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A. Stewart (Alexander Stewart) Walsh.

Mary: The Queen of the House of David and Mother of Jesus online

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that I believe that perjury would consign me to misery untold here;
eternal woe hereafter!”

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

He complied.

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

He complied, but murmured “cruelty.”

“And how?” she questioned.

“Wilt add a little?”

“Add what?”

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

“It is so fixed.”

“I then swear it all.”

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

“I obey, but yet plead delay.”

She hesitated and fell from being master to being mastered.

“Why, what benefits delay?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Heathen!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




CHAPTER XII.

ASTARTE OR MARY?

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


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

Rizpah was pushing out in a new experience to her. If she were enamored
she did not fully know it. She only knew that the knight’s companionship
was very delightful. If she had any misgivings as to the propriety of her
course she silenced them by saying to herself: “Sir Charleroy has sworn
to leave us forever when I say he shall. I can end this matter any time.”
She thought she could, but the shield of her safety was already too heavy
for her. She could not have said go, had she tried. Time deepened the
perplexity by multiplying the enmeshings of the trio. The knight and
Rizpah were much in each other’s society. They spoke of this as being
a happy circumstance, as youths usually do. “We shall understand each
other so well—too well to misunderstand.” Some of the Jewish young men
were jealous and made some very natural remarks, under the circumstances,
though the remarks were rather bitter with jealousy. The older people,
some of them, anxious for an alliance by marriage with the rich and
powerful Harrimai family, took up the undertone complaints of the young
people of their race. Of course, the murmurings were cloaked with
declarations that they were all for the sake of righteousness! Harrimai,
in heart far from assured, was yet compelled to defend the two secretly
loving, in order to defend his daughter’s fair fame. The two young
people wore the armor of teacher and pupil; the young woman constantly
bepraising the knight’s wondrous knowledge of the antiquities, etc., of
all the out-of-the-way places they visited. So the meshes multiplied,
though the caviling was in part silenced. As teacher and pupil they went
on, and Harrimai knew, as did Sir Charleroy, that the relationship had
its peril, as it existed between a man and woman who could love yet ought
not to love. Rizpah did not at first know how easily a woman’s heart
surrenders to a man to whom she is accustomed to look upward. In fact she
drifted in a delight in all pertaining to the knight; her only outlook
and watchfulness being toward her father. The way the latter at times
keenly, silently observed her and the knight made her uneasy. She knew
intuitively that not far away there was impending on her father’s part
an investigation. She determined to delay, if not prevent it. One day
she bounded into her father’s presence, aglow with enthusiasm over the
wonders unfolded to her by Sir Charleroy during a visit to the ruins of
Gerash’s temple of the sun. The old man was charmed by her description,
and when she declared her intention to pursue her investigations beyond
their city he hesitated to forbid.

“And now, father, I’m going to that old city of the Giants, Bozrah.”

The father, with an effort at firmness, dissuadingly replied:

“We may all go there, but not now. It is better to bide here quietly,
until we learn that the perils of receding war have left assured peace.”

“Why, father, I’m not afraid!”

“I know it; so much the more need for me to be: these over-daring
daughters need over-careful guardians. Some of us aged ones are suffered
to tarry long from paradise, in order that we may see our darlings in
the right path thither.”

“Give me my swift white dromedary and two attendants and I’ll defy the
miserables who ambuscade along the way.”

Just then, there dashed toward them, over the oleander-fringed road which
passed due north along the little river and across the city, a rider on
panting steed.

“It’s the news runner!” said the patriarch.

“Shall we signal him?” she questioned.

“No, daughter, we will meet him yonder, where the two great streets
cross. He will await me.”

When the father and daughter arrived, a crowd had already gathered about
the horseman. Some pressed him for news, but he looked straight ahead
at his horse, now slaking its thirst, and merely snapped out, “News? My
beast is thirsty!”

When Harrimai drew near the rider saluted him and at once unfolded his
budget: “Father, I’m this day from Bozrah. Its ruins are not ruined. All
around there, and from there to here, the herds sleep in the shade, and
the carrion birds that have so long been hovering around us for human
food have fled back to Egypt and Europe and Hades!”

“Praised be the Father of Israel! I shall live then, as I prayed I might,
to see the infidels slung out of our holy places!” So spoke the priest,
and as he affectionately embraced some aged Israelites who gathered about
him, the horseman responded:

“God reigns and Israel has peace.” He put spurs to his horse then, and
dashed away across the river to spread to other hamlets the glorious
news.

Next morning Rizpah, having carried her point, was ready to depart for
Bozrah. She had taken silence on her father’s part for consent, and
pursued her preparations as if it were so ordered. All things being ready
she silenced protest by a good-by kiss.

“But daughter! What escort?”

“Ah,” she thought, “victory! I can go if well attended.” She continued
aloud; “Perhaps Sir Charleroy’s Egyptian might attend me, since our
servants are busy in the groves.” The maiden called to her Ichabod, who
had found a home in Harrimai’s establishment, his identity hidden under
the assumed name Huykos, a name from the Nile land, meaning “Shepherd
King.” “I’ll take it,” said Ichabod, one day to Sir Charleroy, “that all
unknown I may follow my pilgrim comrade and perhaps honor my new found
‘Shepherd King.’”

“One will be a meager escort daughter,” interposed Harrimai.

“Oh, fear for me nothing, father. I’ll quickly be at Bozrah, where there
are Israelites not a few who will be proud to aid thy daughter.”

“No, daughter it must not be. I’ll call the young men from the vineyard,
if thou must go.”

“Another victory,” her heart whispered; then quickly turning to Sir
Charleroy she exclaimed, “My father must not call the workmen from their
tasks; what sayst thou? Wilt serve us both by joining my body-guard,
Ahasuerus? Come, to please my father?”

The knight had hoped for and expected the summons, so needed no urgency
and was instantly preparing for the start.

Harrimai was not pleased by the arrangement, and yet he was forced to
thank the knight for consenting. His native courtliness compelled this
much, and Rizpah’s genius had precluded all gainsaying on his part. And
so they rode away, Rizpah in a delight, which she could not clearly
define; Sir Charleroy blinded already by the cry that at last led to
giant Samson’s blinding, namely: “Get her for me.” Ichabod masked under
his name, Huykos, followed after, knowing that the knight was captive to
the maid and feeling very happy over the circumstance. As he rode, his
mind ran forward to the wedding, and he laughed again and again at the
witty things he imagined himself saying at that wedding. Suddenly the
scene changed from one of careless delight to one filled with the frights
of impending peril. At a turn in the road, from behind a wall, there rose
up a company of Mamelukes. Rizpah saw them the instant her companion did
and exclaimed, as she half turned her camel:

“Let’s race back to Gerash!”

But four dusky sentinels were behind them. They were surrounded.

“’Tis fight or flight, the latter futile,” whispered the knight. They
paused, and Ichabod joined them. Sir Charleroy drawing his sword again
spoke: “Comrade it’s a desperate chance; a dozen to two; but we have
taken such before together!”

“Let the knight say a dozen to three,” exclaimed Rizpah, as she drew from
the folds of her garments a saber before unseen and touched the edge
expert-like with her thumb.

“Oh, brave, pure girl! I don’t fear death; I’d court it for thee,
but”—Sir Charleroy paused and looked unutterable misery; then instantly
recovering and emboldened by the danger that threatened to soon end all,
he exclaimed:

“Rizpah, thou rememberest my knight-vow at Purim; thou shalt see how
I’ll keep it; if I perish, remember I have loved thee as I never loved
any other being.” The words were very vehement, but probably very true.
Rizpah blushed, brushed a tear from her eyes and then, in the frankness
that such an hour engenders, replied: “And I thee—” the rest was drowned
in the wild shout of the Turks as they close about the three. But they
had not counted upon such a reception as those two men and that one
woman gave them. Ichabod fought like a roused mastiff, without a thought
of fear for himself. He struck vehemently, but a calm settled smile
was on his countenance. Sir Charleroy saw it and years after said,
recalling the incident, “amidst the greatest perils there’s a wondrous
peace to one who feels he is striking for God, close to the portals of
death and judgment.” The knight himself fenced with the rapidity of
lightning. Again and again by ones and twos and threes, the enemies
charged down upon him, but he fought with the prowess of a crusader, the
fire of a lover. Those parts had never before witnessed such splendid
swordsmanship. As the attack had been sudden, so was its ending. Two
Turks fell beneath Sir Charleroy’s weapon in quick succession, and a
third fell under his own horse, which was desperately wounded by a
sweeping blow from the knight. At the same, instant, almost, Ichabod and
one of the foemen, whom he was engaging, fell in significant silence,
while another struggled to drag Rizpah to his steed that he might make
her captive. Sir Charleroy, wounded and faint, dealt the latter miscreant
a staggering blow and the maiden, plucking a small dagger from the folds
of her garment, finished with a single thrust her captor’s earthly career.

Those of the marauders that were able, in fright took flight, wheeling
away more quickly than they had come.

“Rizpah, wilt thou go to Ich—Huykos? I can’t,” softly called out Sir
Charleroy.

The maiden flew to the Jew’s side, but quickly started back, crying:
“Oh, knight, come quickly! He’s dead!” Just then, looking back, a sudden
horror fell upon her, for she saw Sir Charleroy half reclining against a
rock, bleeding and pale. Like lightning she thought: “Both dead; I alone;
home miles away; the Turks hovering near.”

But the thought of her own peril was only momentary, and after it there
came more rapidly than can be written the thought that one dear as her
life was dead, dead for her sake. Instantly, on feet that seemed winged,
she was at Sir Charleroy’s side. All her being merged into one great,
instant impulse to save her lover. Over him she bent, and with passionate
sorrow tried with her garments to staunch the flow of blood. In the
sincerity and frankness that the presence of death ever brings, she arose
above all prudishness and impulsively kissed the cold lips of the knight.
His eyes opened, and he faintly murmured:

“I’m so happy, dear Rizpah. I know now it is well.” A little later he
murmured: “Flee now for home. Thou’lt reach it by sun down. Leave me. To
tarry is to court a harem prison.”

“Hush,” impatiently responded she; “see this dagger?” and she held it
close to his half-closed eyes. “My pious father gave it me when I was
but a girl. He told me it might some time save me from dishonor. It did
so to-day, once. If those black demons return, sure as my name is Rizpah,
it will do so again, even though I turn it toward my own heart.”

“Better flee, my love.”

“Not ’till thou can’st go, too.”

“I may die.”

“Then, I’ll go into the shadow land with thee.”

The knight was silent. The pain of his wounds was forgotten in the joy
of that lone companionship. But, after all, his mind, perturbed by the
shock, the pain, the dangers, was unable to rest. He tried to say to
himself the prayer of the dying crusader, but the words were confused.
He could not remember many of them; those he remembered, seemed to
be unwilling to go heavenward for mercy. Some way in the clearness
of judgment as to simple right and wrong that comes to a mind on the
confines of death, he found himself condemned. He was haunted by a vision
that came to his mind first the day he decided against conviction, at all
hazard, to follow the family of Rizpah and Harrimai to Gerash. The vision
was that of the false prophet Zedekiah, making himself horns of iron, and
with them appearing before the wicked King of Israel, Ahab, to proclaim,
not the things of God, but the things the prophet knew would meet the
desires of his royal master. The wounded often fall asleep; it’s nature’s
way of recovering from a shock and of chaining pain in forgetfulness. Sir
Charleroy knew not whether he was sleeping or not; but the vision passed
in painful vividness over his mind. He heard the prophet’s voice saying:
“Go up to Ramoth Gilead, and prosper.” Then he saw a true prophet of God
standing nigh, with sorrowful countenance, and the face was that of the
Madonna. The latter moaned in his ear, warningly; “_Who shall persuade,
that he may go up and fall at Ramoth Gilead? Then there came forth a
spirit and said, I will persuade._”

The spirit was black-garbed, in a blood-spotted garment, and wore, as
Sir Charleroy seemed to see the apparition, a scarlet crescent, and
the knight thought of Astarte. He heard in his vision the beatings as
of mighty wings, rising to flight, and tried to turn and see who the
departing one was. It seemed as if the spirit of Astarte-like countenance
transfixed him with a gaze, so he could not turn; but a loneliness
and darkness, almost palpable, came over him, and he knew it was the
Madonna-faced prophet that had departed. The knight started up as if to
rise, but, awakening, found Rizpah’s restraining arms about him.

“Stay,” she soothingly said. “Thou art feverish, and too weak to rise.
Thou’lt be better presently; the blood has ceased flowing.”

“Oh,” he groaned; “I had such a dream!”

Just then Rizpah beheld coming in the distance, from toward Gerash,
a horseman, at rapid pace. Her first thought, “The enemy returns.”
Her second brought her hand swiftly to her reeking dagger, as she
soliloquized: “He’s only one, and I’m one; if but a woman.”

The rider drew nearer, and she was almost overcome with the revulsion
from fear and despair; for the comer was Laconic, the “news runner.”
He knew the maiden, and wheeling his steed to her side with his usual
brevity, cried out:

“Why, didst thou kill both?”

“Shame on thee; ’twas the Arabs!”

“I thought so. I met two horsemen and two riderless steeds, galloping
away down the road. I knew they’d been at some devilment.”

“Good runner, in the name of God, speed thee to Bozrah, or somewhere, for
help, and bring it quickly.”

“Bring? not so; send. _I_ come not ’till my set day!”

“Any thing; but hurry!”

“Hurry! Yes, hurry! I love hurry.”

He was away like an arrow, in his course. His steed leaped over one of
the dead miscreants and Laconic shouted back: “Carrion dinners! Thank
God!”




CHAPTER XIII.

FROM RAMOTH GILEAD TO DAMASCUS

“Daughters of Eve! your mother did not well:
...
The man was not deceived, nor yet could stand:
He chose to lose for love of her, his throne,—
With her could die, but could not live alone.”

“Daughters of Eve! it was for your dear sake
The world’s first hero died an uncrowned king:
But God’s great pity touched the great mistake
And made his married love a sacred thing;
For yet his nobler sons, if aught be true,
Find the lost Eden in their love of you.”—JEAN INGELOW.


For many days Sir Charleroy lay wounded at the house of the Patriarch
Harrimai, and she for whom he had periled his life was his constant
attendant. He sorely needed her services, and all Gerash, the priest
included, conceded the fitness of Rizpah’s rendering the aid she was able
to render. The maiden was all willing to minister, and as she ministered
her interest in the man deepened. When she began to look up to him as her
teacher before the battle with Mamelukes, she began a sort of worship;
when she saw him fighting to the death in her behalf, her worship became
an engrossing adoration. If there had been any thing more required in
order to enlist all the affection of which her being was capable, these
opportunities of administering to her suffering lover furnished it. As
God loves because He has helped a needy one, so a woman’s heart easily
flows out toward the object for whom she has performed pious services.
On the other hand, Sir Charleroy was more and more enchanted, for there
is life and charm beyond all description to the touch of the queen of a
man’s heart when he is in trouble or pain.

Rizpah, in woman’s most queenly garb, the one appointed her at her
creation, that of “help-mate,” was beautiful indeed, and queenly indeed,
to the man whose heart had enthroned her. When alone, they treated each
other with the frank, earnest tenderness, fitting as well as natural, to
the betrothed. Though they did not admit it even to themselves, they had
fully determined to be one, at all peril, in spite of any opposition,
reason approving or disapproving. They often said to one another, “Our
betrothal taking place at the very gates of death was therefore a very
solemn one that nothing on earth can annul.” The sentiment was perfect
and very agreeable; and with them a beautiful and agreeable sentiment
became as controlling as if it were a revelation from heaven. In this,
they were perfectly human. They even persuaded themselves of God’s
favor, thanking Him for what they were pleased to call His Providence,
namely the peril and long sickness leading to the betrothal and days of
love-life together. They were right in conceding that God’s hand was in
the battle; but they were impious in interpreting His Providence to be



Online LibraryA. Stewart (Alexander Stewart) WalshMary: The Queen of the House of David and Mother of Jesus → online text (page 11 of 40)