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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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are women.”

“Not strange Jew; they treat women as pretty or useful animals, and so
degrade, not only themselves, but these very women. A woman so demeaned
does not become heavenly, to say the least. But I think, if I were a
Turk, I’d keep only argus-eyed eunuchs to guard my harem; in faith, I’d
even have the tongues out of those guards.”

“There, now, thou dost jest again.”

“Well, go on, in seriousness. Tell us the pipings of this seraglio
beauty.”

“I’ve won her over completely.”

“This is not strange. Poets are always valiant, victorious orators with
women. The female heart is emotionally moved up to belief with little
logic, if the speaker be fair, or musical, or brave!”

“I was none of these; I told her of the ‘Friend of Publicans and
Sinners;’ that fed her soul. I do not believe there is a woman on earth
that can resist that story.”

“Oh, well, I’m not going to forget that the first woman outran her mate
in evil, nor that she exchanged the All Beautiful for the snaky demon.”

“It would be nobler for a knight, truer for all, to judge, if judge they
will, by wider circles. Do not remember the sin of one, or a few, to the
disparagement of all!”

“Eve, the best made of all, fell; then her weaker sisters are more likely
to follow in her way,” said the knight.

“She found a sin and fell: thousands of her daughters have fallen by sins
that men invented and thrust on them. Thou knowest that most women who go
wrong, go in ways they would not without the temptings of the stronger
will. The sin that ruins most is that to woman’s nature abhorrent, until
honeyed over by the tongue of man.”

“Dexterous lance, art thou, Jew; but, anyway, some women are born bad.”

“No; I’m not able for one so wise as the knight, unless I’ve the strength
of truth. I’ve heard that our wise men say that if we could trace the
ancestry of any one evil, from birth, we would find somewhere, up the
line, a father, prëeminent in wickedness. Say, women are weak to resist
evil; then, say men are strong to propagate it. Now, which way turns the
scale?”

“Oh, I say always, dogmatically, if need be, in man’s favor.”

“Let me see: Eve’s humanity that sinned was out of the finest part of
Adam’s body, and the serpent which betrayed her was a male.”

“I’ll parry the thrust by asking why the Holy Writings reveal no female
angels? I think there are none.”

“I’ve a wiser reason, knight. It is this: Man has so foully dealt with
the angels in the flesh that God’s mercy reserves their finer spiritual
counterparts for the sole companionships of heaven, which justly
appreciates these holy, pure and tender creations. Heaven would not be
perfectly beautiful without them and, methinks, can not spare one for a
moment!”

“Not even to minister to a needy world?”

“Woman’s life is here, generally, all service, all ministry; her return
to earth after death would be a work of supererogation. God sends back
the male spirits to help restore the world their sex did most to ruin.”

Then both the debaters laughed out as heartily as they dared, but there
was in the tones of the knight’s laughter a part-confession of defeat.
After a time Sir Charleroy spoke again: “Thou art calm now, after this
diversion, Ichabod; proceed with thy story of danger.”

“Well, Nourahmal——”

“Oh, yes, begin again with Nourahmal. Samson was a pretty good man for a
giant, but he had a betraying Delilah!”

“True enough; but he had also a noble mother. Remember the better, rather
than the worse.”

“I remember her peers, Mary and my mother.”

“So, then, when sweepingly condemning all the sex, please except the
mothers, at least of those who may be thy hearers.”

“Good Jew, I’ll not wound thee!”

“No pity for me; pity thyself. Such thoughts as thou hast spoken wound
thine own soul. We Jews have an order called ‘Tumbler Pharisees;’ they
affect humility, shuffle as they walk and stumble on purpose that they
may not seem to walk with confidence. Akin to them we have the ‘Bleeding
Pharisees;’ they walk with shut eyes, lest they should see a woman, and,
stumbling against many a post, are soon covered with their own blood,
receiving real harm in flying from imaginary dangers.”

“‘_Maya, Maya_,’ Ichabod,” laughing aloud, exclaimed Sir Charleroy.

The latter, catching the knight’s arm, hoarsely whispered: “Hush! Thou
mayst be heard. What dost thou mean by ‘_Maya_’?”

“Perhaps, Nourahmal! _Maya_ was the reputed wife of the supposed god
Brahm of the Hindus. It is reported that she was in form like unto fog
and her name means ‘illusion.’ A subtle truth, Jew; even a god, in love,
is near a fog bank!”

“Thou dost not know Nourahmal and dost discredit her; that’s slander;
thou dost know me and ridiculest me; that’s—but—I’ll not say it.”

“I’d not pain my Ichabod.”

“Nor discredit Nourahmal?”

“No; but did this angel, or Syren of thine, having shown the peril,
present a map to a city of refuge?”

“Ah, poor, helpless girl! she has none for herself, much less for us. She
just told me all and wept and kissed me a farewell, praying me to flee. I
could think of no question in the delight of hearing her say, she hoped
I’d meet her in Heaven, in peace away from Moslem and wars. Only think of
her faith! All new; just a little while ago she did not know there was a
heaven for women. I felt I could die then in peace. I’ve taught one woman
that she is more than a pretty animal!”

“Then, Jew, to thee, life is worth living?”

“Oh truly! Oh, if this light could only spread over Egypt and all my own
Syria!”

“Thy desire is akin to that of Mary’s son and noble. Certain it is that
we can not spread that light by fighting to sustain the fateful Crescent.”

“By the glory of God, I never will.”

“Nor I, son of Abraham; so let’s decline.”

“And go to the slave mart?”

“Oh, no, not while I’ve a sword, Ichabod.”

“Then to flee is the word?”

“The eastern campaigning with the sheik, would be a little longer route
to Paradise?”

“Perhaps not; I am assured that we are needed of God by the use He
has recently made of us. He will keep us in our flight from bloody
persecuting war, and possible apostacy.”

“I hate the last word! A knight enchanted of Mary can never become a
renegade; not I, at least. I was born October ninth. Tradition says that
the holy St. John Damascene, having had his hand cut off by the Saracens
that day, was by Our Lady miraculously made whole, and lived long after
to wield a powerful, facile pen in her behalf. I’ll trust my head and
saber hand, used for her, to her protection.”

“And I’ll trust Him that led the wandering hosts of Moses; for ‘in all
their affliction, He was afflicted with them, and the angel of His
presence saved them; and He bore them and carried them all the days of
old.’ Oh, master, I’ve comfort I can not tell, when I feel orphaned, by
thinking of my Maker, not only as a Father, but as a Mother! God is our
Mother when we, bereft of mother-love, most feel our need of it. So thou
toldst me in the mountains.”

“True; but shall we try our escape now?”

“Nay, we had better wait till a little before dawn; the camp patrol is
then withdrawn; then we’ll embrace freedom.”

“The Jew seems very confident.”

“Oh, I spent the hour after I met Nourahmal (God keep her), amid the
palms for which Jericho is fitly named, and got a token.”

“A token?”

“My eyes were touched in the darkness.”

“Sweet Nourahmal followed thee?”

“No, but He that opened the eyes of blind Bartimeus near here.”

“What didst thou see?”

“Elisha healing the streams about this palm city, type of God healing
the floods of bitterest fates; after that I saw Jericho’s walls falling
at the blasts of Joshua’s trumpets, and remembered that his God then is
ours now.”

“Didst thou see two poor men fleeing in the dark from peril to peril,
pursued by a hundred horsemen, who saber-lashed them; a little further
two corpses, one of a Christian the other of a Jew, on which fed fighting
jackals?”

“I saw no such horror! I saw two led forth from their captors, as Peter
from his dungeon; the angels that blinded the eyes of the monstrous men,
who of old sought to defile Lot’s house, blinded the eyes of the pursuers
of the two; and the angel of Peter gave them guidance and light. But
come, the night-guard has retired; between now and the call to morning
prayers is our opportunity.”

Out of the old stone stable silently knight and Jew glided, threading
their way amid splendors they believed to be, but could not see. The
ministering spirits were over and around them, their path was through the
Kelt, the sublimest waddy of Palestine; but night shrouded the latter;
their weak faith dimly discerned the other.

“Can’t thou see any way-marks, Jew?”

“I discern but few. Yet, what matter? It is enough that He who leads us
sees?”

“The night is getting blacker and blacker; the omen makes my heart shiver
as it beats.”

As the knight spoke there came a terrific crash of thunder and a
succession of blinding lightning flashes. Sir Charleroy clasped the Jew’s
arm and in startled voice questioned:

“Dost thou not fear these?”

“Why should I? The angel guides swing the torches of the unchangeable
Father to give us glimpses of our way. All is well; I saw by the
lightning flash that we are passing safely the camp lines of our captors.”

A few miles were over-past. The storm had abated a little, and the first
streaks of dawn, like spears, were rising in the east.

“Would God, good Jew,” said the now wearied Sir Charleroy, “that the
Prophet of the Moslem, who, near by here, is said once by a stamp of his
foot to have brought forth from the rock a camel, were present to dance
for us now.”

“He is not here, so we must help ourselves, knight.”

“Ah, my dear man, canst thou dance rocks into camels?”

“No, but there are houses nigh, and each thou knowst has it’s stable-yard
in front.”

“But there is the thorny nubk tree, surrounding the herds.”

“I’ve faith to try my faith when all I have is faith.”

“What for; to steal a camel?”

“Oh, no; I’d not steal a camel but I’d borrow a couple of them. Two; for
I’m not one of the knights who exhibit poverty, by riding double, thou
dost know.”

“Borrow? Well so be it; the black infidels owe us for two years’ service.
They borrowed us!”

“It’s pious to take the beasts; for we pay so honest debts of these
heathens and shorten the list of their souls’ sins by removing from them,
in our escape, the opportunity for our murder.”

“If this be sophistry, Ichabod, it is so sweet that it is taken as
delightful truth.”

“Thou art persuaded?”

“No man can out run me, be he rabbi or priest, in condemning vices, if
they be such as I do not care to practice, and I am a profound believer
in every creed that’s sweet to my desires. Here action treads the heels
of persuasion.”

* * * * *

On beasts, borrowed without formality, the fugitives hurried toward
Jordan, only there to find a barrier to their progress in the angry
torrent swelled by the recent storms. It was clearly futile to attempt
a passage, and to tarry, waiting the ebb of the waters, was to bring
certain detection. They turned the heads of their borrowed camels toward
their master’s homes and waited the sunrise, meanwhile moving about to
find some means of safety.

“Well, my comrade, I think it will not be long until those Turks will
give our souls an Elijah-like ascension except that there will be no
chariot. The morning shimmering on his mountain makes me think of this,
Ichabod.”

“The tracks of our returning camels in the wet earth will guide our
pursuers.”

“Suppose we climb a tree as Zacchaeus, since we can not have a chariot.
By my plume! which I’ve not seen for a year, I think that would be
safety; the Turks never look up except in prayer, and the wolf Azrael
seldom prays. But God pity us! there they are coming.”

“To the tombs, master! On the left.”

“Refuge for jackals?”

“Yes, but also for the miserable, living and dead! Now haste!”

Sir Charleroy obeyed quickly, but recoiled with a groan of disgust as
he suddenly pushed against an entombed body. He touched his hilt, as
if determined to abandon attempt at flight, and then, overcoming the
rash impulse to confront the pursuers, turned about, seized the corpse,
and dragging it from its place, hurled it over the river bank into the
torrent. He was in the dispoiled nich in an instant. A cry from the
pursuers drew him forth. “See, Ichabod, the Turks are running along the
river banks watching the mummy bobbing along in the torrent. See, it
sinks. Ah, the brutes, how they shout! They think that body alive, and
that one poor slave is hounded to death.”

“Jehovah Jeireh, now help us; they’ll soon be back,” cried Ichabod.

“Ah, I forgot; they’ll remember there were two of us.”

“Calm, Sir Knight, ‘By this sign I conquer,’ quoting thy words of
another. I’ll go forth; the only one left; at least so they’ll think.”

Sir Charleroy turned and looked at the Jew, and was amazed to see him
binding in front of himself a board having the ominous words, “Unclean”
upon it.

“What; thou, a Jew, and touch that foul thing, worn to festering death by
some leper!”

“Better night and a clean soul, though in a body burned by the cursed
leprosy, than life in Moslem slavery.”

“But what if the disease cleave to thee, and we escape?”

“Sir Knight, thou wilt live to tell others that a once hated Jew was led
of thee to truth, and after died a living death, that his benefactors
might survive. I think such deeds cause noble lights to glow in human
souls.”

“God bless and pity thee, Ichabod.”

“Ah, he does; even now. I see the scarlet line of Rahab, and it binds the
pestilence that walketh by noonday.”

The furious pursuers spurred their steeds up toward the tombs, but
as they beheld the solitary man, sitting in painful attitude with
beggar-like palm extended and wearing the dread sign, they rapidly
wheeled their steeds about and galloped away. The Moslem had heard that
a Jew would suffer any torture rather than ceremonial pollution; hence
judged that the object before them could not be the refugee they sought.

“I wonder not that the demoniac cut himself madly when among the tombs,
good Jew. Sure it’s like going to glory to get out once more. Methinks
freedom is only sweet when taken with fresh air! Well, we are out and the
enemy thwarted.”

“Methinks, master, that the leper that died here, leaving no legacy but
the sign of his death, did some good in unknowingly making me his heir.”

“And the corpse I disposed of so unceremoniously left me a house of
safety, though small and musty. I’ve a bitter thought.”

“So, Sir Charleroy, tell it me, perhaps I can sweeten it.”

“I, the heir for a little time of that soulless clay, am like it.”

“Not much being here and alive.”

“I rather think like it. See me tossed about by strangers, robbed of my
rights, helpless to resist fate’s tides, begrudged the room I occupy, and
not one who once knew me to weep over my besetments.”

“Sir Knight, the miracles of our frequent preservation should make our
murmurings dumb.”

In the evening Jordan ebbed a little and the two wanderers passed over.
Nor did they regret the consequent immersing in its flood. No word was
spoken as they passed through the current, for, before they entered,
having remembered that at this Bethabara ford man’s Savior was baptized,
they were each busy with his own meditations. When they stood on the
other shore, Sir Charleroy reverently said: “Comrade, I prayed as we
passed that we might have the dove of peace henceforth above our souls at
least.”

“I prayed on my part that God would accept the act as the Christian’s
typical burial to the world and separation from its sins.”

“How like death and birth is that beautiful type. They level all life.”

“Are our lives leveled? knight.”

“Henceforth; and we are brethren.”

“And our King and Savior was baptized here by the herald of His Kingdom,
John?”

“Yea; here the new Judaism was formally inaugurated. Tradition says also
that Jesus baptized his mother afterward at this ford.”

“How filial; how beautiful; how expressive! He was her God, yet her
son, she his mother and disciple; and each by all ties and forms bound
together in a fellowship of helpfulness.”

“The Jew’s an interpreter.”

“Sir Charleroy sweetens my trust as Jordan sweetens the bitter waters of
Bahr Lut.”




CHAPTER IX.

THE FEAST OF THE ROSE.

“They arise now like the stars before me
Through the long, long night of years;
Some are bright with heavenly radiance,
And others shine out through our tears.
They arise, too, like mystical flowers,
All different and all the same—
As they lie on my heart like a garland
That is wreathed around MARY’S name,”


“Good morning and a blessing, comrade.” It was the greeting of the Jew
to the knight who lay asleep under a palm the day after the flight. The
sleeper slowly rising, murmured:

“I’m half vexed at thee, Ichabod; thou hast dissolved a dream filled with
sights of home and mother.”

“I’ve brought lentils, barley, and grape-clusters; they are better than
dreams when the sun is up.”

“To those sad when awake, joyful dreams are welcome.”

“There are real joys just before us.”

“Real joys, just before us? Grim sarcasm; a sorry jest, Jew!”

“No; oh, no. I’m telling thee the smiling, clean-faced truth. We’ll be
safe at Jabbock’s city by sun set!”

“Safe? safe? I’m unused to that word; almost afraid of it. What does it
mean in this country?”

“Oh, these cavalrymen! always on the charge; now here, now there. Thy
thoughts go by habit, sometimes racing forward, sometimes retreating. A
while ago thou wert as full of faith as Gideon, now thou art as timorous
as Canaan’s spies.”

“My habits have grown fat by feeding on piebald experiences.”

“Experience is a lying prophet, when it counts without reckoning God.”

“I can not see a step ahead. That’s certainty to me, though thou callest
it doubt. I know not how to hang rainbows upon the ghostly brows of the
future when I’ve no power to lay hand on the ghostly form and have no
rainbows.”

“He that lifted the burdens of the past from off us holds the changing
winds of the future in His fists. One second of life goes ever with
only one second of care. I learned this of Sir Charleroy long ago. Now
he forgets his own teachings. Shall I call him Reuben, never excelling
because unstable as water?”

“Call me slave: Uncertainty’s slave! Thou didst waken me from a dream of
home, to the shock of remembering again that I was homeless, dead to all
that once made life worth living. The gorgeous hopes of thy fertile mind
are mocked by stern present facts.”

“Odd talk from one just dreaming of his mother; a good woman didst say?
then very hopeful; all good women are. Then remember how thou didst lift
me to the very gates of heaven yesterday. Thou canst not see a step
ahead? Well, then look back; miles; years. Was not our God in thy battles
in the thickets; in the mountains; in Jordan? My poor reasoning tells
me that He has wrought too much for us to drop us now. He must get His
reward in keeping us to the end.”

“Some of the past makes me shudder, Ichabod.”

“Pick out the best, not the worst. We escaped the very Gehenna at
Jericho, following murderers, the storm, slavery; now free, fed, rested,
the eastern air washed and sunned to a tonic. I’m drinking lotus balm out
of it.”

“There it is; the sun’s in thy brain, poet-preacher.”

“No, I’m only giving thee back some of thine own sermons. I draw from my
own heart no monster memories. If I’ve fought hard battles it sufficeth
that I have fought them once. I’ll not recall their bloody sweat and
tears for the sake of refighting them. No, I’m going back to the sweet,
happy hours of babyhood; for I tell thee, knight, there is a world of joy
to a man, scorched by stern experience, to forget himself sometimes back
to the lullabys and warblings of the days of his innocence.”

“I can’t do it.”

“I can’t help doing it, especially in this place! My whole being feeds on
a present scent of home.”

“Thou knowest the country hereabouts?”

“My soul laughs in friendly converse with these crocuses, pinks, and
asphodels, turning the velvet, grassy plains to palace carpets. I’m
saying to myself these blossoms must know me, their bowing heads and
offered odors being my reward for nursing their mothers when I was a boy.”

“Well, flowers are sincere friends; they never change and are all
charitable. That’s why they are deemed fit presents to those in prison,
or proper offering to be laid on the breast of the dead Magdalene.”

“Ah, dead Magdalene; for even the symbol of a broken promise; born to
be a queen of love, by perverted love dethroned! Woman, man’s ward, by
man betrayed; the guide star setting in black night; the savior of human
purity befouling all purity! Given the power by which Eve was to crush
the serpent’s head and using it to breed all serpentine ills. This is
Eve turning a volcano upon Eden. Put flowers upon her once passionate,
now dead, heart, in awful contrast! Nature at her worst is intensified
anguish; at her best an ocean of joy, an universe of light and song. So I
learn of nature under man. Listen to nature’s perfumed throb now: these
thousands of feathered songsters, millions of lesser creatures, whose
melody is larger than themselves and more perceptible. Hear the humming,
thrumming, buzzing, trumpetings. Oh, this is life as the All-Saving tuned
it to utter joy! It widens, deepens, thickens; getting sweeter, louder,
happier all the way. A tempest, set to music, knight. I’m caught in its
whirl and join in its praisings. It comes over me as an insight of what
nature really is. God cares for it all and made it thus, to throb and
exult!” Ichabod paused in transport. “But I sometimes think there’s a
great waste of these things; there is so much in places where there is no
human ear or eye to hear or see.”

“Reuben is narrow-viewed just now. Man is not all! God makes happiness
because He is so full of goodness He must. Our rabbis call Him ‘The
Fountain.’ There is no waste! He makes these things for His own joy, and,
methinks, looks down from the circle of the heavens to say to what is in
the desert or wilderness, ‘Very good.’ Then, beyond this, I’ve sometimes
thought He kept the processions of joy and beauty moving along; coming,
going, dying, living, ending and beginning again, as a sort of practice;
by action keeping all fresh and new. He causes things of beauty and power
to pass through His divine alchemy from one glory to another, as the
general causes his squadrons to move through the evolutions of the battle
before the conflict. The Father is awaiting man’s hour, man’s return
from sinning; the time for millennial advent; then all delights, as if
fresh born, all goods newly harvested, will appear to be multiplied,
intensified, transfigured. That will be the beginning of hereafter.”

“Oh, Israel, the sun is in thy brain. I forget all logic of contention,
charmed out of words, by feasting on thy orisons, Go on, Jew.”

“Then I’ll say ’twas God, not chance, nor fate, that brought us to wander
alone with nature. Read well nature’s book that lies open in the lap of
the Great Teacher! Only stand close to Him and He will hold the torch,
turn the pages and give the sure interpretations of the sweetness that
feeds quiet, the picturesqueness which evokes smiles and the stately
grandeurs which beget faith.”

“Israel, thou climbest the sun-ladder to rhapsody!”

“Whether soaring, climbing, or creeping, I know not; but this I know,
I’m tasting in these wanderings God’s kisses. They are in the flowers; my
spirit rests on His as my body on the balm of the fresh breezes. Then,
animate nature seems so contented and happy! Why, I’ve been ravished



Online LibraryA. Stewart (Alexander Stewart) WalshMary: The Queen of the House of David and Mother of Jesus → online text (page 7 of 40)