Copyright
A. Stewart (Alexander Stewart) Walsh.

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

. (page 15 of 40)
Online LibraryA. Stewart (Alexander Stewart) WalshMary: The Queen of the House of David and Mother of Jesus → online text (page 15 of 40)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the experience. He failed to perceive that these first breaks in the
rhythmic flow of conjugal love are great shocks to a deeply affectionate
woman. He knew that men easily recover from rebuffs, and so did not
stop to consider that young wife-hood was the highest expression on
earth of utter clinging to one sole support. He knew his own feelings
and took them for the standard. He set himself up as the pattern,
quite unconsciously, perhaps; and after the conflict in which he came
off conceded victor, he was condescending in his manner. This was
unfortunate. Rizpah did not need to be told that her husband was wiser
and stronger willed and more self-possessed and more able to endure
life’s trial than herself. All this she believed, absolutely, when she
surrendered her heart to the man at the first. Woman-like, these were
the very circumstances that caused her to love him as she did. A woman
never loves completely until her love is supplemented by adoration. She
must believe the man, who would make full conquest, is one to whom she
can look up; one some way her superior. But while a loving woman will
give a devotion almost religious, she will be pained amid her delights
of committal by a haunting fear that he whom she adores may rise away
from her. In the very plenitude of her fullest love-worship she will deny
the reverence, sometimes, in a seeming inconsistency, rebuff and even
ridicule her idol. It is with her a sort of hysteria, a confession of
secret terror, lest she and he grow apart in mind, and so come to part in
body. Hence it is a giant cruelty on the part of a husband, sometimes, to
enforce, or thrust forward, his size or his lordship. They may be facts,
but God has set over against them as their equal that love which clings,
stimulates and supplements, without which the finest man is far less than
the half of the united twain. Sir Charleroy blundered along in his error;
Rizpah tried to be happy and failed. She did not know how to make the
best of her surroundings, and Sir Charleroy did not know, because he did
not seek religiously to find out how to help her make the best of them.
They had some periods of pleasure, but they continually grew briefer
and were more frequently interrupted as time went on. She was ill, he
suffered himself to think her at times ill-tempered. As a lover, he
admired her outbreaks as very brilliant, and flattered her by remarking
that she had the metal of an Arabian steed; as a husband, he thought her
very disagreeable when pettish or angry. Indeed, though he never said so
to her, he did say to himself that at times she was very like a virago.
The only steed that came to his mind then was the ass, to which he
likened himself when he considered himself the perfection of submissive
patience.

A new event radically changed the picture and situation in this troubled
home.

The prayer of prayers was heard in Bozrah; the cry of a baby; a bundle of
needs and helplessness, with no language but a cry. Processions of silent
centuries had passed through those halls since they echoed the hoarse
voices of the brawny beings who built them. One could not hear the infant
cry without remembering the contrasts. A baby; a puny one at that, and of
the gentler sex, besides being of a race pigmy compared to the stalwarts
who builded those abodes. Sir Charleroy and his consort had set up their
household gods, and for a goodly period had occupied as theirs a Rephaim
home.

The little stranger came, though they did not discern it, with power
to bless them both. A poetic visitor, happening on this baby’s hammock
there and then, might have gone in raptures, to some truths, after this
fashion: “It will be the golden tie, angel of peace and hope, to the
home!” The philosopher, seeing the little bundle of helplessness, might
have said: “Here is a giant, the home is immortal through its offspring;
the babe requiring so much, richly repays its loving care-takers by
inducting them into the soul expansions of unselfish service.” But then
poets and philosophers often miss the mark, attempting prophesy.

The parents followed the usual course of those for the first time in
that relation. Their love for each other, very intense, and by its
sensitiveness witnessing after all that it was very selfish, got a new
direction. They soon drifted into the charming fooleries of their like.
Sometimes they petted the child unceasingly, and one was anon jealous of
the other if surpassed in this. They each struggled for a recognition
from the innocent, and debated as to whether the first babble of the
little one was “mamma” or “papa.” Then there were times when they handled
baby very reverently, as if it were something from God, or likely to
break.

At such times they each, in heart, thanked God and gave the child, at
least in part, to Him. Sometimes they called it “Davidah” or “darling,”
and laughed as they assured each other, to assure themselves, that the
baby looked wise as if understanding. Sometimes they played with it as
if they were children and it a toy; sometimes they ministered to it with
anxious care, while all the time they felt quite sure it was somehow of
finer mold and fiber than any babe before on earth. They were just like
all for the first time parents, and their raptures were now for good,
being centered around the thought expressed by the sweet word home. Of
course, the question of naming the child was discussed, and, of course,
no name they could think of seemed quite good enough. Some days the
child was given a dozen, and some days it had none; for all the time
they kept trying to fit it.

In one thing, both parents were Jewish, namely, the desire to give their
darling an appellation expressive of what it was or what they hoped
it would be. They first agreed on “Angela,” but that was discarded as
being a sort of advertisement of the quality of their treasure. In the
constant selfishness of love they would keep it all secretly, sacredly to
themselves, they said. They sought for many days some significant token
or name that should be fully expressive of their thought, and yet by the
three only be ever fully understood. One day Rizpah, always abrupt, still
nursing an old superstition, said: “Call her Marah, a mournful, sweet,
expressive title.”

“Why, wife, that means ‘bitterness.’”

“Bitterness, since I believe that somewhere, somehow, there is bitterness
enough in store for her—and me with her.”

“I’d prefer ‘Mary,’ my wife; surely this little angel is to be all like
that blessed one.”

Then there was more strife, but of a rather patient kind, which ended
in a compromise, they calling the child Miriamne, each in mind meaning
different from the other; the one Marah, the other Mary. But on the
heels of this came soon the graver problem, How should the babe be
reared, in Jewish faith or Christian? It was the old, old story of a
difficulty seemingly easily adjusted to all, except to those who have
actually met it, and in this case, as usual, the two parties fanatically
opposed each other. In the name of sweet religion they loyally served
the devil for a time. The highest achievement of a creed or faith is the
soothing and elevation of a home here, or the exalting of it heavenward
for hereafter. That is a travesty of piety which wrecks the substance
of joy for the shell of a dogma. This stricture is easily written and
may pass without dissent, the reader immediately falling into the error
denounced. Of course, as usual, these two parents began the discussion of
the subject. At intervals they cautiously pressed their arguments, but
each unwaveringly moved toward his or her point. They were like advancing
armies, firing occasional shots, but surely approaching a mighty issue.
They pretended to argue the matter by times, but it was a farce, for each
in mind irrevocably had predetermined the conclusion. Time sped on a year
or more, then the conflict fully came.

“Rizpah, we were wed by a Christian, let us take the fruit of that
compact to Christian baptism.”

“The first act was an error; we shall not atone for it by repetitions in
kind! The child is mine; I decline.”

“And mine, so I request.”

“A mother imperils her whole life for her child, and unreservedly gives
to it part of herself; justice, humanity, should give the child to the
mother, so far as may be.”

“But even under thy faith, I, the father, am the head of the house.”

“Under my faith the nurture and training of children belong chiefly to
the mother, and my faith has been the finest society-builder of the
world in the past. Thou hast often recounted to me the deeds of that
golden, heroic time of my people, when the great Maccabean family led us
and inspired us. Well, then, the mothers had exclusive control of the
daughters until they were wed, and so they had grand daughters among the
Maccabees.”

“Well, we differ in belief; we had better compromise.”

“We dare not barter a little soul to do it.”

“Well, briefly then, being lord of this home, I command that the
grace-giving sacrament be sought for our Mary.”

“My faith, to which thou didst first appeal, forbids fathers to command
their children to walk through idolatrous fires. Marah shall not.”

“Hush; I only want the loved one inducted into the true faith.”

“Mine is the older and truer.”

“With thee argument is futile; I insist——”

“If the father is a foreigner, Jewry’s rule is that the children are to
be called by the mother’s name and regarded as of her family. Make such
law as thou choosest for thy family but not for mine.”

“I’ll end this,” cried Sir Charleroy, seizing the child, as if to hasten
then to seek some priest’s ministry.

Rizpah’s eyes glittered with sullen purpose. She sprang before him, and
hissed:

“Our fathers escaped at all cost from Egypt. I’ll not go back, nor Marah.”

The knight was surprised, and his looks expressed it as he said:

“Dost thou rave?”

“Oh, no, I was just remembering that a bearded serpent was the Egyptian
symbol of deity; something like a man. You Christians would have all
husbands gods to their families! No bearded serpent for mine!”

“Heavens, woman! thinkest thou thy scorn and vituperation can stay me?”
So saying he pushed, or rather half flung the woman from him. He had no
conception of the rage that any thing like a blow evokes in the heart of
a woman that could love as once did Rizpah. On his part it was intended
as a masterpiece of strategy, in the hope that the woman would swoon,
then surrender in the weakness of following hysteria. The act was hateful
to him, but he justified it by the end sought, yet missed that end.

Rizpah was a tigress roused, and like many another mother, beast or
human, when the fight is once for offspring was endowed with sudden,
supernatural strength. She sprang toward the hammock, plucking her dagger
meanwhile from its hiding-place.

“Heaven defend us, woman!” cried Sir Charleroy, glancing about for a
means of prevention, “thou wouldst not do murder?”

“Oh, no, thou art not fit to die; but hear me; this blade, consecrated
to defense from dishonor, saved me once. Dost thou remember? It will do
it again, if need be. The giver sleeps, but his stern charge haunts me
still. ‘Protect at any cost from dishonor!’”

“Wouldst thou shed blood of any here!”

“Sir Charleroy saw me slay the Turk. Had I failed, thou falling, this
blade would have found my own heart. Push me onward by thy imperiousness
and I will slay the babe and then myself! Methinks, it would be an
atonement for which my parent would forgive my breaking of his heart. Ah,
then sweet rest; life’s tumults over! God would pity the tempest-tossed
soul that, through such bitterness, flung itself on Him.”

“Dost mean all this, Rizpah?”

“Can I trifle? Ask thyself. Have I ever? My desperate sincerity made me
thy wife, but now it impels me to defy all thy attempts to make me thy
minion, unthinking echo or slave; or worse, the ruiner of that girl.”

“Well, then, woman, since thou or I must yield and I can not, thou wilt
not, I execute my before announced purpose to have my lawful authority
acknowledged with thee or——”

“Say the rest, find peace away from me——”

“Which?” sternly demanded the knight.

“As thou dost wish, only I’ll not give up my child to Christian
sacrifice.”

“Then we can not live in peace together.”

“To which I reply, that God never ordained marriage to bind people to the
home when they can only for each other in that home make a very Tartarus!”

The knight was humiliated. He had believed that the woman’s heart could
not bear the thought of separation, and now to find her willing to give
him up, rather than her will, her faith, hurt his pride. But they had
made an utter crossing of purposes. He ran out of their stone house, his
heart as stony. A little way off he paused, looked back, and said, “For
the last time, Rizpah, what dost thou say?”

“Go; once for love I gave up all. Again I do it; I give thee up for the
highest of all love, the love of a mother for her child!”

Caressingly Rizpah embraced the infant; and then fell on her knees with
her face averted from her husband. He took one glance, and realizing the
defeat of his strong will by that kneeling woman, angrily hurried away.
The die was cast. He turned his back on Rizpah, swearing that he would
never more return.

For a few days Rizpah lived in a crazy dream; now laughing as she thought
of her victory; again letting her maiden love re-assert itself; then
assuring her heart that all was over and well as it was. But a woman who
imagines that reproach or even open violence can utterly extirpate love
that once completely possessed her, knows not her own heart. Especially
is this true if to that heart, she at times, press, lovingly, a child
begotten in that love, and the form bearing the impress of that man for
whom sometime she would have willingly died.

* * * * *

One night the baby cried piteously, being ill, and Rizpah was feeling
very lonely because so anxious for it. She had sometimes, since Sir
Charleroy’s departure, prattled with the baby calling “papa” and
“Charleroy,” mother-like, woman-like. Self-condemning, for this was a
half confession that she would have the little one think, if it thought
at all, that she, the mother, was not to blame for the absence. The baby
had caught some names and in its moaning, feverishly cried: “Abbaroy,
Abbaroy; I want my Abbaroy.” The cry was piercing to the mother’s heart
and conscience. She even then wished for the husband’s return. Indeed,
some hot tears fell as she prayed God to send “papa Charleroy back.” The
tie of marriage, potent beyond all of earth, now drew her away toward the
absent one, and she then began to marvel how easily they had separated;
how lightly they had regarded the bonds which after all tightly held
them. When lives have blended and been tied together by other lives, it
is indeed a prophesy of union “until death do us apart.”

“Abbaroy, Abbaroy! I want my Abbaroy,” still piteously cried the sick
child. The night without was raging; the little lamp sent dancing shadows
over the black walls of her room and an unutterable loneliness took
possession of the woman. One by one thoughts like these arose; “Father
dead, mother dead; husband as good as dead; perhaps really so, and my
child like to die! What if she should die thus crying for her father!
Oh, God spare me this! I’d go mad by her corpse.” “Abbaroy, I want my
Abbaroy,” sobbed the child in her sleep. The mother heard the waving
palms without. Her vivid imagination turned them into persons, spirits.
They seemed to be her dead ancestors and they caught up the cry of her
child rebukingly “Abbaroy, I want my Abbaroy.” She swooned now and slept.
In the sleep there came a dream. She thought she saw her daughter, grown
to womanhood, but pale and sad. She had the hand of her mother and was
drawing her toward the sea. Whenever the mother drew back the daughter
wailed “Abbaroy, I want my Abbaroy.” Presently their feet touched the
water edge, she saw a ship, floating at anchor, but with sails spread
partly; on its stern was the name, “_England_.” The captain stood by the
vessel’s side, observing her. At last he cried: “Well, how long must we
wait for thee?” A wave seemed to dash against her face and she awakened.
The heavy window blind of stone had swung open, the rain was beating in
on her. She started up and felt for her child, half fearfully lest a
corpse should meet her touch. But she found her hands clasping a little
form with fast beating heart and burning skin. The light had gone out,
but there alone in that desolate home amid the ruins of past ages, the
woman bowed in agonizing prayer. The balm of broken hearts was sought and
she for a time was clothed and in her right mind. She arose, serenely, in
the morning the cry of the sea captain of her dream in her ears, and the
firm resolve in her heart to seek her husband even in far-off England;
with him to try for the things that make for peace. Then she opened the
iron-bound chest that had come to her from her father and took therefrom
a roll of the ‘_Kethrubim_’ and read. And it so happened that seeking to
refresh her mind as to the story of how the giant Sampson got honey out
of the slain lion’s carcass, that she might more fully apply the meaning
to her own experience, she came to the story of his birth. That story
fixed her attention for days. It was like a new revelation to her. And
she read and read these words over and over:

“And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the Danites, whose name _was_
Manoah.

“And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her,
Behold now, thou shalt conceive and bear a son.

“Then the woman came and told her husband, saying, A man of God came unto
me, and his countenance _was_ like an angel of God, and he said unto me,
Behold thou shalt bear a son.

“Then Manoah entreated the Lord and said, O my Lord, let the man of God
which thou didst send come again unto us, and teach us what we shall do
unto the child.

“And God hearkened to the voice of Manoah; and the angel of God came
again unto the woman.

“And the woman made haste, and ran, and shewed her husband.

“And Manoah arose, and went after his wife and came to the man.

“And Manoah said, Now let thy words come to pass. How shall we order the
child, and _how_ shall we do unto him?

“And the angel of the Lord said unto Manoah, Of all that I said unto the
woman let her beware.

“So Manoah took a kid with a meat offering, and offered _it_ upon a rock
unto the Lord: and _the angel_ did wondrously; and Manoah and his wife
looked on.

“For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the
altar, that the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar: and
Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground.”

And as Rizpah read, little by little, the truth and beauty of the scene
and its words dawned upon her. Thus she meditated: “This is the way
God brought forth His giant deliverer, Samson; God appeared to the
woman first, but she hasted to tell of the promised blessing to her
husband.” When she thought of how that angel-led wife led her husband,
she remembered her own fanatical bitterness and was condemned. Then she
remembered how Manoah and his wife, together, asked how they should
order their child and how, as together they bowed before the Spirit, he
ascended in glory over them. “Oh,” she moaned within herself, “if we had
only put aside our differences and, forgetting all else, just so sought
together the Divine directings!” It was evening as she meditated, and
she said within herself: “If ever I can get nigh Sir Charleroy’s heart
I’ll tell him all this, and before the altar of a new consecration we’ll
give ourselves and ours to God, just this way.” There came a wondrous joy
to her heart and the palms that seemed to moan rebukingly without that
other night, “Abbaroy, Abbaroy, I want my Abbaroy,” this night reminded
her some way vaguely of the beating of mighty wings, approaching nearer
and nearer. She felt no longer rage, as she thought about the often
bepraised Mary of her husband, but on the other hand, wished she knew
more about her, were more like her. It was the woman in her, yearning for
a mother.




CHAPTER XVII.

RIZPAH, THE ANCIENT “MOTHER OF SORROWS.”

“Oh say to mothers, what a holy charge
Is theirs! With what a queenly power, their love
Can rule the fountain of a new-born mind.
Warn them to wake at early dawn and sow
Good seed before the world has sown its tares;
Nor in their toil decline, that angel bands
May put their sickles in and reap for God
And gather in his garner.”


Nearly a score of years passed away, each having wrought its changes,
and Rizpah de Griffin is dwelling quietly with her three children at
Bozrah. She is companionless though not a widow. Care has left its stern
impress on her every feature; the roses have gone from her cheeks and the
snows that tarry, baffling all springs, are on her head. But time that
has worn has also ripened. Rizpah has become a self-possessed, stately
matron; her form is erect, her eye as bright as ever. Bozrah has not
changed; the city sits in its sullen, fixed gloom, seemingly unconscious
of the ravages that time works elsewhere. But there have been changes
and changes among the people since first the woman of Gerash arrived
there. Many former inhabitants have wandered away; some to be swallowed
up by the tides of peoples of other climes; some have gone to judgment.
But new comers have taken the places of those that had departed and
speeded the swift enough forgetting of the absent ones, Rizpah was in
high honor, for although she lived in seclusion, mixing very little with
any of the people about her, all respected her. Hers was a well-ordered
house; Druses, Turks and Hebrews joined in affirming this. She ruled
her children firmly and they obeyed her implicitly, for they loved her
loyally. We meet her now amid active preparation for the observance of
the approaching Jewish Sabbath. With her are two boys, twins, born in
London, as like each other as could be, and Miriamne. The latter is in
the full possession of her roses, and in the enjoyment of that splendor
of personal charm seemingly belonging to all the maidens of Abrahamic
descent under “the covenant of the stars and the sand.” For are not
Israel’s women not only plenteous and bright and lofty like the stars,
and her men numberless, rugged and restless as the surf-washed sands on
every shore? Does not this race, in all history, continually attest the
persistence and pre-eminence of all good to those who walk under the
Divine covenants?

Miriamne not only is seen to possess a gracefulness like unto that of the
palm, nature’s pattern of beauty in the East, but she has such robustness
of form as might be expected in one born of such a Hebrew mother and
such a Saxon father. In her temper, poetic, emotional, oriental, like
her mother; in feature and mind more like her father; she was a better,
more evenly balanced result than either. It often so happens; the child
by some natural selection or some mercifulness, inheriting a character,
the resultant of the union of two sets of parental forces, yet finer
than either apart. The scientific man in such cases will say, herein we
behold, in a new being, physical and spiritual forces in action, the
latter gaining the advantage; a prophesy without mystery that at last the
fittest only shall survive. The theologian, on the other hand, will see
Providence electing the best and preparing choice characteristics for
superior works to be done.

At a call of the mother, the children gathered about her, and the group
was charming; a picture full of expression and contrasts. The matron
cast a look of yearning affection upon her offsprings, and the emotion
possessed her until the hard face-lines faded into a sweet smile. Just
then she would have been a satisfactory model for an artist painting
Madonna. “Thank God, children, the emblem of rest and of hope in ages to
come is at hand. I have joyed to-day, in full preparation that this next
Sabbath may be piously and earnestly celebrated with all the religious



Online LibraryA. Stewart (Alexander Stewart) WalshMary: The Queen of the House of David and Mother of Jesus → online text (page 15 of 40)