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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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adventurers were uppermost; courts-martial, intrigues and fanfaronade
were their occupation daily. Prince Edward, the Christian leader, had
made a sworn treaty with the Moslems long before this time; but his
pious followers had quickly, wickedly violated it. Thereupon the Sultan,
Kha-tel, had made an irrevocable treaty with himself, sealed with the
most awful oath he could register, that he would never tire until he
had exterminated the last of the Western invaders now circumscribed and
besieged in Acre. With 200,000 dusky followers the Sultan besieged the
last stronghold of the Crusaders. The hearts of the defenders sank within
them, and scores sought safety in homeward flight, loading down every
vessel bound for Europe. Among the first fugitives was the chief leader,
Hugh de Lusignan, who wore the phantom title, “King of Jerusalem.” He
preferred the safety of distant Cyprus to the doubtful regality which
was overshadowed with nearing death. Only 12,000 were left to represent
the Crusade cause which once mustered millions. May 18, 1291, the devoted
city was stormed by the Turks; an entrance was effected and a murderous
carnage, heaping the streets with the dead, and redding the foam of the
moaning sea, followed. But there was no easy victory to the Moslem, for
the steady, vigorous, brilliant, desperate fighting of the knights,
laying low piles of their foes for every one of themselves that fell,
compelled the respect of the Sultan’s host. The Turks attempted to gain
a surrender by offering bribes; these failing, terms were offered. The
latter, which included permission for the Crusade remnant to depart the
country in peace, were accepted. But the Sultan, taught, if he needed
the lesson, by the perfidy of Prince Edward’s Christian truce-breakers,
quickly broke his promise of safe conduct. Though the retreating band was
in no way party to the wrong he sought to avenge, they were mercilessly
ambuscaded. There followed another struggle to the death, a handful
against a host and but few succeeded in cutting their way through the
cordon of death. History has often recounted the preceding events up to
the point; from this point it is proposed to lead the reader along the
career of a fragment tossed out of the foregoing whirlpool of disaster.




CHAPTER IV.

SIR CHARLEROY; THE SOLDIER OF FORTUNE AND KNIGHT OF SAINT MARY.

“’Tis quickly seen,
Whate’er he be, ’twas not what he had been;
That brow in furrowed lines had fixed at last,
And spoke of passion but of passion past.”

...

“Chained to excess, the slave of each extreme,
How woke he from the wildness of his dream?
Alas! he told not, but he did awake,
To curse the withered heart that would not break.”—“_Lara._”


The course of the knights fleeing from Acre was turned toward Nazareth.
There being but one way open to them, they took that way quickly and
with one accord. The fugitives from Acre represented various knightly
orders, but they were disorganized, without any definite destination and
without an authorized leader. Among them was Sir Charleroy de Griffin,
a knight famed for valor, a central and commanding personage; one that
would have attracted attention in almost any assembly of men. As he
went, so went the rest of the fleeing Christians, and when he reined in
his panting steed, after a time, at the top of a fir-crested knoll not
far from Nazareth, the knights following him did likewise. Then they
drew around him in a semi-circle, without command, and simultaneously,
as if to solicit his direction. They had followed the course he took
because he took it, and now with one accord they halted because he had
done so. There is to some a subtile influence that makes them leaders of
men; so the disorganized Crusaders, by an unvoiced but fully expressed
concession, admitted the leadership of this dashing horseman. Some may
designate this a triumph of personal magnetism, but be that as it may,
it was a fact that Sir Charleroy was chief. Sir Charleroy, just at the
time of the foregoing incident, presented an admirable study for the
philosopher or painter. From his saddle he was able to overlook leagues
of bright landscape, but he could not claim the protection of a foot of
it; for the first time in his life he yearned for home, now a spreading
sea, and a wall of death shut it out from him apparently for ever; by
circumstances absolute sovereign almost of the men about him, but doubt
and danger were confounding all his ability to give commands. He fell
into a train of thought, leaving his comrades to converse with their
pawing steeds and to questionings within themselves as to the future.
Sir Charleroy had reached an eminence in life, one of those points of
out-look where a man’s past meets him and demands review, that it may
explain the present. He believed that he had reached very nearly the end
of his career, and in that belief he began to weigh it for what it was
worth. In imagination he saw one writing the story of his life. Sir
Charleroy, the refugee, began faithfully to review Sir Charleroy, the
wayward youth, pleasure-seeker and reckless man. The former dictated
mentally to the imaginary scribe: “Write, Charleroy de Griffin was the
son of a stalwart French Baron, used to duels and trained to war. The boy
inherited from his father a splendid physique, of which he was unduly
proud, and a restless disposition that he never sincerely asked God to
control. By the death of the baron, his son, an infant, was left to the
sole tutelage of his English mother. The latter was of high birth, by
nature a noble woman, and in every way worthy of a better son than the
one whom he had turned out to be. She had idolized her brawny spouse in
his lifetime, and when she had recovered from the shock his death caused,
her yearning heart, little by little, turned from the idol in the tomb
to the child he had left her. Ere long she lived again in the rapture
of a love all absorbing, all bestowing, all ruling. She lavished her
affection on the youth, not because he was particularly lovable, for he
was not, but because he was the only one left her to love, and she was so
constituted that she must love; the necessity of loving to her made it
easy.

“Then there were many things in the features and form of her son that
reminded her of the man who, in brighter days, had won entirely her
maiden heart and her young wife love. The child was wont to wonder why
his mother embraced him as she did sometimes, with a wondering, startled,
wild, passionate embrace; but when he got older he discerned the meaning
of these outbreaks. He knew that the mother-heart was having a vision of
past wifehood, memory’s grace-given solace of widowhood. Besides this
the embraces were her appealings or warnings to death; her heart suddenly
seizing as if to shelter and save her last and only idol; for the thought
would sometimes come with shadows deep enough, that perhaps the boy
might also die. Such love would have been a prized wealth and blessing
to some; but in this case, on the one hand, it unfitted this mother for
the proper disciplining of this son, and this son though, sometimes, when
his conceit permitted it, realizing that the love was given, not won,
began to expect it as his due or despise it for its lavishness. In due
time he entered the period expressively designated, ‘The monster age.’
This is the time when expanding young life has outgrown the tenderness of
infancy and failed of putting on manly and womanly graces; a time when
there is a mighty ambition to put on the characteristics of adult life
and a mighty lack of ability gracefully to wear them. At this period,
perhaps, the majority of youths of both sexes, are interesting chiefly
for what they have been, or what it is hoped they will be. They feel,
conscious of their growing powers, great self-conceit, and with their
growth comes an expansion of their capacities and wants. The plenitude of
their wantings makes them avaricious, hence parsimonious toward others of
every thing, especially of gratitude. Reverence for elders, respect for
fathers, holy regard for mothers, tenderness toward women, chief charms
of youth, are buried in the tomb of other virtues by great, selfish,
ugly demons of desire. The monster age came to Charleroy in its full
virulence, but his mother discerned little of his monstrosity; what she
did discern, all unasked, she condoned. She believed all things, hoped
all things good of him, although seldom comforted by an expression or
act of gratitude on his part. She was to be pitied; but it may be said
that the lad was to be pitied almost as much as herself. It was the old
story over; she unconsciously went about destroying her own happiness
and though she would have willingly died if need be in his behalf, she
harmed him beyond estimate by her indulgent loving. Then the youth was
surrounded by those who sought the favor of the baroness by constantly
sounding in her ears, and in the ears of the boy, praises of the dead
baron. They told of his daring, they descanted upon his adventures, his
powers, his wisdom. He was the widow’s idol, and the incense was grateful
to her, but the worst of it was that they befooled the lad by continually
assuring him that he was the image of his father, and surely destined to
equal, if not surpass, his sire in deeds of valor. A dangerous burden is
wealth; whether it come as great name or great intellect, great physical
strength or as much gold, it is a fateful load which few can gracefully
support. The youth had wealth in all the foregoing directions; if he
had had a mother whose love loved wisely enough to save, if it need be
by pain, he might have been saved; but her love infatuated her. The
youth’s folly brought him frequently into shameful entanglements; but she
extricated him each time. Nobody ever heard of her even rebuking him; as
to chastising him, that were a thing abhorrent to her thoughts. His face
always bespoke his pardon in advance with her. She would have smitten
her husband’s corpse, as it lay in its coffin, as soon as she would have
smitten the one whose features constantly reminded her of him her heart
had held most dear. Then she hoped, with a mother’s large-hearted faith,
that each escapade would be the last. But as the youth grew older his
acts were bolder. Again and again, without notice and with heartless
inconsiderateness, he left his home to pursue some adventure, and again
and again, mother’s love followed him, ever to find him at last in some
sore plight, and then quickly to forgive him. By the time Charleroy had
reached his majority, the family fortune had been severely tried and
depleted in paying the penalty of his follies. He himself had become an
old young man, with too many gray hairs and too much experience for one
of his years.

“At that time, a few enthusiasts having determined to make one last
effort to secure the Holy Sepulcher, Charleroy de Griffin ardently
enlisted in the pre-doomed enterprise, allured largely by its very
desperateness. The crusade spirit was then a fitful dying flame
throughout Europe. England and France were left practically alone to
furnish the men and the money for the last crusade. Prince Edward of
France was its leader, and De Griffin, having in his veins the blood
of both of the supporting nations, a French name, a splendid physique,
together with a fearless, dashing temperament, was enthusiastically
hailed to the enlistment and pushed forward to leadership. ‘_Sir_
Charleroy de Griffin!’ smilingly called out Prince Edward, the day of
review, before the one set for departure. The young man’s comrades, many
of whom had been his associates in former days of wassail, hearing the
Prince’s word, shouted out with one accord, ‘Knighted! The prince has
knighted de Griffin! Hurrah for Sir Charleroy!’ The day following Sir
Charleroy bowed his head, as he stood on the quay ready to embark, to
receive the benediction of a bishop. As the sacrist laid his hands on the
young man’s head, the latter, throwing back his cloak, reverently touched
the cross he had attached to his bosom with his jeweled sword-hilt. The
young knight for a little while was very complacent; for he was enjoying
a sentimental emotion of virtue, arising from sophistries with which his
mind toyed. Some way he felt he had become a soldier of the holy Christ,
and somehow it seemed to him he was making atonement for past follies
by now placing himself side by side with the pious and noble. Though in
reality only bent on seeking excitement, adventure, change, he looked
forward to the rewards of conscience belonging alone to the penitent,
and to a possible public canonizing as one going forth to die for God.
A little piety paralleling one’s own desires is often made to do great
service in silencing the clamors from within. His proud, tearful mother
was by his side. Passionately she kissed his cross, then his brow, then
his eyes and then his lips; leaving on the brow the glistening, dewy
jewels that told the story of the heart which bade him stay, yet go. The
young knight was for once in his life very serious, but tearless. After
all this, in rapid steps, followed the disaster at Acre; the desperate
struggle outside the city; the flight toward Nazareth. Sir Charleroy
finally stands between the sea and the city, a mother’s idol ready to
be broken; at twenty-five, near the apparent apex and end of a life,
having had great opportunities, now, with all lost, he stands there an
epitome of paradoxes. He had made life a pursuit of pleasure only to
find the pursuit ending in misery; he had enlisted to serve the Prince
of Peace, but that service he had undertaken with the sword; he had
championed, as he said, the cause of Christ, the all-conquering, but he
meets utter defeat. He had taken for his patron saint Mary, after years
of libertinism. He elected Mary, he said, because his mother was so like
her. But Sir Charleroy’s mother demoralized her son by over-indulgence,
while Mary, though informed by Gabriel that her offspring was divine,
followed her child as a true mother, with the divinely appointed
authority of a mother, serenely, constantly directing his career up to
the feast of Jerusalem, where he began to reveal his divine commission.
Even then, motherhood affirmed its rights in the very presence of God
manifest, in the question: ‘_Son, why hast thou dealt thus?_’ Nor was
the right challenged, for ‘_he went down and was subject to_’ father
and mother!” At this point Sir Charleroy ceased mentally tracing his
own career, and lifting his eyes looked intently toward Nazareth. “Ah,”
he said, but so that none could hear his words, “my mother loved as
many another, in part selfishly, for the joy of abandoned love, and I
squander that patrimony like a spendthrift, to my harm. Mary’s love for
her son was like his for the world, a constant self-abnegation. That love
survives as an inspiration to the world. By these contrasts I explain my
failure in life, and the present is the natural sequence of the past.”

[Illustration: By Murillo.

THE BIRTH OF MARY.]




CHAPTER V.

NAZARETH.

“This is indeed the blessed Mary’s land,
Virgin and Mother of our dear Redeemer!
All hearts are touched and softened by her name;
Alike the bandit with the bloody hand,
The priest, the prince, the scholar and the peasant,
The man of deeds, the visionary dreamer,
Pay homage to her as one ever present.”—LONGFELLOW—“_Golden Legend_.”

“I walked along the top of the hills overlooking Nazareth. A
glorious scene opened on the view. The air was perfectly serene
and clear. I remained for some hours lost in contemplation of
the wide prospect and the events connected with the scene. One
of the most beautiful and sublime prospects on earth.”—ROBINSON’S
_Biblical Researches_.


The avenging Turks easily persuaded themselves that they could serve God
better by participating in the sacking of fallen Acre than by pursuing
the conquered, fleeing Christian knights; so they let the latter escape
inland, while they themselves returned to the pillage. Ere long, by
stealth, good fortune and Providential leading, the fugitives arrived
unmolested at the top of a hill, overlooking the little city of Nazareth,
forever memorable as having been once the earthly abiding place of Jesus
and Mary. On the way thither scarcely a sentence had been spoken,
for each felt that murmuring would be harmful, mirth inopportune.
They chose their course indifferently, all following Sir Charleroy de
Griffin because he rode bravely and onward. The fugitives paused, partly
sequestered by the shrubbed hillock, forgetting for a time all else in
admiration of the outspreading panorama in view. Heaven and earth were
smiling at each other; thousands of leagues of sky were filled with the
raptured songs of larks, while as echo and challenge of the songs from
above, the thrush and robin of the grass knoll and thicket responded.
From the plains of El Battaf on the north to Esdrælon on the south
Nature, God’s flower queen, had decked the earth everywhere with blossoms
of pinks, tulips and marigolds.

“Those dusky cowards,” spoke Sir Charleroy, “though numbering ten to one,
will not seek us here; they’ll wait an opportunity to ambuscade us.”

“We’ve broken our knight’s pledge, never to flee more than the distance
of four French acres from a foe, and yet methinks we’ve made them respect
our swords; that’s something to say, though we’ve not made them respect
our creed.” It was a Knight of the Golden Cross that spoke.

Sir Charleroy continued, while his eyes turned toward the city: “I thirst
for the waters of a fount in Nazareth as did David once for one in
Bethlehem.”

“For all of our getting at it, Nazareth’s water might as well be in
Ethiopia,” spoke a Hospitaler.

“I’ve a yearning that comes near to sending me on a charge into the city.”

“That would be a hot pursuit of death surely.”

“A fair one, then, since death has been long pursuing us.” After a
moment’s pause Sir Charleroy continued:

“Ah, death! None can escape, none overtake him; see we are his prisoners
now, yet he tantalizes us by a show of immunity. As a sarcophagus is let
down by suspending ropes in tedious stages, with jogglings and pauses,
into the grave, so passes each through perils and sickenings from life to
death. No, no, an undue fear of death intoxicates us until phantasmagoria
possess the brain. We call these hopes; they are delusive! But will any
of you follow for a charge down to the Virgin’s fountain? We can not
more than die; that we must soon, in any event. I think I could die more
complacently, having cooled my thirst where she was wont to cool hers.”

“Ugh,” exclaimed the Templar, with a shudder of disgust, “the fountain
flows out through an old stone coffin! By my plume! while drinking there
I’d be fancying that the ghost of the one robbed of his last house
were leering at me and reveling in the thought that I’d soon be poor
and thirstless as he. Verily the flavor of a drink depends much on the
goblet!”

“We may have plenty of miserable fancies, if we only court such; for
me, Templar, I prefer to comfort myself by cheerier thoughts; while I
drank there, I’d think of the coolings of death’s streams; of her, that
at this fountain slaked her body’s thirst and from the chalice of death
drank serenely at last. My sword, the gift of my king, after having
shed torrents of blood, hangs uselessly at my side. It seems cruel as
powerless; ay, ’tis hateful! My mother gave me, on my departure, better
gifts by far; tears, kisses, undying love, and the charge to call on Mary
if ever evil befell me. The latter I know not how to do; but still my
weak faith, methinks, would be helped to cry ‘Mother’ to God, if I could
only stand where that mother stood who won the first love of the infant
Jesus, the last anxious thoughts of the God man.”

“Sir Charleroy is unusually pious to-night; but alas, though I’ve
been taught to say our church’s _Litany_, calling on ‘the Virgin most
faithful,’ ‘Virgin most merciful,’ ‘Help of the Christian,’ ‘Lady of
Victories,’ I can not use those phrases here. Where’s the help, the
mercy, the victory now? The _Litany_, belongs to England!”

“We are in our present plight because we have won heaven’s neglect
through having more vices than graces, probably.”

“Whatever the cause, the mocking disappointment is apparent. It is
nigh thirteen hundred years since the Holy son and His mother began
proclaiming and exemplifying the White Kingdom here. Now in all this
land of theirs, we thirteen, fateful number, alone are left of those who
openly own His cause. Yea, and the city where He grew in favor, these
nature-blessed plains whose flowers gave Him picture sermons, are all
filled with burrowing monsters eternally at war with Him and His.”

“Faith will rest until assured that the Promiser is dead, and that can
never be, Sir Knight.”

“My faith staggers at the sights of Nazareth. Chief, look yonder.”

The knights all now called Sir Charleroy chief, when addressing him.

“At what?”

“The ruins!”

“Ah, all that’s left of our Crusader church. They say it was built on the
very spot where Mary fell fainting, when she saw the Nazarenes in wrath
dragging her son away to cast him down from the precipice to death. But
He escaped, though the church since built did not!”

“True; therefore it seems to me that the hand on time’s dial turns
backward. This city is filled with creatures having hearts as hard as
the limestone walls of the cave-like houses they fittingly inhabit. If
Christ and His Mother were again on earth as before, mercy’s ministers,
the present inhabitants of Nazareth would surpass His ancient persecutors
in the zeal with which they would drag not only Him but His mother to the
cliffs.”

“Over the door of yon ruined church, some hand of faith carved the word
‘Victory!’ The word is there yet, and though the hand that carved it is
dead, the faith which prompted it hath victory assured it.”

“‘Victory,’ in ruins! A meaningless boast, as it seems to me, Sir
Charleroy. Such victory as ours; shadowy and very distant!”

At that moment one of the Templars, who had been secretly praying behind
a cactus hedge, drew near and the Hospitaler addressed him:

“Brother, any token?”

“Praise Jehovah! yes, of peace.”

“How came it?”

“In my communings, God brought to my mind how the wondrous Deborah, not
far from here, pushed the pusillanimous Barak from his refuge among the
pistacas and oaks, from waverings to courage and to glorious victory over
God’s foes.”

“A happy thought; ‘the stars on their course fought against Sisera!’”

“Barak was called the ‘thunderbolt,’ but Deborah was the ‘lightning.’ The
lightning gave force to the bolt and God to the lightning.”

Sir Charleroy, catching the last sentence, joined in the debate:

“Gentlemen, there is another lesson on the brow of that history; it is,
that women, having more trust, cleave closer to God in peril than do men.
Men are in a panic when their devices fail; women have fewer devices to
fail, hence are less easily confounded. For that reason God sent out our
race in pairs.”

“Hermon’s breast holds the last ray of the setting sun,” remarked the
Golden Cross.

“And the Transfiguration of Christ is recalled! I think some angel of God
is holding the sunlight there for our instruction, now,” exclaimed the
chief.

“Our instruction?” queried the Templar. “I do not discern its meaning;
campaigning I fear has dulled my brain.”

“The Son of Mary, on yon mount, met Elijah, representative of the
prophets, Moses, representative of the law; both called from the
deathless land to proclaim the fulfillment of all prophecy and law
through His coming passion.”

“And still I question how this applies to us?”

“A Knight of the _Red Cross_ should easily discern that suffering unto
death for truth’s sake is the way, all prophecy declares that a reign
of law transforming things to spiritual splendor shall at last come to
earth.”

“Ah, Sir Charleroy, the interpretation is entrancing, but why did the
glory need to fade into night, and to be followed by Gethsemane and
Calvary?”

“Life is but a series of temporary glimpses of the glory that shall be



Online LibraryA. Stewart (Alexander Stewart) WalshMary: The Queen of the House of David and Mother of Jesus → online text (page 4 of 40)