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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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She may have been weak before, but in that angel school she outgrew
her master. Ay, my child, it is marvelous how a woman rises under the
impulses of a noble love, holy companionship and plenty of sorrow. Many a
male brute has flattered himself he was crushing into fawning servitude
by his imperious, selfish will, his weaker child-burdened mate, only
some day to find the victim asserting her individuality with power
unearthly. The partridge skulks, terrified amid lowly grasses from the
hunter, little by little gathering courage for her pinions, then she
suddenly departs to return no more, meanwhile luring the hunter from her
treasures.”

“That is, an abused wife should run away?”

“Oh, perhaps not; but she may rise above her tyrant.”

“I can’t but remember the woman’s rough strength.”

“To me the all-controlling love of Rizpah for her children condones her
former errings, her Philistine ancestry, her craggedness. I believe she
soars with the angels now, and to Israel she must be a pattern until some
more saintly and finer woman arises to take the leadership of woman.”

“Will such an one appear, mother?”

“God’s dial is a circle, with a sweep like eternity. He knows no hurry;
yet, though never weary, is never belated. We are not waiting for him,
but He is for us. When man is ready to take up his pilgrim march to the
highlands of a living, all light, all beautiful, there’ll be beacons and
beacons from the valleys to the hills.”

Just then the lamp by which they had been sitting, for some time having
only flickered, was suddenly quenched, and there was a sound of the
fluttering of wings in the room. Miriamne screamed and clung to her
mother, her thoughts on the vultures of the picture.

“’Twas only a bat, daughter!”

“Oh, this ghostly place!” the young woman cried.

“Ghosts and bats are very harmless; would men were like them!” bitterly
spoke Rizpah.

“A bat putting out our light; it’s like an omen!”

“Yes, wrongs do put out the light of human joy, but only for a little
while; look out to the firmament, my clinging other self, as I do,
for comfort by times. See, the stars are immovable; all bright and in
seemingly everlasting calm. Never forget in any long trial, or sudden
terror, that when our human-made lights expire we are to turn our eyes
toward heaven. In truth, God Himself often quenches our lights to make us
look up to His.” The mother, approaching the stone casement, and looking
out on the sky, continued: “The heavens are full of beacons and lamps.
They shall light us to bed as His truth lights those who will to serene,
long rest. Good night, my child.”




CHAPTER XVIII.

THE QUEEN PROCLAIMED IN THE GIANT CITY.

“Half-hearted, false-hearted! Heed we the warning!
Only the whole can be perfectly true;
Bring the whole offering, all timid thought scorning,
True-hearted only if whole-hearted too.”—HAVERGAL.


Another Passover season was at hand, and the few Israelites in and
about Bozrah, not being permitted to celebrate the feast, at Jerusalem
were gathering for a “Little Passover” at the Giant City. There was
sadness, murmurings and fears in the hearts of the people. Sadness in
remembering the decadence of Israel; fears, for there were Mamelukes
hovering threateningly in large numbers near the city; murmurings,
because fault-findings, the last stage to indifference, flourish when
religion is decaying. Faith and doubt waged their eternal battle; and at
Bozrah, doubt appealing to present facts, had the easier part against
faith, appealing to past providences or unseen hopes. There was clamor
for a change, but the leaders of the people were purblind to any new
light. They crushed their own secret doubts and continued to enforce
what they believed, because they had believed it. They felt a sense of
responsibility, and that made them very conservative. Before the sun had
reached high-noon Bozrah was all astir. There were but two principal
streets in the city; these ran by the four great points of the compass
and crossed at its center. Two companies of Jews of very different
make-up, each moving along one of those streets, met, and, in passing,
quite accidentally, the two processions formed a cross. One of the
companies was made up of priests and serious old men, the true elders of
the people. They tried to appear very wise and very pious, and succeeded.
They tried as well to cheer and comfort all, and did not succeed very
well. The other company was made up of young Israelitish men. They were
going eastward; the old men walked northward, away from the sun, now a
little more than southeast. By the side of the elders glided a row of
shadows of their own making. But they were as unconscious of these as of
the shadows their musty traditions flung over the people.

The youths felt like singing, so they sang. The sadness that was so
general was not very deep with them. They would have liked to have sung
a sort of convivial song; but, that being forbidden, they compromised
with their consciences and the situation by singing the one hundred and
twenty-second Psalm, with the vigor of a madrigal. They had a surplusage
of vitality, and they let it flow out in the pious canticle. Certainly
they conserved outward propriety; as to their inward feelings, they
themselves hardly knew what they were; hence, it would be unjust, for one
without, to pass judgment. The Psalm was appointed to be sung at this
feast. They say the returning captives, coming from Babylon, centuries
before, sang this song as they ascended to a sight of Jerusalem.

Now, some of the elders had come to think it piety to morbidly nurse
their sorrows. They were never happy except when they were miserable. One
of these paused and addressed the young singers:

“Children, cease. Your time is too much like a dancer’s.”

Then all eyes turned toward the leader of the youths, a man with a
Saul-like neck, large mouth, wet, thick lips, and burning eyes; all
bespeaking a person who is never religious beyond the drawings of
religious excitement, for excitement’s sake, and never self-restraining,
except as checked by fear of a very material hell. Such an one, if he
have any regularity in his piety, will have it because somebody opposes,
or because, having swallowed, with one lazy gulp, a heavy creed, he
thereafter goes about condoning by habit his petty vices, in trying to
force others to be better than he himself ever expects to be. Such are
never spiritual, and seldom martyrs; but they make good persecutors, and
so do a work that compels others, by suffering, to be spiritual, and, may
be, good martyrs. This leader made sharp retort, thrusting out his chin
to enforce it:

“The Psalm is all right, and, if the old men sang more, they would have
less time for moaning. Singing and moaning are much alike, only the
former cheers men, the latter, devils!”

“Son,” replied the patriarch, “revile not the fathers. We do not condemn
thy joy as sin; but yet it now seems inopportune. We are entering
captivity, not liberation. Our holy and our beautiful temple is in ruins;
our people like hunted quail.”

“But, this is feast time,” said the youth.

“What a feast! I remember it as it was when the nation gathered at
Jerusalem, to the number of nigh 3,000,000, and offered 250,000 lambs.
Ah, now, a handful, in this grim old city surrounded by aliens!”

The elder, so speaking, bowed his head, threw his mantle over his
eyes and wept; meanwhile his fellow-elders gathered about him, very
reverently, and waved their hands rebuking toward the youths. Just then
there drew near a beautiful Jewess, led by an aged man, the latter garbed
partly as an Israelite, and partly as one of the Druses. He had a saintly
mien, and fixed the attention of the elders; but, the young men, with
one accord, youth-like, at once erected, in silent worship, an unseen
altar of devotion to the new goddess. The grouping was striking and
suggestive. The stranger was silent, and seemed to be intent on passing
by so; but the elders felt their responsibility. It is the fate of the
religious leader to be expected to explain every thing. He must talk to
every body, and about every matter. He cannot, when he will, keep quiet
and so get the credit for fullness of wisdom, as do some. He must express
an opinion, for silence is deemed a greater sin in such than insincerity
or words out of ignorance. The foremost of the elders felt called to act,
and so confronting the two new comers, sternly addressed the maiden:

“I perceive that thou art of my people; wherefore comest thou here, and
in this companionship? Knowest thou not that women are forbidden to be at
the first of the feast?”

The young men were not in accord with the elder; they stood apart, and
some whispered to others:

“It is Miriamne de Griffin.”

The maiden shrank back a little; but the saintly man with her, advancing
a step, replied:

“I am the maiden’s guardian to-day, fathers, and responsible for her act.
Say on!”

The elder, though knowing full well who the speaker was, and also fully
understanding the import of his challenge, pretended to have neither
heard nor seen him. He looked past the speaker, who was championing the
maiden, and continued:

“Do thy people at home know of these indiscreet acts?”

“Hold, Rabbi! no insinuations.” The saintly man’s voice was commanding,
and compelled silence. He continued: “We go our way, ye yours. Ye can not
help yourselves out of your miseries; then presume not to direct us.” He
checked his rising anger, remembering that he was a religious teacher,
and launched out in a wayside sermon. “Ye children of Abraham, hear me,
though I came not to counsel. Ye have stopped my progress, now hear God’s
truth! There are dangers without, but greater ones within; though your
eyes, being veiled, ye perceive not these things. I noticed as I was
coming this way that the tombs and grave-stones every where have been
whitened recently. They tell me this was done so as to enable your people
plainly to see them and so avoid them. Yet fleeing defilement of the
dead, ye live in a grave, all of you. All your prefiguring feasts have
ripened into a glowing present that treads out into a full day!”

The old men seemed puzzled and angry; the young men puzzled but glad.
They welcomed any sermon if it came with novelty. They reasoned within
themselves that the old teachings were dead, and that a new creed
could be no worse. If it were novel, it would have at least a temporary
freshness.

The speaker proceeded, for the congregation before him, being divided in
sentiment, invited him, so far, to proceed.

“Oh, nation, called to be the light of the world, ye bear but phantom
torches. Ye move sorrowfully, surrounded by walls of cloud, but just
beyond there lies a glorious firmament, aglow with suns of hope and a
thousand golden-arched doors made of realized prophecies and promises
ripened. Can ye make these ruined habitations of mighty men, now sleeping
in the cliffs and valleys about us, again teem with their former life?
No, no! yet less readily can ye make your dead, finished, vanishing types
take new life. Ye are puzzled and partially angry, but hold in check the
hot blood. I’ll soon depart; yet before I go, I’ll tell ye, all, this
for your deepest thinking: Ye can never celebrate again the Passover!
God shut ye from your Temple long ago to teach you this; these traveling
ceremonials of yours are but mockeries. The last real passover was
celebrated when your fathers slew the Nazarene——”

“Let us stone him!” vehemently cried the brawny leader of the youths, and
the elders turned their backs, as if to give approval to the violence,
but not incur liability by witnessing.

The brawny youth seized a boulder as if to begin; the saintly man did not
move, and another youth seized the arm of the youth of brawn.

“Young men, I’ll show you an entrancing picture,” was the saintly man’s
calm words. They were instantly intent. “Look, you and your old men
make the sign of the cross by your ranks. Look again, by the cross
stands this damsel, simple, pure and loving; an ideal woman. Her name,
Miriamne, or Mary. Do not delude yourselves into the belief that it will
be safe or possible for you to silence truth by murdering me. I’d despise
your attempt if I did not pity your thoughtless rage. Do not forget the
picture of this hour. The Passover will be fully celebrated when the
power of the cross and the presence of purity is universally felt in
earth. Only your men attend this your sacrifice. It is well; and when men
truly bear the burden of sacrifice, women will be at their feast. Now,
then, take heed. Farewell, ancients!”

So saying the saintly man of strange garb suddenly turned away, drawing
the Jewess with him. The elders were confounded; they could not find
words at the moment for reply; they were stung by the pleased and
approving glances that the young men gave the departing couple. The
elders would have been pleased to have taken the Jewish maiden from
her escort with violence, but the latter was a brawny man. The elders
knew the youths would not aid; to attempt it themselves would be likely
to be a failure, certainly undignified. They deemed it wise, in any
event, to conserve their dignity, and being unable to do any thing more
terrific, they hissed an orthodox malediction after the departing man
and woman. That made the elders feel a little better. The two companies
at the crossing of the streets fell to musing and conversing, but in
different groups. The old men talked as old men, deploring the present
and be-praising the past; the youths deplored the present and be-praised
the future; some of them trying to interpret the words of the saintly
man. They all wanted to be very orthodox Jews, and yet they all felt
that the stranger’s words were full of sweetness and good cheer. Some of
the youths, like others of their age, had unconsciously sided with the
strangers on account of the woman’s influence. They admired her, and the
side she was on was charmingly invincible.

“_The Arabs are coming!_”

It was a cry starting up from all directions, and passed from lip to
lip like the tidings of fire at night. The city was soon in confusion
and panic; then mixed crowds surged toward the crossing of the streets
like terrified sheep. They needed leaders or shepherds. But the elders
so lavish in advice usually, were dumb with fright now. Yet every body
looked toward them for direction. Suddenly, the saintly man and the
Jewess reappeared; as suddenly transformed to a self-reliant leader, she
cried out: “Youths of Israel, to the defense; the enemy come in by the
wall toward the Sun Temple’s ruins!”

“Perhaps it’s the ‘Angel of Death,’” cried the thick-necked leader of the
youths.

“The All-Father of the covenant forefend!” groaned some of the elders.

“Fathers,” cried the Jewess, “pray as you can, but we younger ones must
fight as well as pray. Pray the men to go to a charge!”

“A Deborah!” shouted the thick-necked youth. “Now lead and we’ll follow!”

“Shame!” cried the saintly man. “Lead yourselves!”

There was no need of argument; the thick-necked youth waved his hand
to the other young men and they all dashed away toward the advance of
the enemy; all of the city having a mind to fight, becoming instant
volunteers. But the elders, with a piety enforced by prudence concluded
to stay at the crossing and pray. Perhaps in their hearts they reasoned
that if the enemy were repulsed they might claim the glory of having
sustained the fighters, as Aarons and Hurs; if the youths and their
followers were overcome, then they, the elders, might claim prescience
and say at the end: “We knew it were vain to resist.”

Soon there were heard the shouts and clangor of conflict. The fight was
on. Miriamne breathlessly carried the news to her mother.

The matron laid her hand on her bosom, not to still a fluttering heart,
but affectionately to toy with the handle of her faithful dagger.

“Oh, mother, when will these troublous times end? what shall we do?”

“Daughter, fight! if need be.”

“But we are only women!”

“But this is woman’s time; remember Sisera!” Rizpah began dressing for
departure.

“Oh, mother, wait! Let us send the boys for news into the city. Perhaps
the worst has not come, when the mothers must take arms.”

Rizpah silently assented. The boys were sent, and in half an hour
returned with hot and beaming faces. “The Mamelukes are all slung out of
the city! Lots of them killed,” both exclaimed, between their pantings.

“How brothers: is it all over?”

“Yes, all over! They’re gone! Oh, you ought to have seen how our young
men and the Druses raced them,” interposed one.

“If it hadn’t been for the Druses we’d all been murdered!” cried the
other. Then the brothers caught up the narrative in turn.

“And, Miriamne, some of the young soldier-like men, after the fight,
went about shouting ‘_cheers for the flag of Maccabees and the maid of
Bozrah!_’ They say the ‘maid of Bozrah’ means you. What do they intend?”

Miriamne seemed not to hear the question. She was engrossed with her own
thoughts and thus was meditating: “It’s just as the Old Clock Man said!
The Druses by their needed aid prove it; the Jews need a Saviour!”

“Boys,” presently questioned Rizpah, “Were many of the heretics killed?”

“Oh, ever so many! Yes, and we want cloths for the wounded,” said the
questioned lads.

“Now, may the alien dead rot!”

“But we must bring cloths.”

“Who says it?”

“The ‘Old Clock Man’ told every body to help the hurt.”

“And who, pray, is this ‘Old Clock Man?’”

Rizpah was quickly answered by Miriamne.

“I know him, mother. He’s the leader of the Christians here, and a
wondrously good old man who heals the sick, feeds the poor, teaches the
ignorant and gives the true time of day to every body by the bell of his
religious house!”

The mother fixed her eyes penetratingly upon Miriamne for a moment, then
frigidly questioned:

“And since thou hast disobeyed me in making the acquaintance of a
stranger, thou wilt now explain why thou hast never mentioned to me this
‘Old Clock Man’ of whom thou dost seem to know so much! Who is he?”

“Why, he’s the ‘Old Clock Man’ who mends poor people’s clocks, plays with
the children and is doing every body kindness!”

“Some Christian witchery!”

“Oh, mother, he’s an angel if ever there was one on earth!”

“Is he a Jew?” almost hissed Rizpah.

“I’ve forgotten to ask about that; but I’m certain he is, if only Jews
are good, for he is a saint of God.”

Rizpah’s face wore a sneer as she again spoke: “How canst thou tell,
Inexperience?”

“By acts. He goes about seeking poor people to clothe and feed, and he is
their physician as well, and will take no pay.”

“Some Christian perverter, trying to seduce the unthinking by pretended
service. Beware of such, Miriamne!”

“But healing the sick and setting people’s clocks right can’t do harm!
I’m certain of that?”

“How sly; he would set all Jewry to Christian time and faith at the same
instant!”

“I love his way, mother; it is so good; more I do not know.”

“The old knave!”

“Oh! mother, he is old, but no knave. Ought we not to be reverent to the
hoary head in the way of righteousness?”

“Yet an old man may poison women and children. I told thee the story of
Agag once, daughter.”

“Yes.”

“I mean now to tell thee if this man be not a Jew, let him be like Agag,
hewn to pieces. Flee him as a leper.”

“He don’t talk so. He says all mankind are brothers. Only to-day, he
cried, to the men in the beginning of the fight, ‘save your families as
best you may,’ kill the wounded Moslem with kindness!” The rapid converse
of the two women was interrupted by the impatient cry of the boys for
wraps and lint. As they started away, Miriamne darted after them, saying:
“I’ll go and help those caring for the wounded.”

“Wayward,” called after her the mother, “remember my commands. Keep away
from the old Perverter, and minister to suffering Israelites, only. God
can spare the rest! Let them die.”

In the midst of the suffering ones, Miriamne soon found herself, and as
might be expected; there, too, was the “Old Clock Man.” As they met he
said, laconically, “It is fitting that woman’s tender hands minister
thus.”

“Thanks,” was her reply.

Presently Miriamne questions, with an unaffected diffidence, her
companion.

“Will you tell me your name?”

“Call me father, that’s enough.”

“Ah! but I can not, you are not my father.”

“I may be.”

“What jest is this! I’ve a father living?”

“I am father to multitudes, but after the flesh, childless.”

“Oh, thy children are dead, then?”

“Nay, some dead and some living; but, living or dead, they are my
children.”

“This is a wilderment to me. Where is your wife?”

“Everywhere. In early youth, with vows unutterable, I wed my church. She
is Humanity’s mother, and I the father of all of her children, who will
let me serve them.”

“And is this the Christian faith?”

“It is mine, anyway.”

“I like it. I’m sure it must be safe; being so good, and so you may be my
father that way. Are there many fathers like you?”

“Many, and many needed, else sin will make all orphans.”

“And you have no wife, no home?”

“A home most beautiful, which, at sunset, I’ll enter through a door, once
shut, not possible to be opened by my hands, though its fastenings be but
grass and daisies.”

“You mean death?” As she said it, tears welled in Miriamne’s eyes.

“Weep not, my child, death is beautiful, at least to me.”

“Oh, good man—father. I do not yet know how to think about you or these
things that you say. What made you so different from the people I know?”

“A woman, a lovely woman.”

“Your mother?”

“Not as you think.”

“Oh, then pardon my curiosity. You had some love?”

“Thou hast said it.”

“Why did you not wed her? Did she die?”

“A woman’s question? I’ll tell thee all some other time. I hear
approaching voices.”

“Tell me just a little more now; do?”

“Are the wounded all attended properly? Mercy first, stories and sermons
after.”

“Ah, here come my brothers. I’ll inquire;” and away ran Miriamne to a
group of youths, singing a roundelay, of which she caught but a few lines;

“Jew and Gentile, Christian, Turk,
Equally shall share our work.
For Adolphus’ good
We’d shed our blood,
For we have joined the balsam band,
To cure all troubles in our land.
We love the man,
We love the band.
We love the brothers of our balsam band.”

Miriamne comprehended the situation in a moment, and all radiant with
smiles, bounded to the side of her aged friend, crying: “Father, oh,
you’ve a bonny family coming; over fifty youths and maidens; some
Jews, some Gentiles. They’ve been comforting the wounded and now have
spontaneously formed some sort of friendly guild.”

“That’s praiseworthy so far,” the saintly man replied.

“And don’t blush; when I asked the leader what were their purposes and
name, a dozen cried out at once; ‘We’re Father Adolphus’s angels of
mercy!’”

“They could easily have found a better title, but youth in its frank
celerity interprets human need. We all must have a pattern or hero.
That’s the reason there are pagans; not finding the true God, some invent
one. Anyway, God blesses the merciful.”

“Oh, these angels are splendid; so earnest; so happy; so every thing
good! They all wear balsam-twig crowns, and are singing improvised
ditties about charity and humanity, and such like.”

“Praised be God if they mean them, daughter.”

“Mean them? Why they’ll make the ancients groan if they go to the
crossways with their enthusiastic singing. ‘Black-frowns!’ if they
disturb the Passover solemnities, won’t there be trouble?

“And Bozrah will never understand the meaning of the ceremonial, the
phantom of which meaning some to-day are pursuing, until it beholds sweet
charity sincerely applied, rising with healing and life in its wings to



Online LibraryA. Stewart (Alexander Stewart) WalshMary: The Queen of the House of David and Mother of Jesus → online text (page 17 of 40)