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Title: Christ Legends
Author: Lagerlöf, Selma, 1858-1940
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 "Christ Legends" ***

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



                             CHRIST LEGENDS

                                   BY

                             SELMA LAGERLÖF

                      Translated from the Swedish

                                   BY

                         VELMA SWANSTON HOWARD

                      DECORATIONS BY BERTHA STUART

                             [Illustration]

                                NEW YORK

                         HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY

                                  1908

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                            Copyright, 1908,

                                   BY

                         HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY

                                -------

                        Published October, 1908

                      THE QUINN & BODEN CO. PRESS
                             RAHWAY, N. J.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                CONTENTS

                    THE HOLY NIGHT                  1
                    THE EMPEROR’S VISION           13
                    THE WISE MEN’S WELL            25
                    BETHLEHEM’S CHILDREN           41
                    THE FLIGHT INTO EGYPT          73
                    IN NAZARETH                    85
                    IN THE TEMPLE                  95
                    SAINT VERONICA’S KERCHIEF     119
                    ROBIN REDBREAST               191
                    OUR LORD AND SAINT PETER      203
                    THE SACRED FLAME              221

------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration: The Holy Night]

                             THE HOLY NIGHT


When I was five years old I had such a great sorrow! I hardly know if I
have had a greater since.

It was then my grandmother died. Up to that time, she used to sit every
day on the corner sofa in her room, and tell stories.

I remember that grandmother told story after story from morning till
night, and that we children sat beside her, quite still, and listened.
It was a glorious life! No other children had such happy times as we
did.

It isn’t much that I recollect about my grandmother. I remember that she
had very beautiful snow-white hair, and stooped when she walked, and
that she always sat and knitted a stocking.

And I even remember that when she had finished a story, she used to lay
her hand on my head and say: “All this is as true, as true as that I see
you and you see me.”

I also remember that she could sing songs, but this she did not do every
day. One of the songs was about a knight and a sea-troll, and had this
refrain: “It blows cold, cold weather at sea.”

Then I remember a little prayer she taught me, and a verse of a hymn.

Of all the stories she told me, I have but a dim and imperfect
recollection. Only one of them do I remember so well that I should be
able to repeat it. It is a little story about Jesus’ birth.

Well, this is nearly all that I can recall about my grandmother, except
the thing which I remember best; and that is, the great loneliness when
she was gone.

I remember the morning when the corner sofa stood empty and when it was
impossible to understand how the days would ever come to an end. That I
remember. That I shall never forget!

And I recollect that we children were brought forward to kiss the hand
of the dead and that we were afraid to do it. But then some one said to
us that it would be the last time we could thank grandmother for all the
pleasure she had given us.

And I remember how the stories and songs were driven from the homestead,
shut up in a long black casket, and how they never came back again.

I remember that something was gone from our lives. It seemed as if the
door to a whole beautiful, enchanted world—where before we had been
free to go in and out—had been closed. And now there was no one who
knew how to open that door.

And I remember that, little by little, we children learned to play with
dolls and toys, and to live like other children. And then it seemed as
though we no longer missed our grandmother, or remembered her.

But even to-day—after forty years—as I sit here and gather together
the legends about Christ, which I heard out there in the Orient, there
awakes within me the little legend of Jesus’ birth that my grandmother
used to tell, and I feel impelled to tell it once again, and to let it
also be included in my collection.

It was a Christmas Day and all the folks had driven to church except
grandmother and I. I believe we were all alone in the house. We had not
been permitted to go along, because one of us was too old and the other
was too young. And we were sad, both of us, because we had not been
taken to early mass to hear the singing and to see the Christmas
candles.

But as we sat there in our loneliness, grandmother began to tell a
story.

“There was a man,” said she, “who went out in the dark night to borrow
live coals to kindle a fire. He went from hut to hut and knocked. ‘Dear
friends, help me!’ said he. ‘My wife has just given birth to a child,
and I must make a fire to warm her and the little one.’

“But it was way in the night, and all the people were asleep. No one
replied.

“The man walked and walked. At last he saw the gleam of a fire a long
way off. Then he went in that direction, and saw that the fire was
burning in the open. A lot of sheep were sleeping around the fire, and
an old shepherd sat and watched over the flock.

“When the man who wanted to borrow fire came up to the sheep, he saw
that three big dogs lay asleep at the shepherd’s feet. All three awoke
when the man approached and opened their great jaws, as though they
wanted to bark; but not a sound was heard. The man noticed that the hair
on their backs stood up and that their sharp, white teeth glistened in
the firelight. They dashed toward him. He felt that one of them bit at
his leg and one at his hand and that one clung to his throat. But their
jaws and teeth wouldn’t obey them, and the man didn’t suffer the least
harm.

“Now the man wished to go farther, to get what he needed. But the sheep
lay back to back and so close to one another that he couldn’t pass them.
Then the man stepped upon their backs and walked over them and up to the
fire. And not one of the animals awoke or moved.”

Thus far, grandmother had been allowed to narrate without interruption.
But at this point I couldn’t help breaking in. “Why didn’t they do it,
grandma?” I asked.

“That you shall hear in a moment,” said grandmother—and went on with
her story.

“When the man had almost reached the fire, the shepherd looked up. He
was a surly old man, who was unfriendly and harsh toward human beings.
And when he saw the strange man coming, he seized the long spiked staff,
which he always held in his hand when he tended his flock, and threw it
at him. The staff came right toward the man, but, before it reached him,
it turned off to one side and whizzed past him, far out in the meadow.”

When grandmother had got this far, I interrupted her again. “Grandma,
why wouldn’t the stick hurt the man?” Grandmother did not bother about
answering me, but continued her story.

“Now the man came up to the shepherd and said to him: ‘Good man, help
me, and lend me a little fire! My wife has just given birth to a child,
and I must make a fire to warm her and the little one.’

“The shepherd would rather have said no, but when he pondered that the
dogs couldn’t hurt the man, and the sheep had not run from him, and that
the staff had not wished to strike him, he was a little afraid, and
dared not deny the man that which he asked.

“‘Take as much as you need!’ he said to the man.

“But then the fire was nearly burnt out. There were no logs or branches
left, only a big heap of live coals; and the stranger had neither spade
nor shovel, wherein he could carry the red-hot coals.

“When the shepherd saw this, he said again: ‘Take as much as you need!’
And he was glad that the man wouldn’t be able to take away any coals.

“But the man stooped and picked coals from the ashes with his bare
hands, and laid them in his mantle. And he didn’t burn his hands when he
touched them, nor did the coals scorch his mantle; but he carried them
away as if they had been nuts or apples.”

But here the story-teller was interrupted for the third time. “Grandma,
why wouldn’t the coals burn the man?”

“That you shall hear,” said grandmother, and went on:

“And when the shepherd, who was such a cruel and hard-hearted man, saw
all this, he began to wonder to himself: ‘What kind of a night is this,
when the dogs do not bite, the sheep are not scared, the staff does not
kill, or the fire scorch?’ He called the stranger back, and said to him:
‘What kind of a night is this? And how does it happen that all things
show you compassion?’

“Then said the man: ‘I cannot tell you if you yourself do not see it.’
And he wished to go his way, that he might soon make a fire and warm his
wife and child.

“But the shepherd did not wish to lose sight of the man before he had
found out what all this might portend. He got up and followed the man
till they came to the place where he lived.

“Then the shepherd saw that the man didn’t have so much as a hut to
dwell in, but that his wife and babe were lying in a mountain grotto,
where there was nothing except the cold and naked stone walls.

“But the shepherd thought that perhaps the poor innocent child might
freeze to death there in the grotto; and, although he was a hard man, he
was touched, and thought he would like to help it. And he loosened his
knapsack from his shoulder, took from it a soft white sheepskin, gave it
to the strange man, and said that he should let the child sleep on it.

“But just as soon as he showed that he, too, could be merciful, his eyes
were opened, and he saw what he had not been able to see before and
heard what he could not have heard before.

“He saw that all around him stood a ring of little silver-winged angels,
and each held a stringed instrument, and all sang in loud tones that
to-night the Saviour was born who should redeem the world from its sins.

“Then he understood how all things were so happy this night that they
didn’t want to do anything wrong.

“And it was not only around the shepherd that there were angels, but he
saw them everywhere. They sat inside the grotto, they sat outside on the
mountain, and they flew under the heavens. They came marching in great
companies, and, as they passed, they paused and cast a glance at the
child.

“There were such jubilation and such gladness and songs and play! And
all this he saw in the dark night, whereas before he could not have made
out anything. He was so happy because his eyes had been opened that he
fell upon his knees and thanked God.”

Here grandmother sighed and said: “What that shepherd saw we might also
see, for the angels fly down from heaven every Christmas Eve, if we
could only see them.”

Then grandmother laid her hand on my head, and said: “You must remember
this, for it is as true, as true as that I see you and you see me. It is
not revealed by the light of lamps or candles, and it does not depend
upon sun and moon; but that which is needful is, that we have such eyes
as can see God’s glory.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration: The Emperor’s Vision]

                          THE EMPEROR’S VISION


It happened at the time when Augustus was Emperor in Rome and Herod was
King in Jerusalem.

It was then that a very great and holy night sank down over the earth.
It was the darkest night that any one had ever seen. One could have
believed that the whole earth had fallen into a cellar-vault. It was
impossible to distinguish water from land, and one could not find one’s
way on the most familiar road. And it couldn’t be otherwise, for not a
ray of light came from heaven. All the stars stayed at home in their own
houses, and the fair moon held her face averted.

The silence and the stillness were as profound as the darkness. The
rivers stood still in their courses, the wind did not stir, and even the
aspen leaves had ceased to quiver. Had any one walked along the
seashore, he would have found that the waves no longer dashed upon the
sands; and had one wandered in the desert, the sand would not have
crunched under one’s feet. Everything was as motionless as if turned to
stone, so as not to disturb the holy night. The grass was afraid to
grow, the dew could not fall, and the flowers dared not exhale their
perfume.

On this night the wild beasts did not seek their prey, the serpents did
not sting, and the dogs did not bark. And what was even more glorious,
inanimate things would have been unwilling to disturb the night’s
sanctity, by lending themselves to an evil deed. No false key could have
picked a lock, and no knife could possibly have drawn a drop of blood.

In Rome, during this very night, a small company of people came from the
Emperor’s palace at the Palatine and took the path across the Forum
which led to the Capitol. During the day just ended the Senators had
asked the Emperor if he had any objections to their erecting a temple to
him on Rome’s sacred hill. But Augustus had not immediately given his
consent. He did not know if it would be agreeable to the gods that he
should own a temple next to theirs, and he had replied that first he
wished to ascertain their will in the matter by offering a nocturnal
sacrifice to his genius. It was he who, accompanied by a few trusted
friends, was on his way to perform this sacrifice.

Augustus let them carry him in his litter, for he was old, and it was an
effort for him to climb the long stairs leading to the Capitol. He
himself held the cage with the doves for the sacrifice. No priests or
soldiers or senators accompanied him, only his nearest friends.
Torch-bearers walked in front of him in order to light the way in the
night darkness and behind him followed the slaves, who carried the
tripod, the knives, the charcoal, the sacred fire, and all the other
things needed for the sacrifice.

On the way the Emperor chatted gaily with his faithful followers, and
therefore none of them noticed the infinite silence and stillness of the
night. Only when they had reached the highest point of the Capitol Hill
and the vacant spot upon which they contemplated erecting the temple,
did it dawn upon them that something unusual was taking place.

It could not be a night like all others, for up on the very edge of the
cliff they saw the most remarkable being! At first they thought it was
an old, distorted olive-trunk; later they imagined that an ancient stone
figure from the temple of Jupiter had wandered out on the cliff. Finally
it was apparent to them that it could be only the old sibyl.

Anything so aged, so weather-beaten, and so giant-like in stature they
had never seen. This old woman was awe-inspiring! If the Emperor had not
been present, they would all have fled to their homes.

“It is she,” they whispered to each other, “who has lived as many years
as there are sand-grains on her native shores. Why has she come out from
her cave just to-night? What does she foretell for the Emperor and the
Empire—she, who writes her prophecies on the leaves of the trees and
knows that the wind will carry the words of the oracle to the person for
whom they are intended?”

They were so terrified that they would have dropped on their knees with
their foreheads pressed against the earth, had the sibyl stirred. But
she sat as still as though she were lifeless. Crouching upon the
outermost edge of the cliff, and shading her eyes with her hand, she
peered out into the night. She sat there as if she had gone up on the
hill that she might see more clearly something that was happening far
away. _She_ could see things on a night like this!

At that moment the Emperor and all his retinue marked how profound the
darkness was. None of them could see a hand’s breadth in front of him.
And what stillness! What silence! Not even the Tiber’s hollow murmur
could they hear. The air seemed to suffocate them, cold sweat broke out
on their foreheads, and their hands were numb and powerless. They feared
that some dreadful disaster was impending.

But no one cared to show that he was afraid, and everyone told the
Emperor that this was a good omen. All Nature held its breath to greet a
new god.

They counseled Augustus to hurry with the sacrifice, and said that the
old sibyl had evidently come out of her cave to greet his genius.

But the truth was that the old sibyl was so absorbed in a vision that
she did not even know that Augustus had come up to the Capitol. She was
transported in spirit to a far-distant land, where she imagined that she
was wandering over a great plain. In the darkness she stubbed her foot
continually against something, which she believed to be grass-tufts. She
stooped down and felt with her hand. No, it was not grass, but sheep.
She was walking between great sleeping flocks of sheep.

Then she noticed the shepherds’ fire. It burned in the middle of the
field, and she groped her way to it. The shepherds lay asleep by the
fire, and beside them were the long, spiked staves with which they
defended their flocks from wild beasts. But the little animals with the
glittering eyes and the bushy tails that stole up to the fire, were they
not jackals? And yet the shepherds did not fling their staves at them,
the dogs continued to sleep, the sheep did not flee, and the wild
animals lay down to rest beside the human beings.

This the sibyl saw, but she knew nothing of what was being enacted on
the hill back of her. She did not know that there they were raising an
altar, lighting charcoal and strewing incense, and that the Emperor took
one of the doves from the cage to sacrifice it. But his hands were so
benumbed that he could not hold the bird. With one stroke of the wing,
it freed itself and disappeared in the night darkness.

When this happened, the courtiers glanced suspiciously at the old sibyl.
They believed that it was she who caused the misfortune.

Could they know that all the while the sibyl thought herself standing
beside the shepherds’ fire, and that she listened to a faint sound which
came trembling through the dead-still night? She heard it long before
she marked that it did not come from the earth, but from the sky. At
last she raised her head; then she saw light, shimmering forms glide
forward in the darkness. They were little flocks of angels, who, singing
joyously, and apparently searching, flew back and forth above the wide
plain.

While the sibyl was listening to the angel-song, the Emperor was making
preparations for a new sacrifice. He washed his hands, cleansed the
altar, and took up the other dove. And, although he exerted his full
strength to hold it fast, the dove’s slippery body slid from his hand,
and the bird swung itself up into the impenetrable night.

The Emperor was appalled! He fell upon his knees and prayed to his
genius. He implored him for strength to avert the disasters which this
night seemed to foreshadow.

Nor did the sibyl hear any of this either. She was listening with her
whole soul to the angel-song, which grew louder and louder. At last it
became so powerful that it wakened the shepherds. They raised themselves
on their elbows and saw shining hosts of silver-white angels move in the
darkness in long, swaying lines, like migratory birds. Some held lutes
and cymbals in their hands; others held zithers and harps, and their
song rang out as merry as child-laughter, and as care-free as the lark’s
trill. When the shepherds heard this, they rose up to go to the mountain
city, where they lived, to tell of the miracle.

They groped their way forward on a narrow, winding path, and the sibyl
followed them. Suddenly it grew light up there on the mountain: a big,
clear star kindled right over it, and the city on the mountain summit
glittered like silver in the starlight. All the fluttering angel throngs
hastened thither, shouting for joy, and the shepherds hurried so that
they almost ran. When they reached the city, they found that the angels
had assembled over a low stable near the city gate. It was a wretched
structure, with a roof of straw and the naked cliff for a back wall.
Over it hung the Star, and hither flocked more and more angels. Some
seated themselves on the straw roof or alighted upon the steep
mountain-wall back of the house; others, again, held themselves in the
air on outspread wings, and hovered over it. High, high up, the air was
illuminated by the shining wings.

The instant the Star kindled over the mountain city, all Nature awoke,
and the men who stood upon Capitol Hill could not help seeing it. They
felt fresh, but caressing winds which traveled through space; delicious
perfumes streamed up about them; trees swayed; the Tiber began to
murmur; the stars twinkled, and suddenly the moon stood out in the sky
and lit up the world. And out of the clouds the two doves came circling
down and lighted upon the Emperor’s shoulders.

When this miracle happened, Augustus rose, proud and happy, but his
friends and his slaves fell on their knees.

“Hail, Cæsar!” they cried. “Thy genius hath answered thee. Thou art the
god who shall be worshiped on Capitol Hill!”

And this cry of homage, which the men in their transport gave as a
tribute to the Emperor, was so loud that the old sibyl heard it. It
waked her from her visions. She rose from her place on the edge of the
cliff, and came down among the people. It was as if a dark cloud had
arisen from the abyss and rushed down the mountain height. She was
terrifying in her extreme age! Coarse hair hung in matted tangles around
her head, her joints were enlarged, and the dark skin, hard as the bark
of a tree, covered her body with furrow upon furrow.

Potent and awe-inspiring, she advanced toward the Emperor. With one hand
she clutched his wrist, with the other she pointed toward the distant
East.

“Look!” she commanded, and the Emperor raised his eyes and saw. The
vaulted heavens opened before his eyes, and his glance traveled to the
distant Orient. He saw a lowly stable behind a steep rock wall, and in
the open doorway a few shepherds kneeling. Within the stable he saw a
young mother on her knees before a little child, who lay upon a bundle
of straw on the floor.

And the sibyl’s big, knotty fingers pointed toward the poor babe. “Hail,
Cæsar!” cried the sibyl, in a burst of scornful laughter. “There is the
god who shall be worshiped on Capitol Hill!”

Then Augustus shrank back from her, as from a maniac. But upon the sibyl
fell the mighty spirit of prophecy. Her dim eyes began to burn, her
hands were stretched toward heaven, her voice was so changed that it
seemed not to be her own, but rang out with such resonance and power
that it could have been heard over the whole world. And she uttered
words which she appeared to be reading among the stars.

“Upon Capitol Hill shall the Redeemer of the world be
worshiped,—_Christ_—but not frail mortals.”

When she had said this, she strode past the terror-stricken men, walked
slowly down the mountain, and disappeared.

But, on the following day, Augustus strictly forbade the people to raise
any temple to him on Capitol Hill. In place of it he built a sanctuary
to the new-born God-Child, and called it Heaven’s Altar—_Ara Cœli_.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration: The Wise Men’s Well]

                          THE WISE MEN’S WELL


In old Judea the Drought crept, gaunt and hollow-eyed, between shrunken
thistles and yellowed grass.

It was summertime. The sun beat down upon the backs of unshaded hills,
and the slightest breath of wind tore up thick clouds of lime dust from
the grayish-white ground. The herds stood huddled together in the
valleys, by the dried-up streams.

The Drought walked about and viewed the water supplies. He wandered over
to Solomon’s Pools, and sighed as he saw that they still held a small
quantity of water from their mountain sources. Then he journeyed down to
the famous David’s Well, near Bethlehem, and found water even there.
Finally, he tramped with shuffling gait toward the great highway which
leads from Bethlehem to Jerusalem.

When he had arrived about half-way, he saw the Wise Men’s Well, where it
stands close by the roadside. He saw at a glance that it was almost dry.
He seated himself on the curb, which consists of a single stone hollowed
out, and looked into the well. The shining water-mirror, which usually
was seen very near the opening, had sunk deep down, and the dirt and
slime at the bottom of the well made it muddy and impure.

When the Well beheld the Drought’s bronzed visage reflected in her
clouded mirror, she shook with anguish.

“I wonder when you will be exhausted,” said the Drought. “Surely, you do
not expect to find any fresh water source, down there in the deep, to
come and give you new life; and as for rain—God be praised! there can
be no question of that for the next two or three months.”

“You may rest content,” sighed the Well, “for nothing can help me now.
It would take no less than a well-spring from Paradise to save me!”

“Then I will not forsake you until every drop has been drained,” said
the Drought. He saw that the old Well was nearing its end, and now he
wanted to have the pleasure of seeing it die out drop by drop.

He seated himself comfortably on the edge of the curb, and rejoiced as
he heard how the Well sighed down there in the deep. He also took a keen
delight in watching the thirsty wayfarers come up to the well-curb, let
down the bucket, and draw it up again, with only a few drops of muddy
water.

Thus the whole day passed; and when darkness descended, the Drought
looked again into the Well. A little water still shimmered down there.
“I’ll stay here all night,” cried he, “so do not hurry yourself! When it
grows so light that I can look into you once more, I am certain that all
will be over with you.”

The Drought curled himself up on the edge of the well-curb, while the
hot night, which was even more cruel, and more full of torment than the
day had been, descended over Judea. Dogs and jackals howled incessantly,
and thirsty cows and asses answered them from their stuffy stalls.

When the breeze stirred a little now and then, it brought with it no
relief, but was as hot and suffocating as a great sleeping monster’s
panting breath. The stars shone with the most resplendent brilliancy,
and a little silvery new moon cast a pretty blue-green light over the
gray hills. And in this light the Drought saw a great caravan come
marching toward the hill where the Wise Men’s Well was situated.

The Drought sat and gazed at the long procession, and rejoiced again at
the thought of all the thirst which was coming to the well, and would
not find one drop of water with which to slake itself. There were so
many animals and drivers they could easily have emptied the Well, even
if it had been quite full. Suddenly he began to think there was
something unusual, something ghost-like, about this caravan which came
marching forward in the night. First, all the camels came within sight
on a hill, which loomed up, high and distinct, against the horizon; it
was as though they had stepped straight down from heaven. They also
appeared to be larger than ordinary camels, and bore—all too
lightly—the enormous burdens which weighted them.

Still he could not understand anything but that they were absolutely
real, for to him they were just as plain as plain could be. He could
even see that the three foremost animals were dromedaries, with gray,
shiny skins; and that they were richly bridled and saddled, with fringed
coverings, and were ridden by handsome, noble-looking knights.

The whole procession stopped at the well. With three sharp jerks, the
dromedaries lay down on the ground, and their riders dismounted. The
pack-camels remained standing, and as they assembled they seemed to form
a long line of necks and humps and peculiarly piled-up packs.

Immediately, the riders came up to the Drought and greeted him by laying
their hands upon their foreheads and breasts. He saw that they wore
dazzling white robes and huge turbans, on the front of each of which
there was a clear, glittering star, which shone as if it had been taken
direct from the skies.

“We come from a far-off land,” said one of the strangers, “and we bid
thee tell us if this is in truth the Wise Men’s Well?”

“It is called so to-day,” said the Drought, “but by to-morrow there will
be no well here. It shall die to-night.”

“I can understand this, as I see thee here,” said the man. “But is not
this one of the sacred wells, which never run dry? or whence hath it
derived its name?”

“I know it is sacred,” said the Drought, “but what good will that do?
The three wise men are in Paradise.”

The three travelers exchanged glances. “Dost thou really know the
history of this ancient well?” asked they.

“I know the history of all wells and fountains and brooks and rivers,”
said the Drought, with pride.

“Then grant us a pleasure, and tell us the story!” begged the strangers;
and they seated themselves around the old enemy to everything growing,
and listened.

The Drought shook himself and crawled up on the well-curb, like a
story-teller upon his improvised throne, and began his tale.

“In Gebas, in Media, a city which lies near the border of the
desert—and, therefore, it has often been a free and well-beloved city
to me,—there lived, many, many years ago, three men who were famed for
their wisdom.

“They were also very poor, which was a most uncommon state of affairs;
for, in Gebas, knowledge was held in high esteem, and was well
recompensed. With these men, however, it could hardly have been
otherwise, for one of them was very old, one was afflicted with leprosy,
and the third was a black, thick-lipped negro. People regarded the first
as much too old to teach them anything; the second they avoided for fear
of contagion; and the third they would not listen to, because they
thought they knew that no wisdom had ever come from Ethiopia.

“Meanwhile, the three wise ones became united through their common
misery. They begged during the day at the same temple gate, and at night
they slept on the same roof. In this way they at least had an
opportunity to while away the hours, by meditating upon all the
wonderful things which they observed in Nature and in the human race.

“One night, as they slept side by side on a roof, which was overgrown
with stupefying red poppies, the eldest among them awoke; and hardly had
he cast a glance around him, before he wakened the other two.

“‘Praised be our poverty, which compels us to sleep in the open!’ he
said to them. ‘Awake! and raise your eyes to heaven!’

“Well,” said the Drought, in a somewhat milder tone, “this was a night
which no one who witnessed it can ever forget! The skies were so bright
that the heavens, which usually resemble an arched vault, looked deep
and transparent and full of waves, like a sea. The light surged
backwards and forwards and the stars swam in their varying depths: some
in among the light-waves; others upon the surface.

“But farthest away and highest up, the three men saw a faint shadow
appear. This shadow traveled through space like a ball, and came nearer
and nearer, and, as the ball approached, it began to brighten. But it
brightened as roses do—may God let them all wither!—when they burst
from their buds. It grew bigger and bigger, the dark cover about it
turned back by degrees, and light broke forth on its sides into four
distinct leaves. Finally, when it had descended to the nearest of the
stars, it came to a standstill. Then the dark lobes curled themselves
back and unfolded leaf upon leaf of beautiful, shimmering, rose-colored
light, until it was perfect, and shone like a star among stars.

“When the poor men beheld this, their wisdom told them that at this
moment a mighty king was born on earth: one, whose majesty and power
should rise higher than that of Cyrus or of Alexander; and they said to
one another: ‘Let us go to the father and mother of the new-born babe
and tell them what we have seen! Mayhap they will reward us with a purse
of coin or a bracelet of gold.’

“They grasped their long traveling staves and went forth. They wandered
through the city and out from the city gate; but there they felt
doubtful for a moment as they saw before them the great stretch of dry,
smooth desert, which human beings dread. Then they saw the new star cast
a narrow stream of light across the desert sand, and they wandered
confidently forward with the star as their guide.

“All night long they tramped over the wide sand-plain, and throughout
the entire journey they talked about the young, new-born king, whom they
should find reposing in a cradle of gold, playing with precious stones.
They whiled away the hours by talking over how they should approach his
father, the king, and his mother, the queen, and tell them that the
heavens augured for their son power and beauty and joy, greater than
Solomon’s. They prided themselves upon the fact that God had called
_them_ to see the Star. They said to themselves that the parents of the
new-born babe would not reward them with less than twenty purses of
gold; perhaps they would give them so much gold that they no longer need
suffer the pangs of poverty.

“I lay in wait on the desert like a lion,” said the Drought, “and
intended to throw myself upon these wanderers with all the agonies of
thirst, but they eluded me. All night the Star had led them, and on the
morrow, when the heavens brightened and all the other stars grew pale,
it remained steady and illumined the desert, and then guided them to an
oasis where they found a spring and a ripe, fruit-bearing tree. There
they rested all that day. And toward night, as they saw the Star’s rays
border the sands, they went on.

“From the human way of looking at things,” continued the Drought, “it
was a delightful journey. The Star led them in such a way that they did
not have to suffer either hunger or thirst. It led them past the sharp
thistles, it avoided the thick, loose, flying sand; they escaped the
burning sunshine and the hot desert storms. The three wise men said
repeatedly to one another: ‘God is protecting us and blessing our
journey. We are His messengers.’

“Then, by degrees, they fell into my power,” said the Drought. “These
star-wanderers’ hearts became transformed into as dry a desert as the
one which they traveled through. They were filled with impotent pride
and destructive greed.

“‘We are God’s messengers!’ repeated the three wise ones. ‘The father of
the new-born king will not reward us too well, even if he gives us a
caravan laden with gold.’

“By and by, the Star led them over the far-famed River Jordan, and up
among the hills of Judea. One night it stood still over the little city
of Bethlehem, which lay upon a hill-top, and shone among the olive
trees.

“But the three wise ones looked around for castles and fortified towers
and walls, and all the other things that belong to a royal city; but of
such they saw nothing. And what was still worse, the Star’s light did
not even lead them into the city, but remained over a grotto near the
wayside. There, the soft light stole in through the opening and revealed
to the three wanderers a little Child, who was being lulled to sleep in
its mother’s arms.

“Although the three men saw how the Star’s light encircled the Child’s
head, like a crown, they remained standing outside the grotto. They did
not enter to prophesy honors and kingdoms for this little One. They
turned away without betraying their presence. They fled from the Child,
and wandered down the hill again.

“‘Have we come in search of beggars as poor as ourselves?’ said they.
‘Has God brought us hither that we might mock Him, and predict honors
for a shepherd’s son? This Child will never attain any higher
distinction than to tend sheep here in the valleys.’”

The Drought chuckled to himself and nodded to his hearers, as much as to
say: “Am I not right? There are things which are drier than the desert
sands, but there is nothing more barren than the human heart.”

“The three wise ones had not wandered very far before they thought they
had gone astray and had not followed the Star rightly,” continued the
Drought. “They turned their gaze upward to find again the Star, and the
right road; but then the Star which they had followed all the way from
the Orient had vanished from the heavens.”

The three strangers made a quick movement, and their faces expressed
deep suffering.

“That which now happened,” continued the Drought, “is in accord with the
usual manner of mankind in judging of what is, perhaps, a blessing.

“To be sure, when the three wise men no longer saw the Star, they
understood at once that they had sinned against God.

“And it happened with them,” continued the Drought furiously, “just as
it happens with the ground in the autumn, when the heavy rains begin to
fall. They shook with terror, as one shakes when it thunders and
lightens; their whole being softened, and humility, like green grass,
sprang up in their souls.

“For three nights and days they wandered about the country, in quest of
the Child whom they would worship; but the Star did not appear to them.
They grew more and more bewildered, and suffered the most overwhelming
anguish and despair. On the third day they came to this well to drink.
Then God had pardoned their sin. And, as they bent over the water, they
saw in its depths the reflection of the Star which had brought them from
the Orient. Instantly they saw it also in the heavens and it led them
again to the grotto in Bethlehem, where they fell upon their knees
before the Child and said: ‘We bring thee golden vessels filled with
incense and costly spices. Thou shalt be the greatest king that ever
lived upon earth, from its creation even unto its destruction.’

“Then the Child laid his hand upon their lowered heads, and when they
rose, lo! the Child had given them gifts greater than a king could have
granted; for the old beggar had grown young, the leper was made whole,
and the negro was transformed into a beautiful white man. And it is said
of them that they were glorious! and that they departed and became
kings—each in his own kingdom.”

The Drought paused in his story, and the three strangers praised it.
“Thou hast spoken well,” said they. “But it surprises me,” said one of
them, “that the three wise men do nothing for the well which showed them
the Star. Shall they entirely forget such a great blessing?”

“Should not this well remain perpetually,” said the second stranger, “to
remind mankind that happiness, which is lost on the heights of pride and
vainglory, will let itself be found again in the depths of humility?”

“Are the departed worse than the living?” asked the third. “Does
gratitude die with those who live in Paradise?”

But as he heard this, the Drought sprang up with a wild cry. He had
recognized the strangers! He understood who the strangers were, and fled
from them like a madman, that he might not witness how The Three Wise
Men called their servants and led their camels, laden with water-sacks,
to the Well and filled the poor dying Well with water, which they had
brought with them from Paradise.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration: Bethlehem’s Children]

                          BETHLEHEM’S CHILDREN


Just outside the Bethlehem gate stood a Roman soldier, on guard. He was
arrayed in full armor, with helmet. At his side he wore a short sword,
and held in his hand a long spear. He stood there all day almost
motionless, so that one could readily have believed him to be a man made
of iron. The city people went in and out of the gate and beggars lolled
in the shade under the archway, fruit venders and wine dealers set their
baskets and jugs down on the ground beside the soldier, but he scarcely
took the trouble to turn his head to look at them.

It seemed as though he wanted to say: This is nothing to see. What do I
care about you who labor and barter and come driving with oil casks and
wine sacks! Let me see an army prepare to meet the enemy! Let me see the
excitement and the hot struggle, when horsemen charge down upon a troop
of foot-soldiers! Let me see the brave men who rush forward to scale the
walls of a beleaguered city! Nothing is pleasing to my sight but war. I
long to see the Roman Eagles glisten in the air! I long for the
trumpets’ blast, for shining weapons, for the splash of red blood!

Just beyond the city gate lay a fine meadow, overgrown with lilies. Day
by day the soldier stood with his eyes turned toward this meadow, but
never for a moment did he think of admiring the extraordinary beauty of
the flowers. Sometimes he noticed that the passers-by stopped to admire
the lilies, and it amazed him to think that people would delay their
travels to look at anything so trivial. These people do not know what is
beautiful, thought he.

And as he thought thus, he saw no more the green fields and olive groves
round about Bethlehem; but dreamed himself away in a burning-hot desert
in sunny Libya. He saw a legion of soldiers march forward in a long,
straight line over the yellow, trackless sand. There was no protection
against the sun’s piercing rays, no cooling stream, no apparent
boundaries to the desert, and no goal in sight, no end to their
wanderings. He saw soldiers, exhausted by hunger and thirst, march
forward with faltering step; he saw one after another drop to the
ground, overcome by the scorching heat. Nevertheless, they marched
onward without a murmur, without a thought of deserting their leader and
turning back.

Now, _there_ is something beautiful! thought the soldier, something that
is worth the glance of a valiant man!

Since the soldier stood on guard at the same post day after day, he had
the best opportunity to watch the pretty children who played about him.
But it was with the children as with the flowers: he didn’t understand
that it could be worth his while to notice them. What is this to rejoice
over? thought he, when he saw people smile as they watched the
children’s games. It is strange that any one can find pleasure in a mere
nothing.

One day when the soldier was standing at his accustomed post, he saw a
little boy about three years old come out on the meadow to play. He was
a poor lad, who was dressed in a scanty sheepskin, and who played quite
by himself. The soldier stood and regarded the newcomer almost without
being aware of it himself. The first thing that attracted him was that
the little one ran so lightly over the field that he seemed scarcely to
touch the tips of the grass-blades. Later, as he followed the child’s
play, he was even more astonished. “By my sword!” he exclaimed, “this
child does not play like the others. What can it be that occupies him?”

As the child played only a few paces away, he could see well enough what
the little one was doing. He saw how he reached out his hand to capture
a bee that sat upon the edge of a flower and was so heavily laden with
pollen that it could hardly lift its wings for flight. He saw, to his
great surprise, that the bee let itself be taken without trying to
escape, and without using its sting. When the little one held the bee
secure between his fingers, he ran over to a crack in the city wall,
where a swarm of bees had their home, and set the bee down. As soon as
he had helped one bee in this way, he hastened back to help another. All
day long the soldier saw him catch bees and carry them to their home.

“That boy is certainly more foolish than any I’ve seen hitherto,”
thought the soldier. “What put it into his head to try and help these
bees, who can take such good care of themselves without him, and who can
sting him at that? What kind of a man will he become if he lives, I
wonder?”

The little one came back day after day and played in the meadow, and the
soldier couldn’t help marveling at him and his games.

“It is very strange,” thought he. “Here I have stood on guard for fully
three years, and thus far I have seen nothing that could interest me,
except this infant.”

But the soldier was in nowise pleased with the child; quite the reverse!
For this child reminded him of a dreadful prediction made by an old
Hebrew seer, who had prophesied that a time of peace should come to this
world some day; during a period of a thousand years no blood would be
shed, no wars waged, but human beings would love one another like
brethren. When the soldier thought that anything so dreadful might
really come to pass, a shudder passed through his body, and he gripped
his spear hard, as if he sought support.

And now, the more the soldier saw of the little one and his play, the
more he thought of the Thousand-year Reign of Peace. He did not fear
that it had come already, but he did not like to be reminded of anything
so hateful!

One day, when the little one was playing among the flowers on the pretty
meadow, a very heavy shower came bursting through the clouds. When he
noticed how big and heavy the drops were that beat down upon the
sensitive lilies, he seemed anxious for his pretty friends. He hurried
away to the biggest and loveliest among them, and bent towards the
ground the stiff stalk which held up the lily, so that the raindrops
caught the chalices on their under side. As soon as he had treated one
flower like this, he ran to another and bent its stem in the same way,
so that the flower-cups were turned toward the ground. And then to a
third and a fourth, until all the flowers in the meadow were protected
against the rainfall.

The soldier smiled to himself when he saw the boy’s work. “I’m afraid
the lilies won’t thank him for this,” said he. “Naturally, every stalk
is broken. It will never do to bend such stiff growths in that way!”

But when the shower was over, the soldier saw the little lad hurry over
to the lilies and raise them up. To his utter astonishment, the boy
straightened the stiff stalks without the least difficulty. It was
apparent that not one of them was either broken or bruised. He ran from
flower to flower, and soon all the rescued lilies shone in their full
splendor in the meadow.

When the soldier saw this, he was seized with a singular rage. “What a
queer child!” thought he. “It is incredible that he can undertake
anything so idiotic. What kind of a man will he make, who cannot even
bear to see a lily destroyed? How would it turn out if such a one had to
go to war? What would he do if they ordered him to burn a house filled
with women and children, or to sink a ship with all souls on board?”

Again he thought of the old prophecy, and he began to fear that the time
had actually come for its fulfilment. “Since a child like this is here,”
thought he, “perhaps this awful time is very close at hand. Already,
peace prevails over the whole earth; and surely the day of war will
nevermore dawn. From this time forth, all peoples will be of the same
mind as this child: they will be afraid to injure one another, yea, they
will not have the heart even to crush a bee or a flower! No great deeds
will be done, no glorious battles won, and no brilliant triumvirate will
march up to the Capitol. Nothing more will happen that a brave man could
long for.”

And the soldier—who all the while hoped he would soon live through new
wars and longed, through daring feats, to raise himself to power and
riches—felt so exasperated with the little three-year-old that he
raised his spear threateningly the next time the child ran past.

Another day it was neither the bees nor the lilies the little one sought
to protect, but he undertook something which struck the soldier as being
much more needless and thankless.

It was a fearfully hot day, and the sunrays fell upon the soldier’s
helmet and armor and heated them until he felt as if he wore a suit of
fire. To the passers-by it looked as if he must suffer tortures from the
heat. His bloodshot eyes were ready to burst from their sockets, and his
lips were dry and shriveled. But as he was inured to the burning heat of
African deserts, he thought this a mere trifle, and it didn’t occur to
him to move from his accustomed place. On the contrary, he took pleasure
in showing the passers-by that he was so strong and hardy and did not
need to seek shelter from the sun.

While he stood thus, and let himself be nearly broiled alive, the little
boy who was wont to play in the meadow came suddenly up to him. He knew
very well that the soldier was not one of his friends and so he was
always careful not to come within reach of his spear; but now he ran up
to him, and regarded him long and carefully; then he hurried as fast as
he could towards the road. When he came back, he held both hands like a
bowl, and carried in this way a few drops of water.

“Mayhap this infant has taken it upon himself to run and fetch water for
me,” thought the soldier. “He is certainly wanting in common sense.
Should not a Roman soldier be able to stand a little heat! What need for
that youngster to run around and help those who require no help! I don’t
want his compassion. I wish he and all like him were out of the world!”

The little one came walking very slowly. He held his fingers close
together, so that nothing should be spilled or wasted. All the while, as
he was nearing the soldier, he kept his eyes anxiously fixed upon the
little water which he brought with him, and did not see that the man
stood there frowning, with a forbidding look in his eye. Then the child
came up to the soldier and offered him the water.

On the way his heavy blond curls had tumbled down over his forehead and
eyes. He shook his head several times to get the hair out of his eyes,
so that he could look up. When he succeeded at last, and became
conscious of the hard expression on the soldier’s face, he was not
frightened, but stood still and begged him, with a bewitching smile, to
taste of the water which he had brought with him. But the soldier felt
no desire to accept a kindness from the child, whom he regarded as his
enemy. He did not look down into his pretty face, but stood rigid and
immovable, and showed no sign that he understood what the child wished
to do for him.

Nor could the child understand that the man wished to repel him. He
smiled all the while just as confidently, raised himself on the tips of
his toes, and stretched his hands as high as he could that the big
soldier might more easily get at the water.

The soldier felt so insulted because a mere child wished to help him
that he gripped his spear to drive the little one away.

But just at that moment the extreme heat and sunshine beat down upon the
soldier with such intensity that he saw red flames dance before his eyes
and felt his brains melt within his head. He feared the sun would kill
him, if he could not find instant relief.

Beside himself with terror at the danger hovering over him, the soldier
threw his spear on the ground, seized the child with both hands, lifted
him up, and absorbed as much as he could of the water which the little
one held in his hands.

Only a few drops touched his tongue, but more was not needed. As soon as
he had tasted of the water, a delicious coolness surged through his
body, and he felt no more that the helmet and armor burnt and oppressed
him. The sunrays had lost their deadly power. His dry lips became soft
and moist again, and red flames no longer danced before his eyes.

Before he had time to realize all this, he had already put down the
child, who ran back to the meadow to play. Astonished, the soldier began
to say to himself: “What kind of water was this that the child gave me?
It was a glorious drink! I must really show him my gratitude.”

But inasmuch as he hated the little one, he soon dismissed this idea.
“It is only a child,” thought he, “and does not know why he acts in this
way or that way. He plays only the play that pleases him best. Does he
perhaps receive any gratitude from the bees or the lilies? On that
youngster’s account I need give myself no trouble. He doesn’t even know
that he has succored me.”

The soldier felt, if possible, even more exasperated with the child a
moment later, when he saw the commander of the Roman soldiers, who were
encamped in Bethlehem, come out through the gate. “Just see what a risk
I have run through that little one’s rash behavior!” thought he. “If by
chance Voltigius had come a moment earlier, he would have seen me
standing with a child in my arms.”

Meanwhile, the Commander walked straight up to the soldier and asked him
if they might speak together there without danger of being overheard. He
had a secret to impart to him. “If we move ten paces from the gate,”
replied the soldier, “no one can hear us.”

“You know,” said the Commander, “that King Herod, time and again, has
tried to get possession of a child that is growing up here in Bethlehem.
His soothsayers and priests have told him that this child shall ascend
his throne. Moreover, they have predicted that the new King will
inaugurate a thousand-year reign of peace and holiness. You understand,
of course, that Herod would willingly make him—Harmless!”

“I understand!” said the soldier eagerly. “But that ought to be the
easiest thing in the world.”

“It would certainly be very easy,” said the Commander, “if the King only
knew which one of all the children here in Bethlehem is The One.”

The soldier knit his brows. “It is a pity his soothsayers can not
enlighten him about this,” said he.

“But now Herod has hit upon a ruse, whereby he believes he can make the
young Peace-Prince harmless,” continued the Commander. “He promises a
handsome gift to each and all who will help him.”

“Whatsoever Voltigius commands shall be carried out, even without money
or gifts,” said the soldier.

“I thank you,” replied the Commander. “Listen, now, to the King’s plan!
He intends to celebrate the birthday of his youngest son by arranging a
festival, to which all male children in Bethlehem, who are between the
ages of two and three years, shall be bidden, together with their
mothers. And during this festival——” He checked himself suddenly, and
laughed when he saw the look of disgust on the soldier’s face.

“My friend,” he continued, “you need not fear that Herod thinks of using
us as child-nurses. Now bend your ear to my mouth, and I’ll confide to
you his design.”

The Commander whispered long with the soldier, and when he had disclosed
all, he said:

“I need hardly tell you that absolute silence is imperative, lest the
whole undertaking miscarry.”

“You know, Voltigius, that you can rely on me,” said the soldier.

When the Commander had gone and the soldier once more stood alone at his
post, he looked around for the child. The little one played all the
while among the flowers, and the soldier caught himself thinking that
the boy swayed above them as light and attractive as a butterfly.

Suddenly he began to laugh. “True,” said he, “I shall not have to vex
myself very long over this child. He shall be bidden to the feast of
Herod this evening.”

He remained at his post all that day, until the even was come, and it
was time to close the city gate for the night.

When this was done, he wandered through narrow and dark streets, to a
splendid palace which Herod owned in Bethlehem.

In the center of this immense palace was a large stone-paved court
encircled by buildings, around which ran three open galleries, one above
the other. The King had ordered that the festival for the Bethlehem
children should be held on the uppermost of these galleries.

This gallery, by the King’s express command, was transformed so that it
looked like a covered walk in a beautiful flower-garden. The ceiling was
hidden by creeping vines hung with thick clusters of luscious grapes,
and alongside the walls, and against the pillars stood small pomegranate
trees, laden with ripe fruit. The floors were strewn with rose-leaves,
lying thick and soft like a carpet. And all along the balustrades, the
cornices, the tables, and the low divans, ran garlands of lustrous white
lilies.

Here and there in this flower garden stood great marble basins where
glittering gold and silver fish played in the transparent water.
Multi-colored birds from distant lands sat in the trees, and in a cage
sat an old raven that chattered incessantly.

When the festival began children and mothers filed into the gallery.
Immediately after they had entered the palace, the children were arrayed
in white dresses with purple borders and were given wreaths of roses for
their dark, curly heads. The women came in, regal, in their crimson and
blue robes, and their white veils, which hung in long, loose folds from
high-peaked head-dresses, adorned with gold coins and chains. Some
carried their children mounted upon their shoulders; others led their
sons by the hand; some, again, whose children were afraid or shy, had
taken them up in their arms.

The women seated themselves on the floor of the gallery. As soon as they
had taken their places, slaves came in and placed before them low
tables, which they spread with the choicest of foods and wines—as
befitting a King’s feast—and all these happy mothers began to eat and
drink, maintaining all the while that proud, graceful dignity, which is
the greatest ornament of the Bethlehem women.

Along the farthest wall of the gallery, and almost hidden by
flower-garlands and fruit trees, was stationed a double line of soldiers
in full armor. They stood, perfectly immovable, as if they had no
concern with that which went on around them. The women could not refrain
from casting a questioning glance, now and then, at this troop of
iron-clad men. “For what are they needed here?” they whispered. “Does
Herod think we women do not know how to conduct ourselves? Does he
believe it is necessary for so many soldiers to guard us?”

But others whispered that this was as it should be in a King’s home.
Herod himself never gave a banquet without having his house filled with
soldiers. It was to honor them that the heavily armored warriors stood
there on guard.

During the first few moments of the feast, the children felt timid and
uncertain, and sat quietly beside their mothers. But soon they began to
move about and take possession of all the good things which Herod
offered them.

It was an enchanted land that the King had created for his little
guests. When they wandered through the gallery, they found bee-hives
whose honey they could pillage without the interference of a single
crotchety bee. They found trees which, bending, lowered their
fruit-laden branches down to them. In a corner they found magicians who,
on the instant, conjured their pockets full of toys; and in another
corner they discovered a wild-beast tamer who showed them a pair of
tigers, so tame that they could ride them.

But in this paradise with all its joys there was nothing which so
attracted the attention of these little ones as the long line of
soldiers who stood immovable at the extreme end of the gallery. Their
eyes were captivated by their shining helmets, their stern, haughty
faces, and their short swords, which reposed in richly jeweled sheaths.

All the while, as they played and romped with one another, they thought
continually about the soldiers. They still held themselves at a
distance, but they longed to get near the men to see if they were alive
and really could move themselves.

The play and festivities increased every moment, but the soldiers stood
all the while immovable. It seemed incredible to the little ones that
people could stand so near the clusters of grapes and all the other
dainties, without reaching out a hand to take them.

Finally, there was one boy who couldn’t restrain his curiosity any
longer. Slowly, but prepared for hasty retreat, he approached one of the
armored men; and when he remained just as rigid and motionless, the
child came nearer and nearer. At last he was so close to him that he
could touch his shoe latchets and his shins.

Then—as though this had been an unheard-of crime—all at once these
iron-men set themselves in motion. With indescribable fury they threw
themselves upon the children, and seized them! Some swung them over
their heads, like missiles, and flung them between lamps and garlands
over the balustrade and down to the court, where they were killed the
instant they struck the stone pavement. Others drew their swords and
pierced the children’s hearts; others, again, crushed their heads
against the walls before they threw them down into the dark courtyard.

The first moment after the onslaught, there was an ominous stillness.
While the tiny bodies still swayed in the air, the women were petrified
with amazement! But simultaneously all these unhappy mothers awoke to
understand what had happened, and with one great cry they rushed toward
the soldiers. There were still a few children left up in the gallery who
had not been captured during the first attack. The soldiers pursued them
and their mothers threw themselves in front of them and clutched with
bare hands the naked swords, to avert the death-blow. Several women,
whose children were already dead, threw themselves upon the soldiers,
clutched them by the throat, and sought to avenge the death of their
little ones by strangling their murderers.

During this wild confusion, while fearful shrieks rang through the
palace, and the most inhuman death cruelties were being enacted, the
soldier who was wont to stand on guard at the city gate stood motionless
at the head of the stairs which led down from the gallery. He took no
part in the strife and the murder: only against the women who had
succeeded in snatching their children and tried to fly down the stairs
with them did he lift his sword. And just the sight of him, where he
stood, grim and inflexible, was so terrifying that the fleeing ones
chose rather to cast themselves over the balustrade or turn back into
the heat of the struggle, than risk the danger of crowding past him.

“Voltigius certainly did the right thing when he gave _me_ this post,”
thought the soldier. “A young and thoughtless warrior would have left
his place and rushed into the confusion. If I had let myself be tempted
away from here, ten children at least would have escaped.”

While he was thinking of this, a young woman, who had snatched up her
child, came rushing towards him in hurried flight. None of the warriors
whom she had to pass could stop her, because they were in the midst of
the struggle with other women, and in this way she had reached the end
of the gallery.

“Ah, there’s one who is about to escape!” thought the soldier. “Neither
she nor the child is wounded.”

The woman came toward the soldier with such speed that she appeared to
be flying, and he didn’t have time to distinguish the features of either
the woman or her child. He only pointed his sword at them, and the
woman, with the child in her arms, dashed against it. He expected that
the next second both she and the child would fall to the ground pierced
through and through.

But just then the soldier heard an angry buzzing over his head, and the
next instant he felt a sharp pain in one eye. It was so intense that he
was stunned, bewildered, and the sword dropped from his hand. He raised
his hand to his eye and caught hold of a bee, and understood that that
which caused this awful suffering was only the sting of the tiny
creature. Quick as a flash, he stooped down and picked up his sword, in
the hope that as yet it was not too late to intercept the runaways.

But the little bee had done its work very well.

During the short time that the soldier was blinded, the young mother had
succeeded in rushing past him and down the stairs; and although he
hurried after her with all haste, he could not find her. She had
vanished; and in all that great palace there was no one who could
discover any trace of her.

The following morning, the soldier, together with several of his
comrades, stood on guard, just within the city gate. The hour was early,
and the city gates had only just been opened. But it appeared as though
no one had expected that they would be opened that morning; for no
throngs of field laborers streamed out of the city, as they usually did
of a morning. All the Bethlehem inhabitants were so filled with terror
over the night’s bloodshed that no one dared to leave his home.

“By my sword!” said the soldier, as he stood and stared down the narrow
street which led toward the gate, “I believe Voltigius has made a stupid
blunder. It would have been better had he kept the gates closed and
ordered a thorough search of every house in the city, until he had found
the boy who managed to escape from the feast. Voltigius expects that his
parents will try to get him away from here as soon as they learn that
the gates are open. I fear this is not a wise calculation. How easily
they could conceal a child!”

He wondered if they would try to hide the child in a fruit basket or in
some huge oil cask, or amongst the grain-bales of a caravan.

While he stood there on the watch for any attempt to deceive him in this
way, he saw a man and a woman who came hurriedly down the street and
were nearing the gate. They walked rapidly and cast anxious looks behind
them, as though they were fleeing from some danger. The man held an ax
in his hand with a firm grip, as if determined to fight should any one
bar his way. But the soldier did not look at the man as much as he did
at the woman. He thought that she was just as tall as the young mother
who got away from him the night before. He observed also that she had
thrown her skirt over her head. “Perhaps she wears it like this,”
thought he, “to conceal the fact that she holds a child on her arm.”

The nearer they approached, the plainer he saw the child which the woman
bore on her arm outlined under the raised robe. “I’m positive it is the
one who got away last night. I didn’t see her face, but I recognize the
tall figure. And here she comes now, with the child on her arm, and
without even trying to keep it concealed. I had not dared to hope for
such a lucky chance,” said the soldier to himself.

The man and woman continued their rapid pace all the way to the city
gate. Evidently, they had not anticipated being intercepted here. They
trembled with fright when the soldier leveled his spear at them, and
barred their passage.

“Why do you refuse to let us go out in the fields to our work?” asked
the man.

“You may go presently,” said the soldier, “but first I must see what
your wife has hidden behind her robe.”

“What is there to see?” said the man. “It is only bread and wine, which
we must live upon to-day.”

“You speak the truth, perchance,” said the soldier, “but if it is as you
say, why does she turn away? Why does she not willingly let me see what
she carries?”

“I do not wish that you shall see it,” said the man, “and I command you
to let us pass!”

With this he raised his ax, but the woman laid her hand on his arm.

“Enter thou not into strife!” she pleaded. “I will try some other way. I
shall let him see what I bear, and I know that he can not harm it.” With
a proud and confident smile she turned toward the soldier, and threw
back a fold of her robe.

Instantly the soldier staggered back and closed his eyes, as if dazed by
a strong light. That which the woman held concealed under her robe
reflected such a dazzling white light that at first he did not know what
he saw.

“I thought you held a child on your arm,” he said.

“You see what I hold,” the woman answered.

Then the soldier finally saw that that which dazzled and shone was only
a cluster of white lilies, the same kind that grew in the meadow; but
their luster was much richer and more radiant. He could hardly bear to
look at them.

He stuck his hand in among the flowers. He couldn’t help thinking that
it must be a child the woman carried, but he felt only the cool
flower-petals.

He was bitterly deceived, and in his wrath he would gladly have taken
both the man and the woman prisoners, but he knew that he could give no
reason for such a proceeding.

When the woman saw his confusion, she said: “Will you not let us go
now?”

The soldier quietly lowered the spear and stepped aside.

The woman drew her robe over the flowers once more, and at the same time
she looked with a sweet smile upon that which she bore on her arm. “I
knew that you could not harm it, did you but see it,” she said to the
soldier.

With this, they hastened away; and the soldier stood and stared after
them as long as they were within sight.

While he followed them with his eyes, he almost felt sure that the woman
did not carry on her arm a cluster of lilies, but an actual, living
child.

While he still stood and stared after the wanderers, he heard loud
shouts from the street. It was Voltigius, with several of his men, who
came running.

“Stop them!” they cried. “Close the gates on them! Don’t let them
escape!”

And when they came up to the soldier, they said that they had tracked
the runaway boy. They had sought him in his home, but then he had
escaped again. They had seen his parents hasten away with him. The
father was a strong, gray-bearded man who carried an ax; the mother was
a tall woman who held a child concealed under a raised robe.

The same moment that Voltigius related this, there came a Bedouin riding
in through the gate on a good horse. Without a word, the soldier rushed
up to the rider, jerked him down off the horse and threw him to the
ground, and, with one bound, jumped into the saddle and dashed away
toward the road.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Two days later, the soldier rode forward through the dreary
mountain-desert, which is the whole southern part of Judea. All the
while he was pursuing the three fugitives from Bethlehem, and he was
beside himself because the fruitless hunt never came to an end.

“It looks, forsooth, as though these creatures had the power to sink
into the earth,” he grumbled. “How many times during these days have I
not been so close to them that I’ve been on the point of throwing my
spear at the child, and yet they have escaped me! I begin to think that
I shall never catch up with them.”

He felt despondent, like one who believes he is struggling against some
superior power. He asked himself if it might not be possible that the
gods protected these people against him.

“This trouble is in vain. Let me turn back before I perish from hunger
and thirst in this barren land!” he said to himself, again and again.
Then he was seized with fear of that which awaited him on his
home-coming, should he turn back without having accomplished his
mission.

Twice he had permitted the child to escape, and neither Voltigius nor
Herod would pardon him for anything of the kind.

“As long as Herod knows that one of the Bethlehem children still lives,
he will always be haunted by the same anxiety and dread,” said the
soldier. “Most likely he will try to ease his worries by nailing me to a
cross.”

It was a hot noonday hour, and he suffered tortures from the ride
through this mountain district on a road which wound around steep cliffs
where no breeze stirred. Both horse and rider were ready to drop.

Several hours before he had lost every trace of the fugitives, and he
felt more disheartened than ever.

“I must give it up,” thought he. “I verily believe it is time wasted to
pursue them further. They must perish anyway in this awful wilderness.”

As he thought this, he discovered, in a mountain-wall near the roadside,
the vaulted entrance to a grotto.

Immediately he rode up to the opening. “I will rest a while in this cool
mountain cave,” thought he. “Then, mayhap, I can continue the pursuit
with renewed strength.”

As he was about to enter, he was struck with amazement! On each side of
the opening grew a beautiful lily. The two stalks stood there tall and
erect and full of blossoms. They sent forth an intoxicating odor of
honey, and many bees buzzed around them.

It was such an uncommon sight in this wilderness that the soldier did
something extraordinary. He broke off a large white flower and took it
with him into the cave.

The cave was neither deep nor dark, and as soon as he entered he saw
that there were already three travelers within: a man, a woman, and a
child, who lay stretched out upon the ground, lost in deep slumber.

The soldier had never before felt his heart beat as it did at this
vision. They were the three runaways whom he had hunted so long. He
recognized them instantly. And here they lay sleeping, unable to defend
themselves and wholly in his power.

He drew his sword quickly and bent over the sleeping child.

Cautiously he lowered the sword toward the infant’s heart, and measured
carefully, in order to kill with a single thrust.

He paused an instant to look at the child’s countenance. Now, when he
was certain of victory, he felt a grim pleasure in beholding his victim.

But when he saw the child his joy increased, for he recognized the
little boy whom he had seen play with bees and lilies in the meadow
beyond the city gate.

“Why, of course I should have understood this all the time!” thought he.
“This is why I have always hated the child. This is the pretended Prince
of Peace.”

He lowered his sword again while he thought: “When I lay this child’s
head at Herod’s feet, he will make me Commander of his Life Guard.”

As he brought the point of the sword nearer and nearer the heart of the
sleeping child, he reveled in the thought: “This time, at least, no one
shall come between us and snatch him from my power.”

But the soldier still held in his hand the lily which he had broken off
at the grotto entrance; and while he was thinking of his good fortune, a
bee that had been hidden in its chalice flew towards him and buzzed
around his head.

He staggered back. Suddenly he remembered the bees which the boy had
carried to their home, and he remembered that it was a bee that had
helped the child escape from Herod’s feast. This thought struck him with
surprise. He held the sword suspended, and stood still and listened for
the bee.

Now he did not hear the tiny creature’s buzzing. As he stood there,
perfectly still, he became conscious of the strong, delicious perfume
which came from the lily that he held in his hand.

Then he began to think of the lilies that the little one had saved; he
remembered that it was a cluster of lilies that had hidden the child
from his view and made possible the escape through the city gate.

He became more and more thoughtful, and he drew back the sword.

“The bees and the lilies have requited his good deeds,” he whispered to
himself. Then he was struck by the thought that the little one had once
shown even him a kindness, and a deep crimson flush mounted to his brow.

“Can a Roman soldier forget to requite an accepted service?” he
whispered.

He fought a short battle with himself. He thought of Herod, and of his
own desire to destroy the young Peace-Prince.

“It does not become me to murder this child who has saved my life,” he
said, at last.

And he bent down and laid his sword beside the child, that the fugitives
on awakening should understand the danger they had escaped.

Then he saw that the child was awake. He lay and regarded the soldier
with the beautiful eyes which shone like stars.

And the warrior bent a knee before the child.

“Lord, _thou_ art the Mighty One!” said he. “Thou art the strong
Conqueror! Thou art He whom the gods love! Thou art He who shall tread
upon adders and scorpions!”

He kissed his feet and stole softly out from the grotto, while the
little one smiled and smiled after him with great, astonished
child-eyes.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration: The Flight Into Egypt]

                         THE FLIGHT INTO EGYPT


Far away in one of the Eastern deserts many, many years ago grew a palm
tree, which was both exceedingly old and exceedingly tall.

All who passed through the desert had to stop and gaze at it, for it was
much larger than other palms; and they used to say of it, that some day
it would certainly be taller than the obelisks and pyramids.

Where the huge palm tree stood in its solitude and looked out over the
desert, it saw something one day which made its mighty leaf-crown sway
back and forth on its slender trunk with astonishment. Over by the
desert borders walked two human beings. They were still at the distance
at which camels appear to be as tiny as moths; but they were certainly
two human beings—two who were strangers in the desert; for the palm
knew the desert-folk. They were a man and a woman who had neither guide
nor pack-camels; neither tent nor water-sack.

“Verily,” said the palm to itself, “these two have come hither only to
meet certain death.”

The palm cast a quick, apprehensive glance around.

“It surprises me,” it said, “that the lions are not already out to hunt
this prey, but I do not see a single one astir; nor do I see any of the
desert robbers, but they’ll probably soon come.”

“A seven-fold death awaits these travelers,” thought the palm. “The
lions will devour them, thirst will parch them, the sand-storm will bury
them, robbers will trap them, sunstroke will blight them, and fear will
destroy them.”

And the palm tried to think of something else. The fate of these people
made it sad at heart.

But on the whole desert plain, which lay spread out beneath the palm,
there was nothing which it had not known and looked upon these thousand
years. Nothing in particular could arrest its attention. Again it had to
think of the two wanderers.

“By the drought and the storm!” said the palm, calling upon Life’s most
dangerous enemies. “What is that that the woman carries on her arm? I
believe these fools also bring a little child with them!”

The palm, who was far-sighted—as the old usually are,—actually saw
aright. The woman bore on her arm a child, that leaned against her
shoulder and slept.

“The child hasn’t even sufficient clothing on,” said the palm. “I see
that the mother has tucked up her skirt and thrown it over the child.
She must have snatched him from his bed in great haste and rushed off
with him. I understand now: these people are runaways.

“But they are fools, nevertheless,” continued the palm. “Unless an angel
protects them, they would have done better to have let their enemies do
their worst, than to venture into this wilderness.

“I can imagine how the whole thing came about. The man stood at his
work; the child slept in his crib; the woman had gone out to fetch
water. When she was a few steps from the door, she saw enemies coming.
She rushed back to the house, snatched up her child, and fled.

“Since then, they have been fleeing for several days. It is very certain
that they have not rested a moment. Yes, everything has happened in this
way, but still I say that unless an angel protects them——

“They are so frightened that, as yet, they feel neither fatigue nor
suffering. But I see their thirst by the strange gleam in their eyes.
Surely I ought to know a thirsty person’s face!”

And when the palm began to think of thirst, a shudder passed through its
tall trunk, and the long leaves’ numberless lobes rolled up, as though
they had been held over a fire.

“Were I a human being,” it said, “I should never venture into the
desert. He is pretty brave who dares come here without having roots that
reach down to the never-dying water veins. Here it can be dangerous even
for palms; yea, even for a palm such as I.

“If I could counsel them, I should beg them to turn back. Their enemies
could never be as cruel toward them as the desert. Perhaps they think it
is easy to live in the desert! But I know that, now and then, even I
have found it hard to keep alive. I recollect one time in my youth when
a hurricane threw a whole mountain of sand over me. I came near choking.
If I could have died that would have been my last moment.”

The palm continued to think aloud, as the aged and solitary habitually
do.

“I hear a wondrously beautiful melody rush through my leaves,” it said.
“All the lobes on my leaves are quivering. I know not what it is that
takes possession of me at the sight of these poor strangers. But this
unfortunate woman is so beautiful! She carries me back, in memory, to
the most wonderful thing that I ever experienced.”

And while the leaves continued to move in a soft melody, the palm was
reminded how once, very long ago, two illustrious personages had visited
the oasis. They were the Queen of Sheba and Solomon the Wise. The
beautiful Queen was to return to her own country; the King had
accompanied her on the journey, and now they were going to part. “In
remembrance of this hour,” said the Queen then, “I now plant a date seed
in the earth, and I wish that from it shall spring a palm which shall
grow and live until a King shall arise in Judea, greater than Solomon.”
And when she had said this, she planted the seed in the earth and
watered it with her tears.

“How does it happen that I am thinking of this just to-day?” said the
palm. “Can this woman be so beautiful that she reminds me of the most
glorious of queens, of her by whose word I have lived and flourished
until this day?

“I hear my leaves rustle louder and louder,” said the palm, “and it
sounds as melancholy as a dirge. It is as though they prophesied that
some one would soon leave this life. It is well to know that it does not
apply to me, since I can not die.”

The palm assumed that the death-rustle in its leaves must apply to the
two lone wanderers. It is certain that they too believed that their last
hour was nearing. One saw it from their expression as they walked past
the skeleton of a camel which lay in their path. One saw it from the
glances they cast back at a pair of passing vultures. It couldn’t be
otherwise; they must perish!

They had caught sight of the palm and oasis and hastened thither to find
water. But when they arrived at last, they collapsed from despair, for
the well was dry. The woman, worn out, laid the child down and seated
herself beside the well-curb, and wept. The man flung himself down
beside her and beat upon the dry earth with his fists. The palm heard
how they talked with each other about their inevitable death. It also
gleaned from their conversation that King Herod had ordered the
slaughter of all male children from two to three years old, because he
feared that the long-looked-for King of the Jews had been born.

“It rustles louder and louder in my leaves,” said the palm. “These poor
fugitives will soon see their last moment.”

It perceived also that they dreaded the desert. The man said it would
have been better if they had stayed at home and fought with the
soldiers, than to fly hither. He said that they would have met an easier
death.

“God will help us,” said the woman.

“We are alone among beasts of prey and serpents,” said the man. “We have
no food and no water. How should God be able to help us?” In despair he
rent his garments and pressed his face against the dry earth. He was
hopeless—like a man with a death-wound in his heart.

The woman sat erect, with her hands clasped over her knees. But the
looks she cast towards the desert spoke of a hopelessness beyond bounds.

The palm heard the melancholy rustle in its leaves growing louder and
louder. The woman must have heard it also, for she turned her gaze
upward toward the palm-crown. And instantly she involuntarily raised her
arms.

“Oh, dates, dates!” she cried. There was such intense agony in her voice
that the old palm wished itself no taller than a broom and that the
dates were as easy to reach as the buds on a brier bush. It probably
knew that its crown was full of date clusters, but how should a human
being reach such a height?

The man had already seen how beyond all reach the date clusters hung. He
did not even raise his head. He begged his wife not to long for the
impossible.

But the child, who had toddled about by himself and played with sticks
and straws, had heard the mother’s outcry.

Of course the little one could not imagine that his mother should not
get everything she wished for. The instant she said dates, he began to
stare at the tree. He pondered and pondered how he should bring down the
dates. His forehead was almost drawn into wrinkles under the golden
curls. At last a smile stole over his face. He had found the way. He
went up to the palm and stroked it with his little hand, and said, in a
sweet, childish voice:

“Palm, bend thee! Palm, bend thee!”

But what was that, what was that? The palm leaves rustled as if a
hurricane had passed through them, and up and down the long trunk
traveled shudder upon shudder. And the tree felt that the little one was
its superior. It could not resist him.

And it bowed its long trunk before the child, as people bow before
princes. In a great bow it bent itself towards the ground, and finally
it came down so far that the big crown with the trembling leaves swept
the desert sand.

The child appeared to be neither frightened nor surprised; with a joyous
cry he loosened cluster after cluster from the old palm’s crown. When he
had plucked enough dates, and the tree still lay on the ground, the
child came back again and caressed it and said, in the gentlest voice:

“Palm, raise thee! Palm, raise thee!”

Slowly and reverently the big tree raised itself on its slender trunk,
while the leaves played like harps.

“Now I know for whom they are playing the death melody,” said the palm
to itself when it stood erect once more. “It is not for any of these
people.”

The man and the woman sank upon their knees and thanked God.

“Thou hast seen our agony and removed it. Thou art the Powerful One who
bendest the palm-trunk like a reed. What enemy should we fear when Thy
strength protects us?”

The next time a caravan passed through the desert, the travelers saw
that the great palm’s leaf-crown had withered.

“How can this be?” said a traveler. “This palm was not to die before it
had seen a King greater than Solomon.”

“Mayhap it hath seen him,” answered another of the desert travelers.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration: In Nazareth]

                              IN NAZARETH


Once, when Jesus was only five years old, he sat on the doorstep outside
his father’s workshop, in Nazareth, and made clay cuckoos from a lump of
clay which the potter across the way had given him. He was happier than
usual. All the children in the quarter had told Jesus that the potter
was a disobliging man, who wouldn’t let himself be coaxed, either by
soft glances or honeyed words, and he had never dared ask aught of him.
But, you see, he hardly knew how it had come about. He had only stood on
his doorstep and, with yearning eyes, looked upon the neighbor working
at his molds, and then that neighbor had come over from his stall and
given him so much clay that it would have been enough to finish a whole
wine jug.

On the stoop of the next house sat Judas, his face covered with bruises
and his clothes full of rents, which he had acquired during his
continual fights with street urchins. For the moment he was quiet, he
neither quarreled nor fought, but worked with a bit of clay, just as
Jesus did. But this clay he had not been able to procure for himself. He
hardly dared venture within sight of the potter, who complained that he
was in the habit of throwing stones at his fragile wares, and would have
driven him away with a good beating. It was Jesus who had divided his
portion with him.

When the two children had finished their clay cuckoos, they stood the
birds up in a ring in front of them. These looked just as clay cuckoos
have always looked. They had big, round lumps to stand on in place of
feet, short tails, no necks, and almost imperceptible wings.

But, at all events, one saw at once a difference in the work of the
little playmates. Judas’ birds were so crooked that they tumbled over
continually; and no matter how hard he worked with his clumsy little
fingers, he couldn’t get their bodies neat and well formed. Now and then
he glanced slyly at Jesus, to see how he managed to make his birds as
smooth and even as the oak-leaves in the forests on Mount Tabor.

As bird after bird was finished, Jesus became happier and happier. Each
looked more beautiful to him than the last, and he regarded them all
with pride and affection. They were to be his playmates, his little
brothers; they should sleep in his bed, keep him company, and sing to
him when his mother left him. Never before had he thought himself so
rich; never again could he feel alone or forsaken.

The big brawny water-carrier came walking along, and right after him
came the huckster, who sat joggingly on his donkey between the large
empty willow baskets. The water-carrier laid his hand on Jesus’ curly
head and asked him about his birds; and Jesus told him that they had
names and that they could sing. All the little birds were come to him
from foreign lands, and told him things which only he and they knew. And
Jesus spoke in such a way that both the water-carrier and the huckster
forgot about their tasks for a full hour, to listen to him.

But when they wished to go farther, Jesus pointed to Judas. “See what
pretty birds Judas makes!” he said.

Then the huckster good-naturedly stopped his donkey and asked Judas if
his birds also had names and could sing. But Judas knew nothing of this.
He was stubbornly silent and did not raise his eyes from his work, and
the huckster angrily kicked one of his birds and rode on.

In this manner the afternoon passed, and the sun sank so far down that
its beams could come in through the low city gate, which stood at the
end of the street and was decorated with a Roman Eagle. This sunshine,
which came at the close of the day, was perfectly rose-red—as if it had
become mixed with blood—and it colored everything which came in its
path, as it filtered through the narrow street. It painted the potter’s
vessels as well as the log which creaked under the woodman’s saw, and
the white veil that covered Mary’s face.

But the loveliest of all was the sun’s reflection as it shone on the
little water-puddles which had gathered in the big, uneven cracks in the
stones that covered the street. Suddenly Jesus stuck his hand in the
puddle nearest him. He had conceived the idea that he would paint his
gray birds with the sparkling sunbeams which had given such pretty color
to the water, the house-walls, and everything around him.

The sunshine took pleasure in letting itself be captured by him, like
paint in a paint pot; and when Jesus spread it over the little clay
birds, it lay still and bedecked them from head to feet with a
diamond-like luster.

Judas, who every now and then looked at Jesus to see if he made more and
prettier birds than his, gave a shriek of delight when he saw how Jesus
painted his clay cuckoos with the sunshine, which he caught from the
water pools. Judas also dipped his hand in the shining water and tried
to catch the sunshine.

But the sunshine wouldn’t be caught by him. It slipped through his
fingers; and no matter how fast he tried to move his hands to get hold
of it, it got away, and he couldn’t procure a pinch of color for his
poor birds.

“Wait, Judas!” said Jesus. “I’ll come and paint your birds.”

“No, you shan’t touch them!” cried Judas. “They’re good enough as they
are.”

He rose, his eyebrows contracted into an ugly frown, his lips
compressed. And he put his broad foot on the birds and transformed them,
one after another, into little flat pieces of clay.

When all his birds were destroyed, he walked over to Jesus, who sat and
caressed his birds—that glittered like jewels. Judas regarded them for
a moment in silence, then he raised his foot and crushed one of them.

When Judas took his foot away and saw the entire little bird changed
into a cake of clay, he felt so relieved that he began to laugh, and
raised his foot to crush another.

“Judas,” said Jesus, “what are you doing? Don’t you see that they are
alive and can sing?”

But Judas laughed and crushed still another bird.

Jesus looked around for help. Judas was heavily built and Jesus had not
the strength to hold him back. He glanced around for his mother. She was
not far away, but before she could have gone there, Judas would have had
ample time to destroy the birds. The tears sprang to Jesus’ eyes. Judas
had already crushed four of his birds. There were only three left.

He was annoyed with his birds, who stood so calmly and let themselves be
trampled upon without paying the slightest attention to the danger.
Jesus clapped his hands to awaken them; then he shouted: “Fly, fly!”

Then the three birds began to move their tiny wings, and, fluttering
anxiously, they succeeded in swinging themselves up to the eaves of the
house, where they were safe.

But when Judas saw that the birds took to their wings and flew at Jesus’
command, he began to weep. He tore his hair, as he had seen his elders
do when they were in great trouble, and he threw himself at Jesus’ feet.

Judas lay there and rolled in the dust before Jesus like a dog, and
kissed his feet and begged that he would raise his foot and crush him,
as he had done with the clay cuckoos. For Judas loved Jesus and admired
and worshiped him, and at the same time hated him.

Mary, who sat all the while and watched the children’s play, came up and
lifted Judas in her arms and seated him on her lap, and caressed him.

“You poor child!” she said to him, “you do not know that you have
attempted something which no mortal can accomplish. Don’t engage in
anything of this kind again, if you do not wish to become the unhappiest
of mortals! What would happen to any one of us who undertook to compete
with one who paints with sunbeams and blows the breath of life into dead
clay?”

------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration: In the Temple]

                             IN THE TEMPLE


Once there was a poor family—a man, his wife, and their little son—who
walked about in the big Temple at Jerusalem. The son was such a pretty
child! He had hair which fell in long, even curls, and eyes that shone
like stars.

The son had not been in the Temple since he was big enough to comprehend
what he saw; and now his parents showed him all its glories. There were
long rows of pillars and gilded altars; there were holy men who sat and
instructed their pupils; there was the high priest with his breastplate
of precious stones. There were the curtains from Babylon, interwoven
with gold roses; there were the great copper gates, which were so heavy
that it was hard work for thirty men to swing them back and forth on
their hinges.

But the little boy, who was only twelve years old, did not care very
much about seeing all this. His mother told him that that which she
showed him was the most marvelous in all the world. She told him that it
would probably be a long time before he should see anything like it
again. In the poor town of Nazareth, where they lived, there was nothing
to be seen but gray streets.

Her exhortations did not help matters much. The little boy looked as
though he would willingly have run away from the magnificent Temple, if
instead he could have got out and played on the narrow street in
Nazareth.

But it was singular that the more indifferent the boy appeared, the more
pleased and happy were the parents. They nodded to each other over his
head, and were thoroughly satisfied.

At last, the little one looked so tired and bored that the mother felt
sorry for him. “Now we have walked too far with you,” said she. “Come,
you shall rest a while.”

She sat down beside a pillar and told him to lie down on the ground and
rest his head on her knee. He did so, and fell asleep instantly.

He had barely closed his eyes when the wife said to the husband: “I have
never feared anything so much as the moment when he should come here to
Jerusalem’s Temple. I believed that when he saw this house of God, he
would wish to stay here forever.”

“I, too, have been afraid of this journey,” said the man. “At the time
of his birth, many signs and wonders appeared which betokened that he
would become a great ruler. But what could royal honors bring him except
worries and dangers? I have always said that it would be best, both for
him and for us, if he never became anything but a carpenter in
Nazareth.”

“Since his fifth year,” said the mother reflectively, “no miracles have
happened around him. And he does not recall any of the wonders which
occurred during his early childhood. Now he is exactly like a child
among other children. God’s will be done above all else! But I have
almost begun to hope that our Lord in His mercy will choose another for
the great destinies, and let me keep my son with me.”

“For my part,” said the man, “I am certain that if he learns nothing of
the signs and wonders which occurred during his first years, then all
will go well.”

“I never speak with him about any of these marvels,” said the wife. “But
I fear all the while that, without my having aught to do with it,
something will happen which will make him understand who he is. I feared
most of all to bring him to this Temple.”

“You may be glad that the danger is over now,” said the man. “We shall
soon have him back home in Nazareth.”

“I have feared the wise men in the Temple,” said the woman. “I have
dreaded the soothsayers who sit here on their rugs. I believed that when
he should come to their notice, they would stand up and bow before the
child, and greet him as Judea’s King. It is singular that they do not
notice his beauty. Such a child has never before come under their eyes.”
She sat in silence a moment and regarded the child. “I can hardly
understand it,” said she. “I believed that when he should see these
judges, who sit in the house of the Holy One and settle the people’s
disputes, and these teachers who talk with their pupils, and these
priests who serve the Lord, he would wake up and say: ‘It is here, among
these judges, these teachers, these priests, that I am born to live.’”

“What happiness would there be for him to sit shut in between these
pillar-aisles?” interposed the man. “It is better for him to roam on the
hills and mountains round about Nazareth.”

The mother sighed a little. “He is so happy at home with us!” said she.
“How contented he seems when he can follow the shepherds on their lonely
wanderings, or when he can go out in the fields and see the husbandmen
labor. I can not believe that we are treating him wrongly, when we seek
to keep him for ourselves.”

“We only spare him the greatest suffering,” said the man.

They continued talking together in this strain until the child awoke
from his slumber.

“Well,” said the mother, “have you had a good rest? Stand up now, for it
is drawing on toward evening, and we must return to the camp.”

They were in the most remote part of the building and so began the walk
towards the entrance.

They had to go through an old arch which had been there ever since the
time when the first Temple was erected on this spot; and near the arch,
propped against a wall, stood an old copper trumpet, enormous in length
and weight, almost like a pillar to raise to the mouth and play upon. It
stood there dented and battered, full of dust and spiders’ webs, inside
and outside, and covered with an almost invisible tracing of ancient
letters. Probably a thousand years had gone by since any one had tried
to coax a tone out of it.

But when the little boy saw the huge trumpet, he stopped—astonished!
“What is that?” he asked.

“That is the great trumpet called the Voice of the Prince of this
World,” replied the mother. “With this, Moses called together the
Children of Israel, when they were scattered over the wilderness. Since
his time no one has been able to coax a single tone from it. But he who
can do this, shall gather all the peoples of earth under his dominion.”

She smiled at this, which she believed to be an old myth; but the little
boy remained standing beside the big trumpet until she called him. This
trumpet was the first thing he had seen in the Temple that he liked.

They had not gone far before they came to a big, wide Temple-court.
Here, in the mountain-foundation itself, was a chasm, deep and
wide—just as it had been from time immemorial. This chasm King Solomon
had not wished to fill in when he built the Temple. No bridge had been
laid over it; no inclosure had he built around the steep abyss. But
instead, he had stretched across it a sword of steel, several feet long,
sharpened, and with the blade up. And after ages and ages and many
changes, the sword still lay across the chasm. Now it had almost rusted
away. It was no longer securely fastened at the ends, but trembled and
rocked as soon as any one walked with heavy steps in the Temple Court.

When the mother took the boy in a roundabout way past the chasm, he
asked: “What bridge is this?”

“It was placed there by King Solomon,” answered the mother, “and we call
it Paradise Bridge. If you can cross the chasm on this trembling bridge,
whose surface is thinner than a sunbeam, then you can be sure of getting
to Paradise.”

She smiled and moved away; but the boy stood still and looked at the
narrow, trembling steel blade until she called him.

When he obeyed her, she sighed because she had not shown him these two
remarkable things sooner, so that he might have had sufficient time to
view them.

Now they walked on without being detained, till they came to the great
entrance portico with its columns, five-deep. Here, in a corner, were
two black marble pillars erected on the same foundation, and so close to
each other that hardly a straw could be squeezed in between them. They
were tall and majestic, with richly ornamented capitals around which ran
a row of peculiarly formed beasts’ heads. And there was not an inch on
these beautiful pillars that did not bear marks and scratches. They were
worn and damaged like nothing else in the Temple. Even the floor around
them was worn smooth, and was somewhat hollowed out from the wear of
many feet.

Once more the boy stopped his mother and asked: “What pillars are
these?”

“They are pillars which our father Abraham brought with him to Palestine
from far-away Chaldea, and which he called Righteousness’ Gate. He who
can squeeze between them is righteous before God and has never committed
a sin.”

The boy stood still and regarded these pillars with great, open eyes.

“You, surely, do not think of trying to squeeze yourself in between
them?” laughed the mother. “You see how the floor around them is worn
away by the many who have attempted to force their way through the
narrow space; but, believe me, no one has succeeded. Make haste! I hear
the clanging of the copper gates; the thirty Temple servants have put
their shoulders to them.”

But all night the little boy lay awake in the tent, and he saw before
him nothing but Righteousness’ Gate and Paradise Bridge and the Voice of
the Prince of this World. Never before had he heard of such wonderful
things, and he couldn’t get them out of his head.

And on the morning of the next day it was the same thing: he couldn’t
think of anything else. That morning they were to leave for home. The
parents had much to do before they took the tent down and loaded it upon
a big camel, and before everything else was in order. They were not
going to travel alone, but in company with many relatives and neighbors.
And since there were so many, the packing naturally went on very slowly.

The little boy did not assist in the work, but in the midst of the hurry
and confusion he sat still and thought about the three wonderful things.

Suddenly he concluded that he would have time enough to go back to the
Temple and take another look at them. There was still much to be packed
away. He could probably manage to get back from the Temple before the
departure.

He hastened away without telling any one where he was going to. He
didn’t think it was necessary. He would soon return, of course.

It wasn’t long before he reached the Temple and entered the portico
where the two pillars stood.

As soon as he saw them, his eyes danced with joy. He sat down on the
floor beside them, and gazed up at them. As he thought that he who could
squeeze between these two pillars was accounted righteous before God and
had never committed sin, he fancied he had never seen anything so
wonderful.

He thought how glorious it would be to be able to squeeze in between the
two pillars, but they stood so close together that it was impossible
even to try it. In this way, he sat motionless before the pillars for
well-nigh an hour; but this he did not know. He thought he had looked at
them only a few moments.

But it happened that, in the portico where the little boy sat, the
judges of the high court were assembled to help folks settle their
differences.

The whole portico was filled with people, who complained about boundary
lines that had been moved, about sheep which had been carried away from
the flocks and branded with false marks, about debtors who wouldn’t pay.

Among them came a rich man dressed in a trailing purple robe, who
brought before the court a poor widow who was supposed to owe him a few
silver shekels. The poor widow cried and said that the rich man dealt
unjustly with her; she had already paid her debt to him once, and now he
tried to force her to pay it again, but this she could not afford to do;
she was so poor that should the judges condemn her to pay, she must give
her daughters to the rich man as slaves.

Then he who sat in the place of honor on the judges’ bench, turned to
the rich man and said: “Do you dare to swear on oath that this poor
woman has not already paid you?”

Then the rich man answered: “Lord, I am a rich man. Would I take the
trouble to demand my money from this poor widow, if I did not have the
right to it? I swear to you that as certain as that no one shall ever
walk through Righteousness’ Gate does this woman owe me the sum which I
demand.”

When the judges heard this oath they believed him, and doomed the poor
widow to leave him her daughters as slaves.

But the little boy sat close by and heard all this. He thought to
himself: What a good thing it would be if some one could squeeze through
Righteousness’ Gate! That rich man certainly did not speak the truth. It
is a great pity about the poor old woman, who will be compelled to send
her daughters away to become slaves!

He jumped upon the platform where the two pillars towered into the
heights, and looked through the crack.

“Ah, that it were not altogether impossible!” thought he.

He was deeply distressed because of the poor woman. Now he didn’t think
at all about the saying that he who could squeeze through Righteousness’
Gate was holy, and without sin. He wanted to get through only for the
sake of the poor woman.

He put his shoulder in the groove between the two pillars, as if to make
a way.

That instant all the people who stood under the portico, looked over
toward Righteousness’ Gate. For it rumbled in the vaults, and it sang in
the old pillars, and they glided apart—one to the right, and one to the
left—and made a space wide enough for the boy’s slender body to pass
between them!

Then there arose the greatest wonder and excitement! At first no one
knew what to say. The people stood and stared at the little boy who had
worked so great a miracle.

The oldest among the judges was the first one who came to his senses. He
called out that they should lay hold on the rich merchant, and bring him
before the judgment seat. And he sentenced him to leave all his goods to
the poor widow, because he had sworn falsely in God’s Temple.

When this was settled, the judge asked after the boy who had passed
through Righteousness’ Gate; but when the people looked around for him,
he had disappeared. For the very moment the pillars glided apart, he was
awakened, as from a dream, and remembered the home-journey and his
parents. “Now I must hasten away from here, so that my parents will not
have to wait for me,” thought he.

He knew not that he had sat a whole hour before Righteousness’ Gate, but
believed he had lingered there only a few minutes; therefore, he thought
that he would even have time to take a look at Paradise Bridge before he
left the Temple.

And he slipped through the throng of people and came to Paradise Bridge,
which was situated in another part of the big temple.

But when he saw the sharp steel sword which was drawn across the chasm,
he thought how the person who could walk across that bridge was sure of
reaching Paradise. He believed that this was the most marvelous thing he
had ever beheld; and he seated himself on the edge of the chasm to look
at the steel sword.

There he sat down and thought how delightful it would be to reach
Paradise, and how much he would like to walk across the bridge; but at
the same time he saw that it would be simply impossible even to attempt
it.

Thus he sat and mused for two hours, but he did not know how the time
had flown. He sat there and thought only of Paradise.

But it seems that in the court where the deep chasm was, a large altar
had been erected, and all around it walked white-robed priests, who
tended the altar fire and received sacrifices. In the court there were
many with offerings, and a big crowd who only watched the service.

Then there came a poor old man who brought a lamb which was very small
and thin, and which had been bitten by a dog and had a large wound.

The man went up to the priests with the lamb and begged that he might
offer it, but they refused to accept it. They told him that such a
miserable gift he could not offer to our Lord. The old man implored them
to accept the lamb out of compassion, for his son lay at the point of
death, and he possessed nothing else that he could offer to God for his
restoration. “You must let me offer it,” said he, “else my prayers will
not come before God’s face, and my son will die!”

“You must not believe but that I have the greatest sympathy with you,”
said the priest, “but in the law it is forbidden to sacrifice a damaged
animal. It is just as impossible to grant your prayers, as it is to
cross Paradise Bridge.”

The little boy did not sit very far away, so he heard all this.
Instantly he thought what a pity it was that no one could cross the
bridge. Perhaps the poor man might keep his son if the lamb were
sacrificed.

The old man left the Temple Court disconsolate, but the boy got up,
walked over to the trembling bridge, and put his foot on it.

He didn’t think at all about wanting to cross it to be certain of
Paradise. His thoughts were with the poor man, whom he desired to help.

But he drew back his foot, for he thought: “This is impossible. It is
much too old and rusty, and would not hold even me!”

But once again his thoughts went out to the old man whose son lay at
death’s door. Again he put his foot down upon the blade.

Then he noticed that it ceased to tremble, and that beneath his foot it
felt broad and secure.

And when he took the next step upon it, he felt that the air around him
supported him, so that he could not fall. It bore him as though he were
a bird, and had wings.

But from the suspended sword a sweet tone trembled when the boy walked
upon it, and one of those who stood in the court turned around when he
heard the tone. He gave a cry, and then the others turned and saw the
little boy tripping across the sword.

There was great consternation among all who stood there. The first who
came to their senses were the priests. They immediately sent a messenger
after the poor man, and when he came back they said to him: “God has
performed a miracle to show us that He will accept your offering. Give
us your lamb and we will sacrifice it.”

When this was done they asked for the little boy who had walked across
the chasm; but when they looked around for him they could not find him.

For just after the boy had crossed the chasm, he happened to think of
the journey home, and of his parents. He did not know that the morning
and the whole forenoon were gone, but thought: “I must make haste and
get back, so that they will not have to wait. But first I want to run
over and take a look at the Voice of the Prince of this World.”

And he stole away through the crowd and ran over to the damp
pillar-aisle where the copper trumpet stood leaning against the wall.

When he saw it, and thought about the prediction that he who could coax
a tone from it should one day gather all the peoples of earth under his
dominion, he fancied that never had he seen anything so wonderful! and
he sat down beside it and regarded it.

He thought how great it would be to win all the peoples of earth, and
how much he wished that he could blow in the old trumpet. But he
understood that it was impossible, so he didn’t even dare try.

He sat like this for several hours, but he did not know how the time
passed. He thought only how marvelous it would be to gather all the
peoples of earth under his dominion.

But it happened that in this cool passageway sat a holy man who
instructed his pupils, that sat at his feet.

And now this holy man turned toward one of his pupils and told him that
he was an impostor. He said the spirit had revealed to him that this
youth was a stranger, and not an Israelite. And he demanded why he had
sneaked in among his pupils under a false name.

Then the strange youth rose and said that he had wandered through
deserts and sailed over great seas that he might hear wisdom and the
doctrine of the only true God expounded. “My soul was faint with
longing,” he said to the holy man. “But I knew that you would not teach
me if I did not say that I was an Israelite. Therefore, I lied to you,
that my longing should be satisfied. And I pray that you will let me
remain here with you.”

But the holy man stood up and raised his arms toward heaven. “It is just
as impossible to let you remain here with me, as it is that some one
shall arise and blow in the huge copper trumpet, which we call the Voice
of the Prince of this World! You are not even permitted to enter this
part of the Temple. Leave this place at once, or my pupils will throw
themselves upon you and tear you in pieces, for your presence desecrates
the Temple.”

But the youth stood still, and said: “I do not wish to go elsewhere,
where my soul can find no nourishment. I would rather die here at your
feet.”

Hardly was this said when the holy man’s pupils jumped to their feet, to
drive him away, and when he made resistance, they threw him down and
wished to kill him.

But the boy sat very near, so he heard and saw all this, and he thought:
“This is a great injustice. Oh! if I could only blow in the big copper
trumpet, he would be helped.”

He rose and laid his hand on the trumpet. At this moment he no longer
wished that he could raise it to his lips because he who could do so
should be a great ruler, but because he hoped that he might help one
whose life was in danger.

And he grasped the copper trumpet with his tiny hands, to try and lift
it.

Then he felt that the huge trumpet raised itself to his lips. And when
he only breathed, a strong, resonant tone came forth from the trumpet,
and reverberated all through the great Temple.

Then they all turned their eyes and saw that it was a little boy who
stood with the trumpet to his lips and coaxed from it tones which made
foundations and pillars tremble.

Instantly, all the hands which had been lifted to strike the strange
youth fell, and the holy teacher said to him:

“Come and sit thee here at my feet, as thou didst sit before! God hath
performed a miracle to show me that it is His wish that thou shouldst be
consecrated to His service.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

As it drew on toward the close of day, a man and a woman came hurrying
toward Jerusalem. They looked frightened and anxious, and called out to
each and every one whom they met: “We have lost our son! We thought he
had followed our relatives, but none of them have seen him. Has any one
of you passed a child alone?”

Those who came from Jerusalem answered them: “Indeed, we have not seen
your son, but in the Temple we saw a most beautiful child! He was like
an angel from heaven, and he has passed through Righteousness’ Gate.”

They would gladly have related, very minutely, all about this, but the
parents had no time to listen.

When they had walked on a little farther, they met other persons and
questioned them.

But those who came from Jerusalem wished to talk only about a most
beautiful child who looked as though he had come down from heaven, and
who had crossed Paradise Bridge.

They would gladly have stopped and talked about this until late at
night, but the man and woman had no time to listen to them, and hurried
into the city.

They walked up one street and down another without finding the child. At
last they reached the Temple. As they came up to it, the woman said:
“Since we are here, let us go in and see what the child is like, which
they say has come down from heaven!” They went in and asked where they
should find the child.

“Go straight on to where the holy teachers sit with their students.
There you will find the child. The old men have seated him in their
midst. They question him and he questions them, and they are all amazed
at him. But all the people stand below in the Temple court, to catch a
glimpse of the one who has raised the Voice of the Prince of this World
to his lips.”

The man and the woman made their way through the throng of people, and
saw that the child who sat among the wise teachers was their son.

But as soon as the woman recognized the child she began to weep.

And the boy who sat among the wise men heard that some one wept, and he
knew that it was his mother. Then he rose and came over to her, and the
father and mother took him between them and went from the Temple with
him.

But as the mother continued to weep, the child asked: “Why weepest thou?
I came to thee as soon as I heard thy voice.”

“Should I not weep?” said the mother. “I believed that thou wert lost to
me.”

They went out from the city and darkness came on, and all the while the
mother wept.

“Why weepest thou?” asked the child. “I did not know that the day was
spent. I thought it was still morning, and I came to thee as soon as I
heard thy voice.”

“Should I not weep?” said the mother. “I have sought for thee all day
long. I believed that thou wert lost to me.”

They walked the whole night, and the mother wept all the while.

When day began to dawn, the child said: “Why dost thou weep? I have not
sought mine own glory, but God has let me perform miracles because He
wanted to help the three poor creatures. As soon as I heard thy voice, I
came to thee.”

“My son,” replied the mother. “I weep because thou art none the less
lost to me. Thou wilt never more belong to me. Henceforth thy life
ambition shall be righteousness; thy longing, Paradise; and thy love
shall embrace all the poor human beings who people this earth.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration: Saint Veronica’s Kerchief]

                       SAINT VERONICA’S KERCHIEF


                                   I

During one of the latter years of Emperor Tiberius’ reign, a poor
vine-dresser and his wife came and settled in a solitary hut among the
Sabine mountains. They were strangers, and lived in absolute solitude
without ever receiving a visit from a human being. But one morning when
the laborer opened his door, he found, to his astonishment, that an old
woman sat huddled up on the threshold. She was wrapped in a plain gray
mantle, and looked very poor. Nevertheless, she impressed him as being
so respect-compelling, as she rose and came to meet him, that it made
him think of what the legends had to say about goddesses who, in the
form of old women, had visited mortals.

“My friend,” said the old woman to the vine-dresser, “you must not
wonder that I have slept this night on your threshold. My parents lived
in this hut, and here I was born nearly ninety years ago. I expected to
find it empty and deserted. I did not know that people still occupied
it.”

“I do not wonder that you thought a hut which lies so high up among
these desolate hills should stand empty and deserted,” said the
vine-dresser. “But my wife and I come from a foreign land, and as poor
strangers we have not been able to find a better dwelling-place. But to
you, who must be tired and hungry after the long journey, which you at
your extreme age have undertaken, it is perhaps more welcome that the
hut is occupied by people than by Sabine mountain wolves. You will at
least find a bed within to rest on, and a bowl of goats’ milk, and a
bread-cake, if you will accept them.”

The old woman smiled a little, but this smile was so fleeting that it
could not dispel the expression of deep sorrow which rested upon her
countenance.

“I spent my entire youth up here among these mountains,” she said. “I
have not yet forgotten the trick of driving a wolf from his lair.”

And she actually looked so strong and vigorous that the laborer didn’t
doubt that she still possessed strength enough, despite her great age,
to fight with the wild beasts of the forest.

He repeated his invitation, and the old woman stepped into the cottage.
She sat down to the frugal meal, and partook of it without hesitancy.
Although she seemed to be well satisfied with the fare of coarse bread
soaked in goats’ milk, both the man and his wife thought: “Where can
this old wanderer come from? She has certainly eaten pheasants served on
silver plates oftener than she has drunk goats’ milk from earthen
bowls.”

Now and then she raised her eyes from the food and looked around,—as if
to try and realize that she was back in the hut. The poor old home with
its bare clay walls and its earth floor was certainly not much changed.
She pointed out to her hosts that on the walls there were still visible
some traces of dogs and deer which her father had sketched there to
amuse his little children. And on a shelf, high up, she thought she saw
fragments of an earthen dish which she herself had used to measure milk
in.

The man and his wife thought to themselves: “It must be true that she
was born in this hut, but she has surely had much more to attend to in
this life than milking goats and making butter and cheese.”

They observed also that her thoughts were often far away, and that she
sighed heavily and anxiously every time she came back to herself.

Finally she rose from the table. She thanked them graciously for the
hospitality she had enjoyed, and walked toward the door.

But then it seemed to the vine-dresser that she was pitifully poor and
lonely, and he exclaimed: “If I am not mistaken, it was not your
intention, when you dragged yourself up here last night, to leave this
hut so soon. If you are actually as poor as you seem, it must have been
your intention to remain here for the rest of your life. But now you
wish to leave because my wife and I have taken possession of the hut.”

The old woman did not deny that he had guessed rightly. “But this hut,
which for many years has been deserted, belongs to you as much as to
me,” she said. “I have no right to drive you from it.”

“It is still your parents’ hut,” said the laborer, “and you surely have
a better right to it than we have. Besides, we are young and you are
old; therefore, you shall remain and we will go.”

When the old woman heard this, she was greatly astonished. She turned
around on the threshold and stared at the man, as though she had not
understood what he meant by his words.

But now the young wife joined in the conversation.

“If I might suggest,” said she to her husband, “I should beg you to ask
this old woman if she won’t look upon us as her own children, and permit
us to stay with her and take care of her. What service would we render
her if we gave her this miserable hut and then left her? It would be
terrible for her to live here in this wilderness alone! And what would
she live on? It would be just like letting her starve to death.”

The old woman went up to the man and his wife and regarded them
carefully. “Why do you speak thus?” she asked. “Why are you so merciful
to me? You are strangers.”

Then the young wife answered: “It is because we ourselves once met with
great mercy.”

                                   II

This is how the old woman came to live in the vine-dresser’s hut. And
she conceived a great friendship for the young people. But for all that
she never told them whence she had come, or who she was, and they
understood that she would not have taken it in good part had they
questioned her.

But one evening, when the day’s work was done, and all three sat on the
big, flat rock which lay before the entrance, and partook of their
evening meal, they saw an old man coming up the path.

He was a tall and powerfully built man, with shoulders as broad as a
gladiator’s. His face wore a cheerless and stern expression. The brows
jutted far out over the deep-set eyes, and the lines around the mouth
expressed bitterness and contempt. He walked with erect bearing and
quick movements.

The man wore a simple dress, and the instant the vine-dresser saw him,
he said: “He is an old soldier, one who has been discharged from service
and is now on his way home.”

When the stranger came directly before them he paused, as if in doubt.
The laborer, who knew that the road terminated a short distance beyond
the hut, laid down his spoon and called out to him: “Have you gone
astray, stranger, since you come hither? Usually, no one takes the
trouble to climb up here, unless he has an errand to one of us who live
here.”

When he questioned in this manner, the stranger came nearer. “It is as
you say,” said he. “I have taken the wrong road, and now I know not
whither I shall direct my steps. If you will let me rest here a while,
and then tell me which path I shall follow to get to some farm, I shall
be grateful to you.”

As he spake he sat down upon one of the stones which lay before the hut.
The young woman asked him if he wouldn’t share their supper, but this he
declined with a smile. On the other hand it was very evident that he was
inclined to talk with them, while they ate. He asked the young folks
about their manner of living, and their work, and they answered him
frankly and cheerfully.

Suddenly the laborer turned toward the stranger and began to question
him. “You see in what a lonely and isolated way we live,” said he. “It
must be a year at least since I have talked with any one except
shepherds and vineyard laborers. Can not you, who must come from some
camp, tell us something about Rome and the Emperor?”

Hardly had the man said this than the young wife noticed that the old
woman gave him a warning glance, and made with her hand the sign which
means—Have a care what you say.

The stranger, meanwhile, answered very affably: “I understand that you
take me for a soldier, which is not untrue, although I have long since
left the service. During Tiberius’ reign there has not been much work
for us soldiers. Yet he was once a great commander. Those were the days
of his good fortune. Now he thinks of nothing except to guard himself
against conspiracies. In Rome, every one is talking about how, last
week, he let Senator Titius be seized and executed on the merest
suspicion.”

“The poor Emperor no longer knows what he does!” exclaimed the young
woman; and shook her head in pity and surprise.

“You are perfectly right,” said the stranger, as an expression of the
deepest melancholy crossed his countenance. “Tiberius knows that every
one hates him, and this is driving him insane.”

“What say you?” the woman retorted. “Why should we hate him? We only
deplore the fact that he is no longer the great Emperor he was in the
beginning of his reign.”

“You are mistaken,” said the stranger. “Every one hates and detests
Tiberius. Why should they do otherwise? He is nothing but a cruel and
merciless tyrant. In Rome they think that from now on he will become
even more unreasonable than he has been.”

“Has anything happened, then, which will turn him into a worse beast
than he is already?” queried the vine-dresser.

When he said this, the wife noticed that the old woman gave him a new
warning signal, but so stealthily that he could not see it.

The stranger answered him in a kindly manner, but at the same time a
singular smile played about his lips.

“You have heard, perhaps, that until now Tiberius has had a friend in
his household on whom he could rely, and who has always told him the
truth. All the rest who live in his palace are fortune-hunters and
hypocrites, who praise the Emperor’s wicked and cunning acts just as
much as his good and admirable ones. But there was, as we have said, one
alone who never feared to let him know how his conduct was actually
regarded. This person, who was more courageous than senators and
generals, was the Emperor’s old nurse, Faustina.”

“I have heard of her,” said the laborer. “I’ve been told that the
Emperor has always shown her great friendship.”

“Yes, Tiberius knew how to prize her affection and loyalty. He treated
this poor peasant woman, who came from a miserable hut in the Sabine
mountains, as his second mother. As long as he stayed in Rome, he let
her live in a mansion on the Palatine, that he might always have her
near him. None of Rome’s noble matrons has fared better than she. She
was borne through the streets in a litter, and her dress was that of an
empress. When the Emperor moved to Capri, she had to accompany him, and
he bought a country estate for her there, and filled it with slaves and
costly furnishings.”

“She has certainly fared well,” said the husband.

Now it was he who kept up the conversation with the stranger. The wife
sat silent and observed with surprise the change which had come over the
old woman. Since the stranger arrived, she had not spoken a word. She
had lost her mild and friendly expression. She had pushed her food
aside, and sat erect and rigid against the door-post, and stared
straight ahead, with a severe and stony countenance.

“It was the Emperor’s intention that she should have a happy life,” said
the stranger. “But, despite all his kindly acts, she too has deserted
him.”

The old woman gave a start at these words, but the young one laid her
hand quietingly on her arm. Then she began to speak in her soft,
sympathetic voice. “I can not believe that Faustina has been as happy at
court as you say,” she said, as she turned toward the stranger. “I am
sure that she has loved Tiberius as if he had been her own son. I can
understand how proud she has been of his noble youth, and I can even
understand how it must have grieved her to see him abandon himself in
his old age to suspicion and cruelty. She has certainly warned and
admonished him every day. It has been terrible for her always to plead
in vain. At last she could no longer bear to see him sink lower and
lower.”

The stranger, astonished, leaned forward a bit when he heard this; but
the young woman did not glance up at him. She kept her eyes lowered, and
spoke very calmly and gently.

“Perhaps you are right in what you say of the old woman,” he replied.
“Faustina has really not been happy at court. It seems strange,
nevertheless, that she has left the Emperor in his old age, when she had
endured him the span of a lifetime.”

“What say you?” asked the husband. “Has old Faustina left the Emperor?”

“She has stolen away from Capri without any one’s knowledge,” said the
stranger. “She left just as poor as she came. She has not taken one of
her treasures with her.”

“And doesn’t the Emperor really know where she has gone?” asked the
wife.

“No! No one knows for certain what road the old woman has taken. Still,
one takes it for granted that she has sought refuge among her native
mountains.”

“And the Emperor does not know, either, why she has gone away?” asked
the young woman.

“No, the Emperor knows nothing of this. He can not believe she left him
because he once told her that she served him for money and gifts only,
like all the rest. She knows, however, that he has never doubted her
unselfishness. He has hoped all along that she would return to him
voluntarily, for no one knows better than she that he is absolutely
without friends.”

“I do not know her,” said the young woman, “but I think I can tell you
why she has left the Emperor. The old woman was brought up among these
mountains in simplicity and piety, and she has always longed to come
back here again. Surely she never would have abandoned the Emperor if he
had not insulted her. But I understand that, after this, she feels she
has the right to think of herself, since her days are numbered. If I
were a poor woman of the mountains, I certainly would have acted as she
did. I would have thought that I had done enough when I had served my
master during a whole lifetime. I would at last have abandoned luxury
and royal favors to give my soul a taste of honor and integrity before
it left me for the long journey.”

The stranger glanced with a deep and tender sadness at the young woman.
“You do not consider that the Emperor’s propensities will become worse
than ever. Now there is no one who can calm him when suspicion and
misanthropy take possession of him. Think of this,” he continued, as his
melancholy gaze penetrated deeply into the eyes of the young woman, “in
all the world there is no one now whom he does not hate; no one whom he
does not despise—no one!”

As he uttered these words of bitter despair, the old woman made a sudden
movement and turned toward him, but the young woman looked him straight
in the eyes and answered: “Tiberius knows that Faustina will come back
to him whenever he wishes it. But first she must know that her old eyes
need never more behold vice and infamy at his court.”

They had all risen during this speech; but the vine-dresser and his wife
placed themselves in front of the old woman, as if to shield her.

The stranger did not utter another syllable, but regarded the old woman
with a questioning glance. Is this _your_ last word also? he seemed to
want to say. The old woman’s lips quivered, but words would not pass
them.

“If the Emperor has loved his old servant, then he can also let her live
her last days in peace,” said the young woman.

The stranger hesitated still, but suddenly his dark countenance
brightened. “My friends,” said he, “whatever one may say of Tiberius,
there is one thing which he has learned better than others; and that
is—renunciation. I have only one thing more to say to you: If this old
woman, of whom we have spoken, should come to this hut, receive her
well! The Emperor’s favor rests upon any one who succors her.”

He wrapped his mantle about him and departed the same way that he had
come.

                                  III

After this, the vine-dresser and his wife never again spoke to the old
woman about the Emperor. Between themselves they marveled that she, at
her great age, had had the strength to renounce all the wealth and power
to which she had become accustomed. “I wonder if she will not soon go
back to Tiberius?” they asked themselves. “It is certain that she still
loves him. It is in the hope that it will awaken him to reason and
enable him to repent of his low conduct, that she has left him.”

“A man as old as the Emperor will never begin a new life,” said the
laborer. “How are you going to rid him of his great contempt for
mankind? Who could go to him and teach him to love his fellow man? Until
this happens, he can not be cured of suspicion and cruelty.”

“You know that there is one who could actually do it,” said the wife. “I
often think of how it would turn out, if the two should meet. But God’s
ways are not our ways.”

The old woman did not seem to miss her former life at all. After a time
the young wife gave birth to a child. The old woman had the care of it;
she seemed so content in consequence that one could have thought she had
forgotten all her sorrows.

Once every half-year she used to wrap her long, gray mantle around her,
and wander down to Rome. There she did not seek a soul, but went
straight to the Forum. Here she stopped outside a little temple, which
was erected on one side of the superbly decorated square.

All there was of this temple was an uncommonly large altar, which stood
in a marble-paved court under the open sky. On the top of the altar,
Fortuna, the goddess of happiness, was enthroned, and at its foot was a
statue of Tiberius. Encircling the court were buildings for the priests,
storerooms for fuel, and stalls for the beasts of sacrifice.

Old Faustina’s journeys never extended beyond this temple, where those
who would pray for the welfare of Tiberius were wont to come. When she
cast a glance in there and saw that both the goddess’ and the Emperor’s
statue were wreathed in flowers; that the sacrificial fire burned; that
throngs of reverent worshipers were assembled before the altar, and
heard the priests’ low chants sounding thereabouts, she turned around
and went back to the mountains.

In this way she learned, without having to question a human being, that
Tiberius was still among the living, and that all was well with him.

The third time she undertook this journey, she met with a surprise. When
she reached the little temple, she found it empty and deserted. No fire
burned before the statue, and not a worshiper was seen. A couple of
dried garlands still hung on one side of the altar, but this was all
that testified to its former glory. The priests were gone, and the
Emperor’s statue, which stood there unguarded, was damaged and
mud-bespattered.

The old woman turned to the first passer-by. “What does this mean?” she
asked. “Is Tiberius dead? Have we another Emperor?”

“No,” replied the Roman, “Tiberius is still Emperor, but we have ceased
to pray for him. Our prayers can no longer benefit him.”

“My friend,” said the old woman, “I live far away among the mountains,
where one learns nothing of what happens out in the world. Won’t you
tell me what dreadful misfortune has overtaken the Emperor?”

“The most dreadful of all misfortunes! He has been stricken with a
disease which has never before been known in Italy, but which seems to
be common in the Orient. Since this evil has befallen the Emperor, his
features are changed, his voice has become like an animal’s grunt, and
his toes and fingers are rotting away. And for this illness there
appears to be no remedy. They believe that he will die within a few
weeks. But if he does not die, he will be dethroned, for such an ill and
wretched man can no longer conduct the affairs of State. You understand,
of course, that his fate is a foregone conclusion. It is useless to
invoke the gods for his success, and it is not worth while,” he added,
with a faint smile. “No one has anything more either to fear or hope
from him. Why, then, should we trouble ourselves on his account?”

He nodded and walked away; but the old woman stood there as if stunned.

For the first time in her life she collapsed, and looked like one whom
age has subdued. She stood with bent back and trembling head, and with
hands that groped feebly in the air.

She longed to get away from the place, but she moved her feet slowly.
She looked around to find something which she could use as a staff.

But after a few moments, by a tremendous effort of the will, she
succeeded in conquering the faintness.

                                   IV

A week later, old Faustina wandered up the steep inclines on the Island
of Capri. It was a warm day and the dread consciousness of old age and
feebleness came over her as she labored up the winding roads and the
hewn-out steps in the mountain, which led to Tiberius’ villa.

This feeling increased when she observed how changed everything had
become during the time she had been away. In truth, on and alongside
these steps there had always before been throngs of people. Here it used
fairly to swarm with senators, borne by giant Libyans; with messengers
from the provinces attended by long processions of slaves; with
office-seekers; with noblemen invited to participate in the Emperor’s
feasts.

But to-day the steps and passages were entirely deserted. Gray-greenish
lizards were the only living things which the old woman saw in her path.

She was amazed to see that already everything appeared to be going to
ruin. At most, the Emperor’s illness could not have progressed more than
two months, and yet the grass had already taken root in the cracks
between the marble stones. Rare growths, planted in beautiful vases,
were already withered and here and there mischievous spoilers, whom no
one had taken the trouble to stop, had broken down the balustrade.

But to her the most singular thing of all was the entire absence of
people. Even if strangers were forbidden to appear on the island,
attendants at least should still be found there: the endless crowds of
soldiers and slaves; of dancers and musicians; of cooks and stewards; of
palace-sentinels and gardeners, who belonged to the Emperor’s household.

When Faustina reached the upper terrace, she caught sight of two slaves,
who sat on the steps in front of the villa. As she approached, they rose
and bowed to her.

“Be greeted, Faustina!” said one of them. “It is a god who sends thee to
lighten our sorrows.”

“What does this mean, Milo?” asked Faustina. “Why is it so deserted
here? Yet they have told me that Tiberius still lives at Capri.”

“The Emperor has driven away all his slaves because he suspects that one
of us has given him poisoned wine to drink, and that this has brought on
the illness. He would have driven even Tito and myself away, if we had
not refused to obey him; yet, as you know, we have all our lives served
the Emperor and his mother.”

“I do not ask after slaves only,” said Faustina. “Where are the senators
and field marshals? Where are the Emperor’s intimate friends, and all
the fawning fortune-hunters?”

“Tiberius does not wish to show himself before strangers,” said the
slave. “Senator Lucius and Marco, Commander of the Life Guard, come here
every day and receive orders. No one else may approach him.”

Faustina had gone up the steps to enter the villa. The slave went before
her, and on the way she asked: “What say the physicians of Tiberius’
illness?”

“None of them understands how to treat this illness. They do not even
know if it kills quickly or slowly. But this I can tell you, Faustina,
Tiberius must die if he continues to refuse all food for fear it may be
poisoned. And I know that a sick man can not stay awake night and day,
as the Emperor does, for fear he may be murdered in his sleep. If he
will trust you as in former days, you might succeed in making him eat
and sleep. Thereby you can prolong his life for many days.”

The slave conducted Faustina through several passages and courts to a
terrace which Tiberius used to frequent to enjoy the view of the
beautiful bays and proud Vesuvius.

When Faustina stepped out upon the terrace, she saw a hideous creature
with a swollen face and animal-like features. His hands and feet were
swathed in white bandages, but through the bandages protruded
half-rotted fingers and toes. And this being’s clothes were soiled and
dusty. It was evident he could not walk erect, but had been obliged to
crawl out upon the terrace. He lay with closed eyes near the balustrade
at the farthest end, and did not move when the slave and Faustina came.

Faustina whispered to the slave, who walked before her: “But, Milo, how
can such a creature be found here on the Emperor’s private terrace? Make
haste, and take him away!”

But she had scarcely said this when she saw the slave bow to the ground
before the miserable creature who lay there.

“Cæsar Tiberius,” said he, “at last I have glad tidings to bring thee.”

At the same time the slave turned toward Faustina, but he shrank back,
aghast! and could not speak another word.

He did not behold the proud matron who had looked so strong that one
might have expected that she would live to the age of a sibyl. In this
moment, she had drooped into impotent age, and the slave saw before him
a bent old woman with misty eyes and fumbling hands.

Faustina had certainly heard that the Emperor was terribly changed, yet
never for a moment had she ceased to think of him as the strong man he
was when she last saw him. She had also heard some one say that this
illness progressed slowly, and that it took years to transform a human
being. But here it had advanced with such virulence that it had made the
Emperor unrecognizable in just two months.

She tottered up to the Emperor. She could not speak, but stood silent
beside him, and wept.

“Are you come now, Faustina?” he said, without opening his eyes. “I lay
and fancied that you stood here and wept over me. I dare not look up for
fear I will find that it was only an illusion.”

Then the old woman sat down beside him. She raised his head and placed
it on her knee.

But Tiberius lay still, without looking at her. A sense of sweet repose
enfolded him, and the next moment he sank into a peaceful slumber.

                                   V

A few weeks later, one of the Emperor’s slaves came to the lonely hut in
the Sabine mountains. It drew on toward evening, and the vine-dresser
and his wife stood in the doorway and saw the sun set in the distant
west. The slave turned out of the path, and came up and greeted them.
Thereupon he took a heavy purse, which he carried in his girdle, and
laid it in the husband’s hand.

“This, Faustina, the old woman to whom you have shown compassion, sends
you,” said the slave. “She begs that with this money you will purchase a
vineyard of your own, and build you a house that does not lie as high in
the air as the eagles’ nests.”

“Old Faustina still lives, then?” said the husband. “We have searched
for her in cleft and morass. When she did not come back to us, I thought
that she had met her death in these wretched mountains.”

“Don’t you remember,” the wife interposed, “that I would not believe
that she was dead? Did I not say to you that she had gone back to the
Emperor?”

This the husband admitted. “And I am glad,” he added, “that you were
right, not only because Faustina has become rich enough to help us out
of our poverty, but also on the poor Emperor’s account.”

The slave wanted to say farewell at once, in order to reach densely
settled quarters before dark, but this the couple would not permit. “You
must stop with us until morning,” said they. “We can not let you go
before you have told us all that has happened to Faustina. Why has she
returned to the Emperor? What was their meeting like? Are they glad to
be together again?”

The slave yielded to these solicitations. He followed them into the hut,
and during the evening meal he told them all about the Emperor’s illness
and Faustina’s return.

When the slave had finished his narrative, he saw that both the man and
the woman sat motionless—dumb with amazement. Their gaze was fixed on
the ground, as though not to betray the emotion which affected them.

Finally the man looked up and said to his wife: “Don’t you believe God
has decreed this?”

“Yes,” said the wife, “surely it was for this that our Lord sent us
across the sea to this lonely hut. Surely this was His purpose when He
sent the old woman to our door.”

As soon as the wife had spoken these words, the vine-dresser turned
again to the slave.

“Friend!” he said to him, “you shall carry a message from me to
Faustina. Tell her this word for word! Thus your friend the vineyard
laborer from the Sabine mountains greets you. You have seen the young
woman, my wife. Did she not appear fair to you, and blooming with
health? And yet this young woman once suffered from the same disease
which now has stricken Tiberius.”

The slave made a gesture of surprise, but the vine-dresser continued
with greater emphasis on his words.

“If Faustina refuses to believe my word, tell her that my wife and I
came from Palestine, in Asia, a land where this disease is common. There
the law is such that the lepers are driven from the cities and towns,
and must live in tombs and mountain grottoes. Tell Faustina that my wife
was born of diseased parents in a mountain grotto. As long as she was a
child she was healthy, but when she grew up into young maidenhood she
was stricken with the disease.”

The slave bowed, smiled pleasantly, and said: “How can you expect that
Faustina will believe this? She has seen your wife in her beauty and
health. And she must know that there is no remedy for this illness.”

The man replied: “It were best for her that she believed me. But I am
not without witnesses. She can send inquiries over to Nazareth, in
Galilee. There every one will confirm my statement.”

“Is it perchance through a miracle of some god that your wife has been
cured?” asked the slave.

“Yes, it is as you say,” answered the laborer. “One day a rumor reached
the sick who lived in the wilderness: ‘Behold, a great Prophet has
arisen in Nazareth of Galilee. He is filled with the power of God’s
spirit, and he can cure your illness just by laying his hand upon your
forehead!’ But the sick, who lay in their misery, would not believe that
this rumor was the truth. ‘No one can heal us,’ they said. ‘Since the
days of the great prophets no one has been able to save one of us from
this misfortune.’

“But there was one amongst them who believed, and that was a young
maiden. She left the others to seek her way to the city of Nazareth,
where the Prophet lived. One day, when she wandered over wide plains,
she met a man tall of stature, with a pale face and hair which lay in
even, black curls. His dark eyes shone like stars and drew her toward
him. But before they met, she called out to him: ‘Come not near me, for
I am unclean, but tell me where I can find the Prophet from Nazareth!’
But the man continued to walk towards her, and when he stood directly in
front of her, he said: ‘Why seekest thou the Prophet of Nazareth?’—‘I
seek him that he may lay his hand on my forehead and heal me of my
illness.’ Then the man went up and laid his hand upon her brow. But she
said to him: ‘What doth it avail me that you lay your hand upon my
forehead? You surely are no prophet?’ Then he smiled on her and said:
‘Go now into the city which lies yonder at the foot of the mountain, and
show thyself before the priests!’

“The sick maiden thought to herself: ‘He mocks me because I believe I
can be healed. From him I can not learn what I would know.’ And she went
farther. Soon thereafter she saw a man, who was going out to hunt,
riding across the wide field. When he came so near that he could hear
her, she called to him: ‘Come not close to me, I am unclean! But tell me
where I can find the Prophet of Nazareth!’ ‘What do you want of the
Prophet?’ asked the man, riding slowly toward her. ‘I wish only that he
might lay his hand on my forehead and heal me of my illness.’ The man
rode still nearer. ‘Of what illness do you wish to be healed?’ said he.
‘Surely you need no physician!’ ‘Can’t you see that I am a leper?’ said
she. ‘I was born of diseased parents in a mountain grotto.’ But the man
continued to approach, for she was beautiful and fair, like a new-blown
rose. ‘You are the most beautiful maiden in Judea!’ he exclaimed. ‘Ah,
taunt me not—you, too!’ said she. ‘I know that my features are
destroyed, and that my voice is like a wild beast’s growl.’

“He looked deep into her eyes and said to her: ‘Your voice is as
resonant as the spring brook’s when it ripples over pebbles, and your
face is as smooth as a coverlet of soft satin.’

“That moment he rode so close to her that she could see her face in the
shining mountings which decorated his saddle. ‘You shall look at
yourself here,’ said he. She did so, and saw a face smooth and soft as a
newly-formed butterfly wing. ‘What is this that I see?’ she said. ‘This
is not my face!’ ‘Yes, it is your face,’ said the rider. ‘But my voice,
is it not rough? Does it not sound as when wagons are drawn over a stony
road?’ ‘No! It sounds like a zither player’s sweetest songs,’ said the
rider.

“She turned and pointed toward the road. ‘Do you know who that man is
just disappearing behind the two oaks?’ she asked.

“‘It is he whom you lately asked after; it is the Prophet from
Nazareth,’ said the man. Then she clasped her hands in astonishment, and
tears filled her eyes. ‘Oh, thou Holy One! Oh, thou Messenger of God’s
power!’ she cried. Thou hast healed me!’

“Then the rider lifted her into the saddle and bore her to the city at
the foot of the mountain and went with her to the priests and elders,
and told them how he had found her. They questioned her carefully; but
when they heard that the maiden was born in the wilderness of diseased
parents, they would not believe that she was healed. ‘Go back thither
whence you came!’ said they. ‘If you have been ill, you must remain so
as long as you live. You must not come here to the city, to infect the
rest of us with your disease.’

“She said to them: ‘I know that I am well, for the Prophet from Nazareth
hath laid his hand upon my forehead.’

“When they heard this they exclaimed: ‘Who is he, that he should be able
to make clean the unclean? All this is but a delusion of the evil
spirits. Go back to your own, that you may not bring destruction upon
all of us!’

“They would not declare her healed, and they forbade her to remain in
the city. They decreed that each and every one who gave her shelter
should also be adjudged unclean.

“When the priests had pronounced this judgment, the young maiden turned
to the man who had found her in the field: ‘Whither shall I go now? Must
I go back again to the lepers in the wilderness?’

“But the man lifted her once more upon his horse, and said to her: ‘No,
under no conditions shall you go out to the lepers in their mountain
caves, but we two shall travel across the sea to another land, where
there are no laws for clean and unclean.’ And they——”

But when the vineyard laborer had got thus far in his narrative, the
slave arose and interrupted him. “You need not tell any more,” said he.
“Stand up rather and follow me on the way, you who know the mountains,
so that I can begin my home journey to-night, and not wait until
morning. The Emperor and Faustina can not hear your tidings a moment too
soon.”

When the vine-dresser had accompanied the slave, and come home again to
the hut, he found his wife still awake.

“I can not sleep,” said she. “I am thinking that these two will meet: he
who loves all mankind, and he who hates them. Such a meeting would be
enough to sweep the earth out of existence!”

                                   VI

Old Faustina was in distant Palestine, on her way to Jerusalem. She had
not desired that the mission to seek the Prophet and bring him to the
Emperor should be intrusted to any one but herself. She said to herself:
“That which we demand of this stranger, is something which we can not
coax from him either by force or bribes. But perhaps he will grant it us
if some one falls at his feet and tells him in what dire need the
Emperor is. Who can make an honest plea for Tiberius, but the one who
suffers from his misfortune as much as he does?”

The hope of possibly saving Tiberius had renewed the old woman’s youth.
She withstood without difficulty the long sea trip to Joppa, and on the
journey to Jerusalem she made no use of a litter, but rode a horse. She
appeared to stand the difficult ride as easily as the Roman nobles, the
soldiers, and the slaves who made up her retinue.

The journey from Joppa to Jerusalem filled the old woman’s heart with
joy and bright hopes. It was springtime, and Sharon’s plain, over which
they had ridden during the first day’s travel, had been a brilliant
carpet of flowers. Even during the second day’s journey, when they came
to the hills of Judea, they were not abandoned by the flowers. All the
multiformed hills between which the road wound were planted with fruit
trees, which stood in full bloom. And when the travelers wearied of
looking at the white and red blossoms of the apricots and persimmons,
they could rest their eyes by observing the young vine-leaves, which
pushed their way through the dark brown branches, and their growth was
so rapid that one could almost follow it with the eye.

It was not only flowers and spring green that made the journey pleasant,
but the pleasure was enhanced by watching the throngs of people who were
on their way to Jerusalem this morning. From all the roads and by-paths,
from lonely heights, and from the most remote corners of the plain came
travelers. When they had reached the road to Jerusalem, those who
traveled alone formed themselves into companies and marched forward with
glad shouts. Round an elderly man, who rode on a jogging camel, walked
his sons and daughters, his sons-in-law and daughters-in-law, and all
his grandchildren. It was such a large family that it made up an entire
little village. An old grandmother who was too feeble to walk her sons
had taken in their arms, and with pride she let herself be borne among
the crowds, who respectfully stepped aside.

In truth, it was a morning to inspire joy even in the most disconsolate.
To be sure the sky was not clear, but was o’ercast with a thin
grayish-white mist, but none of the wayfarers thought of grumbling
because the sun’s piercing brilliancy was dampened. Under this veiled
sky the perfume of the budding leaves and blossoms did not penetrate the
air as usual, but lingered over roads and fields. And this beautiful
day, with its faint mist and hushed winds, which reminded one of Night’s
rest and calm, seemed to communicate to the hastening crowds somewhat of
itself, so that they went forward happy—yet with solemnity—singing in
subdued voices ancient hymns, or playing upon peculiar old-fashioned
instruments, from which came tones like the buzzing of gnats, or
grasshoppers’ piping.

When old Faustina rode forward among all the people, she became infected
with their joy and excitement. She prodded her horse to quicker speed,
as she said to a young Roman who rode beside her: “I dreamt last night
that I saw Tiberius, and he implored me not to postpone the journey, but
to ride to Jerusalem to-day. It appears as if the gods had wished to
send me a warning not to neglect to go there this beautiful morning.”

Just as she said this, she came to the top of a long mountain ridge, and
there she was obliged to halt. Before her lay a large, deep
valley-basin, surrounded by pretty hills, and from the dark, shadowy
depths of the vale rose the massive mountain which held on its head the
city of Jerusalem.

But the narrow mountain city, with its walls and towers, which lay like
a jeweled coronet upon the cliff’s smooth height, was this day magnified
a thousand-fold. All the hills which encircled the valley were bedecked
with gay tents, and with a swarm of human beings.

It was evident to Faustina that all the inhabitants were on their way to
Jerusalem to celebrate some great holiday. Those from a distance had
already come, and had managed to put their tents in order. On the other
hand, those who lived near the city were still on their way. Along all
the shining rock-heights one saw them come streaming in like an unbroken
sea of white robes, of songs, of holiday cheer.

For some time the old woman surveyed these seething throngs of people
and the long rows of tent-poles. Thereupon she said to the young Roman
who rode beside her:

“Verily, Sulpicius, the whole nation must have come to Jerusalem.”

“It really appears like it,” replied the Roman, who had been chosen by
Tiberius to accompany Faustina because he had, during a number of years,
lived in Judea. “They celebrate now the great Spring Festival, and at
this time all the people, both old and young, come to Jerusalem.”

Faustina reflected a moment. “I am glad that we came to this city on the
day that the people celebrate their festival,” said she. “It can not
signify anything else than that the gods protect our journey. Do you
think it likely that he whom we seek, the Prophet of Nazareth, has also
come to Jerusalem to participate in the festivities?”

“You are surely right, Faustina,” said the Roman. “He must be here in
Jerusalem. This is indeed a decree of the gods. Strong and vigorous
though you be, you may consider yourself fortunate if you escape making
the long and troublesome journey up to Galilee.”

At once he rode over to a couple of wayfarers and asked them if they
thought the Prophet of Nazareth was in Jerusalem.

“We have seen him here every day at this season,” answered one. “Surely
he must be here even this year, for he is a holy and righteous man.”

A woman stretched forth her hand and pointed towards a hill, which lay
east of the city. “Do you see the foot of that mountain, which is
covered with olive trees?” she said. “It is there that the Galileans
usually raise their tents, and there you will get the most reliable
information about him whom you seek.”

They journeyed farther, and traveled on a winding path all the way down
to the bottom of the valley, and then they began to ride up toward
Zion’s hill, to reach the city on its heights. The woman who had spoken
went along the same way.

The steep ascending road was encompassed here by low walls, and upon
these countless beggars and cripples sat or lolled. “Look,” said the
woman who had spoken, pointing to one of the beggars who sat on the
wall, “there is a Galilean! I recollect that I have seen him among the
Prophet’s disciples. He can tell you where you will find him you seek.”

Faustina and Sulpicius rode up to the man who had been pointed out to
her. He was a poor old man with a heavy iron-gray beard. His face was
bronzed by heat and sunshine. He asked no alms; on the contrary, he was
so engrossed in anxious thought that he did not even glance at the
passers-by.

Nor did he hear that Sulpicius addressed him, and the latter had to
repeat his question several times.

“My friend, I’ve been told that you are a Galilean. I beg you,
therefore, to tell me where I shall find the Prophet from Nazareth!”

The Galilean gave a sudden start and looked around him, confused. But
when he finally comprehended what was wanted of him, he was seized with
rage mixed with terror. “What are you talking about?” he burst out. “Why
do you ask me about that man? I know nothing of him. I’m not a
Galilean.”

The Hebrew woman now joined in the conversation. “Still I have seen you
in his company,” she protested. “Do not fear, but tell this noble Roman
lady, who is the Emperor’s friend, where she is most likely to find
him.”

But the terrified disciple grew more and more irascible. “Have all the
people gone mad to-day?” said he. “Are they possessed by an evil spirit,
since they come again and again and ask me about that man? Why will no
one believe me when I say that I do not know the Prophet? I do not come
from his country. I have never seen him.”

His irritability attracted attention, and a couple of beggars who sat on
the wall beside him also began to dispute his word.

“Certainly you were among his disciples,” said one. “We all know that
you came with him from Galilee.”

Then the man raised his arms toward heaven and cried: “I could not
endure it in Jerusalem to-day on that man’s account, and now they will
not even leave me in peace out here among the beggars! Why don’t you
believe me when I say to you that I have never seen him?”

Faustina turned away with a shrug. “Let us go farther!” said she. “The
man is mad. From him we will learn nothing.”

They went farther up the mountain. Faustina was not more than two steps
from the city gate, when the Hebrew woman who had wished to help her
find the Prophet called to her to be careful. She pulled in her reins
and saw that a man lay in the road, just in front of the horse’s feet,
where the crush was greatest. It was a miracle that he had not already
been trampled to death by animals or people.

The man lay upon his back and stared upward with lusterless eyes. He did
not move, although the camels placed their heavy feet close beside him.
He was poorly clad, and besides he was covered with dust and dirt. In
fact, he had thrown so much gravel over himself that it looked as if he
tried to hide himself, to be more easily over-ridden and trampled down.

“What does this mean? Why does this man lie here on the road?” asked
Faustina.

Instantly the man began shouting to the passers-by:

“In mercy, brothers and sisters, drive your horses and camels over me!
Do not turn aside for me! Trample me to dust! I have betrayed innocent
blood. Trample me to dust!”

Sulpicius caught Faustina’s horse by the bridle and turned it to one
side. “It is a sinner who wants to do penance,” said he. “Do not let
this delay your journey. These people are peculiar and one must let them
follow their own bent.”

The man in the road continued to shout: “Set your heels on my heart! Let
the camels crush my breast and the asses dig their hoofs into my eyes!”

But Faustina seemed loath to ride past the miserable man without trying
to make him rise. She remained all the while beside him.

The Hebrew woman who had wished to serve her once before, pushed her way
forward again. “This man also belonged to the Prophet’s disciples,” said
she. “Do you wish me to ask him about his Master?”

Faustina nodded affirmatively, and the woman bent down over the man.

“What have you Galileans done this day with your Master?” she asked. “I
meet you scattered on highways and byways, but him I see nowhere.”

But when she questioned in this manner, the man who lay in the dust rose
to his knees. “What evil spirit hath possessed you to ask me about him?”
he said, in a voice that was filled with despair. “You see, surely, that
I have lain down in the road to be trampled to death. Is not that enough
for you? Shall you come also and ask me what I have done with him?”

When she repeated the question, the man staggered to his feet and put
both hands to his ears.

“Woe unto you, that you can not let me die in peace!” he cried. He
forced his way through the crowds that thronged in front of the gate,
and rushed away shrieking with terror, while his torn robe fluttered
around him like dark wings.

“It appears to me as though we had come to a nation of madmen,” said
Faustina, when she saw the man flee. She had become depressed by seeing
these disciples of the Prophet. Could the man who numbered such fools
among his followers do anything for the Emperor?

Even the Hebrew woman looked distressed, and she said very earnestly to
Faustina: “Mistress, delay not in your search for him whom you would
find! I fear some evil has befallen him, since his disciples are beside
themselves and can not bear to hear him spoken of.”

Faustina and her retinue finally rode through the gate archway and came
in on the narrow and dark streets, which were alive with people. It
seemed well-nigh impossible to get through the city. The riders time and
again had to stand still. Slaves and soldiers tried in vain to clear the
way. The people continued to rush on in a compact, irresistible stream.

“Verily,” said the old woman, “the streets of Rome are peaceful pleasure
gardens compared with these!”

Sulpicius soon saw that almost insurmountable difficulties awaited them.

“On these overcrowded streets it is easier to walk than to ride,” said
he. “If you are not too fatigued, I should advise you to walk to the
Governor’s palace. It is a good distance away, but if we ride we
certainly will not get there until after midnight.”

Faustina accepted the suggestion at once. She dismounted, and left her
horse with one of the slaves. Thereupon the Roman travelers began to
walk through the city.

This was much better. They pushed their way quickly toward the heart of
the city, and Sulpicius showed Faustina a rather wide street, which they
were nearing.

“Look, Faustina,” he said, “if we take this street, we will soon be
there. It leads directly down to our quarters.”

But just as they were about to turn into the street, the worst obstacle
met them.

It happened that the very moment when Faustina reached the street which
extended from the Governor’s palace to Righteousness’ Gate and Golgotha,
they brought through it a prisoner, who was to be taken out and
crucified. Before him ran a crowd of wild youths who wanted to witness
the execution. They raced up the street, waved their arms in rapture
towards the hill, and emitted unintelligible howls—in their delight at
being allowed to view something which they did not see every day.

Behind them came companies of men in silken robes, who appeared to
belong to the city’s élite and foremost. Then came women, many of whom
had tear-stained faces. A gathering of poor and maimed staggered
forward, uttering shrieks that pierced the ears.

“O God!” they cried, “save him! Send Thine angel and save him! Send a
deliverer in his direst need!”

Finally there came a few Roman soldiers on great horses. They kept guard
so that none of the people could dash up to the prisoner and try to
rescue him.

Directly behind them followed the executioners, whose task it was to
lead forward the man that was to be crucified. They had laid a heavy
wooden cross over his shoulder, but he was too weak for this burden. It
weighed him down so that his body was almost bent to the ground. He held
his head down so far that no one could see his face.

Faustina stood at the opening of the little bystreet and saw the doomed
man’s heavy tread. She noticed, with surprise, that he wore a purple
mantle, and that a crown of thorns was pressed down upon his head.

“Who is this man?” she asked.

One of the bystanders answered her: “It is one who wished to make
himself Emperor.”

“And must he suffer death for a thing which is scarcely worth striving
after?” said the old woman sadly.

The doomed man staggered under the cross. He dragged himself forward
more and more slowly. The executioners had tied a rope around his waist,
and they began to pull on it to hasten the speed. But as they pulled the
rope the man fell, and lay there with the cross over him.

There was a terrible uproar. The Roman soldiers had all they could do to
hold the crowds back. They drew their swords on a couple of women who
tried to rush forward to help the fallen man. The executioners attempted
to force him up with cuffs and lashes, but he could not move because of
the cross. Finally two of them took hold of the cross to remove it.

Then he raised his head, and old Faustina could see his face. The cheeks
were streaked by lashes from a whip, and from his brow, which was
wounded by the thorn-crown, trickled some drops of blood. His hair hung
in knotted tangles, clotted with sweat and blood. His jaw was firm set,
but his lips trembled, as if they struggled to suppress a cry. His eyes,
tear-filled and almost blinded from torture and fatigue, stared straight
ahead.

But back of this half-dead person’s face, the old woman saw—as in a
vision—a pale and beautiful One with glorious, majestic eyes and gentle
features, and she was seized with sudden grief—touched by the unknown
man’s misfortune and degradation.

“Oh, what have they done with you, you poor soul!” she burst out, and
moved a step nearer him, while her eyes filled with tears. She forgot
her own sorrow and anxiety for this tortured man’s distress. She thought
her heart would burst from pity. She, like the other women, wanted to
rush forward and tear him away from the executioners!

The fallen man saw how she came toward him, and he crept closer to her.
It was as though he had expected to find protection with her against all
those who persecuted and tortured him. He embraced her knees. He pressed
himself against her, like a child who clings close to his mother for
safety.

The old woman bent over him, and as the tears streamed down her cheeks,
she felt the most blissful joy because he had come and sought protection
with her. She placed one arm around his neck, and as a mother first of
all wipes away the tears from her child’s eyes, she laid her kerchief of
sheer fine linen over his face, to wipe away the tears and the blood.

But now the executioners were ready with the cross. They came now and
snatched away the prisoner. Impatient over the delay, they dragged him
off in wild haste. The condemned man uttered a groan when he was led
away from the refuge he had found, but he made no resistance.

Faustina embraced him to hold him back, and when her feeble old hands
were powerless and she saw him borne away, she felt as if some one had
torn from her her own child, and she cried: “No, no! Do not take him
from me! He must not die! He shall not die!”

She felt the most intense grief and indignation because he was being led
away. She wanted to rush after him. She wanted to fight with the
executioners and tear him from them.

But with the first step she took, she was seized with weakness and
dizziness. Sulpicius made haste to place his arm around her, to prevent
her from falling.

On one side of the street he saw a little shop, and carried her in.
There was neither bench nor chair inside, but the shopkeeper was a
kindly man. He helped her over to a rug, and arranged a bed for her on
the stone floor.

She was not unconscious, but such a great dizziness had seized her that
she could not sit up, but was forced to lie down.

“She has made a long journey to-day, and the noise and crush in the city
have been too much for her,” said Sulpicius to the merchant. “She is
very old, and no one is so strong as not to be conquered by age.”

“This is a trying day, even for one who is not old,” said the merchant.
“The air is almost too heavy to breathe. It would not surprise me if a
severe storm were in store for us.”

Sulpicius bent over the old woman. She had fallen asleep, and she slept
with calm, regular respirations after all the excitement and fatigue.

He walked over to the shop door, stood there, and looked at the crowds
while he awaited her waking.

                                  VII

The Roman governor at Jerusalem had a young wife, and she had had a
dream during the night preceding the day when Faustina entered the city.

She dreamed that she stood on the roof of her house and looked down upon
the beautiful court, which, according to the Oriental custom, was paved
with marble, and planted with rare growths.

But in the court she saw assembled all the sick and blind and halt there
were in the world. She saw before her the pest-ridden, with bodies
swollen with boils; lepers with disfigured faces; the paralytics, who
could not move, but lay helpless upon the ground, and all the wretched
creatures who writhed in torment and pain.

They all crowded up towards the entrance, to get into the house; and a
number of those who walked foremost pounded on the palace door.

At last she saw that a slave opened the door and came out on the
threshold, and she heard him ask what they wanted.

Then they answered him, saying: “We seek the great Prophet whom God hath
sent to the world. Where is the Prophet of Nazareth, he who is master of
all suffering? Where is he who can deliver us from all our torment?”

Then the slave answered them in an arrogant and indifferent tone—as
palace servants do when they turn away the poor stranger:

“It will profit you nothing to seek the great Prophet. Pilate has killed
him.”

Then there arose among all the sick a grief and a moaning and a gnashing
of teeth which she could not bear to hear. Her heart was wrung with
compassion, and tears streamed from her eyes. But when she had begun to
weep, she awakened.

Again she fell asleep; and again she dreamed that she stood on the roof
of her house and looked down upon the big court, which was as broad as a
square.

And behold! the court was filled with all the insane and soul-sick and
those possessed of evil spirits. And she saw those who were naked and
those who were covered with their long hair, and those who had braided
themselves crowns of straw and mantles of grass and believed they were
kings, and those who crawled on the ground and thought themselves
beasts, and those who came dragging heavy stones, which they believed to
be gold, and those who thought that the evil spirits spoke through their
mouths.

She saw all these crowd up toward the palace gate. And the ones who
stood nearest to it knocked and pounded to get in.

At last the door opened, and a slave stepped out on the threshold and
asked: “What do you want?”

Then all began to cry aloud, saying: “Where is the great Prophet of
Nazareth, he who was sent of God, and who shall restore to us our souls
and our wits?”

She heard the slave answer them in the most indifferent tone: “It is
useless for you to seek the great Prophet, Pilate has killed him.”

When this was said, they uttered a shriek as wild as a beast’s howl, and
in their despair they began to lacerate themselves until the blood ran
down on the stones. And when she that dreamed saw their distress, she
wrung her hands and moaned. And her own moans awakened her.

But again she fell asleep, and again, in her dream, she was on the roof
of her house. Round about her sat her slaves, who played for her upon
cymbals and zithers, and the almond trees shook their white blossoms
over her, and clambering rose-vines exhaled their perfume.

As she sat there, a voice spoke to her: “Go over to the balustrade which
incloses the roof, and see who they are that stand and wait in your
court!”

But in the dream she declined, and said: “I do not care to see any more
of those who throng my court to-night.”

Just then she heard a clanking of chains and a pounding of heavy
hammers, and the pounding of wood against wood. Her slaves ceased their
singing and playing and hurried over to the railing and looked down. Nor
could she herself remain seated, but walked thither and looked down on
the court.

Then she saw that the court was filled with all the poor prisoners in
the world. She saw those who must lie in dark prison dungeons, fettered
with heavy chains; she saw those who labored in the dark mines come
dragging their heavy planks, and those who were rowers on war galleys
come with their heavy iron-bound oars. And those who were condemned to
be crucified came dragging their crosses, and those who were to be
beheaded came with their broadaxes. She saw those who were sent into
slavery to foreign lands and whose eyes burned with homesickness. She
saw those who must serve as beasts of burden, and whose backs were
bleeding from lashes.

All these unfortunates cried as with one voice: “Open, open!”

Then the slave who guarded the entrance stepped to the door and asked:
“What is it that you wish?”

And these answered like the others: “We seek the great Prophet of
Nazareth, who has come to the world to give the prisoners their freedom
and the slaves their lost happiness.”

The slave answered them in a tired and indifferent tone: “You can not
find him here. Pilate has killed him.”

When this was said, she who dreamed thought that among all the unhappy
there arose such an outburst of scorn and blasphemy that heaven and
earth trembled. She was ice-cold with fright, and her body shook so that
she awaked.

When she was thoroughly awake, she sat up in bed and thought to herself:
“I would not dream more. Now I want to remain awake all night, that I
may escape seeing more of this horror.”

And even whilst she was thinking thus, drowsiness crept in upon her
anew, and she laid her head on the pillow and fell asleep.

Again she dreamed that she sat on the roof of her house, and now her
little son ran back and forth up there, and played with a ball.

Then she heard a voice that said to her: “Go over to the balustrade,
which incloses the roof, and see who they are that stand and wait in
your court!” But she who dreamed said to herself: “I have seen enough
misery this night. I can not endure any more. I would remain where I
am.”

At that moment her son threw his ball so that it dropped outside the
balustrade, and the child ran forward and clambered up on the railing.
Then she was frightened. She rushed over and seized hold of the child.

But with that she happened to cast her eyes downward, and once more she
saw that the court was full of people.

In the court were all the peoples of earth who had been wounded in
battle. They came with severed bodies, with cut-off limbs, and with big
open wounds from which the blood oozed, so that the whole court was
drenched with it.

And beside these, came all the people in the world who had lost their
loved ones on the battlefield. They were the fatherless who mourned
their protectors, and the young maidens who cried for their lovers, and
the aged who sighed for their sons.

The foremost among them pushed against the door, and the watchman came
out as before, and opened it.

He asked all these, who had been wounded in battles and skirmishes:
“What seek ye in this house?”

And they answered: “We seek the great Prophet of Nazareth, who shall
prohibit wars and rumors of wars and bring peace to the earth. We seek
him who shall convert spears into scythes and swords into pruning
hooks.”

Then answered the slave somewhat impatiently: “Let no more come to
pester me! I have already said it often enough. The great Prophet is not
here. Pilate has killed him.”

Thereupon he closed the gate. But she who dreamed thought of all the
lamentation which would come now. “I do not wish to hear it,” said she,
and rushed away from the balustrade. That instant she awoke. Then she
discovered that in her terror she had jumped out of her bed and down on
the cold stone floor.

Again she thought she did not want to sleep more that night, and again
sleep overpowered her, and she closed her eyes and began to dream.

She sat once more on the roof of her house, and beside her stood her
husband. She told him of her dreams, and he ridiculed her.

Again she heard a voice, which said to her: “Go see the people who wait
in your court!”

But she thought: “I would not see them. I have seen enough misery
to-night.”

Just then she heard three loud raps on the gate, and her husband walked
over to the balustrade to see who it was that asked admittance to his
house.

But no sooner had he leaned over the railing, than he beckoned to his
wife to come over to him.

“Know you not this man?” said he, and pointed down.

When she looked down on the court, she found that it was filled with
horses and riders, slaves were busy unloading asses and camels. It
looked as though a distinguished traveler might have landed.

At the entrance gate stood the traveler. He was a large elderly man with
broad shoulders and a heavy and gloomy appearance.

The dreamer recognized the stranger instantly, and whispered to her
husband: “It is Cæsar Tiberius, who is here in Jerusalem. It can not be
any one else.”

“I also seem to recognize him,” said her husband; at the same time he
placed his finger on his mouth, as a signal that they should be quiet
and listen to what was said down in the court.

They saw that the doorkeeper came out and asked the stranger: “Whom seek
you?”

And the traveler answered: “I seek the great Prophet of Nazareth, who is
endowed with God’s power to perform miracles. It is Emperor Tiberius who
calls him, that he may liberate him from a terrible disease, which no
other physician can cure.”

When he had spoken, the slave bowed very humbly and said: “My lord, be
not wroth! but your wish can not be fulfilled.”

Then the Emperor turned toward his slaves, who waited below in the
court, and gave them a command.

Then the slaves hastened forward—some with handfuls of ornaments,
others carried goblets studded with pearls, other again dragged sacks
filled with gold coin.

The Emperor turned to the slave who guarded the gate, and said: “All
this shall be his, if he helps Tiberius. With this he can give riches to
all the world’s poor.”

But the doorkeeper bowed still lower and said: “Master, be not wroth
with thy servant, but thy request can not be fulfilled.”

Then the Emperor beckoned again to his slaves, and a pair of them
hurried forward with a richly embroidered robe, upon which glittered a
breastpiece of jewels.

And the Emperor said to the slave: “See! This which I offer him is the
power over Judea. He shall rule his people like the highest judge, if he
will only come and heal Tiberius!”

The slave bowed still nearer the earth, and said: “Master, it is not
within my power to help you.”

Then the Emperor beckoned once again, and his slaves rushed up with a
golden coronet and a purple mantle.

“See,” he said, “this is the Emperor’s will: He promises to appoint the
Prophet his successor, and give him dominion over the world. He shall
have power to rule the world according to his God’s will, if he will
only stretch forth his hand and heal Tiberius!”

Then the slave fell at the Emperor’s feet and said in an imploring tone:
“Master, it does not lie in my power to attend to thy command. He whom
thou seekest is no longer here. Pilate hath killed him.”

                                  VIII

When the young woman awoke, it was already full, clear day, and her
female slaves stood and waited that they might help her dress.

She was very silent while she dressed, but finally she asked the slave
who arranged her hair, if her husband was up. She learned that he had
been called out to pass judgment on a criminal. “I should have liked to
talk with him,” said the young woman.

“Mistress,” said the slave, “it will be difficult to do so during the
trial. We will let you know as soon as it is over.”

She sat silent now until her toilet was completed. Then she asked: “Has
any among you heard of the Prophet of Nazareth?”

“The Prophet of Nazareth is a Jewish miracle performer,” answered one of
the slaves instantly.

“It is strange, Mistress, that you should ask after him to-day,” said
another slave. “It is just he whom the Jews have brought here to the
palace, to let him be tried by the Governor.”

She bade them go at once and ascertain for what cause he was arraigned,
and one of the slaves withdrew. When she returned she said: “They accuse
him of wanting to make himself King over this land, and they entreat the
Governor to let him be crucified.”

When the Governor’s wife heard this, she grew terrified and said: “I
must speak with my husband, otherwise a terrible calamity will happen
here this day.”

When the slaves said once again that this was impossible, she began to
weep and shudder. And one among them was touched, so she said: “If you
will send a written message to the Governor, I will try and take it to
him.”

Immediately she took a stylus and wrote a few words on a wax tablet, and
this was given to Pilate.

But him she did not meet alone the whole day; for when he had dismissed
the Jews, and the condemned man was taken to the place of execution, the
hour for repast was come, and to this Pilate had invited a few of the
Romans who visited Jerusalem at this season. They were the commander of
the troops and a young instructor in oratory, and several others
besides.

This repast was not very gay, for the Governor’s wife sat all the while
silent and dejected, and took no part in the conversation.

When the guests asked if she was ill or distraught, the Governor
laughingly related about the message she had sent him in the morning. He
chaffed her because she had believed that a Roman governor would let
himself be guided in his judgments by a woman’s dreams.

She answered gently and sadly: “In truth, it was no dream, but a warning
sent by the gods. You should at least have let the man live through this
one day.”

They saw that she was seriously distressed. She would not be comforted,
no matter how much the guests exerted themselves, by keeping up the
conversation to make her forget these empty fancies.

But after a while one of them raised his head and exclaimed: “What is
this? Have we sat so long at table that the day is already gone?”

All looked up now, and they observed that a dim twilight settled down
over nature. Above all, it was remarkable to see how the whole
variegated play of color which it spread over all creatures and objects,
faded away slowly, so that all looked a uniform gray.

Like everything else, even their own faces lost their color. “We
actually look like the dead,” said the young orator with a shudder. “Our
cheeks are gray and our lips black.”

As this darkness grew more intense, the woman’s fear increased. “Oh, my
friend!” she burst out at last. “Can’t you perceive even now that the
Immortals would warn you? They are incensed because you condemned a holy
and innocent man. I am thinking that although he may already be on the
cross, he is surely not dead yet. Let him be taken down from the cross!
I would with mine own hands nurse his wounds. Only grant that he be
called back to life!”

But Pilate answered laughingly: “You are surely right in that this is a
sign from the gods. But they do not let the sun lose its luster because
a Jewish heretic has been condemned to the cross. On the contrary, we
may expect that important matters shall appear, which concern the whole
kingdom. Who can tell how long old Tiberius——”

He did not finish the sentence, for the darkness had become so profound
he could not see even the wine goblet standing in front of him. He broke
off, therefore, to order the slaves to fetch some lamps instantly.

When it had become so light that he could see the faces of his guests,
it was impossible for him not to notice the depression which had come
over them. “Mark you!” he said half-angrily to his wife. “Now it is
apparent to me that you have succeeded with your dreams in driving away
the joys of the table. But if it must needs be that you can not think of
anything else to-day, then let us hear what you have dreamed. Tell it us
and we will try to interpret its meaning!”

For this the young wife was ready at once. And while she related vision
after vision, the guests grew more and more serious. They ceased
emptying their goblets, and they sat with brows knit. The only one who
continued to laugh and to call the whole thing madness, was the Governor
himself.

When the narrative was ended, the young rhetorician said: “Truly, this
is something more than a dream, for I have seen this day not the
Emperor, but his old friend Faustina, march into the city. Only it
surprises me that she has not already appeared in the Governor’s
palace.”

“There is actually a rumor abroad to the effect that the Emperor has
been stricken with a terrible illness,” observed the leader of the
troops. “It also seems very possible to me that your wife’s dream may be
a god-sent warning.”

“There’s nothing incredible in this, that Tiberius has sent messengers
after the Prophet to summon him to his sick-bed,” agreed the young
rhetorician.

The Commander turned with profound seriousness toward Pilate. “If the
Emperor has actually taken it into his head to let this miracle-worker
be summoned, it were better for you and for all of us that he found him
alive.”

Pilate answered irritably: “Is it the darkness that has turned you into
children? One would think that you had all been transformed into
dream-interpreters and prophets.”

But the courtier continued his argument: “It may not be impossible,
perhaps, to save the man’s life, if you sent a swift messenger.”

“You want to make a laughing-stock of me,” answered the Governor. “Tell
me, what would become of law and order in this land, if they learned
that the Governor pardoned a criminal because his wife has dreamed a bad
dream?”

“It is the truth, however, and not a dream, that I have seen Faustina in
Jerusalem,” said the young orator.

“I shall take the responsibility of defending my actions before the
Emperor,” said Pilate. “He will understand that this visionary, who let
himself be misused by my soldiers without resistance, would not have had
the power to help him.”

As he was speaking, the house was shaken by a noise like a powerful
rolling thunder, and an earthquake shook the ground. The Governor’s
palace stood intact, but during some minutes just after the earthquake,
a terrific crash of crumbling houses and falling pillars was heard.

As soon as a human voice could make itself heard, the Governor called a
slave.

“Run out to the place of execution and command in my name that the
Prophet of Nazareth shall be taken down from the cross!”

The slave hurried away. The guests filed from the dining-hall out on the
peristyle, to be under the open sky in case the earthquake should be
repeated. No one dared to utter a word, while they awaited the slave’s
return.

He came back very shortly. He stopped before the Governor.

“You found him alive?” said he.

“Master, he was dead, and on the very second that he gave up the ghost,
the earthquake occurred.”

The words were hardly spoken when two loud knocks sounded against the
outer gate. When these knocks were heard, they all staggered back and
leaped up, as though it had been a new earthquake.

Immediately afterwards a slave came up.

“It is the noble Faustina and the Emperor’s kinsman Sulpicius. They are
come to beg you help them find the Prophet from Nazareth.”

A low murmur passed through the peristyle, and soft footfalls were
heard. When the Governor looked around, he noticed that his friends had
withdrawn from him, as from one upon whom misfortune has fallen.

                                   IX

Old Faustina had returned to Capri and had sought out the Emperor. She
told him her story, and while she spoke she hardly dared look at him.
During her absence the illness had made frightful ravages, and she
thought to herself: “If there had been any pity among the Celestials,
they would have let me die before being forced to tell this poor,
tortured man that all hope is gone.”

To her astonishment, Tiberius listened to her with the utmost
indifference. When she related how the great miracle performer had been
crucified the same day that she had arrived in Jerusalem, and how near
she had been to saving him, she began to weep under the weight of her
failure. But Tiberius only remarked: “You actually grieve over this? Ah,
Faustina! A whole lifetime in Rome has not weaned you then of faith in
sorcerers and miracle workers, which you imbibed during your childhood
in the Sabine mountains!”

Then the old woman perceived that Tiberius had never expected any help
from the Prophet of Nazareth.

“Why did you let me make the journey to that distant land, if you
believed all the while that it was useless?”

“You are the only friend I have,” said the Emperor. “Why should I deny
your prayer, so long as I still have the power to grant it.”

But the old woman did not like it that the Emperor had taken her for a
fool.

“Ah! this is your usual cunning,” she burst out. “This is just what I
can tolerate least in you.”

“You should not have come back to me,” said Tiberius. “You should have
remained in the mountains.”

It looked for a moment as if these two, who had clashed so often, would
again fall into a war of words, but the old woman’s anger subsided
immediately. The times were past when she could quarrel in earnest with
the Emperor. She lowered her voice again; but she could not altogether
relinquish every effort to obtain justice.

“But this man was really a prophet,” she said. “I have seen him. When
his eyes met mine, I thought he was a god. I was mad to allow him to go
to his death.”

“I am glad you let him die,” said Tiberius. “He was a traitor and a
dangerous agitator.”

Faustina was about to burst into another passion—then checked herself.

“I have spoken with many of his friends in Jerusalem about him,” said
she. “He had not committed the crimes for which he was arraigned.”

“Even if he had not committed just these crimes, he was surely no better
than any one else,” said the Emperor wearily. “Where will you find the
person who during his lifetime has not a thousand times deserved death?”

But these remarks of the Emperor decided Faustina to undertake something
which she had until now hesitated about. “I will show you a proof of his
power,” said she. “I said to you just now that I laid my kerchief over
his face. It is the same kerchief which I hold in my hand. Will you look
at it a moment?”

She spread the kerchief out before the Emperor, and he saw delineated
thereon the shadowy likeness of a human face.

The old woman’s voice shook with emotion as she continued: “This man saw
that I loved him. I know not by what power he was enabled to leave me
his portrait. But mine eyes fill up with tears when I see it.”

The Emperor leaned forward and regarded the picture, which appeared to
be made up of blood and tears and the dark shadows of grief. Gradually
the whole face stood out before him, exactly as it had been imprinted
upon the kerchief. He saw the blood-drops on the forehead, the piercing
thorn-crown, the hair, which was matted with blood, and the mouth whose
lips seemed to quiver with agony.

He bent down closer and closer to the picture. The face stood out
clearer and clearer. From out the shadow-like outlines, all at once, he
saw the eyes sparkle as with hidden life. And while they spoke to him of
the most terrible suffering, they also revealed a purity and sublimity
which he had never seen before.

He lay upon his couch and drank in the picture with his eyes. “Is this a
mortal?” he said softly and slowly. “Is this a mortal?”

Again he lay still and regarded the picture. The tears began to stream
down his cheeks. “I mourn over thy death, thou Unknown!” he whispered.

“Faustina!” he cried out at last. “Why did you let this man die? He
would have healed me.”

And again he was lost in the picture.

“O Man!” he said, after a moment, “if I can not gain my health from
thee, I can still avenge thy murder. My hand shall rest heavily upon
those who have robbed me of thee!”

Again he lay still a long time; then he let himself glide down to the
floor—and he knelt before the picture:

“Thou art Man!” said he. “Thou art that which I never dreamed I should
see.” And he pointed to his disfigured face and destroyed hands. “I and
all others are wild beasts and monsters, but thou art Man.”

He bowed his head so low before the picture that it touched the floor.
“Have pity on me, thou Unknown!” he sobbed, and his tears watered the
stones.

“If thou hadst lived, thy glance alone would have healed me,” he said.

The poor old woman was terror-stricken over what she had done. It would
have been wiser not to show the Emperor the picture, thought she. From
the start she had been afraid that if he should see it his grief would
be too overwhelming.

And in her despair over the Emperor’s grief, she snatched the picture
away, as if to remove it from his sight.

Then the Emperor looked up. And, lo! his features were transformed, and
he was as he had been before the illness. It was as if the illness had
had its root and sustenance in the contempt and hatred of mankind which
had lived in his heart; and it had been forced to flee the very moment
he had felt love and compassion.

The following day Tiberius despatched three messengers.

The first messenger traveled to Rome with the command that the Senate
should institute investigations as to how the governor of Palestine
administered his official duties and punish him, should it appear that
he oppressed the people and condemned the innocent to death.

The second messenger went to the vineyard-laborer and his wife, to thank
them and reward them for the counsel they had given the Emperor, and
also to tell them how everything had turned out. When they had heard
all, they wept silently, and the man said: “I know that all my life I
shall ponder what would have happened if these two had met.” But the
woman answered: “It could not happen in any other way. It was too great
a thought that these two should meet. God knew that the world could not
support it.”

The third messenger traveled to Palestine and brought back with him to
Capri some of Jesus’ disciples, and these began to teach there the
doctrine that had been preached by the Crucified One.

When the disciples landed at Capri, old Faustina lay upon her death-bed.
Still they had time before her death to make of her a follower of the
great Prophet, and to baptize her. And in the baptism she was called
Veronica, because to her it had been granted to give to mankind the true
likeness of their Saviour.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration: Robin Redbreast]

                            ROBIN REDBREAST


It happened at the time when our Lord created the world, when He not
only made heaven and earth, but all the animals and the plants as well,
at the same time giving them their names.

There have been many histories concerning that time, and if we knew them
all, we should have light upon everything in this world which we can not
now comprehend.

At that time it happened one day when our Lord sat in His Paradise and
painted the little birds, that the colors in our Lord’s paint pot gave
out, and the goldfinch would have been without color if our Lord had not
wiped all His paint brushes on its feathers.

It was then that the donkey got his long ears, because he could not
remember the name that had been given him.

No sooner had he taken a few steps over the meadows of Paradise than he
forgot, and three times he came back to ask his name. At last our Lord
grew somewhat impatient, took him by his two ears, and said:

“Thy name is ass, ass, ass!” And while He thus spake our Lord pulled
both of his ears that the ass might hear better, and remember what was
said to him. It was on the same day, also, that the bee was punished.

Now, when the bee was created, she began immediately to gather honey,
and the animals and human beings who caught the delicious odor of the
honey came and wanted to taste of it. But the bee wanted to keep it all
for herself and with her poisonous sting pursued every living creature
that approached her hive. Our Lord saw this and at once called the bee
to Him and punished her.

“I gave thee the gift of gathering honey, which is the sweetest thing in
all creation,” said our Lord, “but I did not give thee the right to be
cruel to thy neighbor. Remember well that every time thou stingest any
creature who desires to taste of thy honey, thou shalt surely die!”

Ah, yes! It was at that time, too, that the cricket became blind and the
ant missed her wings, so many strange things happened on that day!

Our Lord sat there, big and gentle, and planned and created all day
long, and towards evening He conceived the idea of making a little gray
bird. “Remember your name is Robin Redbreast,” said our Lord to the
bird, as soon as it was finished. Then He held it in the palm of His
open hand and let it fly.

After the bird had been testing his wings a while, and had seen
something of the beautiful world in which he was destined to live, he
became curious to see what he himself was like. He noticed that he was
entirely gray, and that his breast was just as gray as all the rest of
him. Robin Redbreast twisted and turned in all directions as he viewed
himself in the mirror of a clear lake, but he couldn’t find a single red
feather. Then he flew back to our Lord.

Our Lord sat there on His throne, big and gentle. Out of His hands came
butterflies that fluttered about His head; doves cooed on His shoulders;
and out of the earth beneath Him grew the rose, the lily, and the daisy.

The little bird’s heart beat heavily with fright, but with easy curves
he flew nearer and nearer our Lord, till at last he rested on our Lord’s
hand. Then our Lord asked what the little bird wanted. “I only wish to
ask you about one thing,” said the little bird. “What is it you wish to
know?” said our Lord. “Why should I be called Red Breast, when I am all
gray, from the bill to the very end of my tail? Why am I called Red
Breast when I do not possess one single red feather?” The bird looked
beseechingly on our Lord with his tiny black eyes—then turned his head.
About him he saw pheasants all red under a sprinkle of gold dust,
parrots with marvelous red neck-bands, cocks with red combs, to say
nothing about the butterflies, the goldfinches, and the roses! And
naturally he thought how little he needed—just one tiny drop of color
on his breast and he, too, would be a beautiful bird, and his name would
fit him. “Why should I be called Red Breast when I am so entirely gray?”
asked the bird once again, and waited for our Lord to say: “Ah, my
friend, I see that I have forgotten to paint your breast feathers red,
but wait a moment and it shall be done.”

But our Lord only smiled a little and said: “I have called you Robin
Redbreast, and Robin Redbreast shall your name be, but you must look to
it that you yourself earn your red breast feathers.” Then our Lord
lifted His hand and let the bird fly once more—out into the world.

The bird flew down into Paradise, meditating deeply.

What could a little bird like him do to earn for himself red feathers?
The only thing he could think of was to make his nest in a brier bush.
He built it in among the thorns in the close thicket. It looked as if he
waited for a rose leaf to cling to his throat and give him color.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Countless years had come and gone since that day, which was the happiest
in all the world! Human beings had already advanced so far that they had
learned to cultivate the earth and sail the seas. They had procured
clothes and ornaments for themselves, and had long since learned to
build big temples and great cities—such as Thebes, Rome, and Jerusalem.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Then there dawned a _new_ day, one that will long be remembered in the
world’s history. On the morning of this day Robin Redbreast sat upon a
little naked hillock outside of Jerusalem’s walls, and sang to his young
ones, who rested in a tiny nest in a brier bush.

Robin Redbreast told the little ones all about that wonderful day of
creation, and how the Lord had given names to everything, just as each
Redbreast had told it ever since the first Redbreast had heard God’s
word, and gone out of God’s hand. “And mark you,” he ended sorrowfully,
“so many years have gone, so many roses have bloomed, so many little
birds have come out of their eggs since Creation Day, but Robin
Redbreast is still a little gray bird. He has not yet succeeded in
gaining his red feathers.”

The little young ones opened wide their tiny bills, and asked if their
forbears had never tried to do any great thing to earn the priceless red
color.

“We have all done what we could,” said the little bird, “but we have all
gone amiss. Even the first Robin Redbreast met one day another bird
exactly like himself, and he began immediately to love it with such a
mighty love that he could feel his breast burn. ‘Ah!’ he thought then,
‘now I understand! It was our Lord’s meaning that I should love with so
much ardor that my breast should grow red in color from the very warmth
of the love that lives in my heart.’ But he missed it, as all those who
came after him have missed it, and as even you shall miss it.”

The little young ones twittered, utterly bewildered, and already began
to mourn because the red color would not come to beautify their little,
downy gray breasts.

“We had also hoped that song would help us,” said the grown-up bird,
speaking in long-drawn-out tones—“the first Robin Redbreast sang until
his heart swelled within him, he was so carried away, and he dared to
hope anew. ‘Ah!’ he thought, ‘it is the glow of the song which lives in
my soul that will color my breast feathers red.’ But he missed it, as
all the others have missed it and as even you shall miss it.” Again was
heard a sad “peep” from the young ones’ half-naked throats.

“We had also counted on our courage and our valor,” said the bird. “The
first Robin Redbreast fought bravely with other birds, until his breast
flamed with the pride of conquest. ‘Ah!’ he thought, ‘my breast feathers
shall become red from the love of battle which burns in my heart.’ He,
too, missed it, as all those who came after him have missed it, and as
even you shall miss it.” The little young ones peeped courageously that
they still wished to try and win the much-sought-for prize, but the bird
answered them sorrowfully that it would be impossible. What could they
do when so many splendid ancestors had missed the mark? What could they
do more than love, sing, and fight? What could—the little bird stopped
short, for out of one of the gates of Jerusalem came a crowd of people
marching, and the whole procession rushed toward the hillock, where the
bird had its nest. There were riders on proud horses, soldiers with long
spears, executioners with nails and hammers. There were judges and
priests in the procession, weeping women, and above all a mob of mad,
loose people running about—a filthy, howling mob of loiterers.

The little gray bird sat trembling on the edge of his nest. He feared
each instant that the little brier bush would be trampled down and his
young ones killed!

“Be careful!” he cried to the little defenseless young ones, “creep
together and remain quiet. Here comes a horse that will ride right over
us! Here comes a warrior with iron-shod sandals! Here comes the whole
wild, storming mob!” Immediately the bird ceased his cry of warning and
grew calm and quiet. He almost forgot the danger hovering over him.
Finally he hopped down into the nest and spread his wings over the young
ones.

“Oh! this is too terrible,” said he. “I don’t wish you to witness this
awful sight! There are three miscreants who are going to be crucified!”
And he spread his wings so that the little ones could see nothing.

They caught only the sound of hammers, the cries of anguish, and the
wild shrieks of the mob.

Robin Redbreast followed the whole spectacle with his eyes, which grew
big with terror. He could not take his glance from the three
unfortunates.

“How terrible human beings are!” said the bird after a little while. “It
isn’t enough that they nail these poor creatures to a cross, but they
must needs place a crown of piercing thorns upon the head of one of
them. I see that the thorns have wounded his brow so that the blood
flows,” he continued. “And this man is so beautiful, and looks about him
with such mild glances that every one ought to love him. I feel as if an
arrow were shooting through my heart, when I see him suffer!”

The little bird began to feel a stronger and stronger pity for the
thorn-crowned sufferer. “Oh! if I were only my brother the eagle,”
thought he, “I would draw the nails from his hands, and with my strong
claws I would drive away all those who torture him!” He saw how the
blood trickled down from the brow of the Crucified One, and he could no
longer remain quiet in his nest. “Even if I am little and weak, I can
still do something for this poor tortured one,” thought the bird. Then
he left his nest and flew out into the air, striking wide circles around
the Crucified One. He flew around him several times without daring to
approach, for he was a shy little bird, who had never dared to go near a
human being. But little by little he gained courage, flew close to him,
and drew with his little bill a thorn that had become imbedded in the
brow of the Crucified One. And as he did this there fell on his breast a
drop of blood from the face of the Crucified One;—it spread quickly and
floated out and colored all the little fine breast feathers.

Then the Crucified One opened his lips and whispered to the bird:
“Because of thy compassion, thou hast won all that thy kind have been
striving after, ever since the world was created.”

As soon as the bird had returned to his nest his young ones cried to
him: “Thy breast is red! Thy breast feathers are redder than the roses!”

“It is only a drop of blood from the poor man’s forehead,” said the
bird; “it will vanish as soon as I bathe in a pool or a clear well.”

But no matter how much the little bird bathed, the red color did not
vanish—and when his little young ones grew up, the blood-red color
shone also on their breast feathers, just as it shines on every Robin
Redbreast’s throat and breast until this very day.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration: Our Lord and Saint Peter]

                        OUR LORD AND SAINT PETER


It happened at the time when our Lord and Saint Peter were newly arrived
in Paradise, after having wandered on earth and suffered hardships
during many sorrowful years.

One can imagine that the change was a joy to Saint Peter! One can
picture to oneself that it was quite another matter to sit upon Paradise
Mountain and look out over the world, instead of wandering from door to
door, like a beggar. It was another matter to walk about in the
beautiful gardens of Paradise, instead of roaming around on earth, not
knowing if one would be given house-room on a stormy night, or if one
would be forced to tramp the highway in the chill and darkness.

One can imagine what a joy it must have been to get to the right place
at last after such a journey. Saint Peter, to be sure, had not always
been certain that all would end well. He couldn’t very well help feeling
doubtful and troubled at times, for it had been almost impossible for
poor Saint Peter to understand why there was any earthly need for them
to have such a hard time of it, if our Lord was lord of all the world.

Now, no yearning could come to torment him any more. That he was glad of
this one can well believe.

Now, he could actually laugh at all the misery which he and our Lord had
been forced to endure, and at the little that they had been obliged to
content themselves with.

Once, when things had turned out so badly for them that Saint Peter
thought he couldn’t stand it any longer, our Lord had taken him to a
high mountain, and had begun the ascent without telling him what they
were there for.

They had wandered past the cities at the foot of the mountain, and the
castles higher up. They had gone past the farms and cabins, and had left
behind them the last wood-chopper’s cave.

They had come at last to the part where the mountain stood naked,
without verdure and trees, and where a hermit had built him a hut,
wherein he might shelter needy travelers.

Afterward, they had walked over the snowfields, where the mountain-rats
sleep, and come to the piled-up ice masses, which stood on edge and
a-tilt, and where scarcely a chamois could pass.

Up there our Lord had found a little red-breasted bird, that lay frozen
to death on the ice, and He had picked up the bullfinch and tucked it in
His bosom. And Saint Peter remembered he had wondered if this was to be
their dinner.

They had wandered a long while on the slippery ice-blocks, and it had
seemed to Saint Peter that he had never been so near perdition; for a
deadly cold wind and a deadly dark mist enveloped them, and as far as he
could discover, there wasn’t a living thing to be found. And, still,
they were only half-way up the mountain.

Then he begged our Lord to let him turn back.

“Not yet,” said our Lord, “for I want to show you something which will
give you courage to meet all sorrows.”

For this they had gone on through mist and cold until they had reached
an interminably high wall, which prevented them from going farther.

“This wall extends all around the mountain,” said our Lord, “and you
can’t step over it at any point. Nor can any living creature see
anything of that which lies behind it, for it is here that Paradise
begins; and all the way up to the mountain’s summit live the blessed
dead.”

But Saint Peter couldn’t help looking doubtful. “In there is neither
darkness nor cold,” said our Lord, “but there it is always summer, with
the bright light of suns and stars.”

But Saint Peter was not able to persuade himself to believe this.

Then our Lord took the little bird which He had just found on the ice,
and, bending backwards, threw it over the wall, so that it fell down
into Paradise.

And immediately thereafter Saint Peter heard a loud, joyous trill, and
recognized a bullfinch’s song, and was greatly astonished.

He turned toward our Lord and said: “Let us return to the earth and
suffer all that must be suffered, for now I see that you speak the
truth, and that there is a place where Life overcomes death.”

And they descended from the mountain and began their wanderings again.

And it was years before Saint Peter saw any more than this one glimpse
of Paradise; but he had always longed for the land beyond the wall. And
now at last he was there, and did not have to strive and yearn any more.
Now he could drink bliss in full measure all day long from never-dying
streams.

But Saint Peter had not been in Paradise a fortnight before it happened
that an angel came to our Lord where He sat upon His throne, bowed seven
times before Him, and told Him that a great sorrow must have come upon
Saint Peter. He would neither eat nor drink, and his eyelids were red,
as though he had not slept for several nights.

As soon as our Lord heard this, He rose and went to seek Saint Peter.

He found him far away, on one of the outskirts of Paradise, where he lay
upon the ground, as if he were too exhausted to stand, and he had rent
his garments and strewn his hair with ashes.

When our Lord saw him so distressed, He sat down on the ground beside
him, and talked to him, just as He would have done had they still been
wandering around in this world of trouble.

“What is it that makes you so sad, Saint Peter?” said our Lord.

But grief had overpowered Saint Peter, so that he could not answer.

“What is it that makes you so sad?” asked our Lord once again.

When our Lord repeated the question, Saint Peter took the gold crown
from his head and threw it at our Lord’s feet, as much as to say he
wanted no further share in His honor and glory.

But our Lord understood, of course, that Saint Peter was so disconsolate
that he knew not what he did. He showed no anger at him.

“You must tell me what troubles you,” said He, just as gently as before,
and with an even greater love in His voice.

But now Saint Peter jumped up; and then our Lord knew that he was not
only disconsolate, but downright angry. He came toward our Lord with
clenched fists and snapping eyes.

“Now I want a dismissal from your service!” said Saint Peter. “I can not
remain another day in Paradise.”

Our Lord tried to calm him, just as He had been obliged to do many times
before, when Saint Peter had flared up.

“Oh, certainly you can go,” said He, “but you must first tell me what it
is that displeases you.”

“I can tell you that I awaited a better reward than this when we two
endured all sorts of misery down on earth,” said Saint Peter.

Our Lord saw that Saint Peter’s soul was filled with bitterness, and He
felt no anger at him.

“I tell you that you are free to go whither you will,” said He, “if you
will only let me know what is troubling you.”

Then, at last, Saint Peter told our Lord why he was so unhappy. “I had
an old mother,” said he, “and she died a few days ago.”

“Now I know what distresses you,” said our Lord. “You suffer because
your mother has not come into Paradise.”

“That is true,” said Saint Peter, and at the same time his grief became
so overwhelming that he began to sob and moan.

“I think I deserved at least that she should be permitted to come here,”
said he.

But when our Lord learned what it was that Saint Peter was grieving
over, He, in turn, became distressed. Saint Peter’s mother had not been
such that she could enter the Heavenly Kingdom. She had never thought of
anything except to hoard money, and to the poor who had knocked at her
door she had never given so much as a copper or a crust of bread. But
our Lord understood that it was impossible for Saint Peter to grasp the
fact that his mother had been so greedy that she was not entitled to
bliss.

“Saint Peter,” said He, “how can you be so sure that your mother would
feel at home here with us?”

“You say such things only that you may not have to listen to my
prayers,” said Saint Peter. “Who wouldn’t be happy in Paradise?”

“One who does not feel joy over the happiness of others can not rest
content here,” said our Lord.

“Then there are others than my mother who do not belong here,” said
Saint Peter, and our Lord observed that he was thinking of Him.

And He felt deeply grieved because Saint Peter had been stricken with
such a heavy sorrow that he no longer knew what he said. He stood a
moment and expected that Saint Peter would repent, and understand that
his mother was not fit for Paradise. But the Saint would not give in.

Then our Lord called an angel and commanded that he should fly down into
hell and bring Saint Peter’s mother to Paradise.

“Let me see how he carries her,” said Saint Peter.

Our Lord took Saint Peter by the hand and led him out to a steep
precipice which leaned slantingly to one side. And He showed him that he
only had to lean over the precipice very, very little to be able to look
down into hell.

When Saint Peter glanced down, he could not at first see anything more
than if he had looked into a deep well. It was as though an endless
chasm opened under him.

The first thing which he could faintly distinguish was the angel, who
had already started on his way to the nether regions. Saint Peter saw
how the angel dived down into the great darkness, without the least
fear, and spread his wings just a little, so as not to descend too
rapidly.

But when Saint Peter’s eyes had become a little more used to the
darkness he began to see more and more. In the first place, he saw that
Paradise lay on a ring-mountain, which encircled a wide chasm, and it
was at the bottom of this chasm that the souls of the sinful had their
abode. He saw how the angel sank and sank a long while without reaching
the depths. He became absolutely terrified because it was such a long
distance down there.

“May he only come up again with my mother!” said he.

Our Lord only looked at Saint Peter with great sorrowful eyes. “There is
no weight too heavy for my angel to carry,” said He.

It was so far down to the nether regions that no ray of sunlight could
penetrate thither: there darkness reigned. But it was as if the angel in
his flight must have brought with him a little clearness and light, so
that it was possible for Saint Peter to see how it looked down there.

It was an endless, black rock-desert. Sharp, pointed rocks covered the
entire foundation. There was not a green blade, not a tree, not a sign
of life.

But all over, on the sharp rocks, were condemned souls. They hung over
the edges, whither they had clambered that they might swing themselves
up from the ravine; and when they saw that they could get nowhere, they
remained up there, petrified with anguish.

Saint Peter saw some of them sit or lie with arms extended in ceaseless
longing, and with eyes fixedly turned upwards. Others had covered their
faces with their hands, as if they would shut out the hopeless horror
around them. They were all rigid; there was not one among them who had
the power to move. Some lay in the water-pools, perfectly still, without
trying to rise from them.

But the most dreadful thing of all was—there was such a great throng of
the lost. It was as though the bottom of the ravine were made up of
nothing but bodies and heads.

And Saint Peter was struck with a new fear. “You shall see that he will
not find her,” said he to our Lord.

Once more our Lord looked at him with the same grieved expression. He
knew of course that Saint Peter did not need to be uneasy about the
angel.

But to Saint Peter it looked all the while as if the angel could not
find his mother in that great company of lost souls. He spread his wings
and flew back and forth over the nether regions, while he sought her.

Suddenly one of the poor lost creatures caught a glimpse of the angel,
and he sprang up and stretched his arms towards him and cried: “Take me
with you! Take me with you!”

Then, all at once, the whole throng was alive. All the millions upon
millions who languished in hell, roused themselves that instant, and
raised their arms and cried to the angel that he should take them with
him to the blessed Paradise.

Their shrieks were heard all the way up to our Lord and Saint Peter,
whose hearts throbbed with anguish as they heard.

The angel swayed high above the condemned; but as he traveled back and
forth, to find the one whom he sought, they all rushed after him, so
that it looked as though they had been swept on by a whirlwind.

At last the angel caught sight of the one he was to take with him. He
folded his wings over his back and shot down like a streak of lightning,
and the astonished Saint Peter gave a cry of joy when he saw the angel
place an arm around his mother and lift her up.

“Blessed be thou that bringest my mother to me!” said he.

Our Lord laid His hand gently on Saint Peter’s shoulder, as if He would
warn him not to abandon himself to joy too soon.

But Saint Peter was ready to weep for joy, because his mother was saved.
He could not understand that anything further would have the power to
part them. And his joy increased when he saw that, quick as the angel
had been when he had lifted her up, still several of the lost souls had
succeeded in attaching themselves to her who was to be saved, in order
that they, too, might be borne to Paradise with her.

There must have been a dozen who clung to the old woman, and Saint Peter
thought it was a great honor for his mother to help so many poor
unfortunate beings out of perdition.

Nor did the angel do aught to hinder them. He seemed not at all troubled
with his burden, but rose and rose, and moved his wings with no more
effort than if he were carrying a little dead birdling to heaven.

But then Saint Peter saw that his mother began to free herself from the
lost souls that had clung to her. She gripped their hands and loosened
their hold, so that one after another tumbled down into hell.

Saint Peter could hear how they begged and implored her; but the old
woman did not desire that any one but herself should be saved. She freed
herself from more and more of them, and let them fall down into misery.
And as they fell, all space was filled with their lamentations and
curses.

Then Saint Peter begged and implored his mother to show some compassion,
but she would not listen, and kept right on as before.

And Saint Peter saw how the angel flew slower and slower, the lighter
his burden became. Such fear took hold of Saint Peter that his legs
shook, and he was forced to drop on his knees.

Finally, there was only one condemned soul who still clung to St.
Peter’s mother. This was a young woman who hung on her neck and begged
and cried in her ear that she would let her go along with her to the
blessed Paradise.

The angel with his burden had already come so far that Saint Peter
stretched out his arms to receive his mother. He thought that the angel
had to make only two or three wing-strokes more to reach the mountain.

Then, all of a sudden, the angel held his wings perfectly still, and his
countenance became dark as night.

For now the old woman had stretched her hands back of her and gripped
the arms of the young woman who hung about her neck, and she clutched
and tore until she succeeded in separating the clasped hands, so that
she was free from this last one also.

When the condemned one fell the angel sank several fathoms lower, and it
appeared as though he had not the strength to lift his wings again.

He looked down upon the old woman with a deep, sorrowful glance; his
hold around her waist loosened, and he let her fall, as if she were too
heavy a burden for him, now that she was alone.

Thereupon he swung himself with a single stroke up into Paradise.

But Saint Peter lay for a long while in the same place, and sobbed, and
our Lord stood silent beside him.

“Saint Peter,” said our Lord at last, “I never thought that you would
weep like this after you had reached Paradise.”

Then God’s old servant raised his head and answered: “What kind of a
Paradise is this, where I can hear the moans of my dearest ones, and see
the sufferings of my fellow men!”

The face of our Lord became o’ercast by the deepest sorrow. “What did I
desire more than to prepare a Paradise for all, of nothing but light and
happiness?” He said. “Do you not understand that it was because of this
I went down among men and taught them to love their neighbors as
themselves? For as long as they do this not, there will be no refuge in
heaven or on earth where pain and sorrow cannot reach them.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration: The Sacred Flame]

                            THE SACRED FLAME


                                   I

A great many years ago, when the city of Florence had only just been
made a republic, a man lived there named Raniero di Raniero. He was the
son of an armorer, and had learned his father’s trade, but he did not
care much to pursue it.

This Raniero was the strongest of men. It was said of him that he bore a
heavy iron armor as lightly as others wear a silk shirt. He was still a
young man, but already he had given many proofs of his strength. Once he
was in a house where grain was stored in the loft. Too much grain had
been heaped there; and while Raniero was in the house one of the loft
beams broke down, and the whole roof was about to fall in. He raised his
arms and held the roof up until the people managed to fetch beams and
poles to prop it.

It was also said of Raniero that he was the bravest man that had ever
lived in Florence, and that he could never get enough of fighting. As
soon as he heard any noise in the street, he rushed out from the
workshop, in hopes that a fight had arisen in which he might
participate. If he could only distinguish himself, he fought just as
readily with humble peasants as with armored horsemen. He rushed into a
fight like a lunatic, without counting his opponents.

Florence was not very powerful in his time. The people were mostly wool
spinners and cloth weavers, and these asked nothing better than to be
allowed to perform their tasks in peace. Sturdy men were plentiful, but
they were not quarrelsome, and they were proud of the fact that in their
city better order prevailed than elsewhere. Raniero often grumbled
because he was not born in a country where there was a king who gathered
around him valiant men, and declared that in such an event he would have
attained great honor and renown.

Raniero was loud-mouthed and boastful; cruel to animals, harsh toward
his wife, and not good for any one to live with. He would have been
handsome if he had not had several deep scars across his face which
disfigured him. He was quick to jump at conclusions, and quick to act,
though his way was often violent.

Raniero was married to Francesca, who was the daughter of Jacopo degli
Uberti, a wise and influential man. Jacopo had not been very anxious to
give his daughter to such a bully as Raniero, but had opposed the
marriage until the very last. Francesca forced him to relent, by
declaring that she would never marry any one else. When Jacopo finally
gave his consent, he said to Raniero: “I have observed that men like you
can more easily win a woman’s love than keep it; therefore I shall exact
this promise from you: If my daughter finds life with you so hard that
she wishes to come back to me, you will not prevent her.” Francesca said
it was needless to exact such a promise, since she was so fond of
Raniero that nothing could separate her from him. But Raniero gave his
promise promptly. “Of one thing you can be assured, Jacopo,” said he—“I
will not try to hold any woman who wishes to flee from me.”

Then Francesca went to live with Raniero, and all was well between them
for a time. When they had been married a few weeks, Raniero took it into
his head that he would practice marksmanship. For several days he aimed
at a painting which hung upon a wall. He soon became skilled, and hit
the mark every time. At last he thought he would like to try and shoot
at a more difficult mark. He looked around for something suitable, but
discovered nothing except a quail that sat in a cage above the courtyard
gate. The bird belonged to Francesca, and she was very fond of it; but,
despite this, Raniero sent a page to open the cage, and shot the quail
as it swung itself into the air.

This seemed to him a very good shot, and he boasted of it to any one who
would listen to him.

When Francesca learned that Raniero had shot her bird, she grew pale and
looked hard at him. She marveled that he had wished to do a thing which
must bring grief to her; but she forgave him promptly and loved him as
before.

Then all went well again for a time.

Raniero’s father-in-law, Jacopo, was a flax weaver. He had a large
establishment, where much work was done. Raniero thought he had
discovered that hemp was mixed with the flax in Jacopo’s workshop, and
he did not keep silent about it, but talked of it here and there in the
city. At last Jacopo also heard this chatter, and tried at once to put a
stop to it. He let several other flax weavers examine his yarn and
cloth, and they found all of it to be of the very finest flax. Only in
one pack, which was designed to be sold outside of Florence, was there
any mixture. Then Jacopo said that the deception had been practised
without his knowledge or consent, by some one among his journeymen. He
apprehended at once that he would find it difficult to convince people
of this. He had always been famed for honesty, and he felt very keenly
that his honor had been smirched.

Raniero, on the other hand, plumed himself upon having succeeded in
exposing a fraud, and he bragged about it even in Francesca’s hearing.

She felt deeply grieved; at the same time she was as astonished as when
he shot the bird. As she thought of this, she seemed suddenly to see her
love before her; and it was like a great piece of shimmery gold cloth.
She could see how big it was, and how it shimmered. But from one corner
a piece had been cut away, so that it was not as big and as beautiful as
it had been in the beginning.

Still, it was as yet damaged so very little that she thought: “It will
probably last as long as I live. It is so great that it can never come
to an end.”

Again, there was a period during which she and Raniero were just as
happy as they had been at first.

Francesca had a brother named Taddeo. He had been in Venice on a
business trip, and, while there, had purchased garments of silk and
velvet. When he came home he paraded around in them. Now, in Florence it
was not the custom to go about expensively clad, so there were many who
made fun of him.

One night Taddeo and Raniero were out in the wine shops. Taddeo was
dressed in a green cloak with sable linings, and a violet jacket.
Raniero tempted him to drink so much wine that he fell asleep, and then
he took his cloak off him and hung it upon a scarecrow that was set up
in a cabbage patch.

When Francesca heard of this she was vexed again with Raniero. That
moment she saw before her the big piece of gold cloth—which was her
love—and she seemed to see how it diminished, as Raniero cut away piece
after piece.

After this, things were patched up between them for a time, but
Francesca was no longer so happy as in former days, because she always
feared that Raniero would commit some misdemeanor that would hurt her
love.

This was not long in coming, either, for Raniero could never be
tranquil. He wished that people should always speak of him and praise
his courage and daring.

At that time the cathedral in Florence was much smaller than the present
one, and there hung at the top of one of its towers a big, heavy shield,
which had been placed there by one of Francesca’s ancestors. It was the
heaviest shield any man in Florence had been able to lift, and all the
Uberti family were proud because it was one of their own who had climbed
up in the tower and hung it there.

But Raniero climbed up to the shield one day, hung it on his back, and
came down with it.

When Francesca heard of this for the first time she spoke to Raniero of
what troubled her, and begged him not to humiliate her family in this
way. Raniero, who had expected that she would commend him for his feat,
became very angry. He retorted that he had long observed that she did
not rejoice in his success, but thought only of her own kin. “It’s
something else I am thinking of,” said Francesca, “and that is my love.
I know not what will become of it if you keep on in this way.”

After this they frequently exchanged harsh words, for Raniero happened
nearly always to do the very thing that was most distasteful to
Francesca.

There was a workman in Raniero’s shop who was little and lame. This man
had loved Francesca before she was married, and continued to love her
even after her marriage. Raniero, who knew this, undertook to joke with
him before all who sat at a table. It went so far that finally the man
could no longer bear to be held up to ridicule in Francesca’s hearing,
so he rushed upon Raniero and wanted to fight with him. But Raniero only
smiled derisively and kicked him aside. Then the poor fellow thought he
did not care to live any longer, and went off and hanged himself.

When this happened, Francesca and Raniero had been married about a year.
Francesca thought continually that she saw her love before her as a
shimmery piece of cloth, but on all sides large pieces were cut away, so
that it was scarcely half as big as it had been in the beginning.

She became very much alarmed when she saw this, and thought: “If I stay
with Raniero another year, he will destroy my love. I shall become just
as poor as I have hitherto been rich.”

Then she concluded to leave Raniero’s house and go to live with her
father, that the day might not come when she should hate Raniero as much
as she now loved him.

Jacopo degli Uberti was sitting at the loom with all his workmen busy
around him when he saw her coming. He said that now the thing had come
to pass which he had long expected, and bade her be welcome. Instantly
he ordered all the people to leave off their work and arm themselves and
close the house.

Then Jacopo went over to Raniero. He met him in the workshop. “My
daughter has this day returned to me and begged that she may live again
under my roof,” he said to his son-in-law. “And now I expect that you
will not compel her to return to you, after the promise you have given
me.”

Raniero did not seem to take this very seriously, but answered calmly:
“Even if I had not given you my word, I would not demand the return of a
woman who does not wish to be mine.”

He knew how much Francesca loved him, and said to himself: “She will be
back with me before evening.”

Yet she did not appear either that day or the next.

The third day Raniero went out and pursued a couple of robbers who had
long disturbed the Florentine merchants. He succeeded in catching them,
and took them captives to Florence.

He remained quiet a couple of days, until he was positive that this feat
was known throughout the city. But it did not turn out as he had
expected—that it would bring Francesca back to him.

Raniero had the greatest desire to appeal to the courts, to force her
return to him, but he felt himself unable to do this because of his
promise. It seemed impossible for him to live in the same city with a
wife who had abandoned him, so he moved away from Florence.

He first became a soldier, and very soon he made himself commander of a
volunteer company. He was always in a fight, and served many masters.

He won much renown as a warrior, as he had always said he would. He was
made a knight by the Emperor, and was accounted a great man.

Before he left Florence, he had made a vow at a sacred image of the
Madonna in the Cathedral to present to the Blessed Virgin the best and
rarest that he won in every battle. Before this image one always saw
costly gifts, which were presented by Raniero.

Raniero was aware that all his deeds were known in his native city. He
marveled much that Francesca degli Uberti did not come back to him, when
she knew all about his success.

At that time sermons were preached to start the Crusades for the
recovery of the Holy Sepulchre from the Saracens, and Raniero took the
cross and departed for the Orient. He not only hoped to win castles and
lands to rule over, but also to succeed in performing such brilliant
feats that his wife would again be fond of him, and return to him.

                                   II

The night succeeding the day on which Jerusalem had been captured, there
was great rejoicing in the Crusaders’ camp, outside the city. In almost
every tent they celebrated with drinking bouts, and noise and roystering
were heard in every direction.

Raniero di Raniero sat and drank with some comrades; and in his tent it
was even more hilarious than elsewhere. The servants barely had time to
fill the goblets before they were empty again.

Raniero had the best of reasons for celebrating, because during the day
he had won greater glory than ever before. In the morning, when the city
was besieged, he had been the first to scale the walls after Godfrey of
Boulogne; and in the evening he had been honored for his bravery in the
presence of the whole corps.

When the plunder and murder were ended, and the Crusaders in penitents’
cloaks and with lighted candles marched into the Church of the Holy
Sepulchre, it had been announced to Raniero by Godfrey that he should be
the first who might light his candle from the sacred candles which burn
before Christ’s tomb. It appeared to Raniero that Godfrey wished in this
manner to show that he considered him the bravest man in the whole
corps; and he was very happy over the way in which he had been rewarded
for his achievements.

As the night wore on, Raniero and his guests were in the best of
spirits; a fool and a couple of musicians who had wandered all over the
camp and amused the people with their pranks, came into Raniero’s tent,
and the fool asked permission to narrate a comic story.

Raniero knew that this particular fool was in great demand for his
drollery, and he promised to listen to his narrative.

“It happened once,” said the fool, “that our Lord and Saint Peter sat a
whole day upon the highest tower in Paradise Stronghold, and looked down
upon the earth. They had so much to look at, that they scarcely found
time to exchange a word. Our Lord kept perfectly still the whole time,
but Saint Peter sometimes clapped his hands for joy, and again turned
his head away in disgust. Sometimes he applauded and smiled, and anon he
wept and commiserated. Finally, as it drew toward the close of day, and
twilight sank down over Paradise, our Lord turned to Saint Peter and
said that now he must surely be satisfied and content. ‘What is it that
I should be content with?’ Saint Peter asked, in an impetuous tone.
‘Why,’ said our Lord slowly, ‘I thought that you would be pleased with
what you have seen to-day.’ But Saint Peter did not care to be
conciliated. ‘It is true,’ said he, ‘that for many years I have bemoaned
the fact that Jerusalem should be in the power of unbelievers, but after
all that has happened to-day, I think it might just as well have
remained as it was.’”

Raniero understood now that the fool spoke of what had taken place
during the day. Both he and the other knights began to listen with
greater interest than in the beginning.

“When Saint Peter had said this,” continued the fool, as he cast a
furtive glance at the knights, “he leaned over the pinnacle of the tower
and pointed toward the earth. He showed our Lord a city which lay upon a
great solitary rock that shot up from a mountain valley. ‘Do you see
those mounds of corpses?’ he said. ‘And do you see the naked and
wretched prisoners who moan in the night chill? And do you see all the
smoking ruins of the conflagration?’ It appeared as if our Lord did not
wish to answer him, but Saint Peter went on with his lamentations. He
said that he had certainly been vexed with that city many times, but he
had not wished it so ill as that it should come to look like this. Then,
at last, our Lord answered, and tried an objection: ‘Still, you can not
deny that the Christian knights have risked their lives with the utmost
fearlessness,’ said He.”

Then the fool was interrupted by bravos, but he made haste to continue.

“Oh, don’t interrupt me!” he said. “Now I don’t remember where I left
off—ah! to be sure, I was just going to say that Saint Peter wiped away
a tear or two which sprang to his eyes and prevented him from seeing. ‘I
never would have thought they could be such beasts,’ said he. ‘They have
murdered and plundered the whole day. Why you went to all the trouble of
letting yourself be crucified in order to gain such devotees, I can’t in
the least comprehend.’”

The knights took up the fun good-naturedly. They began to laugh loud and
merrily. “What, fool! Is Saint Peter so wroth with us?” shrieked one of
them.

“Be silent now, and let us hear if our Lord spoke in our defense!”
interposed another.

“No, our Lord was silent. He knew of old that when Saint Peter had once
got a-going, it wasn’t worth while to argue with him. He went on in his
way, and said that our Lord needn’t trouble to tell him that finally
they remembered to which city they had come, and went to church
barefooted and in penitents’ garb. That spirit had, of course, not
lasted long enough to be worth mentioning. And thereupon he leaned once
more over the tower and pointed downward toward Jerusalem. He pointed
out the Christians’ camp outside the city. ‘Do you see how your knights
celebrate their victories?’ he asked. And our Lord saw that there was
revelry everywhere in the camp. Knights and soldiers sat and looked upon
Syrian dancers. Filled goblets went the rounds while they threw dice for
the spoils of war and——”

“They listened to fools who told vile stories,” interpolated Raniero.
“Was not this also a great sin?”

The fool laughed and shook his head at Raniero, as much as to say,
“Wait! I will pay you back.”

“No, don’t interrupt me!” he begged once again. “A poor fool forgets so
easily what he would say. Ah! it was this: Saint Peter asked our Lord if
He thought these people were much of a credit to Him. To this, of
course, our Lord had to reply that He didn’t think they were.

“‘They were robbers and murderers before they left home, and robbers and
murderers they are even to-day. This undertaking you could just as well
have left undone. No good will come of it,’ said Saint Peter.”

“Come, come, fool!” said Raniero in a threatening tone. But the fool
seemed to consider it an honor to test how far he could go without some
one jumping up and throwing him out, and he continued fearlessly.

“Our Lord only bowed His head, like one who acknowledges that he is
being justly rebuked. But almost at the same instant He leaned forward
eagerly and peered down with closer scrutiny than before. Saint Peter
also glanced down. ‘What are you looking for?’ he wondered.”

The fool delivered this speech with much animated facial play. All the
knights saw our Lord and Saint Peter before their eyes, and they
wondered what it was our Lord had caught sight of.

“Our Lord answered that it was nothing in particular,” said the fool.
“Saint Peter gazed in the direction of our Lord’s glance, but he could
discover nothing except that our Lord sat and looked down into a big
tent, outside of which a couple of Saracen heads were set up on long
lances, and where a lot of fine rugs, golden vessels, and costly
weapons, captured in the Holy City, were piled up. In that tent they
carried on as they did everywhere else in the camp. A company of knights
sat and emptied their goblets. The only difference might be that here
there were more drinking and roystering than elsewhere. Saint Peter
could not comprehend why our Lord was so pleased when He looked down
there, that His eyes fairly sparkled with delight. So many hard and
cruel faces he had rarely before seen gathered around a drinking table.
And he who was host at the board and sat at the head of the table was
the most dreadful of all. He was a man of thirty-five, frightfully big
and coarse, with a blowsy countenance covered with scars and scratches,
calloused hands, and a loud, bellowing voice.”

Here the fool paused a moment, as if he feared to go on, but both
Raniero and the others liked to hear him talk of themselves, and only
laughed at his audacity. “You’re a daring fellow,” said Raniero, “so let
us see what you are driving at!”

“Finally, our Lord said a few words,” continued the fool, “which made
Saint Peter understand what He rejoiced over. He asked Saint Peter if He
saw wrongly, or if it could actually be true that one of the knights had
a burning candle beside him.”

Raniero gave a start at these words. Now, at last, he was angry with the
fool, and reached out his hand for a heavy wine pitcher to throw at his
face, but he controlled himself that he might hear whether the fellow
wished to speak to his credit or discredit.

“Saint Peter saw now,” narrated the fool, “that, although the tent was
lighted mostly by torches, one of the knights really had a burning wax
candle beside him. It was a long, thick candle, one of the sort made to
burn twenty-four hours. The knight, who had no candlestick to set it in,
had gathered together some stones and piled them around it, to make it
stand.”

The company burst into shrieks of laughter at this. All pointed at a
candle which stood on the table beside Raniero, and was exactly like the
one the fool had described. The blood mounted to Raniero’s head; for
this was the candle which he had a few hours before been permitted to
light at the Holy Sepulchre. He had been unable to make up his mind to
let it die out.

“When Saint Peter saw that candle,” said the fool, “it dawned upon him
what it was that our Lord was so happy over, but at the same time he
could not help feeling just a little sorry for Him. ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘it
was the same knight that leaped upon the wall this morning immediately
after the gentleman of Boulogne, and who this evening was permitted to
light his candle at the Holy Sepulchre ahead of all the others. ‘True!’
said our Lord. ‘And, as you see, his candle is still burning.’”

The fool talked very fast now, casting an occasional sly glance at
Raniero. “Saint Peter could not help pitying our Lord. ‘Can’t you
understand why he keeps that candle burning?’ said he. ‘You must believe
that he thinks of your sufferings and death whenever he looks at it. But
he thinks only of the glory which he won when he was acknowledged to be
the bravest man in the troop after Godfrey.’”

At this all Raniero’s guests laughed. Raniero was very angry, but he,
too, forced himself to laugh. He knew they would have found it still
more amusing if he hadn’t been able to take a little fun.

“But our Lord contradicted Saint Peter,” said the fool. “‘Don’t you see
how careful he is with the light?’ asked He. ‘He puts his hand before
the flame as soon as any one raises the tent-flap, for fear the draught
will blow it out. And he is constantly occupied in chasing away the
moths which fly around it and threaten to extinguish it.’”

The laughter grew merrier and merrier, for what the fool said was the
truth. Raniero found it more and more difficult to control himself. He
felt he could not endure that any one should jest about the sacred
candle.

“Still, Saint Peter was dubious,” continued the fool. “He asked our Lord
if He knew that knight. ‘He’s not one who goes often to Mass or wears
out the prie-dieu,’ said he. But our Lord could not be swerved from His
opinion.

“‘Saint Peter, Saint Peter,’ He said earnestly. ‘Remember that
henceforth this knight shall become more pious than Godfrey. Whence do
piety and gentleness spring, if not from my sepulchre? You shall see
Raniero di Raniero help widows and distressed prisoners. You shall see
him care for the sick and despairing as he now cares for the sacred
candle flame.’”

At this they laughed inordinately. It struck them all as very ludicrous,
for they knew Raniero’s disposition and mode of living. But he himself
found both the jokes and laughter intolerable. He sprang to his feet and
wanted to reprove the fool. As he did this, he bumped so hard against
the table—which was only a door set up on loose boxes—that it wabbled,
and the candle fell down. It was evident now how careful Raniero was to
keep the candle burning. He controlled his anger and gave himself time
to pick it up and brighten the flame, before he rushed upon the fool.
But when he had trimmed the light the fool had already darted out of the
tent, and Raniero knew it would be useless to pursue him in the
darkness. “I shall probably run across him another time,” he thought,
and sat down.

Meanwhile the guests had laughed mockingly, and one of them turned to
Raniero and wanted to continue the jesting. He said: “There is one
thing, however, which is certain, Raniero, and that is—this time you
can’t send to the Madonna in Florence the most precious thing you have
won in the battle.”

Raniero asked why he thought that he should not follow his old habit
this time.

“For no other reason,” said the knight, “than that the most precious
thing you have won is that sacred candle flame, which you were permitted
to light at the church of the Holy Sepulchre in presence of the whole
corps. Surely you can’t send that to Florence!”

Again the other knights laughed, but Raniero was now in the mood to
undertake the wildest projects, just to put an end to their laughter. He
came to a conclusion quickly, called to an old squire, and said to him:
“Make ready, Giovanni, for a long journey. To-morrow you shall travel to
Florence with this sacred candle flame.”

But the squire said a blunt no to this command. “This is something which
I don’t care to undertake,” he said. “How should it be possible to
travel to Florence with a candle flame? It would be extinguished before
I had left the camp.”

Raniero asked one after another of his men. He received the same reply
from all. They scarcely seemed to take his command seriously.

It was a foregone conclusion that the foreign knights who were his
guests should laugh even louder and more merrily, as it became apparent
that none of Raniero’s men wished to carry out his order.

Raniero grew more and more excited. Finally he lost his patience and
shouted: “This candle flame shall nevertheless be borne to Florence; and
since no one else will ride there with it, I will do so myself!”

“Consider before you promise anything of the kind!” said a knight. “You
ride away from a principality.”

“I swear to you that I will carry this sacred flame to Florence!”
exclaimed Raniero. “I shall do what no one else has cared to undertake.”

The old squire defended himself. “Master, it’s another matter for you.
You can take with you a large retinue but me you would send alone.”

But Raniero was clean out of himself, and did not consider his words.
“I, too, shall travel alone,” said he.

But with this declaration Raniero had carried his point. Every one in
the tent had ceased laughing. Terrified, they sat and stared at him.

“Why don’t you laugh any more?” asked Raniero. “This undertaking surely
can’t be anything but a child’s game for a brave man.”

                                  III

The next morning at dawn Raniero mounted his horse. He was in full
armor, but over it he had thrown a coarse pilgrim cloak, so that the
iron dress should not become overheated by exposure to the sun’s rays.
He was armed with a sword and battle-club, and rode a good horse. He
held in his hand a burning candle, and to the saddle he had tied a
couple of bundles of long wax candles, so the flame should not die out
for lack of nourishment.

Raniero rode slowly through the long, encumbered tent street, and thus
far all went well. It was still so early that the mists which had arisen
from the deep dales surrounding Jerusalem were not dispersed, and
Raniero rode forward as in a white night. The whole troop slept, and
Raniero passed the guards easily. None of them called out his name, for
the mist prevented their seeing him, and the roads were covered with a
dust-like soil a foot high, which made the horse’s tramp inaudible.

Raniero was soon outside the camp and started on the road which led to
Joppa. Here it was smoother, but he rode very slowly now, because of the
candle, which burned feebly in the thick mist. Big insects kept dashing
against the flame. Raniero had all he could do guarding it, but he was
in the best of spirits and thought all the while that the mission which
he had undertaken was so easy that a child could manage it.

Meanwhile, the horse grew weary of the slow pace, and began to trot. The
flame began to flicker in the wind. It didn’t help that Raniero tried to
shield it with his hand and with the cloak. He saw that it was about to
be extinguished.

But he had no desire to abandon the project so soon. He stopped the
horse, sat still a moment, and pondered. Then he dismounted and tried
sitting backwards, so that his body shielded the flame from the wind. In
this way he succeeded in keeping it burning; but he realized now that
the journey would be more difficult than he had thought at the
beginning.

When he had passed the mountains which surround Jerusalem, the fog
lifted. He rode forward now in the greatest solitude. There were no
people, houses, green trees, nor plants—only bare rocks.

Here Raniero was attacked by robbers. They were idle folk, who followed
the camp without permission, and lived by theft and plunder. They had
lain in hiding behind a hill, and Raniero—who rode backwards—had not
seen them until they had surrounded him and brandished their swords at
him.

There were about twelve men. They looked wretched, and rode poor horses.
Raniero saw at once that it would not be difficult for him to break
through this company and ride on. And after his proud boast of the night
before, he was unwilling to abandon his undertaking easily.

He saw no other means of escape than to compromise with the robbers. He
told them that, since he was armed and rode a good horse, it might be
difficult to overpower him if he defended himself. And as he was bound
by a vow, he did not wish to offer resistance, but they could take
whatever they wanted, without a struggle, if only they promised not to
put out his light.

The robbers had expected a hard struggle, and were very happy over
Raniero’s proposal, and began immediately to plunder him. They took from
him armor and steed, weapons and money. The only thing they let him keep
was the coarse cloak and the two bundles of wax candles. They sacredly
kept their promise, also, not to put out the candle flame.

One of them mounted Raniero’s horse. When he noticed what a fine animal
he was, he felt a little sorry for the rider. He called out to him:
“Come, come, we must not be too cruel toward a Christian. You shall have
my old horse to ride.”

It was a miserable old screw of a horse. It moved as stiffly, and with
as much difficulty, as if it were made of wood.

When the robbers had gone at last, and Raniero had mounted the wretched
horse, he said to himself: “I must have become bewitched by this candle
flame. For its sake I must now travel along the roads like a crazy
beggar.”

He knew it would be wise for him to turn back, because the undertaking
was really impracticable. But such an intense yearning to accomplish it
had come over him that he could not resist the desire to go on.
Therefore, he went farther. He saw all around him the same bare,
yellowish hills.

After a while he came across a goatherd, who tended four goats. When
Raniero saw the animals grazing on the barren ground, he wondered if
they ate earth.

This goatherd had owned a larger flock, which had been stolen from him
by the Crusaders. When he noticed a solitary Christian come riding
toward him, he tried to do him all the harm he could. He rushed up to
him and struck at his light with his staff. Raniero was so taken up by
the flame that he could not defend himself even against a goatherd. He
only drew the candle close to him to protect it. The goatherd struck at
it several times more, then he paused, astonished, and ceased striking.
He noticed that Raniero’s cloak had caught fire, but Raniero did nothing
to smother the blaze, so long as the sacred flame was in danger. The
goatherd looked as though he felt ashamed. For a long time he followed
Raniero, and in one place, where the road was very narrow, with a deep
chasm on each side of it, he came up and led the horse for him.

Raniero smiled and thought the goatherd surely regarded him as a holy
man who had undertaken a voluntary penance.

Toward evening Raniero began to meet people. Rumors of the fall of
Jerusalem had already spread to the coast, and a throng of people had
immediately prepared to go up there. There were pilgrims who for years
had awaited an opportunity to get into Jerusalem, also some
newly-arrived troops; but they were mostly merchants who were hastening
with provisions.

When these throngs met Raniero, who came riding backwards with a burning
candle in his hand, they cried: “A madman, a madman!”

The majority were Italians; and Raniero heard how they shouted in his
own tongue, “Pazzo, pazzo!” which means “a madman, a madman.”

Raniero, who had been able to keep himself well in check all day, became
intensely irritated by these ever-recurring shouts. Instantly he
dismounted and began to chastise the offenders with his hard fists. When
they saw how heavy the blows were, they took to their heels, and Raniero
soon stood alone on the road.

Now Raniero was himself again. “In truth they were right to call me a
madman,” he said, as he looked around for the light. He did not know
what he had done with it. At last he saw that it had rolled down into a
hollow. The flame was extinguished, but he saw fire gleam from a dry
grass-tuft close beside it, and understood that luck was with him, for
the flame had ignited the grass before it had gone out.

“This might have been an inglorious end of a deal of trouble,” he
thought, as he lit the candle and stepped into the saddle. He was rather
mortified. It did not seem to him very probable that his journey would
be a success.

In the evening Raniero reached Ramle, and rode up to a place where
caravans usually had night harbor. It was a large covered yard. All
around it were little stalls where travelers could put up their horses.
There were no rooms, but folk could sleep beside the animals.

The place was overcrowded with people, yet the host found room for
Raniero and his horse. He also gave fodder to the horse and food to the
rider.

When Raniero perceived that he was well treated, he thought: “I almost
believe the robbers did me a service when they took from me my armor and
my horse. I shall certainly get out of the country more easily with my
light burden, if they mistake me for a lunatic.”

When he had led the horse into the stall, he sat down on a sheaf of
straw and held the candle in his hands. It was his intention not to fall
asleep, but to remain awake all night.

But he had hardly seated himself when he fell asleep. He was fearfully
exhausted, and in his sleep he stretched out full length and did not
wake till morning.

When he awoke he saw neither flame nor candle. He searched in the straw
for the candle, but did not find it anywhere.

“Some one has taken it from me and extinguished it,” he said. He tried
to persuade himself that he was glad that all was over, and that he need
not pursue an impossible undertaking.

But as he pondered, he felt a sense of emptiness and loss. He thought
that never before had he so longed to succeed in anything on which he
had set his mind.

He led the horse out and groomed and saddled it.

When he was ready to set out, the host who owned the caravansary came up
to him with a burning candle. He said in Frankish: “When you fell asleep
last night, I had to take your light from you, but here you have it
again.”

Raniero betrayed nothing, but said very calmly: “It was wise of you to
extinguish it.”

“I have not extinguished it,” said the man. “I noticed that it was
burning when you arrived, and I thought it was of importance to you that
it should continue to burn. If you see how much it has decreased, you
will understand that it has been burning all night.”

Raniero beamed with happiness. He commended the host heartily, and rode
away in the best of spirits.

                                   IV

When Raniero broke away from the camp at Jerusalem, he intended to
travel from Joppa to Italy by sea, but changed his mind after he had
been robbed of his money, and concluded to make the journey by land.

It was a long journey. From Joppa he went northward along the Syrian
coast. Then he rode westward along the peninsula of Asia Minor, then
northward again, all the way to Constantinople. From there he still had
a monotonously long distance to travel to reach Florence. During the
whole journey Raniero had lived upon the contributions of the pious.
They that shared their bread with him mostly were pilgrims who at this
time traveled _en masse_ to Jerusalem.

Regardless of the fact that he nearly always rode alone, his days were
neither long nor monotonous. He must always guard the candle flame, and
on its account he never could feel at ease. It needed only a puff of
breeze—a rain-drop—and there would have been an end to it.

As Raniero rode over lonely roads, and thought only about keeping the
flame alive, it occurred to him that once before he had been concerned
with something similar. Once before he had seen a person watch over
something which was just as sensitive as a candle flame.

This recollection was so vague to him at first that he wondered if it
was something he had dreamed.

But as he rode on alone through the country, it kept recurring to him
that he had participated in something similar once before.

“It is as if all my life long I had heard tell of nothing else,” said
he.

One evening he rode into a city. It was after sundown, and the
housewives stood in their doorways and watched for their husbands. Then
he noticed one who was tall and slender, and had earnest eyes. She
reminded him of Francesca degli Uberti.

Instantly it became clear to him what he had been pondering over. It
came to him that for Francesca her love must have been as a sacred flame
which she had always wished to keep burning, and which she had
constantly feared that Raniero would quench. He was astonished at this
thought, but grew more and more certain that the matter stood thus. For
the first time he began to understand why Francesca had left him, and
that it was not with feats of arms he should win her back.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The journey which Raniero made was of long duration. This was in part
due to the fact that he could not venture out when the weather was bad.
Then he sat in some caravansary, and guarded the candle flame. These
were very trying days.

One day, when he rode over Mount Lebanon, he saw that a storm was
brewing. He was riding high up among awful precipices, and a frightful
distance from any human abode. Finally he saw on the summit of a rock
the tomb of a Saracen saint. It was a little square stone structure with
a vaulted roof. He thought it best to seek shelter there.

He had barely entered when a snowstorm came up, which raged for two days
and nights. At the same time it grew so cold that he came near freezing
to death.

Raniero knew that there were heaps of branches and twigs out on the
mountain, and it would not have been difficult for him to gather fuel
for a fire. But he considered the candle flame which he carried very
sacred, and did not wish to light anything from it, except the candles
before the Blessed Virgin’s Altar.

The storm increased, and at last he heard thunder and saw gleams of
lightning.

Then came a flash which struck the mountain, just in front of the tomb,
and set fire to a tree. And in this way he was enabled to light his fire
without having to borrow of the sacred flame.

                  *       *       *       *       *

As Raniero was riding on through a desolate portion of the Cilician
mountain district, his candles were all used up. The candles which he
had brought with him from Jerusalem had long since been consumed; but
still he had been able to manage because he had found Christian
communities all along the way, of whom he had begged fresh candles.

But now his resources were exhausted, and he thought that this would be
the end of his journey.

When the candle was so nearly burned out that the flame scorched his
hand, he jumped from his horse and gathered branches and dry leaves and
lit these with the last of the flame. But up on the mountain there was
very little that would ignite, and the fire would soon burn out.

While he sat and grieved because the sacred flame must die, he heard
singing down the road, and a procession of pilgrims came marching up the
steep path, bearing candles in their hands. They were on their way to a
grotto where a holy man had lived, and Raniero followed them. Among them
was a woman who was very old and had difficulty in walking, and Raniero
carried her up the mountain.

When she thanked him afterwards, he made a sign to her that she should
give him her candle. She did so, and several others also presented him
with the candles which they carried. He extinguished the candles,
hurried down the steep path, and lit one of them with the last spark
from the fire lighted by the sacred flame.

                  *       *       *       *       *

One day at the noon hour it was very warm, and Raniero had lain down to
sleep in a thicket. He slept soundly, and the candle stood beside him
between a couple of stones. When he had been asleep a while, it began to
rain, and this continued for some time, without his waking. When at last
he was startled out of his sleep, the ground around him was wet, and he
hardly dared glance toward the light, for fear it might be quenched.

But the light burned calmly and steadily in the rain, and Raniero saw
that this was because two little birds flew and fluttered just above the
flame. They caressed it with their bills, and held their wings
outspread, and in this way they protected the sacred flame from the
rain.

He took off his hood immediately, and hung it over the candle. Thereupon
he reached out his hand for the two little birds, for he had been seized
with a desire to pet them. Neither of them flew away because of him, and
he could catch them.

He was very much astonished that the birds were not afraid of him. “It
is because they know I have no thought except to protect that which is
the most sensitive of all, that they do not fear me,” thought he.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Raniero rode in the vicinity of Nicæa, in Bithynia. Here he met some
western gentlemen who were conducting a party of recruits to the Holy
Land. In this company was Robert Taillefer, who was a wandering knight
and a troubadour.

Raniero, in his torn cloak, came riding along with the candle in his
hand, and the warriors began as usual to shout, “A madman, a madman!”
But Robert silenced them, and addressed the rider.

“Have you journeyed far in this manner?” he asked.

“I have ridden like this all the way from Jerusalem,” answered Raniero.

“Has your light been extinguished many times during the journey?”

“Still burns the flame that lighted the candle with which I rode away
from Jerusalem,” responded Raniero.

Then Robert Taillefer said to him: “I am also one of those who carry a
light, and I would that it burned always. But perchance you, who have
brought your light burning all the way from Jerusalem, can tell me what
I shall do that it may not become extinguished?”

Then Raniero answered: “Master, it is a difficult task, although it
appears to be of slight importance. This little flame demands of you
that you shall entirely cease to think of anything else. It will not
allow you to have any sweet-heart—in case you should desire anything of
the sort—neither would you dare on account of this flame to sit down at
a revel. You can not have aught else in your thoughts than just this
flame, and must possess no other happiness. But my chief reason for
advising you against making the journey which I have weathered is that
you can not for an instant feel secure. It matters not through how many
perils you may have guarded the flame, you can not for an instant think
yourself secure, but must ever expect that the very next moment it may
fail you.”

But Robert Taillefer raised his head proudly and answered: “What you
have done for your sacred flame I may do for mine.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

Raniero arrived in Italy. One day he rode through lonely roads up among
the mountains. A woman came running after him and begged him to give her
a light from his candle. “The fire in my hut is out,” said she. “My
children are hungry. Give me a light that I may heat my oven and bake
bread for them!”

She reached for the burning candle, but Raniero held it back because he
did not wish that anything should be lighted by that flame but the
candles before the image of the Blessed Virgin.

Then the woman said to him: “Pilgrim, give me a light, for the life of
my children is the flame which I am in duty bound to keep burning!” And
because of these words he permitted her to light the wick of her lamp
from his flame.

Several hours later he rode into a town. It lay far up on the mountain,
where it was very cold. A peasant stood in the road and saw the poor
wretch who came riding in his torn cloak. Instantly he stripped off the
short mantle which he wore, and flung it to him. But the mantle fell
directly over the candle and extinguished the flame.

Then Raniero remembered the woman who had borrowed a light of him. He
turned back to her and had his candle lighted anew with sacred fire.

When he was ready to ride farther, he said to her: “You say that the
sacred flame which you must guard is the life of your children. Can you
tell me what name this candle’s flame bears, which I have carried over
long roads?”

“Where was your candle lighted?” asked the woman.

“It was lighted at Christ’s sepulchre,” said Raniero.

“Then it can only be called Gentleness and Love of Humanity,” said she.

Raniero laughed at the answer. He thought himself a singular apostle of
virtues such as these.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Raniero rode forward between beautiful blue hills. He saw he was near
Florence. He was thinking that he must soon part with his light. He
thought of his tent in Jerusalem, which he had left filled with
trophies, and the brave soldiers who were still in Palestine, and who
would be glad to have him take up the business of war once more, and
bear them on to new conquests and honors.

Then he perceived that he experienced no pleasure in thinking of this,
but that his thoughts were drawn in another direction.

Then he realized for the first time that he was no longer the same man
that had gone from Jerusalem. The ride with the sacred flame had
compelled him to rejoice with all who were peaceable and wise and
compassionate, and to abhor the savage and warlike.

He was happy every time he thought of people who labored peacefully in
their homes, and it occurred to him that he would willingly move into
his old workshop in Florence and do beautiful and artistic work.

“Verily this flame has recreated me,” he thought. “I believe it has made
a new man of me.”

                                   V

It was Eastertide when Raniero rode into Florence.

He had scarcely come in through the city gate—riding backwards, with
his hood drawn down over his face and the burning candle in his
hand—when a beggar arose and shouted the customary “Pazzo, pazzo!”

At this cry a street gamin darted out of a doorway, and a loafer, who
had had nothing else to do for a long time than to lie and gaze at the
clouds, jumped to his feet. Both began shouting the same thing: “Pazzo,
pazzo!”

Now that there were three who shrieked, they made a good deal of noise
and so woke up all the street urchins. They came rushing out from nooks
and corners. As soon as they saw Raniero, in his torn coat, on the
wretched horse, they shouted: “Pazzo, pazzo!”

But this was only what Raniero was accustomed to. He rode quietly up the
street, seeming: not to notice the shouters.

Then they were not content with merely shouting, but one of them jumped
up and tried to blow out the light. Raniero raised the candle on high,
trying at the same time to prod his horse, to escape the boys.

They kept even pace with him, and did everything they could to put out
the light.

The more he exerted himself to protect the flame the more excited they
became. They leaped upon one another’s backs, puffed their cheeks out,
and blew. They flung their caps at the candle. It was only because they
were so numerous and crowded on one another that they did not succeed in
quenching the flame.

This was the largest procession on the street. People stood at the
windows and laughed. No one felt any sympathy with a madman, who wanted
to defend his candle flame. It was church hour, and many worshipers were
on their way to Mass. They, too, stopped and laughed at the sport.

But now Raniero stood upright in the saddle, so that he could shield the
candle. He looked wild. The hood had fallen back and they saw his face,
which was wasted and pale, like a martyr’s. The candle he held uplifted
as high as he could.

The entire street was one great swarm of people. Even the older ones
began to take part in the play. The women waved their head-shawls and
the men swung their caps. Every one worked to extinguish the light.

Raniero rode under the vine-covered balcony of a house. Upon this stood
a woman. She leaned over the lattice-work, snatched the candle, and ran
in with it. The woman was Francesca degli Uberti.

The whole populace burst into shrieks of laughter and shouts, but
Raniero swayed in his saddle and fell to the street.

As soon as he lay there stricken and unconscious, the street was emptied
of people.

No one wished to take charge of the fallen man. His horse was the only
creature that stopped beside him.

As soon as the crowds had got away from the street, Francesca degli
Uberti came out from her house, with the burning candle in her hand. She
was still pretty; her features were gentle, and her eyes were deep and
earnest.

She went up to Raniero and bent over him. He lay senseless, but the
instant the candle light fell upon his face, he moved and roused
himself. It was apparent that the candle flame had complete power over
him. When Francesca saw that he had regained his senses, she said: “Here
is your candle. I snatched it from you, as I saw how anxious you were to
keep it burning. I knew of no other way to help you.”

Raniero had had a bad fall, and was hurt. But now nothing could hold him
back. He began to raise himself slowly. He wanted to walk, but wavered,
and was about to fall. Then he tried to mount his horse. Francesca
helped him. “Where do you wish to go?” she asked when he sat in the
saddle again. “I want to go to the cathedral,” he answered. “Then I
shall accompany you,” she said, “for I’m going to Mass.” And she led the
horse for him.

Francesca had recognized Raniero the very moment she saw him, but he did
not see who she was, for he did not take time to notice her. He kept his
gaze fixed upon the candle flame alone.

They were absolutely silent all the way. Raniero thought only of the
flame, and of guarding it well these last moments. Francesca could not
speak, for she felt she did not wish to be certain of that which she
feared. She could not believe but that Raniero had come home insane.
Although she was almost certain of this, she would rather not speak with
him, in order to avoid any positive assurance.

After a while Raniero heard some one weep near him. He looked around and
saw that it was Francesca degli Uberti, who walked beside him; and she
wept. But Raniero saw her only for an instant, and said nothing to her.
He wanted to think only of the sacred flame.

Raniero let her conduct him to the sacristy. There he dismounted. He
thanked Francesca for her help, but looked all the while not upon her,
but on the light. He walked alone up to the priests in the sacristy.

Francesca went into the church. It was Easter Eve, and all the candles
stood unlighted upon the altars, as a symbol of mourning. Francesca
thought that every flame of hope which had ever burned within her was
now extinguished.

In the church there was profound solemnity. There were many priests at
the altar. The canons sat in a body in the chancel, with the bishop
among them.

By and by Francesca noticed there was commotion among the priests.
Nearly all who were not needed to serve at Mass arose and went out into
the sacristy. Finally the bishop went, too.

When Mass was over, a priest stepped up to the chancel railing and began
to speak to the people. He related that Raniero di Raniero had arrived
in Florence with sacred fire from Jerusalem. He narrated what the rider
had endured and suffered on the way. And he praised him exceeding much.

The people sat spellbound and listened to this. Francesca had never
before experienced such a blissful moment. “O God!” she sighed, “this is
greater happiness than I can bear.” Her tears fell as she listened.

The priest talked long and well. Finally he said in a strong, thrilling
voice: “It may perchance appear like a trivial thing now, that a candle
flame has been brought to Florence. But I say to you: Pray God that He
will send Florence many bearers of Eternal Light; then she will become a
great power, and be extolled as a city among cities!”

When the priest had finished speaking, the entrance doors of the church
were thrown open, and a procession of canons and monks and priests
marched up the center aisle toward the altar. The bishop came last, and
by his side walked Raniero, in the same cloak that he had worn during
the entire journey.

But when Raniero had crossed the threshold of the cathedral, an old man
arose and walked toward him. It was Oddo, the father of the journeyman
who had once worked for Raniero, and had hanged himself because of him.

When this man had come up to the bishop and Raniero, he bowed to them.
Thereupon he said in such a loud voice that all in the church heard him:
“It is a great thing for Florence that Raniero has come with sacred fire
from Jerusalem. Such a thing has never before been heard of or
conceived. For that reason perhaps there may be many who will say that
it is not possible. Therefore, I beg that all the people may know what
proofs and witnesses Raniero has brought with him, to assure us that
this is actually fire which was lighted in Jerusalem.”

When Raniero heard this he said: “God help me! how can I produce
witnesses? I have made the journey alone. Deserts and mountain wastes
must come and testify for me.”

“Raniero is an honest knight,” said the bishop, “and we believe him on
his word.”

“Raniero must know himself that doubts will arise as to this,” said
Oddo. “Surely, he can not have ridden entirely alone. His little pages
could certainly testify for him.”

Then Francesca degli Uberti rushed up to Raniero. “Why need we
witnesses?” said she. “All the women in Florence would swear on oath
that Raniero speaks the truth!”

Then Raniero smiled, and his countenance brightened for a moment.
Thereupon he turned his thoughts and his gaze once more upon the candle
flame.

There was great commotion in the church. Some said that Raniero should
not be allowed to light the candles on the altar until his claim was
substantiated. With this many of his old enemies sided.

Then Jacopo degli Uberti rose and spoke in Raniero’s behalf. “I believe
every one here knows that no very great friendship has existed between
my son-in-law and me,” he said; “but now both my sons and I will answer
for him. We believe he has performed this task, and we know that one who
has been disposed to carry out such an undertaking is a wise, discreet,
and noble-minded man, whom we are glad to receive among us.”

But Oddo and many others were not disposed to let him taste of the bliss
he was yearning for. They got together in a close group and it was easy
to see that they did not care to withdraw their demand.

Raniero apprehended that if this should develop into a fight, they would
immediately try to get at the candle. As he kept his eyes steadily fixed
upon his opponents, he raised the candle as high as he could.

He looked exhausted in the extreme, and distraught. One could see that,
although he wished to hold out to the very last, he expected defeat.
What mattered it to him now if he were permitted to light the candles?
Oddo’s word had been a death-blow. When doubt was once awakened, it
would spread and increase. He fancied that Oddo had already extinguished
the sacred flame forever.

A little bird came fluttering through the great open doors into the
church. It flew straight into Raniero’s light. He hadn’t time to snatch
it aside, and the bird dashed against it and put out the flame.

Raniero’s arm dropped, and tears sprang to his eyes. The first moment he
felt this as a sort of relief. It was better thus than if human beings
had killed it.

The little bird continued its flight into the church, fluttering
confusedly hither and thither, as birds do when they come into a room.

Simultaneously a loud cry resounded throughout the church: “The bird is
on fire! The sacred candle flame has set its wings on fire!”

The little bird chirped anxiously. For a few moments it fluttered about,
like a flickering flame, under the high chancel arches. Then it sank
suddenly and dropped dead upon the Madonna’s Altar.

But the moment the bird fell upon the Altar, Raniero was standing there.
He had forced his way through the church, no one had been able to stop
him. From the sparks which destroyed the bird’s wings he lit the candles
before the Madonna’s Altar.

Then the bishop raised his staff and proclaimed: “God willed it! God
hath testified for him!”

And all the people in the church, both his friends and opponents,
abandoned their doubts and conjectures. They cried as with one voice,
transported by God’s miracle: “God willed it! God hath testified for
him!”

Of Raniero there is now only a legend, which says he enjoyed great good
fortune for the remainder of his days, and was wise, and prudent, and
compassionate. But the people of Florence always called him Pazzo degli
Ranieri, in remembrance of the fact that they had believed him insane.
And this became his honorary title. He founded a dynasty, which was
named Pazzi, and is called so even to this day.

It might also be worth mentioning that it became a custom in Florence,
each year at Easter Eve, to celebrate a festival in memory of Raniero’s
home-coming with the sacred flame, and that, on this occasion, they
always let an artificial bird fly with fire through the church. This
festival would most likely have been celebrated even in our day had not
some changes taken place recently.

But if it be true, as many hold, that the bearers of sacred fire who
have lived in Florence and have made the city one of the most glorious
on earth, have taken Raniero as their model, and have thereby been
encouraged to sacrifice, to suffer and endure, this may here be left
untold.

For what has been done by this light, which in dark times has gone out
from Jerusalem, can neither be measured nor counted.

                                THE END

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                 THE HOME BOOK OF VERSE FOR YOUNG FOLKS

               Compiled by Burton E. Stevenson, Editor of
                       “The Home Book of Verse.”

     With cover, and illustrations in color and black and white by
          WILLY POGANY. Over 500 pages, large 12mo. $2.00 net.

Not a rambling, hap-hazard collection but a vade-mecum for youth from
the ages of six or seven to sixteen or seventeen. It opens with Nursery
Rhymes and lullabies, progresses through child rhymes and jingles to
more mature nonsense verse; then come fairy verses and Christmas poems;
then nature verse and favorite rhymed stories; then through the trumpet
and drum period (where an attempt is made to teach true patriotism) to
the final appeal of “Life Lessons” and “A Garland of Gold” (the great
poems for all ages).

This arrangement secures sequence of sentiment and a sort of cumulative
appeal. Nearly all the children’s classics are included, and along with
them a body of verse not so well known but almost equally deserving.
There are many real “finds,” most of which have never before appeared in
any anthology.

Mr. Stevenson has banished doleful and pessimistic verse, and has dwelt
on hope, courage, cheerfulness and helpfulness. The book should serve,
too, as an introduction to the greater poems, informing taste for them
and appreciation of them, against the time when the boy or girl, grown
into youth and maiden, is ready to swim out into the full current of
English poetry.

                         HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY
                         PUBLISHERS    NEW YORK

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                       LIFE-STORIES FOR THE YOUNG

Dean Hodges’ SAINTS AND HEROES: To the End of the Middle Ages.

Illustrated. $1.35 net.

Biographies of Cyprian, Athanasius, Ambrose, Chrysostom, Jerome,
Augustine, Benedict, Gregory the Great, Columba, Charlemagne,
Hildebrand, Anselm, Bernard, Becket, Langton, Dominic, Francis,
Wycliffe, Hus, Savonarola.

Each of these men was a great person in his time, and represented its
best qualities. Their dramatic and adventurous experiences make the
story of their lives interesting as well as inspiring and suggestive.

Church history and doctrine are touched upon only as they develop in the
biographies.

  “Here is much important history told in a readable and attractive
  manner, and from the standpoint which makes history most vivid and
  most likely to remain fixed in memory, namely, the standpoint of the
  individual actor.”—Springfield Republican.

Dean Hodges’ SAINTS AND HEROES: Since the Middle Ages

Illustrated. $1.35 net.

The new volume includes biographies of Luther, More, Loyola, Cranmer,
Calvin, Knox, Coligny, William the Silent, Laud, Cromwell, Fox, Wesley,
Bunyan and Brewster.

John Buchan’s SIR WALTER RALEIGH

With double-page pictures in color; cover linings. Square

12mo. Price, $2.00 net.

A life of Raleigh told in eleven chapters. Each chapter covers some
important scene in his life and is told by some friend or follower as if
seen with his own eyes. Some of the characters are invented, but all
that they tell really happened.

The narrative has spirit, color, and atmosphere, and is unusually well
written.

America figures largely in the story, and American boys will enjoy this
book.

                         HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY
                   PUBLISHERS    VIII’12    NEW YORK

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                        By CARROLL WATSON RANKIN

                  ------------------------------------

                           STORIES FOR GIRLS

                            THE CINDER POND
              Illustrated by Ada C. Williamson. $1.25 net.

Years ago, a manufacturer built a great dock, jutting out from and then
turning parallel to the shore of a northern Michigan town. The factory
was abandoned, and following the habits of small towns, the space
between the dock and the shore became “The Cinder Pond.” Jean started
life in the colony of squatters that came to live in the shanties on the
dock, but fortune, heroism, and a mystery combine to change her fortunes
and those of her friends near the Cinder Pond.

                     THE CASTAWAYS OF PETE’S PATCH
              Illustrated by Ada C. Williamson. $1.25 net.

A tale of five girls and two youthful grown-ups who enjoyed
unpremeditated camping.

                           DANDELION COTTAGE
             Illustrated by Mmes. Shinn and Finley. $1.50.

Four young girls secure the use of a tumbledown cottage. They set up
housekeeping under numerous disadvantages, and have many amusements and
queer experiences.

  “A capital story. It is refreshing to come upon an author who can
  tell us about real little girls, with sensible ordinary parents,
  girls who are neither phenomenal nor silly.”—Outlook.

                       THE ADOPTING OF ROSA MARIE
   A sequel to “Dandelion Cottage.” Illustrated by Mrs. Shinn. $1.50.

The little girls who played at keeping house in the earlier book,
enlarge their activities to the extent of playing mother to a little
Indian girl.

  “Those who have read ‘Dandelion Cottage’ will need no urging to
  follow further.... A lovable group of four real children, happily not
  perfect, but full of girlish plans and pranks.... A delightful sense
  of humor.”—Boston Transcript.

                        THE GIRLS OF GARDENVILLE
               Illustrated by Mary Wellman. 12mo. $1.50.

Interesting, amusing, and natural stories of a girls’ club.

  “Will captivate as many adults as if it were written for them....
  The secret of Mrs. Rankin’s charm is her naturalness ... real
  girls ... not young ladies with ‘pigtails,’ but girls of sixteen
  who are not twenty-five ... as original as amusing.”—Boston Transcript.

                         HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY
                         PUBLISHERS    NEW YORK

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                            BOOKS FOR GIRLS
                          By BEULAH MARIE DIX

                           BETTY-BIDE-AT-HOME
              Illustrated by Faith Avery. 12mo. $1.25 net.

A story of family life. Betty is just ready for college, her brother is
studying medicine, her sister is almost able to make her own way in the
world, when a sudden catastrophe compels Betty to choose between her own
ambitions and her mother’s happiness. Betty stays at home and learns
many things, among them the fact that duty and success can be combined.
The account of her literary ventures will help girls who want to write.

Betty is a spirited, energetic, lovable girl. The style and atmosphere
of the story are both better than is usually the case in girls’ stories.

                           FRIENDS IN THE END
              Illustrated by Faith Avery. 12mo. $1.25 net.

An out-of-door story for girls which tells how Dorothea Marden went,
under protest, from the city to spend the summer at a farm in the New
Hampshire mountains; how she met Jo Gifford from South Tuxboro, who had
red hair, and knew she shouldn’t like her, but did; how Dorothea and Jo,
at the farm, fell out with the young folks close by at Camp Comfort; how
they carried on the war, with varying success, and how they were sorry
that they did so, and how they were glad in the end to make peace.

“Will attract boys and girls equally and be good for both.”—Outlook.

“More than the usual plot and literary completeness.”—Christian
Register.

                         HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY
                   PUBLISHERS    VIII’12    NEW YORK

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                        BY ALICE CALHOUN HAINES
                For Young Folks from 9 to 16 Years old.

                  ------------------------------------

                           PARTNERS FOR FAIR
             With illustrations by Faith Avery. $1.25 net.

A story full of action, not untinged by pathos, of a boy and his
faithful dog and their wanderings after the poorhouse burns down. They
have interesting experiences with a traveling circus; the boy is thrown
from a moving train, and has a lively time with the Mexican Insurrectos,
from whom he is rescued by our troops.

                     THE LUCK OF THE DUDLEY GRAHAMS
           Illustrated by Francis Day. 300 pp., 12mo. $1.50.

A family story of city life. Lightened by humor and an airship.

  “Among the very best of books for young folks. Appeals especially
  to girls.”—Wisconsin List for Township Libraries.

  “Promises to be perennially popular. A family of happy, healthy,
  inventive, bright children make the best of restricted conditions and
  prove themselves masters of circumstances.”—Christian Register.

  “Sparkles with cleverness and humor.”—Brooklyn Eagle.

                           COCK-A-DOODLE HILL
           A sequel to the above. Illustrated by Francis Day.
                         296 pp., 12mo. $1.50.

“Cockle-a-doodle Hill” is where the Dudley Graham family went to live
when they left New York, and here Ernie started her chicken-farm, with
one solitary fowl, “Hennerietta.” The pictures of country scenes and the
adventures and experiences of this household of young people are very
life-like.

  “No better book for young people than ‘The Luck of the Dudley
  Grahams’ was offered last year. ‘Cock-a-Doodle Hill’ is another
  of similar qualities.”—Philadelphia Press.

                         HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY
                  PUBLISHERS    (VIII’12)    NEW YORK

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                   COMPANION STORIES OF COUNTRY LIFE
                  FOR BOYS        By CHARLES P. BURTON

                  ------------------------------------

                         THE BOYS OF BOB’S HILL
            Illustrated by George A. Williams. 12mo. $1.25.

A lively story of a party of boys in a small New England town.

  “A first-rate juvenile ... a real story for the live human boy—any
  boy will read it eagerly to the end ... quite thrilling adventures.”
  —Chicago Record-Herald.

  “Tom Sawyer would have been a worthy member of the Bob’s Hill
  crowd and shared their good times and thrilling adventures with
  uncommon relish.... A jolly group of youngsters as nearly true to
  the real thing in boy nature as one can ever expect to find between
  covers.”—Christian Register.

                          THE BOB’S CAVE BOYS
                  Illustrated by Victor Perard. $1.50.

  “It would be hard to find anything better in the literature of New
  England boy life. Healthy, red-blooded, human boys, full of fun,
  into trouble and out again, but frank, honest, and clean.”
  —The Congregationalist.

                         THE BOB’S HILL BRAVES
                Illustrated by H. S. DeLay. 12mo. $1.50.

The “Bob’s Hill” band spend a vacation in Illinois, where they play at
being Indians, hear thrilling tales of real Indians, and learn much
frontier history. A history of especial interest to “Boy Scouts.”

  “Merry youngsters. Capital. Thrilling tales of the red men and
  explorers. These healthy red-blooded, New England boys.”
  —Philadelphia Press.

                      THE BOY SCOUTS OF BOB’S HILL
             Illustrated by Gordon Grant. 12mo. $1.25 net.

The “Bob’s Hill” band organizes a Boy Scouts band and have many
adventures. Mr. Burton brings in tales told around a camp-fire of La
Salle, Joliet, the Louisiana Purchase, and the Northwestern Reservation.

                            CAMP BOB’S HILL
                Illustrated by Gordon Grant. $1.25 net.

A tale of Boy Scouts on their summer vacation.

                         HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY
                         PUBLISHERS    NEW YORK

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                    SHORT PLAYS ABOUT FAMOUS AUTHORS

        (Goldsmith, Dickens, Heine, Fannie Burney, Shakespeare)

                  By Maude Morrison Frank. $1.00 net.

The Mistake at the Manor shows the fifteen-year-old Goldsmith in the
midst of the humorous incident in his life which later formed the basis
of “She Stoops to Conquer.”

A Christmas Eve With Charles Dickens reveals the author as a poor
factory boy in a lodging-house, dreaming of an old-time family
Christmas.

When Heine was Twenty-one dramatizes the early disobedience of the
author in writing poetry against his uncle’s orders.

Miss Burney at Court deals with an interesting incident in the life of
the author of “Evelina” when she was at the Court of George III.

The Fairies’ Plea, which is an adaptation of Thomas Hood’s poem, shows
Shakespeare intervening to save the fairies from the scythe of Time.

Designed in general for young people near enough to the college age to
feel an interest in the personal and human aspects of literature, but
the last two could easily be handled by younger actors. They can
successfully be given by groups or societies of young people without the
aid of a professional coach.

                   LITTLE PLAYS FROM AMERICAN HISTORY
                            FOR YOUNG FOLKS

                 By Alice Johnstone Walker. $1.00 net.

Hiding the Regicides, a number of brief and stirring episodes,
concerning the pursuit of Colonels Whalley and Goff by the officers of
Charles II at New Haven in old colony days.

Mrs. Murray’s Dinner Party, in three acts, is a lively comedy about a
Patriot hostess and British Officers in Revolutionary Days.

Scenes from Lincoln’s Time; the martyred President does not himself
appear. They cover Lincoln’s helping a little girl with her trunk, women
preparing lint for the wounded, a visit to the White House of an
important delegation from New York, and of the mother of a soldier boy
sentenced to death—and the coming of the army of liberation to the
darkies.

Tho big events are touched upon, the mounting of all these little plays
is simplicity itself, and they have stood the test of frequent school
performance.

                         HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY
                         Publishers    New York





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