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Title: Mary: The Queen of the House of David and Mother of Jesus - The Story of Her Life
Author: Walsh, A. Stewart (Alexander Stewart)
Language: English
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[Illustration: By Frederick Goodall.

MARY AND THE INFANT SAVIOUR.]



                               MARY:
                                THE
                    QUEEN OF THE HOUSE OF DAVID
                                AND
                         MOTHER OF JESUS.

                      THE STORY OF HER LIFE.

    GABRIEL.—“Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee:
              Blessed art thou among women.”

    MARY.—“All generations shall call me blessed.”

                                BY
                    REV. A. STEWART WALSH, D.D.

                      WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY
                   REV. T. DE WITT TALMAGE, D.D.

                          _ILLUSTRATED._

                     PUBLISHED EXCLUSIVELY BY
                         A. S. GRAY & CO.
                           SUCCESSORS TO
       CENTRAL PUBLISHING HOUSE AND KEYSTONE PUBLISHING CO.
                          PITTSBURGH, PA.
                               1889.

                     COPYRIGHT BY H. S. ALLEN,
                               1886.
                        COPYRIGHT OWNED BY
                            A. S. GRAY.
                               1889.

                           ARGYLE PRESS,
                     PRINTING AND BOOKBINDING,
                    265 & 267 CHERRY ST., N. Y.



    TO WOMANKIND THROUGHOUT THE WORLD

    THIS

    STORY OF A LIFE

    MOST

    BEAUTIFUL, BENEFICENT, AND INSPIRING

    Is Dedicated

    BY THE AUTHOR.



INTRODUCTION TO THE QUEEN OF THE HOUSE OF DAVID.

BY REV. T. DE WITT TALMAGE, D.D.


I have been asked to open the front door of this book. But I must not
keep you standing too long on the threshold. The picture-gallery, the
banqueting hall and the throne-room are inside. All the fascinations
of romance are, by the able author, thrown around the facts of Mary’s
life. Much-abused tradition is also called in for splendid service. The
pen that the author wields is experienced, graceful, captivating, and
multipotent. As perhaps no other book that was ever written, this one
will show us woman as standing at the head of the world. It demonstrates
in the life of Mary what woman was and what woman may be. Woman’s
position in the world is higher than man’s; and although she has often
been denied the right of suffrage, she always does vote and always will
vote—by her influence; and her chief desire ought to be that she should
have grace rightly to rule in the dominion which she has already won.

She has no equal as a comforter of the sick. What land, what street,
what house has not felt the smitings of disease? Tens of thousands of
sick beds! What shall we do with them? Shall man, with his rough hand,
and heavy foot, and impatient bearing, minister? No; he cannot soothe the
pain. He can not quiet the nerves. He knows not where to set the light.
His hand is not steady enough to pour out the drops. He is not wakeful
enough to be watcher. You have known men who have despised women, but the
moment disease fell upon them, they did not send for their friends at
the bank or their worldly associates. Their first cry was, “Take me to
my wife.” The dissipated young man at the college scoffs at the idea of
being under home influence; but at the first blast of typhoid fever on
his cheek he says, “Where is mother?” I think one of the most pathetic
passages in all the Bible is the description of the lad who went out to
the harvest fields of Shunem and got sunstruck; throwing his hands on his
temples, and crying out, “Oh, my head! my head!” and they said, “Carry
him to his mother.” And the record is “He sat on her knees till noon and
then died.”

In the war men cast the cannon, men fashioned the muskets, men cried to
the hosts “Forward, march!” men hurled their battalions on the sharp
edges of the enemy, crying “Charge! charge!” but woman scraped the lint,
woman administered the cordials, woman watched by the dying couch, woman
wrote the last message to the home circle, woman wept at the solitary
burial, attended by herself and four men with a spade. Men did their work
with shot and shell, and carbine and howitzer; women did their work with
socks and slippers, and bandages, and warm drinks, and scripture texts,
and gentle soothings of the hot temples, and stories of that land where
they never have any pain. Men knelt down over the wounded and said, “On
which side did you fight?” Women knelt down over the wounded and said,
“Where are you hurt? What nice thing can I make for you to eat? What
makes you cry?” To-night, while we men are soundly asleep in our beds,
there will be a light in yonder loft; there will be groaning down that
dark alley; there will be cries of distress in that cellar. Men will
sleep and women will watch.

No one as well as a woman can handle the poor. There are hundreds and
thousands of them in all our cities. There is a kind of work that men
cannot do for the destitute. Man sometimes gives his charity in a rough
way, and it falls like the fruit of a tree in the East, which fruit comes
down so heavily that it breaks the skull of the man who is trying to
gather it. But woman glides so softly into the house of want, and finds
out all the sorrows of the place, and puts so quietly the donation on the
table, that all the family come out on the front steps as she departs,
expecting that from under her shawl she will thrust out two wings and go
right up to Heaven, from whence she seems to have come down. O, Christian
young woman, if you would make yourself happy and win the blessings of
Christ, go out among the poor! A loaf of bread or a bundle of socks may
make a homely load to carry, but the angels of God will come out to
watch, and the Lord Almighty will give His messenger hosts a charge,
saying, “Look after that woman, canopy her with your wings, and shelter
her from all harm.” And while you are seated in the house of destitution
and suffering, the little ones around the room will whisper, “Who is she?
is she not beautiful?” and if you will listen right sharply, you will
hear dripping through the leaky roof, and rolling over the broken stairs,
the angel chant that shook Bethlehem: “Glory to God in the highest, and
on earth peace and good will to man.” Can you tell why a Christian woman,
going down among the haunts of iniquity on a Christian errand, seldom
meets with any indignity?

I stood in the chapel of Helen Chalmers, the daughter of the celebrated
Dr. Chalmers, in the most abandoned part of the city of Edinburg; and I
said to her, as I looked around upon the fearful surroundings of that
place, “Do you come here nights to hold a service?” “Oh, yes,” she said;
“I take my lantern and I go through all these haunts of sin, the darkest
and the worst; and I ask all the men and women to come to the chapel, and
then I sing for them, and I pray for them, and I talk to them.” I said,
“Can it be possible that you never meet with an insult while performing
this Christian errand?” “Never,” she said; “never.” That young woman,
who has her father by her side, walking down the street, and an armed
policeman at each corner is not so well defended as that Christian woman
who goes forth on Gospel work into the haunts of iniquity carrying the
Bible and bread.

Some one said, “I dislike very much to see that Christian woman teaching
these bad boys in the mission school. I am afraid to have her instruct
them.” “So,” said another man, “I am afraid too.” Said the first, “I am
afraid they will use vile language before they leave the place.” “Ah,”
said the other man, “I am not afraid of that; what I am afraid of is,
that if any of those boys should use a bad word in her presence, the
other boys would tear him to pieces—killing him on the spot.”

Woman is especially endowed to soothe disaster She is called the weaker
vessel, but all profane as well as sacred history attests that when the
crisis comes she is better prepared than man to meet the emergency. How
often have you seen a woman who seemed to be a disciple of frivolity and
indolence, who, under one stroke of calamity, changed to be a heroine.
There was a crisis in your affairs, you struggled bravely and long,
but after a while there came a day when you said, “Here I shall have
to stop;” and you called in your partners, and you called in the most
prominent men in your employ, and you said, “We have got to stop.” You
left the store suddenly; you could hardly make up your mind to pass
through the street and over on the ferry-boat; you felt everybody would
be looking at you and blaming you and denouncing you. You hastened home;
you told your wife all about the affair. What did she say? Did she
play the butterfly; did she talk about the silks and the ribbons and
the fashions? No; she came up to the emergency; she quailed not under
the stroke. She helped you to begin to plan right away. She offered to
go out of the comfortable house into a smaller one, and wear the old
cloak another winter. She was one who understood your affairs without
blaming you. You looked upon what you thought was a thin, weak woman’s
arm holding you up; but while you looked at that arm there came into the
feeble muscles of it the strength of the eternal God. No chiding. No
fretting. No telling you about the beautiful house of her father, from
which you brought her, ten, twenty, or thirty years ago. You said, “Well,
this is the happiest day of my life. I am glad I have got from under my
burden. My wife don’t care—I don’t care.” At the moment you were utterly
exhausted, God sent a Deborah to meet the host of the Amalekites and
scatter them like chaff over the plain. There are scores and hundreds of
households to-day where as much bravery and courage are demanded of woman
as was exhibited by Grace Darling or Marie Antoinette or Joan of Arc.

Woman is further endowed to bring us into the Kingdom of Heaven. It is
easier for a woman to be a Christian than for a man. Why? You say she
is weaker. No. Her heart is more responsive to the pleadings of divine
love. The fact that she can more easily become a Christian, I prove by
the statement that three-fourths of the members of the churches in all
Christendom are women. So God appoints them to be the chief agencies for
bringing this world back to God. The greatest sermons are not preached
on celebrated platforms; they are preached with an audience of two or
three and in private home-life. A patient, loving, Christian demeanor
in the presence of transgression, in the presence of hardness, in the
presence of obduracy and crime, is an argument from the throne of the
Lord Almighty; and blessed is that woman who can wield such an argument.
A sailor came slipping down the ratlin one night as though something
had happened, and the sailors cried, “What’s the matter?” He said, “My
mother’s prayers haunt me like a ghost.”

In what a realm is every mother the queen. The eagles of heaven can not
fly across that dominion. Horses, panting and with lathered flanks, are
not swift enough to run to the outpost of that realm, and death itself
will only be the annexation of heavenly principalities. When you want
your grandest idea of a queen you do not think of Catherine of Russia,
or of Anne of England, or Maria Theresa of Germany: but when you want to
get your grandest idea of a queen you think of the plain woman who sat
opposite your father at the table or walked with him, arm in arm, down
life’s pathway; sometimes to the Thanksgiving banquet, sometimes to the
grave, but always together; soothing your petty griefs, correcting your
childish waywardness, joining in your infantile sports, listening to your
evening prayer, toiling for you with needle or at the spinning wheel, and
on cold nights wrapping you up snug and warm; and then, at last, on that
day when she lay in the back room dying, and you saw her take those thin
hands with which she had toiled for you so long, and put them together
in a dying prayer that commended you to the God whom she had taught you
to trust—oh, she was the queen! The chariots of God came down to fetch
her, and as she went in, all heaven rose up. You can not think of her now
without a rush of tenderness that stirs the deep foundations of your
soul, and you feel as much a child again as when you cried on her lap;
and if you could bring her back to life again to speak, just once more,
your name as tenderly as she used to speak it, you would be willing to
throw yourself on the ground and kiss the sod that covers her, crying,
“Mother! mother!” Ah, she was the queen!

Home influences are the mightiest of all influences upon the soul. There
are men who have maintained their integrity, not because they were any
better naturally than some other people, but because there were home
influences praying for them all the time. They got a good start. They
were launched on the world with the benedictions of a Christian mother.
They may track Siberian snows, they may plunge into African jungles, they
may fly to the earth’s end, they can not go so far and so fast but the
prayer will keep up with them. Oh, what a multitude of women in heaven.
Mary, Christ’s mother, in heaven. Elizabeth Fry in heaven. Charlotte
Elizabeth in heaven. The mother of Augustine in heaven. The Countess of
Huntingdon is in heaven—who sold her splendid jewels to build chapels—in
heaven; while a great many others who have never been heard of on earth,
or known but little of, have gone into the rest and peace of heaven. What
a rest. What a change it was from the small room with no fire and one
window, the glass broken out, and the aching side and worn out eyes, to
the “house of many mansions.” Heaven for aching heads. Heaven for broken
hearts. Heaven for anguish-bitten frames. No more sitting up until
midnight for the coming of staggering steps. No more rough blows on the
temples. No more sharp, keen, bitter curses.

Some of you will have no rest in this world; it will be toil and struggle
all the way up. You will have to stand at your door fighting back the
wolf with your own hand red with carnage. But God has a crown for you.
He is now making it, and whenever you weep a tear, He sets another gem
in that crown; whenever you have a pang of body or soul, He puts another
gem in that crown, until after a while in all the tiara there will be no
room for another splendor; and God will say to his angel, “The crown is
done; let her up that she may wear it.” And as the Lord of righteousness
puts the crown upon your brow, angel will cry to angel, “Who is she?”
and Christ will say, “I will tell you who she is; she is the one that
came up out of great tribulation and had her robe washed and made white
in the blood of the Lamb.” And then God will spread a banquet, and He
will invite all the principalities of heaven to sit at the feast, and
the tables will blush with the best clusters from the vineyards of God
and crimson with the twelve manner of fruits from the tree of life, and
water from the fountains of the rock will flash from the golden tankards;
and the old harpers of heaven will sit there, making music with their
harps, and Christ will point you out amid the celebrities of heaven,
saying, “She suffered with me on earth, now we are going to be glorified
together.” And the banquetters, no longer able to hold their peace,
will break forth with congratulation. “Hail! hail!” And there will be a
handwriting on the wall; not such as struck the Persian noblemen with
horror, but with fire-tipped fingers writing in blazing capitals of light
and love and victory: “God has wiped away all tears from all faces.”

And now I leave you in the hands of Dr. Walsh, the author of this book.
He will show you Mary, the model of all womanly, wifely, motherly
excellence—the Madonna hanging in the Louvre of admiration for all
Christendom, and for many millions in the higher Vatican of their worship.

                                                      T. DE WITT TALMAGE.



CONTENTS.


                    CHAPTER I.—THE QUEEN’S PORTRAIT.

    “A form beloved comes again”—Inspired painters in a voyage of
    discovery—Tributes to Mary, honoring all womankind—Guido’s
    wish—Madonnas of many climes. Raphael’s “Transfigured
    Woman”—Savonarola’s bonfire—St. Luke’s picture of the
    Virgin—The Vandal spirit.                                      Page 29

              CHAPTER II.—THE PILGRIM, CRUSADER AND VIRGIN.

    Life a pilgrimage—Pilgrims of many faiths—A struggle for holy
    places between the Pilgrim-Crusaders and Moslem—The harem and
    the home—The rise of Chivalry—The Knights and “Our Lady”—The
    results of the Crusades.                                       Page 36

             CHAPTER III.—ARMAGEDDON! “THE KEY AND SICKLE.”

    “The wandering hermit wakes the storms of war”—Acre and
    Esdrælon, the “Armageddon” or “Mountain of the Gospel” of the
    Scriptures—The battle-field of nations—The City of Jeanne
    d’Arc. The jewel in the sickle-haft—Prince Edward, the Crusade
    leader—Sultan Kha-tel—The sacking of Acre—Actors introduced.   Page 48

     CHAPTER IV.—SIR CHARLEROY; THE SOLDIER OF FORTUNE AND KNIGHT
                             OF SAINT MARY.

    The flight from Acre to Nazareth—The born-leader—Life estimates
    with Death holding the scales—A prince honors, a bishop
    blesses, and a mother loves—An epitome of paradoxes.           Page 53

                          CHAPTER V.—NAZARETH.

    Nazareth, the place of Mary’s nativity—The choice of a
    leader—The coward king—The Virgin’s Fount—English songsters—The
    Knights’ mountain Litany—Longings for home and mother—Nain and
    Endor’s lessons.                                               Page 61

                       CHAPTER VI.—THE FUGITIVES.

    A night bivouac amid sacred scenes—The “Knight of the
    Holy-Sepulcher” who fled on “a white charger with black
    wings”—The funeral at dawn—Mary’s palm-bearing angel-guard—The
    twelve knights separate into two parties—Will-makings and
    farewells—By Endor to oblivion.                                Page 74

                          CHAPTER VII.—ICHABOD.

    Sir Charleroy’s band approach Shunem, the City of Elijah—The
    surprise—Sir Charleroy the captive of Azrael the Mameluke—The
    Mohammedan heaven depicted—“A hair, the bridge over hell”—The
    odoriferous houris—A gorgeous charnel-house blasted—The
    prodigal becomes the herald of purity—The Knight of Saint
    Mary and the Jewish Spy—Adversity makes the Knight and the
    Jew friends—The Knight instructing Ichabod—“’Till Shiloh
    comes”—“The true, refined and final Judaism”—“The east and
    the west embracing; truth leading.”—An honest doubt is a real
    prayer.                                                        Page 82

                  CHAPTER VIII.—FROM JERICHO TO JORDAN.

    The radiant proselyte—Climbing to glory—The ghostly forms
    hovering over submerged Sodom—Jordan’s sweetening—Siddim-angels
    among the willows and oleanders by the Dead Sea—Summonsed
    to fight for the Crescent or go to the slave mart—Nourahmal
    “The light of the harem” becomes the disciple and friend of
    Ichabod—A debate concerning women—A rarity and a wonder—“I told
    her women had souls; she laughed like a monkey”—The flight from
    Jericho by night—The lightning—God’s torch—“Canst thou dance
    rocks into camels?”—A mummy’s flight, and the burial of a live
    man—“Unclean”—The solemn passage of Jordan.                    Page 93

                   CHAPTER IX.—THE FEAST OF THE ROSE.

    A breakfast of lentils and barley in the wilderness—The gloom
    of the Knight and the joy of the Jew—Sermons on fate and
    songs in flowers—The poetry of Ichabod—Celibacy a reward at
    Rome—Kneph “The father of his mother”—The heathen and the
    Christian “Feast of the Rose”—The summary of the events in
    Mary’s life and in the life of Jesus—The Egyptian Rosary—Neb-ta
    the maiden sister—The egg and the cross, ancient signs of
    immortality—The Copt priest—The insights of the Egyptians
    symbolized by the Sphinx.                                     Page 113

                  CHAPTER X.—AFTER EVE, ESTHER OR MARY?

    By Jabbock, in the native place of Ichabod—Israelitish
    maidens keeping the feast of Esther—Religious love, filial
    love and lover’s love—The poetic Jew’s rhapsody concerning
    affection—God’s voice in the Garden—The ideal women of the Old
    Testament and of the New—The Jew’s cry for mother—Vacillating
    Sir Charleroy—“Echo’s Magic”—Jewish customs.                  Page 135

                     CHAPTER XI.—THE FEAST OF PURIM.

    A night-scene by Jabbock—Harrimai the priest, and his daughter
    Rizpah—The religious ceremonial and the revel—Sir Charleroy
    and Rizpah as “Ahasuerus and Esther”—The Knight’s secret
    discovered—Conquest of a woman’s heart through pity—“Of what
    metals Jewish maidens are.”                                   Page 152

                      CHAPTER XII.—ASTARTE OR MARY?

    The Knight of Saint Mary enslaved by a Hebrew beauty—The
    journey toward Bozrah—The Mameluke attack—The hand to hand
    fight—Sir Charleroy wounded and Ichabod slain—Rizpah’s heroism
    in peril—Espousal in the face of death—A wonderful vision.    Page 170

              CHAPTER XIII.—FROM RAMOTH GILEAD TO DAMASCUS.

    Teacher and pupil become patient and nurse—Perilous
    relations—Delights, assurances, fears and clouds—Harrimai’s
    discovery and his malediction—Love’s debate and
    decision—Elopement by night—the Knight and the Jewess wedded at
    Damascus.                                                     Page 182

                 CHAPTER XIV.—THE THEATER OF THE GIANTS.

    The death of Harrimai—A honey-moon in the “Eye of the
    East”—To Bashan with the Mecca chaplet-seekers—Nature,
    art and desolation—Lejah’s black lava-sea—The frenzies of
    Gerash’s passion-flower—Reaction after exaltation—“A camel
    voyage in-sea”—Rizpah’s challenge—Jealous of Sir Charleroy’s
    love for Mary—“Illusion”—The church of Saint George at
    Edrei—Recrimination—Ridicule costly to pride—Neither Christian,
    Jew nor Pagan—A woman with unsettled faith—A babe poisoned by
    its mother’s passion—The lamp and the palm-trees—The Knight’s
    appeals—Omens—A beacon needed—Fleeing the Lejah—To Bozrah.    Page 195

     CHAPTER XV.—THE REVELS OF MEN AND THE RITES OF THEIR GODDESSES.

    Kunawat at the City of Job—The Shrine of Astarte—The Cyclopean
    image—Questioning the Soul, Time and God—Hugeness, greatness;
    littleness, caricature—The naked worshipers of the golden
    calf—Sins exposed—Purity’s vision—Phallic mysteries—Khem—Female
    deities—Dualism—Immortality by progeny and by regeneration—The
    fire-worshiper’s mystic number eight, and the Jewish covenant
    number seven.                                                 Page 212

               CHAPTER XVI.—A BATTLE OF GIANTS AT BOZRAH.

    Houses forty centuries old—The old stone-house of an
    ancient giant becomes the home of the knight and his
    wife—How circumstances change people—Recriminations and
    reconciliation—“The gall taken from animals offered to Juno,
    goddess of marriage”—Rizpah’s temper that seemed brilliant
    before wedlock, afterward seems to Sir Charleroy very like
    that of a virago—The charming nonsense of those for the
    first time parents—Shall she be named Davidah, Angela, Marah
    or Mary?—The Christian and Jewish faith battle about the
    cradle—The separation of husband and wife, in anger—The sick
    child and the desolated, deserted wife—Rizpah longs for a
    mother, such as Mary of Bethlehem.                            Page 224

           CHAPTER XVII.—RIZPAH THE ANCIENT MOTHER OF SORROWS.

    After many years, Rizpah dwells in Bozrah with her
    three children—Rizpah of Bozrah fascinated by Rizpah of
    Gibeah—Miriamne the daughter of Rizpah—The daughter appalled
    by her mother’s mysterious hallucinations—The wonders of
    mother-love—The story of the ancient, Jewish “Mother of
    Sorrows”—The omen of the bat and the parable of the stars.    Page 245

         CHAPTER XVIII.—THE QUEEN PROCLAIMED IN THE GIANT CITY.

    The old and the young Jews—The old Christian priest and
    his Jewess proselyte—Attacked by Mamelukes—The “Old Clock
    Man”—The Balsam Band—Miriamne, the Jewess proselyte, questions
    concerning the queen of the old priest’s heart—The miraculous
    picture of Mary at Damascus—Silver hands and feet—Crown
    jewels.                                                       Page 264

               CHAPTER XIX.—THE STORY OF MARY’S CHILDHOOD.        Page 282

            CHAPTER XX.—THE WEDDING—THE BIRTH AND THE FLIGHT.

    The birth of Jesus and the flight to Egypt—Miriamne reads
    to her mother a Christian account of Mary’s espousal—Rizpah
    curious but doubtful.                                         Page 293

             CHAPTER XXI.—THE QUEEN AND HER FAMILY IN EGYPT.

    Father Adolphus and Miriamne converse of the Holy Family’s
    sojourn in Egypt—Heliopolis and the Temple of the
    Sun—Fire-worshipers—At Memphis, the shrine of Apis the
    sacred bull—The red heifer of Israel—The Holy Family rescued
    in Egypt by a robber who afterward died on the cross next
    to the Savior—The legend of a gipsy’s prophecy concerning
    Jesus—Zingarella won by the Virgin.                           Page 312

                 CHAPTER XXII.—THE SHADOW OF THE CROSS.

    Rizpah dreading heresy yet charmed by the story of the “Girl
    Wife”—“Behold my mother and brethren”—Christ’s message to his
    widowed mother—The “Church of the Terror”—Rizpah’s vision
    of “Glad Tidings.” Rizpah of Bozrah allured from Rizpah of
    Gibeah—A hot-chase after an old love—The sword that pierced
    Mary—The shadow of the cross horrifies Rizpah—The faith of the
    Nazarene denounced—Miriamne driven from home by her mother.
                                                                  Page 322

           CHAPTER XXIII.—THE MISERERE AND THE EASTER ANTHEM.

    Miriamne alone at night in the giant city—A refuge at the
    Christian priest’s—The midnight Miserere—Penitents—Easter at
    Bozrah—Finding the mother-love in God’s heart.                Page 337

                  CHAPTER XXIV.—A HEROINE’S PILGRIMAGE.

    The convert’s yearnings—“Go and tell”—When parents oppose each
    other which shall the child follow?—A child of the kingdom
    in a new family circle—Jesus, Mary and the elect—Miriamne’s
    two great ambitions—Living apart may be as sinful as actual
    divorcement—Father Adolphus encourages and Rizpah opposes
    Miriamne—Rizpah recounts to Miriamne the story of her love for
    Sir Charleroy, his madness and her own futile visit to London
    in the effort to win him back—The curse of heredity—“I’ll
    disown thee with tears in my voice and kisses in my heart.”   Page 351

                  CHAPTER XXV.—CONSOLATRIX AFFLICTORUM.

    Miriamne’s welcome by the London Palestineans—The daughter
    meets her father in a mad-house—Disappointment—The flight—The
    search—The White Madonna of the Asylum Park—Love the remedy
    of minds perturbed by hate—Pallas-Athene the virgin of the
    heathen—Miriamne’s letter to her mother and its grim answer.  Page 367

                   CHAPTER XXVI.—THE WEDDING AT CANA.

    Sir Charleroy giving signs of recovery under Miriamne’s
    Ministries—A remarkable service in the chapel of the
    Palestineans—The knight interested in the story of Cana—The
    address of Cornelius, on “Home” and “Marriage”—“Is this
    London or Bozrah?”—Sir Charleroy’s sudden relapse—Miriamne’s
    adroit ministries—Memories that awaken hopes—The clouds again
    lifting—Mary’s life motto.                                    Page 381

                   CHAPTER XXVII.—THE STAR OF THE SEA.

    Sir Charleroy, partially restored, with Miriamne and Cornelius
    journeying toward Syria—Passing Cyprus—Olympus—A storm rising
    on the Mediterranean—Cornelius presses his love suit on
    Miriamne—Miriamne pledges love, but pleads her mission as a
    barrier to marriage—Conflicts below, tempests aloft—A dream;
    Venus’s court and Mary’s triumph—Sir Charleroy in frenzy
    defying the billows—An hour of peril—The “Lightning Song” of
    the sailors—The twin stars—“Mary, Star of the Sea”—The victims
    of fabricated consciences—Parting.                            Page 397

           CHAPTER XXVIII.—THE QUEEN IN THE VALLEY OF SORROWS.

    Father and daughter at Acre—The mysterious Hospitaler—From
    Acre to Joppa—“The myths are as full of women as the
    women are full of myths”—The wars of men about women—At
    Jerusalem—The wonderful words of the Knight-Hospitaler, turned
    preacher—The _Via Dolorosa_—The Valley of Jehosaphat—The
    mountain outlook—“Soldiers Speed the Cross”—Mary, the sun
    of women, rising in moral grandeur above the women of the
    grove-shrines—The panorama of the ages, passing before Mary’s
    mind.                                                         Page 419

         CHAPTER XXIX.—TWO DEAD HEARTS UNITING TWO LIVING ONES.

    From Jerusalem to Bozrah—The tomb of Ichabod—Sir Charleroy
    argues against meeting Rizpah—Miriamne’s strong argument
    in behalf of the lasting obligations of marriage—A husband
    reaching the climax of revenges—Joseph by kindness kept Mary
    in sweet mood and so blessed the unborn Christ—“Miriamne,
    I am a bundle of contradictions!”—The news-rider—A plague
    at Bozrah—De Griffin’s twins nigh death—Miriamne meets her
    mother—Reconciliation—A strange funeral; only two women as
    mourners and pall-bearers.                                    Page 437

        CHAPTER XXX.—THE “KNIGHT OF SAINT MARY” AND RIZPAH AT THE
                          GRAVE OF THEIR SONS.

    Father Adolphus and Sir Charleroy—A ruined temple and a
    ruined man—“A woman, a woman leading in religion!”—Jesus and
    Magdalena—The twelve appearings of the lingering Christ—The
    Savior’s love-letter from heaven to His mother—Lucifer’s
    attempt at suicide—The kiss befouled by treason—The meeting
    of Sir Charleroy and Rizpah—“The tomb of giant-love grown to
    mad-hate.”                                                    Page 453

           CHAPTER XXXI.—THE ROSE, QUEEN OF HEARTS IN BOZRAH.

    A scene of domestic happiness—Love the vassal of the
    will—Neb-ta in the “Judgment Hall of Truth”—The lambs that
    are offered by sectarian hates—The Arcana of glorious wedded
    love—Rizpah transformed—Miriamne’s public profession of
    Christ—Cornelius Woelfkin again appeals for union in wedlock—An
    inner and an outer Miriamne—The coronation of love—The solemn
    espousal.                                                     Page 467

             CHAPTER XXXII.—THE QUEEN AND THE GRAIL-SEEKERS.

    “The gold of my heart to the man that piloted me to
    happiness”—Miriamne yearns for a world in sin—Has the Church
    or God failed?—A revolutionary reformer—The story of the
    grail quest—The quest of a heavenly cure for human ills—The
    triumphant Adam and Eve—The queenly women of patriarchal
    times—The mother of the Savior as the wife of a carpenter—What
    kept her young heart from breaking—Miriamne’s farewell to
    Bozrah.                                                       Page 484

                CHAPTER XXXIII.—THE HOSPITALER’S ORATION.

    The secret meeting of the Knights at the house of Phebe—Swords
    bent sickle-like and spears crossed—After war, social
    victories—Sunrise at midnight—Each career determined by the
    life that gives life—The girdle of Venus—Next after God, Mary
    chiefly instrumental in giving the world a Savior.            Page 498

                   CHAPTER XXXIV.—MEMORIALS AT BOZRAH.

    The death of Dorothea—The priest of the wayside—The wedding of
    Cornelius and Miriamne—A pilgrimage to the tombs of Adolphus,
    Charleroy and Rizpah. Backlook, and outlooks.                 Page 510

                  CHAPTER XXXV.—THE SISTERS OF BETHANY.

    The Missioners at Bethany—The site of the Home of
    Jesus—Miriamne’s ideal society—The miracle age—A home, not a
    throne, the place of Ascension—Will Jesus so return?—The angel
    bivouac.                                                      Page 522

             CHAPTER XXXVI.—THE QUEEN OF THE HOUSE OF DAVID.

    The Knight’s Pentecost—In the upper room of Joseph of
    Arimathæa—Mary’s title and realm—Luke, the word-painter—The
    smoke side and the fire side of Pentecost.                    Page 529

              CHAPTER XXXVII.—THE CORONATION OF THE QUEEN.

    The Hospitaler deemed a prophet at Bethany. The legitimacy of
    Jesus as the “son of David” assured through His mother—“The
    reign of blood”—First born—Pagan Rome made sponsor for Mary’s
    son—Doomsday books and royal charters.                        Page 538

       CHAPTER XXXVIII.—THE “LIGHT OF THE HAREM” IN THE “TEMPLE OF
                               ALLEGORY.”

    The old church at Bethany—A dedication—The wonders of
    symbolism—Idolatry and Mariolatry.                            Page 548

                      CHAPTER XXXIX.—CROWN JEWELS.

    The Hospitaler warns the Missioners of the Sheik of Jerusalem’s
    designs—The son of Azrael—Immunity purchased—The wedding of
    Beulah, Nourahmal’s grand-daughter to a Jewish convert—The
    wedding address—Juno-Moneta—Crown jewels of maidens and
    mothers—Mary sounding the depths of woman’s miseries—A
    malediction for lust—“Knights of the White Cross”—The lost
    woman dreaming of how it seems to have a mother’s arms
    infolding her—The Virgin’s potent example.                    Page 568

       CHAPTER XL.—THE QUEEN’S VISION OF THE AGE OF GOLD AND FIRE.

    Nourahmal wed to the Druse camel-driver—the Druse converted—The
    Hospitaler’s message—Ezekiel prophecies fulfilled at Olivet—The
    “Mother’s pillow”—Gabriel, the “Angel of Mothers and of
    Victories.”                                                   Page 581

           CHAPTER XLI.—A CHIME AND A DIRGE AT CHRISTMAS-TIME.

    “Motherhood priced”—“Thou shalt be saved in
    child-bearing”—Sylvan gods of Rome—“The Miriamites,”—“In
    Rama, weeping and great mourning”—Joachim’s bleating lamb
    slain—Woman’s supreme hour—Maternity’s crucifixion—“The
    Cæsarian Section”—The ebbing tide and the stranded wreck,
    at midnight.                                                  Page 595

         CHAPTER XLII.—THE MOTHER OF SORROWS TRIUMPHANT AT LAST.

    The funeral of Miriamne—The Hospitaler tells the traditions of
    Mary’s death and assumption—What the Druse convert said to his
    camel—“The beatings of mighty wings”—The tomb of Miriamne in
    Gethsemane.                                                   Page 611

       CHAPTER XLIII.—A COFFIN FULL OF FLOWERS, AND A GIRDLE WITH
                                 WINGS.

    Cornelius and his son at Bethany—Changed scenes—Under the
    lights and shadows of Chemosh—A widower’s grief—Azrael’s
    putative son razes to the ground Miriamne’s home and temple—The
    legend of Mary’s coffin and girdle—The last of the new
    grail-knights—A sad and dramatic tableau.                     Page 618



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


                                   I.

    MARY AND THE INFANT JESUS,                                Frontispiece

                   (The original painted by GOODALL.)

                                                                      PAGE

                                   II.

    THE BIRTH OF MARY                                                   60

                   (The original painted by MURILLO.)

                                  III.

    RIZPAH DEFENDING THE DEAD BODIES OF HER RELATIONS,                 250

                    (The original painted by BECKER.)

                                   IV.

    THE EDUCATION OF MARY,                                             282

                 (The original painted by CARL MULLER.)

                                   V.

    THE MARRIAGE OF MARY AND JOSEPH,                                   294

                   (The original painted by RAPHAEL.)

                                   VI.

    THE SHADOW OF THE CROSS,                                           332

                    (The original painted by MORRIS.)

                                  VII.

    JESUS AT THE AGE OF TWELVE WITH MARY AND JOSEPH ON THEIR WAY
      TO JERUSALEM,                                                    350

                  (The original painted by MENGELBURG.)

                                  VIII.

    THE YOUTH JESUS YIELDING TO THE WISHES OF HIS MOTHER,              366

                (The original painted by W. HOLMAN HUNT.)

                                   IX.

    THE WEDDING AT CANA,                                               380

                (The original painted by PAUL VERONESE.)

                                   X.

    MARY AND ST. JOHN,                                                 433

                  (The original painted by PLOCKHORST.)



THE QUEEN OF THE HOUSE OF DAVID



CHAPTER I.

THE QUEEN’S PORTRAIT.

      “And breaking as from distant gloom,
        A face comes painted on the air;
      A presence walks the haunted room,
        Or sits within the vacant chair.
      And every object that I feel
        Seems charged by some enchanter’s wand.
      And keen the dizzy senses thrill,
        As with the touch of spirit hand.
      A form beloved comes again,
        A voice beside me seems to start,
      While eager fancies fill the brain,
        And eager passions hold the heart.”


_Master, we would see a sign from Thee_, was the cunning challenge of
the Scribes and Pharisees. They were certain that, in this at least, the
hearts of the people would be with them. A sign, a scene, a symbol, were
the constant demand and quest of the olden times, as of all times. Even
Jehovah led forth to victory and trust, as necessity was upon Him in
leading human followers, “with an _outstretched arm_, and with _signs_
and with _wonders_.” The Jews, seemingly so doubtful and so querulous,
after all articulated the longings of the universal humanity. The longing
stimulated the effort to gratify it, and forthwith the artist became the
teacher of the people. Presentments of Mary, as she might have been, and
as she was imagined to have been by those most devout, were multiplied.
Piety sought to express its regard for her by making her more real to
faith through the instrumentality of the speaking canvas, but beyond this
there was the desire to embody certain charms and virtues of character
dear to all pure and devout ones. These were expressed by pictured faces,
ideally perfect. They called each such “Mary”; and if there had never
been a real Mary, still these handiworks would have had no small value.
Who can say that those consecrated artists were in no degree moved by
the Spirit which guided David when “he opened dark sayings on the harp,”
and rapturously extolled that other Beloved of God, the Church? Music
and painting—twin sisters—equal in merit, and both from Him who displays
form, color and harmony as among the chief rewards and glories of His
upper kingdom. These also meet a want in human nature as God created
it. The artists did not beget this desire for presentments through form
and color of the woman deemed most blessed; the desire rather begot the
artists. Stately theology has never ceased truly to proclaim from the day
Christ cried “_It is finished!_” that “_in Him all fullness dwells_;” but
no theology, has been able to silence the cry of woman’s heart in woman
and woman’s nature in man which pleads through the long years, “_Show us
the mother and it sufficeth us_.” It has happened sometimes that gross
minds have strayed from the ideal or spiritual imports of Mary’s life and
fallen into idolizing her effigies. That was their fault, and must not be
taken as full proof that nothing but evil came from the portrayings of
our queen. The facts are conclusively otherwise. The painters that made
glorious ideals shine forth from the canvas unconsciously painted the
shadows largely out of the conditions of all women. Before this second
advent of the Virgin, the paganish idea that women were the “weaker sex,”
the inferiors of men, at best only useful, handsome animals, prevailed.
The renaissance of Mary, as the ideal woman, was an event seeded with
the germs of revolutionary impulses socially. Like sunrise it began in
the East, at first dimly manifest, then it became effulgent and quickly
coursed westward along the pathways of Christianity’s conquests. Like
sweet, grateful light then there came to the hearts of men the braver
true persuasion, that the woman who not only bore the Christ but won His
reverent love must have been morally beautiful and great. In the track
of this persuasion, and as its sequence, there came the conviction that
the sex, of which Mary was one, had within it possibilities beyond what
its sturdier companions had dreamed. After this it came about that the
painters, often the interpreters of human feelings, began to represent
all goodness under the form of a Madonna. Not knowing the contour
of Mary’s face they began gathering here and there, from the women
they knew, features of beauty. They combined these in one harmonious
presentment. They set out to represent the ideal woman, but had to go
to women to find her parts. It became a tribute to womankind to do this.
It was like a voyage of discovery, and the artist voyagers depicted not
only the best things in womankind, but by putting these things together
illustrated what woman could be and should be at her best.

It was thus that Guido produced a picture of the Madonna which enravished
all that beheld it. Once he had said, “I wish I’d the wings of an angel
to behold the beatified spirits, which I might have copied.” After, here
and there, he picked out fragments of color and form on earth; then put
them into one ideal composition. It was a heart-expanding work; the work
of a prophet, since it told of what might be in woman wholly at her
best. Then he said, “the beautiful and pure idea must be in the head”
of the artist. It was a deep saying. Given the ideal, and the worker
will need only proper ambition to present a grand composition, whether
on canvas or in the patternings of the inner life. The presentments of
the Virgin rose in fineness when priests turned from their exegesis to
kneel and paint for men. The great Saint Augustine, held in high honor
by Christians of every name, redeemed from a youth of darkest sinning,
revered as his guiding star two lovely women, Monica, his mother, and
Mary, the mother of Jesus. He argues, in stalwart polemics, that through
the acknowledgment of Mary’s pre-eminence all womankind was elevated.
Her presentment, so as to be fully comprehended, was in the beginning a
blessing to every soul in being an inspiration to purer, sweeter living.
So far as such presentment now conserves the same results the work is
worthy and profitable. In all times the representations of the Virgin,
whether by the historian or the master of the studio, varied; but the
piety they awakened always seemed to be of one type, and that lofty.
Thus we have “the stern, awful quietude of the old Mosaics, the hard
lifelessness of the degenerate Greeks, the pensive sentiment of the
Siena, the stately elegance of the Florentine Madonnas, the intellectual
Milanese, with their large foreheads and thoughtful eyes, the tender,
refined mysticism of the Umbrian, the sumptuous loveliness of the
Venetian; the quaint, characteristic simplicity of the early German, so
stamped with their nationality that I never looked round me in a room
full of German girls without thinking of Albert Durer’s Virgins; the
intense, life-like feeling of the Spanish, the prosaic, portrait-like
nature of the Flemish schools, and so on.” Each time and place produced
its own ideal, but all tried to express the one thought uppermost; pious
regard for the Queen and model. All seemed to feel that in this devotion
there was somehow comfort and exaltation—and there generally were both.

The writer of the foregoing quotation, a woman of widest culture and
admirable good sense, attested the need that many feel by her own
rapturous description of the Madonna of Raphael in the Dresden Gallery.
“I have seen my own ideal once where Raphael—inspired, if ever painter
was inspired—projected on the space before him that wonderful creation.”
“There she stands, the transfigured woman; at once completely human and
completely divine, an abstraction of power, purity and love; poised on
the empurpled air, and requiring no other support; with melancholy,
loving mouth, her slightly dilated sibylline eyes looking out quite
through the universe to the end and consummation of all things; sad, as
if she beheld afar off the visionary sword that was to reach her heart
through HIM, now resting as enthroned on that heart; yet already exalted
through the homage of the redeemed generations who were to salute her
as blessed. Is it so indeed? Is she so divine? or does not rather the
imagination lend a grace that is not there? I have stood before it and
confessed that there is more in that form and face than I have ever
yet conceived. The _Madonna di San Sisto_ is an abstract of _all_ the
attributes of Mary.”

The foregoing representation marked a step forward in things spiritual.
Before Raphael, painters numberless, under the influence of the luxurious
and vicious Medici, had filled the churches of Florence with painted
presentments of the Virgin, characterized by an alluring beauty which
seemed next door to blasphemy. Then came that Luther of his times,
Savonarola. He thundered for purity, simplicity and reform; aiming his
blows at the depraving, sensuous conceptions of the grosser artists. He
made a bonfire in the Piazza of Florence, there consuming these false
madonnas. He was, for this, persecuted to death by the Borgia family.
They could not bear his trumpet call to Florentines, “Your sins make me
a prophet; I have been a Jonah warning Nineveh; I shall be a Jeremiah
weeping over the ruins; for God will renew His church and that will not
take place without blood—” Art heard his voice, the painters became
disgusted with their meaner handiwork, the rude, the obscene, the
mischievous was obliterated; finer, more spiritual and loftier concepts
of the Virgin appeared as proof of a reformation of morals. And Raphael,
later on, seeing these productions, felt the influence that begot them,
and then produced that masterpiece. Tradition says Saint Luke painted
a picture of the Virgin from life. The picture, reputed to have been
so painted, was found by the Turks in Constantinople when that city
fell into their conquering hands. They despoiled it of its princely
jewel-decorations, then tramped it contemptuously beneath their feet. The
latter act was typical, and the Turk still lives to trample in contempt
on honest efforts to portray with amplitude and finished details this
splendid character, whose outlines alone are presented by the Gospels.
But though the Vandal spirit survives, there survives also the strong
yearning for the representation of that woman beyond compare, and some
will still revel amid the ideals of painters, and some will be gladdened
still more by truth’s complete presentment which words alone can make.



CHAPTER II.

THE PILGRIM, CRUSADER AND VIRGIN.

      “There is a fire—
      And motion of the soul which will not dwell,
      In its own narrow being, but aspire
      Beyond the fitting medium of desire;
      And but once kindled, quenchless ever more,
      Preys upon high adventure, nor can tire
      Of aught but rest.”—“_Childe Harold._”


There is something very fascinating about the contemplation of life as a
continuous pilgrimage, and the fascination grows on one as the conviction
of the truth of the conception is deepened by study of it. The course of
our race has been a series of processions from continent to continent,
from age to age, from barbarism to refinement, from darkness toward
light. Whether measuring the little arcs of individuals from birth to
dust, or following along the mighty marches of our universe with all its
grouping hosts of whirling constellations, we have before us ever this
constant truth; man moves willingly or unwillingly onward, as a pilgrim
amid pilgrims. “Move on” is the constant mandate and necessity of being.
Man’s course is mapped; onward from the swaddling clothes to the shroud,
from life to dust; then onward again; while all the mighty planet fleets
of which the earth-ship is but one, move along their courses, over
trackless oceans, toward destinations, all unknown, yet concededly in a
grand as well as in an inexorable pilgrimage. Partly because the motions
of his earth-ship makes him restless, partly because he is a being that
hopes and so comes to try to find by distant quests hope’s fruitions, and
more largely because he is of a religious nature, which impels him to
seek things beyond himself, the man becomes a pilgrim. He that is content
as and where he is, always, is regarded as a fool playing with the toys
of a child, by wise men; by religionists, lack of holy restlessness is
ever adjudged to be a sign of depravity. Hence almost all religions,
whether false or true, have given birth to the pilgrim spirit. The zeal
to express and to utilize this spirit has been often pitiful to behold.
Multitudes, failing to grasp the fact that life itself is a pilgrimage,
have invented other pilgrimages and gone aside to useless, needless
miseries. But all the time they attested human nature seeking something
beyond itself, better than its present. So the tribes that lived in the
lowlands nourished traditions of descent from gods or ancestors who abode
on the mountains, and they inaugurated pilgrimages to seek inspiration
or a golden age “on high places, far away.” The chosen people of God
thus constantly were allured from the worship of the Everywhere and One
Jehovah by the enthusiasm of the heathen devotees who flocked to the
mountain fanes. Turn which way one will in the night of the ages and
the spectacle of the pilgrim is before him. Ancient Hinduism, followed
by that of to-day, witnessed annually, pilgrims counted by hundreds of
thousands to the temple of murderous Juggernaut, the Ganga Sagor, or isle
of Sacred Ganges. The Buddhists journey to Adam’s Peak in Ceylon, and
the Lamaists of Thibet travel adoringly to their Lha-Isa; the Japanese
have their pilgrim shrines amid perilous approaches at Istje, while the
Chinese, who claim to be sons of the mountains, clamber with naked knees
the rugged sides of Kicou-hou-chan. The pilgrimages of the Jews occupy
many chapters of Holy Writ, for all their ancient worthies “_not having
received the promises, but seeing them afar off ... confessed that they
were pilgrims and strangers_.” Christ confronted the pilgrim spirit
perverted in the person of the woman of Samaria, at the eastern foot of
Gerezim. She and her people rested their hopes in pilgrimages to their
supposed to be sacred places, but the Saviour declared to her by Jacob’s
well, truths, both grand and revolutionary, in these words: “The hour ...
now is when the true worshiper shall worship the Father in spirit ... not
in this mountain nor in Jerusalem.” “Go call thy husband and come hither.
Whosoever drinketh the water I shall give shall never thirst.” There were
volumes in the golden sentences and they plainly said no need to travel
far to find the Everywhere God Who ever comes where men are to satisfy
their every thirst. “Go call thy husband.” Go to thy home and find the
water of life through doing God’s will; it is better to be a missionary
than a pilgrim unless the pilgrim be also missioner. But the truths of
that hour have found tardy acceptance among many. The children of Jacob
are pilgrims throughout the earth, and the disciples of Christ, since
His departure, have gone pilgriming often, as did their fathers before
them. Constantine, the Roman emperor, and his mother, Helena, by example
and precept, urged Christendom to re-embark in such pious journeys, and
at the end of the first thousand years of its existence, Christianity
had hosts of disciples actuated by the same old passion that sent
religionists everywhere to seek shrines, fanes and blessings. Then the
belief began to be held everywhere among Christians that the millennial
period was at hand. Multitudes abandoned friends, sold or gave away their
possessions, and hastened toward the Holy Land, where they believed
Jesus Christ was to appear to judge the world. Here two pilgrim tides,
utterly opposed to each other, met; the Christian and the Mohammedan.
The followers of the False Prophet, like other men, were imbued with
the pilgrim spirit. Some of these thought perfection could be attained
only within the precincts of Babylon or Bagdad, and others sincerely
believed that they could find peculiar nearness to heaven about the
stone-walled Kaaba of Mecca. It was held to be not only a privilege but
a duty, incumbent upon all, to take these religious journeys; hence men
and women, young and old, undertook them. Even the decrepit were under
the obligation, and they must either undertake the work, though failure
by death were certain, or hire a proxy to go in their behalf. So was
rolled up stupendously the numbers of pilgrim graves which have marked
this earth of ours. The Christian pilgrims for a time thronged toward
Palestine, first as a small stream, then as a torrent. Europe at large
was aroused, and all impulses converged toward the Holy Sepulcher. The
soldiers of the Cross soon added swords to their equipments; the flashing
of spears outshone the altar lights, and almost before they realized it
the priests and pious pilgrims were transformed to mailed knights. There
was a root to the impulse, and that the universally felt need of ideals,
patterns, personages of heroic mold in all goodness, to show men how to
live. The pilgrims turned their eyes to the worthies of the past, and
soon came to believe that they could best imbibe their spirit amid their
tombs and former abodes. Like most religionists they grew to believe God
their especial friend, and they therefore soon came to feel that, against
all odds, He would help them to victory. Then they easily grew to believe
that death in their crusades would merit the martyr’s crown. Their
courage was unbounded, for many went out with a passion to die in the
cause they had embraced. The following crusades were marked by conflicts
between Moslem and Christian, filled with fanatical and merciless fury,
though both the opposing hosts claimed to be doing all they did in God’s
name and under his especial direction. “_Deus vult_,” “God wills it,”
was the war-cry of a mighty army, each of which bore on his banner and
on his breast the sign of the Cross, the emblem eternally exalted by the
Prince of Peace, who willingly died that others might live; but these
soldiers were bent on slaying those they could not convert. They were in
a transitional state, passing from being pilgrims to being missionaries,
but the course was a bloody one. They promoted their self-complacency by
persuading themselves that it was a heaven-offending wrong to continue
to suffer heretics to occupy the places made sacred by the Saviour when
in the world. Then multitudes of Christian priests taught that the pious
needed free course to visit the holy places of the East, that they
might upbuild their faith and their grasp of theological abstractions
by beholding objects associated with the tenets they had adopted. The
Moslems had no interest in these proceedings beyond a desire to thwart
them. The Christians, to be sure, had the moral disadvantage of being
invaders, but then censure of them is mitigated by the fact that Syria
was stolen property to the Turk. The latter held it by the stern title
deed of the sword. The reader of this summary will be chiefly advantaged
by remembering that this conflict was one of the mightiest efforts in
the direction of missionary work ever attempted by man, and that being
attempted by force it failed utterly. Now the Crusaders were believers
in Christ and devoted to Mary. These facts awaken questions as to how,
since the spirits of these twain are finally to conquer all hearts, their
champions were so defeated? The Crusaders desired to promote the glory of
the Man of men and the woman of women, but sought it by aims only weakly
worthy, and means often atrocious. It never matters to Christ’s kingdom
who possesses His grave if He only possesses all hearts. The Crusaders,
beginning with a warm sentiment of respect for the Virgin, suffered
their sentimentality to run mad, and mad sentiment is ripe for folly and
defilement. An opal, they say, will change its color when its wearer is
sick; so a man wearing a priceless virtue on the sleeve of his creed,
will find its luster bedimmed when evil sickens his heart. The Crusaders
had grand banners, mottoes, war-cries and ideals, but they did not know
how to honestly and truly apply them. Their efforts and results well
serve to emphasize the truth that moral advances are made with grander
forces than those of the sword; that in the end the heroes and heroines
of the world’s regeneration will appear potent and regnant solely in
the sweetness, truth and exaltation of personal character. Crusader and
Moslem, at heart, were each desirous of making the world better, but they
each, in fact for a time made it fearfully worse. Probably the followers
of the Cross and the followers of the Crescent would have been glad to
have bestowed all kindness each on the other, if only the one would have
accepted the creed of the other. But the humanity and charity of each
were as to the other eclipsed utterly by a zeal for theories. There was
need to both that there arise a harmonizing ideal. It would seem as if
Providence suffered these opposing pilgrims to peel each other until each
in sheer disgust was driven to seek some better way. An able historian
affirms that the Crusades did not “change the fate of a single dynasty,
nor the boundaries and relative strength of a nation”—but they did leave
a history, the contemplation of which affords rare thought-food. The
conflict ended in the utter route and flight of the Christians. The
tragedy ended at Acre, but there were left some things that took shape in
men’s thinking, and the world was made thereby better. The populations
and properties of Christian Europe had been squandered to a startling
degree in these religious wars, and it was fitting that there be some
return to compensate. The result of all others, that grew out of the
Crusades, and was indeed also a leading cause of their vigor, was the
rising of the spirit of chivalry. The dawn of chivalry first begat brave
fighting, but in time the chivalrous discovered a theater for their
activity amid the amenities of peace. Chivalry was a rebound from the
rugged, barbarous belief of the semi-civilized, whose trust was in brute
force and whose constant _dictum_ was, “Might makes right.” Men became
impressed with a spirit of tenderness, and, little by little the duty
and beauty of the strong’s helping the weak dawned upon humanity. To
be chivalrous, by the unwritten laws of custom, became the obligation
of every man who sought popular respect. Chivalry was in the creed of
the noble and brave, and men delighted to become the companions of lone
pilgrims, patrons of beggars, protectors of children and defenders of
women. Toward the gentler sex, the spirit of chivalry finely expressed
itself by not only defending helpless females amid physical perils, but
by according to womankind distinguished courtesy, refined politeness,
and all those proper respects that so appropriately garnish and ornament
the social intercourse of the sexes in properly cultivated societies.
Before the advent of this chivalric time, women had been deemed as
generally every way inferior to men; chiefly desirable as ministers to
the necessities or appetites of their lords; useful as mothers, but
worthy of very little respect, confidence or lasting admiration. The dawn
of this new and fine gallantry was a step toward woman’s disinthrallment.
Chivalry tried to express itself in the Crusades; defeated, its ardor
still burned, and Europe felt its beneficent glow long after the
conflict for Syrian sepulchers had ceased. And here it is of the utmost
importance that the reader forget not the key fact, that before the
advent of the attractive spirit of chivalry, men’s minds in Christian
communities were profoundly penetrated and wondrously incited by a deep
and new regard for the _Queenly woman Mary, the mother of Jesus_! She
had been almost rediscovered. By a common consent, Christian pulpits
had begun sounding her praises, as the ideal woman; a woman worthy of
the veneration and emulation of all. The various religious communities
vied with each other in doing her honor. The Cistercians declared her
purity by wearing white, the Servi wore black to commemorate her touching
sorrows, and other bodies elected as their distinguishing badges, various
garbs or signs solely to proclaim their allegiance to their ideal woman.
A popular moral coronation of Mary resulted. The Crusaders outran all
others in their adulation of, and committal to, the wondrous woman. They
were the first to call her “Our Lady.” She was THE Lady of the hearts
of all. These chivalrous soldiers to her spoke their pious vows, from
her besought holy favors, and in her name, with sacred oaths, committed
their all to effort to wrest all Palestine from the enemies of Mary’s
Son.[1] Now these millions of men were not mad, nor in pursuit of a
phantom. It was all very real to them. They desired to express a long
pent-up natural feeling, and they found an object all satisfactory in
Mary. The Crusaders returned finally and for good from battling with
Moslem; they returned thoroughly, disastrously defeated: but with their
love for Mary all aglow. When they first called her “Our Lady,” there
may have been an admixture of irreverence and dilettante in the thought
of many; they were purged of these in the hurricane of battle and in the
terrors of that inhospitable land of their pilgrimages. Amid trials,
far away from his home, often in severe want, frequently confronting
slavery and death, the Christian knight while adding “_Ave Marie_” to his
“_Patre Nostre_,” learned to think of the Madonna as his mother. Missing
the latter keenly, worshiping the other unfeignedly, woman took a high
throne in his esteem. Sword conquest began to seem to the war-wearied
soldier very insignificant as compared to a ministry of comfort, peace
and good will. The defeated Crusaders returned to scatter through all
Europe a new gospel of humanity. They exalted the Queen of David’s line
and forgot to recount the fortunes of war in the East in expounding the
dawning beauties of the woman that entranced them and the queenship this
ideal had gained over their minds. So they prepared multitudes of the
sterner sex for a lasting belief in the worthfulness of true womanhood
at its best. The Christian world was ripe for such a revival, when the
priests began to thunder “On to Jerusalem!” but men needed not so much
war as conversion; not so much relics and tombs as loving principles
exemplified. It is wonderful how conversion womanizes some men. That
is a triumph of the spiritual over the sensual, the beautiful over the
gross. It will make a man of brutal, selfish fiber, in time, as tender
as a mother toward her child and as self-denying as a maid toward her
lover. The Crusaders started out to rescue the tomb of the dead Saviour
from unbelievers and failed, but they returned to herald the renaissance
of Mary, the disenslaving of woman; to call the state, the home and
individuals to all the refinements which the exaltation of such an ideal
of necessity offered. Toward this advening the rising spirit of chivalry
was bending the finest hearts when the clarions of war, sounded from
altar and baptistry, summoned all to raise the red banner against the
Moslem. Right here it is worthy of notice that God’s providence presented
other, though allied, principles in the conflict against the Orientals.
Two pilgrim hosts, thinking to choose their own ways, were wisely led to
better goals than they knew. The Turk presented the throng of the harem
as his family; the Christian was committed to the union of only two in
holy wedlock. One party presented a banner with a Cross, forever the
emblem of self-sacrifice; the other the Crescent, emblem of youthfulness
increasing, a hint ever of the hope of endless lust, whether borne of the
master of a harem or by the heathen follower of the ancient moon-horned
Astarte. The last at Acre, by the Syrian border of the Mediterranean Sea,
the Saracen hugged victory and the Cross-bearers were utterly routed.
So reads human history, but in truth the defeat was only apparent and
local. The followers of the Crescent, holding the creed of lust and
making pleasure of sense their end came surely toward their destruction
when successes encouraged them in their courses; the followers of the
Cross, on the other hand, had within some germs of truth, life-giving in
themselves and too beautiful to be suffered to die from the earth. Trial
and defeat watered these germs and the knightly hosts returned to Europe
by thousands to proclaim finer doctrines than those by which the priest
had incited them to war. The returning soldiers were transformed from
pilgrims to missionaries, from being taught to teaching, from restorers
of Palestine’s graves to restorers of European society. Of the “Teutonic
Knights of Saint Mary,” a fine and representative order, an impartial
historian writes: “They defended Christianity against the barbarians of
Eastern Europe.” “After many bloody encounters introduced German manners,
language and morals.” Of the Knighthood, as a whole, says another, “the
institution that could breed such characters as these, obviously rendered
an enduring service to humanity. Its spirit lives on, offering examples
which the young still welcome in their joyous, dreamy days. The ideal
still remains, purified by time, freed from its frailties, and aids in
fashioning modern sentiment to the conception and admiration of the
Christian gentleman.”



CHAPTER III.

ARMAGEDDON; THE KEY AND SICKLE.

      “From the moist regions of the western star,
      The wandering hermits wake the storm of war;
      Their limbs all iron, their souls all flame;
      A countless host the Red Cross warriors came.”—REGINALD HEBER.


As a traveler climbs the mountain to see the sunrise, so he that would
overlook the past or present must needs clamber to some lofty point of
vision in a significant era or historic location. There are two plains in
Syria; one lying along the Mediterranean, the other jutting out from the
base of the former toward Jordan; the two together, in shape very like
a sickle, have witnessed events wonderfully instructive and determinate
to the student of the philosophy of time’s course. These two plains
are known respectively as Esdrælon and Acre. The sea and the mountains
give these plains their sickle shape, and the geographical outlines are
constantly suggestively before the mind as one remembers these plateaus
not only as the highways but the battle-fields of the ancient nations.
For while, as one says, “the face of nature smiles”—“no spot on earth
more fertile,” he also says “no field on earth was so fattened by the
blood of the slain.” There the Philistines, the Ptolemys, Antiochus, the
Maccabees, Herod, Baldwin, King of Jerusalem, Salah-ed-din, Cœur-de-Lion,
Melek-Seruf and Napoleon, each in turn, put their ambitions and their
beliefs to the stern arbitrament of swords. There the kingdom of the
House of David struggled for life; there the splendid dream of the
Crusaders ended as a nightmare.

As a jewel in the haft of the sickle, at the northerly end of the plain
by the sea, sits the city of Acre. This city compels the attention of
the preacher and student of history and gives theme to him who blends
symbol into song. Acre gave its name to its adjacent country round about,
and though both city and plain witnessed many a change of master in the
past, those changing masters, to gratify their whims or strengthen their
policies from time to time, giving the places various names. The Knights
of Saint John made it their elect city, honoring it as Saint Jean de
Acre, the martyr maid of France. From the city itself one may look out
over the sea-highway of nations; from the drear and lofty mountains of
its surrounding country one may look over many memorable places. Acre was
often called the “Key of Palestine” by the soldier strategists and by the
chroniclers of events. To their testimony is added that of the inspired
writers and prophets who made it their key and mountain of outlook
frequently.

These plains, dotted all about by sacred places, memorable for two great
victories; Barak over the Canaanites and Gideon over the Midianites; and
two great disasters, the death of Saul and the death of Josiah, became
to the Jews the symbol of the conflict of right and wrong. Prophetically,
and in the serene hope that righteousness at last would prevail, the
plain was called Armageddon, “the Mountain of the Gospel.” We hear the
rapt Zechariah thus descanting: “The Lord also shall save the glory of
the house of David and the house of David shall be as God.” “And it
shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the
nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour upon the house of
David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of
supplications; and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and
they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be
in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born.”

The prophet looked forth to the Pentecostal day of salvation and the
assured victories of David’s great successor. Following this ancient
seer, John the beloved, in the Visions of the Apocalypse repeats, these
oracles. During the wars of the Crusaders, Acre was sometimes in their
possession and sometimes held by their Turkish foes. In the year 1191
Richard the Lion Heart wrested it from the infidel leader Salah-ed-din.
The Christians held it firmly until 1291, the time when the last wave
of the Crusader advance ebbed, in bloody defeat, from the shores of
the Holy Land. For two hundred years the believer of the West and the
Moslem grappled with each other in deadly conflict; war’s fortunes
often changing, but the awful price in human misery and human blood was
inexorably exacted at every stage of the conflict. Acre was the focus
toward which the eddying tides ever and anon moved; therefore it saw not
only the end but the worst of the Crusades.

Our story begins A. D. 1291 at Acre, the Key of Palestine, in Armageddon,
“the mountain of the Gospel.” The situation may be briefly depicted:
Acre was filled with a mixed and un-homogeneous population. There were
the ubiquitous Galilean traders, without politics; shrewd to the last
degree in traffic and courtly as a Parisian; there some secret, sullen,
silent enemies of the Christian invaders, awaiting the coming end; there
hundreds of those camp-following nondescript “good lord and good devil”
characters, and there the remnants of the Crusader armies. The latter
were not only diminished as to numbers but greatly degraded in moral
tone. Their warfare had been belittled to a defense and a retreat. The
adventurers were uppermost; courts-martial, intrigues and fanfaronade
were their occupation daily. Prince Edward, the Christian leader, had
made a sworn treaty with the Moslems long before this time; but his
pious followers had quickly, wickedly violated it. Thereupon the Sultan,
Kha-tel, had made an irrevocable treaty with himself, sealed with the
most awful oath he could register, that he would never tire until he
had exterminated the last of the Western invaders now circumscribed and
besieged in Acre. With 200,000 dusky followers the Sultan besieged the
last stronghold of the Crusaders. The hearts of the defenders sank within
them, and scores sought safety in homeward flight, loading down every
vessel bound for Europe. Among the first fugitives was the chief leader,
Hugh de Lusignan, who wore the phantom title, “King of Jerusalem.” He
preferred the safety of distant Cyprus to the doubtful regality which
was overshadowed with nearing death. Only 12,000 were left to represent
the Crusade cause which once mustered millions. May 18, 1291, the devoted
city was stormed by the Turks; an entrance was effected and a murderous
carnage, heaping the streets with the dead, and redding the foam of the
moaning sea, followed. But there was no easy victory to the Moslem, for
the steady, vigorous, brilliant, desperate fighting of the knights,
laying low piles of their foes for every one of themselves that fell,
compelled the respect of the Sultan’s host. The Turks attempted to gain
a surrender by offering bribes; these failing, terms were offered. The
latter, which included permission for the Crusade remnant to depart the
country in peace, were accepted. But the Sultan, taught, if he needed
the lesson, by the perfidy of Prince Edward’s Christian truce-breakers,
quickly broke his promise of safe conduct. Though the retreating band was
in no way party to the wrong he sought to avenge, they were mercilessly
ambuscaded. There followed another struggle to the death, a handful
against a host and but few succeeded in cutting their way through the
cordon of death. History has often recounted the preceding events up to
the point; from this point it is proposed to lead the reader along the
career of a fragment tossed out of the foregoing whirlpool of disaster.



CHAPTER IV.

SIR CHARLEROY; THE SOLDIER OF FORTUNE AND KNIGHT OF SAINT MARY.

                    “’Tis quickly seen,
      Whate’er he be, ’twas not what he had been;
      That brow in furrowed lines had fixed at last,
      And spoke of passion but of passion past.”

      ...

      “Chained to excess, the slave of each extreme,
      How woke he from the wildness of his dream?
      Alas! he told not, but he did awake,
      To curse the withered heart that would not break.”—“_Lara._”


The course of the knights fleeing from Acre was turned toward Nazareth.
There being but one way open to them, they took that way quickly and
with one accord. The fugitives from Acre represented various knightly
orders, but they were disorganized, without any definite destination and
without an authorized leader. Among them was Sir Charleroy de Griffin,
a knight famed for valor, a central and commanding personage; one that
would have attracted attention in almost any assembly of men. As he
went, so went the rest of the fleeing Christians, and when he reined in
his panting steed, after a time, at the top of a fir-crested knoll not
far from Nazareth, the knights following him did likewise. Then they
drew around him in a semi-circle, without command, and simultaneously,
as if to solicit his direction. They had followed the course he took
because he took it, and now with one accord they halted because he had
done so. There is to some a subtile influence that makes them leaders of
men; so the disorganized Crusaders, by an unvoiced but fully expressed
concession, admitted the leadership of this dashing horseman. Some may
designate this a triumph of personal magnetism, but be that as it may,
it was a fact that Sir Charleroy was chief. Sir Charleroy, just at the
time of the foregoing incident, presented an admirable study for the
philosopher or painter. From his saddle he was able to overlook leagues
of bright landscape, but he could not claim the protection of a foot of
it; for the first time in his life he yearned for home, now a spreading
sea, and a wall of death shut it out from him apparently for ever; by
circumstances absolute sovereign almost of the men about him, but doubt
and danger were confounding all his ability to give commands. He fell
into a train of thought, leaving his comrades to converse with their
pawing steeds and to questionings within themselves as to the future.
Sir Charleroy had reached an eminence in life, one of those points of
out-look where a man’s past meets him and demands review, that it may
explain the present. He believed that he had reached very nearly the end
of his career, and in that belief he began to weigh it for what it was
worth. In imagination he saw one writing the story of his life. Sir
Charleroy, the refugee, began faithfully to review Sir Charleroy, the
wayward youth, pleasure-seeker and reckless man. The former dictated
mentally to the imaginary scribe: “Write, Charleroy de Griffin was the
son of a stalwart French Baron, used to duels and trained to war. The boy
inherited from his father a splendid physique, of which he was unduly
proud, and a restless disposition that he never sincerely asked God to
control. By the death of the baron, his son, an infant, was left to the
sole tutelage of his English mother. The latter was of high birth, by
nature a noble woman, and in every way worthy of a better son than the
one whom he had turned out to be. She had idolized her brawny spouse in
his lifetime, and when she had recovered from the shock his death caused,
her yearning heart, little by little, turned from the idol in the tomb
to the child he had left her. Ere long she lived again in the rapture
of a love all absorbing, all bestowing, all ruling. She lavished her
affection on the youth, not because he was particularly lovable, for he
was not, but because he was the only one left her to love, and she was so
constituted that she must love; the necessity of loving to her made it
easy.

“Then there were many things in the features and form of her son that
reminded her of the man who, in brighter days, had won entirely her
maiden heart and her young wife love. The child was wont to wonder why
his mother embraced him as she did sometimes, with a wondering, startled,
wild, passionate embrace; but when he got older he discerned the meaning
of these outbreaks. He knew that the mother-heart was having a vision of
past wifehood, memory’s grace-given solace of widowhood. Besides this
the embraces were her appealings or warnings to death; her heart suddenly
seizing as if to shelter and save her last and only idol; for the thought
would sometimes come with shadows deep enough, that perhaps the boy
might also die. Such love would have been a prized wealth and blessing
to some; but in this case, on the one hand, it unfitted this mother for
the proper disciplining of this son, and this son though, sometimes, when
his conceit permitted it, realizing that the love was given, not won,
began to expect it as his due or despise it for its lavishness. In due
time he entered the period expressively designated, ‘The monster age.’
This is the time when expanding young life has outgrown the tenderness of
infancy and failed of putting on manly and womanly graces; a time when
there is a mighty ambition to put on the characteristics of adult life
and a mighty lack of ability gracefully to wear them. At this period,
perhaps, the majority of youths of both sexes, are interesting chiefly
for what they have been, or what it is hoped they will be. They feel,
conscious of their growing powers, great self-conceit, and with their
growth comes an expansion of their capacities and wants. The plenitude of
their wantings makes them avaricious, hence parsimonious toward others of
every thing, especially of gratitude. Reverence for elders, respect for
fathers, holy regard for mothers, tenderness toward women, chief charms
of youth, are buried in the tomb of other virtues by great, selfish,
ugly demons of desire. The monster age came to Charleroy in its full
virulence, but his mother discerned little of his monstrosity; what she
did discern, all unasked, she condoned. She believed all things, hoped
all things good of him, although seldom comforted by an expression or
act of gratitude on his part. She was to be pitied; but it may be said
that the lad was to be pitied almost as much as herself. It was the old
story over; she unconsciously went about destroying her own happiness
and though she would have willingly died if need be in his behalf, she
harmed him beyond estimate by her indulgent loving. Then the youth was
surrounded by those who sought the favor of the baroness by constantly
sounding in her ears, and in the ears of the boy, praises of the dead
baron. They told of his daring, they descanted upon his adventures, his
powers, his wisdom. He was the widow’s idol, and the incense was grateful
to her, but the worst of it was that they befooled the lad by continually
assuring him that he was the image of his father, and surely destined to
equal, if not surpass, his sire in deeds of valor. A dangerous burden is
wealth; whether it come as great name or great intellect, great physical
strength or as much gold, it is a fateful load which few can gracefully
support. The youth had wealth in all the foregoing directions; if he
had had a mother whose love loved wisely enough to save, if it need be
by pain, he might have been saved; but her love infatuated her. The
youth’s folly brought him frequently into shameful entanglements; but she
extricated him each time. Nobody ever heard of her even rebuking him; as
to chastising him, that were a thing abhorrent to her thoughts. His face
always bespoke his pardon in advance with her. She would have smitten
her husband’s corpse, as it lay in its coffin, as soon as she would have
smitten the one whose features constantly reminded her of him her heart
had held most dear. Then she hoped, with a mother’s large-hearted faith,
that each escapade would be the last. But as the youth grew older his
acts were bolder. Again and again, without notice and with heartless
inconsiderateness, he left his home to pursue some adventure, and again
and again, mother’s love followed him, ever to find him at last in some
sore plight, and then quickly to forgive him. By the time Charleroy had
reached his majority, the family fortune had been severely tried and
depleted in paying the penalty of his follies. He himself had become an
old young man, with too many gray hairs and too much experience for one
of his years.

“At that time, a few enthusiasts having determined to make one last
effort to secure the Holy Sepulcher, Charleroy de Griffin ardently
enlisted in the pre-doomed enterprise, allured largely by its very
desperateness. The crusade spirit was then a fitful dying flame
throughout Europe. England and France were left practically alone to
furnish the men and the money for the last crusade. Prince Edward of
France was its leader, and De Griffin, having in his veins the blood
of both of the supporting nations, a French name, a splendid physique,
together with a fearless, dashing temperament, was enthusiastically
hailed to the enlistment and pushed forward to leadership. ‘_Sir_
Charleroy de Griffin!’ smilingly called out Prince Edward, the day of
review, before the one set for departure. The young man’s comrades, many
of whom had been his associates in former days of wassail, hearing the
Prince’s word, shouted out with one accord, ‘Knighted! The prince has
knighted de Griffin! Hurrah for Sir Charleroy!’ The day following Sir
Charleroy bowed his head, as he stood on the quay ready to embark, to
receive the benediction of a bishop. As the sacrist laid his hands on the
young man’s head, the latter, throwing back his cloak, reverently touched
the cross he had attached to his bosom with his jeweled sword-hilt. The
young knight for a little while was very complacent; for he was enjoying
a sentimental emotion of virtue, arising from sophistries with which his
mind toyed. Some way he felt he had become a soldier of the holy Christ,
and somehow it seemed to him he was making atonement for past follies
by now placing himself side by side with the pious and noble. Though in
reality only bent on seeking excitement, adventure, change, he looked
forward to the rewards of conscience belonging alone to the penitent,
and to a possible public canonizing as one going forth to die for God.
A little piety paralleling one’s own desires is often made to do great
service in silencing the clamors from within. His proud, tearful mother
was by his side. Passionately she kissed his cross, then his brow, then
his eyes and then his lips; leaving on the brow the glistening, dewy
jewels that told the story of the heart which bade him stay, yet go. The
young knight was for once in his life very serious, but tearless. After
all this, in rapid steps, followed the disaster at Acre; the desperate
struggle outside the city; the flight toward Nazareth. Sir Charleroy
finally stands between the sea and the city, a mother’s idol ready to
be broken; at twenty-five, near the apparent apex and end of a life,
having had great opportunities, now, with all lost, he stands there an
epitome of paradoxes. He had made life a pursuit of pleasure only to
find the pursuit ending in misery; he had enlisted to serve the Prince
of Peace, but that service he had undertaken with the sword; he had
championed, as he said, the cause of Christ, the all-conquering, but he
meets utter defeat. He had taken for his patron saint Mary, after years
of libertinism. He elected Mary, he said, because his mother was so like
her. But Sir Charleroy’s mother demoralized her son by over-indulgence,
while Mary, though informed by Gabriel that her offspring was divine,
followed her child as a true mother, with the divinely appointed
authority of a mother, serenely, constantly directing his career up to
the feast of Jerusalem, where he began to reveal his divine commission.
Even then, motherhood affirmed its rights in the very presence of God
manifest, in the question: ‘_Son, why hast thou dealt thus?_’ Nor was
the right challenged, for ‘_he went down and was subject to_’ father
and mother!” At this point Sir Charleroy ceased mentally tracing his
own career, and lifting his eyes looked intently toward Nazareth. “Ah,”
he said, but so that none could hear his words, “my mother loved as
many another, in part selfishly, for the joy of abandoned love, and I
squander that patrimony like a spendthrift, to my harm. Mary’s love for
her son was like his for the world, a constant self-abnegation. That love
survives as an inspiration to the world. By these contrasts I explain my
failure in life, and the present is the natural sequence of the past.”

[Illustration: By Murillo.

THE BIRTH OF MARY.]



CHAPTER V.

NAZARETH.

      “This is indeed the blessed Mary’s land,
      Virgin and Mother of our dear Redeemer!
      All hearts are touched and softened by her name;
      Alike the bandit with the bloody hand,
      The priest, the prince, the scholar and the peasant,
      The man of deeds, the visionary dreamer,
      Pay homage to her as one ever present.”—LONGFELLOW—“_Golden Legend_.”

    “I walked along the top of the hills overlooking Nazareth. A
    glorious scene opened on the view. The air was perfectly serene
    and clear. I remained for some hours lost in contemplation of
    the wide prospect and the events connected with the scene. One
    of the most beautiful and sublime prospects on earth.”—ROBINSON’S
    _Biblical Researches_.


The avenging Turks easily persuaded themselves that they could serve God
better by participating in the sacking of fallen Acre than by pursuing
the conquered, fleeing Christian knights; so they let the latter escape
inland, while they themselves returned to the pillage. Ere long, by
stealth, good fortune and Providential leading, the fugitives arrived
unmolested at the top of a hill, overlooking the little city of Nazareth,
forever memorable as having been once the earthly abiding place of Jesus
and Mary. On the way thither scarcely a sentence had been spoken,
for each felt that murmuring would be harmful, mirth inopportune.
They chose their course indifferently, all following Sir Charleroy de
Griffin because he rode bravely and onward. The fugitives paused, partly
sequestered by the shrubbed hillock, forgetting for a time all else in
admiration of the outspreading panorama in view. Heaven and earth were
smiling at each other; thousands of leagues of sky were filled with the
raptured songs of larks, while as echo and challenge of the songs from
above, the thrush and robin of the grass knoll and thicket responded.
From the plains of El Battaf on the north to Esdrælon on the south
Nature, God’s flower queen, had decked the earth everywhere with blossoms
of pinks, tulips and marigolds.

“Those dusky cowards,” spoke Sir Charleroy, “though numbering ten to one,
will not seek us here; they’ll wait an opportunity to ambuscade us.”

“We’ve broken our knight’s pledge, never to flee more than the distance
of four French acres from a foe, and yet methinks we’ve made them respect
our swords; that’s something to say, though we’ve not made them respect
our creed.” It was a Knight of the Golden Cross that spoke.

Sir Charleroy continued, while his eyes turned toward the city: “I thirst
for the waters of a fount in Nazareth as did David once for one in
Bethlehem.”

“For all of our getting at it, Nazareth’s water might as well be in
Ethiopia,” spoke a Hospitaler.

“I’ve a yearning that comes near to sending me on a charge into the city.”

“That would be a hot pursuit of death surely.”

“A fair one, then, since death has been long pursuing us.” After a
moment’s pause Sir Charleroy continued:

“Ah, death! None can escape, none overtake him; see we are his prisoners
now, yet he tantalizes us by a show of immunity. As a sarcophagus is let
down by suspending ropes in tedious stages, with jogglings and pauses,
into the grave, so passes each through perils and sickenings from life to
death. No, no, an undue fear of death intoxicates us until phantasmagoria
possess the brain. We call these hopes; they are delusive! But will any
of you follow for a charge down to the Virgin’s fountain? We can not
more than die; that we must soon, in any event. I think I could die more
complacently, having cooled my thirst where she was wont to cool hers.”

“Ugh,” exclaimed the Templar, with a shudder of disgust, “the fountain
flows out through an old stone coffin! By my plume! while drinking there
I’d be fancying that the ghost of the one robbed of his last house
were leering at me and reveling in the thought that I’d soon be poor
and thirstless as he. Verily the flavor of a drink depends much on the
goblet!”

“We may have plenty of miserable fancies, if we only court such; for
me, Templar, I prefer to comfort myself by cheerier thoughts; while I
drank there, I’d think of the coolings of death’s streams; of her, that
at this fountain slaked her body’s thirst and from the chalice of death
drank serenely at last. My sword, the gift of my king, after having
shed torrents of blood, hangs uselessly at my side. It seems cruel as
powerless; ay, ’tis hateful! My mother gave me, on my departure, better
gifts by far; tears, kisses, undying love, and the charge to call on Mary
if ever evil befell me. The latter I know not how to do; but still my
weak faith, methinks, would be helped to cry ‘Mother’ to God, if I could
only stand where that mother stood who won the first love of the infant
Jesus, the last anxious thoughts of the God man.”

“Sir Charleroy is unusually pious to-night; but alas, though I’ve
been taught to say our church’s _Litany_, calling on ‘the Virgin most
faithful,’ ‘Virgin most merciful,’ ‘Help of the Christian,’ ‘Lady of
Victories,’ I can not use those phrases here. Where’s the help, the
mercy, the victory now? The _Litany_, belongs to England!”

“We are in our present plight because we have won heaven’s neglect
through having more vices than graces, probably.”

“Whatever the cause, the mocking disappointment is apparent. It is
nigh thirteen hundred years since the Holy son and His mother began
proclaiming and exemplifying the White Kingdom here. Now in all this
land of theirs, we thirteen, fateful number, alone are left of those who
openly own His cause. Yea, and the city where He grew in favor, these
nature-blessed plains whose flowers gave Him picture sermons, are all
filled with burrowing monsters eternally at war with Him and His.”

“Faith will rest until assured that the Promiser is dead, and that can
never be, Sir Knight.”

“My faith staggers at the sights of Nazareth. Chief, look yonder.”

The knights all now called Sir Charleroy chief, when addressing him.

“At what?”

“The ruins!”

“Ah, all that’s left of our Crusader church. They say it was built on the
very spot where Mary fell fainting, when she saw the Nazarenes in wrath
dragging her son away to cast him down from the precipice to death. But
He escaped, though the church since built did not!”

“True; therefore it seems to me that the hand on time’s dial turns
backward. This city is filled with creatures having hearts as hard as
the limestone walls of the cave-like houses they fittingly inhabit. If
Christ and His Mother were again on earth as before, mercy’s ministers,
the present inhabitants of Nazareth would surpass His ancient persecutors
in the zeal with which they would drag not only Him but His mother to the
cliffs.”

“Over the door of yon ruined church, some hand of faith carved the word
‘Victory!’ The word is there yet, and though the hand that carved it is
dead, the faith which prompted it hath victory assured it.”

“‘Victory,’ in ruins! A meaningless boast, as it seems to me, Sir
Charleroy. Such victory as ours; shadowy and very distant!”

At that moment one of the Templars, who had been secretly praying behind
a cactus hedge, drew near and the Hospitaler addressed him:

“Brother, any token?”

“Praise Jehovah! yes, of peace.”

“How came it?”

“In my communings, God brought to my mind how the wondrous Deborah, not
far from here, pushed the pusillanimous Barak from his refuge among the
pistacas and oaks, from waverings to courage and to glorious victory over
God’s foes.”

“A happy thought; ‘the stars on their course fought against Sisera!’”

“Barak was called the ‘thunderbolt,’ but Deborah was the ‘lightning.’ The
lightning gave force to the bolt and God to the lightning.”

Sir Charleroy, catching the last sentence, joined in the debate:

“Gentlemen, there is another lesson on the brow of that history; it is,
that women, having more trust, cleave closer to God in peril than do men.
Men are in a panic when their devices fail; women have fewer devices to
fail, hence are less easily confounded. For that reason God sent out our
race in pairs.”

“Hermon’s breast holds the last ray of the setting sun,” remarked the
Golden Cross.

“And the Transfiguration of Christ is recalled! I think some angel of God
is holding the sunlight there for our instruction, now,” exclaimed the
chief.

“Our instruction?” queried the Templar. “I do not discern its meaning;
campaigning I fear has dulled my brain.”

“The Son of Mary, on yon mount, met Elijah, representative of the
prophets, Moses, representative of the law; both called from the
deathless land to proclaim the fulfillment of all prophecy and law
through His coming passion.”

“And still I question how this applies to us?”

“A Knight of the _Red Cross_ should easily discern that suffering unto
death for truth’s sake is the way, all prophecy declares that a reign
of law transforming things to spiritual splendor shall at last come to
earth.”

“Ah, Sir Charleroy, the interpretation is entrancing, but why did the
glory need to fade into night, and to be followed by Gethsemane and
Calvary?”

“Life is but a series of temporary glimpses of the glory that shall be
revealed. Night and cloud come and go, yet the sun never dies.”

“But, Sir Charleroy, was it not hard that the loving Immanuel should be
forced to bide these pangs though ever pursuing true righteousness?”

“Yea, Templar, but the glory of the Transfiguration came to all that
group while Jesus prayed; as the angel hastened to minister when
Gethsemane was darkest. These things teach that heaven watches its own,
with succor according to want; great light at hand to baffle great
darkness and royal answers for anxious prayers!”

“You mean, Sir Charleroy, that we few, surrounded by a sea of enemies,
in an inhospitable land, far from home, should despise each despairing
thought?”

“Good Templar, I am certain of this, anyway: Suffering for the right has
full reward, for after passion as Christ’s, so to His followers there
comes the ascension.”

“Amen,” fervently ejaculated several surrounding knights, and Sir
Charleroy felt the glow that he felt that time the English bishop blessed
him.

As they thus communed, the sun had quietly sunk down into the far-off
Mediterranean, flooding the west with light like molten gold. Doubtless
one thought came to each at the sight; for all smiled sadly when one
remarked: “The _West_ is very beautiful to-night!” They thought with
deep yearnings of home. But the darkness quickly drew over the scene and
the song of the baleful nightingales began to start forth here and there
from thickets which, in the darkness, appeared like plumes of mourning
on acres of black velvet. One knight, for a while entranced by the grim,
gloomy spectacle, shuddered; then looked up as if to say: “When will
the moon rise? the darkness is oppressive!” Another tried to cheer his
comrades by crying: “England’s songsters know us and come to sing us into
hopefulness!”

“Men, to rest; you’ll need it.” It was Sir Charleroy who spoke.
Responsibility made him motherly.

“Let us revel awhile in memories of better days,” replied the Templar.

“But listen; do you not hear afar off something like the moaning of the
winds before a storm?”

“What of it? A storm could add little to our misery.”

“The sound you hear is the cry of jackal and wolf; our omens. Forget now
all unnerving thoughts of home and steel yourselves to meet hard fortune.
For a while rest. Rest is now our wisdom; night, our mother; for a time
in safety she will swaddle us within her black garments. And then——”

“Even so, good Sir Charleroy, and I’m thinking this is her last visit to
us. She has come, I guess, to lead us to the portals of eternal day.”

“When I say good-night to you, comrades, it will be with the expectation
of next saying good-morning where the wicked cease from troubling,”
solemnly said the Golden Cross.

“But,” interrupted the Hospitaler, “while the pulse beats we have a
mortgage on time and a duty to plan to live.”

“Bravely said; now tell us how to plan,” exclaimed several knights.

“Merge all our orders into one, for the present; elect a leader, and——”
The Hospitaler paused, for he could not guess the needs or course of
the future. But the knights quickly acquiesced in the unity of action
proposed.

“Who shall lead?” was the next question.

“I nominate,” shouted the Hospitaler, “the one whom we all believe must
be under the especial care of the good angels of these places sacred to
all revering mother Mary.”

The knights, with one voice, responded, “Sir Charleroy de Griffin,
Teutonic Knight of the Order of St. Mary!”

The little band dared their danger for a moment by a spontaneous cheer.

“We have no priest to anoint the chief of the Refugees, but with God to
witness, let each who would ratify the choice place hilt to shield, as an
oath of service and defense.”

Every hilt rang against Sir Charleroy’s shield, as the Hospitaler ceased
speaking.

“Comrades,” said Sir Charleroy, “I thank you for your confidence in this
hour when the issue is life or death. Let us seek the God of battles.”
The knights formed a hollow square about their leader, and all kneeled
upon the earth.

Their wondering steeds seemed to catch the spirit of their riders,
and, drawing near, drooped their heads. For a few moments there was
awing silence, and then in deep measured tones the Hospitaler began
chanting, “_Kyrie Eleison_” (Lord have mercy). The companions responded,
“_Christi Eleison_.” Then, amid those scenes of sacred history, the
kneeling soldiers, together, and without command, with only the stars for
altar-lights, solemnly chanted a portion of the sublime Litany of their
church. Galilee never before, nor since, heard a more sincere orison:
“Pour forth, we beseech Thee, oh, Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that
we to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the
message of an angel, may by His passion and His cross be brought to the
glory of His resurrection, through the same Christ, our Lord. Amen.”

As they arose, a Templar spoke: “Companions, if it so please you, put
a seal, the seal of the Red Cross Knights, upon our act.” So saying,
the knight crossed his feet, then spread out his arms horizontally;
similitude of the crucifixion. All reverently imitated the action,
meanwhile, their swords being in hand with blades crossing, forming a
fence of steel.

“Comrades,” spoke Sir Charleroy, with emotion, “I accept the trust, and
vow by Him that gave the single-handed Elijah on yonder far-off wrinkled
Carmel, sign by fire, that confounded Baal and its regal hosts, to lead
you to liberty and home or to glorious graves.”

“_In hoc signo vinces_, living or dead,” was the chorused response. Just
then the rising moon flooded their interlaced swords with light, and, as
they glittered, the knights took it for an omen that there was a blessing
in the union of their swords.

“Sir Charleroy, I proclaim thee king of Jerusalem; what say you,
comrades?” exclaimed a hitherto silent Knight of St. John. Once more
every knight’s sword touched the leader’s shield.

“Nobly proclaimed!” remarked the Templar. “When De Lusignan deserted us,
ceasing to be kingly, he ceased to be king.”

“Have charity, men,” interrupted their chief; “it takes a world of
courage to fall with a falling cause when a way of escape is open.”

“Oh, we’ll have charity; the same that Tancred had for that brave
preacher and craven soldier, Hermit Peter; the latter ran from peril and
Tancred raced him back. We can not reach Lusignan to whip him to duty,
but we can vote him dethroned and dead. All cowards are dead to the
brave.”

“But, companions, I must decline the presumptuous title and phantom
throne. Jerusalem shall have, to us, but one king; the Son of Mary. For
the future, to you, let me be simply Sir Charleroy. Now let us be moving.”

“Whither?” anxiously inquired several knights in a breath.

“Over the valley to the cactus hedges against the limestone cliffs before
us, where runs along the great highway from Damascus to Egypt. We shall
not need the route to either point, probably; but those hills are full of
caves for the living and tombs for the dead.” All obeyed.

“Why so thoughtful?” said the Hospitaler to the Knight of the Golden
Cross, who marched along with his cloak partly shielding his face.

“I’m living in the past,” he sententiously answered.

“The past? Ah, to make up by a back journey for an expected briefing of
thy future?”

“No, raillery here, Hospitaler. I was just wishing that since we are so
near Endor, Saul’s witch would call up some saintly Samuel to tell us
where we shall be this time to-morrow.”

“Oh, Golden Cross, know we can best bear the good or evil of the future
by seeing it only as it comes; for me, I prefer to think of another
place, near us, but having a more helpful incident for the memory of such
as we.”

“Dost thou mean Nain?”

“The same. There a dead only son was raised from the bier to comfort a
widowed mother.”

“Well said, Hospitaler,” responded Sir Charleroy, “and let us not forget
that it was a mother’s tearful prayers that won the working of the
miracle.”

“Alas, knight,” sighed the Templar, “we have no mothers to so petition
for us here, if we be quenched ere long.”

“Some of us have living mothers who never cease to pray for us, nor will
until their breath ceases. In this land, where God appeared through
motherhood, I have a strong confidence that our mothers’ prayers,
re-enforced by our appealing but unvoiced needs, will move the motherhood
of God, if such I may call His tenderest lovings. I’ll trust to-night my
mother’s prayers, reaching from England to Heaven and from thence to
here, further than all the sympathy forgetful Europe will vouchsafe us. A
nation cheered us to battle, and yet it will never seek for the fragments
defeat has left; but the man never lived, no matter what his ill deserts,
whom true mother love and eternal God love ever forgot.” After this long
address, Sir Charleroy again felt the glow within and the approvings that
he felt on the quay when the bishop’s hands were on his head.



CHAPTER VI.

THE FUGITIVES.

      “’Tis not in mortals to command success;
      But we’ll do better, Sempronius; we’ll deserve it.”—_Cato._


The fugitives slept, some in the obliviousness of complete fatigue and
others restlessly, their minds perturbed by dreams of their impending
perils. Dawn summoned all to renewed activity, but its coming was not
greeted joyfully by the knights.

“Sir Charleroy,” mournfully spoke a Hospitaler to the former, as they met
at the outskirts of the camping place, “our comrade, the Knight of the
Holy Sepulcher, made good his escape from this woeful country during the
early morning, before dawn, as our comrades were sleeping!”

“Why, impossible!” questioningly responded the chief.

“Alas, ’twas rather impossible for him not to go!”

“I’m in no humor for such petty jesting! See, his steed is there yet,”
and Sir Charleroy turned on his heel impatiently as he spoke.

“Pardon, companion, he that departed was borne away by the white charger
with black wings!”

“Dead?”

“Mortals say ‘dead’ of such, but it were better to say he is free.”

“_Peace to his soul_,” fervently spoke Sir Charleroy.

“Ah, knight, thou canst not imagine the peacefulness of his going!”

“But why were we not summoned? We might have consoled him at least;
perhaps we might have healed. What was his malady?”

“A poisoned arrow wounded him in the retreat from Acre. He did not
realize his peril until the agonies of the end were wracking his body.
Then he said, ‘Too late; it’s useless to attempt resistance of the
inevitable.’”

“Now this is pitiful—a humiliation of us all. Heavens, Hospitaler!
there’s not a knight among us who would not have periled his life in
effort in the dying man’s behalf.”

“But he cautioned me against disturbing any one on his account. ‘Poor
men,’ he said, ‘they’ll need all the rest they can get for the struggles
of the day to come.’ Only once did he seem to yearn for a remedy, and
that time he spoke mostly as one dreaming. I remember his every word—‘I
wish I could bathe these hot and bleeding wounds in the all-healing nards
said to exude exhaustlessly from the image of the Virgin Most Merciful at
Damascus.’ I roused him, then, with an appeal for permission to summon
thee, but he forbade me.”

“Thou shouldst have overridden all protests of his! By my tokens! I’d
have emulated faithful Elenora, who sucked the poison from the dagger
stab given her spouse, our knightly Prince Edward, by the would-be
assassin at Acre.”

“I could not resist him; his face shone in the moonlight with heavenly
brightness; mine was covered with tears. Oh, chief, the dying man spoke
like an angel. Once he said: ‘It is sweet to go out here, nigh where the
resurrection angel, Gabriel, gave Mary the glad tidings that her humanity
was to join with the Good Father to bring forth One capable of sounding
each human sorrow here and hereafter. He overcomes the dread last enemy
of all our race!’ I watched as he fixed his dying gaze upon the golden
cross he wore; his last words still fill and inflame my soul: ‘Brother,
good-night—say this to each for me. I feel great darkness creeping
in to possess this broken, weary body. It comes to stay, but my soul
moves forth out of its dungeon. I see gates most lofty, all glorious,
and oh, so near! They open to an eternal day.’ Then he breathed his
last, murmuring tenderly: ‘I’m going; good-night; good-morning!’” The
Hospitaler ended his recital with a great sob, then burying his face in
his cloak, was silent.

Presently the knights formed a hollow square about an old tomb in the
hillside. The Hospitaler supported tenderly the head of the dead comrade
in his lap. On the naked breast of the corpse lay the many-pointed golden
cross of the Knights of the Sepulcher, while round the body was wrapped a
Templar’s banner, with its significant emblem, two riders on one horse;
symbol of friendship and necessity.

“Let the one who received the dying prayer of our brave companion speak,”
said Sir Charleroy. The knights all knelt, and the Hospitaler still
reverently supporting the head of the dead, spoke. “Knight of Christ,
sleep; the clamors of war shall no more disturb thee. The dead at least
are just and merciful. Israelite, Mohammedan and Christian may lie
together in these vales, reconciled at last. They that would not share
a loaf to save life to one another, in death share quietly all they
have, their beds. The ashes of the long sleepers have no contentions;
here are no crowdings of each other; no misunderstandings; no alarms.
Sleep, soldier, thy worthy warfare finished; thy cause appealed to the
Judge of All! Sleep and leave us to battle on ’mid perils and pain.
Sleep thy body, while thy soul fathoms the mysteries to us inscrutable.
Rest now, and leave us here a little longer to wonder why it is that
human creatures must needs inhumanly oppose and slay each other for the
enthroning of Truth, the friend, the quest of all! Sleep, and leave us to
wonder why death and conflict are the openers of the gates of life and
peace.” Some of those kneeling wept, but they were too much depressed to
speak. Quietly they laid the body within its resting place; quietly they
sealed up the tomb’s entrance. Then they mounted their steeds at their
chief’s command.

“There are but twelve of us left; a lucky number. Perhaps the breaking
of the fateful spell believed to follow the number thirteen, was death’s
beneficence!” It was the Templar who so spoke.

“It is said, Templar,” responded Charleroy, “that our Mary, in her
girlhood, was escorted ever by an invisible heavenly guard, a thousand
strong. In the guard there were twelve palm-bearing angels of rare
splendor, commissioned to reveal charity.”

“A worthy companionship, chief!”

“I’m inclined to pray heaven to send again to these parts the beautiful
twelve, to assure us good fortune and victory.”

“Surely the prayers of us all join thine, Sir Charleroy; but methinks
we have forgotten how to pray aright, or heaven has forgotten to answer
us. We have been praying and fighting for months only to find at last
that our prayers and our battlings are alike vain. I fear there are no
palm-bearing angels at hand.”

The horsemen slowly wended their way back to the hill-top, overlooking
Nazareth, on which they first paused the night before. Again they halted
to admire the prospect, as well as to look for a route of safe retreat.
Nazareth was astir. The little band on the hill could hear the morning
trumpeters calling the Moslem to worship.

“Gentlemen,” said the leader of the band on the hill, “it is wisdom to
divide into two parties, and make for the sea by different routes. At
Cæsarea we may find some vessels with which to leave these to us fateful
shores. If we meet the foe anywhere, the odds against us now are so great
that death or enslavement must be the result. Perhaps if there be two
parties one may escape.” The knights paused about their leader a few
moments in affectionate debate; all opposing at first the plan that was
to scatter them, but all, finally, convinced that it was the highest
wisdom to go on their ways apart. Lots were cast by the eleven, De
Griffin not participating. Four were grouped in one party and seven in
the other by the result.

“I’ll join the weaker party, remembering the five wounds of Jesus,” said
Sir Charleroy, reining his steed to the smaller company. A moment after
he continued: “Now, good souls, away with grief; part we must; here and
now. May God go tenderly with the seven, a covenant number. Now make your
wills; then a brief farewell; then use the spur.”

“Wills?” said a Templar, and they all smiled in a sickly way at the
word. “We knights, boasting our poverty, our holding of all we have in
community, know nothing of will-making.”

“True, the pelf we each have is small enough; a few keep-sakes, our arms
and such like; but our love is something. Let’s will that, and if we’ve
aught to say before we die, we’d better say it now. There is work ahead,
and plenty of it. There will be no time for _ante-mortem_ statement
when we meet the cimeters of the Crescent.” So spoke Sir Charleroy. He
continued, “My slayer will take good care of my jewels.” He commenced
writing upon a bit of parchment, using for rest the pommel of his saddle.
In a few moments he paused.

“Wilt thou read thine, that we may know how to make ours, chief?”
inquired one near him.

“A message to my mother; that’s all.”

“Enough; that’s sacred.”

“Yes—but—no. Misery has knit us into one family. I feel to confide.” So
saying, he read his writing, omitting only the portion that recited their
recent vicissitudes:—

    “And now, beloved mother, we turn from Nazareth toward the sea
    with only a forlorn hope of reaching it. I long to meet thee,
    but the longing must, I fear, content itself in reaching out my
    heart’s best love across the distant ocean toward thyself. It
    is all I can give in return for the mysterious consciousness
    that thine is a constant presence. My memory teems with records
    of my life-long ingratitude toward thyself, that gave me birth
    and all a loving heart could bestow, and now I’m tasting
    bitterest remorse for all those selfish days of mine. I wish
    I could recall their acts. Take these words as my request for
    pardon. I shall bind this little parchment scrap in my belt in
    a vague hope that some way, some time, it may reach thee. If it
    do, remember it is sent to bear to thee, beloved mother, the
    assurance that thy once wayward boy remembers now, as he has
    for months, as the brightest, best, most exalting and blessed
    things of all his life, thy loving words, thy patient trust in
    him and all thy pious exhortations. I thank God now for all my
    trials and perils. They have brought me to full prizing of thy
    goodness and near to the religion thou dost profess.”

The reader paused, and the companion knights at once began begging him to
inscribe messages for them each, he being the only one in all the company
having the priestly gift of the pen. Most of them said, “To my mother”
or “To my sister, write;” but one blushed as he said, “I’ve no mother
nor sister.” His comrades rallied him at once: “Name her, the other only
woman!”

“A heart as brave as thine, knight,” said the Hospitaler to the blushing
youth, “has a queen on its throne, somewhere.”

The youth blushed more and drew away a little.

“Only a lover,” said the Templar. “Lovers, absent, assuage their
pinings by new mating! They forget; mothers never do. Write for us, Sir
Charleroy.”

The blush of the youth deepened to anger, evincing his heart’s high
protest against any hint of doubt being aimed at his queen; but he was
self-restraining, silent. “I’ll not reveal her by defense even,” was his
whispered thought.

The writing was finished. “Farewell! Forward.”

The chief suited the action to the commands, and soon his steed was
dashing swiftly away with its rider, followed by the others of his party.
The seven departed toward Nain; perhaps it was an ominous choice, for
their route led them toward the cave of incantation, where Endor’s witch
called up for Saul the shade of Samuel. Most likely the words of the dead
prophet to the haunted warrior, “To-morrow thou shalt be with me,” would
have told the fate of the seven that morning fittingly, for they were
never heard from by any of their earthly friends.



CHAPTER VII.

ICHABOD.

      “Oh, that many may know
      The end of this day’s business, ere it come;
      But it sufficeth that the day will end,
      And then the end is known.”—_Julius Cæsar._


A tedious ride brought the five knights nigh Shunem, the City of Elijah.

“We’ll find no prophet’s chamber here for such as we,” remarked Sir
Charleroy.

“Perhaps,” said a comrade, “we may by force or cajoling find a breakfast;
a cake or cruse of oil.”

“Anyhow,” replied the chief, “we must try for a little food. We can
neither fight nor flee with gaunt hunger on our flanks. Who knows, after
all, but that we may happen on a humane being in these parts.”

“Well, good captain, if we should find a Shulamite, black, but comely,
she might be as loving to thee as that one of old was to Solomon,
although——”

The sentence was broken off by the interrupting command of Sir Charleroy,
“Men, quick to cover; to the lemon-tree grove on the right!”

A glance back revealed a host of armed men behind the knights.

“All saints defend!” cried the Templar, as the little band wheeled toward
the refuge.

The tale of the battle to the death that ensued, is quickly told.

Sir Charleroy, though he had fought with reckless bravery, as one hotly
pursuing death, alone survived. A bludgeon blow felled him; when he
recovered consciousness, he beheld standing by his side a gorgeously
bedecked Moslem. The clangor of the conflict was over; the blood in
which he weltered, and the vicious eyes that watched him, were all that
reminded the knight of what had recently transpired. Presently the latter
addressed the one that stood guard:

“Why is the infidel so tardy in finishing his work?”

“Is the Crusader in a hurry to reach night?” sententiously replied the
man of gorgeous trappings.

“He would like to stay long enough to execute a murderer—the chief of thy
horde.”

“My horde? Thou knowest me?”

“Oh, yes, ‘Azrael, Angel of Death,’ thy minions call thee; but I defy
thee as I loathe thee.”

The chief’s brow darkened; his sword rose in air, and he exclaimed:
“Hercules was healed of a serpent bite, ages ago, at Acre; Islamism in
the same place recently; I must finish the hydra by cutting off thy
hissing head, Christian.”

Sir Charleroy steadily met his captor’s gaze, eye to eye, and was silent.

The chief paused; then lowering his sword, toyed its point against the
cross on the prostrate man’s breast.

“Bitter tongue, thou dost worship a death sign; dost thou so love death?”

“Death befriends those who wear that sign in truth; this is my comfort
standing now at the rim of earth’s last night.”

“Thy bright red blood and unwrinkled brow bespeak youth, the power to
enjoy life. Youth and such power is ever a prayer for more time; thou
liest to thyself and me by professing to seek thy end.”

“How wonderful! The ‘Angel of Death’ is a soul-reader as well as a
murderer!” bitterly rejoined Sir Charleroy.

“Well, then, refute me! Here’s thy greasy, blood-stained sword; now go,
by thine own hands, if thou darest, to judgment.”

“Trusting God, I may defy thee; yet not hurry Him!”

“I like the Christian’s metal. I might let him live.”

“Life would be a mean gift now; a painful departure from the threshold of
Paradise, to renew weary pilgrimages.”

“I may be merciful.”

“I do not believe it.”

“Thou shalt.”

“When I believe in the tenderness of jackals and tigers, in the sincerity
of transparent hypocrisy, I’ll praise the mercy of Azrael.”

“Our holy Koran reveals a bridge finer than a hair, sharper than a sword,
beset with thorns, laid over hell. From that bridge, with an awful
plunge, the wicked go eternally down; over it safely, swiftly, the holy
pass to happiness. Art ready to try that bridge?”

“Ready for the land of forgetfulness; no swords nor crescents are there.”

“No, thou wouldst only reach Orf, the partition of hell, where the
half-saints tarry; thy bravery merits that much; but I’ll teach thee to
reach better realms.”

“Turk, Mameluke, ’tis fiendish to prejudge a dying soul; leave judgment
to God, and share now all that is within thy power, my body, with thy fit
partners, the vultures!”

“A living slave is worth more to me than a dead knight; I’ve an humor to
let thee live.”

“Oh, most merciful hypocrite! I did not think thou couldst tell the truth
so readily; but let me, I beseech thee, be the dead knight.”

“What if I save thy life, teach thee the puissant faith of Islam, give
thee leadership, and with it opportunity to win entrance to that highest
Paradise, whose gateway is overshadowed by swords of the brave? There
thou mayest dwell forever with Allah and the adolescent houris.”

“Enough; unless thou dost aim to torture me! I’m a Knight of Saint Mary,
and thou full well knowest the measure of my vows; how throughout this
land my Order has warred against thy hateful polygamy, thy gilded lusts
here, thy Harem heaven hereafter! Ye thrive by luring to your standards
men aflame now with the fire that burns such souls at last in black
perdition. I tell thee to thy teeth, thou and thine are living devils.
But ye war against the wisdom of the world and the law of God; though
triumphing now, ye will rot amid your riots and victories.”

The chief’s face grew black as night for an instant, but recovering
himself, he continued, sarcastically at first, then with the zeal of a
proselyter:

“Speak low, thou, last dying vestige of a wan faith! Thou mightst make my
solemn followers yell with ridiculing laughter! I tell thee of life and
of a faith as natural as nature herself. Listen; there is for the brave
and faithful a Paradise whose rivers are white as milk as odoriferous
as musk. There are sights for the eye, fetes most delicious and music
never ceasing to ravish; these lure the brilliantly-robed faithful to the
black-eyed daughters of Pleasure. One look at them would reward such as
we for a world-life of pain; and the children of the prophet’s faith are
given the eternities to companion these splendid creatures whose forms
created of musk know no infirmity, but survive, always, as adolescent
fountains. The heaven of Islamism is eternal youth, eternally luxurious.”

“It befits the Angel of Death to gild a deformed hell with bedazzling
words. Thou and thine glorify lust, and thy heaven, like thy harem, is
but a brothel after all. Now let me blast thy gorgeous charnel-house with
the lightning of God’s Word: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart for they
shall see God!’”

Sir Charleroy had raised himself up as he was speaking; now he fell back,
exhausted. He again felt the glow in his heart that he felt on the quay
when the English bishop blessed him; but it seemed more real now than
then, and the approvings of conscience some way came with rebukes that
caused tears to flow. He felt something akin to real penitence for a life
that had not been always up to the ideal that this debate had caused him
to exalt. As he fell back he closed his eyes and turned his face from his
captor; the act was a prayer to be helped to shut out of his mind the
picture of gilded lust depicted by the false teacher that stood by. For
a few moments the wounded man was left to his own thoughts, and then his
heart went out toward home crying like a sick or lost child in the night,
for “_Mother!_” Once more he returned to that duality of existence which
comes when one enters into personal introspections. There seemed to be
two Sir Charleroys, one writing the history of the other, and the writer
was recording such estimates as these: “As he lay there, nigh death, he
drew near to God. He had once been a rover, seeking the wildest pleasures
of the European capitals; but meeting passion, presented as the ultimate
of life, for all eternity, his soul recoiled from it and he became the
herald of purity. Once he had friends, wealth and physical prowess;
but he squandered them as a prodigal; when he lay bleeding, powerless
in body, amid strangers, a slave, he rose to the majesty of a moral
giant.” The Sir Charleroy that was thus reviewed was comforted, and he
stood off from the picture in imagination to admire it, as one standing
before a mirror. Just then he thought of his mother and Mary, his ideal,
standing on either side of him, before the same presentment. It might
have been a dream; but he believed they smiled through tears, pressed
their beating hearts to his and upheld him by their arms with tenderness
and strength. His captor left him for a few moments only, undisturbed.
At a sign from Azrael, he was soon carried away by a guard; the parley
was ended and he that had so bravely spoken doomed to confront that
that is to the vigorous mind the worst of happenings, uncertainty. For
months the captive mechanically submitted to the fortunes of the Sheik’s
caravan; in health improving; in spirit depressed, numbed. The knight
had constantly before him three grim certainties, escape impossible;
rebellion useless; each day hope darkened by further departure from the
sea. The captive’s treatment from the Sheik was not unkind. The latter
met him by times with a sort of courtly condescension, varied only by an
occasional penetrating, questioning glance. They had little conversation,
yet the Sheik’s looks plainly said: “When thou art subdued, sue for
favors; they’ll be granted.” De Griffin nursed his pride and firmness
and prevented all familiarity on Azrael’s part. The latter was puzzled
sometimes, sometimes angered; but he was too polite to show his feelings.
For months the only conversation between the two alert, strong men might
be summed up in these words on the Sheik’s part: “Slave, freedom and
heaven are sweet.” “Knight, Allah knows only the followers of the Prophet
as friends.” On the knight’s part a look of scorn or an expression of
disgust was the sole reply.

In the Sheik’s retinue was another captive, a Jew. He was constantly
near the knight; for being more fully trusted than the latter, the
Sheik had made the Israelite in part the custodian of the Christian.
The knight discerned the relationship very quickly; though both Jew and
chief endeavored to conceal it. Sir Charleroy, at the first, treated his
companion captive with loathing and resentment, as a spy. After a time,
the “sphinx, eyes open, mouth shut,” as Azrael described Sir Charleroy,
deemed it wise and politic to make the Jew his ally. The resolution once
formed, he found many circumstances to aid in bridging the gulf that
separated the captive and his guard; the cultured Teutonic leader and the
wandering Israelite. They both hated the same man, their captor; both
loathed the religion he was covertly aiming to lure them to; both were
anxious for freedom. They gave voice to these feelings when together,
alone, and ere long sympathy made them friends. The next step was natural
and easy; the stronger mind took the leadership of the two, and Sir
Charleroy became teacher; his keeper became his pupil and _protégé_.

The twain one day, after this change of relation, walked together
conversing, on a hill overlooking Jericho, by which place the Sheik’s
caravan was encamped.

“Ichabod, thou wearest a fitting name.”

“I suppose so, since my mother gave it. But why say so now?”

“Ichabod, ‘glory departed,’ thou art like thy people—despoiled.”

“Oh, Lord! how long?” piously exclaimed the Jew.

“Till Shiloh comes!”

“Verily it is so written,” was the Jew’s reply.

“But He has come, Israelite!”

“Where?” the startled Jew questioned, drawing back as if he expected his,
to him mysterious, companion to throw back his tunic and declare: “_I am
he!_”

“In the world and in my heart.”

“Ah, Sir Knight, Israel’s desolation refutes all that.”

“Jew, thine eyes are veiled. I’ll teach thee to see Him yet.”

The Jew was puzzled.

The twain fell into prolonged converse, and then in that lone place the
Crusader waxed eloquent, preaching Christ and Him crucified to one of
Abraham’s seed.

When the two captives descended to their tents, each was conscious of a
new, peculiar joy. One had the joy of having proclaimed exalted truth,
faithfully, to the almost persuading of his hearer; the other was moving
about in the growing delight and wonder of a new dawning faith.

At frequent intervals Ichabod besought the knight to take him “_to the
mountain_.”

Each visit thither was a delight to the new inquirer.

On such a journey one day spoke Ichabod: “Christian, I am consumed with
anxiety to hear thy words and another anxiety lest they do me harm. I
am thinking, thinking, by day, and, what little time my thoughts permit
sleep, I’m filled with wondrous dreams! I fear to lose my old faith, and
yet it becomes like Dead Sea apples under the light of this new way. So
new, so infatuating. None I’ve met, and I’ve met many, ever so moved
me. Why, knight, I’ve traversed half the world; sometimes as wealth’s
favorite, sometimes of necessity in misfortune; I’ve seen the faiths of
Egypt and India in their homes, and walked amid the temples of great
Rome, but with abiding contempt for all not Israelitish. Not so this
creed of the knight affects me.”

“And for good reason; I offer thee the true, new, refined and final
Judaism!”

“It seems so, and yet I tremble. I dare not doubt; that’s sin; but here’s
the puzzle that harasses me: What if, in doubting these things I’m now
told, I be doubting the very truth, the Jewish faith!”

“Ichabod, thy heart has been a buried seed awaiting the spring. It has
come.”

“Oh, knight, I’m trusting my dear soul to thee. As a dog his master, a
maid her lover, so blindly I follow thee. I can not go back: I can not
pause nor can I go onward alone. I’m in the misery of a joy too great to
be borne, almost, and yet too much my master to be given up. Oh, knight,
thou art so wise, so strong! Steady me; hold me up! I can only pray and
adjure thee to be sincere with me; only sincere; that’s all; as sincere
as if thou wert ministering to the ills of a sick man battling death.”

The child of Abraham, with a sudden movement, flung his arms with all
vehemence about Sir Charleroy. The East and the West embracing, truth
leading, love triumphant.

“Poor Ichabod, if thou hadst no soul, thy clingings and yearnings would
bind me to thee faithfully. Thou hast tried to give me charge over that
that is immortal. A Higher Being has it in loving trust; were it not so,
I’d turn in dread from thy confiding!”

“Is mine so bad a soul, master?”

“Indeed, no. Its preciousness to Him that created it, is what would make
me dread its partial custody.”

“Thou’lt help me, master, now?”

“For three objects I’ll willingly die; my mother; our lady, and the soul
of one who abandons himself, as thou, to my poor pilotage.”

“Then, thou strangely lovest me. Oh, this but more persuades me that thy
faith is right; it makes thee so good to a stranger, a slave, a hated
Jew!”

“But then we are so apart and so unlike each other!”

“No, Jew, I want to show that humanity is one. The very creed I’m trying
to teach thee and would fain have all thy race, ay, all mankind fully
understand, is full of love, joy, peace. These follow it as naturally
as the flower the stem, the humming the flying wing made to fly and be
musical.”

“Oh, my dear light, with thee I’m in joy and wilderment. Thy presence
seems to bring me hosts of crowned truths, all seeking to enter my
being. I feel like a tired runner ready to faint when thou’rt absent,
but when thou talkest the tired runner is plunged into a cooling ocean,
whose circling waves, as it were charged with the stimulus of tempered
lightnings, glowing with a million rainbows, overwhelm, lift up and rest
him. I’m floating thereon now!”

“Thy strange fancies make me wonder, Ichabod.”

“Wonder; why my strength dies from over wonder. I was ill for hours
yesterday. Light to my sweat-blinded, feverish eyes, all calm and
healing, comes when I yield to thy will; but still all my joy is
haunted by ghosts which rise in day-mare troops, pointing rebukingly to
labyrinths into which I seem to be pushed. I sometimes wonder if I’m
seeing real spirits or going mad.”

“Dost pray, Jew?”

“I dare not live without praying!”

“Then tell the All Pitiful what thou hast this day told to me. He loves
the sincere, down to the deepest hell of doubt, and from it all, at last,
will lead tumulted souls safely. An honest doubt is a real prayer, well
winged; quickly it reaches heaven, at whose portal it dies to rise again
all peace.”



CHAPTER VIII.

FROM JERICHO TO JORDAN.

      “Through sins of sense, perversities of will,
      Through doubt and pain, through guilt and shame and ill
      Thy pitying Eye is on Thy creature still.”

      “Wilt Thou not make, eternal Source and Goal,
      In thy long years life’s broken circle whole,
      And change to praise the cry of a lost soul?”—WHITTIER.


Jew and Crusader came to love each other after the manner of David and
Jonathan, and they were both made stronger and happier men on account of
this loving.

“Sir Charleroy, a year gone to day, thou and I climbed to glory.”

“Thou hast a prolific imagination or I a poor memory. I have no
remembrance of either climbing or glory of a year ago.”

“I may well remember the greatest day of my life; the day thou tookst me
up yon hill over against Jericho; I saw, as Elisha, in the presence of
his great master Elijah, the mountains, that day, full of the chariots
and angels of God.”

“But, Jew, the chariot separated Elijah and Elisha; we were, in thy
‘great day,’ made one.”

“True, but I got the prophet’s insight and power. Oh now I see Shiloh
coming in the redemption of Jew and Gentile.”

“Radiant proselyte, give God, not me the glory.”

“I’ll call thee, knight, Jordan—my Jordan.”

“The Jew rambles amid strange conceptions. Why am I like that mighty
stream?”

“Its bed and banks, God’s cup; they nobly serve, catching the pure waters
of mountain springs and heaven’s clouds, to bear them, mingled with sweet
Galilee, to the black burning lips of Sodom’s plains below. I was a dead
sea, alive alone to misery; nothing to me but my historic past, and that
sin-stained. I’m now refreshed and purified; sometime there’ll be life
growing about me!”

“The highlands of Galilee gather from heaven, oceans of sweet, pure
water, which Jordan, year after year, night and day, hurries down to the
Asphalt sea; but still that sea remains lifeless and bitter. Even so,
the clean, white truth comes to some, life-long, yet vainly. I think I’m
little like Jordan, but much like that sea.”

“And yet, knight, all is not vain that seems so. I learned this once,
long ago, in the vale of Siddim, by the sea of Lot. As I entered that
place of desolation I thought of Gehenna! The lime cliffs about, all
barren and pitiless as the walls of a furnace, shut out the breezes,
and intensified the sun’s scorching rays. A solemn stillness, unbroken
by wind, wave or voice of life, was there; suffocating, plutonic odors
ladened the air, and a fog hung over that watery winding sheet of the
cities of the plain. I watched that overhanging cloud until my heated
brain shaped it into a vast company of shades; the ghostly forms of the
overwhelmed denizens of those accursed habitations, now in mute terror
and confusion, holding to one another desperately; fearing to go to final
judgment. Once I thought they were together trying to look down into
the depths, perchance to seek for vestiges of their ancient, earthly
habitations. These fancies grew and grew upon me, mad dreamer that I was,
until I was nigh to desperate fright; but I found some little angels on
the shore who comforted.”

“Angels at Sodom?”

“Even so. The first was light and liquid silver; it sang a bar of
nature’s tireless, varied melody by my footsteps. Ah, the little, fresh
spring that burst forth through the rim of the crystalline basin, was an
angel to me. Then I found others here and there. At first I was glad,
then I began to pity them, and to wish I could change their courses. They
all wended their ways to the desolate sea, and their sweet currents were
swallowed up in the yawning gulf of death. ‘Vainly,’ I said at first.
Then I saw other angels in the forms of bending willows, and gorgeous
oleanders. Just then it all came to me; the springs, though small and
few, were not in vain. The oleanders and the willow, whose roots kissed
their fresh life, were evidences that the springs had been for good.
Aye, more, the flowers rejoiced me in those desolations more than could
the rose gardens of the Temple in days of happiness. Yea, knight, thou
hast been a rivulet to Ichabod in a day when he wandered as among arid
mountains and dead seas.”

“Blest child of Abraham, thy faith is great, though I be but a pitiable
guide; yet I’ll adopt thy similes. Be thou and I, to each other, Jordan,
rivulet and flower by turn; the fresh current gives life to plant and
blossom, while plant and blossom both shade and beautify the streams.
With both it shall be well, if we well learn to seek deep for the hidden
springs of the life that can never die. Already thou hast blessed me
very greatly, gathering truths I failed to find. Thou return’st to me
multiplied all I bestow.”

“Would I could gather for all; for my race, so blinded! Oh, it is a
tristful thought that the nearer I get to God, the further I get from
them I love next after Him. Even my mother was wont to say to me, when,
as a questioning boy, I inquired beyond the traditions of the Rabbis,
that she’d disown me to all eternity as a heretic. My belief has made me
an outcast to her, and yet the thought of her hating me tears my heart.”

“I’ll love thy orphaned heart.”

“Me? Love me; so far beneath thee and with such pauper power of payment?”

“Thy desolation makes thee rich; having none other to love, thou
canst love me the more. Thou know’st this open secret of loving; its
selfishness demands all; getting that it gives all. Fear not Ichabod, but
that thou’lt find the hunger of thy heart well fed. It is as natural for
us to love those we have helped as to hate those we have harmed. Thou
know’st how men wonder that the Infinite can love the finite, but they
forget, or never realized, that one may love because he has loved. So
is it with God. He loves, and that He loves becomes therefore rich and
worthful to Him.”

The morning after the betrothal, shall we call it, of these two men to
each other, long before dawn the knight was wakened by a cautious step
on the stone floor of his sleeping place. Sir Charleroy was at once all
alert and leaped from the couch, sword in hand, expecting to confront
some gipsy thief, for there had been a band of these wanderers hovering
near the day before.

“Who’s there?” sternly he demanded, advancing, on guard meanwhile.

“Ichabod, Ichabod!” with trembling voice and in a half whisper. It was
the Jew.

“I did not mean to fright thee,” he hurriedly explained, when he had
recovered from his fear of being thrust through, “but I’ve news; bad news
that would not wait!”

“What is the bad? Is it near?”

“Oh, knight, speak low—the news is bad enough and the ill, though not on
us, close after us!”

“Thou art excited, my friend; sit down and then unfold the matter.
Meanwhile I’ll light a faggot.”

“In truth, I can’t sit, and I’ve reason to be nervous.” Then the man
spread out his arms and his fingers as if he would stand all ready to
fly; his eyes wide open, staring as he talked.

“Our Sheik leaves Jericho to-morrow; summoned by the sheriff of Mecca.
The sheriff is supreme to Moslem. The command is for war toward the east.
Blood, blood; when will the world be done shedding blood!”

“Well, my loving alarmist,” replied Sir Charleroy, coolly, “that’s not
very bad news. If the Sheik leaves us, we’ll be free; if he takes us,
there will be a change and for that I could almost cry ‘Blessed be
Allah!’ I am sickened, crushed, dry-rotted by this hum-drum life; this
slavery; dancing abject attendance on a gluttonous master, whose sole
object seems to be eating or dallying about the marquees of his harem.”

“Oh, Sir Charleroy, the change has dreadful things for us!”

“Why?”

“I heard that the runner bringing the mandate from Mecca brings also
command that all prisoners, such as we, must be made to embrace Islamism,
enlist to die, if need be, in this so-called holy war, or be sent to the
slave mart.”

“This is a carnival for the furies! Why, Ichabod, the latter is burial
alive; the former death with a dishonored conscience!”

“Sir Charleroy, I prefer the slavery.”

“Well, I prefer neither. Is the mandate final?”

“Yes; I’ve an order to commence packing at sunrise; by noon we will be
enlisted or in chains.”

“Who gave thee these state secrets, so in detail? Perhaps ’tis only
camp-fire gossip recounted for lack of novel ghost stories.”

“Ah, ’tis too true. I’d swear my life on it!”

“Rash, credulous; but which now, comrade, I can not tell.”

“Master, I had this from one that loves me as I love thee; the young
Nourahmal, light of the harem, favorite of the Sheik.”

“Well, now it seems to me that this light of the harem is thy favorite
rather than the Sheik’s.”

“She adores me.”

“Doubtless! Where a woman unfolds her mind there she brings all else
an offering easily possessed. She seals her change of allegiance
by scattering the secrets of the dethroned to the enthroned lover.
‘Nourahmal’? Is she as charming in form as in name?”

“Hold, now! If thou lov’st me thou will’st not continue thus to wound. I
love that girl, but not the way thou meanest!”

“So? Is there an elopement pending?”

“Unworthy gibe! Say no more like it, but answer this: Is it not possible
for a man and woman to be knitted together in soul, as I and thou have
been, without the shadow of a remembrance that they are animals of
different sexes?”

“Possible? Really I do not know. It may be possible, but so very rare
that I have failed to hear of any such relationship.”

“Then thou shalt hear of it now in Nourahmal and me.”

“I’ll take both to Paris! Another wonder of the world! But explain
further.”

“My Nourahmal is a captive; hates the man to whom she must submit as we
hate him, and loves me with the new love that you have revealed to me,
because I’ve shown her that I love her that way; so different from any
thing she ever knew before.”

“Well, there are many women yoked to men for whom they feel no great
affection, yet they glorify womanhood by their unfaltering loyalty.
Loyalty is woman’s glory; the hope of society. If the women be traitors,
then, alas!”

“Nourahmal is not a wife! The man that parcels out his heart to a dozen
favorites buys but scraps in return. A woman in misery’s chains, without
the bands of the confiding, utter love of her lord, will talk; she
must talk, or go mad. I tell, thee, knight, such gossip is the panacea
of suicidal bent. There’s many a woman kills herself for lack of a
confidant!”

“Thou hast learned much philosophy going around the world, Jew, but
perhaps not this bitter truth; the woman who is traitor to one man will
be to another. Thou mayst be the next. What if she set us fleeing for the
sake of laughing at our forced return?”

“Impossible, knight; she reveres me truly; even as she does God; just as
I did Sir Charleroy when he brought me light and rest. I was to her what
thou art to me. One day I told her women had souls, as dear to heaven as
the souls of men! She laughed at me like a monkey, at first, and reminded
me that were I a true disciple of Islam I’d know that only young and
beautiful women go to heaven, and they even there have a lowly place.
Thou knowest these infidels believe that the large majority of hellions
are women.”

“Not strange Jew; they treat women as pretty or useful animals, and so
degrade, not only themselves, but these very women. A woman so demeaned
does not become heavenly, to say the least. But I think, if I were a
Turk, I’d keep only argus-eyed eunuchs to guard my harem; in faith, I’d
even have the tongues out of those guards.”

“There, now, thou dost jest again.”

“Well, go on, in seriousness. Tell us the pipings of this seraglio
beauty.”

“I’ve won her over completely.”

“This is not strange. Poets are always valiant, victorious orators with
women. The female heart is emotionally moved up to belief with little
logic, if the speaker be fair, or musical, or brave!”

“I was none of these; I told her of the ‘Friend of Publicans and
Sinners;’ that fed her soul. I do not believe there is a woman on earth
that can resist that story.”

“Oh, well, I’m not going to forget that the first woman outran her mate
in evil, nor that she exchanged the All Beautiful for the snaky demon.”

“It would be nobler for a knight, truer for all, to judge, if judge they
will, by wider circles. Do not remember the sin of one, or a few, to the
disparagement of all!”

“Eve, the best made of all, fell; then her weaker sisters are more likely
to follow in her way,” said the knight.

“She found a sin and fell: thousands of her daughters have fallen by sins
that men invented and thrust on them. Thou knowest that most women who go
wrong, go in ways they would not without the temptings of the stronger
will. The sin that ruins most is that to woman’s nature abhorrent, until
honeyed over by the tongue of man.”

“Dexterous lance, art thou, Jew; but, anyway, some women are born bad.”

“No; I’m not able for one so wise as the knight, unless I’ve the strength
of truth. I’ve heard that our wise men say that if we could trace the
ancestry of any one evil, from birth, we would find somewhere, up the
line, a father, prëeminent in wickedness. Say, women are weak to resist
evil; then, say men are strong to propagate it. Now, which way turns the
scale?”

“Oh, I say always, dogmatically, if need be, in man’s favor.”

“Let me see: Eve’s humanity that sinned was out of the finest part of
Adam’s body, and the serpent which betrayed her was a male.”

“I’ll parry the thrust by asking why the Holy Writings reveal no female
angels? I think there are none.”

“I’ve a wiser reason, knight. It is this: Man has so foully dealt with
the angels in the flesh that God’s mercy reserves their finer spiritual
counterparts for the sole companionships of heaven, which justly
appreciates these holy, pure and tender creations. Heaven would not be
perfectly beautiful without them and, methinks, can not spare one for a
moment!”

“Not even to minister to a needy world?”

“Woman’s life is here, generally, all service, all ministry; her return
to earth after death would be a work of supererogation. God sends back
the male spirits to help restore the world their sex did most to ruin.”

Then both the debaters laughed out as heartily as they dared, but there
was in the tones of the knight’s laughter a part-confession of defeat.
After a time Sir Charleroy spoke again: “Thou art calm now, after this
diversion, Ichabod; proceed with thy story of danger.”

“Well, Nourahmal——”

“Oh, yes, begin again with Nourahmal. Samson was a pretty good man for a
giant, but he had a betraying Delilah!”

“True enough; but he had also a noble mother. Remember the better, rather
than the worse.”

“I remember her peers, Mary and my mother.”

“So, then, when sweepingly condemning all the sex, please except the
mothers, at least of those who may be thy hearers.”

“Good Jew, I’ll not wound thee!”

“No pity for me; pity thyself. Such thoughts as thou hast spoken wound
thine own soul. We Jews have an order called ‘Tumbler Pharisees;’ they
affect humility, shuffle as they walk and stumble on purpose that they
may not seem to walk with confidence. Akin to them we have the ‘Bleeding
Pharisees;’ they walk with shut eyes, lest they should see a woman, and,
stumbling against many a post, are soon covered with their own blood,
receiving real harm in flying from imaginary dangers.”

“‘_Maya, Maya_,’ Ichabod,” laughing aloud, exclaimed Sir Charleroy.

The latter, catching the knight’s arm, hoarsely whispered: “Hush! Thou
mayst be heard. What dost thou mean by ‘_Maya_’?”

“Perhaps, Nourahmal! _Maya_ was the reputed wife of the supposed god
Brahm of the Hindus. It is reported that she was in form like unto fog
and her name means ‘illusion.’ A subtle truth, Jew; even a god, in love,
is near a fog bank!”

“Thou dost not know Nourahmal and dost discredit her; that’s slander;
thou dost know me and ridiculest me; that’s—but—I’ll not say it.”

“I’d not pain my Ichabod.”

“Nor discredit Nourahmal?”

“No; but did this angel, or Syren of thine, having shown the peril,
present a map to a city of refuge?”

“Ah, poor, helpless girl! she has none for herself, much less for us. She
just told me all and wept and kissed me a farewell, praying me to flee. I
could think of no question in the delight of hearing her say, she hoped
I’d meet her in Heaven, in peace away from Moslem and wars. Only think of
her faith! All new; just a little while ago she did not know there was a
heaven for women. I felt I could die then in peace. I’ve taught one woman
that she is more than a pretty animal!”

“Then, Jew, to thee, life is worth living?”

“Oh truly! Oh, if this light could only spread over Egypt and all my own
Syria!”

“Thy desire is akin to that of Mary’s son and noble. Certain it is that
we can not spread that light by fighting to sustain the fateful Crescent.”

“By the glory of God, I never will.”

“Nor I, son of Abraham; so let’s decline.”

“And go to the slave mart?”

“Oh, no, not while I’ve a sword, Ichabod.”

“Then to flee is the word?”

“The eastern campaigning with the sheik, would be a little longer route
to Paradise?”

“Perhaps not; I am assured that we are needed of God by the use He
has recently made of us. He will keep us in our flight from bloody
persecuting war, and possible apostacy.”

“I hate the last word! A knight enchanted of Mary can never become a
renegade; not I, at least. I was born October ninth. Tradition says that
the holy St. John Damascene, having had his hand cut off by the Saracens
that day, was by Our Lady miraculously made whole, and lived long after
to wield a powerful, facile pen in her behalf. I’ll trust my head and
saber hand, used for her, to her protection.”

“And I’ll trust Him that led the wandering hosts of Moses; for ‘in all
their affliction, He was afflicted with them, and the angel of His
presence saved them; and He bore them and carried them all the days of
old.’ Oh, master, I’ve comfort I can not tell, when I feel orphaned, by
thinking of my Maker, not only as a Father, but as a Mother! God is our
Mother when we, bereft of mother-love, most feel our need of it. So thou
toldst me in the mountains.”

“True; but shall we try our escape now?”

“Nay, we had better wait till a little before dawn; the camp patrol is
then withdrawn; then we’ll embrace freedom.”

“The Jew seems very confident.”

“Oh, I spent the hour after I met Nourahmal (God keep her), amid the
palms for which Jericho is fitly named, and got a token.”

“A token?”

“My eyes were touched in the darkness.”

“Sweet Nourahmal followed thee?”

“No, but He that opened the eyes of blind Bartimeus near here.”

“What didst thou see?”

“Elisha healing the streams about this palm city, type of God healing
the floods of bitterest fates; after that I saw Jericho’s walls falling
at the blasts of Joshua’s trumpets, and remembered that his God then is
ours now.”

“Didst thou see two poor men fleeing in the dark from peril to peril,
pursued by a hundred horsemen, who saber-lashed them; a little further
two corpses, one of a Christian the other of a Jew, on which fed fighting
jackals?”

“I saw no such horror! I saw two led forth from their captors, as Peter
from his dungeon; the angels that blinded the eyes of the monstrous men,
who of old sought to defile Lot’s house, blinded the eyes of the pursuers
of the two; and the angel of Peter gave them guidance and light. But
come, the night-guard has retired; between now and the call to morning
prayers is our opportunity.”

Out of the old stone stable silently knight and Jew glided, threading
their way amid splendors they believed to be, but could not see. The
ministering spirits were over and around them, their path was through the
Kelt, the sublimest waddy of Palestine; but night shrouded the latter;
their weak faith dimly discerned the other.

“Can’t thou see any way-marks, Jew?”

“I discern but few. Yet, what matter? It is enough that He who leads us
sees?”

“The night is getting blacker and blacker; the omen makes my heart shiver
as it beats.”

As the knight spoke there came a terrific crash of thunder and a
succession of blinding lightning flashes. Sir Charleroy clasped the Jew’s
arm and in startled voice questioned:

“Dost thou not fear these?”

“Why should I? The angel guides swing the torches of the unchangeable
Father to give us glimpses of our way. All is well; I saw by the
lightning flash that we are passing safely the camp lines of our captors.”

A few miles were over-past. The storm had abated a little, and the first
streaks of dawn, like spears, were rising in the east.

“Would God, good Jew,” said the now wearied Sir Charleroy, “that the
Prophet of the Moslem, who, near by here, is said once by a stamp of his
foot to have brought forth from the rock a camel, were present to dance
for us now.”

“He is not here, so we must help ourselves, knight.”

“Ah, my dear man, canst thou dance rocks into camels?”

“No, but there are houses nigh, and each thou knowst has it’s stable-yard
in front.”

“But there is the thorny nubk tree, surrounding the herds.”

“I’ve faith to try my faith when all I have is faith.”

“What for; to steal a camel?”

“Oh, no; I’d not steal a camel but I’d borrow a couple of them. Two; for
I’m not one of the knights who exhibit poverty, by riding double, thou
dost know.”

“Borrow? Well so be it; the black infidels owe us for two years’ service.
They borrowed us!”

“It’s pious to take the beasts; for we pay so honest debts of these
heathens and shorten the list of their souls’ sins by removing from them,
in our escape, the opportunity for our murder.”

“If this be sophistry, Ichabod, it is so sweet that it is taken as
delightful truth.”

“Thou art persuaded?”

“No man can out run me, be he rabbi or priest, in condemning vices, if
they be such as I do not care to practice, and I am a profound believer
in every creed that’s sweet to my desires. Here action treads the heels
of persuasion.”

       *       *       *       *       *

On beasts, borrowed without formality, the fugitives hurried toward
Jordan, only there to find a barrier to their progress in the angry
torrent swelled by the recent storms. It was clearly futile to attempt
a passage, and to tarry, waiting the ebb of the waters, was to bring
certain detection. They turned the heads of their borrowed camels toward
their master’s homes and waited the sunrise, meanwhile moving about to
find some means of safety.

“Well, my comrade, I think it will not be long until those Turks will
give our souls an Elijah-like ascension except that there will be no
chariot. The morning shimmering on his mountain makes me think of this,
Ichabod.”

“The tracks of our returning camels in the wet earth will guide our
pursuers.”

“Suppose we climb a tree as Zacchaeus, since we can not have a chariot.
By my plume! which I’ve not seen for a year, I think that would be
safety; the Turks never look up except in prayer, and the wolf Azrael
seldom prays. But God pity us! there they are coming.”

“To the tombs, master! On the left.”

“Refuge for jackals?”

“Yes, but also for the miserable, living and dead! Now haste!”

Sir Charleroy obeyed quickly, but recoiled with a groan of disgust as
he suddenly pushed against an entombed body. He touched his hilt, as
if determined to abandon attempt at flight, and then, overcoming the
rash impulse to confront the pursuers, turned about, seized the corpse,
and dragging it from its place, hurled it over the river bank into the
torrent. He was in the dispoiled nich in an instant. A cry from the
pursuers drew him forth. “See, Ichabod, the Turks are running along the
river banks watching the mummy bobbing along in the torrent. See, it
sinks. Ah, the brutes, how they shout! They think that body alive, and
that one poor slave is hounded to death.”

“Jehovah Jeireh, now help us; they’ll soon be back,” cried Ichabod.

“Ah, I forgot; they’ll remember there were two of us.”

“Calm, Sir Knight, ‘By this sign I conquer,’ quoting thy words of
another. I’ll go forth; the only one left; at least so they’ll think.”

Sir Charleroy turned and looked at the Jew, and was amazed to see him
binding in front of himself a board having the ominous words, “Unclean”
upon it.

“What; thou, a Jew, and touch that foul thing, worn to festering death by
some leper!”

“Better night and a clean soul, though in a body burned by the cursed
leprosy, than life in Moslem slavery.”

“But what if the disease cleave to thee, and we escape?”

“Sir Knight, thou wilt live to tell others that a once hated Jew was led
of thee to truth, and after died a living death, that his benefactors
might survive. I think such deeds cause noble lights to glow in human
souls.”

“God bless and pity thee, Ichabod.”

“Ah, he does; even now. I see the scarlet line of Rahab, and it binds the
pestilence that walketh by noonday.”

The furious pursuers spurred their steeds up toward the tombs, but
as they beheld the solitary man, sitting in painful attitude with
beggar-like palm extended and wearing the dread sign, they rapidly
wheeled their steeds about and galloped away. The Moslem had heard that
a Jew would suffer any torture rather than ceremonial pollution; hence
judged that the object before them could not be the refugee they sought.

“I wonder not that the demoniac cut himself madly when among the tombs,
good Jew. Sure it’s like going to glory to get out once more. Methinks
freedom is only sweet when taken with fresh air! Well, we are out and the
enemy thwarted.”

“Methinks, master, that the leper that died here, leaving no legacy but
the sign of his death, did some good in unknowingly making me his heir.”

“And the corpse I disposed of so unceremoniously left me a house of
safety, though small and musty. I’ve a bitter thought.”

“So, Sir Charleroy, tell it me, perhaps I can sweeten it.”

“I, the heir for a little time of that soulless clay, am like it.”

“Not much being here and alive.”

“I rather think like it. See me tossed about by strangers, robbed of my
rights, helpless to resist fate’s tides, begrudged the room I occupy, and
not one who once knew me to weep over my besetments.”

“Sir Knight, the miracles of our frequent preservation should make our
murmurings dumb.”

In the evening Jordan ebbed a little and the two wanderers passed over.
Nor did they regret the consequent immersing in its flood. No word was
spoken as they passed through the current, for, before they entered,
having remembered that at this Bethabara ford man’s Savior was baptized,
they were each busy with his own meditations. When they stood on the
other shore, Sir Charleroy reverently said: “Comrade, I prayed as we
passed that we might have the dove of peace henceforth above our souls at
least.”

“I prayed on my part that God would accept the act as the Christian’s
typical burial to the world and separation from its sins.”

“How like death and birth is that beautiful type. They level all life.”

“Are our lives leveled? knight.”

“Henceforth; and we are brethren.”

“And our King and Savior was baptized here by the herald of His Kingdom,
John?”

“Yea; here the new Judaism was formally inaugurated. Tradition says also
that Jesus baptized his mother afterward at this ford.”

“How filial; how beautiful; how expressive! He was her God, yet her
son, she his mother and disciple; and each by all ties and forms bound
together in a fellowship of helpfulness.”

“The Jew’s an interpreter.”

“Sir Charleroy sweetens my trust as Jordan sweetens the bitter waters of
Bahr Lut.”



CHAPTER IX.

THE FEAST OF THE ROSE.

      “They arise now like the stars before me
      Through the long, long night of years;
      Some are bright with heavenly radiance,
      And others shine out through our tears.
      They arise, too, like mystical flowers,
      All different and all the same—
      As they lie on my heart like a garland
      That is wreathed around MARY’S name,”


“Good morning and a blessing, comrade.” It was the greeting of the Jew
to the knight who lay asleep under a palm the day after the flight. The
sleeper slowly rising, murmured:

“I’m half vexed at thee, Ichabod; thou hast dissolved a dream filled with
sights of home and mother.”

“I’ve brought lentils, barley, and grape-clusters; they are better than
dreams when the sun is up.”

“To those sad when awake, joyful dreams are welcome.”

“There are real joys just before us.”

“Real joys, just before us? Grim sarcasm; a sorry jest, Jew!”

“No; oh, no. I’m telling thee the smiling, clean-faced truth. We’ll be
safe at Jabbock’s city by sun set!”

“Safe? safe? I’m unused to that word; almost afraid of it. What does it
mean in this country?”

“Oh, these cavalrymen! always on the charge; now here, now there. Thy
thoughts go by habit, sometimes racing forward, sometimes retreating. A
while ago thou wert as full of faith as Gideon, now thou art as timorous
as Canaan’s spies.”

“My habits have grown fat by feeding on piebald experiences.”

“Experience is a lying prophet, when it counts without reckoning God.”

“I can not see a step ahead. That’s certainty to me, though thou callest
it doubt. I know not how to hang rainbows upon the ghostly brows of the
future when I’ve no power to lay hand on the ghostly form and have no
rainbows.”

“He that lifted the burdens of the past from off us holds the changing
winds of the future in His fists. One second of life goes ever with
only one second of care. I learned this of Sir Charleroy long ago. Now
he forgets his own teachings. Shall I call him Reuben, never excelling
because unstable as water?”

“Call me slave: Uncertainty’s slave! Thou didst waken me from a dream of
home, to the shock of remembering again that I was homeless, dead to all
that once made life worth living. The gorgeous hopes of thy fertile mind
are mocked by stern present facts.”

“Odd talk from one just dreaming of his mother; a good woman didst say?
then very hopeful; all good women are. Then remember how thou didst lift
me to the very gates of heaven yesterday. Thou canst not see a step
ahead? Well, then look back; miles; years. Was not our God in thy battles
in the thickets; in the mountains; in Jordan? My poor reasoning tells
me that He has wrought too much for us to drop us now. He must get His
reward in keeping us to the end.”

“Some of the past makes me shudder, Ichabod.”

“Pick out the best, not the worst. We escaped the very Gehenna at
Jericho, following murderers, the storm, slavery; now free, fed, rested,
the eastern air washed and sunned to a tonic. I’m drinking lotus balm out
of it.”

“There it is; the sun’s in thy brain, poet-preacher.”

“No, I’m only giving thee back some of thine own sermons. I draw from my
own heart no monster memories. If I’ve fought hard battles it sufficeth
that I have fought them once. I’ll not recall their bloody sweat and
tears for the sake of refighting them. No, I’m going back to the sweet,
happy hours of babyhood; for I tell thee, knight, there is a world of joy
to a man, scorched by stern experience, to forget himself sometimes back
to the lullabys and warblings of the days of his innocence.”

“I can’t do it.”

“I can’t help doing it, especially in this place! My whole being feeds on
a present scent of home.”

“Thou knowest the country hereabouts?”

“My soul laughs in friendly converse with these crocuses, pinks, and
asphodels, turning the velvet, grassy plains to palace carpets. I’m
saying to myself these blossoms must know me, their bowing heads and
offered odors being my reward for nursing their mothers when I was a boy.”

“Well, flowers are sincere friends; they never change and are all
charitable. That’s why they are deemed fit presents to those in prison,
or proper offering to be laid on the breast of the dead Magdalene.”

“Ah, dead Magdalene; for even the symbol of a broken promise; born to
be a queen of love, by perverted love dethroned! Woman, man’s ward, by
man betrayed; the guide star setting in black night; the savior of human
purity befouling all purity! Given the power by which Eve was to crush
the serpent’s head and using it to breed all serpentine ills. This is
Eve turning a volcano upon Eden. Put flowers upon her once passionate,
now dead, heart, in awful contrast! Nature at her worst is intensified
anguish; at her best an ocean of joy, an universe of light and song. So I
learn of nature under man. Listen to nature’s perfumed throb now: these
thousands of feathered songsters, millions of lesser creatures, whose
melody is larger than themselves and more perceptible. Hear the humming,
thrumming, buzzing, trumpetings. Oh, this is life as the All-Saving tuned
it to utter joy! It widens, deepens, thickens; getting sweeter, louder,
happier all the way. A tempest, set to music, knight. I’m caught in its
whirl and join in its praisings. It comes over me as an insight of what
nature really is. God cares for it all and made it thus, to throb and
exult!” Ichabod paused in transport. “But I sometimes think there’s a
great waste of these things; there is so much in places where there is no
human ear or eye to hear or see.”

“Reuben is narrow-viewed just now. Man is not all! God makes happiness
because He is so full of goodness He must. Our rabbis call Him ‘The
Fountain.’ There is no waste! He makes these things for His own joy, and,
methinks, looks down from the circle of the heavens to say to what is in
the desert or wilderness, ‘Very good.’ Then, beyond this, I’ve sometimes
thought He kept the processions of joy and beauty moving along; coming,
going, dying, living, ending and beginning again, as a sort of practice;
by action keeping all fresh and new. He causes things of beauty and power
to pass through His divine alchemy from one glory to another, as the
general causes his squadrons to move through the evolutions of the battle
before the conflict. The Father is awaiting man’s hour, man’s return
from sinning; the time for millennial advent; then all delights, as if
fresh born, all goods newly harvested, will appear to be multiplied,
intensified, transfigured. That will be the beginning of hereafter.”

“Oh, Israel, the sun is in thy brain. I forget all logic of contention,
charmed out of words, by feasting on thy orisons, Go on, Jew.”

“Then I’ll say ’twas God, not chance, nor fate, that brought us to wander
alone with nature. Read well nature’s book that lies open in the lap of
the Great Teacher! Only stand close to Him and He will hold the torch,
turn the pages and give the sure interpretations of the sweetness that
feeds quiet, the picturesqueness which evokes smiles and the stately
grandeurs which beget faith.”

“Israel, thou climbest the sun-ladder to rhapsody!”

“Whether soaring, climbing, or creeping, I know not; but this I know,
I’m tasting in these wanderings God’s kisses. They are in the flowers; my
spirit rests on His as my body on the balm of the fresh breezes. Then,
animate nature seems so contented and happy! Why, I’ve been ravished
by the songsters; as I’ve said to myself, they echo the angelic anthem
of heaven, peace. Had any such doubt as haunts thee, come to me, since
passing Jordan, it would have been sung out of countenance by the winged
warblers or dragged from my heart captive in floral fetters by Him that
hath two staves, beauty and bands.”

“Oh, Ichabod, do not pause. Go on, I pray thee.”

“Then thou art glad to hear that nature is not a beautiful widow mourning
her dead bridegroom through the ages?”

“I love to listen to thee.”

“Listen to a wiser. See those stately heliotropes. They stand above all
of their kind with shining faces; great in aspiration, great in devotion.
All day they turn toward the sun and when their blossoms fade they leave
a hardy seed. The winter may bury it, but it springs forth in vernal
days, strong in the life it won by loving the summer sun.”

“Ichabod, I’m charmed! Let’s abide here always amid these joys of nature.”

“What, be hermits?”

“Yes; life’s troubles are made by its people; the fewer people the fewer
troubles.”

“While sharing their troubles may we not lessen them. No man may live to
himself; we’re wedded to each other.”

“Yes, wedded to life. A royal phrase; since I’ve been constantly either
hating or loving it; fearing to live and then fearing to die. Wedded! ah,
ha, ha; the wedded are those who most madly love and then most bitterly
hate.”

“Say sometimes; then thou’lt be like the stopped horologue, telling the
true time once in twenty-four hours, at least.”

“Thy poetry runs into caustic quality. What hast thou been lunching on
since morn?”

“At least not on Dead Sea apples, fair without, ashes within. My poetry,
if I have any, always sings in accord with the company it keeps.”

“How many more arrows in thy quiver, hast thou?”

“Only one, and that a question; does my master intend to foreswear
marriage himself? He ridicules it.”

“I have already done so.”

“Well, ’tis well thou didst not live in Rome, for its citizens that dared
to live amid the temptations and soul-crampings of voluntary bachelorhood
were highly taxed for their disregard of the claims of society and the
state.”

“Yet even the Romans ever deemed bachelorhood a blessing. In this opinion
royal Claudius decreed that the sailors who brought to Rome a ship loaded
from the wheat granaries of Egypt in the time of Agabus’s famine, should
be as a reward permitted to remain unmarried. If I were a Roman and a
sailor I’d pray for a famine and a Claudius.”

“A world without wives? What a world!”

So saying Ichabod caught up a stick and began marking on the earth.

“How now, Israel; some sorcery?”

“No—yet, may be, yes. I’ll picture a world without women.”

The Jew outlined the Egyptian deity, “_Kneph._”

“What have we, man or beast?”

“Truly, I think partly both. The knight has described his Elysium and I
have here pictured a fit king for it. Behold thy god, sworn celibate.
Egypt’s adored Kneph. Is this hideous enough?”

“A god! well he’s not handsome; a ram’s head; four horns; two up, two
down; armed as both ram and goat?”

“Both were sacred to him in Egypt; also the horned snake with which
Cleopatra put out her life; poor, unfortunate man-wrecked beauty.”

“But, Jew, thou dost dawdle! What of this play?”

“Oh, nothing, only Kneph would do well for a sailor, at Rome, under
Claudius, in famine time!”

“My poet wanders, but yet stings.”

“So? Kneph was a god that boasted, or rather his spokesmen did, that he
was the _father of his mother_. What economy! No need to be grateful to
or love a mother; no need to wear a wife on the heart. The folly of a
dark age by folly darkened in the mad attempt to lift up man without his
purer better part.”

“How strange, Jew, whenever we touch a new belief, or an old one, new
to us, we find peoples following an idea or ideal. There has been a
crying through the world ever for a some one for pilgrim man to follow.
How passing strange; our century wails the self-same cry; and somehow
it always happens that this matter has something to do with woman. See;
‘_Kneph_’ was the monstrous birth of those who thought man superlative,
and greatness to be by being all man. How sharply the devotion to the
Madonna cuts across this! She was mother of the noblest, and man in the
begetting left out. Oh, my head’s full of thoughts, but they tumble along
toward my lips without system or leader. I talk like a madman, though I
think like a Seraph.”

“I think, Sir Charleroy, that a healthy son of Adam sneering at all
women, publicly, reproaches himself as being one who never knew a true
one.”

“More javelins! I’d swear, anyhow, that if I’d been Adam, no winged
serpent of gaudy colors and honey tongue could have lured me from
Paradise, Eve or no Eve!”

“If thou hadst been there thou wouldst have been lonesome with the
speechless herds; finding the new woman, would have loved her like the
boy who mates just to see how it seems.”

“Oh, likely!”

“Then if thy ward or angel attempted to elope with the devil thou wouldst
have gone along, too, from curiosity, as lad to a hippodrome, just to see
the finish; or as thousands of men since Adam, tied to wayward women,
have gone down with them to darkness, preferring hell with their idols to
heaven without.”

“I suppose so. Oh, how strangely are the fates of men and women
interwoven.”

“Then thou dost not now elect to live a hermit, without the companionship
of the frail, fair and faithful sex which are said to double our joys?”

“Yes and multiply our sorrows!”

“I suspect thou’lt change thy late creed very soon.”

“Why so?”

“I expect ere long that we’ll meet some living blossoms.”

“By my token, that’s good news, Ichabod.”

“So, then, thou art ready to recant?”

Evening came, and the pilgrims supped on the meager meat they were able
to procure in the fields.

“Now poet of the Palm Land mellow my dreams by possessing me of thy
meditations. What fixes thy gaze?”

“The monarch of the sky; after a day such as this has been, he seems to
me to take his departure with a peculiar sort of triumphal sweep of his
trailing splendors.”

“Horus exulting over prostrate Set.”

“But night, not the green-colored son of Osiris, conquers now, master.”

“Night never conquers. It merely lives by sufferance; often routed by
the invincible spears of the sun. Darkness creeps forth here because the
golden charger in masterful strategy has gone elsewhere to rout other
armies of the dark kingdom. Lay this to thy heart, good Jew.”

“I do, as precious ointment to a blister. Enlarge me.”

“There, Jew; see the fleecy clouds over Jordan. How grand!”

“Yea, as I’ve often seen them; some like alabaster thrones, and others
like ships on fire, while others are like silver castles, banded with
cornelian and gold, with here and there hyacinthian shields hung on their
battlements, all fresh as the stones in heaven’s foundation walls! How
they career and float along the empurpled ocean of the west! I forget
myself even now into their midst. Oh, knight, such pictures, such visions
make my soul shout in peals of holy laughter.”

“My Israel, the sun which woos the earth into making love to him with
flowers never sets in thy brain; thou livest in the poet’s constant noon.”

“But we both are changing. Even the knight gets mellow. Hardship, the sun
and faith are working in us both for good.”

“Getting to be? No; thou wert and art poet, painter and singer; all in
one. If the world does not hear thee the Seraphim will, by and by.”

“I’ve noticed that souls unbent from some long, twisting pain, run,
aspire and play. It is mercy’s rest, reward.”

“God fits some especially to catch passing joys, Ichabod.”

“Yea, and it all comes from a serene faith that all is very good as He
made it. I’m just opening to the Sun Eternal, at whose right hand are
pleasures evermore. I love thy wakening touch, my guide.”

“Ah, I’m a bungling player on the harp of thy soul, but I love thy
melody. Child of nature, speak more and more to me.”

“I can but ill tell all. I’m dumb amid the waves of peace which enhalo,
the hopes that thrill, the views of truth that fill my being.”

“I believe thee on my soul, Jew. I’d stop now to remember a little,
perhaps to sleep, since so I can follow dreams that would craze me to
contemplate awake; but if we now sleep, pray God our day-dreams go on and
on. I think we are pilgrims following spiritual truths. They’ll lead us
on high; let’s not miss their direction.”

“One may sleep, master, when he can not think; for me, now, I’d rather
court, awake, my mind’s guests, for a time, meanwhile gainsaying the
lullabys of cricket and nightingale now floating out from every bush.”

“So be it. How shall we proceed to pass the time?”

“Can we set up an Ebenezer? God hitherto hath helped us.”

“I have it; we’ll to the feast.”

“Well, we have what some great kings have not, and so shall find joy in a
feast. We have appetite!”

“Thou dost miss my meaning, though thy point is prime. We seldom think
to thank the Giver for the power to enjoy as well as for the enjoyable.
I knew a French prince, once, who said he’d give his birthright for one
good dinner, and he was no Esau, either. He had dinners and dinners, but
what were they along with premature decay gnawing at his vitals like a
rat, while he himself could eat less than a babe?”

“I see; the knight would have us thankfully commemorate to-day’s
enjoyment of nature.”

“Just so; I think, in loving nature, because we begin to understand
her, we will be on our way to all the natural joy of which she is God’s
interpreter.”

“But our feast?”

“The stars are out on the blue; their queen will soon come up from the
sea, then I’ll induct thee into the feast of the ‘Rose.’ The rose is the
queen of flowers, and flowers the thoughts of God!”

“The feast of the Rose! I’ve heard it was a licencious, heathen orgy!”

“It was then a shameful misnomer. My Mary found it; transformed it. Out
of it, through reverence of her, comes a beautiful observance. See here,
Jew.”

So saying, the knight took from his bosom a string of precious stones
and arranged them, as they glowed under the moonlight, on the ground
heart-shaped.

The knight then questioningly observed the Jew.

The latter shook his head and remarked:

“I’ve seen such often among the Arabs. They have a prayer for each bead
to be said the night after the death of one of their number, believing
the shade departs not to Hades ’till the prayers are said. Thou dost not
practice their enchantments?”

“Bah! Never. My gemmed circle has a deeper, holier significance. Each
pendant is to recall to mind some virtue or event in the saintly Mary’s
life. Then there are guilds called, ‘Brothers of the Rosary.’ I belong
to one such; each member is sworn to pray for all the others wherever
scattered. The Turks may have had a praying string, but the Crusaders
have appropriated and applied it to nobler uses.”

“Tell me more of it, if there be more.”

“There are but fifteen in my brotherhood.”

“Only fifteen, no room for me?” said the Jew.

“Fifteen; to suggest the fifteen great events in Mary’s life; namely, the
_Annunciation_; Gabriel announced to Mary that she was to be the Mother
of Jesus; the _Visitation_; Mary in the Gospel spirit went quickly to
tell her kinswoman of her promised favor; the _Birth of Jesus_, this was
the crowning joy; then here is the gem that recalls the _Presentation of
Jesus_ in the Temple. Thou knowest, Jew, thy fathers often wondered how,
after all, a lamb, an animal, could stand between offended Deity and man.
Jesus in the Temple was the fulfillment or explanation of the mystery!”

“Yea, truly, I’ve seen this. Oh, that all my people could also see it!”

“Then, here is the jewel that reminds us of the ‘_Scourging at the
pillar_’ of Him ‘by whose stripes we are healed.’”

“Israel reads Isaiah with darkened mind, my loving guide. I’ve seen this.
Oh, that my people could.”

“Here is the jewel that recalls the ‘_Crowning with thorns_’ of Him that
hath to give, at His right hand, ‘pleasures forever more.’ He wore that
thorny coronet that His redeemed should return with singing, crowned with
everlasting joy.”

“I’ve felt it; feel it now. Hallelujah!”

“This one is to commemorate ‘_Jesus bearing the Cross_;’ this one ‘_His
crucifixion_,’ and this ‘_His resurrection_.’”

“The hope of hopes by our Saducees denied!”

“Then we have here another to remind us of our Saviour’s ‘_Ascension_,’
with His pregnant promise of a royal return to take at last His children
home.”

“Come, Lord Jesus, even so, quickly!” cried Ichabod.

“‘Wait patiently for Him and He will give thee the desire of thy heart,’
oh, heir of faithful Abraham!”

“I weary sometimes, my loved teacher.”

“So do we, of our brotherhood; but here is a thought of rest; this bead
recalls ‘_Pentecost_.’ We are led of the Spirit, which guides to all
truth and comforts by the way.”

“But what has all this to do with Mary?”

“Oh, here are two beads; one reminds us of her ‘_Assumption_’ into
heaven, the other of her ‘_Crowning_.’”

“Was she crowned?”

“Yea, in heaven, for the Son of Mary promised to His faithful ones this
exaltation; ‘_I appoint unto you a Kingdom as my Father hath appointed
unto me_, ye which have continued with me in my temptation.’ Surely, she
that followed him from the pains of parturition, as an outcast, to the
Cross and the sepulcher, CONTINUED!”

“I would I could have been there to enter the race for such crowning.”

“‘He hath made us kings and priests unto God; if we suffer we shall also
reign with Him,’ Jew.”

“Hallelujah! would I could shout it to heaven; no, I do; but rather to
all Jewry!” exclaimed the Israelite.

“John was only a ‘voice crying in the wilderness,’ as he thought, but he
was heard at the palace and down the ages. Even now I voice his words in
this lone place.”

“Thou didst not tell me of the meaning of that black and red pendant,”
said Ichabod, interrupting.

“Oh, _Gethsemane_, Jesus, the intercessor for the world, ‘who ever lives
to intercede.’ The black sign is of that.”

“Then I’ve a Saviour in glory praying for me. Oh, this is balm and water
to me! Why do I dare to think of myself as a poor Jew! God pity; no,
forgive me! I, repining sometimes and yet defended in glory; honored by
royal adoption, elected of God, called to kingship!”

“How we do go up and down; sometimes thou, sometimes I. Now I’m leading,
awhile ago ’twas thou. Yea, we are all dependants; but this is healthful
meditation, Ichabod, and thy confession rebukes me as well.”

“Is this all of the feast?”

“Oh, no. Here are some tokens to remind us of Mary’s life; so brief, so
useful. See, here, five gems that remind us of the wounds of her son;
her wounds as well, for the sword that pierced Him pierced through to
her soul also. At each of these emblems we ‘Rosary Brothers’ repeat
the Lord’s Prayer. Last of all, reverently clasping this crucifix,
we sacredly repeat the Apostle’s Creed, the same as I taught thee at
Jericho.”

“I remember, as I do the water courses, when thirsty.”

“What think’st thou of all this formality? Is it like the Arabic
mummeries?”

“No, they are mocking devils, are they not?”

“I am not to judge of their sincerity, nor their needs, nor art thou.”

“Master, I wish I could be a Rosary Brother. Methinks it would help my
ambling faith sometimes, if I could touch a token.”

“He above is all tender of baby faiths that can do no better than amble.
Remember the words of thy own Hosea: ‘I drew them with cords of a man,
with bonds of love, I taught Ephriam to go; taking them by the arms; just
as a mother teaches her babe to walk,’ is it not?”

“Even so. Does the Rosary help some to walk?”

“I believe it does.”

“Tell me more about it.”

“The Crusaders were the first to call Mary ‘The Rose.’ To almost all
mankind that flower has ever been the emblem of pure, unselfish love,
and when the soldiers of the Cross grew to understand the character of
her that gave the world its Saviour, they could think of no title more
fitting for that queenly woman.”

“I’ve an Egyptian rosary, knight. See, I wear it on this golden chain,
next my heart, for its safety——”

“To ward off witchcraft?”

“Bah! ’Tis a toy in usefulness. I keep it, thinking it may work
incantation with the money-lender, and so save me sometime from
starvation.” Then the Jew laughed aloud at his own wit. It seemed very
ridiculous to him to liken his talisman to the real rosary or its saint.

“Wouldst thou let me examine it, Jew?”

The latter handed to the knight a chain and image.

“Egyptian?”

“An image of Neb-ta, sister of Isis, the wife of the Sun God Osiris. It
was given me by a Copt priest, whom I saved from drowning in the Nile.”

“A Copt?”

“A Copt. He was a professed Christian; but, like some of the ancestral
Egyptians, sought to be right by being a little of every thing. He was
very superstitious, though he thought himself very broad-minded. He was
quite certain that Coptic Christianity was true, though not equally
certain that his pagan ancestors were in faith all false. He thought he’d
be on the safe side by mixing a little of all creeds with his own, and so
he prayed in Christ’s name and also Neb-ta’s.”

“A pretty fool, Jew.”

“Yea. He had a story about the goddess, very pretty when not absurd,
running somehow thus: When Osiris was cut to pieces by Set, a type of day
slain by night, I think, Neb-ta went round the world with her widowed
sister, Isis, to gather up the fragments of her spouse. Isis is the
moon above; below, reproduction. She is pictured in Egypt, as all the
female deities, with two eggs and a half-circle at the side, to express
the latter idea. Isis has in her hand also this sign—a cross supporting
an egg, to typify immortality. The old Egyptian priest told me this
sympathetic Neb-ta, if I trusted her, would reward me for saving his
life, by defending my case in Hades. There is a good deal of mysticism in
all this, but I rather prize the gift, since it reminds me that I once
saved a man.”

“But, Nourahmal? Since thou knew of Mary thou hast saved a woman, Jew.”

The Jew was silent. The knight continued:

“These philosophic, inseeing, sign-writing, symbol-making Egyptians were
pilgrims, too; a nation of graal-seekers; after an idea, example. I see
always the huge Sphinx coming before me when I think of them.”

“The Sphinx! Well, that’s strange. I’d never think of that, unless I
happened upon something very big and very meaningless!”

“No, no; the people that rocked the cradle of religions in their infancy,
wrought all their theology into that one mighty symbol, to endure and
challenge compare with all that man should find beside.”

“I do not see how!”

“The Sphinx faces the East—light!”

“True!”

“It can not reach that light toward which it looks, neither could the
Nubians.”

“All true.”

“It was part man, part beast; but the upper part was man, and this is
what we think we know, and all of man?”

“Oh, knight, Phthah, the ‘beautiful-faced,’ ‘secret-opener’ of the Nile
gods has touched thee.”

“The Sphinx was like man’s thought; too great for words; at least such
words as men can now fit to their lips.”

“I see; it’s all coming into my mind, master.”

“It sat still and was silent, but the world went on; the thought it
expressed reached hearts after the men that formed the image had passed
away. The truth lives ever, and can not die until it completes its
purpose.”

“Thou art a magician, who pleases, astonishes, excites, instructs, and at
the same time plays with me as if I were a pigmy!”

“It’s not I, but the truth. The Sphinx again! Its hugeness, truth
expressed, appears mighty when placed by our sides.”

“Tell me where I am! Shall I fling Neb-ta away as a bauble, or beg its
pardon for hanging so much meaning to a fool’s neck?”

“Vehement! The sun is in thy head!”

“But shall I sit and look as a Sphinx, or run mad because I can’t?”

“Be calm, and let me tell thee that the dwellers by the mighty Nile
plagued themselves with lasting darkness when they banished the people
whose leader’s face shone from communion with Jehovah. They clung to
some half truths, left them by the progeny of Joseph, but the half was
dimmed by courted lusts.”

“But my people had no Neb-ta, no women divinities to leave in Egypt.”

“No, yet Egypt, aiming to exalt the tender, the beautiful, the mother,
incarnated certain virtues, and lo, a woman deity! It was an effort to
find the ‘Rose.’ The nation was in a vast, serious pilgrimage through all
their dynasties after an idea, a pattern; an opportunity to reach and
to express the best things. I tell thee, Jew, the heathen nations sit
in darkness; this side and that, along the track of time, holding here
and there a torch, waiting through the night whose hours are tolled off
at century intervals, for something, Some One. There have passed before
them like phantoms, gods and gods; man invented, man evolved; but none of
these tarried, none satisfied. Oh, ‘the Isles wait for thee,’ Jesus, Thou
Ideal Man, and also for the true conception of Mary the ideal woman!”

“For two Gods? Is Mary divine?”

“Did I say that? Nay, as the child Jesus was subject to her, so she was
subject to the Christ, at last. Christ was the Word, Mary His blessed
echo; Christ the Sun, Mary the Moon that reflected that light, showing
its beauty in woman’s life!”

“But now, what shall I do with my beautiful fright, Neb-ta, Sir
Charleroy?”

“Put her away, in mind, amid the galaxies of woman deities; mythical
in all but the pitiful sincerity of the adoration of their devotees
and in the greatness of the truths they vaguely articulated. See, I’ll
interpret: Isis going round the world to gather up the fragments of
her dismembered husband. Woman’s ministry; the restoration of man;
wife consecration to an only love. Then there was not only beautiful
widowhood, second only to beautiful wifehood, but also the spinster
sister. Hail Egypt! Thy Sphinx saw further than our peoples of boasted
civilizations. At our best we never rose so near to a just altitude as to
attempt the deification of the maiden sister, the omnipresent angel, who
mothers other people’s children as if they were her own. Egypt worshipped
motherhood, perhaps grossly, in adoring the earth’s fructifications, but
she did not overlook those pious souls who in a glorious self-abnegation
play waiting-maids to the real queens of earth, the child-bearers. I’d
never tire praising the child-bearers, or all who love them, for they
that bring forth a life are greater than the greatest kingly man-slayer
on earth. The world is upside down; no religion is wholly false that aids
to right it in any degree. Hail, creeds of Egypt, or any other land,
that seek to efface from fame’s pages the names of life-destroyers that
thereon may chiefly shine the names of those who give or save life.”

“Oh, oscillating Sir Charleroy, thou art just and courtly now.”

“Praise me, then! Mankind would average better by far than it does if all
were right half the time.”

“Would I could gather all the threads of to-day’s blessed communings into
a golden band to support over my heart faith’s breastplate.”

“I can give thee its summary: God, a beauty Creator, out of all things
hideous in His good Providence will emerge the fine, tender and loving.
Neb-ta, Egypt’s ideal, carried the lotus, the flower of unrestrained
pleasure, as her scepter; Neb-ta-like the influences that sway most human
hearts to-day; but the Rose of the world has blossomed. Mary, the flower
of women. They that love and serve, as that warm, red-hearted woman,
shall at last reign in eternal bliss within the ruby walls of the New
Jerusalem.”

“I’m with the knight, to proclaim thy Rose!”

“A good profession! It will be well if we remember that woman is as
essential to religion as religion to women. As for man he needs the one
as the interpreter of the other. Therefore, it was that God sent to earth
a flower that could talk.”

[Illustration]



CHAPTER X.

AFTER EVE, ESTHER OR MARY?

      “Still slowly passed the melancholy day,
      And still the stranger wist not where to stray:
      The world was sad—the Garden was a wild;
      And man, the hermit, sighed—till woman smiled.”—MILTON.


The Israelites, along Jabbock, were all aglow with preparation for
celebrating one of their feasts. Sir Charleroy and his comrade journeying
along, in the early morning, were apprised of the advent of the
festivities by the passing near them of a company of maidens, marching
and chanting. The pilgrims drew apart and sequestered themselves behind a
clump of nubt trees that they might observe, themselves unobserved, the
graceful procession of singers.

“Well, my poet, didst thou conjure up these fairies, or have we come on
the musk-born houri?” Sir Charleroy spoke in an absent-minded manner,
perhaps, with an affectation of a lack of very much interest. In fact,
long privation of the presence of women had somehow rusted from his
bearing, in their vicinage, most of the confident courtier. In a word,
he was now bashful in their presence. He spoke with a small witticism to
subdue, his own embarrassment. His words were unheard, for the Jew was
all engaged in contemplating the passing women.

In truth, the latter made a striking picture; garbed as they were, in
holiday attire; all young, oriental in beauty, and fresh in face, form
and action. They were rural maidens and that says all. It had been a
long time since either Ichabod or Sir Charleroy had met such types of
womanhood; all free from affectation; all natural and graceful in motion;
a band of women, as sisters, bent to one purpose and that a lofty one,
the proper observance of a joyous, pious, religious ceremonial.

Presently Ichabod drew a long breath and rapturously exclaimed: “Praise
be to the Patriarchs, my people!”

“I’d rather say, Ichabod, praise the Patriarch’s daughters, if these be
human!”

“Ha, ha! flesh, indeed! Our Hebrew maidens celebrating the Feast of
Esther!”

“Are they praying God for Adams, so that each Esther and Vashti may have
one all to herself? If so, we are part answers to their prayers.”

“Hush such jest! These be holy maidens, now honoring our Esther. Thou
knowest about her?”

“Certainly; she was my heroine before Our Lady dethroned in my heart
all others. I was wont to wish I’d been about in Haman’s time. I’d have
aroused that old dotard, Ahasuerus, right quickly. By the sackcloth of
Mordecai, if I’d been the king, the hanging would have put the Haman
family into mourning long before it did.”

“Oh, how like angels! It’s years since I saw a woman other than as
deflowered by harem life. Heavens, what a spoiler man is at his worst!”

“Dost forget Nourahmal? But no matter; I admire, and wonder that some
roving band of Arabs, with less piety, or more force than we, does not
swoop down upon these innocents for seraglio prizes. Perhaps these have
the liveried angels about, that are said ever to guard saintly purity.”

“Doubtless; and besides them, with all the practical providence which
belongs to the Jew, thou mayst be sure that the groves, not far away, are
full of fathers, brothers, lovers.”

“I wish I were a brother to some of them.”

“Then thou’dst be a Jew.”

“I’d forget that in being a lover to the others.”

“Thou wouldst not change thy faith for a woman?”

“Now, I’d swear I would not. If like most men, and in love, I’d swear
I would; and then, having gotten my new priestess, in a little while,
backslide and drag her with me, or make her heart weep. My comfort in the
last estate being my consistency, if not my constancy. What a mad rout it
is when religion and love, born twins, cross purposes?”

“That’s a very true, yet bitter speech. I’ll tell the Hebrew maidens to
beware.”

“Better tell me to beware, now. It’s the beginning that makes the
trouble. No beginning, then no after folly.”

The procession glided past and the pilgrims followed at a distance.

“We are within an arm of dear old Jabbock,” remarked Ichabod, as they
came to a river-bank, later.

“Ah, ha! my chartless pilot, does the current whisper its name to thee,
in Hebrew? I’d not wonder if it did, since every thing is clannish in
this country.—I hope there is no more swimming for us to do.”

“Its tumbling waters are full of voices to me, blending with echoes of
things of the past; but one who spoke a thousand times more tenderly than
ever spoke murmuring waters, told me its name, knight.”

“Nourahmal? No! rather some one of those pious beauties we passed not
long ago. Oh, roguish Ichabod, I remember thou wert away a long time in
the morning after our breakfast of peas and grapes. But, dear Ichabod,”
continued Sir Charleroy, feigning rebuke, “didst thou so soon forget thy
little convert of Jericho? I wonder if thou lifted up thy voice and wept
when thou kissed the maid that told thee the river’s name? Come, confess,
and I’ll call thee Isaac.”

“Raillery of prime quality, knight; but raillery and ridicule, though
keenly pointed, are generally bad arrows for long range.”

“Well, no matter. I’m glad thou knowest the place, if thou dost know it.
Who told thee the name of this water?”

“One with a voice to me sweeter, kinder than that of any betrothed
lover’s ever can be.”

“Very, very eloquent thou art. Indeed, if we were in Italy, I’d guess
’twas a syren had communed with thee; in France, a Crusader troubadour;
in Rhineland, the water sprite, Lurline; but, being in this wondrous
country of revelations, apparitions, prophets, angels and the like, I
can only as a catechumen, ask thy dulcet informer’s name?”

“How oddly thou dost talk when thou talkest as a double man; half
sneering infidel; half Christian preacher.”

“A truce, Ichabod. That may be a home-thrust well aimed, but it’s enough
that one of us be bitter. It’s sometimes natural to me, but not to thee.”

“A bee-sting will redden the high priest’s brow.”

“Well, I’ll not sting thee. Who gave the name of the river?”

“Master, one to me alone of all the world an angel, my mother. I was born
near here, and the memories of a youth made happy by one all patient, all
loving, rises above and survives all changes.”

“My noble friend, forgive my repartee. I’m glad, truly, that we are so
lucky as to have this knowledge.”

“Lucky? Then all is not fate; there is some chance, if no Providence?”

“Pardon more; the bee-sting is still on thy brow. Ichabod, I can not help
my feelings, which sometimes make me think that only God can tread the
hidden, narrow line between stern fate and happy accident. They say the
Sybil wrote her prophetic decrees upon leaves and flung them recklessly
to the inconstant winds. Just so we’re in decreed courses, swirled by
chance gusts.”

“Yet we two are getting on well together.”

“So do chance and fate; the pity is to the waif that falls between them.”

“I wonder how here, in Holy Land, thou canst think of any control but
Providence.”

“Wonder? So do I. I’m a bundle of wonderings.”

“Listen to Jabbock.”

“I do, more attentively than Jabbock to me. What of it?”

“Grander rivers are forgotten; why is it so remembered?”

“We’re forgotten, meaner men remembered.”

“This river sings through the centuries of history the song of a fugitive
of pale heart, who in sheer desperation, long, long ago, seized a
fleeting hope and became a prince, having power to prevail with God.”

“Ah, Jacob, who worked fourteen years to win a woman. It was, I’m sure,
the woman that nerved him to attempt greatness. Such a woman! Had she
been like our moderns she would have jilted him, or eloped with him,
before the end of one of the fourteen years.”

“I’ll not tilt with thy sarcasms. It were much better to remember that
he, a pigmy, the night in his soul, as that about him, black as Erebus,
grappled with the mighty, unknown, unseen apparition to find he was
holding Deity. The mysteries of crossing fates and chances are as open
nut-bur compared to that of all weakness prevailing with Omnipotence, my
good master, I think.”

“But ever after that joust, Jacob was a cripple!”

“Oh, but remember, as he halted on his thigh the sun rose over Penuel,
‘the place of seeing God,’ by interpretation. He was stronger for his
laming!”

“A very ‘Timor-lame,’ this prince of great chances and mean ways.”

“Time and trial repaired Jacob’s spotted soul.”

“There was much room for the mending, I do vow.”

“His weightings bespeak some charity. Think; a weak mother, one designing
wife, and plenty of wealth!”

“Well, ’tis true, these were enough to have undone St. Anthony, if the
devil had only thought to have tried them all at once upon him!”

“Sir Charleroy swings back to his old bitterness toward women; did he
never love one?”

“No, not as a lover. I was never tried except by designing coquetries
that nauseated finally.”

“Perhaps, like most solitary men, thou so revered thyself by habit that
there was no room for other person in thy heart.”

“I never met one I deemed perfect and available.”

“Better to have loved some one far from perfect than none. If thy
heart-fount had been once touched it would have set thy imaginations to
weaving halos about the one touching. Thou wouldst have enthroned her by
a love that would have transformed both. She would have become in time
what she was in love’s young dream; while thou wouldst have grown by the
experience to be twice the man thou hadst been—or art.”

“The sun in thy head is settling down into thy heart, Jew.”

“Is that so, Charleroy?”

“Yes, but not to harm; heart sunsets ripen heart fruits; that’s the
reason the autumn suns run low; the low suns ripen. But after all, I’m
not so very miserable in heart. I’ve loved some women; mother and my
Mary——”

“Filial love, religious love! somewhat akin and blessing him that feels
their mellow, exalting influences; but, oh, Sir Charleroy, they do
not fill completely the heart’s temple. There are places there for
the expression of ruddy, glorious lover’s love. The three make up an
all-comprehending trinity, and fill the man as Deity the universe.
I see religious love in adoration of God’s Fatherhood, mother love
in the tender leading of the Spirit, lover’s love in the priceless
self-surrender of our Saviour. That made the angels sing, and in the
being of each of our race there is room, aye need, of the melody which
only the experiencing of this passion in full can produce. In love-mating
is a wondrous thrill which can be but faintly voiced even by those who
have experienced it.

“There are other passions which ebb with time, or, being well fed, wax
gross; not so with this one. Inspired by the potencies of life, which
lie at the very core of being, it wells up in rills, rivers and torrents
of pleasurable sensations. Out from the heart it goes to the remotest
members, only to double on its courses and dash again through the beating
heart, heating its flame by its doubling and hasting, making the beatings
wilder by its hastings, and then hasting more because of the wilder
beatings. Of all emotions love is the most tireless. It increases by
giving, grows stronger by action and proclaims the secret of its heavenly
birth, its immortality, by the way in which it deepens and ripens with
every movement of its life. Aye, more, it proclaims itself the power of
the resurrection by the way it transforms the lives it possesses. A man
may be a lout, ever so crude in fiber, but this musical flame passing
through his being, burns up his dross, making him all brave, courteous,
tender, poetic, religious! Yea, religious! If it do not utterly redeem
a sinner possessed by it, it will take him nearer to salvation than
any other power known on earth, except the Spirit of Grace. It is as
the opening of the eyes of the blind man, for it opens the doors of
a new sense to the realizing of a world as new as delightful. As the
thrummings on the harp-strings someway leave a lasting sonorousness
and tenderness in the supporting woods about the lyre, so leaves this
passion, through the beatings of every wave of it, wealth. Its devotee by
it is inducted into exhaustless new realms and possessions, unalterably
secured to him, and at the same time beyond all computation. He ever
gathers treasures, as a prince from incoming fleets, and is made affluent
beyond all counting. He surpasses all in wealth-getting, and yet is
infinitely apart from the littleness of avarice. It is to him the advent
of charity’s full-orbed day. It may be fancy in him, but it’s to him
very real; the world about, as if having learned his secret, seems to
be dressing for the wedding feast, while all things appear to be coming
very confidentially to him to whisper the divine mandate, ‘marry and
multiply.’ He is trusted, yet trusts; leads, yet follows. He is proud
to display, a little, his conquest, but does so with a sort of alert
charming selfishness, which gives notice to the world that he alone is
to wear the chosen one upon his heart. He realizes the paradox of giving
all and receiving all; the mystery of two lives merged into one by an
utter surrender, each to each, which leaves both infinitely richer than
the sum of all their ownings could make either if possessed by the one
apart from the other. Oh, how almost imperiously each demands that
the other shall surrender all and then how great the joy each feels in
leading the chosen mate to surprises at the munificence and completeness
of the giving up of all by the one who just now demanded all. I do not
know the woman’s heart, but can readily believe it far surpasses the
man’s in its consecration, enjoyment and aspiring. I know the man’s, but
my words are ragged in description. I know that this grand passion makes
him wondrously weak and wondrously strong. Sometimes these inner feelings
come nigh overwhelming him; sometimes they fall upon his life like the
musical ebb-waves on resonant shores. I can not word it all, nor is it
strange, since I am speaking of a life of heavenly flights, and best
expressed by voiceless signs, embraces. In love’s hour the man realizes,
as never before, his lordliness and his pride and ambition are fed by a
growing conviction that all the world is small beside himself and his;
proud as a conqueror of untold wealth, he yields to the tender ties
that unrelentingly bind him and crucifies his native roughness that he
may be more like, more worthy her he rules and obeys. He is made finer;
she stronger. Has she virtues, he appropriates them; at the same time,
by the homage implied by his appropriation, makes them to shine more
brightly on the brow and heart of his queen. He touches the fires on the
altar she has erected within herself to love alone, and the altar-fires
blaze until her whole being is illuminated as a temple on fête days. She
puts on his best parts, and then he revels in delight as he beholds his
virtues refined and so beautifully framed. There are times when, like a
mighty anthem, his passion passes over and through him. Then is he nigh
to madness, being in the mood to slay himself, or another doing aught
to check the rapture of the mighty swellings of the music that pours
over every nerve from head to heart, to limb. Then it is he embraces and
kisses and embraces again; as an inspired artist of music, exhausting
himself to prolong this joy, almost materialized. Indeed, I saw one who
said ‘this is tangible music. I feel it; taste it; see it!’ It seems to
thicken the air until I rise unwinged, and yet in a flight that seems to
me as free and brilliant as that of the golden oriole’s. If the enchanted
enchanter be pure and true, she leads her captive king, made tender and
yet more manly by his captivity, surely upward from tumultuous passion’s
sway to the ambrosial table-lands of higher affection where both may
reign tenderly, bravely, hopefully, forever. I tell thee, knight, the
finest spectacle on earth is a man in his prime, creation’s lord at his
best, sincerely, completely in love with a queenly woman. Next after
getting God into a man’s heart, the greatest blessing is the getting of a
woman of genuine parts therein.”

“Oh, child of the sunny palm land, thou hast imbibed wondrous eloquence.
But thou sayest truly. Now, for the women that are so to queen us men. No
woman that I ever knew of could so intoxicate, transform and translate
me.”

“One like Eve, the gift of God?”

“The first woman, like the first man, was pure without virtue, until
tried; then she fell. I think of her chiefly as being a splendid animal,
yet, as Adam was not left for man’s example, neither was she. I still
think Eve passed by in history to be only what she was full proof that
love which rises no higher than to give all to and for that which was
like the fruit of the tempting tree, good for food and pleasant to the
eyes, is not like the love that at last hung on the tree of Calvary. Oh,
child of Abraham, I hear the ‘_voice of God walking in the garden in the
cool of the day_,’ saying to a world of flitting, false ideals, and those
yearning for pilots and patterns, ‘_Where art thou?_’ I don’t know, for
one, exactly where I am, but I’m going forward and upward someway.”

“Sir Charleroy thou dost dazzle me by thy correspondences and insights,
if I do thee by my pictures. We are quits.”

“But we’ll not quit. This pilgrim idleness has value. I never knew what
I believed until, thus flung out of life’s hurly burly, I had little
company but my thoughts. There was method of reason in God’s taking His
prophets to lone places, to fit them for understanding the rapturing
visions with which He filled them.”

“’Tis so, true; but what thinks the knight of Esther, the beautiful
Queen? She’s the idol and ideal in Israel in all times and places.”

“Wondrous woman! A girl, petted, ill-trained, from poverty suddenly
exalted, surrounded by the skilled intriguants of court, a jealous,
exacting, conceited, harem-demoralized old king for a spouse, she was
then burdened with the salvation of a nation. I’ve so pitied her that
I’ve forgotten to admire how well she did in her trying lot.”

“Can the world ever have a finer figure or presentment of all that is
womanly? I do not challenge thy Mary, but may I not put the two side by
side?”

“Israel has two great women in their way. The one, Esther, exemplifying
all sweetness and the mild strength of a suddenly developed woman, doing
grandly in one emergency when great peril and great love aroused her from
only being an entrancing, petted beauty, to be the heroine of an hour.
But she was not tried by the searching test of a lifetime. She never
meets the needs of mothers seeking an ideal. Rizpah, your other grand
woman, was the mother, even the mother of sorrows, of the Old Testament.
It takes these two to make an ideal, and yet the pattern is incomplete.
God walks yet in the garden where men live, with only these two before
them, and ever and anon they hear the unanswerable, ‘_Where art thou?_’”

“Why, my mentor, master, thou hast touched our Scriptures with the rod
that budded; the whole opens to me as if for the first time. Methinks, if
I were permitted to lay hands now upon one of our sacred volumes, I’d be
fairly overcome by the light that would break out on me from within it.”

“‘The entrance of the word giveth light,’ Ichabod.”

“I’m moved, master, along lines I can not turn from, to the one woman of
all, Mary. She is thy ideal queen of hearts?”

“I’m a pilgrim and follow her, seeing none better.”

“Then thou wouldst be willing to wed such as Mary?”

“Hold! This is sacrilegious! I’ll not think of Mary in any such
comparison. Leave my patron saint upon her high pedestal. I save her for
my soul’s health, as every man should save some noble woman, for an inner
enshrining, to be all that woman may be at her best, his beloved, his
inspirer, and yet touching no spring of his life save such as responds
to things of moral grandeur.”

“Ah, master, I’ve not yet been enamored fully of this woman. I feel a
stranger to her, but I feel the meaning of the finer things thou hast
just spoken. I have the need of which thou dost speak, and my life, like
a babe, often now goes out crying, ‘Mother, mother.’ As we lay, yesterday
night, beneath the quiet firmament, I gazed up and asked a sign of God
in prayer. It was a baby cry I know, but I saw one star that staid and
staid above me. It seemed to be warmed with reddish tintings, and I
thought that its glitterings were proof that it was taking part in some
anthem of the morning stars. Then I dreamed that my mother was in the
star all luminous, holy, happy, looking down in constant guardianship of
her outcast boy! Oh, can a child ever be outcast utterly to mother? Can
it be that she, who so loved me and so loved God, can hate me now, loving
her and loving God as I do? God knows my heart! Will he not tell her
all? Her constant mandate to me was, ‘keep a loyal heart, an undefiled
conscience.’ I’ve tried to do both, but then her soul loathed apostacy.
Does she loathe me for leaving Israel’s fold? My heart all torn, cries
to-day, ‘Mother, mother!’ I’m sure she can not hate me. To-morrow I hope
I shall pray at her grave.”

Then the vehement Israelite fell on the ground in an ecstasy, utterly
unconscious of his companion, and, kissing the earth as if already he was
by that parent’s resting place, wildly called, “Mother! my mamma! oh,
I’m so lonely, so unhappy! Let me come! God, God, let me go to mother!
Mother, I did it as thou saidst. I’m no leper. I’m not a heretic! I
love thee. I love God. I’ve kept pure. I’ve trusted God’s care in all
my trouble. Mamma, my mamma, let Ichabod embrace thee!” Exhausted and
quivering he there lay. The knight was silent. It was holy ground, and
the whole thicket about seemed to be glowing with the fire that burns
without consuming.

The travelers were encamped again under the sky, and it was now night.
A shooting star sped through the constellation of Orion and fell down
toward the Dead Sea.

“An omen, Jew.”

“Explain, brother knight.”

“Life; bright, short, ending in gloom.”

“Look at the fixed stars.”

“They preach fate.”

“Perhaps, but they have the majority. Few fall; I think, too, Someone
holds them.”

“Thy hopefulness colors thy faith.”

“Thy murmurings run toward final madness, knight; the Rabbis, good men,
so taught me.”

“If one star falls may not all? If Providence hold them, why does one
escape?”

“Thou hast heard that the giant Orion having lost his eyes, afterward
regained his sight by turning his sockets toward the rising sun; that
meteor we saw shot through the constellation Orion. Look up.”

“A happy simile and pungent thrust, Jew.”

“He that sent the lightnings to show us our way out of dread Jericho,
most likely now commissioned some angel to swing a meteor across the sky
as a torch or beacon for our guidance. The trail of flame teaches me
that God is writing His royal signature on some great message.”

“This world is too vast and too thronged with insignificants, such as we,
for such especial carings on God’s part. There are too many kings, too
many shepherds, too many follies for Him to constantly watch any one or
two.”

“Backward, forward; now good, now bad. What a charging, changing knight!
Pray God to get thee right and then fix thee.”

Their converse was interrupted by a prolonged trumpet blast, echoing from
hill to hill. Sir Charleroy sprang to his feet and clasping his sword
hilt, cried eagerly, “We’re ambuscaded!”

“No, by the glory of God, ’twas the temple call! How grand it sounds away
in this wilderness!”

“No, no, Jew, I’ve heard that call; this one had six responses.”

“’Twas echo’s magic! Didst thou not notice how the sound spread as it
traveled in a sort of sheet of melody? Then it rose and fell from low
hill to high. One blast; seven responses. Nature proclaiming against fate
and chance; the covenant number.”

“I’m not so confident that it’s a miracle; what if it were some Mamelukes
or Druses, planning one of their pious immolations of heretics with us
for the victims?”

“Nay, brother, It’s ‘_Purim_’; that feast is now due, and always begins
at early starlight. I know it. Come, I’ll put it to the proof.”

“Hold; poets are more rash than knights in a charge, but not so skillful
in retreat! Whither wouldst thou?”

“I’ll spy out the trumpeters and report.”

“Not alone. I’ll go, too. This camp will care for itself if they beyond
be friends; if enemies, why then, without consulting us, they will care
for all we have. But this,” said the knight, toying with his sword, “was
blessed by a priest to preach to infidels.”



CHAPTER XI.

THE FEAST OF PURIM.


Stealthily Ichabod, followed by Sir Charleroy, approached the place from
which the trumpet call had sounded. The foliage was dense, the necessary
way somewhat winding, and these circumstances, together with the fact
that it was expedient to move with great caution, made the progress
of the explorers very slow. The last ray of day had faded, sung away
by the evening bird and insect chorusers, whose concert strains, like
the vanishing notes of æolian harps swept by dying breezes, were now
blending, without a line to mark the place of transition, into the lull
of the night. Nature’s lullaby to tired, drowsy life. It was a witching
hour in the woods, and the scene that lay just beyond the pilgrims in an
opening by Jabbock was an enchantment. The river, reflecting the moon
rays and the lights of torches borne by many intermingling feasters,
flowed silently along like a stream of mingled silver and fire, while
tree and shrub along its sides, as green as green could be, bore as
fruits lights of many colors. In the opening, surrounded by beacons,
banners and the lamp-bearing trees, the beauty as well as the center of
all was a magnificent patriarchal tent, made of costly materials. About
the pavilion were mounds of earth, elevated upon high tripods, seven
in all, in symbols of the seven temple candle-sticks. On each mound
there blazed a fire fed by resinous faggots, and the lights of the fires
falling upon the folds of the tent, caught up here and there by bands of
blue and gold, made the whole glisten like jeweled silk.

“Hallelujah,” with suppressed joy, exclaimed Ichabod, “the tabernacle of
God with men!”

“Hush, rash man, and watch!” rebukingly replied Sir Charleroy.

“Watch? Why, my soul is in my eyes. I’m as one famished for years
smelling a feast!”

As they looked on the beautiful scene, they perceived that the front
of the pavilion was lifted up and stretched forward as a canopy over
an altar, richly decorated with twined olive branches and blood-red
blossoms. A little way off, and yet partly encircling the altar, were
little walnut trees, each tree having on its branches glistening lamps,
half hidden by wreaths of hollyhocks and asters.

The moon sank behind the hills; the night darkened, but the fires and
lamps burned still more brightly.

“It’s like fairy-land, Jew,” after little, spake Sir Charleroy.

“More beautiful, knight. Wait and see.”

There was a burst of music, instantly followed by the entrance of youths
and old men; some singing, others vigorously playing ugabs, reed-flutes,
and tambourines. Somewhere near, though unseen by the watchers, were
happy women; they recognized their voices in refrains, choruses, and
merry peals of laughter.

“Well, this is not warlike, but what is it, Jew?” queried Sir Charleroy.

“Wait a little.”

There came a commanding trumpet blast. Its tones died away in the
melody-waves of a score of viols, managed by unperceived musicians. Then
silence; presently the huge blue curtain that hung across the tent, just
back of the outstretching front canopy, parted, and there emerged an aged
man of stately form, wearing an Aaronic mitre and priestly robes; rich as
well as ample. He paused before the altar a moment, as if in prayer, and
then suddenly the air far and wide quivered with a sound like a cyclone
hail. There were also cornet blasts mingling therewith.

“Heavens, Jew, explain!”

“Selah! These the drums and waking clappers; the signal to be given. Now
for ‘Purim’ in earnest.”

The groves about seemed to be alive and moving, for from every direction
toward the center gathered men and boys, bearing palm branches and
torches; these, as they advanced, moved with speeded pace, presently
they were in a perfect maze, the music of every kind growing louder and
louder, then seeming to die away.

“They’re carrying the edicts of Ahasuerus to the Jews to defend
themselves, master.”

“A fine play, Jew!”

Now the blue curtain parted again, and from the pavilion emerged another
stately form, in all except that he lacked priestly robing, the very
counterpart of the aged man first at the altar.

“Glory to Shaddah! again I see the holy brothers, Harrimai,” cried
Ichabod.

The second patriarch motioned silence; all in the assembly bent their
heads in breathless attention and the patriarch spoke: “Brethren of
Israel, hearken and give God all the glory who this hour permits us, His
chosen people, to celebrate in peace, with joy, our glad Purim feast.
This day, Jehovah granted me the most wholesome comfort of hearing from a
pashaw of our scourge that the last of the armies of the Moslem, beaten
by want and internal discord, were melting out of our land like fog
banks before the rising sun. He certified to me for a handful of barley
(for which he had come to stand in need) that those hated cross-bearing
invaders, the knights, were gone, never to return. So God has worked in
our behalf as in the days of Esther, setting our enemies to destroying
one another and then compassing the slinging out of His holy places, the
abominable remnants. So may His thunders, as of old, forever beat on the
heads of all who lift themselves against our Israel!”

There was a murmur of applause; first like the buzz of the noonday
insects of the groves, then like a careering hurricane. The applause
swelled up, drowning all sounds, causing the fires to flicker and flame,
making the pavilion’s sides sway and wave as if all were feeling the joy
present. The musical instruments quickly now caught up the strain of the
cheery voices, and all was in a perfect whirl of excitement with one
thought, ‘praise.’ It was free and fluent, because it came from hearts
practiced in the ultimate swings from joy to sorrow and then from sorrow
to joy. For half an hour nearly, the rhapsody continued, nor did it
temperate until sheer exhaustion fell on the revelers.

Presently, after an interval of comparative quiet, there came a flourish
of cornets and a roar of the rattling clappers. It was a signal followed
by the uplifting of the old priest’s hands as if in benediction. All
heads were bowed; some of the congregation knelt, and then he spoke in
sonorous, yet soothing voice, words of benediction: “Blessed art thou, Oh
Lord our God, King of the Universe, who hath wrought all miracles for our
fathers and also for us, at this time.”

Then the people stood up, and the second patriarch, advancing to the
front of the altar, began reading from the holy _Kethubim_ of the Jews,
the story of the Purim. At each mention of Esther’s name the congregation
murmured “how beautiful is goodness;” at each mention of Haman’s name
all in the congregation stamped their feet, also making gurgling noises
with their throats, to imitate the false prince’s strangling; the whole
being made more hideous by the shriek of discordant cornet notes and the
springing of rattles.

The foregoing scene suddenly changed; a procession of maidens, in
graceful evolutions, emerging from the surrounding groves, presenting a
living picture, really entrancing. They were all richly robed in garments
of graceful flow, caught round their waists by flowered girdles. Some
wore sashes of jassamine, while others were crowned with lilies or asters
or violets. Their arms and ankles were clad only with circlets from which
pendant bells gave forth music at every motion. Seven of the foremost
maidens bore lamps; behind each of these followed one with a harp; behind
each harper two with tambourines and cymbals. Seven times this maiden
train, with a step in time, half march, half dance, waltzed around the
canopied altar. Then were given seven cornet blasts, the procession
leaders waving their lamps with each blast, after which there was
perfect silence. Now the old priest moved forward a little toward the
procession; the congregation meanwhile gathering in a semi-circle, just
outside of all, and he addressed the assembly: “Brethren and children, I
would speak to you a little of the ‘Virtuous Woman.’ Daughters of Israel,
hearts of homes to be, hopes of the nation looking for a Deliverer and
deliverers yet to be born; hear me! Israel knows no queen of all womanly
perfections like unto Esther, the beautiful. Evermore take her for your
meditation by day and your dreams by night. Then shall you all realize to
yourselves, your fathers, brothers, husbands, all that the holy Proverbs
of our _Kethubim_ declares of the true woman. Then the priest taking the
parchment, solemnly and in mellow tones, read the last chapter of the
book, ‘the birth-day chapter,’ a verse prophetic for every day of the
longest month, as the Jews believe.”

When the reader ceased, the encampment was dim, many of the lights having
been quenched. Then the congregation joined in chanting a soft-aired
Jewish hymn.

“The devotions are ended; now for the sports;” so spoke Ichabod; the
first words spoken between him and the knight during their observation
of the last part of the proceedings before the pavilion. He had scarcely
made the announcement when the second patriarch appeared, dressed in
somber black, leading by the hand a maiden of wondrous beauty, wearing
also black, in heavy trails; on her head a golden crown. As they
appeared the applause as at first burst forth, but now blended with
distinguishable cries of “Hail Esther!” “Hail Mordecai!”

“It’s the play, knight. Watch that pair.”

“No fear, Jew, such a wondrous beauty! Had I been Haman and she Esther,
I never could have crossed her. Heavens, Jew, it is well said the people
of promise produce the most beautiful women of earth. That’s why Deity
elected one of them, through whom to be incarnate, I think.”

“I think I heard the knight say, awhile ago, that the revolution of all
religions was to come when men’s admiration for women rose far above
rapture over outward form. Is it not so?”

“Ah, it’s thy remembering and my forgetting that keeps us crossing each
other! But no matter; am I looking at an angel or not?”

“That’s the priest’s only daughter; his idol, ay, the idol of every youth
in all these parts of Israel. No nation can be dead while it produces
such flowers.”

Suddenly the camp blazed with re-illumination, and then began a carnival.
Games and dancers were everywhere. Some, evidently men, were dressed as
women, and others, evidently women, were garbed as men. For one season,
Purim, the command against the interchange of garments between the sexes,
was suspended. Each reveler carried a little box. If he asked a favor
or a question, the reply was a challenge to try lots. Partners were so
chosen, tasks given and predictions made. Laughter was everywhere, and
wine was flowing.

“Ichabod, I haven’t tasted wine since Acre! Why dost thou not introduce
me yonder?”

“Wait; they will all be mellow, soon. They may be, too, for it’s a law
that a Jew is not deemed drunk at ‘_Purim_’ so long as he can discern
between a blessing for Mordecai and a curse for Haman.”

“Heavens! how they do imbibe.”

“It’s natural for doves to twitter after a thunder storm. They remember
the past troubles.”

“Ay; but I fear they will consume all the beverage before we are with
them. We have had plenty of trouble; now take me in to twitter with those
doves.”

Ichabod started, as if to lead the way, and then drew back and moaned,
“no, no; it cannot be. I’m forever anathema here, to them! I could bear
their hate, not their contempt. They may call me renegade, but never
spaniel nor hypocrite! If I appeared among them they would soon know, if
they do not already, that Ichabod is changed. Then they’d sneer and tell
me that I tried to play double, or thinking my people’s faith not good
enough for me, I yet hungered for their feasts. No, no; it must not be!
To-morrow, I hope to pray at my mother’s grave. I’d choke then if I had
to remember I’d done aught that she, living, would have thought mean.”

“Now, I’ll not persuade thee, Jew, but go alone.”

“That’s reckless! thou mayst regret it. They may become riotous, being
half drunk, and beat thee as a Haman. No, stay away.”

“No dissuasion, Jew, but just change garments. It’s the fashion
to-night.” The Jew complied, remarking as he did:

“Will the knight wear this leather thong?”

“Heavens! no, nor the brand on thy neck.”

“Christian knights commanded me to wear one, and burned into my flesh the
other years ago; they deemed it necessary to mark all Jews for hatred.”

“Dear Ichabod, I never counseled branding any man!”

“I believe it. I have forgotten all bitterness about these marks and have
borne them as my cross.

“But, Sir Charleroy, don’t wear thy cross in their sight!”

“For once, I’ll cover it.” So saying he hid the emblem.

The comrades parted, and Sir Charleroy quickly found himself by the
maiden who personated Esther. He approached unnoticed until he pleasantly
said: “Queen of Shushan, a man out there behind a clump of Sharon roses,
played me a game of lots. I lost the game, and he has put it on me to
come to the Queen to fix the forfeit I shall pay.” The maiden turned her
head haughtily and examined the speaker from head to foot with repelling
gaze. It was her way of freezing off the amorous swains who constantly
aimed to pay her court. But when her eyes met those of the self-possessed
stranger, she gave a little start. Perhaps she caught sight, by some
omen, of her fate; perhaps she felt the magnetism of the strong will
which for the first time presented itself. In any event, it was the first
time she had ever been alone, face to face, with such as he; a stalwart
man, all reverential, yet all self-possessed. They were well matched, and
they both felt it, intuitively, instantly.

“Who art thou?”

“A child of God.”

“Of Israel?”

“By faith, most holy of Abraham’s seed,” responded Sir Charleroy.

“Thy speech bewrayeth thee as lacking our shibboleth.”

“I’ve been a life long wanderer. Thou wouldst not reject one whom
involuntary exile had robbed of tokens?”

“But I can not be free with an uncertified stranger. I’m afraid I err in
tarrying here ’till now.”

“Hospitality is the boast of pious Hebrews who obey Him that ‘loveth the
stranger in giving him food and raiment.’ Thou hast the Great Father’s
law: ‘Love ye therefore the stranger, for ye were strangers in the land
of Egypt.’ Some have by hospitality unawares entertained angels, thou
knowst.”

“I’d like to entertain an angel; are they ever so human-like as thou?”
she smiled.

“Had I known the Esther of to-night long enough to convince her that my
freedom was sincere, I’d say that she was a fine example of the union of
the angelic in the human.”

The maiden laughed. The incense was agreeable, and the freedom of this
feast-time justified her acceptance of this novel, bold flattery. Your
proud, daring woman is very vulnerable to such assaults. The world
often wonders why such women so often, after all, surrender; but that’s
because the world does not appreciate the dexterity in such jousts of
such skilled men of the world as Sir Charleroy; or how grateful to
self-admiring beauties the admiration of superior intellects is.

“Well, will thou give me thy name?”

“Certainly. For to-night, Ahasuerus?”

“A presumptious jest, sir.”

“No, for I admire and respect Esther, that’s here.”

“And then?”

“I plead for help; gain me admittance to the festivities, and escape from
inquiry further, as to my identity.”

“And afterward, be called by my people brazen by thee, a little fool!”

“Art thou driven from right, the claim of hospitality, by fear of a lie?”

“What if thou wert a Bedouin spy, or a hated cross follower?”

“Thou art a noble hearted maiden.”

“Ah, who told thee so?”

“Thy face.”

“What is that to thee, if true?” she blushed a little.

“Could’st thou drive from thy bosom a fleeing kid, there seeking refuge
from pursuing lions?”

“I do not know ’till tried. Thou art at any rate no kid; there is no
lion. If thou desirest refuge, see the path of departure is the one by
which thou cam’st hither.”

“Well, then, farewell.”

The knight made as if he would go, but he knew he would not. The motion
gave him excuse for looking sad, and he knew that next to a handsome face
a sad one most easily conquers a woman.

“Tarry a moment ’till I think. Can I trust thee?” she was hesitating.

“I’ve trusted thee, and that’s ever the best proof of fidelity.” Women
like to think they are especially trusted.

“Well——but, see, my father comes; there’s no time for argument; let me
speak!”

As the aged priest drew near, Esther saluted him, and said, “Father, let
me take this Galileean stranger to the youths and their games? He claims
our hospitality.”

The priest, wont to be on the alert, was disarmed by the magic word
hospitality; then, too, for a long time before, having been wifeless, he
had been wont to put his daughter forward, according large confidence to
her; hence his reply:

“If thou knowest him, Rizpah.”

“I do.”

“Welcome, brother, what is thy name?” said Harrimai.

Rizpah, his daughter, quickly made reply, “Ahasuerus, and I’ve laughed at
the _coincidence_ until he has been ashamed to repeat it.”

“’Tis strange, surely, and not like a Jewish one. I must examine the
family rolls to-morrow. Peace be unto thee, son,” and the old man turned
toward his pavilion. Esther plucked a lily from her crown and handed it
to Sir Charleroy saying: “Here, king, a token.”

“Of what?”

“Shushan; in our tongue, the name of the flower signifies ‘surrender.’”

“They say, Esther, that Judith wore a crown of lilies when she
assassinated Holophernes. Is there any danger to me impending?”

“Thou hast a lily. It is said to ward off enchantments, too.”

“I am enchanted. I do not want to awaken. In Egypt they call this the
lotus, flower of unrestrained pleasure.”

“For now then, we’ll call it lotus.”

“All gods, even Osiris, bless thee, Esther.”

So the twain were charmed comrades, till watch fires were dim and the
palm shadows were creeping in, like funeral attendants, to carry away
the spirit of the dying revel. Here and there was heard anon the voices
commending this one and that to pleasant slumbers. The stars were
withdrawing behind dawn’s feathery curtains, and over all, at intervals,
was heard the voice of the chanticleer, triumphantly proclaiming the
coming day.

Charleroy and Rizpah were left alone with each other at the end of the
last game.

The maiden gave a coy, furtive glance and tardily drew away from the
knight. The language of the drawing-room of the day, is as old as the
centuries, and that maid of the wilderness used it as finely as a queen,
to say without words, “it’s time we part; please say so first, nor leave
to me, the hostess, the first suggestion of a wish to have thee go——”

Still the knight spake not.

He was delighted and averse to breaking the first pleasure spell of years.

The Jewish maiden, with fine courtesy, renewed the subject: “King,
methinks, thou art anxious to exchange the grove for the palace.”

“I can never think of weariness when restful Esther is nigh.”

“But thy life is precious to thy subjects; care for it, and go with
freshness to to-morrow’s cares of state.”

“Ah, queen, I too keenly realize that with thy departure my kingdom fades
to nothingness.”

“A truce, my liege.”

“Granted, and any thing else, to the half of my kingdom.”

Rizpah startled the birds in the shrubbery to premature morning song,
with a merry laugh. It was a finishing charge, that laugh, by which she
carried her point, for the knight quickly questioned “Why this?”

“I was only thinking how odd thou wouldst appear if thou didst wear away
my pepelum. Thy subjects would think their king mad, if he met them
veiled as a woman.”

“Pardon, queen, I’ve been so absorbed, I forgot myself—” So saying,
he gracefully transferred from his shoulder to hers the shawl she had
permitted him for the night to wear. As the maiden adjusted it, something
fell out of its folds, glittering to her feet.

“Findings keepings;” she laughed, and stooped to pick up the object. As
she arose she turned it slowly toward the setting moon the better to
inspect the find.

The knight was alarmed, but it was too late to prevent her examination
now of his Teutonic cross and chain.

At a glance, Rizpah saw it was an emblem, of all others, hated by her
people, and with a low, startled cry she made a motion as if to hurl
it from her, but she checked herself with a powerful effort; suddenly
turning her black, piercing eyes upon her companion she took a step back.
She stood there the embodiment of an imperative question.

The knight quietly said: “Be calm, dear maid.”

Over her countenance passed a cloud which to the man all too plainly
said: “How darst thou use such terms to me?” and then the face hardened
again to imperative interrogation.

“Thou trustedst me four hours ago, under the lotus, try now my sincerity
by any sterner test.”

Turning her eyes full on his, with a voice without a quaver, but in
deep, measured tones indicative of suppressed emotion, she questioned as
she held out toward him his emblem, “What’s this?”

“Concealment from thee, having trusted me as thou hast, would be futile
not only, but hateful; thou knowst the meaning of the sign.”

“Who art thou then?”

“A Christian knight!”

“An enemy of my people everywhere; a spy here!” she exclaimed.

“No, never a spy! a true Christian knight never was such! Our warfare is
open and equal. I’m degraded by the defense from such an odious charge!”

“Why debate thy methods; ’tis enough for me to know thou art a foe to me
and mine.”

“No enemy of thine, but rather the friend of all humanity, woman.”

“Bloody friends I’ve heard!”

“No! Each one of my order is sworn, by awful vow, to protect the
traveler, the poor, the weak and woman with our last drop of blood! If we
two were all alone here and one of our lives must be forfeited to save
the other’s, mine would joy to go first.”

“Words are cheap, and thou can’st use them finely, knight.”

“Thou knowst, maiden, to what that cross alludes.”

“The Nazarene Imposter!”

“His followers revere Him?”

“Like madmen, they follow their phantom!”

“Didst ever hear of one wearing that sign, being untrue to it?”

“No, it’s their dread black-art.”

“Wouldst thou trust me if I swore by it?”

“I might; but I’d fear that devils would flock out of the airy deep to
witness thy vowing. Spare me that horror!”

“Maiden, thou’lt craze me by thy distrust and wild words. In God’s name
tell me what to do!”

“Swear, but wave back the evil spirits, if thou art wont to have them.”

“That sign is their lasting terror; but the silent palms and the stars
alone shall witness, ay, the God of all, as well. Here, make thou the
words as thou wilt. Now, I kiss the cross I love, and am ready. He suited
the action to the words. The maiden drew near to him, looking down into
his eyes searchingly and seemed assured by their serene frankness.”

“Go on, Rizpah, I’ll bind my soul with any words coined, and, remember
that I believe that perjury would consign me to misery untold here;
eternal woe hereafter!”

“I’ll trust thy solemn asseverations; they say that a superstition on the
right side will make even a Philistine bearable. Repeat, ‘I swear never
to harm any of Rizpah’s kin or clan, except in self-defense.’”

He complied.

“Again, ‘I swear to depart peacefully at once, and no more seek
companionship with the people this night met.’”

He complied, but murmured “cruelty.”

“And how?” she questioned.

“Wilt add a little?”

“Add what?”

“Add this ‘except by permission of the one ordaining my vow.’”

“It is so fixed.”

“I then swear it all.”

“Well, now go,” and she pointed to the hills.

“I obey, but yet plead delay.”

She hesitated and fell from being master to being mastered.

“Why, what benefits delay?”

“Oh, woman, I yearn as only a lonely heart can, to enjoy a little while
the fellowship and hospitality of thy people! For years homeless; for
months friendless, I’ve come to feel worthless. This is the first bright
hour in my life for many a day. Perhaps, maiden of Israel, thou mightst
make life worth living to me.”

It was a charge on her sympathy, and he knew it would succeed.

“A Crusader, ‘one of the armies of God,’ boasting a divine call to
conquer and convert the world, so talking?”

“Our armed crusades are ended forever; my occupation’s gone.”

She had hesitated, now she pitied the man, and woman-like, again
surrendered while she protested.

“I do not think there could come great harm from thy staying until
sunrise repast.”

“Bless thee, the nine sun gods bless thee, Esther.”

“Heathen!”

“Well; an Egyptian-Christian-Jew taught me to say this when too cheerful
to be solemn, and pious enough not to be frivolous.”

“An Egyptian-Hebrew-Christian! He must have been an Arab. That
name means the ‘mixed.’ But go to the men’s tents; to-morrow
I’ll have more wisdom. Peace and grace to thee; good night,
Christian-Heathen-Hebrew-Arabic-Egyptian!” She laughingly spoke and the
unbending made the knight, bold. He addressed her:

“I’d sleep in perfect peace, if Rizpah would give me a token.”

“I? what?” and the maiden drew back, offended. Her innocency remembered
no token then, but such solicited by her maiden friends, or given at
times to her father, a kiss.

“Place thy hand in mine, Rizpah.” She quickly complied, glad she was
mistaken, as to her suspicion and blushing within, as she thought how
strangely, easily, her mind had had the thought, “Well, now what, knight?”

“Promise me that while I’m permitted to tarry among thy people, I shall
have thy heart’s friendship; as freely, as loyally bestowed as if I were
thy brother.”

“Canst trust me, a woman, a girl, almost a stranger?”

“I trust thy woman’s heart as Joshua’s men of old trusted Rahab, a wreck,
but still a woman. Thou art infinitely more noble than she.”

“But men think us weak, fitful, garrulous.”

“Responsibility makes the weakest of thy sex heroines and pity is the
gateway to their hearts. Thou hast my life and my happiness as thy
responsibility; dost pity me?”

“Yes: go now. A Gentile hater of my people shall see of what metals
Jewish maidens are.”



CHAPTER XII.

ASTARTE OR MARY?

      “Who could resist; who in the universe?
      She did breathe ambrosia; so immerse
      My existence in a golden clime,
      She took me like a child of sucking time,
      And cradled me in roses. Thus condemned
      The current of my former life was stemmed:
      I bowed a tranced vassal.”—KEATS.


The Teutonic Knight of Saint Mary, through all his changing fortunes from
the time of his knighthood’s vow, preserved his moral integrity, his
loyalty to the lofty pattern of life set forth by the Queenly exemplar,
Mary, the mother of Jesus. Crusader days had so far improved his life as
to make him the outspoken denouncer of all impurity of life. He thought
his creed and his committal thereto complete. A change came over him. He
that, in the storm of battle, had often cried as his law and his delight
“_Deus Vult_,” “God wills,” now feared to seek to know, much less to do,
that will. The intoxications of a new love were upon him; unconsciously
he was suffering his queen to be veiled, eclipsed; and he yielded to the
tide that swept him toward the Jewish maiden. Sometimes his conscience
smote him, but he parleyed with it, called it a fool, or placated it by
the assurance that this whole matter could be stopped any time at will.
Like many another man, forgetting all else except that he was a refined
animal, he passed away from the beacons of Bethlehem to the chambers of
Imagery, the gods of Egypt. In chains of roses, though with many fine
Christian sentiments on his lips, he went heart first, head first, into
an utter committal of all his being to the possession of his enchanter.
He expected to regard the laws of the land and society, but nothing
more. He was led by his tempting spirit to Ramoth Gilead, now sometimes
called Gerara or Gerash. There it was that Rizpah’s family took up its
abode. With them, and of them, was Sir Charleroy, a welcome guest, his
welcome secured by his own personal efforts to please, in part; but more
through the _finesse_ of Rizpah, who having promised to be a sister, was
permitting her mind to wonder what he might become if only her friend
were a Hebrew. Such day dreams were sinless, but impolitic if she really
meant to keep herself free and painless, when the parting time came. But
it so happens that the questions and problems of the heart are thrust
ever on life when most responsive, least experienced. The wonder is not
that so many decide them ill, but that youth so pressed, so ardent, so
callow, as a whole decide so fairly well the master social problem. The
life of Harrimai and his following was very Jewish at Gerash. There was
an unusual amount of national pride evinced in that locality for the
times. Sir Charleroy was interested deeply in the place because of its
splendid ruins, he said, but as need not be explained, chiefly on account
of its natural beauties amid which Rizpah was peerless. The Israelitish
colony revered the place for its ancient part in Jewish history, and
because they believed no Moslem invader had ever defiled the place. The
knight and the Jewish father and daughter were in frequent companionship.
They were becoming very intimate, meanwhile gaining power each to make
the other eventually very miserable.

Rizpah was pushing out in a new experience to her. If she were enamored
she did not fully know it. She only knew that the knight’s companionship
was very delightful. If she had any misgivings as to the propriety of her
course she silenced them by saying to herself: “Sir Charleroy has sworn
to leave us forever when I say he shall. I can end this matter any time.”
She thought she could, but the shield of her safety was already too heavy
for her. She could not have said go, had she tried. Time deepened the
perplexity by multiplying the enmeshings of the trio. The knight and
Rizpah were much in each other’s society. They spoke of this as being
a happy circumstance, as youths usually do. “We shall understand each
other so well—too well to misunderstand.” Some of the Jewish young men
were jealous and made some very natural remarks, under the circumstances,
though the remarks were rather bitter with jealousy. The older people,
some of them, anxious for an alliance by marriage with the rich and
powerful Harrimai family, took up the undertone complaints of the young
people of their race. Of course, the murmurings were cloaked with
declarations that they were all for the sake of righteousness! Harrimai,
in heart far from assured, was yet compelled to defend the two secretly
loving, in order to defend his daughter’s fair fame. The two young
people wore the armor of teacher and pupil; the young woman constantly
bepraising the knight’s wondrous knowledge of the antiquities, etc., of
all the out-of-the-way places they visited. So the meshes multiplied,
though the caviling was in part silenced. As teacher and pupil they went
on, and Harrimai knew, as did Sir Charleroy, that the relationship had
its peril, as it existed between a man and woman who could love yet ought
not to love. Rizpah did not at first know how easily a woman’s heart
surrenders to a man to whom she is accustomed to look upward. In fact she
drifted in a delight in all pertaining to the knight; her only outlook
and watchfulness being toward her father. The way the latter at times
keenly, silently observed her and the knight made her uneasy. She knew
intuitively that not far away there was impending on her father’s part
an investigation. She determined to delay, if not prevent it. One day
she bounded into her father’s presence, aglow with enthusiasm over the
wonders unfolded to her by Sir Charleroy during a visit to the ruins of
Gerash’s temple of the sun. The old man was charmed by her description,
and when she declared her intention to pursue her investigations beyond
their city he hesitated to forbid.

“And now, father, I’m going to that old city of the Giants, Bozrah.”

The father, with an effort at firmness, dissuadingly replied:

“We may all go there, but not now. It is better to bide here quietly,
until we learn that the perils of receding war have left assured peace.”

“Why, father, I’m not afraid!”

“I know it; so much the more need for me to be: these over-daring
daughters need over-careful guardians. Some of us aged ones are suffered
to tarry long from paradise, in order that we may see our darlings in
the right path thither.”

“Give me my swift white dromedary and two attendants and I’ll defy the
miserables who ambuscade along the way.”

Just then, there dashed toward them, over the oleander-fringed road which
passed due north along the little river and across the city, a rider on
panting steed.

“It’s the news runner!” said the patriarch.

“Shall we signal him?” she questioned.

“No, daughter, we will meet him yonder, where the two great streets
cross. He will await me.”

When the father and daughter arrived, a crowd had already gathered about
the horseman. Some pressed him for news, but he looked straight ahead
at his horse, now slaking its thirst, and merely snapped out, “News? My
beast is thirsty!”

When Harrimai drew near the rider saluted him and at once unfolded his
budget: “Father, I’m this day from Bozrah. Its ruins are not ruined. All
around there, and from there to here, the herds sleep in the shade, and
the carrion birds that have so long been hovering around us for human
food have fled back to Egypt and Europe and Hades!”

“Praised be the Father of Israel! I shall live then, as I prayed I might,
to see the infidels slung out of our holy places!” So spoke the priest,
and as he affectionately embraced some aged Israelites who gathered about
him, the horseman responded:

“God reigns and Israel has peace.” He put spurs to his horse then, and
dashed away across the river to spread to other hamlets the glorious
news.

Next morning Rizpah, having carried her point, was ready to depart for
Bozrah. She had taken silence on her father’s part for consent, and
pursued her preparations as if it were so ordered. All things being ready
she silenced protest by a good-by kiss.

“But daughter! What escort?”

“Ah,” she thought, “victory! I can go if well attended.” She continued
aloud; “Perhaps Sir Charleroy’s Egyptian might attend me, since our
servants are busy in the groves.” The maiden called to her Ichabod, who
had found a home in Harrimai’s establishment, his identity hidden under
the assumed name Huykos, a name from the Nile land, meaning “Shepherd
King.” “I’ll take it,” said Ichabod, one day to Sir Charleroy, “that all
unknown I may follow my pilgrim comrade and perhaps honor my new found
‘Shepherd King.’”

“One will be a meager escort daughter,” interposed Harrimai.

“Oh, fear for me nothing, father. I’ll quickly be at Bozrah, where there
are Israelites not a few who will be proud to aid thy daughter.”

“No, daughter it must not be. I’ll call the young men from the vineyard,
if thou must go.”

“Another victory,” her heart whispered; then quickly turning to Sir
Charleroy she exclaimed, “My father must not call the workmen from their
tasks; what sayst thou? Wilt serve us both by joining my body-guard,
Ahasuerus? Come, to please my father?”

The knight had hoped for and expected the summons, so needed no urgency
and was instantly preparing for the start.

Harrimai was not pleased by the arrangement, and yet he was forced to
thank the knight for consenting. His native courtliness compelled this
much, and Rizpah’s genius had precluded all gainsaying on his part. And
so they rode away, Rizpah in a delight, which she could not clearly
define; Sir Charleroy blinded already by the cry that at last led to
giant Samson’s blinding, namely: “Get her for me.” Ichabod masked under
his name, Huykos, followed after, knowing that the knight was captive to
the maid and feeling very happy over the circumstance. As he rode, his
mind ran forward to the wedding, and he laughed again and again at the
witty things he imagined himself saying at that wedding. Suddenly the
scene changed from one of careless delight to one filled with the frights
of impending peril. At a turn in the road, from behind a wall, there rose
up a company of Mamelukes. Rizpah saw them the instant her companion did
and exclaimed, as she half turned her camel:

“Let’s race back to Gerash!”

But four dusky sentinels were behind them. They were surrounded.

“’Tis fight or flight, the latter futile,” whispered the knight. They
paused, and Ichabod joined them. Sir Charleroy drawing his sword again
spoke: “Comrade it’s a desperate chance; a dozen to two; but we have
taken such before together!”

“Let the knight say a dozen to three,” exclaimed Rizpah, as she drew from
the folds of her garments a saber before unseen and touched the edge
expert-like with her thumb.

“Oh, brave, pure girl! I don’t fear death; I’d court it for thee,
but”—Sir Charleroy paused and looked unutterable misery; then instantly
recovering and emboldened by the danger that threatened to soon end all,
he exclaimed:

“Rizpah, thou rememberest my knight-vow at Purim; thou shalt see how
I’ll keep it; if I perish, remember I have loved thee as I never loved
any other being.” The words were very vehement, but probably very true.
Rizpah blushed, brushed a tear from her eyes and then, in the frankness
that such an hour engenders, replied: “And I thee—” the rest was drowned
in the wild shout of the Turks as they close about the three. But they
had not counted upon such a reception as those two men and that one
woman gave them. Ichabod fought like a roused mastiff, without a thought
of fear for himself. He struck vehemently, but a calm settled smile
was on his countenance. Sir Charleroy saw it and years after said,
recalling the incident, “amidst the greatest perils there’s a wondrous
peace to one who feels he is striking for God, close to the portals of
death and judgment.” The knight himself fenced with the rapidity of
lightning. Again and again by ones and twos and threes, the enemies
charged down upon him, but he fought with the prowess of a crusader, the
fire of a lover. Those parts had never before witnessed such splendid
swordsmanship. As the attack had been sudden, so was its ending. Two
Turks fell beneath Sir Charleroy’s weapon in quick succession, and a
third fell under his own horse, which was desperately wounded by a
sweeping blow from the knight. At the same, instant, almost, Ichabod and
one of the foemen, whom he was engaging, fell in significant silence,
while another struggled to drag Rizpah to his steed that he might make
her captive. Sir Charleroy, wounded and faint, dealt the latter miscreant
a staggering blow and the maiden, plucking a small dagger from the folds
of her garment, finished with a single thrust her captor’s earthly career.

Those of the marauders that were able, in fright took flight, wheeling
away more quickly than they had come.

“Rizpah, wilt thou go to Ich—Huykos? I can’t,” softly called out Sir
Charleroy.

The maiden flew to the Jew’s side, but quickly started back, crying:
“Oh, knight, come quickly! He’s dead!” Just then, looking back, a sudden
horror fell upon her, for she saw Sir Charleroy half reclining against a
rock, bleeding and pale. Like lightning she thought: “Both dead; I alone;
home miles away; the Turks hovering near.”

But the thought of her own peril was only momentary, and after it there
came more rapidly than can be written the thought that one dear as her
life was dead, dead for her sake. Instantly, on feet that seemed winged,
she was at Sir Charleroy’s side. All her being merged into one great,
instant impulse to save her lover. Over him she bent, and with passionate
sorrow tried with her garments to staunch the flow of blood. In the
sincerity and frankness that the presence of death ever brings, she arose
above all prudishness and impulsively kissed the cold lips of the knight.
His eyes opened, and he faintly murmured:

“I’m so happy, dear Rizpah. I know now it is well.” A little later he
murmured: “Flee now for home. Thou’lt reach it by sun down. Leave me. To
tarry is to court a harem prison.”

“Hush,” impatiently responded she; “see this dagger?” and she held it
close to his half-closed eyes. “My pious father gave it me when I was
but a girl. He told me it might some time save me from dishonor. It did
so to-day, once. If those black demons return, sure as my name is Rizpah,
it will do so again, even though I turn it toward my own heart.”

“Better flee, my love.”

“Not ’till thou can’st go, too.”

“I may die.”

“Then, I’ll go into the shadow land with thee.”

The knight was silent. The pain of his wounds was forgotten in the joy
of that lone companionship. But, after all, his mind, perturbed by the
shock, the pain, the dangers, was unable to rest. He tried to say to
himself the prayer of the dying crusader, but the words were confused.
He could not remember many of them; those he remembered, seemed to
be unwilling to go heavenward for mercy. Some way in the clearness
of judgment as to simple right and wrong that comes to a mind on the
confines of death, he found himself condemned. He was haunted by a vision
that came to his mind first the day he decided against conviction, at all
hazard, to follow the family of Rizpah and Harrimai to Gerash. The vision
was that of the false prophet Zedekiah, making himself horns of iron, and
with them appearing before the wicked King of Israel, Ahab, to proclaim,
not the things of God, but the things the prophet knew would meet the
desires of his royal master. The wounded often fall asleep; it’s nature’s
way of recovering from a shock and of chaining pain in forgetfulness. Sir
Charleroy knew not whether he was sleeping or not; but the vision passed
in painful vividness over his mind. He heard the prophet’s voice saying:
“Go up to Ramoth Gilead, and prosper.” Then he saw a true prophet of God
standing nigh, with sorrowful countenance, and the face was that of the
Madonna. The latter moaned in his ear, warningly; “_Who shall persuade,
that he may go up and fall at Ramoth Gilead? Then there came forth a
spirit and said, I will persuade._”

The spirit was black-garbed, in a blood-spotted garment, and wore, as
Sir Charleroy seemed to see the apparition, a scarlet crescent, and
the knight thought of Astarte. He heard in his vision the beatings as
of mighty wings, rising to flight, and tried to turn and see who the
departing one was. It seemed as if the spirit of Astarte-like countenance
transfixed him with a gaze, so he could not turn; but a loneliness
and darkness, almost palpable, came over him, and he knew it was the
Madonna-faced prophet that had departed. The knight started up as if to
rise, but, awakening, found Rizpah’s restraining arms about him.

“Stay,” she soothingly said. “Thou art feverish, and too weak to rise.
Thou’lt be better presently; the blood has ceased flowing.”

“Oh,” he groaned; “I had such a dream!”

Just then Rizpah beheld coming in the distance, from toward Gerash,
a horseman, at rapid pace. Her first thought, “The enemy returns.”
Her second brought her hand swiftly to her reeking dagger, as she
soliloquized: “He’s only one, and I’m one; if but a woman.”

The rider drew nearer, and she was almost overcome with the revulsion
from fear and despair; for the comer was Laconic, the “news runner.”
He knew the maiden, and wheeling his steed to her side with his usual
brevity, cried out:

“Why, didst thou kill both?”

“Shame on thee; ’twas the Arabs!”

“I thought so. I met two horsemen and two riderless steeds, galloping
away down the road. I knew they’d been at some devilment.”

“Good runner, in the name of God, speed thee to Bozrah, or somewhere, for
help, and bring it quickly.”

“Bring? not so; send. _I_ come not ’till my set day!”

“Any thing; but hurry!”

“Hurry! Yes, hurry! I love hurry.”

He was away like an arrow, in his course. His steed leaped over one of
the dead miscreants and Laconic shouted back: “Carrion dinners! Thank
God!”



CHAPTER XIII.

FROM RAMOTH GILEAD TO DAMASCUS

      “Daughters of Eve! your mother did not well:
      ...
      The man was not deceived, nor yet could stand:
      He chose to lose for love of her, his throne,—
      With her could die, but could not live alone.”

      “Daughters of Eve! it was for your dear sake
      The world’s first hero died an uncrowned king:
      But God’s great pity touched the great mistake
      And made his married love a sacred thing;
      For yet his nobler sons, if aught be true,
      Find the lost Eden in their love of you.”—JEAN INGELOW.


For many days Sir Charleroy lay wounded at the house of the Patriarch
Harrimai, and she for whom he had periled his life was his constant
attendant. He sorely needed her services, and all Gerash, the priest
included, conceded the fitness of Rizpah’s rendering the aid she was able
to render. The maiden was all willing to minister, and as she ministered
her interest in the man deepened. When she began to look up to him as her
teacher before the battle with Mamelukes, she began a sort of worship;
when she saw him fighting to the death in her behalf, her worship became
an engrossing adoration. If there had been any thing more required in
order to enlist all the affection of which her being was capable, these
opportunities of administering to her suffering lover furnished it. As
God loves because He has helped a needy one, so a woman’s heart easily
flows out toward the object for whom she has performed pious services.
On the other hand, Sir Charleroy was more and more enchanted, for there
is life and charm beyond all description to the touch of the queen of a
man’s heart when he is in trouble or pain.

Rizpah, in woman’s most queenly garb, the one appointed her at her
creation, that of “help-mate,” was beautiful indeed, and queenly indeed,
to the man whose heart had enthroned her. When alone, they treated each
other with the frank, earnest tenderness, fitting as well as natural, to
the betrothed. Though they did not admit it even to themselves, they had
fully determined to be one, at all peril, in spite of any opposition,
reason approving or disapproving. They often said to one another, “Our
betrothal taking place at the very gates of death was therefore a very
solemn one that nothing on earth can annul.” The sentiment was perfect
and very agreeable; and with them a beautiful and agreeable sentiment
became as controlling as if it were a revelation from heaven. In this,
they were perfectly human. They even persuaded themselves of God’s
favor, thanking Him for what they were pleased to call His Providence,
namely the peril and long sickness leading to the betrothal and days of
love-life together. They were right in conceding that God’s hand was in
the battle; but they were impious in interpreting His Providence to be
fully in accord with their desires. In this, too, they were very human.
But there were shadows about them; for while at times they drifted
along on prismatic tides of Lethean delights, there were other times
when they remembered that there was to come a day of explanation, with
probable following storms. Both were glad and sorry at once, in view of
each day’s improvement of the knight’s physical condition. Convalescent,
they both realized, meant a great change in their relationship; perhaps
a long separation. Their anxiety was deepened by a change in the
demeanor of Rizpah’s father. His eyes no longer questioningly followed
the young people; but his words, uttered in tones of steelly coldness
and very deliberately, bespoke discovery, conviction, conclusion and
determination. One sentence often addressed to the lovers, was to them
like the rumblings of an approaching, gathering storm. “Our friend is
improving, and I’m very glad that he will be able soon to go to his own
dear people.” The lovers discerned a peculiar emphasis on the words “I’m
glad” and “his own dear people.” The politic priest, having read, as from
an open book, the heart-secret of the young people, was awaiting with
self-confidence an opportunity to confound them utterly. The crisis came
one Sabbath morning, just after the morning meal of the convalescent.
Harrimai had paid his usual visit and uttered his steelly sentences. This
time the words seemed especially cruel to Rizpah, for she was nervous,
indeed ill; the prolonged services and anxieties she had experienced of
late were telling on her strength. As Harrimai departed, she gave way
to a flood of tears. Rizpah was not wont to weep, nor was Sir Charleroy
skilled in comforting; but both he and she were lovers, hence it seemed
very natural to her frankly to pillow her head on the knight’s shoulder,
and very natural to him to seek to comfort with a tenderness all new
to him. Had one asked Rizpah if she were going back to babyishness, or
forward toward heaven, she could not have answered. Had one asked the
knight if he were becoming motherly, or turning priest, he could not have
answered. He felt very tender, and his work of comforting seemed like
an act of high piety. Both were glad of the tears which brought the joy
of comforting and being comforted, then, there and that way. They were
passing into a superb mood when quite unexpectedly to them, but quite
expectedly to himself, Harrimai suddenly re-entered the apartment. He
expected to surprise them and he did so, thoroughly. The scene following
was exciting, dramatic and decisive.

Rizpah, with a slight scream, disengaged herself from Sir Charleroy’s
embrace, and hid her face in her hands. The eyes of the knight and priest
met; neither quailed; both remained for a few moments silent; but their
fixed gaze said plainly enough, each to each, “We must have a settlement
here and now!” Harrimai spoke first, addressing himself to his daughter:
“Young woman, this conduct is immodest and disgraceful! In a Hebrew
maiden, heaven defying! I’ll speak to thee further of this presently.
Now, begone, and leave me to deal with this man!” Harrimai made arrogant
by his profession and the implicit obedience he had been wont to receive
from his followers, expected to fill the young people with dismay by the
suddenness of his assault. But Rizpah, though young, was no tongue-tied
spring, and Sir Charleroy of Gerash was still Sir Charleroy of Acre.

The words “dishonorable,” “immodest,” stung the maiden; sullenly,
defiantly almost, she settled back in her seat and leaned toward the
knight, as if to say, “I cast my lot with this man.” Her eyes plainly,
angrily said to the man whom all her life hitherto she had reverently
obeyed, “Now do thy worst.” It was impious, passionate, love going
headlong from filial duty and religious instruction to the shrine of
Astarte. The parent was chagrined at this unexpected repulse, but with
his usual adroitness pretending not to notice it, he turned to the
knight. “Stranger, this outrage excuses abruptness on my part; who art
thou?”

Sir Charleroy arose from his hammock, the excitement and shock of the
rencounter finishing his recovery, by rousing all the machineries of his
system into normal activities.

“Sir Priest, I’ve nothing to conceal. I love the truth and this maiden
too well to lie—I am a Christian knight.”

“I knew it; but thy confession shortens our parley. Now, ‘Christian
knight,’ tell me why thou didst attempt to allure to thyself the
affections of a mere girl; a Jewish maiden whom thou canst never hope
to wed? Dost thou so pay our hospitality; setting at defiance parental
authority and our Jewish laws? Dost thou under the favors of this house
intrigue to quench all its light?”

“Thou brandst that girl and me with the epithet ‘dishonorable;’ and thou
a priest! Men of thy holy calling should never slander, especially not
their own kin and strangers.” The knight was livid, but not with fear.

“Can an Israelite slander Crusaders? these professors of high religion,
these followers of an impostor, these enemies of my people, these
practicers of intrigues, races, jousts, gluttonies and drunkenness; men
whose sole serious business is murderous war? Tell me?”

The knight’s face flushed a little, but with complete self-control he
replied:

“Some of my comrades have been unworthy men, ’tis true; but some Jews
have fallen to every crime and violence. Have all fallen? Thou hast not,
perhaps! Shall all be maligned for the few? What says Harrimai?”

“Thou art of those, who come to thrust us out of our land and thrust in
here a hated creed!”

“I am of those who live to serve the needy and erring.”

“To the proof; I’ve heard from thy clans only of bloodshed.”

“Our order sprung up four hundred years ago, under the stirring appeals
of religionists as pious and humane as thou; or any of thy kind since
Aaron. We were begotten in a time when grim famine made the well-fed
wondrous kind. Those hours that make men universally akin.”

“Go on; ‘Christian knight,’ I’d like a lesson of that sort.”

“Then remember Noah’s covenant of peace. On our banners often we have our
spirit expressed by a dove flying toward a tempest-tossed ark; in the
messenger’s beak an olive branch; around the whole the bow of promise.”

“Well what of all this?”

“The ark is the world; the rest is plain.”

“Oh, a charming theory,” sarcastically responded Harrimai.

“I wear it next my heart;” so saying the knight threw aside his cloak and
drew from around his body a banner he had hitherto concealed. “See here,
‘_chastity_,’ ‘_temperance_,’ ‘_courtesy_.’ Our mottoes in peace or war!
Women, children and pilgrims, in a word the needy the world around, are
the wards of all true Christian knights!”

“Mottoes! words! Oh, yes, words! But then the Crusaders have used swords!
Their words I’ll meet with words to their confounding, nor while I live
will I forget their cruel weapons.” So saying the priest swept out of the
sick chamber in manifest rage.

He returned in a moment, and with the self-command of wrath, conscious
of power, said: “Thou wouldst make all men _akin_! Thou and thine are
dreamers, the world thinks; to-day it laughs to scorn this bootless
pursuit of a chimera. Leave us forthwith and in the peace that thou
foundst here. When the kinship is reality, thou mayst come to us for
further talk; ’till then remember thou art a Christian, I a Jew!”

“Thou art religious! Heavens! what a tender shepherd.”

Harrimai was very much angered, but he retorted with self-control; “Oh,
yes, and the God of all hath seven garments. In creation, honor and
glory; in providence, majesty; as lawgiver, might and whiteness; of
spotless light when he appears as a Saviour. He is clad with zeal when
he punishes, and with blood red when He revenges. I would be like Him.
By the glory of God! thou follower of Nazereth’s Impostor, sooner than
suffer thy blood to contaminate my family lines, I’d hew thee to pieces
as Agag was hewn! Rizpah, thou knowest me; wed him and thou’lt be
widowed, though carrying the unborn; though widow-hood broke thy heart.
I’d rather a thousand times see thee lying dead by thy true Jewish mother
than——.” The priest, in a tumult of fanatical passion mingled with the
grief of offended pride, lacked for words to express the climax of his
feelings; so covering his tearless eyes, as one weeping, he rushed out
from those he had assailed. He persuaded himself that he had spoken all
for the glory of God; the lovers thought of their solemn betrothal and
their love which they were certain was as fine as any earth ever knew,
and they felt that they were martyrs. Both sides appealed to God and in a
spirit very ungodly, but very human, braced themselves for opposing war.

When the maiden became somewhat calm, Sir Charleroy found words to
question:

“Harrimai cannot find heart to blast his idol’s happiness! He does not
mean all he said?”

“Alas, he does. It’s part of the Patriarch’s religion to hate such as
thou, as he does. He means more, if possible, than he spoke. Our people
unveil the bosom and cover the mouth; thine cover the bosom and unveil
the mouth. Ye talk, we burn.”

“Has pure love like ours no sanctity in his sight?”

“Alas, he can not believe any love pure that is between Gentile and
Israelite. He was sneering at ours a few evenings ago, when he remarked
as we were looking at the stars, ‘Hyperius or Venus of the evening is
mistakenly called the star of love. Lucifer of the morning is the true
emblem of most young love. It rises in maddening brightness, but fades
out of sight very soon.’”

“Grim omen! We took Venus for our betrothal star; they say it is so
bright at times that it casts a shadow. I feel its shadow now,” said the
knight, meditating.

“Yes, shadows and shadows!” exclaimed Rizpah, with a flood of tears,
and she swayed back and forth as she wept. She was driven by tempests
of fear that made her ready to flee, and held by anchors of passionate
loving that made her ready to brave all fears; therefore the swaying and
weeping. At intervals the two communed and debated concerning the one
all-engrossing theme, their future course.

“Rizpah,” comfortingly spoke the knight, “when in the greatest peril of
our lives, we were drawn, by danger, closer to each other.” There was a
glance of entreaty in her eyes as if to say, “Go save thy life and let
the Jewish maiden die alone;” but the knight drew her to his bosom, and
she responded by an embrace of passionate clinging.

“I go from Rizpah only at her command or death’s,” said the knight
solemnly.

The maiden shuddered, and again passionately clung to her lover. He
interpreted her action, and again comfortingly spoke:

“Fear not; earth has somewhere a refuge for us until death call us!”

“Somewhere? What, go away?”

“Yes. It is that or separation.”

She knew that full well. But to flee from home with the knight, the
alternative presented to her mind, startled her. At first thought it
seemed a reckless, perilous, unfilial, God-defying act; then it seemed
attractive because so daring. A tumult of arguments questionings, fears
and yearnings mingled in her mind. She had never learned to arrange
arguments, _pro_ and _con_, judicially. What woman whose feelings were
aroused ever did that?

He pressed on her flight, enforcing each reason presented with an
affectionate embrace; her tongue spoke not, but her embraces replied
to each of his. She had a conscience, and it asserted itself until she
placated it by a half formed resolution to be very prudent and do nothing
rashly. The resolution comforted her at first; then she began to follow
it, mentally, to its sequence. She thought of her father praising her
piety as her purpose was disclosed. Something within, coming like a voice
from her heart, mockingly whispered “Go on.” She pursued the meditations,
and heard, in imagination, her neighbors praising her as a martyr of love
for faith’s sake. Again the mocking inner voice said, “Go on.” Again
her thoughts moved forward until she saw that conscience was driving
her to separation from Sir Charleroy; in a word, making her walk in a
funeral procession, her own dead heart on the bier. The thought made her
shudder and recoil; then the knight’s arms encircled her more closely
than before. Again and again she took the foregoing mental journey, again
and again recoiled, shuddering from the alternative of separation from
her lover, and at each recoil felt his grateful embrace. Each time she
traversed the mental course the journey toward duty by the privation of
love seemed more onerous. Distaste was followed by repugnance; then utter
weariness. At last, utterly wretched, her purposes and perceptions fell
into hopeless confusion, and she exclaimed “Charleroy, Charleroy, save
me!”

The knight was at a loss to divine fully her meaning, yet tenderly he
answered:

“Save Rizpah? She knows I’d do that in death’s teeth!”

“Oh, Charleroy, ’tis not death, but life, that I fear. How shall I live?”

Quickly he ejaculated:

“With me, forever, and safe!”

The maiden remembering many an admonition she had heard concerning the
inconstancy of lovers, yet driven forward by the all-abandoning love of
her woman’s heart, gave voice to all she felt and feared in one vehement
interrogation:

“Oh, Charleroy, if I forsake all for my love of thee shall I ever be
discarded by——?”

The knight interpreted her meaning in advance, and answered by an embrace
that was all-assuring. He was rejoiced beyond words, for he knew full
well that hesitation and questionings like hers were on the rim of full
surrender. Suddenly he became very serious and felt that peculiar glow
that came over him the day of his departure from England when the bishop
blessed him. He appreciated in a measure the responsibility following
such a committal of another’s life to himself as Rizpah was making,
and he embraced her with an anxious reverence, such as a pietist feels
clasping an ideal of his God. It was well for both that the man was thus
impressed by the committal of that maiden of her soul and body to his
pilotage. Pity the woman who reaches the extremity Rizpah had reached if
her conqueror be not white-souled and sincere.

Rizpah an incarnation of passion, a wreath of lotus flowers on a sea
of delight, tossed by the winds, borne by the tides, surrendered all
thoughts that might disturb, that she might enjoy what she had embraced
as her fate to the full.

Sir Charleroy constantly prayed within himself, “My mother’s God help me
to deal as purely with my sacred charge as I would with the Virgin Patron
of my knightly order, were she here now to seek my knightly services.”
The prayer was effectual, for the Knight sincerely sought to make it so.

Decisive action followed this interview between the lovers. That very
night they fled together from Gerash, and with only one trusty servant;
after many vicissitudes they reached Damascus. For a time Rizpah placated
her conscience by asserting that she would not consent to the wedding
ceremonial until it could have her father’s approval, or that of some
Jewish Rabbi. Finding it impossible to obtain these, she irresolutely
suggested the advisability of delaying until some change, quite vaguely
apprehended, might come. But there were two Rizpah’s—one that wanted to
be a faithful Jewess, and one that wanted only and constantly a darling
idol. Sir Charleroy sided with the latter; it was two to one, and the one
surrendered. Ere long a Christian missionary at Damascus sealed the vows.
They confided their story to him, as if to ask his advice as to what
they had best do, but with the impetuosity of lovers they had decided
their course before they asked advice, and did not even ask it until
they had pledged their vows before this priest. But it was a balm to
conscience to ask advice. And the Sacrist answered them briefly: “Venus
and Mercury, fabled deities of love and wisdom. They are much alike
in the firmament, and revolve in orbits in accord with the earth’s.
Methinks it is _wisdom_ to _love_ in the earth. But, children, Venus sets
sooner than Mercury; see to it that you make it your wisdom to love as
long as you go round with the world.” Then they both said “Amen.” For a
moment Sir Charleroy heard within him that impressive sound as of the
beating of mighty, departing wings. He dragged his attention quickly from
the introspection to gaze into the eyes of his bride. He was glad that a
Christian priest had prayed for a blessing upon himself and her, but all
sophistry aside, the truth remained. Astarte’s was the presiding spirit
at that wedding.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE THEATER OF GIANTS.

      “Once more we look and all is still as night,
      All desolate! Groves, temples, palaces
      Swept from the sight and nothing visible,
                ... Save here and there
      An empty tomb, a fragment like a limb
      Of some dismembered giant.”

    “Og, the King of Bashan, came out against us to battle at
    Edrei, and the Lord said unto me, Fear him not: for I will
    deliver him, and all his people, and his land, into thy hand.
    And we took ... three-score cities of the Kingdom of Og, in
    Bashan.”—Deut. iii.

    “Bashan is the land of sacred romance.” “His mission [Paul’s,
    Gal., 1: 15] to Bashan seems to have been eminently successful.
    Heathen temples were converted into churches, and new churches
    built in every town.” “In the fourth century nearly the whole
    of the inhabitants were Christian.” “The Christians are now
    nearly all gone.” “Nowhere else is patriarchal life so fully
    exemplified.” “Bashan is literally crowded with towns, the
    majority of them deserted, but not ruined.” “Many are as
    perfect as if finished only yesterday.”—PORTER’S “_Giant
    Cities_.”


For a brief period the delightful seasons, the famed rivers, the stately
surrounding mountains, the paradisiacal plains, the antiquities, the
pleasure gardens and palaces of the city of Damascus, whose name by
interpretation is “change,” offered sought-for gratification to the
knight and his bride. Harrimai died suddenly after the elopement of
his child, the only person on earth whom he truly loved, the only
one that had ever successfully defied his mandates. He had purposed
disinheriting her for her act, but before he could execute that purpose,
death disinherited him. Some said that he died of a broken heart; the
physicians said he was taken off by a fit; Sir Charleroy said he died
because his proud will was crossed. Rizpah inherited a fortune that
helped both her and her husband to forget the old priest’s maledictions
by enabling them to enjoy all there was to be enjoyed in Damascus, “the
eye of the East.” They gave up unreservedly to pleasure, and centered
the world more and more in themselves. Sir Charleroy did this easily,
reasoning that, having had so many pains, he was entitled to compensating
pleasures. He heard from England; and the news was to the effect that
there had been changes and changes in his native land. Many of those he
once knew, including his mother, were dead; and he himself was forgotten
as dead. Sententiously, bitterly he summed up his feelings: “They thought
me dead, and, my mother and her fortune being gone, did not care to
find out whether I was dead or not; therefore let them think as they
thought.” Rizpah feared the lashings of conscience, and, having given up
every thing once dear to enter the life she had, courted forgetfulness
of the past, pleasure for the present. The two had within themselves
exuberant youth, a wealth of possibilities of happiness; the elements
that, like the abundance of the volcano, paints the sky gorgeously when
rising heavenward; like it, in the downward course, followed by darkness
and disaster. The two, differing in almost every thing but fervor
of temperament, were in accord in pursuit of change; they persuaded
themselves that they were growing to be like each other, when they were
only exalting the one thing, love of excitement, in which they were alike.

Damascus, naturally, in time, became uninteresting and vapid to them
both. They wore it out; they wanted new scenes. They heard that a caravan
of Mohammedan pilgrims was to pass through their city on the way to
Mecca to procure besim balm and holy chaplets, and promptly determined
to journey with it; but not to Mecca. The caravan was to pass through
Bashan, and the two excitement-seekers desired to visit the latter land
of wonders. They readily garbed themselves as Mohammedans, though once
they would have loathed such garbing as a defilement. They desired
company toward Bashan, and since the time they defied their consciences
in order to be wedded to each other, their consciences had been wont
to be very submissive in the face of their desires. They explained to
themselves the absence of qualms of conscience in the face of a pretense
of being Moslems, as the result of a growth toward liberality on their
part. The explanation made them comfortably complacent, although the fact
was that they had passed far beyond liberalism toward nothingism.

Passing Musmeth and Khubat of the Argob, they tarried after a time at
Edrei, just inside the shore line of that mysterious black, lava sea,
the Lejah. They were in a country where nature, art and desolation had
done their greatest. Following a passing impulse seemed to them to have
brought them thither, but one believing in God’s constant providence will
readily believe that they were led thither as to a school. There were
omen and prophecy confronting them. These fervent souls had gone from
hymen’s altar filled with romancings, under a glow of prismatic auroras,
never pausing to perceive that from each wedding time there winds a troop
of serious years burdened with many a commonplace duty. Their love had
been volcanic, their impulses ecstatic, their aims toward things filled
with commotion. The wine in their cup was to leave dregs; after the
fire there was to be ashes, and it was fitting that they contemplated
a specimen of great desolation and dreariness, the result of great
fires and great storms. So they were within that wonder of the world,
three hundred and fifty square miles of awful plain, filled with ruined
towns and cities. Heaved up here and there by jutting basalt rocks, the
plain seemed filled with black ice-bergs; ridged at intervals the plain
suggested an ocean wave-tossed. Therein is many a cave and cranny place,
fit abode for the wild beast or robber; fit abode for ghosts, if one
seeks to believe there are such. But therein were only a few green spots,
oases, to bid the traveler welcome. Ere long the knight and his consort
wore out the Lejah, and, in so doing, in part, wore out themselves. They
had a fullness of the pleasure of the kind which lacks recreation. As it
was, they stayed there longer than it was well for them to stay.

Rizpah, the passion flower of Gerash, experiencing the supreme exaction
of womanhood now, began to droop. Months spent in pursuit of excitement,
the great change in her manner of life, as well as the oppressive
desolations of her surroundings, had drawn heavily upon her resources
physically. Reaction after exaltation, and nervous discord after nervous
tension are natural results, always.

The knight discerned the change of temper, and as an anxious novice went
about correcting the matter. He knew little concerning woman, except
that love of her intoxicates; delighting in the intoxication he sought
to stimulate Rizpah’s flagging energies by pushing her onward into
the feverish brilliancy that was so delightful to himself. It was an
attempt to cure physical impoverishment by the renewal of its causes.
She was at times complacent, because incompetent to resist; passive,
because enervated. He was most selfish, though not realizing the fact,
when trying to be most tender. In fact, the twain were on the rim of
a test period in their married life and being unskilled in its common
places, unfitted to stand the test. Sir Charleroy had recourse to the
only physician he deemed adequate; one whom on account of his dress he
called “Old Sheepskin.” This was a guide, with a motly group of Druses
assistants, and an unpronouncible name.

“Come, Rizpah, ‘Old Sheepskin Jacket’ has put on his red tunic and
leathern girdle to carry us a camel voyage in-sea; if we do not give the
man a job he’ll fall to stealing again.”

Rizpah languidly shook her head.

“But we must patronize the man to keep up what little honesty he has, and
he has some. He told me but yesterday he’d rather work than rob—though
the pay be less, so is the danger less.”

The knight was telling the truth as well as trying to be facetious.

Again Rizpah replied with a weary shake of the head, her hands rising
deprecatingly, then falling into her lap as if almost nerveless.

“But, Rizpah, while we are here we ought to fully explore the changeless
cities of this dead, black, lava sea. There are none other like this on
earth! ’Tis nature’s desperate effort to outrun phantasmagoria.”

Rizpah shook her head and waved her hands; this time vehemently, as if to
repel a horror.

“What? A fixed no?”

“No more excursions into this counterpart of hades for me.”

“Well, so be it to-day, at least,” with surrendering tones, the knight
replied.

“To-day? All days! Oh, God, remove me from this nightmare!”

So exclaiming, the woman covered her eyes, shuddered and wept
hysterically.

Sir Charleroy was almost overcome with sudden amazement. The tears, the
terror, the complete change before him, were beyond his comprehension.
After a time he again spoke: “Why, this is a sudden freak or frenzy. I
thought Rizpah fascinated here!”

“I’ve had my notice from the dread spirits that infest the place to
go! Didst thou note what dark and threatening clouds dipped down like
vultures upon me when we were last there?” vehemently Rizpah replied.

“I only saw a threatening of rain that came not. It seldom rains in the
Lejah.”

“There was rain enough in my poor, shivering, weeping heart!”

“But, I wonder, Rizpah, thou didst not tell me of these feelings before!”

“I could not confide then; I was too jealous!”

“Jealous? What a word! But of whom, me?”

“I can never forget that thy union with me has made thee alien to thy
people and in part neglectful of the faith for which thou didst once
fight bravely. I can not forget that the Teutonic knight was the devotee
of a bepraised Lady Mary. I thought of this that black day, and I felt
as if those dry, grim clouds were her frowns. It was thou, my Christian
husband, who named the Lejah, ‘Tartarus,’ and it has been such for some
time to me. Its sight has constantly burned me with remorse! That day
it seemed to me thy Mary pitied thee and blamed me! I writhed under the
thought! I, for a moment, hated her. I felt like climbing some height,
and, club in hand with defiant curses, challenging her right to have
a finer care of thee than I have. I’d have done it, if thou hadst not
been here to laugh at the folly of my frenzy. Ah, husband, if she is
or was all that thou dost depict her, she can not love me, and thou
must contrast us to my disparagement. I can not forget that thou wert a
Christian soldier; sworn to war for her and her son; now thou art wedded
to me, a daughter of her and His persecutors!”

“Why, Rizpah, thy changing moods are appalling; thou dost beat the
magicians who conjure up the dead, since thou dost create out of nothing
the most hideous ghosts to haunt thyself—Maya! Maya!”

“Oh, yes, I know ‘Maya,’ wife of Brahm, by interpretation ‘illusion.’ A
myth, as a gibe, has a sharp point, effective because so difficult to
parry. But, alas, ridicule, though it easily tear to pieces delusion, is
powerless to disperse the gloom that sits in a soul as mine.”

“I’ll not ridicule my Rizpah, but I would bring her light.”

“Ah? That is, resurrect the peace thou didst murder?”

“Show me one wound my hand has made and I’ll abjectly beg all pardons,
attempt any atonement!”

“Dost thou, knight, remember the ruins of the Christian church of Saint
George, at Edrei?”

“Certainly.”

“And thy conversation there?”

“Yes, that Saint George was England’s patron saint famed for having slain
the dragon which imperiled a king’s daughter.”

“More thou didst say; thou didst expatiate on the princess, saying her
name was Alexandra, meaning, ‘friend of mankind’; further, thou saidst
there was a queenly woman by name, Mary, daughter of the King of Kings,
friend beyond all women of humanity, for whom every true knight was
willing to be a Saint George.”

“True enough; but to what purport now is this reminiscence?”

“Thou saidst Saint George was loyal to the death to his faith, and died a
martyr!”

“True again. What of it?”

“Was the Teutonic knight thinking of himself as a martyr because wed to
a Jewess? I followed thy thoughts, though they were not all spoken. How
naturally that day thou didst tell me of thy visions which thou hadst
between Gerash and Bozrah when wounded nigh to death. The English saint,
knight, very loyal to creed, rebuked in his dreams, by the beating of
mighty wings, the departing of his heart’s rose! Oh, why didst thou not
tell me this before it was too late! I would have helped thee escape the
ingenuous Jewess Thou didst awaken then with dread bleeding, to find
thyself pillowed upon the bosom of a simple-hearted loving girl; I now
awaken, wounded indeed, but with none to staunch the wounding! Why, de
Griffin, didst thou keep this secret so long? Why unfold it now?”

“I’d be the Saint George of Rizpah and slay her dragon, gloom.”

“Poor comfort to offer since the gloom is beyond thy powers! Flout my
mood as thou mayst; what use? I vainly denounce it. Thou hast had thy
dream; now I’m having mine. I’ll not mock thy insights; thou canst not by
bantering jeer change mine. My Lejah omens assure me that I’m to have a
rain of tears and more; some way thy Mary will be their cause.”

“Rizpah errs; the queen I revere was a living epistle of good will; her
character the joy and inspiration of all women, especially of those in
tribulation. But enough! Rizpah, being a Jew, should abhor the necromancy
of omens!”

“Jew! Ah, yes; I was once! But the valiant English knight lured me into
his Christian love and my race’s hate. I had once the luxurious faith
of a pious girl; all feeling, all flowers; too young to reason, but
young enough to love the good and beautiful unto salvation. The knight
poisoned the blossoms before they ripened by the acids of ridicule! There
is a loss beyond repair and a bitter memory, that of a broken promise;
under our love-star thou didst swear thou wouldst never lightly treat my
believing. Venus has set, Mercury is rising; but wisdom brings a burning
glare. The promise that the knight failed to keep was made when I was,
he said his idol; now I’m only his wife!”

“Rizpah exchanges the glory of the rose for the bitter gray of the
wormwood.”

“I’m thy handiwork; now mock the result, if to do so comforts thee.”

“My handiwork!”

“Yes, fool!”

“These words are awful.”

“I think so and I hate them; though I can not check them. I hate my
temper and even myself when in such present moods. De Griffin, pray as
thou didst never pray before, that I do not learn to hate thee. I pity
thee, because I’ve some love left.”

“Pity?”

“Yes, when I imagine thee wriggling beneath the malignant detestation of
which I know I shall soon be capable.”

“My wife, in God’s dear name, banish these moods! They are impious,
unnatural; the crisis of thy being falsely accuses thy heart. Be calm!”

“Calm? ‘Be calm!’ Very good; calm me, please, if thou canst. Oh, why
didst thou make me thus?”

“The God of all peace forgive me if I did, Rizpah.”

“Thou wert the elder and shouldst have known?”

“What?”

“That to unsettle a woman’s faith, if she be such as I, is to let loose
a bundle of blind vagaries and to tumble her, like a drifting wreck, on
unknown shores.”

“Oh, wife, as thou hopest for heaven and lovest our unborn child,
restrain these moods. Thou’lt mark the one to be, with germs of all
evil; for such outbursts of mothers re-act with awful effect upon their
offspring. Thou knowest how the old nurse, at Damascus, killed a babe in
an instant, merely by giving it her breast after she had yielded to an
outbreak of passion. Such tempers hurl poison through all the being!”

“Alas, knight, that all this prudence ever comes just a little too late!”

“What could I have done better?”

“Left the little maid of Harrimai’s home free from thy enchantments and
to the quiet of her people’s state.”

“But I loved thee so. That atones for all.”

“Thou thoughtst thou lovedst, but ’twas my form which fascinated thee,
not my mind nor soul!” Rizpah’s face became ashen pale, her eyes had a
far-off gaze and were steelly, as she began plaintively to repeat the
words, “‘_There were giants in the earth.... They saw the daughters of
men, Adamish, that they were fair and they took them for wives of all
they chose, and they bore children and it repented the Lord that He had
made man, for He saw that the wickedness was great in the earth._’ Thou
wast my giant-lofty. Thou stolest my heart and body. Now for a flood to
punish the sin, and my tears are already its first droppings.”

“We are wed; shall we not now make the best of it? Even when into this
mystic alliance unmated lives converge, they can still with wisdom
extract from it at least peace. Go fervently, firmly, back to the faiths
of thy girlhood; become again all thou wert, except that thou be ever
mine.”

“Ah, ha! how little, after all, thou knowest of woman’s heart? Thou
wouldst command it do and be; and go and come, wouldst thou? Thinkst
thou, thou canst make such heart as mine wild with the strange
intoxications of unholy fire, filling the brain above it with all the
clouds, weird longings, doubtings and misgivings, that fume up from that
fire, and then send that heart back without a compass, chart, sail or
helm, to find the haven? Send it lashed by remorse part of the time, part
of the time half dead to all feeling, and all the time blind, to hunt up
lost creeds.”

“But God provided an ark; let us ask Him to aid us build one in a home,
with happy parents and happy children. Thou readst to me, but yesterday,
the Prophets’ beautiful description of a lamp burning with oil supplied
from two palm trees; one on either side. I’ll interpret; the trees are
parents, the lamp the light of home, manifest in posterity, reproduction;
a prophecy of the resurrection.”

“Beautiful mysticism. But the giantesque men rose to play at lust, just
beside Sinai of the law.”

“Not so I, the Teutonic knight, now the husband. Rizpah; thy desperate
misery appeals to all my manhood. I swear to thee I’d turn my heart’s
blood into the oil to cause our home to glow with the serene light of
holy happiness.”

“Words, words; how sad, because so beautiful, yet so vain!”

“Oh Rizpah,” cried the knight, too anxious to be angry, though the
woman’s words were stinging, “thy looks startle me! Pray God to rest and
hold thy worried soul.”

“Pray? I have tried, often of late, to pray, but I do not know how.
I fear thou hast stolen even that power from me! Ugh! the last time
I prayed, my words seemed like black cormorants rising with loads of
carrion; then falling struck dead by the sun, into great black caves,
such as abound in our Lejah hell! I heard my words flung back at me in
mockery. Pray? I dare not, lest God strike me dead for a hypocrite and a
heretic!”

“But my poor, dear wife,” soothingly said Sir Charleroy, “He is merciful.”

“Oh, yes, to the good and the faithful; I’m neither! I gave Him up for
a man, as the Adamish men gave him up for women. I madest thou my God,
and now have none other; for He of the heavens is very holy, but very
jealous!”

“Rizpah, Rizpah, do not thus give way to these wild imaginations.”

“Give way? Alas, all is already given away; soul and body were on an
idolatrous altar long ago. I’m buried in the ashes!”

“But Rizpah, trust my love: I’ll help thee back to peace and usefulness.”

“Bah! the masculine great I——”

“Heavens! woman, is there any love in a heart that so hurls javelins?”

“I don’t know! I suppose so, for I pity thee.”

“Pity me?”

“Yes; when I think as I do at times, that thy wife is turning into a
devil, a very devil! Sir Charleroy de Griffin, knight of St. Mary, dost
hear me? A devil, a raging devil, and one that will pity while she
assails.” The last sentence was almost screamed, then the woman fell on
the rug of their apartment and wept convulsively. After a little there
was the silence of exhaustion, of chagrin, of shame. Sir Charleroy stood
by the prostrate form and with words half commanding said: “Let us ride
out a little way.” He was trying a new strategy.

“No, no, no! Thou’lt take me to the Lejah, and I shall see that dread
omen again.”

“What?” As he questioned he raised the woman tenderly from the floor.

“The lava desert, in long rolling waves, black and drear.”

“Ah, Rizpah, thou knowest that it was only thy unreined fancy, heated by
morbid broodings, that changed the eternally-fixed furrows of the plain,
overshadowed by running clouds into threatening billows! God and the sun
are above all clouds and behind every anxious heart. Look up; look in,
until thy soul finds Him; then the horror of darkness will die away.”

“Oh, how thy comfortings hurt me, because I do not believe in thee,
nor believe thee! Thou sayst that thou didst abandon thy Christian,
perfect queen of women, for me. I know thou must be chagrined at the bad
exchange! I can not honor nor trust the faithfulness of one so fickle. No
matter for that, but what comes after is worse. Those black sky-drapings
were over the Lejah that day because I was there. I know—I know there’s
a tide of sorrow rolling toward me. I see it as I saw those black,
serpent-like, lava waves. But, oh, the suspense! It’s awful; let the
worst come if only soon!” The knight, sworn to protect helpless women,
saw himself disarmed and powerless to aid the one woman of earth for whom
he would have died.

Two giants at bay in Giant Land, where another mold of gianthood had died
leaving nothing but monuments to attest the greatness of the failure. The
two knew only this, that they were very miserable and powerless, by any
means accustomed, to extricate themselves.

Sir Charleroy wished and wished, in his soul, that his patron saint and
queen of women would appear and tell both what to do. He unconsciously
was turning his mind’s eye in the right direction. Husband and wife both
believed there was a right way, a pattern of right, and an ideal of
heaven, but they could not lay hold of them. Giant, crusader and husband,
each in turn strove in his day at the same spot, and at the same point
failed.

Sir Charleroy, in mind, went out along a strangely beset line of
thinking. Sometimes he pitied himself, and that brought the balm of
conceit. He remembered it was a fine thing to be a martyr, forgetting
that some, rewardless, suffer as sinners. Sometimes he heard those
beatings of mighty wings, as if some wondrous holy one were departing.
Then he became very penitent and full of the entreatings of prayer.
Either mood was brief enough to him not yet converted; a very Peter
in vacillations. Whether he would finally follow the beating wings or
sit down nigh to the gates of certain insanity, the gates that those
who over-much pity themselves are sure to reach, was the issue in his
life then. The bugles of war call few to the heroism of the field, but
millions are daily called by God’s bugle to the better achievements which
make for glory amid the duties of common life. That latter bugle was
calling him, but he was slow to obey, or understand even.

The events recorded in the foregoing pages roused Sir Charleroy to an
anxious effort to do something to change the currents of his wife’s
thoughts. Necessity quickened his discernment, and though he had had but
little experience in dealing with those ill in the body or mind, he
quickly concluded that a change of place and a change of pursuit would be
beneficial. In truth, his own feelings attested this much. He himself was
weary of the pursuit of excitement as a sole and constant occupation.

“Shall we leave the Lejah, Rizpah?” he questioned, a few days after the
outbreak before mentioned.

“Yes, I say!—I’m leaving it! See here,” and she pointed to her cheeks,
once ruddy, now haggard. “Oh, Charleroy, take me away or death will!”

“Enough! We’ll go. But where?”

“Any place under heaven; say the word and I’ll run out of the place
instantly, leaving all here.”

“What, our effects!”

“Any thing to get away. I feel like a child approached by some monster
terror, hour by hour! For days I’ve been transfixed by my fear or I would
have run away, even alone, before this. Now thy words break the spell!
Come, let us go before I’m overcome again!”

“There, now, be calm. No more of this undue nervousness. We’ll go, and
soon. What says Rizpah to Bozrah, southward of Bashan?”

“Yes, to Bozrah; historic Bozrah!” and the face of the woman brightened
as she went on: “It was the fairy land of my youth. I’ve wanted to go
there since I was a wee little thing, scarce able to walk.” Then the
woman unbent and talked with the rapture of a child:

“Oh; I’ve wanted to see Bozrah all my life, since the days when my old
nurse used to talk me to sleep with stories of Og and his bedstead nine
cubits long, and how our little Hebrew, Moses, overcame those Rephaim.”

“Thy prophets and psalmists, as well as thy nurses, were wont to go
into rapturous descriptions of the lofty oaks, loftier mountains,
ragged plains, marvelous pastures and goodly herds of the Hauran and
Trachonitis.”

Rizpah continued in gleeful strain: “Oh, those herds; if I can’t see old
Og, I’d like to see the famous bulls of Bashan! Show me something huge,
no matter how huge, if alive and not black! I’m becoming infatuated
with the strong and the large. If ever I lose my soul it will be by
worshiping, pagan-like, something mightier than I can imagine; of body
or muscle. Yes, yes, I’ll be a thorough pagan since I can not be a Jew
nor a Christian! Now, I forewarn thee.” So saying she laughed merrily.
The knight was rejoiced to hear the musical, natural laughter again, and
encouraged the play of her wit, which attested a mind unbending to rest.

“Woman-like, adoring the huge when the grand can not be found. Thank God,
the giants are all dead; there are none at Bozrah, at least. I’ll not
fear the little dirty Arabs, or pigmy Druses as supplanters.”



CHAPTER XV.

THE REVELS OF MEN AND RITES OF THEIR GODDESSES.

                “Rude fragments now
      Lie scattered where the shapely column stood.
      Her palaces are dust. In all the streets the sprightly chords
      Are silent. Revelry and dance and show
      Suffer a syncope and solemn pause;
      While God performs upon the trembling stage
      Of His own works His dreadful part, alone.”—COWPER.

    “Then shall ye know that I am the Lord, when their slain shall
    be among their idols, round about their altars ... upon every
    high place ... under every thick oak.”—Ezekiel vi.


Passing from Edrei toward Bozrah the pilgrim knight and his wife with
their convoy reached Kunawat, the Kenath of Scripture, once the dwelling
place of Job. Here for a time they abode. The number and variety of
castles, temples, theaters and palaces in ruins, were sufficient to
engage the attention of the travelers for many days. Rizpah was more
cheerful than she was at Edrei, but yet restless to reach Bozrah, on
which place her heart was set.

One day standing before an old Roman temple in Kunawat, Rizpah, somewhat
interested by its well preserved Corinthian columns, and Sir Charleroy
deeply engrossed in contemplation of an huge stone image, the former
asks: “Has the knight recognized an old English or a new Bashan love?”
The woman was finding the oft-repeated and prolonged visits to this
particular place monotonous. She was annoyed, but modified her rebuke
into raillery.

“There is something very fascinating in the Cyclopean face.”

“A broken stone fascinate a man? But I see ’tis that of a woman; the
brain part gone. Would that the English knight had wed such; then he
might have been loyal to creed, and not a martyr!”

[Illustration: ASTARTE.]

“Rizpah knows that I could never have loved a brainless face, nor any one
akin to this Kunawat goddess.”

“Not if she echoed thy ‘aye’ and ‘nay’ consistently? Be careful; as many
strong men have fallen by having their conceit gratified as there have
fallen women through flattery.”

“How absurd to hint that I could be so lured.”

“But the knight says Astarte fascinates!”

“I said so, meaning that I’m fascinated by the train of thoughts that the
image awakens. Think a moment; we, the living of to-day confronting the
acme of the thought of the ages long gone. Looking at this, I seem to be
seeing over rolling centuries, right into the hearts of humanity that
lived thousands of years ago.”

“All this might have been taken in at a glance! Having seen it, what use
is it?”

“Use? To aid in finding a key to life’s problems. I’m filled with
questionings; do not yearnings, such as beat through the being of the
ancients pulse in those of to-day? Are not humanity’s temptations and
needs ever the same?”

“Since the ancients did not tarry to compare with us, I, being only a
woman, of Gerash, of to-day, can give only the shallow answer, I suppose
so.”

“Oh, I’m not questioning Rizpah; but the ruins, the air, time, my soul,
God!”

“And their reply?”

“Bewildering echoes of each question?

“And it’s all a mystery to Sir Charleroy?”

“I know a little; something, next to nothing.”

“Possess curious me of that little, and I’ll help thee wonder why so much
greatness came to naught.”

“That wondering is easily met; they had, as god, one whose head could be
broken as this one’s was; they that would survive must be sheltered by
the Invincible.”

Rizpah, meanwhile had drawn close to the huge stone face and placing one
hand beneath the mouth, the other on the portion of the head just above
the moon crown, her arms stretched well nigh to their limits quizically
remarked:

“Those that dined with her must have had pyramids for chairs. What dost
thou think they were like?”

“Crusaders?”

“Now, I’m tantalized. Crusaders two or three thousand years ago? How
absurd!”

“Oh, certainly they were not known by the name, Crusaders: but
they that followed Astarte and such-like deities, whether called
Kenaihites, Rephaim, Moslem, Christians, or by other appellation are
all soldier-pilgrims, dominated by an ideal. There have been many
female deities among the pagans and there is a deal of paganism left in
humanity.”

“That’s because half the race are men. Astarte would be very popular
to-day with thy sex, if she were here in living form, a whole woman,
instead of a fragment and beautiful also—”

“Thou dost not care to hear more of the female deities?”

“Oh, yes; I’ll be fearfully jealous if thou dost keep any thing back.
Tell me what madmen the ancients were?” She paused, slapped the face of
the image, ejaculating “_Virago!_” then continued, “Why did they make
their effigy both hideous and huge? Ugly things should be dwarfed!”

“The ancients, who knew not the grandeur of moral power, gave their
deities terribleness in their physical proportions, and a mountain
of flesh became their ideal of greatness—men ever try to make their
objects of worship greater than themselves, thou knowest. Hast forgotten
what Ichabod once told us of the Egyptians? How they expressed their
reverence by piling up pyramids and made that very diminutive which they
would caricature? Oh, how our true religion, having at its heart an only,
all-beautiful, Almighty God, rises above these human devices!”

“I wonder that it did not, at its first appearing on earth, instantly
overthrow all others.”

“And it is a still more wonderful thing that those who embraced it,
having known, should have sometimes gone back to paganism? Thou dost
remember that God’s chosen people, after enjoying marvels of His
Providence, plunged headlong into idolatry in the very presence of His
splendor at Sinai?”

“With shame I remember it. I marvel as well that this record, which
evokes the ridicule of the grosser heathen, was made part of our Holy
writings.”

“God’s compensation! The people stripped themselves of their jewels to
make the calf; then of their garments to worship it according to the lewd
rites of Apis. God since has lashed them naked around the world, as it
were, by giving their history to all times. ‘_Be sure your sin will find
you out_,’ is a stern truth haunting the conscience of the evil doer;
but though exposure is a bitter medicine it is a saving one. God as such
applies it.”

“I think the devil crazed the people at Sinai.”

“Yes, Rizpah, but Human Desire was his name. The revelers made their
devil as well as their calf, that day.”

“But it is said ‘they rose to play.’ If so disobedient and heaven-defying
how could they have found heart to play?”

“Odious, significant word that one is, here. It was a ‘_play_’ that
engulphed all purity. No wonder they ceased to observe the ‘burning
mountain!’ Only the pure in heart can see God.”

“Thank God! that thy people and mine have finally escaped, my husband.”

“So far as we have escaped, I thank Him; but, alas, the evangels of
Egypt’s scarlet heresies still go about, and there are many, everywhere,
led away in chains that seem of flowers at first, but are found to be of
galling iron at last.”

“I did not know this?”

“Oh, these modern perverters disguise their horrible tenets with many
refined phrases; yet He that overwhelmed gross Sodom and the jewelless,
naked dancers about the golden bull, sees through all their thin drapings
and will judge the free lover, corrupt socialist and libertine as He
did those ancients. The Assyrian and Egyptian representations of Venus
generally appeared holding a serpent; a sort of bitter admission of the
curse in the hand of perverted love and the fierce lashings that follow
it.”

“I fail to connect the ancient with the present heresies, my good
teacher.”

“I pause to-day here, reminded of their common origin and consequences.
God put it into the hearts of His creatures to love women, honor
motherhood, and worship Him. Read Sinai’s law, and this is all manifest.
There came a perversion; the love of woman was degraded, motherhood was
denied its honor, and men became God-defying. There was a confusion
worse than that of Babel, and the worshiping was transferred, first, to
symbolized lust; then degraded. They that adored Venus, knowing how her
adoration had depraved themselves, came to believe that she scandalized
the heaven they imagined. Then came a time when her earthly rites even
scandalized the wiser pagans.”

“My husband leads me along strange ways. Is it wise to do so?”

“I see a grand end; follow me. There is a deep significance in the fact
that among the pagans there constantly appeared this adoration of woman
on account of her power of motherhood. I take this adoration as proof of
a conscious need feeling after a vaguely discerned truth. The yearning
is suggested by the paired gods. Assyria had its Beltis, consort of
Bel-nimrud; and there were Allelta of the Arabians, the many-breasted
Diana of the Ephesians, the Aphrodite of the Greeks, Ceres and Venus
of Rome, this Astarte of the Giants; beyond all, in utter odiousness
Khem, the Phallic god of Egypt. Amid all these false ideals, the divine
home with its pure love and our immortality by grace’s mystery, were
overslaughed in human thought. The glaring passions, that were unwilling
to believe in other immortality than that that comes through posterity,
other heaven than that of sensuous pleasure, fascinated and dominated
hearts and souls.”

“And worshiping women-gods did this.”

“Worshiping beings with the form of women did it! Reverence for true
womanhood ever exalts and never degrades. But these ancients adored very
gorgons with snakes for hair, and having tearing, brazen claws. They set
these gorgons with the Harpies, in their mythologies, at the gates of
dark Pluto’s palace. Alas, where men are led by ill-flavored women, is
ever more Pluto’s gateway.”

“The up-digging of these ancient soils, knight, give forth foul odors.
Did they not dread a just and jealous God?”

“No. It is the constant voice of history that false belief concerning
these things of which I have spoken, brings both blindness and
degradation. Unbelief comes swiftly in the wake of impurity. The gorgons
had but one eye and that had the malign power of turning to stone all
upon whom its glance fell. When men deify a fallen woman then look for a
cataclysm of evils. Rizpah has seen little of the world, but this in time
she’ll find true; the man whose cult or faith bends toward the libidinous
is on the way to utter atheism. So these old-time free-lovers, like
those of to-day, push out of the universe in their belief, the Great,
Beautiful, First Cause. The pure in heart see God; the impure can not
even pray to Him. The latter must be aided by an Immaculate One. They
make a gulf betwixt their souls and heaven, which Great Mercy alone can
bridge.”

“Ah, knight, I’d dread a return of those gross idolatries, knowing
mankind’s trend, but that I knew that Shiloh was to come as a Reformer.”
The knight caught at the words of his wife to lead her toward his own
dear belief.

“If He came to Rizpah in the form of a man, unique because of his virgin
purity, unlike any other in being all unselfish, and accompanied by a
peerless woman, exemplifying all that is best in the gentle sex; between
Himself and that woman a love deep to love’s last depth, pure as a
sunbeam, enduring as eternity itself, would Rizpah welcome Him!”

“That would be a wondrous coming; but I’d welcome Him.”

“Does Rizpah believe such an appearing desirable?”

“Oh, on my soul, yes! If he should so come, methinks the rites which have
gone on in the secrecy of the groves, under the uncertain light of the
moon, would be driven from the earth, and men come to worship God, taking
that man for the ideal of manhood, that woman as woman’s pattern.”

“Dost thou see that stone with eight lines crossing, lying just there by
the image of Astarte?”

“I see it and the lines; but what of them?”

“In the far East, the land of the Fire Worshipers, on almost all
the handiwork of man that symbol is placed. It is to represent an
eight-pointed star, the Assyrian sign of immortality.”

“Eight lines crossing to represent immortal life? This is inane!”

“Not quite. I had its explanation from my wandering Jew, Ichabod, learned
by much travel in the lore of many peoples. He thus interpreted the
symbol as the Assyrians understood it; man, a four-pointed star; his four
radiate limbs suggesting that likeness. Thou knowest that the Israelites
have been wont to call men stars? The Assyrians, not having the sure
word, were led to seek by human philosophy a theory of immortality,
and they got no further than twice four, two human beings in union; so
eight or a double star, their symbol of marriage, represented the only
immortality they were able to find; that that comes from reproduction. At
least that was the only reality, the rest being very vaguely believed,
and believed only because they thought that the mystery of a new life
coming forth, was a hint of a spiritual method analogous to the
material. They then fell to worshiping the sun, the great fructifier
and light of nature; fire, the essence of passion, became their highest
god. It is said that those Magi of the East, that arrived long ago at
Bethlehem, were fire worshipers, and that in answer to a cry for light,
constantly uttered by their race, they took their journey to Judah,
seeking it.”

“The world must turn to Israel ever for the truth, Sir Charleroy.”

“For some truth; not all; but there is a tradition that the star the
wise men followed was a double one, two planets in conjunction. There is
a fitness in the legend, for the seekers of light were brought to the
cave where lay a mother and babe; the latter God’s finest presentment of
immortality, the Incarnation; the fruit of the Divine in union with the
human. I stand overcome with wonder and reverence when I remember that
they of the East had some light from the Jews they held captive ages
before. They lost most of what they had, then, longing for its return,
God answered their prayer by taking them to the finest of schools, a
blessed home circle. Behold all the East looking for light at Bethlehem!”

Rizpah evaded her husband’s graceful attempt to impress on her Christian
tenets, by replying: “I prefer the Jewish choice number Seven, though I
can not give it fine interpretations, as thou to the Eight of the East.”

“Rizpah prefers it because it is Jewish, and I prefer Seven because I
read therein a covenant; for Seven is the sacred covenant number of God’s
Word. Let me interpret: There is a Triune God, symbolized by Three; then
man, the child of chance, the being tossed hither and thither by the four
winds, a complex union himself of body, mind, animal life and immortal
spirit. Four is his representative number, or symbol. The Assyrians
paired fours; the Jews vaguely discerned a grander path to eternal
felicity through the conjunction of God and man, the Three and the Four.
From this they derived their covenant number, Seven.”

“These are charming explanations, Sir Charleroy; especially so, if sure
ones!”

“But the truths are fairer than my poor words. I read that at creation
the morning stars—meaning the beings that know no night, the very sons
of God—shouted for joy! They saw an immortality having its springs
in the being of the Eternal, and were glad. Since then the race has
diverged into two lines. The gross and unbelieving, seeking to effect
the apotheosis of human lust, have gone their ways reveling under the
moonlight, and building their fanes in the groves which fade, while the
believing and God-taught have walked in a covenant toward Him, ‘Who
only hath immortality dwelling in light.’ Rizpah, some day that home
group at Bethlehem, a father, mother, and child, surrounded by angels,
overshadowed by God, will come to be thought the finest ideal of this
life. Yea, a picture of Heaven itself!”

The knight’s wife fixed her piercing, dark eyes on his, there were
expressed in her countenance admiration and fearfulness. She was charmed
by his lofty sentiments, yet apprehensive of being led into some
dangerous, Christian heresy. Fanaticism always has a terror of heresy,
so-called, even though it seemed to be full of white truth. Presently she
questioned:

“So Og, great as a mountain of flesh, and Astarte, goddess of the
pleasure that kills, only, of all Kunawat’s ancients, have left enduring
names?”

“One other name endures, the ages brightening its luster—Job, loyal to
the last, in spite of the devil and a virago wife.”

“Poor woman! say I of Job’s wife. None have told her side of her family
troubles. May be Job haunted the grove of the moon-crowned?”

“May be? Never! His splendid orations bespoke a man walking nigh Jehovah.
Listen: ‘If I beheld the moon walking in brightness, if my heart hath
been secretly enticed, or my mouth kissed my hand, let thistles grow
instead of wheat.’ He said this amid the votaries of the Lust-Queen.”

“And Job may be praised, not only as proof that there has been one
patient man on earth, but as proof that a good man will stand pure to the
last, though the world about acclaim the praise of delightful sins?”

“He stood because entranced by his beautiful ideal. He loved Him whose
name is Holiness.”

“Heaven comes at last to such.”

“Job was God’s best friend on earth in his day, and his Heavenly Father
gave him as his reward His best earthly gift—a new, pure, happy, fruitful
home.”

“Are we through now with the fascinating image, knight?”

“Yes, Rizpah, if we take to heart its warnings. May we preserve our
integrity, and have a home as our reward finer than that of the Man of
Uz; yea, verily, as fine in its tempers and virtues as that of Bethlehem.”

So saying, the knight led Rizpah toward their abode.



CHAPTER XVI.

A BATTLE OF GIANTS AT BOZRAH.

      “Sleep—the ghostly winds are blowing!
      No moon abroad—no star is glowing.
      The river is deep and the tide is flowing
      To the land where you and I are going!
        We are going afar,
        Beyond moon or star,
      To the land where the sinless angels are!

      I lost my heart to your heartless sire
      (’Twas melted away by his looks of fire),
      Forgot my God, and my father’s ire,
      All for the sake of a man’s desire;
        But now we’ll go
        Where the waters flow,
      And make our bed where none shall know.”—“_The Mother’s Last
                                                Song._”—BARRY CORNWALL.

    “How shall we order the child, and how shall we do.”—Judges
    xiii. 12.


Sir Charleroy and his consort took up their abode in one of the many
deserted ancient stone houses of the city of Bozrah. The latter, situated
in one of the most fertile plains of earth, once having upward of one
hundred thousand inhabitants, several times having risen to metropolitan
splendor, ages ago sank into neglect, decay and desolation. But with
wonderful persistence that city preserves the records, or relics, of
what it was in better, greater days. The antiquarian to-day finds in and
around Bozrah the dwellings, palaces and temples of many and various
peoples, some piled in strata-like courses, one above the other, each
layer the tombstone of its predecessor; some as fine as they were
forty centuries ago. The annalist there has at hand as an open book
the achievements of some of the mightiest men of earth, physically.
The latter were contemporary with that line of God’s moral giants,
of which Abraham, Moses and David were representative leaders first,
and Christ finally. The strata of Bozrah tell of differing policies,
politics, religions; all alike in one thing—the attempt to build upon
the buttresses of giant force; but they present in the end the one
result—failure; all being equally dead at the last, if not equally
herculean at the first. Sheer robustness in the armies of Rome, the
Turk, Alexander, and Og wrought out their best about the Bashan cities,
and in that theater played the eternally losing game of all such. It
seems as if God had chosen that part of all the world to illustrate
this great lesson of His providence. The Roman, Mohammedan, Greek, and
others like them, there had their brutal and sensuous existence. There
the Crusader carried also his banners; but the end of the Rephaim was
the forerunner and prophecy of all the other giantesque gatherings that
followed after them. Each passing race and dynasty left its monuments and
tokens of possession; but of all, those of the first, the giants, are the
most enduring, most wonderful. These dateless, huge, rugged, fort-like
dwellings, standing just as they did four thousand years ago, except
that they are mostly unoccupied, are impressive monuments and reminders
of the mighty denizens who once abode within them. There are ruins of
temples, palaces, houses of commerce and places of amusement, but chiefly
of homes; the latter, significantly, instructively, being the best
preserved of all. Sir Charleroy observed this circumstance, and casually
remarked to Rizpah, as they bestowed their effects in one of the ancient
domiciles:

“If ever I take to building, I’ll build abiding places for people, only.
Such are the most lasting.”

But while he came thus near to a royal truth, he did not make it his
own. It passed through his mind and he felt its light, as one might
that from the wing of a ministering spirit, while his eyes were holden
and his back turned. He immediately left the angelic thought, to go
wandering through years of misery, before coming back face to face with
it again. Sir Charleroy and Rizpah, a western soldier and a woman of
Israel, two giants in their way, began a new career at Bozrah. It was
providential. Measuring power by the only available test at hand, namely,
what it accomplishes, it was manifest long ago to all that the brawn of
the Cyclops was not the master force of the word. Hercules cleansed the
earth of mythical, not real evils. Sir Charleroy and Rizpah are fittingly
brought to the theater of the giants for the purpose of testing the
potency of giantesque sentimentality and stubborn, mighty ardor. To this
end, two will do as well as a nation, and a decade will be as conclusive
as a score of generations. The husband and wife entered Bozrah gladly,
and quickly adapted themselves to their new surroundings. They were both
very impressible, and there were many things in their new environments
that impressed and stimulated them. Nature’s face and locations may
be changed by man, but he can not change her heart. She, on the other
hand, is invincible in her conquests of both his face and inner being.
Climate and environments determine the characters and careers of the
majorities. The sleets of the North, in time, will goad the sensuous
Turk or Hottentot to high activity, while the Cossack or Esquimaux,
under tropical suns soon fall into luxuriousness and laziness. Bozrah
began its molding of the knight and his wife. Rizpah and Sir Charleroy
were at first attracted to Giant Land by the hugeness of its monuments
and ghostly greatness of its record. They received at Bozrah their first
impulse to settle and make a home. Probably they were largely influenced
by the conviction that, in its way, there was nothing more entrancing
or majestic beyond. For the best results to them, the second selection
was altogether unfortunate. They had made their home in the midst of
battle-fields, and the atmosphere that hung over all things was like
that over a defeated army, sullenly submitting. The new comers from the
beginning, in their new home, were immersed in ghostly memories, and that
atmosphere so like the breath of a bound yet struggling giant. They were
affected more than they realized by all these things.

“No more tours, no more worlds, for us to conquer!” exclaimed the knight.

Rizpah, her cheerfulness of mind largely recovered, replied to this
remark of Sir Charleroy with a bantering laugh, at the same time pointing
upward. Quickly, and with retort cruel as a giant’s javelin, he cried:

“Alas, so soon Rizpah seeks my final departure from her!”

The cavalier was no more; it was the brusque and gross within him that
spoke. Had he been courtly, even without being Christian, he would have
been considerate enough not to have cruelly jested concerning that which
lay in his wife’s heart as a possible and sad fact. Often the thought of
eternal separation from her husband, even from eternal hope, haunted her
now. Her husband knew this.

For a moment his answer seemed to stun her; then the affectations of
pouting on her mobile face, coming when she pointed upward, changed into
lines of anger. A hot flush mounting up to the roots of her hair, hung
out the warning signal.

The knight, pretending not to observe the change, twined his arms about
his wife and mockingly sighed:

“Poor girl! I can find no wings on thee. I once thought thou hadst such.
They must have dropped off.”

There was no reply. He then began to retreat, to placate, and to that
intent drew her closer and closer to his heart, until, embracing her, his
hands clasped; but, for the first time since the event near Gerash, when
the Arabs were vanquished, his caress was without response. He tried a
thrust thus:

“Well, beloved, since thou dost banish me, bestow a kiss of long
farewell.”

Quickly, Rizpah flung aside his embracing arms and cried: “Shechemite!
I’m no Dinah, won by false professions!”

“_Shechem was more honorable than all the house of his father_,” quoted
the knight in reply.

“He loved himself, his passions; to these gods he gave up with all
devotion, and they immolated him. That was good!”

“Why, Rizpah, thou art pettish.”

“‘Rizpah!’ Thou art adroit in using bitter similes; a brutalizing power,
when brutally used! Now, call me ‘Jarnsaxa.’ Thou toldst me, yesterday,
how that mighty male god of the Norse, Thor, while hating her people,
to the death, stole Jarnsaxa. Yea, and how many giants fell for women.
Perhaps thou didst want me to pity thee. We are in Giant Land now, and
thou canst begin to play Colossus!”

The knight was startled, and quickly entreated: “My queen, lets drop
the masks; no more of this; forget my sarcasm, and I’ll forgive the
recriminations. A truce and pardon, in the name of love. What says
Esther?”

“‘Esther?’ Thou calledst me that when cavalier, turning lover. Thou art
neither now!” The sentence ended in a petulant sob.

“Oh, stay now. It was playfulness. I—there, now! Canst thou not brook a
little playfulness from me?”

“Playfulness? Bah! Ye men play so like lions, forgetting to keep the
claws cushioned! But, now thou hadst better be going, saint—the only
one here. Go, now, right along to heaven. They want thee there. They
want thee, not me.” Then she choked back another sob, but instantly
thereafter, dashing the rising tear from her eyes, she bitterly
exclaimed: “At any rate, thou’lt have company!”

“Whom, pray?”

“The begetter and chief of all restless vagabonds!”

“So; I never heard of him. Has he a name, my dear?”

The knight was sarcastic, because he was nettled.

Rizpah’s eyes glittered with the fire of offended pride, and she quickly
began in measured tone, as if in soliloquy, and alone, to quote Job’s
record of satan’s joining the assembly of the sons of God:

“_There was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before
the Lord, and satan came also. And the Lord said whence camest thou? Then
satan said from going to and fro in the earth and from walking up and
down in it._”

“My wife responds to my penitence with bitterness; but even the pagans
were wiser. They ever took the gall from the animals offered to Juno,
goddess of wedlock.”

“Thy wife promised to be thy helpmate and give thee all she had. Now,
just forget thy fine paganism, being a Christian long enough to remember
that I’m thy helpmate in all things, even in bitterness. I give thee all,
even returning thy giving.”

“Thou shouldst not make so much of my little misstep.”

“Nothing is little with which one must constantly live. Great breaks
grow from little fractures. One may stand a blow, but its the constant
fretting that roughs the heart-strings to woe unendurable. Thou hast a
habit of playfully hurting.”

“Well, this has been a day at school; there ought to be a school for
husbands! We do not half understand the fine, sensitive creatures that
companion us.”

“Oh, thou thoughtst thou wert a woman-reader!”

“Were I to see an angel with a body like a harp, eyes like the
unsearchable ocean, heart of flame, arms like flowering vines, covered
with prismatic wings, I’d be no more puzzled and abashed than I am now
by my high-strung, fine-tempered Rizpah.”

“Puzzled! abashed! I’d help thee pity thy wounded conceit, but that I
know that thou art soon to ascend. Art thou going now!”

“I’m afraid not, since I’ve so many more sins than graces. When elephants
soar with butterfly wings, thou mayst look for my departure. Till then
I’ll stay here and practice the patience of Job, beset with his rambling
devil.”

“How elegantly the cavalier uses simile in coining epithets.”

“Heavens! Rizpah, thou dost twist my meanings! Why distort, instead of
pardoning my blunders, making both of us miserable!”

“Oh, then, thou hast grace enough not to liken me to thy besetting, evil
spirit, at least in words?”

“No, no, ’tis refined cruelty to put me on the defense as to that.
Believe it or not, Rizpah of Gerash and Rizpah of Bozrah are the same. My
heart to its core says so!”

This second quarrel, that should not have been begun, had the merit of
ending, as it should, in reconciliation, tears, embraces and a great
many excellent pledges. Yet Sir Charleroy did not greatly profit by
the experience. He failed to perceive that these first breaks in the
rhythmic flow of conjugal love are great shocks to a deeply affectionate
woman. He knew that men easily recover from rebuffs, and so did not
stop to consider that young wife-hood was the highest expression on
earth of utter clinging to one sole support. He knew his own feelings
and took them for the standard. He set himself up as the pattern,
quite unconsciously, perhaps; and after the conflict in which he came
off conceded victor, he was condescending in his manner. This was
unfortunate. Rizpah did not need to be told that her husband was wiser
and stronger willed and more self-possessed and more able to endure
life’s trial than herself. All this she believed, absolutely, when she
surrendered her heart to the man at the first. Woman-like, these were
the very circumstances that caused her to love him as she did. A woman
never loves completely until her love is supplemented by adoration. She
must believe the man, who would make full conquest, is one to whom she
can look up; one some way her superior. But while a loving woman will
give a devotion almost religious, she will be pained amid her delights
of committal by a haunting fear that he whom she adores may rise away
from her. In the very plenitude of her fullest love-worship she will deny
the reverence, sometimes, in a seeming inconsistency, rebuff and even
ridicule her idol. It is with her a sort of hysteria, a confession of
secret terror, lest she and he grow apart in mind, and so come to part in
body. Hence it is a giant cruelty on the part of a husband, sometimes, to
enforce, or thrust forward, his size or his lordship. They may be facts,
but God has set over against them as their equal that love which clings,
stimulates and supplements, without which the finest man is far less than
the half of the united twain. Sir Charleroy blundered along in his error;
Rizpah tried to be happy and failed. She did not know how to make the
best of her surroundings, and Sir Charleroy did not know, because he did
not seek religiously to find out how to help her make the best of them.
They had some periods of pleasure, but they continually grew briefer
and were more frequently interrupted as time went on. She was ill, he
suffered himself to think her at times ill-tempered. As a lover, he
admired her outbreaks as very brilliant, and flattered her by remarking
that she had the metal of an Arabian steed; as a husband, he thought her
very disagreeable when pettish or angry. Indeed, though he never said so
to her, he did say to himself that at times she was very like a virago.
The only steed that came to his mind then was the ass, to which he
likened himself when he considered himself the perfection of submissive
patience.

A new event radically changed the picture and situation in this troubled
home.

The prayer of prayers was heard in Bozrah; the cry of a baby; a bundle of
needs and helplessness, with no language but a cry. Processions of silent
centuries had passed through those halls since they echoed the hoarse
voices of the brawny beings who built them. One could not hear the infant
cry without remembering the contrasts. A baby; a puny one at that, and of
the gentler sex, besides being of a race pigmy compared to the stalwarts
who builded those abodes. Sir Charleroy and his consort had set up their
household gods, and for a goodly period had occupied as theirs a Rephaim
home.

The little stranger came, though they did not discern it, with power
to bless them both. A poetic visitor, happening on this baby’s hammock
there and then, might have gone in raptures, to some truths, after this
fashion: “It will be the golden tie, angel of peace and hope, to the
home!” The philosopher, seeing the little bundle of helplessness, might
have said: “Here is a giant, the home is immortal through its offspring;
the babe requiring so much, richly repays its loving care-takers by
inducting them into the soul expansions of unselfish service.” But then
poets and philosophers often miss the mark, attempting prophesy.

The parents followed the usual course of those for the first time in
that relation. Their love for each other, very intense, and by its
sensitiveness witnessing after all that it was very selfish, got a new
direction. They soon drifted into the charming fooleries of their like.
Sometimes they petted the child unceasingly, and one was anon jealous of
the other if surpassed in this. They each struggled for a recognition
from the innocent, and debated as to whether the first babble of the
little one was “mamma” or “papa.” Then there were times when they handled
baby very reverently, as if it were something from God, or likely to
break.

At such times they each, in heart, thanked God and gave the child, at
least in part, to Him. Sometimes they called it “Davidah” or “darling,”
and laughed as they assured each other, to assure themselves, that the
baby looked wise as if understanding. Sometimes they played with it as
if they were children and it a toy; sometimes they ministered to it with
anxious care, while all the time they felt quite sure it was somehow of
finer mold and fiber than any babe before on earth. They were just like
all for the first time parents, and their raptures were now for good,
being centered around the thought expressed by the sweet word home. Of
course, the question of naming the child was discussed, and, of course,
no name they could think of seemed quite good enough. Some days the
child was given a dozen, and some days it had none; for all the time
they kept trying to fit it.

In one thing, both parents were Jewish, namely, the desire to give their
darling an appellation expressive of what it was or what they hoped
it would be. They first agreed on “Angela,” but that was discarded as
being a sort of advertisement of the quality of their treasure. In the
constant selfishness of love they would keep it all secretly, sacredly to
themselves, they said. They sought for many days some significant token
or name that should be fully expressive of their thought, and yet by the
three only be ever fully understood. One day Rizpah, always abrupt, still
nursing an old superstition, said: “Call her Marah, a mournful, sweet,
expressive title.”

“Why, wife, that means ‘bitterness.’”

“Bitterness, since I believe that somewhere, somehow, there is bitterness
enough in store for her—and me with her.”

“I’d prefer ‘Mary,’ my wife; surely this little angel is to be all like
that blessed one.”

Then there was more strife, but of a rather patient kind, which ended
in a compromise, they calling the child Miriamne, each in mind meaning
different from the other; the one Marah, the other Mary. But on the
heels of this came soon the graver problem, How should the babe be
reared, in Jewish faith or Christian? It was the old, old story of a
difficulty seemingly easily adjusted to all, except to those who have
actually met it, and in this case, as usual, the two parties fanatically
opposed each other. In the name of sweet religion they loyally served
the devil for a time. The highest achievement of a creed or faith is the
soothing and elevation of a home here, or the exalting of it heavenward
for hereafter. That is a travesty of piety which wrecks the substance
of joy for the shell of a dogma. This stricture is easily written and
may pass without dissent, the reader immediately falling into the error
denounced. Of course, as usual, these two parents began the discussion of
the subject. At intervals they cautiously pressed their arguments, but
each unwaveringly moved toward his or her point. They were like advancing
armies, firing occasional shots, but surely approaching a mighty issue.
They pretended to argue the matter by times, but it was a farce, for each
in mind irrevocably had predetermined the conclusion. Time sped on a year
or more, then the conflict fully came.

“Rizpah, we were wed by a Christian, let us take the fruit of that
compact to Christian baptism.”

“The first act was an error; we shall not atone for it by repetitions in
kind! The child is mine; I decline.”

“And mine, so I request.”

“A mother imperils her whole life for her child, and unreservedly gives
to it part of herself; justice, humanity, should give the child to the
mother, so far as may be.”

“But even under thy faith, I, the father, am the head of the house.”

“Under my faith the nurture and training of children belong chiefly to
the mother, and my faith has been the finest society-builder of the
world in the past. Thou hast often recounted to me the deeds of that
golden, heroic time of my people, when the great Maccabean family led us
and inspired us. Well, then, the mothers had exclusive control of the
daughters until they were wed, and so they had grand daughters among the
Maccabees.”

“Well, we differ in belief; we had better compromise.”

“We dare not barter a little soul to do it.”

“Well, briefly then, being lord of this home, I command that the
grace-giving sacrament be sought for our Mary.”

“My faith, to which thou didst first appeal, forbids fathers to command
their children to walk through idolatrous fires. Marah shall not.”

“Hush; I only want the loved one inducted into the true faith.”

“Mine is the older and truer.”

“With thee argument is futile; I insist——”

“If the father is a foreigner, Jewry’s rule is that the children are to
be called by the mother’s name and regarded as of her family. Make such
law as thou choosest for thy family but not for mine.”

“I’ll end this,” cried Sir Charleroy, seizing the child, as if to hasten
then to seek some priest’s ministry.

Rizpah’s eyes glittered with sullen purpose. She sprang before him, and
hissed:

“Our fathers escaped at all cost from Egypt. I’ll not go back, nor Marah.”

The knight was surprised, and his looks expressed it as he said:

“Dost thou rave?”

“Oh, no, I was just remembering that a bearded serpent was the Egyptian
symbol of deity; something like a man. You Christians would have all
husbands gods to their families! No bearded serpent for mine!”

“Heavens, woman! thinkest thou thy scorn and vituperation can stay me?”
So saying he pushed, or rather half flung the woman from him. He had no
conception of the rage that any thing like a blow evokes in the heart of
a woman that could love as once did Rizpah. On his part it was intended
as a masterpiece of strategy, in the hope that the woman would swoon,
then surrender in the weakness of following hysteria. The act was hateful
to him, but he justified it by the end sought, yet missed that end.

Rizpah was a tigress roused, and like many another mother, beast or
human, when the fight is once for offspring was endowed with sudden,
supernatural strength. She sprang toward the hammock, plucking her dagger
meanwhile from its hiding-place.

“Heaven defend us, woman!” cried Sir Charleroy, glancing about for a
means of prevention, “thou wouldst not do murder?”

“Oh, no, thou art not fit to die; but hear me; this blade, consecrated
to defense from dishonor, saved me once. Dost thou remember? It will do
it again, if need be. The giver sleeps, but his stern charge haunts me
still. ‘Protect at any cost from dishonor!’”

“Wouldst thou shed blood of any here!”

“Sir Charleroy saw me slay the Turk. Had I failed, thou falling, this
blade would have found my own heart. Push me onward by thy imperiousness
and I will slay the babe and then myself! Methinks, it would be an
atonement for which my parent would forgive my breaking of his heart. Ah,
then sweet rest; life’s tumults over! God would pity the tempest-tossed
soul that, through such bitterness, flung itself on Him.”

“Dost mean all this, Rizpah?”

“Can I trifle? Ask thyself. Have I ever? My desperate sincerity made me
thy wife, but now it impels me to defy all thy attempts to make me thy
minion, unthinking echo or slave; or worse, the ruiner of that girl.”

“Well, then, woman, since thou or I must yield and I can not, thou wilt
not, I execute my before announced purpose to have my lawful authority
acknowledged with thee or——”

“Say the rest, find peace away from me——”

“Which?” sternly demanded the knight.

“As thou dost wish, only I’ll not give up my child to Christian
sacrifice.”

“Then we can not live in peace together.”

“To which I reply, that God never ordained marriage to bind people to the
home when they can only for each other in that home make a very Tartarus!”

The knight was humiliated. He had believed that the woman’s heart could
not bear the thought of separation, and now to find her willing to give
him up, rather than her will, her faith, hurt his pride. But they had
made an utter crossing of purposes. He ran out of their stone house, his
heart as stony. A little way off he paused, looked back, and said, “For
the last time, Rizpah, what dost thou say?”

“Go; once for love I gave up all. Again I do it; I give thee up for the
highest of all love, the love of a mother for her child!”

Caressingly Rizpah embraced the infant; and then fell on her knees with
her face averted from her husband. He took one glance, and realizing the
defeat of his strong will by that kneeling woman, angrily hurried away.
The die was cast. He turned his back on Rizpah, swearing that he would
never more return.

For a few days Rizpah lived in a crazy dream; now laughing as she thought
of her victory; again letting her maiden love re-assert itself; then
assuring her heart that all was over and well as it was. But a woman who
imagines that reproach or even open violence can utterly extirpate love
that once completely possessed her, knows not her own heart. Especially
is this true if to that heart, she at times, press, lovingly, a child
begotten in that love, and the form bearing the impress of that man for
whom sometime she would have willingly died.

       *       *       *       *       *

One night the baby cried piteously, being ill, and Rizpah was feeling
very lonely because so anxious for it. She had sometimes, since Sir
Charleroy’s departure, prattled with the baby calling “papa” and
“Charleroy,” mother-like, woman-like. Self-condemning, for this was a
half confession that she would have the little one think, if it thought
at all, that she, the mother, was not to blame for the absence. The baby
had caught some names and in its moaning, feverishly cried: “Abbaroy,
Abbaroy; I want my Abbaroy.” The cry was piercing to the mother’s heart
and conscience. She even then wished for the husband’s return. Indeed,
some hot tears fell as she prayed God to send “papa Charleroy back.” The
tie of marriage, potent beyond all of earth, now drew her away toward the
absent one, and she then began to marvel how easily they had separated;
how lightly they had regarded the bonds which after all tightly held
them. When lives have blended and been tied together by other lives, it
is indeed a prophesy of union “until death do us apart.”

“Abbaroy, Abbaroy! I want my Abbaroy,” still piteously cried the sick
child. The night without was raging; the little lamp sent dancing shadows
over the black walls of her room and an unutterable loneliness took
possession of the woman. One by one thoughts like these arose; “Father
dead, mother dead; husband as good as dead; perhaps really so, and my
child like to die! What if she should die thus crying for her father!
Oh, God spare me this! I’d go mad by her corpse.” “Abbaroy, I want my
Abbaroy,” sobbed the child in her sleep. The mother heard the waving
palms without. Her vivid imagination turned them into persons, spirits.
They seemed to be her dead ancestors and they caught up the cry of her
child rebukingly “Abbaroy, I want my Abbaroy.” She swooned now and slept.
In the sleep there came a dream. She thought she saw her daughter, grown
to womanhood, but pale and sad. She had the hand of her mother and was
drawing her toward the sea. Whenever the mother drew back the daughter
wailed “Abbaroy, I want my Abbaroy.” Presently their feet touched the
water edge, she saw a ship, floating at anchor, but with sails spread
partly; on its stern was the name, “_England_.” The captain stood by the
vessel’s side, observing her. At last he cried: “Well, how long must we
wait for thee?” A wave seemed to dash against her face and she awakened.
The heavy window blind of stone had swung open, the rain was beating in
on her. She started up and felt for her child, half fearfully lest a
corpse should meet her touch. But she found her hands clasping a little
form with fast beating heart and burning skin. The light had gone out,
but there alone in that desolate home amid the ruins of past ages, the
woman bowed in agonizing prayer. The balm of broken hearts was sought and
she for a time was clothed and in her right mind. She arose, serenely, in
the morning the cry of the sea captain of her dream in her ears, and the
firm resolve in her heart to seek her husband even in far-off England;
with him to try for the things that make for peace. Then she opened the
iron-bound chest that had come to her from her father and took therefrom
a roll of the ‘_Kethrubim_’ and read. And it so happened that seeking to
refresh her mind as to the story of how the giant Sampson got honey out
of the slain lion’s carcass, that she might more fully apply the meaning
to her own experience, she came to the story of his birth. That story
fixed her attention for days. It was like a new revelation to her. And
she read and read these words over and over:

“And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the Danites, whose name _was_
Manoah.

“And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her,
Behold now, thou shalt conceive and bear a son.

“Then the woman came and told her husband, saying, A man of God came unto
me, and his countenance _was_ like an angel of God, and he said unto me,
Behold thou shalt bear a son.

“Then Manoah entreated the Lord and said, O my Lord, let the man of God
which thou didst send come again unto us, and teach us what we shall do
unto the child.

“And God hearkened to the voice of Manoah; and the angel of God came
again unto the woman.

“And the woman made haste, and ran, and shewed her husband.

“And Manoah arose, and went after his wife and came to the man.

“And Manoah said, Now let thy words come to pass. How shall we order the
child, and _how_ shall we do unto him?

“And the angel of the Lord said unto Manoah, Of all that I said unto the
woman let her beware.

“So Manoah took a kid with a meat offering, and offered _it_ upon a rock
unto the Lord: and _the angel_ did wondrously; and Manoah and his wife
looked on.

“For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the
altar, that the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar: and
Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground.”

And as Rizpah read, little by little, the truth and beauty of the scene
and its words dawned upon her. Thus she meditated: “This is the way
God brought forth His giant deliverer, Samson; God appeared to the
woman first, but she hasted to tell of the promised blessing to her
husband.” When she thought of how that angel-led wife led her husband,
she remembered her own fanatical bitterness and was condemned. Then she
remembered how Manoah and his wife, together, asked how they should
order their child and how, as together they bowed before the Spirit, he
ascended in glory over them. “Oh,” she moaned within herself, “if we had
only put aside our differences and, forgetting all else, just so sought
together the Divine directings!” It was evening as she meditated, and
she said within herself: “If ever I can get nigh Sir Charleroy’s heart
I’ll tell him all this, and before the altar of a new consecration we’ll
give ourselves and ours to God, just this way.” There came a wondrous joy
to her heart and the palms that seemed to moan rebukingly without that
other night, “Abbaroy, Abbaroy, I want my Abbaroy,” this night reminded
her some way vaguely of the beating of mighty wings, approaching nearer
and nearer. She felt no longer rage, as she thought about the often
bepraised Mary of her husband, but on the other hand, wished she knew
more about her, were more like her. It was the woman in her, yearning for
a mother.



CHAPTER XVII.

RIZPAH, THE ANCIENT “MOTHER OF SORROWS.”

      “Oh say to mothers, what a holy charge
      Is theirs! With what a queenly power, their love
      Can rule the fountain of a new-born mind.
      Warn them to wake at early dawn and sow
      Good seed before the world has sown its tares;
      Nor in their toil decline, that angel bands
      May put their sickles in and reap for God
      And gather in his garner.”


Nearly a score of years passed away, each having wrought its changes,
and Rizpah de Griffin is dwelling quietly with her three children at
Bozrah. She is companionless though not a widow. Care has left its stern
impress on her every feature; the roses have gone from her cheeks and the
snows that tarry, baffling all springs, are on her head. But time that
has worn has also ripened. Rizpah has become a self-possessed, stately
matron; her form is erect, her eye as bright as ever. Bozrah has not
changed; the city sits in its sullen, fixed gloom, seemingly unconscious
of the ravages that time works elsewhere. But there have been changes
and changes among the people since first the woman of Gerash arrived
there. Many former inhabitants have wandered away; some to be swallowed
up by the tides of peoples of other climes; some have gone to judgment.
But new comers have taken the places of those that had departed and
speeded the swift enough forgetting of the absent ones, Rizpah was in
high honor, for although she lived in seclusion, mixing very little with
any of the people about her, all respected her. Hers was a well-ordered
house; Druses, Turks and Hebrews joined in affirming this. She ruled
her children firmly and they obeyed her implicitly, for they loved her
loyally. We meet her now amid active preparation for the observance of
the approaching Jewish Sabbath. With her are two boys, twins, born in
London, as like each other as could be, and Miriamne. The latter is in
the full possession of her roses, and in the enjoyment of that splendor
of personal charm seemingly belonging to all the maidens of Abrahamic
descent under “the covenant of the stars and the sand.” For are not
Israel’s women not only plenteous and bright and lofty like the stars,
and her men numberless, rugged and restless as the surf-washed sands on
every shore? Does not this race, in all history, continually attest the
persistence and pre-eminence of all good to those who walk under the
Divine covenants?

Miriamne not only is seen to possess a gracefulness like unto that of the
palm, nature’s pattern of beauty in the East, but she has such robustness
of form as might be expected in one born of such a Hebrew mother and
such a Saxon father. In her temper, poetic, emotional, oriental, like
her mother; in feature and mind more like her father; she was a better,
more evenly balanced result than either. It often so happens; the child
by some natural selection or some mercifulness, inheriting a character,
the resultant of the union of two sets of parental forces, yet finer
than either apart. The scientific man in such cases will say, herein we
behold, in a new being, physical and spiritual forces in action, the
latter gaining the advantage; a prophesy without mystery that at last the
fittest only shall survive. The theologian, on the other hand, will see
Providence electing the best and preparing choice characteristics for
superior works to be done.

At a call of the mother, the children gathered about her, and the group
was charming; a picture full of expression and contrasts. The matron
cast a look of yearning affection upon her offsprings, and the emotion
possessed her until the hard face-lines faded into a sweet smile. Just
then she would have been a satisfactory model for an artist painting
Madonna. “Thank God, children, the emblem of rest and of hope in ages to
come is at hand. I have joyed to-day, in full preparation that this next
Sabbath may be piously and earnestly celebrated with all the religious
exactness of our people.” Then, patting the boys on their heads with
playful tenderness, she continued: “Run away now up to the synagogue-ruin
on the hill. Don’t forget your duty in play, lads; be true little
Israelites! When ye see the sun go down back of Gilead’s mountains, give
us warning of the Sabbath’s beginning. Now mind, keep your eyes toward
Jerusalem.”

The lads sped away, and Rizpah following them with her eyes prayed in
heart: “God bless them, and though in this place of desolation, make them
little Samuels in faith and service.” A little after her face glowed
with triumphant joy, for there came back to her ears the boys’ voices,
mingling in sacred song. It was the psalm of the “Captives’ Return”
that they sang. The declining sun began to throw its last rays through
the open windows of the huge stone home, flooding the black basalt
walls and pavement with golden tints. Slowly the mother’s eyes wandered
from the scene without to objects within, until they rested on a huge
painting that covered nearly half the opposite wall. One glance and her
whole being seemed transformed. In an instant her reverential and weary
attitude was changed to one of excited attention. She grew pale, her
body swayed with a waving motion, suggestive of the panther creeping
toward a victim. Then her form became rigid like one preparing for some
great muscular effort, or endeavoring to suppress some inner tempest.
Her face, made habitually calm by the schoolings of adversity, became a
theater for expression of the changing emotion within; the mouth-lines
putting on a firmness almost hideous; her eyes glittered like a serpent’s
in the act of charming; contrasting with the forehead that shone like a
silver shield. She was as one under a spell or in a trance; but for a few
moments only. There came a light footfall; then a quick, half frightened,
piteous cry and Miriamne stood beside her.

“Oh, mother, don’t! mother, mother; thou dost terrify me!” The young
woman stopped half way between the open door and her parent. Now she
was passing through a great transition. She had seen all that was
happening, often before; had often run away from the spectacle to hide
it from herself. Now she was trying to nerve herself to penetrate the
mystery in the hope of preventing its painfulness. She was at the turning
point, where a girl changes to the woman within the circle of parental
influences.

But so complete was the absorption of the one gazing upon the spectacle
upon the wall, at first the cry was unheeded. In a sort of sudden,
trembling desperation the young woman quickly bounded between her mother
and the picture. Then, as if realizing the unfilial imprudence of the
act, but still unwilling to recede from efforts to break the spell that
bound her parent, she fell upon her knees before the seeming devotee and
burst into tears. The mother started up a little as one awakening from a
dream; then said, with perfect control of voice and manner; “Marah, what
ails thee? Art ill? Are the Bedouin coming?”

“No, no,” replied the other; “the picture; the picture!”

“What is it child?”

“I do not know. I only know that your strange, wild gaze upon its hideous
group terrifies me! For years I’ve learned to feel a mingled disgust and
fright in the presence of the woman in that presentment. When I came in,
your face looked like hers. You did not seem to be my own tender mother,
but an angry virago. Oh, why do you shadow all our Sabbath eves, by this
mysterious, cruel staring and moaning before this imagery of death?
You’ve made me to dread the approaching Holy Day, promise of all delight
to our people, as the advent of all pain to us.”

“Marah, this is wickedness in thee. Thou shouldst learn to wrap thy soul
about with the joys thou knowest, and leave all this that thou dost not
understand, most likely terrible to thee chiefly because thou dost not
understand it, to go its way.”

“I’ve tried and tried for months to reason thus; but how little comfort
to be saying over and over, ‘it’s all right,’ ‘it’s nothing,’ to a fear
that stops the very beatings of the heart. Oh, that I could fly from this
land of desolations. Its loneliness and shadows keep coming and coming
around me until I dread, lest they enter my very being and become part of
me. I’ve leaned hitherto alone on my mother’s greater strength for rest.
If I come to fear her, I’ll lose my reason!”

“Marah,” said the mother, with enforced calmness, “thou art feverish
to-day; thou hast wrought too much. Now retire and say this pillow Psalm;
‘_He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High, abideth under
the shadow of the Almighty._’ Thou’lt be peaceful in the morning; as are
those ever who abide under the shadow of the King.”

But only the more passionately the daughter clung to her mother, and
again she renewed her plaint: “Ah, mother, I haven’t strength to take
these promises! Oh, forgive me, I can not help it; I feel as if something
awful were impending; something coming between us! A curse is on this
land. Is it any way over the De Griffins? Tell me, I beseech you, what
is that painted thing? Sometimes I run out of the room when alone, as
if those men hanging there were still alive, in death’s agony. I’ve
dreamed sometimes that they came down in bodily form charging you and me
with murdering them; and when I go out at evening, I imagine that the
Ismaelitish woman in the foreground is flitting about my path, while in
every thicket I hear the flapping wings of her carrion birds. Oh, mother!
let us tear down that sole defilement of our own little, only home, and
give it to the pilgrim Rabbi, now in Bozrah, that he may burn it with
exorcising rites.”

“Then thou thinkest there’s witchery hereabouts, Marah,” said the mother,
severely.

[Illustration: By George Becker.

RIZPAH DEFENDING THE DEAD BODIES OF HER RELATIONS.]

“I? I do not know what I think, beyond this, that I’m overcome,
terrified, made miserable, and you, under some spell for a time, cease to
be my mother.”

“My daughter profanes her faith by permitting unreined imaginations to
rule her so.”

“Oh, tell me all about this hateful thing! Why it so moves you. You said
long ago you would when I was able to bear it. I am no longer a child.
Mother, you say you read me like an open book, now look into my heart
and see that it is bursting with fright and worry! You say you know
woman’s nature; if so, you know that I can suffer when I understand, but
shall go mad in the suspense of constant fear of some threatening ill
unseen.” Thus speaking and clinging to her mother, with a twining, almost
desperate embrace, such as among women implies unerringly that a supreme
moment and demand has fallen upon the questioner, she burst forth in
tearless sobs. The mother’s face was a study and told of a succession of
weighty thoughts; parental authority brooked; infringed; new surprised
realization that the daughter was no longer a child, but a wise, earnest
woman. Then there was a degree of fearfulness springing from deep love.
The elder woman perceived the crisis, and knew full well that in such
times denials to a woman meant a dead heart, or worse. Then her manner
softened, and drawing her child to her bosom with an embrace passionate
in fervor, she tenderly, soothingly spoke to her:

“My most dearly beloved Marah! dismiss all thy fears at once and forever.
They are needless. Rest, now and always, as thou never canst elsewhere,
in all the world, upon this heart of mine. Rest thou in thy present young
womanhood, as calmly, as trustingly, as thou didst in baby-hood. That
heart guarded thee more tenderly than its own life then, through storms
within and without that nearly broke it. In part thou dost know this;
remembering what it has been in loyalty to God and thyself, canst thou
pain it by one distrusting thought now?”

“Oh, mother, I know, I know; I do not mean to doubt you, and I remember,
with a gratitude beyond all my poor power of speech, your toiling,
patient, constant, loving care for me and my brothers. I never can forget
that you are a Hebrew indeed, proud to emulate the noble mothers of our
nation in its olden, golden days; but after all I must think. I think,
sometimes, with anguish, that that awful picture may some way come
between us!”

“Why, Marah, impossible! thou art my other self; a fairer copy; as I
was at thy age.” Then Rizpah spoke in unusual, confiding tenderness:
“We mothers have our vanities and take a secret pride in wearing our
daughters on our hearts as precious jewels. When nature gratifies that
pride by giving us daughters in form, features and mind, mirrors or
glad reminders of ourselves, as we were in the days of young beauty,
romancings and hopes, we hug these in our souls in a way thou canst never
realise until thou hast been such a mother. Change? I change toward
thee? Ah, girl, not being a mother, thou canst not begin to fathom the
ocean-depth, the heaven-height, the eternity-like unchanging endurance
of a woman’s love, once it has been quickened into the channels of
maternal affection. Thou art a woman to all the world, but not so to
me. I love thee now as I loved thee when thou wert a babe. To me thou
wilt always be a little, lovely, needy creature—an angel touching the
fountains of my inmost nature. All earthly friendships change; lover’s
love, at first fierce, generally dies as the tides of years roll over
it; but, mother-love, in all loving, is the exception. Believe this as
thou dost believe the tenets of our faith and thou’ll find thy troubling
thoughts fleeing away like mists of Hermon, before the conquering
banners of the morning.” There followed a prolonged embrace and a mutual
kiss; impassioned, affectionate; an action expressing volumes to one
skilled in interpreting the signs, all unvoiced and unwritten, yet, by
some constant intuition, known to all womankind as the language of the
finest, sincerest loving. That moment these two women passed onward,
upward together to a higher, lighter, stronger relationship than they had
enjoyed before. They entered the temple where daughter and mother begin
the feast of the new revelation; when to the love of parent and child is
added that of real companionship. That is a sunny, fruity hour, when a
girl is received as a woman by a woman; that woman her mother.

The two sat embracing and happy for a long time; but the old pain
suddenly revived—Miriamne’s eyes chancing to stray to the picture. She
shuddered, then looked pleadingly into her parent’s eyes. The mother,
quickly interpreting the look, tenderly replied: “Sometime.”

“No, oh, no; tell me, mother, all, now! Who, and what are those hanging
forms: the horror-frighted, bludgeon-armed woman; the birds of black,
hovering over the crosses? Oh! my mother, you trust me; now tell me all
or tear that down! You know it’s not lawful for us Jews to have any image
of things in Hades.”

The last words moved the mother more than all else that Miriamne had
hitherto spoken. Heresy, she abominated; and the chief aim of her life
had been to make her children true Israelites by precept and example. To
her thinking, Israel alone was right; all others were heathen, to whom
was reserved perdition. To an apostate, in her belief, there came a final
judgment of misery, beggaring all attempt at description. A little while
she hesitated, and then came to quick resolve to tell her daughter all.
She arose, walked rapidly back and forth over the stone floor of the
abode, and, then stopping before the daughter, said: “Thy wish shall be
granted. In love of thee, for lo, these many years I’ve hidden from thee
one miserable and dark chapter of our family history. I have drank the
bitter waters alone. But too much I love thee to bear the piteous appeal
of thy lips, or the look of doubt that sometimes flits in thy questioning
eyes. Canst thou bear knowledge that is full of bitterness?”

“Yea, mother,” said Miriamne, “there is no bitterness in reality like
that our imaginations conjure up, when fed by mysteries that hang on
pictures of such hideous mien——”

“Thou dost force me to the explanation, but, daughter blame me not, if,
like Saul of old, who fainted at the sight he compelled Endor’s witch to
reveal, thou art given now some knowledge that kills thy sunshine.”

“I’m the daughter of Rizpah and Sir Charleroy. Did they either of them
ever fear?”

“Ah! but I have been the very mother of sorrows, ever since thy birth,
child. God knows it; and it were best to leave it all to Him alone.”

“But, mother, I’d gladly share your sorrows. Sorrow shared is ever
lightened by the sharing. Let us bear the corpse between us, and in this
lonely life we shall be made more than ever companions, through a common
grief.”

“So be it then. Thou shalt know all.”

And Rizpah, going to a seldom-used iron-bound chest, drew therefrom a
parchment roll; handing the same to her daughter, she said: “Read. It’s
part of Father Harrimai’s ‘_Kethubim_.’” The place opened to the story
of the famine in David’s time, which endured three years, because of
wrongs done to the Gibeonites by the children of Israel. As Miriamne read
onward, Rizpah from time to time gave explanations:

“Dost perceive, daughter, that Jehovah, though not revengeful, is a God
of recompenses?”

“He was the friend of the Gibeonites though they were not of his chosen
people; because they had no other friend, I think,” said Miriamne.

“Yes, and He held all Israel responsible for what they were willing to
let their blood-thirsty Saul perform. As he had been, so had been the
people; they were guilty, and God needed to punish them. How just! Oh!
God is sure to press men to a conclusion. Read what David said to the
stranger Gibeonites;” Miriamne continued:

“And he said, what ye shall say, _that_ will I do for you.

“And they answered the king, the man that consumed us, and that devised
against us;

“Let seven men of his sons be delivered unto us, and we will hang them up
unto the Lord in Gibeah.

“And the king said, I will give them.

“But the king spared Mephiboseth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul.

“But the king took the two sons of Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah, whom she
bare unto Saul, Armoni and Mephiboseth; and the five sons of Michal the
daughter of Saul, whom she brought up for Adriel.

“And he delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged
them in the hill before the Lord: and they fell all seven together, and
were put to death in the beginning of barley harvest.”

Miriamne paused; then addressed her parent:

“Mother, I’d not be an heretic, and yet I can not see the justice of
hanging the sons for the father’s sins?”

“Perhaps they were parties to the murder; perhaps publicly, or in heart,
defended it. At any rate, from the beginning it has been so. Thou and thy
brothers are living here fatherless on account of him that begat you——”

“Shall I stop reading this bloody story?” quoth Miriamne.

“It pains thee. Thou must go on now, though thou shouldst fall fainting,
as Saul at Endor. Read.”

The daughter complied, and with quickly revived interest, for she came to
the name “Rizpah” the second time, but before she had not noticed it in
reading.

“And Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah, took sackcloth and spread it for her
upon the rock, from the beginning of harvest until water dropped upon
them out of heaven, and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest on
them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night.

“And it was told David what Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah, the concubine
of Saul, had done.

“And David went and took the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan,
his son, from the men of Jabesh-gilead, which had stolen them from the
street of Beth-shan.

“And he brought up from thence the bones of Saul and the bones of
Jonathan his son; and they gathered the bones of them that were hanged.

“And the bones of Saul and Jonathan his son buried they in the country
of Benjamin, in Zelah, in the sepulcher of Kish, his father: and they
performed all that the king commanded. And after that God was entreated
for the land.”

When the last clause was finished, Miriamne cast a glance at the huge
painting on the wall.

“I understand in part; that is Rizpah and her crucified children?”

“It is well, daughter. Behold her; this is motherhood of strongest type!
Humanity is no where perfect, but of all the erring ones of life, I most
believe in those, who, among many perversions of judgment and blemishes
of character, have some one or more of lofty virtues. Methinks a soul
may be drenched by many sins, and yet, if within its very core it carry
sincerely and sacred as its life some noble, dominating passion, like the
holy love of parent for a child, that soul will ever have thereby a gate
open to the Holy Spirit, a handle for the grasp of saving angels, and,
while life lasts, an ever-flying signal lifted toward heaven. Such prayer
unspoken is a beseeching, not vainly for the interceding love of Him that
weighs the spirits.”

“But, mother, you’re not such a tigress? Not like that woman?”

“How proud I’d be to be indeed all she was. The exact interpretation of
‘Rizpah’ is a ‘living coal,’ but her name interpreted by her life is
better called the ‘flaming beacon.’ We mutually lament the dispersion
of our people! Dost thou remember how last Sabbath thou wepst while
thou didst read to me the words of the blessed Isaiah foretelling the
long-delayed but Divinely-promised regathering of all our tribes?”

“Oh! that the hills of Judea would glow with the beacons of that day!”

“Daughter, God’s beacons are chiefly noble spirits, such as Moses of the
Exode, Samson, the giant, David, Nehemiah and Cyrus. The world has not
yet interpreted Rizpah, the ‘burning coal,’ the beacon fire. Once I was
frail, timorous, wavering, but devotion to that character has transformed
me. When the world’s mothers look to her pattern, there will be a new
order of motherhood; then look for heroic men and an heroic age!”

“But was not Rizpah a Hivite, a descendant of Ham, and so of those
forever under God’s curse?”

“My child, ancestry is not always the test of worth. The consequences
of sin may pass down from sire to son, but never so as to bar the way
to hope, nor dam up the stream of ever-pitying mercy of heaven. Rizpah
had some true Jewish blood within her heart, and in the long run God’s
providence doth work to make the better part, of admixed good and ill,
dominate. Besides all this, the lovely Ruth, thou dost emulate so well,
was foreign to our people. So, too, was Rahab; and our Rabbis tell us
she was in the royal line of David, from which at last the Messiah shall
arise. Those women, with Rizpah, were beacons to the world! While mankind
revere true love, constancy, loyalty and faith, those names will be
remembered.”

“But, mother, Rizpah was the concubine of Saul, and as I think of how
you oft denounce the harems of our neighboring Bedawin, my very soul
blushes at hearing you admire this woman so.”

“Ah, daughter, methinks she was more sinned against than sinning. Recall
the unequal struggle: Rizpah, a foreigner, of a nation subdued by kingly
Saul; he a man, strong of mind, a king, hedged with a sort of divinity
that in the minds of the simple ever hedges kings about; making their
words and deeds seem always right and just. If women made the laws and
customs there never would have been known on earth unclean polygamy,
but ever instead thereof the union only, in holy wedlock, of two lives,
mutually consecrated, serviceful and constant. Under wrong teaching and
tyranny, a woman may do that which purer societies condemn, and yet
retain a conscience white and clean before God.

“Within that book of Samuel, which I hold, it is recorded that
Ishbosheth, a son of Saul, who for a time reigned in a rebellious
confederacy, a horseman’s day’s journey from here, at Mahanaim, charged
Rizpah once with an act of impurity.

“The record makes no mention of Rizpah’s reply. Like thousands of women
before and since her time, she was defenseless against slander. Men, the
stronger, may malign without evidence, and often it doth outweigh, to
ears ripe to feast upon the carrion of a scandal, the indignant denial of
outraged purity, accompanied even with evidences which make the thought
of crime upon the part of the one belied, seemingly an impossibility. But
leave all that; I appeal in behalf of my revered Rizpah to her wondrous
loyalty as a mother. Tell me not that this sublimely heroic woman, who
patiently watched the corpses of her sons and other kin from April,
through all the lonely nights and through all those burning days, until
October rains wept them to their burial, ever did an act that could let
loose upon them living or dead the hounds of scandal! They may have
suffered death as malefactors, in God’s sight, but still her mother-love
clung to them. She who kept those long vigils, lest beast or bird of prey
should harm or mar or pollute the bodies precious to her if to no one
else, I am assured, beyond all cavil, never did aught that could have
stung their brows or embittered their hearts! Such motherly devotion as
hers doth fully purify a woman. He who planned society, with its sacred
foundations resting so largely on the integrity of its child-bearers, has
planted in the bosom of woman this all-possessing love of her offspring,
as her safeguard. It’s her wall of fire by day and by night, and verily
more restraining to her than any law of man, command of God, or fear of
hell!”

“And are loving mothers never unchaste?”

“The Jews hated swine and the monster deities of Chaldeans, because both
destroyed their young, and our holy Talmudists declare that Mary of the
Christians, not being as pure as the Nazarene’s followers affirm, is
doomed to bide even in lowest Hades with the bar of hell’s gate through
her ear. No, I, as a Jewish woman, believe that one of my sex being a
mother and impure is neither loving, nor a woman!”

“How I revere the noble sentiments of Rizpah of Bozrah!”

“For all I am, after God, praise that ancient, fervent beacon, Rizpah of
Gibeah!”

“I am in part reconciled to her, but yet I wish, in frightened agony
often, that you would renounce this historic Rizpah; lioness-like in her
devotion to her offspring, but full of murderous fury toward any that
crossed her love. Our holy book must have sweeter, nobler ideals for our
inspiration.”

“I judge this Hebrew heroine mother by her influence upon me, and that
has been for good. The hypocrite or romancer may call the passer-by to
prayer and have no more soul in it than the Moslem trumpet. Only those
who have some God-like saintliness of character, can win effectually,
unceasingly. There is mighty power in the unspoken sermons of such a
life. _I cherish_ Rizpah, whose touch of moral power, coming where and
when I was weak to callowness, girded me with purpose for wavering and
thews of steel for rosy softness. I was once like thee, a fragile flower,
but the example of that patient woman’s heroism, ever before me, has
fitted me to meet my awful trials and worthily inhabit this giant-built
house. Thou dost remember, Miriamne, at last Passover time they wish, as
thou didst read to me of Jacob, that even now a ladder with communicating
angels might be set up from earth to heaven?”

“Ah, that would be a feast; angels in burning bushes, or by fountains as
in Hagar’s time! I often worship in the thicket and pray for heaven’s
messengers from Paradise to fan the flames of our devotion, as Gabriel
did the orisons of Daniel. But I’d be afraid to meet an angel like your
Rizpah.”

“Not so with me, Marah. Indeed, I often think of Rizpah and Jacob
together. Thou rememberest how, not far away, at Mahanaim, Jacob of
old met a host of angels? They came to cheer him in an hour of sad
depression, the saddest kind indeed; for in that hour he remembered
amid his repentings that he was soon to face the brother whom long
years before he had wronged. Well, when Rizpah, by the death of Saul,
was released from that domineering madman-king, she made her home at
Mahanaim, the place near which Jacob counseled with the angels. Methinks
she there also communed with the spirits that do excel in strength.
She may have been weak before, but in that angel school she outgrew
her master. Ay, my child, it is marvelous how a woman rises under the
impulses of a noble love, holy companionship and plenty of sorrow. Many a
male brute has flattered himself he was crushing into fawning servitude
by his imperious, selfish will, his weaker child-burdened mate, only
some day to find the victim asserting her individuality with power
unearthly. The partridge skulks, terrified amid lowly grasses from the
hunter, little by little gathering courage for her pinions, then she
suddenly departs to return no more, meanwhile luring the hunter from her
treasures.”

“That is, an abused wife should run away?”

“Oh, perhaps not; but she may rise above her tyrant.”

“I can’t but remember the woman’s rough strength.”

“To me the all-controlling love of Rizpah for her children condones her
former errings, her Philistine ancestry, her craggedness. I believe she
soars with the angels now, and to Israel she must be a pattern until some
more saintly and finer woman arises to take the leadership of woman.”

“Will such an one appear, mother?”

“God’s dial is a circle, with a sweep like eternity. He knows no hurry;
yet, though never weary, is never belated. We are not waiting for him,
but He is for us. When man is ready to take up his pilgrim march to the
highlands of a living, all light, all beautiful, there’ll be beacons and
beacons from the valleys to the hills.”

Just then the lamp by which they had been sitting, for some time having
only flickered, was suddenly quenched, and there was a sound of the
fluttering of wings in the room. Miriamne screamed and clung to her
mother, her thoughts on the vultures of the picture.

“’Twas only a bat, daughter!”

“Oh, this ghostly place!” the young woman cried.

“Ghosts and bats are very harmless; would men were like them!” bitterly
spoke Rizpah.

“A bat putting out our light; it’s like an omen!”

“Yes, wrongs do put out the light of human joy, but only for a little
while; look out to the firmament, my clinging other self, as I do,
for comfort by times. See, the stars are immovable; all bright and in
seemingly everlasting calm. Never forget in any long trial, or sudden
terror, that when our human-made lights expire we are to turn our eyes
toward heaven. In truth, God Himself often quenches our lights to make us
look up to His.” The mother, approaching the stone casement, and looking
out on the sky, continued: “The heavens are full of beacons and lamps.
They shall light us to bed as His truth lights those who will to serene,
long rest. Good night, my child.”



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE QUEEN PROCLAIMED IN THE GIANT CITY.

      “Half-hearted, false-hearted! Heed we the warning!
        Only the whole can be perfectly true;
      Bring the whole offering, all timid thought scorning,
        True-hearted only if whole-hearted too.”—HAVERGAL.


Another Passover season was at hand, and the few Israelites in and
about Bozrah, not being permitted to celebrate the feast, at Jerusalem
were gathering for a “Little Passover” at the Giant City. There was
sadness, murmurings and fears in the hearts of the people. Sadness in
remembering the decadence of Israel; fears, for there were Mamelukes
hovering threateningly in large numbers near the city; murmurings,
because fault-findings, the last stage to indifference, flourish when
religion is decaying. Faith and doubt waged their eternal battle; and at
Bozrah, doubt appealing to present facts, had the easier part against
faith, appealing to past providences or unseen hopes. There was clamor
for a change, but the leaders of the people were purblind to any new
light. They crushed their own secret doubts and continued to enforce
what they believed, because they had believed it. They felt a sense of
responsibility, and that made them very conservative. Before the sun had
reached high-noon Bozrah was all astir. There were but two principal
streets in the city; these ran by the four great points of the compass
and crossed at its center. Two companies of Jews of very different
make-up, each moving along one of those streets, met, and, in passing,
quite accidentally, the two processions formed a cross. One of the
companies was made up of priests and serious old men, the true elders of
the people. They tried to appear very wise and very pious, and succeeded.
They tried as well to cheer and comfort all, and did not succeed very
well. The other company was made up of young Israelitish men. They were
going eastward; the old men walked northward, away from the sun, now a
little more than southeast. By the side of the elders glided a row of
shadows of their own making. But they were as unconscious of these as of
the shadows their musty traditions flung over the people.

The youths felt like singing, so they sang. The sadness that was so
general was not very deep with them. They would have liked to have sung
a sort of convivial song; but, that being forbidden, they compromised
with their consciences and the situation by singing the one hundred and
twenty-second Psalm, with the vigor of a madrigal. They had a surplusage
of vitality, and they let it flow out in the pious canticle. Certainly
they conserved outward propriety; as to their inward feelings, they
themselves hardly knew what they were; hence, it would be unjust, for one
without, to pass judgment. The Psalm was appointed to be sung at this
feast. They say the returning captives, coming from Babylon, centuries
before, sang this song as they ascended to a sight of Jerusalem.

Now, some of the elders had come to think it piety to morbidly nurse
their sorrows. They were never happy except when they were miserable. One
of these paused and addressed the young singers:

“Children, cease. Your time is too much like a dancer’s.”

Then all eyes turned toward the leader of the youths, a man with a
Saul-like neck, large mouth, wet, thick lips, and burning eyes; all
bespeaking a person who is never religious beyond the drawings of
religious excitement, for excitement’s sake, and never self-restraining,
except as checked by fear of a very material hell. Such an one, if he
have any regularity in his piety, will have it because somebody opposes,
or because, having swallowed, with one lazy gulp, a heavy creed, he
thereafter goes about condoning by habit his petty vices, in trying to
force others to be better than he himself ever expects to be. Such are
never spiritual, and seldom martyrs; but they make good persecutors, and
so do a work that compels others, by suffering, to be spiritual, and, may
be, good martyrs. This leader made sharp retort, thrusting out his chin
to enforce it:

“The Psalm is all right, and, if the old men sang more, they would have
less time for moaning. Singing and moaning are much alike, only the
former cheers men, the latter, devils!”

“Son,” replied the patriarch, “revile not the fathers. We do not condemn
thy joy as sin; but yet it now seems inopportune. We are entering
captivity, not liberation. Our holy and our beautiful temple is in ruins;
our people like hunted quail.”

“But, this is feast time,” said the youth.

“What a feast! I remember it as it was when the nation gathered at
Jerusalem, to the number of nigh 3,000,000, and offered 250,000 lambs.
Ah, now, a handful, in this grim old city surrounded by aliens!”

The elder, so speaking, bowed his head, threw his mantle over his
eyes and wept; meanwhile his fellow-elders gathered about him, very
reverently, and waved their hands rebuking toward the youths. Just then
there drew near a beautiful Jewess, led by an aged man, the latter garbed
partly as an Israelite, and partly as one of the Druses. He had a saintly
mien, and fixed the attention of the elders; but, the young men, with
one accord, youth-like, at once erected, in silent worship, an unseen
altar of devotion to the new goddess. The grouping was striking and
suggestive. The stranger was silent, and seemed to be intent on passing
by so; but the elders felt their responsibility. It is the fate of the
religious leader to be expected to explain every thing. He must talk to
every body, and about every matter. He cannot, when he will, keep quiet
and so get the credit for fullness of wisdom, as do some. He must express
an opinion, for silence is deemed a greater sin in such than insincerity
or words out of ignorance. The foremost of the elders felt called to act,
and so confronting the two new comers, sternly addressed the maiden:

“I perceive that thou art of my people; wherefore comest thou here, and
in this companionship? Knowest thou not that women are forbidden to be at
the first of the feast?”

The young men were not in accord with the elder; they stood apart, and
some whispered to others:

“It is Miriamne de Griffin.”

The maiden shrank back a little; but the saintly man with her, advancing
a step, replied:

“I am the maiden’s guardian to-day, fathers, and responsible for her act.
Say on!”

The elder, though knowing full well who the speaker was, and also fully
understanding the import of his challenge, pretended to have neither
heard nor seen him. He looked past the speaker, who was championing the
maiden, and continued:

“Do thy people at home know of these indiscreet acts?”

“Hold, Rabbi! no insinuations.” The saintly man’s voice was commanding,
and compelled silence. He continued: “We go our way, ye yours. Ye can not
help yourselves out of your miseries; then presume not to direct us.” He
checked his rising anger, remembering that he was a religious teacher,
and launched out in a wayside sermon. “Ye children of Abraham, hear me,
though I came not to counsel. Ye have stopped my progress, now hear God’s
truth! There are dangers without, but greater ones within; though your
eyes, being veiled, ye perceive not these things. I noticed as I was
coming this way that the tombs and grave-stones every where have been
whitened recently. They tell me this was done so as to enable your people
plainly to see them and so avoid them. Yet fleeing defilement of the
dead, ye live in a grave, all of you. All your prefiguring feasts have
ripened into a glowing present that treads out into a full day!”

The old men seemed puzzled and angry; the young men puzzled but glad.
They welcomed any sermon if it came with novelty. They reasoned within
themselves that the old teachings were dead, and that a new creed
could be no worse. If it were novel, it would have at least a temporary
freshness.

The speaker proceeded, for the congregation before him, being divided in
sentiment, invited him, so far, to proceed.

“Oh, nation, called to be the light of the world, ye bear but phantom
torches. Ye move sorrowfully, surrounded by walls of cloud, but just
beyond there lies a glorious firmament, aglow with suns of hope and a
thousand golden-arched doors made of realized prophecies and promises
ripened. Can ye make these ruined habitations of mighty men, now sleeping
in the cliffs and valleys about us, again teem with their former life?
No, no! yet less readily can ye make your dead, finished, vanishing types
take new life. Ye are puzzled and partially angry, but hold in check the
hot blood. I’ll soon depart; yet before I go, I’ll tell ye, all, this
for your deepest thinking: Ye can never celebrate again the Passover!
God shut ye from your Temple long ago to teach you this; these traveling
ceremonials of yours are but mockeries. The last real passover was
celebrated when your fathers slew the Nazarene——”

“Let us stone him!” vehemently cried the brawny leader of the youths, and
the elders turned their backs, as if to give approval to the violence,
but not incur liability by witnessing.

The brawny youth seized a boulder as if to begin; the saintly man did not
move, and another youth seized the arm of the youth of brawn.

“Young men, I’ll show you an entrancing picture,” was the saintly man’s
calm words. They were instantly intent. “Look, you and your old men
make the sign of the cross by your ranks. Look again, by the cross
stands this damsel, simple, pure and loving; an ideal woman. Her name,
Miriamne, or Mary. Do not delude yourselves into the belief that it will
be safe or possible for you to silence truth by murdering me. I’d despise
your attempt if I did not pity your thoughtless rage. Do not forget the
picture of this hour. The Passover will be fully celebrated when the
power of the cross and the presence of purity is universally felt in
earth. Only your men attend this your sacrifice. It is well; and when men
truly bear the burden of sacrifice, women will be at their feast. Now,
then, take heed. Farewell, ancients!”

So saying the saintly man of strange garb suddenly turned away, drawing
the Jewess with him. The elders were confounded; they could not find
words at the moment for reply; they were stung by the pleased and
approving glances that the young men gave the departing couple. The
elders would have been pleased to have taken the Jewish maiden from
her escort with violence, but the latter was a brawny man. The elders
knew the youths would not aid; to attempt it themselves would be likely
to be a failure, certainly undignified. They deemed it wise, in any
event, to conserve their dignity, and being unable to do any thing more
terrific, they hissed an orthodox malediction after the departing man
and woman. That made the elders feel a little better. The two companies
at the crossing of the streets fell to musing and conversing, but in
different groups. The old men talked as old men, deploring the present
and be-praising the past; the youths deplored the present and be-praised
the future; some of them trying to interpret the words of the saintly
man. They all wanted to be very orthodox Jews, and yet they all felt
that the stranger’s words were full of sweetness and good cheer. Some of
the youths, like others of their age, had unconsciously sided with the
strangers on account of the woman’s influence. They admired her, and the
side she was on was charmingly invincible.

“_The Arabs are coming!_”

It was a cry starting up from all directions, and passed from lip to
lip like the tidings of fire at night. The city was soon in confusion
and panic; then mixed crowds surged toward the crossing of the streets
like terrified sheep. They needed leaders or shepherds. But the elders
so lavish in advice usually, were dumb with fright now. Yet every body
looked toward them for direction. Suddenly, the saintly man and the
Jewess reappeared; as suddenly transformed to a self-reliant leader, she
cried out: “Youths of Israel, to the defense; the enemy come in by the
wall toward the Sun Temple’s ruins!”

“Perhaps it’s the ‘Angel of Death,’” cried the thick-necked leader of the
youths.

“The All-Father of the covenant forefend!” groaned some of the elders.

“Fathers,” cried the Jewess, “pray as you can, but we younger ones must
fight as well as pray. Pray the men to go to a charge!”

“A Deborah!” shouted the thick-necked youth. “Now lead and we’ll follow!”

“Shame!” cried the saintly man. “Lead yourselves!”

There was no need of argument; the thick-necked youth waved his hand
to the other young men and they all dashed away toward the advance of
the enemy; all of the city having a mind to fight, becoming instant
volunteers. But the elders, with a piety enforced by prudence concluded
to stay at the crossing and pray. Perhaps in their hearts they reasoned
that if the enemy were repulsed they might claim the glory of having
sustained the fighters, as Aarons and Hurs; if the youths and their
followers were overcome, then they, the elders, might claim prescience
and say at the end: “We knew it were vain to resist.”

Soon there were heard the shouts and clangor of conflict. The fight was
on. Miriamne breathlessly carried the news to her mother.

The matron laid her hand on her bosom, not to still a fluttering heart,
but affectionately to toy with the handle of her faithful dagger.

“Oh, mother, when will these troublous times end? what shall we do?”

“Daughter, fight! if need be.”

“But we are only women!”

“But this is woman’s time; remember Sisera!” Rizpah began dressing for
departure.

“Oh, mother, wait! Let us send the boys for news into the city. Perhaps
the worst has not come, when the mothers must take arms.”

Rizpah silently assented. The boys were sent, and in half an hour
returned with hot and beaming faces. “The Mamelukes are all slung out of
the city! Lots of them killed,” both exclaimed, between their pantings.

“How brothers: is it all over?”

“Yes, all over! They’re gone! Oh, you ought to have seen how our young
men and the Druses raced them,” interposed one.

“If it hadn’t been for the Druses we’d all been murdered!” cried the
other. Then the brothers caught up the narrative in turn.

“And, Miriamne, some of the young soldier-like men, after the fight,
went about shouting ‘_cheers for the flag of Maccabees and the maid of
Bozrah!_’ They say the ‘maid of Bozrah’ means you. What do they intend?”

Miriamne seemed not to hear the question. She was engrossed with her own
thoughts and thus was meditating: “It’s just as the Old Clock Man said!
The Druses by their needed aid prove it; the Jews need a Saviour!”

“Boys,” presently questioned Rizpah, “Were many of the heretics killed?”

“Oh, ever so many! Yes, and we want cloths for the wounded,” said the
questioned lads.

“Now, may the alien dead rot!”

“But we must bring cloths.”

“Who says it?”

“The ‘Old Clock Man’ told every body to help the hurt.”

“And who, pray, is this ‘Old Clock Man?’”

Rizpah was quickly answered by Miriamne.

“I know him, mother. He’s the leader of the Christians here, and a
wondrously good old man who heals the sick, feeds the poor, teaches the
ignorant and gives the true time of day to every body by the bell of his
religious house!”

The mother fixed her eyes penetratingly upon Miriamne for a moment, then
frigidly questioned:

“And since thou hast disobeyed me in making the acquaintance of a
stranger, thou wilt now explain why thou hast never mentioned to me this
‘Old Clock Man’ of whom thou dost seem to know so much! Who is he?”

“Why, he’s the ‘Old Clock Man’ who mends poor people’s clocks, plays with
the children and is doing every body kindness!”

“Some Christian witchery!”

“Oh, mother, he’s an angel if ever there was one on earth!”

“Is he a Jew?” almost hissed Rizpah.

“I’ve forgotten to ask about that; but I’m certain he is, if only Jews
are good, for he is a saint of God.”

Rizpah’s face wore a sneer as she again spoke: “How canst thou tell,
Inexperience?”

“By acts. He goes about seeking poor people to clothe and feed, and he is
their physician as well, and will take no pay.”

“Some Christian perverter, trying to seduce the unthinking by pretended
service. Beware of such, Miriamne!”

“But healing the sick and setting people’s clocks right can’t do harm!
I’m certain of that?”

“How sly; he would set all Jewry to Christian time and faith at the same
instant!”

“I love his way, mother; it is so good; more I do not know.”

“The old knave!”

“Oh! mother, he is old, but no knave. Ought we not to be reverent to the
hoary head in the way of righteousness?”

“Yet an old man may poison women and children. I told thee the story of
Agag once, daughter.”

“Yes.”

“I mean now to tell thee if this man be not a Jew, let him be like Agag,
hewn to pieces. Flee him as a leper.”

“He don’t talk so. He says all mankind are brothers. Only to-day, he
cried, to the men in the beginning of the fight, ‘save your families as
best you may,’ kill the wounded Moslem with kindness!” The rapid converse
of the two women was interrupted by the impatient cry of the boys for
wraps and lint. As they started away, Miriamne darted after them, saying:
“I’ll go and help those caring for the wounded.”

“Wayward,” called after her the mother, “remember my commands. Keep away
from the old Perverter, and minister to suffering Israelites, only. God
can spare the rest! Let them die.”

In the midst of the suffering ones, Miriamne soon found herself, and as
might be expected; there, too, was the “Old Clock Man.” As they met he
said, laconically, “It is fitting that woman’s tender hands minister
thus.”

“Thanks,” was her reply.

Presently Miriamne questions, with an unaffected diffidence, her
companion.

“Will you tell me your name?”

“Call me father, that’s enough.”

“Ah! but I can not, you are not my father.”

“I may be.”

“What jest is this! I’ve a father living?”

“I am father to multitudes, but after the flesh, childless.”

“Oh, thy children are dead, then?”

“Nay, some dead and some living; but, living or dead, they are my
children.”

“This is a wilderment to me. Where is your wife?”

“Everywhere. In early youth, with vows unutterable, I wed my church. She
is Humanity’s mother, and I the father of all of her children, who will
let me serve them.”

“And is this the Christian faith?”

“It is mine, anyway.”

“I like it. I’m sure it must be safe; being so good, and so you may be my
father that way. Are there many fathers like you?”

“Many, and many needed, else sin will make all orphans.”

“And you have no wife, no home?”

“A home most beautiful, which, at sunset, I’ll enter through a door, once
shut, not possible to be opened by my hands, though its fastenings be but
grass and daisies.”

“You mean death?” As she said it, tears welled in Miriamne’s eyes.

“Weep not, my child, death is beautiful, at least to me.”

“Oh, good man—father. I do not yet know how to think about you or these
things that you say. What made you so different from the people I know?”

“A woman, a lovely woman.”

“Your mother?”

“Not as you think.”

“Oh, then pardon my curiosity. You had some love?”

“Thou hast said it.”

“Why did you not wed her? Did she die?”

“A woman’s question? I’ll tell thee all some other time. I hear
approaching voices.”

“Tell me just a little more now; do?”

“Are the wounded all attended properly? Mercy first, stories and sermons
after.”

“Ah, here come my brothers. I’ll inquire;” and away ran Miriamne to a
group of youths, singing a roundelay, of which she caught but a few lines;

      “Jew and Gentile, Christian, Turk,
      Equally shall share our work.
        For Adolphus’ good
        We’d shed our blood,
      For we have joined the balsam band,
      To cure all troubles in our land.
        We love the man,
        We love the band.
      We love the brothers of our balsam band.”

Miriamne comprehended the situation in a moment, and all radiant with
smiles, bounded to the side of her aged friend, crying: “Father, oh,
you’ve a bonny family coming; over fifty youths and maidens; some
Jews, some Gentiles. They’ve been comforting the wounded and now have
spontaneously formed some sort of friendly guild.”

“That’s praiseworthy so far,” the saintly man replied.

“And don’t blush; when I asked the leader what were their purposes and
name, a dozen cried out at once; ‘We’re Father Adolphus’s angels of
mercy!’”

“They could easily have found a better title, but youth in its frank
celerity interprets human need. We all must have a pattern or hero.
That’s the reason there are pagans; not finding the true God, some invent
one. Anyway, God blesses the merciful.”

“Oh, these angels are splendid; so earnest; so happy; so every thing
good! They all wear balsam-twig crowns, and are singing improvised
ditties about charity and humanity, and such like.”

“Praised be God if they mean them, daughter.”

“Mean them? Why they’ll make the ancients groan if they go to the
crossways with their enthusiastic singing. ‘Black-frowns!’ if they
disturb the Passover solemnities, won’t there be trouble?

“And Bozrah will never understand the meaning of the ceremonial, the
phantom of which meaning some to-day are pursuing, until it beholds sweet
charity sincerely applied, rising with healing and life in its wings to
pass over savingly where humanity has pains and death.”

The old priest looked away toward Jerusalem, as he spoke—his voice
meanwhile becoming very tender, almost tremulous. Had one been able to
enter his heart, there would have been seen a memory picture of Calvary.
Miriamne was awed for a few moments; the old man was lost in thought;
presently she recalled his attention: “Father, the band is just at hand.
Shall I introduce you?”

“It is needless; I formed that Band of Charity, though I gave them not
the name; most all except the recruits of to-day know me.”

The singers went by, saluting the priest as they passed; obeying his
signal to them not to tarry.

Miriamne turned to her comrade with quickened confidence, and with her
usual impetuosity exclaimed:

“I want to be what you like. Make me a Balsamite!”

“Thou hast a mother who might object.”

“Oh, no, no; not if she knew all, as do I.”

“Some have called my work witchcraft.”

“I don’t care, since I know better. Make me a Balsamite, now, please?”

“So be it, child. Put thy hand on thy heart and repeat: ‘_I promise my
Merciful Father always to show heartfelt kindness to all His creatures,
especially those in misery, because of His everlasting goodness toward
myself._’”

“I promise that gladly. Is that all?”

“Yes; thy badge, a sprig of the evergreen balm-shrub, shall teach thee
the rest.”

“Teach me the rest?”

“Puzzled again, child? Well, I’ll teach thee, and the shrub shall recall
my lessons. As thou dost learn to love nature, as thou wilt when getting
back to a more child-like faith, nature will talk to thee all the time.
See, this is unfading; so is mercy. When torrid suns make the shrub
suffer, it sweats or weeps these healing gums. Trials make all good souls
fruitful. Then see, this little shrub gives to the world all it receives,
transforming its earthy nourishments, sunshines and showers, into a
medicament for sufferers. It is a type of the All-Giver. It has but three
flowers, and I read in these the signature of a Triune God. This thou
wilt, perhaps, read some time for thyself, when thou hast learned the
mystery of the Unspeakable Gift.”

“My father, your wisdom is very beautiful.”

“Would, my child, that my words ever be to thee as the nuts of this
little evergreen emblem, though rough-coated, still filled with liquid of
honey sweetness.”

The maiden yearned to embrace the priest. Had she done so, her feelings
would have been like those of a daughter toward a father, or a devotee
toward God. She yearned to express love for father. The fountain of that
affection, hitherto unevoked, was full. But she restrained herself, and
said, as she clasped the old man’s arm: “May I be crowned?”

“Yes, daughter; having served the bleeding as thou didst to-day, thou
mayst.” The priest twined together some of the balsam bows and placed
them upon her brow. “I saw once, at Damascus, a painted presentment of
the mother of our Lord, on wood, from which, continuously, there exuded
a precious nard, of all healing virtue. So they said, at least; and
more than this, I was assured it had power to heal even the wounds of
infidels.”

“Is this really so?”

“I believe a Christian kindness to an unbeliever a medicine to the soul
of the blesser and blest. That’s why I’m merciful to Moslem.”

“But you court dangers, do you not? I remember your telling me once, that
fanatics, or men with a false religion, falsely practiced, were like mad
dogs—one could never tell when they might bite the kindest master.”

“True, some forgetting the essence of all religion worth the name,
Charity, to propagate their theories, easily befool their consciences and
murder gratitude. But ingratitude is a Christian and Jewish, as well as a
heathen fault. In this all are alike. Still, though a man spoil all the
good I try to do him, there’s one thing he can not spoil.”

“And that is what?”

“The bird of sunny plumage that sings in my heart because of the good I
attempt. I met a French pilgrim, a while ago, who spent his time mostly
in helping, as he could, to make the Mohammedan children he met, happy.
He sang to them, gave them presents, acted as umpire in their sports, and
if one got hurt he mothered it—(that’s what he called his tender, odd
ways). Some called him wrong in his head, but when I knew him I believed
that one sane, amid thousands crazed.”

“Who and what was he?”

“I asked him, and for reply got only this: ‘I’m Melchisedec, a priest of
the wayside, seeking to win silver hands, silver feet, and crown jewels.’”

“Well, he would have frightened me, if I’d met him speaking that way and
in such moods?”

“Oh, no; he was not frightful; he seemed to attract even the birds, and
the ownerless curs ran to him when others spurned them. He once, when
sick, told me that he came from Toul, in Lorraine, where was enshrined an
image of Madonna with a silver foot. He believed that tradition, which
declared that that presentment of Mary gave a sign by taking a step, on a
certain time, which warned some of great impending danger, and thereupon
the member was changed to the precious metal.”

“It’s a pretty story.”

“At least the lesson is honey-like. No being can strive to help another
without finding the All-Shining often in his own soul. So our crowns are
made.”



CHAPTER XIX.

THE QUEEN’S CHILDHOOD.

      “Now raise thy view,
      Unto the vision most resembling Christ’s.”—DANTE.

      “Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favor with God.”—GABRIEL.


Miriamne, all aglow with pleasurable excitement and filled with a
curiosity which at times rose to very serious questioning as to her own
faith, anxiously sought to compass an early meeting with the “Old Clock
Man.” She could not content herself to wait a chance opportunity, and so,
remembering that it was his custom at evening time to visit, alone, for
meditation various old ruins like those of the Reservoir, she determined
to seek him there; it being not very far from her home. With beating
heart she repaired thither at sunset, the day after the Mameluke attack.
Having traversed the Reservoir’s side some two or three hundred feet,
she was on the point of returning, for the place was very lonely, when a
voice startled her.

“Oh, Father Adolphus, how you frighten me! I’m so glad you came!”

“Looking for me, yet frightened at finding me. Glad I came, though I
scared you?”

“Well, men and women when frightened are glad of the fellowship of any
thing seemingly strong. It’s easy for the terrified to believe or trust.”

[Illustration: By Carl Muller.

THE EDUCATION OF MARY.]

“There’s rare philosophy in thy head, little woman.”

“So? What were you saying when I startled so?”

“That the silvering of the moon brought out thy person beautifully. So
she that sits above the moon, a queen in heaven, would beautify thy soul
if thou shouldst elect to put on the character she ever wore.”

“I can’t do that, knowing so little of her.”

“A woman’s way of saying, tell me more.”

“You would not torment your Mary with such repartee.”

“Woman again. Art thou jealous already?”

“Fie.”

“Say that again! Once the foil of one of thy sex is penetrated, not
having arguments, she can at least say ‘fie’! Well, even ducklings hiss
when helplessly entangled.”

“Adolphus Von Gombard, I’ll not call you ‘father’ again, if you approach
me any more in this courtier fashion.”

“Again, I say, an old head; but I’d plead privilege.”

“At least old enough to discern the sacred line that bounds all proper
commerce between the sexes. You plead privilege; I grant you the noblest
any woman can give, the privilege of guiding my immortal soul; but I
remember to have heard that he who would shepherd such as I, must be to
her as a woman. The relationship between us must be as that between the
angels of heaven who neither marry nor are given in marriage.”

“Some young women receive teachings most willingly from fine-favored and
patronizing instructors.”

“I know it; but let none patronize me so. I’ve begun to adore the Sacrist
of Bozrah, but if a breath or word passes that makes me think of him
chiefly as being a man, then I shall sit in his presence in fright,
or flee as I would were I to find the place changed into a lonely
night-draped waddy, my only company an image of some leering, giant
Bacchus. But this unequal defence is painful.”

“Then desist and tell me what I’m to do.”

“You have been my ideal man, for heaven’s sake rob me not by changing!”

“Right nobly spoken, daughter. Now pardon me, for I was putting thee to a
test.”

“A test?”

“Yes. It’s forbidden, by customs hereabout, for man and woman, as we,
alone to converse face to face; perhaps wisely, if one be bad and the
other weak. Yet the custom is heathenish—low moral tone engendering
mighty suspicions!”

“Did my priest think me a heathen?”

“No, not that; but they say the moon makes lovers and others mad. I was
wondering whether I was dealing with a bundle of romancings or an earnest
girl?”

Delicately the maiden avoided the query with another:

“You loved Mary: why did you not wed her?”

“Woman again; doomed to make all vistas end in wedlock. With your sex
love, beginning to give, gives all readily, and seems to find no rest
until there’s conjugal union.”

“I have not desired to give all that way to those I’ve loved!”

“It is all or nothing. Ye women love only relatives, and never cease to
desire to make all relatives whom ye want to love. Why, girl, my Mary
is a saint; she died ages ago, after the flesh; but as a model for all
womankind lives forever,”

“How was she your Mary, then?”

“She belongs to every noble minded man as his inspirer.”

“Mary—you call her Mary. I thought all the holy and the great had
uncommon names?”

“In fiction they do; in reality the name is nothing.”

“Was she wise and beautiful?”

“One of our most holy teachers, Epiphanius, who lived less than four
hundred years after Mary, spent many years at Bethlehem and gathered
facts that caused him thus to write. ‘She was of middle stature, her face
oval, her eyes brilliant and of an olive tint; her eyebrows arched and
black, her hair a pale brown, her complexion fair as wheat. She spoke
little, but she spoke freely and affably. She was grave, courteous,
tranquil. In her deportment was nothing lax or feeble.’ Saint Denis, the
Areopagite, who is said to have seen this queen of David’s house in her
lifetime, declared that she was ‘a dazzling beauty,’ that he ‘would have
adored her as a goddess had he not known that there was but one God!’ Of
this much I’m certain, my Bozrah Miriamne, one so serene of character,
and so pure, must have reflected her inner, imperishable beauties in her
features.”

“Father Adolphus, you mention strange names. There are none that sound
like those revered by my people. Do you ever hate my race? If you do you
must not teach me any doctrine.”

“Hate? Why, I love all peoples, and by faith I am made a child of
Abraham.”

“Then you are a proselyte?”

“Not by any forms. I believe in the God of Abraham and His Messiah. That
makes me a perfect Jew.”

“This is strange. My mother never unfolded it to me.”

“Ah, she has not yet looked into these royal mysteries?”

“But, good father, is your name among our chronologies?”

“Thanks to the God of the Patriarchs, yes; it is with that of Moses,
David, Elijah, and all the rest, in the Lamb’s Book of Life.”

“Where?”

“In Heaven.”

“How wonderful; yet I’m afraid to hear more.”

“Shall I take thee home?”

“No; tell me more of Mary. You say she made you lonely and a father?”

“I must then begin her history, and show thee how and why she lived?”

“Do you think it will tire me?”

“Fear not! Her story is a poem, a picture, a tragedy; it’s one long
delight.”

“Then tell it to me, I pray you.”

So the priest proceeded:

“When the world was very wicked, and therefore very sad, God in His
goodness was drawn to send from heaven a light-bearer—some one to tell
man his duty and able to win back to the Great Father mankind’s straying
affections. Thou dost know this much, and hast read in thy sacred
Scriptures how God called to the universe, all chaotic and dark, to come
forth into beautiful form; how he said to the darkness, ‘_Let there be
light_.’ That history bears within it a fine sermon. It’s a picture of
God’s. Out of sin, darkness, confusion, there emerged a perfect man in
a Paradisiacal home, with a perfect, beautiful woman as a help-mate by
his side. That was God’s ideal of perfection and happiness. It delighted
the Father of Joys to make it. This is ever true; behind all clouds in
God’s Providence is sunshine, and beyond all disorders somewhere at last
will walk forth unalloyed pleasure, a Sabbath-like rest, and fullness of
harmony.”

“Oh, can you make me believe and feel this?”

“Wait patiently.”

“I try to do so; but I’m discouraged by the present miseries in my family
and in all our nation.”

“God mourns over all our sorrows before they or we are born, but His
wisdom and power of cure are faultless. Wait. Times are mending, and
the moral sphere is dipping into the rim of light’s oceans. I think the
angels perceive the world now, as thou perceivest the new moon.”

“The poetry of the words I can not interpret.”

“The moon’s a dark globe, with a ribbon of silver across it.”

“And things have been worse; now are bettering?”

“Assuredly so. Believe there is a God, and thou’lt rest in hope. Go
back a little in history to when Cæsar Augustus, of awful pagan Rome,
ruled the world, having won dominion through desolating wars. The most
educated Romans then believed in no hereafter, and sought openly, without
restraint, the grossest pleasures. The ignorant believed in fabled
monstrosities. Rome set the fashions of all the world. The Jews, thy
people, God’s people, were lower, morally, then, than ever they had been
before. They were divided into warring families and sects, holding a
few forms and traditions, but having little heart in religion. The rest
of mankind was barbarous. Thou hast heard how the Roman Titus overthrew
Jerusalem, slaughtering thy people by thousands, defiling their holy
Temple and seeming to blot out nearly the whole of thy race. That time
of Titus was midnight; since that the day has been slowly advancing.
Before that awful culmination of sorrows, the Divine Trinity held august
council, and, as say the traditions of my church, determined to bring a
holy sunrise to the earth’s midnight. The trouble of all creation was
that man had fallen. The Divine Council decreed to confound the devil,
who broke up the first home and ruined the first pure pair by causing
to emerge from another home, another pair. They came, this time mother
and Son, to be the moral patterns for the race, the beginning of a new,
sin-conquering dispensation. The fathers hand down these sayings: ‘The
august, regal Triune Council thus decreed: “Let us make a pure creature,
dearer to us than all others.”’ They say she was begotten upon the
Sabbath, the birth-day of the angels, whose queen she was to be. Then
one thousand of the ministering spirits were commissioned to defend her;
while Gabriel was sent to announce the glad tidings of the birth of a
Saviour’s mother, in Hades. Her angels appeared as young men, of majestic
mien, of marvelous beauty and pure as crystals. Their garments were like
gold, richly colored, and could not be touched any more than could be the
light of the sun.”

“How charming! But is this all true?” exclaimed the maiden.

Without reply, the priest continued: “They were crowned with diadems,
exhaling celestial perfumes; in their hands they bore interwoven palms;
on their arms and breasts were crosses and military devices. They were
swift of flight, some of them six-winged, like the angels of Isaiah’s
vision.”

“How dazzling! But is this all true?” Miriamne persisted.

“Well, it’s not in thy sacred books nor in mine so written.”

“Then you are giving me your imaginings?”

“Oh, no; but after the manner I have spoken, it is recorded in revered
traditions of my church, and none can very well disprove the sayings.”

“I wonder if such honors made Mary proud?”

“A strange query.”

“I’d like to love one such as she, but could not if she were haughty or
lofty, like the great of earth.”

“It would have made such as thou proud, perhaps; but there was none of
the serpent in her whose Offspring was to crush the serpent’s head.”

“Is there any of the serpent in me?”

“I’m not thy judge.”

“Then she was immaculate?”

“Ah, that’s a question for the doctors. I’m too simple to know beyond
what is written. I’m glad to know that she rejoiced in her son, as a
God and a _Saviour_!”—“She was of noble family, though her parents were
poor,” the priest continued. “Her mother was by name Anna, and worthy
of the name, which is by interpretation ‘_gracious_.’ Traditions of
her goodness are many, and the good and great have honored her memory.
I paid Anna homage, that of a youth respectful of worthy motherhood,
at Constantinople, in a church erected in the year 710 to commemorate
that saint. Among others, also Justinian, the Emperor, in the year 550,
dedicated a sacred place to Mary’s mother.”

“Then she had her meed of praise, at last?”

“Tradition, though tardy, has been just; but I trust not tradition alone.
I easily reason that there must have been much of goodness and womanly
beauty in the mother that bore such a woman as Mary. I know that God can
bring forth angels from the offscourings, but that is not His way. He
works by steps upward. I tell thee, girl, the mother gives her life to
her offspring, and in spite of training, almost in spite of regeneration,
the characteristics of this parent will reappear in the child. But to my
story about Mary’s parents, Jehoikim and Anna.

“Blessed be God, Anna and Jehoikim were untainted by the pride of life,
and, though living in a time of loose morals, walked lovingly, constantly
with each other, through all their days. I talk to thee as to a prudent,
but not prudish, young woman. Society is well rotted when divorce is
about as common as marriage; it was that way in Anna and Jehoikim’s time.
Why, even the exacting Pharisees then taught that a man might divorce
a wife who had lost her personal beauty, or badly cooked her husband’s
meat. Jehoikim might have left Anna, for she was childless; that was
reason enough for divorcement to the average Jew, then. But their love
was beautiful. The man, as was his duty, clung tenderly to his wife; her
misfortune making her all the more in need of his tenderness. Dost thou
not think so?”

“I suppose so. I don’t know.”

“Pardon my earnestness; it made me forget thy inexperience!

“Well, God rewarded their constancy, and they became the parents of
my Mary. The father had a noble ancestry; but, what is better, within
himself a royal heart. He bore by right the priestly office; but that
was not much to such a man, in respect to worldly gain. Honest priests
in his time were generally poor; the priestly preferments went, most
richly laden, to those who dealt corruptly, and truckled to the ruling
powers. Mary’s father was above sordidness and simony. He had little to
give or to leave to his beloved, but he left his child a good name and
the remembrance of the blessed. So while God chose the humble to confound
the mighty, and serenely exalted those of low estate, He was mindful to
choose His elect from the ranks of the morally great. Such are found in
all places and times, and when surrounded, as were these pious parents,
by the gross, low and selfish, they shine with transcendent splendor.
In Tisri, the first month of the Jewish civic year, while the smoke of
the holocausts were ascending, to invite heaven’s pardon, Mary, who
was to bring forth the world’s greatest offering for sin, was born at
Nazareth. Her career was fore-ordained, and she was soon walking her
course of piety and sorrow. Though inexperienced and tender-hearted,
sorrows in heaviest, grimmest forms fell upon her. Her father died when
she was, it is said, only nine years of age; not long after, the girl
knelt, a mourner, by the bier of her mother; the golden hairs of youth
mingling, in the disheveling of utter grief, with the gray, which crowned
the queen and guide of her heart, her mother. On the threshold of her
life Mary’s parents were called away from her, leaving her no heritage
but their precepts and example. They say that Jehoikim’s hands were
stretched out, as in benediction, when he died, and so remained until his
burial, reminding all that his last act was a commendation of his little
daughter to Him who carries the lambs in his bosom! The picture of these
outstretched hands, and of the girl embracing the aged dead mother, are
often in my mind; they never fail to deeply move me. Poor orphaned lamb!”

Miriamne brushed away a tear, a sort of self-pitying tear. She ran
forward in mind, to the day when she, herself, would be orphaned, without
a benediction, or, perhaps, a cheering memory. Then she questioned:

“Did your Mary have other friends?”

“Yea, her Heavenly Father. It is said, also, that she was cared for by
the elders of the people, and religiously trained under the very shadows
of the Temple. We may readily believe this; for, in her after life, she
evinced a self-possession in adversity that witnessed of a thorough
religious culture. If there was no other evidence, her splendid poem,
the ‘_Magnificat_,’ would convince any seeking proof, that Mary had had
surpassing benefits and privileges in the study of God’s words, as well
as in the best learning of her people, the Jews. But, Miriamne, I’ll
weary thee; let us turn toward thy home.” Presently they stood not far
from the old stone house of Rizpah; then Von Gombard drew from under his
mantle a roll of writings. “Here, take and read. After its perusal I’ll
see thee again.” So saying, the old priest lifted a hand in blessing, and
then moved away toward his abode.



CHAPTER XX.

THE WEDDING, THE BIRTH AND THE FLIGHT.

      “Seraph of heaven; too gentle to be human,
      Veiled beneath the radiant form of woman.
      Sweet benediction of the eternal curse;
      Veiled glory of the lampless universe!
      Thou moon beyond the clouds, thou living form;
      Thou wonder and thou Beauty——
      Thou harmony of nature’s art.”—SHELLEY.

    “Take that one hour at Bethlehem out of human history, and
    eighteen centuries of hours are left but partially explained.”—PROF.
    NEWMAN SMYTH.


“What so engages thee, daughter?” questioned Rizpah, as they sat together
at evening in the old stone house.

“I’m reading the story of a lovely orphan girl. I wish I were, in heart,
as lovely as she.”

“Was she a white citadel, pure and strong?”

“Peerless, indeed; the very queen of women, I think.”

“Oh, then thou must be reading of glorious Rizpah? Now fill me with this
matter! I thirst to hear.”

Miriamne, though fearful of further exposing her thoughts and study,
obeyed, knowing full well that nothing would so stimulate her mother’s
curiosity as attempted evasion.

“I’ve been reading of the orphan girl’s marriage. Shall I go back, or
continue from that period? Her name was Mary, and she was a Jewess;
that’s the sum of the beginning.”

“Go forward,” sententiously replied the elder.

Miriamne complied:

    “The guardians and relatives of Mary determined that she should
    early wed some proper person to be her protector, and so,
    according to Jewish custom, they went about the selection of a
    husband for her as soon as she had reached her fourteenth year.
    This selection was deemed a pious and serious duty by all the
    participants therein; therefore it was made by an appeal to the
    Lord with lots. Zacharias, the presiding priest, managed the
    proceeding, as follows: He first inquired God’s will in prayer.
    An angel brought reply, saying: ‘Go forth; call together all
    the widowers among the people, and let each bring his rod.’

“In truth here is refreshment! If all weddings were contrived under the
wisdom of older heads, there would be fewer mad marriages.” Rizpah swayed
back and forth as she spoke. She was remembering, now, the curse of
Harrimai that day in Gerash, long years before. She thought him a monster
then, but now she was enshrining him in mind by the Angel of the Lots.

“Shall I go on, mother?”

“Go on.”

“He to whom the Lord shall show a sign, let him be husband of Mary,” read
Miriamne.

“Ah, the Lord would not trust the youths to draw! He knows that a man is
like to harass the life out of one woman before he learns to care for
another rightly. God was good to Mary in hedging her in to a widower if
needs be that she must marry.”

Rizpah did not sway back and forth now; she sat erect and laughed
bitterly.

[Illustration: By Raphael.

THE MARRIAGE OF MARY AND JOSEPH.]

Miriamne continued:

    “There were many splendid youths who rejoiced to be permitted
    to bring their wands.”

“Oh, ho! then they were suffered to draw for the girl? But what
matter—the Angel of Lots presided! He’d not let the youths succeed!”
Again Rizpah laughed, and as mockingly as before.

Miriamne again read:

    “After prayer each deposited his almond tree with the aged
    Temple priest. In the early morning they anxiously sought the
    verdict. It was found that all the rods were dead, except
    that of Joseph, the son of Jacob, the son of Mathan; but his
    blossomed as that which, ages before, confirmed miraculously
    the priesthood of Aaron’s sons. Then there appeared another
    miracle, for as Joseph reached forth his hand to take his
    blooming branch, there issued from among its luxurious
    blossoms, miraculously, a white dove, dazzling as snow. For
    a moment the dove gracefully suspended itself in the air,
    turning its eyes from one to another of the competitors; then
    it alighted on Joseph’s head. ‘Thou art the person chosen to
    take the Virgin and keep her for the Lord,’ said the priest,
    solemnly, to Joseph. All the rivals responded ‘Amen,’ and then
    the dove flew away toward heaven. Joseph was thirty-three years
    old, of pleasing countenance, very modest, graceful, and of
    comely figure, and a widower.

    “When all was told to Mary she modestly replied: ‘I knew it,
    for the Lord has been with me.’ Zacharias told Mary that Joseph
    was a true, honest Jew, a carpenter by trade, and trained by a
    father who fully believed the adage of Rabbins, which said that
    ‘He who would not make his son a robber makes him a mechanic.’
    ‘Besides this,’ said the Temple priest, ‘thy espoused one is
    like thyself, of the royal _house of David_. The blood of
    twenty kings mingle in the veins of you both. God grant that to
    that house of David there soon be born another, greater than
    all before, to deliver our holy nation from foreign masters.’
    Mary made no reply, but as a blush of hopefulness passed over
    her face, she looked very earnestly toward heaven and seemed
    to be repeating the prayer of the priest to the All Father. The
    formal betrothal then took place. Joseph presented his chosen
    bride a small token of silver, saying: ‘If thou consentest to
    be my bride, accept this.’ She took it, smiling affectionately,
    and then the witnesses signed the usual Jewish compact, which
    read as follows:

    “‘I Joseph, said to Mary, daughter of Jehoikim, become my wife
    under the law of Moses and Israel. I promise to honor thee; to
    provide for thy support; thy food and thy clothing; according
    to the custom of Hebrew husbands, who honor their wives, as
    is befitting. I give thee at once thy dowry and promise thee
    besides nourishment, and clothing, and whatsoever shall be
    necessary for thee, also conjugal friendship, a thing common to
    all nations of the world. Mary consents to become the wife of
    Joseph,’ The two signed the document.”

“See Miriamne, the Jews were wise; they made the husbands do most of the
promising. They knew that the wives would be all wifely without such
pledging.” And Rizpah again bitterly laughed.

“Shall I proceed?”

“Yes, oh, proceed; it’s a Jewish poem.”

    “Thereupon Joseph placed a jeweled ring upon Mary’s fourth
    finger, with a smile and a blush, saying, the ‘physicians
    say, my beloved, that a nerve and a vein, reaching the heart
    together, lay close to the surface of that finger.’ And she
    understood and was happy. A benediction was pronounced, and
    then the espoused pair were ready to depart to Joseph’s
    house. He was to be the guardian of the maiden from that
    hour forth. The hereditary servants of the families took
    up the line of march, bearing flaming torches; immediately
    after these followed a procession of women, richly garbed
    and wearing golden tiaras and pearl bedecked girdles. Behind
    these attendants of the virgin, followed a goodly company of
    dexterous musicians and singers, discoursing rapturously the
    significant canticles of Solomon. As the latter went on from
    time to time they broke out of the line of march and disported
    themselves in the eastern star-dance, saying as they did so, to
    one another, ‘the morning stars sang at creation; the dawn of a
    new home coming by love, is next to creation the most joyous
    of all events.’ So the dancers went on, and as they rejoiced
    in poetic motions, they thought of the stars which yet tremble
    as if with the thrilling of that first delight they shouted.
    Of all, the sweet orphan girl now companioned was the center.
    She was bedecked with costly jewels, the glad tributes of those
    that loved her; over her was the significant veil, and, so
    beneath the wedding canopy, she entered Nazareth to be a wife.
    Her sky had become very bright, for hers was a heart that took
    exquisite joy from the honeyed petals of affection’s flower.
    No bride ever more fully entered into that supreme state, the
    all exalting, entrancing, expanding, thrilling period of new
    married life. She went forward in the proud consciousness that
    her weakness had overcome a giant, and that while she lead a
    royal captive, she was supremely happy in her utter bestowal of
    her all upon the one only man now became almost next to God in
    the temple of her soul.”

Miriamne paused, and Rizpah wept a little.

“Shall I go on or pause, mother?”

“Go on, dear.”

“But you weep, are you ill?”

“Oh, no, except in memory. This is sweet sorrow, that beats us back and
forth; contrasting dark endings with bright beginnings; heaven high
hopings with black disappointments, and happy lives with our own, all
interwoven with miseries. I walked once in the sweet illusions of bridal
days, but an utter widowhood came before death called. That’s the worst
bereavement.”

“But some marriages are all happiness, are they not?” queried the
daughter.

“Some, but not many. That’s the rule. Most of them begin well enough, but
wedded mates are not as wisely tender as lovers; they too soon entomb all
their joys in graves of selfishness and lust. So then the dove flies from
the blossom of espousal never to return.”

“Perhaps, such as they did not love enough to begin with and so
separated?”

“Some who would die for each other before marriage, would die to be quit
of each other, after. Hence the brood of suicides, and that blackest
crime of all, murder, which often raises its treacherous, cruel head
within the marriage chamber.”

“How comes this error, trouble, horror?”

“In wedding bodies, without consents or courtings of the souls, if those,
who, though mismated, happen to join lives, were only wise, they might
yet be happy, growing together. But read more daughter.”

    “In the fullness of time, the angel Gabriel, known amid the
    Seraphim as God’s champion, the chosen of Jehovah and His
    messenger of comfort and sympathy from heaven to man, was
    commissioned to carry the glorious news to earth. He spread
    his rainbow pinions, and with his own radiance to lighten his
    course, passed from the confines of the august court of the
    Divine Presence, the companionship of his fellow archangels,
    Michael, Raphael, Uriel, to go out across the planet-lightened
    realms of everlasting space. His course was watched with
    throbbing interest by the spirits of mercy appointed for
    ministering to man. Gabriel sped on, with sweeps of power which
    almost devoured distances, nor paused to bask for a moment in
    the many-colored lights of the golden and silvery shielded
    planets or constellations that he passed in his rapid flight.
    The wheeling suns and rushing worlds, marching and charging
    along the shoreless oceans of eternal space, had no splendors
    nor powers with which to challenge his high mission; though
    theirs was grand, his was grander. He traveled at love’s
    behest, on mercy’s work, to carry to this little earth, rolling
    along, mostly in shadows, the mandate of glory, the news of
    heaven’s great saving device. He bore proclamation in its
    substance and its realizations forever the manifold wisdom of
    God; the wonder of all who know to think or reason. And so that
    voyage passed into the pages of history and the records of
    eternity as well.

    “Mary, whom Gabriel sought, was engaged in evening prayer as
    was her wont, with her face toward Jerusalem’s Temple.”

Miriamne paused; she perceived that she had arrived at a part of the
manuscript which Father Adolphus had marked with a red line to remind her
it was from his Christian Bible. She feared to read this portion to her
mother.

“Read on, daughter, the words are precious; they are as songs in the
night to my soul.”

Miriamne continued:

“And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city
of Galilee, named Nazareth,

“To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of
David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

“And the angel came in unto her and said, Hail! thou art highly favored,
the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

“And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her
mind what manner of salutation this should be.

“And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor
with God.

“And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and
shalt call his name JESUS.”

Miriamne read the last word “Joshua.”

She proceeded:

“He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the
Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David.

“And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom
there shall be no end.

“Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a
man?

“And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon
thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also
that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of
God.”

“Hold! hold!” cried Rizpah. “What is this? the faith of the Nazarene?”

Miriamne was awed. She feared she had proceeded too far; but quickly
remembering an explanation of Father Adolphus, replied: “Be content,
mother, I read but that that appears in our holy prophets, Isaiah, the
poetic and vehement; his words you so much prize have here an echo.”

Rizpah gazed at her daughter, with a puzzled, questioning expression for
a moment, and then sententiously said, “Read on.” She was alert, though
severe. Her curiosity was ruling, but her prudence was conserved, at
least in her own mind. The daughter was anxious, but could not retreat;
she knew she must read further or make a futile effort to explain her
reluctance. The two were a study; each afraid of the other: each anxious
to aid the other to truth; both on guard, and, while professing to be all
love for each other, attempting to move forward to a fuller fellowship by
indirection. The outlines of the cross were appearing in that household,
and never was there to be complete accord until there it ruled all hearts.

Miriamne continued to read, but confined herself chiefly to notes made by
the old priest on the margin of her manuscript.

    “Presently Joseph, the affianced husband of Mary, discovered
    that his beloved was to become a mother. At first the discovery
    was like a dagger in his heart, for as yet the marriage had
    not been consummated. It was a crisis of great import and
    trial to husband and wife. Joseph, though now a plain man and
    a mechanic, carried in his veins the noblest blood of his
    race, being descendant of the ancient kings and in the line of
    Solomon and David. Besides that, he had all the abhorrence of
    the better Jews for adultery, that their awful law of death as
    its penalty, implied.”

“Did he help the mob to stone her?” cried Rizpah.

Miriamne was startled by her mother’s angry earnestness.

“Oh! we’ll see.”

She continued reading:

    “He met his affianced in the evening on her return from
    Hebron’s rosy hills, whither she had gone to visit her
    kinswoman, the mother of John, by name Elizabeth. The interview
    of those two noble women had prepared Mary to tell her
    betrothed all that troubled and rejoiced her. When her espoused
    met her privately and for the last time, as he intended, he
    found her sweetly, serenely singing, as was her wont, a Davidic
    psalm. He was at first astonished, not knowing how she could
    be so happy under such stigma as seemed to rest upon her. His
    patrician blood was roused, and for a moment he was ready
    to denounce her to the Sanhedrim as an adulteress. Then he
    looked at her, pitifully, questioningly. It could not be, he
    meditated, that one so young could be so depraved as to sing
    God praises, being a criminal. She must be insane! He tore
    himself from her presence, but instantly returned when she
    called out: ‘Joseph, God knows all; touch not His anointed.’

    “‘Woman!’ he cried ‘explain! explain! Thy seeming sin hangs
    scorpions over my eyes, and turns my heart to ashes. Thy
    calmness is a wonderment!’

    “Then Mary quietly recited to him the wondrous story of
    Gabriel’s visit.

    “Joseph was pale, and reverently attentive; but still the
    sadness of his countenance betokened his incredulity.

    “Mary, self-possessed, confident in her own integrity,
    continued: ‘For three months I have been secluded with my
    kinswoman, Elizabeth. She knows I saw no man, and thou canst
    testify of the manner of my living since our espousal; but
    I got words from God, at Hebron. When I first went into my
    kinswoman’s house.”

“Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:

“And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among
women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.

“And whence _is_ this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

“For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears,
the babe leaped in my womb for joy.

“And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of
those things which were told her from the Lord.”

    “No sooner had Elizabeth finished that salutation, than the
    Spirit of the Most Holy Ghost possessed me and I, thus, without
    premeditation prophetically said:

“My soul doth magnify the Lord.

“And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

“For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from
henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

“For He that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is His name.

“And His mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.

“He hath shewed strength with his arm; He hath scattered the proud in the
imagination of their hearts.

“He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low
degree.

“He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He hath sent
empty away.

“He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy.

“As He spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed forever.”[2]

    “I tarried until Elizabeth’s son was born. He is to be the
    herald of mine! Joseph was amazed. The wisdom and stately
    character of her _magnificent_ description and ascription were
    unaccountable. But he doubted still her integrity. Yet his
    wrath was softened into pity a little. He hesitated, and then,
    _being a just man and not willing to make her a public example,
    was minded to put her away privately_.”

“Ha, ha;” laughed Rizpah, bitterly; “I see now, ’tis a beautiful fable
thou art reading! Put her away privately! a man do that under such
circumstances! Bah! rather would a real man parade the woman’s guilt
from the house tops. In truth, to show that he was sinless because he
was such a Nemesis of sin; or to get the pity of light-headed fools, who
would gladly take the place of the discarded! A pretty, baby face can
catch unerringly the man who pities himself well, if she will only gush
with real or affected pity for him. Pity and flatter a man and he’ll be—a
Lucifer! But read it all. This is refreshing; its so absurdly uncommon!”

The girl continued:

“But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord
appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not
to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of
the Holy Ghost.

“And she shall bring forth a son, thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he
shall save his people from their sins.

“Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of
the Lord by the prophet, saying,

“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and
they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with
us.

“Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had
bidden him, and took unto him his wife.”

Miriamne again read “Joshua” for Jesus, but yet felt assured that her
mother was in heart, recognizing the source of the story. Rizpah,
by silence, pretended not to know she was listening to parts of the
Christian Bible, for she was very curious now. Miriamne was willing the
harmless pretense should continue. But they furtively observed each other.

“I see; this is a story based upon some of the Christian’s heresies,”
interrupted Rizpah. “If the stories be so unnatural, I’d never fear their
sacred books!”

Miriamne was rejoiced, for her mother was becoming interested, and that
was nigh being fully persuaded that their home was not contaminated by
the hated Christian’s Bible. Miriamne read again:

    “Mary now was contented. She had the approval of God and
    her conscience, and that for which her young heart greatly
    yearned the approval of the one man of earth whom she loved.
    It mattered little to her that few others knew her wondrous
    secret. She knew her position was one of peril, and yet she
    felt certain God would be with her to the end. The joy of
    Joseph was full, and the revulsion of feeling from crushing
    shame, to lofty hope was unutterable. A while before he was
    ready to die, as he began tearing from his heart its idol,
    and attempting to consign her to the tomb like that of death,
    forgetfullness. Now he perceived himself elect of God to
    defend, vouch for and shelter the woman of women, the highly
    favored of Deity.

“And it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from
Cæsar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

“And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into
Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, (because he was
of the house and lineage of David,)

“To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife.

“And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished.

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling
clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in
the inn.”

“How barbarous! They surely could not have been Jews who kept that inn,
or a woman in bearing would have had tender welcome. They must have been
Christians; they are the people whose women blush when carrying little
life, and, as if ashamed, forgetting that God had royally privileged
them, hide themselves. Bah, I’m sick of the thought! I’ve seen Christian
husbands ashamed of their pregnant wives;” so soliloquised Rizpah.

“There were no Christians at the time of these events, mother. But shall
I read of the company Mary had, to comfort her?”

“Yes, do; I’d like to have been there, just to rail at the inn’s folks.”

Miriamne continued,

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field,
keeping watch over their flock by night.

“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord
shone round about them; and they were sore afraid.

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good
tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”

“It is said that even the cave, where Mary was, was filled with supernal
light,” remarked Miriamne digressingly.

“I believe it on my word. If angels ever come to earth, it must be surely
to hold glad torches about the couches where beings, to be at last
perchance like themselves, are coming forth to life,” said Rizpah.

“It is thus reported,” continued Miriamne:

“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the
king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

“Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his
star in the east, and are come to worship him.”

Miriamne substituted Joshua for Jesus in the reading.

“Joshua, ‘Joshua,’ what ‘Joshua’ is that?”

“Joshua means “deliverer;” this one was to be such; for the rest, I’ve
not before read it, mother.”

“Read on, again,” tritely, Rizpah spoke.

“When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all
Jerusalem with him.

“And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people
together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.

“And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by
the prophet,

“And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the
princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule
my people Israel.

“Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them
diligently what time the star appeared.

“And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for
the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I
may come and worship him also.

“When they had heard the king, they departed and, lo, the star, which
they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where
the young child was.

“When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child
with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they
had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and
frankincense, and myrrh.

“And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod,
they departed into their own country another way.”

Miriamne read ‘The Anointed’ where the text said Christ.

“Miriamne, who could these men have been, Rabbins?”

“I think not, mother; I see upon the margin of my ‘_megellah_’ a note
which says, These were light or fire-worshipers of Persia. They, or
rather their ancestors had heard, centuries before, from the Jews,
then their captives, that there was an expectation, based on wondrous
prophecies, that some time, there was to be on earth a man, born of
woman, in character like God and in mission the bringer in of the golden
age. These Magi were seeking that person, like pious pilgrims.”

“Oh, the Messiah. Alas! we all long for His coming!” Then Rizpah fell
into a revery from which Miriamne roused her with the question: “Art too
weary to hear more?”

“No, no; read, on. These things strangely move and rest me.”

Miriamne continued:

    “When eight days were fulfilled, they circumcised the Child,
    calling him Joshua, offering, according to the law, a pair of
    turtle doves.”

“Circumcised? Ah, I’m glad! They were good Jews, though poor ones, since
they offered the gifts of the poor, two pigeons,” exclaimed Rizpah.

Miriamne read onward:

“There was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man
was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel.

“And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see
death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

“And he came by the Spirit into the Temple; and when the parents brought
in the child.

“Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God and said:

“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy
word:

“For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,

“Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;

“A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

“And Joseph and his mother marveled at these things which were spoken of
him.

“And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold this
child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a
sign which shall be spoken against;

“(Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also;) that the thoughts
of many hearts may be revealed.”

“How mysterious and contradictory, and yet how true the old man’s word,
Miriamne? He blessed the parents amid their pious services toward their
offspring, yet predicted a sword thrust for the mother. Ah, the sword for
the mother is ever impending! But read further.”

Miriamne continued:

“And Anna, a prophetess, who was a widow of about fourscore and four
years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings
and prayers night and day.

“And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and
spoke of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.”

“What a finished picture, Miriamne,” interrupted Rizpah. “See, a young
mother committing her child to God; a blessing and a sword of pain
revealed; then the finest human sympathy in the form of motherhood
chastened by years coming to encourage her. Oh, the years have sadly
wrecked a true woman if they have put her beyond saying, from her heart:
‘Poor girl, I love thee,’ to her younger sister in her hour of maternal
trial. But what followed?”

Miriamne replied by again reading:

“The angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and
take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou
there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to
destroy him.”

“Ha! the jealous old hypocrite! But I remember, Herod murdered his wife.
A man brute enough to do that could easily seek the life of an innocent
babe. If Apollyon ever be dethroned because of the appearing of one more
devilish than himself, the dethroner will be a wife-murderer!” exclaimed
Rizpah, almost in a passion.

Miriamne continued:

“Joseph took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into
Egypt.

“And was there until the death of Herod.”

“So Jewry, our Jewry, gave one of its young mothers a stable for a bed
chamber, a manger for her babe; then refused her these by making her an
exile. Cruel Israel said go or be childless! Oh, Israel! how Pagan Rome
defiled thee!” passionately exclaimed the Jewish matron.

Miriamne paused until the mother questioned:

“Was there a pursuit?”

“A hot one, though a vain one; my manuscript reads as follows:

    “Herod had charged the Magi to tell him, on their return from
    their quest, the abode of the Child born under the star. He
    pretended to desire to pay it homage, but in heart he was
    intending to murder it. The Magi, impressed by the goodness
    and sanctity of mother and Infant, never returned to Herod to
    betray them.”

“Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was
exceeding wroth, and sent forth and slew all the children that were in
Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under,
according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.

“Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy, the prophet, saying:

“In Ramah there was a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and a great
mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted,
because they are not.”

    “So a dark wave of misery rolled over Bethlehem. Hundreds of
    women, weeping over their own dead, were led to understand
    the cruel injustice of the spirit that drove the Virgin and
    her child into exile, and that, until the end of time, there
    will be sorrow in the homes of the land that does despite to
    the virtues and characteristics exemplified, so well, by that
    mother and that Child.”

With these words Miriamne rolled up her parchment, saying: “This is all
there is written here.”

“All? It is well, for thou art weary, child. We’ll now retire; to-morrow
I must speak with thee about the book. Good-night, now.”

“Good-night, mother.”



CHAPTER XXI.

THE QUEEN WITH HER FAMILY IN EGYPT.

    “It is curious to observe, as the worship of the Virgin mother
    expanded and gathered to itself the relics of many an ancient
    faith, now the new and the old elements became amalgamated....
    The Madonna assumed the characteristics ... of the types of
    fertility.”—ANNA JAMISON.

      “Babe Jesus lay on Mary’s lap,
        The sun shone in His hair,
      And so it was she saw, mayhap,
        The crown already there.”—GEORGE MCDONALD.


The day following Miriamne’s readings to her mother, she eagerly sought
Father Adolphus that she might receive more of the narrative, delightsome
to herself and evidently interesting to her parent.

Finding the priest at dawn in one of his accustomed walks amid the ruins,
she scarcely waited for his “Peace, daughter,” until she exclaimed,
“More! I want more of the story!”

“Hast finished that I gave thee so soon?”

“Yes, and read it all to my mother! Is that not wonderful?”

“Temerity!”

“No; it charms her. She has fallen in love with the child-wife. Oh, what
if my mother should come to think and believe as you—then I would!”

“Thou mayst alone; but what part of the story desirest thou?”

“All! Nothing less than all! What became of the Holy Family in Egypt?”

“Now sit down on this shattered column and I’ll recount to thee the
traditions in order, leaving thee to judge which is true.”

“Tell me what you believe and I’ll believe it. That’s enough!”

“I scarcely am able to do that, not knowing whether to believe or
disbelieve some of the things reported. But I remember them, and
perceiving that though they are only traditions, they are very beautiful
and very natural, I remember them with delight, that is very near to
giving them full credence.”

“Then, so will I do.”

“It may be the wise way, for I’ve believed that the good angels who,
under God, watched over the little outcast family drifting about in
strange places, have also watched over the drifting stories of their
wanderings, letting the facts profitable for us to know, come safely to
us, though they have come without the seal of authenticated history.”

“Now, I believe all this, too.”

“Well, then, ardent catechumen, listen. For three years the queenly Mary,
with her consort and child, tarried in Egypt—”

“How did they subsist?”

“Oh, the God of the outcasts Ishmael and Elijah, who provided water for
one and bread for the other of those two, was the One who sent the Holy
Family to Egypt with the charge that they ‘be there until He brought them
word.’ Now, thou hast learned that when God sends any on His work He
charges Himself with their support.”

“Did they find friends in Egypt?”

“Thou wilt learn in time, daughter, that two of that family had, as
none on earth before, the secret of making friends. They had the
love-enchantment from on high, which has been winning its way ever since
over the world. But I’ll proceed. There were in Egypt at that time
multitudes of Israelites who had sought its refuge from the persecutions
practiced toward them nearer home. Doubtless these exiles received
Joseph’s family kindly. Also, in all the East at that time there were
many artizan leagues, banded together to aid their fellow-craftsmen.
Joseph being a carpenter, I doubt not, found among these sympathy and
help.”

“At what place did the family abide?”

“Tradition says they tarried for a considerable period at Heliopolis, the
city celebrated the world over for its splendid temple, where centered
the Egyptian Sun worship. To me this tradition seems most reasonable,
when I remember that the child of that family was pointed out before,
by a miraculous star, which led the Fire worshipers of Persia to his
cradle. The Fire worshipers of the far East and the Light worshipers of
Egypt were much alike in their beliefs. They were all seeking light, and,
impelled by the necessity of man’s nature for some religion, revealed or
man-made, able to do no better, looked up to the sun, the greatest light
of which they knew. God’s hand was in that meeting of the old and the
new. There is a tradition that when the Holy Family arrived at Heliopolis
all the idols in the Sun Temple fell on their faces. Be that as it may,
the pathos of the poor prayers of the Light worshipers moved the Divine
Mercy to send them the Sun of Righteousness, and all the handiwork of
Rhameses, at On, lies in great, grim silent ruins, while the faith that
had its germ in that little outcast family is overspreading the earth.
Alas, poor Egypt!”

“Why poor Egypt?” questioned Miriamne, wonderingly.

“Those living now are so like their ancients who, in fright and helpless
doubt, sought to save themselves by placating both good and evil; the
light struggles in Egypt to-day, entering slowly and often retiring.
Yea, poor Egypt, I pity thee! But I digress. It is said that the Holy
Family also tarried for a season at Memphis, on the Nile, the city where
chiefly was practiced the worship of _Apis_, the sacred bull. Thou
rememberest how Israel was nearly ruined by doing homage to a golden calf
at Sinai? That calf-worship was the same as the Apis-worship of Egypt.
The Egyptians, in common with all mankind of old, earnestly looked for
a manifestation of God in visible form—an incarnation. Their priests
practiced on their pitiful yearnings and credulity, and taught them to
believe that their greatest god appeared from time to time under the form
of a bull, which _Avatars_ they, the priests, claimed that they only
could discover. The Egyptians, highly esteeming endurance and passionate
vigor, readily accepted the animal pre-eminent in these things as the
abiding place and expression of their god. The Child Jesus, the token
of a better faith, was fittingly brought, therefore, to Egypt’s Temple
of _Apis_. Thus the _Light and Immortality_ confronted that typified
grossly at Memphis, and the incarnations that were as false as they were
offensive, were brought face to face with the _Incarnation_ sung by the
angels. The devotees at the fanes of Memphis degraded man by preferring
the beast. He that made man a little lower than the angels first,
afterward exalted him to sonship by appearing garbed in the likeness of a
man. Christ, at Memphis, was to do what Moses did at Sinai.”

“I do not comprehend these words!”

“As Moses ground the golden image worshiped by Israel to powder, so
Christ came to overthrow and blot out of the world every vestige of the
religions or believings that exalts the animal and degrades the spiritual
in man. He heralded the age of gold and fire.”

“And was _Apis_ overthrown by the child?”

“Not immediately; that is not the way of Him who knows no haste; but
in His own good time its fall came. Egypt, hoar with deep thinkings on
the master problems of life, death, eternity, did much in distant times
to color and express the beliefs of all peoples. It became a school of
religious as well as the theater of some of their greatest, bloodiest
conflicts. Let me recall some of the steps. First, I’ll begin with the
revival of the true faith under Moses, which was the revival of escape,
the only way to preserve God’s people from utter defilement. Thou hast
read in thy Holy writings how the conflict began between the king and
Israel’s leader:

    _And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye,
    sacrifice to your God in the land._

    _And Moses said, It is not meet so to do; for we shall
    sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians to the Lord our God:
    lo, shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before
    their eyes, and will they not stone us?_

    _We will go three days journey into the wilderness, and
    sacrifice to the Lord our God, as he shall command us._”

“Why was Moses so anxious to get away so far!”

“I’ll show thee; that was then a mystery, now explained. Egypt worshiped
a bull devoutly; the Israelites were commanded to sacrifice to God a red
heifer. The color, red, was an antetype of the saving blood to be shed on
red Calvary. Moses, methinks, desired to get away that he might reveal
this sacred mystery, so far as he discerned it, to those to whom it was
sent. Follow me now with pious, frank heart. The Israelites antagonized
the customs of Egypt sharply by offering before God the finer, weaker
animal, and now, girl, as I read of Mary and her child waiting about
Memphis, I discern the past and that present meeting. It seems to me
that He who thundered to Pharaoh ‘_let my people go_’ rëappears in the
form of the child, the pitying shepherd, seeking the lost sheep amid
earth’s offscourings. More, as I think of Mary, the beautiful outcast,
following the fortunes of her Divine Child down into that dark land, and
also remember how His blood finally crimsoned her life, I recall the red
heifer offered on Israel’s ancient altars. Mary, for the world’s sake,
through her maternity, was laid on the altar.”

“Father Adolphus, you dazzle and yet convince me. How wonderful all this
seems!”

“I see the Holy Child in Egypt, the building nation of earth, as
the founder of a new order of building. Now follow me, child. After
the garden and the wilds, where primitive man abode, there came the
Tabernacle and Temple. When man enters into the benign influences of
social life, he begins building a house to shelter and seclude his own.
When he takes God or a god into his society he builds a temple. If
there be growth and culture he decorates his buildings, hideously at
first, æsthetically after practice. Presently he becomes a scientific
builder and a philosopher. Then to him life is all building. He grasps
the thought that he is the architect of himself, of his character, of
his future. If his religious life is deepened he expresses all his
philosophy, all his aspirations in monuments and temples. Moses and
Solomon, in tabernacle and temple, but repeated the deeds of Egypt. But
Egypt built under the sun, the patriarchs under the Spirit. Egypt had
done its best, reached the end of its resources, having filled the land
from the Delta to the cataracts of the Nile with pyramidial monument and
august fanes. But building under the sun, in the light of nature only,
was building in the dark, at least half the time. Christ, the architect
of all that is enduring, confronted the achievements of those ancients as
a merciful destroyer. He came to them to turn and overturn that, after
the ruins, their mind be turned to a building upon and with the precious
living Corner-Stone! Try to remember all this. Christianity is on the eve
of a new building age. The crusades are ended. Now for religious palaces!
But these in turn will be thrust aside, that all may give themselves to
build souls up for eternity!”

“I am dazzled good father, indeed; but oh, I can not remember all these
things! I’m like a child in my love for stories, and I can re-tell such
to my mother, as I can not these deeper things you utter.”

“I forgot, child. But we priests preach by habit everywhere!”

“Tell me more of Mary and Joseph and Jesus. Were the Egyptians kind to
them?”

“As kind as the followers of the Pharaohs to the descendants of Joseph!
No more. There was no more room in Egypt for Jesus at His coming than
there was among His own people. But the God of Moses, ever the living
God, though opposed, may never be thwarted nor killed!”

“Oh, now do not tell me these things, too deep for me; just tell me the
simple story of the sojourn in that strange land.”

“So be it, girl. If I digress, recall me. They say that the Holy Family
found in that land a few to accept them kindly. One such was a robber,
who, happening upon them, was at first about to do them violence; but he
was restrained by the demeanor of the saintly mother, and his heart was
all changed toward compassion of the little company. Instead of robbing,
he gave them a temporary home in his mountain retreat. It is said that
he was the one to whom the child of Mary, long after, while dying on the
cross, companion in death with that same robber, gave repentance, with
the promise of Paradise.”

“How good and natural!”

“Then there’s another legend. It is that Mary and her loved ones were
met in that strange country by one of the world’s pilgrims of pilgrims—a
gipsy, who was a sorceress. There’s a charming little dialogue, part in
prose and part in verse, all about that meeting, which I have here. I’ll
read it. The sorceress begins chanting:

      GIPSY—I come, I come from the land of the sun,
            From the dim, dim past of the far-off dawn;
            The waif of the world, the froth of the sea,
            Of a clan that has been and ever shall be.

      MARY—God give thee grace and forgive thee thy sins.

      GIPSY—Ye are pilgrims, too; no lodge for to-night,
            Ye are outcasts here in a flight of fright!
            But the mother charms and my heart say come.
            Ye may come; shall come to my gipsy’s home.

“‘The gipsy, Zingarella, took the babe in her arms, but then suddenly
broke forth into a mournful chant, as she held the hand of the infant:

      ‘Here’s a cradle song, and a tear and a moan;
      Here’s a crown of thorns and a cross, when grown.
      Here’s a vale of blood and a black, black night.
      Here’s a flocking world and a rising light.’

“‘And then suddenly falling upon her knees, the gipsy asked alms; but
this time, as never before, with both palms extended and craving neither
silver nor gold, but eternal life. It was granted.’”

“Oh, father Adolphus, I’ll never forget this story.”

“Forget not, either, its simple lesson; the gospel comes to the very
waifs of life, and so there is help for the sinning, wherever found, in
the Holy Child; encouragement to all holy longings in the meanest breast
of the meanest woman, once within that circle, all radiant with the
beautiful virtues of that Saviour’s mother.”

“Surely, I’ll treasure this lesson, which is both balm and heart’s ease.”

“I must go now, so must thou. I’ll send at noon to the Reservoir,
another parchment. Let one of the lads meet the messenger. It will be
suitable for reading to thy mother, Rizpah. Be not so soon over-hopeful.
We must proceed with her slowly. Those most needing the light will curse
it if, coming too suddenly, it chance to dazzle. Israel still goes down
all unconsciously to Egypt for gods, and the spectacle of man changing
the invisible down, down, continues everywhere. Slowly, we who would be
faithful, must raise up His only true presentment. We must allure after
us, with all wisdom and tenderness, those we would win, while striving
ourselves to rise toward Divine ideals ever beyond and above us. God
bless my little missionary.”

They parted; and there were tears on Miriamne’s face; but not of anguish.



CHAPTER XXII.

THE SHADOW OF THE CROSS.

      “Day followed day, like any childhood passing;
      And silently Mary sat at her wheel
      And watched the boy Messiah as she span;
      And as a human child unto his mother,
      Subject the while, He did her low-voiced bidding—
      Or gently came to lean upon her knee
      And ask her of the thoughts that in him stirred.

      “And then, all tearful-hearted, she paused,
      Or with tremulous hand spun on—
      The blessing that her lips instructive gave,
      Asked Him with an instant thought again:”


“Mother, I’ve another volume of that charming story, full of wonderful
things. Shall we peruse them to please our woman’s curiosity, to-night?”

“Woman’s curiosity?” angrily ejaculated Rizpah.

“They say all women are inquisitive; do they not?”

“They! The fling of the ‘lords of earth!’ Eaten up with anxiety solely
concerning themselves, they plunge into introspections and questionings
pertaining to their own worth; the ultimate of their own preciousness,
that they call philosophy. Our sex, in self-forgetfulness, ask questions
out of sympathy, and with desire to help others; that’s ‘curiosity!’
Faugh, the fling is sickening!”

“My book is both curious and philosophical; it’s interesting to both
sexes therefore. Shall I read?”

“On thy promise to tell me later whence it came, who its author, thou
mayst read it to me.”

Miriamne, perceiving that her mother was curious to hear the whole story,
though the former placated her conscience by a show of indifference,
responded: “I’ll begin with the return of the wanderers.” So saying, she
read:

“‘But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a
dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, arise, and take the young child and his
mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought
the young child’s life.

“‘And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into
the land of Israel.

“‘Being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of
Galilee:

“‘And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be
fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets. He shall be called a
Nazarene.’”

“Nazarene!” Rizpah ejaculated, interrupting the reader. “Does the word
not taste like wormwood, girl?”

The maiden replied, adroitly: “We read the pagan inscriptions on the
monuments about us without being harmed! Surely we may safely read these
nobler peoples’ words and deeds.” So saying, the maiden continued:

“‘Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the
passover.

“‘And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the
custom of the feast.

“‘And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus
tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and His mother knew not of it.

“‘But they, supposing Him to have been in the company, went a day’s
journey; and they sought Him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.

“‘And when they found Him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem,
seeking Him.

“‘And it came to pass that after three days they found Him in the temple,
sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them
questions.

“‘And all that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.

“‘And when they saw Him, they were amazed: and His mother said unto Him,
Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? Behold, Thy father and I have
sought Thee sorrowing.

“‘And He said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I
must be about my Father’s business?’”

“That was rude, was it not, daughter? Was not his father’s business
his mother’s? He was young for such philosophy, so like that of tyrant
husband.”

“He meant God’s business!”

“Then his earnestness was just. God first, kin after—mother or
husband—say I. Did the mother gain-say him?”

“It is thus recorded,” replied the maiden.

“‘And they understood not the saying which He spake unto them.

“‘And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto
them; but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.

“‘And He increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.’”

“Daughter, there was a fine spirit in that house; it was enhaloed by the
girl-wife’s character! No wonder that the son increased in favor with God
and man! He was able to cope with the doctors mentally, yet subjected
himself to his mother. I’ll certify that he was wonderfully like his
mother. The traits of the woman that bore him are prominent in every man
of fine measure.”

“And are fine daughters, like their fathers,” laughingly questioned
Miriamne, as she glanced at a reflection of herself in a metallic mirror
suspended on the wall before her.

“Ah, that depends on whether they have wholesome fathers.” Then, turning
her eyes affectionately toward her daughter, Rizpah continued: “Thou hast
enough of Hebrew in thee to leaven thee. Yet, let me plant this in thy
memory, my lamb, destined most likely some time to lie in anguish on the
altar of maternity: Mothers determine beyond all else the fate of the
world by determining beyond all else the characters of their offspring.
Yea, girl, in the homes of industry, the bugle-calls of the soldier, the
moving orations of the holy teacher, there are ever heard echoes of their
cradle days.” Rizpah paused, drew a long sigh, and again broke forth:
“But, alas! men and women walk in pairs. How can the gentler of the
two, alone, or opposed by the stronger, succeed? I’ve seen paired birds
battle the sly serpent, creeping toward their birdlings, victoriously;
paired weakness triumphant over huge danger; and I’ve seen the lords of
creation dropping serpents upon their own mates and their own nestlings!
If one would find a monstrous cruelty, he must needs seek in human
homes!” Then the speaker, pausing, bowed herself, and sat swaying from
side to side, with her hands over her eyes. Miriamne, accustomed to such
action on her mother’s part, and knowing it was best when she was in
such moods to leave her to herself, withdrew quietly. Yet, Rizpah seemed
not alone to herself, for her mind was peopled with ghostly forms from
her gloomy past; all painful companions, but still courted by the woman
in her periods of morbidness. Presently she slept; the sleep of sorrow,
that mercy balm of nature which comes to pained or wounded humanity
as the power to grieve or ache is exhausted. The sleeper passed from
consciousness of things about her, followed by the forms that had haunted
her memory, and was soon among the wonders of dream land. Then came to
her the sound of mighty contentions, and it seemed as if opposing forces
were in conflict concerning herself. Rizpah, of the ancient, seemed to
be trying to drag the dreamer toward seven crosses supporting seven
stark forms. The babel of contending voices was silenced by others,
exulting, as if in victory. There was a change; the sleeper seemed to be
lifted up from caverns unutterably deep, and suffocating, upon a ruby
cloud, soft as down to the touch, but irresistible in uplifting. She
was borne swiftly, over vast realms of space, toward a golden gate-way
with tomb-like arch, whose cross-shaped portal swung invitingly open. A
river of light spreading to a sea, and vibrating with sense-entrancing
melody, flowed outward through the mighty gate-way. On either side of
the portals, and moving along the river, were many glorious beings. The
latter soared on wings of mighty sweep, whose motions seemed to beat
in accord with the melody of the flowing light, while, from within and
without the gate-way, there came the sound of countless voices, all,
as it were, mingling in the triumphant swellings of a grand anthem.
The dreamer discerned in the anthem two words, repeated over and over,
tirelessly: “_Glad Tidings!_” “_Glad Tidings!_” “_Glad Tidings!_” The
golden gate became rose-tinted; the color deepening to purple and gold
as down the stream of light there floated an island of gardens, and on
the island appeared two human forms; a youth and a maiden. The anthem
“Glad Tidings” continued; but sweeter, louder, deeper than before. And
the sleeper perceived that on the wings of the glorious beings there were
emblems; red crosses, about each cross a ring of fire; above the crosses,
bejeweled silver cups; then she knew that the twain on the island were
bride and groom. The scene changed; there was a consciousness of a flight
of time. She looked again, and on the island she beheld a mother lovingly
bending over a babe; over mother and babe tenderly bended a man, by the
pride and the affection he expressed, attesting himself the husband and
father. Rizpah was enraptured, and in her dream she prayed the scene
might tarry. She was nigh being envious of that happy mother. But her
prayer was denied her, for soon she was startled by a voice at her side,
saying, in tones of mournful rebuke: “Farewell, forever!”

The dreamer, looking about, beheld in her vision, her ideal, Rizpah; but
the latter was wonderfully changed. Her eyes were dim and sunken; her
form dwarfed, bowed and age-shriveled. Suddenly the whole vision faded
into thin air, and Rizpah, of Bozrah, awakened filled with condemnation.
Before she fully realized that she had been dreaming, she cried out:

“Rizpah, oh, Rizpah, tarry a moment!”

Silence was her sole reply. Little by little, as she collected her
thoughts, she comprehended that her vision, while sleeping, expressed
the facts of her life while waking. The heroine girl-wife of Nazareth,
the newer, finer, surer, truer ideal of womanhood, was demolishing in
the mind of the woman of Bozrah her former idol, the lioness of Gibeah’s
hill. She knew this, for she found herself contrasting the two ideals,
and in mind lingering by preference and with the greater delight about
conceptions of the younger. Then began the struggles of the giants in
her conscience; clean truth against hoar prejudices; sweet mercy against
bitter revenge; Mary of Bethlehem against Rizpah of Gibeah. The matron
of Bozrah, usually hitherto so self-sufficient, was changing. She felt
that yearning inevitable in the career of most women for a confidant. She
could not sleep; she could not now go down to get inspiration by standing
before the grim Rizpah-painting, in the lower room; she was miserable,
lonely and restless.

Mechanically, she moved toward her daughter’s chamber, some way feeling
that even a sleeper would be company to one so lonely as herself. Rizpah,
alone, at night, in the grim, giant house, groping her way toward
Miriamne’s sleeping place, was unconsciously illustrating her soul’s
quest. She was in heart seeking alone, and in the dark, some one to take
the place of her demolished ideal. Had the queen of women been there, in
person, Rizpah, then, would have welcomed her. She groped her way to the
maiden’s couch, feeling that, as she believed, her daughter was pure
and good and loving. Could the matron have analyzed her own feelings,
she would have found that she was in part led toward Miriamne because
the latter some way seemed like, or near to, the girl-wife who was
supplanting in the heart of Rizpah of Bozrah, the wild Rizpah of Gibeah.
A cloud passing let a flood of silvering moonlight full on the sleeper’s
couch, and Rizpah, feasting her eyes, murmured: “I wonder if that woman
of Bethlehem were not very like this maiden?” As the mother gazed on her
offspring she presently began noting features in the sleeper’s face that
reminded her of the absent father and husband. She recalled him as he
appeared under the palms that night at Purim, and as he was that day he
lay pale and bleeding in her all-giving arms. The whole past, that was
delightful, came trooping up, and with it there came the full light of an
old love revived; a renaissance of that she had supposed buried forever.
Soon the aged woman, all youthful again within, was mentally in hot chase
after the pleasure she had parted from so hastily long years before. She
was glad of her thoughts, for they were rejoicing; glad she was alone,
for the thoughts seemed sacred. It was no use, had she willed, to resist;
so she just gave up to the impulse, and with a half-suppressed cry,
passionately twined her arms about the sleeping girl, and covered the
face of the latter with burning kisses.

The maiden started up in affright, breaking the spell that swayed her
mother, but only in part at first. Rizpah was almost angered by the
awakening, which caused the vision her soul was embracing to take swift
flight. Her first glance seemed to say to the now awakened girl:
“Begone, intruder! Leave me for a time alone with—” but she recovered
herself, and was silent. Yet her mind ran on after the vision. She had
not been embracing the girl, but the girl’s father, in heart. Had he
happened there then, he would have been all-forgiven, all-welcome. So
wonderful the heart of one capable of deep loving as well as deep hating;
so wonderful the nature of such a woman as Rizpah, when her emotions,
aroused, spread their throbbing pinions to soar at the behest of revived
affection. “Human passion,” sneeringly some may say, and truly. But
human passion is a gift of grace. When it travels along right lines,
it quickens the one enriched by it to the noblest deeds. He whose name
is Love came to earth through the Incarnation to show the splendor
of human affection, working at its best in the kingdom of its finest
displays—the home circle. The fate of Eden made men believe a lie, but
Bethlehem refuted that lie for all time. Rizpah turned bitterly from
the fiery, disappointing love she had experienced to stamp all loving,
except parent love, a mockery. She had nursed her false creed, and
suppressed her rebel heart by adoration of the wintry ideal of Gibeah.
Now she was touched by a new influence, and it was to her as the touch
of spring to winter-prisoned nature. For a few moments daughter and
mother contemplated each other; the one as if dreaming, the other full
of wilderment. Then the former quietly said: “I’ve been very nervous
to-night. I’m quieter now, and will go to rest. Sweet dreams follow thee,
daughter.”

The maiden composed herself to sleep, and the elder woman passed out of
the room. The latter, in going, perceived on the floor-slab a parchment,
and bore it away with her. She said within herself as she did so: “It is
best for Miriamne that I know of her reading.” But, after all, she was
very curious to know all about the new matter, of which she had recently
heard a part, on her own account. The writing, that of a masculine hand,
ran as follows:

    “MIRIAMNE:—As I promised, I have herein recorded, for the
    help of thy memory, further facts about the Bethlehem Mother,
    MARY. Keeping constantly in heart the wonderful words of the
    angel Gabriel, she followed with constancy the wanderings of
    her Son as He went forth to heal and preach. She heard with
    pride and joy that a Dove of Peace from heaven overshadowed
    Him at His baptism in Jordan; but immediately she was plunged
    into anxiety, for he disappeared from the haunts of men
    in a prolonged absence. This was during the time of His
    temptation in the wilderness. He returned to gladden her,
    but immediately set forth to new trials, labors and dangers.
    The young Miracle-Worker was denounced and driven from among
    the people of His youth. Tradition points to the very place
    where his mother fell fainting, when she saw the people of
    Nazareth dragging her Son to a precipice by the city, with
    intent to cast Him down to death. At that place of the mother’s
    overcoming the Empress Helena builded the sanctuary called the
    ‘_Church of the Terror_.’ But that loyal mother never wavered
    in her allegiance to her Son, but, shortly after these things
    formally, publicly, bravely, received baptism at His hands in
    Jordan, at Bethabara. Indeed, this act on her part evinced
    not only the faith of a disciple, but the zeal of motherhood;
    her Son’s cause seemed to be failing, and she espoused it to
    strengthen it in its most trying hour. She was willing to dare
    all things to win for her Beloved a possible gain, however
    small.

    “The gathering storm grew darker about the Carpenter’s Son,
    and the leaders of the people were planning His destruction;
    but He pursued his work of healing and teaching serenely; His
    mother constantly hovering near him to encourage Him. She
    heard that John the Baptist, son of Elizabeth, the herald of
    her own Child, had been slain because he had been true to
    God. The harlots of the Court of Herod had procured John’s
    death, because that holy man had rebuked their vices. But even
    this shocking event did not overawe the mother of the Founder
    of the New Kingdom. She stood in splendid contrast with the
    murderers of the prophet. It was purity, almost single-handed,
    against lust corseleted by the nation; two phalanxes; one of
    few, the other of many; but, as common in this world, each
    led by a woman. Mary, like a parent bird fluttering over her
    nestling, sought by the fowler, hovered around her offspring.
    She exemplified the finest, fullest utterance of faith, ‘Jesus
    only,’ by determining to break up the home in Nazareth, in
    order that all the family might keep near the beloved One in
    His journeys. So it happened that when He was near Capernaum,
    working Himself nigh unto death, they visited Him to persuade
    Him to rest. Of this it is written:

    ‘_While He yet talked to the people, behold, His mother and His
    brethren stood without, desiring to speak with Him._

    ‘_Then one said unto Him, Behold, thy mother and Thy brethren
    stand without, desiring to speak with Thee._

    ‘_But He answered and said unto him, Who is my mother? and who
    are my brethren?_

    ‘_And He stretched forth His hand toward His disciples, and
    said, Behold my mother and my brethren!_

    ‘_For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in
    heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother._’

    “To all He herein proclaimed the doctrines of His kingdom,
    self-denial, and though the words seem harsh, they were most
    kind, for by them He said, as it were, to His disciples:
    ‘Behold these all-sacrificing relatives of mine are twice
    related to me; by blood and by sufferings.’ It was, on Jesus’
    part, a public adoption of His own family. As He had been
    publicly adopted from on high when He typically submitted to
    death in His baptism, so when He beheld His mother, having
    forsaken all to be with Him, he proclaimed those that had
    elected to share His sufferings His kin indeed. The sword of
    His suffering bitterly wounded her when the rabble howled
    after the Healer, “_Thou wast born in fornication._” But He,
    amid all His engrossments, never forgot to minister to His
    mother as a courtly, reverent, loving Son. These words of a
    holy book not only speak of the workings of the providence of
    God, but assure us that He that uttered them was prompted to
    comfort His own widowed mother: ‘But I tell you of a truth,
    many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the
    heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great
    famine was throughout all the land;

    “‘But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a
    city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow.’

    “And now for the present I close with all holy salutations.

                                                        “A. VON G.”

[Illustration: By P. R. Morris.

THE SHADOW OF THE CROSS.]

Rizpah was so engrossed with the matter of the letter that she scarcely
observed the initials at its end. As she turned the letter over there
fell into her lap a pictured parchment. It represented a woman, half
kneeling and with arms outstretched toward a beautiful child, the
latter balancing, and, as it were, taking a first lesson in walking.
“That woman’s face is some way very like that of my Miriamne’s in
beauty and thoughtfulness,” soliloquized Rizpah. Then observing a tent
in the picture, at one side and under the tent, the form of a strong,
dignified man, she again scrutinizingly exclaimed, “In truth, that face
is Harrimai’s! How like my father!” For some time she sat considering the
group, and then again spoke to herself: “Ah, I see, these are none other
than the girl wife, husband and child of whom Miriamne has been reading!
But what an improper legend at the bottom? ‘_A sword shall pierce through
thine own soul also!_’ A sword has no place in that happy group!” And
Rizpah still gazed at the charming presentment. Suddenly she started from
her seat. “What’s this?” she cried as she traced a dark cross made by
the shadow of the child’s outstretched arms and reaching from his feet
to the mother’s bending knees. “I have it now; the cross is the sword!
Some of the Nazarene heresy, the witchery of the ‘Old Clock Man!’” Rizpah
flung the picture from her as if it were a serpent. She thought she saw
a paramount duty, and without an instant of delay she hastened back to
Miriamne, this time in angry mood—Rizpah of Bozrah, the fanatical Nemesis
of heresy.

“Here, girl! Whence this book of devils!”

Miriamne, in fright, leaped from her couch, and Rizpah, laying hold of
her arm, half dragged the bewildered, trembling girl to the adjacent
apartment. “These?” imperiously questioned Rizpah, as she pointed
vehemently toward picture and manuscript lying together on the floor.

The maiden, overcome by the suddenness of the stormy outbreak, spoke
tremblingly, pleadingly:

“Oh, mother, forgive me if I’ve done wrong! Father Adolphus, the old—”

“Oh, yes, the old wizzard! he gave them to thee,” interrupted the mother.
“Enough! ’tis as I expected; the Christian’s doctrine of devils!”

Miriamne reached forth, mechanically, to take the denounced objects, but
Rizpah at once intercepted her, spurning them with her foot.

“Don’t touch the leprosy! To-morrow we’ll hire some Druses beggars to
burn them!”

“But, mother, they are not ours; we must return at least the painting; it
cost great labor!”

“Leave that to me! Now, further and finally for thee, rash girl,
I’ve commands. Listen! Thou art never again to meet or speak to that
hoary-headed old wizzard, Von Gombard.”

“But, mother—”

“No evasion nor compromise!”

“I can not treat the kind old man that way. He is so good, and all the
people, Jews and Gentiles, love him,” pleaded Miriamne.

“Enough! and, in brief, meet him or speak to him again, and I’ll disown
thee! I’d drive thee, daughter of mine though thou art, out of my home to
starvation and pray God to send all the plagues written in His book to
haunt thee, while thy life remained, rather than tolerate heresy!”

So saying, Rizpah fell upon her knees, as if even then to utter an
imprecation.

In terror the daughter ran to her, and shielding her eyes from the
parent’s anger-distorted countenance, she pitifully cried:

“Mother! Oh, mother! Don’t curse me! Save me! save me!”

The elder woman’s body swayed and dilated as if she were possessed of
some furious demon, checked and muzzled, but struggling to break forth.
Evidently the pathos of the daughter’s appeal touched some responding
chord of mercy, for the mother restrained herself and then suddenly arose
and swept out of the bed-chamber. And yet Miriamne was not reassured; she
felt the fascination of dread. With trembling her eyes were riveted on
the open door; her ears heard the heavy, stately, threatening, departing
footsteps, and great misery overwhelmed her. She felt, if she could not
express it, that the breakers of a mighty wrath were heaving and tossing
in that bosom on which she had hitherto rested when in pain or peril.
She knew the meanings of those wavy motions, so like those of the boa
retiring for renewed attack. She saw them passing up and down the form of
Rizpah as the latter went out, her eyes burning, her body dilating. She
had observed these things in her parent before, but never as now directed
toward herself.

In terror and anguish Miriamne fled out of the old Giant-house. There
was relief and a sense of getting more truly under the sheltering wings
of God in getting out under the serene canopy of heaven. So, often, the
grief-stricken seek solitude, absence from all that has crossed and
hurt, separation from all earthly, in a lonely appeal to the Holy and
Loving. And so these two women, bound to each other by the strongest
human ties, needing, because of their isolation, each other supremely;
after all, loving each other with a choice, tried love, willing each to
endure any cross, even unto death, for the other’s weal, and both anxious
to serve God loyally, went apart. They exemplified the cross-purposes
and misunderstandings that beset and mar life’s pilgrims. They needed
sorely, both of them, pilot and beacon; some one to inspire as well as
to exemplify all that is best in womanhood. The need was patent, but the
remedy but dimly discerned.



CHAPTER XXIII.

THE MISERERE AND THE EASTER ANTHEM.

      “Under the shade of His mighty wings,
                    One by one
            Are His secrets told,
                    One by one.
      Lit by the rays of each morning sun,
      Shall a new flower its petals unfold,
      With its mystery hid in its heart of gold.”

    “But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon
    their heart. Nevertheless, when it shall turn to the Lord the
    veil shall be taken away.”—II Cor., 3:15.


Midnight and moonlight were in Bozrah, and midnight and moonlight were
in Miriamne’s heart as she wandered out into the city. She did not
see her way further than to know it must be some direction other than
toward her home. That place all her life hitherto the dearest spot on
earth, was become her dread. As she moved away from it she did not
look back. It seemed to her that there was an angry cloud enveloping
it; a cloud holding a furious thunderbolt. As she went on, she rapidly
passed through a series of painful feelings; those that naturally beset
the runaway girl. First she felt very reckless, then, surprised at
her recklessness, then very lonely as if every tie that bound her was
broken, and then affrighted as she thought of confronting the great,
strange, selfish world alone. A woman so young and so inexperienced; a
bird with half-fledged wings, thrust out of the parent nest into a storm;
altogether a pitiable creature. In the moonlight of her conscience,
after a time, she dimly discerned a line of duty. It seemed to her
that it were best for her to turn toward the church of Adolphus, and
she resolutely turned thither. Before the resolution she had walked
aimlessly; now with an aim and with some soul comfort. She did not have
power to analyze her feelings; had she had such power she might have
discerned the fact that she was turning toward something her reason told
her was very good, therefore the soul comfort came as the harbinger of
conversion. As yet the moonlight within, like that without, was not
strong enough to resolve the shadows in and about her. She knew, and
that alone, certainly, that she was miserable, wounded, bruised. So
storm-beaten, in a flight from the ancient Rizpah and her counterpart,
Rizpah of Bozrah, the maiden naturally turned toward the place where
there seemed rest, escape; the haven known to all the troubled and sick
of the Giant city. With a great throb of joy she at length drew nigh
the Church of Adolphus. All was silent about it; but its up-pointing
spire, emblem of eternal, aspiring hope, rest on a rock, stability—in
grand contrast with the grim ruins God’s revenges had scattered in dire
confusion all around, assured her. She remembered then that she had
heard some say that they had been blessed beyond all telling, in hours
of trouble, by the services of that sanctuary. She perceived that the
church, from spire to portal, was flooded with silvering moonlight,
while all beyond and around it was in shadows; then she wearily sank
down by a small porch near the great entrance. As she sank she moaned a
broken prayer: “Oh, God, take me!” Utterly overcome, she wished for a
moment for death’s release; and death’s similitude, fainting, sometimes
sent in mercy, came over her. How long she lay unconscious, she knew
not. She was suddenly aroused by the stroke of a muffled bell; she
opened her eyes and beheld forms gliding out of the darkness into the
chapel. For a moment she felt a superstitious fear that chilled her. She
vaguely remembered that that bell had been wont to toll thus solemnly
when there was a funeral. Simultaneous with the thought she questioned,
Was she herself dead? But she quickly collected her thoughts and then
comprehended that there was to be a midnight service in the chapel. She
remembered that Father Adolphus was wont to have such, at intervals. She
longed to taste the joys within of which she had heard, and was at the
same time restrained, lest by entering she should in some way part from
her mother and the faith of her childhood forever. Conscience and desire
waged war with each other, and the girl was too much excited to stand
still or to reason clearly. She, therefore, mechanically moved through
the open doors with the throng, out of the darkness into the light.
Once within the place the grateful sense of peace and the splendors of
the various appointments, beyond all she had ever before experienced,
engrossed all her thoughts. The lofty arches, the well wrought pillars,
the niches, in which were here and there saintly paintings, the lights,
disposed so as to produce an impression of seriousness and rest, the
hum of subdued voices, all came to her as balm. At the east she beheld
a silver altar, velvet draped; on either side of it lofty columns with
golden plinths and capitals; just back of the altar, in a light that made
the face of the presentment more beautiful, she discerned the image of a
woman, splendidly robed and jewel-crowned. For a moment she thought she
was looking upon one living, for the crowned woman was so beautiful, so
much a part of the place, and seemed so inviting. She contrasted her,
in mind, with the terrible picture of Rizpah. Just then, with little
persuasion, she could have run toward the woman, back of the altar, and
plead for sympathy. The feeling was momentary. Little by little the truth
dawned upon her, and she thought, “this represents the beautiful Mary of
Father Von Gombard.” Then the moonlight within the maiden’s soul began
to change into dawn. She gazed and gazed, and as she was so engaged, her
thoughts took wing for heaven and her soul cried within itself as a babe
for its mother. She knew not her way, but she knew she needed and yearned
for a guide as pure as heaven and as serious as God. Her meditations
were interrupted when she perceived the place growing darker about her,
the forms of the congregation now becoming like so many moving shadows.
All around her bowed their heads as in prayer, and, impressed by the
solemnity of the place, she did likewise. There was a long silence. The
hush of death was over the place, the only sign of life the stealthy
movements of a tall, dark-robed personage, who glided about the chancel.
The tower bell tolled again, once, twice, thrice; its muffled tones, as
they died away, being prolonged, then caught up and borne onward with
organ notes which filled the trembling air with entrancing melody. Then
the organ tones softened and died away into subdued minors. “How like the
sighings of autumn evening breezes, before a rain,” thought Miriamne.
The place again was full of melody, the organ being reinforced by lutes
and dulcimers, played by unseen hands. But the worshippers were silent;
all bowed, apparently, in prayerful expectation. It was all new and
exceedingly impressive to the maiden, and she was carried along by the
spirit of the hour.

The draped figure passed down from behind the altar-lattice and moved,
on tip-toe, from one to another of the worshipers. Miriamne was curious,
yet frightened. “What if he came to me?” The question she asked herself
made her tremble. If it were the priest, she was sure he would be very
kind and yet how would she explain her absence at that hour from home?
She was alert to hear the words he spoke to others near her, and when she
did, she took courage. They seemed just such as she needed. She knew the
voice; it was that of Father Adolphus, in the tenderness and triumph of
one filled with unearthly hopes and heavenly sympathy. The cadence of his
voice accorded with the plaintive tones of the organ. Miriamne’s heart
fluttered like a caged bird, back and forth, from yearnings to fears,
as the priest drew nearer and nearer to her. She yearned to hear spoken
to herself his balm-like benedictions; she feared, lest recognizing
her, he should reprove. He seemed about to pass, as if not perceiving
her. Now more intensely she yearned and dreaded than before. She could
not restrain herself, and so she sobbed aloud like a child in pain. The
priest tenderly placed his hand on her head and softly said: “_If we
confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive and to cleanse us
from all iniquity._”

“Oh, Father Adolphus,” she sobbed, “is this for me?”

The priest started, but quickly recovered himself, and again spoke in
the same tone as before, his voice rising in accord with a triumphant
strain of the music: “_He died that we might live!_” Miriamne clasped and
passionately kissed his hand.

The place had become darker, little by little; the organ tones meanwhile
growing deeper and more solemn, while voices from an unseen choir
blended with them. Miriamne, recognizing, from the words of the singers,
the penitential Psalms, followed the worship with deepened interest
from the fifty-first to the fifty-seventh of the sacred songs. They
expressed the pains and tempests of her own soul as they voiced sublimely
sin-beseeching pardon. The Christian and Jew were for the moment made
akin. The man at the organ was a master of his art, and while handling
the keys of his instrument, he also played on the hearts of his hearers.
He was aiming to reproduce Calvary, its scenes, emotions and meanings,
and he succeeded. The devout assembly, following the motive and movement
of the composition, was led mentally to realize the journey from the
Judgment Hall to the Crucifixion. There were measured, mournful, dragging
tones; Jesus bearing his heavy cross; then followed discord and confused
uproar, the voices of a mob. Later on there were dirges and silences,
followed, as it were, by blows and ugly cries. The nailed hands, the
uplifted cross and the sneers of those who passing wagged their heads,
were all revived to the imagination. With these sounds, from the first,
there ran along a sustained minor strain, sometimes nearly obliterated,
at other times ruling. It was as mournful as the sigh of the autumn winds
amid the dying leaves and night rains. In the color and movement of that
minor there was feelingly expressed the deep, poignant, undemonstrative
sorrow of the mother that followed the thorn-crowned and scourged Son
to his martyrdom. Then came a long silence, broken only by the fleeting
whispers here and there. The worshipers were in earnest prayer. They
were at the cross, as the friends of Jesus, in earnest communings.
Again the organ broke in on the silence; there was a rush of air as if
some one passed in rapid, terrified flight, followed by a sound like
swiftly departing footsteps; the fleeing disciples came to the minds
of the worshipers. Then the organ tones deepened to the rumblings of
approaching thunders—heralds of a climax of catastrophies, while above
the rumblings a solitary, piercing voice, which ended in a thrilling,
agonizing cry: “_My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!_” Following
this came peal upon peal from the organ; louder and louder; discord and
confusion; ending in mighty crashings. The rocking earth; the earthquake;
the rent veil—all the tragedy of Cavalry—was presented in awful realism
to the minds of the kneeling worshipers. Every light had been quenched,
the temple within was as dark as a tomb, and not a sound could be heard
but moans and penitential weepings. To one any way superstitious and not
knowing the intent of the presentment, the whole would have seemed very
like the realm of the lost, filled with damned souls, making pitiful
last appeals to mercy; but to the worshipers there came a vision of a
stark, dead form on a cross, standing out vividly against the darkness
of Calvary around that cross the amazed, condemned crucifiers and a
few disciples, the latter whispering about the burial. The realism was
oppressive and some present cried out, as if by the bier of a loved one,
while some fainted away. But the Healer was there. Father Adolphus, with
a voice full of tears, with the pathos of Him that went down to preach
hope to “the spirits in prison,” spoke to the penitents of peace, light
and glory through faith. As the old Missioner went from one to another
the lights of the chapel, one after another, reappeared. Presently the
aged consoler stood by Miriamne: “Hast thou felt the power of the Cross,
my child?”

“Oh, Father Adolphus, I do not know; I only know I’m very wretched!”

“‘Godly sorrow worketh repentance’; but thou wert as happy as a bird thou
thoughtst and saidst a few days ago?”

“I was a bird—a girl then! I’m a woman now. I’ve lived years in hours.”

“Any sudden trouble?”

“Oh, yes, a tempest and tempests.”

“Possess me of all, daughter.”

“I can not. It’s every thing. I seem so useless and nobody loves me!”

“Thou art too young to be morbid and art greatly beloved by ONE.”

“Oh, I can not come to Him. I’m under His ban; I do not honor my parents.
How can I? One, my father, I never knew. I’ve seen him through my
mother’s eyes, and to despise. Now I am afraid of her, and my terror is
poisoning the love I once felt for her. Oh, I’m miserable, lost! Father,
Father, save me!” And the wretched girl flung her arms passionately about
the old priest.

“Ah, girl, I can not; but there is One that can save.”

“Save, save me—one so lost?”

“He is a ‘Prince and a Saviour.’”

“I do not know Him. He can not love me, and one must love me to save me;
I’m so needy and wicked.”

“Well said, and He is love. Only believe.”

“I don’t know how to believe.”

“Like a poor, sick babe, all need, thou, amid thy weaknesses, hast power
at least to cry.”

“Cry? What shall I cry?”

“‘Help thou mine unbelief.’”

Slowly, by wisely simple gospel-counsels, the aged teacher lead the
penitent girl Christward. As they communed the congregation departed,
and an attendant lighted the lamps. Presently the music of the organ
again broke forth; but now in cheerful and triumphant strains. Miriamne
listened, and as she did, a change came over her countenance. Her dawn
was coming.

“Art looking up, daughter?”

“This music is like spring morning melodies, and I’m singing to it, in
soul, I think.”

“It is the morning song of souls; the angel’s greeting to Mary. Observe
the words; first the ‘Hail Mary’ before the wondrous birth; then the
serene assurance of the mourning mother at the grave, ‘He is not here, He
has risen.’”

“Ah, Adolphus, how blessed are you Christians in a religion all mercy,
all songs, all love, and all nearness to God!”

“‘Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden.’”

“I would I could hear Him say as much to me; but I can not go, come, nor
do any thing else; not even stay away; I’m a bit of wind-drifted down!”

“Come all ye heavy laden,” measuredly replied the priest.

“Oh, if there were some one to bear me onward; blind and weak as I am!”

“He carries the lambs in His bosom!”

“Alas, I feel myself cowering away from His Holiness, when I attempt to
approach Him alone!”

“All to Him must go alone, in prayer as in death. He meets with a
plenteous mercy the confiding ones who come by sorrows’ thorny path,
as He will meet the needy in judgment who have only faith’s plea. Fear
not to go alone; solitude has its benefits, and He is sole accuser or
excuser. The terms of His rebuke are eternal secrets, as are the terms of
His forgiveness. They lie alone, between the Blesser and the blessed.”

“Is the lovely woman there, your Mary?”

“Yes, child.”

“And she was the mother of this Saviour?”

“Yes.”

“And was He like her?”

“He is, eternal; the ‘I Am’—not was nor shall be—always.”

“Oh, yes; but is He like the woman?”

“In my soul I so believe, to my joy; for she was godly, therefore,
God-like.”

“Then I can love Him, trust Him, and I’m sure He’ll pity me, at least.”

“Amen,” piously ejaculated Father Adolphus. Then he said: “Now child,
rest; it’s too late to go home. My sister, yonder, will care for thee
till morning, and then thou must hie to thy home. Thou yet mayst be its
peace-maker and blesser.”

Easter-tide came. All nature was serene and seemed to recognize the
memorial of holy, happy association. Father Adolphus was astir early to
ply his industry of mercy for the suffering. “Poor, unhappy land, and
unhappy because so blind! Oh, man, man, how thine eyes are holden, while
fatlings, birds and flowers rejoice!”

“Ah, unbenumbed by sinning, they, like the cattle in Bethlehem’s stable,
are first to see the Saviour born of woman. ‘Praise ye the Lord, beasts
and all cattle, creeping things and flying fowl. They shall not hurt
nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the
knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.’” Thus soliloquized
the old priest as he passed toward well-known haunts of misery in the
Giant City.

Miriamne was called to a late breakfast by the kindly sister of Adolphus.
The aged woman said little, but every act seemed freighted with motherly
interest, and was like balm to the heart conscious chiefly of loneliness
and wretchedness. The maiden longed to have the elder woman solicit her
confidence, but the latter did not respond to the mute, though manifest
desire. “It is better so. God’s work is best done in an hour like this,
when He alone is left to searching and counsel.” So thought this aged
minister. Experience under Father Adolphus had given her this wisdom.

The coming of evening brought to the little religious house its master
all cheerful, yet well wearied by a day of ministering for God.

“Art here yet, daughter?” was his first greeting.

“Yes; where else should I be? I’m friendless, lost, unhappy; even to a
vague longing for death; but I’m frightened at that longing, since it
seems as if I was as friendless in Heaven as on earth. Oh, it’s awful to
be a two-fold orphan!”

Just then the church-bell rang forth a merry peal.

Miriamne looked a question, and the old priest continued: “Hark, it’s the
pæan of peace, declaring that the Day Spring from on high has visited all
those in the shadow of death.”

“Another service?”

“Yes, the best of all. We cling to the hours of this day and battle night
away in joy, thus declaring our hope in the resurrection, the end of all
nights. Listen, that’s my organ, the one I myself made.”

Miriamne listened, and there was wafted to her an Easter anthem; at
intervals containing the sentence: “Thou that takest away the sins of the
world have mercy.”

As they passed into the chapel, the maiden remarked: “There are more
women here than there were at the other service?”

“The other celebrated death; the chief pain-maker of woman’s life; for
they live in love whose ties are constantly sundered by man’s last enemy.
They are allured by the beautiful things, the joys, the hopes of our
Easter service. It proclaims eternal victory over the destroyer.”

“How beautiful the woman’s form back of the altar, good Father, to-night.”

“Our moods within appear to us on objects without. So strangely the
Kingdom of Heaven, beginning in the soul, spreads everywhere. It is
natural, though to think that the resurrection time brought all joy to
the childless mother: to this one as it did and does bring a thousand
times to other mothers, like her bereaved.”

The Easter service went onward, a succession of joys; the march of a
pilgrim army with the goals in view; the triumph of truth, the crowning
of life, the final discomfiture of death. Miriamne brightened as the
service advanced; then came a fullness of joy; then a reaction and she
finally fell into a sleep akin to a trance. It was the resting of the
wounded on the way of healing. There was a Divine overpouring and a
babe-like sleep of perfect trust; from this the voice of the priest
aroused her!

“Miriamne seems to rest.”

“Oh, such a dream! I followed the songs to the sky and wished my body had
wings. God lifted me up and I slept, dreaming myself into His presence. I
thought I was in heaven.”

“Thou art near it, child.”

“Oh, this wonderful calm! What makes me so happy?”

“Hast thou any token?”

“I do not know: I murmured as the people sang these words: ‘_I know that
my Redeemer liveth_;’ as I murmured that, every thing, got brighter, and
I felt no more under the yoke and load!”

“He is thy Vindicator. ’Tis well.”

Then tears coursed down the old man’s face.

And so the girl that fled out of her home, away from the phantom of
Rizpah of the ancients, away from her mother; a pilgrim; all wants,
all yearnings, in a few brief hours, had found a city of refuge, an
everlasting hope and was in soul serenely resting.

[Illustration: By Mengelburg.

JESUS AT THE AGE OF TWELVE WITH MARY AND JOSEPH ON THEIR WAY TO
JERUSALEM.]



CHAPTER XXIV.

A HEROINE’S PILGRIMAGE.

      “There is a vision, in the heart of each,
      Of justice, mercy, wisdom, tenderness
      To wrong and pain and knowledge of the cure;
      And these embodied in a woman’s form,
      That best transmits them pure as first received.”—Robert Browning.

    “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord: be it unto me according to
    thy word.”—MARY.


Miriamne, the day after her conversion, at evening, was sitting in
the portal of the church at Bozrah, musing. “Oh, how I thank Father
Adolphus for showing me the way to this peace!” The western sky, to the
maiden’s rapt imagination, seemed very like the gate of Heaven, and in
her meditations she exclaimed as if talking to those in glory, yet near
to her: “Mother of my Saviour, I need a mother! Thou and I, two women,
loved of the same Lord, shall we not evermore be friends?” Then the stars
glittered through the fading sun light like night-lamps, set along the
parapets of that far off city, and the maiden felt as if heaven’s doors
were being shut. She was oppressed with a sense of being left alone,
and thereupon cried out, “Oh, Jesus, Jesus, do not leave me here in the
dark; Oh! thou mother, sainted and happy, may I not be where thou art
until morning?” The cry or prayer of the girl, having in it much of the
poet, little of the skilled theologian, was one likely to be censured
by those adept in stately forms, and yet it was very natural. Miriamne
was but an infant in experience and had yet to learn that after the
resurrection came Pentecost; then the Ascension. Steps like these are in
the believer’s experience; conversion is a rising from the dead to be
followed by the assuring work of the Holy Spirit, then Heaven. But the
soul quickened from the charnel-house of sin and inducted, not only into
a new inner life but into a new fellowship, hungers for more and more.
Hence, it is a common thing for the young convert to wish to die, and be
away from life’s turmoils and defilements at once and with the glorified,
immediately, forever. It is as if the disciple would pass at once from
the sepulcher directly up the Mount of Ascension. In this spirit Mary
Magdalene pressed forward to embrace to her human heart the newly risen
Saviour that morning when he tenderly restrained her. There was something
for her to be and do before the final rest on the Divine bosom, in
unending rapture. “_Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended_,” as if He
would say, “I myself, have other work yet, before the eternal gates are
lifted up for my triumphal entrance as the King of Glory.” “_Go to my
brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father._”
The master words were, “Go;” “say.” The load Jesus put on His followers
was the same in kind, though infinitely less, that He took on Himself.
Some way it was love burdening with blessing, for He that in dying agony
sent the Rose of His heart, Mary, to the home of John instead of at once
to Paradise, knew surely that then for her that was best. “To go” and
“tell” was best for Magdalene, as to stay and work for a time is best for
all:

So Miriamne’s prayer, though so worded that it would have been censured
by the learned churchmen, was heard in heaven, and He that said: “My
peace I leave with you,” ministered, all unseen by human eye, to that
lamb, bleating alone amid the dark giant castles of Bashan and the darker
castles of fears that hover not far from each new-born of His Kingdom.
She passed from repining, from morbidly wishing to die and from thoughts
solely of her own weal, to the second stage of experience; that stage,
where the young convert is influenced with a burning zeal to tell of the
blessings found and thereby win others for the Saviour. Miriamne soon
felt desire inexpressible to run and tell others of her joy. Then her
mind recurred to her father, living somewhere far to the westward, just
beneath where she had fancied the gates of heaven were a little while
ago. “No, no; I cannot go yet! I must stay here and do something. Oh, I’d
be ashamed to go to heaven and leave my father, my mother, my brothers,
my people in their misery!” As she thus spoke she pulled her hand quickly
down by her side. The motion like to one pulling away from some leading
influence. A voice at hand spoke: “Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall
neither slumber nor sleep.”

Miriamne, with a slight startled exclamation, turned to see whence the
voice and with joy beheld Father Adolphus.

“Oh, dear Father, I’m glad you came this way! I want to tell you above
all others how happy you made me.”

Solemnly and tenderly the old man replied: “‘Not unto us, oh Lord; not
unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy and for thy truth’s
sake.’”

“Yes, He has done it; but you helped, good teacher; and I am so happy!
Oh, I do not know myself! I feel so changed. I’m growing wiser, happier
and stronger every minute.”

“If so, then, He that called thee, daughter, had a purpose.”

“I know it; see it; feel it. I’m called to help my people; to bring
together Sir Charleroy and Rizpah.”

“Say ‘my parents’; it’s more filial.”

“Yes, but it’s so strange. I call them in my mind now all the time by
their names. It seems as if I belonged to another family; that of Jesus,
Mary and the Angels.”

“A child of the Kingdom, indeed! When thy parents are converted, the
family tie will be revived. Thou dost feel the love of heaven; the great
eternal family bond, as Christ when he said: ‘My mother and my brethren
are these which hear the word of God and do it.’”

“But if I hope to bring my parents together I must go first to my father
and persuade him. I know my mother will object to the journey. Can I
disobey her and still please God?”

“Ask God. I have for thee, and already see thy way. I have already acted
in this matter.”

“I can not forget the law in that I learn that ‘He that setteth lightly
by his father or his mother is cursed.’ Among our noble ancients, the
Maccabees, the disobedient child was even stoned to death.”

“But thy salvation puts thee under the Gospel, although, under the Law
even parents had duties; they were forbidden to make their children walk
through the idolatrous fires. What says Jesus to thee?”

“I do not know whether it be His spirit or not; yet all the time I hear a
voice within me saying: ‘These twain shall be one.’”

“I see thy soul abhors this actual divorcement of thy parents. Oh, how
some play hide and seek with their consciences around forms as these do;
not comforting but hating each other; not bearing together their common
burdens; wide seas between them, yet fancying they have violated no law
of God, because they have not asked the law of man to do what it never
can, truly, proclaim two, neither having committed the deadly sin, apart.”

“This separate living is their constant sin?”

“He that starts wrongly repeats the wrong anew each time that, by act or
thought, he approves the wrong first done. Sin’s name is truly legion.”

“What an awful thing is sin!”

“True, daughter. It blinds its victims here, and its wages hereafter is
death.”

“That’s why I fear to disobey my mother; what if it be sin to do so?”

“The command, my child, is ‘children obey your parents—_in the Lord_.”

“What does ‘in the Lord’ mean?”

“I’ll tell thee, my little catechumen; there comes a time to some youths,
in pious life, when duty to God compels disobedience of parents; as it
came to Jonathan, son of Saul. God is Father and mother to the righteous,
and His law must be first. Mary left home and every thing, first and
last, to follow Jesus. Her way was the Christian’s.”

“I thought once I was right in obeying my mother without question. Now I
think I may be right in disobeying without question. The old and the new
law are at war within me.”

“Amid these Bashan hills Paul, the Holy Saint, traveled, led of God from
thinking that directly opposite to his former beliefs, the truth. Jesus
met him then on the way to Damascus, in power and in glory; Paul had been
for a long time a profound scholar, a Pharisee of thy people. On this
journey, enlightened by the spirit, he asked and learned sincerely to
ask, the question of questions in this life; ‘_Lord what wilt thou have
me to do?_’ I beseech thee to ask it daughter, as thy hourly prayer.”

“Did God answer Paul?”

“Yea.”

“How?”

“The blessed apostle tells all! ‘When it pleased God who separated me
from my mother’s womb to reveal His son in me, that I might preach among
the heathen, immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood, ... but
I went into Arabia.’ Neither wife, friend, child, nor Ephesian Elders,
clinging with tears, could hold him back from duty. Then he preached
through this wild country.”

“But I’m not Paul, and only a woman.”

“‘Only a woman!’ She out of whom went seven devils, a woman, was the
herald of the resurrection, and the church; God’s glory in the earth, is
likened unto a woman. Oh, when a woman is clothed with the Sun, there is
nothing more resplendent, and as for power, naught prevails against her.
It seems to me if thou dost emulate her who said to God’s messenger:
‘_Be it unto me according to thy word_’ thou wilt go ere long to thy
father; but thou must now return!”

“Return whither? This spot of all earth alone tolerates me!”

“No, that’s changed! Thou art the Child of a King. Go home; ay, rise to
tell of the One that hath risen in thy heart.”

“Dare I? Must I?” Miriamne soon answered, by action, her own questions.

The young woman started homeward; at first with fearfulness. Then there
came to her great calmness and courage, as she thought: “If I was wrong
in going, I’m right in returning. My mother scared me from home into
God’s arms. I can tell her that.” The new life had quickened within her
the springs of affection. In all her life before she had not been so long
apart from her mother. She said to herself, “I’ll just spring into her
arms, when I meet her!” And she would have, if permitted.

The mother with a face like a stone, emotionless, saw her approach. When
the latter stood by the threshold, the parent freezingly said: “Well;
what dost thou want here?”

A dozen answers pressed for utterance. Some like those shaped by an
angry or reckless girl; some such as might come to a politic woman,
having recourse ever to cunning against the odds of power. The first
thoughts were not of love, the last not of truth. In an instant Miriamne
remembered her new personality. She was the missionary! She dared, being
right, face any thing, even her mother’s wrath; but in her soul she dared
not let bitterness rule. She knew as well that she dared not tell the
truth so as to convey a false impression. She might have done so once;
but not now. “Lord what wilt thou have me to do?” the golden prayer was
on her lips and she had instant grace to say quietly: “I was doing no
wrong.”

“Was where?”

How brave the girl had become. Her reply was calm and courageous. “I was,
for a time praying to God; but safe, for God was with me in the Spirit
and good Father Adolphus in the flesh.”

“The Old Clock Man!”

“Yea.”

“The wizard! I so suspected. Here is more of this bad work;” and Rizpah
angrily thrust before Miriamne a scroll. “That fawning, heretic-priest
came here and left this with mock piety saying: ‘I, being the mother,
might read it!’ I had no humor to converse with him; but of thee I demand
the full meaning. Now, no avoidance, girl; dost thou hear!” Miriamne was
not only not abashed, but in her new-found courage took the letter, and
without a quaver of the voice, read:

    “TO THE GRAND MASTER OF THE TEMPLE, LONDON.

    “_Faithful Knight and Son of the Church_:

    “GREETING—I herewith commend to thee and thy most pious and
    chivalrous offices, my beloved catechumen, Miriamne de Griffin,
    of Bozrah. She is the truly noble daughter of an English
    nobleman, now living somewhere in London. He is, I fear,
    prodigal toward God, and an exile from his family; perhaps in
    the distress of bodily ailment, most grievous. Prompted by holy
    desires, this young woman, whom I commend, may come to thy
    city in the hope of finding her father, for the compassing of
    his restoration to health, his family and righteousness. Had I
    the power, I would command the thousand liveried angels, said
    ever to attend the Holy Virgin, to encompass ever this sweet
    and pious daughter of Knight de Griffin; but being impotent to
    direct the angel guard, I serenely commit my daughter in the
    spirit, to the watch, care and chivalrous regard of thyself and
    thy companion knights.

    “All saints salute thee. My benediction be on thee. _In pace._

                                            “ADOLPHUS VON GOMBARD.”

“And _thou_ dost think thou couldst go alone, half round the world, find
that renegade wanderer, bring him here, make him good, tolerable, and
re-unite our family? THOU?” Rizpah stopped, her voice almost at the pitch
of a scream; her utterance ending in a groan that died with a hiss.

Miriamne responded calmly: “I can not tell what I may achieve, that is
with God; but I know what I must attempt. The path of duty is clear, and
I enter it unwaveringly.”

“And I, as unwaveringly, forbid.”

“I expected this command, and in all love for thee, my mother, shall
disobey it.”

Rizpah turned pale, her eyes became leaden. She was for an instant like
one stunned by a sudden, heavy blow, and disarmed. The little submissive
child that she deemed her daughter to be, was suddenly transformed before
her; changed in fact to a firm, strong, brave woman. But the elder
quickly recovered, and while clearly perceiving that violence would be
futile, had recourse to the last arm of the half-defeated, to ridicule.

“Disobedience, oh, I see, this is a part of this superior religion of
thine and that old ‘Old Clock Man;’ this Gombard, ha! ha! It was always
so. New religions please by freeing from law! What an old idiot that
Solomon of the ancients! He taught ‘forsake not the law of thy mother.’”

“Mother, I have two parents and obligations to both. I find our home
shattered, and I for most of my life half orphan. I have thereby great
and lasting loss. My brothers and you suffer as well. I am led of God,
in a desire to seek a remedy for our troubles. I would gladly obey your
edicts, but first I must obey my Maker and King.”

“Girl, false teachings lure thee to a curse.”

“You know mother, you yourself cursed the memory of Herod not long ago,
when we wandered amid the ruins at Kauawat and saw the remnants of his
image, as angry Christians left it, shattered years ago. That day you
said a curse on him that broke up families or made innocents mourn,
whether he lived anciently or now.”

“Well?”

“I say a curse, bitter, on every act that breaks up or beclouds a home!
But not I, it is God that curses!”

Rizpah was speechless and withdrew from the room, motioning silence
with a stately, angry wave of her hand. She was defeated in the debate,
but not subdued. The next day Rizpah renewed the subject, but this time
adopting the tactics of kindness.

“My darling, since yesterday I’ve been thinking thy good intentions
worthy of approval for their spirit of love. I’d approve thy purpose did
I not forsee that the great sacrifice on thy part would be fruitless. Thy
father and I could never live together! If thou foundst him thou couldst
not love him as he is, and, as for reforming him, that were impossible!”

“I must try.”

“’Tis useless; a woman as wise, as patient, and as earnestly seeking
that result as thou, gave years of devotion, deep as her life, to that
purpose. They failed utterly.”

“Was that woman my mother?”

“Yes, listen. In the glorious romances of youth I met Sir Charleroy.
I pitied him coming to our house a defeated Crusader, a refugee. Pity
gave way to admiration. There were few about me whom I could love; I had
no mother. In some way I gave him her part of my heart first, then the
rest of it. I admired him for his soldier-like bravery. He was older and
vastly wiser than I. All my ambitions seemed to be satisfied in climbing
up with his thoughts. He was able to teach me a thousand things I never
before heard of. Heart and mind were intoxicated. I unconditionally
surrendered all to him, with an almost worshipful devotion. I could not
have made a more complete committal if my God had come in human form
and sought me for His everlasting companionship. I fled with him from
my father’s home. In the wild Lejah and this Bozrah we lived for a time
together, until he changed from lover to hater! Here my unnatural love
was murdered by inches. I can now reason better than then, and yet the
past seems like a nightmare. Thy father knew a great deal, intended to
be kind but did not comprehend the dangerous responsibility of taking to
his care such a passionate, imaginative, impressible creature as I was.
He did not realize that there is a period in a woman’s life when she
may be literally made into another being. In every generation women are
walking by thousands through a sort of passion week. I walked in mine,
ready to be molded almost into any form; but he tried to have me profess
to be a Christian, live like a devotee of Astarte and be as Anata of the
Assyrians to her husband, but the echo of himself. I might have done all
this, but he tried to hasten me by force, and then all fell to ruins like
those amid which we lived. That glorious structure of love which romance
built, became the saddest ruin here in those days.

“I was then a young woman, just entering the perilous, exhaustive periods
of maternity. I was weak and nervous, and sometimes may have tried his
patience, but I thought then that he ought to have borne with me. I am
now certain he ought. After he left, I was for a time glad. I had renewed
freedom from arguments, rasping and crossing of purposes. Then I felt
the martyr’s joy. I felt I was left, a girl-wife, with babe in arms, to
battle alone, for God’s sake, for thy sake. It seemed often that the
arching heavens above were smiling upon baby and me; that sustained me.
But, daughter, my moral training had been as thorough as has been thine.
My idea of the solemnity and life-bindingness of the marriage tie could
be no higher than it was. I believed it divine to be forgiving, and
finally was impelled to turn from our broken home, to find, if possible,
my recreant spouse. Dominated by convictions of duty, and often by a
revived, wild, soul-possessing love for Sir Charleroy, I went to far
off, strange London, I hunted out Sir Charleroy and was ready to be all
things, any thing for his sake. He received me tenderly, only to soon
change to cruelty. Your brothers were born there, adding to my load new
burdens; but I was without help. He never seemed to study my comfort,
pleasure nor needs. In a nation of strangers, with strange ways, I was
alone. He knew scores; I knew only that one man. Repulsed by him I
drank again and again the depths of misery, having no heart in all the
great city to counsel nor love me. Then thy father took delight in vice.
I was crucified for months; my only comfort communing in memory with
the Sir Charleroy that had been, the tender, loving, brave Palestine
knight. In those dark days, I found there was a place where persecuted
Israelites secretly met; a sort of cleft-rock synagogue. Thither I went
for consolation. I was wedded anew to my religion, because it was mother,
father, husband and all to me; when there was none but God left to me. I
came to long, daily, for the time to go to that meeting place of a few
Hebrews just to pray God for two things. One, the most pitiful of prayers
for a mother, that He would care for my children and keep them from being
like their father; the other that I might be permitted soon to die! Thy
father grew constantly more brutal, taciturn and fitful! At last I had
an explanation. I found by unmistakable signs that he was going mad. I
saw further that that madness took the shape of a murderous antipathy
for me and the children. Under the advice of the rabbi, leader of our
people at London, I determined, as the only alternative, to return to
our Bozrah home and leave him to the care of his companion knights. In
blank, leaden grief I left London. I came to these scenes of desolation
with a heart as broken as any that ever survived its pains. I could have
died. I returned, my fate fixed, the cup of my retribution for having
disobeyed my parent full. Once a queenly, blithesome girl, petted and
loved by hundreds, changed to a lone, sad widow and prematurely old. A
wife without a husband, a Jew without the recognition of my people. How
utterly isolated! Thou know’st the rest, daughter.”

The two women were silent. Miriamne was moved by the revelation to a
wondrous pity; but her royal sentence: “_Lord, what wilt thou have me to
do?_” seemed to be written on the air just before her uplifted eyes.

Then questioned the elder, “And thou my daughter, a woman, wilt not also
leave me? It’s a woman’s heart that pitifully questions.”

“I’ll never forsake my mother!”

“And never leave?”

“Except, only as God commissions!”

“Oh, say that thou wilt never leave me in life! I said this in cruel
pains for thee, Miriamne. Miriamne, daughter, here by the couch in which
thou wert born, I plead.” So saying the mother dropped on one knee, flung
one arm over the bed by her side, and stretched out the other toward her
daughter.

The maiden was profoundly moved, her loving heart seemed to be swelling
within her, all her emotional nature ready to exclaim, “I’ll tarry,”
but again her royal sentence: “_Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?_”
controlled.

“Loved mother, I am not my own. God has bought me, and in His dear love
I go. The story of sorrow I’ve just heard confirms me in my purpose. I’m
called, I know, to work out a new and brighter day for mother and father!”

Rizpah was both pained and chagrined, and burying her face in her
_pepulum_ moaned, “God, pity me!”

“He does, I know, and sends a daughter to bear thee proof, my mother.”

The mother, as if not hearing the latter words, continued, growing
vehement: “The necromancy of that Nazarine priest has hastened the
workings of heredity’s curse! Girl, thy father’s distemper is taking root
in thy brain; thou too, art going mad! This scheme of peril, foredoomed
to failure, is worthy of a bedlamite only. Oh, Jehovah, my shepherd, thou
lead’st me now by bitter waters!”

“Mother, you called me at my birth, ‘Marah,’ ‘bitterness.’ You know how
the people murmured by the bitter springs of Marah, in the wilderness,
but God showed Moses a tree that sweetened the water. I’ve seen that
tree and felt its power. It grows on the mount called Calvary, and is
immortal.”

“Be considerate now, daughter, since I meet thee kindly. To one not
believing thy Nazarene doctrine, it is useless to appeal with Christian
figures.”

“Well, mother, you remember Jeptha? He had a daughter, and she was
all-influential with him.”

“He was the cause of her death, as thy father will be of thine.”

“But Jeptha’s daughter became a heroine.”

“When dost thou depart?” questioned Rizpah.

“Next Lord’s day I say my last prayers in Bozrah.”

“Farewell. As well now as later. I can not bear a long parting, and after
to-day we shall speak no more of this.” Miriamne was amazed by the sudden
change.

“Do I go in peace?”

“Ah, daughter, what a question? A mother’s undiminished love will follow
thee even unto death, winging a thousand daily prayers to Israel’s
Shepherd in thy behalf. Yet, I shall condemn thy going, rebuke thy
disobedience, perhaps frown upon thee, and even say, ‘I disown thee!’
But, though I do all this, there will be tears in my voice and kisses
in my heart, for my first-born. All my authority as a mother cries
against thy going, and all my mother-heart embraces. I’ll not kiss thee
as thou departest, but waft hundreds after thee when thou art gone. I’m
not Rizpah, devotee of Rizpah now. I’m only a woman, a parent, a voice
uttering two decrees; one of the head and one of the heart!”

Miriamne was inexpressibly rejoiced by the words she had heard, as they
betokened the breaking down of the strong opposition to her purpose; but
she could not trust herself further than to say, as she affectionately
embraced her mother, “And I can only cry as did that noble Bethlehem
mother to God’s messenger: ‘_Be it unto me according to thy word._’ He
leads, I follow.”

[Illustration: By W. Holman Hunt.

THE YOUTH JESUS YIELDING TO THE WISHES OF HIS MOTHER.]



CHAPTER XXV.

CONSOLATRIX AFFLICTORUM.

      “Furl we the sail and pass with tardy oar
      Through these bright regions, casting many a glance
      Upon the dream like issues and romance
      Of many-colored life that Fortune pours
      Round the Crusaders till, on distant shores,
      Their labors end.”—WORDSWORTH.


Miriamne’s welcome at the “Retreat of the Palestineans,” at London, was
most cordial. The Grand Master of the returned knights and his wife
received her as a daughter; the companion knights vied with each other in
efforts to serve the child of their once honored comrade, Sir Charleroy
de Griffin. But the maiden never for a moment lost sight of her mission.
No sooner had she been bidden to rest than she questioned as to her
father’s welfare. The Grand Master attempted to assure her that she might
recuperate after her journey, but she only the more urged her desire to
be taken to her parent at once.

“Worthy Master, dalliance would not be rest, but torture, to me. Being
now so near my father, I’m filled with a ruling, all-exciting longing to
see him, at once!”

“Be patient, daughter, for a little season; all is done for him that can
be. The princely revenues of the knights of Europe are at the behest of
each of our veterans, as he hath need.”

“Ah! but your wealth can not provide him what I bring—a daughter’s love!”

“And yet, daughter, since you press me, I must explain that he is under a
cloud which would make thy offering vain at present.”

“There is no need, kind commander, to make evasive explanations. I have
been forewarned of my father’s troubles of mind.”

“But he is violent at times, and we are compelled to keep him secluded in
the asylum of our brotherhood.”

“Good Master, that but the more increases my ardor to hasten a meeting
with him. I want to try the cure of love upon him; I’ve all faith in its
efficacy. When may I go?”

The foregoing was a sample of Miriamne’s words each day. Her appeals
touched all hearts and finally over-persuaded the medical attendants,
who, in fact, began to fear lest refusal would unsettle the maiden’s
mind. She was all vehemence and urgency on this subject.

The meeting was a sorrowful and brief one.

She was not prepared for such a spectacle as her father presented, and
her cry, “Take me to him,” was changed to one more vehement now:

“Take me away!”

Terror supplemented her utter disappointment. To both feelings there
was added a sense of humiliation. She imagined her return to Bozrah,
empty-handed; the possible gibes of her mother and others. Her great
faith seemed fruitless and her enthusiasm ebbed. Then she began to
question within herself whether or not, after all, the new faith she
had embraced was not a splendid illusion! She was in “Doubting Castle,”
with “Giant Despair,” and the mighty, impelling question, “What wilt
Thou have me to do?” little by little lost its grip on her will. It had
seemed to her the voice of God; now it seemed little more than the echo
of words heard in a dream. She was moved now by a desire to get away from
something, but she could not define the thing. Certainly she desired to
escape her disappointment, but not knowing how, she sought to get away
from its scene. If she could have run away from herself she would have
been glad to have done so. She fled from the asylum, as soon as night
came to hide her flight. She had not strength to go far, and the Asylum
park of many acres of lawns and groves, afforded her solitude; that that
she now chiefly desired. The night the desolate girl thus went forth was
a lovely one; a reflection of that other night of sorrow when she fled
from the old stone-house home to the chapel of Adolphus at Bozrah. And
the memory of that night returned to the girl with some consoling. Again
she looked up to the firmament and was calmed by the eternal rest that
seemed on all above, and again she yearned to go up further to the only
seeming haven of righteousness and peace.

Then came the reaction; the prolonged tension had done its work, and the
young woman dropped down on the earth. How long she lay in her blank
dream she knew not. If during its continuance she in part recovered
consciousness, she had no desire nor strength to rise or throw off her
weakness.

Ere long her absence was known at the Grand Master’s and an eager search
was instituted. Foremost in the quest was the young chaplain of the
knights and his quest brought him first to the object of search.

“Can I aid my lady?” said the chaplain, in kindly tones, standing a
little distance away from her, in part through a feeling of delicacy akin
to bashfulness, and in part fearing lest by any means he should affright
her.

The young woman lay motionless; her eyes closed; her face as the face of
the lifeless. Receiving no answer, the man questioned within himself:
“Is she dead?” Fear emboldened him, and he essayed active assistance.
Delicately, gently, firmly he raised up the prostrate woman. She seemed
to realize that some one was assisting her, but she was very passive.
Her head, drooping, rested on the young man’s shoulder, and she sighed a
weary, broken sentence:

“I’m so glad you came, Father Adolphus!”

“Not Father Adolphus, but one rejoiced to serve a friend of his.”

The maiden was silent a few moments, as if listening to words coming
to her from a distance, through confusions. Memory was struggling to
re-enforce semi-consciousness. Then came comprehension; she realized
the presence of a stranger, and, with an effort, stood erect. Her eyes
turned on the chaplain’s face with questionings, having in them mingled
surprise, timidity and rebuke. The man interpreted her glance and made
quick reply:

“At my lady’s services, the Chaplain of the Palestineans. We are all
anxious at the Grand Master’s concerning yourself.”

“Anxious for me!” She found words to say that much, and hearing her own
words she recalled her recent thoughts of herself, as one being very
miserable and very worthless. She turned her eyes from the young man
toward the woodland, in the darkness appearing like a gateway to black
oblivion. She yearned to bury herself in the oblivion utterly, and her
looks betrayed the thought. The youth gently touched her arm, saying:

“Despair has no place here; the Palestineans vanquish it.”

She then looked down toward where she had been lying, both nerves and
will weakening. It seemed to her a bed, even on the earth, were inviting,
especially so if she could take there a sleep that knew no waking.

The young man had ministered to his fellow-beings long enough to have
become a good interpreter of hearts. He discerned the thoughts of the one
before him, and offered prompt remedies, words wisely spoken:

“Our faith makes us all hope to see our guest happy ere long.”

Then she gave way to a flood of tears. The tears moved the man to
exercise His professional function, and forgetting all else he spoke
as a comforter to a sorrowing woman. She listened, but, except for her
sobs, was silent until he questioned: “Shall I stay to guide back to the
‘Refuge,’ or return to send help?”

She answered by turning toward him a face pale and blank, lighted alone
by eyes all appealing. He interpreted the look and continued: “I’ll tarry
to aid. Shall we now seek the ‘Refuge?’”

Then she exclaimed, “Alas, there seems no refuge for me!”

“The troubles of Miriamne de Griffin enlist all hearts at this place, I
assure you.”

“And this, your kindness, with your happiness ever before me, but makes
to myself my own desolation more manifest! Ah, I’m but a hulk in a dark
tide!”

“Lady, say not so, I beseech you. Look, there!” Languidly, mechanically,
she turned her eyes in the direction the speaker pointed; then suddenly
drew back from sight of a white apparition, standing out boldly from a
background of dark shrubbery. Her nerves all unstrung were for the moment
victimized by superstitious dreads.

“Only, calm, pure marble; a fear-slayer; not fear-invoker! Look
at its pedestal!” assuringly spoke the chaplain. The maiden
did as bidden and slowly read, repeating each word aloud:
“_Sancta-Maria-Consolatrix-Afflictorum._”

“By easy interpretation: ‘Mother of Jesus, consoler of the sorrowing!’”
responded the young man.

“Ah, like all consolations nigh to me, this is only stone and set in deep
shadows! It can not come to me!”

“True, yon form is passionless stone; but the truth eternal, which it
emblemizes, is living and fervent.”

“Life and fervor? Death and sorrow submerge both!”

“There is mother-love in the heart of God; to one so nearly orphan as my
friend, it must be comforting to look up believing that in heaven there
are fatherhood, motherhood and home! This is the sermon in yon stone.”

Then the chaplain gently, reverently drew the sorrow stricken maiden
toward the “Refuge” and she followed, unresisting. As they moved along,
she essayed to seek further acquaintance with her guide.

“May I know the chaplain’s name?”

“Certainly; to those that are intimates, ‘Brother’ or ‘Friend;’ for such
I’ve renounced my former self and name.”

“But if I should need and wish to send for you? I might. I could not call
for ‘Brother.’”

“Ah, I’m by right, ‘Cornelius Woelfkin;’ yet the names are misnomers,
since I’m not kin to the wolf, nor am I ‘a heart-giving light’ as my name
implies; at least if I give light it is but dim.”

The meeting of the young people, apparently accidental, was in fact an
incident in a far-reaching train of Providences. The young woman was in
trouble and needing such sympathy as one who was both young and wise
could give; the young man was courteous, pure-minded, wise beyond his
years, free from the conceits common to young men of capacity, and being
a natural philanthropist, naturally sympathetic. The young woman was at
the age that yearns for a girl friend, and needs a mother’s counsel; the
young man had much of his mother in his make-up; enough to fit him to win
his way into the confidence and fine esteem of a refined and trusting
young woman; but not enough to make him effeminate. Somehow he exactly
met the needs of Miriamne’s life. He could advise her as sincerely and
wisely as a mother and companion her as affectionately as a girl friend.
Having neither girl friend nor mother, the young chaplain became both to
her.

They were both impressible and inexperienced in the matters that belong
to the realms of the heart, in its grander emotions; therefore with a
charming simplicity they outlined their intentions and the limitations
of their relations. They assured each other, again and again, probably
in part to assure themselves, that they were to be very true and very
sensible young friends. Their converse often ran along after this manner.

“We understand each other so well!”

“Yes, and are so well adapted to each other!”

“We have had too much experience to spoil this helpful relation between
us, by giving away to any sway of the romantic emotions.”

“There has seldom been in the world a friendship between a young man and
young woman so exalted and wise as ours is.”

They agreed that she should call him “brother,” and he should call her
“sister.” At first they said they wished they were indeed akin by ties
of blood; though in time they were glad they were not. In this they were
like many another pair who have had such a wish, and in their case as in
many another like it, the wish, was a prediction of its own early demise.

Among the works of art in the park of the Palestineans was a commanding
bronze of Pallas-Athene, the goddess believed by her pagan devotees to
be the patroness of wisdom, art and science. She was the Virgin of the
Romans and the Greeks, their queenly woman, deemed by her wisdom ever
superior to Mars, god of war. She was represented bearing both spear
and shield; but these as emblems of her moral potencies. In a word, she
was the result of the efforts of those ancients to express a perfection
that was virgin and matchless, because too fine and exalted to have an
equal. Between the “White Madonna” and this Minerva, Chaplain Woelfkin
and the Maid of Bozrah often walked, back and forth, in very complacent
conversations. They desired themes, the ideals afforded them; they were
in a frame of mind that delighted in Utopianism, and the effigies of the
women guided their day-dreams. Youth, quickened by dawning, though as yet
unperceived, love, naturally begins building a Pantheon filled with fine
creations. That is the time of hero-worship in general; afterward comes
the iconoclastic period when every idol is cast down to make place for
the only one that the heart crowns. Cornelius praised sincerely Miriamne,
when she said she would be as the Græco-Roman goddess—very wise, very
pure, very strong. Day by day, he believed she was becoming like Minerva.
Then he thought it very fine for the maiden to emulate the goddess in
every thing, even her perpetual virginity. Again, walking near the
Madonna and discoursing of her as the ideal of womanhood, as the mother,
the minister, the saint, the maiden said she would emulate the latter;
the chaplain in his heart prayed that she might.

Once he finely said: “A pure, patient woman is God’s appointed and best
consoler of the afflicted. Miriamne, be like Mary, and Sir Charleroy will
find restoration.”

The young woman was encouraged by the words to increase her efforts in
her father’s behalf. Now she did so not only because prompted by a sense
of duty, but because filial love seemed a fine ornament for a maiden.
Birds in mating-times put on their finest plumage; men and women do
likewise. The chaplain was a humanitarian by profession, and naturally
joined the maiden in her efforts for her father’s recovery. So their
thoughts and their works ran in parallel lines. They had unbounded
delight in their companionship and common efforts. This delight they
innocently explained to themselves as the natural result and reward of
their fine, exalted, frank, wise, brother-like, sister-like friendship.
In hours of their supremest satisfaction they generously expressed
sorrow for the world at large, because so few in it knew how to attain
such bliss as they enjoyed. In a word, they were a very fine and a
very innocent pair, a complete contrast with Rizpah and Sir Charleroy
at Gerash. The latter took their course under the torrid influences of
Astarte of the brawny Giants, the former moved forward charmed and led by
those things that were held to be the belongings of the fine women whose
statues graced the park of the Palestineans. Miriamne asked wisdom later
of her elect counselor, and he advised her to send letters to Bozrah
urging her mother to join her in London, in efforts in behalf of their
insane kinsman.

The young man very wisely argued: “He is a fragment, flung out of a
wrecked home; his perturbed mind is clouded by the wild passions of a
misled heart. We must balance his brain by calming his heart. He is
filled with hatings, and love alone is hate’s cure. If the past losses be
recovered, he must be brought back to the place of loss.”

Miriamne wrote to her mother, glad to please her counselor by so doing,
and yet almost hopeless of gaining any answer that was favorable. The
maiden renewed her visit to her father’s lodge in the asylum. She was not
permitted, nor did she then desire, to see her parent. She shuddered when
she remembered the one dreadful meeting of the beginning, and was content
to sit outside the door of his cell or keep, day by day, to perform such
little services as she could. Sometimes she would call the insane man by
his name, or title; sometimes she would call out: “Father, would you like
to see Miriamne?” or “Father, your daughter is here.” At other times she
would sit near his door singing Eastern songs, especially such as she had
heard were favorites of her parents in their younger days.

Days passed onward, and there appeared no result beyond the fact that
when she was thus engaged the knight became very quiet. At the suggestion
of Chaplain Woelfkin, she changed her method, and began in hearing of
the knight a recital of the history of Crusader days. In this she was
encouraged, for an attendant told her that her father each day, when she
began, drew close to his barred door to listen. As she came near the
time of the Acre campaign, the knight’s face was flushed with interest.
Having followed the narrative up to the fall of the city and the flight
of Sir Charleroy and his comrades, she paused. Then she was surprised
and delighted at once, for the incarcerated man in a voice both calm and
natural, ejaculated the words: “Go on!”

Miriamne would have rushed to the prison door had not Cornelius, who
stood not far away, motioned her to remain seated and to continue. For a
moment she was at a loss how to proceed, but then she bethought herself
of an experiment. She described by a kind of a parable the career of her
father, as follows:

“And the noble knight, after years of illness, was found by his loving
daughter. Under her kindly care he recovered, and at her earnest request
he returned to his home in Palestine. There he spent many happy years
with his reunited family, consisting of a wife, daughter and twin sons.
He is living there now, and all that family agree that theirs is the most
happy and loving home on earth.”

“It’s a lie! a lie!” almost shouted the lunatic. “Sir Charleroy is
not there. He went mad; the devil stole his skull and left his brain
uncovered to be scratched by a million of bats. That’s why he went mad; I
know him; he went mad, and is mad yet, and you get away with your lying!”

The daughter fled in terror at the succeeding outburst of wild profanity;
but she was still rejoiced, that a chord of memory had been struck. It
gave a harsh response, yet it gave a response, and that was much. She
continued her efforts as before. The interviews were not fruitless,
but they were costing her fearfully. She complained to no one, yet her
youthful locks, in a few months streaked with silver, told the story of
suffering.

One day there was delivered at the Grand Master’s a huge package directed
to herself. Miriamne, filled with wonder, called help to open the case.
Just under the cover she beheld a letter. She knew the handwriting. It
was her mother’s. Her heart took a great leap, and as a flash of joy
there ran through her mind the thought:

“Mother has sent something to help. Perhaps it’s her clothing, and she is
coming!”

Tremblingly Miriamne read the epistle. How formal:

    “MIRIAMNE DE GRIFFIN:—Thou went’st without my leave. Do not
    return till sent for. Thou left’st a loving mother for a
    worthless father, and this is a daughter’s reward. Thou dost
    say Sir Charleroy is mad. I knew it, and think that the curse
    is descending on thee. But I doubt not the man has cunning in
    his madness, and has prompted thee to inveigle me into his
    toils again. Once he had me in England, and there he put me on
    the rack of his merciless temper and lust! Shame on him for
    that time! Shame on me if he have opportunity to repeat it! I
    send thee a comforter. Put it before his eyes, and tell him
    that the woman of Bozrah is before him. Tell him that she, like
    Rizpah of old, is true to the death to her sons, and, while
    waking, never forgets to curse the vultures!”

No love was added. There was no name appended. Miriamne felt like one
disowned. She dreaded to examine the contents of the case; but a servant,
who began the opening just then, spread it out. As she suspected, after
she had read the letter, it was the (to her) hateful picture of ancient
Rizpah.

It was evening, and the maiden sought a refuge from her troubles in the
park. It was, on her part, another flight from the face of Rizpah of
Gibeah; another seeking of solitude from man that she might gain that
sense of nearness to the Eternal Father under the calm, silent stars of
His canopy. It was like that flight from the old stone house of Bozrah to
the chapel of Father Adolphus that she had made long before.

The maiden’s course brought her to the “White Madonna,” and there she
found her counselor and brother, the chaplain. He had heard that Miriamne
was desponding that day, and had bent his course hither, confident that
the “_Consolatrix Afflictorum_” would prove a tryst. The scenery around
Pallas Athene was the finer by far, but to a troubled heart there was the
more allurement in the place where the love of heaven was expressed.
The Minerva expressed self-sufficiency; the “White Madonna,” God’s
sufficiency. One expressed justice, culture, the perfection of human
gifts, regnant and victorious; the other spoke of welcome, healing,
mercy, and help for those who were in pitiable needs. The virgin evolved
by the philosophers of the Greeks was a concept touching but few of
humanity, and fitted to be crowned only in a world of perfections, such
as has not yet existed. The “White Madonna” depicted a real character who
had a human heart and heavenly traits, and that easily found acceptance
in human affections.

The maiden and her counselor sat together for a long time; she speaking
of her social miseries, he of God’s remedies; she describing the
thickness of the night about her; he telling her in beautiful parables
that there was a refuge and an asylum, though the night obscured all for
a time. As they conversed the rising moon flooded the “White Madonna”
with silvering light, and the chaplain rapturously exclaimed:

“See, the moon gets its light from the sun, and gives it to the image. We
do not see the sun, but we see its work and glory reflected! So God hands
down from heaven to His children, by His angels and ministers, the powers
and blessings that they need. Miriamne, we have a Father who forgets none
and is munificent to all!”

[Illustration: Paul Veronese.

THE WEDDING AT CANA.]



CHAPTER XXVI.

THE WEDDING AT CANA.

      “I would I were an excellent divine
        That had the Bible at my fingers’ ends;
      That men might hear out of this mouth of mine
        How God doth make His enemies His friends;
      Rather than with a thundering and long prayer
      Be led into presumption, or despair.”—BRETON.

    “Hear ye Him. Whatever He saith unto you, do it.”—MARY.


Chaplain Woelfkin heard of Miriamne’s reply from her mother. He was both
glad and sorry thereat; sorry the heart he tenderly esteemed should have
been so wounded, and glad that the wounding afforded him opportunity to
show how gently and wisely he could comfort.

“Your trial came at a fortunate time, sister.”

“I can not see how such a rebuke can ever be timely, being unjust and
cruel.”

“True enough; but if fate must assail, it is well to have its hardships
fall on us when we are supported by dawning hopes. There are hopes near
for Miriamne.”

“Let not my brother’s warm heart give me false comfort. I’ve no sight of
hope.”

“Say not so; there is a surprise in store for you.”

“Now, pray, explain.”

“You will be permitted to meet your father at the chapel service
to-night.”

“Oh, but—!” and Miriamne bowed her head and waved her hand as if to repel
some unpleasant spectacle.

“Be not perturbed, sister. Let me explain: You came hither to seek
your demented parent, hoping that love would find a way to compass his
healing. The purpose and effort were alike noble and wise. You lost heart
because the results were slow to appear; but the good seed was sown, and
now for the fruit.”

“Has my father recovered?”

“He has improved, and to-night we’ll sit quietly while we apply the balm
of Gilead.”

“Now am I in a mystery.”

“Miriamne’s ministries have touched a responsive chord in Sir Charleroy’s
heart and fitted him to attend our mind-cure services. Love is the surest
remedy for a mind gone down under the ruins of the crushed heart. Sir
Charleroy calls his daughter ‘Naaman’s little maid,’ and but yesterday
said: ‘Ah, she’ll take me to healing Jordan yet!’”

“Blessed be God,” devoutly exclaimed the maiden, glancing heavenward.

“To which I say ‘amen,’ assured that great things will come through our
‘_Birth of Peace_.’”

“And what is that, pray?”

“We are trying to soothe the tumultuous minds of our asylum patients by
displaying sweet peace in picture garbs. To-night by the aid of a musical
and illustrative service we shall depict, in the chapel, the Birth of
Jesus. But I’ll not explain further now. Wait until the hour of service,
sister.”

When the people were gathered, Miriamne, glowing with hope, yet silenced
by anxiety, was in the midst of the assembly. The preliminary services
moved slowly along with a studied absence of hurry. Miriamne could not
give them her attention; she was disappointed because she did not see her
father present, and the chaplain himself was not there. Presently the
music of the occasion arrested her attention. She followed its movement
and found it gaining control of her feelings. There was an organ in soft,
quiet tones leading voices that murmured words of trust and rest. She
followed the flowing tide of melody again and again, each time further,
higher, more contentedly, until one strain, expressive of serene triumph,
lifted her to a very third heaven of satisfaction. There it left her
almost at a loss to say where the melody ceased and the remembering began.

At that instant, the chaplain passed by her side, robed in white,
hurriedly whispering so she alone could hear: “Your father is behind the
screen of Templar banners, quietly listening. Be hopeful and pray. God is
good!” The words to her soul were as rain whisperings to spring flowers
in a torrid noon.

Advancing to the raised platform, the young man told the story of
Bethlehem, ending with a beautiful description of the angel song of
“_Peace on earth, good will to men_.” The words of the speaker were
quietly spoken, and his address mostly like that of one conversing with
a few friends; but the words were very impressive. When all had bowed to
receive the benediction, Miriamne, lifting her eyes, beheld her father
sitting, with the flag screen thrown aside, full in view, but clad as
a knight and without manacle or guard. For a moment he sat thus, then
arose and calmly moved out of the chapel toward his lodge. She obeyed a
sudden impulse and rose to speed after him, but the restraining hand of
the Grand Master was laid on her arm:

“Wait; not yet, daughter.”

Renewed hope made it easy for her to comply, and she sat down again
filled with gratitude toward God. A series of similar services followed,
each bringing new causes for hopefulness to the maiden.

“We are going to Cana to-day, sister,” remarked the young chaplain some
weeks subsequent to the “Birth of Peace” service.

“To Cana?”

“To Cana, and for a purpose.”

“I can not fathom it, brother.”

Then the young man explained to his fair hearer the scripture event, and
the method devised for presenting it at the chapel, as intended that day.

The patients and their friends were assembled in the chapel again. Sir
Charleroy among them, but silent and absorbed with his own thoughts.

“We are going to try a device to gain his attention,” whispered the
chaplain to Miriamne. Just then the Grand Master, dressed in the full
regalia of a knight, ascended the platform and uncovered to view a huge
earthen vessel, remarking: “Friends, we want to exhibit this evening a
vessel, on its way now to France, but left for a time in our custody by
some of our comrade Crusaders, who brought it from Cana in Galilee.”

“Knights,” “Crusaders,” “Cana!” murmured Sir Charleroy, as if in
soliloquy. Miriamne observed her father’s eyes. They were no longer
leaden; they glowed with interest. “You all remember,” continued the
Grand Master, “how Jesus turned the water into wine at Cana? Tradition
informs us that this before us is one of the identical water-pots used
that time by our Savior; but I’ll leave our chaplain to tell the rest.”
The youth took his position at the pulpit and began informally to talk,
as if in conversation, but he had anxiously, carefully prepared for the
occasion.

He first pictured Cana, with its limestone houses, sitting on the side
of the highlands, a few miles north-east of Nazareth. “This place,” he
continued, “is the reminder of two instructive events. I have their
history here.” Thereupon, Cornelius turned to an illuminated volume and
began reading, with passing comments. As he read, Sir Charleroy closely
watched the reader; the puzzled look of the listener faded into satisfied
attention.

    “Jesus was proclaimed the Lamb of God, near Cana, by that
    vehement, self-starving Baptist John. But in habits and manner
    of living John and Jesus were utterly dissimilar. There was
    harmony in the great things, faith and charity in all things.”

The mad knight nodded inquiringly.

The student continued:

    “Jesus, the organizer of the new kingdom, at Cana, unfolded one
    part of His policy, for nigh here twain questioned: ‘_Where
    dwellest thou?_’ Jesus instantly invited them to His own
    abode. They dwelt with Him a day, and were won to be His loyal
    disciples, thus attesting the power of Christ in the home. And
    they got a home religion, for one of these, Andrew, at once
    sought to win his brother Peter to discipleship. On the eve of
    Cana’s wedding feast Jesus won Philip, saying, ‘_Follow me_,’
    and Philip hasted to win Nathaniel, crying, ‘Come and see.’ To
    these He spoke of a hereafter home with open doors and a holy
    family. Each of Jesus’s true disciples was impelled to haste
    and tell salvation’s story to his nearest kin. Christianity is
    a feast beginning in the home circle and spreading to all the
    earth.”

The mad knight, as he listened, cast a glance of inquiry over his
shoulder at those near him.

“Sir Charleroy applies the lesson to himself,” whispered the Grand Master
to Miriamne.

Cornelius went on:

    “Cana was the home of Nathaniel. We see this poor man sitting
    in seclusion under a fig tree. Except his doubts, he was alone.
    To him Jesus went, and at the door of his own home the Master
    met him. Because Nathaniel believed, on little evidence, God
    gave him more, and promised him that he should see heaven open
    and the angels ascending and descending, as in Jacob’s vision.
    So are those winged messengers passing back and forth forever,
    to minister to and comfort needy man. One may be lost to the
    world, to friends, to himself, but never lost to the Good
    Shepherd, who is like the one in the parable leaving the ninety
    and nine to follow the lamb that was straying.”

Sir Charleroy’s head bowed, and Miriamne was glad, for she saw the tears
falling thick and fast down his pallid cheeks.

A sign from the attending physicians brought the services quietly to a
close. They had seen the emotion of the knight, and desired that the
feelings aroused be permitted to quietly ebb.

A few days later, by their advice, the Grand Master summoned the chaplain
of the Palestineans to hold another service like the last. “Sir Charleroy
was blessed that last day. He evinces interest and natural reasonings.
Since the former service he has repeated the story of Cana over and over,
together with the substance of thy discourse thereon. Besides that, he
never tires of inquiring about the ‘ruddy priest of the sweet words,’”
said the physician.

“I obey, my Master, it’s God’s will. What shall be my theme?”

“Oh, Cana continued; De Griffin is constantly inquiring as to when the
ruddy priest of the sweet words is to continue the tale of the Cana,”
said the Grand Master.

“Praise the Day Spring that hath visited us!”

“You echo the thought of all our souls, Cornelius.”

And it was so that on the day following the chapel of the “House of Rest”
was filled with much the same company that met there the last time.

Miriamne arrived early and eagerly questioned Cornelius as he passed her
on his way to his robing-room:

“Oh, brother, hast thou a message of grace and hope for me, to-day?”

“_The entrance of thy word giveth light_,” was his quiet reply; and he
passed on, not daring to tarry near the woman that so strangely moved
him. He felt very serious, and hence avoided that which might distract
his attention.

But Miriamne felt assured, while Cornelius was all faith in the efficacy
of the Divine word in working the cure of minds perturbed.

Presently he stood behind his reading-desk and, waiting until the organ
tone had died away, commenced by reading these words:

“And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the
mother of Jesus was there:

“And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.”

Sir Charleroy had entered the chapel, and was moving toward a lonely
seat; his motions were languid; his action listless, except when at
intervals he gazed into the empty air and hissed some incoherent words
at imaginary people. But the word “Cana” arrested his attention. He
looked up, smiled, and then exclaimed: “Oh, the red-faced! That’s it;
tell us more, more of Cana!”

Cornelius complied. “We have here a story of two lives in the most
precious tie on earth, marriage.”

Then the chaplain read:

    “We see Christ at a Jewish wedding, and the Hebrew marriage was
    ever an occasion of great joy. Not only so, but the weddings
    of that people were characterized by very instructive and
    impressive ceremonies. Let me explain. The day before the
    wedding both bride and groom fasted, confessed their sins and
    made ceremonial atonement for the errors of their past lives.
    They were to be part of each other, and felt that each owed
    it to the other to be free from burden or taint of the past.
    Both bride and groom at the wedding wore wreaths of myrtle, the
    emblem of justice, constantly to typify that virtue as supreme
    in wedlock.”

“Oh, young priest, thou art an angel!”

The voice startled all but Sir Charleroy. He had spoken, yet his face
indicated only placidity and interest. Cornelius proceeded:

    “The bride, veiled from head to foot to show that her beauty
    was to be seen only by him to whom she gave herself, decked
    with a girdle, emblem of strength and subjection, was led in
    triumph from the home of her father to the home of him who was
    to possess her. Before she took her departure, kindly hands
    anointed her with sweet perfumes and gave her priceless jewels;
    while on her way she was met by all her friends, singing songs
    and bearing torches to gladden her journey toward her new
    abode. Thus they that loved the bride did bestir themselves
    to bestow bounties and make the maiden most choice. There was
    no detraction, no defiling, no effort to belittle. Were wives
    aided like brides there would be fewer broken hearts among
    wedded women.”

“Wondrous true, ruddy priest!” It was the mad knight’s voice. Cornelius
continued:

    “The feast of the wedding lasted seven days. To such a
    gathering Jesus once went. Probably this was the marriage of
    a kinsman. Thus, immediately after His temptation and His
    baptism, with His mighty redemptional work all before Him,
    our Lord deemed it a leading duty to give proper attention to
    this wedding ceremonial, one of the lesser things that make
    up so much of life. With man supreme selfishness, or natural
    littleness, engenders apathy to all except some pre-occupying
    purpose, but He, in whom all fullness dwells, entered into
    and embraced around about all life. He was as glorious when
    meddling with human joys and making the waters of Cana blush
    to wine, as when grappling with the sorrows of sin and setting
    Himself up on Calvary the beacon and light of the ages.”

Miriamne felt the illumination again that first came to her that
Easter-day at Bozrah, while Sir Charleroy’s face glowed with intelligence
and peace. This was a full, round gospel which Cornelius was proclaiming,
and every soul present was fed.

After pausing for an interlude of soothing music he again proceeded with
his discoursing as one conversing:

“At Cana, Christ bound as a captive, natural law. How He did so we do not
know, but we do know that while destroying no part of nature’s system
he mysteriously made it serve for human happiness in a way unusual and
marvelous. It seems to me that the story of Cana is a fireside story. No
matter how miserable a home may be, it may have faith that in welcoming
the Divine guest it welcomes assured miraculous joy. Life’s waters may
blush everywhere to heaven’s wine!”

The mad knight murmured: “Oh, ruddy priest! if thou couldst only preach
this in Bozrah.”

The Grand Master, who was sitting by Miriamne, pressed her hand and
whispered: “Memory is reviving—praise to the Day-Spring!”

Cornelius again read his parchment.

“And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have
no wine.

“Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is
not yet come.”

“So,” said the reader, “these folks were likely poor, the supply meager,
though no man ever yet had enough of the wine of joy at his wedding until
it was blessed by the God of marriage.”

Just then Sir Charleroy, standing up, solemnly said: “Young man, I’d have
thee tell these people why He said ‘Woman, what have I to do with thee?’
He, the man, was master, that was it, eh?”

“Oh, motion to Cornelius not to debate,” whispered Miriamne to the Grand
Master; but Cornelius was already adroitly replying:

“True, knight of Saint Mary, but this Master of ceremonies was Divine.
Then He was not talking to his wife. He had not wed this woman, hence
was not bound by the law of being her other self. Besides that we must
not forget that they had often conversed intimately before the wedding;
she with all the tenderness of a woman’s heart, which in its love ever
naturally outruns all plans, all reasonings, to bestow all it has at once
upon the all-beloved. She hurried Christ in the way of giving. This to
her credit, if her wisdom is reproved.”

The knight settled back in his seat, his face very pale but not
anger-marked.

Cornelius continued: “The term ‘woman’ is often used, as here, in all
tenderness. Our rugged language ill translates the original. When a
people has not fine moods in its living, its language becomes like
sackcloth, unfit to clothe the angel-like thoughts of those who live on
more exalted planes. The gross degrade all their companions, whether such
be beings or merely words.”

The leader again read:

“His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.”

    “This shows the good, motherly Mary supplementing the Master’s
    work. Doubtless, she had her partisans, some who would have
    sided with her had she chosen to rebuke her Son. But she
    desired harmony at the feast and in the home. This was the
    chief end, and for it she was willing to serve and wait.”

“Very true! Our Lady was always right and good.” It was the voice of the
mad knight.

Cornelius continued:

    “These were the finest words Mary ever spoke; they were the
    key to her whole life; indeed, the spirit of the ideal woman
    ever more standing nearer to Christ than any other being; at a
    wedding, the very climax of fullest human love, the gateway to
    home, the counterpart of heaven, Mary points all to the Christ,
    exclaiming, ‘_Hear ye Him!_’”

“Our Lady was always a wise, brave, loving, submissive woman,” exclaimed
Sir Charleroy.

“It is an old tradition,” replied Cornelius, “that this was the wedding
of John, the beloved and confidant of Jesus. It is interesting to
remember that that blessed disciple, in his Gospel, presents the one whom
he loved as a mother but twice—once at this wedding, the other time at
the crucifixion; the places of highest joy, and deepest sorrow; a way of
saying from the altar to the cross, is woman’s course; a parable-like
presentment of the doctrine that the wife and mother are to appear at
these two points, so opposite, so common to all; the lowest dip, the
highest heaven.”

The mad knight suddenly interrupted them.

“What did Joseph think of all this?”

Perhaps this odd query was fortunate, for it brought smiles to all. The
knight laughed out until his eyes were flowing with tears.

Cornelius, self-possessed, quietly replied: “It is said that Joseph was
dead long ere this wedding, and that Mary was exhaling the perfumes of
her consecrated widowed life to gladdening in pious ministries the people
about her. Widowhood has such purposes.”

“Ah, she was the Rose,” cried the knight. “If Joseph were not dead, he
might well stand back, behind such a wife!”

The chaplain of the Palestineans closed with a well-worded climax,
recalling the fact that this event made a lasting impression on the
Son of God, as evinced by the wondrous tropes of the Apocalypse, where
eternal goodness and eternal joy are pictured under the similitude of a
wedding-feast.

The mad knight cried out: “Grand, grand! Oh, ruddy priest, I worship
thee!”

The Grand Master signaled the conclusion. The worshipers and patients
were slowly retiring, Sir Charleroy moving toward his lodge seemingly
wrapped in contemplation of some engrossing problem.

He passed near the picture of “Rizpah Defending Her Relatives,” which by
some mischance had been left near the chapel door. Instantly the knight’s
attention was fixed; he became excited, then suddenly turning to an
attendant, exclaimed:

“Here, tell me, where am I? Is this London or Bozrah?”

“London, good Teuton.”

Again he gazed at the picture, and his transformation was startling.
His face was distorted, his body became rigid and swayed as that of the
hooded snake making ready to strike a victim. Then bounding to the Grand
Master’s side he snatched the latter’s sword from its hilt, quickly
returned to the picture, and before any could prevent him began to hack
it to pieces.

One tried to restrain him, but was overpowered, two, then three were
flung aside. Presently he was pinioned but not silenced.

“Away! Unhand me!” he shouted. “In the name of the King of Jerusalem, the
defenders of the Sepulcher, unhand me! Do you not see? There! they’ve
come to make riot at the feast of Cana! Ruddy priest, come quickly. Help!
This fearful gang will all be loose in a moment; they be the ghosts of
the giants, and war everlastingly against the peace of homes; against our
Mary and her Son’s kingdom.”

He was breathless for a moment, and all were anxious lest he be
permanently unsettled. Some were praying for him, others holding him.
Then he broke forth again as before.

“Unhand me, infidels! God wills it! Let me cut to pieces yon horrible
thing fresh from hot hell; painted by the gory and beslimed hands of
devils! See! it’s bewitched, and the woman and the hanging men and the
vultures are all alive! They’ll be at us! One of those black birds has
feasted on my heart for years, and yon woman has nightly beaten my bare
brain with her club.”

They tried to calm him; his daughter pressed to his side, and flinging
her arms about the knight, beseechingly cried: “Father! father! it is I!
Miriamne!”

“Miriamne? Ha! ha!” cried the excited man. “More mockery! More witchery!
Miriamne is lost, eternally lost! Yon group of demons tore her from me!
Oh, God, if thou lovest a soldier of the cross, hear me, and blast with
burning, swift and quenchless lightnings, yon monsters, and with them all
who separate hearts and wreck homes!”

“Father, so say we all; let us pray together,” pleaded the girl.

“Father! Who says ‘father’ to me?”

“It is I, your daughter, Miriamne!”

Suddenly, Sir Charleroy became calm and curiously observed the maiden.
“Art thou Sir Charleroy’s daughter? I knew him once in Palestine. He died
afterward in London and left me his body. But it’s not much use. It’s
sick most of the time. I carry it about, though, hoping he’ll come for
it. If thou dost want it thou canst have it.”

The daughter humored the fancy, and quickly replied: “I do want it. I
love it. I’ll help you take care of it. Let me now hug it to my heart.”

Then he permitted her to twine about him her arms, and when she kissed
him the second time he returned the salutation, and tears ran down his
hot cheeks.

“Blessed be the God of peace,” fervently ejaculated Cornelius. “The day
dawns; after tears, light.”

The knight continued after a time, addressing Miriamne:

“Sir Charleroy was my friend; and thou art his daughter? Thou wouldst
not deceive me, I know. Tell me in a few words,” he said, meanwhile
furtively glancing about, “Who am I?”

Miriamne again humored him, and pressing her lips nigh his ear, in a
whisper replied: “Sir Charleroy, Teutonic knight, my father.”

The old man held her off a little way, gazed at her a moment, doubtfully,
then said: “Thou art large for a baby! Miriamne is a little thing.”
Then he continued: “But thy eyes, they are Miriamne’s; and so honest! I
believe them! Then thou art Miriamne and I Sir Charleroy?”

“Truly.” And again she kissed her father.

“But thou dost not want me—a wreck, a pauper!”

“I do, and the boys do; all Bozrah wants you, needs you.”

“Not thy mother! Oh, no; I murdered her long ago!”

“Not so, dear father.”

“I did, indeed. See,” and he pointed to the painting, “I’ve killed her
again, to-day.”

“That’s but a miserable painting, and I hate it as much as you do; but
it’s harmless, henceforth.”

“Are all the devils in it dead; the vultures that ate up my heart?”

“Yes, yes; who cares for them?”

“Then I shall get better.”

The mad knight suffered himself to be led away quietly. There was great
joy among the Palestineans that night. And so Miriamne carried the spirit
of Mary, that presided at Cana’s feast, into the misery of that English
asylum. She had given her life to ministering for others, had begun in
her own home circle, her life motto: “_Hear ye Him_”—“_Whatsoever He
saith unto you, do it._” Now she was rewarded, and began to hope that
there would be the renewal of wedding chimes at Bozrah, that the wine of
its joy would be renewed and sweetened. She questioned the chaplain for
advice. “Tell the Master there is no wine in the old stone house, and
‘_whatsoever He saith, do it_,’” was the young man’s answer.



CHAPTER XXVII.

“THE STAR OF THE SEA.”

      “Rocked in the cradle of the deep,
      I lay me down in peace to sleep,
      Secure, I rest upon the wave,
      For Thou, oh Lord, hast power to save.
      I know Thou wilt not slight my call,
      For Thou dost mark the sparrow’s fall,
      And calm and peaceful be my sleep,
      Rocked in the cradle of the deep.
      And such the faith that still were mine
      Tho’ stormy winds swept o’er the brine,
      Or tho’ the tempest’s fiery breath
      Roused me from sleep to wreck and death;
      In ocean’s caves still safe with Thee,
      Those gems of immortality,
      And calm and peaceful be my sleep
      Rocked in the cradle of the deep.”


Like the morning dawn on a calm sea, after a night of fierce storm, so
came now great peace to Miriamne. The heaviest sorrow of her life was
lifting. Her father was recovering; his mind becoming rational; and chief
of Miriamne’s joys, was the fact that his convalescence was accompanied
by the appearance of a deep trusting love for herself. He seemed to
lean on his daughter for help; cling to her for hope and aim, by every
way, not only to express his sense of dependence on but his deep and
abiding gratitude toward the patient, chief minister, in the mission
of his recovery. He seemed for a long time to be haunted by a fear of
relapse into some great misery that he but dimly remembered and could not
define, beyond a shudder. He dreaded to be alone, and often clung to his
daughter with furtive glances of fear, even as a terrified child clings
to its mother. One day, months after he had begun to be rational, he
addressed Miriamne: “We must soon seek another abiding place, daughter.
Our Grand Master has discharged with overflowing payment, every debt of
hospitality.”

“True, father, and I’m glad; the thought for weeks in my mind, is now in
yours. But where shall we go?”

“I think, to France, and immediately.”

“France?”

“Yes, there I’ll seek out some of the De Griffins. They may be able to
mend my shattered fortunes, and if I find none of my kin, I shall not be
lacking in any thing, for there are many of our Teutonic knights. While
they prosper, no want shall harass me or mine.”

“Father, I do not want to go to France.”

“Why, this is strange?”

“It seems far away, very far, to me.”

“Art thou dreaming, my Syrian Oriole?”

“No, awake! And very earnest.”

“Why, we could walk thither, were it not for the water.”

“But I can not go that way!”

“Well, we can not stay here, so where?”

“Eastward; Bozrah!”

“Wouldst thou ask a spirit, by mercy permitted escape from Tophet to
return?”

“Yes, even that, if the spirit had a mission and a safe conduct.”

“Thou art nobler, braver than I. I can’t trust the land of giants and
vultures.”

“The giants and vultures we must meet are in human forms, and such are
everywhere.”

“There are over many for the population, in Syria and beyond it.”

“But there have been many changes since you left that country,
especially, in our city,” persisted the maiden.

“Nothing changes in Palestine or Bozrah, daughter, except wives, and they
only one way; from bad to worse.”

The young chaplain seconded Miriamne’s efforts.

Sir Charleroy was spasmodically the stronger, but Miriamne by patience
and persistence prevailed. In time, she won her cause, and the three
took sail for the Holy Land, the knight protesting that he would go as
far as Acre and no further. The journey was slow but not monotonous,
for the English trader on which they journeyed stopped at various
ports. Cornelius on his part was enjoying a serene delight that had no
shadow except when he remembered that voyaging with Miriamne was to
have an end; Miriamne on her part had three-fold pleasure; delight in
her companionship with the young missionary, delight in the continued
improvement of her father’s health, and greater delight still in the
glowing hope of the success of her mission of peace to her home-circle.
As for Sir Charleroy it suited him well to be sailing. He was ever
exhilarated by change; each day brought it. He was in theory a fatalist,
and the staunch ship pushing onward day and night to its destination,
carrying all along, was an expression of the inexorable. Then the
conditions about him rested him, for he was freed from any need of
bracing of his will to choose or execute any thing. He went forward
because the ship went. That was all and enough. Only once during the
voyage did he assert himself or express a desire to change his course.
THAT WAS WHEN PASSING CYPRUS.

“Here,” he cried, “let me disembark!”

Persuasively, Miriamne protested.

“But I must! I’ve a mission. I want to curse the memory of the recreant
Lusignan, the coward ‘King of Jerusalem;’ he that clandestinely stole
away from Acre on the eve of those last days!”

“But, father, Cyprus is called the ‘horned island.’ I do not like the
name!”

“I’ve heard it better named, ‘the blessed isle.’ There the hospitable
knights had a refuge for pilgrims, and it still abides.”

Just then some of the sailors cried, “Olympus!” They had caught sight of
that ancient mountain, the fabled home of the gods.

Miriamne adroitly used the cry to divert her father’s mind, saying:

“Let those admire Olympus who will; as for me, I prefer holy, fragrant
Lebanon.”

She pointed eastward, and they saw the dim outlines of Palestine’s famous
range. The knight’s attention was fixed on Lebanon, and they sailed past
Cyprus quietly without further objection on his part.

Miriamne and Cornelius, as the night began to settle down, stood together
by the ship’s side, feasting on glimpses of the distant shore. There were
signs of a coming storm, perceived intuitively by those accustomed to
the sea, by the young watchers best discerned in the anxious looks of the
seamen.

“The captain says the sky and sea are preparing for a duel. You noticed
how the blue changed to dark brown in the water this afternoon? He says
that, and the muddy appearance of the sky, betoken a tempest.”

“How like polished silver the wings of those gulls glisten as they
career!” was the maiden’s ecstatic reply.

“The wings are as they always are. They glisten now because they flash
against a murky background.”

“An omen, Cornelius, for good! I’ll call the sea-birds hope’s
carrier-pigeons with messages for us.”

“I would we had their wondrous power of outriding all storms. It is said
they can sleep on the waves, even during a tempest.”

“I’ve the heart of a sea-gull, to-night.”

“And not a dread or pang within?”

“No, no! Oh, come, any power, to hurry us to Acre! I’d give way to the
merriment of the becalmed sailors, who whistle for the wind, if I only
knew the notes of their call.”

“But the old sea-captain is very grave. See how the men at his command
are lashing up almost every stitch of our ship’s dress.”

“Oh, well, I’ll be grave, too, to please you; and yet I pray that Old
Boreas, and all the Boreadal, come in racing hurricanes, if need be, that
we may be sent gallantly into longed-for Acre!”

“A storm at sea is grand in a picture or in imagination; sometimes,
though rarely, in experience. To be enjoyed it must be terrible; there’s
the rub; it may come with overmastering fury.”

“Bird of ill omen! Why cry as in requiems? As for me, while you are
fearing going down, I’ll be thinking of going forward!”

“And be disappointed, certainly, on your part, as I hope I may be
mistaken on mine. We may not go down; we shall certainly not go forward!”

“Now, how like a wayward man! Since you can not have your way, cross me
by predicting my frustration!”

“Oh, do not lay the blame on me! there are broader shoulders to bear it.
Lay the blame on the Taurus and Lebanon ranges!”

“Well, this is an odd saying, surely!”

“Wait awhile, and you will find it very true, as well. We are to meet
to-night, most likely, the Levanter or off-shore gale, Paul’s Euroclydon,
charging down from its mountain castles. Taurus and Lebanon together form
a cave of the winds!”

“And you seem glad that they are coming to battle us back?” spake the
maiden, rebukingly.

“Yes, if they prolong our companionship. I can not rejoice in a speed
that hastens our parting.”

The last sentence died on the chaplain’s paling lips with a sigh.

The maiden turned her eyes full on the speaker, then slowly, meditatively
answered:

“I shall be sorry, too, at our parting!”

“‘Sorry!’ Ah! that’s no word for me, this time; agonized is better!” was
the young missioner’s quick rejoinder.

The maiden was pained, but she mastered her feelings and pleaded:

“The parting must come some time; do not let such repinings make it
harder for both. It is wiser, when confronting what one does not desire,
but can not help, to court the balm of forgetfulness. So do I ever,
especially now.”

“And like all attempted silencings of the heart, by cold philosophy,
mocked at last by failure!”

“My philosophy can not mock me, since it accords with the stern facts
which confront us. I’ll be as frank now as a sister, Cornelius. Our
diverging missions part us. You go to Jerusalem to preach the cross; I,
to a narrower field, at Bozrah, to attempt the rekindling of love on one
lone altar of wedlock. God orders it thus, and I submit unquestioningly;
for it is not for one who can scarcely touch the hem of His garment to
challenge His wisdom by a murmur.”

“But time, Miriamne, may leave you free, your work being completed in the
Giant City?”

“Even so. There is a gulf between us; we may love across it but not pass
it, in body, in this life.”

“And I can not see the gulf?”

“I am in faith, after all, an Israelite; enlightened to be sure, but not
likely to renounce the ancient beliefs. You are a Christian; nor would I
wish you otherwise. Now, amid the miseries I’ve witnessed in my own home,
I can not but be admonished against any attempt at fusing, by the fire of
adolescent, transitory loving, two lives guided by faiths so constantly
in antagonisms.”

“The faith of Jesus and Mary, truly lived, never failed to fuse hearts
sincerely loving. You may call yourself what you like; in substance of
faith we are in accord.”

“The chaplain reasons well; better than I can, and yet he does not
convince me! I can only plead that he do not persist, and so make the
parting harder. It must be; though my heart break, I must suffer the
immolation. I’ve asked this question in the awful sincerity of a soul as
it were at the bar of judgment: ‘_What wilt Thou have me to do?_’ I know
the answer. I must seek to bring father and mother together.”

“And then?”

“Seek to know if the Messiah has indeed come.”

“And then?”

“If I find He has, some way tell His people Israel, as only a Jewess can,
of the Light Everlasting.”

“And then?”

“Why, that’s sufficient to measure the lives of generations; but if I
survive beyond that work, I have vaguely passing through my mind the
coming of a millennial day when all mankind will be akin; all righteous,
all just, and the tears of womankind assuaged.”

“I pray for that, but how can we hasten joy by breaking our own hearts?”

“I do not know what lies beyond; how that day of glory is to come, but
this I know, the spirit of Chivalry was from God. It had, and has a deep,
impressive meaning. In contact with it at the west, I felt all the time
as if it were blind, but a Samson still, feeling for the pillars of some
mighty wrong. I wonder if I may not be the giant’s true guide. Or, better
still, may I not be, under God, the giantess to do the very work. Perhaps
the world awaits a woman Samson!”

“What Miriamne says is to me all mysticism! Explain.”

“I do not know how, beyond this: I’m God’s bride by consecration, and He
will keep me for His work.”

“Can’t I share it?” almost piteously, the chaplain asked.

“Truly, yes, wherever you may be, with me or not.”

“Oh, Miriamne, your passionate enthusiasm entrances me. You are an
inspiration to me. I fear I shall languish aside from you.”

“I shall love you more, Cornelius, as you are more grandly, heroically
self-sacrificing.”

“Any thing to win Miriamne’s constant love!”

“I shall love you, Cornelius, in a deep, holy way, only and forever. I’d
be ashamed to be thus frank, but that I have a love that is as pure as
the heaven of its birth. Be true to your God, to your mission; a little
while and then at the City of Light, life’s brief dream over, the first,
after God, I’ll ask for will be the faithful man whom my heart knows.”

“Ah, what can I do? I’m all zeal; willing to go, but the glow of your
cheeks, the flash of your eyes, even in the midst of such noble converse,
drag me away from my resolves. That that stimulates me, unmans me, or
reminds me I am a man and a lover.”

“You ought to teach me, not I you; but you remember you told me of the
belief of some in ‘penetrative virginity.’ That is the purity of Mary
passing somehow into others. Oh, all I am that’s good, be in you, and
more, even all that she was whom you so revere; I mean the mother of the
Christ.”

“In my soul I reverently exclaim ‘amen,’ but then again, how strange the
question will not down, ‘must we part?’” And so saying he flung his arm
about the woman, passionately embracing her. He thought for a moment he
had overcome her, but the kiss on her lips not resisted, was the end; for
slowly untwining his arms and holding his hands at arm’s length, she
questioned: “Will you promise me one thing?”

“Surely, yes, name it.”

“That you will think of me as a friend, sister, henceforth, and let me go
my way without further misery?”

The man struggled with himself for a time; then gazed into her eyes with
a most piteously appealing gaze.

She was firm.

“Yes—I promise, but say affianced, to be wed in heaven?”

“God bless you,” was her instant response. Their lips met and the debate
was ended.

And so for the time they separated, persuading themselves that the whole
matter between them had been finally sealed. They had all faith in their
pledges mutually given, each to live apart from the other. As yet they
had no just conception of the power of a rebel heart constantly uprising.
Of course, they both foresaw a measure of wretchedness in the future as
a consequence of their decision, but distant pain foreseen by the young,
is ever dimmed by hope, and very different from present pain. These twain
comforted themselves, at first, by the thought that they were martyrs,
and it is always agreeable to feel ourself a martyr, especially when
expecting a martyr’s reward; at least it is so until the reality of the
martyrdom comes.

The sky grew darker, night shut down about the ship, the winds increased,
and that sense of awful loneliness, felt on the eve of an impending
night-storm at sea, came to all hearts but those of the sailors. The
latter were too busy to think of aught but their duties. Then their
captain had his reckonings, and assured them by his bearing that he felt
confident that he could outride this storm as he had often before similar
ones. Miriamne, yielding not more to the captain’s command, than to the
entreaties of Woelfkin, went below to her cabin. She soon courted sleep
to help her forget the war of the tempest, praying a prayer most fitting,
meanwhile. The prayer was a meditation, like unto this: “He that cares
for all will care for helpless me, and come what may, keep me until that
last great day.” The storm strengthened, and she began to be anxious for
her father, and her friend. She had said to herself the latter title
should define Cornelius. But her heart forgot its fear a moment in a
mysterious, merry peal of laughter; such laughter is very real, but it is
never heard by human ears. We know it only in those exalted moments when
we try fine introspections; when there seems to be two of us; the one
observing and entering into the other. Miriamne heard that laughter when
she meditated, “Cornelius is just a friend.” Presently she became more
anxious for those aloft. Then a troop of imperious inner questions came
to her: “Might I not stand by him, if the danger increases? Would it be
wrong to show him that I am brave and loving?”

“Will he think me cowardly and stony-hearted?” Resolution was being
assailed, and weakened. The questionings increased in number and
imperiousness: “What if to-night we are all to perish?” Then she let
imagination take the rein. She thought of a scene that might be if she
and her beloved were as betrothed, soon to be wed, lovers. In the scene
she fancied herself, her lover and her father all together in a last
embrace, going down into the yawning waves. “Would my lover try to save
me?” For the moment there were two of her again, and it was the one that
awhile ago laughed so merrily, that now seemed to be saying: “Would my
lover try to save me?” The one self heard the question, and by silence,
without sign of rebuke, seemed to give the other self plenary indulgence.
Then came a free play of her imagination. She saw herself lying in coral
palaces, beneath the moaning waves of the Mediterranean, still clasping
her lover and her parent. Then she thought of how her friends would
receive the news of her demise. Perhaps some poet would embalm the event
in deathless poems, and thousands read of the three that perished side by
side. Her mind ran back to London. She imagined a memorial service at the
chapel of the Palestineans and the Grand Master there saying: “Miriamne
de Griffin was lost at sea; in the path of glorious duty, loyally pursued
to the end.”

Then she thought of Bozrah and the old stone house, with her mother
and her brothers, its sole occupants; the mother in mourning garbs,
her spirit subdued, and she often tenderly saying to the fatherless,
sisterless boys, “Miriamne was a good girl, a faithful daughter, a noble
woman.”

But after all, these excursions were unsatisfactory to the young woman.
And naturally so. When she thought of lying a corpse, with weed-winding
sheets, for years, in the caves of the sea, she was repelled. Thoughts
of her memorials, possibly to transpire at London and Bozrah, were not
very comforting. She was too young, too free from morbidness, too deeply
enamored, to court, assiduously, posthumous honors.

Then came thought of a wreck and rescue, and it was very welcome. It
grew out of the possibility of the youth she loved and she alone, of
all on board, being saved. She thought of drifting about for days on
a raft! Would she recall her resolutions and his, or would he say to
her: “Miriamne, I saved you from the deep; now you are mine entirely
and forever!” Would she believe his claim paramount? Would duty’s
requirements be satisfied? Then she was as two again. One voice said
‘yes,’ and the other did not concur, neither did it gainsay. She could
not pronounce a verdict and there were tears flowing.

The storm grew stronger, but the laboring ship rose and fell on the
billows at intervals, and she was lulled to sleep. Her last thoughts, as
she passed into dreamland, were that it would have been a useless pain,
both endured, if now they were to be lost; the pain of determining,
as they had, to live apart. As she so thought she wished almost that
they had not resolved as they had. Conscience and desire were in their
ceaseless warfare. Then sleeping brought a dream of joy, the blessing
that comes often to the heart that is clean. The dream was colored by
events preceding.

Cornelius had reminded her the day before, as they were sailing along
the coast of Cyprus, that, at Paphos, on that island, there was once a
temple to Venus, the fabled goddess of love. That divinity, surrounded by
multitudes paying her homage, came before the dreamer’s mind in all those
ravishing splendors of person that are so attractive to human desires.
Around the goddess, and very close to her, were hosts of young men and
maidens, their actions as boisterous and ecstatic as those intoxicated.
Outside of the throngs of youths were others older: and outside of these
were others still; those far away from the goddess, seemingly bowed with
years. The company of youths was constantly increased by new arrivals who
crowded back those there before them.

But there was a depletion as well as augmenting of the vast, surging
congregation; for anon, as if mad, some nearest the deity rushed away,
both of the men and the maidens, nor did those fleeing stop until they
found violent deaths by leaping from cliffs or into the sea.

Then the ancients, crowded continually back by the new arrivals, one
after another, with expressions of disappointment and disgust on their
features, seemed to melt away into a surrounding forest of trees that
were very black and very like shadows. The dreamer in her dream betook
herself to prayer that the God of mercy might change what she saw.

Then she beheld the Paphian goddess in all the splendor of her form, a
perfect triumph of nature, just as depicted by bard and painter, looking
out contemptuously, pitilessly, toward her former votaries, now aged and
pushed aside. There came then a voice as if from above: “_God is love._”

Immediately on the face of the divinity there was an expression as of
terror, and she began sinking. Before the mind of the dreamer, the
beautiful creature, and her retinue of nude, bold-faced attendants, with
all that appertained to them and their queen went down, ingulfed in a
foaming, roaring whirlpool. As they went down lightnings from above
shot after them. And the dreamer looked aloft to see from whence the
voice and the lightning came. As she gazed upward she saw a man of noble
form, reverently bowing, as a son might bow in the presence of a mother
revered and loved, before a woman of noble mien and beautiful beyond all
compare.

But this one’s beauty had no similitude to that of the departed deity.
As the maiden gazed she discerned that the man was the one her heart
called lover, the woman the one she had enshrined as the ideal of her
soul, Mary. The twain stood above her, on a plain, apparently of clouds
very bright, rising in graceful curve from the earth and stretching away
in measureless vistas, filled with flowered parks, silvery rivers and
stately mountains. Along the rivers, amid the flowery plains and on the
verdant mountains, there were numerous buildings; but these latter were
inviting; not palatial, nor stately. They were homes surrounded by family
groups. And the dreamer discerned true love triumphant and fruitful. She
lingered in this presence, anon longing for a presentment of her self
amid the scenes of pleasure, until all was suddenly dissolved by a mighty
lurch of the ship that awakened her. She started from her couch and all
immediately before the dream came back to her mind.

“We’re in a storm on the Mediterranean, and the captain is anxious!” Her
nerves were now unstrung; a woman’s timorousness was upon her. She could
hear confused noises aloft, but no voices. For a moment she questioned:
“What if all but myself have been swept away?” Then she thought of
herself as drifting about in a ship, sailless, helmless, alone! The
thought was suffocating. The noises aloft continued, and she gave
strained attention to catch the sound of a voice. There was nothing to be
heard but the creaking of timbers, the dashing of waves, the shrieking
of winds and vague thumpings, as if parts of the vessel were beating
each other to pieces.

“I’ll not lie still in this coffin!” she exclaimed, and with a bound
she made her way to the deck. As she arrived there she thought she saw
dark forms, some crouching as if for shelter, and others as if engaged
in a great struggle. Were these demons, or the crew in a struggle for
life? She could not say. Then there came a cry from the direction of the
forward part of the ship; she thought it was her father’s voice, but it
was very hoarse and scarcely recognizable.

She listened again to the cry: “Ho, ho; ye Olympian demons! tear up the
sea, charge now! Ha, ha; have at us!” The cry thrilled her. Again the
wild voice rose above the storm:

“Bury her, my darling, if ye dare! What matter! her white soul has
eternal wings!”

She was certain it was her father. She longed to rush to his side, but
she doubted whether she could find him in the darkness; then, too, even
in the terrors of the moment, her maiden modesty asserted itself. She
remembered that she was but partly clad.

Again came that voice, wilder than before: “Ye billows, dare ye smite a
knight in the face? I’ll meet your challenge, and single-handed, in your
midst, fight!”

Miriamne’s heart was almost paralyzed by the thought, “The boisterousness
has overcome my father. He’s contemplating leaping into the sea!”

Just then a vivid flash of lightning made every thing visible. It seemed
to cut under the clouds, which, rain-charged, were running near the
billow crests, and at the same time enswathed the ship from the mast tips
to the partially exposed keel, in flame.

The maiden saw by that flash her father standing on the head-rail,
one hand clinging to a stay rope, the other with clinched fist, as if
menacing the boiling waters that leaped away from the plunging prow. His
face was livid, his hair wind-tossed, his eyes glaring. With a scream she
bounded toward him; her scream and appearance terrifying the sailors.
It was so unexpected and they had forgotten the presence of a woman
on board. They only saw a white form, with disheveled hair and with a
motion light and swift as a creature on wings, passing from companion-way
forward.

But the fright was but momentary. Cornelius, who had been vainly
endeavoring to calm the knight, knew the form, and loud enough to be
heard by all cried:

“Miriamne de Griffin!”

He was by her side in an instant.

The young woman uttered pleadingly one sentence, but it thrilled all who
heard it:

“My father!”

Cornelius exultingly answered:

“Saved! See, the captain holds him and has summoned the watch!” Then he
could do no less, forgetting as he did in the present surprise, all old
resolves, so he drew the trembling form to his heart as closely as he
could. She drew back a little, but he whispered, “Miriamne.” What else he
might have said was lost, for she fluttered a little, then rested, but on
the bosom of her companion.

She was a woman in peril, in fright, storm-drenched, and in love. What
otherwise or less could she have done than nestle in the shelter that
gave love for love and promised her all else?

“Are you not alarmed, Cornelius?”

“No.”

“How strange! You have changed places with me. In the evening you
trembled when I left you, and I thought I was very brave. Now I tremble;
do you not?”

“I cowered a while ago from the cross you presented me; it seemed to
bring a lingering death.”

Just then the ship’s prow plunged under a mountainous billow. Miriamne
clung to her support and fearfully questioned:

“Shall we be overwhelmed?”

“No; I’ve a token.”

“From the captain?”

“Not from the one who guides this ship alone.”

A flash of lightning revealed the lover’s face to Miriamne. She saw his
eyes turned devoutly upward, and she understood his meaning. They had
withdrawn to a shelter by the vessel’s side meanwhile. Presently the
young missioner spoke again;

“Our Heavenly Father keeps vigil, I think, sometimes with especial care
over this highway between the outer world and the desolate habitations of
His chosen people.”

“Hark, the sailors are singing! How strange it is to sing in such
perils,” spoke the maiden.

“They’re as happy now as the wave-walking petrels. The Levant has done
its worst; they know this by the coming of the rain, hence they sing
their ‘Lightning Song.’”

“Lightning song?” queried the maiden.

“Listen! How they explode their vocalized breaths in hissings, whizzings,
followed by the prolonged crash made by stamping feet and clapping hands
at the end of every stanza. That chorus is meant to imitate those
heralds of the thunder, the flashing lightnings.”

“But it seems presumptuous to me. The lightning is so dreadful!”

“Not that which comes as ‘a funeral torch to Euroclydon,’ as the sailors
say. Some of them call it ‘the winking and blinking of St. Elmo going to
sleep.’”

“Oh, Cornelius, the storm is breaking! I see a star; yes two!”
rapturously cried the maiden.

“Truly, yes; ‘Castor and Pollux,’ the ‘Twins,’ the ‘Sailor’s Delight!’
They say these stars are storm rulers and friends of the mariner. Now
hear how they shout their song! They see the stars!”

Above the subsiding wind and waves, rose the words of the singers:

      “Now to our harbor safe going;
        Riding the billows, pushed by the gale:
      The torch of the Twins bright glowing—
        Tipping our mast and gilding each sail.”

“And do these stars assure, Cornelius?”

“I saw a star no cloud can ever hide, through the darkest part of the
storm.”

“A star?”

“Yes, ‘Mary, Star of Sea.’”

“I do not comprehend you.”

“God’s love! He that guided the maiden orphan of Bethlehem through the
besetments of her life, amid the tempests of Jewry and Rome, purely,
safely, gloriously, to the end; while many of noble birth and having
every earthly good went down to ruin, walks ever on the wave where faith
voyages.”

“And you thought of the Holy Mother in the storm?”

“Yes, this Adriatic is full of angels, that come in thoughts, or before
the eyes! You remember Paul, tempest tossed a day and a night on this
sea, was found by the Divine Messenger that night when the darkness was
thickest?”

“And this ‘Star of the Sea?’”

“It tells me mother-love was carried by a dying Savior into the heart of
the Triune, Eternal God, and we are His children, and He became Father
and Mother to us. You have seen the hen gather her chickens, as human
mother shelters with her arm or apron her child in pain or peril?”

“How touching! Think you He felt for us like tenderness in the height of
the storm?”

“He sought in His plenteous wisdom mother love to sustain Himself, during
the pain and perils of His incarnation, and will ever surely grant a love
and care to His own beloved ones in suffering or danger as tender as that
He sought and needed for Himself.”

“Surely this is a grateful, natural reasoning; but do you believe Mary
presides over the sailor especially?”

“It is enough for me to know that the Father through Mary exemplified His
motherliness.”

“I’ll never more call yon bright luminaries Castor and Pollux, but rather
Jesus and Mary, the guides and the defenders!” And for a long time they
gazed at the double stars, the storm slowly abating. Once the youth,
drawing the maiden closely to himself, questioned:

“Can not we call the stars in conjunction, ‘Cornelius and Miriamne’?”

They had been watching, in sweet converse, there, a long time; there were
faint traces of dawn in the east, and Miriamne had just been thinking,
“Palestine receives us with illumination;” then she bethought herself
that she and the man with her were going hither to proclaim the Gospel
of eternal light. The question of her lover recalled the converse of the
day before. That seemed fact, unchanged; all occurring since, dream. She
arose, pointed eastward, and firmly said: “There lies our work, our all.
May a glorious day enhalo all God’s chosen country ere long. Cornelius,
yesterday we promised solemnly that we dare not turn from now; especially
after our wonderful deliverance!” She glided away to her cabin, leaving
the man alone to contemplate the poor comfort of being praised as a
martyr, on a cross of self-sacrifice; the pains of which, if not as awful
as those of Calvary, were destined to be more prolonged. His face was
as if sprinkled with white ashes; it was so pale, so blank. After the
tempest they spoke very little with each other. Miriamne waved away any
attempt at re-opening the subject, with a motion of the finger to the
lips, signaling silence, and a glance all tenderness, but full of pitiful
pleadings to be spared. The young man but once or twice essayed the
discussion, fearing on the one hand to trust himself to speak, and on the
other hand feeling that any effort to change his fate would be hopeless.
But he and she were full of inner conflicts. Then their pathways seemed
stony, brier-tangled. They had both elected, for Guide and Ideal, Jesus
and Mary; they were both going toward the cross in a noble consecration
of their lives. But they denied themselves that that sustained Jesus,
home love, such as he found at Bethany; conjugal love, such as sustained
Mary, the wife and the mother, as well as the disciple. They had as their
loftiest ambition the purpose of making the world happier and better,
and began by making misery for themselves. They had read that a star led
the wise men of the East to Christ in a cradle, the light of the Gospel
rising first in a little home circle. They looked at the double stars
above them after the storm that night almost until dawn, and then turned
away to go, each into the dark like a lone wandering star. Each was in
part the victim of a fabricated conscience, and of a misconception of
duty.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

THE QUEEN IN THE VALLEY OF SORROWS.

    “They led him away to crucify him.”—MARK.

    “There followed him a great company of ... women, who also
    bewailed him.”—LUKE.

      GABRIEL: “Hail, highly favored among women blessed!”

      MARY:    This is my favored lot!
               My exaltation to affliction high!—MILTON.


For many days Sir Charleroy and Miriamne tarried at Acre, the latter
seeking to banish repining on account of him whom she had sent away at
the behest of conscience, by ministries for her parent. With alacrity she
joined the tours of her knightly father, visiting the scenes where he
once battled, listening, from time to time, with unaffected delight, to
his recitals. The tides of fanatical conquests had wrought few changes
on the face of the city, and the realism of those days of siege, of
the stern compacts made in the last hours of the Crusaders, the solemn
religious services before the last battle, the death struggle and the
disordered retreat, was complete. The excitement of revived memories
seemed to lift up the knight from the syncope of ill health. This
encouraged the maiden to solicit the reviews and recitals of her father.
The night before their departure from Acre, as determined, the knight and
his daughter stood together contemplating the sacred pile which stood
in the moonlight and shadows, mostly in shadows. The soldier of fortune,
having told its story over and over, was now silent, dreaming of the past.

“_Selamet!_”

They both started, for the voice was like one from the tomb, none but
themselves being apparent.

“I’m afraid here; let’s be going, father,” whispered Miriamne, essaying
to withdraw.

Thereupon there glided out of the shadows a stately form who, drawing
near to the father and daughter, spoke:

“Fear not, lady! Knight, they can not be foes who court kindred memories
and hope of like colors at the same shrine!”

“Thou speakest with Christian allusions the ‘peace’ word of the Turk.”

“I wear the Turkish ‘_selamet_,’ as I do this Turkish harness, a loathed
necessity, but without; the peace I pray and feel is the mystic inner
peace.”

“As a Christian?”

“Yea; nor do I fear confession, since I am speaking to those who abhor
the Crescent.”

“A pious Jew would as soon adhere to Astarte with her orgies as to bow to
the mooned-crown she wore.”

“Jews? No, not Jews! Such would not sooner run from the moon-mark than
they would from the shadows which fall down about you from yon grand and
awful sign.”

The speaker pointed to the crossed spire above, as he spoke.

“No more avoidance; we are brethren. I’m Sir Charleroy de Griffin,
Teutonic knight.”

“And not unknown. The story of thy valor, even here, lives in the bosoms
of true companions. I’m a Knight Hospitaler of Rhodes, yet fameless.”

The two men came closely together; there were a few secret tests. The
Hospitaler said:

“_In hoc signo vinces!_”

Sir Charleroy crossed his feet, stretched out his arms and murmured
something heard only by his comrade. It made the other’s eyes lighten
with pleasure.

To Miriamne it was a dumb show; but the tokens given and received were
useful to pilgrims in those perilous times.

“Whither, Sir Charleroy?”

“To-morrow, toward Joppa.”

“So, ho! By interpretation, _The Watch-tower of Joy_. From thence one may
see Jerusalem! And then?”

“And then? God knows where! A useless life, like mine, is ever aimless.”

“No, no, father!” interrupted the daughter; “not useless. No life that
God prolongs is useless.”

“True; the girl is right, Teuton. Aspiration will cure thee, since it’s
the mother of immortality. I go to Joppa also.”

“They say, Hospitaler, its sea-side is full wild; its reefs like barking
Scylla and Charybdis? I hope it may be so; I’d like a terrible uproar.”

“The sea is the emblem of change; from calm to weary moan, to howling
terrors and back again.”

“But the people? They say Joppa’s outside is fine, naturally, though,
within, the life of its people is mean, colorless; a charnel-house whose
activity is that of grave worms!” And Sir Charleroy shuddered with
disgust at his own figure.

“I think the legend of Andromeda, said to have been chained to Joppa’s
sea-crags for a season, to be persecuted by a serpent, then freed,
prophetic. Joppa may have a future.”

“How?”

“Oh, the chained maiden was boasted by her fond mother as more beautiful
than Neptune’s Nereids, hence the persecution. Crescent faiths have been
the persecutors of Joppa and all the other beautiful Andromedas of this
land.”

“And the chains are riveted?”

“No, not certainly. There was, in the myth, a Perseus of winged feet,
having a helmet that made invisible and a sickle from Minerva, goddess of
wisdom; he slew the serpent, then wed the victim.”

“Now the key, further.”

“When wrongs overwhelm all, women suffer most; but time brings their
deliverance.”

“The myths are as full of women as the women full of myths!” exclaimed
Sir Charleroy.

“But Andromeda, the woman, was blameless!”

“Yet it’s strange that in all men’s fightings, as in their religions,
constantly the woman appears,” replies Sir Charleroy.

“I’d have thee think, knight, of the legend; it tells how men, in those
dark times, tied their faith to the sure conviction that right would
triumph, wrong be slain, and the martyrs at last go up among the stars.
See how they placed their Andromeda in the constellation now above us.
Perseus was a Christian, or rather a Christian was a Perseus.”

“Now, thou art merry!”

“No; I mean St. Peter; he was a Perseus. Hearken to the word:

“‘Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha: this woman was
full of good works and alms-deeds.

“‘And it came to pass that she died.

“‘The disciples sent unto Peter two men, desiring him that he would not
delay to come to them.

“‘When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the
widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which she
made, while she was with them.

“‘But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning
him to the body, said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when
she saw Peter, she sat up.

“‘And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up; and when he had called the
saints and widows, he presented her alive.

“‘And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.’”

“Why, Hospitaler, thou hast a memory like an elephant or an emperor and a
tongue like a sacrist!”

“Well, the time for swords being past I have taken to books; their leaves
are wings. The world will be conquered yet by the words of the Swordless
King.”

“And thou wouldst liken Tabitha to Andromeda?”

“Wasn’t she a real beauty, as her name is interpreted? Beautiful old
soul! She robed the poor! Peter bringing her to the truth of the new life
smote the dragon at Joppa, as a very Perseus.”

“A woman! a woman, again leading the army of salvation!”

“After that Peter slept on the house top of Simon the Tanner, and God
gave him the vision of Jew and Gentile, bond and free, rich and poor;
all, as one family coming into the benign rays of the Sun whose wings are
full of healing.”

“And will that day come, Sir Hospitaler? I’m feeling almost a frenzy of
desire for it!”

“Surely as the morning to Acre; but we must hie homeward; good-night;
I’ll see you at the quay to-morrow.”

From Acre, Miriamne and her father, next day, set sail. The companions on
the journey from Acre by Joppa arrived at Jerusalem, there to separate
soon, for Miriamne, with every ingenious device, urged her father
forward. Bozrah was constantly uppermost in her mind.

“We part, Sir Charleroy, to-morrow?” said the Hospitaler.

“If thou dost elect to stay in sad Jerusalem, surely.

“Yes; I’d go mad here from doing nothing but wrestling with my thoughts.
In fact, I guess I’d go mad anywhere, if long there. I think, sometimes,
that my mind’s in a whirlpool, moving not like others; yet, round and
round in some consistency, carrying its befooling creeds, hopes, dreams,
visions, phantasmagoria in a pretty fair march. I’m sure, more than sure,
that if I once stopped moving, my brain would rest like a house after
a land-slide, tilted over, while all the things in the whirlpool would
drift about in hopeless confusion.”

“Thou dost talk like a physician, gone mad with philosophy!”

“No doubt of it; that’s all because I’ve been idling here a month; a week
longer and God knows who could set me going again, rightly.”

Then the knight laughed merrily; very merrily, in fact, for a man who had
trained himself to morbidness. The Hospitaler replied:

“I see nothing for me beyond the Holy City and its historic surrounds.
I’m training myself to proclaim God’s kingdom and must begin at that
pre-eminent, world over-looking point, Jerusalem.”

“But there are no schools to fit one there?”

“The most informing and man-expanding on earth; the deathless examples of
the worthies; best studied where they lived their mightful living. I go
now to Golgotha.”

“Golgotha? ‘The Place of the Skull?’”

“Even so, sometimes called the Valley of Jehosaphat.”

Sir Charleroy rubbed his head as one well puzzled, and was silent.

“Oh, knight, thou hast forgotten the goings forward of Ezekiel’s mind,
prophetically. It was in Kidron, the Golgotha Valley, that he had the
vision of the dry bones. Let me read:

“‘Behold, there were very many bones in the open valley; and, lo, they
were very dry.

“‘And He said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered,
O Lord God, thou knowest.

“‘Again He said unto me, Prophesy;

“‘Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath
to enter into you, and ye shall live:

“‘As I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones
came together, bone to his bone.

“‘The sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them.

“‘Then said he unto me, say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; come
from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they
may live.

“‘So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and
they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.’”

“And now, soldier, turned exegete, tell me what thou dost make of the
strange phantasm?”

“That God will work in this world a marvelous transformation; those
living-dead, all around us and beyond, to the ends of the earth, shall
stand in new life. The scene is laid to be in this Kidron valley, to
bring all minds to the ‘Light of the World,’ who passed in painful
triumph along it, even unto Calvary.”

“But this may not be so, yet it so seems?”

“Hearken again to the prophet’s happy ending:

“‘Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an
everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them,
and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.

“‘My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and
they shall be my people.’

“All this,” continued the Hospitaler, “is what is to come, is coming. The
dawn of this day began when Jesus passed over Kidron!”

“And yet, Rhodes, I’m doubtful. Do not the correspondences remote,
mislead thee?”

“If a crusade leader sent a summons like this wouldst thou respond,
trusting? ‘Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy
mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the
LORD cometh, for _it is_ nigh at hand?’”

“The Hospitaler knows I would.”

“Well; God by His Prophet-Herald, Joel, so alarms the nations. And more,
we have a broader summons,” and the preacher soldier read again:

“‘Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the
Lord is near in the valley of decision.

“‘Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehosaphat:
for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about.

“‘Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe.

“‘The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw
their shining.

“‘The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter His voice from
Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord _will_
be the hope of His people, and the strength of the children of Israel.

“‘So shall ye know that I _am_ the Lord your God dwelling in Zion, my
holy mountain.

“‘Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears:
let the weak say, I am strong.’”

Then the Hospitaler closed his eyes, turned his face upward as in prayer,
and began speaking like unto one in a rapture or trance:

“When souls would measure themselves for judgment, they must stand by
the scenes wrought out by Him that died for men; just hereabouts, when
the last judgment comes, the multitudes of earth, tried by the measure
of the God-man, will be brought face to face with God’s standard of
moral grandeur, sublimely once displayed here. Before its splendor the
stars, the finest of men, shall wax dim; human philosophy, the sun of the
world, go out, and human religion, ever the child of human desire, shall
fade as the setting, waning moon, that emblem of the concupiscent. Then
Charity, that never fails, shall come to her throne, the last implement
of war be beaten into services of love, while the weak, no more dominated
by giant brutality, shall rise to the pre-eminence of moral strength.
Adam and Eve, the fallen pair, passed through the valley of sorrow and
sin, downward; Christ and Madonna, the new ideals, passed through the
valley of sorrow and salvation, upward.”

“Oh, Rhodes, the whirl of my brain is as if touched by the swellings of
an anthem. I’ll come right yet, if thou dost enravish me so!” cried Sir
Charleroy.

And Miriamne’s face shone as if the sun were on it, but it was not. She
was looking away, in soul, to the future. The Hospitaler continued:

“Truly, all heads, as well as hearts, are righted here, where the touch
of the Cross makes the dry bones live. Here get I my schooling; this
place of the Cross, where the depths of sin, the heights of love, are
manifest; from which radiates all holiest tenets, to which and from
which flow the streams of Scriptural truth. If only we could get all
men to stand sincerely on this lofty hill of vision, overlooking all
times to come, all histories past, all mysteries would be explained, all
prophecies become clear, and there never would be need on earth again
for wars of faith or the burning of heretics. Pilate spake welcome words
to the ages when he cried: ‘_Miles, expedi Crucem_’—‘Soldiers, speed the
Cross.’ Its speed is light’s speed.”

As they conversed, the three had slowly journeyed along the _Via
Dolorosa_—the road to the Cross.

“Here,” said the Hospitaler, “it is reported that Jesus yearningly
looking back to the weeping women that followed him Cross-ward, cried:
‘_Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and
children._’”

“The woman again in religion!” exclaimed Sir Charleroy.

“Immanuel spoke to the world, then. When truth goes to crucifixion, women
and children—the weaker—may well weep. It’s the Giant’s hour. So children
and women ever have been the chief followers of Jesus. No wonder that
children brought palms of peace to Him and shouted His praises, while
women anointed Him with tears. They knew, by an holy intuition, that
somehow He was the King of Love, the defender of weakness.”

“I begin to think, Sir Knight Hospitaler, that the sun of this country
has wrapped its gold about thy brain.”

“Oh, father, don’t prevent; these words of his are balm to my soul,”
quoth Miriamne.

“Speak on, for the girl’s sake, knight. Speak on; I’ll be silent.”

The Hospitaler continued:

“Daughter, thou dost follow the story as those holy women followed Jesus,
afar off; but with tenderness. As they found later unutterable nearness,
so shalt thou; God willing.”

“The woman in religion! It’s so. I, a man; this Miriamne, a woman,
a girl, my daughter. I’m like a pupil to her, yet I professed this
cross-faith more than a score of years before she was born. I’d need a
millennium to overtake her, in glory, if we both died now. I’m like poor
old David, who fled from his rebellious son, Absalom, over the hills
that skirt Kidron. I’m dethroned.”

“Remember, rather, that He who glorified Kidron was ‘obedient unto
death.’ Mother and son, together all loving, all loyal in that dread
hour, here attested that in David’s kingdom, at the last, at its best,
there will be no trampling on the family ties, Sir Charleroy.”

“Wonderful! I never thought of this before, after this manner. But still,
the woman leads the world in religion!”

“_The_ woman! Yes, but only when she takes her place, as did Mary, as a
follower of Jesus to Calvary.”

“But how, now, about Astarte, Diana, Baaltis?”

“They had their day; rude, gross phantoms; conceived in the hot souls of
low and lecherous men; but I told thee, here we might overlook the world.
In this valley Athaliah, daughter of cruel Jezebel, Queen of Ahab, and,
like her mother, an Astarte-socialist, worshiped the lewd ideal, Baaltis.
Death, in shocking form, took off that heathen queen of Israel. God’s
revenge, this was.

“And now, I remember that the queen mother of Asa, here, in Kidron, set
up the worship of Ashera with its Phallic mysteries; but Asa, the youth,
pure of mind and led of God, not only tore down, root and branch the
groves and woven booths of licentiousness, but dethroned the woman who
had set them up. Just here, in finest contrasts, I remember the Virgin
Mary, the pure mother, the ideal woman, who, in this valley of decision,
rose for all time the exemplification of truest womanhood—a wife, a
mother. Mary has broken forever the idols of Baaltis. While Mary’s
memory lasts, part of the enduring, sacred history, toward which all
Christian eyes turn, Astarte can never rise under any name or form for
long toleration. She is forever broken, and her creed of lust fated to
reprobation.

“Wherever this gospel story, eternal and eternally new, is told, there
will come to the minds of the hearers a vision of those associated in
the last dread hours of the Divine Martyr, in a fellowship of sympathy
and sorrow. Among these will stand pre-eminent the women. Simon, the
Cyrenian, compelled by the soldiers, aided the trembling sorrow-burdened
Christ to bear the cross. And it is easy to believe that the wife of that
Simon, who appears later, for a moment, in the praiseful salutations of
Paul, as the parent of Christian sons, she reverently called by the great
apostle mother, was among the women that were most sorrowful and nearest
the dying Saviour. Then there were Mary, the mother of James, Salome,
Mary Magdalene, and possibly Claudia the wife of Pilate—that brave woman
who advocated Christ’s cause before the proud, implacable Sanhedrim, the
howling mob and Imperial Rome’s representatives. What fitting mourners in
that touching, yet august funeral march!

“Women are fully capable by nature, through their finest, tenderest
chords, ever responsive in woe, to express the whole of grief, however
deep! The sex which loves most, loves longest, mourns most easily as well
as most sincerely, and has made sorrow sacred by the lavish bestowals of
it, whene’er its founts were touched.

“There is an holy, perfumed anointing in their tears. This
crucifixion-time was woman’s hour supremely. Mary with _magnificent_
self-possession, heart-broken, yet strong in faith; weeping in eye and
soul, but intruding no wild howlings amid those who wept for custom’s
sake; tearful, yet retiring in her grief, here passes before our minds
at once the most fascinating, winsome, yet pity-begetting woman known to
man.”

“Father,” cried Miriamne, restraining but little her own tears: “Are you
listening?”

“Yes, yes; oh, yes. The glory of Eden’s noon has fallen on the tongue and
brain of Rhodes, and yet I cannot gainsay him; nor would I try to dispel
his wise and honored sayings. I can only wonder and wonder how it is that
woman rises at the very front when any grand advance is made.”

“Good Rhodes, go on,” spoke Miriamne.

[Illustration: B. Plockhorst.

MARY AND ST. JOHN.]

“I’m easily persuaded, for there is something of a savory sweetness to
this grief—welcome mother of true penitence, that comes over souls, who,
in imagination, follow the steps to the cross. I’ve heard that Mary
followed her son from the Judgment Hall to Calvary. He moved at slow
pace, and well He might; worn by months of toil for needy humanity; by
watchings, teachings and the like; until now ready to drop down under the
thorn-crown, the scourging and the cross. But the blessed Virgin, still
a woman, still a mother, faltered by the way. Sometimes she hid her eyes
from the scourging, sometimes she was pushed aside by those who knew her
not, or those who knowing hated her because of her goodness. Tradition
tells us she fainted several times overcome by the terrors of that sad
journey through the valley. She had small strength to witness the climax
of brutality when cruel hands drove the awful nails into that One she
loved! The history of that dread hour has often wrung tears from stout
hearts; and he who understands in any degree a mother’s heart, easily
believes that she was absent when the mob raised the victim on His cross.
But, mother-like, nothing could keep her from the final parting, which
death brought to her and her son.

“Sorrow sharpens the language of love to a deep expressiveness; when the
end was approaching, Mary and John stood side by side and near to the
One, who, to them, was dearer than all. I have heard, and I believe that
a sign from the Christ had hurried John away, just before His death,
to bring mother to the heart that was yearning not more to give than
to receive, the comforts that both needed, the assurance of undying
affection. The man on the cross, stripped of all earthly except His
flesh, even robbed of the tunic that Mary had made, and for which the men
of war gambled, as war has often gambled for the patrimony of the King of
Men, had little or nothing of earth to give, other than His rights in the
hearts of mother and John.

“These were His farewell keepsakes to each. It needs no strained
imagination to fathom His heart, for He opened it all in His dying cry,
‘My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?’ This was not as the cry of
a victor, but that of a broken heart; not as a strong man, but typical
humanity, alone, facing death as a child. The language He used then was
not that usually His, it was the language of His childhood. In every
syllable of that cry, one may read, I fear that God, even God, has
forsaken me; but mother, my own loved mother! mother, mother, oh, my
dying, human heart, leans as a babe on thy bosom!’”

“Here, here!” cried Sir Charleroy. “Quick! Take this cross of a Teutonic
Knight of St. Mary; bury it when I’m gone by her grave in Gethsemane!
I have praised myself as her champion, and son, and devotee. Heavens!
I’m abashed by thy splendid revelation! I never have even dreamed of her
glorious worth!”

“Father, my father, be calm, be calm—calm for my sake; you fright me when
you so give way. Remember, we’re at the place where a wrong past ends at
the right beginning.”

“Thou art my good angel, Miriamne; but, oh, it’s twice sad! I’ve been a
madman half my life and a player in a farce the other half!”

“Be calm, Sir Knight, and look into the wonders of this place. Christ’s
coming to earth to pardon its errings, right its wrongs, and hang
unfading victory crowns on all futures. Listen: There was night when that
King died, and the dead arose and went about the city, attesting the
eternal fact that He was Ruler of all worlds. And it was the Feast of the
New Moon at Jerusalem; the Feast of Venus at Rome; of Khem in Egypt; but
the crescent was hidden.”

“I see, I see, Rhodes; Mary and Mary’s son were to come forth; all others
eclipsed!”

“It is attested by history that there was black darkness about the Sun
Temple at Heliopolis as Christ was bidding His mother and earth Death’s
good-night. The Egyptian city of Osiris, by miracle, witnessed of the
great event at Calvary. Some there were prompted to say: ‘Either the
world is coming to an end, or the god of nature suffers.’”

“And Mary, wise and erudite, Rhodes? Tell us more of her.”

“‘It is finished!’ cried her son, and she passed from the grief of those
who agonize amid somber, monster pangs impending, into that quiet,
subdued, ripening sadness that comes over those who have learned to say:
‘_Thy will be done._’ At Cana’s feast her Beloved told her: ‘_Mine hour
has not yet come._’ Now, she knew the meaning of the mystic words, and
saw His hour, with all its mighty imports, at last marked in full; all
the prophecies gathered as into a full-orbed sun; the cross rose like a
dial, mountains high, the shadows on it telling eternity’s time! Mary,
the singer of the ‘_Magnificat_,’ her imagination fired, her vision
inspired, as she stood by that interpreting, ghastly symbol, could see
the course of the sacred past emerging into meaning. Eve leading; the
wealth of her bloom no longer sacrificed to primeval, Astarte-like
intoxications; the wings of the real tree of life above her; the serpent
crushed beneath her heel. Then, following, Noah, the man of the ark,
symbol of sheltering covenants between God and man, covenants ever
circled by bows of hope, ever surmounted by dove-like peace. After these
Abraham, with his typical lamb, followed by a countless multitude of
priests, laying down at the cross, as they passed, their temple-pattern,
the symbols of its service realized and ellipsed! After these, Moses,
the law-giver, with face serene at law’s fulfillment, in company with
flaming prophets innumerable, all rejoicing in visions realized. Behind
all followed Captivity and Hades, Christ’s grandest trophies, forever in
chains! Teutonic Knight of St. Mary, thy queen saw all these, and as they
passed there rose to her view the White Kingdom of David. Now, stand here
where she stood; surrender mind and heart to the Spirit and Word, then
thou shalt behold the radiant procession, the coming glory!”

The Hospitaler ceased. Then softly, meanwhile waving his hand as if
entreating, Sir Charleroy spoke:

“Rhodes, wait a little; don’t say any more now. I want to watch that
procession. It seems to me I see it. Oh, wonderful, all wonderful!”

“He shall be called Wonderful.”

There was a long, long pause, broken gently by Miriamne, who, after a
while, said:

“We’d better return to the city; the day is very hot, and I’m—” She could
say no more.

Silently Sir Charleroy complied; silently all three journeyed to their
abodes. The Hospitaler was content with his effort to proclaim the
truths of Calvary, and Miriamne was glad to leave her father to the full
benefit of his sacred, all-engrossing thoughts. Miriamne, in heart, was
enraptured by her thoughts of the mother of Jesus.



CHAPTER XXIX.

TWO DEAD HEARTS UNITING TWO LIVING ONES

      “Let us alone regret, ...
            ... Sorrow humanizes our race.
      Tears are the showers that fertilize the world;
      And memory of things precious keepeth warm
      The heart that once did hold them.
      They are poor that have lost nothing; they are far more poor
      Who, losing, have forgotten; they most poor
      Of all who lose and wish they might forget.”—JEAN INGELOW.


Under Miriamne’s adroit and patient guidance Sir Charleroy and his
attendants made goodly progress until they reached ancient Jabbock,
bordering Giant Bashan; but at that point the knight made a stubborn
stand, persisting that he would proceed no further Bozrah-ward.

“I smell Mohammedanism coming to me from the East, and, having had enough
of the Saracens in my day, I’ll tarry away from their haunts——

“I must go, beloved, to the tomb of my dear defender, Ichabod. I must go
to Gerash to do the pious offices of a mourner.”

The maiden brought forward every reason her ingenuity could invent
opposed to the proposed deflection in course. She enlisted the Druses
guides, whom she had employed to accompany them hitherto, to aid her in
raising objections, and they magnified the obstacles in the way to Gerash
with commendable loyalty to their employer, the maiden, if not with
strict regard to truth. They all encamped, and the debate was the sole
occupation for hours.

“Now, Miriamne, hitherto my good spirit, thou wouldst lure me to
perdition! I’ve been in the Lejah. I’m certain that black lava-sea is
hell’s mouth, and Bozrah’s its porch!”

“So be it; but if we go carrying the heavenly consciousness of doing our
Father’s will, we may carry heaven to those gates.”

“It’s not my duty to go thither. I passed through that purgatory once.
Its horrors blasted my life! To return thither would be presumption.”

“But you have forgotten the sunrise coming to you. Each day, for months,
as you have journeyed eastward, you have gained in health of body and
mind.”

“Dost thou mean that God blesses those who plunge headlong to
destruction, as the possessed swine that ran violently into the sea?”

“Can not my father let faith silence the disquietings of his wild
fancies? The memory of a past pain, though a persistent, is often a false
teacher.”

“Oh, I do remember. Some memories seem to scorch the very substance of my
brain! I pray when such come that God give me eternal forgetfulness. I’d
rather be an idiot than have the power of coherent thinking filled with
such reminiscences!”

“Ah, if we all, always, had the wisdom, while gazing into our dark, deep
pools, to gaze until we saw at their bottoms the image of the sky above!”

“Well said, daughter! Bozrah is a dark pool! I saw there only an image of
the sky, and that very far away!”

The day of the foregoing they were wandering along the flowery banks
and over the forest-covered hills that undulated away from Jabbock’s
ravine. As they moved along the maiden plucked a hyacinth blossom and
affectionately fastened it on her father’s bosom; just where he was wont
to wear, when in England, his knight’s cross.

“Rizpah once placed a lotus there; it made me drunk; a votary of
pleasure, mad; but Miriamne, her daughter, places there the flower of
serene, deathless affection! Sweet, thou art my good angel, the flower
says to Gerash!”

“Why, father! I do not understand!”

“Apollo unwittingly caused the death of a beautiful youth, the friend
of his heart, whose name was Hyacinthus. So says tradition, and it’s so
charming, I more than half believe it! Apollo, in loyal love, made a
flower grow from the grave of his friend. This is it! See; here’s the
color of the dead youth’s blood. This blossom is the flower of deathless
friendship and I love it.”

“A touching story, I’ll remember it; but it seems to me the flower says,
‘Bozrah,’ my father.”

“Take this leaf, girl; here.”

“And what of this?”

“There, on that leaf, behold those signs, ‘Ai’ ‘Ai’.”

“I think some markings are there like what you say, though never ’till
now did I so trace them.”

“That’s the Greek cry of woe. The perfumes of these flowers, in every
field of Gerash, remind me of my duty. I must go to the tomb of the man
that died in my defense.”

“A pious sentiment; but duty to the living can not be pushed aside by
such a call. You have other and living friends?”

“Yes, thou art my friend, lover, angel; but I’ll keep thee with me, my
lamb.”

“Rizpah and your sons!”

“Rizpah my friend? that would be amusing, if it were not such a grim
sarcasm. Oh, what a miserable race she led me!”

“Misery, like joy, in wedded life, is won or lost by the deed of two; not
one. I shall not acquit my mother; but were not there two to blame?”

“Two? no; only one. I could not be peaceful with a panther.”

“Be not too severe, and think a little; did not you, after all, do much
to make your wedded wife what she was at her worst?”

“What, I? Thou dost not think that?”

“Yes; I know the story of your espousal; your flight from Gerash, and
then your after conflicts. You knew before you determined against all
opposing, in the face of reasons most grave, and without any thought of
your adaptation to each other, to wed, that your tempers, tastes, and
trainings were in almost every thing apart.”

“Well, we loved each other sincerely; our marriage vows were honestly
taken.”

“Marriage; that settled it forever! Did you as honestly keep as you took
the vows, for better or worse?”

“Now that were impossible. Did you ever see your mother in rage, her
muscles rising in a sort of serpentine wavings from her feet upward?
Ugh! I hear her sibilant, hissing words of scorn, now. They’ll haunt me
forever. She was a lotus in love, and a boa in wrath.”

“I may have seen her so, but out on the love that lets such visions
displace memories of the best things; a daughter, nurtured by her, can
not; a husband sworn on hymen’s altar, dare not forget.”

“I tried to set her right, Miriamne.”

“Not always with kindness unfailing. I’ve seen the scourge-marks on her
heart. I’ve heard her moan as a wounded dove; no, more piteously, as
a deserted wife and mother. You tried to set her right by forcing her
to your faith, that, too, when the girl-wife was weak and exhausted by
early maternity. You have been wont ever to pity profoundly the holy
mother who recoiled fainting from the spectacle of her son scourged to
crucifixion. That pity is a fine feeling; but since Mary’s day is passed,
it is finer to evince a manly tenderness for living women moving toward
their Calvary. How you waste your emotions on the dead! Mary Hyacinthus,
Ichabod, have all, Rizpah nothing.”

“See here, daughter; let me look down into thy eyes. I’m of a mind to
think the sun has gotten into thy brain. It gets into every body’s in
this country.” So saying, he turned her face toward his own. It was a
bungling effort on his part to parry her thrusts with ridicule, the last
weapon of the defeated.

She was a little indignant, but yet too earnest to be diverted, and so
followed up her advantage.

“You were the stronger, every way, and fenced well against your other
self. The woman erred, sometimes grievously, perhaps, and you had your
sweet retaliations. How sweet you can tell. Each blow at her, fell on me,
my brothers and yourself. Oh, it’s the climax-revenge to lay open with
giant thrusts, monstrous and keen, vein and nerve. One may mar a good
purpose by pursuing it cruelly. Were not your efforts to set my mother
right severe, sometimes?”

“Did the eloquent Hospitaler put these fine words together for thee,
girl?” testily questioned Sir Charleroy.

“No matter who sent them, if they be true words. If you get angry, I’ll
be wounded. You need not try hard to hurt me. I will strive to be all
filial, while all loyal; but not more so to father than to mother.”

“Well, but she was a rheumatism to me.”

“So be it; still she was part of you. Does one dismember a limb that
aches, or give it tenderer care than all others?”

“‘It is better,’ said Solomon, ‘to dwell in the wilderness, than with a
contentious and angry woman.’ I got heartily weary of an ache that ached
because it ached.”

“I’ll place Joseph by Solomon.”

“Pray, how?”

“He espoused Mary and was with her, yet apart; thus showing God’s idea
of the needs of weary mothers in their trying hours, when giving their
strength to another being. Joseph was kept as a lover only, until after
Jesus was born, that his services might have a lover’s tenderness. I have
heard that the manhood of Jesus reflected the sweetness of Mary; Joseph
kept his wife in those days sweet, so the kindness of that noble spouse
lived after all, an immortal influence. Joseph, through Mary in part,
determined the bodily traits of the child Jesus; the latter influences
all time.”

“Why, truly, thou hast found a beautiful flower, Miriamne, and I’m
wondering that I never saw it before in Mary’s life. But, finally, I tell
thee I loved Rizpah as my soul at first.”

“Oh, yes; you both loved with almost volcanic ardor. My mother told me
so; but this very power and inclination of passionate loving gave you
each for the other power of dreadfully hurting.”

“Well, we’ll speak further of this, perhaps, another time. The hyacinth
lures me to Ichabod’s tomb.”

“The rose, emblem of Mary, flower of wedded love, is sweeter than the
hyacinth. Go home to Bozrah, father, I beseech you, so you may prove
yourself still a Knight of Saint Mary.”

“Home? I’ve none! Bozrah is grim ruins within, without. There, as only
fit and in fit dwellings, abide the cormorant and hyena. All hopes that
ever centred in that place for me were but dancing satyrs at the last;
all loves but eagles with hot-iron beaks, which devoured the hearts that
fed them, then fled away! I hate Bozrah!”

“You have a wife and children there. I a mother. Where the brood is,
there is home. Bozrah has no gloom for us, save such as we make for it.
It may be a glad place yet. Remember that Kidron and Golgotha were made
all beautiful by the fidelity of Mary and the cross-bearing of Jesus.”

“Miriamne, this parley is useless. Once for all, hear me. Before I wed
thy mother I took upon my soul an impious, almost desperate, vow, that
I’d possess her though the possessing ruined me. The strong, hopeful
Knight of the Cross was domineered over by his love. Before this I had
some commendable principles and a little piety. What am I now, after long
driftings about through wasted years of prime? I’m the wreck of a man;
less! a part of a wreck, trying to get made over in a meaner pattern out
of the fragments left. Thy mother unmade me!”

“Adam said something like that of Eve.”

“Don’t interrupt me, Miriamne. The Jewish maiden Zainab gave Mohammed,
of Bozrah, the poisoned lamp which ruined his health; the Jewish
Rizpah has such a lamp. See me, wrinkled, hair whitened, all too soon;
chivalry, morality and piety dragged out of me bit by bit. I stand here
the caricature of what I was or what I should be. I’m fit for neither
war nor courtship. I’d make a pretty show attempting to court Rizpah!
I’ve forgotten how such things are done, and, besides, I’m not the
original Sir Charleroy she wed. Let her find him, or his counterfeit,
and be happy. The original Sir Charleroy and Rizpah loved each other
desperately, but these that I know hate each other as desperately. I
tell thee it would be legalized adultery for these latter two to live
under the same roof, pleading as justification the vows of the other
two! Miriamne, I tell thee that thou mayst tell it on the house tops, or
hill tops, as I’ll cry it through eternity, if permitted, Sir Charleroy
and Rizpah, of Gerash and Bozrah, died long ago! The devil stole their
bodies, put an imp’s spirit in each, and then parted them forever. If
they ever meet it will be by the fiend’s device, that he may revel over
their warrings with each other! Ah, ha! What the Roman arena was to the
blood-thirsty populace, such to the fiends the homes of the world when
full of tumults!”

And Miriamne, alarmed by the outbreak, tried to calm her father:

“Oh, father, you will need mercy some day; merit it by bestowing it. You
suffer an unforgiving spirit to inflame your passion!”

“Forgiving? What’s the use? I’ve vainly tried mercy!”

“Try once more. The injured have resource so long as they have power to
forgive. Remember Him who in the great extremity cried: ‘_They know not
what they do!_’ Trust Rizpah once more!”

“I do not see the shadow of a peg on which to hang a trust.”

“You, a Teutonic Knight of St. Mary!”

“Thank God Mary was not a Rizpah!”

“Mary had the trust of Joseph in those dire days, when nothing but a
miracle could prove her integrity. She presents not only woman’s goodness
but that which even the loftiest wife needs, the constancy beyond measure
of her husband.”

“Joseph was advised by an angel. I not.”

“As you love your mother, honor the woman who mothers your children. They
bear your image, yet she alone, with a sublime self-forgetting, struggles
to have them grow up honorably, purely, and in the fear of God.”

“She wants to make them Israelites.”

“Perhaps so, and perhaps the Christian examples she has seen give her no
reason to wish otherwise. But after all, her way is better than to have
left them as their father left them, to become infidels or nothing. Oh,
father, do not think me bold. I speak because I love you; as perhaps no
other might care or presume to give utterance.”

“Well, girl, I guess I’m a double man; for, determined to oppose, I feel
a desire within to have thee win in this argument. I’m one compound of
contradictions. I was a sworn bachelor, then a sworn husband, now I’m
neither. I’m a widower, with a living wife; a parent of three children
with only one. I bewail my homelessness, yet run from an offered home.
I confess to being useless, yet see a mission most important at my own
door. Swearing loyalty to Mary, I disregard all she exemplified—of late
revealed to me; professing to be a Christian, I live a life that would
shame a decent Jew. I have a daughter, said by all to be much like me in
temper, feature, and mind, yet we are here utterly opposed in thought and
purpose. I’ve heard the profoundest teachers in grandest temples unmoved
to this duty, to-day presented; and, now, without the pale of any church,
in the wilds of Jericho, a mere girl, my daughter, instructs me well!
This all proves that I’m the caricature of Miriamne’s father. If I be Sir
Charleroy, then I’m beside myself!”

“A good half confession! Now for the atonement!”

“What, a bundle of contradictions making atonement? undoing the past!
more contradictions?”

“Righteousness displaces all the contradictions of life!”

“I could make no atonement except by contradicting a score of years, and
going to Bozrah! Now hear me finally; by the glory of God, alive, I’ll
never go to Rizpah’s house!”

Miriamne felt that further persuasion would be futile. She made a last
request, then.

“Will my father take me to the outskirts of that city? I’ll enter alone
to comfort the woman who, notwithstanding her faults, I believe to be the
noblest of mothers. She may not have a husband; she has a daughter.”

As the father and daughter rested at noon, not far from the Giant City,
some days after the foregoing events, they beheld a single horseman from
toward Bozrah speeding along the great southern highway.

“I think he’s a Jew and in peaceful pursuit. I’ll hail him,” said the
knight, “in the language of Galilee.”

The rider, hearing the call, halted. Glancing about him he discovered
the source of the call, and promptly reined his steed toward where the
pilgrims were sitting. Instantly he began in short, quick sentences:

“Wonder; the face of a Frank, the garb of a Turk, the voice of a Jew!
An old man, a young woman! A Moslem in company with his slave? No, she
sits by his side! A harem favorite? No! She is not veiled! Ye do not
look cunning enough for magicians, too cunning to be pilgrims; not pious
enough, old man, to be a priest, and too pious-looking to be a robber.”

“True, Laconic,” said the knight, “I’m at no loss as to thee.”

“So it seems! But pray, Christian, Jewish, Druses, Turks, who are ye?”

“We’re pilgrims, good runner.”

“Ha, ha; these pilgrims are a mad-lot, with piebald customs!”

“What news, runner?”

“What news! A plague in Bozrah! De Griffin’s twins are nigh to death—De
Griffin? May be thou knowest him? Thou dost look like him: but he’s
dead. Now his twins have no nurses nor mourners, but Rizpah, and I’m
racing to Gerash to see if I can find a soul to swell her wailings.”

The rider turned his horse and with a word, “_Selamet_,”—“peace,” was
gone.

Miriamne had heard enough, and now, with redoubled vehemence, reöpened
her arguments and appeals to her father to go to her home.

“I’ll not go into Rizpah’s house. I tell thee thou art inviting me into
hell!”

Miriamne, in turn, replied: “There is good anywhere for those that
earnestly seek it. Mohammed, they say, got his first inspiration in
Bozrah, and he a Moslem, a crescent devotee!”

“Yes; he wed a rich wife there, too, and she was a saint. I may envy him
in these things.”

The young woman hastily entered the city and stopped for a little time at
the mission house of Father Adolphus, briefly, hurriedly, to announce her
return, inquire the latest report concerning the illness of her brothers,
and to beseech the old priest to go out after her father; if possible, to
bring him into the city and to the desolate fireside.

“Well, well; there, now, I’d call thee bee or humming-bird, truly,
darting from point to point, subject to subject, if I didn’t know I was
talking to an angel.”

The sincere compliment was unheard by Miriamne, for she was gone ere it
was sounded. The old man shaded his eyes, looked after her a few moments,
then girding himself, hobbled down the street to seek at the city’s
outskirt the waiting knight.

And Miriamne, with heart beating high, sped on homeward. But as she
approached it she slackened her pace, with questionings as to how she
had best enter, so as to secure loving welcome and in no wise perturb
by sudden surprise. She saw her mother through the doorway, bowed and
swinging back and forth. The girl’s heart divined all; “My brothers
are dead!” The mother seemed oblivious to all about her, and Miriamne
hesitated on the threshold. Just then the runner galloped up to the open
door, reined his steed, and exclaimed: “Out of sight, out of mind! Death,
like poverty, sifts our friends! Ye can hire mourners cheaper at Bozrah
than at Gerash, and there are none to be had without coins! Gerash is
distant. I had no coins, and was a fool to start, wise to return!” It was
Laconic, and he was gone before any reply was given. Rizpah didn’t even
lift up her head to notice his coming or going.

Miriamne was glad of the circumstance, for the runner gave her words with
which to enter: “A daughter never forsakes.” She spoke thus, very softly.

Rizpah, perhaps not recognizing the voice, moaned on, swaying as she
moaned:

“Mother, mother?”

Rizpah slowly lifted her eyes to the speaker; then, either by a masterful
self-control or because sorrow dazed, she slowly and without emotion,
addressed the maiden:

“Thou here? So, then, my three are safe together, before my eyes, in
death. Thou wert buried years ago.”

Without another word the daughter and sister quietly moved to the forms
lying beside the mother, and knelt down, bowing, her one arm flung over
the corses. Presently she reached out her hand and it met a warm clasp
from her mother. The maiden knew full well that it meant welcome. It
was death’s victory; expressive, unspoken eloquence. There were four
hearts; two still in death; two alive and breaking, but the dead hearts
somehow drew the living ones together and then they beat as one, each
all comforting to the other. Two dead hearts bridged the gulf between
two living ones. There followed the embrace and kiss of peace, and then
Rizpah questioned:

“Wilt stay with me a little while, my only—?” thereupon she sobbed and
was relieved.

“Stay? Yes, always! But when, the burial?”

“At once! It’s the plague and the law requires promptness. O Death, thou
didst do thy bitterest for Rizpah!”

Rizpah soon rose up and began to busy herself about the bodies.

“Mother, tell me how to aid you.”

“Yea, as I need. Thou and I wilt carry them to the cave of entombment.”

“But will there be no funeral rites?”

“I’ll perform such; keeping vigil as Rizpah of old. My children were
crucified, as were hers. All mankind turned from us in our stress, and so
they died in want.”

“But, mother, the watching would kill you!”

“Thou dost comfort me, now. Oh, I’d be overjoyed, if I only knew for
certainty that death would court me at my vigil.”

Softly Miriamne spoke:

“Sir Charleroy is at Bozrah.”

“Now thou makest Bozrah seem afar. Oh, the garments of people may brush
together passing, but still to all things else the passers be eternities
apart,” replied quickly, and yet with cool self-possession, Rizpah.

“Death, that cools the pulses, also subdues the asperities. I could not
hate an enemy if I met him amid his dead,” persuasively responded the
maiden.

“Imperious, fanatical, stubborn Charleroy! changeable in all but his
determination to make conquest of the faith of others. Then, I can not
ask his pardon for my serving God. Liberty came to Egypt because the
mothers of captive Israel were faithful. So says our Talmud.”

“Sir Charleroy respects at least, fidelity.”

“Then ’tis well to have me die. He never did me justice to my face; let
him embalm me in honey after I’m dead, as Herod did the wife he murdered.
It’s a way of some husbands. But we must be moving, daughter; I’ve
prepared two biers. The plague is a stern messenger, nor leaves room for
any dallying.”

And Bozrah witnessed a strange, sad spectacle. Two roughly constructed
burial couches; on each a body, and two women, the one aged, the other
youthful, both bowed with grief, slowly bearing the biers away, down to
the tomb-hill. The elder directed; and so they went; first a little way
forward with one body, then returning to advance the other. There were no
mourners following; the passers-by offered no help; the women of the city
drew their doors shut, and the children playing in the streets, when they
beheld this funeral procession, fled away with subdued exclamations.

The ancient Rizpah, watching her dead on their crosses, was standing that
time in her valley of “dry bones;” her imitator, Rizpah de Griffin, was
now walking through that same valley. Both made pitiable by desolation.
Neither was able to hide her dead from her sight by looking for the hope
of the blessed resurrection. Their loving had been fierce enough, but
the soul-reviving Spirit of the prophet’s vision was not yet seen to be
in the valley for them. The two Rizpahs were “mothers of sorrow,” but
followed no cross that had on it besides “death,” “victory.” They went
with tears, but not held by a love that triumphs in “leading captivity
captive.” These ancient Jewish mothers may be put in striking contrast
with the Davidic Queen Mary, who wept from the Judgment Hall, past the
cross, past the tomb, up to the chamber of Pentecost, from which she
viewed the transports of the Ascension of her Son, her Saviour, her King.



CHAPTER XXX.

THE “KNIGHT OF ST. MARY” AND RIZPAH AT THE GRAVE OF THEIR SONS.

      “Courage, for life is hasting
      To endless life away;
      The inner fires unwaiting,
      Transfigure our dull clay.”

      ...

      “Lost, lost are all our losses;
      Love set forever free;
      The full life heaves and tosses
      Like an eternal sea;
      One endless, living story;
      One poem spread abroad,
      And the sun of all our glory
      Is the countenance of God.”—GEORGE MCDONALD.

    “I am ascending unto my Father and your Father, and to my God
    and your God.”—JNO. xx. 17.


The Teutonic knight was standing in silent contemplation of a pile of
ruins, from the center of which rose a number of stately columns like so
many mourners about a grave. These were all left of a stately old temple.
Art had done nobly here once; now desolation was master, even the name of
the structure being forgotten. The priest approached, questioning within
himself as to how he would address Sir Charleroy, when they met. As he
drew nearer, he thought here are two temples in decay. There came to his
mind out of the distant past a vision of Sir Charleroy as he was when he
stood erect, ruddy-cheeked and every wit a man by his bride’s side, the
time of the wedding at Damascus. The priest, contrasting the man before
him, now aged and solemn faced, with what he was then, thought “of the
two ruined temples, the man is the sadder one. A quarter of a century
slipping over a life, though with noiseless feet, generally leaves its
tracks; if pain and passion have been the companion of the years, havoc
is wrought.” Solemnly, and in measured tones, the priest’s meditations
having given him free utterance, he spoke, quoting the words long before
sadly pronounced by the Savior concerning Jerusalem’s holy place:
“_Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up._”

Sir Charleroy slowly, very slowly, turning his eyes upon the speaker,
observed him from head to foot, but uttered not a word.

Again the priest spoke: “Time has so changed both knight and priest, that
they forget themselves; nor is it therefore wonderful, they should not
remember each other.”

“Father Adolphus! Miriamne’s work?”

“What matter whose act if we see God back of the actor. I’ve a message
from on high!”

“Why, thou dost astound me!”

“Methinks no man more needs astounding. May righteousness enter the gates
opened by wonder, and so move thee into Rizpah’s home and thine; death is
there!”

“Is there? has been! When love was slain, I shut out its bleeding form
with the mourning robes of a long forgetfulness.

“There are hopes that die to live no more; so there are homes which
bereft of their household Penates are doomed to grim ruin forever. See
these giant dwellings. They tell it all.

“Thou art a Christian, I believe; but like the disciples, Cleopas and
Luke, with eyes holden; not discerning the Lord.

“Just as some, having embalmed the body, looked into the tomb at a napkin
only, seeing merely the place where He lay. Though puzzled that the
grave’s seal was broken, they were still blind to the miracle of a new
dawn, simultaneous with the unclasping of night’s grim arms. They had
heard of the resurrection to be, yet they reasoned that the Promiser was
surely dead. Love alone, in the person of Mary Magdalene, most loving
because most forgiven, overleaped all doubts, disappointments and fears,
to hie away in the thinning darkness, in an utter abandonment to her
trust in the words of Him, to whom her heart was given. That was love
indeed.”

“Oh, priest, ’tis so. A woman; a woman; leading in religion! I do not
much bepraise her, for she, being a woman, easily could believe, where
men doubted.”

“It would have been cruel to have crossed her faith, would it not, Sir
Charleroy?”

“Yes, on my soul, yes!”

“Then go to the bier of thy boys. Let love overleap all obstacles.”

“But let me rest, priest. I’ve had the full draught of trouble’s cup. I’m
quit of further conflict.”

“Thou believest? Listen:

“To whom also he shewed himself alive after His passion by many
infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the
things pertaining to the kingdom of God——

“Christian Cross-bearing knight, hear me! The suffering Savior could
never have revealed Himself, as the Almighty, Risen Christ, if there had
been no cross. By what He suffered He had gain of power. Thy wrinkles,
disciplines and all such like, fit thee now to minister in the chamber of
death; even where now of all places on earth, thou art needed.”

“But my case is so peculiar, my home so unnatural!”

“Is there no balm in Gilead, Sir Charleroy? If thou and she have been
great sinners, He’s a great Savior, and more, a patient one. Hast thou
thought how He lingered near His followers in an overplus of love, lured
from the triumphs of heaven, to personally deal, all comfortingly, all
encouragingly, peculiarly with individuals? For thirty-three years in
the flesh he wandered about, doing good, healing all those oppressed
of the devil; but the finest hours of all His life lay in those forty
days between the resurrection and the ascension. Well might He say to
Mary: ‘Touch me not,’ when in love, she fain would have retarded Him by
sentimental fondling. Listen now:

“‘I have not yet ascended: Go to my disciples, say to them: I ascend
unto my Father and your Father, to my God and your God!’ He was making a
sublime accent along golden steps, and the number of those steps were ten
and two, even as the number of Israel’s tribes.”

“I do not comprehend this mysticism, though the word-frame is beautiful.”

“Then know it. On the cross, Immanuel cried: ‘It is finished!’ Glorious
salvation’s work was finished; but then He lingered still to bless,
especially His friends. Count the steps. He appeared first to Mary
Magdalene, out of whom he had cast the seven devils and who doubtless
clung to the Savior, her only hope, her only deliverance from the awful
realities of the tragedy in her soul. Thy Rizpah was never so ill as
Magdalene, yet surely she is worthy as much tenderness.”

“Secondly. Jesus appeared to His mother; love’s appearing. I see her
now, in mind, by the record here unnamed—left in the sacred privacy of
her grief; too stricken to minister, but close to the triumph, because
all needful of its blessing. I see a third step—Jesus, by special
appointment, meeting the backsliding fisherman of Tiberias, now gone away
to his nets, persuading himself he had done and suffered enough, even as
does Sir Charleroy to-day.”

“I’ve been called Pilate. Go on. Call me Peter; I can bear it.”

“Fourthly. The Christ joined Luke and Cleopas, the Greek proselytes, now
doubters; but the chill of their misgivings was burned away in hearts
inflamed, while they journeyed to Emmaus.”

“Now call me Luke-Cleopas, priest. I’ve the chill of the doubts, I’m
sure.”

“Fifthly. He came to His own little church-of-the-upper-room, to breathe
on it peace and to display His all-convincing body; then He waited a week
for a special unfoldment to Thomas, the all-doubter, leaving him filled
with all faith.”

“Oh, that He’d come to Sir Charleroy!” said the knight.

“He does, but the knight’s eyes are holden, and he starves while toiling
for fish in a dead sea. Listen to these words by the shore of Tiberias:

“‘Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered
him, No.

“‘And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and
ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it
for the multitude of fishes.

“‘Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst
ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord.

“‘Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish
likewise.’

“Oh, Sir Charleroy, cast in the net on the right side, then come and
dine.”

“But I’m an odd man; not like others.”

“He that is All Fullness later appeared to multitudes of every clime, the
representatives of the Church universal, ever full of odd people; again
to the apostle of good works, James, called the pillar of faith. The
tenth appearing was at Bethany, as the blesser and promiser to all. After
that he showed himself to Paul, proof that he was a returning Christ,
and, last of all, to John on Patmos. This the John that was care-taker of
Mary, the mother; John, the all-loving. I read each page of the glowing
Apocalypse as a love-letter from heaven to a mother, from a Son who
carries eternally within His glorious heart the image of the woman great
chiefly for her great love of Him. She loyally followed Him to the grave;
He lovingly followed her beyond it. When he set John to picturing heaven
as a virgin-bride and His Church as a woman clothed with the sun, Christ
had surely the choicest of women, Mary, in His heart.”

“And the Heart of Heaven might well lovingly remember the mystical Rose,”
quoth the knight.

“As heaven loved Mary, so should noble men love ‘bone of their bone,
flesh of their flesh,’ _as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for
it_.”

“Thou wert never wed, good priest?”

“No; perhaps ’tis well so. I’ve had a work in helping those who were wed
unhappily, to peace; forgetting, in serving their need, my own joy.”

“Then thou hast no idea of what it is to deal with a Rizpah as a wife.”

“I know she’s a woman; a marvel in her fidelity to her children. She
may have infirmities, but there was a woman, bowed grievously for
eighteen years, fully restored by one kind touch of the man, Jesus, ever
all-pitiful and tender toward women.”

“But that one was willing to be healed.”

“No; she was trying to hide, but the Savior called her out, just to heal
her.”

“Now, then, let me cross swords at close quarters, since thou dost press
me. I ask thee, as a Christian priest, wouldst thou have me tolerate the
sins of heresy in my own home? Remember, Jezebel, she beguiled Ahab,
her daughter, Athaliah, and her husband, Jehoram, also, into gravest
transgressions. So God’s people were led, little by little, to the groves
of Astarte. I think I’ve a good parallel: Jezebel was the daughter of a
priest, so this Rizpah of Bozrah. With her hot temper, pride of exalted
birth, and a mouthful of arguments; a man meets such a woman as a pigmy,
to crouch, or as a knight, to resist.”

“The name Jezebel means ‘chaste.’ Her pious namers must have respected
chastity once. Her practices were all loyalty to Ahab and her children,
though her theories may have been odious. All that is recorded of them,
which engenders hate for her memory, is the hatefulness of the way she
pressed her creeds upon others, the Jews. Which the more like Jezebel—Sir
Charleroy or Rizpah?”

“But Rizpah was ardent to lay our love, and our children on her altar.
Like the women who brought their jewels to Aaron to be transmuted into
the golden calf! I could only protest, and I did.”

“Did not the men of Egypt and Israel first proclaim the worship of Apis?
Were not the women merely following their lords? There are many women who
defile their jewels because, with contempts that turn their hearts to
ashes, their lords do not, as they should, wear both the wives and the
jewels on strong and loyal hearts.”

“Oh, I perceive! Rizpah has been parading to thee her family troubles. A
true woman would have rather given herself to nest-hiding.”

“Thou hast not hidden thy nest, but, like a wandering bird, fled it.”

“She never asked my aid; she left me in London.”

The knight was charging blindly, and defeated.

“It was not for her to crave, but for thee to lavishly bestow. She
left thee? What better could Abigail have done than turn her beautiful
countenance and good understanding away from churlish Nabal, who lived
chiefly to gloat about the cross on which he had placed her?”

“Does the sacrist advocate divorce?”

“No! No rupture of the tie sealed in heaven; but when by recriminations
a home becomes a living burial, a hell, then two houses are better than
one. I feel here keenly, knight. My mother had a monstrous man, my
father, in wedlock. He left her to battle single-handed for her little
ones. Her patient, sad face comes ever before me. Oh, how she eschewed
all other men, though courted by worthier than he; how she strove to hide
my father’s faults and taught us, his children, to try to respect him! I
was but a youth when he died, but I tell thee I dared not look upon his
coffined face lest I should curse him, then and there!”

The knight cowered as if from a malediction.

“There, there! for heaven’s sake pause, Sacrist! Abashed at home, lashed
by the teacher of the faith I’ve suffered to defend, I’ll be driven to
flee to the wandering Bedouin, or to death!”

“They say Lucifer, unable to commit suicide, plunges headlong into the
abyss when thwarted in any design.”

“Call me Lucifer; another epithet!”

“There are no black gulfs into which thou canst flee from the memories
which conscience points to when duty is contemned.”

“Is it the priest’s purpose to harass my soul?”

“No; but rather to lead it back to its peace that thou didst leave long
ago. There is only one way of return, that a very _Via Dolorosa_. Mary
along it walked with her son, her God and Savior, to the cross and the
resurrection! By the cross God gives, we go to our glory.”

“I’ve tried my best to be a loyal, Christian knight. Give me, at least,
that award.”

“I can not praise justly; I dare not flatter; I must in all faithfulness
say thou hast yet to learn the alphabet of loyalty, as interpreted
by that glorious pair, Mary and the Christ—the triumphant Eve, the
triumphant Adam. Thou hast been following afar off, nearer the flickering
of Judas’ illusive lantern than to Him who pleaded amid His griefs,
all self-forgetting, with His Roman guards to let His little band of
followers depart unharmed. The woman whom thou exaltest as the queen of
hearts is, after all, not thy pattern. Judas and Mary are in lasting
contrast; he all treason, she fidelity’s choicest fruit. It is well to
see to it to which one is the nearer. Oh, Gethsemane, garden of touching
contrasts! There love was most grossly interpreted by the shrines of
_Baaltis_; there most grandly interpreted by love’s sublimest offering
that night the Saviour agonized. There twice the enemy of man did his
almost worst; once by the rites of the groves, once in the wracking
temptations of the Man of Sorrows. The arch-fiend was baffled, and then
the ingenuity of hell was taxed to one last, most terrific and dastardly
assault. What thinkest thou was the climax? The last effort to blot out
the hope of man was made through betrayal by a kiss; the finest sign of
affection befouled by treason! When the wedded betray each other, alas,
for the world!”

Sir Charleroy surrendered now, exclaiming:

“Oh, Father Adolphus; again I see there is a mist on my knightly cross!
I’m unworthy to wear the sign. It has been an emblem of death; I see it
now an emblem of life and love.”

“Will the knight look on the dead faces of his sons?”

“Yes, yes! In the name of God, yes! Lead me as a child, for I’m nothing
more.”

The knight was in the throes of transformation. He and the priest walked
side by side, mostly in silence, broken anon, only by questions of Sir
Charleroy’s, like these:

“Am I worth saving? Shall I ever become able to fully sound and truly
express, in life, the depths of all thou hast told me? And Rizpah! what
will Rizpah say or do?”

The old priest answered ever:

“‘Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ Himself
shall give thee light!’”

The lone burial cave was reached. Nigh the two biers stood Rizpah and
Miriamne and but a little way off Sir Charleroy and the priest. The
maiden, with surprised joy, saw the two men, but Rizpah, busy with her
thoughts, never lifted her eyes. The latter drew a slab away from the
entrance of the tomb and then moaned: “Better I’d never been a mother.”

Father Adolphus seized the opportunity to say in deep, entreating tones:

“‘I will ransom them from the power of the grave: I will redeem them from
death.’”

The mother supposing it was some kindly neighbor, still unnoticing any
thing but the speaker’s voice, moaned on, sitting nigh the tomb-door,
between the dead, a hand on each.

Then the old shepherd drew nearer, saying:

“Sisters of Israel, only believe. Beyond this stony gate there is an
eternal home fairer than any dream. There all broken homes shall rise in
joy, their treasures reunited and happy.”

Now Rizpah rose, and observing the speaker silently for a moment, she did
not seem offended at the priest’s presence. Misery had overcome, at least
for the time, her prejudice. Presently she exclaimed:

“My family reunited in heaven? Ah! that can not be, and if it were so,
what joy to ever repeat the bickering, blamings and wrongs of this poor
miserable life?”

“Thou wilt know as thou art known there and see eye to eye,” said the
missioner.

“Oh, if it could be only so!”

“Wouldst like it so?”

“Yes, by the grave of my darlings, I swear it! I loved them with my life
madly. All the love I had was concentrated in them. I knew when I began
idolizing them that I had loved before full well my husband and daughter.
I knew this, because the love I withdrew from them rushed forth to the
boys. But my idols are dead, and now if my love do not dry up, it will
hunger, feed on me myself, then turn to ferocity wolf-like.”

“Perhaps a husband restored may fill and enlarge thy heart. There never
was a great sorrow but there stood near it a great joy,” spoke the priest.

“Ah, he is stubborn, I, perhaps, proud. Immensity is between me and Sir
Charleroy.”

“Hast thou not yet had enough of pride’s dead sea apples?”

“Alas! why ask me?”

“If thou art ready for a better day, he may be.”

“Ready? I’ve always been. What I did for conscience sake and these
children is done. What he did to me he only can undo, as far as the past
can be undone.”

Then Miriamne waved her hand to her father, unseen by Rizpah,
entreatingly, as if to say: “Come, but not too quickly, a little nearer.”

Sir Charleroy complied and not as a laggard, for Rizpah seemed changed
from what she was in London. He now saw her as in those golden early days
at Gerash. But the truth was, the change was chiefly in himself.

“Rizpah!”

“Sir Charleroy de Griffin!” replied the woman addressed deliberately, and
apparently emotionlessly, as she fixed her eyes upon the knight. Then her
eyes turned toward the tomb, seemingly inviting his to follow there their
course. She stepped back and glanced from man to tomb, by the glance
saying more plainly than words:

“That is thy work. Thou didst open that grave in my pathway.”

The knight stood by her side and put forth his hand to clasp hers, but
with a respectfulness that betokened the cavalier and one not quite
certain of his welcome.

Then spake Father Adolphus:

“Remember Damascus, both of you. Come, Miriamne,” he continued, drawing
the maiden aside, “I’ve a giant’s grave to show thee.”

The priest and the maiden moved to a turn in the road and passed behind
the crumbled wall of a Roman palace.

“But, Father Adolphus, where now? What of the giant’s grave?”

“Be content, girl. I mean the grave of mad love grown to mad hate. It
will be made and deep enough by thy parents, but they can best make it
alone.”

And Miriamne fell upon her knees in silent, grateful prayer; a great
burden that had borne her down for years seemed lifted from off her.
The Miserere that had wailed through her life so long now changed to an
Easter anthem.

Father Adolphus after a time recalled her by a single question:

“Dost see the fierce woman and the vultures fleeing away before the
coming of our Christian Mother of Sorrows?”



CHAPTER XXXI.

THE ROSE, QUEEN OF HEARTS IN THE GIANT CITY

      “Around thy starry crown are wreathed
        So many names divine!
      Which is the dearest to my heart
        And the most worthy thine?”

      ...

      “‘_Mother of sorrows_,’ many a heart,
        Half broken by despair,
      Hath laid its burden by the cross,
        And found a mother there.
      ‘_Mary_,’ the dearest name of all,
        The holiest and the best,
      The first low word that Jesus lisped
        Laid on His mother’s breast.”—A. A. PROCTOR.


There had come a great change to the home of the De Griffins at Bozrah,
without and within. Shrubs and vines grew about the old stone house
in profusion, birds sang contentedly at its casements, and kittens,
undisturbed, played around its doors. These were tokens of the new inner
life.

The queen of that domestic palace was happy; its king restored to his
rights and duties; therefore there was abounding delight and peace within
and without. Sir Charleroy and Rizpah, the two mature wed-lovers that
abode there, had, out of all their estrangements and tribulations, come
to understand at last that love grows out of law and is more than a
sentiment, free to go when lured or flee from that which burdens. It was
to them like a revelation from heaven to find that love is the vassal of
the will and can be made to go where it ought, as well as be reined back
from lawless rovings. They found there was great satisfaction in their
efforts to be very agreeable to each other. Sir Charleroy constantly
assured Rizpah of his belief that they were now more really lovers
than they had been in those fervent days at Gerash. She believed this
new creed with the avidity of a heart sore with long waitings for its
proclaiming.

The knight bethought himself of a graceful advance, and introduced the
matter with a sort of parable. “I’ve been thinking to-day that the only
man whom I ever felt like kissing, the man who loved me to the full of
his great heart, is present with us in spirit these days to joy over our
reconciliation. I’ve felt a strange thrill at times which made me think I
was touched by the glowing heart of Ichabod.”

“Ichabod?”

“Yes; he that fell in our defense the day of that perilous battle with
those Mamelukes, near Gerash. Ah, he had the heart of a mastiff, the soul
of a martyr!”

“Thy love is constant. But what’s in thy hand?”

The knight had hoped for the question.

“A token I took from his corpse. It was given him by a Copt priest, whose
life he saved in Egypt. See.”

“I see a stone in a gold setting; on the stone an image, I think of a
woman? I’ve noticed it with thee before.”

“I knew it! Once I thought thou didst observe it askance, as if a trifle
jealous. Well, no more secrets, no more jealousies. What says Rizpah?”

“I say amen; and yet I say tell all, or none; either way I shall be
content. Love’s trust, when full, has few questions and no doubts.”

“Nobly spoken, but yet I must tell all. The image is of _Neb-ta_, from
the country of Hamites.”

“What an odd figure! Her head-dress, a basket!”

“The basket on her head and the little house by her side betoken that
she was the presiding spirit of domestic life. I love Neb-ta! She ever
reminds me of woman at her best, as a mother brooding her chicks.”

“Praise be the Patriarchs; they left us testimonies which makes it
needless to go to Egypt for precepts concerning home-love!” responded the
wife.

“But, Rizpah, thou dost divert me! Wait; I’m coming around with the
patriarchs, by way of Jerusalem, to Bozrah.”

“Now, that’s a fine parade; I await it,” the woman, with quick reply,
answered.

“Tradition says this Neb-ta will stand before Osiris and Isis in the
judgment ‘hall of truth,’ where another deity styled ‘divine wisdom’
opens the books of men’s earthly deeds. As the great Anubis weighs them,
Neb-ta stands by ready to cut away the failings of those weighed. When
the scale of their merit is lacking, she herself leaps into it, to weigh
it down in their behalf.”

“A pretty myth for grim old Nile Land!”

“It proves man’s belief that at last he’ll need help.”

“It is strange those women degraders should have allotted one of that sex
so fine a part in the hereafter.”

“It illustrates the constant conviction in men’s hearts that woman’s
sympathy abides to the last.”

“In some men’s hearts, say. All are not equally just.”

“I’ll be direct, Rizpah, and sincere. I’ve felt an indescribable
unworthiness of all I enjoy here in the house saved and brightened by my
wife. I’ve been saying, ‘Oh, that some one like Neb-ta would cut off my
failings and enrich my merit.’”

Sir Charleroy, after this long journey around about, felt relieved. He
had made his confession and waited his absolution.

Rizpah’s eyes brightened up, and, though bedewed, shone with the luster
of gleaming affection.

He knew full well how to interpret that look, and evinced the quality
of the interpretation by quickly embracing her. There passed between
them salutations having the purity of manna, the lusciousness of Escol’s
grapes.

“Will Sir Charleroy need to go to Egypt for a Neb-ta?”

“No, never, while I’ve an all-forgiving, all-blessing Rizpah!”

Encouraged by the success attending one simile, he attempted another
later:

“I was thinking,” tenderly replied the knight, “that I’ve sinned against
God in the name of religion, and unconsciously offered ‘the female lamb.’”

“Pardon my stupidity, but yet I do not gather what is thy meaning.”

“My Rizpah has been sacrificed for years.”

The wife tried to reply, “I’m no lamb without blemish;” but her tears
and his passionate embrace, checked her utterance. To those without,
there is much incomprehensible in the estrangements and reconciliations
of human pairs, made utterly one in wedlock. If, since the Incarnate
died for love, and the Temple’s veil was rent, there has been on earth
an unrevealed Holiest of Holy places, it has been where wed lives,
alienated, have been reunited. It is like a sacrilege to attempt its
depicting to stranger eyes or ears. Many, for themselves, have been
within that holy place; each twain meeting its own peculiar and varied
experiences. But, having come forth with a natural and most meritorious
reverence for the events of such supreme hours, they are wont to withdraw
from human curiosity all that transpired, as completely as they hide from
the world their souls’ dealings with God. They who have never been within
that Holy Place, can not understand about what there transpires; those
that have been there, defend their sacred right to keep from all the
world that which they saw and felt, by refusing to give audience to the
experiences of others.

Sir Charleroy and Rizpah, at the time of the foregoing conversation,
entered serenely, lovingly that Holy Place. Then they took, as it were,
wings of memory and shields of faith. The grim giant house was forgotten.
Its walls seemed to thin away, until they had to themselves a broad, but
secluded world. There was light, but not exposure; repentance, mutual,
and forgiveness, not only free, but in every syllable seeming to have
balm for healing. There followed an unutterable sense of getting nearer
and nearer to each other. They felt as if they had but one will, and that
guided by God; one mind, and that clear and heaven soaring. The only
sense of being two, was in their beating hearts, and then two hearts
seemed more blessed than one; for being two, there was the joy of their
beatings for and against each other. Words fail; it would be sacrilege
to go further. Let the curtain drop. Leave them with a thousand angels,
winged and liveried in white, with wands of silence to keep watch and
ward until morning!

On the morrow they knew that both had surrendered and both conquered.
And by a paradox, to those uninitiated, each rejoiced as much in the
surrender each had made, as in the victory which had been won by the
one defeated. Defeat and victory was their common wealth. There was a
full community between them, and that made both rich, whatever their
possessings. Thenceforward, between them, there was perfect frankness
and consideration; no sarcasms, no recriminations, and hence no need of
foils nor masks. Christ had captured the Crusader’s heart, and he was
now, as never before, able to reveal the King of his soul to Rizpah. She
moved unconsciously into a beauty of character like unto that of Mary,
and her heart began singing a ‘Magnificat.’ The woman was transformed,
if possible, more completely than the man. For years amid hurtings she
had schooled herself to reticence, and had been an enigma to all who knew
her; but now, under the rising of this new sun, she opened as the blossom
of early spring. Sir Charleroy, indeed all who knew her, attested delight
and surprise; but Rizpah was as much surprised at herself as any other
could be at her.

“I didn’t know I could,” she exclaimed often with laughter and tears.
She seemed to break away and run from her former self as one from
some phantom, as a child from a reputed witch, or a freed bird from a
prisoning cage. She saw herself growing in all these things every moment
and exclaimed, in the rush of feeling; “I could fly, I’m sure!” Then
tenderly, “I would not, my mate, for a thousand worlds, unless thou
couldst fly with me. No, no, Charleroy, watch my wings; they are thine;
cut them if they grow or flutter for rising. If they do, they’ll do it
themselves, without my willing.” Again the sacredness of the holiest came
over them.

“Oh, Rizpah, I know, I knew this wealth of love was in thee; I’ve
wondered often why I could not find it.”

“I did not know it, my lover king; I’m glad thou hast found it, for thy
finding feeds me with light and glory! I’m carried back to Gerash and
Damascus.”

“I think not. There were flaming swords at Eden’s Gate, after the fall.
No going back; but the swords gave light for departure into broader
places. I think that’s the symbol of the sword and the flame, Rizpah.”
Again he spoke: “Hadrian built a temple of Venus over the tomb of
Christ, but Hadrian and Venus are no more in power and there has been a
resurrection from that tomb.”

“Ah, Sir Charleroy, I’m a child in thy creed, but I’m comforted by thy
resurrection hopes, especially since conversing yesterday more freely
than ever with our lovely child of God, Miriamne.”

“Hers is an angel’s visit, wife.”

“And angel-like, with filial spirit, she comes, this time, with request
for our consent to an act of great import to her.”

“So; and what may it be? Though I know it can only be good.”

“She came to tell us, that she desires publicly to profess the religion
of the Naz——of Jesus.”

Sir Charleroy felt a twinge of an old pain, and for a moment queried
within: “Will the old struggle over faiths again confront us?” But he
dismissed it with an unexpressed “Impossible, we’re all changed!” Then
replied he quietly with a question. “Does the dear girl fully understand
the seriousness of the act? If she do and then acts, I’ll be glad to
commit her to Christ as her Bridegroom and King.”

“We cannot be with her always, and she seems determined to go through
life unwed.”

“A Neb-ta, an angel spinster, mothering other people’s chicks! But what
says my Rizpah of our daughter’s purpose to profess her faith?”

“I? This: God being my Helper, I’ll never again stand between Him and any
soul, except it be to pray for that soul’s health.”

Just then the maiden entered bearing a lamp which suddenly lighted the
room, now well nigh in darkness. She presented a most striking and
suggestive figure. Her eyes were full of her heart’s chief question, and,
standing in the light of her own bearing, she seemed to fitly represent
the part she had borne in that household.

Sir Charleroy, anticipating his daughter’s question, greeted her with
promptness thus: “Sunshine, thy purpose I know. It’s all between God
and thyself. Go gladden Father Adolphus and Cornelius with an early
profession.”

She was filled with surprise, and voiced its chief cause:

“Cornelius? He’s at Jerusalem!”

“Well, if so, ’tis wonderful, since I met him here to-day.”

“I wonder,” she meditated, meanwhile speaking her thoughts as if
unconscious of those about her, “What brought him here?”

“Oh,” replied the father, “he says ‘to see Father Adolphus about the
church of Jerusalem;’ but Father Adolphus says ‘the young man came
because he could not help it, to see his good angel.’”

“‘His good angel!’ Whom?”

“Now, Sunrise, guess! When thou dost so, to make short work, begin with
the good angel of us all, Miriamne.”

Miriamne lifted her hand reprovingly, but the tell-tale crimson hung
confession on her cheeks, while her lips, wreathed in smiles, told her
pleasure.

“Well, now, will my father go with me to good Adolphus about my
profession?”

“As thou mayst like, but it will be easier to reduce three to two than
four to two!”

Again the uplifted, reproving hand and the blush and Miriamne ran out.

       *       *       *       *       *

“Do not reöpen that question settled once; it can only pain us both to
recur to it.”

“‘Reöpened!’ ‘Settled!’” exclaimed Cornelius. “Not with me. Nothing in
silence can settle it; and it is always open to me, sleeping or waking.”

“The consciousness of duty done comes like the breezes of Galilee,
turning all moanings to a song within me.”

“Oh, Miriamne, who is it decrees that we, belonging, all, each, to the
other, should be torn asunder ruthlessly? Duty, conscience! Hard metallic
words when they describe the links of a chain! Ah, our misconceptions
often bind us to pain; this one I cannot bear!”

“And yet, Cornelius, you told me in that Adriatic storm you could as
easily drown a passion rising against righteousness as you could drown
the body then, by a plunge into the billows!”

“You held me back when I moved forward to show how easily I could make
the plunge.”

“But then you had no intention of leaping to death!”

“Not while held back by Miriamne!”

“I? Poor, weak I, hold you?”

“To me your touch has ever had persuasion and might! Oh, woman, you lead
me captive to your will in chains riveted, unyielding, and yet of golden
delights.”

“Say not so. We have each a great mission, but apart.”

“Apart! The decree that settles our courses that way is monstrous. It is
not of God. He ordained that our race go in pairs. And when He set up
the new kingdom of Jesus, its heralding disciples were sent forth two
by two. As Moses needed his Hobab, Christ his confidants, so need I a
yoke-fellow. I’ve no ambition to live, much less to work, unless I have
my heart’s idol with me.”

“Illusion.”

“Call it ‘_Maya_’ if you like; but ‘_Maya_,’ Brahm’s wife, illusion, made
the universe visible to him. So say those ancient mythologians. I can see
nothing without my Miriamne!”

“Oh, man, hold; nor pain me further! I cannot help you. How can I,
since my own chosen work seems too great for me! I’m like a mere shell,
drifting with the tides, without sail or helm; the harbor unknown. I only
know I carry a precious pearl, truth, and that there are those who need
it. I must bear it to them.”

“I’m a shell, without helm or sail, and have the same pearl. Let me
voyage with you.”

“And—what?”

“In all brevity—marry me!”

“That cannot be, I fear. I’d rather be the——. Can’t I be your ideal
as Mary?” She blundered amid her efforts to express herself, and the
tell-tale blush betokened defeat.

“Yes; be my Mary, and let me take the place as your Joseph. Mary was a
wife and mother. The greatest of God’s works in the old dispensation was
to translate men; in the new dispensation, seeking to surpass the old, He
presented a perfect woman, in her highest estate, as the queen of a home!”

The woman was silent for time. There then seemed to her to be two
Miriamnes, and the debate was transferred from being between the young
man and herself to these two which she seemed to be. One Miriamne said
“Yield,” one “Be firm.” One said, “He has the better reasons,” one said
“Nay;” one said, “It is pleasant to be overcome,” the other said “_Maya,
Maya, Maya!_” Then recovering herself she exclaimed, “I wish the priest
were here; he’d guide us by the Divine word.”

“I have a holy text,” and drawing a line at a venture, the youth repeated
these words:

“‘_God said it is not good that man should be alone!_’”

She smiled and stammered:

“Oh, Cornelius! I want to admire you and lean on you as my guide,
teacher, pastor; but you meet all my approaches that way, transformed to
a lover.”

“_Maya! Maya!_ Miriamne; let the illusion work; sleep the Leathen sleep;
yield to love’s dream; then comes the full noon to awaken to marriage
joy. Thou wilt find, not above thee but at thy side, then, the teacher,
guide; shepherd as well; but also the husband.”

Miriamne had reached a point of hesitancy, which is, in all lives, just
a step from surrender, and the lover, made alert by his ardor, perceived
the advantage. Though a prey to hopes and fears, an incarnation of
paradoxes, in which bashfulness contested with audacity for control
of the will, he gathered all his powers into a grand charge. With a
tender vehemence he stormed the citadel of the heart before him. First
he imprisoned her hand in his; he had done so before. Now it fluttered
strangely; presently it rested as a bird; at first as if frightened, then
helpless, then content. All that followed may be easily imagined. Suffice
to say that Cornelius Woelfkin just then believed life worth living and
the universe made visible, though not by an illusion.

Just as many another of Eve’s daughters placed as she in a tempest of
delights, she confessed her capitulation by a series of retorts, which
gave her relief from tears by affording apologies for laughter.

“No woman ever so loved as I now? You men all talk that way at betrothal!”

“‘To death!’ Miriamne, ’twill be true with me.”

“Yes, at betrothal and when their wives are dead, they say men are very
affectionate. But, Cornelius, remember I’ll expect sweets between times.
Do not love me to death at first, vex me to death later, then go mad for
love’s sake after I’m gone!”

He vowed, protested and assured; she believed him without the shadow of
a doubt. They were irrevocably committed to each other now. There was
a rush of thoughts, plannings, questionings and hopes. Two lives apart
converging, becoming mysteriously one. Over them arose that wondrous sun
which illumines some betrothal days. They were both very happy, very
proud, and also each to the other very beautiful. The harmless conceits
of love possessed them and they persuaded themselves easily that they
were at the center of all things, even of the infinite love of God. The
glow of their own hearts brightened to them all things immediately about
them, and they entered that arcana of delights where secret blessings
may be experienced but can not be depicted. They ate of that hidden
manna which is reserved alone for those who sincerely love and are
loved. No being ever loved as they, who afterward despised or regretted
the enchantment, although it brought some pain or at the last ended in
disappointment. None ever having been for a season in that Beulah-Land
but wishes himself there again. None who comprehends the thrillings of
lover days can fail to envy more or less, if they are loveless, those who
are in love as these twain were.

Much of the ridiculing of this grand passion, affected by some, is after
all the result of envy, secretly longing for that beyond its reach.
Sometimes the enraptured themselves attempt this deriding, but theirs is
an hysterical laughter, a feeble effort to rest from the intensity of
their rapture or to hide their secret from others. The laughter of all
such as the foregoing is hollow and eventually turns the shame back upon
the ridiculers who would cover others with it; for love, while it is an
angel of sunshine, has also the power of carrying to every heart which
shamefully entreats it remorse, humiliation and pains as numberless as
nameless.

Cornelius and Miriamne, the young reformers, having embarked fully
upon the full, glowing, exalting, triumphant tide of their love were
themselves reformed and transformed. A while ago each was willing to
die for the world, now each was willing to die, if need be, for the
other and not for humanity’s sake, unless some way the heart’s idol was
to be part of the reward of that sacrifice. This new tide carried them
quickly to that place of paradoxical oscillations, the place where the
lover is one moment utterly self-denying, the next utterly grasping;
willing to be annihilated one instant in behalf of another, and then in
an avariciousness without a parallel on earth, the next moment willing to
annihilate the universe rather than be bereft of the one object deemed
above all others.

The young lovers passed through the usual, often experienced, often
depicted, old, old, ever new phases of this relation. The fire kindled
in their hearts sped from center to center of their beings, the laughter
of secret joy quivered along every nerve of each. Each was happier than
it was possible to tell, even that other one that awakened the joy.
Their gait, their blushing cheeks, their flashing eyes, and their words
proclaimed unmistakable the complete coronation of love. They believed,
and perhaps properly, that they were enjoying the seraphic, exuberant,
mellow, yet exciting delights of an hundred ordinary lives merged into
one. Each in turn, over and over, in repetitions that tired neither to
utter nor to hear, said to the other: “I love you.” A rain of impassioned
kisses made reply. Time was not observed; they forgot their former hurry,
that pushed them earnestly, ever toward duty, when they were committed
to being reformers. They were only and completely lovers now, and lovers
are beings whose existence is in a heaven where there are no clocks.
The sun set over Bozrah while the twain communed, but there was so much
light in their hearts they did not observe the lull of night around them.
Existence seemed to them a living fullness, a soaring upward without
friction or effort, and they incarnated that which at last makes heaven,
perfect desire perfectly satisfied. They were presently recalled to the
things outside of themselves by the sound of some one approaching.

“It’s Father Adolphus. I know his step,” remarked Miriamne.

Cornelius, remembering his recent, successful assault, was encouraged
to attempt another. His heart whispered to him: “Why not make this
matter final now?” His heart seemed to grow pale and trembled at its own
whispering, until he himself grew pale and trembled throughout his whole
being, at the audacity of the thought. But love’s suggestions are ever
very domineering; this one dominated the man instantly, and he acted on
it.

“Miriamne, why not permit Father Adolphus now to seal our betrothal with
his blessing?”

“He will bless us, I know,” quoth the maiden, evasively; but she knew
what her lover meant full well. Not only so, her heart, against her
judgment, was siding for the blessing.

The youth felt certain he had carried one line of defense, and now went
charging onward, determined to carry all before him.

“Yes; he will bless us, I know, if we ask him. I’ll ask him, and then,
Miriamne, mine, I’ll call thee no more sister, but wife.”

“Oh, you are in such a hurry! This is all too sudden. I—only wanted to be
engaged—not married, perhaps, for years. We could work for the Master—”

She was interrupted, as victorious lovers usually interrupt.

Just then the priest entered. Miriamne tried to greet him with a smile
and a sentence, but she was under a spell. She seemed to herself to be
a different woman than she was when he last met her guide. She spoke a
few meaningless words, which were lost in the vigorous utterance of her
companion, as he explained the betrothal and requested its ratification.

The aged man of God looked tenderly down on both, and then questioned:

“Miriamne, I know his heart toward thee; is thine resting on his?”

The maiden drooped her eye-lids, but the tell-tale blush on her cheek
gave answer.

“Shall I commit you to each other before God, forever!”

Her hand rose in an effort to restrain, but it fell back into her lap, as
if unwilling to do so.

“Bless us quickly, good father, I pray you,” spoke Cornelius.

“Clasp four hands crossed,” said the priest.

The maiden’s hands joined those of the young man, and yet one drew back a
little, as if to say, Wait. The motion was slight; then she found voice.

“But, Father Adolphus, do you think God will condemn, if we do?”

“God made such as ye are to love each other. What says thy conscience?
Speak frankly now, girl; thou art with those that care for thee with an
eternal regard.”

“My conscience does not condemn, and I commit all I am to the guidance of
you two men. I feel quiet and safe in the committal.”

And the solemn sealing words were soon spoken.

“Shall I pronounce you husband and wife?” questioned the priest.

Cornelius, like a knight in full charge desirous of taking all before him
as trophy, exclaimed quickly, confidently: “Yes, yes, all!”

Then Miriamne recovered herself in the emergency, and with maidenly
dignity and tenderness, yet with unalterable firmness, said: “Nay.”

“But, Miriamne—”

The youth could proceed no further. He was defeated by the glance that
met his, filled with pious, kindly, yet firm dissent. She spoke then
freely.

“Before God we are affianced; the first step, as an Israelite, I’ve
taken. We are now bound to each other forever. I am proud to wear the
yoke of betrothal. We must wait before the final words are spoken, until
we’ve seen my parents, and until God has given us further wisdom.”

She prevailed. Shortly after the foregoing, Cornelius, taking a tender
farewell, returned to his work at Jerusalem.



CHAPTER XXXII.

THE QUEEN AND THE GRAIL SEEKERS.

      “My good blade carves the casques of men;
        My tough lance thrusteth sure,
      My strength is as the strength of ten,
        Because my heart is pure.

      Sometimes on lonely mountain meres;
        I find a magic bark,
      I leap on board, no helmsman steers,
        I float ’till all is dark.

      A gentle sound, an awful light!
        Three angels bear the Holy Grail,
      With folded feet, in stoles of white,
        On sleeping wings they sail.

      So pass I hostel, hall and grange;
        By hedge, and fort, by park and pale,
      All armed I ride, what e’er betide,
        Until I find the Holy Grail.”—TENNYSON.

    “Moreover certain women of our company amazed us, having been
    early at the tomb.”


Another Easter, to some the brightest yet, smiled in Bozrah, and Miriamne
was at the Christian Chapel.

Father Adolphus, after serious, tender greeting, questioned:

“I wonder thy father came not to-day?”

“Oh, he’s celebrating the resurrection of love, joy, and peace, at home.
You often told me these were the realities of Christ’s rising.”

“Thy joy in this must reach all fullness?”

“I don’t know, I’m in a strange way—very happy, yet very restless.”

“I have seen souls before at their noon; hast thou not observed how the
air seems to tremble sometimes at midday? This is not fear but fullness.”

“Oh, my shepherd, I’m not at noon yet, only dawn. I’ve only begun my
work.”

“Has our missionary Cupid other couples at odds to reunite?”

“Perhaps so; but whether God calls me to such work or not, this much I
know, He has put a burden on me.”

“Will Miriamne confide it to me—or has the lover dethroned the priest?”

“There now, never say that again! None on earth can dethrone in my heart
my constant friend and guide; yea under God, my savior! Had there been
no Father Adolphus there would have been no lover; at least no Christian
Cornelius, as my heart’s lord.”

“I fear Miriamne in her generous desire to cheer a tired old man
flatters.”

“No; not flattery, but just award. As the ancient captives on their
return to their own Israel gave their wealth to provide crowns for their
priests, so do I to-day offer the finest gold of my heart to the man who
piloted me with purity, patience, and wisdom, along and over perilous
ways, to happiness beyond all words to express.”

The old missionary’s face expressed the wondrous comfort he felt in the
words of his convert.

“And what is it that burdens thee, daughter?”

“I hope my pastor will not be offended, but I’m burdened by the slow
dawning of religious day. Why does it take so long to convert the earth?”

“The zeal of the young convert fills thee!”

“Ah, but that trite answer, defense of the slow progress of true or false
creed, after all does not answer. I feel those Easter services at times
lifting me up, out of and beyond myself, out of all thought of my own
final glory, and to anxiety for a lost Israel, a lost world! I think,
at times, I comprehend what was meant by the descent to the grave, the
captivity of death, the triumphal ascent, and then I wonder and doubt.”

“Wonder and doubt?”

“Yes; I wonder at the grandeur of all that the resurrection implies,
and seeing it unrealized I doubt whether my interpretation of it be the
right one. Worse than that, I’m pained by darker doubts. Forgive me, but
my poor soul sometimes questions whether or not God has grown weary or
failed to keep His promises. Oh, these doubts pain me to my heart’s core,
but they will come! I see day by day on every hand such widespread gloom;
not only that very few walk in the light, but how many shadows fall on
those who profess to have entered the light of the Rising?”

“Alas, day drags wearily!” slowly responded the priest.

“Yes; the centuries since Calvary, filled with misery, ignorance, and
sin, seem to me to have rebuke in them to all who saw, from time to time,
the Gospel light, and imperious urgency for those who see it now.”

“But the church is doing its best to get onward, Miriamne.”

“That I doubt, though I’d fear to be heretical.”

“Again, I do not comprehend thee, girl.”

“That’s it; I do not comprehend myself, or what it is that I’m stirred to
be or do. I think that there’s a reason for sadness at Easter time. It
is the reminder of a great hope unfulfilled. Over twelve hundred years
have passed away since Christ arose, typical of the rising of mankind by
faith to all that was noble and blissful, and yet we are all in the dim
twilight of the morning. Oh, my teacher, it seems to me as if a funeral
chord went weeping through every Easter anthem.”

The old priest sat silently for a time, then bowed his head and wearily
sighed; “I have done my best any way!”

“Oh, do not think I doubt that! No, no; I’d not hint a rebuke of my noble
guide; but I can’t make you understand me! Nobody seems to grasp my
meaning! Yet of this I’m certain, I want to do something differing from
what has been; something great, revolutionary, for the world, for Christ.”

“All reforms are revolutionary; all consecration to noble work, noble.”

“I suppose I express myself as vaguely as other Christians, whose efforts
are chiefly words. But why is it that there can not be a presentment of
Divine truth in such a simple and attractive form as to make all hearing
and seeing love it? Why is it that the followers of truth separate into
armies, not only not sympathizing with, but opposing each other? Why do
not all having a common Father and one Saviour, join as one loving family
to bear aloft the banner of the Invincible?”

“That day will come in God’s good time.”

“Oh, again forgive me; but that trite apology for the delayed dawn seems
to me to fling the blame on God in order to palliate man’s indifference.”

“Miriamne, thou art thoughtful beyond thy years, but what wouldst thou
have?”

“Some one to show me how, and when, and where to proclaim a revolution!
There is need that Israel believe; that one half the race, its women,
be crowned with its full privileges and powers; that Christian humanity
check war, banish poverty and bring in universal justice.”

“Revolutionist, indeed; though a blessed one art thou!”

“So I’m often told; but who will show me how to work for such ends!”

“Hast thou among thy knightly companionships heard of the Grail knights?”

“I’ve heard of them; but not a great deal. Why ask?”

“Thou art like them.”

“I’m glad to know whom I’m like; tell me of them that I may know myself.”

“They, as their life work, and with charming enthusiasm, sought an object
pure and noble, but which none but they themselves could see.”

“Did they obtain their object and do much good?”

“They were a blessing to the world; but sometimes, like others seeking
lofty ends, they failed. Eternity alone can estimate their work and
worth.”

“Where are they now?”

“Their successors are like thee. That grail guild of old is now no more.”

“Tell me all about them and the Grail!”

“Listen. Joseph of Arimathæa, he that secretly followed the Lord in his
lifetime, and openly, after he saw the glory of His crucifixion, is
said to have caught the blood that flowed from the speared side in the
paschal vessel or cup used at the last supper. There is a cathedral in
Glastonbury, England, which once I saw, erected on the place where Joseph
builded a little wicker oratory, when there as a missionary. At least
they say he once was there. The aged Joseph died and the Grail or Passion
cup passed into the custody of other holy men. Finally a custodian of it
sinned, and thereupon it was caught away quickly to heaven. But there is
a legend that it is brought, from time to time, to earth, only to be seen
by those that are pure—virgin men and women. Then out of the yearnings
for the cup’s presence (for it is said it gave unutterable joy as well
as miraculous healings to any that came nigh to it), an order of knights
sprung up, to seek it, everywhere in earth. They were sworn not to
disclose their mission, and bound, as their only hope of success, to keep
their hearts noble and pure.”

“But how am I like a ‘grail knight?’”

“Miriamne pursues a heavenly cure for human ills, a something she cannot
see nor quite explain.”

“’Tis true and wonderful.”

“The ‘grail’ story is almost as old as man, being shaped out of other
most ancient pilgrim quests. All noble hearts yearn for a healer and
ideal.”

“Perhaps the time has come for a woman crusade, a new order of grail
seekers?”

“Indeed, I think as much; and Miriamne, taking Mary as her model, may be
the very one to proclaim it.”

“But being a woman, and so young, I might be ridiculed as an enthusiast,
as brazen, perhaps, or worse, if I attempted such things.”

“If thou didst undertake any thing truly good, thou wouldst best know
its goodness by the bitterness of its opposing. The cross is very bright
on one side, on the other it casts shadows. Walking toward it we walk in
those chastening shadows. But when we’ve passed the grave, which it ever
guards, there is light, all light—not before.”

“Sometimes I think I’m a very womanish woman and not the stuff of which
the heroine can be made.”

“To be a woman is to have within thee a wealth of power. To be queenly
is to do in queenly spirit the work falling to thy lot. Behold the
queenly women of the patriarchs! Rebecca watered the flocks, Rachel was
a shepherdess. The daughter of Jethro, King of Midian, also kept the
flocks; and Tamar baked bread. The Word of God records these things,
methinks, to show in what a queenly way a queenly woman may perform a
seemingly unimportant work. Doing humble works well, they had their honor
in due time. Think of our Mary, Mother of Jesus, after her call, serving
humbly as a good housewife to a carpenter.”

“Oh, if I could only catch the flavor of her life more fully!”

“A worthy wish! Her life was a sermon on faith. Called of God to bring
forth Immanuel, she accepted the trust with joyful humility, leaving
the miraculous performance to the Promiser. For thirty years, from
Bethlehem’s cradle to Bethabara, where Her Son was owned of God, she
bore her pains and toils, facing persecutions, the leers and slanderous
innuendoes of the rabble, all without faltering. Only wondrous faith
kept her gentle young heart from breaking! I think she carried the cross
all along the course of Christ’s life—until He Himself took it. She
wrought out her work as a satellite of her son, and yet as a poem most
eloquent, voicing thoughts without which some of His wondrous, greater
life would lack explanation.”

“I fain would be like her, but then to be so seems beyond my capacities.”

“If thou canst not be a satellite of the Sun as Mary, be a satellite of
a satellite. Reflect her, and it will be well, since she reflected Him.
’Tis a simple lesson, but profitable; learn it; there is greatness in
little things; regarding them we may at the same time lay hold of that
that is great. I’d have all women heroines by teaching them what heroism
is.”

“Was Mary learned? She had to meet some grand company?”

“Wise, as thou mayst be in the solid culture of God’s word.”

“But I can never be a Mary,” presently the maiden murmured.

“Thou canst be thyself, and what thou canst. A seraph could be no more.
God needed for his lofty purpose but one like the Maiden of Nazareth, and
for thy comfort remember Mary could not have been the mother of Jesus and
Miriamne de Griffin of Bozrah also. She had her mission, thou thine; it
is a judgment of God to attempt to say that each in her station was not
and is not placed in the way most excellent.”

Their converse ended but to be renewed. At frequent intervals Miriamne
advised with her guide upon the subject uppermost in her mind, and
more and more became endued with the spirit of the missionary. To all
questionings within herself, as to how she might compass her lofty and
philanthropic designs, there came but one answer, “To Jerusalem!” It
seemed to her that there, at the heart of Syrian life, she might obtain
inspiration and wisdom, as well as the widest possible opportunity of
applying these for others. To her to believe was to act, and so she soon
had completed all her arrangements to join a band of pilgrims passing
by way of Bozrah toward the great city. The parting was painful to
mother and daughter, and unlike any they had experienced before. The
daughter felt a misgiving. Her mother was aged. The tensions of trial
and responsibility being removed so largely from the life of the latter
by recent events, left her spiritless. Perhaps it would be more accurate
to say that in the days of excitement and conflict she exerted herself
beyond her ability; now, when the motive was gone, nature proclaimed its
premature exhaustion. Miriamne was convinced that she would be motherless
ere long, and was haunted by misgivings as to ever again seeing her if
she left Bozrah. Rizpah herself, though she feared that the present
separation and farewell were to be final, urged her child tenderly,
earnestly, to go forward as conscience dictated. The parting between
these two women was secret, they two being alone. It was affectionate
and most tender, and yet cheered by the mutual hope both expressed of an
eternal reunion after death. The eventful day and the supreme moment came
to find Miriamne and her mother nerved for the parting. That was soon
over, and the maiden moved out of the old stone home toward the white
camel already caparisoned for her use. Father Adolphus and Sir Charleroy
awaited her by its side, having repeated, over and over, to the maiden’s
chosen attendant a score of directions, and having in the fussiness
of nervousness again and again examined bridle and girt and hamper.
The maiden, glancing after the caravan of pilgrims which was to be her
convoy, now slowly passing out of the city, turned toward her father to
say the last words of parting. She began: “And now, dear father.” Her
voice, tremulous to begin with, broke down.

“There, Miriamne,” interrupted the knight, “wait, we’ll accompany thee a
little distance.” The three moved out of the city together, the attendant
riding on before them. They were all too sorrowful to speak cheerfully,
so each said nothing. On the crest of a hillock the old priest paused;
simultaneously the father and daughter did likewise. “I’m too weary to
go further,” spoke the priest. Miriamne’s eyes filled with tears, and
Sir Charleroy, drawing close to the maiden, turned his eyes away. He
stood in silence gazing afar, but at nothing. Each at the last seemed
to dread to be the first to speak that one word so inexpressibly sad
when believed to be about to be spoken as a last “farewell.” The silence
became oppressive, and then Father Adolphus murmured, “I suppose we must
bid thee adieu, now.” Sir Charleroy shuddered and drew his turban down
over his eyes.

Just then all the child and all the woman in Miriamne’s nature was
awakened. Her feelings well nigh over-mastered her, and she exclaimed:
“Oh, Bozrah, how can I leave thee and thy dear ones!” Bozrah to her meant
home; for a moment her world seemed centred there. The old priest, ever
adroit in ministering comfort, sought to divert the thoughts of those
about him from needless pain, and so shading his eyes looked steadily
eastward for a few moments. Then he questioned: “Daughter, canst thou see
Salchad, at the Crater’s Mouth. I can not see it for my sight faileth;
but I know ’tis yonder.” Miriamne followed the direction of the priest’s
pointing hand, though she knew full well without directing, where the
grim fortress city lay. Habit had made it natural to follow the guidance
of that old, trembling hand. Some way, it helped her; she seemed better
to understand what she already partly knew, when it directed.

“Yes, I see it. It is there; changeless and dreary as ever. But why this
question?”

“Dost thou observe how the prospect fades away south of it, until it
reaches the spreading desert?”

“Yes, I perceive!”

“Turn to the north, what object is most striking?”

“Oh, Hermon! ‘The old-man mountain;’ the sun makes its snowy-top appear
to-day very like the white on an old man’s head and chin.”

Sir Charleroy’s attention was recalled from his contemplation of the pain
of parting for an instant, and he questioned:

“Canst thou see aught of the ruins of the ‘Temple of the Sun,’ said to be
at Hermon’s crest?”

But before an answer could be given to the knight’s question, Father
Adolphus exclaimed: “Daughter, look back again to ruined Salchad! Beyond
its ‘war tower of giants,’ there lies only the desert. Now turn thy back
on it all forever, without repinings. Leave the desert and the war tower
of the giants to the wandering Bedouin.”

“And then what?”

“Turn thy face toward Jerusalem, thy back to the drear desert—”

The maiden almost involuntarily complied, and the priest continued:

“Go forward with Hermon on thy right. Remember that the temple of the
Fire Worshipers is overturned, its altars cold; but more remember that on
Hermon humanity was transfigured in answer to prayer.”

“And so my shepherd and guide would promise me blessing and bid me God
speed?” quoth the maiden.

“Thou read’st my heart, daughter.”

“The same true heart; it never gets old or weary of cheering.”

“I’m made grateful and happy, daughter, by thy words. He that saith,
‘_Let not your hearts be troubled!_’ and ‘_comfort ye, comfort ye my
people_,’ is my leader. For cheering, I was called.”

“How noble such a call seems to me, now.”

“Yea; daughter, if one can not be as the stars that fought in their
course for Sisera, he may be as a summer evening’s breeze, in cooling
pain’s fevers, and in drying the tears from cheeks that blush through the
rains of weeping times.”

Gently, firmly she guided her camel from the hillock, on which it was
feeding, toward the highway, along which the caravan was departing. “We
must be going now.”

At her words, Sir Charleroy and the old Sacrist each caught one of her
hands.

“Oh, my fathers!” was her pitying but not pitiable exclamation. Sir
Charleroy, standing on the hillock, by the camel, on which his daughter
was mounted, drew the hand he held close to his heart, then his arm
tenderly encircled its owner. The maiden’s head rested upon the breast
that had often borne her since babyhood, her lips met in unfeigned
tenderness those of the man who not only loved her as a daughter, but as
his good angel, almost savior. It was a scene for a painter; the past
and the present, sunset and morning; the one looking back in a confessed
ineffectiveness of a life nearly spent, in contrast with a fresh, young,
hopeful life, before which lay a world to be conquered. Miriamne, the
called leader in a new crusade for women, for humanity, was bidding
farewell to the ruins of giant land, and to a representative of the last
of the sworded-crusaders.

Her staff fell on the side of the beast that bore her and it moved away
quickly after the departing troop.

The parting was over, and yet the two old men silently lingered at the
place of the farewell. Once or twice the maiden looked back to them,
as she was borne forward, to wave an adieu. The lone watchers followed
her with their eyes, until her white camel appeared but a speck moving
along at the skirt of a column of dust. The eyes of the watchers dimmed
by years, now supplemented by tears, presently could discern only dust.
She was buried from their view forever. Then they silently returned to
the city, each busy with his own thoughts. Thereafter there was a heavy
loneliness on all hearts in that Bozrah circle. The priest moved about
his chapel, and the parents about their home as though an angel of light
had gone from their midst, or as if the angel of death had come among
them.

“It seems strange like,” said the Sacrist’s sister, “to let a girl go
away to that far-off city, among strangers, and about such meaningless
purposes.”

“Never mind; never mind, sister, God’s lambs are ever safe. Her mission
is clear to her, at least, and she’ll not be among strangers. The knights
who secretly abide in the city of God have a charge concerning her in
letters I’ve sent them. As well, Cornelius, her betrothed, is there. Pure
love will be her wall of fire.” Thus ended all arguments and misgivings.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

THE HOSPITALER’S ORATION.

    “I do not say that a social cyclone is impending; but the
    signs of the times certainly admonish us that if Christianity
    is to avert a revolution of the most gigantic proportions,
    and the most ruinous results, we have not an hour to lose
    in assuring the restless masses that they have no better
    friends than are the professed disciples of Him whose glory
    it was to preach the gospel to the poor, and to lift up their
    crushing burdens.”—REV. DR. A. J. F. BEHREND’S “_Socialism and
    Christianity_.”

    “My soul doth magnify the Lord.... He hath put down princes
    from their thrones, and exalted them of low degree.”—MARY.


The daughter of Sir Charleroy found a home and a mother with Dorothea
Woelfkin, the widowed parent of her affianced. What manner of woman the
latter was may be readily inferred from the character of her beloved and
only son, Cornelius. It sufficeth to say, mother and son were in all
things wonderfully alike.

“Miriamne, I’ve called to ask, if we get the consent of my mother, that
you attend a conclave of knights, to be secretly held, after Moslem
prayers this evening.”

“Where?”

“At the house of the Christian sister, aged Phebe; just by the second
wall of the city.”

“And why do they meet?”

“An eloquent Hospitaler, lately returned from a long mission, is to
address the companions and their friends.”

“A Hospitaler; what’s his name?”

“Ah, there it is; the question all ask, and none can answer! He has given
full tokens of his right to confidence, but declines, for reasons which
he says are most pious, to reveal himself further than that he is a
Knight Hospitaler of Rhodes.”

“Rhodes? Is he very tall, of piercing eyes, his hair long and jet, with
streaks of gray?”

“Even so.”

“My father knew such a man, whom he called ‘silver-tongued.’”

“This man is as eloquent as Apollos.”

“We met such an one, and were with him for a time. We left him here, on
our journey from Acre to Bozrah.”

“Did you penetrate his secret?”

“I did not, though my father once said to him ‘Grail.’ After that he kept
aloof from us.”

“A proof it must be as I’ve suspected; the Hospitaler is one of the new
Grail-Knights!” exclaimed Cornelius.

“And he is here? I must hear him again. The words he spoke to me in
Gethsemane have followed me night and day since. He made the journey of
Mary and Christ, by way of Kedron, to the cross, seem like a present
reality; a path typical of the one before every child of God. I saw it
all then, but have been unable since to find it. Oh, I burn with desire
to have the ‘silver-tongued’ guide me to that pathway again.”

At the appointed time the twain sought the house of Christian Phebe,
and found it wrapped in gloom; the only sign of life without being a
man garbed as a camel driver, standing guard at the door. Cornelius
whispered to Miriamne, “He’s a knight—the warden.” The young man gave
the watchman a secret signal; the latter communicated through a little
gated window, with those within, and quickly the door swung open,
admitting Woelfkin and his companion. Within were light and cheerfulness
contrasting with the gloom without. A goodly company was already
assembled, chiefly made up of Crusaders, but now unharnessed. The faces
of the pilgrim soldiers betokened a change within. They betokened
spirits subdued, but not crushed; hearts having surrendered ambition for
devastating conquest, to welcome a finer hope. There were few things
about the place suggestive of war, and many suggestive of peace. At one
end of the room stood a desk, in shape much like an altar. It was draped
with a Templar banner, and to its side were fastened a sword, bent in the
shape of a sickle, and two spears forming a cross, supporting a cup; the
latter was in form the same as the cup of the Passion.

“There is something about this place that recalls the chapel of the
Palestineans, in London, Cornelius.”

“Well, you and I were there; now we are here. In that the two places have
likeness,” pleasantly responded the maiden’s escort.

Miriamne’s eyes wandered from object to object, as if seeking proof of,
her assertion, and her companion followed her gaze with a glance about
the place, which finally rested, as his glances were wont, on the eyes of
Miriamne.

“Oh, the devoutness, the peace, the fellowship!” she exclaimed.

Just then there was a movement: a number of the men present arose; a
hailing sign, significant to the initiated, was given by some, while
simultaneously a slight applause passed around the room:

“’Tis he,” whispered Miriamne.

“Your Hospitaler?”

“Yes.”

The knights all stood and sang in subdued voices, a psalm of hope. “The
movement of the melody suggests pilgrims climbing a hill.” At least, so
the maiden said its movement seemed to her.

When the psalm was finished, the knights resumed their seats and the
Hospitaler, without preliminary, at once addressed them:

“Knights of Christ, few and often in hiding, I would remind ye that no
plan of God is futile, and that His cause has no backward movement.

“A dream of conquest, restoration and glory came over all followers of
the cross. The dream had within it a hope of a holy land in Christian
possession, and all the children of earth getting from it the story of
the true faith. Then there was to come, we believed, the golden age,
in which all mankind in sweet charity’s glorious fellowship should go
forward.

“Nature, man’s mother, prays in a million mournful voices for that
golden day; and God, man’s eternal and loving Father, works by countless
invincible agencies to cause its full dawning. We Crusaders gave our
lives by thousands for our faith, but we seemed to have done little
beside change the name of this land from Philistine to Palestine. One, to
be sure, is softer to the ear than the other, but to the heart both names
bring the same miserable thoughts. Yet there was more than this attained.
Ye remember how our cavalier soldiers expressed their chivalric impulses
in honoring that queen of women, Our Lady? Like the rising of sun at
midnight, came the conviction to Christian Europe when at its worst,
socially, that reform must begin by purifying the homes of the people,
by exalting all home life. To do this, the mothers who bare and nurture
the fruits of the home, as well as making them for weal or for woe what
they are, must needs be exalted by right as well as by fitness to their
queenship. Every knight’s praise of Mary was an avowal of faith; his
faith that woman could be, should be, what his imagination pictured Mary
to have been.

“The knightly Christians were among the first to be moved by the belief
that that was a monstrous blight, a heresy toward God and nature which
regarded the finer sex as necessities or luxuries. Impressed by reverence
for Mary, the banded soldiers of the cross began to feel their mission
to be not only the recovery of the dead, but also of the living from
infidel dominion; hence, each Crusade banner came as a sunburst to those,
who, under the spell of gross passion, were enslaving their natural
co-partners.

“Men, while the harem ideal stands, while woman is impotent because
uncrowned, our lofty hopes can not bear fruit nor will our labors be
ended!”

The speaker was interrupted by a murmur of applause that ran around the
circle of auditors.

Miriamne glowed with delight, and raised her hand impressively and nodded
toward Cornelius. He only saw the motion and easily interpreted it as
meaning, “There, that’s what I felt, but could not express.”

The speaker continued: “God said it is not good that the man should be
alone; time that resolves all mysteries, and experience which transmutes
to gold all the rubbish of guess and experiment, has irrevocably declared
that man cannot be to his fullness, in a state of solitary grandeur. He
and the woman go up or down together; and, whether a seraph or a serpent
leads her, the man by inclination or by force is sure to follow her
footsteps.

“We Crusaders had a glimpse of the truth, but lost it to follow an _ignis
fatuus_. Yet, in this land, we confronted the harem with the home ruled
by one queenly wife and mother. The world, beholding the contrast begins
to believe, as never before, in the supremacy, over all institutions, of
that one where, under Eden’s covenant charters, purity and mother-love
mold the race in the name of sole and patient love. The Saracens paraded
their houris, their concubines, and their slaves as the proofs of their
prowess; but the Christians challenged the array by the quality of their
possessions, commencing with their women of God’s blood royal, and
ascending to each revered personage, from love’s companions, to Mary, to
Jesus. He that nobly deals with the one by his side will find her putting
on a glory that will brighten the luster of his kingliness, and bringing
forth to him those having the power to grasp and mold the destinies of
coming years. Listeners, mark me; there is a lesson profound in the
record of the strugglings with each other of Rebecca’s twins before their
birth. Indeed, each being begins his career within the life that gives
him life.

“Who will say, with assurance, that all of life lies within the reach of
any man of himself? Nay, be it said, rather, that she who first carries,
then leads, then inspires, as she only can, her sons and daughters, is
the one who lays her gentle hands, with resistless power, upon the keys
of all futures. It is the mother who impresses the prophecy of what is
to be on the heart of the infant, before the event finds place upon the
deathless page which records deeds done.”

Again applause interrupted.

The Hospitaler continued, as attention was given anew:

“That profoundest of ancient teachers, Plato, enunciated at least a
half-truth or truth’s shadow, in his doctrine of the preëxistence of
souls, though, as our church understands it, it pronounces the teaching
heretical. Be that as it may, this much assuredly is true: if each
man has not been on earth before, his present existence being the
repetition of a prior one, his intuitions, vague recollections out of
a past forgotten in a former death, surely there is none who is not
the fruit of his parents. He is largely what they made him, and of the
twain that beget, I affirm that the mother wields the ruling influence
in the life and character of the begotten. I believe men perpetuate
their worst traits through their posterity, easily and more persistently
than do women theirs. In the giant of the human pair brawn and muscle
predominate, and these, if depraved, feed every evil passion, giving
each power to run with virulence from sire to son. The woman, formed by
finer conceptions to be an angel, may fall to sinning and let weakness
take the place of gentleness. So be it; yet even then her weaknesses
and her sinnings, constantly repugnant to her nature as God framed it,
antagonistic to the refinement that is native, ebb and die along the
shores of her being’s course. She more naturally and more forcefully
transmits her good than she does her evil, as a general rule. They have
in fable-lore a tradition that the mythical goddess of love, Venus,
wore a resplendent girdle, the sight of which made every beholder love
the wearer. Let me give present force to the legend by affirming that
every true woman, girded with the virtues that it is her duty and her
privilege to wear, is an object, among all earthly beings, superlatively,
entrancingly beautiful—next after Christ, God’s best gift to man.”

Cornelius now plucked the corner of Miriamne’s _pepulum_. It was a
lover’s restless, questioning act. Being a man, trained as men, he was
naturally inclined to doubt the speaker and to join in secret ridicule,
that substitute for gainsaying when arguments are utterly lacking; but
being a lover, he was so far doubtful as to his old creeds concerning
women, as to be ready to be led. Miriamne turned toward her lover with a
smile lightened by eyes which glowed. Hers was not the smile of a girl
flatly complacent in an effort to be very agreeable. She believed; the
love she had for the man at her side was consecrated first to truth.
Her will was that of a blade of steel—yielding, serviceable; but still
elastic or firm, as need be and as its highest purposes required. She
smiled, but the smile mounting to her brightening eyes, left her fine
forehead, a very temple of thought, all placid. The smile and the glance
routed all doubts from the young man’s mind. She to him was a Venus, and
more, a saint. She wore the invisible girdle of which the knight had
spoken, and the youth felt its winning power. Another proof that the best
advocate of a woman is a woman; and of her worth, the best argument an
example.

The orator knight proceeded without pause:

“I know full well that some sneer and carp on woman’s weakness, having
recourse to Eden for argument. To these I reply: The enemy assailed not
the weaker, but the stronger first, and exhibited masterly generalship
in seeking to overcome the citadel that would insure the greatest loss,
the most complete victory. And note how long and arduous his siege of
Eve; then remember how quickly Adam fell. Crush the woman’s heart, ruin
her faith, degrade her body, and then, with this work completed, we are
ready to ring down the curtain over the end of the tragedy of a wrecked
world. When men hold women to their hearts, their manhood is enlarged and
their queens become their angels, bearing a ‘grail’ that catches for both
the choice things of heaven. But when a man turns his strength against a
woman, she ceases to be his charming, alluring helpmate. He has brawn,
and she, not having that, puts on that cunning which is the natural arm
of the weaker. When the honey-suckle turns to poison-ivy, or the dove to
a fox, then weep; but when woman lays aside the entrancings of her moral
beauty to enter a desperate strife with armed cunning, let men go mad
over their queens become witches. I tell you, hearers, when men become
demons women will give themselves to sorcery. I speak not of spiritual
possession, but of human deflowering. Shall our queens be uncrowned,
disrobed, degraded? No, no, Satan alone could say ‘yea.’”

When the burst of applause that had interrupted him subsided, the
Hospitaler continued:

“We knights revere the sign of the cross because the world’s Savior died
thereon; it will be well for us to revere womankind because it was given
to woman, not to man, to coöperate with God in bringing that Savior to
the world. A woman bore him with crucial pains, as each of us was borne,
before He bore the cross. And reverently I say it, companions, woman’s
cross is ever set, and all the earth is her Calvary. I can not but see,
as must you who think, that all this pain to her has in God’s great plan
some vicarious element, some blessing for mankind. We Christians pray
for the second coming of Jesus, the Jews wait and weep for the dawn of
a day of salvation, the Mohammedans, like hosts of the Pagans, in every
clime, are longing for some golden day; better than the present. This
universal longing is a prophecy of good to come. I can not believe that
the All-Father would suffer this universal and intuitive longing to end
in disappointment and mockery. He is too good for that. By this longing I
see standing out, less dimly, and yet dimly enough to be by many unseen,
some sublime, prophetic hints. Read sacred Writ. Wherever therein you
discern a prophetic character, emblem of Christ, forerunner of the golden
age, you will find not far from him, as his partner and help, fittingly a
woman!

“From the first it was so. Adam the first appeared, and a woman was his
partner, helpmate and more. He fell. A way of recovery was provided for
him, but it was the woman who was given to bring forth the One whose heel
was to crush the head of the author of humanity’s great catastrophe. Then
came the second Adam—Immanuel. At his advent the chief figure, next after
God the chief instrument in His bringing in, by His side along the years
in all helpful ministries, a woman, Mary, the beautiful, the perfect, the
ideal of women.

“Again and again we have puzzled over the records, wondering why Matthew
traced the genealogy of Jesus along the male line only, through David and
Jacob to Abraham the father of the faithful, and that Luke traced that
genealogy through Mary and her father, Heli. But there’s method most wise
in the records. Matthew wrote for the Jews, Luke for the Gentiles. The
hint is herein given that when the Gentiles are fully gathered in, woman
will be recognized in the ultimate religion, that knows neither race
nor sex. As in the royal line which gave man a Savior, as in a queenly
line having for man, society and home—the emblem of heaven expressed on
earth—blessing and saving powers.”

The knight closed with an appeal for the continuance of the revival of
the chivalrous spirit toward woman, saying:

“It matters little what becomes of the dust of the pious dead; the past
is secure, and Deity guards till the resurrection all tombs in His own
unfrustrated way, but it matters much how we treat the living! That is a
puerile piety which is ready to die to defend from foes that can not harm
inanimate ashes that appeal for no favor, while suffering, willingly,
living bodies encompassing bleeding hearts, to continue amid untold
agonies, their whole existence one long appeal for succor! Christian
knights, on with your new crusade, and may the golden age come grandly
in, its fruits—love, joy, and peace in every clime, to every race, to
every man, woman, and child!”

The speaker sat down; there was a moment of deep silence, followed by an
outburst of approving acclamations.

Then ensued a hum of voices, the assembly breaking up into little
groups, one and another attempting each to prove his loyalty, his piety
or his good sense to the man next to him, by certifying his belief in the
knight’s words.

Miriamne, half unconscious of her surroundings, exclaimed:

“Oh, will not some one tell me how to begin?”

“Can I aid my Miriamne?” asked her lover.

“I don’t know; perhaps. But that Grail Knight with the silver tongue
sees, in his soul, what I would reach. When he speaks my feet take wings.
I can not tell you what or how it all is. He speaks and I see, as Moses
in the mount, the outline of the tabernacle of God that is to be with
men.”



CHAPTER XXXIV.

MEMORIALS AT BOZRAH.

      “I’m footsore and very weary,
        But I travel to meet a Friend;
      The way is long and dreary,
        But I know it soon must end.
      He is traveling swiftly as whirlwinds,
        And though I creep slowly on,
      We are drawing nearer and nearer,
        And the journey is almost done.
      I know He will not fail me,
        So I count every hour a chime,
      Every throb of my heart’s beating
        That tells of the flight of TIME.
      I will not fear at His coming,
        Although I must meet Him alone,
      He will look in my eyes so gently
        And take my hand in His own.”


An uneventful year passed over the missioners, but it was followed
quickly by eventful times.

Two messages came, one after the other, and not far apart, to Jerusalem,
which moved all the Christian colony at the latter place, but especially
Cornelius and his consort. The first was from Father Adolphus and as
follows:

    “Your parents, Sir Charleroy and Rizpah, have departed
    Bozrah. They went out together, and their end was peace. They
    compensated themselves for the needless miseries they had
    wrought in their younger days by keeping out of all shadows
    during their journey after their reconciliation by the tomb of
    their children, even until sunset. I could not summon you, for
    they passed away quickly, only a few days coming between their
    goings.”

Shortly after the foregoing, came the other message, and that
accidentally, for the link between Jerusalem and Bozrah being broken
by death, there was none left in the Giant City to send after or for
comforting to the missioners. “Father Adolphus is dead.” That was the
report brought by chance to the Christians at Zion. Hundreds in Jerusalem
had heard of him, and hearing of his death sighed mildly. The missioners
were his mourners—really, solely.

Ere long Dorothea left Jerusalem of Syria for the New Jerusalem, and this
event not only brought sorrow but also perplexity. Miriamne realized
that she could not now continue in the house of her betrothed, simply as
his betrothed, even if it were possible for the household to continue,
the head being absent. Whither should she go, orphan and kinless as she
was? Love protested mightily against any thought of going far from her
affianced, and then she felt profound pity for the man who mourned and
felt a mother’s loss deeply, as did Cornelius. He entreated for a speedy
wedding, and she, seeing then no alternative, consented thereto; but
as she assumed love’s yoke, she believed that the ambition of her life
was frustrated. She was not disconsolate, neither was she tearless. She
thought she discerned the leadings of God and submitted promptly, making
it thenceforth her duty cheerfully to engage in the, to her, seemingly
commonplace works of a missionary pastor’s wife. Her husband was a “man
of the people,” and found acceptance with the lowly. He was wont to call
himself “a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec.” Said he anon
to his flock: “Like that mysterious man who flits across your sacred
histories am I! You of the Jews, self-elect, as God’s elect, though
disgrafted, would put me, intending to do so or not, by the unknown and
unheralded Melchisedec. You think me, without father, without mother,
beginning of days, or end of life, because you do not find my name in the
chronologies of your high families nor myself in the covenants of the
Hebrews. You Christians doubt my authority because no ghostly ordaining
hands have been laid upon my head. But I’m the child of a King, and a
towel, such as my Master wore as He ministered, is robing enough for me!”
Old people, women and children, gave the young man unquestioning love,
and thus was well indorsed the choiceness of his ministerings. Miriamne
beheld these manifestations with secret joy, for she knew that through
the one she loved she was, in part, expressing her own thoughts and
sympathies. Once wed, she was too honest, too tender-hearted, too noble
to be less than all that wifehood implied, and yet she felt at times
as if the ambitions and hopes of her life, nursed through many years,
had not been compassed. She tried to settle down and humbly do the work
of a missionary’s helpmate, and to overcome, through Divine grace, the
ambition to do seemingly grander things than she was doing. Sometimes,
smiling through tears, she would say to her husband as he sought to
satisfy her heart’s yearnings with mention of the good work they were
doing:

“Well, a man has come between me and the ‘grail.’ I’m following him, may
he follow it, and God guide both.”

After a time Cornelius and Miriamne made a pilgrimage to Bozrah, drawn
thither by a desire common to both to honor their loved ones departed.
They found the Giant City all pervaded by the spirit of the moribund
past. Even the Christian church, once a light, a joy and a promise of a
better day, had fallen into decline at Bozrah. The edifice had become
dilapidated, the congregation was depleted.

In name, Father Adolphus had a successor, younger, more learned, more
eloquent in his way, than the saintly man now sleeping. But the infidels,
the very ones who were wont to confess that they could not, if they
would, make headway against the old priest’s godly life, now laughed to
scorn the stately and scholarly arguments of the new leader. The converts
under the new regime were few, the common people did not from him hear
the word gladly; and the regular congregation was rent by schisms.

One chapel service sufficed both Miriamne and Cornelius. They found in it
nothing but cold formality and the memory of what had been, but was now
no more.

“Oh, Cornelius,” Miriamne cried, “reverently I say it, but is it not
strange that our faith edges its way over the world so slowly, with such
heralds?”

“Leastwise, you may say, you do not see your ‘Grail’ here, Miriamne?”

“Oh, now, I realize the worth of Von Gombard as I never did before.”

“Are you not sorrowed at his absence, Miriamne?”

“Sorrowed! Truly not; but unspeakably glad that he walks with the sons
of God; a very king, I know, amid the greatest. Oh, how sad I’d be to
see the poor, dear, tired old man with his overfull heart and trembling
limbs now going about in painful ministries here! God was twice good;
in leaving him so long, then in taking him. Ah, if there were more like
that old saint, those that there are would not need to tarry till their
twilight.”

“Shall we prolong our stay?”

“No! I’ve listened long enough to the lull of eternity here. Bozrah’s
past has taught me its all. I’m ready to go home.”

“Home! When, to-morrow?” ardently questioned Cornelius, anxious himself
to depart the Giant City.

“After to-morrow; the coming day, at my instance, the memorial of my
parents is to be set up.”

The following morning, just before sunrise, the husband and wife repaired
to the tomb of their loved ones, to witness, by pre-arrangement, the
unveiling of a memorial. It consisted of two figures carved from whitest
marble; a woman’s form with a face expressive of tenderness and beauty,
marked with deepest grief, but not with hopelessness. Across her lap
there lay the form of a young man, the rigors of death plainly marked
on his face and limbs. There was no mistaking the representation, and
Cornelius quickly exclaimed:

“I know the one that sits thus holding that crucified body! ’Tis real!
Impressive! Awful!”

“It is fitting, think you?”

“I’m too much moved to judge, perhaps; though I do wonder that you
have not had carved upon the pedestal the names of your dead, or some
explanation.”

“Names? What matter, to the stranger passing, who lie beneath the stone?
As for the meaning, let those who come and go question till it appear.”

“I’m the first questioner, Miriamne. The application?”

“Remember that my mother, in her almost solitary grief, held her dead
children for a time against her broken heart, but it was a heart filled
with a mother-love which never faltered. There is nothing in love
surpassing such on earth. Then at last, when her life work was done, her
cup full, my mother, as her final consolation, held to her heart the Son
whose death gives life, as yon Madonna holds the Christ.”

“I bow to Miriamne’s judgment; the creation is appropriate; Glorious
Madonna!”

“I have a hope that it may stand here in the Hauran an enduring sermon to
the varied races who pass. They who come and go here, reminded that the
Nephalim with all their arrogant might left little but their crumbling
tombs; that Astarte, once the potent, dangerous goddess of the groves,
here faded from the love of her fevered hosts, who themselves in turn
faded from the face of the earth, may pause to question what the meaning
and power of this last, new, fresh presentment! Perhaps they will hear
from those made wise, and in time learn to tell one another, that
these two figures speak of the Deathless Kingdom, its white loves, its
wondrous rewards and its Spirit of might expressed by all who are in it
through the power of an endless life, and through the agency of immortal
influence.”

“Miriamne, I see thee a palpitating angel in the flesh! I can say no
more!”

As the young missioner thus spoke he stretched out his arms toward the
woman he loved as if he would restrain her. The motion came from his
heart, which was anxiously saying within: “She is growing upward and away
from her consort.” But he had neither courage nor words to voice the
vague thought which brought admiration mixed with fears.

They turned toward their temporary home in the Giant City. As they went,
the rising sun flooded the marble forms by the graves with a golden
light, and the twain, beholding the glory of that morning benediction,
felt an illumining in their hearts that some way made heaven seem very
near.

“And now, darling, we’ll return to Jerusalem, and quietly pursue our work
until we join those loved ones gone on before,” spoke the husband the day
after the monument’s unveiling.

“I trust we shall work in future with better plans and grander results
than we have had before.”

“Are you discontented with what we accomplish?”

“No, and yes,” was her measured reply.

Cornelius turned his eyes full upon her, lifting inquiringly his eyebrows.

She continued: “I’m satisfied, if God so will, to blend my work into my
husband’s; I know this is my duty as a wife, but I long to echo nobler
music. Can you make it?”

“Annata, the Assyrian goddess, was content to be the echo of her spouse,
the mighty Ammon. I’d be an Ammon if I could to be worthy being echoed by
Miriamne. But, little wife, your words sound almost Delphic; and yet you
are no such ambiguous oracle. Is there any wish unmet?”

“I’ve a misgiving.”

“Why, wife of mine, see how strong you’ve been, each year adding health!
See the shadows over our people. We are sent to chase these away with
Gospel truth. We’ve hitherto only learned how to work efficiently, and
in the future will do braver, greater things than ever. We’ll tarry, as
Adolphus, ay, and by grace renew strength, turning back the dial pointer,
as with prayer, did Hezekiah of old.”

“I’ll not go, I know, until my work is done. None go before such time.”

“Oh, but we must go together everywhere, even to death.”

“Ah, beloved, I know your meaning. It’s the lover, not the consecrated
missionary, who speaks now.”

“I can’t help it! I’ll be useless without you. I’m useless now, except as
you sustain me; as Abishag, the Shunnamite, the fairest young maiden of
all Israel, brought heart to the bosom of David, old and shaken by years,
so you put into me all the ambition I have. To my trembling heart you are
what Deborah was to Barak’s.”

“God help you, Cornelius; I believe you, because I know your trusting
nature and have joyed in the fullness of your lavish love, but let us
bravely face this matter as it comes. For God, I know, I must quickly do
my work and be gone.”

“Oh, say not so, if I’m to be left alone! That must not be! By your love
for me I entreat you to stay; a thousand ties bind my life to thine; it
will kill me by inches to have them severed!——

“Miriamne, my own, nearer to God by far than am I; plead with Him to
spare us this agony!”

“In spirit, my loyal spouse, we shall ever be near each other, but I
feel that in the body we shall not be together long. I shall finish my
course and then——”

“No, not that,” vehemently exclaimed the husband. “Say not that! I’ll
work for you, with you, for God. Help me to the end and let me so help
you, beloved!”

“You may help me while I tarry.”

“I’ll joy to realize the prophet’s vision, who saw the hands of a man
under the wings of an angel. Here are the hands and Miriamne is the
angel.”

“But your imagination glows, kindled by the torch of a human heart almost
idolatrous.”

“Nay, not idolatrous; for the fire rises to things holy. I only plead
that God let me walk with Miriamne; I know she will walk nigh Him. Go
where you will my feet will bear me thither, undertake what you may,
my heart and hand will help; point out any goal of darling desire and
thither I’ll carry you, if need be. For you I’ll gladly die, if, at the
dying, I have the comforting assurance that soon my other self will join
me in the overshadowed land of life.”

“How it would brighten the world, if all who take the holy vows of
marriage on their souls were as truly wed in heart as we.” As the twain
stood by the white marble figures at sunrise the next morning, equipped
for departure, they made a striking picture. The living and the dead; the
exemplars of the purest, deepest wedded love committed to serving their
fellow man; they rose grandly above the ruins of the place builded by
those mighty self-seeking devotees of Astarte.

Bozrah sat in desolation, knowing no hope and having a bitter past only
and forever to contemplate; the youthful gospel heralds had all life,
rising to new life—hope beyond hope, joy beyond joy, and then life,
hope and joy in endless unfoldments, stretching way through measureless
eternities, all before them. Miriamne was pensive; Cornelius was
chastened by the remembrance of the words she had spoken the day before,
and both subdued by the presence of the majestic monument before them.



CHAPTER XXXV.

THE SISTERS OF BETHANY.

      “Her eyes are homes of silent prayer,
        No thought her mind admits;
        But ‘He was dead and there he sits!
      And He that brought him back is there!’

      “All subtle thought, all curious fears,
        Borne down by gladness so complete;
        She bows, she bathes the Savior’s feet
      With costly spikenard and with tears.”—ALFRED TENNYSON.

    “In the day time He was teaching in the temple, and at night
    He went out and abode in the mount that is called the Mount of
    Olives.”—LUKE xxi., 37.

    “Gethsemane on one side, Bethany on the other ... where He
    was wont to pray for His people and weep for a sinful world;
    where His feet stood on the eve of His ascension and where
    His wondering disciples received from white-robed angels the
    promise of His second advent. It will be admitted that above
    and beyond all places in Palestine Olivet witnessed ‘God
    manifest in the flesh.’”—_Porter’s “Giants of Bashan.”_


After Jesus had been driven from His native Nazareth, He found a home
in the house of Lazarus, Martha and Mary, in the village of Bethany,
on the eastern slope of Olivet. That was sweet, memorable Bethany of
the Gospels; “the perfection of repose,” amid the palm and oak-covered
slopes of Olivet; hidden by its quiet life, as well as its sequestering
mountain, from Jerusalem, that great, throbbing heart of Palestine.

Thither, down the east steps of the Temple, through the “Golden Gate,”
along camel paths that wound past Gethsemane and across fitful Kedron,
the Son of Man often went when worn out by His love ministries, or
harassed by the gainsayings of the great city. So, preaching His new
kingdom, He exalted its cornerstone, the godly home, by electing one
such, that of Lazarus and his sisters, as a rest and a refuge for
Himself. Beyond this He proved His own humanity by seeking earthly
friendships, at the same time exhibiting Himself, though the favored of
heaven, the object of constant angelic regard, as needing, because He was
human, that which humanity ever needs—congenial human fellowships.

The history of that ancient Bethany family, gathered from various
sources, but chiefly from the simple and touching narrative of the
Evangelist John, is full of interest. The mother of that home, to us
nameless, was dead. Yet she was not fameless; that circle of children
in their several relationships witnessed full well of a finest
mother-culture, that had been theirs. The father of that family was
worse than dead; he was a leper, buried alive in the Lazar keeps of the
plague-stricken, and the husband of Martha, the elder sister, early had
left his bride widowed.

That was a circle cut through its center; but affliction had knit
together in deepened affection the few left. The fatherly brother,
Lazarus, well fulfilled his double obligation, and wins admiration, as
do ever those sons and brothers who faithfully take the place of dead
fathers. That he was such a brother, the grief of his sisters when he
died fully proclaimed.

With a few fine sentences John depicts those sisters. Martha, widowed
in life’s morning, but surmounting all morbidness by giving herself to
motherly ministries in her home; and then was Mary, a clinging, trusting,
pious maiden; a poem of faith, a tear-bedewed rose-wreath. When Christ
joined that circle there was presented the finest conceivable ideal of
a home. They served and He blessed, and though their bereavements could
never be forgotten, while His banner of love was over them, they were
able to alleviate the poignancy of their griefs through the hope of a
blessed resurrection and a final, eternal reunion.

The sacred associations gathering about the village of Olivet made it a
place peculiarly attractive to Cornelius and Miriamne; for they, too,
were bereaved; neither in all the world having a single living kinsman of
whom they knew.

They determined, shortly after their final farewell to Bozrah, to take
up their abode at the “House of Dates,” and were unmeasurably delighted
in being able to secure for themselves a house reputed to have been the
identical one occupied by Christ and His choice friends. If it were not
the same, there seemed good reason to believe it was at least on the site
of that ancient sacred domicile.

One day they conversed of their work, their hopes, and the needs of their
field of labor.

“I’m led to think that we should establish a refuge for Magdalenes,
Miriamne.”

“If we did attempt the founding of an asylum for outcasts we would not
belie the memory of a noble woman, who was never a harlot, by applying
to it her name. But my ‘grail’ does not lead me that way. I’d go mad
working for the utterly lost only! No; no, our work must be more radical,
by beginning back of the falling so as to prevent it.”

“Something must be done to educate the women of this country to better
living and higher conceptions of womanhood. We need a school of some
kind.”

“A school? Good, if it be of the right kind; but there have been schools
and schools for men, such as they were, and they have effectually proven
that education alone is not a savior. Learning does not transform the
soul, else God would have given Moses the pattern of a college instead of
that of a tabernacle. My mother used often to tell me that the devil is
superbly educated. The more he knows the prouder and more dangerous he
becomes. I do not despise learning, but since it is impotent to transform
men, why try it as the savior of woman? She who takes counsel less of the
intellect than of the conscience and affections! We must seek for those
we aim to help something surpassing in direct efficacy any thing yet
attempted;” so saying, Miriamne paused.

“Shall we organize a church, ‘fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and
terrible as an army with banners?’”

“There have been churches and churches. It would be vain for me to
attempt to prove to you, a theologian and a churchman, that this you call
the ‘Bride of Christ’ is imperfect or lacking in any energy of reform;
but, though I heartily confess ’tis the choicest institution this side of
the stars, yet I see it professing to have heavenly charity, abounding
light, and measureless joys, leaving the needy without hospitals, the
heathen in ignorance, and most of the world, including many churchmen,
famishing for happiness. The trouble is, it infolds too many wolves and
repels too many lambs. Your flocks are too much given to atoning for lean
living by fat believing; memorizing huge creeds instead of incarnating
them; putting their faith-confessions into themselves rather than
themselves into their faith professions. You churchmen shut your ears to
friendly criticism, sneer at those that censure, and in branding such
heretics proclaim yourselves infallible. I’d not be a vaporing railler,
but I hear within your ecclesiastical bodies of warring factions, of
ambitious and multitudinous leaders, a proof that they are of the
church militant; though theirs is an internecine militating. I doubt if
there has existed Christ’s ideal of a church since Pentecost. He gave a
glimpse of its true outlines there, and it will yet come in its power and
splendor; then, for the pæans!”

“You’d organize, perhaps, a _Vestal Band_?”

“Vestals?”

“Yes; an union of women of pure hearts, committed solely to such works as
those performed in part by the holy sisters of our church fraternities.”

“I revere such as are thus engaged with all my heart; but, churchman,
you are narrow in your plan; even Pagan Rome, which honored Vesta, the
fire goddess, by having an altar to her in every community, held that
the State was a great family, and placed Vesta, the goddess of virginal
purity, near the Penates, or gods of the household and family.”

“I see nothing now in this juxtaposition.”

“They saw that there was ruin to all society if their girls were impure;
hence buried alive a Vestal, if she fell from her vow of chastity. You
have heard, Cornelius, how good Romans were wont to invoke, often, as
their family guardians, the manes of their departed kin; and this very
naturally; they held to the belief that the family tie, the finest,
strongest known among men, outlived, by virtue of its heavenliness, the
shock of death. Imperial Rome trusted much its all-conquering swords, for
this life, but for the life to come it appealed to Jupiter omnipotent or
Minerva, the all-wise. No, no, a ‘Vestal Society,’ such as you imply,
would not suffice. I’ve a broader clientage and vaster scheme in mind,
good churchman husband—”

“Shall I venture another guess?”

“It would be needless. Let me explain myself fully. Good Father Adolphus,
founder of Bozrah’s ‘_Balsam Band_,’ which he sometimes called ‘nursing
preachers,’ told me that in olden times there was in this country a
fraternity of women, banded together to perform works of charity.
They were remembered chiefly for their helpfulness to those that were
in direst need and utterly friendless. They befriended criminals and
social outcasts. He said that the women of Jerusalem who followed
Christ weeping, were, probably, of that fraternity, since it was the
custom of that pious company to offer their tears for those on the way
to execution. More, these women were wont to furnish the pain-dulling
herbs to victims dying condemned. You remember the Christ was offered
such herbs? When I remember the spirit that actuated Martha and Mary, I
readily believe they were members of that pious fraternity. More, when I
remember how, for His own dear sake, they ministered to His human wants,
there comes to my mind the possibility of a perpetual organization, for
God’s sake, ministering to human want, taking the home as its palace, and
to be known to the world by the expressive, winning title, ‘_Sisters of
Bethany_.’”

“Miriamne, if you were not Miriamne, I’d call you Gabriel. I’m dazzled by
these words. In truth, thy ‘_grail_’ is near, I believe.”

“That I seek to build up I’ve explained, and here in Bethany I’ll attempt
it. We’ll have a fraternity of women, Christ-guided, with burning hearts,
and in methods simple, direct and catholic, reaching after women.”

“Now for our pillow prayer, Miriamne. Then side by side, unto wondrous
sleep land, side by side in heart and being at awakening.

“‘The sun of the millennium will rise from behind the family altar,’
Father Adolphus was wont to say. ’Twas well said; redeemed homes are the
fruits of the restoration. Shall I read to-night?”

“Surely we need the Word to understand the throbbings of our own hearts
when our prayers return, dove-like, with olive branches from heaven.”

“What shall I read?”

“What came after Pentecost!”

Then the husband opened to the Gospel Story, and remarking the
‘Ascension,’ read:

“He was taken up, after that He through the Holy Ghost had given
commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:

“To whom also He shewed himself alive after His passion by many
infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the
things pertaining to the kingdom of God:

“When they therefore were come together, they asked of Him, saying, Lord,
wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom of Israel?

“And He said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the
seasons, which the Father hath put into His own power.

“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you:
and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea,
and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

“And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up;
and a cloud received Him out of their sight.

“And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold,
two men stood by them in white apparel;

“Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?
This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in
like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.”

“And His farewell happened at Bethany? It makes our home seem still more
like the gate of heaven, when I remember this; ‘He’ll come so as He
went;’ what if that meant His next advent is to be at this very place?”

“Or, what if it meant that He would appear the second time, in glory,
at the homes of men; since He elected His home for the gateway of His
earthly exit,” replied the husband. Then they sat for a little while in a
blessed silence; that kind that falls upon souls bowing to a benediction,
or moved by thoughts that are holy beyond expression.

The wife broke in on their reverie: “I wonder how His departure affected
the disciples?”

“I have it all here, darling;” then he took one of his parchments and
read:

“And He led them out as far as to Bethany, and He lifted up His hands,
and blessed them.

“And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and
carried up into heaven.

“And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:

“And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.

“And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with
them, and confirming the word with signs following.”

“I knew it was as I thought! If believers are as they say, enlisted
soldiers, under the blood-stained banners, our Christ has not been true
to His word, or there is universal treason in the camp! The world is not
gospeled and the soldiers have not the miracle power. I tell you husband,
there is need of a revolution, a revival of zeal, an improvement of
methods! The Hospitaler was right. The Christian world needs to be led
along the _Via Dolorosa_ after Jesus and Mary, up to their measure of
utter consecration, to their undying love, to their lofty, soul consuming
zeal!”

And the young gospel herald was silent, for he could not gainsay her.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

THE QUEEN OF THE HOUSE OF DAVID.

      “The harp the monarch minstrel swept,
      The king of men, the loved of heaven.
      ...
      It softened men of iron mold;
      No ear so dull, no soul so cold
      That felt not, fired not to the tone,
      Till David’s lyre grew mightier than the throne;
      Since then, though heard on earth no more,
      Devotion, and her daughter, love,
      Still bid the bursting spirit soar,
      To sounds that seem as from above,
      In dreams that day’s broad light can not remove.”—BYRON.

    “The king rose up to meet her, and bowed himself unto her, ...
    and caused a seat to be set for the king-mother, and she sat at
    his right hand.”—1 KINGS, 2, 19.


“Miriamne, the heavenly host we imagined to be in bivouac about our
Bethany home, methinks were really present, and gave color and form to my
dreams. I was in a grail-quest all night.”

“What a golden day is such a night! But tell me of the color and form of
your visions, Cornelius.”

“We fell asleep last night conversing of the Ascension; my dreams carried
me on to Pentecost.”

“And what have you brought from the dream-land to help in the stern and
pressing waking hours?”

“A panting heart, as one having climbed mountain above mountain. I burn
to know and feel the whole significance of Pentecost!

“I’ve determined to seek holy companionship and wise guiding by
attendance at the next ‘Harvest Feast’ at Jerusalem. I think I’ll get
peculiar help at the great city.”

“The Israelites will not welcome a Christian to their feast.”

“The one I aim to attend is that that will be observed by the Christian
knights in an upper room, in the great city. They think they have
possession of the identical apartment in which the disciples of our Lord
met and witnessed the glories of Pentecost, after the Ascension.”

“In Joseph of Arimathæa’s house?”

“That is the accepted report. The Hospitaler, whom we believe to be a
‘Grail Knight’ of to-day, is quite earnest in so affirming.”

“Wondrous white-souled Arimathæa! Jewish and a priest, yet secretly
a disciple of Jesus! I dare to liken myself unto that holy man, in a
measure. He left an old faith for a new one, and followed the cup of the
Passion, as I, my ideal.”

“_A good man and a just_,” says the Testament.

       *       *       *       *       *

“We meet to-night in Arimathæa’s house,” said the Hospitaler to
Cornelius, shortly after the arrival and welcome of the latter at
Jerusalem.

“Can the uninitiated attend?” questioned Cornelius.

“Now, that’s the joy of it, they can; and more, we are to have a number
of Jews present, among them some once priests; but now like that Joseph
of blessed memory, seeing the true light.”

“And the meeting?”

“The exalting of the Word, that’s the need of the hour, world-wide. I
tell thee, young man, set to teach; the needs are not more religions but
more religion, not more revelators or prophets but surer interpreters.
The world blooms with truth on every hand; who will pluck the blossoms?”

And the disciples were again, all with one accord, in the holy upper
chamber.

The Hospitaler, with an abruptness of John the Baptist, merely throwing
back his tunic and exposing the golden sign of knighthood for a moment to
his companions, as he entered, at once began to address the assembly;

“Jews and Gentiles, all children by creation of a common Father—greeting!
The fires of Pentecost are kindled everywhere in Jerusalem, but they are
the old fires and cold enough; sacrifices smoke on the altars, but the
day of such offerings is past.

“Methinks, the offered bulls, goats and lambs, if they could speak, would
cry out against the priestly hands that shed their blood; ‘How long,
how long the blood of our flocks has pointed to the lamb of God, the
All-Savior, who died to save men from sin and beasts from the altar; and
yet we die as if our work were not finished!’

“The beasts join in the wailings of humanity.

“For centuries God’s chosen people celebrated this feast of the harvest,
the joy of Jewry; and now the world’s harvest advenes. Yet, for the most
part, the multitudes see not the ripening. For years the first fruits
were offered, and as yet, the people do not understand that first fruits
mean chosen, choice fruits, the elect of God.

“For centuries, Israel offered the shoulder and heart of the lamb, and
yet Israel waits under the overshadowing smokes of its burnt offering,
not discerning the Lamb Priest, whose heart of eternal love and shoulder
of power, are given for the salvation of the people.

“Israelites, hear me; out of the altar’s smoke emerges to view the
kingdom of the house of David, refined, purified—the hope of the future.
Ye have thought, hitherto, that David’s kingdom, whatsoever it might have
been, is, in these ages, to be reckoned with the dynasties and forces of
an antiquity, whose influences long ago ebbed away along the shores of
the all-entombing past.

“Yet such conclusion is as fallacious as it is evidently superficial. The
God who works in unbroken time cycles, though men remit their tasks at
the beck of sleep or death, pushes forth His forceful, faultless projects
with a tireless consistency that knows no cross purposes. A real and
present kingdom is that with which this Pentecost we have to do. We are
not, _at that time_ when _they shall bring out the bones of the kings of
Judah and spread them before the sun_. David’s throne is a verity, though
long incrusted with neglects; it is a symbol of power in a dynasty that
is ordained to overspread the earth. I’d summon my witnesses; first the
weeping Jeremiah. ‘Thus said the Lord: David shall never lack a man to
sit on the throne of the house of Israel.’ How bold! but amid the ruins
about us, I cry never! never! Now call the God-nourished captive Daniel,
who, sincere to the last, made all Babylon glow with his prayers and his
visions. Saith Daniel:

“‘The God of heaven shall set up a kingdom that shall never be
destroyed.’ The dream is certain; the interpretation sure. He was proof
against the alluring blandishments of his royal captors, and as pure to
the last as a knight of San Grail.”

Cornelius saw a light on the Hospitaler’s face, and knew it was that that
comes from a conscience clear before God. The latter went on with a voice
suddenly become tenderer than it was before.

“Let us hear the reply of the converted pagan king, Nebuchadnezzar:
‘_Whose kingdom is from generation to generation!_’

“Hearken to Isaiah, to whom the scroll of human history through a
thousand generations then yet to come was present and lucid: ‘Unto us
a child is born ... his name shall be called Wonderful ... The Prince
of Peace.’ ‘Of the _increase_ of His government and peace there shall
be no end upon the throne of David to _establish_ it with judgment and
with justice from henceforth and _forever_.’ Surely he must be of dull
comprehension who saith this is only the spiritual, heavenly kingdom of
the glorified.

“Let us stand for a little under the light of the blazing tongues of
Pentecost, enswathed in imagination by the mighty, rushing tide of Spirit
manifestation, fresh from the Being of the Almighty. Now listen to Peter,
transfigured and illuminated within and without. Error here, with him,
was impossible! Untruth at such a time would be a madness like that of
the attempted steadying of the ark. Saith Peter: ‘_David being a prophet
knowing that God had sworn to him that He would raise up Christ to sit
on his throne._’ Peter at last, a rock of God, I bless thee! Call that
archangel, who doth excel in strength, his name given him in heaven being
Gabriel, the ‘Champion of God.’ He certified his mission to Mary in terms
that can be made no finer: ‘_I am Gabriel, that STAND IN THE PRESENCE OF
GOD and sent to show thee glad tidings. Thou shalt bring forth a son. And
the Lord shall give unto Him the throne of His father David._’ Of His
Kingdom there shall be no end. These are ‘glad tidings,’ indeed, sung
as such to the joy and wonder of heaven, as well as proclaimed as the
sovereign comfort of earth’s inhabiters.

“The splendid, earthly Kingdom outlined so gloriously by the prophets
has suffered no syncope, and David’s royal line has not found its end in
sepulchral palaces. That Kingdom and that line survives; their zenith not
yet attained.

“In that zenith day, _Truth shall spring out of the earth, and
righteousness shall look down from heaven_.

“So it was settled forever in heaven, for earth and to all eternity, that
in the vocabulary of divine wisdom, ‘first-born’ means ‘choice-born.’
And he is choice-born no matter how ill his beginning, who is reborn by
the all-uplifting, renewing Spirit of Grace! Jesus, in marked manner,
even in this respect, parallels David in reäffirming in Himself this law
of His refined, exalted kingdom. The line of the Christ from remotest
generations is found to have deflected from the line of the first born.
His descent must be traced through Seth, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob,
Judah, David, Solomon and Nathan, and still others, none of whom were
first in their advent into the families to which they belonged. Again,
the Christ and his progenitor, David, antagonized the barbarian tenet of
all ages that a man was to be honored merely because of his gigantesque
figure or prowess. In olden times men revered greatly the giantly.
Among the primitives to be a weakling was to be pitiable, and to be
huge to monstrosity was to be respected, if not actually worshiped.
Indeed, paganism in its essence is but homage paid to the great, that
is terrible. The princely David began his career in slaying wild beasts
and monstrous giants, but we may cease admiring the prowess he had
physically in greater admiration of the symbol that lies in his early
exploits. He was to be the giant-slayer; evil giants and giant evils
were to fall before him alike; and a shepherd’s little sling, in pious
hands, was shown to be invincible. In Solomon’s time, there was more
outward splendor, but less spirituality than in David’s time. The latter
witnessed the gilded decline in its beginnings. Decay followed swiftly.
The world sighed for a restoration; the heathen manufactured gods; the
Fire Worshipers followed stars; in the groves, virgins were, after a
sort, worshiped, as in the forest night-services of the old England of
some of you, the Druids prayed to a mystical ‘virgin that was to bring
forth.’ There was a common yearning for the coming of a Champion to lead
and defend the races of man. The yearning felt its way blindly toward the
wonder to be, that of a woman of the children of men, mothering One all
human, all divine, a Prince fit to link together the parts of David’s
kingdom, whether militant here or triumphant above. That full day has
begun, but is only dimly seen by many. You Jews have been wont to keep a
Pentecost of males only while Egypt deifies a woman as goddess of the
harvest. One turns to brawn, the other to the bringer forth, and neither
gets the truth, the royal truth, found in the faith that brings forth
through all humanity!

“Would you see a real Pentecost? Now, look how the first was to the
fathers. The holy ones, among Christ’s followers, believing His promises,
assembled at Joseph of Arimathæa’s house, to await it. Hear the word:

“And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, the
number of names together were about a hundred and twenty.

“These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the
women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.”

“Our holy Luke, said to have been an artist, artistically presents the
scene. As we read his record, we behold the ‘Queen of the House of
David,’ the representative woman; as she should be, in the company and
honor of God’s people. Not there as a beautiful creature to be admired;
but there to pray with those who prayed for the dawn and the glory. With
the genius of an artist, and the insight of a prophet, Luke displays his
ideal thus. The Scripture record closes, leaving the typical woman amid
God’s people, on her knees, waiting in hopefulness for the full dawn;
while for a little time over all falls the earnest of the promise in
miraculous displays from above. There was a rushing of mighty sounds, the
providences of God in motion, the movements of His spirits who minister,
for a time made visible! The scene was one never to be forgotten, and
the holy John, years after in the glowing visions of the Apocalypse, had
brought to his mind its central figure the woman clothed with the sun;
the transfigured woman, and she as woman in her highest estate; that is
mothering a child! He saw her rising above all perils, all evils; but as
she rose, she bore aloft her child, a Man Child! Look at the picture, men
and brethren, ’till it possesses your souls! BEHOLD THE WOMAN! Behold
the interlaced symbols! As a mother holds above peril her child, so the
peerless woman held aloft her Divine Babe; as the church holds aloft
its offspring, so also in the apotheosis of the ideal mother, comes the
uplifting of man’s hopes, and the triumph of all that is best, all that
is promised. We see to-day, but the smoke side of Pentecost, by and by
we’ll see, as do those in heaven, its fire side.”

The speaker ceased his address, and all were filled with great and moving
thoughts.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

THE CORONATION OF THE QUEEN.

      “My knowledge is so weak, oh, blissful queen,
      To tell abroad thy mighty worthiness,
      That I the weight of it may not sustain;
      But as a child of twelve months’ old or less
      That laboreth his language to express,
      Even so fare I and therefore pray,
      Guide thou my song which I of thee may say.”—WORDSWORTH.


“If I could only carry to Bethany what I feel now!” ejaculated the young
chaplain, as he hurried along from the knights’ celebration of Pentecost,
homeward, at the time that the Moslems were summoned to evening prayers
by the minaret calls.

After his greeting, on arriving at his abode, his first words were: “I’ve
seen the crowns of fire, and now comprehend the meaning of Pentecost,
where men gathered from varied climes, heard each the spirit’s message in
his own tongue! The Spirit is the interpreter!”

“By what aid came this revelation?”

“God and the Hospitaler.”

“We have the first here; let us call the other, that the temple on the
hill be made to feel the glow. The time is opportune, for each day
witnesses new triumphs of our cause.”

When the knight arrived a feast was in progress. His air awed those to
whom he was a stranger, and there were not a few who thought within
themselves,

“Is he a prophet?”

Abruptly, as usual, he began:

“Friends: I would that all hearts here were moved by justice to enthrone
the Queen whose praise your frank youths have been sincerely singing. I
am here to-day to proclaim her rights, and in so doing I shall appeal to
that sure word which survives when all else fails. She was of David’s
royal line; the noblest one of all the earth. To the proof? The Christian
Scriptures, from the hands of Matthew and Luke, present her ancestral
descent. These apostles wrote as God directed, and, after all, only
reaffirmed that already set forth in the most carefully, religiously
guarded records of all antiquity, the Jewish genealogical tables.

“You know that the ancient Jews held those tables in sacred regard, for
on their integrity depended the proof of the things to them most dear,
as they believed. By them every Jew could trace his Abrahamic descent,
and to Abraham’s seed were all the great promises of the covenant. By
those tables they proved their title to the land of promise, Canaan.
Every Jew, believing himself one of God’s chosen people, and that his
advancement and the advancement of his posterity in the Divine favor,
depended on the purity of the blood of both, felt that he needed the
guidance of those tables to preserve him from any admixture with alien or
Gentile blood. The Aaronic priesthood was hereditary and the priesthood
was initial in the religious system of the Hebrews. Its legitimacy was
preserved chiefly by these hereditary charters. Then all true Israelites
looked for the coming of a Savior, Priest and King to bring to the chosen
transcendent glory, and to win an universal dominion, marked by love, joy
and peace. Every Jew knew that Great One was to spring from the house of
David, and all within that Judaic line hoping that he or his children
might be near akin to the One to come, carefully, constantly, proudly
guarded and studied these records of descent. Birth was the foundation
upon which all Jewish institutions were founded. ‘_So all Israel was
reckoned by genealogies._’ They lived in a reign of blood, and in blood
to be Jewishly thoroughbred was, they thought, to be most highly favored.
They had not yet discerned the law of the new dispensation, which
declares all men akin; a dispensation seeking to build up a superior
humanity by first of all transforming and exalting the inner life. By the
revered records of these Jewish patriarchs, both holy and love-ladened,
place the writings of Matthew and Luke, and with concurrent testimony,
unimpeachable as well as conclusive, the legitimacy of Jesus the son of
Mary is proven! He was beyond a cavil of David’s kingly line. There were
Christ-haters who contested at every point His claim of Messiahship. They
forged lies freely; they hurled after Him slanders innumerable; they
insinuated that He was born in fornication; they affected to flee from
Him as one having a devil; they denounced Him to Jewish as well as Roman
authorities as a liar, a seducer of men and a traitor. In a word, they
howled Him down in every way they could, unabashed by the splendor of His
baptismal indorsement, unsilenced by the awful warnings of His cross. But
in their desperation they never dared to challenge the records which
proved Him ‘_the son of David_.’ Now had His claims rested upon His
relations to His earthly father, Joseph, they would have been disproven.
All Jewry would have quickly, fiercely proclaimed Him a pretender and
not in the family of promise. The Christ was heir of David’s name and
fame because His mother was, and so in exalting Him you crown the saintly
woman who bore Him! He was the adopted son of Joseph, type of all His
followers, adopted sons of a Royal Father. He was legitimate through his
mother, type of all his followers, brought into the royal family of God
by the power of a mystic new birth.

“But there is another line running backward, preserved through the
centuries to connect the first Adam with this last one. This line runs
from Christ through his mother to Eden. Behold the august truth suspended
by that chain of names! Names; only names of the dead! names of the
forgotten! Jesus by Mary is linked to the chain! It’s an old, old chain,
but yet it has gems in its links. Each named is the child of another
living before, and the history of each is recorded in two words, ‘begat,’
‘died.’ A chain of dust! One man precedes another. Each in turn vanishes
until immortality is confronted in the last sentence: ‘_Adam, who was
the son of God!_’ The first mortal son of God uncrowned and led away
from his kingdom, by a woman, to death! The twain go down together, each
ruinous to the other, with nothing left them but a hope; and that hope
rested upon a to them mysterious promise: ‘_The seed of the woman shall
crush the head of the serpent!_’ It would have staggered their faith had
one told them that in God’s revenges, all compensating, all healing,
she that led down was of the sex that should lead upward. Out of their
darkness there came a seeming dawn, and Eve cried ecstatically at the
birth of Cain:

‘I have gotten a man from the Lord!’

“They thought he was a token of renewed favor and probably the redeemer
from the curse. He turned out a murderer, and introduced them to the
supreme horror of humanity—death. The conflict of light and darkness went
on, and the first pair tasted death themselves, looking along the horizon
of unrealized hopes to the last and waiting, as all their posterity
through painful centuries waited, for the Man that was to save. The long
years with leaden tread marched on, struggles amid suffering weighty and
countless, accompanied the race; of them all woman bore the heavier part,
but she kept somehow the larger hope. Each Jewish mother, with a pride of
sex secretly cherished, watched and longed for the coming from herself of
the ONE who was to lift her up and crown her queen, indeed.

“God at last gathered all woman’s trustful hopings into one great
answered prayer, and deigning, in sovereign love, His marvelous
co-operation, brought forth another and a perfect Adam.

“We are informed that Joseph and Mary went, about the time of Jesus’
birth, in compliance with Roman law, to Bethlehem to pay their personal
taxes. The Roman tax lists were based upon the records of family descent
so far as concerned the Jews.

“To make the collection certain beyond the possibility of any one’s
escape, the law required each taxable subject to pay his allotted tribute
in the city of his nativity. The father and mother of Jesus were cited
to the city of David. Thither they went. And so in the providence of God
it happened that pagan Rome was summoned to the cradle of the infant
Savior and made unwittingly an attester to all time that He was of a
family by right recorded among those descended from great David.

“The son and the mother here stand or fall together. If Mary was not of
David’s line, then the Son she bore was not, and He is left without proof
of being of the seed of David.

“Joseph was not the father of the Christ _after the flesh_. The lives of
mother and son are eternally intertwined. If we honor one we must needs
honor the other; abating the fame of one we degrade the other.

“Jesus’ claims to being the Messiah depended upon the fact that His
mother was of the tribe and family royal. The absolute requirements
of prophecy can only be met in the Messiah by His being of the House
of David. Jesus himself admitted and fairly met this necessity. So
he questioned the Pharisees: ‘What think ye of Christ? Whose son is
he?’ ‘They say unto him, the Son of David.’ Admitting this, the Savior
propounded the question involving sonship and spiritual unity with God
which His questioners could not answer:

“‘If David then call him Lord, how is he son?’

“‘_Neither durst any man from that day forth ask Him any more questions._’

“Had He denied the necessity of Davidic origin they could have
overwhelmed Him with Scriptures. Had he not been of that family the most
ignorant Jew would have promptly rejected His claims to being the Hope of
Israel.

“Peter the apostle, amid the soul-trying solemnities of Pentecost,
speaking to the representatives of people from all parts of the earth
and for all time, cried: ‘Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you
concerning the Patriarch David: Being a prophet, and knowing God had
sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his loins, _according to
the flesh_, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne.’

“This orator spoke then with the accuracy of one in the presence of the
Holy Ghost, and not only made sincere, but illuminated, by the torch of
God. This is conclusive, but the reiteratives of the inspired writers
justify us in presenting their cumulative evidence.

“After Peter comes the learned Hebrew of the Hebrews, Paul; before his
conversion to Christianity declaring himself to have been ‘after the most
straightest sect a Pharisee;’ after that conversion, rejoicing to the end
of life, as of the true, new Israel by faith in Him that makest all new.

“Twice Paul met Mary’s son mysteriously, face to face, within the very
confines of Glory. Let Paul speak: ‘Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ,
separated unto the gospel of God, concerning His Son, our Lord, which was
made of the seed of David according to the flesh!’

“Let us not longer make a mock of eternal, holy verities! Christ was of
David’s flesh through His mother, and born to be a real king of a real
kingdom, not a phantom kingdom! That kingdom must come; yea, blessed be
Jehovah! it is coming.

“Joseph, the putative father of Jesus, adopted Jesus as his son, but he
could not, by that legal act, make his foster son, whose father was the
Holy Spirit of the seed of David, _after the flesh_! Jesus received,
then, His royal blood from Mary, and bore His Kingly title after the
flesh as ‘_the crown wherewith his mother crowned Him_.’ Revelations
harmonize; Luke and Matthew must therefore agree with Paul and Peter.

“The tables of Luke and Matthew agree down to David’s time, but then
they diverge, until they are converged in Jesus, through the undoubted
legitimacy of Mary as a descendant of David and the adoption of Jesus
by Joseph, a scion of another branch of the same great family. Luke
gives a sentence, all luminous, but first puzzling: ‘_Jesus himself
began to be about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son
of Joseph, which was the son of Heli._’ ‘Ah, as was _supposed!_’ sneers
the infidel. ‘As was _supposed!_ SUPPOSED!!’ hatefully shouts some
insinuating, ignorant Jews! But now let us fill out, naturally, Luke’s
statement, ‘as was supposed, the son of Joseph, but in reality the son
of Heli.’ But here it may be asked, was Jesus the son of Heli? It is,
I answer, not infrequently in the Scriptures that a grandson is called
a son. Jesus was probably the grandson of Heli. It was a common custom
of the Jews, except in cases of especial necessity, not to record the
names of women in tracing lines of descent. Men kept the books, and it
had become a habit with the lords of creation to thrust woman into the
background. Mary was too insignificant a person, socially considered, in
her time, to be registered in her own name in the hereditary charters.
Joseph was put in her stead, as her representative. There was not any
supposition about the descent of Mary, but these scribes, who had charge
of the books, thought it were more creditable to the male sex to record
Joseph as the father of Jesus, and, by a little fiction, suppose him to
have descended through the former from Heli, than to say Mary descended
from Heli and Jesus descended from Mary. The Romans encouraged this,
and also the politicians. Men were the only ones to fight or pay taxes,
and, as political factors, were strictly watched by those in authority.
Luke, in reality, gives Mary’s line. He was scholarly and accurate,
besides that a physician, and we judge by all experience that there is
that in the profession of medicine which makes its followers tender
toward all suffering, consequently especially tender to women, the
largest inheritors of the pains that beset our race. Doctor Luke, like
those of his fraternity, by an act of graceful justice, in the spirit of
Christianity which is essentially humane, just, and courtly, accorded
gladly the woman her place. But the ‘_doomsday books_’ of the Jews,
containing their family trees or genealogies, perished with the perishing
of the Jewish nation. Those records had done their work; it was time for
them to go. They had become by misuse agencies of evil. They stood long
enough to demonstrate that God works through cycles vastly wide, and that
His definite promise made to Adam, Abraham and many of their successors,
had finally been fulfilled, at the end of thousands of years, with a
miraculous explicitness. The records disappeared after Christ came, and
herein was a providence saying to the watchers: ‘He is come. No need
further of the patents of His ancestry to aid your watching.’ More than
that, they being gone, no other could arise claiming to be Shiloh, with
hope of convincing any by appeal to proof from the records of ancestry.

“Shiloh and his white kingdom have come. It is ruling the earth; not
in memories of its mighty dead, but by its regal, potent virtues and
charities. The battering rams of Titus destroyed wall and Holy Temple,
but thus was let in new dawn. Above the storm of that awful conflict the
spiritual may discern in living letters the mightly words of God which
dispelled disordering darkness from the universe at the beginning: ‘_Let
there be light_,’ and, indeed, ‘light was.’ The obliterated records of
Jewish ancestral lines, on which alone many a worthless child of Abraham
based his claims to superiority, his right to despise and neglect his
fellow men, his justification to tyrannize, and finally his hope of favor
with God, ceased to present their sturdy barriers to the entering in of a
better hope. Then came in the beginning of this new era; now the patent
of nobility is noble character; this is the time to be marked by an
universal recognition of universal brotherhood in a kingdom where there
is neither Jew nor Gentile, bond nor free, male nor female. A kingdom
where righteousness, impartial justice, liberty, equality, purity and
humanity are to be the regnant potencies. In this kingdom, how fittingly,
Christ stands as the king and ideal of man, and how fittingly his mother
supplements his sway by being presented herself to all womankind as a
queenly ideal. Let him or her dispute her title, who can surely say
the earth, in this redemption period, needs no such sublime epitome of
womanly virtue and worthfulness.

“My words are ended for to-day, assembled men and women. Some of these
things spoken may seem like deep sayings, but I leave them to find their
lodgment in your hearts and minds. I trust them, knowing that Truth has a
sword which cuts her way, each sweep of that sword making light.”



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

THE “LIGHT OF THE HAREM” IN “THE TEMPLE OF ALLEGORY.”

      “Would I had fallen upon those happier days,
      And those Arcadian scenes....
      Vain wish! Those days were never! airy dreams
      Sat for the picture, and the poet’s hand
      Imposed a gay delirium for a truth.
      Grant it; I still must envy them an age
      That favored such a dream; in days like these
      Impossible when virtue is so scarce,
      That to suppose a scene where she presides
      Is tramontane, and stumbles all belief.”—YOUNG.

    “The glory of the Lord came from the way of the east, ... and
    the earth shined with His glory. Thou son of man show the house
    to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their
    iniquities, and let them measure the pattern.”—EZEKIEL, xliii.


“My Cornelius once said I might expend the fortune coming from my
grandfather, Harrimai, as I chose.”

“Why, that’s so without my saying. I did not court your grandfather, nor
his ownings, and have gotten affluence beyond the wildest dreams of a
lover in Miriamne’s self.”

“I think the old church on the hill is smiling day by day, more and more.”

“I’ve noted the improvement, and it assures me our hearers are growing.
A meanly kept sanctuary, witnesses of starved worshipers. Some churches
might be called stables for all-devouring, nothing-giving, lean kine.”

“I’d like to be brought to confession; question me!”

“Question? I can not doubt either Miriamne or her doings; to question,
one must doubt.”

“Sir Courtly! But I’ll flank your courtesy; I’ve purchased and furbished
up the old ecclesiastical pile.”

“I might have guessed it was Miriamne’s work! Now, good Bishop of
Bethany, appoint me Rector.”

“Churchman forever! We’ll have no Rector.”

“No Rector? No sermons? No congregation?”

“We’ll have a multitude, if we can get into the place the God-shine; that
brightens and draws ever.”

“Allurement by light! A new device. Are we to have a tryst where
lotus-dreamers may take sun-baths?”

“Curiosity, too proud to question directly, travels around with
banterings.”

“Incisive Miriamne, my ægis, thin as paper, is shredded: I confess!”

“Confession compels pardon and counsel. I’ll give both. The restored
sanctuary is to be the capitol of our fraternity, the ‘_Sisters of
Bethany_.’”

“Capitol? Are you inviting the Sultan to take your homes and your heads?
A capitol sounds like politics, revolution and things governmental.”

“There is to be war and a revolution; our munitions are to be solely
moral agencies; our aim, to revolve the world around toward Paradisiacal
days. I’d have parting streams flow out from Bethany to water the
earth, and sing anew the jubilant strains of Pison, Gihon, Hiddekel and
Euphrates.”

“Arcadia! Alas, how sad such dreams, because so impossible to realize.
The Arcadians, so charming in the poet’s pictures, were, in fact, very
warlike, very loutish, very human.”

“Say not that what has been must always be. Moses, at a time when Israel
was at its lowest dip, received of God a pattern of the Tabernacle. The
God of Moses is unchangeable. I’ve gotten from Him a pattern, also.”

“And now I question, as you wish!”

“The old sanctuary is to be a ‘_Temple of Allegory_.’ We shall attempt
therein to picture the finest truths by symbols that shall make them
tangible and irresistible.”

“A splendid ambition! Possess me of your intricacies of canon and
catechism. I’d accept them.”

“You overlook our simplicity by expecting complexity. We shall not walk
like ghosts, hampered by the grave-clothes of the dead, though august
forms. Seven words, enough for each day of the round week, are our whole
profession: ‘_Humanity toward humanity, with godliness toward God._’”

As they conversed, they walked toward the old sanctuary at the suburbs of
Bethany, and now were drawing near it.

“Behold, Miriamne, the Hospitaler; yonder.”

“Yes, I’ve called the knights hither; the Hospitaler will dedicate our
temple to-day.”

“But has he ecclesiastical authority so to do?”

“The same authority that these growing shrubs and vines have to make the
place beautiful. See, I’ve pierced the walls of the grim pile, wherever I
could, to make a window. The Hospitaler is to take them for a theme.”

“Windows for themes?”

“He is able; and understands by them that we’d have let into musty
beliefs floods of sweet light.”

“The knights are singing!”

“Yes, the Grail song, ‘_Faint though pursuing_;’ the dedication has
commenced.”

The words sung recited the grail quest; but its chorus, a simple one,
was much the same as that sung at the May-day festivities on a former
occasion. The people gathered, heartily joined in the chorus. When the
singing ceased, the Knight, in his usual abrupt manner, began addressing
the assembly:

    “The beloved young missioners have undertaken, by means of
    their handiwork here, to strikingly present the noblest truths,
    and they have taken a step in the right direction. Love for the
    pictorial, manifest especially in children, grows with growth;
    those adult needing and seeking, as they grow, finer, grander
    symbols. Our Divine Lord, who ‘_knew men_’ and ‘_knew_ what
    was in man,’ did not rebuke, but rather utilized this taste
    of man, by teaching the profoundest things of His Kingdom by
    means of it. He came as close as close could be to the very
    core of human life, as it was or to all time will be. While
    He might have navigated Galilee in a palatial barge, borne
    over be-flowered waves by perfumed breezes and golden wings,
    with the aureoled spirits, ‘_who do excel in strength_,’ by
    thousands, to escort Him, He chose rather to journey in an
    all-winning humility, borrowing, as He had need, the old
    boat of some poor Tiberian fisherman. He might have entered
    Jerusalem, that last time, in an Elijah-like chariot, dazzling
    the city with splendors surpassing those that the rapt John
    beheld on Patmos; but the King of Glory, seeking to be the
    King of all men, elected in that supreme moment to get near to
    men by approaching the august courts of Herod and Caiphas, and
    the commons as well, on an ass—an humble beast, and borrowed
    at that. All this allegorized the condescension and sympathy
    of Jehovah. The universe is full of patterns! The books of
    Nature, Revelation, and Providence, having a common authority,
    are constant in the use of pictured truth. Nature gives us the
    dawning of light and the marshaling of order out of darkness
    and chaos. There is the low earth, the high firmament, ripe
    summer going down into the winding sheets of winter and up
    to the resurrections of spring. Twig, flower, seed, forest;
    insect that creeps, and bird that flies; the speck-life moved,
    and the behemoth; the atom and the planet-system—waning and
    growing, dying and living, from formlessness to beauty, from
    time to eternity! Then take the inspired picture-history:
    Eden’s fall, Egyptian captivity, the Red Sea passage, the
    wilderness, the manna by the way, the rest by the Mount of the
    Law, the entrance to the Promised Land. Lastly, the Incarnate
    One, an eternal symbol, the realization and fulfillment of all
    preceding. ‘Which things are an allegory,’ exclaimed Paul, with
    a sweeping back-look. The three books present to the thoughtful
    pictured banners innumerable, to wave him onward. This temple
    is dedicated to the purpose of pointing to these pictures.
    Fitly the ‘angels of the mount’ have determined to make
    prominent the beautiful, patient, modest Mary, Mother of Jesus.
    And to study her intelligently or profitably, it is necessary
    to know her not only as an historical personage, but as one
    in the cavalcade of symbolism unfolded by Sacred Writ and by
    Nature. She passes by, herself every way unique, the exemplar
    of God to those aspiring after gentle, devout girlhood,
    pure and wise maiden-life, constant wifehood, and patient,
    consecrated, and influential motherhood. Turn again to the
    Divine Word, the beacon of the ages, the history of Providence,
    the solver of life’s problems. It is made up of an entrancing
    array of symbols, types, prophetic dramas, and gorgeously
    constructed visions, constantly representing or dextrously
    pointing, by countless trophies and allegories, to its Ideal
    and Darling, Mary’s Son, _who ‘spoke as man never spake, yet
    who without a parable spake nothing.’_ Though the literary ages
    are strewn with long winrows of dead books, no work of man long
    surviving the mutations of time, God’s picturesque handiwork,
    the inspired volume, as potently molds the thoughts, charms
    the affections and quickens the hopes of our race with its
    tokens, types, idyls and illustration as it did when the earth
    was younger by far than it is now. It is a living fountain,
    not only giving, but retaining its immortality! It abides
    because it masterfully deals with the things that pertain to
    the wonderland of the soul. How necessary its methods is at
    once apparent to any one who considers, discerningly, man as
    a complex union of spirit and matter; wonderful forever, but
    ‘_very good_,’ since the All Holy, Great High Priest performed
    the nuptial ceremony of that union. If there could be found a
    being able to reason, as a man, who had not within himself this
    unity, and who had never experienced its phenomena, such would
    at once combat the possibility of its existence. Even those
    so organized, and momentarily realizing the jointure of the
    God-like spirit with the earthly body, the higher condescending
    to and communing with the inferior, the inferior at times
    over-persuading, dominating and utterly shipwrecking its great
    spiritual co-partner, are compelled to admit the whole as being
    a fact without parallel, alike inscrutable and bewildering. A
    life-time of profoundest introspection can carry the greatest
    mind, herein, only to the confines of new wonders. But the
    interest in the study of the unwritten, unvoiced language of
    symbolisms by which the wonderfully united twain, soul and
    body, confer and commune with each other deepens with the
    study. What a fine, expressive, rapid, exact, exalted language
    that must be! To each well understood; without their arcana
    unknown, unheard, incomprehensible. And it is of necessity
    all symbol, natural, intuitive, without a single arbitrary
    sign! This sign-language acts by _symbol_ in the royal temple
    of memory and imagination. And so again we perceive the
    representative, picturesque or typical is the medium of the
    fine, the deep and the lofty in expressing truth. This is the
    soul’s language, by which it communes with whatever else there
    is in man, through which it receives the songs of Heaven,
    and the august or tender messages of the Spirit, out of the
    deathless land.

    “When this sphere of ours was rolling swiftly onward through
    the shadows of night, as well as swiftly downward through
    darker shadows of sin, Divine love said ‘Let there be light.’
    Then the hosts of heaven saw at Bethlehem a mother and babe
    marking the place of world-dawn, unfolding the design of
    Deity to effect redemption by touching the race of man at
    infancy; the most effective because the most plastic point;
    through motherhood the most influential because the tenderest
    instrumentality. The never-to-be-forgotten spectacle thrilled,
    with a new ecstasy, the beings of glory whose every throb
    of life is joy. They tracked the heavens about with light as
    they sped out to keep abreast the fleeing earth and shout over
    Bethlehem, ‘Glad tidings! Glad tidings!’ They saw Eden restored
    through the advent of a new, pure home; they saw a mystic
    covenant between God and man typified in the child begotten of
    a human mother in conjunction with the Eternal Father. By this
    there seemed to be an attesting that humanity was to be raised
    to Divine favor; there also was a symbol showing the value of
    law; for through the incarnation, Deity, in the form of a babe,
    became submissive to law administered by a mortal mother.

    “He is blind who can not see in all these things God’s purpose
    to elect some of His creatures to be His co-laborers in the
    choicest co-operations, and also to be exemplars of what He
    does and would do. These things being so, we do well to learn
    the alphabet of His goodness from His elect heroes, heroines
    and saints; and I proclaim to-day my innermost belief in Christ
    as the argument, logic and fruit of God’s love; but, at the
    same time, I praise, as one enravished, the character of her
    who was God’s poem, God’s peroration! We now proclaim this
    temple dedicated to the purposes of showing forth the things I
    have spoken.”

The Hospitaler abruptly ceased his address, as he began it. There were
other services consisting of psalm-singing and prayers, and the service
was ended.

As the congregation dispersed, the young missioner, Cornelius, exclaimed:
“Miriamne, the Hospitaler has awakened me as from sleep by God’s truth.
Oh, the heavens are not as full of shining stars as God’s truth is full
of beauty! It seems strange that men like myself, and wiser, are so long
in bringing these things to their minds. You, my dear little mystic, are
my interpreter.

“It’s just as I told you, wife. We must go in pairs. In the Egyptian
mythologies, Osiris had his Isis, Amen-Ra his Maut, and Kneph his Sate.
Thank God I have my adolescent other self!”

“I, a woman, help you? My sex is honored by the praise. Are they worthy
of all they need? Is it madness to seek to gather all women having gifts
and needs into a helped and helping fraternity whose creed is a fine
example? If I help Cornelius, cannot a peerless one like Mary help all?”

“Pardon the thought, but one word haunts me—idolatry!”

“Impossible! We all need soul company, and have room within for such. We
must have an inner population of real heroines and heroes or be filled
with ghosts and myths. The empty soul, eaten up with self-worship, goes
mad; the myth-possessed becomes an idolater. If we harbor the God-like,
keeping the highest place for Deity, our inner selves will be no hideous
chambers of imagery, but a counterpart of heaven.”

“But some have fallen into putting Mary before Jesus, and so we’ve seen
the advent of Mariolatry.”

“But this only, and surely, here I know, no friend of the Divine Son
can dethrone Him by honoring her, aright; indeed, as He, Himself, did.
It was of Him she spoke when exclaiming: ‘_My soul doth rejoice in God
my Savior!_’ Can one truly honor Him and despise and ignore the woman
who gave Him human birth? Can one have His mind and forget her for whom
love was uppermost to Him in His supreme last hours? Can one honor her
aright, and yet dethrone the Son whom she enthroned? She bore Him, then
lived for Him. She honored herself in bearing Him, and was His mother,
His teacher and His disciple. He revered her, she worshiped Him. Awed by
His augustness, she was yet conscious of an ownership of His greatness;
believing in His divinity, she yet enjoyed the nearness to Him of a
mother.”

“I can not but believe that she is a queen, indeed, high among the
glorified who reign with God! I question again: Who ever did, or could,
become heretic or carnal by sincerely revering the peerless woman whom
Christ enthroned on His heart?”

“I know at least that the fathers at imperial and pagan Rome placed a
representation of Mary in their Pantheon when public policy made it an
imperative necessity to overthrow the influence of the lewd, fanciful and
ungodly ideals that had been set up therein,” responded Cornelius.

“The world is a Pantheon full of corrupt ideas. Let us raise high the
choice ones God has sent us—But see, yonder is the wife of a poor old
Druse camel-driver. She was once a sinner in the streets of Jerusalem.
Now she is a Sister of Bethany, allured to goodness by our Temple’s
allegories!”

“A woman that was a sinner, a scarlet woman?”

“Only such. No; all of that! One woman; a lost one? How little to man;
how much to God! Had nothing else been done, heaven would have been set
singing, as ever, over a sinner’s return. That’s reward enough for all
we’ve attempted.”

“Now I’m interested, indeed!”

“Well you may be, when you hear all. We’ve here one once a harem beauty,
who, having lost her power to fascinate, was committing her life to that
hag-cunning belonging to old women who supplement their decaying power by
wickedness, fox-like and serpentine.”

“The old, old story; yet I thank God if her life be sweetened.”

“Hers is a strange story.”

“May I know it?”

“Yes; it is, as I’ve gathered it in scraps, a sad romance. She was born
of Georgian parents, among the mountains of Armenia, and gifted, in her
youth, as are most of those of her sex in that country, with unusual
personal beauty. She early attracted the attention of the monsters
who dealt in human flesh, and a Georgian noble unrighteously claiming
her family as his serfs, bartered away Nourahmal to merchants seeking
recruits for Mameluke harems. She became, in time, part of the retinue of
a sheik by the name of Azrael, a desperate adventurer, who, on account
of his blood-deeds, was called by his followers the ‘Angel of Death,’
His luxurious and desperate way of living justified his claim to Turkish
extraction; his adroitness and avidity for intrigue stamped him as a
Mameluke.”

“Nourahmal? Azrael? Why, these must be the same of whom I’ve heard Sir
Charleroy speak?” queried Cornelius.

“The same!”

“She comes out of the past as one from the dead!”

“And her story is a series of strange events. It is as follows: Azrael
suspected her of having abetted the escape of my father and Ichabod,
therefore determined to kill her. She gained a temporary respite through
having saved her master’s life from an assassin plotting to supplant him;
though she periled her own in so doing.

“As Azrael awaited her recovery from the wounds she had suffered in
his behalf, he devised another scheme which he hoped would compass his
favorite’s destruction and his own elevation. He was ambitious to be
Sherif of Mecca. To attain that honor he saw he must needs do something
to enhance his popularity greatly with his Mohammedan followers, and so
conceived the plan of getting into his power, Harrimai of the Jews and
Adolphus of the Christians. His purpose was to rack those two leaders
into apostasy and the betrayal of their followers. Had he succeeded, the
event would have been crushing to Jews and Christians east of Jordan.
He promised Nourahmal her freedom and restoration to her Georgian home
if she aided him in his design; though he did not disclose his purpose
to her beyond that of securing the presence of Von Gombard and Harrimai
in his camp. She felt that there was some malign, hidden purpose in her
master’s breast, but deemed it expedient, at the outset, to seem to
co-operate in his plan.”

“But how was the sheik using his strategy against Nourahmal?”

“As a fiend! He, having no conception of a friendship between a man and
a woman that was pure and free from intrigue, suspected the relations
between his favorite and Ichabod. He thought the two only needed the
opportunity to precipitate into perfidy. He laid his plan darkly, and,
leaving a trusty follower to carry it out, hastened forward to Mecca.”

“But surely, Nourahmal was not what he thought her!”

“No; though training her as a plastic child, he judged she was what he
had tried to make her; at her worst she was. But let me continue. The
assault on my parents and Ichabod, on the road between Gerash and Bozrah,
was the opening of the drama. The plan then was to seize Rizpah, and
under pretense of negotiating for her ransom, inveigle Harrimai into the
hands of Azrael’s followers. Nourahmal was to aid in this by affecting
tears, pleading for pity and suggesting the sending for the girl’s
father.”

“What besetments perilous we pass through, all unknown to us! Harrimai
and your parents, to their death, never suspected the devices worked
against them!”

“Nor dreamed that a harem favorite, a mere girl, and an utter stranger to
them, was their good angel!”

“Good angel! How?”

“She witnessed the assault from behind a sequestering wall, in company
with a follower of the sheik, commissioned to kill her instantly if she
faltered in the part appointed her. This infernal guard was also charged
to insinuate into her mind the feasibility of elopement with Ichabod. If
she could be compromised, Azrael knew he could justify her death to those
who remembered her heroic defense of himself. That was to follow as soon
as she had done her part in inveigling Harrimai to Azrael’s camp.”

“A demonstration of a personal devil, Miriamne.”

“I’d say rather of an overruling God.”

“How fared Nourahmal after Azrael’s chagrin?”

“Cornelius anticipates me. When she saw Ichabod fall, a sudden desire
for liberty for herself and to help the imperiled Rizpah, prompted her
to drive a dagger into the heart of her guard and cry, ‘Rescuers come!’
That cry drove the remnants of the assailers of Sir Charleroy to sudden
flight. She asserted to the fugitives that Laconic, the new runner, just
passing, had slain her guard, and so allayed suspicion until opportunity
of escape came. She soon made her way to Bozrah, where she found among
the Christians a temporary home. From thence she drifted into Jerusalem.”

“’Twas strange she did not turn toward Gerash.”

“I said as much to her, but desire to get as far as possible from
Azrael, and as near as possible to the Holy City, of which Ichabod had
so glowingly spoken to her, determined her course; besides that, Ichabod
being dead, Gerash was a strange place to her—Jerusalem seemed to her,
she said, near heaven.”

“Had she only known it, she was near heaven in Bozrah, being near Von
Gombard.”

“Her story weaves a chaplet for his tomb to-day; for now it appears that
from Nourahmal the old priest foreknew the intention of those Saracens,
who assailed the city that day I was with him. Though they designed
capturing him to put him on the rack, he rushed into the conflict,
crying, ‘Kill the foe with kindness!’ The assault would have been fatal
to Bozrah, too, had not the leader of one of the invading bands ordered
a retreat, just at the point of victory. This was indirectly Nourahmal’s
work; for that leader had been won by her to esteem Christians far enough
to be unwilling to murder them, though not adverse to plundering them.
That was a great improvement in a Mohammedan.”

“And Nourahmal knows from you that you are Sir Charleroy’s daughter?”

“Yes, by that I won her confidence. Indeed, she began this confidence at
first, by saying, ‘I love you, because you so remind me, angel of the
mount, of a Christian knight, who was the dear friend of the only pure
and unselfish man I knew in all my youth! Such words led to questions
and explanations. The rest you know.”

“And you have allured, comforted and enlightened her?”

“By God’s help, I have. I have told her of the universal sisterhood, of
all women, who take as their exemplar the worthy mother of the One who
proclaimed the universal brotherhood of man. This knowledge is her joy
and inspiration. When I am with her, she never tires of hearing of the
‘Queen of David’s House,’ the mother of mothers.”

“But how have you allured her hither, Miriamne?”

“You have questioned curiously with your eyes, at least, concerning those
gated alcoves and curtained balconies in our Temple of Allegory. They
helped her!”

“Since you say they are not ‘Confessionals,’ as I call them, tell me what
they are?”

“‘Rock clefts’ our sisterhood calls them; some are doors to little
adjacent chapels; some are quiet resting places, where, in impressive
solitude, souls in prayer may find the mountain manna, for which the
Savior sought in many a lone night-watching; and some are places where
are presented, under entrancing symbols, exalting truths.”

“Words have failed to turn the world to faith: may signs do better.”

“I’ve put truth into visible form, that they who get it here may learn
that truth thus is only up to its full might. I’d have my followers
believe in visible, not phantom, truth; so believing, truth will not be a
ghostly proclamation, the toy of the mind, but a force moving hands and
hearts!”

“And you have met Nourahmal’s case?”

“Yes; fully in what we call the ‘Lover’s Bower,’ yonder. Remember she has
been the victim of mock love, from first to last.”

“The ‘Lover’s Bower’?”

“Behold the trophy and the bower! There is Nourahmal, now rapturously
contemplating the picture of Joseph putting the ring of espousal on the
hand of the Virgin Mary.”

“Nourahmal? That gray-haired, hard-faced woman, holding the hand of a
charming girl?”

“That is Nourahmal; the younger woman is Beulah, her grand-daughter; they
two are almost inseparable now.”

“An oleander by a limestone cliff! And so she takes her station by a
scene of betrothal, forgetting that hymen’s altars can be fired by youth
alone!”

“The world says so; but yet a disappointed life may sometimes learn why
it has been a failure, by studying the ashes of time gone in the light of
quickened memories.”

“What finds Nourahmal there?”

“Golden lessons. First for her grand-daughter, her idol. She never tires
of saying before yon picture to that maiden now her charge: ‘My flower,
my lamb, be always as pure as the espoused of Joseph, and you will be a
jewel which your husband, if he be a true man, will ever proudly wear on
as his heart. My flower, my lamb, no woman should leave all for any man,
unless she is certain of finding in him father, mother, brother, sister,
companion, as Mary found in Joseph!’”

“But how did these things bless Nourahmal herself?”

“Love counterfeited, blasted her life. She believed that it was only
gross passion masquerading in attractive, delusive colors. So believing,
it was difficult to tell her of the Love of God so she could realize
its wealth. Love was only great selfishness, excited and persistent, to
her mind. It was something to teach her that the genuine affection was
utterly otherwise; in fact the foundation and crown of all the noblest
sentiments implanted by God in His choicest creations.

“I have sought to allegorize here, true affection in all its perfection.
It seems to be fitting to do so, for my ideal queen was ruled by it. She
never could have loved to the depths she did, as a mother, if she had
not had within her being all the possibilities of woman’s love. And in
a rightly balanced woman love is all-impressive, all-controlling; with
her worship is loving and loving is worship. Here I shall seek to refine
that sentiment in the hearts of my sisters until each becomes an evangel
in its behalf. Then mankind will understand the wealth a woman bestows
on the man that wins her. There is nothing in her career that surpasses
it, except that sovereign act wherein she lays herself a convert on God’s
altar. I am seeking to exalt this sacred act, the loving of the gentler
sex, until all men, brought to revere it as they ought, shall become true
knights; until society shall be of one mind in crying traitor to every
man that contemns it in wedlock, and ready to lash naked around the world
every betrayer who awakens it in innocency to lead it astray.”

“I can only again exclaim, oh! how full of flowers and honey is my
Miriamne’s creed and gospel!”

“And the churchman so exclaims because I’ve put love where God put it, at
the front of religion’s cohorts! Can there be a religion worth the name
that does not masterfully meet the requirements of the relations most
sacred between human beings?”

As she spoke she led her husband under the splendid painting of Joseph
espousing Mary, toward the entrance of the bower, remarking: “This
vestibule, from the Roman word Vesta, Goddess of Purity, is suggestive.
Rome placed Vesta among the household gods, and was wont to have an altar
at every outer door. If Purity guard the door, Light and Love will dwell
within. See the laurel, emblem of victory, as the ancients put it by
Purity’s altar; so do I. Love, when pure, is all-victorious!”

“Miriamne, these old truths seem to me very charming as you now present
them; but can Nourahmal and others like her enter into their meaning?”

“A pious saint of our church says that the star which guided to Bethlehem
finally sank into a spring, where it may be yet seen by women if they be
pure.”

As they thus communed he passed through an arched doorway, and was
admitted to a grand court, three sides of which were inclosed by
the temple and two of its wings, the fourth side hedged by palms,
vine-interlaced. The sky was the roof, the carpet the floor of that
country. Just in front of the palm-hedge, on a grassy hillock,
conspicuous beyond all else, was a colossal stone face. It seemed as if
it had emerged from the earth, bald of all life—desolation expressed in
mute stone.

“Astarte here!” exclaimed Cornelius.

“Yes; that’s part of my Bashan inheritance, from Kunawat, the land of
Job.”

“A woman and a devil beset him; (the two are in this face, methinks).
Its hideousness, as its import, seems inappropriate in Love’s Bower.”

“Yes, ’tis hideous now, though once the face had beauty. It is not futile
for young-love to remember that time gouges deformity into beautifulness,
nor for all to remember how the Kings of the East in Moses’ time
overthrew the Rephaim, the fallen giant followers of the goddess. The
East is the home of light, and light is fateful to evil lives. Where are
the Astarte-devotees now?”

As the man listened his eyes wandered to the place where the palm grove
came up against the temple wing, and there he observed a purling ribband
of water.

“Cornelius sees my poem of silver. It comes from a grove of cedars and
sharon roses, out of a spring in the bosom of a hill. Look the other way.
It passes under the alcove, under the temple wall; a short, dark passage
brings it to liberty, ending in the Virgin’s Pool of Kidron. The sun
allures it up to the clouds at last. But listen; it sings as it runs!”

“I hear many blending melodies.”

“Do you see that canopied dais? There the instructor, or preacher if you
will, stands. The stream passes near it, getting impulse by a fall; true
love is speeded when it runs by truth. That’s my lesson. Then there are
Æolian harps this side and that of the dark alcove, the latter the type
of the tomb.”

“But why?”

“True love has music both sides of the grave.”

“Mystic!”

“Interpreter, say.”

“But I hear the songs of birds?”

“There they are, this side the dark exit: but in a cage, supported above
the current by an hour-glass and sickle.”

“Grim emblems.”

“Yes; but it’s a grim truth that love’s joy notes here are caged,
hampered and transitory. The hour-glass and sickle are, when those notes
are sung, ever.

“Look to the West.”

“I look, and see nothing but the picture of a sunset.”

“Yes, and that curtains the ‘Rest of the Aged’ in our temple.”

“But whither am I led by these words?”

“Led to look toward sunset, for morning, by faith. You remember the
Christ was never old; neither are they who draw their life from Him. The
‘Ancient of Days’ not only has, but gives, eternal youth. Oh, there were
young men at His sepulcher; yet those angels could count their years
by centuries! Let the hour-glass make record and the sickle reap; the
passion flower recalls a vernal life, where the oldest saints are the
youngest, where all existence is growth, refreshment, glory, exultation!
There, love is law and law is love, and to love is to live and to live is
to love. We get a breath of this life here as we enter the vicinage of
the immortal pair, Jesus and Mary; and we get a distant view of the whole
from the mountains of the gospel.”

“I believe, and yet sometimes start back at the question, ‘What if, after
all, at the end almost of eternities there come monotony, decadence,
satiety—death?’ Next after hell, and nigh as horrible, is annihilation;
and worst of all, eternal existence with nothing for which to strive—a
living death!”

“They say, that in Egypt, a palm bowed to give shade to the mother, Mary;
while the aspen refused to her any comfort. Then Christ blessed the palm
and it became the fruitful evergreen, while the aspen leaf is fated to
the end of time by constant tremblings to betoken the agues of a cursed
life. But, under the sun in submission, our aspen lives are turned to
palms! We, having His life, need never tremble at death, for we shall
ever throb with a loving like His.”

“But there are many conditions and needs to womankind. Let us speak of
these, since the present is hers, the future God’s.”

“The knights vainly tried swords; my King promised to draw all men to
Himself. You told me how Sir Galahad, the pure knight, had made, about
the Holy Grail, when he found it, a chest of precious stones and gold.
Now, I’ve found the virgin pattern of perfection, representative of the
human-like beating heart of God. Here I’ve set her, exalted her. This
shall be her golden precious palace. Though dead, here shall be presented
in the grandeur of her character, the sweetness of her power. By and by,
it may come about that all mankind akin, shall make it the chief duty of
Church and State, to care, with a loyal tenderness, for all women, all
children, from first and last; that not one such shall be left miserable.
That will be the world obeying the Crucified’s, ‘Behold thy mother.’”



CHAPTER XXXIX.

CROWN JEWELS.

    “The VIRGIN MARY unquestionably holds forever a peculiar
    position among all women in the history of redemption.
    Perfectly natural, yea, essential to a sound religious feeling,
    it is to associate with Mary, the fairest traits of maidenly
    and maternal character, and to revere her as the highest model
    of female love and power.”—PROF. PHILIP SCHAFF’S _Church
    History_.


“There’s a footman at the door; the good man that talks, I think; he
would speak with Cornelius.”

With such words, at sunrise one morning a few weeks after the May-day
service, the missioners of Bethany were aroused by an attendant. Quickly
robing himself, the young chaplain went forth, and, sure enough, the
Hospitaler stood before him.

“Selamet; but what haste brings our ever-welcome friend so early?”

“To relieve your minds! I’ve purchased immunity! The Mameluke sheik, at
Jerusalem, has secured the Sultan’s revocation of the order of razing and
banishment,” answered the knight. Cornelius gazed at the Hospitaler with
anxiety, questioning within himself as to whether the knight had taken
leave of his reason or not.

The abrupt soldier-priest perceiving the perplexity of his hearer broke
forth: “Why the edict that the Temple on the hill be despoiled, and
the ‘Angels of the Mount’ be summarily driven out of Syria, has been
rescinded; the ‘Faithful,’ as those infidels style themselves, have been
converted; seen a great light which came by mighty gold.”

“All Saints defend us! I did not hear of this. Tell me all!” exclaimed
Cornelius.

“Not now; the peril is past. I knew it was impending sometime, and
supposed ye did. I promised a reward, if time were given. I got money
help from foreign knights. The vandals took it with a mighty thirst, and
then with a great show of piety promised toleration.”

“I see, as usual with them, great gain with godliness is contentment; but
what are we on the mount to do?”

“Go on; the Sultan isn’t God, nor his sheik the Devil.”

“The Hospitaler comforts. Now let us enter and breakfast together, that
we may get wisdom by conferring.”

“I may not tarry longer; I staid all night without the city’s wall so
as not to be delayed by awaiting the gate-opening. I must be with my
companions by the time the Moslems have ended their first prayers, or my
comrades will be alarmed. I’ll return to-morrow.”

Another dawn, another noon, and another sunset, came and went; but the
knight did not reappear at Bethany. The chaplain vainly tried to suppress
his anxiety. He feared some treachery on the sheik’s part. Again and
again the former went to the house-top to look along the Jerusalem road.
It was a hot June day; the watchings flushed the young man’s face but
fears’ rigors in the heart paled it. He was a picture of misery. Darkness
followed sunset; then came tidings:

“There’s a company with garlands and torches coming around the bend!”

The news was brought by a company of Sisters of Bethany. The missioner
was excited, yet reasoned:

“Garlands and torches! Their bearers can not have baleful report nor evil
designs.”

The visitants quickly arrived, and singing a roundelay, encircled the
house of Cornelius and Miriamne. With delight the latter recognized the
Hospitaler and his companion knights. With them were a number of the
friends of the new movement at Bethany. They also observed, standing by
his camel, a little aloof, a tall, gaunt man, garbed as a Druse; by him,
an elderly woman, and also a maiden.

“’Tis Nourahmal and her grand-child!” whispered Miriamne, following her
husband’s questioning eyes.

“The maiden wears the flower crown of a bride, and see, there is a young
man by her side!”

The Hospitaler interrupted their converse:

“I’ve kept my promise to the ‘Angels of the Mount’ and to God. I’m here,
and to celebrate a proper thanksgiving!”

“Welcome! Now command us,” exclaimed Miriamne. “Yea, welcome, though
coming in mystery!”

“Another surprise, good chaplain? Well, ’tis fitting, since this one
is cheering. There was need of offset to thy painful astonishment of
yesterday. I’ve trapped a wolf for our festivities.”

“A wolf!” exclaimed Miriamne.

“Yes, even the sheik. He swore that he’d make all Bethany bald by fire
and sword if it were attempted here to establish a Christian church. To
him I explained that the work on the hill was festal. Praise God, it
is to be such, to all eternity! And Miriamne’s disavowal of the title
church, the use of the appellations ‘Pool of Bethesda,’ ‘House of Mercy,’
‘Temple of Allegory,’ and the like, by your followers in the city,
concerning your place of gathering, helped the righteous diversion. I
finished the argument by parading with my cortege, as you see us now.
Indeed I even asked the sheik to come to the wedding!”

“A wedding?”

“The cruel sheik invited?”

“Two questions and two questioners to be answered with more surprises.
Nourahmal’s grand-daughter, Beulah, is to be joined to a Jewish convert!
I asked the sheik to attend with us as one of her next akin; for I
believe him to be a son of Azrael, though he denies that parentage, as
well he may, since the ‘Angel of Death’ was strangled at Bagdad for
treason. Be assured, Miriamne, the young Mohammedan will not be present
at our ceremonies to-night!”

“Will wonders never cease?” spoke Cornelius, at a loss to know what to
say.

“No. Let us be going now,” abruptly spoke the Hospitaler.

“Do you return to the city so soon?” queried Miriamne.

The question was answered indirectly:

“Let’s to the temple, or ‘House of Bethesda.’ I’ve taken the liberty to
order its illumination. Come, we’ll see how its jasmines climb on its
sturdy walls by the light of the torches kindled for hymen!”

So saying, the Hospitaler turned in the direction mentioned, and all,
including the missioners, followed him. The scene was fairy-like. There
were lights and flowers and songs. The feasters from Jerusalem were in
holiday attire, and those of the villagers that joined in the concourse
were hearty participants in the festivities.

Arriving at the temple, the Hospitaler led Beulah toward the speaker’s
dais.

“Will not the camel-driver enter?” questioned the knight of a companion.

“No; he’s half way back to the city by this time.”

“Stand by thy other self,” said the knight to the Jewish groom.

The latter obeyed with alacrity; his zeal and his bashfulness precluding
grace of action.

“Four hands clasped; crossed,” said the Hospitaler.

The twain did as commanded, the youth with avidity, the maid with a
timorous, modest reserve. The touch of each, electric to the other, was
recorded in their faces, over which passed rapidly a poem of emotion. The
audience became silent, hushed by admiration akin to adoration. The old,
old, yet ever new, ever-entrancing spectacle of love’s full crowning,
brought to all minds the splendor and holiness of that royal gift
which finds in earth its completest unfoldment in wedlock. Each of the
auditors, conscious of admiration of the presentment, was also conscious
of self-approving. There is a cleansing of conscience like that which
follows prayer in the act of heartily approbating the thing which is good
and beautiful. With the espoused for his inspiration and his background
of light, the Hospitaler, with his usual abruptness, began addressing the
assembly:

    “You of the East hear best when your eyes are treated together
    with your ears, hence I speak at this time, most propitious, of
    themes pertinent. You have heard how the ancient Romans named
    this month, deemed by them favorable to marriage, Junonius, in
    honor of their chaste and prudent goddess of conjugal life.
    She was the _Hera_ of the Greeks, the only lawfully wedded
    goddess of all their mythologies. The myths prove that those
    pagans discerned the potency and beauty of holy wedlock. They
    polished jewels and wove girdles for its personifications, and
    to-night, in this temple dedicated to womanhood at her best,
    I’d take the girdle and crown and place them upon the Queen of
    Women, the peerless Virgin. For such a real woman the ancients
    were seeking when they had their dream of the myths. She was
    what they yearned for, and her exaltation as the representative
    of all that she truly did represent, will be found of lasting
    profit to all. Behold her, an orphan girl, yet by faith having
    an Eternal Father. As a girl, abhorring waywardness; as a
    woman, therefore, free from wantonness. Mark me, ye maidens,
    the wayward becomes the wanton. Coquetry brushes the down
    from the cheek of the peach, and she that frivolously plays
    with passion in the morning will be likely to seek the groves
    of Astarte at noon. Our ideal woman reached maidenhood’s
    roses all portionless, as world-help is counted, but with the
    inestimable affluence of prudence, constancy and purity. Thus
    she set the finest youths of all Jewry to striving for her
    heart and hand. What Juno was to Rome, Mary was to Israel. The
    Romans proclaimed their faith in the good wife as the producer
    and conserver of wealth by putting their mint in their temple
    of ‘_Juno-Moneta_.’ The carpenter of Nazareth, building up a
    clean, honest, though humble home, by the aid of his consort,
    built more enduringly, and presents a finer historical figure,
    than that once mighty, once wise Solomon; though the latter
    erected the wondrous Temple. The home and love of Joseph and
    Mary will be praised by the ages that abhor the ivory houses
    of pleasure of the great and fallen king. The story of that
    home life at Nazareth has not been written, and we must gather
    it from fragments and eloquent silence. Mary’s jewels as a
    wife were unostentatiously treasured within the four walls of
    her domicile. The devastating tornado leaves enduring, though
    hateful history; but the constant, man-blessing tides of the
    ocean come and go without having their recurring blessings
    recorded. So the constant, loyal, patient woman of Nazareth
    passed noiselessly by in her day. Her exclamation to the Angel
    of the Annunciation, ‘_Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be
    it unto me according to thy word_,’ was the keynote of that
    life ever enhanced by the beauty of duty. There was submission
    to right because it was righteous. And this was not mere
    passiveness. You remember how she challenged her Son in His
    early youth, that time He was absent for a season from His
    parents, at first without explanation? The words Mary spoke
    that day burn like polished gems when considered aright: ‘_Why
    hast thou dealt thus with us? Behold, thy father and I have
    sought thee, sorrowing._’ She did not forget her Son’s divine
    origin, but exalted the rights of motherhood and fatherhood,
    confident that even Deity could not ignore them. She challenged
    the right of a son to cause parental sorrow without instant
    strong reason for so doing. She put her husband’s cause before
    her own, and made his honor her sacred wifely trust. There are
    in this history some very fine things expressed by implication.
    We know the woman was beautiful and much younger than her
    husband; the disparity of years did not hinder full affinity.
    She did not fall into the weakness of feeling self-sufficient
    and all-complacent because feeling pretty. All she was and all
    she had was centred in her consort as a commonwealth between
    him and her. That the sycophant and flatterer crossed her
    path there can be no doubt; but she who was not intoxicated
    by Bethlehem’s _gloria in excelsis_ could not be dazzled by
    the honeyed words of mortals. Wearing such a wife on his
    heart, Joseph was rich indeed. Silence is once more eloquent.
    We know that the mother of Jesus, having been widowed, never
    wed again. Her first love suffered no eclipse. That she was
    courted, after her spouse’s death, we must believe. The mother
    of a Son so famous as was hers, and the possessor of personal
    charms enshrining a soul that knew how to utilize sorrows until
    they became refinements, doubtless had many suitors in her
    widowhood days. And there was no law forbidding her a second
    marriage, except the unwritten law of fine sentiment; but to
    the Queen of the House of David the law of fine sentiment was
    all-controlling. All her heart was filled with love for her
    husband, her Son and her Savior. When her consort died, the
    niche in her heart that he occupied, the only part with room
    for conjugal love, became a shrine. Its door was sealed then
    until the final resurrection. Where such constancy exists there
    is certainty of pure homes. Sanctity, chastity and faithfulness
    were the lights of the temple, dedicated to the mythical Juno,
    within whose precincts no impure woman was suffered to enter.
    To-day I claim for the True Ideal all that was accorded the
    mythical one.”

When the speaker paused, some of the men present broke forth, as was
the custom in the synagogue service, with an “Amen,” and some exclaimed
“Rabbi, thine are good words for our women to hear!”

The Hospitaler’s black eyes flashed; a hint of retort of lightning-like
directness to come. And it came, instantly:

    “I shall fail of my duty if I give all to one-half. I shall
    fail of my intent if my words seem like railings at the sex
    most tender, most burdened. Since we are treating of the weeds
    of the mourners, let us question why it is that widowers more
    frequently seek remarriage than do widows. The bereaved man
    easily says: ‘Get me another wife.’ The bereaved woman more
    frequently says: ‘Let me hurry on heavenward after my only and
    ever beloved.’

    “With the true woman marriage is a committal so utter that it
    is difficult for her, generally, to make it more than once.
    Again me thinks that marriage brings the graver, heavier loads
    to women. Once experienced, there is need of a mighty love to
    allure her to a second trial. The man rises by self-assertion,
    and wedlock does not hinder him. With the woman wedlock means
    self-denial; her name changes, her career is merged into that
    of her consort; her body is given, literally, to the new beings
    she bears. To woman marriage has no parallel, except death. Her
    only possible compensation is love, and that she should receive
    with measures knowing no stint. Oh, men, all fair to other men,
    all merciful to the beasts that toil, all prudent in keeping in
    motion, by day and by night, the water-wheels in your orange
    and mulberry groves, be fair and merciful to your consorts.
    Yea, and evermore water with love’s most grateful refreshments
    the bearing vines whose tendrils intwine your hearts, whose
    fruits enrich your homes. This is religion; what is less is
    heresy, and he who deals unkindly, cruelly or niggardly with
    his other self, can not face God. The prayers of such are
    hindered and like unto a tree whose leaves are storm-stripped.
    You know the race, by birth, comes forth in two sexes, of
    equal numbers, a hint of God’s plan to have mankind live as
    pairs; but the men are a constant majority. Why? I answer that,
    notwithstanding the perils falling upon the sterner sex, by
    exposure, by war, and all such things, the trials falling to
    woman’s lot work the greater havoc, keeping her sex in huge
    majority in the places of the dead. Now you praise me, because
    I’ve told your women to be like the glorious Mary? Praise me
    again for telling them, as I do this instant, to be like her in
    choice of consorts. If they can not find Josephs to begin with,
    God grant to make the men they have like the choice spouse who
    fell to Mary’s lot!”

The Hospitaler paused for a moment; there was a wave of excitement, very
near to applause, running over the audience. The bride and the groom,
together with all the women present, by their faces expressed their
delight. The men who had exclaimed at the first, looked blank and kept
silent now.

Abruptly, as before, again the knight spoke:

    “I’ll touch now another pertinent theme—_Mary under the shadows
    of scandal!_ I’d exalt her as one having sounded the depths
    of woman’s misery, and yet preserving her integrity. I know
    that some here will think themselves offended, since it’s the
    fashion so to think when listening to discourse such as I
    now intend. Society, more prudish than sincere or wise, has
    demanded that the burning, scarlet, social wrong be spoken of
    only by scrupulous hint, half words and reserves, at least
    among decent and happy folks. For once, as God’s accredited
    ambassador, I’ll change all this, and by Purity’s earthly
    throne, the marriage altar, denounce the crime of crimes, the
    blasting curse of all mankind. Let him that’s conscious of his
    own impurity mince words. I’ll not! Jehovah might have brought
    forth the Christ without subjecting Nazareth’s Virgin to the
    painful necessity of being doubted. It was as He decreed
    and wisely ordered. The happening was not because Deity was
    frustrated, but because He knew that she whose example was
    to be woman’s inspiration, could be so more surely, if her
    career took her along all lines of woman’s needs. There was
    a time when almost all who knew Mary doubted her integrity;
    a time when her name was banded about by the roués of her
    native place; a time when even her betrothed was resolving
    to renounce, if not to denounce her. First I’d speak of how
    impurity is abhorred of God, and then of His wondrous effort to
    allure those lost by it, as evinced in sending out after them
    the two lambs—the Eternal Lamb and the lamb-like woman.

    “To say that they whose trend is toward things unclean are
    abhorred of God is to re-echo the edicts of nature and history.
    They say whenever a sin is committed a devil is created to
    avenge it. What legions avenge this sin which, most of all,
    brutalizes man and turns all social relations into anarchy!
    Ask your men of science. They will tell you that all the evils
    flesh is heir to seem to get their seeds herein. Immortal
    revenge haunts it! You know, how in the Christian’s holy book,
    it is affirmed that many sicken and die because partaking
    of the cup of the holy communion unworthily. Presumptuous
    hypocrisy thus meets the wrath which paralyzed Uzzah and
    Jeroboam. But the cup of the passion was love’s highest gift,
    and the offense is not against the cup but against love in
    its sublimest display. Therefore forever death is the penalty
    that overhangs those who outrage this finest gem of angels and
    mortals. Treason to love is suicidal as well as murderous! They
    say that there is a demon whose touch causes hideous, coiling,
    stinging serpents to grow from the bodies of those he touches.
    I’ll tell you his name—Lasciviousness, and he works fatefully
    wherever man abides. But the pure home is an invincible bulwark
    against him, and hymen’s torch his blinding horror.”

There were some of the knight’s auditors, both men and women, who felt
it their duty, because of custom, to affect disapproval of the free
speaking they heard. Of these dissenters the women uttered no word, but
their eyes glared, and the color went and came in their cheeks. The
disapproving men exhibited faces as hard as marble, while their lips
mumbled incoherently.

The knight was not slow to perceive the rising storm, but he was
undaunted. He waxed more earnest and more eloquent; his words and theme
inflamed him.

One favorable to his faithfulness remarked to a comrade:

“The Hospitaler seems to grow taller, as if filled and enlarged by an
inspiration.”

His face shone as that of Moses when bearing the law, and some cowered
as if they heard coming toward them, from afar, the rumblings of Sinai.
Some white souls present wept, moved more by the truth in its beauty and
power than they could have been by any play on their emotions. It was an
hour of true oratory’s triumph; logic set on fire; a consecrated herald
grappling awful sin with the power of omnipotence.

Presently, after the thunder and lightning, came “the still, small
voice.” The man of God spoke with loving persuasiveness; he healed with
words, the woundings truth had made. Then he carried his audience with
him. Many bowed their heads to weep, as trees beaten by winds that
carried rain!

    “We can all entreat fallen men as to most sins, why not as to
    the chief sins? We speak to the fathers, brothers and sons
    faithfully, pleadingly; why not to the women who are elect to
    companion creation’s lords? Alas, the women have the greater
    need of helpful admonition, when they fall, for revilings and
    black despair fill up the cup of their remorse! You have heard
    of the Feast of Lanterns among the Chinese? Those pagans, once
    a year, go out with many-colored lights to symbolize Mercy
    seeking lost daughters. Shall God’s choicest people fall behind
    the pagan? Never, if true to the noble, tender, pure spirit
    that emanates from God’s own ideal of womanhood. No, no! let
    us vow with unwonted zeal, amid the lights, lessons and joys
    of this hour, to be knights of new order; knights of the white
    cross; sworn to denounce all impure practices on our own part,
    and on the other hand to strive to allure the fallen to that
    that is clean and white as the souls of the angels which do
    excel! Let us go to those whom sin has made drunk, in their
    despairing. Let us tell them that doubt castles are stormed!
    Let us proclaim the seed of the woman the serpent’s destroyer!
    Go, women to women, in woman’s name, remembering that pity in
    the soul makes him or her that hath it successful suppliant
    for all mercies at the throne on which forever the Interceding
    Son of the Virgin reigns! Go, fathers, making your fatherhood
    godlike in its just tenderness! Go, brothers, sons of women,
    as pure, strong brothers indeed! There is many a scarlet woman
    to-day with scalded eyes and ashen heart who is so because she
    believed men brothers and fathers and found some wolves and
    vultures. Go to those who have all days as nights, all joys
    as apples of Sodom. They were not always so, and need not so
    continue. Do not belittle their sin, yet seek to allure them
    by a noble presentment of purity and by all encouragement to
    attempt to win back their lost crowns. Tell them of the woman
    that stood serenely amid bitterest scorns, and say as did her
    Son to one like them: ‘_Go, and sin no more._’ Then teach those
    who have no such blot upon them to be kind and helpful. We can
    never judge any soul’s guilt until we at last know the measure
    of the temptation! God alone knows that.

    “I could speak on this theme for hours; but this is enough! The
    story of Mary has somehow ever had peculiar efficacy with the
    blighted of her sex. They easily are led, when all men fail
    them, to dare to trust the One who had a mother so tender.
    Many a motherless outcast has found Christ in trying to find
    mother-love in Mary. After the phantasmagoria of illusive
    pleasure it is healing, through faith in God’s exemplified
    love, to dream of how it seems to have a real mother’s arms
    enfolding one. I hold that it is profitable to the impure
    man, sometimes looking within the Pantheon of memory, to find
    therein conceptions he treasured in his purer days; but with
    more determined assertion I find that it lifts up the soiled
    woman to come in contact with the girdle of power and crown
    jewels of that maiden and mother of Nazareth and Bethlehem.
    It was she that stood against imperial Rome, in the person of
    Herod; a chaste young Jewess against corsleted animality; a
    country maiden, heaven-endowed, against an old fox; the loyal
    mother-eagle against the python! But she that was simply good
    evaded, outran, soared above, and finally confounded the evil
    at its lowest dip, its highest power!”

Then the orator-knight, waving his hand to Cornelius to signify to him
that the missioner was to conclude the ceremonial, abruptly closed his
address and retired to one of the little alcove-chapels.

A simple espousal service followed, and then the company gathered
dispersed, going to join in hastily-arranged festivities in the park by
the temple. The Hospitaler and the missioners were auditors.

“Nourahmal, I can well believe, was a rare beauty; her grand-child has
her features, and she’s a vision.”

“What time my friend here, the Hospitaler, did not engage me I was
admiring the groom,” Miriamne responded to her husband.

“He hails from the Jabbock country,” remarked the knight.

“Jabbock? Faithful Ichabod’s native place?” exclaimed Miriamne.

“He was the groom’s uncle,” quoth the knight.

Then the trio were silent, the thoughts of each following back over
the past years and along God’s providences. The way life’s lines were
crossed, interwoven and entangled seemed to each very wonderful.



CHAPTER XL.

THE QUEEN’S VISION OF THE “AGE OF GOLD AND FIRE.”

                    “Oh, moist eyes,
      And hurrying lips and heaving heart!
      The world we’ve come to late is swollen hard
      With perishing generations and their sins;
      The civilizer’s spade grinds horribly
      On dead men’s bones, and can not turn up soil,
      That’s otherwise than fetid. All successes
      Prove partial failure....
            ... All governments, some wrong;
      The rich men make the poor who curse the rich,
      Who agonize together, rich and poor,
      Under and over in the social spasm.
      ...
      Who being man and human, can stand calmly by
      And view these things, and never tease his soul
      For some great cure.”—MRS. E. B. BROWNING: “_Aurora Leigh_.”

      “They went up into an upper room,
      With the woman and Mary the mother of Jesus.”

      “Many signs and wonders were done.
      All that believed had all things common.”—ACTS.


“I’m anxious for the coming of the people to-day; Beulah said, a week
ago, at her wedding, that she’d have the old Druse camel-driver at this
service; though he ran away from her marriage feast.”

“I’ve heard that she and her grandmother had a convert to our faith,
nearly ripe,” replied Cornelius to his wife.

At this instant one of the “Bethany Sisters” timidly approached the
speakers, evidently anxious to deliver some communication.

“’Tis ‘Brightness’ by name and by nature,” remarked Miriamne.

“Well, sister Ziha, what is it?” questioned the chaplain.

“Pardon me; but there is waiting without, a grave and taciturn man who
says he would speak with the ‘Prophetess.’ He means our Miriamne.”

“Of what flavor is he, Ziha?”

“Surely, I can not imagine, sister Miriamne! His countenance is that of a
Persian Jew; his turban is Turkish; his tunic Christian. But his bearing
is that of a prince, though all his belongings, except his gorgeously
dressed camel, are those of a beggar!”

“I’ll see him, Ziha; bid him enter,” exclaimed Miriamne.

“That I did; but he says his haste is too great and his limbs too stiff
for dismounting. In truth, his brow, bleached to the bone, tells of
weighty years.”

“Let’s go to him,” said the chaplain.

The missioners going forth, at the easterly side of their temple, were
confronted by a majestic figure, mounted on a splendidly caparisoned
white camel, evidently a borrowed one.

“_Ullah makum_,” “God be with you,” said the man on the camel with great
courtliness and dignity, at the same time extending to the chaplain a
parchment roll.

“This for me?” questioned the latter.

“For thee,” replied the rider, bowing as before, but looking past the
question with fixed, though reverent, gaze at Miriamne.

“But who are you?” again questions the chaplain.

“God knows,” was the sententious reply of the rider, his eyes still
turning, not with curiosity, but with a deferential and affectionate
interest, toward the chaplain’s wife.

“What message here, my father?” questioned again Cornelius, in the
language of Galilee.

The aged man’s dark face lightened at the words, and turning his reverent
gaze from Miriamne toward the questioner, he slowly responded:

“The ‘Angels of the Mount’ are not too proud to call a poor camel driver
‘my father?’ Age has respect here! I might have known this: Nourahmal is
full of the odors of this new Bethany!”

“And do you come from Nourahmal?” quickly interrogated Miriamne.

“Nourahmal and I are one, by the voice of God spoken through the holy
Hospitaler, who is alluring me daily from the secret faiths of my fathers
to learn the prayers that Nourahmal learns here.”

“I see,” continued Miriamne; “I speak with Nourahmal’s consort. Pray
dismount for refreshment. We bid you every welcome, Mahmood.”

“Mahmood! called by such fine people by my proper name; not ‘dog’ or
‘here you,’ or ‘old camel goad!’ Wonderful!”

“Will Nourahmal’s spouse dismount?”

“Blessed woman, I’ve had great refreshment in being thus permitted to see
thee face to face, and thank thee and thine for what thou hast done for
me and mine; but I can not tarry; old age and poverty have bargained to
make constant toil my master. I must keep moving or the swifter youths
will take away my master and leave me to hire out to starvation;” so
saying, the speaker smote his camel and the beast moved away, slowly,
along the road toward Jerusalem.

Cornelius, recovering himself from his meditations, called after the
departing Druse.

“What of this parchment?”

“The Hospitaler sent it! He said it would talk with ‘the Angels of the
Mount.’”

The camel driver had stopped his beast to say this much. For a moment
he looked at the missioners, then at their temple and its surroundings.
There was a world of questioning, and wonder, and yearning in the old
man’s countenance. Again his goad fell on the beast he rode and the
latter bore him along.

“Shall we meet again, father?” Cornelius called after him.

“Stay master work! Go master want! ’Till good shade Death takes to
the cool rest-land the holy Hospitaler, the Angels of the Mount, my
Nourahmal, and may be me; even me the poor, old, camel-driver, Mahmood!”
was the slow reply as the Druse departed. A turn in the road soon shut
him from view.

“Well, my spouse, Miriamne, our new Bethany sees strange visitants these
days,” remarked her husband.

“The mystic Druse is finding something that is finer than the creeds of
his mountain clans,” rejoined Miriamne.

“Be not too certain; those Highlanders of Palestine are ever politic;
they’ll quote the Koran to one of Islam, kiss the Bible in the company
of Christians; but once alone are Druse to the last.”

“That is their character; but we’ve a transforming gospel; no man as
old as he and companion of such advocates of the White Kingdom as the
Hospitaler and Nourahmal, could talk as did that old man to kill time or
conventionally.—But you do not study your parchment.” Cornelius, recalled
by Miriamne’s words, unfolded the document given him by the camel-driver,
and read aloud:

    “My son and my daughter: Greeting; the streams of gospel
    blessing rising in the springs of your mountain temple reach
    refreshingly even unto Jerusalem, as I daily perceive.
    Therefore, for your consolation and for the enkindling of your
    pious zeal, I herewith send these lines. Work onward, beloved,
    believing, hoping you have arrived at the dawn of a new
    revelation and well commenced a true work for God. To-day, as I
    sought to interpret His prophecies, it came to me that that you
    are attempting to do is nigh to being a fulfillment of His word
    as recorded in the manner following by Ezekiel:

“Then the glory of the Lord departed from off the threshold of the house,
and stood over the cherubim.

“And the cherubim lifted up their wings, and mounted up from the earth in
my sight: when they went out, the wheels also were beside them, and every
one stood at the door of the east gate of the Lord’s house; and the glory
of the God of Israel was over them above.

“The word of the Lord came unto me, saying:

“Thus saith the Lord God: I will assemble you out of the countries where
ye have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.

“And they shall come thither, and they shall take away all the
detestable things thereof and all the abominations.

“And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within, and
I will take the stony heart.

“That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and they
shall be my people, and I will be their God.

“Then did the cherubim lift up their wings, and the glory of the God of
Israel was over them above.

“And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city, and stood
upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city.

    “These solemn words tell how the glory and favor of God was
    driven from the people of old by their sinning; how slowly,
    yearningly, God departed; how in every land He provide _little
    sanctuaries_ for the faithful few. And more than all this,
    the Holy Word describes God in Spirit as pausing on the mount
    to the east of Jerusalem. That pausing place was your Olivet.
    The Jewish Rabbins in their sacred histories affirm that for
    three years God, in manifest form, tarried, near where your
    Temple of Allegory stands, repeating over and over the solemn
    call, ‘_Return unto me, and I will return unto you!_’ Beloved,
    since then the eternal voice, through Jesus Christ, has spoken
    through three ministering years from these mountains to the
    world. You are now re-echoing the cry. God be with you, as He
    is, and give you faith to call and call until the ascended
    Christ come into all hearts.”

“No name to his letter, as usual?” remarked the chaplain.

“He seems to loathe names almost; but recently, when I made bold to ask
him his, he sententiously observed, ‘God knows; ’tis in a white stone,
I’m to get; for this life I’m only remembered by what I’ve done.’ But
what engages my husband’s attention now?”

“I’m trying to interpret the picture yonder, over the door, to the
retreat you call the ‘_Mother’s Pillow_.’”

“What think you of it? You perceive it’s the legend of the mother pelican
feeding her famishing young with blood drawn from her own bosom, which
she has wounded for their food.”

“I think the picture likely to depress nervous mothers!”

“That’s a picture of one side of mother life; look beyond it.”

At that the light from a distant window was let fall, by some unseen
attendant, all about the entrance to the “_Mother’s Pillow_!”

“I see a splendid ‘Gabriel’ above the pelican; the angel’s hand points
upward.”

“Glorious Gabriel! Angel of mothers and victories, by interpretation,
‘God’s champion!’ You’ve heard his titles, Cornelius?”

“I know that he bore victory to Gideon and lightened the way for Daniel’s
conquest of all Babylon; nor do I forget that he was the angel which
comforted giant Samson’s mother before her child was born.”

“Yea, he that made the sign of the cross, doing wondrously, above the
smoke of Monoah’s altar, was after commissioned to greet and guide Mary,
the mother of the Giant King of the new dispensation.”

“You’ve fine insights, Miriamne, but there’s incompleteness in your
symbolism here.”

“True, I feel that; all interpretation of motherhood is inadequate; but
look further.”

“I see the ‘Queen of Mothers!’ Why have you left her and the babe in such
deep shadows?”

“That’s this life’s reality; but look higher.”

The chaplain complied; a vine trellis was swung aside, and he beheld,
above the shadowed picture, in an arch reaching nearly to the roof of the
temple, another, the latter a marvel of light and color.

“Glorified Mary, uplifted by the babe, now grown and Kingly!” exclaimed
the chaplain.

“And so is taught for mothers’ comfort, that the Son of God honored her
who bore Him, because she was to Him a true mother. May we not believe
that this love for Mary, in the God heart, is widened into peculiar
tenderness toward all who give the earth its lords and paradise its elect
through the crucifixions of maternity?”

“Oh, Miriamne, I’ve learned in the past to stand, as it were, with bared
head, all reverential in the presence of true motherhood; when I see
it strengthened by faith, enriched by suffering; the most entrancing
example of self-abnegation on earth! To-day I feel, if possible, in these
surroundings, a deeper reverence than ever, for that estate of woman. Say
on.”

“Paganism worshiped the sun, the earth, woman; whatever brought forth;
it was its best attempt at expressing a vaguely realized yet noble
sentiment. The religions that repudiated paganism, in their efforts to
extirpate all idolatry, went to the extreme of denying merited honor to
some most worthy. Then came the Christian revolution, and God turned all
eyes toward a pure woman. He proclaimed forever the honors of motherhood
by presenting through it to the world His Unspeakable Gift.”

“So heaven’s last appeal to our race, after Sinai’s thunders and the rapt
visions of the prophets became ineffective, was made by the eloquence of
the life of the silent Mary.”

“Well said! Now filled with that belief, herald the White Kingdom!”

“I’ll help Miriamne, encouraging, upholding her; for the rest I’ve
learned to lean and follow.”

“I’m a column of dust, not a pillar of fire; and dust, alas, to dust
returns. There is much to do here, more than I shall be able to compass.
I’ve hitherto but vaguely taught the meaning, power and blessings of
motherhood.”

“I think more than vaguely.”

“The sun rises in the east. I think we’ve sunrise, but the depth, height
and breadth have not been sounded nor measured yet. Shall we go toward
the west wing?”

“Yea, lead, though I’m charmed in this presence.”

“I’d lead to the ‘_Rest of the Aged_.’”

“To the retreat with door like a castle? What are those amazon forms in
armor?”

“The Peri?”

“I bid them welcome in Miriamne’s name, having learned that she is
serious as well as cunning in weaving the manna-bearing garlands of every
myth about her ideals. Say on.”

“They say there is beneath the Caucasian mountains a wondrous city
builded of pearls and precious stones, in which dwells a race of
surpassing beauty of person. I’ve utilized the tradition.”

“Oh, the fabled Peri; but I’m mystified.”

“They also say,” continued Miriamne, “that Dives, a wicked genus, wages
constant war against the Peri, hoping to possess the treasures of the
Peri capital, but that they successfully repel him and make their
happiness secure. I have a similitude of the Peri city.”

“In truth, I wonder now. What fitness for such an allegory here?”

“I think I have come near to a profound truth. Listen; here at the west,
I have planned to show what makes approaching age a terror.”

“There are many evils which fall upon man’s declining years.”

“Judge me if my philosophy is faulty. I see ever that the fear of being
left poor and also old here haunts most lives. This fear is the parent
of avarice, and avarice is a serpent of glowing head and deadly sting.
It robs society and individuals of the two choicest jewels, plenteous
benevolence and serene hopefulness. You will find that most of the
wrongs from man to man arise from hearts made cruel by the rigors of
avariciousness. If we could stay that master passion, all streams of
benevolence would rise to their flood, and hoarding, now a seeming
necessity, most frequently a curse, become the occupation solely of a few
monomaniacs.”

“Miriamne’s philosophy is as invulnerable as a knight’s hauberk, but how
can you make it a general practice?”

“Oh, very easily. I’ve planned to endow our Temple of Allegory so that it
may not only teach but also do beautiful things. I’d have it a Pool of
Bethesda, stirred continuously to meet every human need.”

“Miriamne will have a vast following; the masses believe in loaves and
fishes!”

“True, avarice prompts some to a mean faith, but I seek to slay avarice
and blast the love of money, that root of all evil.”

“‘Enthusiast!’ a gainsaying world will cry.”

“And the cry of the world will be then, as often before, a burning lie!
So be it. I’m holding up the truth, the royal truth of Christianity. I’ll
hold it up while I have breath, and leave that truth, if God gives me
grace, as the beacon light on our hill to glow until all Christendom puts
on a charity as multiform and broad as the needs of humanity.”

“But there is a large and needy world.”

“I have a rich Father; the earth is His and the fullness thereof. The
only difficulty is in securing from His stewards an accounting and a
beginning of payment.”

“This, Miriamne, sounds like the dream of a poet. I’ll not waken you from
your beautiful trance, but still the rough fates of life as it is, and
the very common commonplace confront us.”

“What a world this would be if all mankind was as one family, realizing
universal brotherhood!”

“This, too, is the dream of the poet, Socialism; Astarte’s devotees
practiced it in the past.”

“Now, I’ll say silence! You speak of heathen socialism. Whatever its
form, lust was its corner stone, and a barbarous selfishness, which
limited it to those of each tribe or clan, its best expression! I speak
of a vastly finer, grander creed! I look out and forward to a day when
all shall know the Lord; a day when law shall be love and love shall be
law. Then earth shall be an Eden, with plenty for all, such plenty as
Divine bounty bestows. Christianity means the bringing in of that day;
the ‘Precious Gift’ was an earnest of all needed gifts from on high.
When that day comes we shall understand why the Pentecostal fire came to
all hearts in the time when all worshipers were thanking the All-Giver
for the bounties of the harvest. Then avarice shall cease from the earth,
and men, no more harassed by it, learn to practice all bountifulness in
youth and mid-life, and also serene restfulness when their powers of
bread-winning are paralyzed by the burdens of years. All will be noble,
therefore none indolent. There will be no beggars, for charity will run
before want, ever glad to serve those that can not serve themselves. Then
those who wear the glory-crowns of gray will be nourished reverently and
gladly, not as if they were useless paupers; not with a niggardly service
which seems to be constantly saying, ‘How long are you going to live!’
There will be no more worriment, no more crowdings of each other, no more
dishonesty among men! It is, I say, the constant fear of coming, in the
day when the heart is beating the last strokes of its own funeral march,
to doled charity or to nothing, that makes men pile up gain in dishonor
and hoard it with miserly grasping. Do you remember that Mary returned
from ministering to Elizabeth to sing her ‘Magnificat’ with these
prophetic strains:

“‘His mercy is on them that fear Him from generation to generation. He
hath filled the hungry with good things. He hath holpen His servant
Israel.’

“From the song she went to humble, painful ministries in behalf of all
the world. Mary supplemented the wondrous work of her Son and King, all
the way bearing as best she could her part of His cross; all the way her
quivering heart pierced by the sword that finally slew Him. She saw His
bloody tears turning to crown jewels as He ascended from Olivet, and
with unfaltering faith knelt among His earthly followers that she with
them might receive her crown of flame. That room was the highest point
of outlook on earth. It was the place of supreme beneficence; the place
where God gave Himself up freely for His followers and established the
memorial-superlative of the ages. Thither they hasted that they might
learn how all-receiving comes from all-giving, that they might realize
the measure and splendor of perfect charity, which is perfect love.”

“Miriamne, whence do you get such wondrous insights?”

Then the young wife turned aside to her “own little mountain,” as she
called a secret praying place in the chapel. She quickly returned, and
handing a manuscript to Cornelius, said:

“Read, please, of Pentecost.”

He complied:

“Then they that gladly received His word were baptized; and the same day
there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship,
and in breaking of bread and in prayers.

“And fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done by
the apostles.

“And all that believed were together, and had all things common;

“And sold their possessions and goods and parted them to all men, as
every man had need.

“And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking
bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and
singleness of heart,

“Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added
to the church daily such as should be saved.”



CHAPTER XLI.

A CHIME AND A DIRGE AT CHRISTMAS TIME.

      “Oh, not alone, because his name is Christ;
        Oh, not alone, because Judea waits
      This man-child for her King—the star stands still!
        Its glory reinstates,
      Beyond humiliation’s utmost ill,
        On peerless throne which she alone can fill,
      Each earthly woman! Motherhood is priced
        Of God, at price no man may dare
      To lessen or misunderstand.
      ...
      The crown of purest purity revealed
      Virginity eternal, signed and sealed
      Upon all motherhood.”—HELEN HUNT.

    “In sorrow thou shalt bring forth.”—Gen. iii. 16.

    “Thou shalt be saved in child-bearing.”—Tim. ii. 15.


Hundreds of willing hands, directed by Miriamne, were engaged in
preparations for fitly celebrating the feast of the Nativity at Bethany.
There was cheerful expectation everywhere in the village, and the Temple
of Allegory was smiling and glowing by day and by night with flowers and
lights.

“Miriamne, look forth! There approaches our domicile a company of
singing maidens, wearing holly wreaths and bearing a kline! What can it
mean?”

An instant of wonderment ready to echo the chaplain’s question possessed
Miriamne, then with a glow of satisfaction on her pale face, she cried:

“I know it all! The maidens of our fraternity have been declaring for a
month past they’d have me this Christmas at our Temple on the Hill, if
they must needs carry me thither!”

“And they knew you were drooping? Who told them? Not I.”

“Love has quick eyes, and my sisters love indeed!

“But, Miriamne, you surely will not risk your life, so precious to all,
by going forth to-day?”

“The holly, over-canopying the couch they bear, says to me: ‘Yea, go.’ I
told them the secret of the holly, and how those ancient Romans, thinking
their deities largely sylvan, cherished this shrub, so persistently
evergreen, in the belief that it afforded a safe and certain abiding
place for their gods in bitter, biting days of winter. The maidens
remember their lesson.”

And shortly after, all went forth toward the temple, the physically weak
but spiritually strong woman borne by her followers in a sort of triumph,
and Cornelius leading; the latter, that day was one of the happiest,
proudest men in all Syria. He rejoiced and exulted in being companion of
a woman such as Miriamne was.

Miriamne entered the temple to find a vast congregation awaiting her.
There was a ripple of excitement, a deep murmuring of satisfied voices
almost reaching the proportion of a masculine outbreak of applause,
as she appeared. Contentment was depicted on all faces, on many real
happiness. Neither was it transitory; there was a throbbing of gladness
running back and forth, rising higher and higher, until it finally broke
out into an impromptu “_Gloria in excelsis!_” Then followed a scripture
lesson:

“And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men
and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day
of the seventh month.

“And he read therein before the street that was before the water-gate
from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those
that could understand; and the ears of the people were attentive unto the
book of the law.”

And now the attention of all was drawn to the sound of footsteps in the
throbbings of a march, keeping time to the tones of the organ and the
flourishings of cymbals. Nigh an hundred Syrian maidens, wearing girdles
and crowns of evergreen, moved with graceful evolutions from the temple’s
east entrance and quickly formed in a crescent nigh to Cornelius and
Miriamne. They paused in their progress but still kept time with their
feet and swinging cymbals. Then the crescent was broken; those in the
center standing in lines that made a cross; those at either end grouping
as stars.

“Sisters, we’d hear the fitting song of this day,” said Miriamne.
Forthwith the gathered company of garlanded maidens began to retire,
but in perfect order, the two star groups passing along as the company
making the cross went, so preserving the form of the tableau, until the
exits were reached. As the procession went forth the temple bell tolled
solemnly, and the maidens sang, accompanied by organ-notes which died
away finally like the sigh of tired waves on a beaten strand. Cornelius
was silent, though his eyes were like the eyes of a child awakened from a
dream of wonderland.

Miriamne penetrating his thoughts remarked:

“Is Cornelius weary of questioning?”

“I listen as to autumn winds in a scared flight through weeping forests,
instead of to Christmas exultations!”

“The singers are of my ‘Miriamne Band,’ as they call themselves, in honor
of the sister of Moses, Israel’s greatest law giver.”

“Methinks all here are mystics in thought and poets in expression!”

“Then so was God. We are but reproducing His lessons! Remember now how
the Egyptian Pharaoh once commanded that all the male children of his
Israelitish captives be put to death, to the intent that eventually all
the females should become the prey of his people.”

“Miriamne journeys far from Bethlehem.”

“The mother and the sister watched the ark in which the infant Moses was
given to the cruel mercies of the Nile.”

“I remember, but there come no carols from the bullrushes.”

“Yea, finer than from the reeds of Pan. Listen; the ark, emblem of God’s
covenant, carried the law. The mother and sisters, by the ministries of a
love which never faltered, frustrated wily Egypt, saved themselves, their
male companions, and finally their whole race. When God embalms a history
it is well to look into it for germs of mighty portent.”

“But thinking of this distant and bitter history, we are kept from
Bethlehem, Miriamne.”

“So the Red Sea and the wilderness preceded the Promised Land. You
remember there were fears and tears before Miriam and her mother saw
their babe safely adopted at the palace; so there were pains and toils
to Mary along the way from Bethlehem’s manger to Bethany’s mount of
Ascension.”

The words of Miriamne were broken off by a strain of the organ that was
very like a moan of the distressed.

“Look yonder!”

The chaplain did as bidden, following a motion of his wife’s hand, and
saw the folds of a huge black curtain slowly rising from in front of one
of the temple alcoves.

“Woman’s sorrow is tardily lifted!” exclaimed his wife; then there came
to his ears words of human voices, which were joining in the almost
human-like moanings of the organ;

      “In Rama was there a voice heard;
      Lamentation and weeping and great mourning;
      Rachel weeping for her children,
      And would not be comforted,
      Because they are not.”

“Rachel and funeral dirges seem still distant from the songs of the
angels in Judea!”

“Rachel is here likened to Mary by the Apostle Matthew.”

“I liken Rachel to Miriamne: for the former Jacob served fourteen years
which, for the love he bore her, seemed but a few days. Cornelius could
have done as much for Miriamne.”

“My knightly spouse goes from Bethlehem himself toward Bethany. Go back
now.”

“I listen; lead me.”

“At Rama, the site of the tomb of Mary’s son, the converted publican,
St. Matthew, told how death began its cruel hunt of the Virgin’s loved
Child at His very cradle. Sorrow envies joy; death battles life, and ever
more woman’s love, the choicest rose of life, has been crossed by the
destroyer of human happiness; that is human hatings.”

“But how is Rachel so like Mary?”

“A common agony and common needs make all women akin.”

“I accord great homage to the woman who taught one so selfish, gnarled
and rugged of soul as Jacob was to love so deeply, as he was taught to
love by her, and yet almost infinitely I separate her from our Rose and
Queen.”

“Rachel died a martyr in maternity and therefore is worthy of place
among the regal women of earth. She was one of that line of women who
gave their lives for others. The line survives, and suffers through
the years; all-worthy, but not fully honored. Saint Matthew touched an
all-responsive chord when he voiced the Divine pity for all motherhood,
by placing the sorrows of Rachel and of Mary side by side. The plain man
unconsciously soars to the plane of the prophets and poets when he is
moved by human need or Divine justice.”

“The lesson is irresistible, but still I’m waiting for the celestial
melodies that awakened the shepherd the night of the Nativity!”

“My partner shall get by giving. Here is a parchment given me years ago
to read for my mother’s consolation after the death of my brothers. Read
it, thou, to the matrons and maidens when the chantings cease.”

After a time there was silence! the hush of expectation, for that
gathering was wont at times to wait for words of blessing from the
missioners, as the hart for the rivulet at the beginnings of the rain.

“Read!” whispered Miriamne, “but not as the tragedian! Read as a father
and lover, both in one.” The young man complied, and these were the words
of the parchment:

    “There was a man named Jehoikim who, impressed of God thereto,
    offered a lamb in sacrifice. As he slew it his heart was
    touched with tenderness, and he would have staid his hand,
    but God gave him strength to perform the command. After this
    a daughter, called Mary, was born to him. Whenever he looked
    upon her gentle face he remembered the bleating lamb, and was
    certain that some way his child was to be a sacrifice to God.
    And it was so; for she bore a Son to whom she gave all the
    wealth of a mother’s love, but at last He was offered for man’s
    sin upon a felon’s cross, the agony He felt reaching the heart
    of his mother. As the Son gave Himself up for the world, so
    she gave herself up for her Son. She was sustained through it
    all by a conscience void of offense, and by the ministry of
    angels. Alone to the world, she had no solitude, for though her
    espousal to God had no human witness, even as Eve’s to Adam had
    none, and both were inexperienced, God was at her nuptials, as
    He is ever with those who purely give themselves to Him.”

Then the wife wept and was silent.

“My darling, what so moves you? I’ve never experienced such a Christmas.
You make the feast as solemn as the holy supper.”

There came no answer; but ere the husband could turn to seek a reason it
came in a cry from the audience, and a thronging from all directions
toward where the missioners were.

“Miriamne has fallen!”

“’Tis a swoon?”

“No, ’tis death!” There were surgings back and forth, voices suggesting
helps, voices filled with stifled sobs, and voices of fright in the
trebles of hysteria.

The sick woman was borne by strong men to her domicile, and then began
the tension of waiting. The young chaplain was entering the valley
of poignant pains by sympathy’s pathway, bound by that mystic chain
whose links are in the words: “These twain shall be one flesh.” Herein
is a mystery often repeated; the man’s grief was supplemented by a
consciousness of vague pains passing along unseen lines from the woman to
himself. Slowly Miriamne recovered consciousness; but still she hovered
on the confines of woman’s supreme hour, the hour when great fear haunts
great hopes, great weakness yields to miraculous influxes of power, and
great joy, in company with unutterable yearnings, moves along under the
shadows and by the gulfs of greatest perils. About her gathered a group
of matrons of her sisterhood, pressing to serve their beloved.

One whispered to another: “Her face is unearthly, like Mary’s as we saw
it in the ‘Assumption’ to-day.”

The one that heard the words answered with a sob. The voice of pain
called the drooping woman quickly from her semi-stupor to ministry,
and opening her eyes she tenderly murmured to the woman that sobbed,
“Remember what he said: ‘Women of Jerusalem, weep not for me; but weep
for yourselves and children.’ If I go ’twill be all well; yes, by His
grace, all well with me. Let all your pity follow the pilgrims of our
sex who tarry to painfully journey through years of trial, unrequited.”

A little later Cornelius was hastily summoned by one that sought him,
from the shadows of an arch of the roof, whither he had gone for a few
moments’ solitude, in which to plead, as only can a man who writhes in
the fear of having his life torn in two.

“Miriamne asks for her husband.” He heard the words and was by his
consort’s side instantly. Her eyes were closed, but taking her pale hand
tenderly in his he impressed a kiss on her brow. She opened her eyes full
upon him, with a gaze of undying love.

“You kissed my brow, the first kiss as a lover. Then you said it was
given in the spirit of reverential admiration. Has marriage ever changed
the thought?”

“Never!”

“If I should leave you, do you think you could tell others how to love
so?”

“Oh, I can, surely; if I can do any thing, alone!” And then came to
him the silence of a dumb grief. She saw his agony and pitied him, yet
serenely she spoke:

“Go onward, beloved, in the way of the prophet’s vision; the power of
Christ be with you; the life of Mary is an open book; speak to, work for
those most needing, then will you have your constant Pentecost with the
ever present ‘Grail.’”

Cornelius pressed the hand he held tenderly; he could not speak.

“Repeat to me the beautiful words concerning the Harvest Feast which you
heard out of Moses at the service that so blessed you at Jerusalem,” she
continued again. Then, mastering his voice, he complied:

“And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks unto the Lord thy God with a
tribute of a freewill-offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give _unto
the Lord thy God_, according as the Lord thy God hath blessed thee:

“And thou shalt rejoice before the Lord thy God, thou, and thy son, and
thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite
that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the
widow, that are among you, in the place which the Lord thy God hath
chosen to place His name there.”

When he finished the words he hid his face in his hands.

“Thou art weary, my good master,” spoke a Jewish mother present. “Go now
and rest. I’ll watch.”

Quickly, gently, firmly he waved her away, as one unwittingly trying to
draw him from the gates of heaven.

“It is not usual,” she persisted, “for a man to serve this way; then thou
hast other and more important duties, our holy missioner!”

He found voice to speak, and needed to restrain himself from indignant
tone. It seemed as if it were impiety now, so great his love, to speak
of any duty as higher than that he had toward this one woman, more to
him than all the world beside. “No; if I were on the cross she would be
there, another Mary; if I am now in torture I’d be no Christian if I did
not emulate Him who, amid crucial agonies, between two worlds, cried as
inmost thought of His heart, ‘_Behold thy Mother!_’”

He felt Miriamne’s hand pressing his, and drawing him closer to herself.

“Cornelius, I’m leaning now as never before upon my husband’s loyal
heart!”

It seemed to the man as if she were nigh to crying: “My God, my God, why
hast thou forsaken me!” and as if to answer his own thought he exclaimed:

“He will be Father, I as a mother, Miriamne, my Miriamne!”

Grief had made him an interpreter. It was as he thought, the heart of the
young woman, woman-like, had been groping about for mother-love. Memory
had been busy, but had sent the heart of the woman back from groping amid
the graves of Bozrah all weary, to nestle and rest on the breast of him
that gave mother-love, and promised all else that loyal heart ere gave.

But all was not gloomful; the clouds were shot through and tinted by some
light-rays.

“What if our forebodings prove untrue?”

Hope’s question was as a north wind to a desert noon.

Once the man bashfully questioned his spouse, with broken sentence that
was half signs.

“Does Miriamne feel aught of reproach toward the great love, seemingly
not far from utter selfishness, which enchanted to this peril?”

“Could Madonna reproach God when she felt the heart-piercing sword? To
Him she submitted, no less do I in doing and suffering as He wills!”

It has been said a woman’s heart is complex, but this one’s was not now.
It lay open, as a book, before her lover-husband. He saw no idol there
but himself. Had there ever been hidden remembrance of some girlish love,
some secret scar left by a romance, both burning and brief, it would have
been opened or effaced now.

As she beheld her consort, this time more loved, if possible, than ever
before, knightly, courtly and tender, alert and strong to help, lavish
in caressing, she not only felt conquered, but filled with desire to
surrender to the uttermost; for she joyed to place this man on the
throne of her being next after God, supremely lord over all. So together
they moved amid the flowers of Beulah-land, under the glorious lights
of married love. She all compensated for the pangs the trying hour
brought; he thrilled, as he ascended higher and higher from lover love to
husband love, to that holy delight that comes to a man beginning to feel
fatherhood, the gift of the woman his heart has enthroned. For a little
time both were too happy to speak, so they let their thoughts wing their
way upward to the eternities where hopes eternally blossom. She presently
signaled him to draw close to her, then his clasped hands lay on her
heart, and their lips met. She said nothing, yet by a sign-language well
understood by each, plainly entreated him to tell her over and over, more
and more, his inmost thought, that her heart knew full well already.

She heard his heart’s beatings, then she whispered: “Don’t be anxious;
all is well, for all is as He that loves us wills.”

“Oh, Miriamne, I loved you never as now; God bless you! bless you! bless
you!”

She interrupted him again. “The crisis is coming, and I thought perhaps I
might not survive, Cornelius, but if I do not—”

Her words were silenced by an impassioned kiss.

She continued, “I dreamed, last night, that I saw the shadow of a cross,
but on it a woman’s form.”

“Oh, beloved, do not think of it!”

“I do. I must! I understand it all.”

Pity now silenced her.

“Oh, Miriamne!” he cried anon, as he saw her descending into the vale of
agony, from which he could not hold her back. He dare say no more. He
feared to voice his thoughts, lest his fears become ponderous and huge,
once they found escape in the garb of words.

Just past midnight the dispatched courier arrived, bringing twain of the
most-skilled physicians of Jerusalem.

Cornelius watched them with an interest beyond words. His heart sank
down and down again, as he saw them in serious consultation. Unable to
restrain himself, he seized the elder, and drawing him hastily aside,
demanded an opinion. The grave old man only shook his head, saying: “We
may save one.”

“One? One!

“Which? What?”

“Young man, be quiet; do not let thy emotions disturb the patient or the
nurses. Prepare for the worst.”

The husband seized the wrinkled hand of the aged practitioner, and then
flung it from him, crying: “It must not be! It shall not be!” Instantly
he rushed toward the couch, but the two men of healing intercepted him.
Then the elder one said: “We must be obeyed, or else we will give no
commands! Shall we go or stay?”

What a revulsion came! It seemed to Cornelius as if these two men
of skill were angels, and flinging his arms about them, he hoarsely
whispered: “Save, save! Stay and save! All I have I give you, only save
her!”

Quietly they led him to the adjoining apartment; then charged him, as
he hoped for any good to his wife, not to re-enter her chamber until
sent for. Reluctantly he consented, not daring to do otherwise and yet
believing in his very soul that in this hour of peril the bestowment of
love’s caresses on the invalid would be better than any skill of the
stranger. He withdrew to the arch on the roof, where unmolested he could
pray. But his meditations were full of miserable sights. He thought of
the Egyptians in their feats of Osiris, leading to sacrifice the heifer
draped in black; then of Rizpah defending her relatives; then of the
monument in Bozrah, with the mother holding her dead Son. He thought,
amid the latter meditations, of himself creeping about that monument, in
the night, until he came to another, on which he deciphered the name,
“_Miriamne_.” The imagination gave him a shock, and he gave way to it
exhausted. An hour or so after he was awakened from a sort of stupor by
the younger of the physicians, who, standing by his side, addressed him:

“Sir Priest, thou mayst come now; but as thy profession teaches, nerve
thyself to confront any fate, good or ill.”

“How’s my wife?” exclaimed the stricken man, leaping from his couch and
approaching the speaker, that he might devour with his eyes the thought
of the one he questioned.

The emotionless features of the man accustomed to confront human
suffering softened a little to pity. The quick eye of the missioner
discerned the change, then he cried:

“What, dead!”

“No; if thou wilt but control thyself, thou mayst see her for a little
while; there’ll be a change soon.”

The man of healing had done and said his best, but that was bad enough.
He had tried to comfort, but the exigencies were beyond human powers. “A
change soon!”

Hard, mocking words. Apology for bad news! Stepping-stone to saying
the worst is at hand; words so often used by the man of healing when
his art is defeated! How like a funeral knell breaking the heart
has come, again and again, to tingling ears those terrible sounds:
“In—a—little—while—there’ll—be—a—change!” Cornelius felt all their
stunning force, and was instantly by the side of Miriamne. What a change
met his hungry eyes! The fever had died away; fever, that blast from the
shores of Death’s ocean, had passed, because there was nothing longer
for it to attack. The tide was ebbing. She lay silent, pale and haggard;
motionless, except as to a feeble breathing. The husband would have
encircled her with his arms. It was love’s impulse, but science, the
men of healing, restrained him. There was a little wail just then, and
he glanced around with a look of joy. The nurse had brought the babe
close to him, turning away her own face to hide her tears, but holding
the little one out as if trying to say: “This shall compensate.” Then
again the grief-stricken man turned to the physicians and whispered, in a
half-fierce, half-terrified way: “She’ll live—she’ll be better now.”

The aged man, slowly adjusting the paraphernalia of his profession
preparatory to departure, replied: “Few survive the Cæsarean section. It
was a dire necessity.”

“Lord, behold whom Thou lovest is sick,” moaned the young chaplain, as he
knelt by the couch and buried his face in its disordered covering. So the
tide of life ebbed at midnight, leaving a stranded wreck at Bethany, and
the Christmas chimes turned to dirges.



CHAPTER XLII.

THE MOTHER OF SORROWS TRIUMPHANT AT LAST

      Are we not kings? Both night and day.
        From early unto late,
      About our bed, about our way,
        A guard of angels wait!
      And so we watch and work and pray
        In more than royal state.
      Are we not more? Out life shall be
        Immortal and divine;
      The nature MARY gave to THEE,
        Dear JESUS, still is THINE;
      Adoring, in THY heart I see
        Such blood as beats in mine.—A. A. PROCTOR.


Hundreds were assembled within the “_Temple of Allegory_,” and other
hundreds, unable to effect an entrance, tarried around about it.
The knell of Miriamne, the Angel of the Mount, had called the vast
congregation together from Bethany, from the country round about and from
the City of Jerusalem.

There were many signs of subdued sorrow, but the intensive expression
of grief common in the East was absent; neither was there any of the
paganish blackness, which sometimes characterizes Christians’ funerals,
manifest. Though Miriamne was dead, her sweet, trustful, cheerful spirit
still survived and still ruled.

The knights of Jerusalem, led by the Hospitaler, were present, the latter
to direct the services, by request generally extended.

After a “grail” song by his companions, and at its last words, “_I
shall be satisfied when I awake in His likeness_,” the Hospitaler began
discoursing.

“Men and women, death, the leveler, makes us all akin; therefore all of
us feel impoverished by the departure of the angel who shone upon us here
from the form that lies yonder. Miriamne Woelfkin, daughter of a knight,
consort of a Gospel herald, devoted friend of womankind, disciple of
Jesus, was gifted with almost prophetic insight and power of alluring
unsurpassed in our day. Hers was the power of a burning heart entranced
of a superb ideal, and therefore was it the power of immortal influence.
She will live not more truly in the life she died to give than in the
lives she lived to save. She was an unique woman, but only so because of
her superior womanliness. Being dead, she reaches the reward generally
denied the living, full appreciation. Her career was in part a parallel
of her choice exemplar’s. You have heard how the Mother of our Lord sung
her ‘_Magnificat_’ out of a heart as free as a girl’s, yet as proud as
that of a woman’s glowing in the prospect of honoring maternity. But
the last note of her rapture died on her lips full soon, and she never
after in this life rose to such measure of joy. God permitted her life
to pass through a series of suppressions and griefs, doubtless that she
might exemplify the sad side of woman’s career. The histories of women,
mostly written by men, are marred by the conceits of their writers, and
are at best but obscure pictures. The man with the pen lacks insight
as to the being, whose life is so largely an expression of heart and
soul. The lordly writer clothes his heroes in the light of his fevered
imagination, depicting with bold stroke the mighty deeds of stalwartness;
but he sees few heroines in his horizon. Those he does see are beyond his
power of analysis. He falls to actual worship of his masculine demi-gods,
perhaps as a partial atonement for his failings toward the fine and
noble characters whose traits are too spiritual for his thought-limits
or vocabularies. The generality of those who discourse concerning women,
do it in a patronizing way, and feel to praise themselves as paragons
in doing justice in this, even by halves. The queenship of Mary is
constantly disputed, and so her lot is more closely linked with that of
her sex. As she received the royal gifts of the Magi, holding them as a
sacred trust for Him to whom her life was utterly devoted, so woman, the
bearer and nurse of the race, gives all that she has without stint to
others. Her life is a suppression; all bestowing; her reward the joy she
has in the lavishness of her bestowals. Hers is the joy of the fountain
that sings because it flows.

“But recently ye saw the Jewish priests deposit on his mount, after a
custom constant since Moses, the ashes of the red heifer. They burned
their sacrifice with red wood. Red pointed to the blood that can only
atone for sin. But underneath all lies a deep lesson. ’Twas the female
instead of the male thus offered, and her ashes gave potency to the
waters of purification. I read this hidden truth: the sacrifices of
the gentler sex work out the purification of the race. As the moss in
the heart of the stone, I see this truth lying in the heart of the
ceremonial! As Christ’s cross precedes the cleansing of regeneration, so
woman’s cross is the means by which the decays of life are offset by new
created beings. By the bier of the wondrous comforter of others, I may
surely appeal to those who hear me and loved her to seek with quickened
ardor to offer the pain-assuaging myrrhs to those grand souls who go
along the way to life’s crucial glories. I’d have such justice done as
would cause all women to cease pitying themselves because they are such,
and go about rejoicing that God gave them the superlative privileges of
womanhood.”

There came forth a loud cry, with moanings, from the part of the temple,
called the “Mother’s Pillow,” where the honored dead lay.

“Miriamne, oh, Miriamne, you brought me through Gethsemane to your
Calvary!”

A silence almost oppressive fell on the assembly. It was the silence of a
pity too deep for words.

Then spake the Hospitaler, in words as invigorating as a herald of God’s
should be, and yet as soothing as a mother’s to her child in pain:

“Christ, who loved the young man who was very good and yet not perfect,
loves thee, for He is unchanging in His mercy. Hear me, an old man,
stricken with the years that have schooled, and one who has experienced
the bitterness of widowerhood after loyal, full loving. God’s hand is on
thee. He is schooling thee to carry on the work begun by thy wondrous
consort now asleep.”

“Oh, Miriamne, Miriamne! alone in the dark, I move through Gethsemane
toward thy Calvary!”

Again the silence of pity was broken by the voice of the knight.

“Remember how David of the White Kingdom was called and furnished for his
kingship. ‘He chose David, also, His servant, and took him from the sheep
folds, from following the ewes great with young. He brought him to feed
Jacob, His people, and Israel, His inheritance.’

“Missioner-shepherd, God calls thee to a ministry of love, for those
whose trials thou hast now been taught, in part, to measure. You have
heard how Hadadrimmon, the fabled god of the harvest, ever comes, bearing
sheaves, with tears.

“Thus speaks the prophet:

“‘In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the
mourning of Hadadrimmon.

“‘And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house
of David apart, and their wives apart.’

“Young man, God is giving thee a crown in David’s royal line.

“Once more I turn to her who was thy Miriamne’s exemplar and queen. Let
me tell you all of the last hours of Mary, that you may find instructive
parallels. I’ll read from my treasured book of traditions:

    “After the ascension of Jesus, our Mary dwelt in the house
    of John upon Mount of Olives, and she spent her last days in
    visiting places which had been hallowed by her Divine Son; not
    as seeking the living among the dead, but for consolation and
    for remembrance and that she might perform works of charity.

    “In the twenty-second year after the ascension of the Lord, she
    was filled with an inexpressible longing to be with her Son;
    and, lo, an angel appearing with the salutation, ‘Hail, Mary,
    I bring thee a palm-branch, gathered in paradise; command that
    it be carried before thy bier, for thou shalt enter where thy
    son awaits thee.’ And Mary prayed that it be permitted that
    the apostles, now widely scattered under their great commission
    to gospel the world, be gathered about her dying couch; also
    that her soul be not affrighted in the passage through the pale
    realm of death. The angel departed; the palm-branch beside
    her shed light like stars from every leaf; the house was
    filled with splendor, and angel voices chanted the celestial
    canticles. The Holy Spirit caught up John as he was preaching
    at Ephesus, and Peter, offering sacrifice at Rome, and Paul,
    from his place of labor, Thomas, from India, while Matthew
    and James were summoned from afar. After these were called,
    Philip, Andrew, Luke, Simon, Mark and Bartholemew were awakened
    from their sleep of death. These holy ones were carried to the
    Virgin’s home on clouds bright as the morning, and angels and
    powers gathered round about in multitudes. There were Gabriel
    and Michael close beside her, fanning her with their wings,
    which never cease their loving motions. That night a supernal
    perfume of ravishing delightsomeness filled the house, and
    immediately Jesus, with an innumerable company of patriarchs
    and holy ones, the elect of God, approached the dying mother.
    And Jesus stretched out His hand in benediction as He did when
    ascending from the world, long before at Bethany. Then Mary
    tenderly took the hand and kissed it, saying: ‘I bow before the
    hand that made heaven and earth. Oh, Lord, take me to Thyself!’
    Thereupon Christ said, ‘Arise, my beloved; come unto me.’ ‘My
    heart is ready,’ she replied; a few moments after: ‘Lord, unto
    thy hands I commend my spirit.’ Then having gently closed her
    eyes, the holy Virgin expired without a malady; simply of
    consuming love, permitted now by the loving Creator to melt
    the golden cord binding spirit to body. And triumphantly amid
    mourners who rejoiced exceedingly in spirit, the body of this
    Queen of the House of David was entombed amid the solemn cedars
    and olive trees of Gethsemane. Now, this happened upon the day
    that the true Ark of the Covenant was placed in the eternal
    temple of the new heavenly Jerusalem, as they say; and the
    saying is good, for surely, in her heart, this saintly woman
    kept the law; the divine manna as well. Even more, she was the
    fulfillment of God’s covenant that a woman should bear the
    masterers of sin.”

The speaker then knelt; all heads were bowed; he spread out his hands
as in benediction, but spoke not. Yet all in the silence were blessed,
for the manifestation of Christ was there. After the benediction the
companion knights chanted an old grail psalm, repeating again and again
the stately words:

“_I am the resurrection and the life._”

As they sang their eyes were turned upward in a rapture as of men who saw
a glorious appearing; and indeed they had a vision of splendor; but they
saw it within, not without.

“There are angels hovering round,” reverently whispered Mahmood to his
camel. He was too full to keep silent; too distrustful of his wisdom to
confide his thoughts to a human being. But the thought of the old Druse
was as exalted as that of the Hospitaler, for the latter exclaimed, as
the congregation slowly moved out to the strains of the organ:

“Methinks I hear the beatings of mighty wings! Not far away is Gabriel,
the ‘angel of mothers’ and of victories! Yea, verily, I believe that the
spirits of Adolphus, Rizpah, Sir Charleroy and Ichabod are ministering
nigh us!”

Many looked up through their tears fixedly, as if they felt what the
knight had said in their souls.

Then they laid the body of Miriamne in a new-made tomb nigh the Garden of
Olives, not far from the burial-place of Mary the mother of Jesus.



CHAPTER XLIII.

A COFFIN FULL OF FLOWERS AND A GIRDLE WITH WINGS.

    “Behold thy mother!”—JESUS TO JOHN.


Two travelers journeyed slowly along Mount Olivet, pausing anon to
observe the flower-dells between them and Mount Zion, or to contemplate
the wilder prospects where the wilderness of Judea edged close up to the
hills they traversed. As the travelers passed, the natives looked after
them with curiosity; for the garments of the former, though dust-covered,
were those of personages above the ranks of the common people; also of a
fashion that betokened them strangers in that vicinity.

One of these men was a youth, stalwart and comely; the other was
gray-haired and bent as if by the weight of years, though a closer view
suggested premature blasting, rather than senile decline.

“Winfred, before entering Bethany, we’ll to the ‘Hill of Solomon,’ the
site of Chemosh, the black image of the Roman Saturn.”

Thereupon the twain turned away from the village and soon came upon a
company of revelers, each wearing a crown of autumn fruits, and all
gathered about a platform crowded with hilarious dancers.

“Saturnalia!” exclaimed the elder.

“The worship of Saturn ceased ages ago, did it not?”

“Of the image, yes; but the folly, little changed, continues.”

“This is strange enough; and yet it’s a relief to meet a few happy people
in this land of solemn faces; even if those happy ones do joy like fools.”

“They celebrate the passing of summer-heat and the coming of the rains
of autumn. Say not fools; they are trying to be glad about something
good, somehow coming from some one somewhere above them. Perhaps God can
resolve scraps of thanksgiving out of it all.”

“Theirs is the laughter of wine! the laughter of the goat-god, Pan, whose
face scared his mother and whose voice scared the gods!”

“We’ve a persistent custom here, son; and men do not play the fool for
generations after one manner, at least, without cause.

“These attempt to press into the court of Pleasure to cajole her; all
men do that; these have chosen merely an old way. They cling to the myth
of Saturn, the subduer of the Titan of fiction. They say that deity,
dethroned in the god-world, fled to Italy, where he gave happiness and
plenty through life, and the freedom of air and earth after death, which
latter he made to be only a little sleep.”

“That was not more than a mock golden-age; it never came, I think.”

“But very alluring to those that long for it; they dance half-naked,
typifying the primitive times when men had fewer cares, because fewer
wants.”

“Can one laugh hard fates out of countenance, and make his troubles run
with a guffaw?”

“The devotees of Saturn were wont to offer their children in his
altar-fires, and so ever more it happens; he that bends to the
materialistic solely, kindles altar-fires for his posterity.”

“After to-day what comes to these, peace?”

“Nay, a year all dark and colorless; then another spasm called a feast—a
brief lightning-flash revealing the darkness.”

“And so the years come and go; one generation of madmen, then another;
death the only variety?”

“Nay! I’d have you look upon pleasure of sense deified, taking its
pleasures under the shadows of Chemosh, for a purpose. You remember we
read together, under the palms at Babylon, how the holy Daniel saw in
vision the four winds of heaven striving on the sea?”

“I remember the prophet’s reverie or revel.”

“The four winds and the sea! the meaning, opened, is conflict on every
hand on earth! Out of the follies and turmoils David’s White Kingdom will
emerge at last. Listen to the words of the inspired seer:

“‘Behold one like the Son of Man! There was given Him a dominion and a
glory that all people should serve Him; an everlasting dominion!’

“It is coming; my poor faith, amid the conflicts and revels of man,
hears the voice of God crying through the night, as in Eden’s dark hour:
‘_Where art thou?_’ My last lesson to my son awaits us at Bethany; let’s
be going.”

Ere long Cornelius Woelfkin and his son Winfred stood silently, and with
uncovered heads, before, but a little apart from, a stately marble shaft
that rose up amid the olive trees of Gethsemane. It was night, and they
were alone. The father motioned the son back, and alone glided under the
shadowing trees, toward the pillar. There the elder one threw himself
down on the earth, close beside the monument; the youth, deeply moved,
but unwilling to intrude upon the scene of sacred, silent grief, stood
aloof. In a small way, there was a repetition of the grief of the Man
of Sorrows, who there, ages before, yearned in His humanity over a lost
world, over those from whom His heart was soon to part for life. To be
sure, the cross of Cornelius Woelfkin was infinitely less galling, less
heavy than that borne by his Master; and yet it was as heavy as he could
bear, and hence the pitifulness of his grief.

Who can lift the curtain from his thoughts? The years roll back and
memory’s pictures pass through his brain, at first in joyful train. The
lovers in London; the betrothal at sea; the wedding at Jerusalem; the
ecstatic consummation in years of marriage. Then the painful, almost
awful separation by death, that never to be forgotten Christmas time.
And then, twenty years with leaden feet carrying the lone-hearted man
so painfully slow toward death’s portals, for which he longed with
unutterable yearning. “Oh, Miriamne, Miriamne, let me come,” he cried.
The youth, hearing the agonized utterings, was instantly by his father’s
side. But the old man, still oblivious to all but his sorrow and his
memories, moaned on with deepening fervor.

“Father,” called out the son. The father rose to his feet and calmly
said: “My boy, pity me. I’m weak. But oh, you never knew what it is to
have your life sawn in twain and be compelled then to drag your half and
lacerated being along the over-clouded vales of an undesired existence!”

“My mother’s tomb?”

“Yes. I promised, as my last service to you, to bring you to it. Its
study shall be the finish of your schooling.”

Just then the clouds broke away and the moonlight fell full upon the
monument. It was a shaft, terminating in a crucifix; by its side were
two forms, one that of St. John, with face turned toward the figure of
the dying Savior; the other that of a woman kneeling, her face buried
in her hands. On the base of the cross was the brief sentence: “Behold
thy mother.” As the youth gazed on the farewell charge of Jesus to John,
when He commended to the care of that beloved disciple His sorrowing
mother, he started. It seemed as if the words had grown out of the marble
suddenly while he was gazing, and for himself only. He felt as if he
could almost embrace the stone.

The two men were silent and heart full. After a long time, they
simultaneously turned away toward Bethany. They came to a turn in the
road that would shut out all view of the garden of sorrow, and the elder
paused, loath to leave the place where his heart was buried.

Presently he spoke again, as if unconscious of any other being with him:
“Oh, Miriamne, I failed to carry out the work thou left’st me! How could
I, alone? I was but half a man without thee, my other self! Miriamne,
Miriamne, I can be only nothing when I can not be with thee.” Then the
old man lifted his hands as in benediction or embrace, and continued:
“Farewell, a last farewell, sweet, white soul, until upon the tearless,
healing shores of light I say good morning!”

There was a mighty pathos in the display of this old, ripe, strong grief,
which lived on a love that could not die. The man was a study. He was of
fine fibre, almost effeminate, never firm, except in his affection for
that one woman. That was the one strong trend, the one anchorage of his
life. He need not study the man far, who strove to know him, to discover
that this tenacity was not natural to him always. It had been a growth
under the influence of the peerless wife.

“Shall we go on?” after a little asked the son. With a shudder and a
suppressed sob the elder moved on, but with laggard step, which soon
paused. Just now, the moon being beclouded, it was very dark about them,
and the father reached out his hand and drew the youth to his embrace. He
whispered: “Winfred, son of Miriamne, you bear her image in your face,
bear it ever in heart, as well. I’m glad you’re not so like me.” The son
tried to speak, but the elder interrupted:

“You’ll ere long be fatherless as well as motherless, but take your
mother for your guiding-star. You know what your birth cost her. By her
death you obtained life, as by the Christ’s, immortality. She saved
others, she could not save herself; but if you’re true to her memory
she’ll have a mother’s immortality, that life that lives in the life of
her child.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Let us gather up the _last_ threads of our story. After the death of
Miriamne, the “Sisters of Bethany” soon ceased to congregate at the
“House of Bethesda,” in the city on Olivet. Cornelius Woelfkin attempted
for a time to carry forward the work of the mission, but, utterly
miserable himself, he did not know how to bestow comfort on others; a
man, without the intimate companionship of the woman who had been his
inspirer, he had no discernment of the needs of woman, nor power to
interpret the truths that were in the Book or in nature, those garners of
manna.

The Hospitaler was sent for as an aid. He came but once, and then spoke
as kindly as he could to the women of Bethany and Jerusalem, and took his
farewell of them all, in closing words like these:

“The blessed Miriamne, child of Jesus, and emulator of Mary, has passed
away, but Christ her Comforter and Savior may be such to each of you,
that wills Mary’s example, as the inspiration of all women, can never
die. The world has been a battle-ground, and each of you can here see
over the whole field of conflict. Shall all pleasures be found under the
leadership of Bacchus and Venus, or in Him that is the God of Joy? Shall
woman echo the passions of man or the ‘_Magnificat_’ of Mary? Shall the
strength that man seeks be that of the giants, brute force; the strength
of woman be, in her youth the bewitchings of personal beauty, in old age
the cunning of the witch-hag? Shall it not rather be in the girdle of her
moral worth?

“The world needs to seek and find love, beauty and light. Some go after
it, vainly, as did the Egyptian devotees of Phallic Khem; to whom, with
pitiful incongruity, were offered rampant goats and bulls, decorated
with most delicate flowers. They called Khem the ‘God of births,’ the
‘beautiful God,’ but we know to put mothers on the throne as the
beautiful; their flowers, their jewels, their glories being their
offspring!

“Women of Jerusalem, never forget the Savior’s own words to the women
that envied His mother, crying that the one that bore Him and nursed Him
was therefore peculiarly blessed! His reply was: ‘YEA, RATHER BLESSED ARE
THEY THAT HEAR THE WORD OF GOD AND KEEP IT.’”

Then the Hospitaler, bending his eyes upon the pale-faced, widowed
missioner, continued: “I’ll tell thee a tradition of our Lord’s mother.
Doubting Thomas, laggard because doubting, came late to the burial-place
of Mary. He begged to have her coffin opened, that once more he might
gaze on the face of his Savior’s mother. It was done. But there seemed to
be nothing in that coffin except lilies and roses, luxuriously blooming.
Then, looking up, he saw the spirit of the woman ‘soaring heavenward in
a glory of light.’ But as she soared, she threw down to him her girdle.
Here is a beautiful parable. The graves of the holy are to memory full
of the ever-blooming roses of love and the lilies of purity. If we may
not have them we loved with us always, we may have the virtues with which
they engirdled themselves, for our conflicts.”

The Hospitaler paused, cast a glance of yearning tenderness upon the
assembled women and the heart-stricken Cornelius; then exclaimed:

“Long partings are painful. Farewell!” He glided away ere any could
clasp his hand. Not long after this event the Sheik of Jerusalem,
Azrael’s putative son, raided Bethany, razing the “Temple of Allegory”
to the earth. He was maddened because, after the disappearance of the
Hospitaler, there came to him no stipend to buy immunity for the
“Bethesda House” of the “Sisters of Bethany.” He despoiled it, hoping to
find a treasure therein, but though there was in and about the place a
great wealth, it was all beyond his grasp or ken, for he knew naught of
the worth or power of precious truths and precious memories. Cornelius,
after this, taking his infant son, soon departed from Syria. His dream of
evangelizing the world and the great designs of Miriamne faded from his
hopes, as the vision of universal empire has faded often from the hopes
of dying conquerors. For years he devoted himself to being father and
mother to his child. At last we behold him, as in the foregoing pages,
looking toward sunset. He stands finally in Bethany, his dismantled
home and Miriamne’s ruined temple not far away, her tomb close at hand,
himself like the fragment of a wreck; altogether presenting a sad,
dramatic tableau. He stands there as the last of the new “Grail Knights,”
the last of those who in his time were devoted to the new grail quest. It
was Saturnalia-time, and it was night.

      “VIRGIN AND MOTHER OF OUR DEAR REDEEMER
      ...
      IF OUR FAITH HAD GIVEN US NOTHING MORE
      THAN THIS EXAMPLE OF ALL WOMANHOOD,
      SO MILD, SO STRONG, SO GOOD,
      SO PATIENT, PEACEFUL, LOYAL, LOVING, PURE,
      THIS WERE ENOUGH TO PROVE IT HIGHER AND TRUER
      THAN ALL THE CREEDS THE WORLD HAD KNOWN BEFORE.”

                                 HENRY W. LONGFELLOW.



FOOTNOTES


[1] Jamison.

[2] The Magnificat.





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