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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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revealed. Night and cloud come and go, yet the sun never dies.”

“But, Sir Charleroy, was it not hard that the loving Immanuel should be
forced to bide these pangs though ever pursuing true righteousness?”

“Yea, Templar, but the glory of the Transfiguration came to all that
group while Jesus prayed; as the angel hastened to minister when
Gethsemane was darkest. These things teach that heaven watches its own,
with succor according to want; great light at hand to baffle great
darkness and royal answers for anxious prayers!”

“You mean, Sir Charleroy, that we few, surrounded by a sea of enemies,
in an inhospitable land, far from home, should despise each despairing
thought?”

“Good Templar, I am certain of this, anyway: Suffering for the right has
full reward, for after passion as Christ’s, so to His followers there
comes the ascension.”

“Amen,” fervently ejaculated several surrounding knights, and Sir
Charleroy felt the glow that he felt that time the English bishop blessed
him.

As they thus communed, the sun had quietly sunk down into the far-off
Mediterranean, flooding the west with light like molten gold. Doubtless
one thought came to each at the sight; for all smiled sadly when one
remarked: “The _West_ is very beautiful to-night!” They thought with
deep yearnings of home. But the darkness quickly drew over the scene and
the song of the baleful nightingales began to start forth here and there
from thickets which, in the darkness, appeared like plumes of mourning
on acres of black velvet. One knight, for a while entranced by the grim,
gloomy spectacle, shuddered; then looked up as if to say: “When will
the moon rise? the darkness is oppressive!” Another tried to cheer his
comrades by crying: “England’s songsters know us and come to sing us into
hopefulness!”

“Men, to rest; you’ll need it.” It was Sir Charleroy who spoke.
Responsibility made him motherly.

“Let us revel awhile in memories of better days,” replied the Templar.

“But listen; do you not hear afar off something like the moaning of the
winds before a storm?”

“What of it? A storm could add little to our misery.”

“The sound you hear is the cry of jackal and wolf; our omens. Forget now
all unnerving thoughts of home and steel yourselves to meet hard fortune.
For a while rest. Rest is now our wisdom; night, our mother; for a time
in safety she will swaddle us within her black garments. And then——”

“Even so, good Sir Charleroy, and I’m thinking this is her last visit to
us. She has come, I guess, to lead us to the portals of eternal day.”

“When I say good-night to you, comrades, it will be with the expectation
of next saying good-morning where the wicked cease from troubling,”
solemnly said the Golden Cross.

“But,” interrupted the Hospitaler, “while the pulse beats we have a
mortgage on time and a duty to plan to live.”

“Bravely said; now tell us how to plan,” exclaimed several knights.

“Merge all our orders into one, for the present; elect a leader, and——”
The Hospitaler paused, for he could not guess the needs or course of
the future. But the knights quickly acquiesced in the unity of action
proposed.

“Who shall lead?” was the next question.

“I nominate,” shouted the Hospitaler, “the one whom we all believe must
be under the especial care of the good angels of these places sacred to
all revering mother Mary.”

The knights, with one voice, responded, “Sir Charleroy de Griffin,
Teutonic Knight of the Order of St. Mary!”

The little band dared their danger for a moment by a spontaneous cheer.

“We have no priest to anoint the chief of the Refugees, but with God to
witness, let each who would ratify the choice place hilt to shield, as an
oath of service and defense.”

Every hilt rang against Sir Charleroy’s shield, as the Hospitaler ceased
speaking.

“Comrades,” said Sir Charleroy, “I thank you for your confidence in this
hour when the issue is life or death. Let us seek the God of battles.”
The knights formed a hollow square about their leader, and all kneeled
upon the earth.

Their wondering steeds seemed to catch the spirit of their riders,
and, drawing near, drooped their heads. For a few moments there was
awing silence, and then in deep measured tones the Hospitaler began
chanting, “_Kyrie Eleison_” (Lord have mercy). The companions responded,
“_Christi Eleison_.” Then, amid those scenes of sacred history, the
kneeling soldiers, together, and without command, with only the stars for
altar-lights, solemnly chanted a portion of the sublime Litany of their
church. Galilee never before, nor since, heard a more sincere orison:
“Pour forth, we beseech Thee, oh, Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that
we to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the
message of an angel, may by His passion and His cross be brought to the
glory of His resurrection, through the same Christ, our Lord. Amen.”

As they arose, a Templar spoke: “Companions, if it so please you, put
a seal, the seal of the Red Cross Knights, upon our act.” So saying,
the knight crossed his feet, then spread out his arms horizontally;
similitude of the crucifixion. All reverently imitated the action,
meanwhile, their swords being in hand with blades crossing, forming a
fence of steel.

“Comrades,” spoke Sir Charleroy, with emotion, “I accept the trust, and
vow by Him that gave the single-handed Elijah on yonder far-off wrinkled
Carmel, sign by fire, that confounded Baal and its regal hosts, to lead
you to liberty and home or to glorious graves.”

“_In hoc signo vinces_, living or dead,” was the chorused response. Just
then the rising moon flooded their interlaced swords with light, and, as
they glittered, the knights took it for an omen that there was a blessing
in the union of their swords.

“Sir Charleroy, I proclaim thee king of Jerusalem; what say you,
comrades?” exclaimed a hitherto silent Knight of St. John. Once more
every knight’s sword touched the leader’s shield.

“Nobly proclaimed!” remarked the Templar. “When De Lusignan deserted us,
ceasing to be kingly, he ceased to be king.”

“Have charity, men,” interrupted their chief; “it takes a world of
courage to fall with a falling cause when a way of escape is open.”

“Oh, we’ll have charity; the same that Tancred had for that brave
preacher and craven soldier, Hermit Peter; the latter ran from peril and
Tancred raced him back. We can not reach Lusignan to whip him to duty,
but we can vote him dethroned and dead. All cowards are dead to the
brave.”

“But, companions, I must decline the presumptuous title and phantom
throne. Jerusalem shall have, to us, but one king; the Son of Mary. For
the future, to you, let me be simply Sir Charleroy. Now let us be moving.”

“Whither?” anxiously inquired several knights in a breath.

“Over the valley to the cactus hedges against the limestone cliffs before
us, where runs along the great highway from Damascus to Egypt. We shall
not need the route to either point, probably; but those hills are full of
caves for the living and tombs for the dead.” All obeyed.

“Why so thoughtful?” said the Hospitaler to the Knight of the Golden
Cross, who marched along with his cloak partly shielding his face.

“I’m living in the past,” he sententiously answered.

“The past? Ah, to make up by a back journey for an expected briefing of
thy future?”

“No, raillery here, Hospitaler. I was just wishing that since we are so
near Endor, Saul’s witch would call up some saintly Samuel to tell us
where we shall be this time to-morrow.”

“Oh, Golden Cross, know we can best bear the good or evil of the future
by seeing it only as it comes; for me, I prefer to think of another
place, near us, but having a more helpful incident for the memory of such
as we.”

“Dost thou mean Nain?”

“The same. There a dead only son was raised from the bier to comfort a
widowed mother.”

“Well said, Hospitaler,” responded Sir Charleroy, “and let us not forget
that it was a mother’s tearful prayers that won the working of the
miracle.”

“Alas, knight,” sighed the Templar, “we have no mothers to so petition
for us here, if we be quenched ere long.”

“Some of us have living mothers who never cease to pray for us, nor will
until their breath ceases. In this land, where God appeared through
motherhood, I have a strong confidence that our mothers’ prayers,
re-enforced by our appealing but unvoiced needs, will move the motherhood
of God, if such I may call His tenderest lovings. I’ll trust to-night my
mother’s prayers, reaching from England to Heaven and from thence to
here, further than all the sympathy forgetful Europe will vouchsafe us. A
nation cheered us to battle, and yet it will never seek for the fragments
defeat has left; but the man never lived, no matter what his ill deserts,
whom true mother love and eternal God love ever forgot.” After this long
address, Sir Charleroy again felt the glow within and the approvings that
he felt on the quay when the bishop’s hands were on his head.




CHAPTER VI.

THE FUGITIVES.

“’Tis not in mortals to command success;
But we’ll do better, Sempronius; we’ll deserve it.”—_Cato._


The fugitives slept, some in the obliviousness of complete fatigue and
others restlessly, their minds perturbed by dreams of their impending
perils. Dawn summoned all to renewed activity, but its coming was not
greeted joyfully by the knights.

“Sir Charleroy,” mournfully spoke a Hospitaler to the former, as they met
at the outskirts of the camping place, “our comrade, the Knight of the
Holy Sepulcher, made good his escape from this woeful country during the
early morning, before dawn, as our comrades were sleeping!”

“Why, impossible!” questioningly responded the chief.

“Alas, ’twas rather impossible for him not to go!”

“I’m in no humor for such petty jesting! See, his steed is there yet,”
and Sir Charleroy turned on his heel impatiently as he spoke.

“Pardon, companion, he that departed was borne away by the white charger
with black wings!”

“Dead?”

“Mortals say ‘dead’ of such, but it were better to say he is free.”

“_Peace to his soul_,” fervently spoke Sir Charleroy.

“Ah, knight, thou canst not imagine the peacefulness of his going!”

“But why were we not summoned? We might have consoled him at least;
perhaps we might have healed. What was his malady?”

“A poisoned arrow wounded him in the retreat from Acre. He did not
realize his peril until the agonies of the end were wracking his body.
Then he said, ‘Too late; it’s useless to attempt resistance of the
inevitable.’”

“Now this is pitiful—a humiliation of us all. Heavens, Hospitaler!
there’s not a knight among us who would not have periled his life in
effort in the dying man’s behalf.”

“But he cautioned me against disturbing any one on his account. ‘Poor
men,’ he said, ‘they’ll need all the rest they can get for the struggles
of the day to come.’ Only once did he seem to yearn for a remedy, and
that time he spoke mostly as one dreaming. I remember his every word—‘I
wish I could bathe these hot and bleeding wounds in the all-healing nards
said to exude exhaustlessly from the image of the Virgin Most Merciful at
Damascus.’ I roused him, then, with an appeal for permission to summon
thee, but he forbade me.”

“Thou shouldst have overridden all protests of his! By my tokens! I’d
have emulated faithful Elenora, who sucked the poison from the dagger
stab given her spouse, our knightly Prince Edward, by the would-be
assassin at Acre.”

“I could not resist him; his face shone in the moonlight with heavenly
brightness; mine was covered with tears. Oh, chief, the dying man spoke
like an angel. Once he said: ‘It is sweet to go out here, nigh where the
resurrection angel, Gabriel, gave Mary the glad tidings that her humanity
was to join with the Good Father to bring forth One capable of sounding
each human sorrow here and hereafter. He overcomes the dread last enemy
of all our race!’ I watched as he fixed his dying gaze upon the golden
cross he wore; his last words still fill and inflame my soul: ‘Brother,
good-night—say this to each for me. I feel great darkness creeping
in to possess this broken, weary body. It comes to stay, but my soul
moves forth out of its dungeon. I see gates most lofty, all glorious,
and oh, so near! They open to an eternal day.’ Then he breathed his
last, murmuring tenderly: ‘I’m going; good-night; good-morning!’” The
Hospitaler ended his recital with a great sob, then burying his face in
his cloak, was silent.

Presently the knights formed a hollow square about an old tomb in the
hillside. The Hospitaler supported tenderly the head of the dead comrade
in his lap. On the naked breast of the corpse lay the many-pointed golden
cross of the Knights of the Sepulcher, while round the body was wrapped a
Templar’s banner, with its significant emblem, two riders on one horse;
symbol of friendship and necessity.

“Let the one who received the dying prayer of our brave companion speak,”
said Sir Charleroy. The knights all knelt, and the Hospitaler still
reverently supporting the head of the dead, spoke. “Knight of Christ,
sleep; the clamors of war shall no more disturb thee. The dead at least
are just and merciful. Israelite, Mohammedan and Christian may lie
together in these vales, reconciled at last. They that would not share
a loaf to save life to one another, in death share quietly all they
have, their beds. The ashes of the long sleepers have no contentions;
here are no crowdings of each other; no misunderstandings; no alarms.
Sleep, soldier, thy worthy warfare finished; thy cause appealed to the
Judge of All! Sleep and leave us to battle on ’mid perils and pain.
Sleep thy body, while thy soul fathoms the mysteries to us inscrutable.
Rest now, and leave us here a little longer to wonder why it is that
human creatures must needs inhumanly oppose and slay each other for the
enthroning of Truth, the friend, the quest of all! Sleep, and leave us to
wonder why death and conflict are the openers of the gates of life and
peace.” Some of those kneeling wept, but they were too much depressed to
speak. Quietly they laid the body within its resting place; quietly they
sealed up the tomb’s entrance. Then they mounted their steeds at their
chief’s command.

“There are but twelve of us left; a lucky number. Perhaps the breaking
of the fateful spell believed to follow the number thirteen, was death’s
beneficence!” It was the Templar who so spoke.

“It is said, Templar,” responded Charleroy, “that our Mary, in her
girlhood, was escorted ever by an invisible heavenly guard, a thousand
strong. In the guard there were twelve palm-bearing angels of rare
splendor, commissioned to reveal charity.”

“A worthy companionship, chief!”

“I’m inclined to pray heaven to send again to these parts the beautiful
twelve, to assure us good fortune and victory.”

“Surely the prayers of us all join thine, Sir Charleroy; but methinks
we have forgotten how to pray aright, or heaven has forgotten to answer
us. We have been praying and fighting for months only to find at last
that our prayers and our battlings are alike vain. I fear there are no
palm-bearing angels at hand.”

The horsemen slowly wended their way back to the hill-top, overlooking
Nazareth, on which they first paused the night before. Again they halted
to admire the prospect, as well as to look for a route of safe retreat.
Nazareth was astir. The little band on the hill could hear the morning
trumpeters calling the Moslem to worship.

“Gentlemen,” said the leader of the band on the hill, “it is wisdom to
divide into two parties, and make for the sea by different routes. At
Cæsarea we may find some vessels with which to leave these to us fateful
shores. If we meet the foe anywhere, the odds against us now are so great
that death or enslavement must be the result. Perhaps if there be two
parties one may escape.” The knights paused about their leader a few
moments in affectionate debate; all opposing at first the plan that was
to scatter them, but all, finally, convinced that it was the highest
wisdom to go on their ways apart. Lots were cast by the eleven, De
Griffin not participating. Four were grouped in one party and seven in
the other by the result.

“I’ll join the weaker party, remembering the five wounds of Jesus,” said
Sir Charleroy, reining his steed to the smaller company. A moment after
he continued: “Now, good souls, away with grief; part we must; here and
now. May God go tenderly with the seven, a covenant number. Now make your
wills; then a brief farewell; then use the spur.”

“Wills?” said a Templar, and they all smiled in a sickly way at the
word. “We knights, boasting our poverty, our holding of all we have in
community, know nothing of will-making.”

“True, the pelf we each have is small enough; a few keep-sakes, our arms
and such like; but our love is something. Let’s will that, and if we’ve
aught to say before we die, we’d better say it now. There is work ahead,
and plenty of it. There will be no time for _ante-mortem_ statement
when we meet the cimeters of the Crescent.” So spoke Sir Charleroy. He
continued, “My slayer will take good care of my jewels.” He commenced
writing upon a bit of parchment, using for rest the pommel of his saddle.
In a few moments he paused.

“Wilt thou read thine, that we may know how to make ours, chief?”
inquired one near him.

“A message to my mother; that’s all.”

“Enough; that’s sacred.”

“Yes—but—no. Misery has knit us into one family. I feel to confide.” So
saying, he read his writing, omitting only the portion that recited their
recent vicissitudes:—

“And now, beloved mother, we turn from Nazareth toward the sea
with only a forlorn hope of reaching it. I long to meet thee,
but the longing must, I fear, content itself in reaching out my
heart’s best love across the distant ocean toward thyself. It
is all I can give in return for the mysterious consciousness
that thine is a constant presence. My memory teems with records
of my life-long ingratitude toward thyself, that gave me birth
and all a loving heart could bestow, and now I’m tasting
bitterest remorse for all those selfish days of mine. I wish
I could recall their acts. Take these words as my request for
pardon. I shall bind this little parchment scrap in my belt in
a vague hope that some way, some time, it may reach thee. If it
do, remember it is sent to bear to thee, beloved mother, the
assurance that thy once wayward boy remembers now, as he has
for months, as the brightest, best, most exalting and blessed
things of all his life, thy loving words, thy patient trust in
him and all thy pious exhortations. I thank God now for all my
trials and perils. They have brought me to full prizing of thy
goodness and near to the religion thou dost profess.”

The reader paused, and the companion knights at once began begging him to
inscribe messages for them each, he being the only one in all the company
having the priestly gift of the pen. Most of them said, “To my mother”
or “To my sister, write;” but one blushed as he said, “I’ve no mother
nor sister.” His comrades rallied him at once: “Name her, the other only
woman!”

“A heart as brave as thine, knight,” said the Hospitaler to the blushing
youth, “has a queen on its throne, somewhere.”

The youth blushed more and drew away a little.

“Only a lover,” said the Templar. “Lovers, absent, assuage their
pinings by new mating! They forget; mothers never do. Write for us, Sir
Charleroy.”

The blush of the youth deepened to anger, evincing his heart’s high
protest against any hint of doubt being aimed at his queen; but he was
self-restraining, silent. “I’ll not reveal her by defense even,” was his
whispered thought.

The writing was finished. “Farewell! Forward.”

The chief suited the action to the commands, and soon his steed was
dashing swiftly away with its rider, followed by the others of his party.
The seven departed toward Nain; perhaps it was an ominous choice, for
their route led them toward the cave of incantation, where Endor’s witch
called up for Saul the shade of Samuel. Most likely the words of the dead
prophet to the haunted warrior, “To-morrow thou shalt be with me,” would
have told the fate of the seven that morning fittingly, for they were
never heard from by any of their earthly friends.




CHAPTER VII.

ICHABOD.

“Oh, that many may know
The end of this day’s business, ere it come;
But it sufficeth that the day will end,
And then the end is known.”—_Julius Cæsar._


A tedious ride brought the five knights nigh Shunem, the City of Elijah.

“We’ll find no prophet’s chamber here for such as we,” remarked Sir
Charleroy.

“Perhaps,” said a comrade, “we may by force or cajoling find a breakfast;
a cake or cruse of oil.”

“Anyhow,” replied the chief, “we must try for a little food. We can
neither fight nor flee with gaunt hunger on our flanks. Who knows, after
all, but that we may happen on a humane being in these parts.”

“Well, good captain, if we should find a Shulamite, black, but comely,
she might be as loving to thee as that one of old was to Solomon,
although——”

The sentence was broken off by the interrupting command of Sir Charleroy,
“Men, quick to cover; to the lemon-tree grove on the right!”

A glance back revealed a host of armed men behind the knights.

“All saints defend!” cried the Templar, as the little band wheeled toward
the refuge.

The tale of the battle to the death that ensued, is quickly told.

Sir Charleroy, though he had fought with reckless bravery, as one hotly
pursuing death, alone survived. A bludgeon blow felled him; when he
recovered consciousness, he beheld standing by his side a gorgeously
bedecked Moslem. The clangor of the conflict was over; the blood in
which he weltered, and the vicious eyes that watched him, were all that
reminded the knight of what had recently transpired. Presently the latter
addressed the one that stood guard:

“Why is the infidel so tardy in finishing his work?”

“Is the Crusader in a hurry to reach night?” sententiously replied the
man of gorgeous trappings.

“He would like to stay long enough to execute a murderer—the chief of thy
horde.”

“My horde? Thou knowest me?”

“Oh, yes, ‘Azrael, Angel of Death,’ thy minions call thee; but I defy
thee as I loathe thee.”

The chief’s brow darkened; his sword rose in air, and he exclaimed:
“Hercules was healed of a serpent bite, ages ago, at Acre; Islamism in
the same place recently; I must finish the hydra by cutting off thy
hissing head, Christian.”

Sir Charleroy steadily met his captor’s gaze, eye to eye, and was silent.

The chief paused; then lowering his sword, toyed its point against the
cross on the prostrate man’s breast.

“Bitter tongue, thou dost worship a death sign; dost thou so love death?”

“Death befriends those who wear that sign in truth; this is my comfort
standing now at the rim of earth’s last night.”

“Thy bright red blood and unwrinkled brow bespeak youth, the power to
enjoy life. Youth and such power is ever a prayer for more time; thou
liest to thyself and me by professing to seek thy end.”

“How wonderful! The ‘Angel of Death’ is a soul-reader as well as a
murderer!” bitterly rejoined Sir Charleroy.

“Well, then, refute me! Here’s thy greasy, blood-stained sword; now go,
by thine own hands, if thou darest, to judgment.”

“Trusting God, I may defy thee; yet not hurry Him!”

“I like the Christian’s metal. I might let him live.”

“Life would be a mean gift now; a painful departure from the threshold of
Paradise, to renew weary pilgrimages.”

“I may be merciful.”

“I do not believe it.”

“Thou shalt.”

“When I believe in the tenderness of jackals and tigers, in the sincerity
of transparent hypocrisy, I’ll praise the mercy of Azrael.”

“Our holy Koran reveals a bridge finer than a hair, sharper than a sword,



Online LibraryA. Stewart (Alexander Stewart) WalshMary: The Queen of the House of David and Mother of Jesus → online text (page 5 of 40)