Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
BEN-HUR - A TALE OF THE CHRIST
By Lew Wallace.
BOOK FIRST. CHAPTER 1.
The Jebel es Zubleh is a mountain fifty miles and more in length,
and so narrow that its tracery on the map gives it a likeness to
a caterpillar crawling from the south to the north. Standing on
its red-and-white cliffs, and looking off under the path of the
rising sun, one sees only the Desert of Arabia, where the east
winds, so hateful to vinegrowers of Jericho, have kept their
playgrounds since the beginning. Its feet are well covered by
sands tossed from the Euphrates, there to lie, for the mountain
is a wall to the pasture-lands of Moab and Ammon on the west--lands
which else had been of the desert a part.
The Arab has impressed his language upon everything south and
east of Judea, so, in his tongue, the old Jebel is the parent of
numberless wadies which, intersecting the Roman road--now a dim
suggestion of what once it was, a dusty path for Syrian pilgrims
to and from Mecca--run their furrows, deepening as they go, to
pass the torrents of the rainy season into the Jordan, or their
last receptacle, the Dead Sea. Out of one of these wadies--or,
more particularly, out of that one which rises at the extreme end
of the Jebel, and, extending east of north, becomes at length
the bed of the Jabbok River--a traveller passed, going to the
table-lands of the desert. To this person the attention of the
reader is first besought.
Judged by his appearance, he was quite forty-five years old.
His beard, once of the deepest black, flowing broadly over his
breast, was streaked with white. His face was brown as a parched
coffee-berry, and so hidden by a red kufiyeh (as the kerchief of
the head is at this day called by the children of the desert)
as to be but in part visible. Now and then he raised his eyes,
and they were large and dark. He was clad in the flowing garments
so universal in the East; but their style may not be described
more particularly, for he sat under a miniature tent, and rode
a great white dromedary.
It may be doubted if the people of the West ever overcome the impression
made upon them by the first view of a camel equipped and loaded for
the desert. Custom, so fatal to other novelties, affects this feeling
but little. At the end of long journeys with caravans, after years of
residence with the Bedawin, the Western-born, wherever they may be,
will stop and wait the passing of the stately brute. The charm is
not in the figure, which not even love can make beautiful; nor in
the movement, the noiseless stepping, or the broad careen. As is
the kindness of the sea to a ship, so that of the desert to its
creature. It clothes him with all its mysteries; in such manner,
too, that while we are looking at him we are thinking of them:
therein is the wonder. The animal which now came out of the wady
might well have claimed the customary homage. Its color and height;
its breadth of foot; its bulk of body, not fat, but overlaid with
muscle; its long, slender neck, of swanlike curvature; the head,
wide between the eyes, and tapering to a muzzle which a lady's
bracelet might have almost clasped; its motion, step long and elastic,
tread sure and soundless--all certified its Syrian blood, old as the
days of Cyrus, and absolutely priceless. There was the usual bridle,
covering the forehead with scarlet fringe, and garnishing the throat
with pendent brazen chains, each ending with a tinkling silver bell;
but to the bridle there was neither rein for the rider nor strap
for a driver. The furniture perched on the back was an invention
which with any other people than of the East would have made the
inventor renowned. It consisted of two wooden boxes, scarce four
feet in length, balanced so that one hung at each side; the inner
space, softly lined and carpeted, was arranged to allow the master
to sit or lie half reclined; over it all was stretched a green
awning. Broad back and breast straps, and girths, secured with
countless knots and ties, held the device in place. In such manner
the ingenious sons of Cush had contrived to make comfortable the
sunburnt ways of the wilderness, along which lay their duty as
often as their pleasure.
When the dromedary lifted itself out of the last break of the wady,
the traveller had passed the boundary of El Belka, the ancient
Ammon. It was morning-time. Before him was the sun, half curtained
in fleecy mist; before him also spread the desert; not the realm
of drifting sands, which was farther on, but the region where the
herbage began to dwarf; where the surface is strewn with boulders
of granite, and gray and brown stones, interspersed with languishing
acacias and tufts of camel-grass. The oak, bramble, and arbutus
lay behind, as if they had come to a line, looked over into the
well-less waste and crouched with fear.
And now there was an end of path or road. More than ever the camel
seemed insensibly driven; it lengthened and quickened its pace, its
head pointed straight towards the horizon; through the wide nostrils
it drank the wind in great draughts. The litter swayed, and rose
and fell like a boat in the waves. Dried leaves in occasional beds
rustled underfoot. Sometimes a perfume like absinthe sweetened all
the air. Lark and chat and rock-swallow leaped to wing, and white
partridges ran whistling and clucking out of the way. More rarely
a fox or a hyena quickened his gallop, to study the intruders at
a safe distance. Off to the right rose the hills of the Jebel,
the pearl-gray veil resting upon them changing momentarily into
a purple which the sun would make matchless a little later.
Over their highest peaks a vulture sailed on broad wings into
widening circles. But of all these things the tenant under the
green tent saw nothing, or, at least, made no sign of recognition.
His eyes were fixed and dreamy. The going of the man, like that of
the animal, was as one being led.
For two hours the dromedary swung forward, keeping the trot
steadily and the line due east. In that time the traveller never
changed his position, nor looked to the right or left. On the
desert, distance is not measured by miles or leagues, but by the
saat, or hour, and the manzil, or halt: three and a half leagues
fill the former, fifteen or twenty-five the latter; but they are
the rates for the common camel. A carrier of the genuine Syrian
stock can make three leagues easily. At full speed he overtakes
the ordinary winds. As one of the results of the rapid advance,
the face of the landscape underwent a change. The Jebel stretched
along the western horizon, like a pale-blue ribbon. A tell, or hummock
of clay and cemented sand, arose here and there. Now and then basaltic
stones lifted their round crowns, outposts of the mountain against the
forces of the plain; all else, however, was sand, sometimes smooth as
the beaten beach, then heaped in rolling ridges; here chopped waves,
there long swells. So, too, the condition of the atmosphere changed.
The sun, high risen, had drunk his fill of dew and mist, and warmed
the breeze that kissed the wanderer under the awning; far and near
he was tinting the earth with faint milk-whiteness, and shimmering
all the sky.
Two hours more passed without rest or deviation from the course.
Vegetation entirely ceased. The sand, so crusted on the surface
that it broke into rattling flakes at every step, held undisputed
sway. The Jebel was out of view, and there was no landmark visible.
The shadow that before followed had now shifted to the north, and was
keeping even race with the objects which cast it; and as there was
no sign of halting, the conduct of the traveller became each moment
No one, be it remembered, seeks the desert for a pleasure-ground.
Life and business traverse it by paths along which the bones of things
dead are strewn as so many blazons. Such are the roads from well to
well, from pasture to pasture. The heart of the most veteran sheik
beats quicker when he finds himself alone in the pathless tracts.
So the man with whom we are dealing could not have been in search
of pleasure; neither was his manner that of a fugitive; not once
did he look behind him. In such situations fear and curiosity are
the most common sensations; he was not moved by them. When men are
lonely, they stoop to any companionship; the dog becomes a comrade,
the horse a friend, and it is no shame to shower them with caresses
and speeches of love. The camel received no such token, not a touch,
not a word.
Exactly at noon the dromedary, of its own will, stopped, and uttered
the cry or moan, peculiarly piteous, by which its kind always protest
against an overload, and sometimes crave attention and rest. The master
thereupon bestirred himself, waking, as it were, from sleep. He threw
the curtains of the houdah up, looked at the sun, surveyed the country
on every side long and carefully, as if to identify an appointed place.
Satisfied with the inspection, he drew a deep breath and nodded,
much as to say, "At last, at last!" A moment after, he crossed
his hands upon his breast, bowed his head, and prayed silently.
The pious duty done, he prepared to dismount. From his throat
proceeded the sound heard doubtless by the favorite camels of
Job--Ikh! ikh!--the signal to kneel. Slowly the animal obeyed,
grunting the while. The rider then put his foot upon the slender
neck, and stepped upon the sand.
The man as now revealed was of admirable proportions, not so tall
as powerful. Loosening the silken rope which held the kufiyeh on his
head, he brushed the fringed folds back until his face was bare--a
strong face, almost negro in color; yet the low, broad forehead,
aquiline nose, the outer corners of the eyes turned slightly upward,
the hair profuse, straight, harsh, of metallic lustre, and falling
to the shoulder in many plaits, were signs of origin impossible
to disguise. So looked the Pharaohs and the later Ptolemies; so
looked Mizraim, father of the Egyptian race. He wore the kamis,
a white cotton shirt tight-sleeved, open in front, extending to
the ankles and embroidered down the collar and breast, over which
was thrown a brown woollen cloak, now, as in all probability
it was then, called the aba, an outer garment with long skirt
and short sleeves, lined inside with stuff of mixed cotton and
silk, edged all round with a margin of clouded yellow. His feet
were protected by sandals, attached by thongs of soft leather.
A sash held the kamis to his waist. What was very noticeable,
considering he was alone, and that the desert was the haunt of
leopards and lions, and men quite as wild, he carried no arms,
not even the crooked stick used for guiding camels; wherefore we
may at least infer his errand peaceful, and that he was either
uncommonly bold or under extraordinary protection.
The traveller's limbs were numb, for the ride had been long and
wearisome; so he rubbed his hands and stamped his feet, and walked
round the faithful servant, whose lustrous eyes were closing in calm
content with the cud he had already found. Often, while making the
circuit, he paused, and, shading his eyes with his hands, examined the
desert to the extremest verge of vision; and always, when the survey
was ended, his face clouded with disappointment, slight, but enough
to advise a shrewd spectator that he was there expecting company,
if not by appointment; at the same time, the spectator would have
been conscious of a sharpening of the curiosity to learn what the
business could be that required transaction in a place so far from
However disappointed, there could be little doubt of the stranger's
confidence in the coming of the expected company. In token thereof,
he went first to the litter, and, from the cot or box opposite
the one he had occupied in coming, produced a sponge and a
small gurglet of water, with which he washed the eyes, face,
and nostrils of the camel; that done, from the same depository he
drew a circular cloth, red-and white-striped, a bundle of rods,
and a stout cane. The latter, after some manipulation, proved to
be a cunning device of lesser joints, one within another, which,
when united together, formed a centre pole higher than his head.
When the pole was planted, and the rods set around it, he spread
the cloth over them, and was literally at home--a home much smaller
than the habitations of emir and sheik, yet their counterpart in
all other respects. From the litter again he brought a carpet or
square rug, and covered the floor of the tent on the side from
the sun. That done, he went out, and once more, and with greater
care and more eager eyes, swept the encircling country. Except a
distant jackal, galloping across the plain, and an eagle flying
towards the Gulf of Akaba, the waste below, like the blue above
it, was lifeless.
He turned to the camel, saying low, and in a tongue strange to the
desert, "We are far from home, O racer with the swiftest winds--we are
far from home, but God is with us. Let us be patient."
Then he took some beans from a pocket in the saddle, and put them
in a bag made to hang below the animal's nose; and when he saw the
relish with which the good servant took to the food, he turned and
again scanned the world of sand, dim with the glow of the vertical
"They will come," he said, calmly. "He that led me is leading them.
I will make ready."
From the pouches which lined the interior of the cot, and from a
willow basket which was part of its furniture, he brought forth
materials for a meal: platters close-woven of the fibres of
palms; wine in small gurglets of skin; mutton dried and smoked;
stoneless shami, or Syrian pomegranates; dates of El Shelebi,
wondrous rich and grown in the nakhil, or palm orchards, of Central
Arabia; cheese, like David's "slices of milk;" and leavened bread
from the city bakery--all which he carried and set upon the carpet
under the tent. As the final preparation, about the provisions he
laid three pieces of silk cloth, used among refined people of the
East to cover the knees of guests while at table--a circumstance
significant of the number of persons who were to partake of his
entertainment--the number he was awaiting.
All was now ready. He stepped out: lo! in the east a dark speck
on the face of the desert. He stood as if rooted to the ground;
his eyes dilated; his flesh crept chilly, as if touched by
something supernatural. The speck grew; became large as a hand;
at length assumed defined proportions. A little later, full into
view swung a duplication of his own dromedary, tall and white,
and bearing a houdah, the travelling litter of Hindostan. Then the
Egyptian crossed his hands upon his breast, and looked to heaven.
"God only is great!" he exclaimed, his eyes full of tears, his soul
The stranger drew nigh--at last stopped. Then he, too, seemed just
waking. He beheld the kneeling camel, the tent, and the man standing
prayerfully at the door. He crossed his hands, bent his head, and
prayed silently; after which, in a little while, he stepped from
his camel's neck to the sand, and advanced towards the Egyptian,
as did the Egyptian towards him. A moment they looked at each other;
then they embraced--that is, each threw his right arm over the
other's shoulder, and the left round the side, placing his chin
first upon the left, then upon the right breast.
"Peace be with thee, O servant of the true God!" the stranger said.
"And to thee, O brother of the true faith!--to thee peace and
welcome," the Egyptian replied, with fervor.
The new-comer was tall and gaunt, with lean face, sunken eyes,
white hair and beard, and a complexion between the hue of cinnamon
and bronze. He, too, was unarmed. His costume was Hindostani;
over the skull-cap a shawl was wound in great folds, forming a
turban; his body garments were in the style of the Egyptian's,
except that the aba was shorter, exposing wide flowing breeches
gathered at the ankles. In place of sandals, his feet were clad
in half-slippers of red leather, pointed at the toes. Save the
slippers, the costume from head to foot was of white linen. The air
of the man was high, stately, severe. Visvamitra, the greatest of
the ascetic heroes of the Iliad of the East, had in him a perfect
representative. He might have been called a Life drenched with the
wisdom of Brahma--Devotion Incarnate. Only in his eyes was there
proof of humanity; when he lifted his face from the Egyptian's
breast, they were glistening with tears.
"God only is great!" he exclaimed, when the embrace was finished.
"And blessed are they that serve him!" the Egyptian answered,
wondering at the paraphrase of his own exclamation. "But let us
wait," he added, "let us wait; for see, the other comes yonder!"
They looked to the north, where, already plain to view, a third
camel, of the whiteness of the others, came careening like a ship.
They waited, standing together--waited until the new-comer arrived,
dismounted, and advanced towards them.
"Peace to you, O my brother!" he said, while embracing the Hindoo.
And the Hindoo answered, "God's will be done!"
The last comer was all unlike his friends: his frame was slighter;
his complexion white; a mass of waving light hair was a perfect
crown for his small but beautiful head; the warmth of his dark-blue
eyes certified a delicate mind, and a cordial, brave nature. He was
bareheaded and unarmed. Under the folds of the Tyrian blanket which
he wore with unconscious grace appeared a tunic, short-sleeved and
low-necked, gathered to the waist by a band, and reaching nearly to
the knee; leaving the neck, arms, and legs bare. Sandals guarded
his feet. Fifty years, probably more, had spent themselves upon
him, with no other effect, apparently, than to tinge his demeanor
with gravity and temper his words with forethought. The physical
organization and the brightness of soul were untouched. No need to
tell the student from what kindred he was sprung; if he came not
himself from the groves of Athene', his ancestry did.
When his arms fell from the Egyptian, the latter said, with a
tremulous voice, "The Spirit brought me first; wherefore I know
myself chosen to be the servant of my brethren. The tent is set,
and the bread is ready for the breaking. Let me perform my office."
Taking each by the hand, he led them within, and removed their
sandals and washed their feet, and he poured water upon their
hands, and dried them with napkins.
Then, when he had laved his own hands, he said, "Let us take care
of ourselves, brethren, as our service requires, and eat, that we
may be strong for what remains of the day's duty. While we eat,
we will each learn who the others are, and whence they come,
and how they are called."
He took them to the repast, and seated them so that they faced
each other. Simultaneously their heads bent forward, their hands
crossed upon their breasts, and, speaking together, they said
aloud this simple grace:
"Father of all--God!--what we have here is of thee; take our thanks
and bless us, that we may continue to do thy will."
With the last word they raised their eyes, and looked at each other
in wonder. Each had spoken in a language never before heard by the
others; yet each understood perfectly what was said. Their souls
thrilled with divine emotion; for by the miracle they recognized
the Divine Presence.
To speak in the style of the period, the meeting just described took
place in the year of Rome 747. The month was December, and winter
reigned over all the regions east of the Mediterranean. Such as
ride upon the desert in this season go not far until smitten
with a keen appetite. The company under the little tent were not
exceptions to the rule. They were hungry, and ate heartily; and,
after the wine, they talked.
"To a wayfarer in a strange land nothing is so sweet as to hear his
name on the tongue of a friend," said the Egyptian, who assumed to be
president of the repast. "Before us lie many days of companionship.
It is time we knew each other. So, if it be agreeable, he who came
last shall be first to speak."
Then, slowly at first, like one watchful of himself, the Greek
"What I have to tell, my brethren, is so strange that I hardly
know where to begin or what I may with propriety speak. I do not
yet understand myself. The most I am sure of is that I am doing a
Master's will, and that the service is a constant ecstasy. When I
think of the purpose I am sent to fulfil, there is in me a joy so
inexpressible that I know the will is God's."
The good man paused, unable to proceed, while the others, in sympathy
with his feelings, dropped their gaze.
"Far to the west of this," he began again, "there is a land which
may never be forgotten; if only because the world is too much its
debtor, and because the indebtedness is for things that bring to men
their purest pleasures. I will say nothing of the arts, nothing of
philosophy, of eloquence, of poetry, of war: O my brethren, hers is
the glory which must shine forever in perfected letters, by which
He we go to find and proclaim will be made known to all the earth.
The land I speak of is Greece. I am Gaspar, son of Cleanthes the
"My people," he continued, "were given wholly to study, and from them
I derived the same passion. It happens that two of our philosophers,
the very greatest of the many, teach, one the doctrine of a Soul
in every man, and its Immortality; the other the doctrine of One
God, infinitely just. From the multitude of subjects about which
the schools were disputing, I separated them, as alone worth the
labor of solution; for I thought there was a relation between God
and the soul as yet unknown. On this theme the mind can reason to
a point, a dead, impassable wall; arrived there, all that remains
is to stand and cry aloud for help. So I did; but no voice came
to me over the wall. In despair, I tore myself from the cities
and the schools."
At these words a grave smile of approval lighted the gaunt face
of the Hindoo.
"In the northern part of my country--in Thessaly," the Greek
proceeded to say, "there is a mountain famous as the home of the
gods, where Theus, whom my countrymen believe supreme, has his
abode; Olympus is its name. Thither I betook myself. I found a
cave in a hill where the mountain, coming from the west, bends to
the southeast; there I dwelt, giving myself up to meditation--no,
I gave myself up to waiting for what every breath was a prayer--for
revelation. Believing in God, invisible yet supreme, I also believed
it possible so to yearn for him with all my soul that he would take
compassion and give me answer."
"And he did--he did!" exclaimed the Hindoo, lifting his hands from
the silken cloth upon his lap.
"Hear me, brethren," said the Greek, calming himself with an effort.
"The door of my hermitage looks over an arm of the sea, over the
Thermaic Gulf. One day I saw a man flung overboard from a ship
sailing by. He swam ashore. I received and took care of him.
He was a Jew, learned in the history and laws of his people;
and from him I came to know that the God of my prayers did
indeed exist; and had been for ages their lawmaker, ruler,
and king. What was that but the Revelation I dreamed of? My
faith had not been fruitless; God answered me!"
"As he does all who cry to him with such faith," said the Hindoo.
"But, alas!" the Egyptian added, "how few are there wise enough
to know when he answers them!"
"That was not all," the Greek continued. "The man so sent to me
told me more. He said the prophets who, in the ages which followed
the first revelation, walked and talked with God, declared he would
come again. He gave me the names of the prophets, and from the
sacred books quoted their very language. He told me, further,
that the second coming was at hand--was looked for momentarily
The Greek paused, and the brightness of his countenance faded.
"It is true," he said, after a little--"it is true the man told
me that as God and the revelation of which he spoke had been for
the Jews alone, so it would be again. He that was to come should
be King of the Jews. 'Had he nothing for the rest of the world?'
I asked. 'No,' was the answer, given in a proud voice--'No, we are
his chosen people.' The answer did not crush my hope. Why should
such a God limit his love and benefaction to one land, and, as it
were, to one family? I set my heart upon knowing. At last I broke
through the man's pride, and found that his fathers had been
merely chosen servants to keep the Truth alive, that the world
might at last know it and be saved. When the Jew was gone, and I
was alone again, I chastened my soul with a new prayer--that I
might be permitted to see the King when he was come, and worship
him. One night I sat by the door of my cave trying to get nearer
the mysteries of my existence, knowing which is to know God;
suddenly, on the sea below me, or rather in the darkness that
covered its face, I saw a star begin to burn; slowly it arose and
drew nigh, and stood over the hill and above my door, so that its
light shone full upon me. I fell down, and slept, and in my dream
I heard a voice say:
"'O Gaspar! Thy faith hath conquered! Blessed art thou! With two
others, come from the uttermost parts of the earth, thou shalt see
Him that is promised, and be a witness for him, and the occasion of
testimony in his behalf. In the morning arise, and go meet them,
and keep trust in the Spirit that shall guide thee.'
"And in the morning I awoke with the Spirit as a light within me
surpassing that of the sun. I put off my hermit's garb, and dressed
myself as of old. From a hiding-place I took the treasure which I
had brought from the city. A ship went sailing past. I hailed it,
was taken aboard, and landed at Antioch. There I bought the camel
and his furniture. Through the gardens and orchards that enamel
the banks of the Orontes, I journeyed to Emesa, Damascus, Bostra,
and Philadelphia; thence hither. And so, O brethren, you have my
story. Let me now listen to you."
The Egyptian and the Hindoo looked at each other; the former waved
his hand; the latter bowed, and began:
"Our brother has spoken well. May my words be as wise."
He broke off, reflected a moment, then resumed:
"You may know me, brethren, by the name of Melchior. I speak to
you in a language which, if not the oldest in the world, was at
least the soonest to be reduced to letters--I mean the Sanscrit
of India. I am a Hindoo by birth. My people were the first to
walk in the fields of knowledge, first to divide them, first to
make them beautiful. Whatever may hereafter befall, the four
Vedas must live, for they are the primal fountains of religion and
useful intelligence. From them were derived the Upa-Vedas, which,
delivered by Brahma, treat of medicine, archery, architecture,
music, and the four-and-sixty mechanical arts; the Ved-Angas,
revealed by inspired saints, and devoted to astronomy, grammar,
prosody, pronunciation, charms and incantations, religious rites
and ceremonies; the Up-Angas, written by the sage Vyasa, and given
to cosmogony, chronology, and geography; therein also are the
Ramayana and the Mahabharata, heroic poems, designed for the
perpetuation of our gods and demi-gods. Such, O brethren, are the
Great Shastras, or books of sacred ordinances. They are dead to me
now; yet through all time they will serve to illustrate the budding
genius of my race. They were promises of quick perfection. Ask you
why the promises failed? Alas! the books themselves closed all
the gates of progress. Under pretext of care for the creature,
their authors imposed the fatal principle that a man must not
address himself to discovery or invention, as Heaven had provided
him all things needful. When that condition became a sacred law,
the lamp of Hindoo genius was let down a well, where ever since
it has lighted narrow walls and bitter waters.
"These allusions, brethren, are not from pride, as you will
understand when I tell you that the Shastras teach a Supreme
God called Brahm; also, that the Puranas, or sacred poems of
the Up-Angas, tell us of Virtue and Good Works, and of the Soul.
So, if my brother will permit the saying"--the speaker bowed
deferentially to the Greek--"ages before his people were known,
the two great ideas, God and the Soul, had absorbed all the forces
of the Hindoo mind. In further explanation let me say that Brahm
is taught, by the same sacred books, as a Triad--Brahma, Vishnu,
and Shiva. Of these, Brahma is said to have been the author of our
race; which, in course of creation, he divided into four castes.
First, he peopled the worlds below and the heavens above; next,
he made the earth ready for terrestrial spirits; then from his
mouth proceeded the Brahman caste, nearest in likeness to himself,
highest and noblest, sole teachers of the Vedas, which at the same time
flowed from his lips in finished state, perfect in all useful knowledge.
From his arms next issued the Kshatriya, or warriors; from his breast,
the seat of life, came the Vaisya, or producers--shepherds, farmers,
merchants; from his foot, in sign of degradation, sprang the Sudra,
or serviles, doomed to menial duties for the other classes--serfs,
domestics, laborers, artisans. Take notice, further, that the law,
so born with them, forbade a man of one caste becoming a member of
another; the Brahman could not enter a lower order; if he violated
the laws of his own grade, he became an outcast, lost to all but
outcasts like himself."
At this point, the imagination of the Greek, flashing forward
upon all the consequences of such a degradation, overcame his
eager attention, and he exclaimed, "In such a state, O brethren,
what mighty need of a loving God!"
"Yes," added the Egyptian, "of a loving God like ours."
The brows of the Hindoo knit painfully; when the emotion was spent,
he proceeded, in a softened voice.
"I was born a Brahman. My life, consequently, was ordered down to
its least act, its last hour. My first draught of nourishment;
the giving me my compound name; taking me out the first time to
see the sun; investing me with the triple thread by which I became
one of the twice-born; my induction into the first order--were all
celebrated with sacred texts and rigid ceremonies. I might not walk,
eat, drink, or sleep without danger of violating a rule. And the
penalty, O brethren, the penalty was to my soul! According to the
degrees of omission, my soul went to one of the heavens--Indra's the
lowest, Brahma's the highest; or it was driven back to become the
life of a worm, a fly, a fish, or a brute. The reward for perfect
observance was Beatitude, or absorption into the being of Brahm,
which was not existence as much as absolute rest."
The Hindoo gave himself a moment's thought; proceeding, he said:
"The part of a Brahman's life called the first order is his student
life. When I was ready to enter the second order--that is to say,
when I was ready to marry and become a householder--I questioned
everything, even Brahm; I was a heretic. From the depths of the well
I had discovered a light above, and yearned to go up and see what
all it shone upon. At last--ah, with what years of toil!--I stood
in the perfect day, and beheld the principle of life, the element
of religion, the link between the soul and God--Love!"
The shrunken face of the good man kindled visibly, and he clasped
his hands with force. A silence ensued, during which the others
looked at him, the Greek through tears. At length he resumed:
"The happiness of love is in action; its test is what one is
willing to do for others. I could not rest. Brahm had filled
the world with so much wretchedness. The Sudra appealed to me,
so did the countless devotees and victims. The island of Ganga
Lagor lies where the sacred waters of the Ganges disappear in
the Indian Ocean. Thither I betook myself. In the shade of the
temple built there to the sage Kapila, in a union of prayers
with the disciples whom the sanctified memory of the holy man
keeps around his house, I thought to find rest. But twice every
year came pilgrimages of Hindoos seeking the purification of the
waters. Their misery strengthened my love. Against its impulse to
speak I clenched my jaws; for one word against Brahm or the Triad
or the Shastras would doom me; one act of kindness to the outcast
Brahmans who now and then dragged themselves to die on the burning
sands--a blessing said, a cup of water given--and I became one of them,
lost to family, country, privileges, caste. The love conquered! I
spoke to the disciples in the temple; they drove me out. I spoke
to the pilgrims; they stoned me from the island. On the highways
I attempted to preach; my hearers fled from me, or sought my life.
In all India, finally, there was not a place in which I could find
peace or safety--not even among the outcasts, for, though fallen,
they were still believers in Brahm. In my extremity, I looked for
a solitude in which to hide from all but God. I followed the Ganges
to its source, far up in the Himalayas. When I entered the pass at
Hurdwar, where the river, in unstained purity, leaps to its course
through the muddy lowlands, I prayed for my race, and thought myself
lost to them forever. Through gorges, over cliffs, across glaciers,
by peaks that seemed star-high, I made my way to the Lang Tso, a
lake of marvellous beauty, asleep at the feet of the Tise Gangri,
the Gurla, and the Kailas Parbot, giants which flaunt their crowns
of snow everlastingly in the face of the sun. There, in the centre
of the earth, where the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmapootra rise to run
their different courses; where mankind took up their first abode,
and separated to replete the world, leaving Balk, the mother of
cities, to attest the great fact; where Nature, gone back to its
primeval condition, and secure in its immensities, invites the sage
and the exile, with promise of safety to the one and solitude to
the other--there I went to abide alone with God, praying, fasting,
waiting for death."
Again the voice fell, and the bony hands met in a fervent clasp.
"One night I walked by the shores of the lake, and spoke to the
listening silence, 'When will God come and claim his own? Is there
to be no redemption?' Suddenly a light began to glow tremulously
out on the water; soon a star arose, and moved towards me,
and stood overhead. The brightness stunned me. While I lay upon
the ground, I heard a voice of infinite sweetness say, 'Thy love
hath conquered. Blessed art thou, O son of India! The redemption
is at hand. With two others, from far quarters of the earth,
thou shalt see the Redeemer, and be a witness that he hath come.
In the morning arise, and go meet them; and put all thy trust in
the Spirit which shall guide thee.'
"And from that time the light has stayed with me; so I knew it
was the visible presence of the Spirit. In the morning I started
to the world by the way I had come. In a cleft of the mountain I
found a stone of vast worth, which I sold in Hurdwar. By Lahore,
and Cabool, and Yezd, I came to Ispahan. There I bought the
camel, and thence was led to Bagdad, not waiting for caravans.
Alone I traveled, fearless, for the Spirit was with me, and is
with me yet. What glory is ours, O brethren! We are to see the
Redeemer--to speak to him--to worship him! I am done."
The vivacious Greek broke forth in expressions of joy and
congratulations; after which the Egyptian said, with characteristic
"I salute you, my brother. You have suffered much, and I rejoice
in your triumph. If you are both pleased to hear me, I will now
tell you who I am, and how I came to be called. Wait for me a
He went out and tended the camels; coming back, he resumed his seat.
"Your words, brethren, were of the Spirit," he said, in commencement;
"and the Spirit gives me to understand them. You each spoke particularly
of your countries; in that there was a great object, which I will explain;
but to make the interpretation complete, let me first speak of myself and
my people. I am Balthasar the Egyptian."
The last words were spoken quietly, but with so much dignity that
both listeners bowed to the speaker.
"There are many distinctions I might claim for my race," he continued;
"but I will content myself with one. History began with us. We were the
first to perpetuate events by records kept. So we have no traditions;
and instead of poetry, we offer you certainty. On the facades of
palaces and temples, on obelisks, on the inner walls of tombs,
we wrote the names of our kings, and what they did; and to the
delicate papyri we intrusted the wisdom of our philosophers and
the secrets of our religion--all the secrets but one, whereof I
will presently speak. Older than the Vedas of Para-Brahm or the
Up-Angas of Vyasa, O Melchior; older than the songs of Homer or
the metaphysics of Plato, O my Gaspar; older than the sacred
books or kings of the people of China, or those of Siddartha,
son of the beautiful Maya; older than the Genesis of Mosche the
Hebrew--oldest of human records are the writings of Menes, our
first king." Pausing an instant, he fixed his large eves kindly
upon the Greek, saying, "In the youth of Hellas, who, O Gaspar,
were the teachers of her teachers?"
The Greek bowed, smiling.
"By those records," Balthasar continued, "we know that when the
fathers came from the far East, from the region of the birth of the
three sacred rivers, from the centre of the earth--the Old Iran of
which you spoke, O Melchior--came bringing with them the history
of the world before the Flood, and of the Flood itself, as given
to the Aryans by the sons of Noah, they taught God, the Creator
and the Beginning, and the Soul, deathless as God. When the duty
which calls us now is happily done, if you choose to go with me,
I will show you the sacred library of our priesthood; among others,
the Book of the Dead, in which is the ritual to be observed by the
soul after Death has despatched it on its journey to judgment.
The ideas--God and the Immortal Soul--were borne to Mizraim over
the desert, and by him to the banks of the Nile. They were then
in their purity, easy of understanding, as what God intends for
our happiness always is; so, also, was the first worship--a song
and a prayer natural to a soul joyous, hopeful, and in love with
Here the Greek threw up his hands, exclaiming, "Oh! the light
deepens within me!"
"And in me!" said the Hindoo, with equal fervor.
The Egyptian regarded them benignantly, then went on, saying,
"Religion is merely the law which binds man to his Creator:
in purity it has but these elements--God, the Soul, and their
Mutual Recognition; out of which, when put in practise,
spring Worship, Love, and Reward. This law, like all others of
divine origin--like that, for instance, which binds the earth
to the sun--was perfected in the beginning by its Author. Such,
my brothers, was the religion of the first family; such was the
religion of our father Mizraim, who could not have been blind to
the formula of creation, nowhere so discernible as in the first
faith and the earliest worship. Perfection is God; simplicity is
perfection. The curse of curses is that men will not let truths
like these alone."
He stopped, as if considering in what manner to continue.
"Many nations have loved the sweet waters of the Nile," he said
next; "the Ethiopian, the Pali-Putra, the Hebrew, the Assyrian,
the Persian, the Macedonian, the Roman--of whom all, except the
Hebrew, have at one time or another been its masters. So much
coming and going of peoples corrupted the old Mizraimic faith.
The Valley of Palms became a Valley of Gods. The Supreme One was
divided into eight, each personating a creative principle in nature,
with Ammon-Re at the head. Then Isis and Osiris, and their circle,
representing water, fire, air, and other forces, were invented.
Still the multiplication went on until we had another order,
suggested by human qualities, such as strength, knowledge, love,
and the like."
"In all which there was the old folly!" cried the Greek,
impulsively. "Only the things out of reach remain as they
came to us."
The Egyptian bowed, and proceeded:
"Yet a little further, O my brethren, a little further, before I
come to myself. What we go to will seem all the holier of comparison
with what is and has been. The records show that Mizraim found the
Nile in possession of the Ethiopians, who were spread thence through
the African desert; a people of rich, fantastic genius, wholly given
to the worship of nature. The Poetic Persian sacrificed to the sun,
as the completest image of Ormuzd, his God; the devout children of
the far East carved their deities out of wood and ivory; but the
Ethiopian, without writing, without books, without mechanical
faculty of any kind, quieted his soul by the worship of animals,
birds, and insects, holding the cat sacred to Re, the bull to
Isis, the beetle to Pthah. A long struggle against their rude
faith ended in its adoption as the religion of the new empire.
Then rose the mighty monuments that cumber the river-bank and the
desert--obelisk, labyrinth, pyramid, and tomb of king, blent with
tomb of crocodile. Into such deep debasement, O brethren, the sons
of the Aryan fell!"
Here, for the first time, the calmness of the Egyptian forsook
him: though his countenance remained impassive, his voice gave
"Do not too much despise my countrymen," he began again. "They did
not all forget God. I said awhile ago, you may remember, that to
papyri we intrusted all the secrets of our religion except one;
of that I will now tell you. We had as king once a certain
Pharaoh, who lent himself to all manner of changes and additions.
To establish the new system, he strove to drive the old entirely
out of mind. The Hebrews then dwelt with us as slaves. They clung
to their God; and when the persecution became intolerable, they
were delivered in a manner never to be forgotten. I speak from
the records now. Mosche, himself a Hebrew, came to the palace,
and demanded permission for the slaves, then millions in number,
to leave the country. The demand was in the name of the Lord God
of Israel. Pharaoh refused. Hear what followed. First, all the
water, that in the lakes and rivers, like that in the wells and
vessels, turned to blood. Yet the monarch refused. Then frogs came
up and covered all the land. Still he was firm. Then Mosche threw
ashes in the air, and a plague attacked the Egyptians. Next, all the
cattle, except of the Hebrews, were struck dead. Locusts devoured
the green things of the valley. At noon the day was turned into a
darkness so thick that lamps would not burn. Finally, in the night
all the first-born of the Egyptians died; not even Pharaoh's escaped.
Then he yielded. But when the Hebrews were gone he followed them
with his army. At the last moment the sea was divided, so that the
fugitives passed it dry-shod. When the pursuers drove in after them,
the waves rushed back and drowned horse, foot, charioteers, and king.
You spoke of revelation, my Gaspar--"
The blue eyes of the Greek sparkled.
"I had the story from the Jew," he cried. "You confirm it,
"Yes, but through me Egypt speaks, not Mosche. I interpret the
marbles. The priests of that time wrote in their way what they
witnessed, and the revelation has lived. So I come to the one
unrecorded secret. In my country, brethren, we have, from the
day of the unfortunate Pharaoh, always had two religions--one
private, the other public; one of many gods, practised by the
people; the other of one God, cherished only by the priesthood.
Rejoice with me, O brothers! All the trampling by the many nations,
all the harrowing by kings, all the inventions of enemies, all the
changes of time, have been in vain. Like a seed under the mountains
waiting its hour, the glorious Truth has lived; and this--this is
The wasted frame of the Hindoo trembled with delight, and the
Greek cried aloud,
"It seems to me the very desert is singing."
From a gurglet of water near-by the Egyptian took a draught,
"I was born at Alexandria, a prince and a priest, and had the
education usual to my class. But very early I became discontented.
Part of the faith imposed was that after death upon the destruction
of the body, the soul at once began its former progression from
the lowest up to humanity, the highest and last existence; and that
without reference to conduct in the mortal life. When I heard of the
Persian's Realm of Light, his Paradise across the bridge Chinevat,
where only the good go, the thought haunted me; insomuch that in
the day, as in the night, I brooded over the comparative ideas
Eternal Transmigration and Eternal Life in Heaven. If, as my
teacher taught, God was just, why was there no distinction
between the good and the bad? At length it became clear to
me, a certainty, a corollary of the law to which I reduced
pure religion, that death was only the point of separation at
which the wicked are left or lost, and the faithful rise to a
higher life; not the nirvana of Buddha, or the negative rest of
Brahma, O Melchior; nor the better condition in hell, which is all
of Heaven allowed by the Olympic faith, O Gaspar; but life--life
active, joyous, everlasting--LIFE WITH GOD! The discovery led to
another inquiry. Why should the Truth be longer kept a secret for
the selfish solace of the priesthood? The reason for the suppression
was gone. Philosophy had at least brought us toleration. In Egypt we
had Rome instead of Rameses. One day, in the Brucheium, the most
splendid and crowded quarter of Alexandria, I arose and preached.
The East and West contributed to my audience. Students going to
the Library, priests from the Serapeion, idlers from the Museum,
patrons of the race-course, countrymen from the Rhacotis--a
multitude--stopped to hear me. I preached God, the Soul, Right and
Wrong, and Heaven, the reward of a virtuous life. You, O Melchior,
were stoned; my auditors first wondered, then laughed. I tried
again; they pelted me with epigrams, covered my God with ridicule,
and darkened my Heaven with mockery. Not to linger needlessly,
I fell before them."
The Hindoo here drew a long sigh, as he said, "The enemy of man
is man, my brother."
Balthasar lapsed into silence.
"I gave much thought to finding the cause of my failure, and at
last succeeded," he said, upon beginning again. "Up the river,
a day's journey from the city, there is a village of herdsmen and
gardeners. I took a boat and went there. In the evening I called
the people together, men and women, the poorest of the poor.
I preached to them exactly as I had preached in the Brucheium.
They did not laugh. Next evening I spoke again, and they believed
and rejoiced, and carried the news abroad. At the third meeting
a society was formed for prayer. I returned to the city then.
Drifting down the river, under the stars, which never seemed so
bright and so near, I evolved this lesson: To begin a reform,
go not into the places of the great and rich; go rather to those
whose cups of happiness are empty--to the poor and humble. And then
I laid a plan and devoted my life. As a first step, I secured my
vast property, so that the income would be certain, and always at
call for the relief of the suffering. From that day, O brethren,
I travelled up and down the Nile, in the villages, and to all the
tribes, preaching One God, a righteous life, and reward in Heaven.
I have done good--it does not become me to say how much. I also
know that part of the world to be ripe for the reception of Him
we go to find."
A flush suffused the swarthy cheek of the speaker; but he overcame
the feeling, and continued:
"The years so given, O my brothers, were troubled by one thought--When
I was gone, what would become of the cause I had started? Was it to
end with me? I had dreamed many times of organization as a fitting
crown for my work. To hide nothing from you, I had tried to effect
it, and failed. Brethren, the world is now in the condition that,
to restore the old Mizraimic faith, the reformer must have a more
than human sanction; he must not merely come in God's name, he must
have the proofs subject to his word; he must demonstrate all he says,
even God. So preoccupied is the mind with myths and systems; so much
do false deities crowd every place--earth, air, sky; so have they
become of everything a part, that return to the first religion can
only be along bloody paths, through fields of persecution; that is
to say, the converts must be willing to die rather than recant.
And who in this age can carry the faith of men to such a point
but God himself? To redeem the race--I do not mean to destroy
it--to REDEEM the race, he must make himself once more manifest;
HE MUST COME IN PERSON."
Intense emotion seized the three.
"Are we not going to find him?" exclaimed the Greek.
"You understand why I failed in the attempt to organize," said the
Egyptian, when the spell was past. "I had not the sanction. To know
that my work must be lost made me intolerably wretched. I believed
in prayer, and to make my appeals pure and strong, like you,
my brethren, I went out of the beaten ways, I went where man
had not been, where only God was. Above the fifth cataract,
above the meeting of rivers in Sennar, up the Bahr el Abiad,
into the far unknown of Africa, I went. There, in the morning,
a mountain blue as the sky flings a cooling shadow wide over the
western desert, and, with its cascades of melted snow, feeds a
broad lake nestling at its base on the east. The lake is the
mother of the great river. For a year and more the mountain gave
me a home. The fruit of the palm fed my body, prayer my spirit.
One night I walked in the orchard close by the little sea. 'The world
is dying. When wilt thou come? Why may I not see the redemption,
O God?' So I prayed. The glassy water was sparkling with stars.
One of them seemed to leave its place, and rise to the surface,
where it became a brilliancy burning to the eyes. Then it moved
towards me, and stood over my head, apparently in hand's reach.
I fell down and hid my face. A voice, not of the earth, said,
'Thy good works have conquered. Blessed art thou, O son of Mizraim!
The redemption cometh. With two others, from the remotenesses of
the world, thou shalt see the Saviour, and testify for him. In the
morning arise, and go meet them. And when ye have all come to the
holy city of Jerusalem, ask of the people, Where is he that is born
King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the East and are
sent to worship him. Put all thy trust in the Spirit which will
"And the light became an inward illumination not to be doubted,
and has stayed with me, a governor and a guide. It led me down the
river to Memphis, where I made ready for the desert. I bought my
camel, and came hither without rest, by way of Suez and Kufileh,
and up through the lands of Moab and Ammon. God is with us, O my
He paused, and thereupon, with a prompting not their own, they all
arose, and looked at each other.
"I said there was a purpose in the particularity with which we
described our people and their histories," so the Egyptian
proceeded. "He we go to find was called 'King of the Jews;'
by that name we are bidden to ask for him. But, now that we
have met, and heard from each other, we may know him to be
the Redeemer, not of the Jews alone, but of all the nations
of the earth. The patriarch who survived the Flood had with him
three sons, and their families, by whom the world was repeopled.
From the old Aryana-Vaejo, the well-remembered Region of Delight in
the heart of Asia, they parted. India and the far East received the
children of the first; the descendant of the youngest, through the
North, streamed into Europe; those of the second overflowed the
deserts about the Red Sea, passing into Africa; and though most
of the latter are yet dwellers in shifting tents, some of them
became builders along the Nile."
By a simultaneous impulse the three joined hands.
"Could anything be more divinely ordered?" Balthasar continued.
"When we have found the Lord, the brothers, and all the generations
that have succeeded them, will kneel to him in homage with us. And
when we part to go our separate ways, the world will have learned
a new lesson--that Heaven may be won, not by the sword, not by
human wisdom, but by Faith, Love, and Good Works."
There was silence, broken by sighs and sanctified with tears;
for the joy that filled them might not be stayed. It was the
unspeakable joy of souls on the shores of the River of Life,
resting with the Redeemed in God's presence.
Presently their hands fell apart, and together they went out of
the tent. The desert was still as the sky. The sun was sinking
fast. The camels slept.
A little while after, the tent was struck, and, with the remains of
the repast, restored to the cot; then the friends mounted, and set
out single file, led by the Egyptian. Their course was due west,
into the chilly night. The camels swung forward in steady trot,
keeping the line and the intervals so exactly that those following
seemed to tread in the tracks of the leader. The riders spoke not
By-and-by the moon came up. And as the three tall white figures sped,
with soundless tread, through the opalescent light, they appeared like
specters flying from hateful shadows. Suddenly, in the air before
them, not farther up than a low hill-top flared a lambent flame;
as they looked at it, the apparition contracted into a focus of
dazzling lustre. Their hearts beat fast; their souls thrilled;
and they shouted as with one voice, "The Star! the Star! God is
In an aperture of the western wall of Jerusalem hang the "oaken
valves" called the Bethlehem or Joppa Gate. The area outside of
them is one of the notable places of the city. Long before David
coveted Zion there was a citadel there. When at last the son of
Jesse ousted the Jebusite, and began to build, the site of the
citadel became the northwest corner of the new wall, defended by
a tower much more imposing than the old one. The location of the
gate, however, was not disturbed, for the reasons, most likely,
that the roads which met and merged in front of it could not
well be transferred to any other point, while the area outside
had become a recognized market-place. In Solomon's day there was
great traffic at the locality, shared in by traders from Egypt
and the rich dealers from Tyre and Sidon. Nearly three thousand
years have passed, and yet a kind of commerce clings to the spot.
A pilgrim wanting a pin or a pistol, a cucumber or a camel, a house
or a horse, a loan or a lentil, a date or a dragoman, a melon or
a man, a dove or a donkey, has only to inquire for the article at
the Joppa Gate. Sometimes the scene is quite animated, and then
it suggests, What a place the old market must have been in the
days of Herod the Builder! And to that period and that market
the reader is now to be transferred.
Following the Hebrew system, the meeting of the wise men described
in the preceding chapters took place in the afternoon of the
twenty-fifth day of the third month of the year; that is say,
on the twenty-fifth day of December. The year was the second of
the 193d Olympiad, or the 747th of Rome; the sixty-seventh of
Herod the Great, and the thirty-fifth of his reign; the fourth
before the beginning of the Christian era. The hours of the day,
by Judean custom, begin with the sun, the first hour being the
first after sunrise; so, to be precise; the market at the Joppa
Gate during the first hour of the day stated was in full session,
and very lively. The massive valves had been wide open since dawn.
Business, always aggressive, had pushed through the arched entrance
into a narrow lane and court, which, passing by the walls of
the great tower, conducted on into the city. As Jerusalem is
in the hill country, the morning air on this occasion was not a
little crisp. The rays of the sun, with their promise of warmth,
lingered provokingly far up on the battlements and turrets of the
great piles about, down from which fell the crooning of pigeons
and the whir of the flocks coming and going.
As a passing acquaintance with the people of the Holy City, strangers
as well as residents, will be necessary to an understanding of some
of the pages which follow, it will be well to stop at the gate and
pass the scene in review. Better opportunity will not offer to get
sight of the populace who will afterwhile go forward in a mood very
different from that which now possesses them.
The scene is at first one of utter confusion--confusion of action,
sounds, colors, and things. It is especially so in the lane and court.
The ground there is paved with broad unshaped flags, from which each
cry and jar and hoof-stamp arises to swell the medley that rings
and roars up between the solid impending walls. A little mixing
with the throng, however, a little familiarity with the business
going on, will make analysis possible.
Here stands a donkey, dozing under panniers full of lentils,
beans, onions, and cucumbers, brought fresh from the gardens
and terraces of Galilee. When not engaged in serving customers,
the master, in a voice which only the initiated can understand,
cries his stock. Nothing can be simpler than his costume--sandals,
and an unbleached, undyed blanket, crossed over one shoulder
and girt round the waist. Near-by, and far more imposing and
grotesque, though scarcely as patient as the donkey, kneels a
camel, raw-boned, rough, and gray, with long shaggy tufts of
fox-colored hair under its throat, neck, and body, and a load
of boxes and baskets curiously arranged upon an enormous saddle.
The owner is an Egyptian, small, lithe, and of a complexion which
has borrowed a good deal from the dust of the roads and the
sands of the desert. He wears a faded tarbooshe, a loose gown,
sleeveless, unbelted, and dropping from the neck to the knee.
His feet are bare. The camel, restless under the load, groans and
occasionally shows his teeth; but the man paces indifferently to
and fro, holding the driving-strap, and all the time advertising
his fruits fresh from the orchards of the Kedron--grapes, dates,
figs, apples, and pomegranates.
At the corner where the lane opens out into the court, some women
sit with their backs against the gray stones of the wall. Their dress
is that common to the humbler classes of the country--a linen
frock extending the full length of the person, loosely gathered
at the waist, and a veil or wimple broad enough, after covering
the head, to wrap the shoulders. Their merchandise is contained
in a number of earthen jars, such as are still used in the East for
bringing water from the wells, and some leathern bottles. Among the
jars and bottles, rolling upon the stony floor, regardless of the
crowd and cold, often in danger but never hurt, play half a dozen
half-naked children, their brown bodies, jetty eyes, and thick
black hair attesting the blood of Israel. Sometimes, from under
the wimples, the mothers look up, and in the vernacular modestly
bespeak their trade: in the bottles "honey of grapes," in the
jars "strong drink." Their entreaties are usually lost in the
general uproar, and they fare illy against the many competitors:
brawny fellows with bare legs, dirty tunics, and long beards,
going about with bottles lashed to their backs, and shouting
"Honey of wine! Grapes of En-Gedi!" When a customer halts one
of them, round comes the bottle, and, upon lifting the thumb
from the nozzle, out into the ready cup gushes the deep-red
blood of the luscious berry.
Scarcely less blatant are the dealers in birds--doves, ducks, and
frequently the singing bulbul, or nightingale, most frequently
pigeons; and buyers, receiving them from the nets, seldom fail
to think of the perilous life of the catchers, bold climbers
of the cliffs; now hanging with hand and foot to the face of
the crag, now swinging in a basket far down the mountain fissure.
Blent with peddlers of jewelry--sharp men cloaked in scarlet
and blue, top-heavy under prodigious white turbans, and fully
conscious of the power there is in the lustre of a ribbon and
the incisive gleam of gold, whether in bracelet or necklace,
or in rings for the finger or the nose--and with peddlers of
household utensils, and with dealers in wearing-apparel, and with
retailers of unguents for anointing the person, and with hucksters
of all articles, fanciful as well as of need, hither and thither,
tugging at halters and ropes, now screaming, now coaxing, toil the
venders of animals--donkeys, horses, calves, sheep, bleating kids,
and awkward camels; animals of every kind except the outlawed swine.
All these are there; not singly, as described, but many times repeated;
not in one place, but everywhere in the market.
Turning from this scene in the lane and court, this glance at
the sellers and their commodities, the reader has need to give
attention, in the next place, to visitors and buyers, for which
the best studies will be found outside the gates, where the
spectacle is quite as varied and animated; indeed, it may be
more so, for there are superadded the effects of tent, booth,
and sook, greater space, larger crowd, more unqualified freedom,
and the glory of the Eastern sunshine.
Let us take our stand by the gate, just out of the edge of the
currents--one flowing in, the other out--and use our eyes and
In good time! Here come two men of a most noteworthy class.
"Gods! How cold it is!" says one of them, a powerful figure in armor;
on his head a brazen helmet, on his body a shining breastplate and
skirts of mail. "How cold it is! Dost thou remember, my Caius,
that vault in the Comitium at home which the flamens say is the
entrance to the lower world? By Pluto! I could stand there this
morning, long enough at least to get warm again!"
The party addressed drops the hood of his military cloak, leaving
bare his head and face, and replies, with an ironic smile, "The
helmets of the legions which conquered Mark Antony were full of
Gallic snow; but thou--ah, my poor friend!--thou hast just come
from Egypt, bringing its summer in thy blood."
And with the last word they disappear through the entrance.
Though they had been silent, the armor and the sturdy step
would have published them Roman soldiers.
From the throng a Jew comes next, meager of frame, round-shouldered,
and wearing a coarse brown robe; over his eyes and face, and down
his back, hangs a mat of long, uncombed hair. He is alone. Those who
meet him laugh, if they do not worse; for he is a Nazarite, one of
a despised sect which rejects the books of Moses, devotes itself to
abhorred vows, and goes unshorn while the vows endure.
As we watch his retiring figure, suddenly there is a commotion in
the crowd, a parting quickly to the right and left, with exclamations
sharp and decisive. Then the cause comes--a man, Hebrew in feature
and dress. The mantle of snow-white linen, held to his head by
cords of yellow silk, flows free over his shoulders; his robe
is richly embroidered, a red sash with fringes of gold wraps his
waist several times. His demeanor is calm; he even smiles upon
those who, with such rude haste, make room for him. A leper? No,
he is only a Samaritan. The shrinking crowd, if asked, would say
he is a mongrel--an Assyrian--whose touch of the robe is pollution;
from whom, consequently, an Israelite, though dying, might not
accept life. In fact, the feud is not of blood. When David set
his throne here on Mount Zion, with only Judah to support him,
the ten tribes betook themselves to Shechem, a city much older,
and, at that date, infinitely richer in holy memories. The final
union of the tribes did not settle the dispute thus begun.
The Samaritans clung to their tabernacle on Gerizim, and,
while maintaining its superior sanctity, laughed at the irate
doctors in Jerusalem. Time brought no assuagement of the hate.
Under Herod, conversion to the faith was open to all the world
except the Samaritans; they alone were absolutely and forever
shut out from communion with Jews.
As the Samaritan goes in under the arch of the gate, out come three
men so unlike all whom we have yet seen that they fix our gaze,
whether we will or not. They are of unusual stature and immense
brawn; their eyes are blue, and so fair is their complexion that
the blood shines through the skin like blue pencilling; their hair is
light and short; their heads, small and round, rest squarely upon necks
columnar as the trunks of trees. Woollen tunics, open at the breast,
sleeveless and loosely girt, drape their bodies, leaving bare arms
and legs of such development that they at once suggest the arena;
and when thereto we add their careless, confident, insolent manner,
we cease to wonder that the people give them way, and stop after they
have passed to look at them again. They are gladiators--wrestlers,
runners, boxers, swordsmen; professionals unknown in Judea before
the coming of the Roman; fellows who, what time they are not
in training, may be seen strolling through the king's gardens
or sitting with the guards at the palace gates; or possibly they
are visitors from Caesarea, Sebaste, or Jericho; in which Herod,
more Greek than Jew, and with all a Roman's love of games and
bloody spectacles, has built vast theaters, and now keeps schools
of fighting-men, drawn, as is the custom, from the Gallic provinces
or the Slavic tribes on the Danube.
"By Bacchus!" says one of them, drawing his clenched hand to
his shoulder, "their skulls are not thicker than eggshells."
The brutal look which goes with the gesture disgusts us, and we
turn happily to something more pleasant.
Opposite us is a fruit-stand. The proprietor has a bald head,
a long face, and a nose like the beak of a hawk. He sits
upon a carpet spread upon the dust; the wall is at his back;
overhead hangs a scant curtain, around him, within hand's reach
and arranged upon little stools, lie osier boxes full of almonds,
grapes, figs, and pomegranates. To him now comes one at whom we
cannot help looking, though for another reason than that which
fixed our eyes upon the gladiators; he is really beautiful--a
beautiful Greek. Around his temples, holding the waving hair,
is a crown of myrtle, to which still cling the pale flowers and
half ripe berries. His tunic, scarlet in color, is of the softest
woollen fabric; below the girdle of buff leather, which is clasped
in front by a fantastic device of shining gold, the skirt drops to
the knee in folds heavy with embroidery of the same royal metal;
a scarf, also woollen, and of mixed white and yellow, crosses
his throat and falls trailing at his back; his arms and legs,
where exposed, are white as ivory, and of the polish impossible
except by perfect treatment with bath, oil, brushes, and pincers.
The dealer, keeping his seat, bends forward, and throws his hands
up until they meet in front of him, palm downwards and fingers
"What hast thou, this morning, O son of Paphos?" says the young
Greek, looking at the boxes rather than at the Cypriote. "I am
hungry. What hast thou for breakfast?"
"Fruits from the Pedius--genuine--such as the singers of Antioch
take of mornings to restore the waste of their voices," the dealer
answers, in a querulous nasal tone.
"A fig, but not one of thy best, for the singers of Antioch!" says
the Greek. "Thou art a worshiper of Aphrodite, and so am I, as the
myrtle I wear proves; therefore I tell thee their voices have the
chill of a Caspian wind. Seest thou this girdle?--a gift of the
"The king's sister!" exclaims the Cypriote, with another salaam.
"And of royal taste and divine judgment. And why not? She is more
Greek than the king. But--my breakfast! Here is thy money--red
coppers of Cyprus. Give me grapes, and--"
"Wilt thou not take the dates also?"
"No, I am not an Arab."
"That would be to make me a Jew. No, nothing but the grapes.
Never waters mixed so sweetly as the blood of the Greek and
the blood of the grape."
The singer in the grimed and seething market, with all his airs
of the court, is a vision not easily shut out of mind by such
as see him; as if for the purpose, however, a person follows
him challenging all our wonder. He comes up the road slowly,
his face towards the ground; at intervals he stops, crosses his
hands upon his breast, lengthens his countenance, and turns his
eyes towards heaven, as if about to break into prayer. Nowhere,
except in Jerusalem, can such a character be found. On his forehead,
attached to the band which keeps the mantle in place, projects a
leathern case, square in form; another similar case is tied by
a thong to the left arm; the borders of his robe are decorated
with deep fringe; and by such signs--the phylacteries, the enlarged
borders of the garment, and the savor of intense holiness pervading
the whole man--we know him to be a Pharisee, one of an organization
(in religion a sect, in politics a party) whose bigotry and power
will shortly bring the world to grief.
The densest of the throng outside the gate covers the road leading
off to Joppa. Turning from the Pharisee, we are attracted by some
parties who, as subjects of study, opportunely separate themselves from
the motley crowd. First among them a man of very noble appearance--clear,
healthful complexion; bright black eyes; beard long and flowing, and rich
with unguents; apparel well-fitting, costly, and suitable for the season.
He carries a staff, and wears, suspended by a cord from his neck, a large
golden seal. Several servants attend him, some of them with short swords
stuck through their sashes; when they address him, it is with the
utmost deference. The rest of the party consists of two Arabs of
the pure desert stock; thin, wiry men, deeply bronzed, and with
hollow cheeks, and eyes of almost evil brightness; on their heads
red tarbooshes; over their abas, and wrapping the left shoulder
and the body so as to leave the right arm free, brown woollen
haicks, or blankets. There is loud chaffering, for the Arabs are
leading horses and trying to sell them; and, in their eagerness,
they speak in high, shrill voices. The courtly person leaves the
talking mostly to his servants; occasionally he answers with
much dignity; directly, seeing the Cypriote, he stops and buys
some figs. And when the whole party has passed the portal, close
after the Pharisee, if we betake ourselves to the dealer in fruits,
he will tell, with a wonderful salaam, that the stranger is a Jew,
one of the princes of the city, who has travelled, and learned the
difference between the common grapes of Syria and those of Cyprus,
so surpassingly rich with the dews of the sea.
And so, till towards noon, sometimes later, the steady currents of
business habitually flow in and out of the Joppa Gate, carrying with
them every variety of character; including representatives of all
the tribes of Israel, all the sects among whom the ancient faith
has been parcelled and refined away, all the religious and social
divisions, all the adventurous rabble who, as children of art and
ministers of pleasure, riot in the prodigalities of Herod, and all
the peoples of note at any time compassed by the Caesars and their
predecessors, especially those dwelling within the circuit of the
In other words, Jerusalem, rich in sacred history, richer in
connection with sacred prophecies--the Jerusalem of Solomon,
in which silver was as stones, and cedars as the sycamores of
the vale--had come to be but a copy of Rome, a center of unholy
practises, a seat of pagan power. A Jewish king one day put on
priestly garments, and went into the Holy of Holies of the first
temple to offer incense, and he came out a leper; but in the time
of which we are reading, Pompey entered Herod's temple and the
same Holy of Holies, and came out without harm, finding but an
empty chamber, and of God not a sign.
The reader is now besought to return to the court described as
part of the market at the Joppa Gate. It was the third hour of the
day, and many of the people had gone away; yet the press continued
without apparent abatement. Of the new-comers, there was a group
over by the south wall, consisting of a man, a woman, and a donkey,
which requires extended notice.
The man stood by the animal's head, holding a leading-strap,
and leaning upon a stick which seemed to have been chosen for
the double purpose of goad and staff. His dress was like that of
the ordinary Jews around him, except that it had an appearance
of newness. The mantle dropping from his head, and the robe or
frock which clothed his person from neck to heel, were probably
the garments he was accustomed to wear to the synagogue on
Sabbath days. His features were exposed, and they told of fifty
years of life, a surmise confirmed by the gray that streaked his
otherwise black beard. He looked around him with the half-curious,
half-vacant stare of a stranger and provincial.
The donkey ate leisurely from an armful of green grass, of which
there was an abundance in the market. In its sleepy content,
the brute did not admit of disturbance from the bustle and
clamor about; no more was it mindful of the woman sitting upon
its back in a cushioned pillion. An outer robe of dull woollen
stuff completely covered her person, while a white wimple veiled
her head and neck. Once in a while, impelled by curiosity to see
or hear something passing, she drew the wimple aside, but so
slightly that the face remained invisible.
At length the man was accosted.
"Are you not Joseph of Nazareth?"
The speaker was standing close by.
"I am so called," answered Joseph, turning gravely around; "And
you--ah, peace be unto you! my friend, Rabbi Samuel!"
"The same give I back to you." The Rabbi paused, looking at
the woman, then added, "To you, and unto your house and all
your helpers, be peace."
With the last word, he placed one hand upon his breast, and inclined
his head to the woman, who, to see him, had by this time withdrawn
the wimple enough to show the face of one but a short time out of
girlhood. Thereupon the acquaintances grasped right hands, as if to
carry them to their lips; at the last moment, however, the clasp
was let go, and each kissed his own hand, then put its palm upon
"There is so little dust upon your garments," the Rabbi said,
familiarly, "that I infer you passed the night in this city of
"No," Joseph replied, "as we could only make Bethany before the
night came, we stayed in the khan there, and took the road again
"The journey before you is long, then--not to Joppa, I hope."
"Only to Bethlehem."
The countenance of the Rabbi, theretofore open and friendly,
became lowering and sinister, and he cleared his throat with
a growl instead of a cough.
"Yes, yes--I see," he said. "You were born in Bethlehem, and wend
thither now, with your daughter, to be counted for taxation,
as ordered by Caesar. The children of Jacob are as the tribes in
Egypt were--only they have neither a Moses nor a Joshua. How are
the mighty fallen!"
Joseph answered, without change of posture or countenance,
"The woman is not my daughter."
But the Rabbi clung to the political idea; and he went on,
without noticing the explanation, "What are the Zealots doing
down in Galilee?"
"I am a carpenter, and Nazareth is a village," said Joseph,
cautiously. "The street on which my bench stands is not a road
leading to any city. Hewing wood and sawing plank leave me no
time to take part in the disputes of parties."
"But you are a Jew," said the Rabbi, earnestly. "You are a Jew,
and of the line of David. It is not possible you can find pleasure
in the payment of any tax except the shekel given by ancient custom
Joseph held his peace.
"I do not complain," his friend continued, "of the amount of the
tax--a denarius is a trifle. Oh no! The imposition of the tax is
the offense. And, besides, what is paying it but submission to
tyranny? Tell me, is it true that Judas claims to be the Messiah?
You live in the midst of his followers."
"I have heard his followers say he was the Messiah," Joseph replied.
At this point the wimple was drawn aside, and for an instant the
whole face of the woman was exposed. The eyes of the Rabbi wandered
that way, and he had time to see a countenance of rare beauty,
kindled by a look of intense interest; then a blush overspread
her cheeks and brow, and the veil was returned to its place.
The politician forgot his subject.
"Your daughter is comely," he said, speaking lower.
"She is not my daughter," Joseph repeated.
The curiosity of the Rabbi was aroused; seeing which, the Nazarene
hastened to say further, "She is the child of Joachim and Anna of
Bethlehem, of whom you have at least heard, for they were of great
"Yes," remarked the Rabbi, deferentially, "I know them. They were
lineally descended from David. I knew them well."
"Well, they are dead now," the Nazarene proceeded. "They died in
Nazareth. Joachim was not rich, yet he left a house and garden
to be divided between his daughters Marian and Mary. This is one
of them; and to save her portion of the property, the law required
her to marry her next of kin. She is now my wife."
"And you were--"
"Yes, yes! And as you were both born in Bethlehem, the Roman compels
you to take her there with you to be also counted."
The Rabbi clasped his hands, and looked indignantly to heaven,
exclaiming, "The God of Israel still lives! The vengeance is his!"
With that he turned and abruptly departed. A stranger near by,
observing Joseph's amazement, said, quietly, "Rabbi Samuel is
a zealot. Judas himself is not more fierce."
Joseph, not wishing to talk with the man, appeared not to hear,
and busied himself gathering in a little heap the grass which
the donkey had tossed abroad; after which he leaned upon his
staff again, and waited.
In another hour the party passed out the gate, and, turning to the
left, took the road into Bethlehem. The descent into the valley of
Hinnom was quite broken, garnished here and there with straggling
wild olive-trees. Carefully, tenderly, the Nazarene walked by the
woman's side, leading-strap in hand. On their left, reaching to
the south and east round Mount Zion, rose the city wall, and on
their right the steep prominences which form the western boundary
of the valley.
Slowly they passed the Lower Pool of Gihon, out of which the
sun was fast driving the lessening shadow of the royal hill;
slowly they proceeded, keeping parallel with the aqueduct from
the Pools of Solomon, until near the site of the country-house on
what is now called the Hill of Evil Counsel; there they began to
ascend to the plain of Rephaim. The sun streamed garishly over the
stony face of the famous locality, and under its influence Mary,
the daughter of Joachim, dropped the wimple entirely, and bared
her head. Joseph told the story of the Philistines surprised in
their camp there by David. He was tedious in the narrative,
speaking with the solemn countenance and lifeless manner of
a dull man. She did not always hear him.
Wherever on the land men go, and on the sea ships, the face and
figure of the Jew are familiar. The physical type of the race has
always been the same; yet there have been some individual variations.
"Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly
to look to." Such was the son of Jesse when brought before Samuel.
The fancies of men have been ever since ruled by the description.
Poetic license has extended the peculiarities of the ancestor to
his notable descendants. So all our ideal Solomons have fair faces,
and hair and beard chestnut in the shade, and of the tint of gold in
the sun. Such, we are also made believe, were the locks of Absalom
the beloved. And, in the absence of authentic history, tradition has
dealt no less lovingly by her whom we are now following down to the
native city of the ruddy king.
She was not more than fifteen. Her form, voice, and manner belonged
to the period of transition from girlhood. Her face was perfectly
oval, her complexion more pale than fair. The nose was faultless;
the lips, slightly parted, were full and ripe, giving to the lines
of the mouth warmth, tenderness, and trust; the eyes were blue and
large, and shaded by drooping lids and long lashes; and, in harmony
with all, a flood of golden hair, in the style permitted to Jewish
brides, fell unconfined down her back to the pillion on which
she sat. The throat and neck had the downy softness sometimes
seen which leaves the artist in doubt whether it is an effect
of contour or color. To these charms of feature and person were
added others more indefinable--an air of purity which only the
soul can impart, and of abstraction natural to such as think much
of things impalpable. Often, with trembling lips, she raised her
eyes to heaven, itself not more deeply blue; often she crossed
her hands upon her breast, as in adoration and prayer; often she
raised her head like one listening eagerly for a calling voice.
Now and then, midst his slow utterances, Joseph turned to look
at her, and, catching the expression kindling her face as with
light, forgot his theme, and with bowed head, wondering, plodded on.
So they skirted the great plain, and at length reached the elevation
Mar Elias; from which, across a valley, they beheld Bethlehem,
the old, old House of Bread, its white walls crowning a ridge,
and shining above the brown scumbling of leafless orchards.
They paused there, and rested, while Joseph pointed out the
places of sacred renown; then they went down into the valley to
the well which was the scene of one of the marvellous exploits of
David's strong men. The narrow space was crowded with people and
animals. A fear came upon Joseph--a fear lest, if the town were
so thronged, there might not be house-room for the gentle Mary.
Without delay, he hurried on, past the pillar of stone marking the
tomb of Rachel, up the gardened slope, saluting none of the many
persons he met on the way, until he stopped before the portal of
the khan that then stood outside the village gates, near a junction
To understand thoroughly what happened to the Nazarene at the khan,
the reader must be reminded that Eastern inns were different from the
inns of the Western world. They were called khans, from the Persian,
and, in simplest form, were fenced enclosures, without house or
shed, often without a gate or entrance. Their sites were chosen
with reference to shade, defence, or water. Such were the inns
that sheltered Jacob when he went to seek a wife in Padan-Aram.
Their like may been seen at this day in the stopping-places of
the desert. On the other hand, some of them, especially those
on the roads between great cities, like Jerusalem and Alexandria,
were princely establishments, monuments to the piety of the kings
who built them. In ordinary, however, they were no more than the
house or possession of a sheik, in which, as in headquarters,
he swayed his tribe. Lodging the traveller was the least of
their uses; they were markets, factories, forts; places of
assemblage and residence for merchants and artisans quite as
much as places of shelter for belated and wandering wayfarers.
Within their walls, all the year round, occurred the multiplied
daily transactions of a town.
The singular management of these hostelries was the feature likely
to strike a Western mind with most force. There was no host or
hostess; no clerk, cook, or kitchen; a steward at the gate was all
the assertion of government or proprietorship anywhere visible.
Strangers arriving stayed at will without rendering account.
A consequence of the system was that whoever came had to bring
his food and culinary outfit with him, or buy them of dealers in
the khan. The same rule held good as to his bed and bedding, and
forage for his beasts. Water, rest, shelter, and protection were
all he looked for from the proprietor, and they were gratuities.
The peace of synagogues was sometimes broken by brawling disputants,
but that of the khans never. The houses and all their appurtenances
were sacred: a well was not more so.
The khan at Bethlehem, before which Joseph and his wife stopped,
was a good specimen of its class, being neither very primitive
nor very princely. The building was purely Oriental; that is
to say, a quadrangular block of rough stones, one story high,
flat-roofed, externally unbroken by a window, and with but one
principal entrance--a doorway, which was also a gateway, on the
eastern side, or front. The road ran by the door so near that
the chalk dust half covered the lintel. A fence of flat rocks,
beginning at the northeastern corner of the pile, extended many
yards down the slope to a point from whence it swept westwardly to
a limestone bluff; making what was in the highest degree essential
to a respectable khan--a safe enclosure for animals.
In a village like Bethlehem, as there was but one sheik, there could
not well be more than one khan; and, though born in the place,
the Nazarene, from long residence elsewhere, had no claim to
hospitality in the town. Moreover, the enumeration for which he
was coming might be the work of weeks or months; Roman deputies
in the provinces were proverbially slow; and to impose himself
and wife for a period so uncertain upon acquaintances or relations
was out of the question. So, before he drew nigh the great house,
while he was yet climbing the slope, in the steep places toiling to
hasten the donkey, the fear that he might not find accommodations in
the khan became a painful anxiety; for he found the road thronged
with men and boys who, with great ado, were taking their cattle,
horses, and camels to and from the valley, some to water, some to
the neighboring caves. And when he was come close by, his alarm
was not allayed by the discovery of a crowd investing the door
of the establishment, while the enclosure adjoining, broad as
it was, seemed already full.
"We cannot reach the door," Joseph said, in his slow way. "Let us
stop here, and learn, if we can, what has happened."
The wife, without answering, quietly drew the wimple aside. The look
of fatigue at first upon her face changed to one of interest. She
found herself at the edge of an assemblage that could not be other
than a matter of curiosity to her, although it was common enough
at the khans on any of the highways which the great caravans were
accustomed to traverse. There were men on foot, running hither and
thither, talking shrilly and in all the tongues of Syria; men on
horseback screaming to men on camels; men struggling doubtfully
with fractious cows and frightened sheep; men peddling bread and
wine; and among the mass a herd of boys apparently in chase of a
herd of dogs. Everybody and everything seemed to be in motion at
the same time. Possibly the fair spectator was too weary to be long
attracted by the scene; in a little while she sighed, and settled
down on the pillion, and, as if in search of peace and rest, or in
expectation of some one, looked off to the south, and up to the
tall cliffs of the Mount of Paradise, then faintly reddening under
the setting sun.
While she was thus looking, a man pushed his way out of the press,
and, stopping close by the donkey, faced about with an angry brow.
The Nazarene spoke to him.
"As I am what I take you to be, good friend--a son of Judah--may
I ask the cause of this multitude?"
The stranger turned fiercely; but, seeing the solemn countenance
of Joseph, so in keeping with his deep, slow voice and speech,
he raised his hand in half-salutation, and replied,
"Peace be to you, Rabbi! I am a son of Judah, and will answer you.
I dwell in Beth-Dagon, which, you know, is in what used to be the
land of the tribe of Dan."
"On the road to Joppa from Modin," said Joseph.
"Ah, you have been in Beth-Dagon," the man said, his face softening
yet more. "What wanderers we of Judah are! I have been away from
the ridge--old Ephrath, as our father Jacob called it--for many
years. When the proclamation went abroad requiring all Hebrews to
be numbered at the cities of their birth-- That is my business
Joseph's face remained stolid as a mask, while he remarked, "I have
come for that also--I and my wife."
The stranger glanced at Mary and kept silence. She was looking
up at the bald top of Gedor. The sun touched her upturned
face, and filled the violet depths of her eyes, and upon her
parted lips trembled an aspiration which could not have been to
a mortal. For the moment, all the humanity of her beauty seemed
refined away: she was as we fancy they are who sit close by the
gate in the transfiguring light of Heaven. The Beth-Dagonite saw
the original of what, centuries after, came as a vision of genius
to Sanzio the divine, and left him immortal.
"Of what was I speaking? Ah! I remember. I was about to say that
when I heard of the order to come here, I was angry. Then I thought
of the old hill, and the town, and the valley falling away into
the depths of Cedron; of the vines and orchards, and fields of
grain, unfailing since the days of Boaz and Ruth, of the familiar
mountains--Gedor here, Gibeah yonder, Mar Elias there--which, when
I was a boy, were the walls of the world to me; and I forgave the
tyrants and came--I, and Rachel, my wife, and Deborah and Michal,
our roses of Sharon."
The man paused again, looking abruptly at Mary, who was now looking
at him and listening. Then he said, "Rabbi, will not your wife go
to mine? You may see her yonder with the children, under the leaning
olive-tree at the bend of the road. I tell you"--he turned to Joseph
and spoke positively--"I tell you the khan is full. It is useless to
ask at the gate."
Joseph's will was slow, like his mind; he hesitated, but at length
replied, "The offer is kind. Whether there be room for us or not
in the house, we will go see your people. Let me speak to the
gate-keeper myself. I will return quickly."
And, putting the leading-strap in the stranger's hand, he pushed
into the stirring crowd.
The keeper sat on a great cedar block outside the gate. Against the
wall behind him leaned a javelin. A dog squatted on the block by
"The peace of Jehovah be with you," said Joseph, at last confronting
"What you give, may you find again; and, when found, be it many
times multiplied to you and yours," returned the watchman, gravely,
though without moving.
"I am a Bethlehemite," said Joseph, in his most deliberate way.
"Is there not room for--"
"There is not."
"You may have heard of me--Joseph of Nazareth. This is the house
of my fathers. I am of the line of David."
These words held the Nazarene's hope. If they failed him, further
appeal was idle, even that of the offer of many shekels. To be a
son of Judah was one thing--in the tribal opinion a great thing;
to be of the house of David was yet another; on the tongue of a
Hebrew there could be no higher boast. A thousand years and more
had passed since the boyish shepherd became the successor of Saul
and founded a royal family. Wars, calamities, other kings, and the
countless obscuring processes of time had, as respects fortune,
lowered his descendants to the common Jewish level; the bread
they ate came to them of toil never more humble; yet they had
the benefit of history sacredly kept, of which genealogy was the
first chapter and the last; they could not become unknown, while,
wherever they went In Israel, acquaintance drew after it a respect
amounting to reverence.
If this were so in Jerusalem and elsewhere, certainly one of the
sacred line might reasonably rely upon it at the door of the khan of
Bethlehem. To say, as Joseph said, "This is the house of my fathers,"
was to say the truth most simply and literally; for it was the very
house Ruth ruled as the wife of Boaz, the very house in which Jesse
and his ten sons, David the youngest, were born, the very house in
which Samuel came seeking a king, and found him; the very house
which David gave to the son of Barzillai, the friendly Gileadite;
the very house in which Jeremiah, by prayer, rescued the remnant
of his race flying before the Babylonians.
The appeal was not without effect. The keeper of the gate slid
down from the cedar block, and, laying his hand upon his beard,
said, respectfully, "Rabbi, I cannot tell you when this door first
opened in welcome to the traveller, but it was more than a thousand
years ago; and in all that time there is no known instance of a good
man turned away, save when there was no room to rest him in. If it
has been so with the stranger, just cause must the steward have who
says no to one of the line of David. Wherefore, I salute you again;
and, if you care to go with me, I will show you that there is not
a lodging-place left in the house; neither in the chambers, nor in
the lewens, nor in the court--not even on the roof. May I ask when
The keeper smiled.
"'The stranger that dwelleth with you shall be as one born among
you, and thou shalt love him as thyself.' Is not that the law,
Joseph was silent.
"If it be the law, can I say to one a long time come, 'Go thy way;
another is here to take thy place?'"
Yet Joseph held his peace.
"And, if I said so, to whom would the place belong? See the many
that have been waiting, some of them since noon."
"Who are all these people?" asked Joseph, turning to the crowd.
"And why are they here at this time?"
"That which doubtless brought you, Rabbi--the decree of the
Caesar"--the keeper threw an interrogative glance at the Nazarene,
then continued--"brought most of those who have lodging in the house.
And yesterday the caravan passing from Damascus to Arabia and Lower
Egypt arrived. These you see here belong to it--men and camels."
Still Joseph persisted.
"The court is large," he said.
"Yes, but it is heaped with cargoes--with bales of silk, and pockets
of spices, and goods of every kind."
Then for a moment the face of the applicant lost its stolidity;
the lustreless, staring eyes dropped. With some warmth he next said,
"I do not care for myself, but I have with me my wife, and the night
is cold--colder on these heights than in Nazareth. She cannot live
in the open air. Is there not room in the town?"
"These people"--the keeper waved his hand to the throng before the
door--"have all besought the town, and they report its accommodations
Again Joseph studied the ground, saying, half to himself, "She is
so young! if I make her bed on the hill, the frosts will kill her."
Then he spoke to the keeper again.
"It may be you knew her parents, Joachim and Anna, once of Bethlehem,
and, like myself, of the line of David."
"Yes, I knew them. They were good people. That was in my youth."
This time the keeper's eyes sought the ground in thought. Suddenly he
raised his head.
"If I cannot make room for you," he said, "I cannot turn you away.
Rabbi, I will do the best I can for you. How many are of your party?"
Joseph reflected, then replied, "My wife and a friend with his
family, from Beth-Dagon, a little town over by Joppa; in all,
six of us."
"Very well. You shall not lie out on the ridge. Bring your people,
and hasten; for, when the sun goes down behind the mountain, you know
the night comes quickly, and it is nearly there now."
"I give you the blessing of the houseless traveller; that of the
sojourner will follow."
So saying, the Nazarene went back joyfully to Mary and the
Beth-Dagonite. In a little while the latter brought up his
family, the women mounted on donkeys. The wife was matronly,
the daughters were images of what she must have been in youth;
and as they drew nigh the door, the keeper knew them to be of
the humble class.
"This is she of whom I spoke," said the Nazarene; "and these are
Mary's veil was raised.
"Blue eyes and hair of gold," muttered the steward to himself,
seeing but her. "So looked the young king when he went to sing
Then he took the leading-strap from Joseph, and said to Mary,
"Peace to you, O daughter of David!" Then to the others, "Peace to
you all!" Then to Joseph, "Rabbi, follow me."
The party were conducted into a wide passage paved with stone,
from which they entered the court of the khan. To a stranger the
scene would have been curious; but they noticed the lewens that
yawned darkly upon them from all sides, and the court itself,
only to remark how crowded they were. By a lane reserved in the
stowage of the cargoes, and thence by a passage similar to the
one at the entrance, they emerged into the enclosure adjoining
the house, and came upon camels, horses, and donkeys, tethered
and dozing in close groups; among them were the keepers, men of
many lands; and they, too, slept or kept silent watch. They went
down the slope of the crowded yard slowly, for the dull carriers
of the women had wills of their own. At length they turned into
a path running towards the gray limestone bluff overlooking the
khan on the west.
"We are going to the cave," said Joseph, laconically.
The guide lingered till Mary came to his side.
"The cave to which we are going," he said to her, "must have been
a resort of your ancestor David. From the field below us, and from
the well down in the valley, he used to drive his flocks to it for
safety; and afterwards, when he was king, he came back to the old
house here for rest and health, bringing great trains of animals.
The mangers yet remain as they were in his day. Better a bed on
the floor where he has slept than one in the court-yard or out by
the roadside. Ah, here is the house before the cave!"
This speech must not be taken as an apology for the lodging offered.
There was no need of apology. The place was the best then at disposal.
The guests were simple folks, by habits of life easily satisfied.
To the Jew of that period, moreover, abode in caverns was a familiar
idea, made so by every-day occurrences, and by what he heard of
Sabbaths in the synagogues. How much of Jewish history, how many
of the many exciting incidents in that history, had transpired in
caves! Yet further, these people were Jews of Bethlehem, with whom
the idea was especially commonplace; for their locality abounded
with caves great and small, some of which had been dwelling-places
from the time of the Emim and Horites. No more was there offence
to them in the fact that the cavern to which they were being taken
had been, or was, a stable. They were the descendants of a race of
herdsmen, whose flocks habitually shared both their habitations and
wanderings. In keeping with a custom derived from Abraham, the tent
of the Bedawin yet shelters his horses and children alike. So they
obeyed the keeper cheerfully, and gazed at the house, feeling only
a natural curiosity. Everything associated with the history of David
was interesting to them.
The building was low and narrow, projecting but a little from
the rock to which it was joined at the rear, and wholly without
a window. In its blank front there was a door, swung on enormous
hinges, and thickly daubed with ochreous clay. While the wooden
bolt of the lock was being pushed back, the women were assisted
from their pillions. Upon the opening of the door, the keeper
The guests entered, and stared about them. It became apparent
immediately that the house was but a mask or covering for the
mouth of a natural cave or grotto, probably forty feet long,
nine or ten high, and twelve or fifteen in width. The light
streamed through the doorway, over an uneven floor, falling
upon piles of grain and fodder, and earthenware and household
property, occupying the centre of the chamber. Along the sides
were mangers, low enough for sheep, and built of stones laid in
cement. There were no stalls or partitions of any kind. Dust and
chaff yellowed the floor, filled all the crevices and hollows,
and thickened the spider-webs, which dropped from the ceiling
like bits of dirty linen; otherwise the place was cleanly, and,
to appearance, as comfortable as any of the arched lewens of the
khan proper. In fact, a cave was the model and first suggestion
of the lewen.
"Come in!" said the guide. "These piles upon the floor are
for travellers like yourselves. Take what of them you need."
Then he spoke to Mary.
"Can you rest here?"
"The place is sanctified," she answered.
"I leave you then. Peace be with you all!"
When he was gone, they busied themselves making the cave habitable.
At a certain hour in the evening the shouting and stir of the
people in and about the khan ceased; at the same time, every
Israelite, if not already upon his feet, arose, solemnized his
face, looked towards Jerusalem, crossed his hands upon his breast,
and prayed; for it was the sacred ninth hour, when sacrifices were
offered in the temple on Moriah, and God was supposed to be there.
When the hands of the worshippers fell down, the commotion broke
forth again; everybody hastened to bread, or to make his pallet.
A little later, the lights were put out, and there was silence,
and then sleep.
* * * * * *
About midnight some one on the roof cried out, "What light is that
in the sky? Awake, brethren, awake and see!"
The people, half asleep, sat up and looked; then they became
wide-awake, though wonder-struck. And the stir spread to the
court below, and into the lewens; soon the entire tenantry of
the house and court and enclosure were out gazing at the sky.
And this was what they saw. A ray of light, beginning at a height
immeasurably beyond the nearest stars, and dropping obliquely
to the earth; at its top, a diminishing point; at its base,
many furlongs in width; its sides blending softly with the
darkness of the night, its core a roseate electrical splendor.
The apparition seemed to rest on the nearest mountain southeast
of the town, making a pale corona along the line of the summit.
The khan was touched luminously, so that those upon the roof saw
each other's faces, all filled with wonder.
Steadily, through minutes, the ray lingered, and then the wonder
changed to awe and fear; the timid trembled; the boldest spoke
"Saw you ever the like?" asked one.
"It seems just over the mountain there. I cannot tell what it is,
nor did I ever see anything like it," was the answer.
"Can it be that a star has burst and fallen?" asked another,
his tongue faltering.
"When a star falls, its light goes out."
"I have it!" cried one, confidently. "The shepherds have seen a
lion, and made fires to keep him from the flocks."
The men next the speaker drew a breath of relief, and said, "Yes,
that is it! The flocks were grazing in the valley over there to-day."
A bystander dispelled the comfort.
"No, no! Though all the wood in all the valleys of Judah was brought
together in one pile and fired, the blaze would not throw a light so
strong and high."
After that there was silence on the house-top, broken but once
again while the mystery continued.
"Brethren!" exclaimed a Jew of venerable mien, "what we see is the
ladder our father Jacob saw in his dream. Blessed be the Lord God
of our fathers!"
A mile and a half, it may be two miles, southeast of Bethlehem,
there is a plain separated from the town by an intervening swell
of the mountain. Besides being well sheltered from the north winds,
the vale was covered with a growth of sycamore, dwarf-oak, and pine
trees, while in the glens and ravines adjoining there were thickets
of olive and mulberry; all at this season of the year invaluable
for the support of sheep, goats, and cattle, of which the wandering
At the side farthest from the town, close under a bluff, there was
an extensive marah, or sheepcot, ages old. In some long-forgotten
foray, the building had been unroofed and almost demolished.
The enclosure attached to it remained intact, however, and that
was of more importance to the shepherds who drove their charges
thither than the house itself. The stone wall around the lot was
high as a man's head, yet not so high but that sometimes a panther
or a lion, hungering from the wilderness, leaped boldly in. On the
inner side of the wall, and as an additional security against
the constant danger, a hedge of the rhamnus had been planted,
an invention so successful that now a sparrow could hardly
penetrate the overtopping branches, armed as they were with
great clusters of thorns hard as spikes.
The day of the occurrences which occupy the preceding chapters,
a number of shepherds, seeking fresh walks for their flocks, led
them up to this plain; and from early morning the groves had been
made ring with calls, and the blows of axes, the bleating of sheep
and goats, the tinkling of bells, the lowing of cattle, and the
barking of dogs. When the sun went down, they led the way to the
marah, and by nightfall had everything safe in the field; then they
kindled a fire down by the gate, partook of their humble supper,
and sat down to rest and talk, leaving one on watch.
There were six of these men, omitting the watchman; and afterwhile
they assembled in a group near the fire, some sitting, some lying
prone. As they went bareheaded habitually, their hair stood out in
thick, coarse, sunburnt shocks; their beard covered their throats,
and fell in mats down the breast; mantles of the skin of kids
and lambs, with the fleece on, wrapped them from neck to knee,
leaving the arms exposed; broad belts girthed the rude garments
to their waists; their sandals were of the coarsest quality;
from their right shoulders hung scrips containing food and
selected stones for slings, with which they were armed; on the
ground near each one lay his crook, a symbol of his calling and
a weapon of offence.
Such were the shepherds of Judea! In appearance, rough and savage
as the gaunt dogs sitting with them around the blaze; in fact,
simple-minded, tender-hearted; effects due, in part, to the
primitive life they led, but chiefly to their constant care
of things lovable and helpless.
They rested and talked, and their talk was all about their flocks,
a dull theme to the world, yet a theme which was all the world to
them. If in narrative they dwelt long upon affairs of trifling
moment; if one of them omitted nothing of detail in recounting
the loss of a lamb, the relation between him and the unfortunate
should be remembered: at birth it became his charge, his to keep
all its days, to help over the floods, to carry down the hollows,
to name and train; it was to be his companion, his object of thought
and interest, the subject of his will; it was to enliven and share
his wanderings; in its defense he might be called on to face the
lion or robber--to die.
The great events, such as blotted out nations and changed the
mastery of the world, were trifles to them, if perchance they came
to their knowledge. Of what Herod was doing in this city or that,
building palaces and gymnasia, and indulging forbidden practises,
they occasionally heard. As was her habit in those days, Rome did
not wait for people slow to inquire about her; she came to them.
Over the hills along which he was leading his lagging herd, or in
the fastnesses in which he was hiding them, not unfrequently the
shepherd was startled by the blare of trumpets, and, peering out,
beheld a cohort, sometimes a legion, in march; and when the
glittering crests were gone, and the excitement incident to
the intrusion over, he bent himself to evolve the meaning of
the eagles and gilded globes of the soldiery, and the charm of
a life so the opposite of his own.
Yet these men, rude and simple as they were, had a knowledge and
a wisdom of their own. On Sabbaths they were accustomed to purify
themselves, and go up into the synagogues, and sit on the benches
farthest from the ark. When the chazzan bore the Torah round,
none kissed it with greater zest; when the sheliach read the text,
none listened to the interpreter with more absolute faith; and none
took away with them more of the elder's sermon, or gave it more
thought afterwards. In a verse of the Shema they found all the
learning and all the law of their simple lives--that their Lord
was One God, and that they must love him with all their souls.
And they loved him, and such was their wisdom, surpassing that
While they talked, and before the first watch was over, one by
one the shepherds went to sleep, each lying where he had sat.
The night, like most nights of the winter season in the hill
country, was clear, crisp, and sparkling with stars. There was
no wind. The atmosphere seemed never so pure, and the stillness
was more than silence; it was a holy hush, a warning that heaven
was stooping low to whisper some good thing to the listening earth.
By the gate, hugging his mantle close, the watchman walked; at times
he stopped, attracted by a stir among the sleeping herds, or by
a jackal's cry off on the mountain-side. The midnight was slow
coming to him; but at last it came. His task was done; now for the
dreamless sleep with which labor blesses its wearied children! He
moved towards the fire, but paused; a light was breaking around
him, soft and white, like the moon's. He waited breathlessly.
The light deepened; things before invisible came to view; he saw
the whole field, and all it sheltered. A chill sharper than that
of the frosty air--a chill of fear--smote him. He looked up;
the stars were gone; the light was dropping as from a window
in the sky; as he looked, it became a splendor; then, in terror,
Up sprang the dogs, and, howling, ran away.
The herds rushed together bewildered.
The men clambered to their feet, weapons in hand.
"What is it?" they asked, in one voice.
"See!" cried the watchman, "the sky is on fire!"
Suddenly the light became intolerably bright, and they covered
their eyes, and dropped upon their knees; then, as their souls
shrank with fear, they fell upon their faces blind and fainting,
and would have died had not a voice said to them,
And they listened.
"Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people."
The voice, in sweetness and soothing more than human, and low and
clear, penetrated all their being, and filled them with assurance.
They rose upon their knees, and, looking worshipfully, beheld in
the centre of a great glory the appearance of a man, clad in a
robe intensely white; above its shoulders towered the tops of
wings shining and folded; a star over its forehead glowed with
steady lustre, brilliant as Hesperus; its hands were stretched
towards them in blessing; its face was serene and divinely beautiful.
They had often heard, and, in their simple way, talked, of angels;
and they doubted not now, but said, in their hearts, The glory of
God is about us, and this is he who of old came to the prophet by
the river of Ulai.
Directly the angel continued:
"For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior,
which is Christ the Lord!"
Again there was a rest, while the words sank into their minds.
"And this shall be a sign unto you," the annunciator said next.
"Ye shall find the babe, wrapped in swaddling-clothes, lying in
The herald spoke not again; his good tidings were told; yet he
stayed awhile. Suddenly the light, of which he seemed the centre,
turned roseate and began to tremble; then up, far as the men could
see, there was flashing of white wings, and coming and going of
radiant forms, and voices as of a multitude chanting in unison,
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards
Not once the praise, but many times.
Then the herald raised his eyes as seeking approval of one far off;
his wings stirred, and spread slowly and majestically, on their upper
side white as snow, in the shadow vari-tinted, like mother-of-pearl;
when they were expanded many cubits beyond his stature, he arose
lightly, and, without effort, floated out of view, taking the
light up with him. Long after he was gone, down from the sky fell
the refrain in measure mellowed by distance, "Glory to God in the
highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men."
When the shepherds came fully to their senses, they stared at each
other stupidly, until one of them said, "It was Gabriel, the Lord's
messenger unto men."
"Christ the Lord is born; said he not so?"
Then another recovered his voice, and replied, "That is what he
"And did he not also say, in the city of David, which is our
Bethlehem yonder. And that we should find him a babe in
"And lying in a manger."
The first speaker gazed into the fire thoughtfully, but at length
said, like one possessed of a sudden resolve, "There is but one
place in Bethlehem where there are mangers; but one, and that is
in the cave near the old khan. Brethren, let us go see this thing
which has come to pass. The priests and doctors have been a long
time looking for the Christ. Now he is born, and the Lord has
given us a sign by which to know him. Let us go up and worship
"But the flocks!"
"The Lord will take care of them. Let us make haste."
Then they all arose and left the marah.
* * * * * *
Around the mountain and through the town they passed, and came to
the gate of the khan, where there was a man on watch.
"What would you have?" he asked.
"We have seen and heard great things to-night," they replied.
"Well, we, too, have seen great things, but heard nothing. What did
"Let us go down to the cave in the enclosure, that we may be sure;
then we will tell you all. Come with us, and see for yourself."
"It is a fool's errand."
"No, the Christ is born."
"The Christ! How do you know?"
"Let us go and see first."
The man laughed scornfully.
"The Christ indeed! How are you to know him?"
"He was born this night, and is now lying in a manger, so we
were told; and there is but one place in Bethlehem with mangers."
"Yes. Come with us."
They went through the court-yard without notice, although there
were some up even then talking about the wonderful light. The door
of the cavern was open. A lantern was burning within, and they
"I give you peace," the watchman said to Joseph and the Beth
Dagonite. "Here are people looking for a child born this night,
whom they are to know by finding him in swaddling-clothes and
lying in a manger."
For a moment the face of the stolid Nazarene was moved; turning away,
he said, "The child is here."
They were led to one of the mangers, and there the child was. The
lantern was brought, and the shepherds stood by mute. The little
one made no sign; it was as others just born.
"Where is the mother?" asked the watchman.
One of the women took the baby, and went to Mary, lying near,
and put it in her arms. Then the bystanders collected about
"It is the Christ!" said a shepherd, at last.
"The Christ!" they all repeated, falling upon their knees in worship.
One of them repeated several times over,
"It is the Lord, and his glory is above the earth and heaven."
And the simple men, never doubting, kissed the hem of the mother's
robe, and with joyful faces departed. In the khan, to all the people
aroused and pressing about them, they told their story; and through
the town, and all the way back to the marah, they chanted the refrain
of the angels, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace,
good-will towards men!"
The story went abroad, confirmed by the light so generally seen;
and the next day, and for days thereafter, the cave was visited
by curious crowds, of whom some believed, though the greater part
laughed and mocked.
The eleventh day after the birth of the child in the cave,
about mid-afternoon, the three wise men approached Jerusalem by
the road from Shechem. After crossing Brook Cedron, they met many
people, of whom none failed to stop and look after them curiously.
Judea was of necessity an international thoroughfare; a narrow
ridge, raised, apparently, by the pressure of the desert on
the east, and the sea on the west, was all she could claim to
be; over the ridge, however, nature had stretched the line of
trade between the east and the south; and that was her wealth.
In other words, the riches of Jerusalem were the tolls she levied
on passing commerce. Nowhere else, consequently, unless in Rome,
was there such constant assemblage of so many people of so many
different nations; in no other city was a stranger less strange
to the residents than within her walls and purlieus. And yet these
three men excited the wonder of all whom they met on the way to
A child belonging to some women sitting by the roadside opposite
the Tombs of the Kings saw the party coming; immediately it clapped
its hands, and cried, "Look, look! What pretty bells! What big
The bells were silver; the camels, as we have seen, were of unusual
size and whiteness, and moved with singular stateliness; the trappings
told of the desert and of long journeys thereon, and also of ample
means in possession of the owners, who sat under the little canopies
exactly as they appeared at the rendezvous beyond the Jebel. Yet it
was not the bells or the camels, or their furniture, or the demeanor
of the riders, that were so wonderful; it was the question put by
the man who rode foremost of the three.
The approach to Jerusalem from the north is across a plain which
dips southward, leaving the Damascus Gate in a vale or hollow.
The road is narrow, but deeply cut by long use, and in places
difficult on account of the cobbles left loose and dry by the
washing of the rains. On either side, however, there stretched,
in the old time, rich fields and handsome olive-groves, which must,
in luxurious growth, have been beautiful, especially to travellers
fresh from the wastes of the desert. In this road, the three stopped
before the party in front of the Tombs.
"Good people," said Balthasar, stroking his plaited beard,
and bending from his cot, "is not Jerusalem close by?"
"Yes," answered the woman into whose arms the child had shrunk.
"If the trees on yon swell were a little lower you could see the
towers on the market-place."
Balthasar gave the Greek and the Hindoo a look, then asked,
"Where is he that is born King of the Jews?"
The women gazed at each other without reply.
"You have not heard of him?"
"Well, tell everybody that we have seen his star in the east,
and are come to worship him."
Thereupon the friends rode on. Of others they asked the same
question, with like result. A large company whom they met going to
the Grotto of Jeremiah were so astonished by the inquiry and the
appearance of the travellers that they turned about and followed
them into the city.
So much were the three occupied with the idea of their mission that
they did not care for the view which presently rose before them in
the utmost magnificence: for the village first to receive them
on Bezetha; for Mizpah and Olivet, over on their left; for the
wall behind the village, with its forty tall and solid towers,
superadded partly for strength, partly to gratify the critical
taste of the kingly builder; for the same towered wall bending
off to the right, with many an angle, and here and there an
embattled gate, up to the three great white piles Phasaelus,
Mariamne, and Hippicus; for Zion, tallest of the hills, crowned
with marble palaces, and never so beautiful; for the glittering
terraces of the temple on Moriah, admittedly one of the wonders
of the earth; for the regal mountains rimming the sacred city round
about until it seemed in the hollow of a mighty bowl.
They came, at length, to a tower of great height and strength,
overlooking the gate which, at that time, answered to the
present Damascus Gate, and marked the meeting-place of the
three roads from Shechem, Jericho, and Gibeon. A Roman guard
kept the passage-way. By this time the people following the
camels formed a train sufficient to draw the idlers hanging
about the portal; so that when Balthasar stopped to speak to
the sentinel, the three became instantly the centre of a close
circle eager to hear all that passed.
"I give you peace," the Egyptian said, in a clear voice.
The sentinel made no reply.
"We have come great distances in search of one who is born King
of the Jews. Can you tell us where he is?"
The soldier raised the visor of his helmet, and called loudly.
From an apartment at the right of the passage an officer appeared.
"Give way," he cried, to the crowd which now pressed closer in; and as
they seemed slow to obey, he advanced twirling his javelin vigorously,
now right, now left; and so he gained room.
"What would you?" he asked of Balthasar, speaking in the idiom of
And Balthasar answered in the same,
"Where is he that is born King of the Jews?"
"Herod?" asked the officer, confounded.
"Herod's kingship is from Caesar; not Herod."
"There is no other King of the Jews."
"But we have seen the star of him we seek, and come to worship him."
The Roman was perplexed.
"Go farther," he said, at last. "Go farther. I am not a Jew.
Carry the question to the doctors in the Temple, or to Hannas
the priest, or, better still, to Herod himself. If there be
another King of the Jews, he will find him."
Thereupon he made way for the strangers, and they passed the gate.
But, before entering the narrow street, Balthasar lingered to say
to his friends, "We are sufficiently proclaimed. By midnight the
whole city will have heard of us and of our mission. Let us to
the khan now."
That evening, before sunset, some women were washing clothes on
the upper step of the flight that led down into the basin of the
Pool of Siloam. They knelt each before a broad bowl of earthenware.
A girl at the foot of the steps kept them supplied with water, and
sang while she filled the jar. The song was cheerful, and no doubt
lightened their labor. Occasionally they would sit upon their heels,
and look up the slope of Ophel, and round to the summit of what is
now the Mount of Offence, then faintly glorified by the dying sun.
While they plied their hands, rubbing and wringing the clothes
in the bowls, two other women came to them, each with an empty
jar upon her shoulder.
"Peace to you," one of the new-comers said.
The laborers paused, sat up, wrung the water from their hands,
and returned the salutation.
"It is nearly night--time to quit."
"There is no end to work," was the reply.
"But there is a time to rest, and--"
"To hear what may be passing," interposed another.
"What news have you?"
"Then you have not heard?"
"They say the Christ is born," said the newsmonger, plunging into
It was curious to see the faces of the laborers brighten with
interest; on the other side down came the jars, which, in a
moment, were turned into seats for their owners.
"The Christ!" the listeners cried.
"So they say."
"Everybody; it is common talk."
"Does anybody believe it?"
"This afternoon three men came across Brook Cedron on the road
from Shechem," the speaker replied, circumstantially, intending
to smother doubt. "Each one of them rode a camel spotless white,
and larger than any ever before seen in Jerusalem."
The eyes and mouths of the auditors opened wide.
"To prove how great and rich the men were," the narrator continued,
"they sat under awnings of silk; the buckles of their saddles were
of gold, as was the fringe of their bridles; the bells were of
silver, and made real music. Nobody knew them; they looked as if
they had come from the ends of the world. Only one of them spoke,
and of everybody on the road, even the women and children, he asked
this question--'Where is he that is born King of the Jews?' No one
gave them answer--no one understood what they meant; so they passed
on, leaving behind them this saying: 'For we have seen his star in
the east, and are come to worship him.' They put the question to
the Roman at the gate; and he, no wiser than the simple people on
the road, sent them up to Herod."
"Where are they now?"
"At the khan. Hundreds have been to look at them already, and hundreds
more are going."
"Who are they?"
"Nobody knows. They are said to be Persians--wise men who talk
with the stars--prophets, it may be, like Elijah and Jeremiah."
"What do they mean by King of the Jews?"
"The Christ, and that he is just born."
One of the women laughed, and resumed her work, saying, "Well,
when I see him I will believe."
Another followed her example: "And I--well, when I see him raise
the dead, I will believe."
A third said, quietly, "He has been a long time promised. It will
be enough for me to see him heal one leper."
And the party sat talking until the night came, and, with the help
of the frosty air, drove them home.
* * * * * *
Later in the evening, about the beginning of the first watch,
there was an assemblage in the palace on Mount Zion, of probably
fifty persons, who never came together except by order of Herod,
and then only when he had demanded to know some one or more of the
deeper mysteries of the Jewish law and history. It was, in short,
a meeting of the teachers of the colleges, of the chief priests,
and of the doctors most noted in the city for learning--the leaders of
opinion, expounders of the different creeds; princes of the Sadducees;
Pharisaic debaters; calm, soft-spoken, stoical philosophers of the
The chamber in which the session was held belonged to one of
the interior court-yards of the palace, and was quite large
and Romanesque. The floor was tessellated with marble blocks;
the walls, unbroken by a window, were frescoed in panels of
saffron yellow; a divan occupied the centre of the apartment,
covered with cushions of bright-yellow cloth, and fashioned in
form of the letter U, the opening towards the doorway; in the
arch of the divan, or, as it were, in the bend of the letter,
there was an immense bronze tripod, curiously inlaid with gold
and silver, over which a chandelier dropped from the ceiling,
having seven arms, each holding a lighted lamp. The divan and
the lamp were purely Jewish.
The company sat upon the divan after the style of Orientals,
in costume singularly uniform, except as to color. They were
mostly men advanced in years; immense beards covered their faces;
to their large noses were added the effects of large black eyes,
deeply shaded by bold brows; their demeanor was grave, dignified,
even patriarchal. In brief, their session was that of the Sanhedrim.
He who sat before the tripod, however, in the place which may
be called the head of the divan, having all the rest of his
associates on his right and left, and, at the same time, before him,
evidently president of the meeting, would have instantly absorbed
the attention of a spectator. He had been cast in large mould,
but was now shrunken and stooped to ghastliness; his white robe
dropped from his shoulders in folds that gave no hint of muscle
or anything but an angular skeleton. His hands, half concealed
by sleeves of silk, white and crimson striped, were clasped upon
his knees. When he spoke, sometimes the first finger of the right
hand extended tremulously; he seemed incapable of other gesture.
But his head was a splendid dome. A few hairs, whiter than fine-drawn
silver, fringed the base; over a broad, full-sphered skull the skin
was drawn close, and shone in the light with positive brilliance;
the temples were deep hollows, from which the forehead beetled like
a wrinkled crag; the eyes were wan and dim; the nose was pinched;
and all the lower face was muffed in a beard flowing and venerable
as Aaron's. Such was Hillel the Babylonian! The line of prophets,
long extinct in Israel, was now succeeded by a line of scholars,
of whom he was first in learning--a prophet in all but the divine
inspiration! At the age of one hundred and six, he was still Rector
of the Great College.
On the table before him lay outspread a roll or volume of parchment
inscribed with Hebrew characters; behind him, in waiting, stood a
page richly habited.
There had been discussion, but at this moment of introduction the
company had reached a conclusion; each one was in an attitude of
rest, and the venerable Hillel, without moving, called the page.
The youth advanced respectfully.
"Go tell the king we are ready to give him answer."
The boy hurried away.
After a time two officers entered and stopped, one on each side
the door; after them slowly followed a most striking personage--an
old man clad in a purple robe bordered with scarlet, and girt
to his waist by a band of gold linked so fine that it was pliable
as leather; the latchets of his shoes sparkled with precious stones;
a narrow crown wrought in filigree shone outside a tarbooshe
of softest crimson plush, which, encasing his head, fell down
the neck and shoulders, leaving the throat and neck exposed.
Instead of a seal, a dagger dangled from his belt. He walked
with a halting step, leaning heavily upon a staff. Not until
he reached the opening of the divan, did he pause or look up
from the floor; then, as for the first time conscious of
the company, and roused by their presence, he raised himself,
and looked haughtily round, like one startled and searching for
an enemy--so dark, suspicious, and threatening was the glance.
Such was Herod the Great--a body broken by diseases, a conscience
seared with crimes, a mind magnificently capable, a soul fit for
brotherhood with the Caesars; now seven-and-sixty years old, but
guarding his throne with a jealousy never so vigilant, a power
never so despotic, and a cruelty never so inexorable.
There was a general movement on the part of the assemblage--a
bending forward in salaam by the more aged, a rising-up by the
more courtierly, followed by low genuflections, hands upon the
beard or breast.
His observations taken, Herod moved on until at the tripod opposite
the venerable Hillel, who met his cold glance with an inclination
of the head, and a slight lifting of the hands.
"The answer!" said the king, with imperious simplicity,
addressing Hillel, and planting his staff before him with
both hands. "The answer!"
The eyes of the patriarch glowed mildly, and, raising his head,
and looking the inquisitor full in the face, he answered,
his associates giving him closest attention,
"With thee, O king, be the peace of God, of Abraham, Isaac,
His manner was that of invocation; changing it, he resumed:
"Thou hast demanded of us where the Christ should be born."
The king bowed, though the evil eyes remained fixed upon the
"That is the question."
"Then, O king, speaking for myself, and all my brethren here,
not one dissenting, I say, in Bethlehem of Judea."
Hillel glanced at the parchment on the tripod; and, pointing with
his tremulous finger, continued, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus
it is written by the prophet, 'And thou, Bethlehem, in the land
of Judea, art not the least among the princes of Judah; for out
of thee shall come a governor that shall rule my people Israel.'"
Herod's face was troubled, and his eyes fell upon the parchment
while he thought. Those beholding him scarcely breathed; they spoke
not, nor did he. At length he turned about and left the chamber.
"Brethren," said Hillel, "we are dismissed."
The company then arose, and in groups departed.
"Simeon," said Hillel again.
A man, quite fifty years old, but in the hearty prime of life,
answered and came to him.
"Take up the sacred parchment, my son; roll it tenderly."
The order was obeyed.
"Now lend me thy arm; I will to the litter."
The strong man stooped; with his withered hands the old one took
the offered support, and, rising, moved feebly to the door.
So departed the famous Rector, and Simeon, his son, who was to be
his successor in wisdom, learning, and office.
* * * * * *
Yet later in the evening the wise men were lying in a lewen of the
khan awake. The stones which served them as pillows raised their
heads so they could look out of the open arch into the depths of
the sky; and as they watched the twinkling of the stars, they thought
of the next manifestation. How would it come? What would it be?
They were in Jerusalem at last; they had asked at the gate for Him
they sought; they had borne witness of his birth; it remained only
to find him; and as to that, they placed all trust in the Spirit.
Men listening for the voice of God, or waiting a sign from Heaven,
While they were in this condition, a man stepped in under the arch,
darkening the lewen.
"Awake!" he said to them; "I bring you a message which will not
be put off."
They all sat up.
"From whom?" asked the Egyptian.
"Herod the king."
Each one felt his spirit thrill.
"Are you not the steward of the khan?" Balthasar asked next.
"What would the king with us?"
"His messenger is without; let him answer."
"Tell him, then, to abide our coming."
"You were right, O my brother!" said the Greek, when the steward
was gone. "The question put to the people on the road, and to the
guard at the gate, has given us quick notoriety. I am impatient;
let us up quickly."
They arose, put on their sandals, girt their mantles about them,
and went out.
"I salute you, and give you peace, and pray your pardon; but my
master, the king, has sent me to invite you to the palace, where he
would have speech with you privately."
Thus the messenger discharged his duty.
A lamp hung in the entrance, and by its light they looked at each
other, and knew the Spirit was upon them. Then the Egyptian stepped
to the steward, and said, so as not to be heard by the others,
"You know where our goods are stored in the court, and where our
camels are resting. While we are gone, make all things ready for
our departure, if it should be needful."
"Go your way assured; trust me," the steward replied.
"The king's will is our will," said Balthasar to the messenger.
"We will follow you."
The streets of the Holy City were narrow then as now, but not so
rough and foul; for the great builder, not content with beauty,
enforced cleanliness and convenience also. Following their guide,
the brethren proceeded without a word. Through the dim starlight,
made dimmer by the walls on both sides, sometimes almost lost
under bridges connecting the house-tops, out of a low ground
they ascended a hill. At last they came to a portal reared
across the way. In the light of fires blazing before it in two
great braziers, they caught a glimpse of the structure, and also
of some guards leaning motionlessly upon their arms. They passed
into a building unchallenged. Then by passages and arched halls;
through courts, and under colonnades not always lighted; up long
flights of stairs, past innumerable cloisters and chambers,
they were conducted into a tower of great height. Suddenly the
guide halted, and, pointing through an open door, said to them,
"Enter. The king is there."
The air of the chamber was heavy with the perfume of sandal-wood,
and all the appointments within were effeminately rich. Upon the
floor, covering the central space, a tufted rug was spread, and
upon that a throne was set. The visitors had but time, however,
to catch a confused idea of the place--of carved and gilt ottomans
and couches; of fans and jars and musical instruments; of golden
candlesticks glittering in their own lights; of walls painted in
the style of the voluptuous Grecian school, one look at which had
made a Pharisee hide his head with holy horror. Herod, sitting upon
the throne to receive them, clad as when at the conference with the
doctors and lawyers, claimed all their minds.
At the edge of the rug, to which they advanced uninvited, they
prostrated themselves. The king touched a bell. An attendant
came in, and placed three stools before the throne.
"Seat yourselves," said the monarch, graciously.
"From the North Gate," he continued, when they were at rest,
"I had this afternoon report of the arrival of three strangers,
curiously mounted, and appearing as if from far countries. Are you
The Egyptian took the sign from the Greek and the Hindoo,
and answered, with the profoundest salaam, "Were we other
than we are, the mighty Herod, whose fame is as incense to the
whole world, would not have sent for us. We may not doubt that
we are the strangers."
Herod acknowledged the speech with a wave of the hand.
"Who are you? Whence do you come?" he asked, adding significantly,
"Let each speak for himself."
In turn they gave him account, referring simply to the cities and
lands of their birth, and the routes by which they came to Jerusalem.
Somewhat disappointed, Herod plied them more directly.
"What was the question you put to the officer at the gate?"
"We asked him, Where is he that is born King of the Jews."
"I see now why the people were so curious. You excite me no less.
Is there another King of the Jews?"
The Egyptian did not blanch.
"There is one newly born."
An expression of pain knit the dark face of the monarch, as if
his mind were swept by a harrowing recollection.
"Not to me, not to me!" he exclaimed.
Possibly the accusing images of his murdered children flitted
before him; recovering from the emotion, whatever it was,
he asked, steadily, "Where is the new king?"
"That, O king, is what we would ask."
"You bring me a wonder--a riddle surpassing any of Solomon's,"
the inquisitor said next. "As you see, I am in the time of life when
curiosity is as ungovernable as it was in childhood, when to trifle
with it is cruelty. Tell me further, and I will honor you as kings
honor each other. Give me all you know about the newly born, and I
will join you in the search for him; and when we have found him,
I will do what you wish; I will bring him to Jerusalem, and train
him in kingcraft; I will use my grace with Caesar for his promotion
and glory. Jealousy shall not come between us, so I swear. But tell
me first how, so widely separated by seas and deserts, you all came
to hear of him."
"I will tell you truly, O king."
"Speak on," said Herod.
Balthasar raised himself erect, and said, solemnly,
"There is an Almighty God."
Herod was visibly startled.
"He bade us come hither, promising that we should find the Redeemer
of the World; that we should see and worship him, and bear witness
that he was come; and, as a sign, we were each given to see a star.
His Spirit stayed with us. O king, his Spirit is with us now!"
An overpowering feeling seized the three. The Greek with difficulty
restrained an outcry. Herod's gaze darted quickly from one to the other;
he was more suspicious and dissatisfied than before.
"You are mocking me," he said. "If not, tell me more. What is to
follow the coming of the new king?"
"The salvation of men."
"By the divine agencies--Faith, Love, and Good Works."
"Then"--Herod paused, and from his look no man could have said
with what feeling he continued--"you are the heralds of the Christ.
Is that all?"
Balthasar bowed low.
"We are your servants, O king."
The monarch touched a bell, and the attendant appeared.
"Bring the gifts," the master said.
The attendant went out, but in a little while returned, and,
kneeling before the guests, gave to each one an outer robe or
mantle of scarlet and blue, and a girdle of gold. They acknowledged
the honors with Eastern prostrations.
"A word further," said Herod, when the ceremony was ended. "To the
officer of the gate, and but now to me, you spoke of seeing a star
in the east."
"Yes," said Balthasar, "his star, the star of the newly born."
"What time did it appear?"
"When we were bidden come hither."
Herod arose, signifying the audience was over. Stepping from the
throne towards them, he said, with all graciousness,
"If, as I believe, O illustrious men, you are indeed the heralds
of the Christ just born, know that I have this night consulted
those wisest in things Jewish, and they say with one voice he
should be born in Bethlehem of Judea. I say to you, go thither;
go and search diligently for the young child; and when you have
found him bring me word again, that I may come and worship him.
To your going there shall be no let or hindrance. Peace be with
And, folding his robe about him, he left the chamber.
Directly the guide came, and led them back to the street, and thence
to the khan, at the portal of which the Greek said, impulsively, "Let us
to Bethlehem, O brethren, as the king has advised."
"Yes," cried the Hindoo. "The Spirit burns within me."
"Be it so," said Balthasar, with equal warmth. "The camels are
They gave gifts to the steward, mounted into their saddles,
received directions to the Joppa Gate, and departed. At their
approach the great valves were unbarred, and they passed out
into the open country, taking the road so lately travelled by
Joseph and Mary. As they came up out of Hinnom, on the plain
of Rephaim, a light appeared, at first wide-spread and faint.
Their pulses fluttered fast. The light intensified rapidly; they
closed their eyes against its burning brilliance: when they dared
look again, lo! the star, perfect as any in the heavens, but low
down and moving slowly before them. And they folded their hands,
and shouted, and rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
"God is with us! God is with us!" they repeated, in frequent cheer,
all the way, until the star, rising out of the valley beyond Mar
Elias, stood still over a house up on the slope of the hill near
It was now the beginning of the third watch, and at Bethlehem
the morning was breaking over the mountains in the east, but so
feebly that it was yet night in the valley. The watchman on the
roof of the old khan, shivering in the chilly air, was listening
for the first distinguishable sounds with which life, awakening,
greets the dawn, when a light came moving up the hill towards
the house. He thought it a torch in some one's hand; next moment
he thought it a meteor; the brilliance grew, however, until it
became a star. Sore afraid, he cried out, and brought everybody
within the walls to the roof. The phenomenon, in eccentric motion,
continued to approach; the rocks, trees, and roadway under it shone
as in a glare of lightning; directly its brightness became blinding.
The more timid of the beholders fell upon their knees, and prayed,
with their faces hidden; the boldest, covering their eyes, crouched,
and now and then snatched glances fearfully. Afterwhile the khan and
everything thereabout lay under the intolerable radiance. Such as
dared look beheld the star standing still directly over the house
in front of the cave where the Child had been born.
In the height of this scene, the wise men came up, and at the gate
dismounted from their camels, and shouted for admission. When the
steward so far mastered his terror as to give them heed, he drew
the bars and opened to them. The camels looked spectral in the
unnatural light, and, besides their outlandishness, there were
in the faces and manner of the three visitors an eagerness and
exaltation which still further excited the keeper's fears and
fancy; he fell back, and for a time could not answer the question
they put to him.
"Is not this Bethlehem of Judea?"
But others came, and by their presence gave him assurance.
"No, this is but the khan; the town lies farther on."
"Is there not here a child newly born?"
The bystanders turned to each other marvelling, though some of
them answered, "Yes, yes."
"Show us to him!" said the Greek, impatiently.
"Show us to him!" cried Balthasar, breaking through his gravity;
"for we have seen his star, even that which ye behold over the
house, and are come to worship him."
The Hindoo clasped his hands, exclaiming, "God indeed lives! Make
haste, make haste! The Savior is found. Blessed, blessed are we
The people from the roof came down and followed the strangers as
they were taken through the court and out into the enclosure;
at sight of the star yet above the cave, though less candescent
than before, some turned back afraid; the greater part went on.
As the strangers neared the house, the orb arose; when they were
at the door, it was high up overhead vanishing; when they entered,
it went out lost to sight. And to the witnesses of what then took
place came a conviction that there was a divine relation between
the star and the strangers, which extended also to at least some of
the occupants of the cave. When the door was opened, they crowded in.
The apartment was lighted by a lantern enough to enable the strangers
to find the mother, and the child awake in her lap.
"Is the child thine?" asked Balthasar of Mary.
And she who had kept all the things in the least affecting the
little one, and pondered them in her heart, held it up in the
"He is my son!"
And they fell down and worshipped him.
They saw the child was as other children: about its head was neither
nimbus nor material crown; its lips opened not in speech; if it heard
their expressions of joy, their invocations, their prayers, it made
no sign whatever, but, baby-like, looked longer at the flame in the
lantern than at them.
In a little while they arose, and, returning to the camels,
brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and laid them
before the child, abating nothing of their worshipful speeches;
of which no part is given, for the thoughtful know that the pure
worship of the pure heart was then what it is now, and has always
been, an inspired song.
And this was the Savior they had come so far to find!
Yet they worshipped without a doubt.
Their faith rested upon the signs sent them by him whom we have
since come to know as the Father; and they were of the kind to
whom his promises were so all-sufficient that they asked nothing
about his ways. Few there were who had seen the signs and heard the
promises--the Mother and Joseph, the shepherds, and the Three--yet
they all believed alike; that is to say, in this period of the plan
of salvation, God was all and the Child nothing. But look forward,
O reader! A time will come when the signs will all proceed from
the Son. Happy they who then believe in him!
Let us wait that period.
"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 evermore,
Preys upon high adventure, nor can tire
Of aught but rest."
It is necessary now to carry the reader forward twenty-one years,
to the beginning of the administration of Valerius Gratus, the fourth
imperial governor of Judea--a period which will be remembered as
rent by political agitations in Jerusalem, if, indeed, it be not
the precise time of the opening of the final quarrel between the
Jew and the Roman.
In the interval Judea had been subjected to changes affecting her
in many ways, but in nothing so much as her political status. Herod
the Great died within one year after the birth of the Child--died
so miserably that the Christian world had reason to believe him
overtaken by the Divine wrath. Like all great rulers who spend
their lives in perfecting the power they create, he dreamed of
transmitting his throne and crown--of being the founder of a
dynasty. With that intent, he left a will dividing his territories
between his three sons, Antipas, Philip, and Archelaus, of whom
the last was appointed to succeed to the title. The testament was
necessarily referred to Augustus, the emperor, who ratified all its
provisions with one exception: he withheld from Archelaus the title
of king until he proved his capacity and loyalty; in lieu thereof,
he created him ethnarch, and as such permitted him to govern nine
years, when, for misconduct and inability to stay the turbulent
elements that grew and strengthened around him, he was sent into
Gaul as an exile.
Caesar was not content with deposing Archelaus; he struck the people
of Jerusalem in a manner that touched their pride, and keenly wounded
the sensibilities of the haughty habitues of the Temple. He reduced
Judea to a Roman province, and annexed it to the prefecture of Syria.
So, instead of a king ruling royally from the palace left by Herod
on Mount Zion, the city fell into the hands of an officer of the
second grade, an appointee called procurator, who communicated with
the court in Rome through the Legate of Syria, residing in Antioch.
To make the hurt more painful, the procurator was not permitted to
establish himself in Jerusalem; Caesarea was his seat of government.
Most humiliating, however, most exasperating, most studied, Samaria,
of all the world the most despised--Samaria was joined to Judea as
a part of the same province! What ineffable misery the bigoted
Separatists or Pharisees endured at finding themselves elbowed
and laughed at in the procurator's presence in Caesarea by the
devotees of Gerizim!
In this rain of sorrows, one consolation, and one only, remained to
the fallen people: the high-priest occupied the Herodian palace in
the market-place, and kept the semblance of a court there. What his
authority really was is a matter of easy estimate. Judgment of life
and death was retained by the procurator. Justice was administered in
the name and according to the decretals of Rome. Yet more significant,
the royal house was jointly occupied by the imperial exciseman, and all
his corps of assistants, registrars, collectors, publicans, informers,
and spies. Still, to the dreamers of liberty to come, there was a
certain satisfaction in the fact that the chief ruler in the palace
was a Jew. His mere presence there day after day kept them reminded
of the covenants and promises of the prophets, and the ages when
Jehovah governed the tribes through the sons of Aaron; it was to
them a certain sign that he had not abandoned them: so their hopes
lived, and served their patience, and helped them wait grimly the
son of Judah who was to rule Israel.
Judea had been a Roman province eighty years and more--ample time
for the Caesars to study the idiosyncrasies of the people--time enough,
at least, to learn that the Jew, with all his pride, could be quietly
governed if his religion were respected. Proceeding upon that policy,
the predecessors of Gratus had carefully abstained from interfering
with any of the sacred observances of their subjects. But he chose
a different course: almost his first official act was to expel
Hannas from the high-priesthood, and give the place to Ishmael,
son of Fabus.
Whether the act was directed by Augustus, or proceeded from
Gratus himself, its impolicy became speedily apparent. The reader
shall be spared a chapter on Jewish politics; a few words upon
the subject, however, are essential to such as may follow the
succeeding narration critically. At this time, leaving origin
out of view, there were in Judea the party of the nobles and
the Separatist or popular party. Upon Herod's death, the two
united against Archelaus; from temple to palace, from Jerusalem to
Rome, they fought him; sometimes with intrigue, sometimes with the
actual weapons of war. More than once the holy cloisters on Moriah
resounded with the cries of fighting-men. Finally, they drove him
into exile. Meantime throughout this struggle the allies had their
diverse objects in view. The nobles hated Joazar, the high-priest;
the Separatists, on the other hand, were his zealous adherents.
When Herod's settlement went down with Archelaus, Joazar shared
the fall. Hannas, the son of Seth, was selected by the nobles to fill
the great office; thereupon the allies divided. The induction of the
Sethian brought them face to face in fierce hostility.
In the course of the struggle with the unfortunate ethnarch,
the nobles had found it expedient to attach themselves to Rome.
Discerning that when the existing settlement was broken up some
form of government must needs follow, they suggested the conversion
of Judea into a province. The fact furnished the Separatists an
additional cause for attack; and, when Samaria was made part of
the province, the nobles sank into a minority, with nothing to
support them but the imperial court and the prestige of their
rank and wealth; yet for fifteen years--down, indeed, to the
coming of Valerius Gratus--they managed to maintain themselves
in both palace and Temple.
Hannas, the idol of his party, had used his power faithfully in
the interest of his imperial patron. A Roman garrison held the
Tower of Antonia; a Roman guard kept the gates of the palace;
a Roman judge dispensed justice civil and criminal; a Roman
system of taxation, mercilessly executed, crushed both city
and country; daily, hourly, and in a thousand ways, the people
were bruised and galled, and taught the difference between a
life of independence and a life of subjection; yet Hannas kept
them in comparative quiet. Rome had no truer friend; and he made
his loss instantly felt. Delivering his vestments to Ishmael,
the new appointee, he walked from the courts of the Temple into
the councils of the Separatists, and became the head of a new
combination, Bethusian and Sethian.
Gratus, the procurator, left thus without a party, saw the fires
which, in the fifteen years, had sunk into sodden smoke begin to
glow with returning life. A month after Ishmael took the office,
the Roman found it necessary to visit him in Jerusalem. When from
the walls, hooting and hissing him, the Jews beheld his guard
enter the north gate of the city and march to the Tower of
Antonia, they understood the real purpose of the visit--a full
cohort of legionaries was added to the former garrison, and the
keys of their yoke could now be tightened with impunity. If the
procurator deemed it important to make an example, alas for the
With the foregoing explanation in mind, the reader is invited to
look into one of the gardens of the palace on Mount Zion. The time
was noonday in the middle of July, when the heat of summer was at
The garden was bounded on every side by buildings, which in
places arose two stories, with verandas shading the doors
and windows of the lower story, while retreating galleries,
guarded by strong balustrades, adorned and protected the upper.
Here and there, moreover, the structures fell into what appeared
low colonnades, permitting the passage of such winds as chanced to
blow, and allowing other parts of the house to be seen, the better to
realize its magnitude and beauty. The arrangement of the ground was
equally pleasant to the eye. There were walks, and patches of grass
and shrubbery, and a few large trees, rare specimens of the palm,
grouped with the carob, apricot, and walnut. In all directions the
grade sloped gently from the centre, where there was a reservoir,
or deep marble basin, broken at intervals by little gates which,
when raised, emptied the water into sluices bordering the walks--a
cunning device for the rescue of the place from the aridity too
prevalent elsewhere in the region.
Not far from the fountain, there was a small pool of clear water
nourishing a clump of cane and oleander, such as grow on the
Jordan and down by the Dead Sea. Between the clump and the pool,
unmindful of the sun shining full upon them in the breathless air,
two boys, one about nineteen, the other seventeen, sat engaged in
They were both handsome, and, at first glance, would have been
pronounced brothers. Both had hair and eyes black; their faces
were deeply browned; and, sitting, they seemed of a size proper
for the difference in their ages.
The elder was bareheaded. A loose tunic, dropping to the knees,
was his attire complete, except sandals and a light-blue mantle
spread under him on the seat. The costume left his arms and legs
exposed, and they were brown as the face; nevertheless, a certain
grace of manner, refinement of features, and culture of voice decided
his rank. The tunic, of softest woollen, gray-tinted, at the neck,
sleeves, and edge of the skirt bordered with red, and bound to the
waist by a tasselled silken cord, certified him the Roman he was.
And if in speech he now and then gazed haughtily at his companion
and addressed him as an inferior, he might almost be excused, for he
was of a family noble even in Rome--a circumstance which in that
age justified any assumption. In the terrible wars between the
first Caesar and his great enemies, a Messala had been the friend
of Brutus. After Philippi, without sacrifice of his honor, he and
the conqueror became reconciled. Yet later, when Octavius disputed
for the empire, Messala supported him. Octavius, as the Emperor
Augustus, remembered the service, and showered the family with
honors. Among other things, Judea being reduced to a province,
he sent the son of his old client or retainer to Jerusalem,
charged with the receipt and management of the taxes levied
in that region; and in that service the son had since remained,
sharing the palace with the high-priest. The youth just described
was his son, whose habit it was to carry about with him all too
faithfully a remembrance of the relation between his grandfather
and the great Romans of his day.
The associate of the Messala was slighter in form, and his
garments were of fine white linen and of the prevalent style
in Jerusalem; a cloth covered his head, held by a yellow cord,
and arranged so as to fall away from the forehead down low over
the back of the neck. An observer skilled in the distinctions of
race, and studying his features more than his costume, would have
soon discovered him to be of Jewish descent. The forehead of the
Roman was high and narrow, his nose sharp and aquiline, while his
lips were thin and straight, and his eyes cold and close under
the brows. The front of the Israelite, on the other hand, was low
and broad; his nose long, with expanded nostrils; his upper lip,
slightly shading the lower one, short and curving to the dimpled
corners, like a Cupid's bow; points which, in connection with the
round chin, full eyes, and oval cheeks reddened with a wine-like
glow, gave his face the softness, strength, and beauty peculiar
to his race. The comeliness of the Roman was severe and chaste,
that of the Jew rich and voluptuous.
"Did you not say the new procurator is to arrive to-morrow?"
The question proceeded from the younger of the friends, and was couched
in Greek, at the time, singularly enough, the language everywhere
prevalent in the politer circles of Judea; having passed from the
palace into the camp and college; thence, nobody knew exactly when
or how, into the Temple itself, and, for that matter, into precincts
of the Temple far beyond the gates and cloisters--precincts of a
sanctity intolerable for a Gentile.
"Yes, to-morrow," Messala answered.
"Who told you?"
"I heard Ishmael, the new governor in the palace--you call him
high priest--tell my father so last night. The news had been
more credible, I grant you, coming from an Egyptian, who is of a
race that has forgotten what truth is, or even from an Idumaean,
whose people never knew what truth was; but, to make quite certain,
I saw a centurion from the Tower this morning, and he told me
preparations were going on for the reception; that the armorers
were furbishing the helmets and shields, and regilding the eagles
and globes; and that apartments long unused were being cleansed
and aired as if for an addition to the garrison--the body-guard,
probably, of the great man."
A perfect idea of the manner in which the answer was given cannot
be conveyed, as its fine points continually escape the power behind
the pen. The reader's fancy must come to his aid; and for that he
must be reminded that reverence as a quality of the Roman mind was
fast breaking down, or, rather, it was becoming unfashionable.
The old religion had nearly ceased to be a faith; at most it was
a mere habit of thought and expression, cherished principally by
the priests who found service in the Temple profitable, and the
poets who, in the turn of their verses, could not dispense with the
familiar deities: there are singers of this age who are similarly
given. As philosophy was taking the place of religion, satire was
fast substituting reverence; insomuch that in Latin opinion it was
to every speech, even to the little diatribes of conversation, as
salt to viands, and aroma to wine. The young Messala, educated in
Rome, but lately returned, had caught the habit and manner;
the scarce perceptible movement of the outer corner of the
lower eyelid, the decided curl of the corresponding nostril,
and a languid utterance affected as the best vehicle to convey
the idea of general indifference, but more particularly because
of the opportunities it afforded for certain rhetorical pauses
thought to be of prime importance to enable the listener to take
the happy conceit or receive the virus of the stinging epigram.
Such a stop occurred in the answer just given, at the end of the
allusion to the Egyptian and Idumaean. The color in the Jewish
lad's cheeks deepened, and he may not have heard the rest of the
speech, for he remained silent, looking absently into the depths
of the pool.
"Our farewell took place in this garden. 'The peace of the Lord go
with you!'--your last words. 'The gods keep you!' I said. Do you
remember? How many years have passed since then?"
"Five," answered the Jew, gazing into the water.
"Well, you have reason to be thankful to--whom shall I say? The
gods? No matter. You have grown handsome; the Greeks would call
you beautiful--happy achievement of the years! If Jupiter would
stay content with one Ganymede, what a cup-bearer you would make
for the emperor! Tell me, my Judah, how the coming of the procurator
is of such interest to you."
Judah bent his large eyes upon the questioner; the gaze was
grave and thoughtful, and caught the Roman's, and held it
while he replied, "Yes, five years. I remember the parting;
you went to Rome; I saw you start, and cried, for I love you.
The years are gone, and you have come back to me accomplished
and princely--I do not jest; and yet--yet--I do wish you were
the Messala you went away."
The fine nostril of the satirist stirred, and he put on a longer
drawl as he said, "No, no; not a Ganymede--an oracle, my Judah.
A few lessons from my teacher of rhetoric hard by the Forum--I
will give you a letter to him when you become wise enough to
accept a suggestion which I am reminded to make you--a little
practise of the art of mystery, and Delphi will receive you as
Apollo himself. At the sound of your solemn voice, the Pythia
will come down to you with her crown. Seriously, O my friend,
in what am I not the Messala I went away? I once heard the
greatest logician in the world. His subject was Disputation.
One saying I remember--'Understand your antagonist before you
answer him.' Let me understand you."
The lad reddened under the cynical look to which he was subjected;
yet he replied, firmly, "You have availed yourself, I see, of your
opportunities; from your teachers you have brought away much
knowledge and many graces. You talk with the ease of a master,
yet your speech carries a sting. My Messala, when he went away,
had no poison in his nature; not for the world would he have hurt
the feelings of a friend."
The Roman smiled as if complimented, and raised his patrician head
a toss higher.
"O my solemn Judah, we are not at Dodona or Pytho. Drop the oracular,
and be plain. Wherein have I hurt you?"
The other drew a long breath, and said, pulling at the cord about
his waist, "In the five years, I, too, have learned somewhat.
Hillel may not be the equal of the logician you heard, and Simeon
and Shammai are, no doubt, inferior to your master hard by the Forum.
Their learning goes not out into forbidden paths; those who sit at
their feet arise enriched simply with knowledge of God, the law,
and Israel; and the effect is love and reverence for everything
that pertains to them. Attendance at the Great College, and study
of what I heard there, have taught me that Judea is not as she
used to be. I know the space that lies between an independent
kingdom and the petty province Judea is. I were meaner, viler,
than a Samaritan not to resent the degradation of my country.
Ishmael is not lawfully high-priest, and he cannot be while the
noble Hannas lives; yet he is a Levite; one of the devoted who
for thousands of years have acceptably served the Lord God of
our faith and worship. His--"
Messala broke in upon him with a biting laugh.
"Oh, I understand you now. Ishmael, you say, is a usurper, yet to
believe an Idumaean sooner than Ishmael is to sting like an adder.
By the drunken son of Semele, what it is to be a Jew! All men and
things, even heaven and earth, change; but a Jew never. To him
there is no backward, no forward; he is what his ancestor was
in the beginning. In this sand I draw you a circle--there! Now
tell me what more a Jew's life is? Round and round, Abraham here,
Isaac and Jacob yonder, God in the middle. And the circle--by the
master of all thunders! the circle is too large. I draw it again--"
He stopped, put his thumb upon the ground, and swept the fingers
about it. "See, the thumb spot is the Temple, the finger-lines
Judea. Outside the little space is there nothing of value? The
arts! Herod was a builder; therefore he is accursed. Painting,
sculpture! to look upon them is sin. Poetry you make fast to your
altars. Except in the synagogue, who of you attempts eloquence?
In war all you conquer in the six days you lose on the seventh.
Such your life and limit; who shall say no if I laugh at you?
Satisfied with the worship of such a people, what is your God
to our Roman Jove, who lends us his eagles that we may compass the
universe with our arms? Hillel, Simeon, Shammai, Abtalion--what are
they to the masters who teach that everything is worth knowing that
can be known?"
The Jew arose, his face much flushed.
"No, no; keep your place, my Judah, keep your place," Messala cried,
extending his hand.
"You mock me."
"Listen a little further. Directly"--the Roman smiled
derisively--"directly Jupiter and his whole family, Greek and Latin,
will come to me, as is their habit, and make an end of serious speech.
I am mindful of your goodness in walking from the old house of your
fathers to welcome me back and renew the love of our childhood--if
we can. 'Go,' said my teacher, in his last lecture--'Go, and,
to make your lives great, remember Mars reigns and Eros has found
his eyes.' He meant love is nothing, war everything. It is so
in Rome. Marriage is the first step to divorce. Virtue is a
tradesman's jewel. Cleopatra, dying, bequeathed her arts, and is
avenged; she has a successor in every Roman's house. The world is
going the same way; so, as to our future, down Eros, up Mars! I am
to be a soldier; and you, O my Judah, I pity you; what can you be?"
The Jew moved nearer the pool; Messala's drawl deepened.
"Yes, I pity you, my fine Judah. From the college to the synagogue;
then to the Temple; then--oh, a crowning glory!--the seat in the
Sanhedrim. A life without opportunities; the gods help you! But
Judah looked at him in time to see the flush of pride that kindled
in his haughty face as he went on.
"But I--ah, the world is not all conquered. The sea has islands
unseen. In the north there are nations yet unvisited. The glory
of completing Alexander's march to the Far East remains to some
one. See what possibilities lie before a Roman."
Next instant he resumed his drawl.
"A campaign into Africa; another after the Scythian; then--a legion!
Most careers end there; but not mine. I--by Jupiter! what a
conception!--I will give up my legion for a prefecture. Think of
life in Rome with money--money, wine, women, games--poets at the
banquet, intrigues in the court, dice all the year round. Such a
rounding of life may be--a fat prefecture, and it is mine. O my
Judah, here is Syria! Judea is rich; Antioch a capital for the
gods. I will succeed Cyrenius, and you--shall share my fortune."
The sophists and rhetoricians who thronged the public resorts of
Rome, almost monopolizing the business of teaching her patrician
youth, might have approved these sayings of Messala, for they were
all in the popular vein; to the young Jew, however, they were new,
and unlike the solemn style of discourse and conversation to which he
was accustomed. He belonged, moreover, to a race whose laws, modes,
and habits of thought forbade satire and humor; very naturally,
therefore, he listened to his friend with varying feelings; one
moment indignant, then uncertain how to take him. The superior
airs assumed had been offensive to him in the beginning; soon they
became irritating, and at last an acute smart. Anger lies close by
this point in all of us; and that the satirist evoked in another
way. To the Jew of the Herodian period patriotism was a savage
passion scarcely hidden under his common humor, and so related
to his history, religion, and God that it responded instantly to
derision of them. Wherefore it is not speaking too strongly to say
that Messala's progress down to the last pause was exquisite torture
to his hearer; at that point the latter said, with a forced smile,
"There are a few, I have heard, who can afford to make a jest of
their future; you convince me, O my Messala, that I am not one
The Roman studied him; then replied, "Why not the truth in a jest
as well as a parable? The great Fulvia went fishing the other day;
she caught more than all the company besides. They said it was
because the barb of her hook was covered with gold."
"Then you were not merely jesting?"
"My Judah, I see I did not offer you enough," the Roman answered,
quickly, his eyes sparkling. "When I am prefect, with Judea to
enrich me, I--will make you high-priest."
The Jew turned off angrily.
"Do not leave me," said Messala.
The other stopped irresolute.
"Gods, Judah, how hot the sun shines!" cried the patrician,
observing his perplexity. "Let us seek a shade."
Judah answered, coldly,
"We had better part. I wish I had not come. I sought a friend and
"Roman," said Messala, quickly.
The hands of the Jew clenched, but controlling himself again,
he started off. Messala arose, and, taking the mantle from the
bench, flung it over his shoulder, and followed after; when he
gained his side, he put his hand upon his shoulder and walked
"This is the way--my hand thus--we used to walk when we were
children. Let us keep it as far as the gate."
Apparently Messala was trying to be serious and kind, though he
could not rid his countenance of the habitual satirical expression.
Judah permitted the familiarity.
"You are a boy; I am a man; let me talk like one."
The complacency of the Roman was superb. Mentor lecturing the
young Telemachus could not have been more at ease.
"Do you believe in the Parcae? Ah, I forgot, you are a Sadducee:
the Essenes are your sensible people; they believe in the sisters.
So do I. How everlastingly the three are in the way of our doing
what we please! I sit down scheming. I run paths here and there.
Perpol! Just when I am reaching to take the world in hand, I hear
behind me the grinding of scissors. I look, and there she is,
the accursed Atropos! But, my Judah, why did you get mad when I
spoke of succeeding old Cyrenius? You thought I meant to enrich
myself plundering your Judea. Suppose so; it is what some Roman
will do. Why not I?"
Judah shortened his step.
"There have been strangers in mastery of Judea before the Roman,"
he said, with lifted hand. "Where are they, Messala? She has outlived
them all. What has been will be again."
Messala put on his drawl.
"The Parcae have believers outside the Essenes. Welcome, Judah,
welcome to the faith!"
"No, Messala, count me not with them. My faith rests on the rock
which was the foundation of the faith of my fathers back further than
Abraham; on the covenants of the Lord God of Israel."
"Too much passion, my Judah. How my master would have been shocked
had I been guilty of so much heat in his presence! There were other
things I had to tell you, but I fear to now."
When they had gone a few yards, the Roman spoke again.
"I think you can hear me now, especially as what I have to say
concerns yourself. I would serve you, O handsome as Ganymede;
I would serve you with real good-will. I love you--all I can.
I told you I meant to be a soldier. Why not you also? Why not
you step out of the narrow circle which, as I have shown, is all
of noble life your laws and customs allow?"
Judah made no reply.
"Who are the wise men of our day?" Messala continued. "Not they
who exhaust their years quarrelling about dead things; about Baals,
Joves, and Jehovahs; about philosophies and religions. Give me one
great name, O Judah; I care not where you go to find it--to Rome,
Egypt, the East, or here in Jerusalem--Pluto take me if it belong
not to a man who wrought his fame out of the material furnished him
by the present; holding nothing sacred that did not contribute to
the end, scorning nothing that did! How was it with Herod? How with
the Maccabees? How with the first and second Caesars? Imitate them.
Begin now. At hand see--Rome, as ready to help you as she was the
The Jewish lad trembled with rage; and, as the garden gate was
close by, he quickened his steps, eager to escape.
"O Rome, Rome!" he muttered.
"Be wise," continued Messala. "Give up the follies of Moses and
the traditions; see the situation as it is. Dare look the Parcae
in the face, and they will tell you, Rome is the world. Ask them of
Judea, and they will answer, She is what Rome wills."
They were now at the gate. Judah stopped, and took the hand gently
from his shoulder, and confronted Messala, tears trembling in his
"I understand you, because you are a Roman; you cannot understand
me--I am an Israelite. You have given me suffering to-day by convincing
me that we can never be the friends we have been--never! Here we part.
The peace of the God of my fathers abide with you!"
Messala offered him his hand; the Jew walked on through the gateway.
When he was gone, the Roman was silent awhile; then he, too, passed
through, saying to himself, with a toss of the head,
"Be it so. Eros is dead, Mars reigns!"
From the entrance to the Holy City, equivalent to what is now
called St. Stephen's Gate, a street extended westwardly, on a
line parallel with the northern front of the Tower of Antonia,
though a square from that famous castle. Keeping the course as
far as the Tyropoeon Valley, which it followed a little way south,
it turned and again ran west until a short distance beyond what
tradition tells us was the Judgment Gate, from whence it broke
abruptly south. The traveller or the student familiar with the
sacred locality will recognize the thoroughfare described as part
of the Via Dolorosa--with Christians of more interest, though of
a melancholy kind, than any street in the world. As the purpose
in view does not at present require dealing with the whole street,
it will be sufficient to point out a house standing in the angle last
mentioned as marking the change of direction south, and which, as an
important centre of interest, needs somewhat particular description.
The building fronted north and west, probably four hundred feet
each way, and, like most pretentious Eastern structures, was two
stories in height, and perfectly quadrangular. The street on the
west side was about twelve feet wide, that on the north not more
than ten; so that one walking close to the walls, and looking up
at them, would have been struck by the rude, unfinished, uninviting,
but strong and imposing, appearance they presented; for they were of
stone laid in large blocks, undressed--on the outer side, in fact,
just as they were taken from the quarry. A critic of this age would
have pronounced the house fortelesque in style, except for the
windows, with which it was unusually garnished, and the ornate
finish of the doorways or gates. The western windows were four
in number, the northern only two, all set on the line of the
second story in such manner as to overhang the thoroughfares below.
The gates were the only breaks of wall externally visible in the
first story; and, besides being so thickly riven with iron bolts
as to suggest resistance to battering-rams, they were protected
by cornices of marble, handsomely executed, and of such bold
projection as to assure visitors well informed of the people
that the rich man who resided there was a Sadducee in politics
Not long after the young Jew parted from the Roman at the palace
up on the Market-place, he stopped before the western gate of the
house described, and knocked. The wicket (a door hung in one of
the valves of the gate) was opened to admit him. He stepped in
hastily, and failed to acknowledge the low salaam of the porter.
To get an idea of the interior arrangement of the structure,
as well as to see what more befell the youth, we will follow him.
The passage into which he was admitted appeared not unlike a narrow
tunnel with panelled walls and pitted ceiling. There were benches
of stone on both sides, stained and polished by long use. Twelve or
fifteen steps carried him into a court-yard, oblong north and south,
and in every quarter, except the east, bounded by what seemed the
fronts of two-story houses; of which the lower floor was divided
into lewens, while the upper was terraced and defended by strong
balustrading. The servants coming and going along the terraces;
the noise of millstones grinding; the garments fluttering from
ropes stretched from point to point; the chickens and pigeons in
full enjoyment of the place; the goats, cows, donkeys, and horses
stabled in the lewens; a massive trough of water, apparently for
the common use, declared this court appurtenant to the domestic
management of the owner. Eastwardly there was a division wall
broken by another passage-way in all respects like the first one.
Clearing the second passage, the young man entered a second court,
spacious, square, and set with shrubbery and vines, kept fresh and
beautiful by water from a basin erected near a porch on the north
side. The lewens here were high, airy, and shaded by curtains
striped alternate white and red. The arches of the lewens rested
on clustered columns. A flight of steps on the south ascended to
the terraces of the upper story, over which great awnings were
stretched as a defence against the sun. Another stairway reached
from the terraces to the roof, the edge of which, all around the
square, was defined by a sculptured cornice, and a parapet of
burned-clay tiling, sexangular and bright red. In this quarter,
moreover, there was everywhere observable a scrupulous neatness,
which, allowing no dust in the angles, not even a yellow leaf
upon a shrub, contributed quite as much as anything else to the
delightful general effect; insomuch that a visitor, breathing the
sweet air, knew, in advance of introduction, the refinement of the
family he was about calling upon.
A few steps within the second court, the lad turned to the right,
and, choosing a walk through the shrubbery, part of which was in
flower, passed to the stairway, and ascended to the terrace--a
broad pavement of white and brown flags closely laid, and much
worn. Making way under the awning to a doorway on the north side,
he entered an apartment which the dropping of the screen behind
him returned to darkness. Nevertheless, he proceeded, moving over a
tiled floor to a divan, upon which he flung himself, face downwards,
and lay at rest, his forehead upon his crossed arms.
About nightfall a woman came to the door and called; he answered,
and she went in.
"Supper is over, and it is night. Is not my son hungry?" she asked.
"No," he replied.
"Are you sick?"
"I am sleepy."
"Your mother has asked for you."
"Where is she?"
"In the summer-house on the roof."
He stirred himself, and sat up.
"Very well. Bring me something to eat."
"What do you want?"
"What you please, Amrah. I am not sick, but indifferent. Life does
not seem as pleasant as it did this morning. A new ailment, O my
Amrah; and you who know me so well, who never failed me, may think
of the things now that answer for food and medicine. Bring me what
Amrah's questions, and the voice in which she put them--low,
sympathetic, and solicitous--were significant of an endeared
relation between the two. She laid her hand upon his forehead;
then, as satisfied, went out, saying, "I will see."
After a while she returned, bearing on a wooden platter a bowl of
milk, some thin cakes of white bread broken, a delicate paste of
brayed wheat, a bird broiled, and honey and salt. On one end of
the platter there was a silver goblet full of wine, on the other
a brazen hand-lamp lighted.
The room was then revealed: its walls smoothly plastered; the ceiling
broken by great oaken rafters, brown with rain stains and time; the
floor of small diamond-shaped white and blue tiles, very firm and
enduring; a few stools with legs carved in imitation of the legs
of lions; a divan raised a little above the floor, trimmed with
blue cloth, and partially covered by an immense striped woollen
blanket or shawl--in brief, a Hebrew bedroom.
The same light also gave the woman to view. Drawing a stool to
the divan, she placed the platter upon it, then knelt close
by ready to serve him. Her face was that of a woman of fifty,
dark-skinned, dark-eyed, and at the moment softened by a look
of tenderness almost maternal. A white turban covered her head,
leaving the lobes of the ear exposed, and in them the sign that
settled her condition--an orifice bored by a thick awl. She was
a slave, of Egyptian origin, to whom not even the sacred fiftieth
year could have brought freedom; nor would she have accepted it,
for the boy she was attending was her life. She had nursed him
through babyhood, tended him as a child, and could not break
the service. To her love he could never be a man.
He spoke but once during the meal.
"You remember, O my Amrah," he said, "the Messala who used to
visit me here days at a time."
"I remember him."
"He went to Rome some years ago, and is now back. I called upon
A shudder of disgust seized the lad.
"I knew something had happened," she said, deeply interested.
"I never liked the Messala. Tell me all."
But he fell into musing, and to her repeated inquiries only said,
"He is much changed, and I shall have nothing more to do with him."
When Amrah took the platter away, he also went out, and up from
the terrace to the roof.
The reader is presumed to know somewhat of the uses of the
house-top in the East. In the matter of customs, climate is a
lawgiver everywhere. The Syrian summer day drives the seeker of
comfort into the darkened lewen; night, however, calls him forth
early, and the shadows deepening over the mountain-sides seem veils
dimly covering Circean singers; but they are far off, while the
roof is close by, and raised above the level of the shimmering
plain enough for the visitation of cool airs, and sufficiently
above the trees to allure the stars down closer, down at least into
brighter shining. So the roof became a resort--became playground,
sleeping-chamber, boudoir, rendezvous for the family, place of
music, dance, conversation, reverie, and prayer.
The motive that prompts the decoration, at whatever cost,
of interiors in colder climes suggested to the Oriental the
embellishment of his house-top. The parapet ordered by Moses
became a potter's triumph; above that, later, arose towers,
plain and fantastic; still later, kings and princes crowned
their roofs with summer-houses of marble and gold. When the
Babylonian hung gardens in the air, extravagance could push
the idea no further.
The lad whom we are following walked slowly across the house-top
to a tower built over the northwest corner of the palace. Had he
been a stranger, he might have bestowed a glance upon the structure
as he drew nigh it, and seen all the dimness permitted--a darkened
mass, low, latticed, pillared, and domed. He entered, passing under
a half-raised curtain. The interior was all darkness, except that on
four sides there were arched openings like doorways, through which
the sky, lighted with stars, was visible. In one of the openings,
reclining against a cushion from a divan, he saw the figure of a
woman, indistinct even in white floating drapery. At the sound of
his steps upon the floor, the fan in her hand stopped, glistening
where the starlight struck the jewels with which it was sprinkled,
and she sat up, and called his name.
"Judah, my son!"
"It is I, mother," he answered, quickening his approach.
Going to her, he knelt, and she put her arms around him, and with
kisses pressed him to her bosom.
The mother resumed her easy position against the cushion, while the
son took place on the divan, his head in her lap. Both of them,
looking out of the opening, could see a stretch of lower house-tops
in the vicinity, a bank of blue-blackness over in the west which they
knew to be mountains, and the sky, its shadowy depths brilliant with
stars. The city was still. Only the winds stirred.
"Amrah tells me something has happened to you," she said, caressing
his cheek. "When my Judah was a child, I allowed small things to
trouble him, but he is now a man. He must not forget"--her voice
became very soft--"that one day he is to be my hero."
She spoke in the language almost lost in the land, but which a
few--and they were always as rich in blood as in possessions--cherished
in its purity, that they might be more certainly distinguished
from Gentile peoples--the language in which the loved Rebekah
and Rachel sang to Benjamin.
The words appeared to set him thinking anew; after a while, however,
he caught the hand with which she fanned him, and said, "Today, O my
mother, I have been made to think of many things that never had place
in my mind before. Tell me, first, what am I to be?"
"Have I not told you? You are to be my hero."
He could not see her face, yet he knew she was in play. He became
"You are very good, very kind, O my mother. No one will ever love
me as you do."
He kissed the hand over and over again.
"I think I understand why you would have me put off the question,"
he continued. "Thus far my life has belonged to you. How gentle,
how sweet your control has been! I wish it could last forever.
But that may not be. It is the Lord's will that I shall one
day become owner of myself--a day of separation, and therefore a
dreadful day to you. Let us be brave and serious. I will be your
hero, but you must put me in the way. You know the law--every son
of Israel must have some occupation. I am not exempt, and ask now,
shall I tend the herds? or till the soil? or drive the saw? or be
a clerk or lawyer? What shall I be? Dear, good mother, help me to
"Gamaliel has been lecturing today," she said, thoughtfully.
"If so, I did not hear him."
"Then you have been walking with Simeon, who, they tell me,
inherits the genius of his family."
"No, I have not seen him. I have been up on the Market-place,
not to the Temple. I visited the young Messala."
A certain change in his voice attracted the mother's attention.
A presentiment quickened the beating of her heart; the fan became
"The Messala!" she said. "What could he say to so trouble you?"
"He is very much changed."
"You mean he has come back a Roman."
"Roman!" she continued, half to herself. "To all the world the
word means master. How long has he been away?"
She raised her head, and looked off into the night.
"The airs of the Via Sacra are well enough in the streets of the
Egyptian and in Babylon; but in Jerusalem--our Jerusalem--the
And, full of the thought, she settled back into her easy place.
He was first to speak.
"What Messala said, my mother, was sharp enough in itself; but,
taken with the manner, some of the sayings were intolerable."
"I think I understand you. Rome, her poets, orators, senators,
courtiers, are mad with affectation of what they call satire."
"I suppose all great peoples are proud," he went on, scarcely
noticing the interruption; "but the pride of that people is
unlike all others; in these latter days it is so grown the
gods barely escape it."
"The gods escape!" said the mother, quickly. "More than one Roman
has accepted worship as his divine right."
"Well, Messala always had his share of the disagreeable quality.
When he was a child, I have seen him mock strangers whom even Herod
condescended to receive with honors; yet he always spared Judea.
For the first time, in conversation with me to-day, he trifled
with our customs and God. As you would have had me do, I parted
with him finally. And now, O my dear mother, I would know with more
certainty if there be just ground for the Roman's contempt. In what
am I his inferior? Is ours a lower order of people? Why should I,
even in Caesar's presence; feel the shrinking of a slave? Tell me
especially why, if I have the soul, and so choose, I may not hunt
the honors of the world in all its fields? Why may not I take sword
and indulge the passion of war? As a poet, why may not I sing of all
themes? I can be a worker in metals, a keeper of flocks, a merchant,
why not an artist like the Greek? Tell me, O my mother--and this is
the sum of my trouble--why may not a son of Israel do all a Roman
The reader will refer these questions back to the conversation in
the Market-place; the mother, listening with all her faculties
awake, from something which would have been lost upon one less
interested in him--from the connections of the subject, the pointing
of the questions, possibly his accent and tone--was not less swift
in making the same reference. She sat up, and in a voice quick and
sharp as his own, replied, "I see, I see! From association Messala,
in boyhood, was almost a Jew; had he remained here, he might have
become a proselyte, so much do we all borrow from the influences
that ripen our lives; but the years in Rome have been too much for
him. I do not wonder at the change; yet"--her voice fell--"he might
have dealt tenderly at least with you. It is a hard, cruel nature
which in youth can forget its first loves."
Her hand dropped lightly upon his forehead, and the fingers caught
in his hair and lingered there lovingly, while her eyes sought
the highest stars in view. Her pride responded to his, not merely
in echo, but in the unison of perfect sympathy. She would answer
him; at the same time, not for the world would she have had the
answer unsatisfactory: an admission of inferiority might weaken
his spirit for life. She faltered with misgivings of her own powers.
"What you propose, O my Judah, is not a subject for treatment by
a woman. Let me put its consideration off till to-morrow, and I
will have the wise Simeon--"
"Do not send me to the Rector," he said, abruptly.
"I will have him come to us."
"No, I seek more than information; while he might give me that
better than you, O my mother, you can do better by giving me
what he cannot--the resolution which is the soul of a man's soul."
She swept the heavens with a rapid glance, trying to compass all
the meaning of his questions.
"While craving justice for ourselves, it is never wise to be
unjust to others. To deny valor in the enemy we have conquered is
to underrate our victory; and if the enemy be strong enough to hold
us at bay, much more to conquer us"--she hesitated--"self-respect
bids us seek some other explanation of our misfortunes than accusing
him of qualities inferior to our own."
Thus, speaking to herself rather than to him, she began:
"Take heart, O my son. The Messala is nobly descended; his family
has been illustrious through many generations. In the days of
Republican Rome--how far back I cannot tell--they were famous,
some as soldiers, some as civilians. I can recall but one consul of
the name; their rank was senatorial, and their patronage always sought
because they were always rich. Yet if to-day your friend boasted
of his ancestry, you might have shamed him by recounting yours.
If he referred to the ages through which the line is traceable,
or to deeds, rank, or wealth--such allusions, except when great
occasion demands them, are tokens of small minds--if he mentioned
them in proof of his superiority, then without dread, and standing
on each particular, you might have challenged him to a comparison
Taking a moment's thought, the mother proceeded:
"One of the ideas of fast hold now is that time has much to do with
the nobility of races and families. A Roman boasting his superiority
on that account over a son of Israel will always fail when put to
the proof. The founding of Rome was his beginning; the very best
of them cannot trace their descent beyond that period; few of them
pretend to do so; and of such as do, I say not one could make good
his claim except by resort to tradition. Messala certainly could
not. Let us look now to ourselves. Could we better?"
A little more light would have enabled him to see the pride that
diffused itself over her face.
"Let us imagine the Roman putting us to the challenge. I would
answer him, neither doubting nor boastful."
Her voice faltered; a tender thought changed the form of the argument.
"Your father, O my Judah, is at rest with his fathers; yet I
remember, as though it were this evening, the day he and I,
with many rejoicing friends, went up into the Temple to present
you to the Lord. We sacrificed the doves, and to the priest I gave
your name, which he wrote in my presence--'Judah, son of Ithamar,
of the House of Hur.' The name was then carried away, and written
in a book of the division of records devoted to the saintly family.
"I cannot tell you when the custom of registration in this mode
began. We know it prevailed before the flight from Egypt. I have
heard Hillel say Abraham caused the record to be first opened with
his own name, and the names of his sons, moved by the promises
of the Lord which separated him and them from all other races,
and made them the highest and noblest, the very chosen of the
earth. The covenant with Jacob was of like effect. 'In thy seed
shall all the nations of the earth be blessed'--so said the angel to
Abraham in the place Jehovah-jireh. 'And the land whereon thou liest,
to thee will I give it, and to thy seed'--so the Lord himself said
to Jacob asleep at Bethel on the way to Haran. Afterwards the wise
men looked forward to a just division of the land of promise; and,
that it might be known in the day of partition who were entitled
to portions, the Book of Generations was begun. But not for that
alone. The promise of a blessing to all the earth through the
patriarch reached far into the future. One name was mentioned in
connection with the blessing--the benefactor might be the humblest
of the chosen family, for the Lord our God knows no distinctions
of rank or riches. So, to make the performance clear to men of
the generation who were to witness it, and that they might give
the glory to whom it belonged, the record was required to be kept
with absolute certainty. Has it been so kept?"
The fan played to and fro, until, becoming impatient, he repeated
the question, "Is the record absolutely true?"
"Hillel said it was, and of all who have lived no one was so
well-informed upon the subject. Our people have at times been
heedless of some parts of the law, but never of this part. The good
rector himself has followed the Books of Generations through three
periods--from the promises to the opening of the Temple; thence to
the Captivity; thence, again, to the present. Once only were the
records disturbed, and that was at the end of the second period;
but when the nation returned from the long exile, as a first
duty to God, Zerubbabel restored the Books, enabling us once
more to carry the lines of Jewish descent back unbroken fully
two thousand years. And now--"
She paused as if to allow the hearer to measure the time comprehended
in the statement.
"And now," she continued, "what becomes of the Roman boast of
blood enriched by ages? By that test, the sons of Israel watching
the herds on old Rephaim yonder are nobler than the noblest of
"And I, mother--by the Books, who am I?"
"What I have said thus far, my son, had reference to your question.
I will answer you. If Messala were here, he might say, as others have
said, that the exact trace of your lineage stopped when the Assyrian
took Jerusalem, and razed the Temple, with all its precious stores;
but you might plead the pious action of Zerubbabel, and retort that
all verity in Roman genealogy ended when the barbarians from the
West took Rome, and camped six months upon her desolated site.
Did the government keep family histories? If so, what became of
them in those dreadful days? No, no; there is verity in our Books
of Generations; and, following them back to the Captivity, back to
the foundation of the first Temple, back to the march from Egypt,
we have absolute assurance that you are lineally sprung from Hur,
the associate of Joshua. In the matter of descent sanctified by
time, is not the honor perfect? Do you care to pursue further?
if so, take the Torah, and search the Book of Numbers, and of
the seventy-two generations after Adam, you can find the very
progenitor of your house."
There was silence for a time in the chamber on the roof.
"I thank you, O my mother," Judah next said, clasping both her
hands in his; "I thank you with all my heart. I was right in not
having the good rector called in; he could not have satisfied me
more than you have. Yet to make a family truly noble, is time
"Ah, you forget, you forget; our claim rests not merely upon time;
the Lord's preference is our especial glory."
"You are speaking of the race, and I, mother, of the family--our
family. In the years since Father Abraham, what have they achieved?
What have they done? What great things to lift them above the level
of their fellows?"
She hesitated, thinking she might all this time have mistaken his
object. The information he sought might have been for more than
satisfaction of wounded vanity. Youth is but the painted shell
within which, continually growing, lives that wondrous thing the
spirit of man, biding its moment of apparition, earlier in some
than in others. She trembled under a perception that this might be
the supreme moment come to him; that as children at birth reach out
their untried hands grasping for shadows, and crying the while, so his
spirit might, in temporary blindness, be struggling to take hold of
its impalpable future. They to whom a boy comes asking, Who am I,
and what am I to be? have need of ever so much care. Each word in
answer may prove to the after-life what each finger-touch of the
artist is to the clay he is modelling.
"I have a feeling, O my Judah," she said, patting his cheek with
the hand he had been caressing--"I have the feeling that all I
have said has been in strife with an antagonist more real than
imaginary. If Messala is the enemy, do not leave me to fight him
in the dark. Tell me all he said."
The young Israelite proceeded then, and rehearsed his conversation
with Messala, dwelling with particularity upon the latter's speeches
in contempt of the Jews, their customs, and much pent round of life.
Afraid to speak the while, the mother listened, discerning the
matter plainly. Judah had gone to the palace on the Market-place,
allured by love of a playmate whom he thought to find exactly as he
had been at the parting years before; a man met him, and, in place
of laughter and references to the sports of the past, the man had
been full of the future, and talked of glory to be won, and of
riches and power. Unconscious of the effect, the visitor had come
away hurt in pride, yet touched with a natural ambition; but she,
the jealous mother, saw it, and, not knowing the turn the aspiration
might take, became at once Jewish in her fear. What if it lured him
away from the patriarchal faith? In her view, that consequence was
more dreadful than any or all others. She could discover but one way
to avert it, and she set about the task, her native power reinforced
by love to such degree that her speech took a masculine strength and
at times a poet's fervor.
"There never has been a people," she began, "who did not think
themselves at least equal to any other; never a great nation,
my son, that did not believe itself the very superior. When the
Roman looks down upon Israel and laughs, he merely repeats the
folly of the Egyptian, the Assyrian, and the Macedonian; and as the
laugh is against God, the result will be the same."
Her voice became firmer.
"There is no law by which to determine the superiority of nations;
hence the vanity of the claim, and the idleness of disputes about
it. A people risen, run their race, and die either of themselves
or at the hands of another, who, succeeding to their power,
take possession of their place, and upon their monuments write
new names; such is history. If I were called upon to symbolize
God and man in the simplest form, I would draw a straight line
and a circle, and of the line I would say, 'This is God, for he alone
moves forever straightforward,' and of the circle, 'This is man--such
is his progress.' I do not mean that there is no difference between
the careers of nations; no two are alike. The difference, however,
is not, as some say, in the extent of the circle they describe or
the space of earth they cover, but in the sphere of their movement,
the highest being nearest God.
"To stop here, my son, would be to leave the subject where we began.
Let us go on. There are signs by which to measure the height of the
circle each nation runs while in its course. By them let us compare
the Hebrew and the Roman.
"The simplest of all the signs is the daily life of the people.
Of this I will only say, Israel has at times forgotten God,
while the Roman never knew him; consequently comparison is
"Your friend--or your former friend--charged, if I understood you
rightly, that we have had no poets, artists, or warriors; by which
he meant, I suppose, to deny that we have had great men, the next most
certain of the signs. A just consideration of this charge requires a
definition at the commencement. A great man, O my boy, is one whose
life proves him to have been recognized, if not called, by God.
A Persian was used to punish our recreant fathers, and he carried
them into captivity; another Persian was selected to restore their
children to the Holy Land; greater than either of them, however,
was the Macedonian through whom the desolation of Judea and the
Temple was avenged. The special distinction of the men was that
they were chosen by the Lord, each for a divine purpose; and that
they were Gentiles does not lessen their glory. Do not lose sight
of this definition while I proceed.
"There is an idea that war is the most noble occupation of men,
and that the most exalted greatness is the growth of battle-fields.
Because the world has adopted the idea, be not you deceived. That we
must worship something is a law which will continue as long as there
is anything we cannot understand. The prayer of the barbarian is
a wail of fear addressed to Strength, the only divine quality he
can clearly conceive; hence his faith in heroes. What is Jove but
a Roman hero? The Greeks have their great glory because they were
the first to set Mind above Strength. In Athens the orator and
philosopher were more revered than the warrior. The charioteer
and the swiftest runner are still idols of the arena; yet the
immortelles are reserved for the sweetest singer. The birthplace
of one poet was contested by seven cities. But was the Hellene the
first to deny the old barbaric faith? No. My son, that glory is
ours; against brutalism our fathers erected God; in our worship,
the wail of fear gave place to the Hosanna and the Psalm. So the
Hebrew and the Greek would have carried all humanity forward and
upward. But, alas! the government of the world presumes war as an
eternal condition; wherefore, over Mind and above God, the Roman
has enthroned his Caesar, the absorbent of all attainable power,
the prohibition of any other greatness.
"The sway of the Greek was a flowering time for genius. In return
for the liberty it then enjoyed, what a company of thinkers the
Mind led forth? There was a glory for every excellence, and a
perfection so absolute that in everything but war even the Roman
has stooped to imitation. A Greek is now the model of the orators
in the Forum; listen, and in every Roman song you will hear the
rhythm of the Greek; if a Roman opens his mouth speaking wisely
of moralities, or abstractions, or of the mysteries of nature,
he is either a plagiarist or the disciple of some school which had
a Greek for its founder. In nothing but war, I say again, has Rome
a claim to originality. Her games and spectacles are Greek inventions,
dashed with blood to gratify the ferocity of her rabble; her religion,
if such it may be called, is made up of contributions from the
faiths of all other peoples; her most venerated gods are from
Olympus--even her Mars, and, for that matter, the Jove she much
magnifies. So it happens, O my son, that of the whole world our
Israel alone can dispute the superiority of the Greek, and with
him contest the palm of original genius.
"To the excellences of other peoples the egotism of a Roman is
a blindfold, impenetrable as his breastplate. Oh, the ruthless
robbers! Under their trampling the earth trembles like a floor
beaten with flails. Along with the rest we are fallen--alas that
I should say it to you, my son! They have our highest places, and
the holiest, and the end no man can tell; but this I know--they
may reduce Judea as an almond broken with hammers, and devour
Jerusalem, which is the oil and sweetness thereof; yet the glory
of the men of Israel will remain a light in the heavens overhead
out of reach: for their history is the history of God, who wrote
with their hands, spake with their tongues, and was himself in all
the good they did, even the least; who dwelt with them, a Lawgiver
on Sinai, a Guide in the wilderness, in war a Captain, in government
a King; who once and again pushed back the curtains of the
pavilion which is his resting-place, intolerably bright, and,
as a man speaking to men, showed them the right, and the way
to happiness, and how they should live, and made them promises
binding the strength of his Almightiness with covenants sworn to
everlastingly. O my son, could it be that they with whom Jehovah
thus dwelt, an awful familiar, derived nothing from him?--that
in their lives and deeds the common human qualities should not
in some degree have been mixed and colored with the divine? that
their genius should not have in it, even after the lapse of ages,
some little of heaven?"
For a time the rustling of the fan was all the sound heard in the
"In the sense which limits art to sculpture and painting, it is
true," she next said, "Israel has had no artists."
The admission was made regretfully, for it must be remembered
she was a Sadducee, whose faith, unlike that of the Pharisees,
permitted a love of the beautiful in every form, and without
reference to its origin.
"Still he who would do justice," she proceeded, "will not forget that
the cunning of our hands was bound by the prohibition, 'Thou shalt
not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything;'
which the Sopherim wickedly extended beyond its purpose and time.
Nor should it be forgotten that long before Daedalus appeared in
Attica and with his wooden statues so transformed sculpture as
to make possible the schools of Corinth and AEgina, and their
ultimate triumphs the Poecile and Capitolium--long before the
age of Daedalus, I say, two Israelites, Bezaleel and Aholiab,
the master-builders of the first tabernacle, said to have been
skilled 'in all manner of workmanship,' wrought the cherubim of the
mercy-seat above the ark. Of gold beaten, not chiseled, were they;
and they were statues in form both human and divine. 'And they
shall stretch forth their wings on high, .... and their faces
shall look one to another.' Who will say they were not beautiful?
or that they were not the first statues?"
"Oh, I see now why the Greek outstripped us," said Judah, intensely
interested. "And the ark; accursed be the Babylonians who destroyed
"Nay, Judah, be of faith. It was not destroyed, only lost, hidden
away too safely in some cavern of the mountains. One day--Hillel
and Shammai both say so--one day, in the Lord's good time, it will
be found and brought forth, and Israel dance before it, singing as
of old. And they who look upon the faces of the cherubim then,
though they have seen the face of the ivory Minerva, will be ready
to kiss the hand of the Jew from love of his genius, asleep through
all the thousands of years."
The mother, in her eagerness, had risen into something like the
rapidity and vehemence of a speech-maker; but now, to recover
herself, or to pick up the thread of her thought, she rested
"You are so good, my mother," he said, in a grateful way. "And I
will never be done saying so. Shammai could not have talked better,
nor Hillel. I am a true son of Israel again."
"Flatterer!" she said. "You do not know that I am but repeating
what I heard Hillel say in an argument he had one day in my
presence with a sophist from Rome."
"Well, the hearty words are yours."
Directly all her earnestness returned.
"Where was I? Oh yes, I was claiming for our Hebrew fathers the
first statues. The trick of the sculptor, Judah, is not all there
is of art, any more than art is all there is of greatness. I always
think of great men marching down the centuries in groups and goodly
companies, separable according to nationalities; here the Indian,
there the Egyptian, yonder the Assyrian; above them the music of
trumpets and the beauty of banners; and on their right hand and
left, as reverent spectators, the generations from the beginning,
numberless. As they go, I think of the Greek, saying, 'Lo! The
Hellene leads the way.' Then the Roman replies, 'Silence! what
was your place is ours now; we have left you behind as dust
trodden on.' And all the time, from the far front back over
the line of march, as well as forward into the farthest future,
streams a light of which the wranglers know nothing, except that
it is forever leading them on--the Light of Revelation! Who are
they that carry it? Ah, the old Judean blood! How it leaps at the
thought! By the light we know them. Thrice blessed, O our fathers,
servants of God, keepers of the covenants! Ye are the leaders of
men, the living and the dead. The front is thine; and though every
Roman were a Caesar, ye shall not lose it!"
Judah was deeply stirred.
"Do not stop, I pray you," he cried. "You give me to hear the
sound of timbrels. I wait for Miriam and the women who went
after her dancing and singing."
She caught his feeling, and, with ready wit, wove it into her speech.
"Very well, my son. If you can hear the timbrel of the prophetess,
you can do what I was about to ask; you can use your fancy, and stand
with me, as if by the wayside, while the chosen of Israel pass us at
the head of the procession. Now they come--the patriarchs first;
next the fathers of the tribes. I almost hear the bells of their
camels and the lowing of their herds. Who is he that walks alone
between the companies? An old man, yet his eye is not dim, nor his
natural force abated. He knew the Lord face to face! Warrior, poet,
orator, lawgiver, prophet, his greatness is as the sun at morning,
its flood of splendor quenching all other lights, even that of the
first and noblest of the Caesars. After him the judges. And then
the kings--the son of Jesse, a hero in war, and a singer of songs
eternal as that of the sea; and his son, who, passing all other
kings in riches and wisdom, and while making the Desert habitable,
and in its waste places planting cities, forgot not Jerusalem which
the Lord had chosen for his seat on earth. Bend lower, my son!
These that come next are the first of their kind, and the last.
Their faces are raised, as if they heard a voice in the sky and
were listening. Their lives were full of sorrows. Their garments
smell of tombs and caverns. Hearken to a woman among them--'Sing
ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously!' Nay, put your
forehead in the dust before them! They were tongues of God, his
servants, who looked through heaven, and, seeing all the future,
wrote what they saw, and left the writing to be proven by time.
Kings turned pale as they approached them, and nations trembled at
the sound of their voices. The elements waited upon them. In their
hands they carried every bounty and every plague. See the Tishbite
and his servant Elisha! See the sad son of Hilkiah, and him, the seer
of visions, by the river of Chebar! And of the three children of
Judah who refused the image of the Babylonian, lo! that one who,
in the feast to the thousand lords, so confounded the astrologers.
And yonder--O my son, kiss the dust again!--yonder the gentle son
of Amoz, from whom the world has its promise of the Messiah to
In this passage the fan had been kept in rapid play; it stopped
now, and her voice sank low.
"You are tired," she said.
"No," he replied, "I was listening to a new song of Israel."
The mother was still intent upon her purpose, and passed the
"In such light as I could, my Judah, I have set our great men
before you--patriarchs, legislators, warriors, singers, prophets.
Turn we to the best of Rome. Against Moses place Caesar, and Tarquin
against David; Sylla against either of the Maccabees; the best
of the consuls against the judges; Augustus against Solomon,
and you are done: comparison ends there. But think then of the
prophets--greatest of the great."
She laughed scornfully.
"Pardon me. I was thinking of the soothsayer who warned Caius Julius
against the Ides of March, and fancied him looking for the omens
of evil which his master despised in the entrails of a chicken.
From that picture turn to Elijah sitting on the hill-top on the
way to Samaria, amid the smoking bodies of the captains and their
fifties, warning the son of Ahab of the wrath of our God. Finally,
O my Judah--if such speech be reverent--how shall we judge Jehovah
and Jupiter unless it be by what their servants have done in their
names? And as for what you shall do--"
She spoke the latter words slowly, and with a tremulous utterance.
"As for what you shall do, my boy--serve the Lord, the Lord God of
Israel, not Rome. For a child of Abraham there is no glory except
in the Lord's ways, and in them there is much glory."
"I may be a soldier then?" Judah asked.
"Why not? Did not Moses call God a man of war?"
There was then a long silence in the summer chamber.
"You have my permission," she said, finally; "if only you serve
the Lord instead of Caesar."
He was content with the condition, and by-and-by fell asleep. She
arose then, and put the cushion under his head, and, throwing a
shawl over him and kissing him tenderly, went away.
The good man, like the bad, must die; but, remembering the lesson
of our faith, we say of him and the event, "No matter, he will
open his eyes in heaven." Nearest this in life is the waking
from healthful sleep to a quick consciousness of happy sights
When Judah awoke, the sun was up over the mountains; the pigeons
were abroad in flocks, filling the air with the gleams of their
white wings; and off southeast he beheld the Temple, an apparition
of gold in the blue of the sky. These, however, were familiar
objects, and they received but a glance; upon the edge of the
divan, close by him, a girl scarcely fifteen sat singing to
the accompaniment of a nebel, which she rested upon her knee,
and touched gracefully. To her he turned listening; and this
was what she sang:
"Wake not, but hear me, love!
Adrift, adrift on slumber's sea,
Thy spirit call to list to me.
Wake not, but hear me, love!
A gift from Sleep, the restful king,
All happy, happy dreams I bring.
"Wake not, but hear me, love!
Of all the world of dreams 'tis thine
This once to choose the most divine.
So choose, and sleep, my love!
But ne'er again in choice be free,
Unless, unless--thou dream'st of me."
She put the instrument down, and, resting her hands in her lap,
waited for him to speak. And as it has become necessary to tell
somewhat of her, we will avail ourselves of the chance, and add
such particulars of the family into whose privacy we are brought
as the reader may wish to know.
The favors of Herod had left surviving him many persons of vast
estate. Where this fortune was joined to undoubted lineal descent
from some famous son of one of the tribes, especially Judah, the happy
individual was accounted a Prince of Jerusalem--a distinction which
sufficed to bring him the homage of his less favored countrymen,
and the respect, if nothing more, of the Gentiles with whom business
and social circumstance brought him into dealing. Of this class none
had won in private or public life a higher regard than the father
of the lad whom we have been following. With a remembrance of his
nationality which never failed him, he had yet been true to the
king, and served him faithfully at home and abroad. Some offices
had taken him to Rome, where his conduct attracted the notice of
Augustus, who strove without reserve to engage his friendship.
In his house, accordingly, were many presents, such as had
gratified the vanity of kings--purple togas, ivory chairs,
golden pateroe--chiefly valuable on account of the imperial
hand which had honorably conferred them. Such a man could not
fail to be rich; yet his wealth was not altogether the largess
of royal patrons. He had welcomed the law that bound him to some
pursuit; and, instead of one, he entered into many. Of the herdsmen
watching flocks on the plains and hill-sides, far as old Lebanon,
numbers reported to him as their employer; in the cities by the sea,
and in those inland, he founded houses of traffic; his ships brought
him silver from Spain, whose mines were then the richest known;
while his caravans came twice a year from the East, laden with
silks and spices. In faith he was a Hebrew, observant of the law
and every essential rite; his place in the synagogue and Temple
knew him well; he was thoroughly learned in the Scriptures;
he delighted in the society of the college-masters, and carried
his reverence for Hillel almost to the point of worship. Yet he
was in no sense a Separatist; his hospitality took in strangers
from every land; the carping Pharisees even accused him of having
more than once entertained Samaritans at his table. Had he been a
Gentile, and lived, the world might have heard of him as the rival of
Herodes Atticus: as it was, he perished at sea some ten years before
this second period of our story, in the prime of life, and lamented
everywhere in Judea. We are already acquainted with two members of
his family--his widow and son; the only other was a daughter--she
whom we have seen singing to her brother.
Tirzah was her name, and as the two looked at each other, their
resemblance was plain. Her features had the regularity of his, and
were of the same Jewish type; they had also the charm of childish
innocency of expression. Home-life and its trustful love permitted
the negligent attire in which she appeared. A chemise buttoned upon
the right shoulder, and passing loosely over the breast and back and
under the left arm, but half concealed her person above the waist,
while it left the arms entirely nude. A girdle caught the folds of
the garment, marking the commencement of the skirt. The coiffure
was very simple and becoming--a silken cap, Tyrian-dyed; and over
that a striped scarf of the same material, beautifully embroidered,
and wound about in thin folds so as to show the shape of the head
without enlarging it; the whole finished by a tassel dropping
from the crown point of the cap. She had rings, ear and finger;
anklets and bracelets, all of gold; and around her neck there was
a collar of gold, curiously garnished with a network of delicate
chains, to which were pendants of pearl. The edges of her eyelids
were painted, and the tips of her fingers stained. Her hair fell
in two long plaits down her back. A curled lock rested upon each
cheek in front of the ear. Altogether it would have been impossible
to deny her grace, refinement, and beauty.
"Very pretty, my Tirzah, very pretty!" he said, with animation.
"The song?" she asked.
"Yes--and the singer, too. It has the conceit of a Greek. Where did
you get it?"
"You remember the Greek who sang in the theatre last month? They
said he used to be a singer at the court for Herod and his sister
Salome. He came out just after an exhibition of wrestlers, when the
house was full of noise. At his first note everything became so quiet
that I heard every word. I got the song from him."
"But he sang in Greek."
"And I in Hebrew."
"Ah, yes. I am proud of my little sister. Have you another as
"Very many. But let them go now. Amrah sent me to tell you she will
bring you your breakfast, and that you need not come down. She should
be here by this time. She thinks you sick--that a dreadful accident
happened you yesterday. What was it? Tell me, and I will help Amrah
doctor you. She knows the cures of the Egyptians, who were always
a stupid set; but I have a great many recipes of the Arabs who--"
"Are even more stupid than the Egyptians," he said, shaking his
"Do you think so? Very well, then," she replied, almost without
pause, and putting her hands to her left ear. "We will have
nothing to do with any of them. I have here what is much surer
and better--the amulet which was given to some of our people--I
cannot tell when, it was so far back--by a Persian magician. See,
the inscription is almost worn out."
She offered him the earring, which he took, looked at, and handed
"If I were dying, Tirzah, I could not use the charm. It is a relic
of idolatry, forbidden every believing son and daughter of Abraham.
Take it, but do not wear it any more."
"Forbidden! Not so," she said. "Our father's mother wore it I do
not know how many Sabbaths in her life. It has cured I do not know
how many people--more than three anyhow. It is approved--look,
here is the mark of the rabbis."
"I have no faith in amulets."
She raised her eyes to his in astonishment.
"What would Amrah say?"
"Amrah's father and mother tended sakiyeh for a garden on the Nile."
"He says they are godless inventions of unbelievers and Shechemites."
Tirzah looked at the ring doubtfully.
"What shall I do with it?"
"Wear it, my little sister. It becomes you--it helps make you
beautiful, though I think you that without help."
Satisfied, she returned the amulet to her ear just as Amrah entered
the summer chamber, bearing a platter, with wash-bowl, water,
Not being a Pharisee, the ablution was short and simple with
Judah. The servant then went out, leaving Tirzah to dress his
hair. When a lock was disposed to her satisfaction, she would
unloose the small metallic mirror which, as was the fashion
among her fair countrywomen, she wore at her girdle, and gave
it to him, that he might see the triumph, and how handsome it
made him. Meanwhile they kept up their conversation.
"What do you think, Tirzah?--I am going away."
She dropped her hands with amazement.
"Going away! When? Where? For what?"
"Three questions, all in a breath! What a body you are!" Next
instant he became serious. "You know the law requires me to follow
some occupation. Our good father set me an example. Even you would
despise me if I spent in idleness the results of his industry and
knowledge. I am going to Rome."
"Oh, I will go with you."
"You must stay with mother. If both of us leave her she will die."
The brightness faded from her face.
"Ah, yes, yes! But--must you go? Here in Jerusalem you can learn
all that is needed to be a merchant--if that is what you are
"But that is not what I am thinking of. The law does not require
the son to be what the father was."
"What else can you be?"
"A soldier," he replied, with a certain pride of voice.
Tears came into her eyes.
"You will be killed."
"If God's will, be it so. But, Tirzah, the soldiers are not all
She threw her arms around his neck, as if to hold him back.
"We are so happy! Stay at home, my brother."
"Home cannot always be what it is. You yourself will be going away
He smiled at her earnestness.
"A prince of Judah, or some other of one of the tribes, will come
soon and claim my Tirzah, and ride away with her, to be the light
of another house. What will then become of me?"
She answered with sobs.
"War is a trade," he continued, more soberly. "To learn it thoroughly,
one must go to school, and there is no school like a Roman camp."
"You would not fight for Rome?" she asked, holding her breath.
"And you--even you hate her. The whole world hates her. In that,
O Tirzah, find the reason of the answer I give you-- Yes, I will
fight for her, if, in return, she will teach me how one day to
fight against her."
"When will you go?"
Amrah's steps were then heard returning.
"Hist!" he said. "Do not let her know of what I am thinking."
The faithful slave came in with breakfast, and placed the waiter
holding it upon a stool before them; then, with white napkins upon
her arm, she remained to serve them. They dipped their fingers
in a bowl of water, and were rinsing them, when a noise arrested
their attention. They listened, and distinguished martial music
in the street on the north side of the house.
"Soldiers from the Praetorium! I must see them," he cried,
springing from the divan, and running out.
In a moment more he was leaning over the parapet of tiles which
guarded the roof at the extreme northeast corner, so absorbed
that he did not notice Tirzah by his side, resting one hand upon
Their position--the roof being the highest one in the
locality--commanded the house-tops eastward as far as the huge irregular
Tower of Antonia, which has been already mentioned as a citadel for
the garrison and military headquarters for the governor. The street,
not more than ten feet wide, was spanned here and there by bridges,
open and covered, which, like the roofs along the way, were beginning
to be occupied by men, women, and children, called out by the music.
The word is used, though it is hardly fitting; what the people heard
when they came forth was rather an uproar of trumpets and the shriller
litui so delightful to the soldiers.
The array after a while came into view of the two upon the house
of the Hurs. First, a vanguard of the light-armed--mostly slingers
and bowmen--marching with wide intervals between their ranks and
files; next a body of heavy-armed infantry, bearing large shields,
and hastoe longoe, or spears identical with those used in the duels
before Ilium; then the musicians; and then an officer riding alone,
but followed closely by a guard of cavalry; after them again,
a column of infantry also heavy-armed, which, moving in close
order, crowded the streets from wall to wall, and appeared to
be without end.
The brawny limbs of the men; the cadenced motion from right to left
of the shields; the sparkle of scales, buckles, and breastplates
and helms, all perfectly burnished; the plumes nodding above the
tall crests; the sway of ensigns and iron-shod spears; the bold,
confident step, exactly timed and measured; the demeanor, so grave,
yet so watchful; the machine-like unity of the whole moving mass--made
an impression upon Judah, but as something felt rather than seen.
Two objects fixed his attention--the eagle of the legion first--a
gilded effigy perched on a tall shaft, with wings outspread until
they met above its head. He knew that, when brought from its chamber
in the Tower, it had been received with divine honors.
The officer riding alone in the midst of the column was the other
attraction. His head was bare; otherwise he was in full armor. At his
left hip he wore a short sword; in his hand, however, he carried
a truncheon, which looked like a roll of white paper. He sat upon
a purple cloth instead of a saddle, and that, and a bridle with a
forestall of gold and reins of yellow silk broadly fringed at the
lower edge, completed the housings of the horse.
While the man was yet in the distance, Judah observed that his
presence was sufficient to throw the people looking at him into
angry excitement. They would lean over the parapets or stand boldly
out, and shake their fists at him; they followed him with loud cries,
and spit at him as he passed under the bridges; the women even flung
their sandals, sometimes with such good effect as to hit him. When he
was nearer, the yells became distinguishable--"Robber, tyrant, dog of
a Roman! Away with Ishmael! Give us back our Hannas!"
When quite near, Judah could see that, as was but natural, the man
did not share the indifference so superbly shown by the soldiers;
his face was dark and sullen, and the glances he occasionally cast
at his persecutors were full of menace; the very timid shrank from
Now the lad had heard of the custom, borrowed from a habit of the
first Caesar, by which chief commanders, to indicate their rank,
appeared in public with only a laurel vine upon their heads.
By that sign he knew this officer--VALERIUS GRATUS, THE NEW
PROCURATOR OF JUDEA!
To say truth now, the Roman under the unprovoked storm had the
young Jew's sympathy; so that when he reached the corner of the
house, the latter leaned yet farther over the parapet to see him
go by, and in the act rested a hand upon a tile which had been a
long time cracked and allowed to go unnoticed. The pressure was
strong enough to displace the outer piece, which started to fall.
A thrill of horror shot through the youth. He reached out to catch
the missile. In appearance the motion was exactly that of one
pitching something from him. The effort failed--nay, it served to
push the descending fragment farther out over the wall. He shouted
with all his might. The soldiers of the guard looked up; so did the
great man, and that moment the missile struck him, and he fell from
his seat as dead.
The cohort halted; the guards leaped from their horses, and hastened
to cover the chief with their shields. On the other hand, the people
who witnessed the affair, never doubting that the blow had been
purposely dealt, cheered the lad as he yet stooped in full view
over the parapet, transfixed by what he beheld, and by anticipation
of the consequences flashed all too plainly upon him.
A mischievous spirit flew with incredible speed from roof to
roof along the line of march, seizing the people, and urging
them all alike. They laid hands upon the parapets and tore up
the tiling and the sunburnt mud of which the house-tops were for
the most part made, and with blind fury began to fling them upon
the legionaries halted below. A battle then ensued. Discipline,
of course, prevailed. The struggle, the slaughter, the skill of
one side, the desperation of the other, are alike unnecessary to
our story. Let us look rather to the wretched author of it all.
He arose from the parapet, his face very pale.
"O Tirzah, Tirzah! What will become of us?"
She had not seen the occurrence below, but was listening to the
shouting and watching the mad activity of the people in view on
the houses. Something terrible was going on, she knew; but what
it was, or the cause, or that she or any of those dear to her
were in danger, she did not know.
"What has happened? What does it all mean?" she asked, in sudden
"I have killed the Roman governor. The tile fell upon him."
An unseen hand appeared to sprinkle her face with the dust of
ashes--it grew white so instantly. She put her arm around him,
and looked wistfully, but without a word, into his eyes.
His fears had passed to her, and the sight of them gave
"I did not do it purposely, Tirzah--it was an accident," he said,
"What will they do?" she asked.
He looked off over the tumult momentarily deepening in the street
and on the roofs, and thought of the sullen countenance of Gratus.
If he were not dead, where would his vengeance stop? And if he
were dead, to what height of fury would not the violence of the
people lash the legionaries? To evade an answer, he peered over
the parapet again, just as the guard were assisting the Roman to
remount his horse.
"He lives, he lives, Tirzah! Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers!"
With that outcry, and a brightened countenance, he drew back and
replied to her question.
"Be not afraid, Tirzah. I will explain how it happened, and they
will remember our father and his services, and not hurt us."
He was leading her to the summer-house, when the roof jarred
under their feet, and a crash of strong timbers being burst away,
followed by a cry of surprise and agony, arose apparently from the
court-yard below. He stopped and listened. The cry was repeated;
then came a rush of many feet, and voices lifted in rage blent
with voices in prayer; and then the screams of women in mortal
terror. The soldiers had beaten in the north gate, and were in
possession of the house. The terrible sense of being hunted smote
him. His first impulse was to fly; but where? Nothing but wings
would serve him. Tirzah, her eyes wild with fear, caught his arm.
"O Judah, what does it mean?"
The servants were being butchered--and his mother! Was not one
of the voices he heard hers? With all the will left him, he said,
"Stay here, and wait for me, Tirzah. I will go down and see what
is the matter, and come back to you."
His voice was not steady as he wished. She clung closer to him.
Clearer, shriller, no longer a fancy, his mother's cry arose.
He hesitated no longer.
"Come, then, let us go."
The terrace or gallery at the foot of the steps was crowded with
soldiers. Other soldiers with drawn swords ran in and out of the
chambers. At one place a number of women on their knees clung to each
other or prayed for mercy. Apart from them, one with torn garments,
and long hair streaming over her face, struggled to tear loose from
a man all whose strength was tasked to keep his hold. Her cries
were shrillest of all; cutting through the clamor, they had risen
distinguishably to the roof. To her Judah sprang--his steps were
long and swift, almost a winged flight--"Mother, mother!" he
shouted. She stretched her hands towards him; but when almost
touching them he was seized and forced aside. Then he heard some
one say, speaking loudly,
"That is he!"
Judah looked, and saw--Messala.
"What, the assassin--that?" said a tall man, in legionary armor
of beautiful finish. "Why, he is but a boy."
"Gods!" replied Messala, not forgetting his drawl. "A new philosophy!
What would Seneca say to the proposition that a man must be old before
he can hate enough to kill? You have him; and that is his mother;
yonder his sister. You have the whole family."
For love of them, Judah forgot his quarrel.
"Help them, O my Messala! Remember our childhood and help them.
Messala affected not to hear.
"I cannot be of further use to you," he said to the officer.
"There is richer entertainment in the street. Down Eros, up Mars!"
With the last words he disappeared. Judah understood him, and,
in the bitterness of his soul, prayed to Heaven.
"In the hour of thy vengeance, O Lord," he said, "be mine the hand
to put it upon him!"
By great exertion, he drew nearer the officer.
"O sir, the woman you hear is my mother. Spare her, spare my
sister yonder. God is just, he will give you mercy for mercy."
The man appeared to be moved.
"To the Tower with the women!" he shouted, "but do them no harm.
I will demand them of you." Then to those holding Judah, he said,
"Get cords, and bind his hands, and take him to the street.
His punishment is reserved."
The mother was carried away. The little Tirzah, in her home attire,
stupefied with fear, went passively with her keepers. Judah gave
each of them a last look, and covered his face with his hands,
as if to possess himself of the scene fadelessly. He may have
shed tears, though no one saw them.
There took place in him then what may be justly called the wonder
of life. The thoughtful reader of these pages has ere this discerned
enough to know that the young Jew in disposition was gentle even
to womanliness--a result that seldom fails the habit of loving and
being loved. The circumstances through which he had come had made
no call upon the harsher elements of his nature, if such he had.
At times he had felt the stir and impulses of ambition, but they
had been like the formless dreams of a child walking by the sea
and gazing at the coming and going of stately ships. But now, if we
can imagine an idol, sensible of the worship it was accustomed to,
dashed suddenly from its altar, and lying amidst the wreck of its
little world of love, an idea may be had of what had befallen the
young Ben-Hur, and of its effect upon his being. Yet there was no
sign, nothing to indicate that he had undergone a change, except
that when he raised his head, and held his arms out to be bound,
the bend of the Cupid's bow had vanished from his lips. In that
instant he had put off childhood and become a man.
A trumpet sounded in the court-yard. With the cessation of the
call, the gallery was cleared of the soldiery; many of whom,
as they dared not appear in the ranks with visible plunder in
their hands, flung what they had upon the floor, until it was
strewn with articles of richest virtu. When Judah descended,
the formation was complete, and the officer waiting to see his
last order executed.
The mother, daughter, and entire household were led out of the
north gate, the ruins of which choked the passageway. The cries
of the domestics, some of whom had been born in the house, were most
pitiable. When, finally, the horses and all the dumb tenantry of the
place were driven past him, Judah began to comprehend the scope of
the procurator's vengeance. The very structure was devoted. Far as
the order was possible of execution, nothing living was to be left
within its walls. If in Judea there were others desperate enough to
think of assassinating a Roman governor, the story of what befell
the princely family of Hur would be a warning to them, while the
ruin of the habitation would keep the story alive.
The officer waited outside while a detail of men temporarily
restored the gate.
In the street the fighting had almost ceased. Upon the houses
here and there clouds of dust told where the struggle was yet
prolonged. The cohort was, for the most part, standing at rest,
its splendor, like its ranks, in nowise diminished. Borne past
the point of care for himself, Judah had heart for nothing in
view but the prisoners, among whom he looked in vain for his
mother and Tirzah.
Suddenly, from the earth where she had been lying, a woman arose
and started swiftly back to the gate. Some of the guards reached
out to seize her, and a great shout followed their failure. She ran
to Judah, and, dropping down, clasped his knees, the coarse black
hair powdered with dust veiling her eyes.
"O Amrah, good Amrah," he said to her, "God help you; I cannot."
She could not speak.
He bent down, and whispered, "Live, Amrah, for Tirzah and my mother.
They will come back, and--"
A soldier drew her away; whereupon she sprang up and rushed through
the gateway and passage into the vacant court-yard.
"Let her go," the officer shouted. "We will seal the house, and she
The men resumed their work, and, when it was finished there,
passed round to the west side. That gate was also secured,
after which the palace of the Hurs was lost to use.
The cohort at length marched back to the Tower, where the procurator
stayed to recover from his hurts and dispose of his prisoners. On the
tenth day following, he visited the Market-place.
Next day a detachment of legionaries went to the desolated palace,
and, closing the gates permanently, plastered the corners with wax,
and at the sides nailed a notice in Latin:
"THIS IS THE PROPERTY OF THE EMPEROR."
In the haughty Roman idea, the sententious announcement was thought
sufficient for the purpose--and it was.
The day after that again, about noon, a decurion with his command of
ten horsemen approached Nazareth from the south--that is, from the
direction of Jerusalem. The place was then a straggling village,
perched on a hill-side, and so insignificant that its one street
was little more than a path well beaten by the coming and going of
flocks and herds. The great plain of Esdraelon crept close to it
on the south, and from the height on the west a view could be had
of the shores of the Mediterranean, the region beyond the Jordan,
and Hermon. The valley below, and the country on every side, were
given to gardens, vineyards, orchards, and pasturage. Groves of
palm-trees Orientalized the landscape. The houses, in irregular
assemblage, were of the humbler class--square, one-story, flat-roofed,
and covered with bright-green vines. The drought that had burned
the hills of Judea to a crisp, brown and lifeless, stopped at the
boundary-line of Galilee.
A trumpet, sounded when the cavalcade drew near the village, had
a magical effect upon the inhabitants. The gates and front doors
cast forth groups eager to be the first to catch the meaning of
a visitation so unusual.
Nazareth, it must be remembered, was not only aside from any great
highway, but within the sway of Judas of Gamala; wherefore it should
not be hard to imagine the feelings with which the legionaries were
received. But when they were up and traversing the street, the duty
that occupied them became apparent, and then fear and hatred were lost
in curiosity, under the impulse of which the people, knowing there must
be a halt at the well in the northeastern part of the town, quit their
gates and doors, and closed in after the procession.
A prisoner whom the horsemen were guarding was the object of curiosity.
He was afoot, bareheaded, half naked, his hands bound behind him. A thong
fixed to his wrists was looped over the neck of a horse. The dust
went with the party when in movement, wrapping him in yellow fog,
sometimes in a dense cloud. He drooped forward, footsore and faint.
The villagers could see he was young.
At the well the decurion halted, and, with most of the men,
dismounted. The prisoner sank down in the dust of the road,
stupefied, and asking nothing: apparently he was in the last
stage of exhaustion. Seeing, when they came near, that he was
but a boy, the villagers would have helped him had they dared.
In the midst of their perplexity, and while the pitchers were
passing among the soldiers, a man was descried coming down the road
from Sepphoris. At sight of him a woman cried out, "Look! Yonder
comes the carpenter. Now we will hear something."
The person spoken of was quite venerable in appearance. Thin white
locks fell below the edge of his full turban, and a mass of still
whiter beard flowed down the front of his coarse gray gown. He came
slowly, for, in addition to his age, he carried some tools--an axe,
a saw, and a drawing-knife, all very rude and heavy--and had evidently
travelled some distance without rest.
He stopped close by to survey the assemblage.
"O Rabbi, good Rabbi Joseph!" cried a woman, running to him.
"Here is a prisoner; come ask the soldiers about him, that we may
know who he is, and what he has done, and what they are going to
do with him."
The rabbi's face remained stolid; he glanced at the prisoner,
however, and presently went to the officer.
"The peace of the Lord be with you!" he said, with unbending gravity.
"And that of the gods with you," the decurion replied.
"Are you from Jerusalem?"
"Your prisoner is young."
"In years, yes."
"May I ask what he has done?"
"He is an assassin."
The people repeated the word in astonishment, but Rabbi Joseph
pursued his inquest.
"Is he a son of Israel?"
"He is a Jew," said the Roman, dryly.
The wavering pity of the bystanders came back.
"I know nothing of your tribes, but can speak of his family," the
speaker continued. "You may have heard of a prince of Jerusalem
named Hur--Ben-Hur, they called him. He lived in Herod's day."
"I have seen him," Joseph said.
"Well, this is his son."
Exclamations became general, and the decurion hastened to stop them.
"In the streets of Jerusalem, day before yesterday, he nearly
killed the noble Gratus by flinging a tile upon his head from
the roof of a palace--his father's, I believe."
There was a pause in the conversation during which the Nazarenes
gazed at the young Ben-Hur as at a wild beast.
"Did he kill him?" asked the rabbi.
"He is under sentence."
"Yes--the galleys for life."
"The Lord help him!" said Joseph, for once moved out of his stolidity.
Thereupon a youth who came up with Joseph, but had stood behind
him unobserved, laid down an axe he had been carrying, and,
going to the great stone standing by the well, took from it a
pitcher of water. The action was so quiet that before the guard
could interfere, had they been disposed to do so, he was stooping
over the prisoner, and offering him drink.
The hand laid kindly upon his shoulder awoke the unfortunate
Judah, and, looking up, he saw a face he never forgot--the face
of a boy about his own age, shaded by locks of yellowish bright
chestnut hair; a face lighted by dark-blue eyes, at the time so
soft, so appealing, so full of love and holy purpose, that they
had all the power of command and will. The spirit of the Jew,
hardened though it was by days and nights of suffering, and so
embittered by wrong that its dreams of revenge took in all the
world, melted under the stranger's look, and became as a child's.
He put his lips to the pitcher, and drank long and deep. Not a word
was said to him, nor did he say a word.
When the draught was finished, the hand that had been resting upon
the sufferer's shoulder was placed upon his head, and stayed there
in the dusty locks time enough to say a blessing; the stranger then
returned the pitcher to its place on the stone, and, taking his
axe again, went back to Rabbi Joseph. All eyes went with him,
the decurion's as well as those of the villagers.
This was the end of the scene at the well. When the men had drunk,
and the horses, the march was resumed. But the temper of the decurion
was not as it had been; he himself raised the prisoner from the dust,
and helped him on a horse behind a soldier. The Nazarenes went to their
houses--among them Rabbi Joseph and his apprentice.
And so, for the first time, Judah and the son of Mary met and parted.
"Cleopatra.... Our size of sorrow,
Proportion'd to our cause, must be as great
As that which makes it.--
Enter, below, DIOMEDES.
How now? is he dead?
Diomedes. His death's upon him, but not dead."
Antony and Cleopatra (act iv., sc. xiii.).
The city of Misenum gave name to the promontory which it crowned,
a few miles southwest of Naples. An account of ruins is all that
remains of it now; yet in the year of our Lord 24--to which it is
desirable to advance the reader--the place was one of the most
important on the western coast of Italy.
 The Roman government, it will be remembered, had two harbors in
which great fleets were constantly kept--Ravenna and Misenum.
In the year mentioned, a traveller coming to the promontory to
regale himself with the view there offered, would have mounted
a wall, and, with the city at his back, looked over the bay of
Neapolis, as charming then as now; and then, as now, he would
have seen the matchless shore, the smoking cone, the sky and
waves so softly, deeply blue, Ischia here and Capri yonder;
from one to the other and back again, through the purpled air,
his gaze would have sported; at last--for the eyes do weary of the
beautiful as the palate with sweets--at last it would have dropped
upon a spectacle which the modern tourist cannot see--half the
reserve navy of Rome astir or at anchor below him. Thus regarded,
Misenum was a very proper place for three masters to meet, and at
leisure parcel the world among them.
In the old time, moreover, there was a gateway in the wall at a
certain point fronting the sea--an empty gateway forming the outlet
of a street which, after the exit, stretched itself, in the form of
a broad mole, out many stadia into the waves.
The watchman on the wall above the gateway was disturbed, one cool
September morning, by a party coming down the street in noisy
conversation. He gave one look, then settled into his drowse
There were twenty or thirty persons in the party, of whom the
greater number were slaves with torches, which flamed little
and smoked much, leaving on the air the perfume of the Indian
nard. The masters walked in advance arm-in-arm. One of them,
apparently fifty years old, slightly bald, and wearing over his
scant locks a crown of laurel, seemed, from the attentions paid
him, the central object of some affectionate ceremony. They all
sported ample togas of white wool broadly bordered with purple.
A glance had sufficed the watchman. He knew, without question,
they were of high rank, and escorting a friend to ship after a
night of festivity. Further explanation will be found in the
conversation they carried on.
"No, my Quintus," said one, speaking to him with the crown, "it is
ill of Fortune to take thee from us so soon. Only yesterday thou
didst return from the seas beyond the Pillars. Why, thou hast not
even got back thy land legs."
"By Castor! if a man may swear a woman's oath," said another,
somewhat worse of wine, "let us not lament. Our Quintus is but
going to find what he lost last night. Dice on a rolling ship is
not dice on shore--eh, Quintus?"
"Abuse not Fortune!" exclaimed a third. "She is not blind or
fickle. At Antium, where our Arrius questions her, she answers
him with nods, and at sea she abides with him holding the rudder.
She takes him from us, but does she not always give him back with
a new victory?"
"The Greeks are taking him away," another broke in. "Let us abuse
them, not the gods. In learning to trade they forgot how to fight."
With these words, the party passed the gateway, and came upon the
mole, with the bay before them beautiful in the morning light.
To the veteran sailor the plash of the waves was like a greeting.
He drew a long breath, as if the perfume of the water were sweeter
than that of the nard, and held his hand aloft.
"My gifts were at Praeneste, not Antium--and see! Wind from
the west. Thanks, O Fortune, my mother!" he said, earnestly.
The friends all repeated the exclamation, and the slaves waved
"She comes--yonder!" he continued, pointing to a galley outside
the mole. "What need has a sailor for other mistress? Is your
Lucrece more graceful, my Caius?"
He gazed at the coming ship, and justified his pride. A white
sail was bent to the low mast, and the oars dipped, arose,
poised a moment, then dipped again, with wing-like action,
and in perfect time.
"Yes, spare the gods," he said, soberly, his eyes fixed upon the
vessel. "They send us opportunities. Ours the fault if we fail.
And as for the Greeks, you forget, O my Lentulus, the pirates I
am going to punish are Greeks. One victory over them is of more
account than a hundred over the Africans."
"Then thy way is to the Aegean?"
The sailor's eyes were full of his ship.
"What grace, what freedom! A bird hath not less care for the
fretting of the waves. See!" he said, but almost immediately
added, "Thy pardon, my Lentulus. I am going to the Aegean;
and as my departure is so near, I will tell the occasion--only
keep it under the rose. I would not that you abuse the duumvir
when next you meet him. He is my friend. The trade between Greece
and Alexandria, as ye may have heard, is hardly inferior to that
between Alexandria and Rome. The people in that part of the world
forgot to celebrate the Cerealia, and Triptolemus paid them with
a harvest not worth the gathering. At all events, the trade is so
grown that it will not brook interruption a day. Ye may also have
heard of the Chersonesan pirates, nested up in the Euxine; none
bolder, by the Bacchae! Yesterday word came to Rome that, with a
fleet, they had rowed down the Bosphorus, sunk the galleys off
Byzantium and Chalcedon, swept the Propontis, and, still unsated,
burst through into the Aegean. The corn-merchants who have ships
in the East Mediterranean are frightened. They had audience with
the Emperor himself, and from Ravenna there go to-day a hundred
galleys, and from Misenum"--he paused as if to pique the curiosity
of his friends, and ended with an emphatic--"one."
"Happy Quintus! We congratulate thee!"
"The preferment forerunneth promotion. We salute thee duumvir;
"Quintus Arrius, the duumvir, hath a better sound than Quintus
Arrius, the tribune."
In such manner they showered him with congratulations.
"I am glad with the rest," said the bibulous friend, "very glad;
but I must be practical, O my duumvir; and not until I know if
promotion will help thee to knowledge of the tesserae will I have
an opinion as to whether the gods mean thee ill or good in
"Thanks, many thanks!" Arrius replied, speaking to them collectively.
"Had ye but lanterns, I would say ye were augurs. Perpol! I will
go further, and show what master diviners ye are! See--and read."
From the folds of his toga he drew a roll of paper, and passed it
to them, saying, "Received while at table last night from--Sejanus."
The name was already a great one in the Roman world; great, and not
so infamous as it afterwards became.
"Sejanus!" they exclaimed, with one voice, closing in to read what
the minister had written.
"Sejanus to C. Coecilius Rufus, Duumvir.
"ROME, XIX. Kal. Sept.
"Caesar hath good report of Quintus Arrius, the tribune. In particular
he bath heard of his valor, manifested in the western seas, insomuch that
it is his will that the said Quintus be transferred instantly to the East.
"It is our Caesar's will, further, that you cause a hundred triremes,
of the first class, and full appointment, to be despatched without
delay against the pirates who have appeared in the Aegean, and that
Quintus be sent to command the fleet so despatched.
"Details are thine, my Caecilius.
"The necessity is urgent, as thou will be advised by the reports
enclosed for thy perusal and the information of the said Quintus.
Arrius gave little heed to the reading. As the ship drew more plainly
out of the perspective, she became more and more an attraction to him.
The look with which he watched her was that of an enthusiast. At length
he tossed the loosened folds of his toga in the air; in reply to
the signal, over the aplustre, or fan-like fixture at the stern
of the vessel, a scarlet flag was displayed; while several sailors
appeared upon the bulwarks, and swung themselves hand over hand up
the ropes to the antenna, or yard, and furled the sail. The bow was
put round, and the time of the oars increased one half; so that at
racing speed she bore down directly towards him and his friends.
He observed the manoeuvring with a perceptible brightening of the
eyes. Her instant answer to the rudder, and the steadiness with
which she kept her course, were especially noticeable as virtues
to be relied upon in action.
"By the Nymphae!" said one of the friends, giving back the roll,
"we may not longer say our friend will be great; he is already great.
Our love will now have famous things to feed upon. What more hast thou
"Nothing more," Arrius replied. "What ye have of the affair is
by this time old news in Rome, especially between the palace and
the Forum. The duumvir is discreet; what I am to do, where go to
find my fleet, he will tell on the ship, where a sealed package
is waiting me. If, however, ye have offerings for any of the
altars to-day, pray the gods for a friend plying oar and sail
somewhere in the direction of Sicily. But she is here, and will
come to," he said, reverting to the vessel. "I have interest in
her masters; they will sail and fight with me. It is not an easy
thing to lay ship side on a shore like this; so let us judge their
training and skill."
"What, is she new to thee?"
"I never saw her before; and, as yet, I know not if she will bring
me one acquaintance."
"Is that well?"
"It matters but little. We of the sea come to know each other
quickly; our loves, like our hates, are born of sudden dangers."
The vessel was of the class called naves liburnicae--long, narrow,
low in the water, and modelled for speed and quick manoeuvre. The bow
was beautiful. A jet of water spun from its foot as she came on,
sprinkling all the prow, which rose in graceful curvature twice
a man's stature above the plane of the deck. Upon the bending of
the sides were figures of Triton blowing shells. Below the bow,
fixed to the keel, and projecting forward under the water-line,
was the rostrum, or beak, a device of solid wood, reinforced and
armed with iron, in action used as a ram. A stout molding extended
from the bow the full length of the ship's sides, defining the
bulwarks, which were tastefully crenelated; below the molding,
in three rows, each covered with a cap or shield of bull-hide,
were the holes in which the oars were worked--sixty on the right,
sixty on the left. In further ornamentation, caducei leaned against
the lofty prow. Two immense ropes passing across the bow marked the
number of anchors stowed on the foredeck.
The simplicity of the upper works declared the oars the chief
dependence of the crew. A mast, set a little forward of midship,
was held by fore and back stays and shrouds fixed to rings on the
inner side of the bulwarks. The tackle was that required for the
management of one great square sail and the yard to which it was
hung. Above the bulwarks the deck was visible.
Save the sailors who had reefed the sail, and yet lingered on the
yard, but one man was to be seen by the party on the mole, and he
stood by the prow helmeted and with a shield.
The hundred and twenty oaken blades, kept white and shining by
pumice and the constant wash of the waves, rose and fell as if
operated by the same hand, and drove the galley forward with a
speed rivalling that of a modern steamer.
So rapidly, and apparently, so rashly, did she come that the landsmen
of the tribune's party were alarmed. Suddenly the man by the prow
raised his hand with a peculiar gesture; whereupon all the oars
flew up, poised a moment in air, then fell straight down. The water
boiled and bubbled about them; the galley shook in every timber,
and stopped as if scared. Another gesture of the hand, and again
the oars arose, feathered, and fell; but this time those on the
right, dropping towards the stern, pushed forward; while those on
the left, dropping towards the bow, pulled backwards. Three times
the oars thus pushed and pulled against each other. Round to the
right the ship swung as upon a pivot; then, caught by the wind,
she settled gently broadside to the mole.
The movement brought the stern to view, with all its garniture--Tritons
like those at the bow; name in large raised letters;
the rudder at the side; the elevated platform upon which the
helmsman sat, a stately figure in full armor, his hand upon the
rudder-rope; and the aplustre, high, gilt, carved, and bent over
the helmsman like a great runcinate leaf.
In the midst of the rounding-to, a trumpet was blown brief and
shrill, and from the hatchways out poured the marines, all in
superb equipment, brazen helms, burnished shields and javelins.
While the fighting-men thus went to quarters as for action, the
sailors proper climbed the shrouds and perched themselves along
the yard. The officers and musicians took their posts. There was
no shouting or needless noise. When the oars touched the mole,
a bridge was sent out from the helmsman's deck. Then the tribune
turned to his party and said, with a gravity he had not before
"Duty now, O my friends."
He took the chaplet from his head and gave it to the dice-player.
"Take thou the myrtle, O favorite of the tesserae!" he said. "If I
return, I will seek my sestertii again; if I am not victor, I will
not return. Hang the crown in thy atrium."
To the company he opened his arms, and they came one by one and
received his parting embrace.
"The gods go with thee, O Quintus!" they said.
"Farewell," he replied.
To the slaves waving their torches he waved his hand; then he
turned to the waiting ship, beautiful with ordered ranks and
crested helms, and shields and javelins. As he stepped upon
the bridge, the trumpets sounded, and over the aplustre rose
the vexillum purpureum, or pennant of a commander of a fleet.
The tribune, standing upon the helmsman's deck with the order of
the duumvir open in his hand, spoke to the chief of the rowers.
 Called hortator.
"What force hast thou?"
"Of oarsmen, two hundred and fifty-two; ten supernumeraries.
"Making reliefs of--"
"And thy habit?"
"It has been to take off and put on every two hours."
The tribune mused a moment.
"The division is hard, and I will reform it, but not now. The oars
may not rest day or night."
Then to the sailing-master he said,
"The wind is fair. Let the sail help the oars."
When the two thus addressed were gone, he turned to the chief pilot.
 Called rector.
"What service hast thou had?"
"In what seas chiefly?"
"Between our Rome and the East."
"Thou art the man I would have chosen."
The tribune looked at his orders again.
"Past the Camponellan cape, the course will be to Messina.
Beyond that, follow the bend of the Calabrian shore till Melito
is on thy left, then-- Knowest thou the stars that govern in the
"I know them well."
"Then from Melito course eastward for Cythera. The gods willing,
I will not anchor until in the Bay of Antemona. The duty is urgent.
I rely upon thee."
A prudent man was Arrius--prudent, and of the class which,
while enriching the altars at Praeneste and Antium, was of
opinion, nevertheless, that the favor of the blind goddess
depended more upon the votary's care and judgment than upon
his gifts and vows. All night as master of the feast he had sat
at table drinking and playing; yet the odor of the sea returned
him to the mood of the sailor, and he would not rest until he
knew his ship. Knowledge leaves no room for chances. Having begun
with the chief of the rowers, the sailing-master, and the pilot,
in company with the other officers--the commander of the marines,
the keeper of the stores, the master of the machines, the overseer
of the kitchen or fires--he passed through the several quarters.
Nothing escaped his inspection. When he was through, of the community
crowded within the narrow walls he alone knew perfectly all there was
of material preparation for the voyage and its possible incidents;
and, finding the preparation complete, there was left him but one
thing further--thorough knowledge of the personnel of his command.
As this was the most delicate and difficult part of his task,
requiring much time, he set about it his own way.
At noon that day the galley was skimming the sea off Paestum.
The wind was yet from the west, filling the sail to the master's
content. The watches had been established. On the foredeck the
altar had been set and sprinkled with salt and barley, and before
it the tribune had offered solemn prayers to Jove and to Neptune
and all the Oceanidae, and, with vows, poured the wine and burned
the incense. And now, the better to study his men, he was seated
in the great cabin, a very martial figure.
The cabin, it should be stated, was the central compartment of the
galley, in extent quite sixty-five by thirty feet, and lighted by
three broad hatchways. A row of stanchions ran from end to end,
supporting the roof, and near the centre the mast was visible,
all bristling with axes and spears and javelins. To each hatchway
there were double stairs descending right and left, with a pivotal
arrangement at the top to allow the lower ends to be hitched to
the ceiling; and, as these were now raised, the compartment had
the appearance of a skylighted hall.
The reader will understand readily that this was the heart of
the ship, the home of all aboard--eating-room, sleeping-chamber,
field of exercise, lounging-place off duty--uses made possible by
the laws which reduced life there to minute details and a routine
relentless as death.
At the after-end of the cabin there was a platform, reached by
several steps. Upon it the chief of the rowers sat; in front of
him a sounding-table, upon which, with a gavel, he beat time
for the oarsmen; at his right a clepsydra, or water-clock,
to measure the reliefs and watches. Above him, on a higher
platform, well guarded by gilded railing, the tribune had his
quarters, overlooking everything, and furnished with a couch,
a table, and a cathedra, or chair, cushioned, and with arms and
high back--articles which the imperial dispensation permitted of
the utmost elegance.
Thus at ease, lounging in the great chair, swaying with the motion
of the vessel, the military cloak half draping his tunic, sword in
belt, Arrius kept watchful eye over his command, and was as closely
watched by them. He saw critically everything in view, but dwelt
longest upon the rowers. The reader would doubtless have done
the same: only he would have looked with much sympathy, while,
as is the habit with masters, the tribune's mind ran forward of
what he saw, inquiring for results.
The spectacle was simple enough of itself. Along the sides of the
cabin, fixed to the ship's timbers, were what at first appeared
to be three rows of benches; a closer view, however, showed them
a succession of rising banks, in each of which the second bench
was behind and above the first one, and the third above and behind
the second. To accommodate the sixty rowers on a side, the space
devoted to them permitted nineteen banks separated by intervals of
one yard, with a twentieth bank divided so that what would have
been its upper seat or bench was directly above the lower seat
of the first bank. The arrangement gave each rower when at work
ample room, if he timed his movements with those of his associates,
the principle being that of soldiers marching with cadenced step in
close order. The arrangement also allowed a multiplication of banks,
limited only by the length of the galley.
As to the rowers, those upon the first and second benches sat,
while those upon the third, having longer oars to work, were suffered
to stand. The oars were loaded with lead in the handles, and near the
point of balance hung to pliable thongs, making possible the delicate
touch called feathering, but, at the same time, increasing the
need of skill, since an eccentric wave might at any moment catch
a heedless fellow and hurl him from his seat. Each oar-hole was
a vent through which the laborer opposite it had his plenty of
sweet air. Light streamed down upon him from the grating which
formed the floor of the passage between the deck and the bulwark
over his head. In some respects, therefore, the condition of the
men might have been much worse. Still, it must not be imagined that
there was any pleasantness in their lives. Communication between
them was not allowed. Day after day they filled their places
without speech; in hours of labor they could not see each other's
faces; their short respites were given to sleep and the snatching
of food. They never laughed; no one ever heard one of them sing.
What is the use of tongues when a sigh or a groan will tell all
men feel while, perforce, they think in silence? Existence with
the poor wretches was like a stream under ground sweeping slowly,
laboriously on to its outlet, wherever that might chance to be.
O Son of Mary! The sword has now a heart--and thine the glory!
So now; but, in the days of which we are writing, for captivity
there was drudgery on walls, and in the streets and mines, and the
galleys both of war and commerce were insatiable. When Druilius won
the first sea-fight for his country, Romans plied the oars, and the
glory was to the rower not less than the marine. These benches which
now we are trying to see as they were testified to the change come
with conquest, and illustrated both the policy and the prowess of
Rome. Nearly all the nations had sons there, mostly prisoners of
war, chosen for their brawn and endurance. In one place a Briton;
before him a Libyan; behind him a Crimean. Elsewhere a Scythian,
a Gaul, and a Thebasite. Roman convicts cast down to consort with
Goths and Longobardi, Jews, Ethiopians, and barbarians from the
shores of Maeotis. Here an Athenian, there a red-haired savage
from Hibernia, yonder blue-eyed giants of the Cimbri.
In the labor of the rowers there was not enough art to give occupation
to their minds, rude and simple as they were. The reach forward,
the pull, the feathering the blade, the dip, were all there was of
it; motions most perfect when most automatic. Even the care forced
upon them by the sea outside grew in time to be a thing instinctive
rather than of thought. So, as the result of long service, the poor
wretches became imbruted--patient, spiritless, obedient--creatures of
vast muscle and exhausted intellects, who lived upon recollections
generally few but dear, and at last lowered into the semi-conscious
alchemic state wherein misery turns to habit, and the soul takes on
From right to left, hour after hour, the tribune, swaying in
his easy-chair, turned with thought of everything rather than
the wretchedness of the slaves upon the benches. Their motions,
precise, and exactly the same on both sides of the vessel, after a
while became monotonous; and then he amused himself singling out
individuals. With his stylus he made note of objections, thinking,
if all went well, he would find among the pirates of whom he was
in search better men for the places.
There was no need of keeping the proper names of the slaves brought
to the galleys as to their graves; so, for convenience, they were
usually identified by the numerals painted upon the benches to
which they were assigned. As the sharp eyes of the great man
moved from seat to seat on either hand, they came at last to
number sixty, which, as has been said, belonged properly to the
last bank on the left-hand side, but, wanting room aft, had been
fixed above the first bench of the first bank. There they rested.
The bench of number sixty was slightly above the level of the
platform, and but a few feet away. The light glinting through
the grating over his head gave the rower fairly to the tribune's
view--erect, and, like all his fellows, naked, except a cincture
about the loins. There were, however, some points in his favor.
He was very young, not more than twenty. Furthermore, Arrius was
not merely given to dice; he was a connoisseur of men physically,
and when ashore indulged a habit of visiting the gymnasia to see and
admire the most famous athletae. From some professor, doubtless,
he had caught the idea that strength was as much of the quality
as the quantity of the muscle, while superiority in performance
required a certain mind as well as strength. Having adopted the
doctrine, like most men with a hobby, he was always looking for
illustrations to support it.
The reader may well believe that while the tribune, in the search
for the perfect, was often called upon to stop and study, he was
seldom perfectly satisfied--in fact, very seldom held as long as
on this occasion.
In the beginning of each movement of the oar, the rower's body and
face were brought into profile view from the platform; the movement
ended with the body reversed, and in a pushing posture. The grace
and ease of the action at first suggested a doubt of the honesty
of the effort put forth; but it was speedily dismissed; the firmness
with which the oar was held while in the reach forward, its bending
under the push, were proofs of the force applied; not that only,
they as certainly proved the rower's art, and put the critic in
the great arm-chair in search of the combination of strength and
cleverness which was the central idea of his theory.
In course of the study, Arrius observed the subject's youth;
wholly unconscious of tenderness on that account, he also observed
that he seemed of good height, and that his limbs, upper and nether,
were singularly perfect. The arms, perhaps, were too long, but the
objection was well hidden under a mass of muscle, which, in some
movements, swelled and knotted like kinking cords. Every rib in
the round body was discernible; yet the leanness was the healthful
reduction so strained after in the palaestrae. And altogether there
was in the rower's action a certain harmony which, besides addressing
itself to the tribune's theory, stimulated both his curiosity and
Very soon he found himself waiting to catch a view of the man's
face in full. The head was shapely, and balanced upon a neck broad
at the base, but of exceeding pliancy and grace. The features
in profile were of Oriental outline, and of that delicacy of
expression which has always been thought a sign of blood and
sensitive spirit. With these observations, the tribune's interest
in the subject deepened.
"By the gods," he said to himself, "the fellow impresses me! He
promises well. I will know more of him."
Directly the tribune caught the view he wished--the rower turned
and looked at him.
"A Jew! and a boy!"
Under the gaze then fixed steadily upon him, the large eyes of the
slave grew larger--the blood surged to his very brows--the blade
lingered in his hands. But instantly, with an angry crash, down fell
the gavel of the hortator. The rower started, withdrew his face from
the inquisitor, and, as if personally chidden, dropped the oar half
feathered. When he glanced again at the tribune, he was vastly more
astonished--he was met with a kindly smile.
Meantime the galley entered the Straits of Messina, and, skimming past
the city of that name, was after a while turned eastward, leaving the
cloud over AEtna in the sky astern.
Often as Arrius resumed to his platform in the cabin he returned
to study the rower, and he kept saying to himself, "The fellow
hath a spirit. A Jew is not a barbarian. I will know more of him."
The fourth day out, and the Astroea--so the galley was named--speeding
through the Ionian Sea. The sky was clear, and the wind blew as if
bearing the good-will of all the gods.
As it was possible to overtake the fleet before reaching the bay
east of the island of Cythera, designated for assemblage, Arrius,
somewhat impatient, spent much time on deck. He took note diligently
of matters pertaining to his ship, and as a rule was well pleased.
In the cabin, swinging in the great chair, his thought continually
reverted to the rower on number sixty.
"Knowest thou the man just come from yon bench?" he at length
asked of the hortator.
A relief was going on at the moment.
"From number sixty?" returned the chief.
The chief looked sharply at the rower then going forward.
"As thou knowest," he replied "the ship is but a month from
the maker's hand, and the men are as new to me as the ship."
"He is a Jew," Arrius remarked, thoughtfully.
"The noble Quintus is shrewd."
"He is very young," Arrius continued.
"But our best rower," said the other. "I have seen his oar bend
almost to breaking."
"Of what disposition is he?"
"He is obedient; further I know not. Once he made request of me."
"He wished me to change him alternately from the right to the left."
"Did he give a reason?"
"He had observed that the men who are confined to one side become
misshapen. He also said that some day of storm or battle there might
be sudden need to change him, and he might then be unserviceable."
"Perpol! The idea is new. What else hast thou observed of him?"
"He is cleanly above his companions."
"In that he is Roman," said Arrius, approvingly. "Have you nothing
of his history?"
"Not a word."
The tribune reflected awhile, and turned to go to his own seat.
"If I should be on deck when his time is up," he paused to say,
"send him to me. Let him come alone."
About two hours later Arrius stood under the aplustre of the galley;
in the mood of one who, seeing himself carried swiftly towards an
event of mighty import, has nothing to do but wait--the mood in
which philosophy vests an even-minded man with the utmost calm,
and is ever so serviceable. The pilot sat with a hand upon the
rope by which the rudder paddles, one on each side of the vessel,
were managed. In the shade of the sail some sailors lay asleep,
and up on the yard there was a lookout. Lifting his eyes from
the solarium set under the aplustre for reference in keeping
the course, Arrius beheld the rower approaching.
"The chief called thee the noble Arrius, and said it was thy will
that I should seek thee here. I have come."
Arrius surveyed the figure, tall, sinewy, glistening in the sun,
and tinted by the rich red blood within--surveyed it admiringly,
and with a thought of the arena; yet the manner was not without
effect upon him: there was in the voice a suggestion of life at
least partly spent under refining influences; the eyes were clear
and open, and more curious than defiant. To the shrewd, demanding,
masterful glance bent upon it, the face gave back nothing to mar
its youthful comeliness--nothing of accusation or sullenness or
menace, only the signs which a great sorrow long borne imprints,
as time mellows the surface of pictures. In tacit acknowledgment
of the effect, the Roman spoke as an older man to a younger, not as
a master to a slave.
"The hortator tells me thou art his best rower."
"The hortator is very kind," the rower answered.
"Hast thou seen much service?"
"About three years."
"At the oars?"
"I cannot recall a day of rest from them."
"The labor is hard; few men bear it a year without breaking,
and thou--thou art but a boy."
"The noble Arrius forgets that the spirit hath much to do with
endurance. By its help the weak sometimes thrive, when the strong
"From thy speech, thou art a Jew."
"My ancestors further back than the first Roman were Hebrews."
"The stubborn pride of thy race is not lost in thee," said Arrius,
observing a flush upon the rower's face.
"Pride is never so loud as when in chains."
"What cause hast thou for pride?"
"That I am a Jew."
"I have not been to Jerusalem," he said; "but I have heard of
its princes. I knew one of them. He was a merchant, and sailed
the seas. He was fit to have been a king. Of what degree art
"I must answer thee from the bench of a galley. I am of the degree
of slaves. My father was a prince of Jerusalem, and, as a merchant,
he sailed the seas. He was known and honored in the guest-chamber
of the great Augustus."
"Ithamar, of the house of Hur."
The tribune raised his hand in astonishment.
"A son of Hur--thou?"
After a silence, he asked,
"What brought thee here?"
Judah lowered his head, and his breast labored hard. When his
feelings were sufficiently mastered, he looked the tribune in
the face, and answered,
"I was accused of attempting to assassinate Valerius Gratus,
"Thou!" cried Arrius, yet more amazed, and retreating a step.
"Thou that assassin! All Rome rang with the story. It came to
my ship in the river by Lodinum."
The two regarded each other silently.
"I thought the family of Hur blotted from the earth," said Arrius,
A flood of tender recollections carried the young man's pride away;
tears shone upon his cheeks.
"Mother--mother! And my little Tirzah! Where are they? O tribune,
noble tribune, if thou knowest anything of them"--he clasped his
hands in appeal--"tell me all thou knowest. Tell me if they are
living--if living, where are they? and in what condition? Oh,
I pray thee, tell me!"
He drew nearer Arrius, so near that his hands touched the cloak
where it dropped from the latter's folded arms.
"The horrible day is three years gone," he continued--"three years,
O tribune, and every hour a whole lifetime of misery--a lifetime
in a bottomless pit with death, and no relief but in labor--and
in all that time not a word from any one, not a whisper. Oh, if,
in being forgotten, we could only forget! If only I could hide from
that scene--my sister torn from me, my mother's last look! I have
felt the plague's breath, and the shock of ships in battle; I have
heard the tempest lashing the sea, and laughed, though others prayed:
death would have been a riddance. Bend the oar--yes, in the strain of
mighty effort trying to escape the haunting of what that day occurred.
Think what little will help me. Tell me they are dead, if no more,
for happy they cannot be while I am lost. I have heard them call
me in the night; I have seen them on the water walking. Oh, never
anything so true as my mother's love! And Tirzah--her breath was
as the breath of white lilies. She was the youngest branch of the
palm--so fresh, so tender, so graceful, so beautiful! She made my
day all morning. She came and went in music. And mine was the hand
that laid them low! I--"
"Dost thou admit thy guilt?" asked Arrius, sternly.
The change that came upon Ben-Hur was wonderful to see, it was so
instant and extreme. The voice sharpened; the hands arose tight-clenched;
every fibre thrilled; his eyes inflamed.
"Thou hast heard of the God of my fathers," he said; "of the
infinite Jehovah. By his truth and almightiness, and by the love
with which he hath followed Israel from the beginning, I swear I
The tribune was much moved.
"O noble Roman!" continued Ben-Hur, "give me a little faith, and,
into my darkness, deeper darkening every day, send a light!"
Arrius turned away, and walked the deck.
"Didst thou not have a trial?" he asked, stopping suddenly.
The Roman raised his head, surprised.
"No trial--no witnesses! Who passed judgment upon thee?"
Romans, it should be remembered, were at no time such lovers of
the law and its forms as in the ages of their decay.
"They bound me with cords, and dragged me to a vault in the Tower.
I saw no one. No one spoke to me. Next day soldiers took me to the
seaside. I have been a galley-slave ever since."
"What couldst thou have proven?"
"I was a boy, too young to be a conspirator. Gratus was a stranger
to me. If I had meant to kill him, that was not the time or the
place. He was riding in the midst of a legion, and it was broad
day. I could not have escaped. I was of a class most friendly
to Rome. My father had been distinguished for his services to
the emperor. We had a great estate to lose. Ruin was certain
to myself, my mother, my sister. I had no cause for malice,
while every consideration--property, family, life, conscience,
the Law--to a son of Israel as the breath of his nostrils--would
have stayed my hand, though the foul intent had been ever so strong.
I was not mad. Death was preferable to shame; and, believe me, I pray,
it is so yet."
"Who was with thee when the blow was struck?"
"I was on the house-top--my father's house. Tirzah was with me--at
my side--the soul of gentleness. Together we leaned over the
parapet to see the legion pass. A tile gave way under my hand,
and fell upon Gratus. I thought I had killed him. Ah, what horror
"Where was thy mother?"
"In her chamber below."
"What became of her?"
Ben-Hur clenched his hands, and drew a breath like a gasp.
"I do not know. I saw them drag her away--that is all I know.
Out of the house they drove every living thing, even the dumb
cattle, and they sealed the gates. The purpose was that she
should not return. I, too, ask for her. Oh for one word! She,
at least, was innocent. I can forgive--but I pray thy pardon,
noble tribune! A slave like me should not talk of forgiveness
or of revenge. I am bound to an oar for life."
Arrius listened intently. He brought all his experience with slaves
to his aid. If the feeling shown in this instance were assumed, the
acting was perfect; on the other hand, if it were real, the Jew's
innocence might not be doubted; and if he were innocent, with what
blind fury the power had been exercised! A whole family blotted out
to atone an accident! The thought shocked him.
There is no wiser providence than that our occupations, however rude
or bloody, cannot wear us out morally; that such qualities as justice
and mercy, if they really possess us, continue to live on under them,
like flowers under the snow. The tribune could be inexorable, else he
had not been fit for the usages of his calling; he could also be just;
and to excite his sense of wrong was to put him in the way to right
the wrong. The crews of the ships in which he served came after a
time to speak of him as the good tribune. Shrewd readers will not
want a better definition of his character.
In this instance there were many circumstances certainly in the
young man's favor, and some to be supposed. Possibly Arrius knew
Valerius Gratus without loving him. Possibly he had known the elder
Hur. In the course of his appeal, Judah had asked him of that; and,
as will be noticed, he had made no reply.
For once the tribune was at loss, and hesitated. His power was
ample. He was monarch of the ship. His prepossessions all moved him
to mercy. His faith was won. Yet, he said to himself, there was no
haste--or, rather, there was haste to Cythera; the best rower could
not then be spared; he would wait; he would learn more; he would
at least be sure this was the prince Ben-Hur, and that he was of
a right disposition. Ordinarily, slaves were liars.
"It is enough," he said aloud. "Go back to thy place."
Ben-Hur bowed; looked once more into the master's face, but saw
nothing for hope. He turned away slowly, looked back, and said,
"If thou dost think of me again, O tribune, let it not be lost in
thy mind that I prayed thee only for word of my people--mother,
He moved on.
Arrius followed him with admiring eyes.
"Perpol!" he thought. "With teaching, what a man for the arena! What
a runner! Ye gods! what an arm for the sword or the cestus!--Stay!"
he said aloud.
Ben-Hur stopped, and the tribune went to him.
"If thou wert free, what wouldst thou do?"
"The noble Arrius mocks me!" Judah said, with trembling lips.
"No; by the gods, no!"
"Then I will answer gladly. I would give myself to duty the first
of life. I would know no other. I would know no rest until my
mother and Tirzah were restored to home. I would give every day
and hour to their happiness. I would wait upon them; never a slave
more faithful. They have lost much, but, by the God of my fathers,
I would find them more!"
The answer was unexpected by the Roman. For a moment he lost his
"I spoke to thy ambition," he said, recovering. "If thy mother
and sister were dead, or not to be found, what wouldst thou do?"
A distinct pallor overspread Ben-Hur's face, and he looked over
the sea. There was a struggle with some strong feeling; when it
was conquered, he turned to the tribune.
"What pursuit would I follow?" he asked.
"Tribune, I will tell thee truly. Only the night before the dreadful
day of which I have spoken, I obtained permission to be a soldier.
I am of the same mind yet; and, as in all the earth there is but
one school of war, thither I would go."
"The palaestra!" exclaimed Arrius.
"No; a Roman camp."
"But thou must first acquaint thyself with the use of arms."
Now a master may never safely advise a slave. Arrius saw his
indiscretion, and, in a breath, chilled his voice and manner.
"Go now," he said, "and do not build upon what has passed between us.
Perhaps I do but play with thee. Or"--he looked away musingly--"or,
if thou dost think of it with any hope, choose between the renown of
a gladiator and the service of a soldier. The former may come of the
favor of the emperor; there is no reward for thee in the latter.
Thou art not a Roman. Go!"
A short while after Ben-Hur was upon his bench again.
A man's task is always light if his heart is light. Handling the
oar did not seem so toilsome to Judah. A hope had come to him,
like a singing bird. He could hardly see the visitor or hear
its song; that it was there, though, he knew; his feelings told
him so. The caution of the tribune--"Perhaps I do but play with
thee"--was dismissed often as it recurred to his mind. That he
had been called by the great man and asked his story was the
bread upon which he fed his hungry spirit. Surely something good
would come of it. The light about his bench was clear and bright
with promises, and he prayed.
"O God! I am a true son of the Israel thou hast so loved! Help me,
I pray thee!"
In the Bay of Antemona, east of Cythera the island, the hundred
galleys assembled. There the tribune gave one day to inspection.
He sailed then to Naxos, the largest of the Cyclades, midway the
coasts of Greece and Asia, like a great stone planted in the
centre of a highway, from which he could challenge everything
that passed; at the same time, he would be in position to go
after the pirates instantly, whether they were in the AEgean
or out on the Mediterranean.
As the fleet, in order, rowed in towards the mountain shores of the
island, a galley was descried coming from the north. Arrius went to
meet it. She proved to be a transport just from Byzantium, and from
her commander he learned the particulars of which he stood in most
The pirates were from all the farther shores of the Euxine.
Even Tanais, at the mouth of the river which was supposed to feed
Palus Maeotis, was represented among them. Their preparations had
been with the greatest secrecy. The first known of them was their
appearance off the entrance to the Thracian Bosphorus, followed
by the destruction of the fleet in station there. Thence to the
outlet of the Hellespont everything afloat had fallen their prey.
There were quite sixty galleys in the squadron, all well manned
and supplied. A few were biremes, the rest stout triremes. A Greek
was in command, and the pilots, said to be familiar with all the
Eastern seas, were Greek. The plunder had been incalculable.
The panic, consequently, was not on the sea alone; cities,
with closed gates, sent their people nightly to the walls.
Traffic had almost ceased.
Where were the pirates now?
To this question, of most interest to Arrius, he received answer.
After sacking Hephaestia, on the island of Lemnos, the enemy had
coursed across to the Thessalian group, and, by last account,
disappeared in the gulfs between Euboea and Hellas.
Such were the tidings.
Then the people of the island, drawn to the hill-tops by the
rare spectacle of a hundred ships careering in united squadron,
beheld the advance division suddenly turn to the north, and the
others follow, wheeling upon the same point like cavalry in a
column. News of the piratical descent had reached them, and now,
watching the white sails until they faded from sight up between
Rhene and Syros, the thoughtful among them took comfort, and were
grateful. What Rome seized with strong hand she always defended:
in return for their taxes, she gave them safety.
The tribune was more than pleased with the enemy's movements;
he was doubly thankful to Fortune. She had brought swift and
sure intelligence, and had lured his foes into the waters where,
of all others, destruction was most assured. He knew the havoc one
galley could play in a broad sea like the Mediterranean, and the
difficulty of finding and overhauling her; he knew, also, how those
very circumstances would enhance the service and glory if, at one blow,
he could put a finish to the whole piratical array.
If the reader will take a map of Greece and the AEgean, he will
notice the island of Euboea lying along the classic coast like a
rampart against Asia, leaving a channel between it and the continent
quite a hundred and twenty miles in length, and scarcely an average
of eight in width. The inlet on the north had admitted the fleet
of Xerxes, and now it received the bold raiders from the Euxine.
The towns along the Pelasgic and Meliac gulfs were rich and their
plunder seductive. All things considered, therefore, Arrius judged
that the robbers might be found somewhere below Thermopylae.
Welcoming the chance, he resolved to enclose them north and south,
to do which not an hour could be lost; even the fruits and wines
and women of Naxos must be left behind. So he sailed away without
stop or tack until, a little before nightfall, Mount Ocha was seen
upreared against the sky, and the pilot reported the Euboean coast.
At a signal the fleet rested upon its oars. When the movement
was resumed, Arrius led a division of fifty of the galleys,
intending to take them up the channel, while another division,
equally strong, turned their prows to the outer or seaward side
of the island, with orders to make all haste to the upper inlet,
and descend sweeping the waters.
To be sure, neither division was equal in number to the pirates;
but each had advantages in compensation, among them, by no means
least, a discipline impossible to a lawless horde, however brave.
Besides, it was a shrewd count on the tribune's side, if, peradventure,
one should be defeated, the other would find the enemy shattered by his
victory, and in condition to be easily overwhelmed.
Meantime Ben-Hur kept his bench, relieved every six hours. The rest
in the Bay of Antemona had freshened him, so that the oar was
not troublesome, and the chief on the platform found no fault.
People, generally, are not aware of the ease of mind there is in
knowing where they are, and where they are going. The sensation of
being lost is a keen distress; still worse is the feeling one has in
driving blindly into unknown places. Custom had dulled the feeling
with Ben-Hur, but only measurably. Pulling away hour after hour,
sometimes days and nights together, sensible all the time that the
galley was gliding swiftly along some of the many tracks of the
broad sea, the longing to know where he was, and whither going,
was always present with him; but now it seemed quickened by the
hope which had come to new life in his breast since the interview
with the tribune. The narrower the abiding-place happens to be,
the more intense is the longing; and so he found. He seemed to
hear every sound of the ship in labor, and listened to each one
as if it were a voice come to tell him something; he looked to
the grating overhead, and through it into the light of which so
small a portion was his, expecting, he knew not what; and many
times he caught himself on the point of yielding to the impulse
to speak to the chief on the platform, than which no circumstance
of battle would have astonished that dignitary more.
In his long service, by watching the shifting of the meager
sunbeams upon the cabin floor when the ship was under way, he had
come to know, generally, the quarter into which she was sailing.
This, of course, was only of clear days like those good-fortune
was sending the tribune. The experience had not failed him in the
period succeeding the departure from Cythera. Thinking they were
tending towards the old Judean country, he was sensitive to every
variation from the course. With a pang, he had observed the sudden
change northward which, as has been noticed, took place near Naxos:
the cause, however, he could not even conjecture; for it must be
remembered that, in common with his fellow-slaves, he knew nothing
of the situation, and had no interest in the voyage. His place was
at the oar, and he was held there inexorably, whether at anchor
or under sail. Once only in three years had he been permitted an
outlook from the deck. The occasion we have seen. He had no idea
that, following the vessel he was helping drive, there was a great
squadron close at hand and in beautiful order; no more did he know
the object of which it was in pursuit.
When the sun, going down, withdrew his last ray from the cabin,
the galley still held northward. Night fell, yet Ben-Hur could
discern no change. About that time the smell of incense floated
down the gangways from the deck.
"The tribune is at the altar," he thought. "Can it be we are going
He became observant.
Now he had been in many battles without having seen one. From his
bench he had heard them above and about him, until he was familiar
with all their notes, almost as a singer with a song. So, too, he had
become acquainted with many of the preliminaries of an engagement,
of which, with a Roman as well as a Greek, the most invariable
was the sacrifice to the gods. The rites were the same as those
performed at the beginning of a voyage, and to him, when noticed,
they were always an admonition.
A battle, it should be observed, possessed for him and his
fellow-slaves of the oar an interest unlike that of the sailor
and marine; it came, not of the danger encountered but of the
fact that defeat, if survived, might bring an alteration of
condition--possibly freedom--at least a change of masters,
which might be for the better.
In good time the lanterns were lighted and hung by the stairs,
and the tribune came down from the deck. At his word the marines
put on their armor. At his word again, the machines were looked to,
and spears, javelins, and arrows, in great sheaves, brought and
laid upon the floor, together with jars of inflammable oil, and
baskets of cotton balls wound loose like the wicking of candles.
And when, finally, Ben-Hur saw the tribune mount his platform and
don his armor, and get his helmet and shield out, the meaning of
the preparations might not be any longer doubted, and he made
ready for the last ignominy of his service.
To every bench, as a fixture, there was a chain with heavy anklets.
These the hortator proceeded to lock upon the oarsmen, going from
number to number, leaving no choice but to obey, and, in event of
disaster, no possibility of escape.
In the cabin, then, a silence fell, broken, at first, only by the
sough of the oars turning in the leathern cases. Every man upon the
benches felt the shame, Ben-Hur more keenly than his companions.
He would have put it away at any price. Soon the clanking of the
fetters notified him of the progress the chief was making in his
round. He would come to him in turn; but would not the tribune
interpose for him?
The thought may be set down to vanity or selfishness, as the reader
pleases; it certainly, at that moment, took possession of Ben-Hur.
He believed the Roman would interpose; anyhow, the circumstance would
test the man's feelings. If, intent upon the battle, he would but
think of him, it would be proof of his opinion formed--proof that
he had been tacitly promoted above his associates in misery--such
proof as would justify hope.
Ben-Hur waited anxiously. The interval seemed like an age. At every
turn of the oar he looked towards the tribune, who, his simple
preparations made, lay down upon the couch and composed himself
to rest; whereupon number sixty chid himself, and laughed grimly,
and resolved not to look that way again.
The hortator approached. Now he was at number one--the rattle of
the iron links sounded horribly. At last number sixty! Calm from
despair, Ben-Hur held his oar at poise, and gave his foot to the
officer. Then the tribune stirred--sat up--beckoned to the chief.
A strong revulsion seized the Jew. From the hortator, the great
man glanced at him; and when he dropped his oar all the section
of the ship on his side seemed aglow. He heard nothing of what
was said; enough that the chain hung idly from its staple in
the bench, and that the chief, going to his seat, began to beat
the sounding-board. The notes of the gavel were never so like
music. With his breast against the leaded handle, he pushed with
all his might--pushed until the shaft bent as if about to break.
The chief went to the tribune, and, smiling, pointed to number
"What strength!" he said.
"And what spirit!" the
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