George Moore.

The Brook Kerith A Syrian story online

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not be shared among the angels of God - God would find his people
repentant when he arrived with his son. At last the assembly settled
themselves to listen to the story of the vision in which a ram pushed
westward and northward and southward, till a he-goat came from the
west - one with a notable horn between the eyes, and butted the ram till
he had broken his two horns. Joseph had forgotten these visions, and he
learnt for the first time, so it seemed to him, that the goat meant the
Syrian king, Antiochus, who had conquered Jerusalem, polluted the
sanctuary and set up heathen gods. But how are all these visions
concerned with the setting up of the Kingdom of God on earth? and Jesus'
purpose did not appear to him till Daniel heard a voice between the
banks of the Ula crying: make this man understand. Joseph understood
forthwith that Jesus' purpose was still the same, to make it plain to
the disciples that Daniel was protected and guided by God, and, that
being so, Jesus could go to Jerusalem fearing nothing, he being greater
than Daniel. So he sat immersed in belief, hearing but faintly the many
marvellous things that Daniel heard and saw, nor did he awake from his
reverie till Jesus announced that Gabriel flew about Daniel at the hour
of the evening oblation, telling him that seventy weeks was the measure
of time allowed by God to make reconciliation for iniquity and bring
everlasting righteousness, and build Jerusalem unto the Messiah; and
that after three score and two weeks the Messiah should be cut off but
not for himself.

The words "cut off but not for himself" troubled Joseph, and he pondered
them, while the disciples marvelled at hearing Jesus speak of these
things (he seemed to know the Scriptures by rote), and his voice went
upward into the silence of the firs, and they heard as if in a dream
that the king of the south should come into his kingdom and return to
his own land. But his sons shall be stirred up and shall revolt against
him, Jesus said, and the disciples marvelled greatly, for Jesus made
clear the meaning that lay under these dark sayings, and they heard and
understood how the robbers of the people should exalt themselves and
establish a vision; but these shall fall and the king of the north shall
come and cast up mounds and take the fortified cities. And they heard of
destructions and leagues and armies and sanctuaries that were polluted,
and of peoples who did not know their God, but who nevertheless became
strong; and they heard of Edom and Moab and the children of Ammon, but
at the end of all these troubles the Tabernacle was placed between the
seas of the glorious holy mountain. And that day the fishers from the
lake of Galilee and others heard that Michael had told the people of
Israel that those that were dead should rise out of the earth and come
into everlasting life. But can the dead be raised up and come to life in
their corruptible bodies? asked the Samaritans that sat by Joseph, and
their mutterings grew louder, and they denied that the prophet Daniel
had spoken truth in this and many other things, and as he had not spoken
truth he was a false prophet; whereupon so great a clamour arose that
the wild beasts in the ravine began to growl, being awaked in their
lairs. The disciples, foreseeing that it would soon be dark night in the
forest, fell to seeking the way back to Capernaum, the Galileans in one
group with Jesus among them, the Samaritans speeding away together and
stopping at times for fresh discussion with the Galileans, asking among
many other things how the corruptible body might be raised up to heaven
and live indulging in the many imperfections inherent in our bodies. It
was vain to ask them what justice there would be if the men that had
died before the coming of the Kingdom of God were not raised up into
heaven. If this were true the dead had led virtuous lives in vain; they
might for all it had profited them have lived like the heathen.

It was at Capernaum that the truth became manifest that not only was
Daniel denied, but Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, all the prophets since
Moses, at which the disciples were greatly incensed and raised their
staves against the Samaritans, but Jesus dissuaded his followers, and
the dissidents were suffered to depart unhurt. Let them go, Jesus said,
for they are in the hands of God, like ourselves, and he bade them all
good-night, and there seemed to Joseph to be a great sadness in Jesus'
voice, as if he felt that in this world there was little else but
leave-taking.

Joseph too resented this parting, though it was for but a few hours; he
would unite himself to Jesus, become one, as the mother and the unborn
babe are one - he would be of the same mind and flesh; all division
seemed to him loss, till, frightened at his own great love of Jesus, he
stopped in the Plain of Gennesaret, star-gazing. But the stars told him
nothing, and he walked on again. And it was about a half-hour's walk
from Magdala that he overtook the Samaritans, who sought to draw him
into argument. But he was in no humour for further discussion, and
dismissed them, saying: what matter if all the prophets were false since
the promised Messiah is among us. He has come, he has come! he repeated
all the way home: and at every flight of the high stairs he tried to
collect his thoughts. But his brain was whirling, and he could only
repeat: he has come, he has come!





CHAP. XIV.


It seemed to Joseph as he hurried along the Plain of Gennesaret that the
sun shone gayer than his wont, but as he approached Capernaum he began
to think that the sun had risen a little earlier than his wont. Nobody
was about! He listened in vain for some sound of life, till at last his
ear caught a sound as of somebody moving along the wharves, and, going
thither, he came upon Peter storing his oars in the boathouse. Making
ready, Joseph said, for fishing? You don't see, Master, that I'm putting
my oars away, but I'd as lief take them out again and fish till evening.
Here was a mysterious answer from the least mysterious of men, and Peter
continued in his work, throwing the oars into a corner like one that
cared little if he broke them, and kicking his nets aside as if he were
never going to let them down again into the lake: altogether his mood
was of an exasperation such as Joseph had never suspected to be possible
in this good-humoured, simple fellow. Had he been obliged to leave the
community or sell his boats? If that were so, his chance (Joseph's
chance) of entering the community was a poor one indeed; and he begged
Peter to relate his trouble to him - for trouble there had been last
night, he was sure of it.

Trouble there always is in this world, Peter answered, so long as I've
known it, and will be till God sets up his kingdom. The sooner he does
it the better, so say I. But I don't know about the saints we heard of
yesterday, what they have to do with it. The Master's mood is stranger
than I ever can recollect it, he said, standing up straight and looking
Joseph in the eyes. It was yourself that said it yesterday, Peter,
Joseph rejoined. I'm thinking it may have been the Samaritans that vexed
him. Peter lifted his heavy shoulders and muttered: the Samaritans? We
give no heed to them: and he began to speak, at first with diffidence;
Joseph had to woo him into speaking, which he did; but after the first
few minutes Peter was glib enough, telling Joseph that last night there
had been stirs and quarrels among the disciples regarding his boats, and
John's and James' boats too, he said, and by the jealous and envious, he
muttered, who would like to come between us and the Master. Joseph asked
who had raised the vexatious question, but Peter avoided it, and went
about the wharf grunting that none could answer it: was it to Matthew,
the publican, he was to give his boats? one, he said, who never was on
the water in his life till I took him out for a sail a week come
Tuesday. A fine use they'd be to him but to drown himself. A puff of
wind, and not knowing how to take in a reef, the boat would be over in a
jiffy and the nets lost. Now who would be the better for the loss of my
nets? answer me that. And I'd like to be told when my boats and nets
were at the bottom of the lake to whom would the Son of Man turn for a
corner in which to lay his head, or for a bite or a sup of wine. John
and James would give their boats to Judas belike, and he'd bring home
about as much fish as would - - But I'm thinking of your father. What
will he be saying to all this, and his business dwindling all the while,
and we beggars? - the words with which my wife roused me this morning. Of
course, says she, if the stone that never was cut out of the mountain
with hands is going to be slung and send the Romans toppling, I've
naught to say against sharing, but the Kingdom had better come quickly,
Simon Peter, if thou'lt fish no more; and the woman is right, say I,
though I hold with every word that falls from the Master's lips, only
this way it is, he looks to my fishing for his support, and Miriam is
quick to remind me of that. A good woman, one that has been always
yielding to my will and never had a word against our lodger, but sets
the best before him out of thankfulness for his saving of her mother's
life, though one more mouth in a house is always a drain, if the Master
is as easily fed as a sparrow. But restive she is now about the delay:
as I was saying just now she wakes me up with a loud question in my ear:
now, Simon Peter, answer me, art thou going into Syria to bid the blind
to see, the lame to walk, and the palsied to shake no more, or art thou
going to thy trade? for in this house there be four little children,
myself, their mother, and thy mother-in-law. I say nothing against the
journey if it bring thee good money, or if it bring the Kingdom, but if
it bring naught but miracles there'll be little enough in the house to
eat by the time ye come back. And, says she, the feeding of his children
is a nobler work for a married man (she speaks like that sometimes) than
bidding those to see who would belike be better without their eyes than
with them. You wouldn't think it, but 'tis as I say: she talks up to me
like that, and ofttimes I've to go to the Master and ask him to quiet
her, which he rarely fails to do, for she loves him for what he has done
for her mother, and is willing to wait. But last night when the
busybodies brought her news that the Master had been preaching in the
forest, of the sharing of the world out among the holy saints, she gave
way to her temper and was violent, saying, by what right are the saints
of the most high coming here to ask for a share of this world, as if
they hadn't a heaven to live in. You see, good Master, there's right on
her side, that's what makes it so hard to answer her, and I'm with her
in this, for by what right do the holy saints down here ask for a share
in the world, that's what keeps drumming in my head; and, as I told you
a while ago, I'd as lief put out upon the lake and fish as go to Syria
for nothing, say the word - - And leave the Master to go alone? Joseph
interposed. Well, I suppose we can't do that, Peter answered, and then
it seemed to Joseph wiser not to talk any more, but to allow things to
fashion their own course, which they did very amiably, in about an
hour's time the little band going forth, Joseph walking by Peter's side,
hoping that he would not have to wait long before seeing a miracle.

Their first stop was at Chorazin, about five miles distant, and the sick
began to rise quickly from their beds, and Jesus had only to impose his
hands for the palsied to cease quivering. The laws of nature seemed
suspended and Joseph forgot his father at Magdala and likewise Pilate's
business which had brought him to Galilee. It will have to wait, he
said, talking with himself, and now certain that he had come upon him
whom he had always been seeking; it was as lost time to look at anything
but Jesus, or to hear any words but his, or to admire aught but the
manifestations of his power; and every time a sick man rose from his bed
Joseph thanked God for having allowed him to live in the days of the
Messiah. He saw sight restored to the blind, hearing to the deaf,
swiftness of foot to cripples, issues of blood that had endured ten
years stanched; the cleansing of the leper had become too common a
miracle; he looked forward to seeing demons taking flight from the
bodies of men and women, and accepted Peter's telling that the day could
not be delayed much longer when he would see some dead man rise up in
his cere-clothes from the tomb. He found no interest but in the
miraculous, and his one vexation of spirit was that Jesus forbade his
disciples (among whom Joseph now counted himself) to tell anybody that
he was the Messiah.

In every town they were welcomed by the Gentiles as well as by the Jews,
which was surprising, and set Joseph's wits to work; and these being
well trained, he soon began to apprehend that the Jews accepted the
miracles as testimony that Jesus was really the Messiah and that his
teaching was true; whereas the Gentiles admired the miracles for their
own sake, failing, however, and completely, to see that because he cured
the blind, the palsied, the scrofulous and the halt, they should no
longer visit their temples and sacred groves, and admire no more Pan's
huge sexuality and hang garlands upon it, nor carve images of Diana and
Apollo. Such abstinence they could not comprehend, and deemed it enough
that they were ready to proclaim him a god on the occasion of every
great miracle, a readiness that gave great scandal and caused many Jews
to turn away from Jesus. It was not enough that he should repudiate this
godhead; and the hardness of heart and narrowness of soul that he
encountered among his own people afflicted Jesus as much as did the
incontinency of the Gentiles, whom he sometimes met, bearing images in
procession, going towards some shrine - the very same who had listened to
his teaching in the evening. Joseph once dared throw himself in front of
one of these processions, and he begged the processionists to Pan to
throw aside the garlands and wreaths they had woven. This they would not
do, but out of respect to the distinguished strangers that had come to
their town they listened for some minutes to his relation that on the
last day the dead would be roused by the trumpets of angels to attend
the judgment and that the man Jesus before them - the Messiah announced
hundreds of years ago in many a prophetic book - would return to earth in
a chariot of fire by his Father's side, the Judgment Book in his hands.
May we now proceed on our way? they asked, but Joseph besought them to
listen to him for another few minutes, and thinking he had perhaps
explained the resurrection badly, and forthwith calling to mind the
philosophy of Egypt and Mathias, he asked them to apprehend that it
would not be the corruptible body that would rise from the dead but the
spiritual body, whereby he only succeeded in perplexing still further
the minds of the worthy pagans of Cæsarea Philippi, and provoking stirs
and quarrels among his own people.

The processionists took advantage of this diversion of opinion among the
Jews to pass on and dispose of their wreaths and votive offerings as it
pleased them to do. But on their way back they begged Jesus to perform
some more miracles, which he refused to do, and to their great amazement
he left them for the Tyrians and Sidonians. But the same difficulties
occurred in Tyre and Sidon, the Gentiles accepting the miracles with
delight but paying little heed to the doctrine. They begged him to
remain with them and offered gifts for his services as healer, but he
refused these and returned to Galilee, having performed miracles of all
sorts, without, however, having bidden a dead man rise from the grave,
to the great disappointment of Joseph, who would have liked to witness
this miracle (the greatest of all); seemingly it was not his lot. Peter
bade him hope! - the great miracle might happen in Galilee, and as such a
miracle would evince the truth of Jesus' Messiah-ship even to his
father, Joseph remained in Capernaum, going out in the boats with Jesus
and his disciples, sailing along the shores till the people gathered in
numbers sufficient for an exhortation. As there were always many
Pharisees and Sadducees among the crowds assembled to hear the Master,
he did not land, but preached standing up in the bow, Peter vigilant
with an oar, for priests are everywhere enemies of reformation and
instigate attacks upon reformers, and those made on Jesus were often so
violent that Peter had to strike out to the right and left, but he
always managed to get free, and they sailed for less hostile coasts or
back to the wharf at Capernaum.

It once occurred to them to try their luck with the Gadarenes, and it
was in returning from their coasts one evening that Peter's boat was
caught in a great storm and that Joseph was met by one of his father's
servants as he jumped ashore. The man had come to tell him that if he
wished to see his father alive he must hasten to Magdala, and Joseph
glared at him dumbfounded, for he had suspected all along that he had
little or no right at all to leave his father for Jesus. I did not know
I was like this, he blurted out to himself. And as much to silence his
accusing conscience as anything else he questioned the stupid messenger,
asking him if his father had seen a physician, and if the physician had
held out any hopes of a recovery. But the thin and halting account which
was all the messenger could give only increased Joseph's alarm, and it
was with much difficulty that he learnt from him that the master had
brought some walnuts to the parrots, and just after giving a nut to the
green parrot had cried out to Tobias that a great pain had come into his
head. Joseph dug his heels into his ass's side and cried to the
messenger: and then? The messenger answered that the pain in the back of
his father's head had become so great that he had begun to reel about,
overthrowing one of the parrots on its perch. The parrot flew at master,
thinking he had done it - - Never mind the parrot, Joseph replied
angrily, confusing the messenger, who told him that the master had
entered the house on Tobias' arm, and had sat down to supper but had
eaten nothing to speak of. None of us dared to go to bed that night, the
messenger continued. We sat up, expecting every moment somebody to come
down from the room overhead to tell us that the master was dead. The
next part of the messenger's story was like a tangled skein, and Joseph
half heard and half understood that the great physician that had come
from Tiberias had said that he must awaken the master out of the swoon
and at any cost. He kept bawling at him, the messenger said. Bawling at
him, Joseph repeated after the messenger, and the messenger repeated the
words, bawling at him, and saying that the physician said the master's
swoon was like a wall and that he must get him to hear him somehow. He
said the effort would cost your father, Sir, a great deal, but he must
get him to hear him. The story as the servant related it seemed
incredible, but he reflected that servants' stories are always
incredible, and Joseph learned with increasing wonder that Dan had heard
the physician and sat up in bed and spoken reasonably, but had fallen
back again unconscious, and that the physician on leaving him said that
they must get his mouth open somehow and pour a spoonful of milk into
his mouth, and call upon him as loudly as they could to swallow. What
physician have they sent for? Joseph asked the messenger, but he could
not remember the name.

It was Ecanus who was sitting by Dan's bedside when Joseph arrived, and
Joseph learnt by careful nursing and feeding him every ten minutes there
was just a chance of saving Dan's life.

For seven days Dan's life receded, and it was not till the eighth day
the wheel of life paused on the edge of the abyss. Dan, with his eyes
turned up under the eyelids, only the white showing, lay motionless; and
it was not till the morning of the ninth day that the wheel began to
revolve back again; but so slow were its revolutions that Joseph was in
doubt for two or three days. But on the fifth day he was sure that Dan
was mending, and in about three days more the pupils of Dan's eyes
looked at his son's from under the eyelids. He spoke a few words and
took his milk more easily, without being asked to swallow. The pains in
his head returned with consciousness; he often moaned; the doctor was
obliged to give him opiates, but he continued to mend and in three weeks
was speaking of going out to walk in the garden. To gain his end he
often showed a certain childish cunning, urging Joseph on one occasion
to go to the verandah to see if somebody was coming up the garden, and
as soon as Joseph's back was turned he slipped out of bed with the
intention of getting to his clothes. He fell, without, however, hurting
himself, and was put back to bed and kept there for three more weeks
before he was allowed a short walk. Even then the concession seemed to
be given too soon; for he could not distinguish the different trees, nor
could he see the parrots, though he could hear them, and he remained in
purblindness for some two or three weeks; but his sight returned, and he
said to Joseph: that is a palm-tree and that is a pepper-tree. Joseph
answered that he said truly and hastened across the garden to meet
Ecanus, for he desired to ask him privily if his father were out of all
danger; and the answer to his question was that Dan's life would pass
away in a swoon like the one he had just come out of, but he might swoon
many times - two or three times, perhaps oftener - before he swooned for
the last time. More than that Ecanus could not say. A silence fell
suddenly between them, and wondering what term of life his father had
still to traverse before he swooned into eternity, Joseph followed the
physician through the wilting alleys, seeking the shadiest parts, for
the summer was well-nigh upon them now.

At the end of one of these, out of the sun's rays, the old man lay
propped up among cushions, dreaming, or perhaps only conscious, of the
refreshing breeze that came and went away again. But he awoke at the
sound of their steps on the sanded paths, and raised his stick as a sign
to them to come to him, and, seeing that he wished to speak, Joseph
leaned over his chair, putting his ear close to his father's face, for
Dan's speech was still thick and often inarticulate. Thou wast nearly
going down in the storm, he said, and Joseph could hardly believe that
he heard rightly, for what could his father know of the storm on the
lake, he being in a deep swoon at the time beyond the reach of words. He
asked his father who had told him of the storm, but Dan could say no
more than that a voice had told him that there was a great storm upon
the lake and that Joseph was in it. Miracle upon miracle! Joseph cried,
and he related his escape from shipwreck; how when coming in Peter's
boat from the opposite shores the wind had risen, carrying the lake in
showers over the boat till all were wetted to their skins. But,
unmindful of these showers, Jesus had continued his teaching, even after
a great wave wrenched away a plank or part of one. Master, if the boat
be not staunched we perish, Peter said, for which Jesus rebuked Peter
and called them all to come forward and kneel closer about him. Kneel,
he said, your faces towards me, and forget the plank and remember your
sins. We could not do else but as we were bidden, and we all knelt about
him, our thoughts fixed as well as we were able to fix them on our sins,
but the water was coming into the boat all the while, and in the midst
of our prayers we said: in another moment we perish if he stay not the
wind and waves. We thought that he would stand up in the bow and
command, but he remained seated, and continued to teach us, but the wind
lulled all the same, and when we looked round the boat was staunch
again, and we made the wharf at Capernaum easily.

Ecanus, who was a man of little faith, asked Joseph if he had seen
anybody put his hand to the plank and restore it to its place, and
Joseph answered that all were grouped round the Master praying, and that
none had fallen away from the group. But there were some in the boat
that saw a little angel speeding over the waves. Philip saw both wings
and the angel's feet, but I had only a glimpse. If you would only let me
bring him to you - - But, reading his father's face, Joseph continued:



Online LibraryGeorge MooreThe Brook Kerith A Syrian story → online text (page 13 of 37)