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“My conscience does not condemn, and I commit all I am to the guidance of
you two men. I feel quiet and safe in the committal.”

And the solemn sealing words were soon spoken.

“Shall I pronounce you husband and wife?” questioned the priest.

Cornelius, like a knight in full charge desirous of taking all before him
as trophy, exclaimed quickly, confidently: “Yes, yes, all!”

Then Miriamne recovered herself in the emergency, and with maidenly
dignity and tenderness, yet with unalterable firmness, said: “Nay.”

“But, Miriamne—”

The youth could proceed no further. He was defeated by the glance that
met his, filled with pious, kindly, yet firm dissent. She spoke then
freely.

“Before God we are affianced; the first step, as an Israelite, I’ve
taken. We are now bound to each other forever. I am proud to wear the
yoke of betrothal. We must wait before the final words are spoken, until
we’ve seen my parents, and until God has given us further wisdom.”

She prevailed. Shortly after the foregoing, Cornelius, taking a tender
farewell, returned to his work at Jerusalem.




CHAPTER XXXII.

THE QUEEN AND THE GRAIL SEEKERS.

“My good blade carves the casques of men;
My tough lance thrusteth sure,
My strength is as the strength of ten,
Because my heart is pure.

Sometimes on lonely mountain meres;
I find a magic bark,
I leap on board, no helmsman steers,
I float ’till all is dark.

A gentle sound, an awful light!
Three angels bear the Holy Grail,
With folded feet, in stoles of white,
On sleeping wings they sail.

So pass I hostel, hall and grange;
By hedge, and fort, by park and pale,
All armed I ride, what e’er betide,
Until I find the Holy Grail.”—TENNYSON.

“Moreover certain women of our company amazed us, having been
early at the tomb.”


Another Easter, to some the brightest yet, smiled in Bozrah, and Miriamne
was at the Christian Chapel.

Father Adolphus, after serious, tender greeting, questioned:

“I wonder thy father came not to-day?”

“Oh, he’s celebrating the resurrection of love, joy, and peace, at home.
You often told me these were the realities of Christ’s rising.”

“Thy joy in this must reach all fullness?”

“I don’t know, I’m in a strange way—very happy, yet very restless.”

“I have seen souls before at their noon; hast thou not observed how the
air seems to tremble sometimes at midday? This is not fear but fullness.”

“Oh, my shepherd, I’m not at noon yet, only dawn. I’ve only begun my
work.”

“Has our missionary Cupid other couples at odds to reunite?”

“Perhaps so; but whether God calls me to such work or not, this much I
know, He has put a burden on me.”

“Will Miriamne confide it to me—or has the lover dethroned the priest?”

“There now, never say that again! None on earth can dethrone in my heart
my constant friend and guide; yea under God, my savior! Had there been
no Father Adolphus there would have been no lover; at least no Christian
Cornelius, as my heart’s lord.”

“I fear Miriamne in her generous desire to cheer a tired old man
flatters.”

“No; not flattery, but just award. As the ancient captives on their
return to their own Israel gave their wealth to provide crowns for their
priests, so do I to-day offer the finest gold of my heart to the man who
piloted me with purity, patience, and wisdom, along and over perilous
ways, to happiness beyond all words to express.”

The old missionary’s face expressed the wondrous comfort he felt in the
words of his convert.

“And what is it that burdens thee, daughter?”

“I hope my pastor will not be offended, but I’m burdened by the slow
dawning of religious day. Why does it take so long to convert the earth?”

“The zeal of the young convert fills thee!”

“Ah, but that trite answer, defense of the slow progress of true or false
creed, after all does not answer. I feel those Easter services at times
lifting me up, out of and beyond myself, out of all thought of my own
final glory, and to anxiety for a lost Israel, a lost world! I think,
at times, I comprehend what was meant by the descent to the grave, the
captivity of death, the triumphal ascent, and then I wonder and doubt.”

“Wonder and doubt?”

“Yes; I wonder at the grandeur of all that the resurrection implies,
and seeing it unrealized I doubt whether my interpretation of it be the
right one. Worse than that, I’m pained by darker doubts. Forgive me, but
my poor soul sometimes questions whether or not God has grown weary or
failed to keep His promises. Oh, these doubts pain me to my heart’s core,
but they will come! I see day by day on every hand such widespread gloom;
not only that very few walk in the light, but how many shadows fall on
those who profess to have entered the light of the Rising?”

“Alas, day drags wearily!” slowly responded the priest.

“Yes; the centuries since Calvary, filled with misery, ignorance, and
sin, seem to me to have rebuke in them to all who saw, from time to time,
the Gospel light, and imperious urgency for those who see it now.”

“But the church is doing its best to get onward, Miriamne.”

“That I doubt, though I’d fear to be heretical.”

“Again, I do not comprehend thee, girl.”

“That’s it; I do not comprehend myself, or what it is that I’m stirred to
be or do. I think that there’s a reason for sadness at Easter time. It
is the reminder of a great hope unfulfilled. Over twelve hundred years
have passed away since Christ arose, typical of the rising of mankind by
faith to all that was noble and blissful, and yet we are all in the dim
twilight of the morning. Oh, my teacher, it seems to me as if a funeral
chord went weeping through every Easter anthem.”

The old priest sat silently for a time, then bowed his head and wearily
sighed; “I have done my best any way!”

“Oh, do not think I doubt that! No, no; I’d not hint a rebuke of my noble
guide; but I can’t make you understand me! Nobody seems to grasp my
meaning! Yet of this I’m certain, I want to do something differing from
what has been; something great, revolutionary, for the world, for Christ.”

“All reforms are revolutionary; all consecration to noble work, noble.”

“I suppose I express myself as vaguely as other Christians, whose efforts
are chiefly words. But why is it that there can not be a presentment of
Divine truth in such a simple and attractive form as to make all hearing
and seeing love it? Why is it that the followers of truth separate into
armies, not only not sympathizing with, but opposing each other? Why do
not all having a common Father and one Saviour, join as one loving family
to bear aloft the banner of the Invincible?”

“That day will come in God’s good time.”

“Oh, again forgive me; but that trite apology for the delayed dawn seems
to me to fling the blame on God in order to palliate man’s indifference.”

“Miriamne, thou art thoughtful beyond thy years, but what wouldst thou
have?”

“Some one to show me how, and when, and where to proclaim a revolution!
There is need that Israel believe; that one half the race, its women,
be crowned with its full privileges and powers; that Christian humanity
check war, banish poverty and bring in universal justice.”

“Revolutionist, indeed; though a blessed one art thou!”

“So I’m often told; but who will show me how to work for such ends!”

“Hast thou among thy knightly companionships heard of the Grail knights?”

“I’ve heard of them; but not a great deal. Why ask?”

“Thou art like them.”

“I’m glad to know whom I’m like; tell me of them that I may know myself.”

“They, as their life work, and with charming enthusiasm, sought an object
pure and noble, but which none but they themselves could see.”

“Did they obtain their object and do much good?”

“They were a blessing to the world; but sometimes, like others seeking
lofty ends, they failed. Eternity alone can estimate their work and
worth.”

“Where are they now?”

“Their successors are like thee. That grail guild of old is now no more.”

“Tell me all about them and the Grail!”

“Listen. Joseph of Arimathæa, he that secretly followed the Lord in his
lifetime, and openly, after he saw the glory of His crucifixion, is
said to have caught the blood that flowed from the speared side in the
paschal vessel or cup used at the last supper. There is a cathedral in
Glastonbury, England, which once I saw, erected on the place where Joseph
builded a little wicker oratory, when there as a missionary. At least
they say he once was there. The aged Joseph died and the Grail or Passion
cup passed into the custody of other holy men. Finally a custodian of it
sinned, and thereupon it was caught away quickly to heaven. But there is
a legend that it is brought, from time to time, to earth, only to be seen
by those that are pure—virgin men and women. Then out of the yearnings
for the cup’s presence (for it is said it gave unutterable joy as well
as miraculous healings to any that came nigh to it), an order of knights
sprung up, to seek it, everywhere in earth. They were sworn not to
disclose their mission, and bound, as their only hope of success, to keep
their hearts noble and pure.”

“But how am I like a ‘grail knight?’”

“Miriamne pursues a heavenly cure for human ills, a something she cannot
see nor quite explain.”

“’Tis true and wonderful.”

“The ‘grail’ story is almost as old as man, being shaped out of other
most ancient pilgrim quests. All noble hearts yearn for a healer and
ideal.”

“Perhaps the time has come for a woman crusade, a new order of grail
seekers?”

“Indeed, I think as much; and Miriamne, taking Mary as her model, may be
the very one to proclaim it.”

“But being a woman, and so young, I might be ridiculed as an enthusiast,
as brazen, perhaps, or worse, if I attempted such things.”

“If thou didst undertake any thing truly good, thou wouldst best know
its goodness by the bitterness of its opposing. The cross is very bright
on one side, on the other it casts shadows. Walking toward it we walk in
those chastening shadows. But when we’ve passed the grave, which it ever
guards, there is light, all light—not before.”

“Sometimes I think I’m a very womanish woman and not the stuff of which
the heroine can be made.”

“To be a woman is to have within thee a wealth of power. To be queenly
is to do in queenly spirit the work falling to thy lot. Behold the
queenly women of the patriarchs! Rebecca watered the flocks, Rachel was
a shepherdess. The daughter of Jethro, King of Midian, also kept the
flocks; and Tamar baked bread. The Word of God records these things,
methinks, to show in what a queenly way a queenly woman may perform a
seemingly unimportant work. Doing humble works well, they had their honor
in due time. Think of our Mary, Mother of Jesus, after her call, serving
humbly as a good housewife to a carpenter.”

“Oh, if I could only catch the flavor of her life more fully!”

“A worthy wish! Her life was a sermon on faith. Called of God to bring
forth Immanuel, she accepted the trust with joyful humility, leaving
the miraculous performance to the Promiser. For thirty years, from
Bethlehem’s cradle to Bethabara, where Her Son was owned of God, she
bore her pains and toils, facing persecutions, the leers and slanderous
innuendoes of the rabble, all without faltering. Only wondrous faith
kept her gentle young heart from breaking! I think she carried the cross
all along the course of Christ’s life—until He Himself took it. She
wrought out her work as a satellite of her son, and yet as a poem most
eloquent, voicing thoughts without which some of His wondrous, greater
life would lack explanation.”

“I fain would be like her, but then to be so seems beyond my capacities.”

“If thou canst not be a satellite of the Sun as Mary, be a satellite of
a satellite. Reflect her, and it will be well, since she reflected Him.
’Tis a simple lesson, but profitable; learn it; there is greatness in
little things; regarding them we may at the same time lay hold of that
that is great. I’d have all women heroines by teaching them what heroism
is.”

“Was Mary learned? She had to meet some grand company?”

“Wise, as thou mayst be in the solid culture of God’s word.”

“But I can never be a Mary,” presently the maiden murmured.

“Thou canst be thyself, and what thou canst. A seraph could be no more.
God needed for his lofty purpose but one like the Maiden of Nazareth, and
for thy comfort remember Mary could not have been the mother of Jesus and
Miriamne de Griffin of Bozrah also. She had her mission, thou thine; it
is a judgment of God to attempt to say that each in her station was not
and is not placed in the way most excellent.”

Their converse ended but to be renewed. At frequent intervals Miriamne
advised with her guide upon the subject uppermost in her mind, and
more and more became endued with the spirit of the missionary. To all
questionings within herself, as to how she might compass her lofty and
philanthropic designs, there came but one answer, “To Jerusalem!” It
seemed to her that there, at the heart of Syrian life, she might obtain
inspiration and wisdom, as well as the widest possible opportunity of
applying these for others. To her to believe was to act, and so she soon
had completed all her arrangements to join a band of pilgrims passing
by way of Bozrah toward the great city. The parting was painful to
mother and daughter, and unlike any they had experienced before. The
daughter felt a misgiving. Her mother was aged. The tensions of trial
and responsibility being removed so largely from the life of the latter
by recent events, left her spiritless. Perhaps it would be more accurate
to say that in the days of excitement and conflict she exerted herself
beyond her ability; now, when the motive was gone, nature proclaimed its
premature exhaustion. Miriamne was convinced that she would be motherless
ere long, and was haunted by misgivings as to ever again seeing her if
she left Bozrah. Rizpah herself, though she feared that the present
separation and farewell were to be final, urged her child tenderly,
earnestly, to go forward as conscience dictated. The parting between
these two women was secret, they two being alone. It was affectionate
and most tender, and yet cheered by the mutual hope both expressed of an
eternal reunion after death. The eventful day and the supreme moment came
to find Miriamne and her mother nerved for the parting. That was soon
over, and the maiden moved out of the old stone home toward the white
camel already caparisoned for her use. Father Adolphus and Sir Charleroy
awaited her by its side, having repeated, over and over, to the maiden’s
chosen attendant a score of directions, and having in the fussiness
of nervousness again and again examined bridle and girt and hamper.
The maiden, glancing after the caravan of pilgrims which was to be her
convoy, now slowly passing out of the city, turned toward her father to
say the last words of parting. She began: “And now, dear father.” Her
voice, tremulous to begin with, broke down.

“There, Miriamne,” interrupted the knight, “wait, we’ll accompany thee a
little distance.” The three moved out of the city together, the attendant
riding on before them. They were all too sorrowful to speak cheerfully,
so each said nothing. On the crest of a hillock the old priest paused;
simultaneously the father and daughter did likewise. “I’m too weary to
go further,” spoke the priest. Miriamne’s eyes filled with tears, and
Sir Charleroy, drawing close to the maiden, turned his eyes away. He
stood in silence gazing afar, but at nothing. Each at the last seemed
to dread to be the first to speak that one word so inexpressibly sad
when believed to be about to be spoken as a last “farewell.” The silence
became oppressive, and then Father Adolphus murmured, “I suppose we must
bid thee adieu, now.” Sir Charleroy shuddered and drew his turban down
over his eyes.

Just then all the child and all the woman in Miriamne’s nature was
awakened. Her feelings well nigh over-mastered her, and she exclaimed:
“Oh, Bozrah, how can I leave thee and thy dear ones!” Bozrah to her meant
home; for a moment her world seemed centred there. The old priest, ever
adroit in ministering comfort, sought to divert the thoughts of those
about him from needless pain, and so shading his eyes looked steadily
eastward for a few moments. Then he questioned: “Daughter, canst thou see
Salchad, at the Crater’s Mouth. I can not see it for my sight faileth;
but I know ’tis yonder.” Miriamne followed the direction of the priest’s
pointing hand, though she knew full well without directing, where the
grim fortress city lay. Habit had made it natural to follow the guidance
of that old, trembling hand. Some way, it helped her; she seemed better
to understand what she already partly knew, when it directed.

“Yes, I see it. It is there; changeless and dreary as ever. But why this
question?”

“Dost thou observe how the prospect fades away south of it, until it
reaches the spreading desert?”

“Yes, I perceive!”

“Turn to the north, what object is most striking?”

“Oh, Hermon! ‘The old-man mountain;’ the sun makes its snowy-top appear
to-day very like the white on an old man’s head and chin.”

Sir Charleroy’s attention was recalled from his contemplation of the pain
of parting for an instant, and he questioned:

“Canst thou see aught of the ruins of the ‘Temple of the Sun,’ said to be
at Hermon’s crest?”

But before an answer could be given to the knight’s question, Father
Adolphus exclaimed: “Daughter, look back again to ruined Salchad! Beyond
its ‘war tower of giants,’ there lies only the desert. Now turn thy back
on it all forever, without repinings. Leave the desert and the war tower
of the giants to the wandering Bedouin.”

“And then what?”

“Turn thy face toward Jerusalem, thy back to the drear desert—”

The maiden almost involuntarily complied, and the priest continued:

“Go forward with Hermon on thy right. Remember that the temple of the
Fire Worshipers is overturned, its altars cold; but more remember that on
Hermon humanity was transfigured in answer to prayer.”

“And so my shepherd and guide would promise me blessing and bid me God
speed?” quoth the maiden.

“Thou read’st my heart, daughter.”

“The same true heart; it never gets old or weary of cheering.”

“I’m made grateful and happy, daughter, by thy words. He that saith,
‘_Let not your hearts be troubled!_’ and ‘_comfort ye, comfort ye my
people_,’ is my leader. For cheering, I was called.”

“How noble such a call seems to me, now.”

“Yea; daughter, if one can not be as the stars that fought in their
course for Sisera, he may be as a summer evening’s breeze, in cooling
pain’s fevers, and in drying the tears from cheeks that blush through the
rains of weeping times.”

Gently, firmly she guided her camel from the hillock, on which it was
feeding, toward the highway, along which the caravan was departing. “We
must be going now.”

At her words, Sir Charleroy and the old Sacrist each caught one of her
hands.

“Oh, my fathers!” was her pitying but not pitiable exclamation. Sir
Charleroy, standing on the hillock, by the camel, on which his daughter
was mounted, drew the hand he held close to his heart, then his arm
tenderly encircled its owner. The maiden’s head rested upon the breast
that had often borne her since babyhood, her lips met in unfeigned
tenderness those of the man who not only loved her as a daughter, but as
his good angel, almost savior. It was a scene for a painter; the past
and the present, sunset and morning; the one looking back in a confessed
ineffectiveness of a life nearly spent, in contrast with a fresh, young,
hopeful life, before which lay a world to be conquered. Miriamne, the
called leader in a new crusade for women, for humanity, was bidding
farewell to the ruins of giant land, and to a representative of the last
of the sworded-crusaders.

Her staff fell on the side of the beast that bore her and it moved away
quickly after the departing troop.

The parting was over, and yet the two old men silently lingered at the
place of the farewell. Once or twice the maiden looked back to them,
as she was borne forward, to wave an adieu. The lone watchers followed
her with their eyes, until her white camel appeared but a speck moving
along at the skirt of a column of dust. The eyes of the watchers dimmed
by years, now supplemented by tears, presently could discern only dust.
She was buried from their view forever. Then they silently returned to
the city, each busy with his own thoughts. Thereafter there was a heavy
loneliness on all hearts in that Bozrah circle. The priest moved about
his chapel, and the parents about their home as though an angel of light
had gone from their midst, or as if the angel of death had come among
them.

“It seems strange like,” said the Sacrist’s sister, “to let a girl go
away to that far-off city, among strangers, and about such meaningless
purposes.”

“Never mind; never mind, sister, God’s lambs are ever safe. Her mission
is clear to her, at least, and she’ll not be among strangers. The knights
who secretly abide in the city of God have a charge concerning her in
letters I’ve sent them. As well, Cornelius, her betrothed, is there. Pure
love will be her wall of fire.” Thus ended all arguments and misgivings.




CHAPTER XXXIII.

THE HOSPITALER’S ORATION.

“I do not say that a social cyclone is impending; but the
signs of the times certainly admonish us that if Christianity
is to avert a revolution of the most gigantic proportions,
and the most ruinous results, we have not an hour to lose
in assuring the restless masses that they have no better
friends than are the professed disciples of Him whose glory
it was to preach the gospel to the poor, and to lift up their
crushing burdens.”—REV. DR. A. J. F. BEHREND’S “_Socialism and
Christianity_.”

“My soul doth magnify the Lord.... He hath put down princes
from their thrones, and exalted them of low degree.”—MARY.


The daughter of Sir Charleroy found a home and a mother with Dorothea
Woelfkin, the widowed parent of her affianced. What manner of woman the
latter was may be readily inferred from the character of her beloved and
only son, Cornelius. It sufficeth to say, mother and son were in all
things wonderfully alike.

“Miriamne, I’ve called to ask, if we get the consent of my mother, that
you attend a conclave of knights, to be secretly held, after Moslem
prayers this evening.”

“Where?”

“At the house of the Christian sister, aged Phebe; just by the second
wall of the city.”

“And why do they meet?”

“An eloquent Hospitaler, lately returned from a long mission, is to
address the companions and their friends.”

“A Hospitaler; what’s his name?”

“Ah, there it is; the question all ask, and none can answer! He has given
full tokens of his right to confidence, but declines, for reasons which
he says are most pious, to reveal himself further than that he is a
Knight Hospitaler of Rhodes.”

“Rhodes? Is he very tall, of piercing eyes, his hair long and jet, with
streaks of gray?”

“Even so.”

“My father knew such a man, whom he called ‘silver-tongued.’”

“This man is as eloquent as Apollos.”

“We met such an one, and were with him for a time. We left him here, on
our journey from Acre to Bozrah.”

“Did you penetrate his secret?”

“I did not, though my father once said to him ‘Grail.’ After that he kept
aloof from us.”

“A proof it must be as I’ve suspected; the Hospitaler is one of the new
Grail-Knights!” exclaimed Cornelius.

“And he is here? I must hear him again. The words he spoke to me in
Gethsemane have followed me night and day since. He made the journey of
Mary and Christ, by way of Kedron, to the cross, seem like a present
reality; a path typical of the one before every child of God. I saw it



Online LibraryA. Stewart (Alexander Stewart) WalshMary: The Queen of the House of David and Mother of Jesus → online text (page 31 of 40)