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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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life.

The queen of that domestic palace was happy; its king restored to his
rights and duties; therefore there was abounding delight and peace within
and without. Sir Charleroy and Rizpah, the two mature wed-lovers that
abode there, had, out of all their estrangements and tribulations, come
to understand at last that love grows out of law and is more than a
sentiment, free to go when lured or flee from that which burdens. It was
to them like a revelation from heaven to find that love is the vassal of
the will and can be made to go where it ought, as well as be reined back
from lawless rovings. They found there was great satisfaction in their
efforts to be very agreeable to each other. Sir Charleroy constantly
assured Rizpah of his belief that they were now more really lovers
than they had been in those fervent days at Gerash. She believed this
new creed with the avidity of a heart sore with long waitings for its
proclaiming.

The knight bethought himself of a graceful advance, and introduced the
matter with a sort of parable. “I’ve been thinking to-day that the only
man whom I ever felt like kissing, the man who loved me to the full of
his great heart, is present with us in spirit these days to joy over our
reconciliation. I’ve felt a strange thrill at times which made me think I
was touched by the glowing heart of Ichabod.”

“Ichabod?”

“Yes; he that fell in our defense the day of that perilous battle with
those Mamelukes, near Gerash. Ah, he had the heart of a mastiff, the soul
of a martyr!”

“Thy love is constant. But what’s in thy hand?”

The knight had hoped for the question.

“A token I took from his corpse. It was given him by a Copt priest, whose
life he saved in Egypt. See.”

“I see a stone in a gold setting; on the stone an image, I think of a
woman? I’ve noticed it with thee before.”

“I knew it! Once I thought thou didst observe it askance, as if a trifle
jealous. Well, no more secrets, no more jealousies. What says Rizpah?”

“I say amen; and yet I say tell all, or none; either way I shall be
content. Love’s trust, when full, has few questions and no doubts.”

“Nobly spoken, but yet I must tell all. The image is of _Neb-ta_, from
the country of Hamites.”

“What an odd figure! Her head-dress, a basket!”

“The basket on her head and the little house by her side betoken that
she was the presiding spirit of domestic life. I love Neb-ta! She ever
reminds me of woman at her best, as a mother brooding her chicks.”

“Praise be the Patriarchs; they left us testimonies which makes it
needless to go to Egypt for precepts concerning home-love!” responded the
wife.

“But, Rizpah, thou dost divert me! Wait; I’m coming around with the
patriarchs, by way of Jerusalem, to Bozrah.”

“Now, that’s a fine parade; I await it,” the woman, with quick reply,
answered.

“Tradition says this Neb-ta will stand before Osiris and Isis in the
judgment ‘hall of truth,’ where another deity styled ‘divine wisdom’
opens the books of men’s earthly deeds. As the great Anubis weighs them,
Neb-ta stands by ready to cut away the failings of those weighed. When
the scale of their merit is lacking, she herself leaps into it, to weigh
it down in their behalf.”

“A pretty myth for grim old Nile Land!”

“It proves man’s belief that at last he’ll need help.”

“It is strange those women degraders should have allotted one of that sex
so fine a part in the hereafter.”

“It illustrates the constant conviction in men’s hearts that woman’s
sympathy abides to the last.”

“In some men’s hearts, say. All are not equally just.”

“I’ll be direct, Rizpah, and sincere. I’ve felt an indescribable
unworthiness of all I enjoy here in the house saved and brightened by my
wife. I’ve been saying, ‘Oh, that some one like Neb-ta would cut off my
failings and enrich my merit.’”

Sir Charleroy, after this long journey around about, felt relieved. He
had made his confession and waited his absolution.

Rizpah’s eyes brightened up, and, though bedewed, shone with the luster
of gleaming affection.

He knew full well how to interpret that look, and evinced the quality
of the interpretation by quickly embracing her. There passed between
them salutations having the purity of manna, the lusciousness of Escol’s
grapes.

“Will Sir Charleroy need to go to Egypt for a Neb-ta?”

“No, never, while I’ve an all-forgiving, all-blessing Rizpah!”

Encouraged by the success attending one simile, he attempted another
later:

“I was thinking,” tenderly replied the knight, “that I’ve sinned against
God in the name of religion, and unconsciously offered ‘the female lamb.’”

“Pardon my stupidity, but yet I do not gather what is thy meaning.”

“My Rizpah has been sacrificed for years.”

The wife tried to reply, “I’m no lamb without blemish;” but her tears
and his passionate embrace, checked her utterance. To those without,
there is much incomprehensible in the estrangements and reconciliations
of human pairs, made utterly one in wedlock. If, since the Incarnate
died for love, and the Temple’s veil was rent, there has been on earth
an unrevealed Holiest of Holy places, it has been where wed lives,
alienated, have been reunited. It is like a sacrilege to attempt its
depicting to stranger eyes or ears. Many, for themselves, have been
within that holy place; each twain meeting its own peculiar and varied
experiences. But, having come forth with a natural and most meritorious
reverence for the events of such supreme hours, they are wont to withdraw
from human curiosity all that transpired, as completely as they hide from
the world their souls’ dealings with God. They who have never been within
that Holy Place, can not understand about what there transpires; those
that have been there, defend their sacred right to keep from all the
world that which they saw and felt, by refusing to give audience to the
experiences of others.

Sir Charleroy and Rizpah, at the time of the foregoing conversation,
entered serenely, lovingly that Holy Place. Then they took, as it were,
wings of memory and shields of faith. The grim giant house was forgotten.
Its walls seemed to thin away, until they had to themselves a broad, but
secluded world. There was light, but not exposure; repentance, mutual,
and forgiveness, not only free, but in every syllable seeming to have
balm for healing. There followed an unutterable sense of getting nearer
and nearer to each other. They felt as if they had but one will, and that
guided by God; one mind, and that clear and heaven soaring. The only
sense of being two, was in their beating hearts, and then two hearts
seemed more blessed than one; for being two, there was the joy of their
beatings for and against each other. Words fail; it would be sacrilege
to go further. Let the curtain drop. Leave them with a thousand angels,
winged and liveried in white, with wands of silence to keep watch and
ward until morning!

On the morrow they knew that both had surrendered and both conquered.
And by a paradox, to those uninitiated, each rejoiced as much in the
surrender each had made, as in the victory which had been won by the
one defeated. Defeat and victory was their common wealth. There was a
full community between them, and that made both rich, whatever their
possessings. Thenceforward, between them, there was perfect frankness
and consideration; no sarcasms, no recriminations, and hence no need of
foils nor masks. Christ had captured the Crusader’s heart, and he was
now, as never before, able to reveal the King of his soul to Rizpah. She
moved unconsciously into a beauty of character like unto that of Mary,
and her heart began singing a ‘Magnificat.’ The woman was transformed,
if possible, more completely than the man. For years amid hurtings she
had schooled herself to reticence, and had been an enigma to all who knew
her; but now, under the rising of this new sun, she opened as the blossom
of early spring. Sir Charleroy, indeed all who knew her, attested delight
and surprise; but Rizpah was as much surprised at herself as any other
could be at her.

“I didn’t know I could,” she exclaimed often with laughter and tears.
She seemed to break away and run from her former self as one from
some phantom, as a child from a reputed witch, or a freed bird from a
prisoning cage. She saw herself growing in all these things every moment
and exclaimed, in the rush of feeling; “I could fly, I’m sure!” Then
tenderly, “I would not, my mate, for a thousand worlds, unless thou
couldst fly with me. No, no, Charleroy, watch my wings; they are thine;
cut them if they grow or flutter for rising. If they do, they’ll do it
themselves, without my willing.” Again the sacredness of the holiest came
over them.

“Oh, Rizpah, I know, I knew this wealth of love was in thee; I’ve
wondered often why I could not find it.”

“I did not know it, my lover king; I’m glad thou hast found it, for thy
finding feeds me with light and glory! I’m carried back to Gerash and
Damascus.”

“I think not. There were flaming swords at Eden’s Gate, after the fall.
No going back; but the swords gave light for departure into broader
places. I think that’s the symbol of the sword and the flame, Rizpah.”
Again he spoke: “Hadrian built a temple of Venus over the tomb of
Christ, but Hadrian and Venus are no more in power and there has been a
resurrection from that tomb.”

“Ah, Sir Charleroy, I’m a child in thy creed, but I’m comforted by thy
resurrection hopes, especially since conversing yesterday more freely
than ever with our lovely child of God, Miriamne.”

“Hers is an angel’s visit, wife.”

“And angel-like, with filial spirit, she comes, this time, with request
for our consent to an act of great import to her.”

“So; and what may it be? Though I know it can only be good.”

“She came to tell us, that she desires publicly to profess the religion
of the Naz——of Jesus.”

Sir Charleroy felt a twinge of an old pain, and for a moment queried
within: “Will the old struggle over faiths again confront us?” But he
dismissed it with an unexpressed “Impossible, we’re all changed!” Then
replied he quietly with a question. “Does the dear girl fully understand
the seriousness of the act? If she do and then acts, I’ll be glad to
commit her to Christ as her Bridegroom and King.”

“We cannot be with her always, and she seems determined to go through
life unwed.”

“A Neb-ta, an angel spinster, mothering other people’s chicks! But what
says my Rizpah of our daughter’s purpose to profess her faith?”

“I? This: God being my Helper, I’ll never again stand between Him and any
soul, except it be to pray for that soul’s health.”

Just then the maiden entered bearing a lamp which suddenly lighted the
room, now well nigh in darkness. She presented a most striking and
suggestive figure. Her eyes were full of her heart’s chief question, and,
standing in the light of her own bearing, she seemed to fitly represent
the part she had borne in that household.

Sir Charleroy, anticipating his daughter’s question, greeted her with
promptness thus: “Sunshine, thy purpose I know. It’s all between God
and thyself. Go gladden Father Adolphus and Cornelius with an early
profession.”

She was filled with surprise, and voiced its chief cause:

“Cornelius? He’s at Jerusalem!”

“Well, if so, ’tis wonderful, since I met him here to-day.”

“I wonder,” she meditated, meanwhile speaking her thoughts as if
unconscious of those about her, “What brought him here?”

“Oh,” replied the father, “he says ‘to see Father Adolphus about the
church of Jerusalem;’ but Father Adolphus says ‘the young man came
because he could not help it, to see his good angel.’”

“‘His good angel!’ Whom?”

“Now, Sunrise, guess! When thou dost so, to make short work, begin with
the good angel of us all, Miriamne.”

Miriamne lifted her hand reprovingly, but the tell-tale crimson hung
confession on her cheeks, while her lips, wreathed in smiles, told her
pleasure.

“Well, now, will my father go with me to good Adolphus about my
profession?”

“As thou mayst like, but it will be easier to reduce three to two than
four to two!”

Again the uplifted, reproving hand and the blush and Miriamne ran out.

* * * * *

“Do not reöpen that question settled once; it can only pain us both to
recur to it.”

“‘Reöpened!’ ‘Settled!’” exclaimed Cornelius. “Not with me. Nothing in
silence can settle it; and it is always open to me, sleeping or waking.”

“The consciousness of duty done comes like the breezes of Galilee,
turning all moanings to a song within me.”

“Oh, Miriamne, who is it decrees that we, belonging, all, each, to the
other, should be torn asunder ruthlessly? Duty, conscience! Hard metallic
words when they describe the links of a chain! Ah, our misconceptions
often bind us to pain; this one I cannot bear!”

“And yet, Cornelius, you told me in that Adriatic storm you could as
easily drown a passion rising against righteousness as you could drown
the body then, by a plunge into the billows!”

“You held me back when I moved forward to show how easily I could make
the plunge.”

“But then you had no intention of leaping to death!”

“Not while held back by Miriamne!”

“I? Poor, weak I, hold you?”

“To me your touch has ever had persuasion and might! Oh, woman, you lead
me captive to your will in chains riveted, unyielding, and yet of golden
delights.”

“Say not so. We have each a great mission, but apart.”

“Apart! The decree that settles our courses that way is monstrous. It is
not of God. He ordained that our race go in pairs. And when He set up
the new kingdom of Jesus, its heralding disciples were sent forth two
by two. As Moses needed his Hobab, Christ his confidants, so need I a
yoke-fellow. I’ve no ambition to live, much less to work, unless I have
my heart’s idol with me.”

“Illusion.”

“Call it ‘_Maya_’ if you like; but ‘_Maya_,’ Brahm’s wife, illusion, made
the universe visible to him. So say those ancient mythologians. I can see
nothing without my Miriamne!”

“Oh, man, hold; nor pain me further! I cannot help you. How can I,
since my own chosen work seems too great for me! I’m like a mere shell,
drifting with the tides, without sail or helm; the harbor unknown. I only
know I carry a precious pearl, truth, and that there are those who need
it. I must bear it to them.”

“I’m a shell, without helm or sail, and have the same pearl. Let me
voyage with you.”

“And—what?”

“In all brevity—marry me!”

“That cannot be, I fear. I’d rather be the——. Can’t I be your ideal
as Mary?” She blundered amid her efforts to express herself, and the
tell-tale blush betokened defeat.

“Yes; be my Mary, and let me take the place as your Joseph. Mary was a
wife and mother. The greatest of God’s works in the old dispensation was
to translate men; in the new dispensation, seeking to surpass the old, He
presented a perfect woman, in her highest estate, as the queen of a home!”

The woman was silent for time. There then seemed to her to be two
Miriamnes, and the debate was transferred from being between the young
man and herself to these two which she seemed to be. One Miriamne said
“Yield,” one “Be firm.” One said, “He has the better reasons,” one said
“Nay;” one said, “It is pleasant to be overcome,” the other said “_Maya,
Maya, Maya!_” Then recovering herself she exclaimed, “I wish the priest
were here; he’d guide us by the Divine word.”

“I have a holy text,” and drawing a line at a venture, the youth repeated
these words:

“‘_God said it is not good that man should be alone!_’”

She smiled and stammered:

“Oh, Cornelius! I want to admire you and lean on you as my guide,
teacher, pastor; but you meet all my approaches that way, transformed to
a lover.”

“_Maya! Maya!_ Miriamne; let the illusion work; sleep the Leathen sleep;
yield to love’s dream; then comes the full noon to awaken to marriage
joy. Thou wilt find, not above thee but at thy side, then, the teacher,
guide; shepherd as well; but also the husband.”

Miriamne had reached a point of hesitancy, which is, in all lives, just
a step from surrender, and the lover, made alert by his ardor, perceived
the advantage. Though a prey to hopes and fears, an incarnation of
paradoxes, in which bashfulness contested with audacity for control
of the will, he gathered all his powers into a grand charge. With a
tender vehemence he stormed the citadel of the heart before him. First
he imprisoned her hand in his; he had done so before. Now it fluttered
strangely; presently it rested as a bird; at first as if frightened, then
helpless, then content. All that followed may be easily imagined. Suffice
to say that Cornelius Woelfkin just then believed life worth living and
the universe made visible, though not by an illusion.

Just as many another of Eve’s daughters placed as she in a tempest of
delights, she confessed her capitulation by a series of retorts, which
gave her relief from tears by affording apologies for laughter.

“No woman ever so loved as I now? You men all talk that way at betrothal!”

“‘To death!’ Miriamne, ’twill be true with me.”

“Yes, at betrothal and when their wives are dead, they say men are very
affectionate. But, Cornelius, remember I’ll expect sweets between times.
Do not love me to death at first, vex me to death later, then go mad for
love’s sake after I’m gone!”

He vowed, protested and assured; she believed him without the shadow of
a doubt. They were irrevocably committed to each other now. There was
a rush of thoughts, plannings, questionings and hopes. Two lives apart
converging, becoming mysteriously one. Over them arose that wondrous sun
which illumines some betrothal days. They were both very happy, very
proud, and also each to the other very beautiful. The harmless conceits
of love possessed them and they persuaded themselves easily that they
were at the center of all things, even of the infinite love of God. The
glow of their own hearts brightened to them all things immediately about
them, and they entered that arcana of delights where secret blessings
may be experienced but can not be depicted. They ate of that hidden
manna which is reserved alone for those who sincerely love and are
loved. No being ever loved as they, who afterward despised or regretted
the enchantment, although it brought some pain or at the last ended in
disappointment. None ever having been for a season in that Beulah-Land
but wishes himself there again. None who comprehends the thrillings of
lover days can fail to envy more or less, if they are loveless, those who
are in love as these twain were.

Much of the ridiculing of this grand passion, affected by some, is after
all the result of envy, secretly longing for that beyond its reach.
Sometimes the enraptured themselves attempt this deriding, but theirs is
an hysterical laughter, a feeble effort to rest from the intensity of
their rapture or to hide their secret from others. The laughter of all
such as the foregoing is hollow and eventually turns the shame back upon
the ridiculers who would cover others with it; for love, while it is an
angel of sunshine, has also the power of carrying to every heart which
shamefully entreats it remorse, humiliation and pains as numberless as
nameless.

Cornelius and Miriamne, the young reformers, having embarked fully
upon the full, glowing, exalting, triumphant tide of their love were
themselves reformed and transformed. A while ago each was willing to
die for the world, now each was willing to die, if need be, for the
other and not for humanity’s sake, unless some way the heart’s idol was
to be part of the reward of that sacrifice. This new tide carried them
quickly to that place of paradoxical oscillations, the place where the
lover is one moment utterly self-denying, the next utterly grasping;
willing to be annihilated one instant in behalf of another, and then in
an avariciousness without a parallel on earth, the next moment willing to
annihilate the universe rather than be bereft of the one object deemed
above all others.

The young lovers passed through the usual, often experienced, often
depicted, old, old, ever new phases of this relation. The fire kindled
in their hearts sped from center to center of their beings, the laughter
of secret joy quivered along every nerve of each. Each was happier than
it was possible to tell, even that other one that awakened the joy.
Their gait, their blushing cheeks, their flashing eyes, and their words
proclaimed unmistakable the complete coronation of love. They believed,
and perhaps properly, that they were enjoying the seraphic, exuberant,
mellow, yet exciting delights of an hundred ordinary lives merged into
one. Each in turn, over and over, in repetitions that tired neither to
utter nor to hear, said to the other: “I love you.” A rain of impassioned
kisses made reply. Time was not observed; they forgot their former hurry,
that pushed them earnestly, ever toward duty, when they were committed
to being reformers. They were only and completely lovers now, and lovers
are beings whose existence is in a heaven where there are no clocks.
The sun set over Bozrah while the twain communed, but there was so much
light in their hearts they did not observe the lull of night around them.
Existence seemed to them a living fullness, a soaring upward without
friction or effort, and they incarnated that which at last makes heaven,
perfect desire perfectly satisfied. They were presently recalled to the
things outside of themselves by the sound of some one approaching.

“It’s Father Adolphus. I know his step,” remarked Miriamne.

Cornelius, remembering his recent, successful assault, was encouraged
to attempt another. His heart whispered to him: “Why not make this
matter final now?” His heart seemed to grow pale and trembled at its own
whispering, until he himself grew pale and trembled throughout his whole
being, at the audacity of the thought. But love’s suggestions are ever
very domineering; this one dominated the man instantly, and he acted on
it.

“Miriamne, why not permit Father Adolphus now to seal our betrothal with
his blessing?”

“He will bless us, I know,” quoth the maiden, evasively; but she knew
what her lover meant full well. Not only so, her heart, against her
judgment, was siding for the blessing.

The youth felt certain he had carried one line of defense, and now went
charging onward, determined to carry all before him.

“Yes; he will bless us, I know, if we ask him. I’ll ask him, and then,
Miriamne, mine, I’ll call thee no more sister, but wife.”

“Oh, you are in such a hurry! This is all too sudden. I—only wanted to be
engaged—not married, perhaps, for years. We could work for the Master—”

She was interrupted, as victorious lovers usually interrupt.

Just then the priest entered. Miriamne tried to greet him with a smile
and a sentence, but she was under a spell. She seemed to herself to be
a different woman than she was when he last met her guide. She spoke a
few meaningless words, which were lost in the vigorous utterance of her
companion, as he explained the betrothal and requested its ratification.

The aged man of God looked tenderly down on both, and then questioned:

“Miriamne, I know his heart toward thee; is thine resting on his?”

The maiden drooped her eye-lids, but the tell-tale blush on her cheek
gave answer.

“Shall I commit you to each other before God, forever!”

Her hand rose in an effort to restrain, but it fell back into her lap, as
if unwilling to do so.

“Bless us quickly, good father, I pray you,” spoke Cornelius.

“Clasp four hands crossed,” said the priest.

The maiden’s hands joined those of the young man, and yet one drew back a
little, as if to say, Wait. The motion was slight; then she found voice.

“But, Father Adolphus, do you think God will condemn, if we do?”

“God made such as ye are to love each other. What says thy conscience?
Speak frankly now, girl; thou art with those that care for thee with an
eternal regard.”



Online LibraryA. Stewart (Alexander Stewart) WalshMary: The Queen of the House of David and Mother of Jesus → online text (page 30 of 40)