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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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“I’m with the knight, to proclaim thy Rose!”

“A good profession! It will be well if we remember that woman is as
essential to religion as religion to women. As for man he needs the one
as the interpreter of the other. Therefore, it was that God sent to earth
a flower that could talk.”

[Illustration]




CHAPTER X.

AFTER EVE, ESTHER OR MARY?

“Still slowly passed the melancholy day,
And still the stranger wist not where to stray:
The world was sad—the Garden was a wild;
And man, the hermit, sighed—till woman smiled.”—MILTON.


The Israelites, along Jabbock, were all aglow with preparation for
celebrating one of their feasts. Sir Charleroy and his comrade journeying
along, in the early morning, were apprised of the advent of the
festivities by the passing near them of a company of maidens, marching
and chanting. The pilgrims drew apart and sequestered themselves behind a
clump of nubt trees that they might observe, themselves unobserved, the
graceful procession of singers.

“Well, my poet, didst thou conjure up these fairies, or have we come on
the musk-born houri?” Sir Charleroy spoke in an absent-minded manner,
perhaps, with an affectation of a lack of very much interest. In fact,
long privation of the presence of women had somehow rusted from his
bearing, in their vicinage, most of the confident courtier. In a word,
he was now bashful in their presence. He spoke with a small witticism to
subdue, his own embarrassment. His words were unheard, for the Jew was
all engaged in contemplating the passing women.

In truth, the latter made a striking picture; garbed as they were, in
holiday attire; all young, oriental in beauty, and fresh in face, form
and action. They were rural maidens and that says all. It had been a
long time since either Ichabod or Sir Charleroy had met such types of
womanhood; all free from affectation; all natural and graceful in motion;
a band of women, as sisters, bent to one purpose and that a lofty one,
the proper observance of a joyous, pious, religious ceremonial.

Presently Ichabod drew a long breath and rapturously exclaimed: “Praise
be to the Patriarchs, my people!”

“I’d rather say, Ichabod, praise the Patriarch’s daughters, if these be
human!”

“Ha, ha! flesh, indeed! Our Hebrew maidens celebrating the Feast of
Esther!”

“Are they praying God for Adams, so that each Esther and Vashti may have
one all to herself? If so, we are part answers to their prayers.”

“Hush such jest! These be holy maidens, now honoring our Esther. Thou
knowest about her?”

“Certainly; she was my heroine before Our Lady dethroned in my heart
all others. I was wont to wish I’d been about in Haman’s time. I’d have
aroused that old dotard, Ahasuerus, right quickly. By the sackcloth of
Mordecai, if I’d been the king, the hanging would have put the Haman
family into mourning long before it did.”

“Oh, how like angels! It’s years since I saw a woman other than as
deflowered by harem life. Heavens, what a spoiler man is at his worst!”

“Dost forget Nourahmal? But no matter; I admire, and wonder that some
roving band of Arabs, with less piety, or more force than we, does not
swoop down upon these innocents for seraglio prizes. Perhaps these have
the liveried angels about, that are said ever to guard saintly purity.”

“Doubtless; and besides them, with all the practical providence which
belongs to the Jew, thou mayst be sure that the groves, not far away, are
full of fathers, brothers, lovers.”

“I wish I were a brother to some of them.”

“Then thou’dst be a Jew.”

“I’d forget that in being a lover to the others.”

“Thou wouldst not change thy faith for a woman?”

“Now, I’d swear I would not. If like most men, and in love, I’d swear
I would; and then, having gotten my new priestess, in a little while,
backslide and drag her with me, or make her heart weep. My comfort in the
last estate being my consistency, if not my constancy. What a mad rout it
is when religion and love, born twins, cross purposes?”

“That’s a very true, yet bitter speech. I’ll tell the Hebrew maidens to
beware.”

“Better tell me to beware, now. It’s the beginning that makes the
trouble. No beginning, then no after folly.”

The procession glided past and the pilgrims followed at a distance.

“We are within an arm of dear old Jabbock,” remarked Ichabod, as they
came to a river-bank, later.

“Ah, ha! my chartless pilot, does the current whisper its name to thee,
in Hebrew? I’d not wonder if it did, since every thing is clannish in
this country.—I hope there is no more swimming for us to do.”

“Its tumbling waters are full of voices to me, blending with echoes of
things of the past; but one who spoke a thousand times more tenderly than
ever spoke murmuring waters, told me its name, knight.”

“Nourahmal? No! rather some one of those pious beauties we passed not
long ago. Oh, roguish Ichabod, I remember thou wert away a long time in
the morning after our breakfast of peas and grapes. But, dear Ichabod,”
continued Sir Charleroy, feigning rebuke, “didst thou so soon forget thy
little convert of Jericho? I wonder if thou lifted up thy voice and wept
when thou kissed the maid that told thee the river’s name? Come, confess,
and I’ll call thee Isaac.”

“Raillery of prime quality, knight; but raillery and ridicule, though
keenly pointed, are generally bad arrows for long range.”

“Well, no matter. I’m glad thou knowest the place, if thou dost know it.
Who told thee the name of this water?”

“One with a voice to me sweeter, kinder than that of any betrothed
lover’s ever can be.”

“Very, very eloquent thou art. Indeed, if we were in Italy, I’d guess
’twas a syren had communed with thee; in France, a Crusader troubadour;
in Rhineland, the water sprite, Lurline; but, being in this wondrous
country of revelations, apparitions, prophets, angels and the like, I
can only as a catechumen, ask thy dulcet informer’s name?”

“How oddly thou dost talk when thou talkest as a double man; half
sneering infidel; half Christian preacher.”

“A truce, Ichabod. That may be a home-thrust well aimed, but it’s enough
that one of us be bitter. It’s sometimes natural to me, but not to thee.”

“A bee-sting will redden the high priest’s brow.”

“Well, I’ll not sting thee. Who gave the name of the river?”

“Master, one to me alone of all the world an angel, my mother. I was born
near here, and the memories of a youth made happy by one all patient, all
loving, rises above and survives all changes.”

“My noble friend, forgive my repartee. I’m glad, truly, that we are so
lucky as to have this knowledge.”

“Lucky? Then all is not fate; there is some chance, if no Providence?”

“Pardon more; the bee-sting is still on thy brow. Ichabod, I can not help
my feelings, which sometimes make me think that only God can tread the
hidden, narrow line between stern fate and happy accident. They say the
Sybil wrote her prophetic decrees upon leaves and flung them recklessly
to the inconstant winds. Just so we’re in decreed courses, swirled by
chance gusts.”

“Yet we two are getting on well together.”

“So do chance and fate; the pity is to the waif that falls between them.”

“I wonder how here, in Holy Land, thou canst think of any control but
Providence.”

“Wonder? So do I. I’m a bundle of wonderings.”

“Listen to Jabbock.”

“I do, more attentively than Jabbock to me. What of it?”

“Grander rivers are forgotten; why is it so remembered?”

“We’re forgotten, meaner men remembered.”

“This river sings through the centuries of history the song of a fugitive
of pale heart, who in sheer desperation, long, long ago, seized a
fleeting hope and became a prince, having power to prevail with God.”

“Ah, Jacob, who worked fourteen years to win a woman. It was, I’m sure,
the woman that nerved him to attempt greatness. Such a woman! Had she
been like our moderns she would have jilted him, or eloped with him,
before the end of one of the fourteen years.”

“I’ll not tilt with thy sarcasms. It were much better to remember that
he, a pigmy, the night in his soul, as that about him, black as Erebus,
grappled with the mighty, unknown, unseen apparition to find he was
holding Deity. The mysteries of crossing fates and chances are as open
nut-bur compared to that of all weakness prevailing with Omnipotence, my
good master, I think.”

“But ever after that joust, Jacob was a cripple!”

“Oh, but remember, as he halted on his thigh the sun rose over Penuel,
‘the place of seeing God,’ by interpretation. He was stronger for his
laming!”

“A very ‘Timor-lame,’ this prince of great chances and mean ways.”

“Time and trial repaired Jacob’s spotted soul.”

“There was much room for the mending, I do vow.”

“His weightings bespeak some charity. Think; a weak mother, one designing
wife, and plenty of wealth!”

“Well, ’tis true, these were enough to have undone St. Anthony, if the
devil had only thought to have tried them all at once upon him!”

“Sir Charleroy swings back to his old bitterness toward women; did he
never love one?”

“No, not as a lover. I was never tried except by designing coquetries
that nauseated finally.”

“Perhaps, like most solitary men, thou so revered thyself by habit that
there was no room for other person in thy heart.”

“I never met one I deemed perfect and available.”

“Better to have loved some one far from perfect than none. If thy
heart-fount had been once touched it would have set thy imaginations to
weaving halos about the one touching. Thou wouldst have enthroned her by
a love that would have transformed both. She would have become in time
what she was in love’s young dream; while thou wouldst have grown by the
experience to be twice the man thou hadst been—or art.”

“The sun in thy head is settling down into thy heart, Jew.”

“Is that so, Charleroy?”

“Yes, but not to harm; heart sunsets ripen heart fruits; that’s the
reason the autumn suns run low; the low suns ripen. But after all, I’m
not so very miserable in heart. I’ve loved some women; mother and my
Mary——”

“Filial love, religious love! somewhat akin and blessing him that feels
their mellow, exalting influences; but, oh, Sir Charleroy, they do
not fill completely the heart’s temple. There are places there for
the expression of ruddy, glorious lover’s love. The three make up an
all-comprehending trinity, and fill the man as Deity the universe.
I see religious love in adoration of God’s Fatherhood, mother love
in the tender leading of the Spirit, lover’s love in the priceless
self-surrender of our Saviour. That made the angels sing, and in the
being of each of our race there is room, aye need, of the melody which
only the experiencing of this passion in full can produce. In love-mating
is a wondrous thrill which can be but faintly voiced even by those who
have experienced it.

“There are other passions which ebb with time, or, being well fed, wax
gross; not so with this one. Inspired by the potencies of life, which
lie at the very core of being, it wells up in rills, rivers and torrents
of pleasurable sensations. Out from the heart it goes to the remotest
members, only to double on its courses and dash again through the beating
heart, heating its flame by its doubling and hasting, making the beatings
wilder by its hastings, and then hasting more because of the wilder
beatings. Of all emotions love is the most tireless. It increases by
giving, grows stronger by action and proclaims the secret of its heavenly
birth, its immortality, by the way in which it deepens and ripens with
every movement of its life. Aye, more, it proclaims itself the power of
the resurrection by the way it transforms the lives it possesses. A man
may be a lout, ever so crude in fiber, but this musical flame passing
through his being, burns up his dross, making him all brave, courteous,
tender, poetic, religious! Yea, religious! If it do not utterly redeem
a sinner possessed by it, it will take him nearer to salvation than
any other power known on earth, except the Spirit of Grace. It is as
the opening of the eyes of the blind man, for it opens the doors of
a new sense to the realizing of a world as new as delightful. As the
thrummings on the harp-strings someway leave a lasting sonorousness
and tenderness in the supporting woods about the lyre, so leaves this
passion, through the beatings of every wave of it, wealth. Its devotee by
it is inducted into exhaustless new realms and possessions, unalterably
secured to him, and at the same time beyond all computation. He ever
gathers treasures, as a prince from incoming fleets, and is made affluent
beyond all counting. He surpasses all in wealth-getting, and yet is
infinitely apart from the littleness of avarice. It is to him the advent
of charity’s full-orbed day. It may be fancy in him, but it’s to him
very real; the world about, as if having learned his secret, seems to
be dressing for the wedding feast, while all things appear to be coming
very confidentially to him to whisper the divine mandate, ‘marry and
multiply.’ He is trusted, yet trusts; leads, yet follows. He is proud
to display, a little, his conquest, but does so with a sort of alert
charming selfishness, which gives notice to the world that he alone is
to wear the chosen one upon his heart. He realizes the paradox of giving
all and receiving all; the mystery of two lives merged into one by an
utter surrender, each to each, which leaves both infinitely richer than
the sum of all their ownings could make either if possessed by the one
apart from the other. Oh, how almost imperiously each demands that
the other shall surrender all and then how great the joy each feels in
leading the chosen mate to surprises at the munificence and completeness
of the giving up of all by the one who just now demanded all. I do not
know the woman’s heart, but can readily believe it far surpasses the
man’s in its consecration, enjoyment and aspiring. I know the man’s, but
my words are ragged in description. I know that this grand passion makes
him wondrously weak and wondrously strong. Sometimes these inner feelings
come nigh overwhelming him; sometimes they fall upon his life like the
musical ebb-waves on resonant shores. I can not word it all, nor is it
strange, since I am speaking of a life of heavenly flights, and best
expressed by voiceless signs, embraces. In love’s hour the man realizes,
as never before, his lordliness and his pride and ambition are fed by a
growing conviction that all the world is small beside himself and his;
proud as a conqueror of untold wealth, he yields to the tender ties
that unrelentingly bind him and crucifies his native roughness that he
may be more like, more worthy her he rules and obeys. He is made finer;
she stronger. Has she virtues, he appropriates them; at the same time,
by the homage implied by his appropriation, makes them to shine more
brightly on the brow and heart of his queen. He touches the fires on the
altar she has erected within herself to love alone, and the altar-fires
blaze until her whole being is illuminated as a temple on fête days. She
puts on his best parts, and then he revels in delight as he beholds his
virtues refined and so beautifully framed. There are times when, like a
mighty anthem, his passion passes over and through him. Then is he nigh
to madness, being in the mood to slay himself, or another doing aught
to check the rapture of the mighty swellings of the music that pours
over every nerve from head to heart, to limb. Then it is he embraces and
kisses and embraces again; as an inspired artist of music, exhausting
himself to prolong this joy, almost materialized. Indeed, I saw one who
said ‘this is tangible music. I feel it; taste it; see it!’ It seems to
thicken the air until I rise unwinged, and yet in a flight that seems to
me as free and brilliant as that of the golden oriole’s. If the enchanted
enchanter be pure and true, she leads her captive king, made tender and
yet more manly by his captivity, surely upward from tumultuous passion’s
sway to the ambrosial table-lands of higher affection where both may
reign tenderly, bravely, hopefully, forever. I tell thee, knight, the
finest spectacle on earth is a man in his prime, creation’s lord at his
best, sincerely, completely in love with a queenly woman. Next after
getting God into a man’s heart, the greatest blessing is the getting of a
woman of genuine parts therein.”

“Oh, child of the sunny palm land, thou hast imbibed wondrous eloquence.
But thou sayest truly. Now, for the women that are so to queen us men. No
woman that I ever knew of could so intoxicate, transform and translate
me.”

“One like Eve, the gift of God?”

“The first woman, like the first man, was pure without virtue, until
tried; then she fell. I think of her chiefly as being a splendid animal,
yet, as Adam was not left for man’s example, neither was she. I still
think Eve passed by in history to be only what she was full proof that
love which rises no higher than to give all to and for that which was
like the fruit of the tempting tree, good for food and pleasant to the
eyes, is not like the love that at last hung on the tree of Calvary. Oh,
child of Abraham, I hear the ‘_voice of God walking in the garden in the
cool of the day_,’ saying to a world of flitting, false ideals, and those
yearning for pilots and patterns, ‘_Where art thou?_’ I don’t know, for
one, exactly where I am, but I’m going forward and upward someway.”

“Sir Charleroy thou dost dazzle me by thy correspondences and insights,
if I do thee by my pictures. We are quits.”

“But we’ll not quit. This pilgrim idleness has value. I never knew what
I believed until, thus flung out of life’s hurly burly, I had little
company but my thoughts. There was method of reason in God’s taking His
prophets to lone places, to fit them for understanding the rapturing
visions with which He filled them.”

“’Tis so, true; but what thinks the knight of Esther, the beautiful
Queen? She’s the idol and ideal in Israel in all times and places.”

“Wondrous woman! A girl, petted, ill-trained, from poverty suddenly
exalted, surrounded by the skilled intriguants of court, a jealous,
exacting, conceited, harem-demoralized old king for a spouse, she was
then burdened with the salvation of a nation. I’ve so pitied her that
I’ve forgotten to admire how well she did in her trying lot.”

“Can the world ever have a finer figure or presentment of all that is
womanly? I do not challenge thy Mary, but may I not put the two side by
side?”

“Israel has two great women in their way. The one, Esther, exemplifying
all sweetness and the mild strength of a suddenly developed woman, doing
grandly in one emergency when great peril and great love aroused her from
only being an entrancing, petted beauty, to be the heroine of an hour.
But she was not tried by the searching test of a lifetime. She never
meets the needs of mothers seeking an ideal. Rizpah, your other grand
woman, was the mother, even the mother of sorrows, of the Old Testament.
It takes these two to make an ideal, and yet the pattern is incomplete.
God walks yet in the garden where men live, with only these two before
them, and ever and anon they hear the unanswerable, ‘_Where art thou?_’”

“Why, my mentor, master, thou hast touched our Scriptures with the rod
that budded; the whole opens to me as if for the first time. Methinks, if
I were permitted to lay hands now upon one of our sacred volumes, I’d be
fairly overcome by the light that would break out on me from within it.”

“‘The entrance of the word giveth light,’ Ichabod.”

“I’m moved, master, along lines I can not turn from, to the one woman of
all, Mary. She is thy ideal queen of hearts?”

“I’m a pilgrim and follow her, seeing none better.”

“Then thou wouldst be willing to wed such as Mary?”

“Hold! This is sacrilegious! I’ll not think of Mary in any such
comparison. Leave my patron saint upon her high pedestal. I save her for
my soul’s health, as every man should save some noble woman, for an inner
enshrining, to be all that woman may be at her best, his beloved, his
inspirer, and yet touching no spring of his life save such as responds
to things of moral grandeur.”

“Ah, master, I’ve not yet been enamored fully of this woman. I feel a
stranger to her, but I feel the meaning of the finer things thou hast
just spoken. I have the need of which thou dost speak, and my life, like
a babe, often now goes out crying, ‘Mother, mother.’ As we lay, yesterday
night, beneath the quiet firmament, I gazed up and asked a sign of God
in prayer. It was a baby cry I know, but I saw one star that staid and
staid above me. It seemed to be warmed with reddish tintings, and I
thought that its glitterings were proof that it was taking part in some
anthem of the morning stars. Then I dreamed that my mother was in the
star all luminous, holy, happy, looking down in constant guardianship of
her outcast boy! Oh, can a child ever be outcast utterly to mother? Can
it be that she, who so loved me and so loved God, can hate me now, loving
her and loving God as I do? God knows my heart! Will he not tell her
all? Her constant mandate to me was, ‘keep a loyal heart, an undefiled
conscience.’ I’ve tried to do both, but then her soul loathed apostacy.
Does she loathe me for leaving Israel’s fold? My heart all torn, cries
to-day, ‘Mother, mother!’ I’m sure she can not hate me. To-morrow I hope
I shall pray at her grave.”

Then the vehement Israelite fell on the ground in an ecstasy, utterly
unconscious of his companion, and, kissing the earth as if already he was
by that parent’s resting place, wildly called, “Mother! my mamma! oh,
I’m so lonely, so unhappy! Let me come! God, God, let me go to mother!
Mother, I did it as thou saidst. I’m no leper. I’m not a heretic! I
love thee. I love God. I’ve kept pure. I’ve trusted God’s care in all
my trouble. Mamma, my mamma, let Ichabod embrace thee!” Exhausted and
quivering he there lay. The knight was silent. It was holy ground, and
the whole thicket about seemed to be glowing with the fire that burns
without consuming.

The travelers were encamped again under the sky, and it was now night.
A shooting star sped through the constellation of Orion and fell down
toward the Dead Sea.

“An omen, Jew.”

“Explain, brother knight.”

“Life; bright, short, ending in gloom.”

“Look at the fixed stars.”

“They preach fate.”

“Perhaps, but they have the majority. Few fall; I think, too, Someone
holds them.”

“Thy hopefulness colors thy faith.”

“Thy murmurings run toward final madness, knight; the Rabbis, good men,
so taught me.”

“If one star falls may not all? If Providence hold them, why does one
escape?”

“Thou hast heard that the giant Orion having lost his eyes, afterward
regained his sight by turning his sockets toward the rising sun; that
meteor we saw shot through the constellation Orion. Look up.”

“A happy simile and pungent thrust, Jew.”

“He that sent the lightnings to show us our way out of dread Jericho,
most likely now commissioned some angel to swing a meteor across the sky
as a torch or beacon for our guidance. The trail of flame teaches me
that God is writing His royal signature on some great message.”

“This world is too vast and too thronged with insignificants, such as we,
for such especial carings on God’s part. There are too many kings, too
many shepherds, too many follies for Him to constantly watch any one or
two.”

“Backward, forward; now good, now bad. What a charging, changing knight!
Pray God to get thee right and then fix thee.”

Their converse was interrupted by a prolonged trumpet blast, echoing from
hill to hill. Sir Charleroy sprang to his feet and clasping his sword
hilt, cried eagerly, “We’re ambuscaded!”

“No, by the glory of God, ’twas the temple call! How grand it sounds away
in this wilderness!”

“No, no, Jew, I’ve heard that call; this one had six responses.”

“’Twas echo’s magic! Didst thou not notice how the sound spread as it



Online LibraryA. Stewart (Alexander Stewart) WalshMary: The Queen of the House of David and Mother of Jesus → online text (page 9 of 40)