autumn clothed themselves
in their festal robes of crimson and gold, to celebrate the approach of
death with its prophecy of resurrection.

We chose one beautiful and cloudless morning, and making an early start,
mounted upon sure-footed mules, and well provided against those demons of
the desert—hunger and thirst—we crept slowly along over the brown hills
and through the desolate hollows. Ethopus and two or three more stout
domestics always attended us as a bodyguard. We made a picturesque party,
encamping in the mouth of the sacred cavern, startling the silence of the
wilderness with happy voices, and breaking its wild solitudes with the
enchanting presence of beauty and love.

John always received us with a graceful suavity, which seemed strange in
one so unaccustomed to society. We first paid our visit to our father’s
grave, and offered our tribute of tears to the ashes and memory of the
beloved. The prophet would improve the occasion to our spiritual
advantage, by repeating with simple eloquence many appropriate verses of
Scripture. We then returned to the cavern and conversed with the
heavenly-minded recluse, startling the echoes of his lonely hermitage with
incidents of life and travel and society, and with scraps of history,
biography, poetry and philosophy, brought from the gay and busy circle in
which we moved.

The prophet bore a quiet share in our animated talk, and partook sparingly
of our ample repast. He was full of childlike earnestness and credulity,
easily excited to smiles, easily moved to tears. The sphere of his
thoughts and feelings was as different from that of the priests and
scribes, as though he had been an angel descended from heaven,—full of
love and wisdom, without creed, without doctrine, without forms, without
ceremonies,—to mock with his sublime perfection the puny ritualist who
imagined no religion possible without them all.

The young prophet seemed to enjoy these semi-annual disturbances of his
thoughtful solitude. He always accompanied us on our return as far as the
great highway. He was so fully convinced that he was driven into the
wilderness by the Spirit of God, that we did not strive to allure him back
to the haunts of men. I regarded him as a gentle and amiable fanatic.
Martha pronounced him to be a young man of great promise, destined no
doubt to be a prophet or leader in the Church. Mary’s criticism was
limited to noting the extraordinary sweetness of his voice and the
softness of his hazel eyes. Once also a tear trickled down her cheeks,
when we spoke of his lonely days and nights in his self-inflicted
solitude.

It was in the third year after Beltrezzor’s return, that, on approaching
the cave of the hermit we saw a poor, emaciated creature, the skeleton,
the shadow, of a man, seated on the stone at its mouth. It was long before
we could recognize in this pitiable object, my generous deliverer, the Son
of the Desert. On feeling the premonitory symptoms of a dangerous fever,
he had left his band, which was then prowling about the Jordan, and had
come to the cave of the young hermit.

“You nursed my wounded friend. Take care also of me. I am sick in soul and
body. You are the only good man in the world. You alone make me believe in
God.”

These were the words with which he threw himself down upon the pallet of
skins. Long weeks of illness had passed away—and he was restored, standing
now on the border of life like a phantom flitting from the tomb. His
great, sad, earnest eyes seemed to say that he neither cared to live nor
was afraid to die.

We took a deep interest in this forlorn robber, who seemed to act, think
and feel so little like a robber. This proud, handsome man, without name,
without friends, was an enigma to us. He had sternly declined all reward
for his eminent services to us, and we felt under painful obligations to
him. When we bade him adieu with ardent wishes for his speedy restoration,
Martha, with great dignity and self-possession, took a ring from her
finger and deliberately placed it upon his.

“Do not forget us,” said she. “Our fates may part us, but the invisible
binds. On this ring is engraven the name of an angel. I give you my
guardian-spirit as your own. May he lead you into peace.”

He bowed his head low upon her hand; and when he raised it, there were
tears in his eyes.

I noticed after a while that these visits to the desert had a singular
effect upon Mary. For some time preceding them, there was an exhilaration
of spirits, a flush of expectation, a vivacity of manner, which added a
new lustre to her charms, a new glow to her beauty. During the visit,
however, she was timid, reticent and abstracted: and afterward for weeks
there was an unusual quietness of demeanor, as well as a tearfulness of
the eye and a pallor of the cheek.

“Lazarus,” said Martha to me one day, “had we not better bring our
father’s remains to Bethany and bury them with our mother’s? It would
spare us these long trips to the desert.”

Keen-sighted, motherly sister! But I—who had not then met with Helena and
knew nothing of love—I answered:

“Oh no! these visits to John are the most delightful events of the year.”

On the fourth spring of these visits Mary took down a little flower-pot
with a rose in it for John.

“I bring you a gem,” said she, “of nature’s light—a lamp, a star, to
illumine the darkness of the desert.”

That evening when returning, Mary and John fell behind the rest of us, and
when I turned to look after them, he was pointing out to her some rare
beauty of the clouds about the setting sun; and her face, turned full upon
him, was all aglow with a radiance not reflected from terrestrial skies.

The fall visit was looked forward to with unusual pleasure. It was a
glorious day. Why was it that the desert seemed more solitary than usual?
As we approached the cavern, the silence was appalling. There were no
recent footprints on the sands. The spiders had spun their webs across the
mouth of the cave. It was utterly deserted. John had gone. He had taken
away his pallet of skins, his earthen vessels for food and drink, his
sandals, his long staff. The flower-pot lay upon the ground with the
little rose-bush in it, long withered and dead.

The sisters burst into tears; and Martha kissed the little one most
tenderly on the cheek.

The Spirit of God, which impels men to the great missions of the world,
drives them away from the bloom of nature and from the gardens of the
soul,—away into the wilderness, where, tempted of devils and sustained by
angels, they gather strength for the doom and glory which await them!

Our father’s remains were brought to Bethany. Mary’s cheek grew paler. The
dew of tenderness trembled always in her eye. She searched the Scriptures
all day long for the coming Messiah. At night she dreamed—

Ah! what?

Of the withered rose-leaves in the deserted cavern.

                         [Illustration: Ornament]



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                   IX.


                               _SACRIFICE._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

My uncle summoned me one day into his presence, and told me that he wished
me to enlarge my education by travel.

“You must visit Egypt, Greece and Italy,” said he, “the typical centres of
the world, and converse with the master-spirits in art, science and
philosophy. I have made arrangements to keep you amply supplied with money
at Alexandria, Athens and Rome, and with letters to agreeable and
influential people.

“This will consume three years of your life; and if you are wise and
prudent, they will be pleasantly and profitably spent. When you return I
will surrender your father’s estate into your hands, and make a handsome
settlement upon your sisters from my own means. I am growing old and shall
need but little for the rest of my pilgrimage.”

“Then,” he continued to my surprise and sorrow, “then I shall go back to
the great East—nearer to the sun—to die.”

“Go back to the East?” I exclaimed with trepidation. “Why so? Your old age
requires the presence of loving friends and relatives. What can we—made
your children by your kindness—what can we do without you?”

“Ah! my child, the grass soon grows in the footprints of man. We are
easily forgotten. I shall be loved like one dead. I am weary of this
Judean air; of this corrupt and discordant society; of these Roman
trumpets and banners. I want peace and repose. I long to see once more the
sacred fire burning upon the altars. After twenty years of life in Persia,
one cannot be satisfied with the Mosaic sacrifices and the olive groves of
Bethany.”

Knowing my uncle’s firmness of resolution, and how long he had restrained
his natural restlessness for our benefit, I hung my head in mournful
silence.

“Well, well!” said he in a cheerful voice, “we have time enough to talk
about the whole matter. Get ready now for the scenes which fill the heart
of a thinking man with supreme delight.”

This plan of perfecting my education by travel, by coming in contact with
idolatrous people and studying heathen philosophies, excited the fears of
my good sisters, so contrary was it to the custom of the Jews. They
regarded it, indeed, as almost a crime. My uncle, however, was grandly
cosmopolitan in all his sentiments, and he had imbued my own mind with his
enlightened charity.

Ethopus accompanied me as my body-servant. We had taught the dumb African
to read and write after he was released from the bondage of Magistus and
Simon. He acquired these accomplishments in a moderate degree with great
celerity, so that our anticipations of rapid mental progress were sadly
disappointed by the result. When he reached the intellectual development
of a white child at twelve years, his onward march was arrested. No study,
no assiduity could advance him a step farther. He was organically a child.
His thoughts, his feelings, his opinions, his manners were all child-like;
and so they remained.

Such is the general result of my observation and study of the African
species. Susceptible as they are of a beautiful and indefinite moral
culture, the development of their intellectual faculties is limited by the
thick scull, the small brain, the black skin which they have inherited as
a national curse. May it be different in the future! I have received
nothing but kindness at their hands, and I feel nothing but kindness for
them in my heart.

We learned from Ethopus, through the medium of writing, that he had been
stolen by a party of marauding soldiers from his quiet and happy home in
Abyssinia, where his father was a petty prince. He had been sold to some
magicians in Egypt, who made him a slave, a football, a victim of cruel
and unnatural experiments. He had been fed upon toads and serpents and
creeping things. The blood of various animals had been injected into his
veins. The operation of poisons was studied upon his body. Degradation and
terror were imprinted upon his soul. He had been deprived of his manhood
and his speech, to bring him into total subjection to his diabolical
tyrants.

When I told him that I should go first into Egypt, he trembled; for the
memory of Simon and his own early life troubled his mind. I could scarcely
have induced him to accompany me at all, had it not been for the beautiful
gem which my uncle Beltrezzor had given him. In its prophylactic powers
against magic and magicians he enjoyed implicit faith. He had hitherto
carried it always in his pocket. He now bound it over his heart, carefully
secured in a leathern bag. He then declared himself ready for the journey.
Less fortunate than he, I had nothing wherewith to fortify myself against
evil spirits and the dangers of land and sea, but the consolations of
Zoroaster’s religion and scraps of the Platonic philosophy.

I had only one misgiving on leaving my sisters in the care of such an old
man as our excellent uncle. The wicked Magistus was still living in the
same house, separated from us only by a stone wall. He guarded my aunt in
the same cruel seclusion, and no doubt kept himself informed by her
clairvoyant powers of everything going on in our house as well as in
others. He had never made any advances toward us, and there was no
communication between us. I knew, however, that a fierce desire for
revenge rankled in his heart; and his power was now greater than ever,
since he had become a prominent member of the Sanhedrim, and his friend
Caiaphas had been appointed high-priest of the temple.

I spent about a year in exploring the wonders of Egypt, and had reached
Alexandria for a reluctant departure from that land of fascinations, when
a letter was delivered at my door by some one who disappeared as soon as
he gave it to the servant. This occasioned me some surprise, and I opened
it immediately. On a little piece of parchment which fell out as I did so,
I found these words:



“The original bearer of this letter was killed in a skirmish with our
troop. I find it contains something which you will be interested to know.
I therefore transmit it to you at some risk. Do not forget the
unforgetting

                                                      “SON OF THE DESERT.”



The epistle was from my sister Martha. It ran as follows:



“A wonderful thing has occurred, my dear brother, since I last wrote.
John, the young hermit of the desert, whom we have mourned as lost or
dead, has appeared on the banks of the Jordan, baptizing the multitudes
and preaching repentance and the remission of sins. He claims to be the
forerunner of the Messiah, announcing the speedy approach of the King of
kings. Crowds are flocking to him from all Judea and Galilee, and even
from distant regions. His eloquence is so astonishing that many who go out
of curiosity or sport, are stricken to the heart and receive his baptism.

“Mary and I have listened to the preaching of this inspired friend, and
are convinced of its truth and power. We have been baptized also,
confessing our sins, and vowing a life of repentance and good works. I
assure you, my dear brother! when the prophet laid his hand on our heads,
blessing us in the name of the Messiah, our minds were filled with a
heavenly ecstasy, and we could scarcely refrain from shouting aloud for
joy.

“When I came up out of the water, the first face I saw was that of our
strange friend who calls himself the Son of the Desert. He was standing
with many others on the bank near the prophet, and gazing earnestly at his
seraphic countenance. When his eyes met mine, he looked down as softly as
a young girl, and quickly withdrew from the crowd.

“My heart warms toward this poor, outcast stranger, who befriended you so
nobly, and who leads, I fear, such an evil life. Is it not strange that
the noble instincts, which he certainly possesses, do not cause him to
revolt against his base surroundings? His name is continually in my
prayers. Oh that he also would be baptized of John, forsake the troublous
ways of the world, and receive the sweet delicious peace of the new life!

“Mary is so happy again! A new rose has come to her cheek, a new buoyancy
to her step, a new beauty to her smile.

“Our good uncle accompanied us to the Jordan, although he despises crowds
and excitements. His criticism on the preaching and baptism of John shows
how thoroughly pagan are all his conceptions. He said he was a young man
of splendid enthusiasm, who would have been a disciple of Zoroaster if he
had studied the philosophy of fire instead of that of water.

“Perhaps the shining of this new star will guide you sooner home to our
eyes and hearts. You linger in that old, frightful, sand-beleagured
magic-stricken Egypt, when this herald of the Messiah, Aurora prophesying
the sun, is filling Judea with Divine light! Hasten with love, soon, very
soon, to your loving sisters.”



I was still meditating on this letter when Ethopus rushed into my chamber
with a face full of alarm. I soon learned from his expressive pantomime
that he had seen Simon Magus in one of the public squares, exhibiting some
magical tricks to a great crowd.

“Did he recognize you?” said I, anxiously.

The African shook his head hopefully.

“Then we will take ship for Athens to-morrow. Get everything ready for the
voyage.”

Ethopus seemed delighted at these words, and proceeded with the greatest
alacrity to execute my orders; not, however, until he had so disguised
himself that I positively did not know him when he appeared before me. He
was then so long absent on my errands that I became apprehensive for his
safety. He suddenly entered the room with an expression of countenance
which puzzled my practiced wit to decipher. It was the wildest joy
strangely mingled with sadness. He found it impossible to convey his ideas
by pantomime. The scene was ludicrous as well as pathetic. After several
frantic and fruitless efforts, he seized a burnt coal from the hearth and
scribbled on the white wall in great sprawling characters:

  “I HAVE FOUND MY BROTHER!”

and making signs for me to follow him, he darted from the room.

We passed rapidly through the streets, Ethopus looking suspiciously about
him all the while, until we reached a grand bazaar, where thousands of
articles were exposed for sale. We forced our way through crowds of
merchants, each crying his wares; through buyers and sellers and idlers of
every description, chattering and chaffering in all the languages of the
world. We came presently to some little rooms or stalls where a great many
slaves on sale were exposed, almost naked. Ethopus pointed triumphantly to
a tall young African of handsome and even noble features, and falling upon
his neck, they wept together.

“They are brothers,” said the trader. “Their meeting was both amusing and
affecting. This dumb fellow recognized the other first, and fell upon his
face, shoulders and hands with frantic kisses. The younger one, not
comprehending such a useless outburst of affection, resented it as an
intrusion, and would have belabored his brother soundly, had he not been
so heavily ironed. The older one was in despair, but suddenly bethought
himself of taking off a lot of false hair and beard, and baring his neck
and bosom for inspection. The recognition was then soon effected, and they
laughed and wept alternately in each other’s arms.”

“He is a slave?” said I.

“Yes—and a most unruly one. He was captured in the late war with the
Abyssinians, and although very young, they say he was a superb soldier. I
can well believe it. He has already passed through several hands, and was
quickly got rid of by them all, on account of his fierce and dangerous
character.”

I studied the young man’s physiognomy carefully, but could discover no
trace of ferocity about the features. He seemed to be about twenty years
of age, and had a manly and dignified bearing as he stood there manacled
and exposed to the public gaze. I read his secret at once. He was a brave
and high-spirited youth, accustomed to freedom, war, and perhaps to the
exercise of power; and he did not submit to his chains as quietly as his
owners desired.

The slave-dealer must have divined the admiration with which I regarded
him, for he added with a quiet sneer:

“His braveries are at an end now, for he has been bought for Drusus
Hortensius.”

“And who is Hortensius?”

“Have you lived in the desert, that you never heard of Hortensius?
Hortensius is the richest man in the world at present, and the greatest
epicure in Rome. He imitates Lucullus, at least in pride and luxury. He
makes suppers for his friends, of incalculable magnificence. His demand
for nightingales’ tongues has silenced half the bird-music in the world.”

“Is Hortensius in the city?”

“In the city? No! He lives in Rome, which, he complains, is altogether too
small for him. He has an agent in Alexandria, who has a standing order to
send him about fifty refractory and incorrigible slaves every year.”

“What does he want them for?”

“Want them for?” laughed the dealer. “Well, you must know that Hortensius
has the greatest and rarest fish-ponds in the world. They are miracles of
beauty. Hortensius is fond of fish as well as of nightingales’ tongues.
But common fish do not tempt his august appetite. Lucullus discovered, in
the course of his epicurean studies, that fish fed upon human flesh have a
remarkably fine flavor; and moreover that these aquatic cannibals have a
special relish for the African species of the genus homo.”

“Wretch!” I muttered.

“Therefore,” continued the trader, without noticing my indignation,
“Hortensius, imitating Lucullus, has a negro slave cut into small pieces
and thrown into his fish-ponds every week. His children are taken out by
their nurses to witness this choice method of refining the pleasures of
the table.”

Anthony, for so they had re-named the brother of Ethopus, had picked up a
good deal of Latin, in which language the dealer was speaking. He had
listened intently and had caught the horrible meaning of his words. The
disdainful and defiant look of the young soldier, contemplating the fate
which awaited him, was a study for an artist.

“How can I save him from this cruel bondage, from this hideous death?”

“He was purchased yesterday and will be called for to-day, as the ship
sails this evening.”

“Will you cancel that bargain and sell him to me?” said I eagerly.

“Yes—for a grand consideration.”

I reflected that I had drawn my last funds from my uncle’s Egyptian agent.
Still, I might possibly borrow largely from him and wait a remittance. I
named what I considered a liberal price. The trader coldly shook his head.
I added a third more to it, determined to sacrifice a year’s travel in
order to save Anthony from the fish-ponds of the luxurious Roman. The
trader declined without hesitation. I could make no greater offer without
consultation with my uncle, and that was impossible. My countenance fell
in despair.

The brothers had watched our conversation with intense interest; and
although they did not comprehend its full meaning, they saw that I had
made a great effort to redeem Anthony and had failed. The face of Ethopus
was full of grief, that of Anthony of sad resignation. Ethopus suddenly
sprang up smiling, as if some great idea had illumined his mind. He tore
open his robe, and producing a little bag from his bosom, he took out the
precious stone which my uncle Beltrezzor had given him. He extended the
brilliant gem to the trader with one hand and pointed to Anthony with the
other.

“Oh do not take that,” I exclaimed. “This poor fellow values that stone
more than life itself. Nothing but the most intense affection could prompt
him to such a sacrifice. He believes that stone has delivered him from the
bondage of a terrible magician, and wears it over his heart as a
protecting genius. Accept my offer instead, which is of greater money
value than his gem.”

This speech had a singular effect. The slave-dealer had no generosity, but
boundless superstition. He either had an intense fear of magic himself, or
he was in collusion with magicians. He immediately acceded to Ethopus’
offer, struck the chains from Anthony’s arms and feet, and put the price
of his slave smilingly into his pocket.

“I will replace him with that old fellow there, who would smoke his pipe
as he is now doing if we were burying him alive. The agent of Hortensius
counts heads and never looks into faces.”

Anthony comprehended that an exorbitant price had been paid for his
liberty, involving some great sacrifice on the part of Ethopus and he
insisted on resuming his fetters, until I assured them both that the stone
with such magical properties should be replaced by one similar, as soon as
I could communicate with Beltrezzor.

Ethopus was now in a state of feverish anxiety to get aboard the Athenian
vessel. The addition of Anthony to our company seemed to increase his
fears and his sense of responsibility. I conveyed my baggage and my two
servants to the ship, and put them in charge of the captain, while I
returned into the city to finish my business and to make a few purchases.

When I reached the vessel again, Ethopus had disappeared! Anthony was in
great distress, and the captain and sailors were highly excited. The story
they told was a curious one. A tall, wild-looking man, fantastically
dressed, came and sat down on the shore near the planks of the ship.
Busily engaged in carrying on the small freight which crowds in just
before a vessel leaves, the sailors paid no attention to him.

This man was heard to make some very curious sounds, a kind of double
whistle, a signal which he repeated at intervals with increasing vehemence
and impatience. Ethopus then came slowly out of the vessel, reeling and
groping like one blind or drunk. He advanced slowly toward the stranger
and knelt at his feet. The poor fellow suddenly started up with a great
shriek and endeavored to escape. Several of the sailors rushed forward to
rescue him from the man who had seized him and was dragging him off. The
magician, for such he was, drew a huge yellow serpent from his robe, and
flourished it like a whip at his assailants. Some of the sailors declared
also that a jet of blue flame darted from his bosom. Certain it is that by
some magical trick he so terrified them that they fell back in awe, and he
escaped with his victim through the crowd which was gathering.

Poor Anthony, who had never seen a ship before, was walking about the
vessel in childlike wonder while this terrible abduction was taking place.
I was in the deepest distress. I took Anthony and the baggage back to my
quarters. I remained a fortnight in Alexandria instituting the most
thorough search after our lost friend. It was all in vain. I sailed at
last for Athens with a heavy, heavy heart, and a new servant, leaving the
poor dumb eunuch in the clutches of Simon Magus.

                         [Illustration: Ornament]



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                    X.


                               _AT ATHENS._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

I lived at Athens a year, studying the philosophy and poetry of the
Greeks. I longed to see my beautiful sisters and my good old uncle; but I
cannot disguise the fact that I was greatly fascinated with Grecian life
and manners. I frequently wished that I had been born a Greek and not a
Jew, and that I could spend my days in sight of the marble-crowned
Acropolis and the blue Ægean Sea.

I taught Anthony to read and write, hoping that he would prove to be of
superior mental calibre to his brother. But the result was the same. He
surprised me at first by his brightness and afterward by his stupidity. He
was more impetuous than Ethopus, and braver; but then his spirit had not
been broken and subdued by contact with the magicians of Egypt, those
subterranean devils who defied the assaults of reason against their
pretensions and the vigilance of government against their crimes. Ceasing
to be a good soldier and incapable of becoming a philosopher, he proved an
invaluable servant.

The letters from my sisters, who wrote alternately, were full of
tenderness and piety. They continued to give glowing accounts of the power
and progress of the teaching of John the Baptist. Martha quoted all the
passages in the prophets alluding to the forerunner of the Messiah, and
Mary dwelt upon the influence of his doctrines and baptism upon the hearts
and lives of the people. Mary perceived intuitively that the only valuable
thing in a religion is the life which it induces one to lead. One day I
received a letter from this enthusiastic young girl, which indicated that
some great spiritual ferment was working in the land of Judea:



“DEAREST LAZARUS:

“The hunger and thirst of our souls will soon be satisfied. I have seen
him with my own eyes—him, the Son of God, the Messiah. Oh what grace! what
wisdom! what goodness! what power!

“Do not think I am dreaming! Some time ago John baptized a young man, whom
he pronounced by heavenly vision to be the Messiah, or as he styled him,
the Lamb of God. This mysterious person disappeared from sight. It was
rumored that he had retired into the wilderness, to undergo some terrible
combat with the powers of hell, preparatory to his great mission upon
earth. Our hearts have been watching eagerly for his reappearance.

“After a while we heard that a great prophet had arisen in Galilee, who
had astonished all men by the wonderful spirituality of his preaching. He
had also exhibited miraculous power by turning water into wine at a
marriage-feast in Cana. Perhaps this Jesus of Nazareth was the promised
deliverer! But how could the ignoble names of Nazareth and Galilee be
connected with the Prince of the house of David?

“Not long afterward a strange incident occurred in the temple. The
miracle-worker of Cana appeared, and assuming extraordinary authority, as
if the temple were his own house, he drove out all the traders and
money-changers and idlers who have so long desecrated the holy place by
the connivance of the corrupt and wicked priests. They would no doubt have
destroyed him in their anger; but the people, and indeed the better class
of Pharisees also, applauded the courageous act of the man, who dared,
single-handed, to vindicate the holiness of the Lord’s house, and to
scourge the profaners out of the sacred precincts.

“I was pondering over this incident, when our good and kind friend
Nicodemus came in, and told us he had witnessed the scene himself, and
that this Jesus of Nazareth was the same person whom he saw baptized by
John in Jordan, at the time when John bare witness that he saw the Spirit
of God descending upon him in the shape of a dove.

“Was not this cleansing of the temple prophetic of his spiritual cleansing
of the Church, as well as of the purification of those little temples and
churches, our own hearts?

“The good Nicodemus, who inquires into everything quickly, but into
nothing thoroughly, paid Jesus a visit at night and drew him into
conversation. He was astonished and puzzled at the new ideas of this
spiritual teacher. Now, my dear brother, do not laugh at me when I assure
you, that what seemed so unintelligible to a learned ruler in Israel, was
a sun-burst of truth and beauty to the heart of your poor little sister
Mary.

“How strange it is that I can see clearly what seems hidden from the eyes
of those so much more capable than myself!

“Jesus said to Nicodemus:

“‘Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’

“How stupid it was in the good old doctor to stumble at this sublime
sentence, and to ask:

“‘How can a man be born again when he is old?’

“And the reply of Jesus, how beautiful!—

“‘Verily I say unto you, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit,
he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

“‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the
Spirit is spirit.’

“I understand it, Lazarus; I see, feel, know, comprehend the whole
mystery. It may be the flower comprehends the sun better than the
philosopher.

“We were born of water through the baptism of John. By the repentance and
obedience taught by him, we are washed of the uncleanness and sensuality
of our old life and enter upon the sweetness and purity of the new. Jesus
will baptize us with the Spirit of divine love, as John did with the
spirit of divine truth; and we shall be new creatures, born again as it
were, into a spiritual kingdom of light and peace.

“The Sabbath after my interview with Nicodemus, I started with Martha to
the temple, hoping to see Jesus with my own eyes. And I saw him, Lazarus,
not only with my eyes, but with my heart and soul. We had reached the pool
of Bethesda by the sheep-market, and were looking at the crowd of feeble
and paralytic people, who were waiting for the periodical moving of the
water, when a murmur arose: ‘The prophet, the prophet of Nazareth!’ I
looked and saw Jesus standing in one of the porches on the first step that
leads down into the water.

“The moment I saw his face I believed. My heart beat audibly within me. A
divine ardor burned in my soul. A faith, strong as the mountains or the
ocean, took possession of my whole being. My impulse was to rush forward,
fall at his feet and proclaim him the Messiah to the assembled multitude.
Martha held me back and said: ‘Listen! he speaks!’

“Yes—he spoke; and I heard that voice I had so often heard in my dreams,
dreaming of the restoration of Israel!

“He spoke to the oldest, the feeblest, the most forlorn-looking person in
the crowd:

“‘Wilt thou be made whole?’ he said, in a voice of infinite tenderness and
beauty.

“Strangely enough, before the sick man answered, the same question entered
into my own soul. I felt a deadly, paralytic sensation throughout my
spiritual frame, and I knew that I needed to be made whole even more than
the poor creature on the steps. The Divine question was put to the sick
man, to me, to the Church, to the whole world. It was infinite. While I
was ejaculating internally, ‘Yes, Lord! yes! entirely whole,’ the
paralytic replied:

“‘I have no one, sir, when the water is troubled to put me into the pool,
but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.’

“Poor, old, helpless, friendless creature! Others had relatives or friends
who assisted them to descend into the restorative waters; and day after
day the selfish ones had pushed aside the weak, slow, pallid wretch. But
the great Friend had come!

“Jesus, stretching forth his hand over the prostrate form, with a majesty
indescribable, exclaimed:

“‘Rise, take up thy bed and walk.’

“And the paralytic arose amid the exclamations and plaudits of the crowd,
which pressed about them until he and Jesus were concealed from our sight.

“I have seen the Messiah several times since that miracle. He was walking
the streets with several fishermen of Galilee, whom they say he has chosen
to be his apostles. The greatest takes up the least to connect all the
intermediates with himself. The group is always followed at a distance by
a woman clad in deep mourning, and wearing a thick black veil. She never
approaches near enough to speak or be spoken to. No man knows where she
lodges or how she lives; but the first dawn of light always reveals her
dark figure opposite the house in which Jesus has slept.

“Who can she be? says every one to himself and to others. Whoever she is,
her humility and devotion are very touching; and the Power which can work
miracles no doubt reads her heart and is leading her to himself.

“Martha is profoundly impressed and greatly bewildered by the miracles and
character of Jesus; but she cannot yet believe that he is the veritable
Messiah predicted by the prophets. She thinks the Messiah must be a great
Prince, who will restore the power of David and the glory of Solomon to
the Jewish nation, and make our temple the temple of the whole world. Our
hearts, I think, our purified hearts, are the temples in which he is to
reign!

“Our dear, good, pagan uncle smiles quietly at my enthusiastic faith, and
encourages Martha’s doubts by telling us of great and good magi in Persia,
who performed greater miracles than those of Moses.

“Ah, Lazarus! How can you linger away off in those beautiful and wicked
cities of Greece, buried in spiritual darkness, and studying their foolish
or insane philosophies, when the Source of all light has risen, and the
Fountain of all truth has been opened in your own country! Oh hasten to
your home in our hearts and see these great things for yourself. If you
cannot share my faith, you will at least receive and reciprocate my love.

                                                “Ever your          MARY.”



If these strange things had occurred soon after my father’s death, when
the spirit of religious inquiry was strong, and when I loved to search the
Scriptures with my sisters, I would have been deeply, intensely interested
in them. But the hardest thing in the world is to make a devotee out of a
man who thinks himself a philosopher.

My uncle had not converted me to the doctrines of Zoroaster, but he had
convinced me that Zoroaster, Moses, and all the great leaders of religious
thought derived their inspiration from the same source. I came tacitly to
believe that no special Messiah was coming to the Jews, any more than to
the Persians or Egyptians or Romans, all of whom needed deliverance from
mountains of sin and wildernesses of error, quite as much as the Hebrew
nation which constituted so small a fraction of the human race.

Moreover the influence of travel, and especially my free and happy life at
Athens, had quite denationalized me. I was no longer a Jew.

I had breathed the mystic and magical air of Egypt, and had peeped into
one of the very cradles of the human race; where I found everything so
strange and so unlike what I had been taught by our childish Hebrew
traditions.

I had trodden all the glorious and beautiful grounds hallowed in the
immortal history and songs of Greece. I no longer wondered at the host of
gods and goddesses which were conjured from the misty deeps of antiquity,
to guard a nature so prolific and fair, and a people so perfect in form
and so gifted in spirit.

The traditions of Greece, the poetry, the eloquence, the music, the
philosophy, the art, and the divine architecture, which seemed a
combination of them all, had so impressed and transformed my mind, that I
looked back to my narrow circle of life and thought in Judea, as a man
looks back upon the school-room and play-ground of his childhood.

After these things, it was impossible for me to believe that the Jews were
the favored people of God, and that the descendants of the patriarchs were
to govern the world. It was as easy to believe that the sun rose in
Jericho and set in Joppa.

Therefore I smiled at my sister’s pious enthusiasm, and said to myself:

This Jesus of Nazareth is some estimable Jew, full of philanthropy and
zeal, possessed perhaps of extraordinary healing powers. With these he
will so astonish the poor ignorant Hebrews, that they will call him a
prophet of God, or even invest him with divine honors. In Athens he would
be simply a philosopher or a physician, more or less profound and
brilliant. His pretensions would be scrutinized by a thinking public, and
he would receive applause in proportion to his merit and capacity.

There was, I must confess, another reason why I did not turn my face
toward Judea; why the prophecies and their fulfillment had ceased to
interest me; and why even my charming sisters were occasionally forgotten.
While studying the theologies of the nations and poring over the ethereal
pantheism of Greece, I met that wonderful divinity who flies ever with his
golden shafts between the earth and the sun, and I became the devotee of a
new religion.

I had seen the most beautiful, the most wonderful woman in the world, and—

And what?

I loved!

                         [Illustration: Ornament]



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                   XI.


                                _HELENA._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

In the school of philosophy where the doctrines of Socrates and Plato were
taught with an eloquence equal to their own, I met a young Greek resident
of the city by the name of Demetrius. He was the son of Calisthenes, a
very wealthy merchant, who, contrary to the usual custom, attempted to
rival in his private residence the magnificent art which was bestowed only
on the public works. He was ambitious that his only son should enjoy more
than mercantile honors, and arrive at greater distinction than that which
wealth alone could bestow.

As usual in such cases, his paternal aspirations were doomed to
disappointment. Nine-tenths of the genius of the world comes from that
great middle class which knows neither riches nor poverty. The possession
of great wealth is generally a hinderance to intellectual or spiritual
advancement. Demetrius was a handsome, amiable fellow, of mediocre talent,
slothful by nature and indulgence, and more ambitious of social success
than of a front place in the class of philosophy.

I know not how it happened, but he had attached himself more strongly to
me than I to him. I attained the entrée of his father’s house by a lucky
accident. While we were rowing in the harbor one day, our little vessel
was capsized, and it was only by my desperate exertions in his behalf that
Demetrius was saved from drowning. Gratitude did more for the deliverer
than friendship had done for the fellow-student: it opened the doors of
the princely mansion, and showed me the household gods.

I was rejoiced at this, for I had heard one of my companions say:

“Helena, the sister of Demetrius, is the most wonderful creature in the
world.”

I verified the truth of his remark. It was indeed the echo of the popular
lip. Helena was an institution of Athens, sought, seen and admired like
its other wonders and beauties. No language can convey any adequate
description of this cunning masterpiece of nature. There was no statue in
all the rich collections of Grecian art, which excelled the matchless
symmetry of her form or the perfect beauty of her features. She was the
poet’s dream of perfection, embodied in the delicate tissues of a splendid
womanhood.

A neck and bust of immaculate beauty were surmounted by a head, every
attitude of which was a study for artists and lovers. Her hair was a cloud
of dark, brown waves faintly dashed with gold. Her broad imperial brow was
pure as the silver surface of some cloudless dawn. Her soft, hazel eyes
were radiant centres of inexpressible light and power. Her cheeks, nose,
mouth and chin were miracles of shape, warmth and color. Her shell-tinted
ears were hung with pearls less beautiful than themselves; and a necklace
of golden beads made conspicuous a throat which it could not beautify. Her
hands and fingers were so lucid, delicate and expressive, that they might
be called features also, revealing in part the movements of her mind.

Poor artist that I am, I throw my pencil down in disgust. I cannot
reproduce Helena to your eyes as she appeared to me.

To see this woman, for a young enthusiastic spirit, with his celestial
dream pressing downward for realization, was to love her. The shaft of
love flies from one eye to another; from the eye to the heart; from the
heart to the brain; from the brain to the soul. I looked, I loved. I was
smitten to the soul by that malady which has no cure but the cause which
inflicts it.

Helena had not only an irresistible sweetness of voice and grace of
manner, but she had a singular directness of attack, concentrating all her
charms upon you at once; so that few men ever left her presence without
feeling that she had absorbed and taken from them some portion of their
life, which they could only recover by returning into the enchanted
atmosphere which surrounded her beautiful person.

Thus bewildered by her beauty and bewitched by her fascinations, I lost my
life when away from her, and found it again, enhanced and glorified, when
I approached her footstool. I was attracted to her continually; and if I
tore myself away, and climbed the mountain-top, or walked by the
sea-shore, she became the inspiring genius of my solitary rambles; and the
beauties of nature were only beautiful, because in some inexplicable
manner they seemed akin to, or associated with her.

Thus, day after day, week after week passed by, and philosophy became as
dry as dust, and my companions silly and unprofitable; and Egypt became a
myth and Judea a dream; while the past was forgotten and the future
uncared for, except in connection with her. Solitude became sweet, and
reverie ecstatic, and the language of poetry the voice of common life. I
created for myself an ideal world, romantic, ethereal, felicitous; for the
greatest magician that ever lived is Love.

I was sometimes, however, sunk into the fathomless abyss of despair. I met
in the splendid halls of Calisthenes so many distinguished and wealthy and
powerful men; so many soldiers and statesmen; so many philosophers,
artists and poets; all many degrees superior to myself, and all paying the
same homage to the idol I worshiped, that my envy and jealousy were being
continually excited; and I frequently shrank within myself, taciturn and
melancholy, contemplating the awful distance which intervened between my
feeble pretensions and the transcendent object of my admiration.

Then Helena, observing my silence and grief, would single me out from the
crowd with a peculiar sweetness; would bestow a smile which seemed meant
only for me; would drop a sentence of pearl which I felt that I alone
comprehended; would solicit my early return in a manner so special and
impressive, that I was fired with new hope and endowed with new life;
spurned the dull earth beneath me, and was ready, like the daring boy of
Apollo, to drive the chariot of the sun.

“Let no one ever despair,” I would thus fondly say to myself, “of
conquering a woman by love. Concentrate the passion of your soul upon her,
like the rays of a burning glass, and sooner or later, you will melt her
heart. The best philter to excite love is love itself. If you would
ignite, you must burn.”

With all this magnificent exterior, with the blended adornments of nature
and art, this Helena was altogether unworthy of the pure and simple love I
lavished upon her. She studied men as the angler studies the character,
habits and locality of fish; solely to allure and capture them. She had
the thoughtful brow and the words of wisdom for one class; the smile of
the cupid and the laugh of the bacchante for another. She had an armory
full of weapons; the tear of sympathy, the corruscations of wit, the
meekness of modesty, the humility of religion, the splendor of dress, the
ornament and even the exposure of person. Everything about her was the
highest art in a garb of the sweetest nature.

She hesitated at nothing which would secure her a conquest. She was
unhappy unless many were kneeling at her shrine. She lived upon the breath
of adulation, the music of her own praises, the incense of delirious love.
She wished to absorb everything; she gave nothing in return. She demanded
for herself affection, thought, worship, life. She returned only smiles,
hopes, dreams, shadows. She was a beautiful demon of selfishness. There
were fascination, magic, spiritual death in her sphere; but the soul died
listening to invisible music and dreaming of heaven.

This adoration of men and envy of women was more to be pitied than
admired. She had a mother whose influence was a dark shadow cast upon her
life. Neither beautiful nor gifted herself, she had determined that the
gifts and beauty of her child should be turned to the utmost account. She
had planted a wild ambition in her girlish spirit, as one plants a rose in
a garden. She had nourished it and watered it carefully, until she brought
it to baneful perfection. Her own evil nature was transfused into the
child.

She taught her that power, wealth, fashion, glory, were the true objects
of rational pursuit. She cultivated her vanity, her petulance, her
imperiousness. She basked in the sunshine of her beauty and power. Fatal
parasite! she drew from the virgin tree upon which she fastened, the
sustenance she could not herself extract from the earth and air. The too
pliant pupil accepted and improved all the lessons of the teacher; and
behold the result!

Of the true character of Helena I knew nothing at the time. That discovery
was the result of subsequent information and experience. Nothing occurred
in those blissful days to break the spell of the enchantress. I did,
indeed, once or twice notice the contrast between this Athenian goddess
and my pure and sweet sisters. I did once or twice wonder that Sappho and
Horace should be her favorite poets, and Aspasia her model of female
character. But these shadowy doubts, like the faint threat of clouds which
sometimes appear in the clearest heaven, soon passed away.

Helena, petted and spoiled, set all the regulations of fashion and
propriety at defiance. She did as she pleased, and every one was pleased
with what she did. Not every one; for she was the terror of rigid mothers
and the scandal of prudish maidens. She walked unveiled in the streets.
She made herself conspicuous at the theatre and the racing-grounds. She
visited artists in their studios and poets in their chambers. She received
very questionable visitors at very unseasonable hours. Her dressing-room
even opened its doors to favorite lovers, or to those of whom she wished
to make a convenience. All this was done so boldly, so gracefully, so
naïvely, that no one dared to express a hint against her virtue.

She admitted me to her presence on a very familiar footing. One evening I
called to see her, when she was dressing for a grand supper, and the
servant ushered me into her boudoir. She was one bright blaze of jewels
and beauty. The dressing-maid was giving the last caressing touches to her
hair. She was scrutinizing the work in a metallic mirror with an ivory
handle, which she held like a fan.

“Come! my Judean!” she said, casting upon me one of her most bewitching
glances—“come and put this ring into my ear.”

This captivating service I rendered with trembling hands and palpitating
heart. The dressing-maid smiled at my awkwardness and trepidation. Helena
never looked more resplendent. I felt helplessly bound to the
chariot-wheels of her destiny.

The waiting-girl left the room, and falling at the feet of the
unimpassioned beauty, I stammered forth my passion.

“Helena! do you know that I love you?”

She was contemplating her chin in the mirror, and replied without looking
at me:

“Of course you do. Everybody does.”

“But, Helena! I cannot live without loving you.”

“That is charming. Love me then and live.”

“Helena!” said I, sternly, “you mock me. You allure me as if I were a man;
and then you treat me as if I were a boy. You invite me; you evade me; you
tantalize me. Can you not love me?”

“Let me see,” said she, looking up at the Judgment of Paris beautifully
frescoed on the ceiling; “let me see: I love wisdom, riches, power and
glory. When you are wise as Socrates, rich as Crœsus, eloquent as Cicero,
and powerful as Cæsar, I will love you and give myself to you.”

“Your combination is impossible,” said I, proudly, biting my lip with
failing heart and unconcealed vexation.

Her face suddenly became radiant with a yielding, tender and beautiful
expression, and I added:—

“But if it existed, Helena, you would be worthy of it.”

“To love such as yours,” she said, sweetly, pressing my hands, “all things
are possible. We have been dreaming in the boudoir; let us converse in the
parlor.”

She led the way and overwhelmed me with such civilities that I forgot the
past which had wounded me, and had golden glimpses of that magical future
which was to console and bless me. Such is the dream-land of love!

My sisters continued to write the most glowing letters, full of piety and
tender affection. Their rehearsal of miracles and parables, and of voices
from heaven, their enthusiasm, their faith, their zeal, all fell as dull
and cold upon my ear as the monotonous songs of an old nurse.



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                   XII.


                          _THE HALL OF APOLLO._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

I was awakened from my delicious dream by Demetrius, who importuned me to
accompany him to Rome, whither he had been despatched by his father on
business of extreme importance. This reminded me that a visit to Rome was
an essential part of my uncle’s educational programme. I had abandoned
philosophy for love, and love cares nothing for thought, except as one
mode of expressing the sentiments. My education, therefore, was at a
stand-still. I hesitated and shuddered at the idea of leaving the charmed
circle in which I stood entranced. I would, perhaps, have neither
gratified my friend nor obeyed my uncle, had not Helena carelessly dropped
the remark, that no student could truly regard his course of instruction
completed until he had visited Rome. To acquire this title to perfection
in the eyes of Helena, I endured the pangs of parting and the miseries of
absence; became a compliant friend and an obedient nephew. I went to Rome.

Rome did not impress me so favorably as Athens. I was fond of art, but
cared little for glory. The efforts of man to reproduce the beauties of
Nature excited my admiration; his labors to immortalize himself and his
deeds excited my contempt. The art of Rome was imported; her glory was
self-acquired. I had soon seen all that I cared to see of the imperial
city, which Augustus had found of brick and left of marble.

Demetrius had letters to some of the most powerful and influential men in
Rome, so that we were soon introduced into the best society there. It was
not long before we received an invitation to one of the splendid suppers
of Hortensius, the richest man and the greatest epicure in the world. I
remembered the conversation of the slave-dealer at Alexandria. I mentally
resolved, as we drove through the magnificent arch of his palace gate,
that, although I might taste of the nightingales of Hortensius, I
certainly would take none of his fish.

“Beware of the fish-ponds,” said I, laughingly, to Anthony, who
accompanied us as footman.

This palace of Hortensius was an affair of Babylonian magnificence.
Everything about it was of colossal proportions. It was said to have as
many chambers as there were days in the year. Hortensius had twelve
bed-rooms for himself, each named after one of the months, and gorgeously
furnished in a manner to represent the month after which it was named.
There were seven banqueting-halls named after gods and goddesses—the
dreams rather than the creations of art. This grand structure was burned
during the fire in the reign of Nero, and its splendors, no longer to be
found anywhere on earth, are already regarded as fabulous.

We supped in the Hall of Apollo.

The company was altogether male, which I did not regret; for I did not
wish to see or speak to a woman in the world but Helena or my sisters. It
was composed of the magnates, the great stars of Roman society—soldiers,
statesmen, senators, governors, etc.—the least of them immeasurably above
the two young plebeian students, who, dumbfounded at all they saw, could
not but experience a painful sense of their own insignificance.

On my right hand, however, at the table, was a noble and sedate Roman,
Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea. He had visited Rome to consult the
emperor and the senate about the affairs of his province, and was on the
eve of returning. He seemed pleased when he learned that my home was in
the neighborhood of Jerusalem; and with great tact and urbanity drew me
out of my abstracted mood, dissipated my bashfulness, and engaged me in an
animated conversation.

The Hall of Apollo was a miracle of beauty. Its area was immense; its
shape, circular. Supported by twenty-four golden columns, the ceiling rose
to a vast height, as a blue dome painted to represent the visible heavens.
The sun blazing up through masses of dense and crimson clouds; the
intensely clear cerulean ether above; the horizon all around pierced by
mountain peaks, overhung by rolling vapors of purple and gold, produced an
illusion of astonishing power and magnificence.

Every object in the room, the pictures, the statuary, the bass-reliefs
upon the columns, the carvings upon the couches and the gorgeous table,
and even the engravings and embossings upon the splendid vases and vessels
which adorned it, were all descriptive or symbolical of Apollo, his
attributes and achievements. The wonder of the hall, however, was a golden
chandelier of incredible size, containing a thousand rose-colored tapers,
which lighted the scene with a brilliancy rivaling the day.

I will not attempt to describe the feast, having no particular fondness
for epicurism. The bill of fare exceeded anything I had ever imagined.
There was service after service, dessert after dessert, wine after wine,
seemingly without end. The meat-courses, lasting about three hours, were
presented by handsome boys of every nationality, clad in beautiful livery.
The after-courses, of sweets and luxuries, were brought on by female
servants, lovely in person and graceful in manner, revealing by their
dress or otherwise every charm of the human body.

When the company was well filled and duly flushed by the delicious wines,
the whole western wall of the apartment, by some hidden and admirable
mechanism, suddenly opened or changed like a dissolving view, and revealed
an interior apartment a little above the level of ours, which looked like
a beautiful garden adorned and lighted in a style of Oriental
magnificence.

The shrubbery and flowers of this garden were the concentrated beauties of
the floral world in all regions, cultivated here by art, and offering an
incense of perfume to these Roman rulers, who aspired to conquer not only
man but nature. Ivory statues of gods and goddesses, of nymphs and fawns
and satyrs, added greatly to the beauty of the scene. But when a dozen
dancing-girls alighted as it were from heaven upon this miraculous stage,
and whirled among these statues and flowers, less perfect and beautiful
than themselves, the fascination, to those who regarded such enchantments,
was complete.

“More music! more wine!” cried Hortensius from his purple couch a little
elevated above the rest—“the feast of thought ends always in the feast of
love.”

The banquet progressed with continued variations of stimulus and
entertainment. The guests were regaled by invisible music, repeatedly
changed, and representing the airs and styles of every nation which had
bowed its head to the Roman conqueror. The wine fell fast into golden
goblets from vases composed of precious gems. The day dawned. The noise
and excitement increased: the conversation degenerated into a babble, and
the feast into a debauch; when a most extraordinary incident occurred,
changing my uncle’s programme and perhaps my whole fate in the twinkling
of an eye.

A great clamor was heard outside of the door nearest Hortensius. Loud and
angry voices, the rapid tread of many feet, curses, groans, shrieks,
indicated the approach of some dreadful storm. It was a thunderbolt in a
clear sky. All sprang to their feet and advanced toward the sounds, when
the door was burst open with violence, and my servant Anthony rushed in,
foaming at the mouth, bleeding profusely from several wounds and
flourishing an immense knife over his head.

“I will kill him if I die for it!” he shouted, glaring fiercely on the
brilliant crowd before him, and endeavoring to single out the object of
his hate.

“What does all this mean, Anthony?” I exclaimed, leaping forward and
seizing him by the throat.

“I have saved him from the fish-pond,” he answered sternly, pointing to
the naked form of a poor negro, whom the domestics had at last succeeded
in hurling to the floor, and who had followed Anthony, defending him from
his pursuers.

“And why did you not fly? madman!” I exclaimed, “why did you come here?”

“Oh! death was inevitable,” he answered, in a tone of desperation, “and I
determined first to kill the vile despot, the author of these cruelties.”

“Slave! barbarian!” echoed from all parts of the hall.

“Slave I am: barbarian I may be!” shouted Anthony defiantly; “but in my
country they do not feed fishes with men.”

The crowd had stood back a little while we were speaking: but now there
was a sudden rush upon us in front and rear. I was pushed forcibly aside,
and Anthony was borne down, disarmed and bound with his fellow-prisoner,
whose rescue had caused this great excitement.

“Throw the old one to the fishes immediately,” cried Hortensius in a loud
and cruel tone. “Bind this young villain by the pond and guard him till I
come. I will cut him up, strip by strip, with my own hands.”

A murmur of approbation ran through the assembly. Thrusting the bystanders
away, I confronted Hortensius face to face.

“O most noble Roman,” I exclaimed, “pardon something in this poor man to
the spirit of liberty. He was born free, a prince in his little realm; and
like you, he has been a brave soldier. Misfortune in war, not crime, has
enslaved him. He is honest, faithful and noble. It was a fierce and
glorious love of his own race which has fired him to this rash deed. His
sublime self-sacrifice, his desperate courage surely deserve a better fate
at the hands of a Roman and a soldier. Spare him and forgive him!”

It would be difficult to describe the fierce and haughty stare which
Hortensius and his noble guests fixed upon me during this little speech.
They wondered at my folly, my stupidity, my audacity. To plead for a black
slave who had drawn his knife against a Roman senator! To accord the
spirit of liberty to such vermin of the earth! To speak of them as brave,
faithful, noble, glorious, sublime! They were stupefied at the novelty and
heresy of such ideas. I was certainly either a fool or a madman.

Hortensius, lowering his voice and infusing into it a little suavity,—for
he suddenly remembered that I was his guest,—exclaimed:

“The proper discipline of my palace, young man, demands the immediate
death of this would-be assassin. I will replace your servant with a
better.”

“That is beyond your power,” I replied impetuously; “your whole household
would not replace him. I am indebted to his brother for my sister’s life
and honor. I am bound to this man’s flesh and blood as if they were my
own. I cannot, I will not desert him in his extremity.”

There were loud exclamations of surprise, contempt and disapproval. Many,
however, were silent, touched perhaps by a latent magnanimity.

“What will you do?” exclaimed a haughty old Roman in a most provoking
tone.

“Do?” said I rashly, striking my hand upon the hilt of my dagger, “do?—I
will defend him: I will die with him.”

This caused a great uproar in the assembly. Loud cries of

“Away with him! out with him!”

“Insult a Roman senator!”

“Abettor of slaves and assassins!”

“Insurrectionist! Madman! Idiot!”

“Down with the base Judean!”

resounded through the splendid Hall of Apollo. My friend Demetrius, who
had hitherto stood near me, now slipped into the crowd and disappeared.
Having defied the supreme power of the place, I would probably have shared
the fate of the wretched Ethiopian, had not assistance come to me from an
unexpected quarter.

Pontius Pilate stepped between Hortensius and myself, and waving his hand
with great dignity and grace, requested silence.

“Pardon, dear friends and most noble senators! pardon the wine which has
made this rash youth forget both reason and duty. He is a subject of mine,
being a native and resident of my province. I claim jurisdiction over him,
and will punish him as he deserves. He is from this moment a prisoner in
charge of my retinue. He shall be carried back to his native village,
disarmed, bound and disgraced, so that all Judean youths may know what
folly it is to insult a Roman senator.”

There was a strong murmur of approbation throughout the assembly, and
Hortensius nodded approval.

Pilate continued:

“I would not say a word to save this African from the death he so richly
merits, were it not for one dark suspicion which crosses my mind and which
will not permit me to be silent. I suspect this infuriate wretch to be a
madman; and the insane, you know, are under the protection of the gods
and, sacred from the fangs of the law. Permit me to convey this slave also
in irons to Judea. I will have his case carefully studied by my own
physician. If the gods have smitten him in their wisdom, let him go free
as our laws direct. If he exhibits enough reason to be held responsible, I
will have him driven into the dreadful desert beyond the Salt Sea, and
sentence him to a perpetual exile in its awful solitudes. If he is ever
discovered west of the river Jordan, his punishment shall be death,
without question or delay.”

Whether this proposition struck the hearers as remarkable, or what was
more likely, the social and civil weight of Pontius Pilate bore down their
opposition and silenced their scruples, Hortensius acceded to it and all
seemed satisfied. After drinking again to the health of Hortensius, the
company dispersed. I soon found myself a prisoner bound for Judea,
deserted by Demetrius, exiled from Helena, full of sadness and dark
forebodings, with the educational tour projected by my good uncle brought
to a sudden and ignominious conclusion.

The only comfort I experienced during the long and melancholy voyage was
the thought that I had saved the life of my high-spirited Anthony, whom I
was not permitted to see, and whose daring conduct I more admired the more
I thought of it.

I was struck also with the wonderful tact, courtesy and kindness of
Pontius Pilate. I would gladly have thanked him for his services; but I
was kept in strict confinement, and heard and saw nothing of the sedate
governor. On our arrival at Jerusalem, I was unbound and taken privately
before him.

“You are now free,” he said. “I admire you too much to inflict any further
punishment upon you for your incredible rashness. You cannot help being
brave, but you can compel yourself to be prudent. Go, sir! When you get
into trouble again, let me hear from you and I will befriend you, if
possible.”

“And my servant?” said I, hoping to intercede for Anthony.

“He has been driven into the desert.”

An hour afterward I was trudging up the Mount of Olives, thinking of what
a joyous surprise I was about to give to some dear little souls in
Bethany.

                         [Illustration: Ornament]



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                  XIII.


                            _MY FIRST DEATH._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

How beautiful was my old home, embowered in trees and perfumed with
flowers! How charming were my lovely sisters, twin-stars of the social
heaven, dropping sweet influence on all who received their tender light!
How peaceful and pure was the self-sacrificing old age of Beltrezzor, over
whose pagan heart, so full of simple love and wisdom, the most orthodox
angels kept kindly watch!

A great sadness rested upon our little household, on account of the recent
murder of John the Baptist by the cruel Herod, at the instigation of a
still more cruel woman. That pure and good man had been cast into prison
about the time that Christ began his ministry, and the morning star paled
on the approach of the blazing Sun. He had ever been remembered with
peculiar tenderness and gratitude; and heaven became dearer to us by
receiving into its fold the gentle hermit of the wilderness.

My sisters had grown lovelier. On Martha’s clear brow the sweet maturity
of thought was imprinted. Mingled with the light of love on Mary’s face
was a touching sadness, of which none but Martha and I suspected the
meaning. These women, so pure, so cultivated, so beautiful, were
abstracted from the entire world. Sought by many lovers, they had
discarded the very thought of love. They were wedded in heart to the
heavenly bridegroom.

They had heard but once from our old friend, the Son of the Desert. A
strange servant, no doubt a disguised robber, brought back the ring with a
note from the wanderer, saying that he was unworthy to wear it; that it
afflicted him with sorrowful dreams and burned into his soul like iron.
Martha herself fortunately met him at the gate, and would not permit him
to depart without an answer, as he was instructed to do. She sent back the
ring with her love and Mary’s to the savior of their brother, with the
solemn assurance that the ring had a great blessing for him concealed
within its curse.

I soon discovered that my sisters had but one idea, one study, one
passion. Their individuality was lost in their perpetual concentration of
soul upon one object. That object was Jesus Christ. They no longer spoke
of him as the prophet of Nazareth. Martha had at last discovered with her
eyes what Mary had seen with her heart. He was the Son of God: He was the
Messiah. With subdued voices and reverent gestures they called him the
Lord.

All this was very strange to me, fresh from beautiful and romantic Greece,
where altars were erected to a thousand gods: fresh from the schools of
philosophy, where the only deity taught was a spiritual essence, infinite,
inconceivable, unfathomable. I listened, however, with interest to the
recital of miracles which were certainly astounding; to parables which
were replete with spiritual wisdom; and to discourses—for my sisters
treasured all his words by heart and repeated them to me—which were
radiant with a certain divine light and beauty.

I was ready to concede that this man must be the greatest philosopher of
the age.

This was the opinion of our good uncle, who, however, took no trouble to
see or hear the worker of such great miracles. He said there was nothing
new under the sun; that all things repeated themselves over and over
again; that all wisdom had been spoken and every miracle performed ages
and ages ago. The Son of God was in his mind synonymous with a disciple of
the Sun.

Beltrezzor was sorry that I did not remain a year at Rome, for he said the
practical atmosphere of that city would have moderated and utilized the
ideality I had drawn from Athens. He was greatly pleased, however, with my
conduct at the supper of Hortensius.

“The man who sees any reason,” he would say, “why Hortensius should be
more wealthy, more powerful, more respected, more glorious than Anthony,
has not incorporated into his soul the first ray of the divine principle
of fire, and is altogether ignorant of the power and beauty of the sun.”

A few weeks after my return, Beltrezzor transferred the whole of my
father’s estate, improved and augmented, into my hands. No reasonings, no
entreaties could induce him to abandon or even to defer his
long-contemplated journey to the extreme East. A strange, sad
home-sickness had apparently seized him; and he waited with a childish
impatience for the arrival of the caravan from Egypt which was to escort
him to Assyria.

It came at length; and our adieus were long and bitter. We were bound to
him not only by a pious gratitude for his rich gifts and his unvarying
kindness, but by a genuine love of his sweet, sincere and noble nature. We
wept at the thought of the dear old man going away into that far-off,
marvelous Orient, without a wife or child to comfort his declining years.
My sisters also seemed overwhelmed with grief, that one so good and so
beloved had rejected to the last, with a quiet, polite incredulity, all
the evidences of the divine mission of Jesus.

The old man’s parting words to me, as he leaned from his camel, whispering
in my ear, were these:

“Beware, my son, of the spirit of fanaticism which has fallen upon your
good sisters. I bequeath you this verse from one of the sacred books in
Persia. It is my last and best gift to you. Do not forget it:—

“‘It is more truly pious to sow the ground with diligence, than to say ten
thousand prayers in idleness.’

“Adieu!”

A few days after my uncle’s departure, we were invited to dine at the
house of a worthy Pharisee, Simon by name, who was touched at heart with a
secret admiration of Jesus. Preoccupied as I was with thoughts of Helena,
and caring nothing about spiritual things, I would not have accompanied my
sisters but at their earnest solicitation. They had been assured that
Jesus would be present, and they were anxious for me to behold the object
of their love and worship.

He came, and saluted us all with a charming grace and sweetness of manner.
His face was handsome, thoughtful and benevolent, but did not strike you
as majestic or sublime. There was a winning sociality in his conversation,
which you did not expect from his serene and rather pensive countenance.
He was quiet and modest in his demeanor; and instead of leading the
thoughts of the company, he spoke less than any one present.

Reflecting, by the light of later and grander experiences, upon the first
impressions made on me by this mysterious man, I am convinced that not
only his face, his expressions, his words, but his whole life was
comparatively a sealed book to the people who saw him in the flesh. They
saw only the outside, the husk, the fleshly, not the heavenly part of him.
They were ignorant of the sublimities, the infinities concealed within.
Whoever sees only the physical and not at the same time the spiritual side
of anything, sees little. The flowers, the gems, the clouds, all beautiful
objects, on the spiritual side are full of sacred mysteries. Ignorant of
these little things, how could the men of that day comprehend the Christ?

What a different banquet from that of Hortensius! A plain room, opening
directly on the street; a plain table; a plain company. At Rome we had a
wild ambition, aspiring to universal empire, and imitating even in its
luxuries all the splendors of heaven and earth. Here were simple tastes,
frugal habits, civic industry, neighborly love. There the presiding genius
was the demon of pride; here it was the Divine Man.

The feast was nearly over, when a woman, closely concealing her face in a
black veil, glided softly into the room and stood behind Jesus. This would
not have attracted special attention, for people were coming in and going
out all the time; but I remembered Mary’s account of the mysterious woman
who always followed Jesus and his disciples at a distance. I therefore
watched the movements of this person with considerable interest.

She bent low over the feet of Jesus as he reclined on his couch, and I
observed that she was weeping. She seemed deeply agitated. Suddenly she
let down the great mass of dark brown hair from her head, and began wiping
the feet of the Lord. Washing his feet with her tears and wiping them with
the hair of her head! What touching humility! What contrition!

Then she anointed his feet with a precious ointment which she drew from
her bosom.

My thoughts were concentrated on that kneeling figure. I entered so deeply
into what I imagined to be her feelings and sorrows, I was so attracted by
what must have been a secret spiritual affinity with her own soul, that I
heard almost nothing of the conversation which ensued between Jesus and
Simon, and which is recorded by the apostle Luke who was himself present.

When the divine voice pronounced the verdict, “Thy sins are forgiven;” a
strange and bewildering sense of delight came over me, as if I myself had
been the sinner who sought and found the pardon of sin. I was
contemplating in amazement this reverberation, as it were, of the woman’s
sentiments in my own spirit, when Jesus said, “Thy faith hath saved thee:
go in peace;” and the woman turned slowly around and walked sobbing out of
the door.

Scarcely knowing what I did, I quietly withdrew from my place at the table
and followed her. Suddenly, in some ecstasy of religious feeling, she
threw her arms wildly toward the sky, the veil was lifted for a moment,
and I recognized the beautiful, sorrowing and purified features of Mary
Magdalen!

The spell which overpowered me was instantly withdrawn, and I returned to
my seat. No psychology I had ever been taught, threw any light on this
singular phenomenon; and it remained a mystery until solved by that
special light of the spiritual world which I alone of all men have
enjoyed.

After that the mysterious preacher and miracle-worker was a frequent
visitor at our house in Bethany. I came no nearer to him than at first: I
understood him no better. He was a good, wise, wonderful man; beyond that
I could not penetrate. I became intimate with all his disciples; and I
loved to dispute with them on theological subjects, and to puzzle their
uncultivated brains with my philosophical doubts and quibbles. But in the
presence of their master I had nothing to say. I stood abashed and
silenced by some secret power which I could not explain. I never thought,
however, of acknowledging him as the Messiah, or the Son of God.

The reason was, that my heart and mind were too closely riveted to nature
and the things of sense, to rise to the conception and love of spiritual
things.

While the faces of my sisters were growing more and more radiant and
serene from the spiritual life which was deepening in their souls, mine
became pale and haggard from the burden of concealed longings and the
vigils of a burning but unfed hope. I had written and rewritten to Helena,
but received no answer. I would have returned to Athens; but the fear of
leaving my tender and helpless sisters so near to such a subtle enemy as
Magistus, and Beltrezzor away off in Persia, detained me unwillingly at
Bethany.

Absence extinguishes a feeble love; but intensifies a great one. I brooded
in solitude. I took interest in nothing. Conversation was irksome.
Religion and philosophy were alike neglected. I experienced that apathy
which a great desolation of heart produces, and which men attribute to
moroseness or stupidity. I was feeding with the intense hunger of love
upon my treasured memories of Helena; devouring every word she had spoken,
every look, every tone, every changing form, every shifting light of her
miraculous beauty.

My love for Helena, for reasons which I did not then comprehend, was not
of a soothing, ennobling, purifying type. It was a disquieting,
paralyzing, corroding passion. The sphere of this woman, wholly incapable
of the heavenly duties of wife and mother, did not lead me, encouraged and
strengthened, into the sweet and useful activities of life. Like an evil
spirit rather, it drove me into the wilderness; tempted me with stones
which were not bread; and haunted me with wild dreams and insane
ambitions.

Thus many weeks passed away, and the fever of my soul had so worn and
wasted me that my sisters became seriously alarmed at my condition, not
knowing the cause; for I had never divulged my pagan goddess to these
pious little ones.

One day I was suddenly lifted out of the cavern of despair into the
serenest sunlight of hope. I received a message from Helena that she was
traveling with her father to the most noted places in Asia, and would
spend a few days in Jerusalem; that she was the guest of Alastor, a
wealthy Greek merchant of the city, and that her visit would be devoid of
genuine pleasure unless she could see once more her esteemed friend, who
had saved the life of her brother.

Now occurred a most curious mental phenomenon. The sudden reaction of joy
in the feeble and excited state of my nervous system, overpowered my
brain. I became the victim of an absurd, grotesque illusion. I leaped at
once from the abyss of self-abasement to the maddest height of
presumption. I transferred my entire experiences of heart and mind to
Helena. She, I imagined, was pining with unconquerable passion for me. She
was wasted and worn by unrevealed, unrequited love. She had suffered and
faded in silence until longer concealment was death. Her father had
brought her under cover of travel really to meet me again, to draw me once
more to her feet, to obtain my confessions, and to receive new hope and
life from my words. I was filled with an unspeakable tenderness, with a
generous compassion. I would fly to her; I would console her; I would make
her life and happiness secure by giving her my own.

Busied with these mad fancies, and muttering them to myself as I went
along, I hurried to the house of Alastor. Ushered into the presence of
Helena, I was surprised and abashed by the serene and smiling expression
of her countenance, and her splendid physique, upon which neither time nor
love had yet written the faintest trace of ravage. She received me without
the least embarrassment in the gay and sparkling manner of a cold and
polished queen of society. I saw in a moment that I was not loved, that
she had never thought of me, that my hopes were dreams, my passion a
madness. I read my doom in the charming suavity of my reception.

Disappointed, chilled, bewildered, heartsick, miserable, I maintained a
broken conversation for a little while, until Helena, perceiving with her
woman’s wit, something, and perhaps all of my secret, broke off the
interview.

“You are sick,” said she tenderly, “you are feverish, you are in pain. You
should not have come until to-morrow.”

“Go home now,” she continued, taking my hand kindly in hers, “go home and
be cared for. When you get better you must come again, and we will talk of
Athens and art, of poetry and love; and of all the beautiful things that
ravish the hearts of men and women.”

I do not remember what I said, or how I parted from her. On the portico I
met a man going in, whose presence sent a strange shudder through my
frame. My diseased nerves were very sensitive. He was a person of handsome
face, imposing appearance and gracious address. He began speaking to me,
but suddenly stopped and fixed his great, black, lustrous eyes fiercely on
me. My first impulse was to resent this conduct as an insult; but I
quickly perceived that my mind was becoming confused, bewildered,
fascinated by his gaze, and I averted my face with a great effort and
hurried down the steps.

I did not dare to look back. At the foot of the stairs I ran heedlessly
against our old relative and enemy, Magistus, whom I had not seen since my
return from Rome. Seizing him by the shoulders I gasped,

“Who is this man on the portico?”

“Simon Magus,” said he, with a coarse laugh,—“Simon Magus, the prince of
Egyptian magic, and he has evidently cast the evil eye upon you. Woe to
you!”

I fled precipitately through the streets. When I reached home I was in a
burning fever. At night I was in a raging delirium. It was a brain fever
of malignant type. My mad and grotesque illusion about Helena was really
the beginning of my illness. Days and nights of alternate excitement and
stupor passed away; days and nights of physical torture and mental
suffering. My sweet sisters watched and wept and prayed by my side.

Horrible fantasies besieged my fevered imagination. I thought that Mary
was under the magician’s knife, and that he would accept no substitute for
her bleeding heart but that of Helena. I opened my eyes and started with
horror; for Mary was seated by my side, with the heart, as I supposed,
torn out of her bosom. Then again, Hortensius was cutting up the beautiful
body of Helena for his fish-ponds, while the Egyptian held me fascinated
by his terrible eye, so that I could not stir for her help.

I grew worse and the end approached. I had not realized my condition: I
had neither fear nor hope: I had no thought of death or of Jesus. At last,
however, when I was dying, I heard my sisters calling frantically on his
name. The name must have touched some silver chord of memory. The sweet,
benevolent face appeared before me, Mary Magdalen in her dark robe
kneeling behind. The tender words, “Thy sins are forgiven,” echoed in my
ears. Mary and Martha seemed to me like two shining angels floating up
into heaven. A sudden halo blazed around the head of Jesus. I reached out
my arms to him with wonder and delight, fell back and expired with a smile
upon my lips.

Yes! I was dead: and, wonder of wonders! I live again, to describe my
sensations, and to inform my fellow-men what I saw and heard behind the
veil which separates the two worlds—that veil which is so thin and yet
seems so impenetrable.

                         [Illustration: Ornament]



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                   XIV.


                           _MY SPIRITUAL BODY._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

Our sleep is an awakening: our death is a birth; our burial a
resurrection.

The slumber of a babe upon its mother’s breast, drawing from her bodily
warmth the secret magnetism of life, is a picture of the true state of
every human soul, leaning unconsciously upon the bosom of God at the
moment when bereaved friends are exclaiming,

“He is dead! he is dead!”

They called me dead. My sisters and their companions rent their garments
and covered their heads with ashes. Unconscious of their grief, I passed
beyond the shadows of this world, beyond these voices and sorrows, into
the pure light of a spiritual realm.

Dead, indeed! I lived most when I seemed to live least. Death is nothing
but a name for a change of condition.

The first thing I remember on returning to consciousness, was a soft
strain of distant and ravishing music. I could not open my eyes, nor did I
care to do so. It was perfect bliss to lie there in sweet repose, and
listen to those heavenly sounds which came nearer and nearer. I have been
asked if there was music in heaven. Why, the least motion of the air there
is musical. Music is to the ear what light is to the eye; and the sounds
of heaven are as sweet as its colors are beautiful.

I next became aware of presences about me. How can I describe the new
sense which informed me of their nearness! I did not see or feel or hear
them. I perceived them, intuitively as it were, by a holy atmosphere of
love and purity and beauty which came with them. So the flowers, without
senses like our own, when the dark and chilly night is over, must feel the
tremulous waves of light gladdening around them.

These invisible, inaudible attendants were engaged in some office of love
about me. What it was I did not understand; but I felt as if my body was
being drawn out of something, as a hand is withdrawn from a
glove,—although no one seemed to touch me. I entered into a state of
exalted and blissful sensations, totally new to me, and quite
incomprehensible to men still lingering in the flesh. My affections seemed
to be concentrated or detained upon pure, tender, lovely and holy things,
so that nothing painful or doubtful or sorrowful should stain the shining
mirror of the soul.

I do not know how long this exquisite state of happiness lasted. It must
have been rounded off with a delicious sleep; for it seemed itself like a
sweet and mysterious dream, when I discovered that I was wider awake than
before, and surrounded by a different though still delightful and
purifying sphere of impressions.

From the presences about me I seemed to absorb the power of thinking and
remembering distinctly. I could not open my eyes, but I seemed to be
contemplating a luminous atmosphere, an infinite variety of splendid and
dazzling colors, a whole universe of light. The ecstasy of Joy with which,
bewildered and fascinated, I studied this inexpressible chaos of light, is
beyond my power of description. In the midst of it I felt that two persons
were near me, one at my head and one at my feet. One of them seemed to
bend over me, and to be reading my face as one reads a book. He then said
to the other in a gentle voice:

“It is good. His last thoughts were about the Lord.”

I pondered these words and asked myself whether I was dead or dreaming or
in a trance.

My invisible friend then passed his hands several times gently over my
face. He next drew a fine film from my eyelids and breathed upon my
forehead. I instantly recovered my sight and looked around me. There were
two men before me with beautiful and noble faces, and clad in robes of
shining linen. I could not remove my eyes from them, there was something
so inexpressibly tender and brotherly in their looks and motions.

“You are in the world of spirits, my brother,” said one of them with
ineffable sweetness. “Be not afraid, but rejoice! The world of spirits is
the vast realm betwixt earth and heaven into which all men come when they
are first raised from the dead.”

“Raised from the dead?” said I, in extreme bewilderment.

“Yes—you have been raised from the dead. You have left the earth upon
which you were born; you have left your natural body, which your friends
will bury in the ground; you are now in a spiritual body and a spiritual
state of existence.”

I looked at myself and looked around me.

“I cannot understand it,” said I, sorely puzzled. “You are certainly
strangers to me, and you look so unlike any of the men I have ever seen,
that I can readily believe you are angels. Nor do I see my beloved
sisters, Martha and Mary, who, I know, would not leave my bedside for a
moment. But this body is the same body I have always had; this is the room
in which I have been sick so long; and looking out of that window, I see
the Mount of Olives and the familiar sky of Judea. Explain how this can
be.”

They looked at each other smiling, and one of them replied:

“The last impressions made upon the mind linger a while after death; so
that the transition from natural to spiritual life may not be too sudden,
and the sensation of personal identity may be fully preserved. This will
change to you presently. We do not see the room that you see, nor the
Mount of Olives, nor the Judean sky. These will all vanish from your sight
after a little, and you will find yourself differently clad and moving
about among novel and beautiful scenes.”

“But,”—said I, incredulously,—“but this body of flesh and blood, in which
I live, move and think, how came it here?”

“That body of flesh and blood you have left behind you. The soul is a
spiritual substance organized in the shape of its natural body. The
natural body resembles the spiritual as a glove resembles the hand
contained within it. You have dropped the glove. You see the naked hand.”

“Our mission,” he continued, “is now ended, and another takes our place.
We assist in the resurrection.”

They made a motion of departure, but I seized one of them by the hand.

“Oh stay!” said I, “do not go. Your words interest me beyond measure. I
would learn more of the heavenly life. Pardon my incredulity, pity my
ignorance.”

“One approaches,” said he, “who is much nearer and dearer to you than we.
Relatives delight to render to relatives these charming offices of comfort
and instruction. He comes!”

“Who?” I exclaimed, eagerly.

“Your father!”

I looked in the direction indicated by the angel’s face. Out of the
darkness—which appeared to me and not to the angels, for it proceeded from
my own mind and not from theirs—out of the darkness slowly loomed up a
human figure. It brightened as it advanced. Then there stood before me a
young man of radiant beauty, clad in a tissue of shining purple. His face
was full of eager expectation, sparkling with love and joy.

While I was gazing at this form, which seemed to me a beautiful
apparition, the other angels disappeared.

“My son! my son!” exclaimed the shining visitor in a voice of touching
sweetness, and which seemed in some way remotely familiar. “Do you not
know me?”

I was silent and troubled, for there was not the faintest resemblance
between the splendid being who stood before me and the poor father I had
buried in the wilderness.

“I am permitted for your sake,” said he, “to return back into the mental
states of my earth-life and to resume its forms. This is one of the
wonders of the spiritual world, but one which you will frequently see and
soon understand. Look steadfastly at the changes I shall undergo, and you
will believe.”

The light about him began to fade. The purple tissue darkened; his face
grew pale; the lustre passed from his hair. His features gradually
changed, becoming less and less beautiful, less and less youthful.
Wrinkles appeared; his cheeks became haggard; his eyes sunken and sad; his
head bowed and bare; his beard gray. Unsightly scars came upon his
forehead; and when he held up his withered hands, from which two or three
fingers had dropped, I knew the poor old leper whom the cruel law had
driven into the wilderness.

“My father! my father!” I exclaimed, weeping at the sight which recalled
so vividly the sorrows long buried in the soul, “I am satisfied. Return
again into the beauty and glory of your heavenly youth. Let us forget the
past. Let me see you as you are!”

His figure then underwent exactly the reverse series of changes; and when
his angelic form was restored, I fell upon his neck and wept tears of joy.

I inquired into the philosophy of the astounding metamorphoses I had
witnessed. I was taught that spiritual things—states of our affections and
thoughts—are not so perishable as natural things; that they are stored
away and preserved; and that they can be recalled and reproduced with a
fac-simile of all the surrounding concomitants and phenomena. A spirit can
be made to return into any state of his past life, when he will repeat his
conduct to the least word and motion and incident. Thus nothing can be
concealed; the entire past can be re-enacted; truth discovered and
judgment given.

It was in accordance with this great spiritual law of changing forms
corresponding with the changing states of the soul, that the disciples
beheld Jesus from such different stand-points. If Thomas Didymus could
have entered into the spiritual state of the three disciples on the mount,
he would not have seen the Christ showing the wound in his side and the
print of the nails, but he would have beheld him radiant—in his
transfigured glory. It was the varying stand-points or mental states of
the disciples, which give us such different manifestations of the
Unchangeable.

I was not, however, thinking of these things at that moment. I was
contemplating the youth and beauty of my father’s spiritual body.

“I was told,” said I, “that the spiritual body was a fac-simile of the
natural body. How comes it that yours is so totally different?”

“When I first rose from the dead,” he replied, “I seemed to myself to be
in the same leprous body that I had in the wilderness; and like all men I
found some difficulty in realizing the fact that I was living in a
different world. The spiritual body or external form of the soul, changes
rapidly according to the changes of its internal form, which is composed
of affections and thoughts. In proportion as these are purified from the
evil and false things imbibed during the natural life, the body is freed
from its imperfections, its feebleness and its want of symmetry.”

“And why do you look so young?” I inquired.

“Time,” said he, “does not belong to the spiritual world. We have no
computations here by months and years; no revolution of suns and planets,
which produce day and night and the changing seasons of the world. Our
external surroundings, what you would call our visible nature, are the
immediate outgrowth of our own spiritual states. The exterior changes
continually with the interior. All in heaven are therefore young and
beautiful, because their soul-life is good and pure, and is fitly
represented by youth and beauty.”

My father then questioned me about the dear ones I had left behind. He
manifested the deepest and tenderest sympathy in all that had happened to
us since his departure from the world. He had heard of us frequently from
new-comers into the world of spirits. We do not cease to love our earthly
friends after death. But in the heavenly life there is such a thorough,
soul-satisfying trust in the wise and merciful guidance of Divine
Providence, that fears, doubts and anxieties about our absent loved ones,
are utterly impossible.

“And my mother?” I inquired in turn,—“my mother and my little brother
Samuel, where are they?”

“In heaven,” said he, “where you shall see them, but not now. You will
undergo sundry preparations of state, inexplicable to you at present, by
which you will be fitted for the ascent into their resplendent abodes.”

The angel who assisted in my resurrection was right. The objects which
surrounded me at my death, and which lingered a while on my mental vision,
had faded away. I found myself in a strange but beautiful world, the forms
of which were similar to ours, but the laws which governed their
appearance and disappearance very different.

I must confess that I was supremely astonished to find myself living,
feeling, thinking, precisely as I did before my death. My mind indeed
seemed more active, more penetrating than ever. My body had a buoyancy, a
strength, a healthfulness pervading it, which were accompanied by a sense
of intense pleasure. But it still seemed the same body in which I had
previously lived; and I could scarcely comprehend my father when he told
me that my sisters and friends were making preparations to bury my earthly
form.

“Oh that I could look down upon them,” said I, “could speak to them, could
show them my true self, and lift their souls out of the fearful shadow of
the tomb! Why is it not granted us to cheer the hearts and illumine the
minds of those who are sorrowing so vainly over our cold dust?”

“They would not believe you, my son, if it were permitted. They would call
your manifestation to them a vision, a hallucination, a dream. They are in
such bondage to sensuous appearances, and to reasonings based upon them,
that nothing but death will break their chains. It will take generations,
ages, centuries, cycles of natural time to render higher thought on that
subject possible. New civilizations, new churches, new revelations must
arise before mankind can be delivered from this terrible darkness.”

“And that natural body,” said I, “laid in the grave, and food for worms,
is not to rise again?”

“Why should it?” said my father. “Who wants it? What use could it
subserve? Are we not in spiritual bodies clothed with all beauty and
perfection? Are we not in a spiritual world vastly more beautiful and
happy than the natural? Why should we return into nature? into a natural
body? into an envelope of flesh and blood, however purified and
etherealized?”

These ideas struck me as extremely rational and beautiful. Having passed
the lowest round of the ladder of being, why should we reverse the laws of
development and descend back to it again? Impossible! The natural body was
only a vehicle of natural life with its thoughts and emotions. Spiritual
thoughts and emotions demand a spiritual body, a spiritual world. Let
those who choose, wed themselves to the grave and the worm and the dust
and the darkness, and speak of their friends as sleeping in the cold
ground, and satisfy their hungry souls with the hope of a material
resurrection. But their ideas are far, very far from the truth; and the
minds of men will some day be emancipated from such gross naturalism.

“Imagine,” said my father, “the consternation of the good spirits, who are
happy in heaven, at the thought that they must leave it, divest themselves
of their beautiful spiritual bodies, and return to the natural world with
all its painful limitations of time and space, resuming their old cast-off
material bodies, which had been long since resolved into dust and
forgotten!”

The thought is monstrous! monstrous! And yet the poor blinded people in
the natural world dwell upon it as if there were some special consolation,
some glorious promise in it. Incomprehensible freaks of the human spirit!
He who preaches a material resurrection, has made but one feeble step
beyond the infidel who preaches none at all.

“Men still in the flesh,” said my father, “do not know that our spiritual
world inhabited by spiritual bodies fulfills all the imperative demands of
the soul for a perfect and final resting-place. We have here life and
form, organization and objects, weight and substance, sounds and colors
all more beautiful and wonderful than those in the natural world. All
these things, invisible, intangible, inaudible to men, are as real and
solid to our senses as the earth was to you when you were a man upon it.

“Yet this external world surrounding us is not material and fixed like
yours. It is what we call substantial or spiritual. It is plastic to
spiritual forces. It changes, not according to your natural laws, but
according to the changes in our own spirits. This is the key to the great
difference which exists between the world you have left and this glorious
one in which you are to live for ever.

“Our light here changes. It is day or night with us according to our own
spiritual relations to the great Fountain of life. In one state of mind we
are in the city, in another in the country. Certain emotions carry us to
the mountain-tops; others place us among the sands and shells of the
sea-shore. In one state of thought we are walking in flower-gardens of
ethereal beauty; in another we are sitting by rivulets which echo the
music of our own hearts. Thus mountains, fields, rivers, cities, houses,
animate and inanimate objects come and go, appear and disappear, according
as they represent or symbolize the interior changes of our spirits.”

“All this,” said I, “is so beautiful that it seems impossible. Liberated
now from the thraldom of time and space, I understand you; but I doubt
whether the most gifted philosopher in Athens can conceive of a world
without time or space; of a world so phantasmagoric in appearance, yet
said to be so genuine and eternal in reality.”

“Our spaces are determined,” said my father, “by spiritual affinities.
Similarity of thought and feeling determines presence; dissimilarity makes
distance or absence. When you here direct your thought to any person on
the same plane of life, as we call it, with yourself, having at the same
time a desire to see him, that person becomes aware of the fact, and,
responding to your desire, is face to face with you at once.

“Let us both,” he continued, “fix our thoughts intently upon our noble and
lovely friend, John, called the Baptist, who was beheaded in prison, and
is performing here a similar office to that which he so well executed on
the banks of the Jordan.”

We did so; and in a moment there was a beautiful flash of azure light,
like a great sheet of water reflecting the sun and sky.

“That,” said my father, “is the sphere or symbolic appearance which always
precedes and announces the coming of the gentle herald of the Lord.”

Then stood before us the young prophet of the wilderness, beautified,
etherealized, glorified beyond conception.

He saluted me with brotherly warmth, and we entered into a long
conversation which I shall not repeat; but from which I learned a thousand
interesting and wonderful things about the spiritual world—things
incredible to men in the flesh, most of whom, like birds of night, are
satisfied with the darkness of nature.

                         [Illustration: Ornament]



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                   XV.


                         _THE WORLD OF SPIRITS._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

I was greatly astonished at the nature and importance of that intermediate
state of life which I have called the world of spirits. Although the
doctrine of a place of departed spirits, called Sheol or Hades, is
distinctly taught in Scripture and by tradition, it seems to have made a
very feeble impression on the minds even of the most devout. Most men
think they will go immediately to heaven or to hell when they die. They
are mistaken.

The world of spirits receives into its vast bosom the mighty congregation
of the dead from all nations and climes. It is the first grand receptacle
of the whole human race after death. It is the place of judgment, special
and general. It may be compared to the stomach, into which all articles of
food and drink are collected; where they are all comminuted, concussed,
expressed, decomposed and digested; and what is found good and nutritive
is taken up into the blood and makes a part of the living man; while the
hard, unwholesome and innutritious portions, which cannot be dissolved or
appropriated, are cast out of the system as useless or injurious.

Let not the reader smile at this anatomical metaphor. When he gets an
interior view of the human body such as I have enjoyed, he will see that
it is an epitome of the universe; that the mysteries of nature, the
wonders of philosophy and the secrets of heaven are all written upon its
organs and tissues.

In the present state we are strangely compounded of good and evil, both
hereditary and acquired. He who thinks that all good people on earth are
ready, at death, to pass at once into heaven without further preparation
and instruction, has formed a mistaken idea of heaven. Our life in the
world of spirits is a judgment upon ourselves, an unfolding or unrolling
of our true characters, a revelation of our evils under the best possible
circumstances; where by the assistance and instruction of angelic friends,
our imperfections, if our ruling love be good, can be finally removed, and
our souls fitted for that perfect social organization based upon supreme
love to God and the neighbor, which men in the flesh cannot understand or
even imagine.

“But,” says some one, “all that is done for us instantaneously at death by
the miraculous power of God.”

God works always by organic and eternal laws. The spirit, like the body,
grows, develops, progresses by definite means. Seeds do not expand
instantaneously into trees. A diseased tree is not changed in a moment
into a healthy one. The soul which attains heaven does so by regular and
progressive steps, many of which (if there has been a commencement on
earth) are taken in the world of spirits. The idea that miraculous power
changes a bad man into a good one, an impure soul into a pure one, in a
moment of time, in answer to prayer and faith, is a childish fallacy
disastrous to the life of true religion.

The population of this world of spirits is immense. Not only the dead from
our world are there, but angelic spirits from heaven and evil spirits from
hell all meet on this grand arena of spiritual combat and instruction. In
the time of Christ many generations and centuries of human life were
accumulated there; for evil had become so predominant, and the spiritual
element in man so nearly extinguished, that few or none could be prepared
for heaven. Unless, indeed, God had descended in the human form and
executed a great judgment in that world, casting the evil into hell and
revealing a higher dispensation of truth, mankind would have perished and
heaven itself have been threatened with chaos.

But all this is myth and mystery to those who have busied themselves only
with the historical movements of the natural world, not even knowing that
the world of spirits above and around them had far grander historical
movements,—the key and cause of all others.

Every human being living in the natural world, is attended by two good and
two evil spirits who are living in the intermediate state. I saw the
spirits who had accompanied me during my life; and, what is singular,
although I had never seen them before, they appeared like old
acquaintances and friends whom I had known from my youth. Let no man
suppose that he will rise from the dead into the world of spirits, and
find himself a stranger there, friendless and alone.

It seemed very wonderful to me that this mighty realm of spirits should be
so near to men, secretly connected with them by affections and thoughts,
flowing down into them, giving them life and power, and instigating them
to good or evil, and still that the human race should remain ignorant of
the stupendous fact—benighted by all kinds of false philosophies and false
religions.

“Why,” said I to my father, “are not our earthly friends permitted to see
us in this better and brighter sphere, to converse with us, and establish
social relations with us?”

“They are in natural bodies,” said he, “and they cannot see our spiritual
forms with their natural eyes. Their own spiritual eyes would have to be
opened before they could see us. The opening of their spiritual senses
would bring them into conscious communication with the world of spirits.”

“Well,” said I, “so much the better. They would then see all these
wonderful things for themselves, and their doubts would be wholly
dissipated.”

“Ah! you know little as yet of the world of spirits. It is full of evil
and wicked ones, who share the bad passions and prompt the sinful deeds of
men on earth. If men came, by the opening of their spiritual senses, into
visible and audible communication with their own attendant evil spirits,
the power of hell on the earth would be immeasurably increased. The power
of a wicked companion in the flesh is great; but the power of an evil
spirit enthroned in your bosom, possessed of your entire memory, and
governing from his more interior stand-point every movement of your brain,
would be fearful indeed!”

“No,” he continued; “it is the mercy of the Lord which in the present evil
state of the world keeps these two realms of being from a conscious
intermingling. The offices and uses of the two worlds are different; one
begins where the other ends. To throw them together would be to produce
inextricable confusion, to destroy free-agency, to confound good and evil,
to thwart regeneration, to arrest the judgment, to close heaven and to
open hell.

“All this can only be made clear to you by a thorough system of religious
philosophy, embracing a true psychology and the organic relations of God
to the universe, and of the different parts of it to each other. All these
will be the subjects of your delightful study, and may possibly be
revealed to mankind in some far-off futurity, when men become capable of
receiving and utilizing such sublime mysteries.

“To seek to penetrate the veil which separates the spiritual from the
natural realm, to invite an open intercourse with spirits, to consult them
about earthly affairs, is one of the terrible crimes denounced and
forbidden in Scripture. It is the secret source of the power and mysteries
of magic. To seek such intercourse is perilous to the soul’s best welfare.
Therefore it is that consulting with ‘familiar spirits’ is forbidden in
the Word. It is forbidden for man’s own good.”

“These are new ideas to me,” I said, “and I cannot fully comprehend them.
How should I, filled as I am with fallacies which need exposure and
removal! But I am appalled, my dear father, at the thought that the world
of spirits is so full of evil, and that we enter on a state of fearful
explorations, combats, temptations and judgments on leaving the natural
world.”

“Yes, my son. In heaven only there is rest. There only are perfect peace
and order and love. The road to heaven lies through the world of spirits,
through its instructions, its purifications, its judgments. The pathway is
pleasant and beautiful to the good man; for at every step he lets fall
some hateful thing that clung to him in the past, and he rises into new
light, new glory, new joy.”

“You spoke,” said I, “of general judgments occurring in the world of
spirits, as well as the particular judgment of each individual. What do
you mean by that?”

“At the end of every church, every dispensation, every old order of
things, and at the beginning of a new church, a new revelation, a new era,
there is a great judgment executed in the world of spirits. This judgment
is effected by the light of divine truth streaming down through the open
heavens, searching people to the core, revealing their true characters,
separating the evil from the good, casting the former into hell, elevating
the latter into heaven. It is a destruction and reconstruction of the
world of spirits. This stupendous event is described in Scripture as the
great and notable day of the Lord, the day of wrath, the judgment day, the
end of the world.

“You have come into the world of spirits at a period when you can witness
the mighty events foretold by Isaiah and Ezekiel. There is a judgment now
going on upon the last remains of the Jewish Church, and on all the pagan
nations in the world of spirits; and preparations are being made for the
institution of a new and more spiritual church on earth. The Messiah has
come and judgment follows.”

“You astonish me,” I exclaimed. “The people on earth know nothing of these
things. They are expecting a fulfillment of the prophecies in the material
world. They expect the Messiah to come in splendor and power, to invest
the Jewish people with supreme dominion, and to wreak his vengeance on all
the disobedient and idolatrous.”

“Poor blind ones, led by the blind! They interpret literally what was
written in the language of symbols and given to them for spiritual uses.”

“Why the necessity of this judgment?” I asked.

“Because the church is corrupt and dead; the priests are drunk with the
wine of false doctrine; the people blind and without a shepherd. Therefore
iniquity abounds. The flood-gates of hell are opened. The world of spirits
is crowded with evil ones, who prevent the good from ascending to heaven,
and infuse the most direful evils and falsities into men on earth. The
prophets are dumb. The magician and the sorcerer are in the ascendant.

“Let me tell you something,” he added in a solemn and subdued tone,
“which, if you comprehend its full meaning, would make you tremble with
fear. The order of the universe has been so far broken that demons have
issued from hell; and there is a general insurrection of the evil spheres
against heaven itself. Unless these hells are subdued and these evil ones
cast out from the world of spirits, the people on earth will be obsessed,
soul and body, by wicked spirits, human society will be destroyed, and
universal chaos reign.”

“You appall me by your prediction. But my wonder is, how such dangers can
be impending, and the human race know nothing about it.”

“Because they know nothing of spiritual things—nothing of this world of
spirits in which are the cause and origin of all things. Because they look
downward, and not upward. Because they have eyes and see not; ears and
hear not. Because they have perverted and nullified the Word of God by a
sensuous interpretation of its meaning.”

“Alas! then,” said I, “how can the lost order be restored and the world
saved?”

“By one arm alone; that of the Creator, the Supreme Being, the Lord.”

“Oh,” said I, “this Being of supreme power created man in his supreme
wisdom, gave him angelic attendants, a written Law, an established
Church—and behold the result! What new influences can He bring to bear
upon his fallen and doomed creatures?”

“Listen. He has clothed Himself with clouds and come down to us—to men on
the earth. As the sun clothes his consuming rays with an atmosphere of
vapor, which moderates them and accommodates them to the states of man and
beast, so has God clothed himself in a finite human form and thus come
down to his creatures. He is now engaged in spiritual combats with all
these evil spheres. He is casting these lions of wickedness into their
dens and shutting their mouths. He will purge and purify the world of
spirits, deliver heaven from the assaults of the wicked, lift the great
shadow of chaos from the world, restore man to his free agency and make
him hereafter capable of a higher and more spiritual life. God is,
henceforth, in the eyes of his children, not an invisible Spirit, but a
Divine Man.”

“These are mysteries and dreams to my understanding. I cannot comprehend
how the Supreme Being, infinite, omnipotent, omnipresent, can assume a
human body and live like one of us.”

“It shall be made clearer to you. You shall see Him. Indeed you have seen
Him, but you did not know Him. You shall see Him again—and know Him.”

“I shall see the living God?” said I, in a state of solemn trepidation.

“Yes”—said John the Baptist, who accompanied us—“you shall see Him. I have
surrounded you, by divine permission, with an atmosphere which will enable
you without pain to endure his coming.”

I cannot convey to mortals an adequate idea of the sense of awe which
crept over me at these words. My knees smote together; my hands dropped;
my heart trembled; my brain reeled at the thought of standing face to face
with the living God!

                         [Illustration: Ornament]



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                   XVI.


                        _THE CHRIST ABOVE NATURE._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

I now approach a subject so sublime and awe-inspiring, that it is
necessary for us, like Moses before the burning bush, to take off our
shoes from our feet; for the place is holy ground.

Let not the scoffer or unbeliever suppose that a stronger mind, a firmer
reason, a clearer light, are the cause of his incredulity. He will
disbelieve and repudiate what I am about to narrate, only because, in the
progress of development, his own spirit has not yet reached that stage
when he can comprehend and receive the most beautiful and holy truths.

We had been walking in an easterly direction during the latter part of our
conversation. Suddenly there appeared before us a vast golden-colored
sheet or blaze of light in the east. It was exceedingly brilliant, but at
the same time inexpressibly soft and beautiful. In the centre of this
great luminous field there was a snowy dove with outspread wings, bearing
an olive branch in her mouth.

“The sphere of the Lord in the world of spirits!” exclaimed my companions
in a breath; and they knelt with bowed heads and reverent faces at the
approach of the resplendent symbol.

“This was the sphere which I saw,” said John, “at the baptism of Jesus. My
spiritual senses were partly opened, and this golden light which surrounds
the Lord, appeared to encompass his natural body; and the dove, which
represents the Holy Spirit of love and peace, rested upon Him; while a
revelation was made to me, that this man whom I had baptized, was truly
the Son of God.”

I scarcely heard these words, nor did I understand them; for my mind was
in a state of great agitation. I had never been pious: I was scarcely even
religious in an external sense. I knew little or nothing of conviction of
sin, penitence or repentance. I was, therefore, amazed at the new
sensations I experienced. There was a painful sense of my own unregenerate
condition; a terrible self-reproach, self-loathing, self-abasement; and
with tears of contrition and humility I prostrated myself on my face. It
was the sphere of the Lord, the light of heaven, the Spirit of God
penetrating my soul and revealing me to myself.

My father now raised me from the ground, and fell upon my neck weeping.

“Be not astonished,” he said. “These are tears of joy! You have been
tested by the divine light. There are remains of goodness and truth in
your soul. You will be saved. Heaven is yours.”

This was more incomprehensible to me than anything yet, but I said
nothing; for a sweet calm overspread my senses, and I became aware of the
proximity of holy and august presences. I looked around me. I saw a great
multitude of good spirits before us. All faces were directed to a group of
figures which occupied a little knoll in their midst. In the centre of
that group, I recognized Jesus of Nazareth!

His face shone as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
Dazzling as his form appeared, his features were perfectly familiar, but
etherealized and glorified, Moses and Elijah stood by him, one on his
right hand and the other on his left. I recognized them at once; for every
Jew has seen the statues and pictures of those national worthies.

Notwithstanding all that John the Baptist and my father had said, my
obtuse understanding had not yet grasped the idea, that Jesus Christ was
the Messiah—the Supreme Being.

“Has Jesus of Nazareth died also,” I inquired, “and been raised like
myself from the natural into the spiritual world?”

“Oh no!” said John, smiling sweetly at my bewilderment. “He exists in both
worlds, in all worlds, at the same time.”

“You speak enigmas,” said I; “interpret them.”

“Whom do you suppose this Jesus to be?” inquired John, earnestly.

“Some great prophet of God sent to perform miracles in Judea, and to
preach a new gospel of peace and love.”

“Jesus, the anointed One, is God himself,” said John, with deep solemnity.

I answered nothing, for my mind was blank with astonishment. I gazed at
the shining form with solemn awe. I now observed that Jesus was speaking
or preaching to the multitude around him. I did not, however, hear a word
he said.

“These are good spirits,” said John, in explanation, “whom the Lord has
liberated from the bondage of the evil spirits who infest this
intermediate state. He is teaching them the spiritual truths adapted to
their new condition, which correspond to the truths he is simultaneously
teaching his disciples on earth.

“You are not permitted to hear what he says, because the fallacies of your
natural life have not been sufficiently removed; and your mind would
pervert his divine truths, or change them into the opposite falsities. You
will be instructed in due season, and all things necessary to your life
and happiness will be given you.

“In the mean time,” he continued, “let us be seated under this beautiful
tree, whose boughs make mysterious music, while I endeavor to bring it
clearly to your mind that Jesus is God; for without an acknowledgment of
his supreme divinity, no genuine spiritual truth can be received. The idea
of God is a fundamental idea; and every one’s state depends upon it or is
determined by it. If that be false all is false; the mind is a dark
chamber full of motes and cobwebs.

“Did not the Jews stone Jesus for affirming his equality and identity with
God? Did not Jesus declare his pre-existence in saying that before Abraham
lived, he lived? Did he not teach his omnipotence, his infinity, when he
claimed to be one with the Father, and told his disciples that whoever had
seen him, had seen the Father? Is not his name Immanuel—‘God with us?’”

“Yes.”

“Did not the prophets affirm that the Messiah who was to be born of a
virgin, and to redeem Israel in the form of a man, was really the mighty
Counselor, the Prince of Peace, the everlasting Father, Jehovah? Did they
not repeatedly mention the Holy One of Israel, the Messiah that was to
come, under such titles as ‘the Lord of hosts,’ ‘the God of the whole
earth,’ and other names applicable only to the Supreme Being?”

“True.”

“Why then should you be astonished that God is present in both worlds at
the same time? Is He not omnipresent? ubiquitous? Unlimited by time or
space, does He not manifest Himself to his creatures in all times and in
all places? Can He not, if He will, appear simultaneously to all created
intelligences in all the natural and spiritual spheres He has created?

“This Jesus, the Messiah, is everywhere. If you ascend into the heaven
next above us, on fitting occasions you would see Him there in a more
glorified form. If you mount still higher, you will only be coming nearer
to Him, and behold Him in still more transcendent glory. Sometimes He
appears to the angels as a Divine Man standing in the sun of the spiritual
world. It was this truth, transmitted by tradition to the ancient people
of Asia, which gave rise (as they fell into naturalism) to the worship of
the natural sun and the adoration of fire.”

At these words I seemed to see my good and generous uncle Beltrezzor
bowing his head reverently to the great luminary, from which the celestial
face of Jesus looked down, smiling benediction upon the childlike old man.

“What you tell me,” said I, “of Christ, is so strange that at first sight
it appears incomprehensible. I perceive, indeed, that if Jesus be the
supreme God of the universe, He may be seen simultaneously from every
stand-point in the spiritual world, in every sphere, in every society, and
by every individual soul, and everywhere take on a form accommodated to
the spiritual states of those who behold Him. The difficulty in my mind
lies in identifying the man Jesus whom I knew in Bethany, with this
sublime resemblance of Him that I see in the world of spirits; and in
comprehending that they are one person leading a simultaneous life in two
spheres; and, finally, that this one person is the Supreme God.

“My difficulty is increased when I remember that Jesus in his earth-life
is accustomed to call himself the Son of God. Although he said plainly
that he and the Father were one, yet he sometimes speaks of the Father as
greater than himself: of praying to the Father for his disciples; and of
ascending to the Father on the consummation of his work.”

“He has certainly left the impression upon his hearers that there are two
persons in the Godhead; one higher, superior, interior; the other, a man
among men; and that between these two there is some mystical union
incomprehensible to the human mind.”

“Most of his disciples accept this idea blindly, as a holy mystery.
Persons of philosophic culture, who have studied Jesus as a phenomenon,
regard him as a Son of God, or rather an emanation from God, in the same
sense that Brahma, Osiris, Zoroaster, Moses, and Plato, are sons of God,
or manifestations of divine truth. The mystical union between Father and
Son is supposed to be an incorporation of the soul of man, by a life of
obedience and goodness, with the essential Divine nature from which as a
parent it was derived.

“In estimating the difference,” said John, “between Jesus and other
teachers of divine truth, the fact of deepest significance is, that he was
born of a virgin. The soul of man is derived from his father. Jesus Christ
had no earthly father; therefore, as to his inmost he was different from
all other men. He was not some angelic form returning into the flesh, or
let down from heaven into it; for that is impossible. And if it were so,
his claims to omnipotence, infinity, eternity, the Godhead, would be
preposterous. No: the soul of Jesus Christ was not introduced into his
earthly body through the agency or intermediation of any created
intelligence. His soul is the Divine Life, the Supreme Spirit.

“Seen from this earthly side, Jesus has no father. Seen from the spiritual
side, he is the Father. Spirits and angels know Him only as the Father.
They have never heard the term Son, in the earthly sense, applied to Him.
There is no Father beyond him or above him. Here he never prays to the
Father. Here he is himself recognized as the Father, Jehovah, the I AM.

“The term Son of God is used in accommodation to the sensuous states of
the natural mind. It is peculiar to the earth-life, and cannot rise above
the plane which separates the spiritual from the natural. It is only the
human natural mind, divorcing the spiritual from the natural, that sees
God in a double form, calling Him when invisible, the Father, and when
visible, the Son.”

“These things are wonderful,” said I; “but how to explain them to men, who
cannot think spiritually, however much they may think about spiritual
things?”

“There is another and profounder reason,” continued my instructor, “why
Jesus speaks of himself on earth as the Son of God, and so frequently
prays to an invisible Father. By subjecting himself in a finite form to
the limitations of time and space, he subjects his own spiritual
consciousness, so far as it is united, to obscuration. In his human body
he thinks and feels as a finite being, the Son; while at the same moment
in his spiritual form here He thinks and feels as the Divine Wisdom
itself.

“The grand purpose of the incarnation was, to assume a human form in which
he could be tempted as we are, in which he could be assaulted by evil
spirits and devils; in which he could conquer death, hell and the grave,
and become the Mediator, the Way, the Life and the Resurrection. The
infestations of evil ones obscure his mental vision and take away from him
at times his perception of identity with the Father. Thus he has two
earthly states of life, one of glorification or spiritual insight, when he
feels conscious of his Fatherhood; and one of humiliation, when he is
sorely tempted and tried, and when he lifts his heart in prayer to that
Fountain of love and light which is the centre of his own infinite bosom.”

“These things amaze me,” said I, “beyond expression. Nor do I believe that
any human being has any true conception of the character of Jesus, of the
mission he is filling, or of his plan of redemption. Certainly none of the
thoughts you have communicated to me have ever dawned on the minds of his
disciples.”

“Nor is it probable,” said John, “that mankind will be prepared, for many
centuries, to understand what can only be comprehended from a spiritual
stand-point. The least portion of the work of Jesus is apparent to men in
the world. The sublime and far more difficult portion is wholly invisible
to them, as it occurs here in the world of spirits which is not open to
their perception.”

My angelic friend was about giving me further light on this lofty theme,
when Jesus and the happy multitude that surrounded him seemed to approach
nearer to us.

My reader—if this manuscript ever finds a reader—may wonder why I did not
approach the Divine Man and speak to him, after I had discovered that my
earthly friend was the Supreme Being manifested in the human form. Ah!
they know nothing of the sphere of the Lord! I could not even lift up my
eyes to his feet. I was overwhelmed with wonder and awe. Had not so many
other spirits been present to engage my attention, to divert my thoughts
and to impart courage and life to me, I should have swooned and fallen.

Oppressed by the heavenly sphere, whose nearer approach I was not prepared
for, I seized my father by the hand and he led me away. The scene faded
behind us; and we went down into a little green valley filled with small
white flowers and watered by a little brook. There I was freed from the
terrible sense of oppression, and recovered my composure. We sat down in
this valley of humiliation, where the small white flowers were the
innocent thoughts of the new life, and the musical voice of the brook was
a hymn of contrition.

“O my father!” said I, “is it always thus in the spiritual world, that the
divine sphere of Jesus agitates the mind and pains the heart, so as to
almost suffocate the life within us?”

“When the sphere of heaven approaches those who are in evil and falsity,”
answered my father, “it occasions intense pain in their interiors, and
they cry out; ‘Why art thou come hither, O Christ! to torment us?’ Such is
the judgment: and the wicked call upon the mountains and the rocks to hide
them from the wrath of God.”

The wrath of God! monstrous conception!

It is the gentle breath of the Divine Love which is converted into a
burning fire when it enters the perverted and corrupt forms of their own
souls!

“The same sphere of divine light approaching those who have some remnants
of good and truth, and who can be saved, produces a profound
self-abasement, a trembling contrition, a suffocation of the old life with
all its wicked desires, and an inexpressible longing for a new life of
purity, peace and love.”

I now understood it all. I felt the self-abasement, the contrition, the
inexpressible longing. The sun had already disappeared. The sun of the
spiritual world does not rise and set like ours; but it brightens or pales
in appearance with the changing states of the spirit. Then shone out
innumerable stars in a blue dome, like the friendly faces of cherubim and
seraphim smiling on us.

At length the wearied new-comer into the spiritual world passed into that
mysterious realm of profoundest sleep, which is common to all worlds, and
in which the unconscious soul is alone with God.



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                  XVII.


                         _JUDGMENT OF THE JEWS._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

When I awoke, the sun was shining through a golden mist: the dew glittered
like a rainbow fallen upon the grass and flowers: the air was full of
sweet odors and the voices of birds: a strange warmth and vigor pervaded
my body, and a delightful activity reigned in my soul.

“Come,” said my father, “the first awakening thought should be always a
prayer.”

He then repeated those beautiful words by which Jesus taught his disciples
to pray. I will not describe the spiritual phenomena which attended this
prayer. The multitude of ideas and influxes and perceptions which were
crowded into every sentence, would be incomprehensible to men. It seemed
to be an epitome of the universe, and to bring the soul into loving
contact with all the spheres of the divine creation.

“Has Jesus taught that prayer in the world of spirits also?” I inquired.

“Yes. This prayer is the universal prayer which binds the heavens and all
the angels together. It is the holiest thing of religion. It descends from
God to angels and men; and blessed is he who receives it into his heart!

“We are now ready,” continued my father, “by the divine permission and
under the divine protection, to explore some of the evil spheres which
have congregated in the world of spirits, and which infuse their deadly
poisons into men in the world. You will then understand a part of the
great work which Christ is performing in this intermediate state.”

Thereupon he examined my face, head and hands with the utmost minuteness.
A man’s whole life is written upon these; and angels, having a perfect
knowledge of correspondences, the key of symbolism, can read from them
your whole history as from a book.

“I perceived,” said he, “that in your earth-life you have been brought
into contact with the corrupt sphere of the Jewish Church, with the
sensuousness of Grecian art and philosophy, with the splendors of Roman
ambition, and with the ancient and subtle power of Egyptian magic. You
have seen these things on the natural or earthly side. I will show them to
you on the spiritual and interior side, so that you may comprehend the
dreadful condition of the human race, and see the necessity of the Divine
incarnation.”

The geography, if we may use the expression, of the world of spirits is
ever changing. The Church of the Lord, meaning those who come from the
world and possess a divine revelation, always occupies the centre; other
nations with different religions are arranged in successive zones around
it; the farthest off in the circumference being those pagans who have
received the least portion of the divine light and life.

“Behold the mutations of the world,” said my father. “Those remotest
people, away off in the darkness and cold of the circumference, were once
the chosen people of God, his church, occupying the centre, immediately
under the down-falling rays of the Divine Sun. They proved faithless to
their trust. They became so evil that a terrible spiritual catastrophe
overwhelmed them, described as a flood,—for they were engulfed in a flood
of falsities. They were the antediluvians, of celestial genius, the most
richly endowed, the most beautiful of all; and now their descendants, the
most hideous and debased, are the black and bronzed barbarians and savages
of the world.”

“We are accustomed to think,” said I, “that those lower types of mankind
are the last created, and therefore the least perfect.”

“No! they are the descendants of the first created and most perfect. They
are not imperfect but degraded types. Imperfect types would progress
upward and onward by natural law. These barbarians of Africa will never
make the least advance until new causes which do not now exist, are put in
operation. This great mystery of the Divine Providence will not be solved
for many, many ages to come.

“After the destruction of that antediluvian church, another succeeded,
possessing a written Word, a splendid ceremonial and boundless treasures
of spiritual wisdom. They also forfeited their birth-right and betrayed
their trust. Their judgment occurred in this world of spirits when Sodom
and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire. Abraham and his family were the
remnant saved from that church for the beginning of a new, as Noah and his
family had been the remnant saved from the preceding.

“The descendants of this lost church compose chiefly the nationalities of
Asia. They have remained for ages and will remain for ages to come in a
stationary, semi-petrified condition, possessing no genuine truth, no
vital religion, no element of progress; but living upon fables and myths
which are the fragments of spiritual truth, whose interior light has long
been lost to their understandings.

“For many centuries now of natural time, the Jewish Church has held the
centre of the world of spirits. It also has become thoroughly corrupt, and
is about to be removed to the circumference. Its great judgment is
impending; its destruction approaches; but of this, that church itself is
profoundly ignorant.”

During this conversation we had ascended by insensible degrees to the
summit of a high mountain. I was astonished at the splendid panorama
spread out beneath us. It was the whole land of Canaan, from the Jordan on
the east to the borders of Philistia on the west; from Damascus and
Antioch gleaming away to the north, down to the great desert that frowned
along the southern boundary.

Immediately beneath us was a city of Jerusalem, ten times as large as our
earthly capital; and a holy temple of corresponding proportions, all
transcending in glory and grandeur anything ever seen on earth.

“Behold,” said my father, “the creation of spiritual fantasy, the
imaginary heaven of the Jews, which will pass away like a scroll at the
breath of the Lord when He comes in judgment upon them.

“You seem astonished,” he continued, “that spirits should reproduce around
themselves these spiritual semblances of the cities and countries they
have left behind. Nothing is more simple and rational. These people are
gross and sensual in their nature, with little or nothing of the celestial
or spiritual about them. They loved material things exclusively; their
thoughts never rose above outward, civil, and political affairs. Here
their interior life is reproduced in exteriors. Therefore they create
around themselves their old homes, cities, and countries; and re-enact, as
far as possible, their earthly life, because all their affections and
thoughts are earthly.”

“This mountain,” said I, “upon which we are standing puzzles me; for there
is no similar elevation in the neighborhood of Jerusalem.”

“This mountain,” answered my father, “is symbolical of the lofty state of
spiritual pride and presumption in which the Jewish Church now is—a state
of self-glorification which precedes its judgment and final destruction.
It is only from this height, corresponding to their own spiritual state,
that you can see the holy city and temple as they appear to them.

“Is it strange that a people, so gross, so unspiritual, so near their
extinction as a church, should be so inflated with spiritual and
theological conceit? They appear in their own eyes to have the most
glorious city, the most holy church, and the most august ceremonials that
ever existed; accounting all others unfit for heaven and unworthy of the
Divine favor.

“It was on the pinnacle of that colossal temple which you now see, that
the evil spirit placed Jesus, and attempted to infuse into his heart the
arrogant self-glorification of the corrupt priesthood, which imagines
itself the special care of all the angels of heaven.”

“We had always supposed that that temptation occurred on the temple in
Jerusalem.”

“Oh, no!” said my father, “the temptations of the Lord always occur in the
world of spirits. Evil spirits do not move around upon the temples and
mountain-tops of the natural world. The Lord’s spiritual senses were
opened into this world, which is the scene of his trials, his temptations,
his combats with hell; and will be the scene of his final glorification
and ascension.”

“These ideas are all new to me,” I said, “but very rational.”

“You will now see,” my father continued, “how this imaginary heaven of the
Jews, with its proud and worldly magnates, appears in the genuine light of
heaven. An invisible angel accompanies us, who is commissioned to let in
the heavenly light upon these scenes, to show you the internal and real
character of this church.”

Thereupon a ray of white light seemed to shoot down from the zenith. A
black cloud immediately arose from the Salt Sea, and spread itself like a
canopy over the whole land. Fearful thunderings and red lightnings issued
from the bosom of this terrible cloud. The whole country around became a
desolation—a dreary waste full of stone-heaps and pitfalls. The holy city
sank into the earth; and in its place there rose a great lake, black as a
mountain tarn unruffled by the wind. Floating in the midst of it was the
gorgeous temple converted into a huge wooden house or Noah’s ark, from the
innumerable windows of which looked out the hideous faces of wild beasts
and the heads of enormous serpents.

I was at first terrified at these sights; but my father observed:

“This is a representation, a pictorial prophecy of a reality yet to come,
before Christ has finished his conquering work in the world of spirits.
These people do not see the things we see. This heavenly light has come
into our minds that we may discover what their interior life really
is,—devoid of all spiritual vitality; desolate, dark, lurid; full of evil
beasts and unclean birds and creeping things.”

This sphere of ecclesiastical pride and presumption is not peculiar to the
Jewish Church or nation. It is predominant in all religions, churches and
individuals, when the religious instincts are satisfied and delighted with
grandeur, power, numbers, fashion, wealth and glory.

“What will be the effect,” I inquired, “of this disastrous judgment in the
world of spirits, upon the Jewish nation in the natural world?”

“There will be fearful dissensions and conflicts; wars within and without;
the city and the temple will be destroyed; the country made desolate; the
people scattered as exiles and vagabonds among all nations. Their
descendants, coming into the world of spirits, will recede toward the
circumference among the pagans. A new church springing up among other
nations, will take the central place, and give rise upon earth, after
great struggles, to a purer religion and a nobler civilization.

“You will now see, in symbolic representation, the three great classes
into which the Church will be dissolved at its judgment.”

Then there appeared before us a great many domestic animals; oxen, horses,
asses, camels, sheep, fowls, etc.; all mingled together in confusion, and
all looking poor, jaded, filthy and wretched.

“These are the beasts of burden,” said my father; “the ignorant and
innocent masses, presided over by a corrupt and cruel theocracy, which
desecrates the name of God by imposing upon his children a spiritual
despotism.

“Advance nearer to these creatures, and you will behold a wonderful sight,
such as can never appear in the natural world, but is common enough in the
world of spirits.”

We came nearer, and lo! all the animals were found to be men and women.
Some of their forms and faces seemed taken from my memory; for I thought I
recognized the crowds which followed Jesus in the world.

“From these people,” said my father, “the remnant will be taken—the
remnant about which the prophets speak so often. This remnant of Israel,
starting with the apostles chosen by Christ, will be the seed and
starting-point of a new Church.

“Such are the forms of those who are interiorly good. Observe now the
forms of those who are interiorly wicked.”

The former scene passed away and three wild beasts appeared standing at
the mouth of an immense black cavern, in front of which many human bones
were scattered. The animals were a wild boar, a wolf and a tiger, all of
gigantic size and terrible ferocity.

We advanced nearer to these also, and they changed into men; the wild boar
into Caiaphas, the high priest; the wolf into the cunning and cruel
Magistus; and the tiger into the robber Barabbas. The meaning of this
tableaux I perceived intuitively without explanation.

“Between these two extremes,” continued my father, “is a great class who
are in mixed states of good and evil. Their sufferings will be severe
before they can put off either kind of life so as to live entirely in the
other; for a separation of good and evil must be effected,—if not upon
earth, at least in the world of spirits.”

A sandy wilderness then arose to view, in which I saw but two figures; a
zebra, wild, beautiful, intractable, snuffing proudly the air of the
desert; and a white dove which was struggling frantically to escape from
the jaws of a monstrous serpent.

These I approached more eagerly; for I was impelled by an earnest desire
to caress the beautiful zebra, and to rescue the dove from the fangs of
the serpent. They changed also in the twinkling of an eye. The zebra was
our friend the Son of the Desert, and the dove was Mary Magdalen. As the
latter stepped forward, a shining and beautiful woman, the serpent
shriveled and fell behind her like a black garment cast upon the ground.

As the last picture faded away, my father resumed his instructions.

“The scenes you have witnessed are phantasmagoric, but symbolical and full
of spiritual truth. They illustrate the law of appearances which governs
in the spiritual world. The phenomenal world around us, animal, vegetable
and mineral, is all representative of the life within us; not by accident
or with confusion, but according to fixed and eternal laws.

“The sphere of life radiates from a spirit like heat from the sun, or like
perfume from a flower. It flows forth and falls into successive zones or
belts of spiritual substance, in each of which it produces some spiritual
form representative of itself. Outside of his human sphere, the life of a
spirit takes form in the first zone as an animal, in the second as a
planet or flower, in the third as a mineral, a stone, a drop of water, a
cloud, a star.

“The life which animates a wicked spirit becomes a corresponding wild
beast in the first zone; a loathsome fungus in the second; a poisonous
mineral in the third. The sweet spiritual life of a good heart becomes the
innocent lamb in one zone; the beautiful rose in the next; the brilliant
gem in the last.

“Observe, however, that each spirit always appears to himself in the human
form; and always so to others when they are near him. He only takes on
these typical or correspondential forms in the eyes of others, when he
recedes to or approaches from a distance.”

“What a deep philosophy you are unfolding!” I exclaimed. “I see already in
what you have told me the germs of a thousand brilliant ideas. Oh that I
could teach these beautiful things in the porticoes of Athens! How they
would ravish the Grecian heart!”

“You are mistaken,” said my father. “Some simple soul from whom you least
expected it, would accept your doctrines, weeping for joy. The great, the
rich, the learned, the powerful, would scornfully reject them as fables or
dreams.”

“That is strange and sad.”

“Yes—but it is true. The mind which is wedded to falsities in religion or
philosophy, is proud, self-reliant, self-satisfied, bigoted and
intolerant. The genuine truth which makes the soul free, makes it also
liberal and loving.”

“Will the Jews on earth reject the Messiah, proving his mission as he does
by stupendous miracles?”

“Yes: miracles avail nothing with the unbelieving. Truth is not seen
merely because it is truth. No truth is received or seen but that which
corresponds to some love in the heart. The hatred which these Jewish
spirits feel for holy things, will descend by influx into the priests and
scribes at Jerusalem: and the tender seed of the New Dispensation will be
sown in darkness and watered with tears and blood.

“Do not suppose,” added my father, “that spirits and angels have any
special power to foresee the future. Oh no! We only live nearer to the
Fountain of causes, and reason more acutely from cause to effect.”

I treasured these strange things in my mind, having only a faint
perception of either their truth or value. I was especially surprised at
the fact, that a church could actually come to an end, a dispensation be
spiritually closed and a new one inaugurated, while the adherents of the
old were in the full flush of power and numbers, and regarded themselves
as the favored repositories and faithful interpreters of divine truth!



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                  XVIII.


                           _IMAGINARY HEAVENS._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

After these things we were taken up another high mountain, whence we had a
view of all the kingdoms in the world of spirits at once. Hither it was
that Jesus was carried by the evil spirit who offered him all this power
and glory, if he would fall down and worship him. There is no mountain in
the natural world from which such an outlook were possible.

“This great height,” said my father, “represents the infernal sphere of
self-aggrandizement, which aspires to universal dominion. It is that
ambition which corrodes the heart with envious passion so long as anything
remains unconquered. This spirit is common to nations and individuals, to
the greatest and the least. This mountain rears its awful summit in every
human breast. This is the spiritual mountain which is to be cast into the
sea by faith.”

Looking down, I now beheld a city of Rome as before I had seen a city of
Jerusalem. Beautiful, shadowy pictures of cities, homes of spirits, vastly
magnified and made glorious with ethereal colors! Man cannot imagine the
splendid creations which spirits can instantaneously produce from the
plastic substance of the spiritual world. These cities and countries,
however, are peculiar to the intermediate state. They do not exist in
heaven.

The Romans risen from the dead had reconstructed their imperial city of
precious stones, so that it always shone from afar as if some grand
illumination were going on, whose splendors were again reflected from the
clouds which floated above it.

We looked into this marvelous city, its capital and palaces, its temples
and amphitheatres. The great avenues were crowded with a vast and gorgeous
procession. Many kings and queens and nobles were walking in chains,
brought as prisoners from so many conquered countries. The treasures of
these plundered captives were borne by thousands of slaves of all colors
and nationalities, in massive and curiously-carved vessels of gold and
silver. Specimens of wild animals from all regions of the Roman world,
drawn in gilded cages, and of the more wonderful plants and flowers
carried upon the shoulders of men, and screened from the sun by flaming
canopies of silk, added to the picturesqueness and grandeur of the scene.

The Roman senators, generals and magnates were seen heading the different
divisions of this vast multitude, riding in blazing chariots drawn by
superb horses richly caparisoned. On both sides of the captives marched
the victorious armies of Rome; so that the very air above them was golden
with the flash of helmets, spears and shields, and the gleam of Roman
eagles.

These were the spirits of that vain-glorious and indomitable race who had
changed the geography of the natural world, and were now celebrating their
victories with transcendent magnificence in the intermediate state. The
sphere of their interior character was wafted to my spiritual perceptions,
and I felt as I did in the Hall of Apollo when Hortensius and his guests
fixed their haughty and contemptuous gaze upon Anthony and myself.

“How unutterably base, cruel and sensual,” exclaimed my father, “is the
spirit of man when he loves himself supremely, and overreaches and
overrides his fellow-creatures. Behold the spiritual side to this
magnificent exterior!”

Thereupon the light from a higher sphere streamed down, and the pomp, the
glory, the beauty of the whole scene disappeared. We beheld a vast crowd
of beggars in filthy rags, and a confused heap of low buildings made of
mud and straw. The proud and fierce Romans were all slaves themselves,
wearing long chains and driven by infernal spirits in the shape of
grinning apes. Where the Capitol had stood, appeared a pool of
blood-colored water, in which a dragon of hideous dimensions lay, spouting
from his mouth a stream of fire. A lurid twilight hung over all,
prognosticating a wild and tempestuous night.

“Such,” said my father, “will be the fate of ambition when the Lord comes
in judgment. Let us now descend to a lower region, and see a people
greater than these, but who have sunk into darker depths; a people now
destitute of spiritual pride or civil ambition; a degenerate, effeminate,
corrupt race, dead to all genuine and ennobling aspirations, and immersed
like beasts in the life of the senses.”

We seemed to go down to the sea-coast—for the blue ocean girdles also the
world of spirits. Soon we came into the sphere of the Grecian souls who
had risen from the dead, and who had reconstructed about them, according
to spiritual laws, their own charming and ethereal country. The scene was
not far from Athens, whose marble-crowned Acropolis gleamed in the
distance, with clouds more beautiful than itself floating above it.

The poetic faculty, full of the inspiration of Grecian art, can alone
appreciate what I next witnessed. The Hall of Apollo in the palace of
Hortensius was a beggarly chamber in comparison with this great hall of
nature in which Pan presided, and in which earth, sky and ocean had each
its part. The guests also of the luxurious Roman were mere schoolboys in
comparison with the august assembly before us, which was gathered to a
feast in the imaginary heaven of the Greeks.

We seemed to be standing on a hill that sloped and fell by beautiful green
terraces down to the silver beach of a placid sea. The summit of that hill
was long, broad and level, and crowned with a grove of extraordinary
beauty. The trees were far apart, and rose like emerald columns to a great
height before they branched. Their foliage was pruned and led by threads
of invisible wire to intertwine overhead, forming a delicate arch for a
roof. The ground was carpeted with an inwrought tissue of living flowers,
which yielded elastically to the tread, sending up continually a delicious
perfume.

In this immense grove were spread a thousand tables seemingly of solid
precious stones, and crowned with great vases of wine and cups of crystal,
and adorned with ethereal fruits and flowers. At these tables were seated
or reclining thousands and thousands of the ancient heroes and heroines of
Greece, served by thousands of beautiful nymphs, Dryads and Naiads, who
had left the woods and the waters to bestow their charms on these happy
souls.

The gods and goddesses were also in attendance; for heaven and earth were
thrown together in such admirable confusion that each partook the
qualities of the other. The sky and the air were literally full of
divinities. On a rose-and-purple cloud condensed into a throne, and
lowered half-way between the ceiling and the floor, sat Venus, crowned
with myrtles and presiding at the feast. The Graces were kneeling at her
feet, while her swans and doves were grouped about her. Near by stood
Cupid twanging his bow, and laughing at the sight of his empty quiver; for
every heart in the crowd had been pierced by one of his golden arrows.

Looking out to the sea, we saw Neptune, of colossal proportions, riding in
his chariot constructed of shells, and drawn by horses with brazen hoofs
and gilded manes. Myriads of sea-nymphs and sea-monsters sported and
gamboled about him, sometimes in the air, sometimes on the shining surface
of the deep.

In mid-sky Apollo in person drove the chariot of the sun, attended by the
Muses and the flying Hours. In the west, Iris the messenger of Juno,
planted her rainbow on a passing cloud, and smiled in colors to the world.
Afar off, in the east, the Seasons had opened the massive Gates of Cloud,
and we had a glimpse of the old Olympian gods in conclave august, feasting
upon ambrosial food.

Thousands of these beautiful figures were nude; and I saw the spiritual
models which had inspired and immortalized Grecian art. Thousands also
were draped, and with such infinite variety and beauty, that it seemed no
work of human ingenuity, but as if Nature herself had invested them with
her forms and colors.

“Oh, my father!” said I excitedly, “surely this is real; this is heaven.
These things will not vanish also, or change into something hideous and
terrible.”

A shade of sadness came over my father’s face; for he saw that the subtile
and powerful sphere of this Grecian nature-worship had awakened the
activities of my own sensuous life.

“Yes, my son; these are phantasms. These are wicked Grecian spirits who
are personating their gods and goddesses, their heroes and heroines. You
see before you what wonders spirits can achieve by magic and fantasy. This
is the sphere which flows into and governs the present population of
Greece. These spirits would, if they could, obsess and control the human
race. The interior state of these souls is terrible.”

“O, do not show it to me yet,” I exclaimed. “Let me contemplate a little
longer this marvelous scene.”

“When all these spirits are judged,” continued my father, “and cast out of
the world of spirits, the Greece and Rome of the natural world will become
feeble and death-stricken. Their oracles will become silent; their arts
will fail; their glory perish; their civilization decay. Their very
languages will die. Their exact modes of thought will no more be possible
to men. Ages of bondage and darkness will ensue, after the light they have
perverted and the liberty they have profaned.”

I scarcely heard these last words; for the vast assembly of gods and men,
which had been in comparative repose, became suddenly animated by a wild
excitement. There issued from the cool and leafy forests on all sides a
crowd of beautiful nymphs headed by Diana, resplendent as a statue of
pearl, clad in an apron of green leaves and flowers, and with a
constellation of fire-flies in her hair.

Her merry troop of nymphs, arrayed like herself, were flying in affected
fear from the jolly god Bacchus, who appeared in pursuit, crowned with
vine leaves and berries and drawn by his Indian tigers striped with ebony
and gold. He was followed by a rabble rout of Fauns and Satyrs and
bacchanalian revelers, male and female. This beautiful chaos threw itself
pell-mell, reeling and whirling and dancing, shouting and singing, into
the midst of the brilliant assembly.

A scene of the wildest carnival followed. The heroes and heroines caught
the contagious frenzy, and soon all were entangled in the embraces of the
maddest dance that ever was witnessed. Neptune and his water-nymphs sprang
high into the air to view the scene; and all the deities in Olympus
crowded down to the Gates of Cloud, which they illumined afar off by the
sun-like radiance of their presence.

I was gazing on this scene with the utmost astonishment, when my eyes fell
suddenly upon Helena, the beautiful daughter of Calisthenes.

“My father,” said I, with profound emotion, “do you not see that superb
figure of a woman more beautiful than all these goddesses, leaning against
yonder tree and clapping her hands with delight at the drunken Bacchus
making love to Venus? That is Helena of Athens! the dream of my life, the
idol of my soul.”

“Not so,” said my father, “it is a phantasm—a spirit resembling your
earthly Helena; perhaps some cunning Syren who has assumed her form to
allure you to herself.”

“Oh no!” said I, “impossible!” feasting my eyes and heart on the lovely
apparition.

“Every one,” continued my monitor, “fresh from the natural world, who
enters this magical and fantastic sphere, sees, or thinks he sees, some
wondrous woman, whom he declares to be the idol and dream of his soul.
Beware, my son, of these seductive emotions. The light of heaven will
dispel for us all these illusions.”

“Oh no!” said I, wildly, “it cannot; it must not. This, this, is heaven,
and all else is illusion.”

My heart beat with passionate fervor, and I sprang forward to meet my
beloved. My father suddenly disappeared from my sight! In the spiritual
world, when two persons enter into totally different states of thought and
feeling, they mutually vanish from each other’s sight. Heaven and hell are
thus separated, and the existence of each is even unknown to the other. I
noticed the fact that my father had vanished; but I cared nothing about
it, for my infatuated soul thought only of Helena.

I advanced toward her. She turned upon me a look of beautiful recognition;
and stretching out her ivory arms, exclaimed with a sun-burst of her old
bewitching smiles:

“My boy-lover of Bethany! welcome! I thought I had killed you with love!”

“Then love me back into life!” I exclaimed.

When an appalling change came suddenly over all things. The light of
heaven streamed down upon me, and those other lights were turned into
shadows, the beauty into ugliness, the joy into horror, life into death.
The deities became phantom skeletons grinning as they fled away into the
darkness. The men assumed the forms of filthy swine or goats, and the
women those of writhing vipers. The charming creature into whose delicate
arms I was about throwing myself, became a scaly serpent of frightful
size. I fell swooning to the ground, with the terrible sensations of one
who is falling headlong from a precipice into the sea.

I returned slowly and painfully to consciousness, like one who has had a
long sleep and harassing dreams, and finds it difficult to pick up the
fallen thread of his yesterday’s life. I found myself pillowed on a soft
green bank in a delicious atmosphere of repose. Without opening my eyes I
reverted to all that had happened, and a feeling of desolation came over
me, and a sense of deep shame and contrition. What a revelation of the
sensual affinities of my own interior nature! What blindness! What
madness! Alas! how low had I fallen! I was afraid to meet my father and
the good John. I was wretched.

My meditations were interrupted by the voice of some one near me, singing
in low sweet tones, pervaded by a certain divine sadness, the beautiful
words of Scripture:

  “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy:
  When I fall I shall arise:
  When I sit in darkness
  The Lord shall be a light unto me.”

Then another voice overhead, clearer, more thoughtful, more musical than
the first, sang sweetly:

  “Jehovah upholdeth all that fall,
  And raiseth up all who are bowed down.”

Thereupon the first voice near me proceeded in the same low sweet tones
full of sadness:

  “But as for me, my feet were almost gone,
  My steps had well nigh slipped.”

The higher, nobler voice continued the heavenly consolations of Scripture:

  “Nevertheless I am ever with thee!”

The voices, the music, the refrain, the holy words of the Psalmist,
stirred in the tenderest manner the very depths of my soul. I wept. A new
faith, a new hope, a new divine resolution were born within me.

Like a singer who has been overcome with emotion, but dries her tears and
resumes her singing,—the sadness overshadowed by a modest courage,—the
first voice was heard again:

  “Thou hast held me by my right hand,
  Thou shalt guide me by thy counsel,
  And afterward shalt receive me into glory.”

Then there was a burst of divine music as from a hidden choir of angels,
in which the two voices joined; and this was the hymn:

        “The Lord is my Shepherd;
        I shall not want:
  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures;
  He leadeth me beside the still waters;
        He restoreth my soul!”

The strains died softly away, lingering long on my charmed ear and leaving
my heart in a sacred calm.

I prayed with intense earnestness:

“From self-love and the love of the world; from self-righteousness,
presumption and hypocrisy; from pride, ambition and sensuality; all of
which I have seen so fearfully unmasked:

“Good Lord! deliver me.”

I opened my eyes, and my father and the seraph-faced forerunner of Jesus
stood before me.

The latter took my hand tenderly in his own, and said:

“All the experiences of life, both in the world of men and in the world of
spirits, are given to teach us the difference between good and evil,
between the true and the false; to show us the deformity of sin and the
beauty of holiness; to deliver our souls from the bondage of hell, and
lift them into the peace of heaven.”

                         [Illustration: Ornament]



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                   XIX.


                         _THE MAGICIANS IN HELL._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

We had then a long conversation about the mysteries of regeneration or the
new birth, scarcely any of which are known to mankind, or would be
believed if they were revealed. This knowledge is so peculiarly spiritual
and angelic that it seems useless for me to say anything about it. If a
church on earth ever comprehends these divine arcana, it will only be when
the Lord sees fit to open his heavens anew, and to unfold the spiritual
meaning of his Word.

“You have now seen,” said my father, “the three great spheres which
represent the three degrees of the human mind. That Jesus Christ met and
resisted the powers of hell in all these spheres, is shown in his
temptations in the wilderness. By conquering these evil spheres in his
human form and through his divine power, He is enabled henceforth to
deliver all men from similar infestations. This was the great purpose of
his incarnation. His temptation will appear to men as an historical event
enacted at a certain time and space. To angels it seems a condensed
statement of his whole spiritual life, of his entire redemptive work, from
the assumption of humanity to his final and perfect glorification.”

“Who is the devil,” said I, “that was capable of tempting the Holy One so
severely?”

“The devil is no single individual, but the whole combined evil world,
speaking and acting through one medium. You seem surprised; but nothing is
more common in the spiritual world than for a whole society of spirits,
even millions in number, to think, feel, and express themselves
simultaneously through one of their number.

“Do you not remember that when Jesus asked a certain maniac his name, the
devil within him replied:

“‘My name is Legion: for we are many.’”

This led to the strange subject of demoniac possession. I told my father
that the Greek philosophers and physicians, who were considered the
profoundest thinkers in the world, scouted the idea of evil spirits taking
possession of men. They attributed all such cases to the effect of
physical disease.

“They know nothing whatever,” said my guide, “of the relation between
spirit and matter. Their philosophy of man, history, and nature is
superficial and false. Their boasted light is darkness to our spiritual
perceptions, and their scientific verbiage the merest babble.

“It is true, my son, that devils are continually aspiring to break through
from hell into the world of spirits; and by means of evil spirits in this
world, especially those fresh from the earth, to possess and govern men in
the natural world. If the divine hand were not put forth to arrest this
influx of hell into the world of nature, three centuries would not elapse
before all mankind would be imbecile or insane, and would destroy each
other like wild beasts.”

“Mankind,” said I, “are totally ignorant of the fearful dangers which hang
over them.”

“Of course they are. These dangers come from the unseen spiritual side.
They know nothing and believe nothing of the unseen.”

“Can you tell me anything of the spiritual philosophy of magic?”

“A sphere inconceivably subtle and wicked! It obtained its first foothold
in Egypt ages before the historic period, and has penetrated thence, under
different forms and names, into all the countries of the world.”

“We had some painful experiences with it soon after your departure from
the natural world; but my philosophic studies at Athens led me to suppose
that magic was an imposture based upon absurd superstitions.”

“Magic, my son, is at present a fearful reality. It is the means by which
the wicked can summon around them the worst spirits, and obtain control
over man and nature. By its means they can overcome physical obstacles;
can see and hear at incredible distances; can produce dreams and
illusions; can make one thing appear another; effect transformations which
seem miraculous; call up the spirits of the dead; take absolute possession
of the fancy and the will; and control their victim in all his thoughts
and actions. They can give wise answers and frequently foretell future
events. They can imitate good and heavenly things with such marvelous
accuracy, as to impose themselves as illumined teachers and prophets upon
mankind.”

“How could such a fearful thing have originated? Whence is its power?”

“From the perversion and profanation of holy things; from the abuse of the
knowledge of correspondence, which is the secret bond between spirit and
matter, and for that reason is now concealed from mankind. When the sons
of Aaron put strange fire upon the altar of the Lord, they were consumed.
When the sons of the prophet shred the wild vine into the pot, there was
death in the pottage. That strange fire, that wild vine is magic. Magic is
the perversion of truth—the science and the religion of hell.”

“Can you foresee the future of this terrible power?”

“Yes—so far as we can infer that certain material effects must flow in
time from certain spiritual causes. The great judgment which Christ is now
executing in this world of spirits, will cast all these magical powers
into hell and shut them up for ever. This is a part of the saving work of
the Redeemer. He delivers men, not from the punishment but from the
bondage of sin. Magic will then cease upon earth. The fragments and
shadows of it may annoy mankind for ages; but its central power will have
been bruised and broken, and it will become such barefaced superstition,
trickery, and sleight-of-hand, that future generations will find it
difficult to believe that it ever was anything else.

“Come!” he added; “I am permitted to show you one of the old Egyptians at
his work.”

We now descended into a dark cavern which appeared on our left, but which
I had not noticed before. It sloped downward, with ragged black rocks
protruding from its walls. The atmosphere was at first so stifling that I
could hardly proceed. We emerged after a while into a level country under
a sky of a dark gray color. A blood-red sun, never setting, stood low in
the west, casting a lurid light over all things. Our path was along the
bank of a large river, moving sluggishly and darkly between gigantic reeds
and rushes. Huge crocodiles and monstrous beasts I had never seen before,
lay here and there, half in the mud and half in the water. Away in the
distance rose many colossal forms, pyramids, sphynxes, obelisks, palaces,
temples—vast shadows as it were against the sky. Now and then we passed a
statue of stone or bronze, higher than the tallest trees, and so sad,
stern and lifelike, it was difficult not to believe that it was the lost
soul of some old Egyptian king, doomed to perpetual misery in the outward
form of eternal repose.

“You must know,” said my father, “that to enable us to enter these awful
gateways of hell, an invisible guard of thousands of angels is necessary.”

I was relieved by this thought; for a sensation of fear had already begun
to oppress me. I had learned enough of the spiritual world to know that
all this wild and grotesque scenery was the outbirth of the life and
memories of evil spirits, and could be dissipated in a moment, or changed
into something horrible by the revealing light of heaven.

We now came to a great palace which seemed built of ebony, with
foundations, doors, and cornices of bronze. The gates leading to its
courtyard were of immense size, and constructed of dingy brass. A strange
inscription ran across the arch, which I asked my father to interpret.

“That,” said he, “is the Ten Commandments reversed, representing the laws
which govern in this evil sphere. Much of it is too dim for one to read;
but see!

“Thou shalt kill.

“Thou shalt steal.

“Thou shalt commit adultery.”

“Hold!” said I, “what profanation! what blasphemy.”

“Yes, my son! Hell is the opposite of heaven.”

The courtyard was laid out in curious geometric figures, and adorned with
many extraordinary plants and flowers, but mainly of yellow and purple
hues.

“Flowers at the doorway of hell! I thought that flowers were the children
of heaven, the fragments of divine wisdom showered upon men in the
disguise of beautiful forms, fragrances and colors.”

“So they are,” said my father; “and the floral kingdom here is antipodal
to the floral kingdom in heaven; the concentration of all that is
malignant and baleful in the thoughts and feelings of the inhabitants of
that doleful place.”

I shuddered as I passed these infernal flowers; and we mounted the iron
steps of the palace, walking between the statues of two great brazen bulls
as we entered the hall.

A servant came forward to receive us, of such hideous form that I started
back in terror. He was nearly naked, and thousands of hieroglyphic figures
had been burned into his body in black and red colors. His face was the
face of an embalmed person, long dead, shriveled and ghastly.

While we were speaking to this frightful personage, a hoarse, sepulchral
voice issued from a half-open door:

“Bring them in. I have felt their coming.”

We passed into a chamber of immense size,—for everything in the shadowy
world seemed to me colossal. I instantly perceived that it was the
counterpart of the chamber of magic in the house of Magistus, so minutely
described to me by my sister Martha.

“Behold the source of inspiration to Simon Magus!” said I to myself.

I recognized all the objects mentioned by the eyewitnesses of that
remarkable scene between Simon and the magicians; the marble platform; the
black table with the zodiac upon it; the images on the wall. Even the
leopard and serpent were there. The magician was an old man,
stern-featured, cruel-eyed, worn and wasted, with some personal
resemblance to Simon Magus.

“I have had violent pains about my heart and difficult breathing,” said
the evil spirit slowly, “ever since you entered my kingdom. I know who you
are and who protects you. Your presence tortures me; so be brief with your
mission. I will answer you truthfully, for the experience of ages has
taught me that it is useless to resist that sphere. Be quick and release
me.”

“This,” said my father, “is one of the magicians of Egypt, who imitated
the miracles of Moses and Aaron. He is the most cunning and powerful of
the species.”

Addressing the magician, he continued:

“I am instructing this novitiate spirit who accompanies me, in the
relation between the spiritual and the natural worlds. I have told him
that all false and evil things are breathed into men by wicked spirits:
that magic is the science of evil springing from the perversion of good,
and a means by which you attempt to govern men.”

“You speak truly,” said the evil spirit, rubbing his hands with glee; “you
speak truly. Our power is immense: our wisdom is incredible. We have
vastly more influence over men than the angels. You have heard of the
witch of Endor who brought Samuel from the dead. We can reverse that
wonderful art. We can bring those living upon earth into our presence. I
will show you one of my favorite slaves, a fellow of great capacity and
boundless ambition; a genius worthy of the grand inspiration with which I
animate his soul.”

Thereupon his servant unrolled a great white curtain against the wall. The
spirit went through sundry unintelligible incantations: and slowly the
perfect portrait of Simon Magus appeared before our eyes.

“He seems to be in a paroxysm of rage,” said I.

“Yes,” answered the spirit. “He derived it from me a few moments ago. I
was foaming with passion just before you entered my palace: and now the
fury is expending itself on him.”

“The evil passions of men,” said my father, “have previously passed
through the dark and filthy souls of evil spirits.”

“Ha! ha! ha!” laughed the magician. “My victim thinks it is original with
himself. Indeed, the deluded fellow believes he controls me and a vast
number of other spirits. The merest tool in our hands, the dull, slow
machine through which we work our fiery wills, our stupendous plans; he
conceives himself to be possessed of miraculous power! Men who think they
control spirits, are always controlled by them. Ha! ha! ha!”

“Beware,” said my father; “are your own inspirations original? Have you
ever heard of Ja-bol-he-moth?”

“Yes—and seen him,” he answered trembling.

“Alas! alas!” he added slowly and painfully. “We govern men from our
stand-point: but there are deeper and more direful hells that govern us.
We are slaves also.

“Oh! if Ja-bol-he-moth,” he suddenly exclaimed with a fierce earnestness,
“if Ja-bol-he-moth and other great antediluvian giants could only escape
from their imprisonment, we would soon transform the whole earth to our
liking.”

“Unhappy spirit!” said I, “do you find pleasure in the contemplation of
such a thought?”

“The only pleasure that is left me,” he replied; and passed into a frigid
state with a deadly, stony stare, more like a statue than a man.

“Come,” said my father, “our sphere has paralyzed him. I have one more
strange thing to show you before we return to the world of spirits.”

We left the ebony palace; and turning from the dark river with its
colossal reeds and rushes, we passed into a wilderness of sand, over which
hung a gloomier twilight than any we had before witnessed.

Presently there appeared before us a great black dome of iron, reaching
across the horizon from east to west, and sloping upward from the sand
even to the sky. The blackness, the immensity, the gloom of this strange
object cast a fearful shadow on my soul.

“This,” said my father with deep solemnity, “is the tomb of the
antediluvian world, which none can open or shut but Christ. In the
terrible abysses underneath are imprisoned the evil spirits whose judgment
is described in the Scriptures as a flood. Unless the Messiah had come in
the flesh, this antediluvian sphere would have broken forth and deluged
the world of spirits and the world of men.”

“What would be the consequence?” said I.

“The total suffocation of the spiritual life, as the natural life is
suffocated by drowning; a complete torpor of the moral sense, a paralysis
of the intellectual faculties. Mankind would relapse into barbarism. The
physical system would degenerate. The skin would become black and fetid;
the hair woolly, the nose flat, the forehead low and debased. One step
more, and from barbarians men would become beasts.

“This process of degeneration had already made sad havoc with a large
portion of the human race, when the closure of the antediluvian hells and
the institution of a new order of things arrested its march. So the
African now stands torpid, unprogressive, sensual, barbaric, bearing on
his very body the typical shadows of hell.”

“Is there no hope for him?” said I, sadly,—for my mind reverted to my
trusty friends, Ethopus and Anthony.

“Oh yes,” said my father, “Jehovah is good to all, and his tender mercies
are over all his works.

“The Lord in the form of a Divine Man will close these ancient hells and
beat back the waves of evil. Great organic changes will go in the
spiritual and natural worlds. In the far-off ages there will be a last
judgment in the world of spirits and a new church upon earth. New causes
will be set in operation; and these Africans at last will be delivered
from their hereditary curse, and restored to the form of beauty and wisdom
which their ancestors enjoyed in the beginning of the world.”

I rejoiced at this glorious prophecy. And while thinking of the tender and
noble emotions which seemed to govern the only Africans I had ever known,
we ascended into the world of spirits, whose beautiful and peace-giving
light I hailed with unspeakable pleasure.

“How little the inhabitants of earth know,” said I, to myself, “of the
spiritual philosophy of history!”

                         [Illustration: Ornament]



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                   XX.


                           _FRIENDS IN HEAVEN._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

Heaven is above the world of spirits, as the latter is above the earth.
The way to heaven is through the world of spirits; but it is not reached
by a process of death, but by a process of preparation. We are prepared
for heaven by putting off the evils and falsities and imperfections that
we carry with us from the natural world. We are then taught to feel, think
and act in unison and love with thousands and millions of other beings. It
takes a long time and a great deal of instruction in the world of spirits
to bring some people to this degree of social development.

The harmony of souls in heaven is like that of an immense choir of music.
Each has a distinct part, and each must be perfect in his part. Imagine
thousands of good and pure spirits living in choirs of thought, choirs of
feeling, choirs of acting; and you will begin to have a faint idea of the
order, peace, beauty and felicity of the social life in heaven.

New-comers into the world of spirits are always anxious to be admitted
into heaven. There is a process by which they can be elevated into
heavenly societies, and shown the wonders and glories of the celestial
life. This favor is extended to all, and their legitimate curiosity is
gratified. They then return into the world of spirits for judgment and
preparation, and to undergo those organic changes which are necessary to a
permanent residence in the higher spheres.

I was delighted to hear my father say that I had been unconsciously
prepared for this wonderful journey. Walking along with a glad heart,
engaged in pleasant conversation about the difference between the world of
spirits and heaven, I suddenly perceived a beautiful road ascending a
mountain deeply shaded with overhanging trees and bordered with brilliant
flowers.

“This is our way,” said my father. “The roads which lead out of the world
of spirits, either up into heaven or down into hell, are invisible to all
but those who have been prepared to follow them. There is no danger of any
one going astray. No mistakes are made here; no revelations but to the
proper parties. All the art and cunning of Simon Magus or his master
demons could not enable them to discover this little road leading up into
the heaven where our loved ones reside.”

How easy, how buoyant, how charming was that ascent! No fatigue, no hurry,
no impatience, no terrestrial sensations. Our bodies seemed to grow
lighter and stronger, and our minds clearer and happier as we ascended.
The air grew fresher and sweeter; the trees and flowers more beautiful;
the sky softer and more brilliant. As we neared the summit we saw the most
exquisite green lawns and terraces, which seemed to have been dipped in a
golden ether. Here and there was a flock of sheep. Now a swarm of pearl
and crimson butterflies would sport around us; and then a flock of birds
like little flying rainbows would illumine the air.

“These things,” said my father, “are typical of the thoughts and
affections of the blessed people whose homes we are approaching.”

The vista from the summit exceeded in magnificence and beauty everything I
had ever imagined. There were two interminable series of green knolls, one
on the right hand and the other on the left, separated by a charming
little valley with the softest, brightest verdure I had ever seen. On
every knoll was a resplendent palace built of precious stones. The grand
rainbow-like illumination produced by these mineral splendors flashing in
the sun, is altogether indescribable. Away in the east where the palaces
seemed to approach each other, the view was terminated by a great temple
resembling the temple at Jerusalem, and shining like a gem in the
distance.

The valley between these palaces was laid out in lawns, parks and gardens,
adorned with flowers, statues, fountains, lakes, and picturesque walks and
arbors. These things are common enough on earth; but here each of them
exceeded the corresponding earthly form in all the elements of artistic
beauty, as much as the most precious diamond in the world exceeds the
commonest pebble on the sea-shore.

This was the heaven of a society of angels, all belonging to the tribe of
Benjamin, and all interiorly united by similar thoughts and affections.
Now for the first time I learned that all angels were once men upon our
earth or some other; that the physical universe is the indestructible
basis of the spiritual; and that all things first receive root and form
and substance in the former, to rise and expand indefinitely, in the
latter. The earth is the footstool of the Lord, and is established for
ever.

I now noticed that I had on different garments from those I had worn in
the world of spirits, and much more beautiful.

“These garments are given you,” said my father, “to adapt you to the
sphere which you have entered. We are clothed here imperceptibly to
ourselves, as the trees and flowers in the natural world are clothed with
forms and colors by a generous nature. All our external things arise
spontaneously around us, without our thought or care or labor, being
perfect correspondences and mirrors of the things within us.”

“Here is the home of your brother,” said he; and we stood before a palace
of marvelous splendor. Twelve steps of lustrous pearl led up to a grand
piazza covered with a dazzling arch and supported by twelve columns of
gold. We entered the spacious hall, and before I had time to observe its
beauties, a youthful spirit advanced, strongly resembling my father; and
with a face full of light and love, and a voice overflowing with kindness,
welcomed me to that little spot, as he called it, of the Lord’s spiritual
kingdom.

“You shall see me as I used to be,” he said “and then you will know me
better.”

Thereupon he underwent the same series of spiritual changes by which my
father revealed himself to me as the poor old leper of the wilderness. He
returned into the states and forms of his boyhood, as a full-blown rose
might shut, leaf after leaf, contracting itself slowly into a beautiful
bud again. He was the same little Samuel who sported with my sisters and
myself in our garden in Bethany, and whose withdrawal from us had left so
dark a cloud on the sunny places of our childhood.

Reassuming his angelic form while I gazed at him with admiration and joy,
he pointed to a chamber, the half-open door of which was one superb
crystal. From it there issued a beautiful female form, clad in a silk robe
of lustrous white. Her face was radiant with smiles and beauty, and a
single rose was in her hair. The extreme gentleness and gracefulness of
her movements, her manners, her tones, revealed the pure soul of this
bright angel.

“Behold my wife!” said my brother.

Bewildered and delighted, I pressed timidly a brotherly kiss upon her
cheek, and said:

“This is to me the greatest wonder of all in this realm of wonders.
Married in heaven! Husbands and wives living together in wedded bliss!
Enlighten my darkness; tell me something of this great and beautiful
mystery.”

“I perceive,” said my brother, seriously, “by the glance of your eye and
the tone of your voice, that you cannot yet be initiated into the sublime
and heavenly secrets of the spiritual marriage. You have not been
sufficiently divested of your earthly and sensuous state of thought to
penetrate those truths which are only visible in the light of heaven. Be
satisfied for the present to know that sex and marriage are universal and
eternal; that love is inextinguishable, and becomes purer and holier the
higher it rises; and that conjugal pairs live together in heaven in
eternal youth and eternal bliss.”

“A most delightful and ennobling thought,” said I; “and I am willing to
believe what you say, and to wait my own spiritual development before
being able to comprehend its meaning.”

I was then seized with an intense desire to see my mother. And lo! before
I could give it utterance in words, she appeared before us, an angel as
young and beautiful as my sister-in-law, but grown the female counterpart
of my father by long and loving contemplation of his virtues.

“I was attracted hither,” she exclaimed, in charming trepidation, “by
strange gushes of maternal feeling. Who is it that calls me?”

Mother and child passed simultaneously into the old forms of the
earth-life, and into the long dormant states of the natural memory. She
was a Jewish matron in Bethany, and I a little boy of five years old. How
frantically she kissed my face and hands! How madly she pressed me to her
heart! How we wept together!

When we came back to our last form and state, she exclaimed, still weeping
for joy:

“Oh that I could see you continually in that charming little shape! I
shall make you resume it over and over again, until I satisfy my hungry
heart with the graces of your boyish form. Ah! nothing is lost. All is
given back to us.”

We discoursed on a thousand topics, and floods of spiritual light were
poured upon my benighted, undeveloped mind. Walking with these angelic
friends on the grand piazza of the palace, and gazing at the architectural
grandeur which surrounded us, I was filled with an exhilaration of spirits
too great for earthly utterance, never to be comprehended by any one until
he meets his friends, whom he calls dead, in the divine light of the
heavenly world.

When I new recall these things, poor, old, desolate, heartbroken man that
I am, bearing my earthly burdens again and doomed to another death, they
all seem to me like a delightful dream! That I walked and talked with
friends in heaven! surveyed their houses! discussed their laws, their
government, their worship, their occupations, face to face as man with
man! Impossible! Incredible!

What did I say?

It was no dream. It was no hallucination. It is possible. It is credible.
It was a fact. My memory does not betray me. My imagination does not
mislead me. It was all true; and I shall see them, hear them, live with
them again, never to return to earth, so soon as I once more give up this
mortal breath and render this feeble body back to the dust whence it came.

How long, O Lord! how long?

I learned from my brother that the societies in heaven, which are
innumerable, are arranged according to the uses they perform, which depend
upon the bent of the inclinations and the expansion of the intellectual
faculties of those who compose them. Men on earth receive their vitalizing
impulses, their attractions to all that is good and true, from these
societies through the medium of good spirits in the intermediate world.

Some of these societies inspire the love of nature and art; some the
genius and power for civil government; some the taste for science and
practical life. Some animate especially the devotional nature; some the
social; some the poetic; and others, again, act as intermediate powers,
balancing and harmonizing the different activities of the soul.

The society to which my brother belonged was one which presided over and
secretly vivified the architectural tastes and genius of man. Near by,
upon mountains whose purple summits I saw in the distance, was a large
society which presided over music. Great societies which were the secret
life and soul of poetry, history, oratory, statuary, painting and other
fine arts, were grouped around, more or less remote, all holding the most
delightful communications and interchanges with each other.

I was astonished to learn that the peace and joy and highest happiness of
the angels spring from the exercise of their faculties in the performance
of useful service to each other. They are never idle, but continually
engaged in doing something useful from the love of use. I learned that in
this the angels find their chief delight; and that, although they
occasionally meet for formal and social worship, and unite in prayer and
songs of praise as people do on earth, they nevertheless regard the loving
and faithful performance of the duties of their respective vocations as
the highest kind of worship. This they call _real_ worship; and the
_formal_ kind in which they sometimes engage, is merely to fit them for
the higher and more real kind.

“Do you ever see your earthly friends,” I asked, “struggling and toiling
in the dark abyss of nature, before they cast off their earthly covering
and rise into the light and beauty of these higher worlds?”

“Not directly!” replied my brother, “for there is no continuity between
spirit and matter. To speak philosophically, there is continuity and
correspondence; but spirit and matter are not degrees of the same
substance, differing only in tenuity, as is commonly supposed. It is
impossible for us to see or hear anything in the natural world, except
through the medium of some living man whose interiors have also been
opened.

“Wonderful as it may seem to you, the spirits of men still living in the
flesh are really in the spiritual world, all the time connected secretly
with spiritual societies. They are invisible to us, however, because their
thoughts, affections and senses all open downward and outward into nature.
They become dimly visible, but do not communicate, when they are in states
of profound abstraction or great spiritual elevation.

“We see them occasionally also by correspondences, which would appear to
you like visions or dreams. In every society these manifestations are
different, depending on the nature and functions of the society. In ours,
for instance, the mental states of our earthly friends are sometimes
revealed to us architecturally. That is, we see them as in a dream
building houses: and without knowing their names or earthly whereabouts,
we judge of their characters by the materials, the progress, the
execution, even to the minutest details of the work they seem to be
doing.”

“Wonderful and beautiful!” I exclaimed.

“I can show you this wonderful thing more easily than I can explain it. We
have here the power, incomprehensible to you at present, of recalling
these symbolic images and making them appear before us again, as if they
were external and real things.

“Look,” he said, and the horizon toward the north seemed overcast. A thin
veil of mist arose before us, and through it we discovered a dim range of
hills, upon each of which a house was in process of erection.

“Every man in the flesh,” said my brother, “is always engaged,
unconsciously to himself, in building his future house in the spiritual
world; for the entire spiritual life of a man is represented symbolically
by his residence here and its appointments. All the activities of your
hands, heart and brain in the good and true things of the earthly state,
are so many contributions to the materials, style, form, color and finish
of your eternal home.

“Observe,” he continued, “that some of those houses are nearly finished,
others are barely begun. Some of them are in styles of great grandeur,
others are very plain. The materials, too, and the execution differ
immensely. Observe also that a man alone is at work on some; a man and a
woman on others.”

“Why is that?”

“When a man and woman are truly married, they assist each other in
building the same house; for they will live together as husband and wife
for ever in heaven. Sometimes persons not married in the world, are seen
working together here. Such persons have strong interior affinities,
unknown it may be to each other on earth, and will be united in heaven.”

“Strange and beautiful!” said I.

“And true!” he exclaimed, earnestly. “The true is always strange and
beautiful.

“If you will look closely,” he continued, “you will see many faint and
shadowy forms that are earnestly assisting these men and women in carrying
the heavy materials and putting everything into its proper place. These
are attendant good spirits invisible to the workers themselves. When a
house is finished, we know that the architect has been released from the
bondage of the earth-life, and will soon occupy the same house vastly
beautified and glorified in some heavenly society.”

Thus are spiritual houses—houses not made with hands, eternal in the
heavens—builded by our prayers, our faith, our hopes, our loving thoughts,
our useful and unselfish deeds.

“I see some houses,” I remarked, “upon which no one is working. They seem
to be falling to decay.”

“The builders have been led away into temptation by evil spirits. The work
of regeneration appears to be arrested or retroceding. The Lord will lead
them by ways they know not, and they will renew their labors.”

While gazing at this strange scene and scrutinizing these shadowy
architects of future homes, I suddenly recognized my own figure toiling
along under a great beam which was to constitute one of the door-posts on
the ground-floor. My house was scarcely begun.

“See, brother,” said I, “I have passed into the spiritual world and my
house is not finished.”

“I never saw it so before,” he said. “I would say confidently from this,
that your earthly mission is not ended.”

While he was speaking, my attention was arrested by a woman in a black
robe on the side of the hill opposite to where my own figure was. This
woman was bent almost to the earth under a great block of stone, which she
was bearing to put into the walls. Several shadowy forms were busy around
her assisting in the difficult task.

“And that woman?” said I.

“Is probably your future wife.”

An insatiable desire immediately seized me to behold her face. Forgetting
my painful experience in the imaginary heaven of the Greeks, I thought
only of Helena.

“It is she,” said I, to myself. “She is a pagan. She is surrounded by evil
spheres. She is unregenerate. Her regeneration will be painful and
difficult. The good angels are assisting her. The foundations of our house
are laid; the structure will rise; the joint work of our secretly united
souls. I always knew it and felt it. It cannot be otherwise!”

In this ecstasy of thought I watched the bowed figure in the black robe.

“Oh that Helena could see and know that I am with her and she with me,
laying the invisible foundations of our eternal home! What felicity that
would be! Let me speak to her! Let me see her face!”

The intense desire of a strong will is at once granted in the spiritual
world. The woman in the black robe slowly raised her eyes to heaven and
turned her face toward me.

It was the pale, sorrowing face of Mary Magdalen!

Mary Magdalen!

The blood all seemed to rush back upon my heart, and I stood with a
chilling, suffocating sense of disappointment hard to describe. But the
loss of Helena, grievous as it was, was not the only ingredient in my cup.
There was vexation as well as disappointment. A deep sense of
mortification overpowered me at the substitution of Mary Magdalen, a woman
without character or friends, recently possessed of seven devils—a
creature miserable, outcast, forlorn.

Secret feelings of social superiority, self-righteousness, and offended
dignity, embodied themselves in my exclamation of contempt:

“Mary Magdalen!”

I brought upon myself immediately the operation of one of those spiritual
laws which excite so much astonishment in the new-comer. My angelic
friends were total strangers to earthly passions, to the frenzy of love,
the rage of disappointment, the sentiment of superiority, the feeling of
contempt. Loving all alike with infinite tenderness and pity, the angels
of God do not see any difference between the self-righteous saint and the
audacious sinner.

My outburst of unregenerate passion separated me at once from my heavenly
companions. It appeared to them that the ground opened and swallowed me
up. They no doubt exclaimed to each other:

“Poor fellow! He is not yet prepared to enter upon the heavenly life. We
will wait on the Lord, who bringeth all things to pass.”

My sensations were different. The architectural heavens of the tribe of
Benjamin vanished from my sight; all was dark for a moment; and, remitted
into my former state, I found myself in the world of spirits just where I
had been raised from the dead.

My faithful friend John the Baptist was near me, and extended his generous
hand.

“Have I visited heaven,” said I, “or have I been dreaming?”

                         [Illustration: Ornament]



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                   XXI.


                         _THE SPIRITUALLY DEAD._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

“You now understand,” said my father, who had rejoined us, “the spiritual
law which separates heaven from hell. Similarity of mental states produces
presence; dissimilarity separates. Societies are held together by the
cohesive power of spiritual affinity. In heaven they are all in perfect
light and perfect peace, because they all obey the spiritual attractions
of the Sun of heaven, which is the Lord.”

“Heaven, then,” said I, “is open to all, but none can live there save
those who are as good and wise as its inhabitants?”

“Precisely so. Whenever a false or sensual idea arises in the mind of the
new-comer, or some unrighteous feeling is aroused in his heart, he
disappears from his heavenly associates and they from him.”

“How then can one be prepared for heaven?” asked I, sadly; “for it seems
that I am very, very far from that state of perfection.”

“One is prepared for heaven by his life on earth. The life of a man is the
aggregate of his loves. The state of the heart determines the hereafter.
It is the intellect only which is anxious about many things—many dogmas,
many creeds, many questions. To the heart there is but one thing needful,
one care, one duty—to cast out the love of self, or duly subordinate it to
the love of the Lord and the neighbor.

“Kindly feeling toward the neighbor, acts of civility and charity
unconnected with the hope of reward, deeds of self-sacrifice, generous
emotions, pure affections, the spirit of forgiveness, reverence for God,
obedience to law, humility, patience; these are the angels of the heart
and the powers which build up the heavenly character in the soul, and the
future heavenly world in which it resides.”

“My life upon earth is then a poor warrant of a life in heaven,” I
answered pensively. “I do not know that I have any faith at all. I have no
purified motives, no fixed principles. I have no love for spiritual
things. I have a certain taste for the true and beautiful, a certain
admiration for the pure and good. I am kind and affectionate by hereditary
organization; but I have never thought of devoting myself to the good of
others. No aspirations beyond the sensuous life have been kindled in my
soul.”

“Do not despair, my son. You have, without doubt, the basis on which the
heavenly superstructure can be reared. Your house in the heavens was not
finished, but it was begun. You will pass through various stages of
instruction, and even through trials and sufferings in the world of
spirits.”

“And in the world of nature also, where his period of probation will be
extended for many years to come,” added John the Baptist.

As we both looked to him anxiously for an explanation of these singular
words, he continued:

“As the herald of the Lord, forerunning His work in the world of spirits
as I did in the natural world, I have become acquainted with an
extraordinary fact, which it is my business here to announce. You are to
leave us and return into your natural body. You disappeared from your
earthly friends and became visible to us; you will now disappear from us
and become visible to them. Christ will recall you from the dead after
your body has lain four days in the grave. You will be the subject of a
great miracle of the Lord; and your story will animate the faith and hope
and love of the Church in all ages of the world.”

I was bewildered at these words.

“How can I return into nature?” said I. “How can I get back into the
natural body? How can I die here when there is no death?”

“The difficulties which seem to you impossibilities,” said John, “are
easily met. The process is perfectly intelligible from the spiritual
stand-point. Attend to my elucidation of it; for it involves the true
nature of miracles and of the redemptive work of the Lord.

“You understand that Christ exists consciously and actively in both worlds
at the same time; in his spiritual body here, in his natural body upon
earth. You know this, for you have seem Him in both spheres.

“He is performing a series of divine works in both worlds at once; and a
wonderful parallelism exists between his works here and his works there.
What he does in this sphere is repeated in that in a different but
corresponding form.

“This is the world of causes, that is the world of effects. There is no
effect without a cause. It seems to men in the flesh that the miracles of
Jesus are performed by his word alone—by the breath of his mouth. That is
a mistake. They are the natural effects of spiritual causes. Jesus is
engaged in this world of spirits in instituting a series of causes which
are to produce certain natural effects; among them, his benevolent works
called miracles.

“Miracles are not violations of natural law. They are only proofs that
spiritual or divine forces govern in all the transformations of matter.
They teach men the true source and origin of causes, and the true relation
between the spiritual and natural worlds. All things are miracles. They
are only wonderful when the events are new, extraordinary, not understood,
or misinterpreted.

“Christ could not restore natural sight to a blind man, unless he excited
into activity those spiritual causes which produce both spiritual and
natural sight. Imparting spiritual light or wisdom to the spiritually
blind in this world, he originates a force which, passing through his own
natural body, restores vision to the correspondingly blind man on the
earth upon whom he lays his hands.

“He here infuses moral vigor into souls who had lost the power of
performing their spiritual duties. This becomes a cause producing a
corresponding effect upon earth; namely, that the touch even of the hem of
his garment will restore muscular strength and will to the paralytic.

“When the Divine Man resists and subdues the evil spirits who would
destroy him, the natural effect is, that He stills the tempest and treads
upon the waves,—that even the winds and the seas obey him.

“When he preaches spiritual truth to those who have never risen above the
perception of natural things, and their minds are lifted from the natural
to the spiritual degree of thought, the natural effect is, that he turns
water into wine.

“So of all his miracles, even that of raising the dead. When he imparts
spiritual life here to those who are spiritually dead, he sets in
operation a spiritual cause which imparts life again to those who are dead
in the natural sense.

“Such is the spiritual philosophy of miracles, which men in their
ignorance suppose to be contraventions of natural law, designed to prove
the possession of divine power. God violates no law either spiritual or
natural. He is Law itself. It would be a contravention of the eternal
organic law if miracles did not ensue, after the institution of their
specific causes in the world of spirits.”

“You draw indeed,” said I, “a wonderful and beautiful parallel between the
spiritual and the natural works of Christ. It is clear that the biography
of the Divine Man can only be written from the spiritual side. I
understand also, in some measure, your philosophy of miracles; still I do
not perceive how I am to get back into the natural world.”

“I will make it plain to you presently. When you come within the power of
an evil sphere, it endeavors to absorb your individuality, and to
assimilate you entirely to itself. If you approach the sphere of spiritual
pride and self-righteousness, unless you are under divine protection, you
will become proud and self-righteous. Approach the sphere of ambition, and
you become fired with the insatiable lust of dominion. Approach the sphere
of sensuality, and your heart, blood, brain, are all set on fire with
hell.

“Such is the contagion of evil. Contagion, whether moral or physical, is
simply the influence of spheres—the imposition of one’s state upon
another—the transference of conditions.

“Now if under certain circumstances you enter the evil spheres of this
world, you will be reduced to the state of the spiritually blind, deaf,
dumb, paralytic or dead as the case may be. You will then be connected
interiorly and by correspondence with the blind, deaf, dumb, paralytic or
dead, in the natural world. Do you not see?”

“Go on,” said I, following with deep interest the chain of his reasoning.

“Well, you will descend among these people whom we call the spiritually
dead. You will enter into their spiritual state. Your spiritual body will
be then reconnected by correspondence with your natural body now lying in
the sepulchre; all without your co-operation, without your consciousness.”

“Well—and then what?”

“When Christ in his judgment approaches the sphere of those who are
spiritually dead, he will cast out the evil spirits who possess them.
Spiritual life will begin to dawn on their souls. Both spiritual and
natural life will spring up for you simultaneously.”

“Why for me alone? Why will not _their_ dead bodies also arise?”

“Because their connection with nature has been long and totally sundered.
On the contrary, you have still a natural body not yet disorganized;
indeed, preserved by special providence for your resumption at the proper
moment—thus manifesting the power and glory of God.

“Your spiritual companions will be delivered from their bondage to hell,
and will emerge into the activities of spiritual life. You will be
correspondently delivered from the bondage of hell and the grave; and will
be raised from the dead and restored to your friends in Judea.”

I contemplated with awe the extraordinary fate that awaited me. I felt
some reluctance at leaving a sphere so bright and beautiful, where I had
been initiated by such charming friends into high and holy truths. I felt
deeply convinced, however, that I was unprepared for heaven, and was
grateful for a more extended probation on earth. An encouragement also to
resignation was the thought that I was going back to comfort and protect
my loving and lovely sisters, Martha and Mary.

“But these people who are spiritually dead,” said I. “Are their corpses
here, also, and sepulchres and monumental inscriptions?”

“Oh no!” said my father, who took up the conversation; “you are now
thinking from your natural stand-point. The spiritually blind are those
who are blind to spiritual things. The spiritually dead are those who are
dead to spiritual things. They comprise an innumerable multitude of souls
who have lived a merely sensual life, and who have no knowledge or love of
anything higher or better or purer than the wretched existence they led in
the life of nature.”

During this conversation we had been advancing toward the north. We came
now to the brow of a great hill, whence the country sloped suddenly
downward and spread into a vast plain. It had a cheerless and wintry
aspect; for the cities and villages and fields were all covered with snow.
Afar off along the line of the horizon was a dim blue ocean, full of
icebergs of enormous size. A gray twilight hung over this cold region, the
darkness of which was occasionally illumined by electric flashes in the
sky.

“There are spiritual as well as natural zones,” said my father—“zones of
thought and affection, in which the heat and light vary in intensity
according to the interior states of the dwellers. Cold and darkness arise
always in this world from the want of spiritual heat and light, which are
love and wisdom.

“Here we take our adieu,” he continued, in a tone which revealed a touch
of sadness. “That great light just rising in the east and south indicates
the approach of the Lord with all his hosts of ministering angels and
spirits. His presence will disperse the demons of darkness, who have so
long sat like ghouls upon the hearts of myriads of feeble and helpless
beings.

“Ah! how the love and faith of the Church in heaven have watched over
these dead souls! and have wept and prayed for them, like two lovely
sisters weeping and praying over the body of a dead brother! How have they
longed for this day of the Lord, and how have they wondered, sorrowing,
that He has so long delayed his coming!

“He comes! He who is the resurrection and the life! and these dry bones
shall live; these dead souls from all pagan lands shall come out of their
graves; and the power of death and hell shall be overthrown!

“Descend, my son, into the grave that leads you back into life.”

My spirit-friends now bade me a tender adieu, pronouncing benedictions
upon me and speaking words of encouragement. Bewildered and amazed,
wondering and fearing what would happen next, I went down the steep slope
toward the cold and silent plain. As I moved along, a great change came
over my spirit. There was a perceptible closure of some window from above,
through which the vital currents descend into the soul. This was followed
by a loss of memory, a vanishing of thought, a sense of fainting or death.

The last thing I remember was the music of a sweet hymn wafted softly from
the brow of the hill. The words were these:

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear
no evil.”

It was my father and John the Baptist comforting to the last the forlorn
spirit that was sinking in the waters of Lethe.

Of what occurred after I reached the plain, I have not the slightest
recollection, if indeed I ever knew. What kind of people I saw, what they
were doing, what Christ and his angels did, what changes followed—all is a
perfect blank to me. I cannot account for this fact. It will all be made
plain to me when I ascend again into the spiritual world. Certain it is,
that a sublime scene of judgment and deliverance took place, but that it
did not come within the range of my consciousness.

The first thing I became aware of, was a sense of infinite pity. I did not
know whether I was in the spiritual or in the natural world. I was flooded
with a vast, deep, boundless spirit of compassion. I wept—I did not know
why. This was the communication to my soul of the life flowing from the
Divine Man.

“Jesus wept.”

He was not only weeping for me, as the Jews supposed who witnessed the
external side alone of this wonderful scene. The loving heart of the
Divine Being was touched with infinite, celestial pity for the innumerable
multitude of the spiritually dead. It was a drop of that infinite pity
which stirred my soul from the sleep of death. It was a drop of that
infinite pity which trickled down the face of Jesus, as he wept in the
garden for the brother of Martha and Mary.

That communication of the divine grief to me must have come from the
spiritual side of my perceptions. I passed again into a dreamy, almost
unconscious state, from which I was aroused by a clear sweet voice,
saying,

“Lazarus! come forth!”

I started to my feet. Blind, bound, bewildered, I staggered toward the
voice. The fresh air struck sweetly on me, and I revived.

The voice continued:

“Loose him and let him go!”

Oh how many myriads of invisible but happy spirits heard at the same
moment similar words of deliverance and comfort, from the omnipresent God
speaking in the world of spirits as He had spoken on earth!

I was freed from the shackles of the grave and looked around me. I was in
the sweet garden of Bethany, standing by the stone which had been rolled
away from the sepulchre, beneath a bright and beautiful sky. A crowd of
friends, with faces full of wonder and joy, were grouped around. My
sisters had swooned at the feet of Jesus, who was smiling benignantly upon
me.

I took in the whole situation at a glance. Remembering everything;
remembering my former unbelief and indifference; remembering the wonderful
scenes I had witnessed; remembering Jesus in his spiritual body, seen also
by the three disciples on the mount; remembering his divine character, his
warfare with hell, his judgments, his mercies; and now understanding in
part the divine mystery of the incarnation; I knelt at his feet in the
deepest humility and the most undoubting faith, exclaiming,

“My Lord and my God!”

                         [Illustration: Ornament]



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                  XXII.


                             _BACK TO EARTH._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

I was borne to my bed-chamber by my friends; for I was not able to walk.
The curious crowd followed us to the gate, but very few persons were
admitted into the house. They judiciously forebore attempting to converse
with me, and I fell immediately into a refreshing sleep.

When I awoke my sisters were ready with stimulants and nourishment.
Looking up into their sweet, eager, happy faces, I found stimulus and
nourishment of a higher kind.

“Back in the world again!” I exclaimed, as soon as I could breathe for the
kisses they were showering upon me.

“Yes—raised from the dead!” said Martha; “Praise be to the Son of God!”

“Raised from the dead!” echoed Mary with deep solemnity, her voice
faltering with emotion.

Trying to recall what had happened, I was struck with a curious impression
which had been left on my mind. It was the impression that a very long
time—months, years, many years, had elapsed since I died. I had passed
through so many wonderful states, had seen so many astounding things, and
been initiated into so many spiritual mysteries, that when I came to think
of them from my earthly stand-point, it seemed impossible that so much
experience could have been crowded into a few days.

“If this be really Lazarus,” said I aloud, “he ought to be a gray-headed
old man, and his sisters wrinkled old women; for surely many years have
passed since he fell sick in Bethany.”

The words disquieted my sisters, who were afraid of returning delirium.
They enjoined upon me absolute silence on the plea of my great weakness.
So I lay upon my couch, looking alternately out of the two windows of my
room. One of them opened upon the inner courtyard with its little fountain
of water, as beautiful to my eyes as if it had been a great column of
crystal. From the other I saw the summit of the Mount of Olives, beyond
which lay the Holy City, concealed as heaven is concealed from us by the
intervening heights of our earthly passions.

Mary sat near me engaged on some fine needlework; Martha at a little table
close by, poring over a beautiful golden-clasped parchment of the Psalms
of David. They occasionally lifted their eyes with watchful interest to my
face. It was a soothing pleasure to contemplate these lovely women. There
was a soft, pure, heavenly atmosphere about them, which reminded me of the
heaven I had left; and I understood the words of the Psalmist, that man
was created only a little lower than the angels.

“Where is Jesus, our benefactor?” I inquired, breaking through their
injunction to keep silence.

“Gone into Jerusalem,” was the reply.

“If our good father was here,” said I, “he would tell us what great change
in the world of spirits was coming next; for every movement of Jesus on
earth is significative of wonderful things going on in the sphere above
us. But alas! from this earthly point of view, all is darkness!”

The startled expression of my sisters’ faces showed that they thought my
mind was wandering. They only replied by putting their fingers warningly
upon their lips.

So I shut my eyes and addressed myself to sleep again; but pictures from
that museum of Art which memory builds for us all, came floating before
me. Mary standing silent and downcast at the mouth of the deserted cave;
the Son of the Desert, the zebra of my vision, wearing in his wild life
the ring which Martha had given him; Ethopus parting with his treasure to
rescue his brother; the haughty stare of the guests of Hortensius in the
Hall of Apollo; Helena, the beautiful, leaning against the emerald tree
and clapping her hands at the drunken Bacchus; Mary Magdalen toiling up
the hill under the terrible load, and comforted by invisible spirits; the
great snow-fields and ice-mountains of the spiritually dead, whom I felt
but did not see; all these things and many more passed and repassed before
my mind’s eye, until, lulled as if by the ceaseless patter of rain, I fell
a second time into a deep slumber.

I was thoroughly restored when I awoke the next morning. I immediately
repeated the Lord’s Prayer after my father’s example; and entered, upon
the first page of the book of my new life, a firm resolution to prepare my
soul by faith and obedience for an eternal home in the heaven I had
visited, but for which I was yet unfit.

As my strength increased I gave audience to my friends—to very few at
first; but recovering day by day, I soon had the house thrown open to all
who wished to examine for themselves the facts in evidence of the great
miracle.

The story had gone far and wide. The death, the burial, the four days in
the grave, and the resurrection, were all susceptible of positive proof.
There were scores of intelligent and truthful witnesses on every point.
Crowds of people came to see the house, to inspect the grave, and to
converse with me. I was examined and cross-examined by Scribes and
Pharisees, by Jews and Greeks, by Romans and Egyptians, by infidels and
disciples.

I soon discovered that, although everybody was intensely interested in the
story of my sensations when dying and when coming to life again, very few
appeared to be long entertained by my wonderful experiences in the world
of spirits. They seemed instinctively to refer all my statements on that
point to the class of dreams and visions.

At first I was astonished and even annoyed at this indifference and
unbelief. But I soon learned that man at present is so immersed in the
life of the senses, that faith in a spiritual world is more nominal than
real; a faith so vague, shadowy and fanciful, that he will not accept as
true any positive statements about the spiritual world.

Men yearn for the great veil to be lifted; to communicate with departed
friends; to see the patriarchs and prophets; to learn the mysteries of the
heavenly kingdom. Oh that some one, say they, could return from the unseen
world and tell us all about these things! With what solemnity would we
listen to his words! with what joy! with what faith!

They are the victims of delusion. If their dearest friends were raised
from the dead after a year’s burial, they would find themselves
disappointed. They would regard them at first with wonder and awe. They
would believe until they began speaking. But when they described the
resurrection which happens to all as it did to me; when they taught the
doctrine of a spiritual body; the reality and substantiality of the
spiritual world; the civil, social and religious life of heaven; doubt
after doubt would crowd upon their minds, until they would reject the
whole story as a dream or a fabrication.

Christ himself declared that the appearance of one from the dead would
convince no man. It is a strange declaration, but my own case is evidence
of its truth.

The grounds upon which the incredulity of my visitors was based, were of
the most contradictory and sometimes of the most irrational nature. One
disbelieved because I had not seen Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and because I
declared that no earthly names exist in heaven, and that respect is there
entertained, not for persons, but for character or quality. Another
doubted my report because I said that David was not king of all the Jews
in the spiritual world.

One man, a great patriot, was indignant because I affirmed that all the
Romans did not go to hell. Another, equally zealous for Judea, was
personally abusive because I declared that more people were saved from the
pagan or gentile nations than from the Jewish Church. Another was shocked
because I said the angels were not always engaged in singing and praising
God. Another, an ideologist, scouted the idea that there was any form,
shape or substance to the soul, or even in the spiritual world.

The most ignorant and conceited of the Scribes and Pharisees denounced me
bitterly as teaching doctrines utterly at variance with Scripture and
subversive of the interests of vital religion. On the other extreme, our
worthy old Greek gardener laughed at my narrative as a tissue of
hallucinations, because I had not been rowed over the river Styx by Charon
the ferryman, but honestly declared that I had seen neither Charon nor the
Stygian river.

The majority insisted that I had not been dead at all; that my condition
was only a trance, which had often occurred before, and had been prolonged
to even a greater period. To this the Pharisees added, that it was no
doubt a trick of magic in which I was guilty of collusion, and which was
designed to extend the fame and influence of Jesus of Nazareth.

Some believed in the fact of my resurrection; and the more enthusiastic
went so far as to affirm that my body had been decomposed in the grave.
These were actually angry with me when I declared that, although I was so
far dead as to be living consciously in another world, yet my separation
from nature was not organic and final, my natural body being preserved in
a peculiar manner for a reunion with its spiritual form.

I soon became wearied and disgusted with unprofitable discussions, and
with credulities and incredulities equally absurd. Failing to convince my
hearers, or to elevate their minds into the heavenly light which I myself
enjoyed, I became more and more reserved; and at last I would not speak on
the subject to any one but Mary and Martha.

These dear women listened with unfailing delight to all I had to say. The
divine intuitions of woman recognize always a new truth before the
calculating reason of man endorses it. Martha indeed doubted occasionally
and criticised sharply, but was always satisfied after consulting the
Scriptures and comparing what I related with their sacred teachings. Mary,
full of love and trust, believed unquestioningly every word I said.

When the crowd was greatest and the excitement highest, our old enemy
Magistus, assuming the garb of friendship, came to see me. He had heard of
my death with great pleasure, for he expected to regain possession of the
property and of my sisters. He was at heart greatly incensed at my return
to life, and vowed to wreak his vengeance on the Divine Man who raised me
from the dead.

He entered with affected friendliness of manner, and congratulated me on
my happy escape from the world of shadows. He hoped, with sanctimonious
earnestness, that after this solemn warning, I would discard all my pagan
ideas and proclivities, and consecrate my whole soul to the service of the
only true and living God.

I told him that I was rather to be pitied than congratulated on returning
to a world so vastly inferior in beauty, peace, and joy to the one I had
visited. I told him also that I had been instructed in the true doctrine
of God in the world of spirits, and that I had seen the terrible dangers
which were impending over the Jewish people and church on account of the
blindness and wickedness of their hearts.

“You will be delighted to hear,” I continued, “that my guide and
instructor was my beloved father, who passed from the wilderness into
heaven, exchanging a poor leprous body for the radiant form of an angel.”

Whether my looks and tones displeased him, or my statements aroused his
anger; or whether the sphere of truth, like the revealing light of heaven,
compelled him to show himself in his true colors; Magistus dropped the
mask, scowled upon me with a face full of hateful passion, and retired,
turning at the door to exclaim:

“Beware, young man! lest this pretended resurrection prove the cause of
your real death.”

I had hardly felt myself in full and healthful possession of my natural
body again, when I made inquiries after that beautiful and fascinating
woman, the love of whom, unrequited and consuming, had been the principal
cause of my death. One might suppose that after my strange experience with
Helena or her attendant demon—an experience seemingly designed to apprise
me of her true character—she would have been the last person on earth I
desired to see.

Alas! it was not so. The enchantments of the senses strike deep into the
soul. The dream of love first engendered in the fervid brain of youth is
not easily forgotten. Her beautiful face and bewitching figure were
constantly before me. And it was with the deepest anguish that I heard she
had fled from her father and friends, and had gone down into Egypt with
Simon Magus.

I found it impossible to turn my thoughts from this Greek siren whose own
evil passions had thus borne her out of my reach, and to concentrate them
upon that other woman whom Providence had decreed to be my eternal
partner, and who was silently, painfully, unconsciously, co-operating with
me in building that palace in the architectural heaven of my tribe.

Mary Magdalen followed Jesus as usual, and came occasionally with the
crowd into the front courtyard of our house. The love of Helena so
preoccupied my thoughts and desires, that I could not make up my mind to
speak to her forlorn rival, or to invite her into the guest-chamber with
the other disciples. So the future wife of my soul stood without among the
unwelcomed crowd, outcast, solitary, unfriended, patiently bearing the
burden of life for both herself and me.

Jesus spent his evenings at our house, until the violent spirit of the
chief Priests and Scribes, on account of my resurrection, became so
apparent, that he withdrew for a season to Ephraim, where he had several
devoted followers. He passed the time in pleasant conversation with his
disciples, or in reading and expounding to us the Scriptures.

With what eyes and thoughts, different from the others, did I now regard
this Divine Being, seated as a man among men—among the creatures of his
own breath! My spiritual experiences with regard to Him had cast a spell
of silence and awe upon my soul. I could not speak to Jesus as before. In
his presence I could scarcely speak at all. Sometimes I found it
impossible to lift my eyes to his face. While the others ate and chatted
respectfully but familiarly with this Divine Man, knowing Him only as a
man, I sat silent and reverential, my heart humbled in the dust before
Him, thinking of the great golden light which preceded Him in the world of
spirits, and of his divine face shining like a sun upon the angels of the
celestial heaven.

                         [Illustration: Ornament]



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                  XXIII.


                              _IMPRISONED._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

Jesus at length came up from Ephraim and prepared for that triumphal entry
into Jerusalem which aroused the animosity of the Sanhedrim to the highest
pitch, and gave color to the charge which they brought against him, that
he meditated a political conspiracy and sought the temporal authority and
kingdom of Judea.

Many, indeed, of his ignorant followers expected him to seize the reins of
civil government, and to maintain his position by miraculous power. Then
they supposed he would raise Jerusalem and the Jewish people to the
pinnacle of earthly glory. These boasted openly of their expectations; and
the chief priests and rulers no doubt congratulated themselves, in their
subsequent proceedings, that they were extinguishing a false religion and
a civil war by the same energetic blow.

On the eve before this entry into Jerusalem my sisters gave a supper to
Jesus and his disciples. It was a brilliant and beautiful scene, crowned,
however, with a certain solemnity and sadness; for the great events about
to transpire cast shadows before them which fell upon every heart. It was
there that my sister Mary drew forth, from a golden box which had been
given her by our good uncle Beltrezzor, a costly Persian ointment and
anointed the feet of Jesus. Judas Iscariot reproved her conduct as
extravagant; and Jesus responded that she was anointing him for his
burial. This prediction of death on the eve of apparent triumph and glory,
bewildered the minds and saddened the hearts of his hearers.

If I had known at that moment, upon what a frightful precipice I was
standing, and what lifelong tribulation awaited me, I would have been the
saddest of them all. But the skeleton stands invisible at our feasts, and
the serpent coils undiscovered among the flowers.

Jesus, with his favorite disciples, Peter, James and John, lodged at our
dwelling; but most of the guests returned to Jerusalem at a late hour. I
accompanied them through the grove which crowned the Mount of Olives, and
down the western slope, over the spot where Jesus was afterward betrayed,
and from which also he ascended to heaven. I parted with my friends at the
long arched bridge which crosses the valley and lands you near the gate of
the temple called Beautiful.

As the last footsteps died away on the bridge, I turned to go back, when I
was startled by the dark figure of a man advancing from behind a tree. The
moon had just gone down and the wind sighed mournfully through the olive
leaves. This man was Judas Iscariot.

“I have something,” he said in a low tone, “of the deepest importance to
reveal to you. I know your attachment to our Master. I know your
discretion and your courage. I have discovered a plot against the life of
Jesus. Two hirelings in the pay of the Sanhedrim, conscience-stricken, or
more probably afraid of the miraculous power of Jesus, have betrayed a
part of the plan. They are now underneath one of the arches of that
bridge, waiting for me. I wish you to accompany me into the valley, to
question these men, to satisfy yourself of the nature and extent of the
danger, and to aid me with your counsel and if necessary with your arm.”

I was deeply agitated at these words. I knew the animosity of the chief
priests to Jesus, and I believed they would not hesitate to employ the
knife of the assassin, if they could not arrest his career by a public
process. I had no cause to doubt the report of Judas; but for some
inexplicable reason I had a great aversion to the man.

He must have read doubt or suspicion in my manner; for he immediately
exclaimed in a tone of surprise:

“Why do you hesitate? Is my word not sufficient? I have chosen you to
share in this mission of honor and danger, because you are indebted to
Jesus for your own life, and because he is at this moment a guest in your
house. Had I communicated this to the brave Peter or the resolute James—”

“Enough!” said I, interrupting him and taking his arm; and we groped our
way along the narrow path that wound down the steep hill into the valley.
Reaching the level ground, Judas gave a low whistle and four men started
up from behind the pillars of the bridge. One of them led a mule by the
bridle. We approached them.

“Here is your man,” said Judas, suddenly stepping behind me and seizing me
with great strength by the shoulders. The men rushed upon me, and
notwithstanding my desperate struggle they bound me hand and foot in a few
seconds.

“Vile traitor!” was the only exclamation that passed my lips before they
were tightly closed by a strong leathern muzzle which was strapped
securely over my head and behind my neck. I was then blindfolded and put
upon the mule. We moved around to one of the city gates. The passwords
were given, for the party were emissaries of the Sanhedrim. We traversed
the streets a good distance, when we halted and I was conducted into a
house. When released from my bonds I found myself in a large stone chamber
with a small iron door and two lofty, iron-grated windows.

“In prison?” I exclaimed.

Judas, who stood in the doorway, rubbed his hands with insulting glee and
said:

“Your uncle Magistus pays me handsomely for this.”

“If Jesus is ever murdered,” said I, with indignant scorn, “you will be
the murderer.”

He sneered and went out. I saw him no more. Alas! I never saw the natural
form of Jesus again. He who betrayed the disciple, was already bargaining
for the thirty pieces of silver at which he estimated the life of his
Lord.

The cause of my imprisonment was not doubtful. I had become obnoxious to
the Sanhedrim from the mere fact of my resurrection. The attention it
attracted, the prestige it conferred on Jesus, the increasing crowd that
followed him, all annoyed and vexed them. I was a living proof of the
power and glory of the new religion, a standing protest and menace against
the old. It was necessary that I should be put out of the way.

I was shut out from the world; a pallet of straw for my bed; a rough table
and a stool my only furniture. A fierce, silent guard brought me a daily
supply of water and coarse food. I saw and heard nothing of the great sea
of human life which was surging outside of my stone walls.

Several days and nights passed in this manner. What had become of my
sisters? What had become of Jesus? If I had been made the first victim,
surely these others would fall shortly beneath the malice and cruelty of
such unscrupulous enemies. These thoughts, attended with gloomy
forebodings, pressed with painful reiteration upon my mind. I could not
eat. I could not sleep. I was all eye, all ear.

I was startled one night by a strange uproar in the street. I was so
watchful, so quick of hearing, that I detected it a great way off. It
gradually came nearer and nearer. It was a riot or street-fight or battle
creeping in the direction of my prison. There were at last plainly heard
shouts, groans, curses, the hurrying of feet, the clash of arms, and all
the exciting accompaniments of a bloody contest between two enraged
factions. From the triumphant cries and the great flare of torches which
came in at my window, I perceived that one party had driven the other
before it, and now occupied the ground in front of the building in which I
was imprisoned.

I put the table against the wall and the stool on the table. Mounting thus
to one of the windows, I could see partially what was going on in the
street.

What a crowd of ruffians of all nations and colors, fantastically dressed
and variously armed!

While I was gazing on this hideous rabble, a man of huge proportions rode
up on a horse finely caparisoned, which had evidently been the late
property of some dashing Roman officer. This man had a horribly bruised
and swollen face, and an immense, dingy, yellow beard. I recognized
Barabbas the robber.

“Break open the doors and release the prisoners!” he cried in a terrible
voice.

Beams used like battering-rams were soon brought to bear upon the
iron-barred and bolted doors, until the whole building resounded with the
tremendous strokes. How my heart leaped at the thought of a speedy
deliverance! I determined in the confusion to elude both parties and
escape to Bethany.

At this moment a great outcry arose: “The Romans! The Romans!” and the
swift clatter of horses’ feet and the renewal of all the sounds of a
fierce fight, assured me that the rioters had been attacked by a squadron
of Roman cavalry.

Suddenly I heard a loud, clear, sweet voice shouting with wild enthusiasm:

“Death to the Romans!”

“Freedom to Judea!”

I recognized the familiar tones before I discovered the tall figure of the
Son of the Desert.

He was bare-headed, and his fine bronzed face, his scimitar and his
crimson scarf gleamed in the torchlight as he rushed bravely forward.
Anthony, my old servant, was at his side, watching his movements with
admiration and echoing his words. The Son of the Desert was bringing up a
large party of stalwart fellows, armed with pikes and scimitars, to meet
the advancing column of horse.

I called to him loudly, waving my arms eagerly between the bars. At that
moment a strong pressure backward from the front, held the party
stationary for a second. My old friend looked up at my window surprised,
and smiled his recognition. He kissed his hand to me and pointed to the
ring on his finger which Martha had given him. Anthony also recognized me,
and saluted me with frantic gestures and every demonstration of childish
joy.

The party suddenly surged forward, and the Son of the Desert raised his
battle-cry:

“Death to the Romans!”

“Freedom to Judea!”

Just then my guard, who had entered the room, commanded me to come down
from the window, threatening to transfix me with his javelin if I did not
obey. I descended and seated myself quietly on the stool, listening in
silence to the progress of the fight. Knowing the irresistible power of
the Roman arms, and wondering why the Son of the Desert had been led into
such a hopeless enterprise, I was grieved, although not disappointed, when
I distinguished by the varying sounds of the conflict, that the
disciplined cavalry of Pilate’s legion were masters of the field.

The torchlight faded away; the tumult ceased. Nothing was heard but a
solitary horseman patrolling the deserted streets. The enterprise,
whatever it was, had failed. I was not to be rescued. I was not to rejoin
my sisters. I was to know nothing that was going on in the busy world
around me. I sank upon my straw, dispirited, despairing. Toward daylight I
slept; and I dreamed of that terrible night by the Dead Sea and of the
words of my uncle Beltrezzor.

It seems that the riot made my jailers suspect that my prison was
insecure. A few nights after this grand excitement, I was startled by
several men in masks entering my room. I was bound, muzzled and
blindfolded again. I was placed in some kind of a vehicle. We traversed
the city; we passed the gate; we descended a slope. The fresh air of the
country broke sweetly and soothingly upon me. We ascended a long hill, as
I knew by the motion to which I was subjected. No one spoke.

At last the vehicle stopped. I was led between two men into a house. We
walked through a very narrow passage where only two could pass at a time.
Suddenly I was stopped, seized by the arms, and let down into a kind of
vault. Previous to this I was stripped of my bandages; but it was so dark
that I could distinguish nothing.

It was not deliverance. It was not death, that happiest deliverance of
all! It was a change of prisons—from dark to darker. My heart sank within
me. I trembled.

Strange sounds above me at the point of my entrance now attracted my
attention! I listened with the utmost tension of ear, endeavoring to
conjecture what my jailers were doing. At last I comprehended it! They
were bringing brick and mortar, and all in the dark! They were walling up
the space by which I had been lowered into the vault.

Horrible idea! My former prison was a dungeon; this was a grave! I was to
be buried alive!

The thought overpowered me and I swooned.

                         [Illustration: Ornament]



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                  XXIV.


                             _BURIED ALIVE._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

When I recovered my senses I examined as well as I could the strange place
into which I had been plunged. It must have been broad daylight out of
doors, for there was a kind of twilight about me that revealed plainly the
contour of my dungeon. When evening came on I was shrouded in impenetrable
darkness. Such was the only difference between my day and my night.

The chamber was about ten feet square, and its walls rose to a
considerable height. It was evidently an old secret dungeon partly
underground, damp and mouldy, the scene perhaps of many sufferings and
many crimes. There was an opening into this vault, so that I was not
literally buried alive. The workmen who had sealed up the space by which I
had entered, had left a little square hole like a window about ten feet
above the flooring. I could see a brick wall beyond it, so that there was
evidently a narrow passage by which some rays of light came to me. When a
door, opening into this passage, was left open, the light was
considerable.

If I could have reached that window I could have escaped; for it was large
enough to admit the head and shoulders of a man, as I soon had occasion to
know. I made many frantic efforts to do so, but could barely touch the
edge of it with the tips of my fingers. There was not an object in the
room to assist me in reaching it. My chamber was perfectly bare—not a
stool, not a pallet of straw.

While I was contemplating sadly the frightful fate which was in store for
me, a little lid or trap-door in the ceiling about a foot square was
opened, and a basket was lowered by a cord. This basket contained a loaf
of bread and a bottle of water. I took out the bread and water; the basket
rose again by the cord, and the lid was closed. This was the routine, day
after day, without variation. Not even an arm or a hand could be detected
when the lid was raised. Nothing could be seen or heard.

There was one thing that varied the monotony, and only one. Every day,
about noon, the door in the passage was opened, the light admitted, and
the ugly face and head of Magistus were protruded through the little
window. There he stood gazing at me for some minutes, sometimes for half
an hour, on several occasions for one or two hours. He did not speak. He
glared at me with a stony malignity which is indescribable. When he had
satiated his cruel appetite with a sight of my sufferings, he retired.

Thus passed away week after week, month after month. My sufferings were
horrible. I wasted and weakened day by day both in mind and body. The air
of the dungeon had become foul and sickening. The bread and water had
become tasteless and repulsive. The silence, the solitude, the darkness,
were fearful.

Magistus came every day to enjoy with secret satisfaction the cruel death
he was inflicting on me. I regarded him with such repugnance and scorn,
that I did not speak to him or even look at him. This no doubt inflamed
his hatred. I walked about my narrow prison, whistling or talking to
myself until he went away. My insulting indifference did not seem to
disturb him in the least. He did nothing to attract my attention. He only
looked.

And now a strange and almost incredible thing occurred. I do not believe
any one can comprehend what I have to say, unless he has been shut up
alone in the dark for weeks and months; with the mind preying morbidly on
itself for want of external objects to give it healthful activity; wasted
by low diet and a mephitic atmosphere, by silence whose terror is
indescribable, and by solitude which of itself can drive to madness.

I did not look at the stony, cruel face of Magistus; but the idea that he
was looking at me began to take a singular and painful possession of my
mind. I could not get rid of it. I walked, whistled, talked, sang to
myself, all in vain. The idea that a hideous face was in the window; that
the black, fierce eyes were fixed upon me; that I could not prevent it;
hung over my mind like the vultures gnawing at the heart of the chained
Prometheus. It became a positive torture.

An irresistible desire to look him full in the face seized me. Whether it
was a secret magnetic attraction compelling me to do so, or whether I
thought it might mitigate my painful and absurd tension of thought on the
subject, I yielded at last. From that moment his triumph was complete. It
was veritably the fascination of the bird by the serpent. I could not help
gazing at him. He seemed to absorb my whole nervous life, to suck out the
very spirit of my blood, so that I was left breathless, dizzy, bewildered,
helpless, after each of his terrible visitations.

Thus I lived a daily death for many weeks; ignorant of all things without;
never hearing the sound of a human voice; buried alive; until hope died in
my bosom, and despair became my bedfellow, and fear my familiar, and even
memory ceased to weave her beautiful airy tissues, consoling me for the
loss of a future by her glorification of the past.

At first I used to love to review all the incidents of my life, both on
earth and in the world of spirits. I spent my long and lonesome leisure in
organizing my knowledge, analyzing my experiences, and building up from
them a grand philosophy of mind and matter.

I saw plainly that such a philosophy was needed to give intellectual
strength and stability to the young church of Christ. I knew that no
height of piety, no fervor of faith, no frenzy of love can secure a church
from the cold and critical assaults of the human understanding. Devotion
may be the soul of a church, but Truth is its body: and no religion
without an impregnable basis of philosophy, can be anything but a
transient fervor. It must inevitably perish by a gradual disintegration.
For this mode of thinking I was indebted to the Athenian philosophers.

The disciples of Christ had no such foundation upon which to erect the
great theological truths they were going to teach. I saw plainly that such
a philosophy cannot be discovered by the human intellect: and moreover
that it can only be revealed to mankind through some one who has lived
consciously for a while in both worlds. By divine permission and
protection I had so lived. I had been put into possession of truths of the
utmost importance to the infant church and the world. Surely I could not
thus perish in a dungeon! Surely the Lord who had raised me from the dead,
would deliver me also from this great snare; so that I could delight and
instruct mankind with what I had seen and heard in the spiritual world.

I therefore arranged all my ideas into philosophical form, and
contemplated with intense pleasure the perfect system of spiritual and
natural truth which I had eliminated from my accumulated materials. It is
astonishing how one spiritual truth leads to another; how all things are
connected together; so that the greatest things are repeated in the least,
and the smallest fragment is an image of the whole.

With increasing debility and despair I ceased to think steadily of these
grand and beautiful subjects. I spent much of the time in praying for
deliverance, and much in brooding over the possible fate and sorrows of my
poor sisters. After a while I discovered that my ideas were strangely
confused, especially after those terrible visits of Magistus, which I
began to regard with absolute horror. I could not distinguish between what
had happened in one world and what in the other; between dreams and
realities; between my hopes and my fears. The awful suspicion broke upon
me that I was losing my reason, that I was on the verge of madness.

Then it was that my courage failed and my pride humbled itself; for when
Magistus next appeared, I raised my hands supplicatingly to him and
exclaimed:

“Oh, my uncle! why do you thus persecute an innocent and helpless
creature? May God have mercy on your soul as you shall have mercy on me!”

He made no reply, but stared fixedly at me. Not a muscle of his face
moved. No ray of emotion was visible on his features. He seemed to be as
deaf and dumb as a statue. I might as well have appealed to a tiger or a
crocodile for pity. I was about to repeat my supplication, but his look
appalled me; and I sank, pale, rigid and stupefied under the old spell of
fascination.

There was no hope.

Let no one suppose that this instance of cruelty is incredible. Its
hereditary germ is concealed in our hearts. It begins developing in the
child when he tortures the dumb creatures in his power. To delight in
witnessing pain is the basest and most infernal of all our passions; but
it is common enough. Every court, every camp, every government, and alas!
almost every religion in the world, has its secret records which could
unfold tales of horror worse even than this. Man invested with
irresponsible power, is naturally a tyrant; and the difference between a
tyrant and a devil consists only in their different degrees of
development.

I learned, moreover, in the spiritual world the singular fact, that men or
women addicted to sensual pleasures unregulated by religious ideas,
however kind and gentle they may seem, have in their hearts a tendency to
the most direful cruelties which rarely come to the surface in this world,
but which rage in hell with unabating fury.

One morning a wonderful thing occurred. How small a thing may seem
wonderful to those who are shut out from the sweet presences of man and
nature!

On taking the bread and water out of the basket, I found a delicate little
rose-bud at the bottom of it. Let those who see every day a thousand
flowers in the golden palaces of the spring, pity and excuse the frantic
pleasure which this tiny one gave to a poor prisoner, who had been shut up
for months in darkness, surrounded by stone walls and demons.

I seized the sweet messenger of love, for such I construed it to be;
strained my eyes in the twilight to discover the green and crimson of its
livery; and imagined that its delicate perfume was a little voice
whispering to me of pity and of succor. I wept over it. I kissed it. I
invested it with life. I called it Mercury, Iris, Hebe, Cupid, Apollo—as a
child endows her doll with vitality, speaks to it, caresses it, nurses it.
Perhaps all nature would be alive to us if our hearts were only childlike.

This flower was a link that reconnected me with the great world above, so
long lost to me. It was a delicate thread that led me up into the open air
under the blue sky, and out into the green fields and into the gardens
where the winds wrestled playfully with the trees, and all the flowers
ducked their little heads at the great rough sport of the larger
creatures. The beautiful forms and colors of a luxuriant nature rushed
upon me with a ravishing sweetness. My memory and imagination were
stimulated into rosy life. I wept for joy.

The secret of all this happiness was, that the rose-bud reconnected me
with my fellow-men. Some one had got hold of the basket who knew my sad
story, pitied my fate, and had sent me a message of comfort. I was
confirmed in this idea when I broke open my loaf of bread; for I found a
slice of meat concealed within it, juicy and delicious. This was the first
variation from my diet of slow starvation. It was clearly the secret,
cautious work of a friend. Help was coming; my heart danced with hope.

This little event shed still greater light and blessing upon me. My mind
became clear; my memory acute; the fear of madness left me. My past
sufferings seemed like a dream. With hope I received new life, new
courage. When Magistus came, I found that I was freed from the spell of
his fascination. I did not look at him. I sat down immediately underneath
his window. I repeated comforting verses of Scripture to myself until he
went away.

That day was spent in the most delicious castle-building. At night I
slept, but was visited by a disagreeable dream. I thought Magistus had
taken my rose-bud from me, and buried it in the ground; and I awoke with a
great cry, for I suddenly remembered that what we had called the rose-bud
was my sister Mary.

How eagerly I watched the next descent of the basket, for more comfort,
more tokens of love, more hope! It came; but there was in it only bread
and water. My heart sank within me. I would have called out loudly to my
unseen friend, to know why I was deserted; but I feared my unseen enemy;
for I felt certain that Magistus always watched the person who let down
the basket.

Magistus came as usual; and I sat, not noticing him, underneath the
window. He seemed annoyed at my indifference. He shifted his position
often and stayed a great while. He missed the pleasure of contemplating
his work in my ghastly and pallid face.

The same things occurred the next day and the next. No more flowers; no
more meat; no messages; no hopes; only bread, water and Magistus. Was it
all a hallucination? Again I began to sicken and despair.

One morning the basket came down with only bread in it. No water! I knew
it was a sentence of death. Magistus was revenging my escape from the
fascination of his evil eye. Before night I began to feel the horrors of
thirst. Awful sensation! I dreamed of water; of the fountain in my
father’s courtyard; of the blue Ægean near Athens, so soft, so beautiful;
of the Salt Sea and the tent of Barabbas; of the snow-fields and icebergs
of the frozen zone in the world of spirits.

All, all depended on the next descent of the little basket. I watched its
coming as a prisoner listens to the voice of the judge, for life or death.
Alas! bread alone; no water. Torture, madness, death, were now inevitable.

I took out the loaf, which somehow or other seemed heavier than usual. To
my amazement, the basket did not rise, but was jerked impatiently up and
down by the person holding the cord.

“What can this mean?” said I to myself.

I broke the loaf. It was scooped out and contained, in the cavity thus
formed, a piece of parchment and a very small ink-horn with a pen.

I hastily examined the parchment and found on one side of it in great
sprawling letters, like a child’s writing, these words:

“What shall I do?”

A light came into my mind as brilliant as the sun. I was calm and
self-possessed; my good angel recalled to me the friendly words of Pilate
at our parting:

“Send for me if you get into trouble.”

I wrote as clearly and as rapidly as possible in the dim twilight:

“Tell all to Pontius Pilate. Be quick or I die!”

I put the parchment into the loaf and pressed its crust closely together
again.

I now heard the stern voice of Magistus exclaim to some one:

“What are you dallying about?”

The basket ascended. I trembled. I almost fainted. My entire hope, my
life, hung upon a thread—upon a hair!

How fortunate it was that I did not send up the parchment alone! My good
angel guided me. Magistus looked into the basket, and seeing it ascend
with the loaf in it, exclaimed,

“He is too weak to take out his bread. I will give him a little wine.”

He seemed to walk away and my heart commenced beating again.

At that moment another little flower, another sunbeam, fell from the
ceiling to my feet: and the lid was closed.

High hope in my soul obliterated for a time even the torture of thirst. I
was calm. I was happy. My invisible friend had received my message. If he
delivered it, I was safe: for Pilate would certainly release me. What if
Pilate was absent or dead or displaced? Such thoughts were torture. Still,
the new governor, whoever he was, would befriend me. I determined not to
give way until night.

Magistus came earlier than usual, and threw me down a goat-skin bottle of
wine and water. I thanked him with the utmost deliberation. He did not
speak in reply. He only wished to fan the embers of life, to prolong my
sufferings. Human nature revolts at the contemplation of such a demon.
Such men are indeed rare, but such evil spirits are common. They are
present to our souls; cunning, cruel, malignant; infusing their poison
into our thoughts and affections; endeavoring to make us such as Magistus.

The worst evils here are moderated and repressed by the counteracting
pressure of good spheres. To see evil in its true light, you must see it
in the world of spirits and in hell—evil utterly divorced from good,
projecting itself outwardly in its own brutal forms, and working out its
frightful destiny.

I waited for my deliverance with a sublime hope, a calm and fixed faith. I
knew it was coming. It came.

Magistus had at length reached, as all wicked men do either in this world
or the next, the limit of his power, the fatal line; after which comes the
rebound, the reaction, the punishment, the disgrace, the sure recoil upon
one’s self of all the evil he meditates against others.

Early in the afternoon I became aware that a great commotion was going on
in the house. The door into the narrow passage was broken open by axes;
for Magistus always carried the key, and he could not be found. A Roman
centurion soon appeared at the window where Magistus had so often stood.
Oh what a picture was his brave, handsome, indignant face! Soldiers came
in. The brick and mortar were soon torn away. I was lifted out and carried
into the open air. I was so overcome with joy that I fainted.

The men who beheld my ghastly features and emaciated form were loud in
their curses of Magistus. I was laid on a bed in the house, and nurses
were assigned me. The kindly centurion did not leave me until I was
comfortably fixed and had recovered from my swoon.

“Pontius Pilate,” said he, “desired me to present you his congratulations,
and to say that he will visit you to-morrow when you have been refreshed
and strengthened by food and a night’s rest; and will then hear your story
from your own lips.”

I thanked him warmly.

“And my deliverer?” said I, “my unseen, faithful friend and deliverer!
Where is he? Who is he?”

No one present knew anything about my deliverer.

                         [Illustration: Ornament]



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                   XXV.


                           _WHAT HAD HAPPENED._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

Pontius Pilate fulfilled his promise; and I told him my whole story from
the time of my resurrection until my happy release by his good centurion.
When I was speaking about the invisible friend, the flower let down in the
basket, and the parchment with its rude letters, his face grew sad. When I
finished by asking him to inform me how and from whom he learned my
condition, so that I could discover, reward and love my deliverer as he
deserved, he drew a deep sigh and said:

“I fear I have done a very hasty and cruel thing!

“The man who informed me of your condition was the African who accompanied
you to Rome, and who endeavored to rescue the slave from the fish-pond of
Hortensius.”

“My brave and good Anthony!” I exclaimed eagerly.

“He eluded my guards; and although wounded by one of them for his
temerity, he rushed into my presence as I was finishing my morning meal.
The words he spoke were substantially these:

“‘Lazarus, whom you brought from Rome, is confined in a dungeon underneath
the house of Magistus, in Bethany. They have starved him nearly to death,
and he has been without water for a day and a night. Send help to him
speedily, or it will be too late.’”

“Noble, courageous Anthony!” I exclaimed. “He shall have half of my
possessions!” but I was disquieted by the darkening brow of Pilate.

“I asked him,” continued the Roman governor, “if he had been in your
employ since our return from Rome.

“‘No!’ he replied, ‘I have seen him but once, and that was in prison.’”

“He spoke the truth,” said I; “he always spoke the truth!”

“I thought he was a messenger sent by some friend of yours. I remembered
him immediately, and I remembered also my promise to Hortensius. I saw in
him only an audacious criminal, returning without leave from an exile
which had been decreed perpetual.”

“And you threw him into prison?”

“If I had known of his beautiful and heroic devotion to you, his fate
would have been different.”

The evident remorse of Pilate startled me.

“And his fate? What was his fate? He is not dead,” said I, elevating my
voice.

“He was beheaded immediately.”

“O cruel, cruel, cruel fate!” I exclaimed; and regardless of ceremony, I
mourned for my dead friend with bitter tears and bitter words in the
presence of his august murderer.

“I feel,” said Pilate, when he bade me a friendly adieu—“I feel that I
have discharged a severe duty in this matter; but the generous conduct of
this African,—for he certainly must have known that he endangered his own
life by appearing before me,—would have entitled him to a full pardon,
which I would have given with pleasure for his own merits as well as for
your sake.”

As soon as my Christian friends heard of my reappearance, they crowded to
see me. From them I learned the sorrows and trials my sisters had
undergone, as well as the strange events which preceded, accompanied and
followed the crucifixion of Jesus.

Magistus and Caiaphas had set afloat the story that I was engaged in the
raid upon the city of Jerusalem, made for the double purpose of robbery
and murder, by Barabbas and his party; many of whom were deluded into the
enterprise under the idea that it was a patriotic rebellion against the
Roman yoke. They also suborned witnesses to prove that I was killed in the
night attack, and was buried by them with a crowd of other rioters who
fell by the Roman arms.

This led to the confiscation of our estates; and as Mary and Martha were
helpless and beautiful young women without relatives to protect them, they
were assigned to the special guardianship of Magistus. Caiaphas approved
in strong terms this decree of the Sanhedrim, eulogized Magistus for his
generous character and patriarchal virtues, and congratulated the sisters
of a vile robber, themselves the disciples of a base impostor, on their
extraordinary good fortune in being placed under the enviable protection
of one of the shining lights of Israel.

The wickedness and duplicity of this high priest will be almost incredible
to future times. But the age was evil; the church was corrupt; and public
and private morality reduced to the lowest ebb. The priesthood was a
matter of bargain and sale. The office of high priest, the holiest and
highest in the Jewish theocracy, was obtained by bribery and fraud and in
more than one instance by murder. Caiaphas was one of the most consummate
hypocrites that ever entered the holy of holies. He might have changed
places with Barabbas, and justice and religion would not have fared the
worse for it.

My sisters, terrified at the thought of falling into the power of
Magistus, their remembrance of whom was anything but pleasant, fled from
our house and concealed themselves with some of the disciples of Jesus.
The two chief miscreants of the Sanhedrim seemed determined to get
possession of these unhappy and forlorn women; and they instituted the
most rigorous search through the houses of all persons who were suspected
of harboring them. Their evil passions seemed only half gratified by my
destruction and the seizure of our property. Fearful would have been the
fate of these angelic friends of Jesus, had they fallen at that time into
the hands of his fiercest enemies.

Spies and detectives fully authorized to search, arrest, bribe, intimidate
and even kill, were set upon their track in every direction. The country
became so unsafe for them, that they were conveyed by stealthy night
marches to the hut of some friendly fishermen away down on the sea of
Galilee. Even there they were pursued; and Peter the apostle rowed them
across the sea on a dark and stormy night, and concealed them in the very
tombs whence issued the maniac out of whom Jesus cast a legion of devils.

After many sufferings and hair-breadth escapes, they were conveyed out of
the country, and at that moment were living concealed in the city of
Antioch, at the house of a poor but worthy man—himself a Christian, for
Christ had cured him and nine others of the leprosy; and he alone of the
ten had turned back to give thanks.

I wept when I thought of the unhappiness of my poor sisters; and I felt an
urgent desire to regain my shattered strength and rejoin them.

The story of the crucifixion of the Lord struck me with wonder and awe. I
was not surprised that Judas Iscariot had betrayed him. But the pathetic
incidents of his last supper, his betrayal, his trial, his crucifixion,
his resurrection, his appearance to his disciples, and his ascension,
affected me to tears, and filled me with a spirit of humility, love and
prayer.

“Those are pictures,” said I, to my friends, “which will be painted on the
heart of the Christian Church in the colors of heaven, and which the
powers of death and hell can never efface.

“If such,” thought I to myself—“if such is the effect of this divine
history as it appears in the literal form to man, what must be the power
and glory of the spiritual signification of these great and holy things,
when they are studied by angels in the light of heaven!”

Barabbas and his bravest lieutenants, including the Son of the Desert, had
fallen into the hands of the rulers. Barabbas conveyed to Magistus a
threat, that if he were not released he would expose to the Sanhedrim his
attempt to murder his nephew. Whether Magistus and Caiaphas, who acted
always in concert, feared an exposure of this kind, which is not probable,
considering the source whence the charge would come, or whether they
followed spontaneously the wicked instincts of their own souls, they
procured the release of Barabbas and the crucifixion of Christ.

The mercy extended to Barabbas was not given to his followers; and two of
them were selected to be crucified with Jesus, to increase the ignominy of
his execution. And so Christ was crucified between two thieves—or men so
reputed.

One of these was the Son of the Desert.

This brave, wild man, strangely compounded of good and evil, was heavily
ironed and cast into the deepest dungeon. Magistus had a habit, consistent
with his cruel disposition, of visiting prisoners condemned to death, and
enjoying the terrors with which they contemplated their approaching fate.

The Son of the Desert did not gratify his passion for witnessing the
sufferings of abject misery. He was singularly cheerful and buoyant. He
declared himself not only willing but anxious to die. He had nothing to
contemplate with pleasure when he looked back; and as to the future, if
the soul were really immortal and a second life were given him, he was
determined to start upon it with new principles and motives.

Magistus was astonished at the calm, philosophic spirit of this poor
wretch, who had never heard of philosophy.

When Magistus was leaving, the Son of the Desert took a ring from his
finger and said:

“You are not too proud to do one little favor for a condemned criminal.
Give this ring to Martha, the sister of Lazarus. Tell her it has
accomplished the mission upon which she sent it. She can touch it without
shame. It has been an angel of light to me. Since I have worn it, I have
seized no man’s goods, I have taken no man’s life except in lawful battle.
If I have adhered to my band, it was to moderate their passions, to stay
the hand of violence, to plead for mercy, to assist the captive, and where
possible to make restitution. It found me a slave, it has made me a
freeman. It found me a robber, it has made me a patriot.”

He was about to say more, but suddenly checking some rising emotion, he
clenched one hand upon his heart, and waving the other, exclaimed:

“Adieu! adieu!”

Neither the message nor the ring was delivered to Martha. The story was
told to members of the Sanhedrim, in whom it awakened no generous
sentiment, but only excited their amusement or mockery. The ring was taken
to Ulema, my poor aunt, who still retained her wonderful clairvoyant
power, which indeed seemed to increase as her general health declined.
Magistus expected by the ring to obtain knowledge of all the movements and
actions of the formidable band of Barabbas; for the clairvoyant can see
the past as well as the present, and with the proper clue, can go far
back, on the stream of time, to the very origin of things. Rumor says that
the ring made strange and unexpected revelations, not only about the band
of Barabbas, but about the early history of the Son of the Desert. Ulema
found in the last possessor of the ring her own only and lost child, who
had been stolen from the court-yard by one of a prowling party of
Egyptians, when he was a very little boy. No discovery was ever made of
his whereabouts, and her grief at the event was one cause of her after
seclusion and ill health.

Magistus was astounded, and perhaps pained, on finding that his own child
had been crucified with Jesus. It was too late to do aught but bury the
whole matter with the other painful things in his memory. He said nothing
to Ulema on the subject, who was of course unconscious of it all in her
waking state.

A strange thing, however, now took place. The moment she passed into her
trance state, she began to weep and wail over her lost child. Her
clairvoyance put her in full possession of all the facts of his life and
death. The mother’s heart broke under the immense sorrow. She pined
rapidly, and her white hands were soon folded in that sweet sleep which
precedes the celestial waking.

We have a life within our life, like a wheel within a wheel!

With no knowledge of his parentage, no friend in whom to confide, no heart
to receive and give a last adieu, the Son of the Desert bore his own cross
up Calvary, and was nailed upon it by the Roman soldiers.

He had never seen Jesus before. He had heard of him only through enemies.
He supposed him to be some fanatic or impostor, or perhaps some political
maniac who aspired to the crown of Judea. At first he joined his
fellow-sufferer on the other side of Christ in railing against the king
and miracle-worker, whose sceptre and miraculous powers seemed so useless
to himself and others in his last extremity.

But the conduct and words of Jesus smote him to the heart. Through that
secret affiliation and sympathy by which one brave and good man recognizes
another in the hour of sternest trial, the Son of the Desert, educated
only in heart, perceived with the heart that the kingdom of Christ was a
spiritual kingdom. Divining intuitively the mission of infinite love in
which the Lord was engaged, he confesses his own sin, rebukes and silences
his fellow-sinner, and pleads for remembrance in the hour of triumph which
he sees is approaching for the King of kings.

Brave, repentant soul! Jesus is everywhere; in heaven; in earth; in hell.
And shortly thou wast with Him and He with thee, in that paradise or
garden of the soul, in which the new life, forgetful of the old, begins to
bud and blossom!

The great tragedy was enacted. The disciples at first stood afar off. But
as the death-scenes drew nearer, and the curiosity of the crowd increased,
military discipline was somewhat relaxed, and the people were permitted to
press closer, and those who had special claims were allowed to come up and
stand very near the dying sufferers. It was thus that the Apostle John,
and Mary the mother of the Lord, were in speaking distance in his last
moments. It was then that He gave each of them so tenderly to the other.

Aside from this awful central scene, which will shine in all history as
the pivotal event of the world, a pathetic side-scene was enacted, of
which there is no historian but myself; and even I was not present, but
relate it at second-hand. My authority, however, was a man of truth, John
the Apostle, the exile of Patmos.

Far off in the crowd was a solitary being whose eyes were fixed
continually on the Son of the Desert. He stood with his brawny arms folded
spasmodically across his chest. Great tears ran slowly down his cheeks.
That man was poor and ignorant and ragged and black, but he had a noble
soul. It was Anthony, the Ethiopian, who, exiled by Pilate into the
desert, had there met Barabbas and his band. He soon attached himself by a
certain instinct to the only noble spirit in the party. He followed the
fortunes of this man; and, true to his African genius, he imitated his
character. The Son of the Desert was not ashamed of his humble disciple.

Anthony escaped death and capture on the terrible night of the riot. But
his master was taken; and the faithful servant prowled about the suburbs
and the prisons, risking detection and arrest in order to catch a glimpse,
if possible, of him whom his soul loved. It was all in vain. He followed
the vast crowd which went out to the crucifixion, pushed aside by the
spears of the soldiers, and found himself on Calvary a witness of the last
act in the great drama—an act which disclosed the mighty power of Love,
and foreshadowed and meant the redemption of the world.

When the people were permitted to approach nearer to the crosses, Anthony
came very close to that whereon his master, the Zebra of the Desert, hung
in agony. No one noticed the ragged black man. He at last caught the eye
of the poor sufferer, who smiled a sweet recognition. He was cheered. He
felt happy to have one follower, one soul that loved and pitied him. Poor
Anthony wept as if his heart would break.

He procured a large goat-skin bottle full of water, and stood at the cross
bathing his master’s wounded feet with the cooling stream. The guards
wearied, sickened with the prolonged sufferings of the victims, did not
prevent him. He listened to the conversation between Christ and the
repentant sinner; and for the first time he seemed aware that there was
another great tragedy going on besides the one in which he was especially
interested.

He sat or squatted upon the ground in front of these dying men, looking
first at one and then at the other; studying also the faces of the group
of holy women, who with the good John stood near the central cross. A
great idea was dawning on the benighted soul of the Ethiopian, a great
light, a great glory.

Why is it that the beams of celestial light pass by the palace and
illumine the hut?—pass by the cultivated and learned and gladden the
hearts of the simple and child-like?

When the Divine Man, praying for his enemies, gave up the ghost; when the
great shadows came over the sun; when the bereaved women raised their wail
of sorrow; when the centurion exclaimed, “Truly this was the Son of God;”
another convert—humbler, lowlier than they all—was kneeling at the foot of
the cross, praying to Him who hung upon it: “Lord, remember me also when
thou comest into thy kingdom.” Anthony assisted the disciples in taking
down the body of Jesus from the cross. That night, aided by John and two
other disciples who had witnessed his tender devotion to the Son of the
Desert, he took down the body of his master, wrapped it in a new
winding-sheet, and buried it in a corner of the Potter’s Field.

When washing the body for this lowly burial, they discovered some
beautiful red letters pricked or burned into the skin immediately over the
heart. They were these:

“Martha, sister of Lazarus.”

Anthony followed John to his home and became his servant. He soon learned
the anxieties and conjectures which prevailed about my sudden
disappearance. Remembering my face at the prison window, he became
convinced that I was still a prisoner. He determined, with John’s
approval, to devote himself to finding and delivering me. He had no
adviser, for John was busy in saving my sisters from the cruel Magistus,
and was at Ephesus when I was delivered from the dungeon.

How well he executed his trust, the reader already knows. But how he did
it; how he discovered my whereabouts; how he got into Magistus’ employ;
how he obtained the post whence he could aid me; his difficulties, his
hopes, his fears, his emotions—all were buried with him—alas!

He will tell the whole story to me when I meet him in heaven, as I most
assuredly shall.

Poor Anthony! brave to impetuosity, extravagantly generous, meek to the
deepest humility, faithful to the last degree! In his short, obscure life
is concentrated a glory superior to all Greek or Roman fame.

One more piece of news occasioned me as much surprise as anything already
narrated. This, however, unlike the rest, was joyful. About a week before
my deliverance, my good uncle Beltrezzor had arrived in Jerusalem from
Persia. He had heard, through his correspondent in the Holy City, of my
supposed death, of the crucifixion of Jesus, and the mysterious
disappearance of my sisters. He at once suspected some evil, and
determined to hasten to their assistance. He found considerable difficulty
in converting all his property into jewels and precious stones; and still
more in bringing everything safely through countries which were at war and
infested by prowling bands of deserters and thieves.

He had started for Antioch only the day before, having heard that John had
conducted my sisters safely to that city.

Pilate was not slow in bringing Magistus to justice. Finding that an
exposure of his infamously cruel character was already made, and that the
Roman governor himself had taken part against him, hundreds of people whom
he had injured in person or property came forward to assist in the
prosecution. He was convicted of many crimes, his estates confiscated; he
was exiled the country and forbidden to return under penalty of death.

It was ten days before I was able to travel. I chid the tardy hours that
kept me from my beloved sisters and my dear old uncle, the disciple of
Zoroaster.

At last the word came:

“To Antioch!”



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                  XXVI.


                        _THE CITY OF COLONNADES._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

Strange things were going on at Antioch.

Antioch, the seat of the Roman government in Syria, was a centre in which
met all the peculiarities and eccentricities of the civilized world. It
was situated on the river Orontes, several miles above its confluence with
the sea. By an extensive system of artificial works the river was made
navigable for the largest vessels, so that Antioch was in rapport with the
maritime world. It was the city of amalgamations; the point of contact
between the East and the West; the receptacle of all races and nations.

Notwithstanding its wealth, beauty and splendor, the society of Antioch
was inconceivably corrupt and degraded. All kinds of strange doctrines and
unhealthy superstitions were rampant there. Magicians, sorcerers,
miracle-workers, impostors, buffoons and courtesans were in high favor
with all classes. Life and death were equally disregarded. Races, games,
fêtes, debauches, combats, processions, seemed to occupy the whole time of
the excitable and licentious populace.

Simon Magus, after spending three or four months in Egypt with Helena,
came to Antioch and began an extraordinary course of public teachings. It
was a rich field for his peculiar genius. He combined philosophy with
sorcery, theology with magic. Of his cruel deeds, his infernal plots, his
insane ambition the world was ignorant.

He was greatly changed. The inspiration of evil had taken demoniac
possession of him. He had grown leaner and darker. His eye, always
eloquent and powerful, was fierce and restless. He had a singular habit of
grasping at his breast, with an expression of suffering on his face, as if
a violent pain shot through his heart. He had lost much of that calm,
self-possessed, imposing exterior which commanded respect by its apparent
strength and dignity. He was louder in his speech, more rapid in his
gestures, prouder and more defiant in his attitude. This gained him a
larger but more vulgar audience.

The magician was on the eve of madness, if not actually mad.

It was the age of insanity. It was the age of imposture and false
miracles, of convulsion and persecution, of moral and physical turpitude,
of direful cruelty and bloodshed, of the wildest fanaticism, of the most
revolting excesses, of actual possession by devils. Nothing like it was
ever seen before or ever will be again, because all these things were the
effects and collateral issues of the spiritual combat between good and
evil, between Christ and hell; the throes of the great demons of past ages
before their final expulsion from their thrones and the inauguration of a
new spiritual power in the world.

Such was the state of society at Antioch when Simon Magus appeared in that
city and claimed to be an incarnation of the Deity, exercising miraculous
power. He seemed to be possessed of boundless wealth. The splendor of his
palace, the rare and gorgeous beauty of his equipage, his singular and
dazzling dress, the wild grandeur of his manner, the wonderful eloquence
of his speech, and the astounding feats of magic which he certainly did
perform, all created a bewildering impression on the excitable and
unthinking people of the City of Colonnades, as Antioch was called on
account of its architectural beauty.

On his first arrival he had directed his subtle energies to obtain the ear
and the faith of the ruler of the province, the Roman governor, whose name
was Lelius. The appliances which he brought to bear upon the heart, the
brain, the senses of this weak and vain man, were finally successful. In a
few weeks Lelius was not only the dupe, but the mere creature of Simon
Magus. Helena shared with her pretended husband the glory and the shame of
this royal conquest.

Such was the state of things when the apostle John arrived at Antioch with
the two unhappy fugitives—my sisters. They were attended by Mary Magdalen
in the humble capacity of servant. This zealous disciple of Christ had
kept modestly aloof from them in their prosperity; but when thrown
together by common sorrows and persecutions, she tendered her services and
proved through life a most faithful and efficient friend.

John obtained lodgings for the party with Salothel, the restored leper.
Hoping still further to shield them by drawing the pursuit after himself,
he traveled on westward as far as Ephesus, where he had friends, and where
he began preaching the new gospel of Christ. The sisters remained
concealed for a long time, until their fears were quieted and they began
to be intensely anxious to hear from Judea. They had always doubted the
story of my death, and were continually hoping to get news of me.

Emboldened by their long repose, Mary and Martha closely veiled took a
walk one afternoon with Salothel through the grand street of colonnades,
and sat down to rest in one of the beautiful public squares. A triumphant
procession in honor of the Roman arms was passing by; and it was precisely
in a great crowd, passing and repassing, that our recluses thought there
was least danger of being specially observed.

Suddenly two men stopped near them, and one gazed earnestly at the
sisters. That man was Simon Magus, thoroughly-disguised. He had received
letters from his old disciple Magistus, telling him how his nieces had
eluded his vigilant pursuit, and requesting him to keep a lookout for
them. Simon also had not forgotten the defeat of his great scheme at
Bethany, and he desired above all things to get possession of Mary for his
own private ends.

It is needless to say that when a man of Simon’s genius and power gets
upon the fresh trail of a poor helpless woman, it is but a short time
before he secures his prey. Mary, innocent, unsuspecting, loving creature
as she was, the very next day was decoyed from the house of Salothel by a
very old gray-haired, heavenly-faced man, a devout Christian, who managed
to see her alone, and who wished to conduct her without a moment’s delay
to her suffering brother Lazarus. Of course the devout old Christian was a
disguised emissary of Simon; and Mary found herself immured in a secret
chamber of his palace.

What to do with her? was now the question.

Simon Magus had such intense faith in the incantations of Ja-bol-he-moth,
the old demon of the Lybian desert, that he was ready to abandon his great
theological mission and convey Mary to the ruins of the ancient city which
was buried in the sand. If he had permitted Helena to remain in possession
of his palace under the protection of Lelius, that beautiful person would
have approved his enterprise, and would have given him her blessing with
her farewell. But Simon was obstinately resolved that she should accompany
him, and share the dangers and the glory of the expedition.

Helena positively refused to return to Egypt; and as she was as fierce and
implacable as she was beautiful, Simon was at last obliged to submit to a
compromise. Mary was not to be conveyed into Africa; but she was to be
murdered, her heart extracted, burned into a cinder and pulverized, to
constitute a magical powder of extraordinary virtues. Thus Simon was to be
gratified by an addition to his necromantic treasures, and Helena was to
enjoy the dissipation of Antioch.

“And how it will delight our friend Magistus!” said Helena.

Simon felt too insecure in his new surroundings to venture upon the secret
murder of the young girl. It might be difficult to dispose of the body
after the heart was abstracted. The untried creatures and slaves around
him might discover the deed and betray him. His new claim to divinity
would be sadly compromised by his sudden exposure as an assassin.

Simon and Helena devised a cunning plan by which they could attain their
ends without the least danger to themselves. Simon represented to Lelius
that a strange and dangerous conspiracy against government and religion
was taking root in Antioch. He described Jesus as a subtle impostor, who,
under the cloak of extraordinary sanctity, meditated the grandest
political revolutions. He painted the disciples in the blackest colors as
the secret enemies of peace and order.

“The leader,” said he, “of these turbulent spirits was crucified by
Pontius Pilate, whose probity and leniency are known to the whole world.
His followers, driven from Jerusalem, have spread as firebrands in
different countries; and secretly associated together, they are now
plotting against the stability of all existing civil and religious
institutions.”

He claimed to have discovered their plots by magical power; and he
solemnly assured his credulous listener that he had not exaggerated their
importance or danger. He predicted that in a few years a decree of
extermination would be issued by all civilized powers against these
people, and he begged Lelius to initiate those measures of destruction
which would entitle him to the gratitude of mankind.

“I know,” he continued, “that one of the most cunning of all these
emissaries is now in the city: a woman, beautiful, accomplished,
designing; concealing under the garb of modesty and humility, the spirit
of universal anarchy. She anointed this Jesus as king in the presence of
his chosen officers and lieutenants on the night before his grand entry
into Jerusalem, when the mad populace shouted his claims to the throne of
Judea. To satisfy your mind of the true nature of this formidable doctrine
growing up around us, let me bring this woman before you and question her
in your presence.”

Lelius assented to this proposition, and Mary was led or rather dragged
into the august presence of the Roman governor. Simon Magus proceeded to
question her in the most adroit manner, drawing from her exactly such
answers as were best calculated to shock and disgust the ignorant and
arrogant pagan who held in his single hand the power of life and death.

Mary, terrified and unsuspecting, answered all his queries in a simple and
truthful manner. She was thus made to say, that she had known and loved
Jesus of Nazareth; that she had anointed him on the eve of his royal entry
into Jerusalem; that she believed his teachings; that he had risen from
the dead and ascended into heaven; that she prayed to him as God; that he
was coming again to restore Israel and to judge the world.

This seemed like the wildest folly and fanaticism to the proud Roman; and
he smiled at the thought that there were people with the semblance of
rationality who could credit such absurdities. But Simon’s work was only
half done. Questioning and cross-questioning his artless victim, he drew
from her facts of a far more serious and practical bearing.

Mary believed, and candidly acknowledged it, that all the religions
sanctioned by the laws of the Roman empire, were false religions; that
their gods were no gods at all, or demons; that their boasted oracles were
evil spirits; that the tendency of these religions was only evil, and that
their devotees were living in sin and doomed to hell. Moreover, that the
religion of Christ was to supersede them all; that no compromise could be
permitted; that it was a life-and-death struggle between the old religion
and the new gospel.

In addition she was made to say—never dreaming to what conclusions her
admissions were leading her pagan judge—that Jesus had set apart a great
many persons, twelve at one time and seventy at another, to go forth into
the world and preach this gospel; that he had given them miraculous power
wherewith to achieve their ends; that angels delivered them from prisons;
that they could strike their enemies blind or dumb or powerless; that they
could raise the dead; that they had a secret organization with signs and
symbols; that they had started or were going to start on their grand
mission which was to overturn the powers of pagan darkness and prepare the
minds of men for the universal reign of Christ at his second coming.

When Mary was removed by the guards, Simon had no difficulty in convincing
Lelius that his own allegations had been well founded. Torturing the
meaning of Mary’s words and giving them a purely literal construction, he
inflamed the indignation and zeal of Lelius to such a pitch, that he
despatched private letters to the governors of the neighboring provinces,
informing them of the existence, motives and plans of this new and
desperate conspiracy against all that was stable, glorious and venerable
in the civilizations of Greece and Rome.

The next thing was to determine what should be done to extinguish a heresy
which meant revolution, in his own province. To this conference Helena was
admitted; for Aspasia had less influence over Pericles than Helena over
Lelius. The Roman governor was weak-minded, easily led, and without moral
sensibility. He was passionately fond of new sensations, extraordinary
excitements, and the bloody sports of the amphitheatre. He was soon
induced to sanction a magnificent scheme concocted by that subtle brain
which received its inspiration from the old magician of Pharaoh.

Our good uncle Beltrezzor arrived at Antioch the day after Mary’s
disappearance. He found the household of Salothel in the profoundest
consternation and distress. He was welcomed with frantic joy, and joined
them in the most painful and laborious search for his lost niece. Day
after day these sad, anxious souls traversed the city, walking, looking,
inquiring everywhere. Among half a million or more of people the lost are
not easily found, especially if cunning and unscrupulous power gets them
in its clutches and conceals them from view.

In the course of his inquiries, Beltrezzor discovered that Simon Magus
lived in the city in great grandeur and authority. A fearful suspicion
entered his mind; for he remembered the night-scene in Bethany, and the
foiled abduction. He did not communicate his fears to Martha or the rest,
but insisted upon their remaining in the utmost seclusion, while he
conducted the search alone. He said he had discovered something important,
but which demanded great caution and secresy; and he endeavored to inspire
a hope which he did not feel.

The next day, passing a crowd in one of the squares, he observed the
herald of Lelius reading a proclamation to the people, which excited the
greatest enthusiasm. He came near and listened to its second reading.

It announced officially, with great pomp of words, that the government,
determined to protect the safety and morals of the people, had taken
measures to extirpate a certain secret association of conspirators, which
had been founded in Judea by one Jesus Christ, whom Pontius Pilate had
crucified as an impostor and revolutionist. That the first step in this
righteous undertaking, would be the public execution of a young woman, who
was an agent and emissary of these outlaws, and who had anointed the said
Jesus king of the Jews, according to the old Jewish custom of installing
into the royal office. That in order to strike terror into these
evil-doers, and to warn them of the fate which awaited them if they
attempted to teach the doctrines of Jesus, the young woman, Mary of
Bethany, high-priestess of this new and dangerous religion, would be
thrown to an immense Næmean lion just arrived from Africa, in the grand
amphitheatre on the afternoon of a certain day which would be the second
Sabbath following, according to the Jewish calendar. That, to illustrate
the clemency of the government, a full pardon would be given to the said
Mary if she publicly recanted her heresies and revealed the names of the
other conspirators.

Beltrezzor stood aghast at this terrible document, full of false
affirmations. The old man’s heart was pierced with grief and terror in
contemplating the frightful toils into which his innocent and beautiful
niece had fallen. To conceal the awful fact from Martha was his first
thought—and then he was prepared for any labor, for any sacrifice to
rescue Mary.

The whole city was in a blaze of excitement over this new sensation. It
was the great topic of conversation everywhere.

And her crime? Oh! said the people, it is terrible! A female atheist!
denying all the gods, and worshiping a Jew who was crucified between two
thieves!

All agreed that she deserved her fate; and that it would be the most
entertaining sight of the season, and a death-blow to the conspiracy.

“And see!” said they, “the noble mercy of Lelius! If she recants at any
time before the opening of the amphitheatre, she will be released.”

Then they all agreed that it would be very cowardly and disgusting in her
to recant. They admired an unbending and not a repentant sinner.

Beltrezzor was a plain, childlike man, having no ingenuity for indirect
attacks, or for unraveling difficult questions. Thoroughly truthful and
honest, he always went to work in an open, straightforward way. He felt
that, in the great work before him, he had but one hope, one resource—his
immense wealth.

If he had loved money more than he did, his hope would have been greater;
for he would have believed that all men could be bought with a bribe.
Unpurchasable himself, he doubted the power of money. Still he was
compelled to test its efficacy, for it was plainly his only resource.

He studied the situation thoroughly, deliberately. He became convinced
that the whole thing was the conjoint work of Simon Magus and the Roman
governor. He was sure that Simon Magus, a fanatic almost to lunacy, could
not be deterred or withheld from a favorite project by pecuniary
considerations. The government could not withdraw its proclamation without
a sacrifice of dignity; and if Lelius were approached on the subject, he
would probably refer it to Simon, by whom all proposals would be rejected.

He thought it best to keep away from these high dignitaries altogether,
and to sound the subordinates. He was afraid, moreover, that if Simon
learned of a wealthy element working in Mary’s behalf, he would increase
his vigilance and double his guards, so that bribery and escape would be
alike impossible. It was best to let him believe that Mary was alone,
helpless and friendless.

He visited the amphitheatre and sought out the keeper of the prison
connected with that immense establishment. The keeper had already been
questioned out of his patience by crowds of people to whom he gave surly
and unsatisfactory answers. He was a Gaul by birth, a Roman soldier by
captivity and necessity, Euphorbus by name. He was taciturn and apparently
ill-natured.

Beltrezzor went straight to the point. He asked him no questions. He said
softly:

“A word to you in a private room may be valuable.”

Euphorbus looked fixedly at him a moment, and led the way to a small
office within. Beltrezzor produced a sparkling gem of considerable value.

“I wish to speak with the young woman who is confined in the
amphitheatre.”

“Impossible!” said the keeper, gruffly.

“I am her uncle.”

“No admittance to anyone on pain of death,” said the Gaul, casting a
wistful eye on the jewel.

Beltrezzor drew forth a precious stone of remarkable size and immense
value.

“These are yours, my friend, for a single brief interview with my niece.”

“Hark you!” said Euphorbus, taking the jewels into his hand. “I am willing
to gratify and befriend you; but there are four Roman soldiers at the door
of her cell, who permit no one but myself to go in or out.”

“Are they not under your command?”

“No. They belong to Simon Magus, and obey only his word.”

“Lead me to them.”

The old man made a touching appeal to these rough men for permission to
see his niece. Some large gold coins that he offered them had more
influence than his eloquence. The assurance of the keeper that he would
shield them as far as possible, decided the matter; and Beltrezzor was
admitted into Mary’s dungeon.

The meeting between uncle and niece was affecting in the extreme. Mary had
greatly changed since her imprisonment. A deadly pallor pervaded her
beautiful countenance, and she had the air of one whose delicate nerves
had almost given way under prolonged terrors. The old man clasped her in
his arms, and the bitter tears fell from his face upon her golden hair.

“Oh uncle!” said she, “is it not horrible to contemplate? A young girl
stripped and thrown to a lion before thousands of people! Are they not
devils in human form who can witness such things?”

She trembled; her eyeballs started with horror; the cold drops stood on
her forehead; she clung frantically to her uncle.

“Oh! I have thought of it,” she said, “until I shall go mad! And then to
hear the lion roaring at night! It is fearful. He is kept very, very near
me. Is not that cruel, cruel? I hear every sound he makes. I hear him
growling and crunching when they feed him. I hear him yawning and whining
as he impatiently paces his cage. Then at night he roars as if he thought
he was in the pathless forest. Oh it freezes me! I cannot eat. I cannot
sleep. I shall die!”

The head of the young woman fell upon the old man’s breast.

“Have you never thought, my child,” he said, tremulously, “of saving your
life by renouncing your religion?”

“No, uncle! never! never!”

“That’s a brave girl!” said he, tenderly kissing her forehead; “and you
shall be saved without it.”

“I am not afraid of death, uncle, but of the lion. But I doubt not—oh! I
doubt not that Jesus will support me even in that last extremity. I
cannot, however, control my fears.”

The old man cheered her with many tender words and promises of help and
assurances of speedy rescue. Promising to visit her twice every day, he
departed to mature some plan for her deliverance.

That evening he was plunged in a deep and painful reverie. Neither Martha
nor Mary Magdalen could engage him in conversation. He sat with head
between his hands. He retired early.

During the night Martha heard groans issuing from his chamber. She lit her
lamp and entered softly. Beltrezzor, pale and haggard, lay upon his back
with his face upturned to heaven. He had been weeping in his sleep. His
lips were moving as if in prayer.

Faithful, loving old man!

                         [Illustration: Ornament]



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                  XXVII.


                            _HELENA __AGAIN._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

When my uncle came out to his morning meal, a strange transformation had
taken place. He was buoyant and cheerful; his face was radiant with a
pleasing vivacity. Indeed he was absolutely mirthful. Martha regarded him
with profound astonishment, which gave way to fear that the dear old man
had lost his reason, when he burst out into the following speech:

“Rejoice, my friends! rejoice, my children! I have got it fixed. I see our
way clearly out of all our troubles. Get ready, as quickly but as quietly
as you can, to leave this horrible place. Be silent as the grave. A ship
will be ready for us on Sunday afternoon; and while these mad people are
yelling in their vile amphitheatre, she will weigh anchor, slip her cable,
and with Mary on board and angels smiling on the voyage, her prow will
point steadily for the land of Gaul.”

During this speech he was rubbing his hands with glee; and at the
conclusion of it he waved them over his head in an excited manner. His
listeners showed by their silence and the tears in their eyes what they
thought of this singular conduct.

“Come, come!” said the old man, resuming his usual gravity, “I am in
earnest. God has revealed what I must do, in a dream. I know exactly where
Mary is. She is well and will soon be happy. You must obey me. Ask me no
questions. Trust in me implicitly. All will be right.”

Seeing Beltrezzor so thoroughly in earnest, the little group became
hopeful and cheerful, and proceeded with alacrity to make preparations for
the sudden and strange journey. Beltrezzor went out into the city, and was
incessantly occupied in arranging and working for his remarkable
enterprise. He barely came home to sleep at night, so much had he to do in
so little time.

He continued as vivacious as ever. His spirits, his hope, his assurance,
seemed to rise every hour. At last, the evening before the Sabbath, the
little party with their baggage were quietly transferred after nightfall
from the house of Salothel to a beautiful new ship anchored away up at the
very end of the long pier which adorns the river front of Antioch.

When they were all safe on board the vessel, Beltrezzor took Martha into
the cabin, and opening a closet, he showed her several boxes of rosewood
bound with brass bands.

“This,” he said, “is full of golden coins of various sizes and value. This
contains jewels of incalculable splendor wrought by the greatest
artificers in the East. This conceals precious stones of great beauty and
high price. And this last contains some genuine diamonds, brought from the
remotest India, and which would excite the envy of kings and queens.

“Here are the keys to them all. Take them.”

“And all this immense wealth,” said Martha in amazement.

“One half of it is for you and Mary.”

“And the other half?”

“Is for the man who brings Mary to this vessel to-morrow and conducts it
to Gaul.”

“Oh, generous uncle; and for yourself?”

“Something far more valuable than all that.”

My uncle returned to the house of Salothel to sleep, fearing lest its
sudden evacuation should excite the suspicion of the neighbors. Several
servants also, bribed to profound secrecy, were to remain until after the
Sabbath. Beltrezzor was obliged to move with great caution. A single false
step might ruin everything. If the parties who were plotting the
destruction of Mary obtained the least clue to his movements, his whole
scheme might be thwarted. Mary would be given to the lion, the rest seized
and perhaps murdered, and his splendid estate confiscated. He could not
sleep a moment under the weight of such tremendous responsibilities.

It was the next morning, the day of the Jewish Sabbath, when the grand
exhibition was to take place at the amphitheatre, that I arrived at
Antioch. Just as my uncle was leaving the house for ever, he met me at the
door. I thought he would have started from me as from a ghost. But he was
one of those quiet men whom nothing ever surprised. He gave me a sedate
but cordial welcome, just as if he had been expecting me. He had
difficulty in calming my excitement and fury when I learned what a
shocking fate was impending over my youngest and most beautiful sister.

He would not tell me anything about the means he had adopted for Mary’s
deliverance. I was very restive under this burden of secrecy and mystery.

“Be quiet, my son,” he said, “or you will mar all. You have come into the
fight too late to understand the exact state of the parties and to take
command. Be patient. Do the part I give you. Do it well, and trust to me
for the rest. We must not be seen together, for you may be watched, and
that might betray me. You must not go to the ship until the hour of
starting, for you might be followed there, and that might ruin us both.

“Stay in the house until nearly four o’clock. At four o’clock precisely be
at the north-east angle of the amphitheatre on the opposite side of the
street. You will see a chariot standing there with the letter G in gilt
upon its side. A servant will be holding a gray horse a few paces off. At
four, precisely, two persons will come out of one of the rear doors of the
amphitheatre. They will enter the chariot and drive away rapidly. Mount
the horse and follow them. Ten minutes afterward you will be in the arms
of your sisters!”

I was very much dissatisfied with this arrangement. I felt that the stake
was too immense and sacred for the whole work to be left to the knowledge,
the discretion and the energy of one man. But my uncle was resolute in
keeping his plan for Mary’s deliverance entirely to himself. He bade me
adieu. There was a singular tenderness in his words:

“Good-bye, Lazarus. I need not conceal from you the fact that there is
danger in this enterprise. You may never see me again. You will take care
of your sisters in my place. Be honest, be faithful, be good. If my plan
succeeds, this will be the greatest, happiest day of my life. Courage!
Adieu.”

The old sweet smile irradiated his face, and he went off as gayly as if he
were going to a feast instead of entering upon a dangerous enterprise.

I went up stairs in the now deserted house of Salothel, and sat down at an
open window, looking out on a beautiful public square. At any other time I
would have been delighted with the scene. My heart would have been cheered
by the tender green of the soft grass, by the rustling of the leaves in
the wind, and the twittering of the birds among the branches. I would have
admired the splendid domes and spires of Antioch rising all around above
the tree-tops, and the brilliant tints of an eastern sky flecked with
fantastic and fleecy clouds.

But the glories of nature and art were alike powerless on a spirit sunk
into the deepest abyss of sorrow and fear. My heart was full of the direst
forebodings. The morning hours passed gloomily away. My restlessness
became insupportable. It must have been about noon, when, looking down
into the public square, I saw a young man seated upon one of the iron
benches, whose face immediately riveted my attention. It was my old friend
and fellow-student, Demetrius, the brother of Helena.

A powerful temptation immediately assailed me. It was to do something for
my poor sister independently of Beltrezzor’s schemes, so that if one
failed the other might succeed. One resource only seemed so little to
depend upon. I was nearly frantic waiting thus in idleness for the
fruition of an unknown plan which might fail at the very moment when its
success was expected.

I said to myself:

“I will speak to Demetrius. He has a good heart and a clear brain. He may
suggest something which may lead to good. He may enlist Helena in our
behalf, if Helena is here. I cannot see what harm can come of it.”

I went down into the square. Demetrius was overjoyed to see me. He did
not, however, seem surprised to find me in Antioch. We sat down together
and I told him all our troubles. I unbosomed my whole grief to him like a
brother. I had the discretion to say nothing of Beltrezzor, resolving to
let the old man work out his own plan alone. If harm came to any one, it
could only be to myself.

Demetrius knew that the condemned woman was my sister, and professed the
deepest interest and sympathy in her case. I pleaded the youth, and the
innocent and sweet character of Mary, against the charge of foul and
dangerous heresy.

He seemed to think the heresy was bad enough, for he indulged in the most
contemptuous expressions against Jesus and his disciples. “But,” said he,
“it is all the work of Lelius. No one can aid you so efficiently as Simon
Magus. Great magician and sorcerer as he has been and is still, he is a
noble and generous man. I am confident he will assist you in delivering
your sister from her fearful peril. He is now lecturing to a select
audience on the great points of his new philosophy. Come with me to his
palace and hear him. When he has finished, we will consult together as to
what is to be done.”

I followed him; and ascending the marble steps of a princely mansion, and
passing through a great hall adorned with statues and immense vases of
flowers, we were ushered into a room of moderate size, but superbly
furnished. The audience nearly filled the place, for there were but two or
three chairs near the door.

Simon Magus, on a raised platform, was in the very heat and height of an
eloquent discourse. His subject was the nature of the soul and its
transformations. His voice was winning, his gestures expressive, his eye a
blaze of intellectual fire. His language was full of Orientalisms and
Egyptian mysticisms. Taught in the severer school of Grecian philosophy,
and blessed with the far greater analytic light of spiritual knowledge, I
perceived at once that the influx of ideas into his mind came from
cunning, subtle, evil spirits, and that the tendency of his words was to
bewilder, dazzle and betray.

“You saw me,” said he, “turn water into wine just now. You saw me turn
silver into gold. You saw me resolve a rose into nothing; you saw me
restore it as it was before. These things, I told you, were symbolic of
spiritual transformations.

“When the spirit by prayer, by faith, by watching, by study, by
abstinence, by suffering—is purified and etherealized, it undergoes
similar transformations, and from water becomes wine; from silver becomes
gold; from human becomes divine. Thus it is that I have become the power
of God—the Son of God—the Word of God; and that I have still a holier
name, incommunicable to you.

“In this state I have supreme control over matter. You saw me a little
while ago take up a deadly serpent. It bit a dog before your eyes and the
creature died in a minute. It fastened itself upon my hands and my cheeks;
I was unhurt. You saw me swallow balls of fire. I am unharmed. So I can
float in the air like a bird; I can live under water like a fish. I can
point my finger at a tree, and it will wither. I can call to a cloud, and
it comes to me. I can curse a city, and it will sink into the sea.”

There was an excited and admiring murmur among his credulous hearers. The
fanatical impostor continued:

“These powers are awful and incomprehensible to you who do not possess
them. They are only given to the wise who use them wisely. But I have
attained to a height of glory, in comparison with which these first labors
and results are insignificant. Having become the emanation of God, I can
create souls out of nothing. I can restore souls to life which had been
given to annihilation. I will show you a soul I have created.”

There was a great murmur of astonishment and applause. The curtains were
now drawn and the room darkened. The wall behind Simon appeared to open,
and the most beautiful sight was presented to view that I have ever
witnessed. The chamber beyond was one resplendent glory of golden light.
It did not seem to be lighted, but to be filled with light as a golden
vapor. In the midst of the room, half-way between the floor and ceiling,
both of which seemed to be mirrors of shining brass, hung or floated a
rosy cloud, shaped like a throne, over which was a canopy of celestial
azure. On that throne was seated Helena, my first and only love.

I turned to look Demetrius in the face at this splendid creation (?) of
his gifted brother-in-law. Demetrius had left the room unobserved.

“Simon,” said I to myself, “has lost his old sublime faith in his
diabolical art, and has resorted to magical impostures.”

I turned my attention to Helena. Now I solemnly avow that the woman, her
chair and all, whatever they may have been, were ten feet in the air,
entirely unsupported by anything visible to mortal eye. Whether this was
some magical trick, really explicable by natural law, or effected by the
assistance of evil spirits, I do not know. Of this, however, I am certain,
from experience and knowledge acquired in the spiritual world, that evil
spirits can, under certain conditions, lift the heaviest articles high in
the air and keep them there for a considerable time.

“This,” said Simon Magus, enjoying the ineffable amazement of his
hearers—“this is the soul of Helen of Sparta, who caused the Trojan war.
She was annihilated for her extreme wickedness. I have recalled her to
life; and, wonderful to relate, I have purified and spiritualized her
whole nature by the sanctifying influence of my presence.”

I gazed upon this strange scene with intense interest, and was soon
enchanted with the face of Helena. Never in this world have I seen
features of such exquisite beauty; and neither in this world nor in the
other have I seen a face expressive of such womanly love, tenderness,
sweetness and purity. The white peace of heaven was enthroned upon her
brow, and the softness of infinite pity beamed in her eyes. If she was a
picture, it was a subject for boundless enthusiasm. If she was living, she
was an object for profound adoration.

So thought every one who looked on. It is strange that I did not remember
what I had been taught in the world of spirits, that syrens and wicked
women there can counterfeit angelic forms so cunningly as to deceive the
angels themselves for a while.

“There,” said I, to myself, “is a gentleness, a holiness, a purity, a
mercy which I know will save my sister from the lion.”

The curtain or wall or whatever it was, was closed, and Simon went on with
his lecture. I did not hear a word of it, so rapt was I in the
contemplation of Helena’s seraphic face.

“Oh, if I could speak to that vision of superlative beauty, I am sure she
would befriend my poor sister.”

Suddenly Demetrius touched me on the shoulder and whispered:

“My sister wishes to see you.”

I followed him, asking no questions, bewildered, unthinking, but
whispering to myself, “Helena wishes to see me!”

We passed through the superb hall, and opening a door near the end of it,
Demetrius ushered me into the room without entering himself. Helena
advanced to meet me. I was delighted with the extraordinary warmth of her
reception. If we had been passionate lovers long separated, she could not
have manifested more pleasure at seeing me!

Superbly beautiful as she was, that heavenly radiance and purity which I
had seen upon her countenance a few moments before, had vanished. There
was nothing spiritual in her expression. She was plainly no spirit and no
soul just created, but a perfectly formed, glowing, enchanting woman of
flesh and blood. I was about questioning her on the subject of her
extraordinary deception, when she spoke:

“I knew you wanted to see me. I sent Demetrius out to look for you. You
are in trouble, and I long to assist you. Sit down with me on these
cushions and tell me all your story.”

She touched a little bell, and a tall, stately servant appeared at the
door.

“Wine and refreshments,” said Helena.

We sat down together, and I told her all about poor Mary, still wisely
omitting the part of Beltrezzor. The tears glistened in her brilliant
eyes, and she exclaimed:

“As soon as Simon finishes his lecture, I will persuade him to grant your
request. I have great power over him.”

A pang shot through my heart as I thought of Simon—the husband of this
resplendent object of my youthful adoration. Alas! what was Helena to me?
Why did I not remember the fatal effect of her love upon me? Why did I not
remember the lessons of the spiritual world? Are there not passions which
we can never conquer, struggle as we may? Are there not Canaanites of the
soul that can never be expelled?

The wine and refreshments were brought, and Helena whispered something to
the servant. I heard only the last words, “Tell him to make haste.” I
thought it was a message to Simon, and that my dear benefactress was
impatient to intercede for my sister.

“Come,” she said, “pledge our future joys in this delicate wine, and then
tell me all about that wonderful voyage they say you made into the world
of spirits.”

Fool that I was! excited by the powerful liquor, and still more
intoxicated by the presence and smiles of that bewitching woman who
repeatedly took my hand in hers, I profaned sacred things by lowering them
to the level of her vulgar and sensual mind. She seemed vastly entertained
by my story; and when I described the great feast of Grecian spirits, and
her own splendid appearance in the scene, and her terrible metamorphosis,
she laughed uproariously, and said it was one of the most charming stories
she had ever heard in her life.

There was a sound of footsteps in the adjoining room.

“Come,” she said, filling my glass, “drink to the morrow which shall be
happier than to-day.”

There was a rap or signal upon the wall.

“Simon’s lecture is over,” she said, rising. “This is his audience-chamber
in which he receives a few pupils who question him on the deeper points of
his subject. Their conversation would be very dull to us in our mood. Let
us retire into my chamber, until they disperse, when we can speak to Simon
alone.”

I followed her to the door of the room from which the signal had come. I
hesitated, abashed, at the thought of entering her chamber.

“Oh come along,” she said, grasping my arm. “Do not be afraid of my
chamber. It has carpets which render your feet inaudible. It has pictures
and statues which ravish your senses.”

With that she drew me into the room.

I was immediately seized from behind by several powerful men, and thrown
to the floor. With a peal of devilish laughter, my betrayer fled back into
the audience-chamber.

I looked up, and Magistus was regarding me with a diabolical smile. A man
was standing by him who riveted my attention. He was black, but his face
was full of hideous white spots. One eye was gone, lids and all, so as to
leave a frightful deep hole in its place. He wore a red turban. This
strange, repulsive creature stooped to fasten a kind of iron bracelet on
my feet. I watched him in silence. He softly kissed the top of my foot
unseen by the others.

I knew him. It was Ethopus. Poor Ethopus!

Helena peered in at the door with her beautiful, laughing face.

“How does my boy-lover like my bed-chamber?”

“How could you betray me in this atrocious manner?” said I, indignantly.

“Magistus offered me a beautiful diamond ring to get you into his power.
You know we women could never resist the fascination of diamond rings!”

“And my poor sister!” I exclaimed, in despair.

“True, I had forgotten about her. It is time to dress for the
amphitheatre. The gladiators interest me very little, but I would not miss
seeing a woman eaten up by the lion, even for a diamond ring. Good-bye.”

The demon departed. The vision of the woman-serpent in the world of
spirits was a prophecy.

I had fallen again—this time how low! into what an abyss!

The amphitheatre was open! and great Heavens! I was bound hand and foot
and cast into a dungeon.

                         [Illustration: Ornament]



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                 XXVIII.


                              _TO THE LION._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

The day preceding these surprising events, Beltrezzor had taken the keeper
of the prison aboard the new ship which lay at the pier. He had shown him
the immense treasures in his rosewood boxes—the accumulation of a long
life and successful trade in the far Eastern countries which abound in
diamonds and precious stones.

Euphorbus opened his eyes in great astonishment. He had never seen so much
wealth before. To his feeble arithmetic it was absolutely incalculable.

“Euphorbus,” said my uncle, looking toward the blue line of the sea which
was visible in the distance, “if this vessel sails from this point
to-morrow evening at four o’clock, do you think she could get out of the
river and to sea before night came on, to escape any vessel started in
pursuit of her half an hour after she weighed anchor?”

“Yes, she could not be overtaken by any sail now in the river?”

“I make liberal calculations. I say half an hour, but she will have an
hour or two hours the start.”

“Then she is perfectly safe,” said the other.

“Euphorbus!” continued my uncle, looking him in the face, “you are a Gaul.
Away over there lies your beautiful country, with its glorious mountains,
its swift rivers, its rich fields, its vineyards, its brave warriors. Do
you not wish to see it again?”

“Yes,” said the soldier with a sigh.

“Here you are a stranger, an exile, a prisoner yourself. What are these
Romans to you, hereditary enemies, that you should obey them? robbers and
murderers of your friends and countrymen, that you should love them?”

“I despise them,” said Euphorbus, gruffly.

“In Gaul you could be happy. You could return to your old home perhaps.”

“The Romans have burnt it.”

“You could rebuild it. You could take care of your mother in her old age.
You could have a wife at your side and children about your knees.”

“Do not talk about these things!” said the Gaul. “They sadden me.”

“Talk about them? You shall have them; they are yours. This vessel is
yours; one-half of that immense treasure is yours.”

“Mine? mine?”

“Yes, yours, on one condition.”

“What condition?”

“That you bring my little Mary out of the amphitheatre to-morrow—” and the
old man, overpowered by the strain upon his feelings, burst into tears.

Euphorbus was deeply moved.

“You ask an impossibility! Oh that I could—”

“Will you if you can?” exclaimed the old man, earnestly seizing him by the
hand.

“Certainly I will—”

“It is all I ask!” said Beltrezzor. “Leave it to me. Let me into your
private room at three o’clock and I will explain everything to you. If you
are not satisfied you can then refuse.”

“You speak mysteries,” said the Gaul; “but you yourself are a mystery.
Come, as you promise. My life is not much, and I am willing to risk it for
you and your little Mary as you call her.”

My uncle had been twice every day to visit his niece. The more he saw of
her helplessness, her purity, her suffering and her terror, the more she
entwined herself about his heart, and the more resolutely did he labor to
achieve her deliverance. She clung to him so tenderly, and as the fatal
hour approached her fear of the lion became so heartrending, that the old
man could hardly tear himself from her embraces.

The Roman guard, accustomed to him, received his coins smilingly and
scarcely noticed his coming out. For three days before the Sabbath he had
worn a green shade over his eyes.

“I got dust in them,” said he to the soldiers, “and an old man’s eyes are
weak.”

Three o’clock, Sabbath, arrived. Beltrezzor was admitted into the private
room of the keeper. The amphitheatre was crowded, and crowds were still
pressing on the outside for admission. The games and combats were going
on, to the great delight of the immense audience, for they occasionally
shook the building with shouts of laughter and thunders of applause. The
huge lion, irritated by these noises and raging with hunger, sent up roar
after roar, which appalled the stoutest hearts among the spectators.

Euphorbus, stern and pale, came into his office.

“Now for your plan,” said he to Beltrezzor. “It is now or never.”

My uncle drew from the ample folds of his robe a package, which he laid on
a table.

“Now,” said he, “attention! Mary and I are to change places. She is to
come out with you, disguised as her uncle. I am to remain in the dungeon,
disguised as Mary.”

Euphorbus staggered back with protruded eyes.

“And to be thrown to the lion yourself?”

“It is the only way,” said the old man, slowly and meekly.

Euphorbus fell upon his neck and kissed his cheek:

“I have heard that heroes were sometimes elevated into gods; but you are
the only man of whom I could believe it.”

“You see,” continued Beltrezzor, “here is a mask of the finest parchment,
painted in imitation of Mary’s face, with long beautiful golden hair
attached to the headpiece.”

“It is indeed an astonishing likeness. The face is perfect. And where is
the mask in imitation of yours?”

He untied a string behind his neck, and drew off his hair and beard at
once. He was a beardless bald old man. He wore his mask.

“Any one wearing this would be mistaken for me. There was one difficulty
about the eyes. We got over that by wearing the green shade. There was
another about the nose and mouth. She must hold her handkerchief to her
face, as is natural in grief. The illusion will be complete.

“Here are two flat pieces of cork,” he continued, “to be put into my
sandals, which are peculiarly constructed so as to conceal them. That will
add an inch to Mary’s height. Then you see my turban is so arranged that a
little traction here elevates it an inch more. That will make it right,
for she is nearly as tall as I am. The robes you know we can simply
exchange.”

The old man dwelt upon these details until he convinced Euphorbus that the
singular exchange was perfectly feasible.

The voice of Simon Magus was now heard in the courtyard. He had just
looked into Mary’s window to see that his victim had not escaped. He threw
the guard some money. He then spoke to three men who stood before him with
long poles in their hands, each pole having an iron hook at the end of it.
He spoke so loud that Mary and every one heard him:

“You will stand inside the iron railing and watch the lion’s attack. So
long as he eats the neck and shoulders or the lower half of the body, let
him alone. When he begins upon the chest, drag the body away from him with
your hooks. Remember! I want the woman’s heart uninjured. If you cannot do
it, I will give the signal for the keepers to throw in the murderer
Trebonius. That will save my prize and satisfy the people.”

After this horrible speech he entered the amphitheatre by a private way
and resumed his seat near the gorgeous chair of Lelius.

“The coast is clear,” said Euphorbus. “Now is our time.”

They entered the courtyard. Euphorbus gave the guards double money.

“Our poor old friend,” said he, “is overwhelmed with grief to-day. He
cannot speak. It is his last visit.”

They passed into the dungeon. Mary was crouching in one corner, white as a
corpse. She sprang to her uncle’s arms. She could not speak; she could not
weep. Terror had paralyzed the fountains of thought and sorrow.

“I have come to save you, my child,” said the old man, “Courage! and you
will be free in ten minutes. Lazarus is in the street waiting for you.
Martha is on a beautiful ship waiting for you. In one hour you will be on
the blue sea sailing away from this awful city.”

Mary stared at him in wild surprise.

“Free? Lazarus waiting! and Martha?”

The transition from total despair to hope was too much for her weak
nerves. She swooned.

The old man knelt by her side, kissing her hands and chafing her temples
while the great tears rolled down his cheeks.

“Too bad! too bad!” said Euphorbus, “when time is so precious”—and he
busied himself in forcing a stimulus into her mouth.

She revived presently and sat up.

“You say I may be saved, uncle. Now tell me how. I am calm and can
comprehend you perfectly.”

Beltrezzor proceeded to explain everything as he had done to Euphorbus.
She heard him patiently, and then said in a quiet tone:

“And, poor good man! do you think I will permit you to be eaten by the
lion in my place? Oh no, that is impossible. Think of some other plan.”

“There is no other way. I shall not be eaten by the lion.”

“Why not?”

“Because I am not a Christian. You are condemned for heresy. I am a
Gentile.”

“But they will kill you for contriving my escape, and this good keeper
also.”

“Oh no! That offence is not punishable with death. They will fine me
heavily, but I am rich and can pay. The keeper will escape with you and
protect you.”

After much persuasion and argument on one side and many doubts and
questionings on the other, Mary’s scruples were at last overcome, and the
transformation in both parties effected so adroitly that detection seemed
impossible.

Mary suddenly turned her earnest eyes on Beltrezzor’s face.

“Uncle, if you deceive me in this matter, it will kill me.”

“Courage! my sweet girl,” said the old man, smiling—“come what may. I
shall rest better to-night than I did last night; and the sun will shine
for me more beautifully to-morrow than it has to-day.”

“Come, come,” said Euphorbus, “we must be going.”

Oh the anguish of that parting!

Mary put the green shade over her eyes and the handkerchief to her mouth
and walked slowly but bravely out with the keeper. The guard let them
pass. One fellow looked closely after them, and then stepped to the window
and looked in. Mary with her golden tresses falling over her shoulders was
kneeling in prayer!

Who can imagine the thoughts of that brave old man, as he knelt in the
woman’s dress, with the lion’s growl in his ear! How eagerly he listened!
How freely he breathed when he heard no interruption in the courtyard; no
outcry; no alarm. They are safe! How he lifted his heart to heaven!

Did he spend that last hour in prayer? To what God did he pray? What faith
did he offer up as his claim to salvation? What matters it? Had he not
kept the commandments of God?

Was not his soul free from irreverence and profanity and theft and murder
and adultery and perjury and uncharitableness? Did he not love his
neighbor more than himself?

This disciple of Zoroaster, was he not a child of God?

The hour passed. There was a solemn hush in the grand amphitheatre. The
dead gladiators were dragged from the arena. Sliding panels were withdrawn
and the great Næmean lion was seen behind his iron bars furiously lashing
his sides with his tail.

The herald of Lelius cried with a loud voice:

“Bring forth the woman!”

There was a great rustling and stir in the vast audience. Every one held
his breath. A sudden outcry was raised from the prison:

“She has escaped!”

It was echoed by a thousand hoarse whispers in the crowd—“She has
escaped!” There was a tremendous excitement. All stood upon their feet.
How? where? when? by whom? echoed from all sides. Simon Magus, a picture
of flaming wrath, leaped into the arena and ran through the walk enclosed
by iron railings that led into the prison.

He returned in a moment dragging the poor, old, bald-headed and beardless
man by the arms, and holding up the female mask in the air, he exclaimed:

“The woman and the keeper have fled; but here is the miscreant; here is
the criminal! Clear the arena and give him to the lion.”

“Give him to the lion!” echoed thousands of voices, followed by thunders
of applause.

A tall, stern-looking man, in the front row of seats, sprang to his feet
and looking over to Lelius, exclaimed:

“Justice! justice! This man is no Christian; this man is no heretic.”

“To the lion—to the lion!” interrupted the multitude with fiercer yells
than before.

Simon Magus motioned significantly to the governor.

“To the lion,” said Lelius, waving his hand.

“I defy you,” said the speaker, in a loud and stern voice—“I defy you to
throw him to the lion.

“In the name of the Senate and people of Rome I warn you that this man,
Beltrezzor of Persia, is a Roman citizen.”

Silence was partly restored; all eyes glaring upon the speaker as he
continued.

“Not by birth nor by purchase, but by special decree of the Senate for
commercial services rendered the Roman empire by this man, one of the
wealthiest and noblest men of the East. I am his agent and correspondent
for Antioch. I have seen him before. I know him, and I can prove what I
say.”

“Release the Roman citizen,” said Lelius in a proud and haughty tone,
rising from his seat.

Whilst he was speaking Beltrezzor sank gently to the ground. He had been
released by an authority higher than that of Rome.

“He is dead!” exclaimed a thousand voices at once.

“He died of fear,” said Simon Magus.

“He died of joy,” said the voice from the benches; “for that face is the
face of an angel.”

                         [Illustration: Ornament]



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                  XXIX.


                           _CHRISTIAN CANDLES._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

Of all these things I was ignorant. I was bound and in prison, helpless,
unfriended, unable to communicate with my friends. I bitterly repented
having disobeyed my uncle’s orders. I cursed Demetrius and Simon Magus and
Helena and Magistus. I cursed myself. Mary perhaps was devoured by the
lion! Or if saved, she and Martha and Beltrezzor were out on the blue sea,
and I left to perish in my folly.

A day or two afterward I observed that our prison ward had received a
considerable accession of captives. I was then told by the keeper that a
female heretic condemned to the lion had escaped, and that Lelius had
ordered the arrest of all the Christians in the city, hoping to ferret out
the parties who had assisted her. How my heart leaped for joy! My sister
was saved!

My own captivity became a little more endurable. I delighted to think of
my friends sailing away over the white-crested waves for the happy land of
Gaul. I seemed to feel the fresh sea wind in my own hair and to hear the
cool water dashing against the sides of their vessel. Alas! my own fate,
how different!

I expected every hour to see the ugly and cunning face of Magistus peering
in at my door. Several days and nights passed, and he did not come. I knew
he had not forgotten me. I knew he was only preparing himself for some
extraordinary villainy and cruelty against me. I was right.

Late one evening my door suddenly opened, and Magistus entered the
dungeon, followed by Ethopus. The latter bore an immense roll of some kind
of cloth under his arm.

Magistus stood contemplating me for several minutes with folded arms and
the old diabolical sneer on his face. Ethopus stepped behind him with
downcast eyes.

“Now,” he said, slowly, “for the greatest, sweetest revenge which any man
in this world has ever enjoyed.

“You have been the bane, the curse, the evil genius of my life. I have
always hated you; I know not why, but that it so pleased me. If you had
perished in the desert as I designed, all would have been well. Simon
would have procured the body of Mary, and we should have been gods in
power and glory and pleasure. If you had not escaped my dungeon in
Bethany, I would not be at this moment an exile and an outcast. You have
eluded me twice. You are cunning. You have eluded the grave itself; but
now, my amiable nephew, your time has really come.

“I respect my family too much, I respect your own distinguished merits too
much, to doom you to any common ignoble death. Your friend Helena and I
have put our brains together to devise something for your especial honor.
We have achieved it. It is striking, original, charming. Listen.

“Our plan could not be carried out without absolute power. I have it. Do
you see this diamond ring with this great seal upon it? That is the ring
of the Roman governor. He who presents it to any officer, soldier, jailer,
servant of the government, is to pass untouched, unquestioned. His word is
law. When he speaks, it is obedience or death. This absolute power is
given me for this whole evening by virtue of the ring.

“Helena obtained this favor from Lelius. Who but she could have done it?
Who can say how she did it? Ah! she is deep; she is cunning; she is
irresistible.

“Now see what we intend to do. This cloth is a stiff heavy woollen,
thoroughly saturated with bituminous substances. We intend to bind your
arms down to your side and roll your body tightly up in this cloth, merely
leaving out your head. This, when ignited, will burn slowly but brightly,
and make a beautiful candle of you.

“But you will fall over, you say. Oh no: a strong iron rod run deep into
the ground will pass through the outer layer of the cloth and keep you
steady by penetrating in a long, sharp, needle-like point under your chin
and through your mouth. Could there be anything more ingenious than that?

“You will be taken out in a cart to the great public square opposite the
palace of Simon. There are twelve of you. Christian candles I have named
you. You will be stationed immediately opposite our grand portico. Helena
and I, arm in arm, will witness your combustion from that point. It is
pleasant in a great crowd to know where one’s true love is standing.

“It is time for the fireworks to begin. The square is already crowded. We
have rolled up the others snugly. They will call for you in a few minutes.
All the orders have been given and they will be obeyed.

“Come,” he continued, turning to Ethopus. “Come, my old jolly, spotted dog
of Egypt! get to work. Simon says his last training made a perfect machine
of you. Be quick and bind this old friend and master of yours.”

My feelings of horror and of terror during this diabolical monologue, can
be better imagined than described. I was dumbfounded. I said nothing. I
regarded a speedy death as now inevitable. I looked anxiously at Ethopus,
who stoically unrolled the cloth. He took out a strong leather band or
girdle. He advanced toward me. He seemed impassive as a stone. I gave
myself up in despair.

A moment of awful suspense—and all was changed.

Quick as thought Ethopus turned and dashed Magistus against the wall,
throwing the band over his head at the same time. He pulled it down over
his chest and buckled it tightly, securing his arms at his side. He drew
the signet-ring of Lelius from his finger and threw it to me. Curses and
struggles were in vain; for Ethopus seemed strong as a lion and animated
with a terrible fury.

In another moment Ethopus hurled him upon his back, and seating himself
upon his body, took a knife from his pocket and cut off half his tongue.
He then deliberately passed a stout pin through the stump and tied a
strong thread behind the pin. He thus stopped the blood which was pouring
out of the wretch’s mouth and gurgling in his throat. He was now dumb like
Ethopus. He could not betray him. He could not escape him.

This was one of the most horrible scenes I ever witnessed. It had
evidently been deliberately planned. I was chained against the wall and
could not stir. I called out to Ethopus to stop, not to cut out his
tongue, not to roll him up in the cloth, but to leave him bound and gagged
until we escaped. He paid no more attention to my entreaties, to my
excitement, than if I was not present. He seemed deaf, dumb, blind,
insensible to everything except to the one master resolution of his soul.

He wound the body carefully up in the bituminous cloth and secured it with
leather thongs. It was a shocking sight. He then removed my bolts and
chains and set me free. He led me sternly and forcibly to the door, and we
passed out, leaving Magistus to his terrible fate. He had fallen into the
very pit that he had dug for me.

There was no one in the hall as we came out. Ethopus took the opposite way
from that by which he and Magistus came. We soon met officers and guards.
I showed the signet-ring; no questions were asked; and we shortly found
ourselves in the street and free. What a release!

I did not know which way to go. Ethopus drew me toward the public square.
It was crowded with people. Swinging lamps of all colors were suspended
from the trees. There were bands of music and fireworks, and dancing-girls
and flower-girls, and men with trained monkeys, and all the strange sights
and sounds which make a great city in high carnival so brilliant and
attractive. Heralds had announced in the afternoon that twelve favorite
disciples of the Jewish impostor would be burned, in the shape of candles,
that night. The interest was intense.

We came very near to Simon’s palace. It was brilliantly illuminated. I
recognized the figures of Helena and Lelius and Simon and Demetrius
promenading with others on the grand portico. The carts or wagons came
along with the unhappy victims. There was a great bustle in the crowd. The
figures were set up on a green knoll which elevated them above the heads
of the people.

One of the Christians sang, with a clear, sweet voice:

  “Glory to God in the highest!
  Peace on earth and good-will toward men!”

The mob hooted and yelled and applauded, each in an uproarious manner.

“Ready,” cried an officer.

The torches were applied; and twelve bright pillars of flame rose in the
air. There was wild cheering from the crowd; but I heard a wilder cry from
the spectators on the portico of Simon. The cry was:

“Magistus! Magistus!”

His own friends recognized his face and witnessed his death-struggles!

Such was the origin of the Christian candles, a mode of fatal torture
afterward adopted on a grand scale by the emperor Nero in his persecution
of the disciples at Rome.

Poor children of Christ! They faced death in every shape. They were
crucified; they were flayed alive; they were thrown to wild beasts; they
were cast into pits full of serpents; they were stoned; they were starved;
they were frozen; they were burned; but there was no form of death which
excelled in atrocity this invention of Magistus and Helena.

Helena! Beautiful, enchanting, detestable woman! From this point our
currents of life diverged never again to meet. When I look back, I can
scarcely comprehend the causes of the wonderful control she exercised over
my spirit. I was young, enthusiastic, and impressible; and the senses,
educated first, prolonged their sway over the rational faculties. I have
been so long delivered from the bondage of the sensuous life, that I am
astonished that I ever found any beauty unallied to goodness, or any
fascination in aught but a pure and virtuous love.

Women who are given to luxury and pleasure; who aspire to captivate men by
the charms of the senses; who live upon the flattering incense of lovers
and admirers; who are cunning, proud, vain, ambitious and contemptuous
toward others, are Helenas at heart. Circumstances beyond their control
may curb their wills and prevent the outward development of their
characters. But the revealing light of the spiritual world will show them
to be selfish, sensual and cruel to a dreadful degree; and they become the
syrens of hell.

These characters are so fearfully wicked, that some may think them gross
exaggerations. Exceptional they may be, even in these evil times; but they
are the genuine offspring of our natural lusts unsubdued and uncontrolled
by the sacred laws and life of heaven. They are the common, every-day
characters of the spheres of the unhappy in the spiritual world, and they
exist in potency, if not in act, in every human being whose heart is
alienated from God, or whose ruling love is the love of self.

I had no time to philosophize in this manner, when I knew that the friends
of Magistus had recognized his face before it was concealed by the fatal
flames. A keen and rapid pursuit would immediately follow in every
direction. To get out of the city was our first thought, our only safety.
If we took the roads to the interior of the country, we could certainly be
overtaken. If we struck out eastwardly for the sea-beach, we might pick up
some fisherman’s boat and escape to sea. We took the latter course.

We walked rapidly, and were many miles up the coast before midnight. I was
fresh and under high excitement, and Ethopus seemed capable of all
endurance. I occupied the time in telling him the whole history of his
brother Anthony, and in thanking him over and over again for my
extraordinary deliverance. The poor, dumb man could only manifest his
delight by shaking my hand and patting me on the shoulder, which he
repeatedly did.

Several hours more and I was thoroughly fatigued. Just before dawn we lay
down under a great tree on the banks of a little stream which was
perpetually tripping from the mountains toward the sea, bearing its
crystal tokens from the spirit of liberty in the one to the kindred soul
in the other.

When I awoke, the sun was high in the heavens. Ethopus was bathing his
feet in the little river. He could not bear to disturb me, as I appeared
so exhausted and so sound asleep. He pointed smilingly to a little boat,
which we had not discovered in the darkness of the night. There was one
ark of hope and safety. I felt reassured. We had nothing to eat but some
apples, which we had plucked by the way. We made this frugal meal, and if
we had put to sea immediately, the whole story of my life, from this
point, might have been different.

The morning was bright and balmy. A little silver mist rose softly from
the woods, the leaves of which were twinkling with dew. The sea’s surf,
which at times is so white and boisterous, rippled gently against the
yellow beach. The singing of birds was heard here and there in the
branches, and now and then a great shining fish flapped up out of the
water. The air was sweet and serene, the sky soft and pure. “This heavenly
peace and repose of nature,” said I to myself, “is neither silence nor
solitude!”

One of the most beautiful things in the world to me is a little stream of
clear water, afar off in the country among the green hills, breaking into
sounds and colors over the stones and pebbles in its path. I could sit by
the hour on the banks of such a lovely rivulet, looking into its face and
listening to its music. It is there, if ever, that the breathings of the
spirit world upon the heart endeavor to break forth from the lips in poesy
and song.

Touched that morning with this delightful and child-like love of nature, I
could not rest satisfied until I had bathed my weary limbs and body in the
cooling stream. I dallied a long time among the ripples and in the shadow
of the overhanging trees, forgetful of the painful past and the uncertain
future.

A sharp cry from Ethopus, who was getting the boat ready, suddenly aroused
me from my dream. He pointed down the beach. Before I had put on my robe,
I heard the tramp of horses, and in a few moments we were surrounded by a
troop of cavalry and taken prisoners. Bound tightly and mounted behind two
of the soldiers, we were hurried back to Antioch and cast into separate
dungeons.

I lay there for several weeks neglected and alone. I had at least no fear
of a visit from Magistus. A visitor, however, at last appeared. It was
Demetrius.

“Lazarus,” said he, “I reproach myself for the part I took in decoying you
into the house of Simon and betraying you into the hands of Magistus. It
was not well done toward a fellow-student of the Platonic philosophy. I
have labored to make you amends. I have saved your life, but it was a hard
struggle. Ethopus was thrown to the lion. Helena pouted and fumed because
you did not share his fate. Lelius was for a long time inflexible. I have
gained something for you, although not much. You are condemned for life to
the chain-gang of criminals who are compelled to labor on the public
works. It is a sad fate, but you are young. Time, the revolutionist,
sometimes releases the bound.”

“Life is sweet,” said I, “and I thank you. I forgive your wrong to me. I
forgive Helena and Simon. I will pray for them and you. And, oh,
Demetrius, let a man, henceforth dead to the world you live in, beseech
you to extricate yourself from this terrible network of evil that
surrounds you. Aspire to be free, just, true and good, and you will be
happy.”

“Where did you get this religious philosophy?”

“From a greater than Plato—from Christ.”

He turned away.

                         [Illustration: Ornament]



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                   XXX.


                           _THE GREAT COMBAT._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

Behold me then at the age of twenty-five, innocent of crime, sentenced to
the life and labors of a convict! My associates were the lowest ruffians
imaginable. My fare was coarse and sometimes revolting. I was locked up
alone at night in a dark cell. I slept on a pallet of straw. From sunrise
to sunset I was compelled to labor on the public works, chained by the leg
to another creature as miserable as myself.

Young as I was, I had already met with strange adventures and made
hairbreadth escapes. I was long buoyant and hopeful, and was constantly
expecting some lucky turn of the wheel of fortune. There was, indeed, very
little rational ground of hope. My uncle Beltrezzor was dead. My sisters
had escaped to the other end of the world, and were not likely to return.
Not one of the few Christians of the city knew anything about my being
there, for I had seen no one but Beltrezzor. Demetrius alone knew my
whereabouts, and by command of Simon he had entered a false name for me on
the books of the prison. So I was lost and buried from the social world in
which I had moved.

I did not believe that my imprisonment would be of long duration. Young,
educated, wealthy, I thought I was needed by the infant Church. The
subject of the greatest miracle of Christ, my very presence was an
argument in favor of Christianity. Then my experiences in the spiritual
world had given me knowledge superior to that of all the disciples;
knowledge necessary to the organization of the faith upon truly rational
principles. To suspect even that one so valuable to the holy cause could
be imprisoned for life, without a future, without a mission, was to doubt
the wisdom of Providence and the verity of my death and resurrection.

It was thus that the secret pride of my selfhood buoyed me up in the
direst adversity, and that my own self-righteousness became the fountain
of hope!

Notwithstanding all this, I remained a captive at hard labor for forty
years of my manhood! As long as the children of Israel were in the
wilderness, so long was I in the convict prison of Antioch! Terrible
thought!

When I emerged from my prison-grave into the world and the Church again, I
was old and feeble and bronzed and broken, forgotten by all men, a cipher
in the sphere of thought and life in which I had expected to occupy so
commanding a position.

The wicked and detestable emperors, those monsters of nature, Tiberius,
Caligula, Claudius and Nero, had successively governed and cursed the
Roman state. The Christian religion had spread into all countries; into
Syria and Parthia and Arabia, into Egypt and Abyssinia, into Spain and
Gaul and Britain, by the zealous labors and fiery devotion of Paul and
Peter and Barnabas and Philip and James and hundreds of lesser lights of
the new faith.

All this and thousands of other strange events had occurred without my
knowledge, without my participation. The great world moved on without me.
I knew as little of it in my prison as a child knows of the sea, who
bathes his little feet in the surf that breaks upon the beach at his
father’s door.

This great lapse of time, an entire manhood, so devoid of incident, so
uninteresting to the general reader, was my real life. All that had
happened previously was my childhood. It was in this fearful school of
captivity and sorrow and labor and solitude and darkness, that I became a
man and a Christian. Looking backward, I am filled with gratitude for the
wisdom and goodness of God, which infused such health and blessing into
the cup of bitterness which I was compelled to drink.

I passed through three great spiritual eras during my captivity. Life does
not consist in external events, but in the revelation of spiritual states.
This alone is the true biography.

The first era was one of intense resistance to my fate. My disagreeable
surroundings annoyed and irritated me. The unaccustomed labor in the
burning sun was almost too great for my strength. I loathed my companions
and my keepers. I loathed my tasks. Still greater suffering was occasioned
by my losses; the loss of friends and relatives; of books and study; of
the delightful society of woman; of all the thousand little things which
constitute the comfort and charm of civilized life.

Hope lingered long, and died a slow but painful death in my heart. I made
many efforts to escape—all of which failed, and brought upon me terrible
punishments. I was starved and scourged repeatedly, and finally branded
for an attack made upon one of my keepers, in which I nearly succeeded in
killing him. These things called out and developed all the evil qualities
of my nature. Let the smoothest-faced, sweetest-tongued and gayest-hearted
man in the world undergo what I have undergone, and he will discover how
many unrecognized devils have been dormant in the serene and undisturbed
depths of his being.

Wounded and bleeding in my self-love and self-respect, my sufferings,
physical and mental, seemed to have a destructive effect upon my spiritual
nature. Destruction of the old precedes a new order of things. Along with
hope, faith also sickened and died. For a long time I consoled myself by
recalling my wonderful experiences in the spiritual world. I prayed, and
recited to myself the sweet promises of Scripture to those in affliction.
But as months and years rolled away, despair overpowered me. I began to
doubt the truth of religion, the reliability of my own memory, and even
the very existence of God.

So little depth of earth had the good seed found in my heart! I, who
thought I loved and believed in Christ; who had seen him in both worlds;
who conceived myself ready and able to preach his true doctrine to
mankind; thus tried in the fiery furnace of temptation, found myself all
dross, thoroughly skeptical and wicked, worse than the ignorant convicts
and keepers around me.

What mortal can comprehend the meaning of those mysterious words of the
Divine Man on the cross: “My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me?”

I felt also that God had forsaken me. When the little religious light I
had, faded away in my soul, I was taken possession of by demons, male and
female. I verily believe that I was, for a while, what the world calls
insane. I became proud, and supercilious, and scoffing. I was ambitious as
Simon, cruel as Magistus, sensual and abandoned as Helena. Escaped from
those wretches in the body, my spirit became the sport and prey of
infernal spirits similar to them. I envied the power, the glory, the magic
of Simon. At night I dreamed only of bacchanalian orgies in a Grecian
heaven, and awoke parched and feverish and excited and maddened, as if
some syren-like Helena had kissed me in my sleep.

This wretched state lasted about ten years. It culminated in a great
illness; for relief or death had become the alternative. The illness of a
convict in prison! Cast upon my pallet of straw, without friends, without
nurses, without proper diet or medicine, frequently without water; what
days and nights of suffering and anguish did I experience!

It was a long, long sickness. The stage of excitement was accompanied with
wild delirium, and my imagination was haunted by fiery figures of infernal
spirits.

Then exhaustion came, and forgetfulness. Nature slowly rallied; after
that, thought returned, strength and feeling came back. My sisters and
Beltrezzor and Jesus loomed up away off, as pleasant pictures or beautiful
dreams. Many sweet little scenes of my happy childhood revisited me in
charming memories. I lay for hours in peaceful trances. I had consoling
visions. The poor convict’s cell was illumined with a glory not its own.

One night I saw the house that was building for me in the heavens. It was
rising in stately grandeur. Oh it was beautiful! but still unfinished.
Mary Magdalen was toiling away with earnest brow and face more angelic
than ever. Many shining spirits were about her. I was lying some distance
off, asleep in the shadow of a great rock. She said to her companions with
a sweet smile:

“He will awake presently and help me build.”

One day I heard the voice of my father saying to John the Baptist,

“The crisis is over; he will be saved; we must teach him the power of the
Lord’s Prayer.”

I know not whether this was a dream or a genuine vision. But I repeated
the Lord’s Prayer feebly and with folded hands. The effect was wonderful.
A great light shone around me. The air was full of little cherub forms.
Heavenly music was heard in the distance. The deepest chords of my being
were touched. The flood-gates of contrition were reopened. Faith returned.
I wept. I was happy—oh, so happy!

This also may have been a dream, but it was a potent medicine; for after
that, my recovery was amazingly rapid. I then entered into a second and
very different phase of my spiritual life. The devil, after casting me
repeatedly into the water and the fire, and rending me sorely, had
departed. But I knew full well that he only departs for a season—that his
return is as sure as the rising of the tides. I knew that the only way to
keep him out, was to refurnish my house on the heavenly model.

Now my knowledge of spiritual things came to be of immense advantage. Not
an abstract, theoretical knowledge of them, but a knowledge derived from
sight and hearing. I had seen, felt and studied the angelic sphere of
life. I knew what it was. I had discovered three great elements in that
sphere, and determined to put them all into action in my own life, so as
to bring my spirit into interior communion with angels and the Lord.

The first element was profound humility and reverence. God only enters the
soul which is thoroughly emptied of self. A proud Christian is a devil in
disguise. The angels are so thoroughly divested of the selfhood, that they
live and labor only for others’ good; and that is living and laboring for
God.

Prayer is the means by which humility and reverence are cultivated. It
does not change the Unchangeable; it only brings the soul into that state
in which it is receptive of the divine love and wisdom. I determined,
therefore, to pray—for I had long neglected prayer—and to pray regularly,
systematically, earnestly, and especially in the form or after the manner
that the Lord himself had appointed.

The second element of angelic life was cheerfulness. The cheerfulness of
angels flows from the peace and joy in which they live. They cannot be
present in a sphere of gloom and darkness. The silent, tearful, mourning,
austere, ascetic Christian, cuts himself off from angelic consolations,
and renders his regeneration doubly painful and difficult. Tears and
fastings and scourgings and solitude and fantastic self-denials do not
lead to heaven. They block up the way thither with needless difficulties.

I determined, therefore, to be cheerful; to accept my lot with graceful
resignation; to have a genial word and pleasant smile for every one; to
avoid reveries and broodings which kept the past continually in painful
contrast with the present; to make a final surrender of all my grand
ambitions and glorious expectations; and to take a heartfelt pleasure in
the trifles of life, such as may be found even within the walls of a
prison.

The third element of the angelic life was useful activity. An idle angel
is an impossibility. They are all busy as bees; and like those little
preachers to mankind, each labors intently, not for his own special
benefit, but for the good of all the rest. Their cheerfulness and
usefulness run in equal and parallel streams, and they are both
proportioned to their reverence and humility.

I determined therefore to work willingly; to accept my hard tasks as those
appointed of God; to be no longer an eye-servant but an earnest, faithful,
intelligent co-operator in building, repairing and improving the
magnificent temples, baths, aqueducts, walls, quays and fortifications of
Antioch; to treat my fellow-laborers as brethren, not by descending to
their gross level, but by striving to lift them as well as myself up to
the height of a noble and unselfish manhood.

All this was facile and beautiful in theory, difficult and painful in
practice. The struggle was intense; and many, many dark and miserable days
alternated with my bright ones. It was the great warfare of my life, less
imposing than my struggles with Magistus and Helena, but far more
productive of results. It was a process by which good was substituted for
evil; but as fast only as the evil was thoroughly repented of and put
away. It was a process of growth by which the germ of the heavenly life,
penetrating through the dead shell of the old nature, passed upward into a
serener light and larger liberty. It was a death and a resurrection. How
small an affair was my first resurrection in comparison with this!

Twenty years or more were spent in the great combat between my old natural
man and the new spiritual man which was being conceived, born, nourished,
instructed and vitalized within me. I am still engaged in the same
conflict. But after twenty years, I felt that the good had attained a
permanent ascendency—that duty had become pleasure—that self was so far
subdued that I expected nothing, desired nothing for myself alone, and
experienced a serene delight in promoting the happiness of others.

The reader need not think that a convict’s prison afforded no
opportunities for the great work of regeneration, and for the development
of Christian character. The rainbow that shines in the cloud, and glitters
in the dew-drop, is the same. The divine influx is identical in the
greatest things and in the least. The patience, the meekness, the kindness
to others, the obedience to law, the truthfulness, the industry, the
honesty which can be exhibited in the lowliest sphere of human life, have
no sweeter odor, no greater worth in the sight of heaven when they are
displayed on the throne of the Cæsars.

I worked faithfully at all my tasks until my overseers respected me so
much that they did not watch me at all. I was always ready to assist every
one with word and deed, until my power over my fellow-prisoners was such
that my voice of intercession could suspend a quarrel or even suppress a
riot. I delighted to instruct these poor degraded fellows in the truths of
religion; and when they turned a deaf ear to these, I could still please
them with scraps of poetry or history or science. It was a special
pleasure to nurse the sick; and in the course of twenty or thirty years,
hundreds and even thousands felt the benefit and the blessing of my
presence.

This steady growth of a good and useful character in spite of the sneers
and rebuffs of the ill-disposed, and in the face of mighty difficulties,
brought substantial comforts to myself also. I was released from strict
confinement; I was made overseer of a considerable party; I was allowed
liberties I had not known before; and I was fed with abundance from the
officers’ table. Thus, with advancing years, I became contented and happy,
and my means of being useful to others were greatly increased.

I was permitted to plant flowers and vines in the interior courtyard of
our prison. After long and patient labor I adorned and beautified the spot
so greatly that it attracted the attention of every visitor.

The mission of flowers is like that of poetry, to enchant, to elevate, and
to purify. Therefore the Spring comes annually to shower her myriads of
fragrant little lyrics upon the world!

It seemed a shame to constrain these sweet and free children of the air
and sunlight to illumine the interior of a dungeon and to live with
criminals; but I remembered that the angels whom they represent, delight
to visit the humblest spot and to assist the most forlorn and helpless
creatures of God.

I had been in prison about fifteen years without seeing a book, when a
singular old Greek character was confined with us for some nameless crime.
He was taciturn and stately, and evidently a man of education. He had a
copy of the Tragedies of Eschylus which the guard had not taken from him,
although parchments so well executed as that, were of considerable value.
He seemed to know Eschylus by heart, and he loaned the book to me. With
what delight I devoured it!

It was to me a whole flower-garden of sweets and beauties. The sad fate of
Orestes, haunted by the Furies, struck the tenderest chords in my heart;
and I contemplated with the joy of kinship and sympathy the grandeur of
Prometheus chained to the rock, for holding in his possession secret
knowledge which no tortures could compel him to reveal.

I, too, was to learn the sanctity of silence!

One day the old Greek, when working on a pier, suddenly plunged twenty
feet into the rapid Orontes. He struck out boldly down the river for the
sea, and the boat sent after him did not overtake the desperate swimmer.
He left Eschylus behind him.

I had been in prison about twenty-five years, when I came into possession
of another and far greater book. A young Jew was condemned to hard labor
for striking a Roman officer who had insulted his sister. He fell sick
almost immediately, and was carried off by grief and a rapid consumption.
I nursed him closely, and he seemed much attached to me until he
discovered that I was a Christian. He became at once stern and cold and
uncommunicative, and ended by requesting the keeper to provide him with
another nurse or none at all.

He died not long after, and I was surprised at receiving a message from
his deathbed. He thanked me for my kindness to him, and begged me to
accept from him a beautiful little copy of the Psalms of David.

What a treasure I found it! It was a mirror of my own struggles; of my
hopes and fears; of my deep humiliations and my ecstatic triumphs. It let
me into the presence of angels. It was like the voice of God calling to
little Samuel in the dead of night.

                         [Illustration: Ornament]



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                  XXXI.


                                 _FREE._


                         [Illustration: Initial]

One day I was summoned from my labors into a kind of reception-room to
meet a visitor. A visitor! I had been imprisoned thirty years and no one
had ever called to see me. I had forgotten the outer world and supposed it
had forgotten me. It was with surprise and some trepidation that I
advanced to present myself to the stranger.

He was of small size, ugly, stoop-shouldered and bald. His face was
sallow, his nose aquiline, his brows heavy and joined between his eyes.
His air was embarrassed and timid and his speech slow. With this
unprepossessing appearance, his manner was cordial and engaging, his tones
agreeable, and when warmed up in conversation, his features were radiant
with thought and genius.

This remarkable man was Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles.

After satisfying himself that I had been thirty years in prison and that I
was really Lazarus whom Christ raised from the dead, he became very
animated and communicative.

“You will be interested,” said he, “to know how I found you out. I was
called, a few days before I left Rome on this tour to the Eastern
churches, to see a dying man. He was one of the most miserable wrecks I
have ever witnessed, bearing the mark of the beast and the seal of sin. He
was a Greek and his name was Demetrius. He wished to be baptized into the
Christian faith, and to confess his sins before he died. He told me that
you had been sentenced for life under a false name to hard labor on the
public works of Antioch. He begged, as a favor to a dying sinner, that I
would visit you if possible, and beg your pardon for the crimes he had
committed against you.”

It seemed that all my friends supposed I had been burned as one of the
Christian candles, on the eventful night of the death of Magistus. My
sisters and the disciples had mourned for me as one of the first martyrs
of the new faith. Mary and Martha had arrived safely in Gaul, and had
founded a beautiful church with a convent and Christian schools at
Marseilles. Their wealth had contributed immensely to the spread of
Christianity. They were devoted and holy women, and Paul was eloquent in
praise of their zeal and piety.

“And Mary Magdalen?” said I, with a slight tremor at pronouncing the name
of a woman who had of late taken ardent possession of my thoughts.

“The humblest, sweetest, gentlest creature in the world! She always wears
her black veil and devotes herself to the most menial offices. She is the
grandest type I have yet seen of the purifying and sanctifying influence
of the religion of Christ.”

I felt a sweet glow of satisfaction at this announcement; and old man as I
was, something like a blush mounted to my cheeks.

I learned from the great apostle the history of the Church from its
infancy to the present time. He was modest and even depreciating in
narrating his own share in the stupendous labors of the early disciples. I
was not slow in detecting, from what he said, the immense changes in
thought and spirit which had taken place in the Christian commonwealth
since I had been withdrawn from its sphere.

Jesus Christ had left them a religion; Paul had made it a theology.

Paul drew from me a narration of my experiences in the spiritual world. I
was very explicit and enthusiastic, for I deemed my revelations of the
utmost importance to the Church and the world. He listened with interest,
but with evident incredulity. We exchanged ideas at some length on all the
leading questions of theology. I became more and more anxious to impress
him with the truth of what I was saying.

“Remember,” said I, “that the germs which you now plant in the Church,
will expand in the form and direction you give them for hundreds and may
be thousands of years. The slightest deviations now from the genuine
truth, will grow into gigantic errors.

“If you teach the destructibility of this physical globe and the
resurrection of our dead bodies from the dust, the Church will not have a
true conception of the spiritual world, nor of the relation of that world
to this.

“If you teach the separate and distinct personality of the Father, Son and
Holy Ghost, the proper or supreme divinity of Jesus Christ will not be
understood, and the germ of polytheism will take root in your creed.

“If you ignore the great judgment executed by Christ in the world of
spirits, you will fail to comprehend the true object of his incarnation;
and you will commit the sad mistake of supposing that the next and last
judgment predicted, will take place in the world of nature.

“If you speak, as you did just now, of the blood of Christ cleansing from
sin, your hearers may fall into the error of supposing that the material
blood shed upon the cross is what cleanses and saves from sin; whereas the
truth is, that the blood shed for the remission of sins, is the wine of
the New Testament—the spiritual truth and spiritual life which flow forth
from the Divine Man for the healing of the nations.”

So I went on, reiterating all the grand points of doctrine which
distinguished the teachings of the angels I had conversed with, from the
teachings of Paul. He became more and more restive under my impetuous
torrent of argument, and at last rose to depart. He excused himself on the
plea of urgent business and short time. He said he would call again if
possible, and would interest the Church in Antioch to labor for my
release.

He left me with a pleasant smile. He passed into a gallery where he met
the governor of the prison. They were conversing as they walked slowly
along beneath a window at which I had stopped. I heard Paul say,

“He is evidently insane.”

“I wish the world was full of such madmen,” was the bluff answer of the
governor.

And that was the result of my interview with the great thinker, the
leading spirit of the Christian world!

Insane!

This visit of Paul was of immense service to me. It helped me to subdue
one of the strongest points of my selfhood. I still cherished the dream
that my spiritual knowledge had been entrusted to me for the special
benefit of the Christian Church. My only reason for wishing to get out of
prison, was that I might communicate the Doctrine of Christ, as it appears
to the angels, to my fellow-men.

After mature reflection upon my conversation with Paul and its results, I
came to the conclusion that I had labored under a great mistake and had
cherished an impossible hope. There are certain successive steps in the
grand evolution of the general human mind, which make one revelation of
truth necessary and proper at one time and another at another. The world
and the Church were not ready for the knowledges which had been given to
me. The transition from Jewish darkness to angelic light was too great,
too sudden. A long period of twilight must intervene—a period of literal
interpretations, of janglings and wranglings and schisms. In the fullness
of time, perhaps, and after another judgment in the world of spirits,
another church may be instituted capable of receiving without adulteration
the sublime verities of the spiritual world.

So I abandoned my mission. God knew better than I did, and I was
satisfied.

It is strange what a new, sweet, beautiful life sprung up in my soul after
I discovered that I had no mission in this world to fulfill, but to spread
cement between stones, to plant flowers, to read the Psalms and to nurse
my sick fellow-prisoners. I was a new creature.

I then entered upon what I have designated as the third state or era of my
spiritual life. And this state was so marvelous, so exceptional to all the
experiences of my fellow-men, that I shall not dwell long upon it. It may
be a thousand or two thousand years before Providence repeats the
phenomenon and produces another case like mine; and although in the
far-off perfection of the world they will be common enough, the story of
it will for centuries fall upon the ears of men as an idle dream.

The first intimation I had of a further change of state, was received
while I was reading the Scriptures. The good Christians of Antioch, it
seems, failed in procuring my release; but they contrived to send me a
copy of the ancient Scriptures and the Gospel of Matthew. These were
priceless jewels to an old man and a prisoner dead to all things except
the life of religion.

One day when reading in the Psalms and applying the thoughts to my own
individual experience, I became suddenly aware, by a kind of interior
illumination, that the secret soul-life of the Lord Jesus Christ in his
combats with the powers of hell, was embodied and concealed in the sacred
pages. They contain more wonderful things than all the heights and depths
of this external nature which we so much admire. They contain the
mysteries of life and death.

Every day brought new revelations to my mind of the interior meaning of
the sacred writings. I found that the spiritual history of the incarnation
of Christ was concealed in the narrative of the lives of Abraham, Isaac
and Jacob. The first chapters of Genesis, under the figure of the creation
of the world, revealed the successive steps by which the human soul is
built up from its original chaos into the image of God. The wanderings of
the Israelites from Egypt to Canaan, was the spiritual history of every
man’s regeneration. And the prophets—oh, the prophets! with their dark
sayings and grand imagery, concealed with a mystic veil the most beautiful
and holy truths of the spiritual universe.

These things were not invented by my imagination. They were not discovered
by my ingenuity. They pre-existed in the Scriptures, but are invisible to
the mind which rests in the mere sense of the letter. Their existence was
revealed to me by an interior light, the operation of which I did not
comprehend. I learned also that this wonderful spiritual sense of the
Divine Word was clearly understood in heaven, and was the mental food of
angels.

The Gospel of Matthew contains similar spiritual mysteries enfolded in the
literal story of our Lord. The Epistles of Paul, however,—glowing,
eloquent, devout, impressive as they are—contain no interior or spiritual
signification. I saw at once that they had no organic connection with the
heavens; in other words, that they were not divinely inspired. They were
simply the earnest, saintly utterances of a great and good man to his
brethren.

“And yet,” said I to myself, “so potent has this zealous and eloquent
apostle been in organizing the Church, and so dense is the darkness of the
natural mind, that it would not surprise me, if in the far future the
words of Paul are reckoned of equal value with the history of Jesus, or
with the Law and the Prophets.”

The peace and joy inspired by the spiritual perception of the Word, were
ineffable. My mind was in a state of continual felicity. I began also to
have the most exquisite and beautiful dreams. I was frequently awakened by
strains of the most heavenly music, and the darkness of my little cell was
illumined by flashes of light, auroral and rainbow colors darting and
twinkling here and there in the most surprising manner. I felt that some
organic change in my spiritual constitution was impending.

One Sabbath morning when I was reading in the Prophets, I became suddenly
aware of a presence in my room; and lifting my eyes I beheld my father
standing before me. He was as youthful and beautiful as ever. He was clad
in shining garment, and said with a beaming smile:

“Do you understand what you read?”

“Better than I ever did before. But, O father! how is it that you have
descended into the natural world?”

“Have you so soon forgotten your instructions in the world of spirits? I
have not descended into the world of nature. I see nothing material which
surrounds you. I am invisible to all eyes but yours. The change is in
yourself. Your spiritual sight has been partially opened into the world of
spirits where I am—enough to see my form, but not my surroundings. You
seem to come to me, while I seem to come to you. You see me with your
spiritual eyes and your material surroundings with your natural eyes.”

It is needless to explain the philosophy, as it is impossible to describe
the joy, of this happy reunion. Suffice it to say that my father came
frequently to see me, or I went to see him, however the case may be
interpreted. He assisted me in my studies of the Word, and we had many
long discourses on the mysteries of regeneration. Many of these things are
incommunicable in human language, for when my spiritual sight was open, I
spoke unconsciously the language of spirits and not the language of men;
and I find it impossible to embody in material expressions what was
perfectly intelligible in my spiritual state.

“Your case,” said my father, “so strange and exceptional at present, is a
proof of the possibilities of the human spirit. As long as the powers of
hell reign on earth, it will be fearfully dangerous for man to have
communication with spirits; and the Lord in his mercy will, as far as may
be possible, keep each world a secret from the other. When He comes again
with an open Word and his angelic hosts in the far-off ages of terrestrial
time, such cases as yours may occur not unfrequently, and will announce
the approaching conjunction of heaven and earth.”

This double life, this wheel within a wheel, is no part of my earthly
autobiography. I must draw the veil over its mysteries. I am permitted,
however, to tell my readers that my uncle Beltrezzor was revealed to my
eyes. He appeared as a young man of unspeakable beauty, clad in a purple
robe of dazzling splendor. He had become a member of a heavenly society
situated nearest to the Sun of the spiritual world. The atmosphere in
which they live is a tissue of golden light, and the emblem of their
spiritual love is a flame of sacred fire.

Would you call that a convict’s cell or the gate of paradise, which was
brightened by the halo of such presences?

The old man who thus lived in both worlds, at once escaping the common
limitations of time and space, was not withdrawn from the practical
discharge of his homely and difficult duties. Never in his life was he
more faithful, more zealous, more careful in the little every-day affairs
which really make the happiness or the misery of life.

One day I was working on the walls of a new palace. The chief architect, a
man of noble character and great influence, happened to approach very near
me in one of his rounds of inspection. He said in a pleasant tone:

“You spread your cement with very great care.”

“So it ought to be,” said I, “for the cement is the brotherly love which
binds the hearts of the brethren together.”

He lifted his hand and made a certain signal.

I responded to it with another.

“I discover,” he said, “that you are a member of that venerable and secret
order instituted by king Solomon and Hiram Abiff, the widow’s son.”

“Yes—for more than forty years.”

“And has it been of service to you?”

“Oh yes! I have discovered in it a mine of spiritual treasures. Its
symbols and ceremonies embody a system of universal philosophy unknown
even to its members. It is an epitome of the spiritual mysteries of the
universe.”

“How comes it,” said he, “that a disciple of the square and compass, who
has stood upon the tesselated pavement, is confined at hard labor as a
criminal?”

“Ah sir! I was quite a youth when I came here. I was innocent, but I had
none to defend me.”

“Is it possible!” said he, and walked toward the governor of the prison,
with whom he entered into conversation.

The next day I received a full discharge from my sentence, and a handsome
present of money from the chief architect.

I was free!

                         [Illustration: Ornament]



                         [Illustration: Ornament]


                                  XXXII.


                             _WHAT REMAINS?_


                         [Illustration: Initial]

I purchased some new clothes, and wandered all day about the streets of
Antioch, astonished at my liberty. I dined at an eating-house where
several languages were spoken by the different guests, and where every one
stared at the long-bearded, long-haired old man, with the new robes and
the rough, brown hands. Toward dark I began to feel very lonely and
miserable, and at last returned to the prison like a dog to his kennel,
and begged the favor of a night’s lodging in my old cell.

Free! Free like a plant whose roots are dead, and which, with no
attachment to the earth, trembles at the mercy of the wind!

I met next day with some of the Christians of Antioch. They seemed glad
that I had been released and spoke kindly to me, but remembered the visit
of Paul and his belief that I was insane. If my opinions had been
orthodox, what a cordial reception they would have given to the man whom
Christ raised from the dead! As I had learned the divine philosophy of
silence, I said nothing to them on spiritual subjects.

I was sixty-five years old and everything was new and strange. The pages
of history during my long incarceration had been written in blood and
tears. Vespasian occupied the throne of the Roman empire, assisted by his
son Titus, who had besieged and taken Jerusalem. The holy temple was
reduced to ashes and the city of David was a pile of ruins. The judgment
in the world of spirits had descended upon the earth.

I was shocked by the horrible details of the persecution which the
Christian world had suffered from the detestable Nero; and of the
crucifixion of Peter, the murder of Paul and the martyrdom of many
prominent disciples. What Lelius had begun at the private instigation of a
sorcerer on the little stage of Antioch, too insignificant for historical
notice, had been repeated by the butcher of Rome on the theatre of the
world.

During this terrible persecution my sisters had been driven from
Marseilles. Flying for their lives, they reached the bleak and distant
shores of Britain. There they planted the gospel banner and preached
Christ to the pagan natives. There they were still living at the last
accounts, lights in the darkness, warmth in the coldness around them.

Mary Magdalen had refused to fly from the Roman tyrants. Roused to a wild
pitch of religious enthusiasm by the atrocities perpetrated upon her
fellow-Christians, she rushed defiantly into the presence of the heathen
officers and demanded the pleasure and the glory of dying for the name of
Christ. Seeking martyrdom, she escaped it. Astounded at this eloquent and
brave woman with disheveled hair and face flashing a wild spiritual light,
the persecutors pronounced her mad, and refused to put her to death.

She retired to a mountain in Spain and occupied a cave overlooking the
sea. There she lived in solitude and prayer, wearing out soul and body in
contrition for the sins of her early youth. Her sanctity and power of
healing were so great, that many pilgrims came from remote places to
receive her benediction or be healed by her touch.

Helena, the beautiful syren from whom my soul had so narrowly escaped,
deserted Simon for Lelius, and Lelius for some Roman general, and this
last for a low favorite of Caligula. She was finally swallowed up in that
hideous whirlpool of Roman life, which was kept in motion by the unbridled
passions of male and female monsters, such as the world has rarely seen.

Simon Magus had been driven from Antioch at the instigation of Helena, who
had unbounded control over the Roman legate. He retired into Samaria,
where he acquired great power and fame by his magic and sorceries.
Thousands of people in that rude country admitted his claim to divine
power. It was there that he came into contact with the disciples of
Christ.

Simon had discovered by his acute genius that a great change had taken
place in the relations between the spiritual and natural worlds since the
death and ascension of Jesus. The old demons who had governed the world of
spirits had been cast into hell. No spells of incantation could recall
Ja-bol-he-moth or any of the great spirits to his consultations. The
magical formulas had lost their power. The pagan oracles were becoming
silent. The influence formerly exercised by magicians over men and Nature
was evidently waning. Simon became sad, suspicious, fearful. The ground
was sinking under him.

He did not attribute these singular changes to the right cause. He
believed that Jesus was only a magician more powerful than any or all
others—one who, by some mysterious method had monopolized the subtle
forces of spirit over matter. He therefore came to the disciples of Jesus,
and was baptized into the Church. When he thought he had sufficiently
ingratiated himself with the apostles, he offered them a large sum of
money for the magical secret by which they healed the sick and raised the
dead.

Peter answered him indignantly:

“Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of
God may be purchased with money!”

After that exposure he went to Rome, where his magical powers seemed to
revive in the infernal atmosphere of that wicked city. His conduct became
more and more eccentric, insolent and presumptuous. He was clearly
obsessed by devils. He manifested great aversion to the name of Christ,
and professed to repeat all of his miracles with the greatest ease. He
announced in the height of his madness, that he would ascend to heaven
with a chariot and horses on a certain day. The amphitheatre was crowded
to suffocation. It was said that he rose about forty feet in the air, when
his chariot and horses fell back into the arena and crushed him to death.

Thus perished a man whose character and actions will seem impossible to
future generations, but who was one of the typical products of a corrupt
and doomed civilization.

I had never known the earthly heaven of home and wife and child. I had no
country; no resting place; for little Bethany also was laid in ashes. My
old friends and my old enemies were dead. The little church to which I
belonged in heart, was the feeblest of all religious powers; and even that
would have repudiated and expelled me on a full declaration of my faith.
The most advanced man in the world, I was the most desolate.

My face, my thoughts, my heart turned fondly to Britain. The last time I
beheld my sisters was on that eventful night in Bethany, when they gave
the supper to Jesus, and when Mary unwittingly anointed him for his
burial. I must see them again! It was a long, dangerous, desolate journey
for a poor old man to make alone. But my sisters called to me at evening
from the golden shadows of the west, and beckoned to me in the night
through the twinkling of the northern stars.

I sailed from Antioch to Rome. Not a Christian cared enough for the old
man with heretical opinions, to pay a friendly visit or give a kindly
farewell to him whom Christ had raised from the dead. As the ship passed
close to one of the great piers, some old convicts who were working upon
it recognized me and waved me a hearty good-bye. With tears in my eyes I
kissed my hand to my only friends in the world.

On reaching Rome I was delighted to find the apostle John who had
extricated Mary and Martha from the toils of Magistus, and who gave me a
most cordial reception. This unexpected warmth of friendship and sympathy
infused new life into me and almost made me happy again.

To my great surprise and pleasure, this disciple whom Jesus loved, and to
whose care he committed his mother, agreed with almost everything I had to
say. He broke the seal I had imposed upon my lips; for he had a sacred
thirst for spiritual knowledge which I felt constrained to gratify. He
received my doctrines of the resurrection of the spiritual instead of the
natural body, of judgments in the spiritual and not in the natural world,
and the grand central truth of all truths—the supreme divinity and
absolute fatherhood of Jesus Christ.

John regretted deeply the dissensions which had already distressed the
little Church, and foresaw the errors which would probably arise from
certain dubious phrases and unwarranted doctrines which had crept into its
theology. My whole story, he said, was so beautiful that it ought to be
true; and if true, it certainly ought to be beautiful.

Thus John endorsed the very teachings for which Paul thought me insane!

Just as I was starting for Britain, news was brought from that cold region
which rendered my journey unnecessary.

My sisters were dead!

Martha, when traversing one dark night a desolate moor to relieve a person
in deep distress, was lost and perished in the snow. When the corpse was
discovered and laid out in the little chapel of their convent, and Mary
approached it, this new sorrow, added to the multiplied cares and labors
of her life, was too much for the overburdened heart. The silver cord was
gently broken, and she stretched her own body, like a funeral pall, upon
that of her sister.

Conjoined in their lives! united in their death!

Beautiful spirits, clad always in virgin white! Brides of Christ!
Twin-stars of heaven! Farewell!—until this old body also shall drop into
the dust, and the strong bond of spiritual affinity shall draw us together
again, and bind us, to each other for ever!

John, the beloved disciple, was only visiting Rome. He lived at Ephesus.
He now entreated me to accompany him home and spend the remnant of my days
in the peaceful shade of his humble cottage. I thanked him warmly, but
declined his invitation. There was one more person upon earth whom I felt
a strong desire to see. That person was Mary Magdalen, the last link which
connected me with the past. The hunger of an old man’s heart for home and
friends, for sympathy and love, was reduced to this. It was all that was
left me.

My feelings toward Mary Magdalen had become clearly defined in the last
ten years of my captivity. The sad things of the past were buried and
forgotten. I had outlived, outgrown the self-righteous conceit that I was
better than she. Yea, I had discovered that she was far better than I. I
was thoroughly ashamed of the neglect, almost amounting to scorn, with
which I had treated her in my youth. Her grand devotion to the cause of
Christ, her fiery zeal, her contrition, her penances, her humility, her
self-sacrifice, her solitude, haunted my imagination. The martyrdom of her
life was continually before me.

I resolved to make a pilgrimage to her shrine; for I now regarded her as
the saint and myself as the repentant sinner. I would not mention love to
a heart so sorely stricken with the wounds of conscience and the sorrows
of life. I would tell her nothing. I would leave all that to the revealing
light of the spiritual world, which was now so near us both.

I would merely see her and weep with her over the old, sweet memories of
Jesus and Martha and Mary. I would live near her. I would work for her,
without her knowledge. I would make her comfortable without her seeing
whence it came. I would visit her in sickness. I would close her eyes in
death. All the rest should be buried deep, deep in the recesses of a heart
which had not grown old.

I reached Marseilles and surveyed with silent grief the ashes of the
convent my sisters had built. I employed a snug little boat and coasted
along, west and south-west, until we reached the shores of Spain, where
the spurs of the Pyrenees jut out into the Great Sea.

Landing at a little village, I was directed to a considerable mountain
near by. I made the ascent before the heat of the day. The path made a
sudden turn from a crag which stood a thousand feet above the water; and I
found myself at the dark mouth of a cave. Near the entrance, on the right,
was a wooden cross planted in a little bed of violets, wildly overgrown.
The sky was clear and beautiful. A perfect silence reigned around. My
heart throbbed as I approached the last earthly home of the friend of my
sisters.

I looked into the cave and started back. A fearful sense of awe came over
my soul. My pilgrimage was in vain. I stood in the presence of the dead!

In that dim and damp and empty cavern, lay a human body, stretched upon a
couch of stone. It was clad in rusty black, with a black veil thrown over
the face. She had been long, long dead; for the feet which protruded from
her robe were bones and not feet. A scourge of leather thongs had fallen
from her hands. Engraven deeply in the moist rock of the wall, just above
her prostrate figure, was the single word,

MAGDALEN.

I advanced no nearer. I knelt in prayer. I did not weep. He who has lived
in both worlds, cannot be greatly stirred by the mutations of this. I
turned away, thinking of our beautiful house in the heavens, and sighing
to myself,

“It is well! It is well!”

My heart now turned to John. I sailed from Marseilles, bound for
Alexandria, where I expected to take ship for Ephesus. We never reached
Alexandria. After we passed the island of Sicily a series of terrible
storms commenced, and our little vessel was driven about like a feather on
the sea. Our hardships were great, and our labor in vain. After many days
our vessel sprang a leak, and we were compelled to abandon her, or go to
the bottom with her. Our boat stood bravely for the shore, where some
lofty mountains loomed up through the night air. We were capsized, and I
lost consciousness. When I recovered my senses it was daylight. The little
boat was beached quite near me. My companions were all drowned. I was
utterly alone.

I was wrecked at the foot of the western range of Mount Lebanon, on the
coast of Phenicia. I found a large and dry cave half-way up the first
great spur that overlooks the sea. I have made this my home. I turned
fisherman for a living—for I had lost all with the ship—and the little
boat was serviceable for that. I exchanged my fish with the people a
little way from the coast, for other articles more needed.

Thus I have lived for several years. Here I have written this manuscript.
I have chosen the Greek language for its composition, because I am
familiar with it, and because I believe the words of Eschylus and Homer
will be more durable than the marbles of Athens.

One more page and it will be finished. Its inspiration withdrawn from me,
my life will be more desolate than ever. I shall seal it up carefully, and
conceal it in some safe place for the eyes and ears of a future generation
wiser and better than this. I shall then turn to Death and say, “I salute
thee.”

I shall not wait long. After I left my prison in Antioch and mingled with
the turbulent tide of human life, my spiritual visions left me, my
spiritual senses were closed. They are opening again. I have the old,
beautiful dreams. I hear the same heavenly music. I see the same auroral
and rainbow flashes of light. These now are prophecies of death—nay,
rather of life, of heaven. The gates stand ajar.

My eyes, my hopes, my heart are steadily fixed on that Land of Beauty,
where the Son of the Desert will be united to Martha; and John the Baptist
to Mary; and Lazarus to Magdalen; and all—all to Christ!



                     _BY THE AUTHOR OF THIS VOLUME._

                         OUR CHILDREN IN HEAVEN.

                         A BOOK FOR THE BEREAVED.

  It divests theology of its gloom:
  It robs death of its terror:
  It brings genuine light and comfort:
  It is an antidote to spiritualism:
  It vindicates the Divine Providence.

                                CONTENTS.

I. Is there no light? II. How are they raised? III. What bodies have they?
IV. Where do they go? V. Who takes care of them? VI. What are they doing?
VII. Can we communicate? VIII. Why did not the Lord prevent? IX. Why did
they die? X. What good can come of it?

                                OPINIONS.

“Eloquent and intelligible; clear and graceful.”—_Boston Evening
Transcript._

“New, refreshing, and elevated thoughts.”—_Round Table._

“Its sweet pathos and comforting sympathy at once warm and interest
us.”—_Albany Journal._

“Rational, beautiful, soothing, and uplifted too.”—_N. Y. Liberal
Christian._

“A beautiful and touching book.”—_Philadelphia Presbyterian._

“A high-toned religious book, well written, and which will be of real
service to sorrow-vexed hearts.”—_St. Louis Democrat._

“A work of genius sanctified by sorrow.”—_New Orleans Crescent._

“Dr. Holcombe is a fine writer: a master of style, with a marvelous
command of choice phrases. He appears in this book to great advantage.
Striking at times the deeper and finer chords of the human heart, he
causes them to vibrate in unison with all that is pure and holy in heaven
and earth.”—_Southern Quarterly Review._


                                THE SEXES:

                           HERE AND HEREAFTER.

This book is philosophic, poetic, religious, without a word about medicine
or physiology. It is for young and old lovers, for single and married, for
husbands and wives upon earth who would be husbands and wives hereafter.

                                OPINIONS.

“It breathes a pure and elevated spirit, and has many thoughts which will
commend themselves sympathetically to the followers of all Christian
faiths.”—_New York Independent._

“The most marked literary production of the season.”—_San Francisco
Bulletin._

“A beautifully written volume.”—_Chicago Tribune._

“Here is thought on a noble theme, crystallized in beautiful, bright, and
lasting gems. It adorns, exalts, and etherealizes double-sexed humanity,
and endues marriage with supernal purity.”—_New Orleans Bulletin._

“A work of sustained elegance of style. Whatever may be said of its
opinions, Dr. Holcombe’s essay must be credited with unexceptionable
purity and refinement. Its tone is religious and its theology orthodox,
accepting fully the supremacy of scriptural authority.”—_Lippincott’s
Magazine._

“Rarely, if ever, has the marriage state been lifted into so lofty and
elevating, so spiritualized, yet so sweetly human, an ideal.”—_New Orleans
Picayune._

“It is treated morally, religiously, and philosophically, and the result
is a good and valuable book among the piles of trash now being uttered and
written on the subject of woman.”—_St. Louis Republican._



                            TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE


The following changes have been made to the text:

      page 5, missing “I.” added
      page 10, “melanancholy” changed to “melancholy”
      page 71, period added after “closely”
      page 82, “thorroughly” changed to “thoroughly”
      page 89, “paralizing” changed to “paralyzing”
      page 99, period added after “gallery”
      page 156, “Demeritus” changed to “Demetrius”
      page 172, “impresssions” changed to “impressions”
      page 176, “beaaty” changed to “beauty”
      page 219, period added after “race”
      page 222, “maddess” changed to “madness”
      page 226, “indvidual” changed to “individual”
      page 236, missing “XX.” added
      page 252, “impossibilties” changed to “impossibilities”
      page 302, double “when” removed
      page 315, exclamation mark added after “terrible”
      page 316, “ampitheatre” changed to “amphitheatre”
      page 320, period added after “AGAIN”
      page 339, “Euphonbus” changed to “Euphorbus”
      page 367, “embarrased” changed to “embarrassed”

Additionally, quote marks have been normalized in many places.

Variations in hyphenation (e.g. “childlike”, “child-like”; “rosebud”,
“rose-bud”) and spelling (e.g. “Æschylus”, “Eschylus”; “syren”, “siren”;
“secrecy”, “secresy”) have not been changed.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In Both Worlds" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home