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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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beset with thorns, laid over hell. From that bridge, with an awful
plunge, the wicked go eternally down; over it safely, swiftly, the holy
pass to happiness. Art ready to try that bridge?”

“Ready for the land of forgetfulness; no swords nor crescents are there.”

“No, thou wouldst only reach Orf, the partition of hell, where the
half-saints tarry; thy bravery merits that much; but I’ll teach thee to
reach better realms.”

“Turk, Mameluke, ’tis fiendish to prejudge a dying soul; leave judgment
to God, and share now all that is within thy power, my body, with thy fit
partners, the vultures!”

“A living slave is worth more to me than a dead knight; I’ve an humor to
let thee live.”

“Oh, most merciful hypocrite! I did not think thou couldst tell the truth
so readily; but let me, I beseech thee, be the dead knight.”

“What if I save thy life, teach thee the puissant faith of Islam, give
thee leadership, and with it opportunity to win entrance to that highest
Paradise, whose gateway is overshadowed by swords of the brave? There
thou mayest dwell forever with Allah and the adolescent houris.”

“Enough; unless thou dost aim to torture me! I’m a Knight of Saint Mary,
and thou full well knowest the measure of my vows; how throughout this
land my Order has warred against thy hateful polygamy, thy gilded lusts
here, thy Harem heaven hereafter! Ye thrive by luring to your standards
men aflame now with the fire that burns such souls at last in black
perdition. I tell thee to thy teeth, thou and thine are living devils.
But ye war against the wisdom of the world and the law of God; though
triumphing now, ye will rot amid your riots and victories.”

The chief’s face grew black as night for an instant, but recovering
himself, he continued, sarcastically at first, then with the zeal of a
proselyter:

“Speak low, thou, last dying vestige of a wan faith! Thou mightst make my
solemn followers yell with ridiculing laughter! I tell thee of life and
of a faith as natural as nature herself. Listen; there is for the brave
and faithful a Paradise whose rivers are white as milk as odoriferous
as musk. There are sights for the eye, fetes most delicious and music
never ceasing to ravish; these lure the brilliantly-robed faithful to the
black-eyed daughters of Pleasure. One look at them would reward such as
we for a world-life of pain; and the children of the prophet’s faith are
given the eternities to companion these splendid creatures whose forms
created of musk know no infirmity, but survive, always, as adolescent
fountains. The heaven of Islamism is eternal youth, eternally luxurious.”

“It befits the Angel of Death to gild a deformed hell with bedazzling
words. Thou and thine glorify lust, and thy heaven, like thy harem, is
but a brothel after all. Now let me blast thy gorgeous charnel-house with
the lightning of God’s Word: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart for they
shall see God!’”

Sir Charleroy had raised himself up as he was speaking; now he fell back,
exhausted. He again felt the glow in his heart that he felt on the quay
when the English bishop blessed him; but it seemed more real now than
then, and the approvings of conscience some way came with rebukes that
caused tears to flow. He felt something akin to real penitence for a life
that had not been always up to the ideal that this debate had caused him
to exalt. As he fell back he closed his eyes and turned his face from his
captor; the act was a prayer to be helped to shut out of his mind the
picture of gilded lust depicted by the false teacher that stood by. For
a few moments the wounded man was left to his own thoughts, and then his
heart went out toward home crying like a sick or lost child in the night,
for “_Mother!_” Once more he returned to that duality of existence which
comes when one enters into personal introspections. There seemed to be
two Sir Charleroys, one writing the history of the other, and the writer
was recording such estimates as these: “As he lay there, nigh death, he
drew near to God. He had once been a rover, seeking the wildest pleasures
of the European capitals; but meeting passion, presented as the ultimate
of life, for all eternity, his soul recoiled from it and he became the
herald of purity. Once he had friends, wealth and physical prowess;
but he squandered them as a prodigal; when he lay bleeding, powerless
in body, amid strangers, a slave, he rose to the majesty of a moral
giant.” The Sir Charleroy that was thus reviewed was comforted, and he
stood off from the picture in imagination to admire it, as one standing
before a mirror. Just then he thought of his mother and Mary, his ideal,
standing on either side of him, before the same presentment. It might
have been a dream; but he believed they smiled through tears, pressed
their beating hearts to his and upheld him by their arms with tenderness
and strength. His captor left him for a few moments only, undisturbed.
At a sign from Azrael, he was soon carried away by a guard; the parley
was ended and he that had so bravely spoken doomed to confront that
that is to the vigorous mind the worst of happenings, uncertainty. For
months the captive mechanically submitted to the fortunes of the Sheik’s
caravan; in health improving; in spirit depressed, numbed. The knight
had constantly before him three grim certainties, escape impossible;
rebellion useless; each day hope darkened by further departure from the
sea. The captive’s treatment from the Sheik was not unkind. The latter
met him by times with a sort of courtly condescension, varied only by an
occasional penetrating, questioning glance. They had little conversation,
yet the Sheik’s looks plainly said: “When thou art subdued, sue for
favors; they’ll be granted.” De Griffin nursed his pride and firmness
and prevented all familiarity on Azrael’s part. The latter was puzzled
sometimes, sometimes angered; but he was too polite to show his feelings.
For months the only conversation between the two alert, strong men might
be summed up in these words on the Sheik’s part: “Slave, freedom and
heaven are sweet.” “Knight, Allah knows only the followers of the Prophet
as friends.” On the knight’s part a look of scorn or an expression of
disgust was the sole reply.

In the Sheik’s retinue was another captive, a Jew. He was constantly
near the knight; for being more fully trusted than the latter, the
Sheik had made the Israelite in part the custodian of the Christian.
The knight discerned the relationship very quickly; though both Jew and
chief endeavored to conceal it. Sir Charleroy, at the first, treated his
companion captive with loathing and resentment, as a spy. After a time,
the “sphinx, eyes open, mouth shut,” as Azrael described Sir Charleroy,
deemed it wise and politic to make the Jew his ally. The resolution once
formed, he found many circumstances to aid in bridging the gulf that
separated the captive and his guard; the cultured Teutonic leader and the
wandering Israelite. They both hated the same man, their captor; both
loathed the religion he was covertly aiming to lure them to; both were
anxious for freedom. They gave voice to these feelings when together,
alone, and ere long sympathy made them friends. The next step was natural
and easy; the stronger mind took the leadership of the two, and Sir
Charleroy became teacher; his keeper became his pupil and _protégé_.

The twain one day, after this change of relation, walked together
conversing, on a hill overlooking Jericho, by which place the Sheik’s
caravan was encamped.

“Ichabod, thou wearest a fitting name.”

“I suppose so, since my mother gave it. But why say so now?”

“Ichabod, ‘glory departed,’ thou art like thy people—despoiled.”

“Oh, Lord! how long?” piously exclaimed the Jew.

“Till Shiloh comes!”

“Verily it is so written,” was the Jew’s reply.

“But He has come, Israelite!”

“Where?” the startled Jew questioned, drawing back as if he expected his,
to him mysterious, companion to throw back his tunic and declare: “_I am
he!_”

“In the world and in my heart.”

“Ah, Sir Knight, Israel’s desolation refutes all that.”

“Jew, thine eyes are veiled. I’ll teach thee to see Him yet.”

The Jew was puzzled.

The twain fell into prolonged converse, and then in that lone place the
Crusader waxed eloquent, preaching Christ and Him crucified to one of
Abraham’s seed.

When the two captives descended to their tents, each was conscious of a
new, peculiar joy. One had the joy of having proclaimed exalted truth,
faithfully, to the almost persuading of his hearer; the other was moving
about in the growing delight and wonder of a new dawning faith.

At frequent intervals Ichabod besought the knight to take him “_to the
mountain_.”

Each visit thither was a delight to the new inquirer.

On such a journey one day spoke Ichabod: “Christian, I am consumed with
anxiety to hear thy words and another anxiety lest they do me harm. I
am thinking, thinking, by day, and, what little time my thoughts permit
sleep, I’m filled with wondrous dreams! I fear to lose my old faith, and
yet it becomes like Dead Sea apples under the light of this new way. So
new, so infatuating. None I’ve met, and I’ve met many, ever so moved
me. Why, knight, I’ve traversed half the world; sometimes as wealth’s
favorite, sometimes of necessity in misfortune; I’ve seen the faiths of
Egypt and India in their homes, and walked amid the temples of great
Rome, but with abiding contempt for all not Israelitish. Not so this
creed of the knight affects me.”

“And for good reason; I offer thee the true, new, refined and final
Judaism!”

“It seems so, and yet I tremble. I dare not doubt; that’s sin; but here’s
the puzzle that harasses me: What if, in doubting these things I’m now
told, I be doubting the very truth, the Jewish faith!”

“Ichabod, thy heart has been a buried seed awaiting the spring. It has
come.”

“Oh, knight, I’m trusting my dear soul to thee. As a dog his master, a
maid her lover, so blindly I follow thee. I can not go back: I can not
pause nor can I go onward alone. I’m in the misery of a joy too great to
be borne, almost, and yet too much my master to be given up. Oh, knight,
thou art so wise, so strong! Steady me; hold me up! I can only pray and
adjure thee to be sincere with me; only sincere; that’s all; as sincere
as if thou wert ministering to the ills of a sick man battling death.”

The child of Abraham, with a sudden movement, flung his arms with all
vehemence about Sir Charleroy. The East and the West embracing, truth
leading, love triumphant.

“Poor Ichabod, if thou hadst no soul, thy clingings and yearnings would
bind me to thee faithfully. Thou hast tried to give me charge over that
that is immortal. A Higher Being has it in loving trust; were it not so,
I’d turn in dread from thy confiding!”

“Is mine so bad a soul, master?”

“Indeed, no. Its preciousness to Him that created it, is what would make
me dread its partial custody.”

“Thou’lt help me, master, now?”

“For three objects I’ll willingly die; my mother; our lady, and the soul
of one who abandons himself, as thou, to my poor pilotage.”

“Then, thou strangely lovest me. Oh, this but more persuades me that thy
faith is right; it makes thee so good to a stranger, a slave, a hated
Jew!”

“But then we are so apart and so unlike each other!”

“No, Jew, I want to show that humanity is one. The very creed I’m trying
to teach thee and would fain have all thy race, ay, all mankind fully
understand, is full of love, joy, peace. These follow it as naturally
as the flower the stem, the humming the flying wing made to fly and be
musical.”

“Oh, my dear light, with thee I’m in joy and wilderment. Thy presence
seems to bring me hosts of crowned truths, all seeking to enter my
being. I feel like a tired runner ready to faint when thou’rt absent,
but when thou talkest the tired runner is plunged into a cooling ocean,
whose circling waves, as it were charged with the stimulus of tempered
lightnings, glowing with a million rainbows, overwhelm, lift up and rest
him. I’m floating thereon now!”

“Thy strange fancies make me wonder, Ichabod.”

“Wonder; why my strength dies from over wonder. I was ill for hours
yesterday. Light to my sweat-blinded, feverish eyes, all calm and
healing, comes when I yield to thy will; but still all my joy is
haunted by ghosts which rise in day-mare troops, pointing rebukingly to
labyrinths into which I seem to be pushed. I sometimes wonder if I’m
seeing real spirits or going mad.”

“Dost pray, Jew?”

“I dare not live without praying!”

“Then tell the All Pitiful what thou hast this day told to me. He loves
the sincere, down to the deepest hell of doubt, and from it all, at last,
will lead tumulted souls safely. An honest doubt is a real prayer, well
winged; quickly it reaches heaven, at whose portal it dies to rise again
all peace.”




CHAPTER VIII.

FROM JERICHO TO JORDAN.

“Through sins of sense, perversities of will,
Through doubt and pain, through guilt and shame and ill
Thy pitying Eye is on Thy creature still.”

“Wilt Thou not make, eternal Source and Goal,
In thy long years life’s broken circle whole,
And change to praise the cry of a lost soul?”—WHITTIER.


Jew and Crusader came to love each other after the manner of David and
Jonathan, and they were both made stronger and happier men on account of
this loving.

“Sir Charleroy, a year gone to day, thou and I climbed to glory.”

“Thou hast a prolific imagination or I a poor memory. I have no
remembrance of either climbing or glory of a year ago.”

“I may well remember the greatest day of my life; the day thou tookst me
up yon hill over against Jericho; I saw, as Elisha, in the presence of
his great master Elijah, the mountains, that day, full of the chariots
and angels of God.”

“But, Jew, the chariot separated Elijah and Elisha; we were, in thy
‘great day,’ made one.”

“True, but I got the prophet’s insight and power. Oh now I see Shiloh
coming in the redemption of Jew and Gentile.”

“Radiant proselyte, give God, not me the glory.”

“I’ll call thee, knight, Jordan—my Jordan.”

“The Jew rambles amid strange conceptions. Why am I like that mighty
stream?”

“Its bed and banks, God’s cup; they nobly serve, catching the pure waters
of mountain springs and heaven’s clouds, to bear them, mingled with sweet
Galilee, to the black burning lips of Sodom’s plains below. I was a dead
sea, alive alone to misery; nothing to me but my historic past, and that
sin-stained. I’m now refreshed and purified; sometime there’ll be life
growing about me!”

“The highlands of Galilee gather from heaven, oceans of sweet, pure
water, which Jordan, year after year, night and day, hurries down to the
Asphalt sea; but still that sea remains lifeless and bitter. Even so,
the clean, white truth comes to some, life-long, yet vainly. I think I’m
little like Jordan, but much like that sea.”

“And yet, knight, all is not vain that seems so. I learned this once,
long ago, in the vale of Siddim, by the sea of Lot. As I entered that
place of desolation I thought of Gehenna! The lime cliffs about, all
barren and pitiless as the walls of a furnace, shut out the breezes,
and intensified the sun’s scorching rays. A solemn stillness, unbroken
by wind, wave or voice of life, was there; suffocating, plutonic odors
ladened the air, and a fog hung over that watery winding sheet of the
cities of the plain. I watched that overhanging cloud until my heated
brain shaped it into a vast company of shades; the ghostly forms of the
overwhelmed denizens of those accursed habitations, now in mute terror
and confusion, holding to one another desperately; fearing to go to final
judgment. Once I thought they were together trying to look down into
the depths, perchance to seek for vestiges of their ancient, earthly
habitations. These fancies grew and grew upon me, mad dreamer that I was,
until I was nigh to desperate fright; but I found some little angels on
the shore who comforted.”

“Angels at Sodom?”

“Even so. The first was light and liquid silver; it sang a bar of
nature’s tireless, varied melody by my footsteps. Ah, the little, fresh
spring that burst forth through the rim of the crystalline basin, was an
angel to me. Then I found others here and there. At first I was glad,
then I began to pity them, and to wish I could change their courses. They
all wended their ways to the desolate sea, and their sweet currents were
swallowed up in the yawning gulf of death. ‘Vainly,’ I said at first.
Then I saw other angels in the forms of bending willows, and gorgeous
oleanders. Just then it all came to me; the springs, though small and
few, were not in vain. The oleanders and the willow, whose roots kissed
their fresh life, were evidences that the springs had been for good.
Aye, more, the flowers rejoiced me in those desolations more than could
the rose gardens of the Temple in days of happiness. Yea, knight, thou
hast been a rivulet to Ichabod in a day when he wandered as among arid
mountains and dead seas.”

“Blest child of Abraham, thy faith is great, though I be but a pitiable
guide; yet I’ll adopt thy similes. Be thou and I, to each other, Jordan,
rivulet and flower by turn; the fresh current gives life to plant and
blossom, while plant and blossom both shade and beautify the streams.
With both it shall be well, if we well learn to seek deep for the hidden
springs of the life that can never die. Already thou hast blessed me
very greatly, gathering truths I failed to find. Thou return’st to me
multiplied all I bestow.”

“Would I could gather for all; for my race, so blinded! Oh, it is a
tristful thought that the nearer I get to God, the further I get from
them I love next after Him. Even my mother was wont to say to me, when,
as a questioning boy, I inquired beyond the traditions of the Rabbis,
that she’d disown me to all eternity as a heretic. My belief has made me
an outcast to her, and yet the thought of her hating me tears my heart.”

“I’ll love thy orphaned heart.”

“Me? Love me; so far beneath thee and with such pauper power of payment?”

“Thy desolation makes thee rich; having none other to love, thou
canst love me the more. Thou know’st this open secret of loving; its
selfishness demands all; getting that it gives all. Fear not Ichabod, but
that thou’lt find the hunger of thy heart well fed. It is as natural for
us to love those we have helped as to hate those we have harmed. Thou
know’st how men wonder that the Infinite can love the finite, but they
forget, or never realized, that one may love because he has loved. So
is it with God. He loves, and that He loves becomes therefore rich and
worthful to Him.”

The morning after the betrothal, shall we call it, of these two men to
each other, long before dawn the knight was wakened by a cautious step
on the stone floor of his sleeping place. Sir Charleroy was at once all
alert and leaped from the couch, sword in hand, expecting to confront
some gipsy thief, for there had been a band of these wanderers hovering
near the day before.

“Who’s there?” sternly he demanded, advancing, on guard meanwhile.

“Ichabod, Ichabod!” with trembling voice and in a half whisper. It was
the Jew.

“I did not mean to fright thee,” he hurriedly explained, when he had
recovered from his fear of being thrust through, “but I’ve news; bad news
that would not wait!”

“What is the bad? Is it near?”

“Oh, knight, speak low—the news is bad enough and the ill, though not on
us, close after us!”

“Thou art excited, my friend; sit down and then unfold the matter.
Meanwhile I’ll light a faggot.”

“In truth, I can’t sit, and I’ve reason to be nervous.” Then the man
spread out his arms and his fingers as if he would stand all ready to
fly; his eyes wide open, staring as he talked.

“Our Sheik leaves Jericho to-morrow; summoned by the sheriff of Mecca.
The sheriff is supreme to Moslem. The command is for war toward the east.
Blood, blood; when will the world be done shedding blood!”

“Well, my loving alarmist,” replied Sir Charleroy, coolly, “that’s not
very bad news. If the Sheik leaves us, we’ll be free; if he takes us,
there will be a change and for that I could almost cry ‘Blessed be
Allah!’ I am sickened, crushed, dry-rotted by this hum-drum life; this
slavery; dancing abject attendance on a gluttonous master, whose sole
object seems to be eating or dallying about the marquees of his harem.”

“Oh, Sir Charleroy, the change has dreadful things for us!”

“Why?”

“I heard that the runner bringing the mandate from Mecca brings also
command that all prisoners, such as we, must be made to embrace Islamism,
enlist to die, if need be, in this so-called holy war, or be sent to the
slave mart.”

“This is a carnival for the furies! Why, Ichabod, the latter is burial
alive; the former death with a dishonored conscience!”

“Sir Charleroy, I prefer the slavery.”

“Well, I prefer neither. Is the mandate final?”

“Yes; I’ve an order to commence packing at sunrise; by noon we will be
enlisted or in chains.”

“Who gave thee these state secrets, so in detail? Perhaps ’tis only
camp-fire gossip recounted for lack of novel ghost stories.”

“Ah, ’tis too true. I’d swear my life on it!”

“Rash, credulous; but which now, comrade, I can not tell.”

“Master, I had this from one that loves me as I love thee; the young
Nourahmal, light of the harem, favorite of the Sheik.”

“Well, now it seems to me that this light of the harem is thy favorite
rather than the Sheik’s.”

“She adores me.”

“Doubtless! Where a woman unfolds her mind there she brings all else
an offering easily possessed. She seals her change of allegiance
by scattering the secrets of the dethroned to the enthroned lover.
‘Nourahmal’? Is she as charming in form as in name?”

“Hold, now! If thou lov’st me thou will’st not continue thus to wound. I
love that girl, but not the way thou meanest!”

“So? Is there an elopement pending?”

“Unworthy gibe! Say no more like it, but answer this: Is it not possible
for a man and woman to be knitted together in soul, as I and thou have
been, without the shadow of a remembrance that they are animals of
different sexes?”

“Possible? Really I do not know. It may be possible, but so very rare
that I have failed to hear of any such relationship.”

“Then thou shalt hear of it now in Nourahmal and me.”

“I’ll take both to Paris! Another wonder of the world! But explain
further.”

“My Nourahmal is a captive; hates the man to whom she must submit as we
hate him, and loves me with the new love that you have revealed to me,
because I’ve shown her that I love her that way; so different from any
thing she ever knew before.”

“Well, there are many women yoked to men for whom they feel no great
affection, yet they glorify womanhood by their unfaltering loyalty.
Loyalty is woman’s glory; the hope of society. If the women be traitors,
then, alas!”

“Nourahmal is not a wife! The man that parcels out his heart to a dozen
favorites buys but scraps in return. A woman in misery’s chains, without
the bands of the confiding, utter love of her lord, will talk; she
must talk, or go mad. I tell, thee, knight, such gossip is the panacea
of suicidal bent. There’s many a woman kills herself for lack of a
confidant!”

“Thou hast learned much philosophy going around the world, Jew, but
perhaps not this bitter truth; the woman who is traitor to one man will
be to another. Thou mayst be the next. What if she set us fleeing for the
sake of laughing at our forced return?”

“Impossible, knight; she reveres me truly; even as she does God; just as
I did Sir Charleroy when he brought me light and rest. I was to her what
thou art to me. One day I told her women had souls, as dear to heaven as
the souls of men! She laughed at me like a monkey, at first, and reminded
me that were I a true disciple of Islam I’d know that only young and
beautiful women go to heaven, and they even there have a lowly place.
Thou knowest these infidels believe that the large majority of hellions



Online LibraryA. Stewart (Alexander Stewart) WalshMary: The Queen of the House of David and Mother of Jesus → online text (page 6 of 40)