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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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assistants, and an unpronouncible name.

“Come, Rizpah, ‘Old Sheepskin Jacket’ has put on his red tunic and
leathern girdle to carry us a camel voyage in-sea; if we do not give the
man a job he’ll fall to stealing again.”

Rizpah languidly shook her head.

“But we must patronize the man to keep up what little honesty he has, and
he has some. He told me but yesterday he’d rather work than rob—though
the pay be less, so is the danger less.”

The knight was telling the truth as well as trying to be facetious.

Again Rizpah replied with a weary shake of the head, her hands rising
deprecatingly, then falling into her lap as if almost nerveless.

“But, Rizpah, while we are here we ought to fully explore the changeless
cities of this dead, black, lava sea. There are none other like this on
earth! ’Tis nature’s desperate effort to outrun phantasmagoria.”

Rizpah shook her head and waved her hands; this time vehemently, as if to
repel a horror.

“What? A fixed no?”

“No more excursions into this counterpart of hades for me.”

“Well, so be it to-day, at least,” with surrendering tones, the knight
replied.

“To-day? All days! Oh, God, remove me from this nightmare!”

So exclaiming, the woman covered her eyes, shuddered and wept
hysterically.

Sir Charleroy was almost overcome with sudden amazement. The tears, the
terror, the complete change before him, were beyond his comprehension.
After a time he again spoke: “Why, this is a sudden freak or frenzy. I
thought Rizpah fascinated here!”

“I’ve had my notice from the dread spirits that infest the place to
go! Didst thou note what dark and threatening clouds dipped down like
vultures upon me when we were last there?” vehemently Rizpah replied.

“I only saw a threatening of rain that came not. It seldom rains in the
Lejah.”

“There was rain enough in my poor, shivering, weeping heart!”

“But, I wonder, Rizpah, thou didst not tell me of these feelings before!”

“I could not confide then; I was too jealous!”

“Jealous? What a word! But of whom, me?”

“I can never forget that thy union with me has made thee alien to thy
people and in part neglectful of the faith for which thou didst once
fight bravely. I can not forget that the Teutonic knight was the devotee
of a bepraised Lady Mary. I thought of this that black day, and I felt
as if those dry, grim clouds were her frowns. It was thou, my Christian
husband, who named the Lejah, ‘Tartarus,’ and it has been such for some
time to me. Its sight has constantly burned me with remorse! That day
it seemed to me thy Mary pitied thee and blamed me! I writhed under the
thought! I, for a moment, hated her. I felt like climbing some height,
and, club in hand with defiant curses, challenging her right to have
a finer care of thee than I have. I’d have done it, if thou hadst not
been here to laugh at the folly of my frenzy. Ah, husband, if she is
or was all that thou dost depict her, she can not love me, and thou
must contrast us to my disparagement. I can not forget that thou wert a
Christian soldier; sworn to war for her and her son; now thou art wedded
to me, a daughter of her and His persecutors!”

“Why, Rizpah, thy changing moods are appalling; thou dost beat the
magicians who conjure up the dead, since thou dost create out of nothing
the most hideous ghosts to haunt thyself—Maya! Maya!”

“Oh, yes, I know ‘Maya,’ wife of Brahm, by interpretation ‘illusion.’ A
myth, as a gibe, has a sharp point, effective because so difficult to
parry. But, alas, ridicule, though it easily tear to pieces delusion, is
powerless to disperse the gloom that sits in a soul as mine.”

“I’ll not ridicule my Rizpah, but I would bring her light.”

“Ah? That is, resurrect the peace thou didst murder?”

“Show me one wound my hand has made and I’ll abjectly beg all pardons,
attempt any atonement!”

“Dost thou, knight, remember the ruins of the Christian church of Saint
George, at Edrei?”

“Certainly.”

“And thy conversation there?”

“Yes, that Saint George was England’s patron saint famed for having slain
the dragon which imperiled a king’s daughter.”

“More thou didst say; thou didst expatiate on the princess, saying her
name was Alexandra, meaning, ‘friend of mankind’; further, thou saidst
there was a queenly woman by name, Mary, daughter of the King of Kings,
friend beyond all women of humanity, for whom every true knight was
willing to be a Saint George.”

“True enough; but to what purport now is this reminiscence?”

“Thou saidst Saint George was loyal to the death to his faith, and died a
martyr!”

“True again. What of it?”

“Was the Teutonic knight thinking of himself as a martyr because wed to
a Jewess? I followed thy thoughts, though they were not all spoken. How
naturally that day thou didst tell me of thy visions which thou hadst
between Gerash and Bozrah when wounded nigh to death. The English saint,
knight, very loyal to creed, rebuked in his dreams, by the beating of
mighty wings, the departing of his heart’s rose! Oh, why didst thou not
tell me this before it was too late! I would have helped thee escape the
ingenuous Jewess Thou didst awaken then with dread bleeding, to find
thyself pillowed upon the bosom of a simple-hearted loving girl; I now
awaken, wounded indeed, but with none to staunch the wounding! Why, de
Griffin, didst thou keep this secret so long? Why unfold it now?”

“I’d be the Saint George of Rizpah and slay her dragon, gloom.”

“Poor comfort to offer since the gloom is beyond thy powers! Flout my
mood as thou mayst; what use? I vainly denounce it. Thou hast had thy
dream; now I’m having mine. I’ll not mock thy insights; thou canst not by
bantering jeer change mine. My Lejah omens assure me that I’m to have a
rain of tears and more; some way thy Mary will be their cause.”

“Rizpah errs; the queen I revere was a living epistle of good will; her
character the joy and inspiration of all women, especially of those in
tribulation. But enough! Rizpah, being a Jew, should abhor the necromancy
of omens!”

“Jew! Ah, yes; I was once! But the valiant English knight lured me into
his Christian love and my race’s hate. I had once the luxurious faith
of a pious girl; all feeling, all flowers; too young to reason, but
young enough to love the good and beautiful unto salvation. The knight
poisoned the blossoms before they ripened by the acids of ridicule! There
is a loss beyond repair and a bitter memory, that of a broken promise;
under our love-star thou didst swear thou wouldst never lightly treat my
believing. Venus has set, Mercury is rising; but wisdom brings a burning
glare. The promise that the knight failed to keep was made when I was,
he said his idol; now I’m only his wife!”

“Rizpah exchanges the glory of the rose for the bitter gray of the
wormwood.”

“I’m thy handiwork; now mock the result, if to do so comforts thee.”

“My handiwork!”

“Yes, fool!”

“These words are awful.”

“I think so and I hate them; though I can not check them. I hate my
temper and even myself when in such present moods. De Griffin, pray as
thou didst never pray before, that I do not learn to hate thee. I pity
thee, because I’ve some love left.”

“Pity?”

“Yes, when I imagine thee wriggling beneath the malignant detestation of
which I know I shall soon be capable.”

“My wife, in God’s dear name, banish these moods! They are impious,
unnatural; the crisis of thy being falsely accuses thy heart. Be calm!”

“Calm? ‘Be calm!’ Very good; calm me, please, if thou canst. Oh, why
didst thou make me thus?”

“The God of all peace forgive me if I did, Rizpah.”

“Thou wert the elder and shouldst have known?”

“What?”

“That to unsettle a woman’s faith, if she be such as I, is to let loose
a bundle of blind vagaries and to tumble her, like a drifting wreck, on
unknown shores.”

“Oh, wife, as thou hopest for heaven and lovest our unborn child,
restrain these moods. Thou’lt mark the one to be, with germs of all
evil; for such outbursts of mothers re-act with awful effect upon their
offspring. Thou knowest how the old nurse, at Damascus, killed a babe in
an instant, merely by giving it her breast after she had yielded to an
outbreak of passion. Such tempers hurl poison through all the being!”

“Alas, knight, that all this prudence ever comes just a little too late!”

“What could I have done better?”

“Left the little maid of Harrimai’s home free from thy enchantments and
to the quiet of her people’s state.”

“But I loved thee so. That atones for all.”

“Thou thoughtst thou lovedst, but ’twas my form which fascinated thee,
not my mind nor soul!” Rizpah’s face became ashen pale, her eyes had a
far-off gaze and were steelly, as she began plaintively to repeat the
words, “‘_There were giants in the earth.... They saw the daughters of
men, Adamish, that they were fair and they took them for wives of all
they chose, and they bore children and it repented the Lord that He had
made man, for He saw that the wickedness was great in the earth._’ Thou
wast my giant-lofty. Thou stolest my heart and body. Now for a flood to
punish the sin, and my tears are already its first droppings.”

“We are wed; shall we not now make the best of it? Even when into this
mystic alliance unmated lives converge, they can still with wisdom
extract from it at least peace. Go fervently, firmly, back to the faiths
of thy girlhood; become again all thou wert, except that thou be ever
mine.”

“Ah, ha! how little, after all, thou knowest of woman’s heart? Thou
wouldst command it do and be; and go and come, wouldst thou? Thinkst
thou, thou canst make such heart as mine wild with the strange
intoxications of unholy fire, filling the brain above it with all the
clouds, weird longings, doubtings and misgivings, that fume up from that
fire, and then send that heart back without a compass, chart, sail or
helm, to find the haven? Send it lashed by remorse part of the time, part
of the time half dead to all feeling, and all the time blind, to hunt up
lost creeds.”

“But God provided an ark; let us ask Him to aid us build one in a home,
with happy parents and happy children. Thou readst to me, but yesterday,
the Prophets’ beautiful description of a lamp burning with oil supplied
from two palm trees; one on either side. I’ll interpret; the trees are
parents, the lamp the light of home, manifest in posterity, reproduction;
a prophecy of the resurrection.”

“Beautiful mysticism. But the giantesque men rose to play at lust, just
beside Sinai of the law.”

“Not so I, the Teutonic knight, now the husband. Rizpah; thy desperate
misery appeals to all my manhood. I swear to thee I’d turn my heart’s
blood into the oil to cause our home to glow with the serene light of
holy happiness.”

“Words, words; how sad, because so beautiful, yet so vain!”

“Oh Rizpah,” cried the knight, too anxious to be angry, though the
woman’s words were stinging, “thy looks startle me! Pray God to rest and
hold thy worried soul.”

“Pray? I have tried, often of late, to pray, but I do not know how.
I fear thou hast stolen even that power from me! Ugh! the last time
I prayed, my words seemed like black cormorants rising with loads of
carrion; then falling struck dead by the sun, into great black caves,
such as abound in our Lejah hell! I heard my words flung back at me in
mockery. Pray? I dare not, lest God strike me dead for a hypocrite and a
heretic!”

“But my poor, dear wife,” soothingly said Sir Charleroy, “He is merciful.”

“Oh, yes, to the good and the faithful; I’m neither! I gave Him up for
a man, as the Adamish men gave him up for women. I madest thou my God,
and now have none other; for He of the heavens is very holy, but very
jealous!”

“Rizpah, Rizpah, do not thus give way to these wild imaginations.”

“Give way? Alas, all is already given away; soul and body were on an
idolatrous altar long ago. I’m buried in the ashes!”

“But Rizpah, trust my love: I’ll help thee back to peace and usefulness.”

“Bah! the masculine great I——”

“Heavens! woman, is there any love in a heart that so hurls javelins?”

“I don’t know! I suppose so, for I pity thee.”

“Pity me?”

“Yes; when I think as I do at times, that thy wife is turning into a
devil, a very devil! Sir Charleroy de Griffin, knight of St. Mary, dost
hear me? A devil, a raging devil, and one that will pity while she
assails.” The last sentence was almost screamed, then the woman fell on
the rug of their apartment and wept convulsively. After a little there
was the silence of exhaustion, of chagrin, of shame. Sir Charleroy stood
by the prostrate form and with words half commanding said: “Let us ride
out a little way.” He was trying a new strategy.

“No, no, no! Thou’lt take me to the Lejah, and I shall see that dread
omen again.”

“What?” As he questioned he raised the woman tenderly from the floor.

“The lava desert, in long rolling waves, black and drear.”

“Ah, Rizpah, thou knowest that it was only thy unreined fancy, heated by
morbid broodings, that changed the eternally-fixed furrows of the plain,
overshadowed by running clouds into threatening billows! God and the sun
are above all clouds and behind every anxious heart. Look up; look in,
until thy soul finds Him; then the horror of darkness will die away.”

“Oh, how thy comfortings hurt me, because I do not believe in thee,
nor believe thee! Thou sayst that thou didst abandon thy Christian,
perfect queen of women, for me. I know thou must be chagrined at the bad
exchange! I can not honor nor trust the faithfulness of one so fickle. No
matter for that, but what comes after is worse. Those black sky-drapings
were over the Lejah that day because I was there. I know—I know there’s
a tide of sorrow rolling toward me. I see it as I saw those black,
serpent-like, lava waves. But, oh, the suspense! It’s awful; let the
worst come if only soon!” The knight, sworn to protect helpless women,
saw himself disarmed and powerless to aid the one woman of earth for whom
he would have died.

Two giants at bay in Giant Land, where another mold of gianthood had died
leaving nothing but monuments to attest the greatness of the failure. The
two knew only this, that they were very miserable and powerless, by any
means accustomed, to extricate themselves.

Sir Charleroy wished and wished, in his soul, that his patron saint and
queen of women would appear and tell both what to do. He unconsciously
was turning his mind’s eye in the right direction. Husband and wife both
believed there was a right way, a pattern of right, and an ideal of
heaven, but they could not lay hold of them. Giant, crusader and husband,
each in turn strove in his day at the same spot, and at the same point
failed.

Sir Charleroy, in mind, went out along a strangely beset line of
thinking. Sometimes he pitied himself, and that brought the balm of
conceit. He remembered it was a fine thing to be a martyr, forgetting
that some, rewardless, suffer as sinners. Sometimes he heard those
beatings of mighty wings, as if some wondrous holy one were departing.
Then he became very penitent and full of the entreatings of prayer.
Either mood was brief enough to him not yet converted; a very Peter
in vacillations. Whether he would finally follow the beating wings or
sit down nigh to the gates of certain insanity, the gates that those
who over-much pity themselves are sure to reach, was the issue in his
life then. The bugles of war call few to the heroism of the field, but
millions are daily called by God’s bugle to the better achievements which
make for glory amid the duties of common life. That latter bugle was
calling him, but he was slow to obey, or understand even.

The events recorded in the foregoing pages roused Sir Charleroy to an
anxious effort to do something to change the currents of his wife’s
thoughts. Necessity quickened his discernment, and though he had had but
little experience in dealing with those ill in the body or mind, he
quickly concluded that a change of place and a change of pursuit would be
beneficial. In truth, his own feelings attested this much. He himself was
weary of the pursuit of excitement as a sole and constant occupation.

“Shall we leave the Lejah, Rizpah?” he questioned, a few days after the
outbreak before mentioned.

“Yes, I say!—I’m leaving it! See here,” and she pointed to her cheeks,
once ruddy, now haggard. “Oh, Charleroy, take me away or death will!”

“Enough! We’ll go. But where?”

“Any place under heaven; say the word and I’ll run out of the place
instantly, leaving all here.”

“What, our effects!”

“Any thing to get away. I feel like a child approached by some monster
terror, hour by hour! For days I’ve been transfixed by my fear or I would
have run away, even alone, before this. Now thy words break the spell!
Come, let us go before I’m overcome again!”

“There, now, be calm. No more of this undue nervousness. We’ll go, and
soon. What says Rizpah to Bozrah, southward of Bashan?”

“Yes, to Bozrah; historic Bozrah!” and the face of the woman brightened
as she went on: “It was the fairy land of my youth. I’ve wanted to go
there since I was a wee little thing, scarce able to walk.” Then the
woman unbent and talked with the rapture of a child:

“Oh; I’ve wanted to see Bozrah all my life, since the days when my old
nurse used to talk me to sleep with stories of Og and his bedstead nine
cubits long, and how our little Hebrew, Moses, overcame those Rephaim.”

“Thy prophets and psalmists, as well as thy nurses, were wont to go
into rapturous descriptions of the lofty oaks, loftier mountains,
ragged plains, marvelous pastures and goodly herds of the Hauran and
Trachonitis.”

Rizpah continued in gleeful strain: “Oh, those herds; if I can’t see old
Og, I’d like to see the famous bulls of Bashan! Show me something huge,
no matter how huge, if alive and not black! I’m becoming infatuated
with the strong and the large. If ever I lose my soul it will be by
worshiping, pagan-like, something mightier than I can imagine; of body
or muscle. Yes, yes, I’ll be a thorough pagan since I can not be a Jew
nor a Christian! Now, I forewarn thee.” So saying she laughed merrily.
The knight was rejoiced to hear the musical, natural laughter again, and
encouraged the play of her wit, which attested a mind unbending to rest.

“Woman-like, adoring the huge when the grand can not be found. Thank God,
the giants are all dead; there are none at Bozrah, at least. I’ll not
fear the little dirty Arabs, or pigmy Druses as supplanters.”




CHAPTER XV.

THE REVELS OF MEN AND RITES OF THEIR GODDESSES.

“Rude fragments now
Lie scattered where the shapely column stood.
Her palaces are dust. In all the streets the sprightly chords
Are silent. Revelry and dance and show
Suffer a syncope and solemn pause;
While God performs upon the trembling stage
Of His own works His dreadful part, alone.”—COWPER.

“Then shall ye know that I am the Lord, when their slain shall
be among their idols, round about their altars ... upon every
high place ... under every thick oak.”—Ezekiel vi.


Passing from Edrei toward Bozrah the pilgrim knight and his wife with
their convoy reached Kunawat, the Kenath of Scripture, once the dwelling
place of Job. Here for a time they abode. The number and variety of
castles, temples, theaters and palaces in ruins, were sufficient to
engage the attention of the travelers for many days. Rizpah was more
cheerful than she was at Edrei, but yet restless to reach Bozrah, on
which place her heart was set.

One day standing before an old Roman temple in Kunawat, Rizpah, somewhat
interested by its well preserved Corinthian columns, and Sir Charleroy
deeply engrossed in contemplation of an huge stone image, the former
asks: “Has the knight recognized an old English or a new Bashan love?”
The woman was finding the oft-repeated and prolonged visits to this
particular place monotonous. She was annoyed, but modified her rebuke
into raillery.

“There is something very fascinating in the Cyclopean face.”

“A broken stone fascinate a man? But I see ’tis that of a woman; the
brain part gone. Would that the English knight had wed such; then he
might have been loyal to creed, and not a martyr!”

[Illustration: ASTARTE.]

“Rizpah knows that I could never have loved a brainless face, nor any one
akin to this Kunawat goddess.”

“Not if she echoed thy ‘aye’ and ‘nay’ consistently? Be careful; as many
strong men have fallen by having their conceit gratified as there have
fallen women through flattery.”

“How absurd to hint that I could be so lured.”

“But the knight says Astarte fascinates!”

“I said so, meaning that I’m fascinated by the train of thoughts that the
image awakens. Think a moment; we, the living of to-day confronting the
acme of the thought of the ages long gone. Looking at this, I seem to be
seeing over rolling centuries, right into the hearts of humanity that
lived thousands of years ago.”

“All this might have been taken in at a glance! Having seen it, what use
is it?”

“Use? To aid in finding a key to life’s problems. I’m filled with
questionings; do not yearnings, such as beat through the being of the
ancients pulse in those of to-day? Are not humanity’s temptations and
needs ever the same?”

“Since the ancients did not tarry to compare with us, I, being only a
woman, of Gerash, of to-day, can give only the shallow answer, I suppose
so.”

“Oh, I’m not questioning Rizpah; but the ruins, the air, time, my soul,
God!”

“And their reply?”

“Bewildering echoes of each question?

“And it’s all a mystery to Sir Charleroy?”

“I know a little; something, next to nothing.”

“Possess curious me of that little, and I’ll help thee wonder why so much
greatness came to naught.”

“That wondering is easily met; they had, as god, one whose head could be
broken as this one’s was; they that would survive must be sheltered by
the Invincible.”

Rizpah, meanwhile had drawn close to the huge stone face and placing one
hand beneath the mouth, the other on the portion of the head just above
the moon crown, her arms stretched well nigh to their limits quizically
remarked:

“Those that dined with her must have had pyramids for chairs. What dost
thou think they were like?”

“Crusaders?”

“Now, I’m tantalized. Crusaders two or three thousand years ago? How
absurd!”

“Oh, certainly they were not known by the name, Crusaders: but
they that followed Astarte and such-like deities, whether called
Kenaihites, Rephaim, Moslem, Christians, or by other appellation are
all soldier-pilgrims, dominated by an ideal. There have been many
female deities among the pagans and there is a deal of paganism left in
humanity.”

“That’s because half the race are men. Astarte would be very popular
to-day with thy sex, if she were here in living form, a whole woman,
instead of a fragment and beautiful also—”

“Thou dost not care to hear more of the female deities?”

“Oh, yes; I’ll be fearfully jealous if thou dost keep any thing back.
Tell me what madmen the ancients were?” She paused, slapped the face of
the image, ejaculating “_Virago!_” then continued, “Why did they make
their effigy both hideous and huge? Ugly things should be dwarfed!”

“The ancients, who knew not the grandeur of moral power, gave their
deities terribleness in their physical proportions, and a mountain
of flesh became their ideal of greatness—men ever try to make their
objects of worship greater than themselves, thou knowest. Hast forgotten
what Ichabod once told us of the Egyptians? How they expressed their
reverence by piling up pyramids and made that very diminutive which they
would caricature? Oh, how our true religion, having at its heart an only,
all-beautiful, Almighty God, rises above these human devices!”

“I wonder that it did not, at its first appearing on earth, instantly
overthrow all others.”

“And it is a still more wonderful thing that those who embraced it,



Online LibraryA. Stewart (Alexander Stewart) WalshMary: The Queen of the House of David and Mother of Jesus → online text (page 13 of 40)