THE COMING OF THE KING
THE SOUL OF ANN RUTLEDGE, ETC.
GROSSET & DUNLAP
PUBLISHERS —— NEW YORK
Made in the United States of America
THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY
THOSE WHO UNDERSTAND
Part One A. D. 32
I IN THE NET II AT TIBERIAS III UNDER THE FOX'S NOSE IV IN THE VALLEY OF LILIES V HULDAH AND ELIZABETH VI HARD SAYINGS VII LOST—AN ANKLET VIII STRANGE TALES ABE ABOUT IX SWEET IS THE SCAR X I WOULD SEE JESUS XI ON WITH THE DANCE XII ON THE ROOF XIII ORANGE BRANCHES XIV WITH WHAT EYES XV THE DEATH OF LAZARUS XVI HE CALLETH FOR THEE XVII THINK ON THESE THINGS XVIII THOU ART THE KING
Part Two A. D. 33
XIX CATACOMBS COMRADES XX THE LITTLE TALLITH XXI ANOTHER PASSOVER XXII BRIDAL CHAMBER TALK XXIII YE GENERATION OF VIPERS XXIV BY THIS WITNESS XXV IN THE GARDEN XXVI CLAUDIA AND PILATE XXVII CAESAR'S FRIEND XXVIII ROSES AND IRIS AND TEARS XXIX SWIFT MESSENGERS XXX CLAUDIA'S DREAM XXXI KING OF THE JEWS XXXII IN THIS SIGN XXXIII I AM
THE COMING OF THE KING
"The fangs of the she-wolf are whetted keen for Galilean flesh and else the wrath of Jehovah palsy the arm of Rome, Galilean soil will run red with blood from scourged backs ere the noon of a new day."
The speaker, a slender woman wearing the garb of a peasant, lowered a water-jar from her shoulder and stood beside the bench of a workman, who paused at his task to get news from the market place.
"The souls for the cross—are they many?" he asked.
"A score of hundred I hear whispered, but at market place and fountain the spear of the soldier presseth hard against the ribs of those who congregate to exchange a word."
The man, who was fashioning a heavy yoke, lifted his bearded face to that of the woman. "A score of hundred!" he exclaimed. "To-morrow's sun will climb over Tabor to the ring of axes cutting green timber for twenty hundred crosses! The mercy of God on the victims!"
"Yea—and to-morrow's sun will set with the breeze of evening wafting one great groan of agony over the hills and vales of Galilee—one great sob of lamentation—one great curse on the barbarians of the city on the Tiber. And this for no crime save that of poverty!"
"Insurrection," the man corrected. "The Gaulonite raised, not a popular revolt, alas. It is but insurrection."
"Insurrection!—and why not insurrection? The Gaulonite may hang on a cross until the black winged ravens pick his bones and wild dogs carry them to desert places, but the Gaulonite speaks the voice of our fathers for verily, verily, the soil of the earth belongs to God, not men, and the toiler should eat of the increase of his labor! Doth not our toil yield the barley harvest, yet are we not ofttimes hungry? Doth not our toil make the vine hang heavy in the vineyard, yet do not our bottles droop empty of wine? Doth not the substance of our bitter toiling go to the tax-gatherer? Aye, Joseph, thou knowest I speak truly. It is tax—tax—tax,—land tax, temple tax, poll tax, army tax, court tax—always tax; and when there is to be a great orgy in the banquet halls of Rome, or Herod is to give a mighty feast for that brazen harlot, his brother's wife, are we not reduced to the bran and vinegar fare of slaves to pay the cost? A curse on Rome! A curse on Herod!"
"Hist, Mary, hist! Know'st thou not there may be ears listening even now behind the pomegranate?"
The woman glanced nervously toward the door where a leather curtain hung. She crossed the room, lifted the curtain and looked out into the court. It was empty save for a group of children. She returned to the room and from the wall took several small skin bottles which she placed by the water-jar. Then she called, "Jesu! Jesu!"
In answer a lad of six or eight years appeared from the court.
"Fill the bottles and hang them under the vine where the night breeze will cool them for the morrow."
When the child had done her bidding he stepped to the door. "Mother," he said, "hear thou? There is weeping in the home of Jael's father! Listen! Hear thou—the children calling—calling?"
The woman went to the door. She listened a moment and as the wail of a child sounded over the court she said, "Aye, sore weeping. Why, Jesu?"
"Jael's father went away yester morning and hath not come again. A man saw him with many others driven in chains like cattle. A stain of blood was on his face—and he will not come again. Why did the soldiers take Jael's father?"
"Hist, child. Talk not of Jael's father. Run and play."
* * * * * *
The next morning before the rising sun had climbed above Mount Tabor, little Jesu with his peasant mother left Nazareth, carrying between them a new-made yoke. They had not yet reached the end of the footpath around the slope of the hill to the highway, when they heard a heart-sickening moan.
The child stopped suddenly saying, "Something doth suffer?"
The woman took a few steps forward and looked out into the roadway. Then she too stopped, and with a sharp cry threw her hand across her eyes. Having received no answer to his inquiry the child pushed past her to the highroad. Then he too gave a cry, half fear, half pain, saying, "It is the father of Jael—and, mother—mother—there is a dog." And with a scream he dashed into the roadway. As he did so an animal slunk across his path and disappeared behind a cactus thicket hedging a barley field.
The moan gave way to a feeble call as the child appeared. "Jesu! Jesu, I thirst!" were the words the parched lips uttered.
Helpless, the man hung crucified. The cross was not more than four feet high, all in this wholesale crucifixion being purposely low that wild dogs and jackals might tear the vitals, the bodies thus exposed emphasizing the power and cruelty of Rome. Naked the crucified one hung, his palms clotted with blood where spikes held them on the green cross-beam, and the wood behind the body stained dark from thong-cuts on the back. His legs lay on the ground. Flies swarmed wherever there was blood and the gray face of the victim was yet grayer from dust cast up by travelers on the roadway.
"Jesu! Jesu! Water for my burning tongue!" the man moaned.
"Give him to drink," the woman said in low tones to the child, who stood before the cross, his large dark eyes fixed on the helpless one in horror and in pity. "Give him water and I will watch that none spy you at the deed. Hasten!"
The child opened his water-bottle and held it toward the lips of the man. Pinioned hands, stiffened shoulders and weakened muscles made the effort to drink difficult. Pulling his kerchief from his neck, the child sopped it with water and held it to the dry lips.
In wavering tones the man, refreshed, said, "Since yester noon have I hung here. With the morning came the dog; thrice came he sniffing. Once, before weakness overcame me, with kicking and fierce screams I frightened the brute. Again, a herdsman drove him far across the field. And now you come, Jesu. Ah, that you might tarry until the numbness creeping over my back where the flies swarm, and into my hands that have burned, reached my brain, that you might stay until the darkness of death hides from me the skulking form waiting to rend my flesh."
"Woman," said the child, raising his dark eyes to his mother's face, "dost fear to leave me?"
"Yea, my little one, lest seeing thee minister to a malefactor some spy or guard might take thee."
"And would they take one young like me, who never did Rome harm?"
"All do Rome harm who cry beneath her heel."
"I fear not. I can hide in the bushes and keep the evil beast away. And when the road is clear I can wet the dry lips of Jael's father."
The woman hesitated.
"Canst carry the burden alone, woman?" and there was concern in the child's voice. "The way is long, the road rough and the yoke a heavy one."
"The burden is naught save the burden of fear on my heart lest thou meet harm, my beloved one—my little Jesu!"
"Be not afraid. Will not the God of our fathers save me from the soldier's spear as once our father David was saved from the spear of Saul? Find me but a stout club with which to keep the bristled dog from Jael's father."
Throughout the day the child kept watch over the cross and its victim by the dusty wayside. There were passers-by, most of them Galileans muttering curses on the powers that had put him on the cross, but offering no comfort to the malefactor. Twice the gaunt dog came nearer but drew back before the raised club, and with blinking eye and restless tongue, bided his time. As the sun dropped behind the trees, the moaning from the cross grew almost too faint to be heard, and when, after a long stillness, there came a sharp strange cry from the lips of the crucified, the child gave a start and then hastened to offer the wet kerchief. But before he reached the cross the head had fallen limp over the bosom, and the feet lay quiet in the roadside dust.
The child spoke. There was no answer. He went back to his shelter in the bushes. A strange hush seemed to have fallen over the earth. With searching eyes he now watched the long road for a sight of his mother. When he turned his gaze for a moment from the roadway to the cactus hedge he noticed the watching dog had drawn closer and with fierce eagerness eyed the limp body on the cross. Fear now took possession of the child, and he moved nearer the highway and shuddered as he noticed that the dog moved nearer also.
When at last his mother came he buried his face in her breast and sobbed: "His head hangs like a flower broken at the stem. He can not lift it, and he thirsts no more for water."
"Peace be to Jael's father," the mother replied, choking back a sob, "and peace be to thee, my brave little Jesu."
"Nay, I am not brave. I was afraid—afraid!"
"Nay, nay. My little Jesu is not afraid of a dog."
"Nay, not a dog. But after the head of Jael's father fell low, something seemed reaching out long dark arms to gather me in—in to Jael's father—and I feared."
The mother pressed the hand of the child in hers. Reassured by the warm strong clasp, he smiled as his mother said, "It were but childish fear. There is nothing by the roadside reaching dark arms out to you."
"Nay, nothing—nothing, woman," replied the child, laughing at his own fear, "nothing save the shadow of the cross."
IN THE NET
Through the open doorway and latticed window of a peasant's hut, the sunset colors of a Palestine sky glowed red. The only occupant of the room was an aged woman, thin haired and bent, who moved slowly about preparing the evening meal. She stopped beside a dingy little oven on one end of the bed platform, and bending stiffly to the floor gathered up a few handsful of stubble which she thrust into the fire. As the quick flames rose under her kettle she stirred her brew muttering: "Do not two sparrows go for a farthing and yet have we no flavor for our sop. It was not so in the days of our fathers."
Stirring and muttering she did not notice the approach of a young girl who had entered the room, until an armful of chaff was dropped by the oven. With a start she, turned about.
"Sara!" she cried, "thou comest like a thief in the night. Singing doth better become thee."
"There is no song in me. Empty is my stomach, and look you," and she pointed across the room to a pile of nets beside a wooden bench. "There are three score rents to mend and the day is done." She turned to the doorway and for a moment stood looking out, barefooted, meanly clad and unkept, yet of comely form and with abundant dark hair falling around an oval face of more than ordinary beauty. She sighed and turned back into the room.
"Thou shalt eat," and the aged woman took bread from the oven and placed it on a wooden table in the center of the room. "Sit thee down."
Sara sat down and glanced over the small table. "Bread and unseasoned sop!" she exclaimed.
"And water," cheerfully added Grandmother Rachael, as she poured the contents of a skin bottle into a pitcher.
After the washing of hands from a bowl on a stool at the table side, the aged woman muttered thanks and the evening meal began.
"It goeth down hard," Sara complained.
"But it was not so in the days of our fathers," her companion reminded her. "Then there was plenty and each man sat under his own vine and fig tree, for by the law of Moses no man was allowed to collect usury, so sayeth the Rabbi."
Hardly had the meal begun when, unnoticed by either of the women, a fisherman entered. His muscular arms were uncovered; the short skirt of his garment scarce reached his knees. His heavy dark hair was pushed back from his forehead and the dying sunset falling over his swarthy face and neck gave him the appearance of bronze. He stopped behind Sara and spoke her name.
"It is the voice of Jael," she cried, looking back. "My Jael."
"And he hath brought a fish!" Grandmother Rachael exclaimed, laughing. "The blessing of God on thee, my son Jael. Sit thee down and sup with us."
"Thy hospitality exceedeth thy stores," he answered, "yet could I not swallow food if thy table did groan with milk and honey."
"Thou art not sick?" Sara asked, concern in her voice.
"Nay, and yet have I a fever, the consuming fever of wrath, for again hath the tax-gatherer been abroad. Robbed are our tables of fat, milk and honey; lean are our bellies for food; stripped are our bodies of covering. Yet doth the tax ever increase that Herod may add to his vast stores. It is tax—tax—tax until at night the waves of the sea beat against the shore calling 'Tax—tax,' and in the solitary places the wild dogs bark 'Tax—tax,' and in the homes of the peasant the children cry for bread while over their roofs the wind calls 'Tax—tax.'"
"It was not so in the days of our fathers," Grandmother Rachael muttered, beating her palms slowly together.
"Her heart is not without Israel's hope of the coming of the King even though her lips make much muttering," Sara said, as Jael turned to the aged woman who again wailed:
"It was not so in the days of our fathers."
"Nay, nor will it ever be so in the days of our fathers' sons," he answered her. "Was it for this that Israel was called to be God's chosen people—this—that they should toil and starve and be spit upon by heathen dogs? That they should till the soil and be robbed of the increase that Herod might buy gold platters in which to serve good Jew heads to dancing harlots? It hath been and ever will be among men struggling for bread, as among dogs fighting over a carcass that the strong shall overcome the weak. But our fathers every fifty years took back the land from the strong and gave it again to the toiler that he might have a new start. So shall it be."
While he had been speaking he had dropped the leather curtain hanging at the door. Sara lit a lamp.
"And when shall come again the days of our fathers?" Grandmother Rachael asked.
"When we rise up and wrest from the oppressor our stolen inheritance."
"Aye, but, my Jael, hast thou forgotten the Gaulonite?" Sara asked. "Did he not with two thousand followers rise up to take back the land? And were not his followers hanged on two thousand crosses until the wild dogs of Palestine broke their fast on Jewish flesh?"
Jael had grown excited as Sara questioned him. He paced the floor. "Yea," he answered, "yea, did wild dogs feast on Jewish flesh, even the flesh of thy Jael's father! Forget not shall I until the stone of my father's tomb be rolled against my bones, how he was hung where two roads meet! Forget will I—nor forgive. And in the time of Israel's revenge will my own hands spill blood to settle the debt."
"Sh- sh- sh-" warned Sara. "Methought I saw the curtain move. Fear even now doth catch my heart in its pinching fingers."
"Fear not, my fair Sara," Jael said. "Could harm befall thee with Jael, the fisherman, nigh? Look thou at the strength of my arm and the keen edge of my tough fishing knife!" and he held forth his shining blade.
"Not for myself do I feel fear, but for thee. Thy life would not be worth a farthing were thy fierce words heard by the dogs of Rome. Thy knife is long and keen, but the sword of the enemy is longer—and methought the curtain moved again."
"Nay, but to stay thy fears I will look."
Jael turned toward the door but had taken only a step when the leather was thrust aside and two soldiers sprang in.
"Jael! Thy strong arm! Thy knife!" Sara cried.
"Give me the knife, dog of a Jew," commanded one of the soldiers, drawing his sword. "Give me, else will I strike thy head from thy body and kick it like offal into the darkness of the night! Give me," and he held out his hand.
"Get the knife," was Jael's reply as he flung it through the uncovered door.
"By the gods! Now shalt thou come before the bar of justice to answer the charge of sedition against the mighty Caesar and his king, thy Herod."
"Nay, no king of mine is that Idumean fox whose brother's wife doth defile his bed. Such for Rome, but not for Israel!"
"Dog of a Jew!"
"Swine of a Roman!"
For a moment the two measured glances. Then Jael was seized on each side by one of the soldiers, the first spitting in his face with the question, "Swine of a Roman am I?"
"Yea, verily—son of a she-swine," and Jael blew the contents of his mouth in the face of the soldier, who struck him across the cheek with his sword, exclaiming: "This for thy portion to-night, then the cross."
Grandmother Rachael had taken refuge on the oven step and was wringing her hands and muttering prayers, while Sara was keeping as close as possible to Jael.
"Have pity, sir," she begged of the soldier when the cross was mentioned. "Have pity, he hath done thee no harm."
"Hold your tongue, woman," the soldier replied without looking at her, "else the cross will be thy portion also."
"And to the cross I choose to go if there my Jael goeth," she replied.
Then the second soldier, casting admiring glances on Sara, said, "She is a fair maiden; she shall be my spoil."
"Jove Almighty!" exclaimed the other, catching his sword-point in the front of her bodice and laying it open. "A fair maiden indeed. Not thine, but mine shall she be," and he motioned his fellow soldier to stand back.
"The God of our fathers strike thee dead!" Jael shouted in wrath.
"The God of thy fathers! Ha! Ha! The God of thy fathers hath no more power than yonder driveling granny. By Rome hath the God of thy fathers been smitten. To Rome belongs the maiden."
"Of all the spoil," the soldier who had discovered the beauty of Sara said to his companion, "of all the spoil that hath been taken between us, you have the larger portion. I first saw the maiden. She shall be mine!"
"Nay, mine—first mine. Then shall she be yours."
"Lord God Almighty!" Jael cried. "Is it the name of my Sara your polluted lips pass back and forth? Is it the virgin innocence of my betrothed you would trade between you? Nay!"
And with a tremendous effort he freed himself and attacked the soldiers with his naked hands. In the thick of the conflict, Sara, who had seized the lamp, went out with it to search for the knife. In the dark the struggle continued, but when Sara returned with the knife she found Jael on the floor with blood running from a wound in the head. She screamed, but no attention was paid her until her lover had been securely enmeshed in the pile of fish nets and thrown upon the wooden bench. Then the first soldier, wiping his brow and regaining his helmet, said, "Now shall I take my own?" and he moved toward Sara.
Turning the point of the fishing knife against her breast she whispered, "If thou takest me, thou takest me dead."
"'Twas I who first saw her," the second soldier protested, stepping up.
"Hold thy tongue," his companion exclaimed angrily, "else will I tie thee in the fish net with the Jew. Art thou ready to go with me?" turning toward Sara.
"Touch me not!" she commanded, drawing back.
The soldier laughed. "Touch thee not, when thou hast set my blood running like fire? Touch thee not?" and he snatched the knife from her hand and flung it into the pile of nets, as he said, "Flame doth become thy cheek and fire thine eye! Come, nay—thou comest not? Then will Jael hang on a cross. Then will Jael's flayed back draw many stinging flies. Then will Jael's moans for water to cool his veins drained dry of blood, make sweet music. Then will the smell of Jael's flesh draw dogs with whetted fangs. Then—"
"Stop! Stay!" cried Sara. "Wilt thou spare Jael?"
"When thou art mine, then Jael shall be spared."
Sara turned to the bench. "Jael—Jael—Jael," she called, drawing her long hair across her face.
"Tangle not thy fair tresses. Soft must they lie across my cheek when thou art mine. Come," and the soldier lay hands upon her, but she shrank away and throwing herself down beside the bench cried:
"Oh, Jael—Jael—save me!"
"Come here," the first soldier called to the second, "thy sword. A live Roman is better than a dead Jew. Why wait we for the cross?"
Turning on her knees before the soldier, Sara caught the upraised sword saying, "Nay—nay—spare him."
"Wilt thou come with me?"
"Yea—God of my fathers—God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, I come! But ere I leave my home forever, let me have the blessing of my mother Rachael. Stand thou beyond the threshold lest thy presence pollute the air."
"Thou wouldst be blessed?" and the soldier laughed. "I await beyond the threshold," and pushing the other soldier in front of him, he stepped outside and stood where he could watch the pile of fish nets, from which came the sound of heavy breathing.
"My blessing," Sara whispered, "the bitter hemlock!"
With tears streaming down her withered cheeks while she muttered and cursed, the aged woman fastened Sara's torn bodice, binding the deadly herb within easy hand's reach.
A Tyrian merchant-ship manned by three galleys of oarsmen, turned its high and proudly arched red and gold neck into the harbor of Tiberias.
After the manner of that master builder his father, Herod the Great, in building Caesarea, Herod Antipas had built Tiberias as a home of luxury for himself and a fitting tribute to the ruling Caesar. The great semicircular harbor reared its colossal pillars in a mighty curve flanked far out in the sea by massive towers of gray stone. On a hill rising gradually from beyond the harbor stood the royal palace of Antipas, its polished marble gleaming through the tops of palms and the lace-like green of shittah trees. Against this background of pillared stone and shining marble and living green was the shipping in the harbor. Hugged against the dock near by was a load of silver from Tarshish. Near it was a ship from Caprus bearing copper. A cargo of wine from Damascus and a cargo of linen from Egypt rocked side by side; and a low boat piled with shells of dye fish had just come into port from the far Peloponnesus, while everywhere ships of different size and kind from those centers of commercial activity, Tyre and Sidon, were changing sails and dipping oars.
In the prow of the Tyrian merchant-ship stood Zador Ben Amon, by race and faith a Jew; by political alignment a Sadducee; by occupation an importer of precious stones, owner of a number of shops in Jerusalem where cunning work was done in gold and ivory, and a money-changer in the Temple. Zador Ben Amon was returning from a prosperous trip that had taken him as far as Rome, and having business with Herod Antipas had sent word of his visit to Tiberias. It was with a smile he stroked his perfumed beard as he caught sight of an equipage making its way to the water-front. A flock of goats and rams being driven by Arabs across the wharf, scattered, and to both right and left sailors and slaves made way for the driver of Herod's horses.
Black as ravens were the horses of Herod Antipas, and shiny as satin. Their manes and tails hung in closely curled, glossy ringlets and their heavy harness was thickly studded with polished gold buttons. The glossy black hair of Antipas was also curled, and the crown-like head-gear he wore was thickly studded with jewels, as was also the richly gold embroidered border of his robe. In his ears he wore rings which swung down against the upper edge of his curled and greased beard.
The greeting between Antipas and the money-changer was cordial; and before they went to the palace, Zador Ben Amon was driven about the city to see the stadium, the new theatre, the streets and the underground watercourses. And he was taken to the famous hot baths a mile down the seaside, considered by Romans one of the great curiosities of the world. It was in the feast room Zador made known his business, and yet, not until some discussion of other matters had taken place, beginning with a description of a Roman banquet at which the Jew had been a guest.
"The table at which we sat was of citron wood from Mauritania, more precious than gold. And it was covered with a plateau of massive silver weighing five hundred pounds—five hundred pounds, mind you, chased and carven. Dost thou marvel that I made friends with the Romans?"
"Thou art wise, Son of Amon," Antipas answered.
"After the feast, young slave girls strewed the mosaic with sawdust dyed saffron and vermilion, mixed with sparkling powder, and naked virgins danced—naked virgins!"
Herod Antipas rubbed his palms and smiled, showing the tips of several sharp teeth.
"And the next day," continued the guest, "we went to the circus and waved our ribbon-decked palms while half a score of combatants were dragged to the spoilarium and carted through the Gate of Death. A bloody sport, but they enjoy it, and gladiators are plenty. Gorgeous the shows of Rome; like the waters of the Tiber doth her wine flow, and her gold is like the stars for plenty."
"And the populace, doth it not mutter even as our own?"
"Into the feast halls comes no mention of the populace. Yet it hath been said they stand about trembling lest they starve because of the delay of an Alexandrian corn ship. But what of the populace? Whether her hordes be corn fed or not corn fed, Rome careth not. What souls have these?"
"It is the naked virgins that possess souls," and Antipas showed his pointed teeth a little more.
"Nay, it is the naked virgins that set souls on fire," Zador Ben Amon corrected.
"Rome hath not all the naked virgins that do dance. Antipas hath had a dance for his wife's sake." With this remark his sharp-toothed smile gave way to laughter.
"Which wife?" Zador asked.
"Herodias, sister of Agrippa the Great. Her Salome danced until like fire my blood chased itself into a fever. Then did I tell her to name her price. And the price was none other than the head of John—John Baptist, who for defiling the name of Antipas' wife had been put in a dungeon under the castle of Machaerus. Antipas is not cursed with poverty. Yet are there prices too great, for since the head of the brawler came blinking on a platter, do the people declare he were Elias, and that he is not dead but walks the dungeon by day and whither he will by night."
"Thou shouldst be a Sadducee and declare against a hereafter. They eat, drink and be merry while the Pharisees speak darkly of a hereafter of which they know nothing, and beget fear of ghosts."
"Yea, but in the hearts of the people great hope of a hereafter is ever alive. This do the Pharisees know and teach."
"The Pharisees are hypocrites. But let us to business for it meaneth more stores of gold to Antipas and Zador."
The Idumean leaned forward with his eyes on the Jew. "Speak on," he said.
"There is a reason Rome ruleth the world. She knoweth how. In the Senate are the laws made. By the sword of her vast army are they enforced. And lest insurrection be plotted against the throne of the Caesars, Rome hath a system of spies sufficient to hear a whisper in the bowels of the earth. It hath not been so determined, but it is suspected that there is some sort of a union of toilers. Such societies would be like a worm in the heart to our profits, Antipas."
"Fear not such worms. Some wild dream is this—that those who toil bind themselves together. Ever do cattle contend among themselves and not unite."
"It hath been done. What hath been done by slaves and men, might be done again. It hath not yet outlived the memory of man how the slaves in the Laurian silver mines arose, killed their guards, took the citadel of Sunium to sleep in, raided the armory for weapons and laid Attica waste for a great season. Nor was it because they were not well enslaved. Naked did their men and women toil under the lash. Yet they became as one man and, at the word, rose as one man. And was it not in Macedonia at the gold mines of Pangaetus that another bloody uprising took place at vast cost to the gold industry because they rose as a man? Suppose you, that the silversmiths, gold-gilders, pearl and ivory and filigree workers should secretly band themselves together, hast thou knowledge to compute the loss to my profit?"
Herod Antipas had covered his sharp teeth with his lip and was listening intently to Zador Ben Amon.
"Would it mean naught to thee if in thine own province thy hewers of stone and builders of ships, thy tent-makers and herdsmen and corn growers should secretly unite and rise against thee?"
"Thy words sink deep," Antipas said, taking up his cup. Finding it empty, he looked behind him. The stewart who had been standing there had gone out. "More wine!" Antipas shouted. "And keep thee by the cups," he gave order as the stewart came hastily in. Antipas and his guest drank freely. Then the Jew spoke again.
"Here is Herod Antipas," he said, holding up his left hand and marking its first finger with the stubby forefinger of his right hand. "And here is Pilate, Procurator of Judea, and here is the High Priest of the House of Annas. And the three have much gold. But between them hath Annas the greater portion. From the tax on all the world getteth Pilate his. From Galilean tax getteth Antipas his, but from the Temple getteth Annas his through the hands of Caiaphas. The tribute money from all the earth, the Sanctuary half shekel and the Temple Bazaars and money-changers bring riches untold to Annas. Did not Crassus when he went out against the Parthians carry from the Temple gold uncounted? Did Pompey not take one hundred million of shekels in gold beside the beams of gold hidden in the hollow wood?"
"Yea, much fine gold," Antipas replied. "But thou art thyself a money-changer in the Temple, and its riches cometh to thy hands also."
"Thou dost not know Annas. Bled I am of my lawful profits else another get my place. Annas is all powerful. Yet have I a plan."
"What planneth thou?" and Antipas leaned across the table with eager eyes on the Jew.
"Let these three mighty ones—Herod of Tiberias, Zador Ben Amon of Jerusalem and Pilate of Rome—form a secret union for their profit and for breaking the power of Annas. What thinkest thou of such a union?"
"Thou art the son of a fool," and Antipas straightened up stiffly.
"A fool thou sayest? And wherefore?" Zador Ben Amon asked, somewhat confused by the sudden change in the attitude of his host.
Antipas leaned forward. His lips were securely drawn over the points of his teeth. His eyes, somewhat watery from much drinking, looked with anger into the steady eye of Zador. "Pilate," he began, "doth come riding to the Passover in a gold inlaid ivory chariot and with royal lictors, and in the Palace of Herod the Great doth he revel. Who builded this palace? What man should be seated on its throne?" He paused and held out his cup to the stewart who filled it afresh. "Who was the friend of Cleopatra and Anthony? Was it not Herod the Great, father of Antipas? Who went to Rome in a three-decked ship he builded, was taken to the Roman Senate and made King of the Jews? Was it not the father of Antipas? Who builded Caesarea at the fountains of Jordan? Who builded the Temple, the arches, the monuments, the streets, the aqueducts, the walls, the towers and the Palace of Herod the Great, King of the Jews? Was it not Herod the Great, father of Antipas? And when he had died and the worms eaten him who was given command of the Tower of Antonio? Into whose hands was the Palace of Herod the Great given? Who is this Pilate—impostor of a Roman? Is he not the son of a heathen of Seville? Was not his father Marcus Pontius who deserted his countrymen when Rome made conquest in his land? Was he not rewarded for his treachery with the sharp-edged pilatus which gave to him the new name 'Pilate'? Did not the son of this heathen dog follow Germanicus and through him creep in among the Romans of high estate? Did he not wed Claudia Procula, granddaughter of Augustus? And shortly thereafter was he not made Procurator at Jerusalem? Who should sit in state in Herod's palace in Jerusalem? Antipas, son of the King of the Jews, who builded it, or Pilate who would grind him beneath his clanking Roman heel? And wouldst thou have me to form union with this?"
With flushed face Antipas paused to get breath. "More wine!" he called. He drained the cup and throwing it across the table, arose and walked the length of the room and back with heavy strides. Then he sat down and pounded the table shouting, "Hear, oh, Zador Ben Amon! not until the desire of Pilate be the desire of the son of Herod the Great shall Antipas and Pilate come together! Dost thou understand? Like fleas on a dog these secret societies thou fearest may vex Rome. That is Rome's grievance. In Galilee know they better for the Gaulonite is yet remembered. Yet will I comb the province clean with teeth of steel that not one breaching insurrection may escape."
Antipas was trembling with rage. Zador Ben Amon saw that he had done little less than insult his host by his untimely suggestion about Pilate.
"Let not the peace of Antipas be disturbed by the power of Pilate in Jerusalem," he said quietly, moving nearer Antipas. "Like the mist of the morning his days pass, and what man knoweth who shall be Procurator then?"
"What meanest thou?" and the Tetrarch leaned forward with returning interest.
"We must be alone."
Antipas turned around to his stewart. "Begone!" he commanded. When the door had closed behind him, Zador's host with burning eyes whispered, "A plot? Hast thou heard in Rome of a plot against the life of Pilate?"
"Whether plot I know not. But by evil omens is the day marked for him, deadly as the Ides of March."
"Evil omens? From an oracle?"
"From an oracle under the wings of a raven and bat. Came the omen from the entrails of a falcon which, when spread before the oracle, did lift themselves one against the other. Then did they tremble without touch of hand and did wrap themselves in a knot and struggle together until they did burst asunder. And from that which was hidden therein came forth the hind foot of a hare."
"The meaning thereof?" and Antipas waited.
"That which be hidden is no Roman. That which hideth it shall meet death by strangulation. Then shall that which hath been swallowed come forth to run a swift race."
Antipas reflected a moment. His anger was leaving him, but the tips of his teeth were not yet showing.
Zador Ben Amon turned to his cloak and from a wallet took out three leather cases, two of which he opened and placed on the table. The first contained a ring, the second a frontlet. "Of so excellent a nature hath been thy entertainment," said the Jew, "thou makest me to forget my gifts," and taking up the frontlet he handed it to Antipas. "This is a gift for the High Priest. Look thou at the filigree work around the amethyst, and the hyacinth color of the ribbon."
Antipas took it and Zador noticed that his fingers seemed to stick as he relinquished his hold.
"And this," Zador took the ring, "hath been made by workers of rare skill. Its jaspers came from far India. This is for Herod Antipas from his friend Zador Ben Amon," and he handed it to Herod.
The keen edge of the sharp teeth now came into view for a smile of long duration. When the ring had been duly admired, Antipas glanced at the third leather case. Zador opened it and drew forth an anklet which Antipas reached for. Slipping it over the fingers of his hand he held it up, and after examining its jewels, he shook it until it tinkled, and enjoyed it as a child enjoys a toy. When he had played with it a few moments he lifted his eyes to the Jew and studied him. "Thy desire is buried well under thy itch for gain," he said. "Yet do I now remember the eye of the money-changer when he spoke of the naked virgins."
"Is a money-changer not as other men?"
"With his two eyes ever set on gold and his ten fingers ever counting treasure, what eye or finger touch hath he left for woman? Is this for the profit of thy purse or the pleasure of the flesh?"
"It is a betrothal gift."
"Thou sayest! Beware an Asmonean princess!" and Antipas smiled broadly.
"A princess of Israel she is. I saw her in the shop of a Jerusalem silk dealer named Joel who will wed her sister. Her hair is fine as webs spun at night. She hath arms and a bosom her veil did but half conceal. So was I stirred into loving her. Her brother liveth at Bethany where she too abides and there have I been. Fair she is and not upper-minded, and I go to make her my betrothed."
"And doth this fit?" Taking the circlet from his fingers Antipas put it on his wrist and shoved it as far up on his hair-grown arm as it would go. He then placed his broad hand on the table and gave an imitation of a woman walking. Both men roared with laughter as the hairy leg skipped and danced and hobbled while the bangles tinkled merrily.
"Thou art a keen Jew, my friend," Antipas said. "Thou tellest not the name of the woman. If she shall scorn thy gift then canst thou give it to another for, ever there are women whose softness can be thine for a jeweled trinket." And with a broad showing of sharp teeth, Herod Antipas removed the anklet from his arm and handed it back to Zador Ben Amon.
UNDER THE FOX'S NOSE
Behind the well guarded doors of a mud plastered house not far from the shores of Genassaret, a small company of Galilean peasants and fishermen had gathered to meet a kurios from a Phoenician thiasos, who was making a pilgrimage to gather information and organize societies. When introduced to the little group, the kurios said, "I see the table spread for the supper. Around such a table have I sat in Greece and Asia Minor as well as in Italy. Great is its power of breaking down the hatred between races and of making strong the spirit of the Brotherhood. In every land, though customs are not the same and the tongues are strange, yet do those who enter in know the bath of acceptance; the common table; the common treasury; love of the living; care for the dead; hope for the future; worship of a divinity and belief that a Savior cometh. Long hath it come to the ears of the thiasos how Galilee doth suffer. By the sword hath not a whole village of thy race been taken? Were not thy men shackled and thy maidens ravished? And ye who remain, art thou not taxed to the death?"
The words were spoken in low tones, yet there was a strange force in them. The speaker bent forward and the index finger he pointed at his hearers seemed to have been thrust suddenly from between his eyes. When the sleeve of his mantle fell back it disclosed upon his arm a fish, having a lion's head with a circle in its mouth.
"To gather news of thy distress, that is not hear-say, and to learn of thy hope, if hope thou hast, have I come. Speak on."
There was a moment of silence. Then a peasant stepped forward.
"Look thou!" and he threw back his skirt. "See thou these grievous wounds? I was set upon at the thrashing floor by a band of ruffians who demanded my wheat. And when I did say, 'Nay,' they did beat me, take the wheat and cast me into the chaff to die. And it hath since come to me that these ruffians are none other than servants of Annas, High Priest, who go about to pillage and destroy. Is it not so?" and turning to one side he lay hold of another man's arm. "Here is Herod's stewart. Hear him."
"Are the doors well barred and the court guards alert?" the stewart questioned. "Are there watchmen on the housetop? Herod hath said he will comb Galilee with teeth of steel for such as this. Yea, one wounded and robbed brother hath spoken truly. Nor is this the worst. The Sicarii, those murderers that do so grievously afflict the whole province, these too ply their bloody business at the hands of Herod and Annas. For no sooner have the pirates been caught than they give over to Herod and Annas their booty except a small stipend. Then are these murderers turned loose to get yet more booty for the accursed bloodsuckers called priests and kings. Am I not of the household of Herod? Do I not know of these things? And of virgins despoiled do I not know?"
"Yea, yea—thou knowest!" The answer came sharply from a young fisherman whose head was bound in a faded red turban and who carried one arm in a sling.
"Yea! Yea!" cried several other voices. "Let Jael speak!"
"Oh, that Jael might speak!" he answered fiercely. "That Jael might find tongue to curse those thrice accursed heathen who but three days ago stole from him the maiden Sara. Oh, that he might find words to speak her fate, for rather than be polluted by the serpent touch of Belial, took she the bitter hemlock! Oh, that Jael could know where her body lieth that a pile of stones might cover it from open corruption! Behold—" and from his breast he took a cord with a bit of cloth attached, which he held up. "Behold all that Jael the fisherman hath left of his betrothed—a little tallith found upon the floor where she had struggled! And look! Look, thou!" and he snatched from his head the dull red cloth which had bound an angry wound and waved it with savage swiftness before the kurios. "Behold all that is left of the father of Jael, the fisherman who followed the call of the Gaulonite to liberty from oppression, nor was the head that once this covering clung to, allowed its right to rot in a decent tomb. What hast thou of help to offer the oppressed?" and with a sudden twist he wrapped the cloth about his outstretched hand and held it toward the kurios.
In a well controlled voice strongly contrasting with that of Jael, the answer came. "If thou didst know the meaning of that which once didst bind thy father's head, then would thy question have its answer. If thou didst know the tongue the colors speak, the eyes of thy understanding would be open. The white of the gens families and the priests, hath it not from the hidden past meant 'washed' and 'set apart' from the soil of the world? And what is red the color of the toiler since those flaming deities, Ceres and Minerva, first presided over their destinies? Who first gave homage to the crimson of the rising sun? Kath it not ever been he who labors? Whose strength bringeth forth the wheat and wine that maketh the red blood of mankind? Cometh it not of the toiler? Is it not told in ancient song that those of white robes dwell on thrones of gold in Mount Olympus while their vaulted dome doth rest on the shoulders of the slaves and humble, whose red robes have grown dun and murk and brown with soil and toil? Verily there are blood makers and devourers of that blood. Thy father, Jael the fisherman, didst know that the way of hope is the way of Brotherhood. So did he bind himself with others. The hand of Rome destroyed him. Yet the way of Brotherhood liveth."
A woman had entered the room as he spoke. She hastily put some cups on the table and then, in a voice vibrant with gladness, she repeated the words, "The way of Brotherhood," and lifting her hands high, palms upward, exclaimed, "My soul doth magnify the Lord!"
All eyes were turned to her. A beautiful woman she was about whose face, which shone as if fresh from a glory bath, silvery threads shone like a dim halo. Her fine dark eyes were lit with radiant brightness.
"James," she said addressing the master of the abode, "canst thou not see—canst thou not hear thy brother as he read from the Word when first he taught? Hear him; 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to captives, to set at liberty them that are bruised.' Hath not the Spirit of the Lord been upon him as he doth teach the way of Brotherhood and pray that this kingdom may come on earth? Yet he hath not spoken of a red banner."
"The kingdom he would set up," said a man of gentle voice and spiritual countenance who had not yet spoken, "cometh not with swords and banners, for hath he not said 'They that lift the sword shall perish by the sword?' There is a better way of Brotherhood. It cometh by the law that he doth teach."
"And what is the law of this, thy teacher that would bring Brotherhood?" and there was interest in the voice of the kurios as he asked the question.
"There is but one law. On it hangeth all law and all prophecy. Verily a new law it is so that no more forever shall an eye be given for an eye or one sword-thrust for another, for God is love."
"Love? No longer a sword for a sword? Thou dost speak a strange language! Shall naught be paid to robbers and murderers and despoilers of women but love? Yet until the time of the great Brotherhood, vain is the sword, for while the oppressed do rise here and there in small revolt, swift and terrible is their cutting down. Slow grows the Brotherhood. Yet since the mighty Solomon did weld into one whole his stone-cutters and builders, hath those of like kind in toil and poverty come together; fruit sellers, wool carders, perfume makers, fortune-tellers, linen weavers, patch workers, wash women, dyers, image makers, ivory carvers, bridge builders, poets and singers, dwarfsmiths, sea-farers, wonder workers, hunters for the amphitheatre, brothel keepers, all these and many others shall be gathered into one great society and in that day—" The words of the kurios were stopped suddenly by the sound of three quick knocks on the roof over their heads.
"The enemy is upon us!" James exclaimed. "Mary, bring the roast kid with great haste! Let every man be gathered about the table ready for a feast—and be merry."
A steaming kid was hurriedly brought and the men moved quickly to their places except Jael, who stepped behind the door and drew from his mantle, his long keen knife. When the soldiers entered shortly, with steps as stealthy as those of a cat, he moved out where their faces might be seen and scanned them swiftly, concealing his knife under his skirt.
"What goeth on?" one soldier shouted, while the other walked across the room and looked into the kitchen.
"I have a guest," James replied. "A kinsman whose father is my father's father. With him we feast."
"Feast?" and the soldier turned his attention to the table. "They do feast! Ha! Ha! Come hither."
The second soldier came, saying, "A banquet they give—Ho! Ho! For a better one would I take me to the stables of Herod."
"A kid have they that shineth with grease."
"Is it a kid? Methought it a sparrow."
"By its size, its bones will but breed a quarrel."
"Let us be keepers of the peace—for this hath Herod not appointed us?" and lifting his sword he brought it down on the roast kid severing it in two halves. "A sharp blade cutteth clean!"
"And a stiff leg maketh a good handle." And with the words each soldier seized with his left hand a half of the kid which he fell greedily upon, while holding his sword aloft in his right hand. With hungry teeth the soldiers tore the flesh from the bones, spewing such as they did not want on to the floor, and devouring the tender, until their cheeks shone like ruddy apples and their beards were drabbled with gravy. Then they dropped the remains on the floor and with their boot toes rubbed them over the mud that had dropped from their heels. When the flesh was well covered with filth, the two halves of the carcass were lifted by the sword point and flung back on the table with the words, "A feast they would have!" The soldiers cast their eyes over the angry but silent company, and broke into roars of laughter.
"A flock of sacred goats!" one said.
"Nay—by the stink of them, fish long rotten. Let us go hence! Ugh!" and pinching their noses, the soldiers left the abode.
There was silence in the room for a moment before the kurios said in low tones, holding his hand toward the door to enjoin caution, "What think ye, men of Galilee—needest thou a Brotherhood?"
"Yea—yea," came like a growl from the throats of the company.
"And who wilt thy leader be?"
All eyes were turned to James as his name was spoken.
"This night hast thou seen the fruit of the tree of oppression. What sayest thou?"
With the light of indignation in his eye and the tremor of wrath in his voice, the master of the house said, "In the words of one greater than I, 'Let the ax be laid at the roots of the tree.' And this also do I say, Go to, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments moth-eaten! Your gold and silver is cankered and the rust of them shall be a witness against you and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days! Behold! The hire of the laborers who have reaped down thy fields, which you kept back by fraud, crieth, and the cries of them which have reaped have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth! Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth and been wanton! Ye have nourished thy hearts as in a day of slaughter! Ye have condemned and killed the just!" Then addressing his words more closely to those about the table he said, "Be patient, therefore, brethern, unto the coming of the Lord. Be patient, for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh—draweth nigh."
The Hallelujah, "My soul doth magnify the Lord!" broke the stillness that had fallen after the words of James. All eyes were turned again to the woman who had spoken once before.
"He hath put down the mighty from their seats; And exalted them of low degree: He hath filled the hungry with good things, And the rich hath he sent away empty."
As she stood with face aglow and arms extended, a strange pervading hush filled the room. Her voice, while mellow with sweetness and glad as a song yet had a depth that betokened mysterious strength.
"Who is this," the kurios asked, "that seeth what is to be while it is yet forming in the womb of pain? Who is this that shouteth victory before it hath been brought forth?"
"The woman speaketh of her son who hath come to establish the Kingdom," James answered. "And her soul doth greatly magnify the Lord."
"Who is her son?" and there was keen interest in the question.
"A Galilean even as we, and son of a carpenter. But he doth many mighty works and his heart turneth to the lowly. Jesus his name."
"I would see this Jesus. Where is he?"
"He hath gone apart into a mountain to pray, as is his custom. But tarry thou among us until he come, for of a truth he speaketh as never man hath spoken."
"I tarry," answered the kurios.
 Lord and contract maker of ancient working man's society.
 One of several names of ancient working man's society.
IN THE VALLEY OF LILIES
Thanks to the untiring labor of Martha and her slow-moving servant Eli, the house of her brother Lazarus of Bethany was set in order three days before the expected arrival of Passover guests. Followed by Eli, who was girt about with a long towel, Martha made a last survey of the large and well furnished living-room, looking for a truant speck of dust. She paused for a moment at a table containing writing materials and bade the servant wipe it carefully and place it, with a case of scrolls, at one end of the wide, latticed window-couch, for here on the comfortable cushions Lazarus spent much time reading. She had just turned from the window-seat to a watering jar of fresh palm leaves when from the open way leading into the garden, two maidens entered.
"Martha," the first to enter said, laughing, "my guest Debora from Capernaum hath already arrived and I have brought her to see Mary's beds of lilies. Where is Mary? I saw her not in the garden," and she glanced about the room.
When greetings had been exchanged, Martha bade the man-servant go into the garden and look at the dial while she polished the already glossy palms. To Anna she said, "Thou knowest Mary. Was ever there another such Mary? Look you at these palms. Is it not enough that the garden be full to overflowing with vines and herbs? Yet would Mary fill the house with flowers of the wayside did I not struggle against it. Even now is she wandering off to a valley of lilies she hath found by the wady beyond Olivet, searching a strange lily for her beds. Ere the threefold blast of the Temple Priests awoke Jerusalem, were her eyes open. And look you at the sun mark on the dial, and yet Mary, dreamer of gardens and lilies and sweet odors, hath not yet returned."
"Nay—call not Mary a dreamer," Anna protested, "for names that are once given stick. Call they not my father 'Simon the Leper' for no reason than that in his youth he had an issue of blood? And while the world knows that his home could not be among the clean were he a leper yet doth the name hang to him. To fasten on her the title of 'dreamer' might lose Mary a good husband, for who wants a dreamer when the sparrow pie is burning to the pot?"
"Such is Mary, yet would I not spoil her chance of a husband though it be left for me to look after food and the pots and my stupid Eli. And if such a chance as Zador Ben Amon should be hers—would not my heart rejoice?"
"Hath he spoken to Lazarus for her hand?"
"Nay, nor hath he supped with us for many months, nor even sent a message."
"Hath Mary's heart been heavy?"
"Nay, Mary hath not had time to grow heavy-hearted, for since the winter gave place to spring hath she been in the garden searching a warm spot for some chicken yet wet from the shell, or scratching the sod from some struggling seed. This is Mary," and Martha laughed good-naturedly as she finished rubbing the palms.
"Debora would see the garden," Anna said. "Such a lovely garden!"
"Yea," answered Martha, as they passed into the court, "yet doth Mary have strange ideas, for on top of the old wall that she would let no man tear down because of its vines which bind the stones together, she hath grasses growing, such grasses as grow by the wayside to be eaten of asses and goats. And when I asked Lazarus to have the wild green pulled out by the roots, he said since they injure not the wall and delight the heart of Mary by their playful wagging in the spring breeze, they shall stay. So there is a fringe of green blades set thick with blue blossoms on top of the old wall with vines, and of these, as of the valley of lilies she hath found, doth Mary throw up her hands and cry—'Beautiful!'"
Anna and Debora laughed as Martha acted the part of Mary and they passed on toward the lily beds. Between the garden wall and the winding roadway, grew a luxurious grove of date palms which gave to the home of Lazarus its name. Inside the garden, pomegranates and grapes and figs grew, with melons and lentils and aromatic plants, in addition to Mary's garden of many colored lilies. In the center of the courtyard near the house was a water pool in a stony basin, and from the top of a pile of stones in the middle of the pool, water bubbled and dropped over the aquatic plants that grew along its sides. On the side of the pool nearest the house was the sun-dial. Close to the stairs which went to the housetop from the outside, was an olive tree of unusual size, the wide extended branches of which shaded a corner of the house and its roof garden, for Mary had shade-loving plants here also. Under this gnarled and ancient tree was a thick stone slab hewn into a seat and here Martha and her guests sat down, after walking through the garden, to talk of the Passover celebration just at hand, of Martha's lover Joel, the silk merchant, and Zador Ben Amon's wealth.
As Martha had said, her sister had set forth in the sunrise for a yet damp wady around the foot of Olivet, where, before the time of blossoms, she had discovered beds of lilies. After an uninterrupted walk of a mile or two, Mary paused on the brow of Olivet and stopping to rest, turned her face to the east. Against the flood light of the rising sun the far distant Mountains of Moab cast dim blue sky-lines. Emerging from the many-hued green hills that rose in the foreground, like a twisted thread, stretched the Jericho road which led past the garden wall of Lazarus' home in Bethany. Even at this early hour pilgrims on foot and on donkeys were journeying toward the scene of the great Passover.
From the east Mary turned her face to the west. Often had she seen Jerusalem before, yet now she gave an exclamation of joy as the ascending sunlight fell in floods of golden glory over the snowy towers and gold minarets of the City of David, secure on its summit of rugged fastness. "Who has not seen Zion knows not what beauty is!" she exclaimed. "Zion—fairest throughout the earth!" The veil which she had loosely bound about her head had fallen from her shoulders and the morning breeze touching her soft dark hair was moving it gently around her face while unseen fingers stirred the hem of her woolen skirt above her dew wet sandals. The altar smoke of the morning offering was ascending from the Temple of snow and gold, casting delicate and ever changing spirals of gray and black against the rosy sky, and now and then the silver glint of a dove's wing caught the eye as it circled over one of the shining domes. Filled with racial pride as well as with artistic admiration, Mary looked to the west, hidden, except its sky, by the battlements of Jerusalem. But she knew that at the West Gates the great highway to Joppa and the sea entered the city and although no glimpse of it could be seen, she knew that the long and dusty miles would soon resound to the call of the driver, as caravans of wares for the Passover sale came through the gates.
After a last long look at the shining Temple, Mary turned to the south. As she did so the exquisite fragrance of grape blossoms came to her on the changing breeze and she laughed with joy as her eager eyes took in the panorama, of vineyards here and there with their gray watch towers set in nature's most delicate filigree of green; of billowing fields of grain; of groves of olives turning color from green to gray and white as moved by the breeze, and back of it all the mountains of Judea, their rugged outlines softened by the rose and purple mist of the morning. In this direction the road leaving Jerusalem went into the south as far as Hebron.
Before pursuing her way she turned to see what signs of life appeared on the great Damascus road which led to the north through Samaria and Galilee. Here, as far as the eye could reach, glimpses of companies which seemed but slowly-moving specks in the distance, drew nearer the Holy City to worship or to profit. At the foot of a near-by hill a flock of goats, with herdsmen keeping close watch, were browsing among the prickly pears, feeding their last before being driven into the Temple stalls as sacrificial beasts. On another road a company of Arabs was putting up its mean and ragged tents and just beyond some Galilean peasants were building booths. Turning from the brow of the olive-green Mount, Mary made her way down a dim trail toward the valley of lilies she had discovered. Around her feet the gently sloping hillside was a mass of flowers, blood red anemones, spotted tulips and blue star blossoms. In the winter, with the bare gray stones scattered about in confusion, this place was dreary as poverty itself. But now the wealth of beauty that lay over it suggested the joy of the Passover to the whole world.
It was while picking golden narcissus in her lily valley, Mary's heart was gladdened by the sudden outburst of a nightingale in a thicket close at hand. Careful watching was rewarded by a sight, not only of the singer but of a nest with three little ones in it. While she yet peeped at the nestlings, a man appeared with an ax. He was looking for boughs with which to thatch his booth and his eye was on the nightingale's home. Taking the nest from its hiding-place Mary tucked it under her veil, wrapped her lily stems in wet leaves and started away. A moment later a stroke of the ax felled the bush that had housed the birds. Looking back Mary saw the mother bird fluttering wildly about over the cast-off pile of leaves. "Knowing not her little ones are safe she suffers pain," she said to herself.
She had not gone far along the roadway when she came upon the tent of a Bedouin. A woman holding an infant on one arm had just stepped out. She looked about anxiously until her eye caught sight of a goat grazing at no great distance. By its broken tether the goat had made its escape. The milk and cheese of the family depended on the goat. In no spoken word could Mary converse with the woman, but she understood, and holding out her arms for the child, pointed toward the goat. The swarthy woman nodded, placed the little brown baby in the arms of the unknown friend, and hurried after the goat.
Sitting on a flat stone behind the tent, Mary, who had for the moment removed from her bosom the veil in which she had wrapped the nestlings and was quieting their calls for their mother by fitting her warm palm close over them, was suddenly startled by what seemed to be an infinite throb, a passion unspeakable and mysterious. She did not know that the mouth of a sucking child is a vortex in which the interplay of universal forces starts into vibration a thousand generations of instinctive motherhood. Nor did the little brown baby know aught of this. Moved by the first impulse of Nature which makes every mother a universal mother, the instinct of self-preservation had turned the face of the child to the breast of Mary. Looking about with a glance of apprehension lest she should be discovered in some unworthy act, she hastily moved the infant from her arm and the nestlings from her veil which she gathered over her shoulders and bosom. The birds she tied in a loose end of the veil and hid in the front of her garment. Meantime the baby was crying lustily and making feeble and aimless motions of protest or desire with its tiny brown fingers. Mary was trying to quiet it by walking when the Bedouin woman returned with the goat.
The sun was shining high and the roads were peopled with pilgrims as she made her way back to Bethany with her nestlings and narcissus. But the way did not seem long, for out of her visit to the valley of lilies had come a new mystery for her mind to dwell upon—the eternal mystery of motherhood awakening. "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings shall come wisdom." The words of one of the Rabbis kept coming to her. But what was the wisdom? Her only impression at the time was the strange suggestion that because both nestlings and Bedouin babe had mistaken her for their mother, they must be brothers. When Mary reached home she found Martha and her guests in a state of pleased excitement. News had just been brought by Lazarus that Zador Ben Amon had arrived in Jerusalem after a long journey in far lands, and would sup with them the day following. Especially had he sent his respects to Mary.
"Thou canst feed him, and Lazarus entertain him with his merry speech-making," Mary observed quietly as she took the nestlings from her veil.
"And what wilt thou do for thy distinguished guest?" Anna asked of Mary.
"I will watch with great care these little nightingales so that they may live in the thicket by the spring just over the garden wall. And next year when Zador Ben Amon doth pass with his camel train from Damascus will their sweet song welcome him home."
"No greater guest doth come to the Passover than Zador Ben Amon—and he hath an interest in thee, Mary."
"Yea—a greater than he hath come to the Passover," said Anna. "From Rome hath Pilate come, so sayeth my father, and with a retinue of servants that doth make Herod green with envy. And speech hath it that the wife of Pilate doth dazzle the eye with such gorgeous apparel as is seen only in the Roman circus."
"Glad is my heart," said Martha, "that Herod be undone in the glory of display for apeth he not the Romans? Herod is great when there is none greater, but ever doth Rome send the greatest."
"Nay, not Rome sends the greatest to the Passover." It was Debora who spoke. "From Capernaum cometh he."
"Capernaum of Galilee?" Martha exclaimed. "The home of fishermen?"
"Yea, verily. From Galilee doth a prophet come the like of which hath not been seen since Elias was taken in a chariot of fire and whirlwind."
"Thou dost speak strange words," Mary observed. "Who is this prophet?"
"He is called Jesus of Nazareth, for there did he live before his home was at Capernaum."
"Nazareth," Anna repeated with curling lip. "Nazareth is a town of beggars and thieves, so sayeth my father. Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? My father hath mentioned the name of Jesus—was he at the Passover feast last year?"
"Yea, and the Feast of Tabernacles," Debora answered.
"Jesus of Nazareth," Martha repeated, putting her hand to her forehead. "Methinks Lazarus did mention the name when Joseph of Arimathea was our guest. Dost thou remember, Mary?"
"The name? Yea, I remember. But what of it? None said he was a prophet."
"Listen," Debora said, leaning eagerly forward and half whispering: "Knowest thou not that Israel hath long been dispersed and scattered like sheep without a shepherd? Knowest thou not that the cohorts of Rome guard the Sacred Temple and profane the Sanctuary of the Most High? Knowest thou not the heart of Israel hath long waited for the king who shall restore again the throne of David? And knowest thou not that the time is at hand for the coming of the promised one? Aye, even so hath he already come, and his name is Jesus."
"By what sign is he the Messiah?" Mary asked.
"By the sign of a prophet, and the greatest of all prophets is he. Once was I at the home of Peter when his wife's mother lay sick of a fever. Her skin was hot as if her couch were in a bake oven; her eyes did shine and vain was her babbling. Then came the Prophet of Galilee. On her head where the heat raged he placed his hand. Close and firm he held it as if he were holding down a struggling world. And lo! The struggling world grew quiet. The vain babbling of the parched lips ceased. Then did he speak. Aye—Mary, Martha, Anna—to hear his voice—deep like unsounded depths, mellow like the music of the viol and restful as when small waves play upon smooth shores. Twice did he speak. There was stillness. His eyes were fastened kindly on the face of her who lay beneath his touch. Then did she open her eyes. Her lips did part in a smile. She arose and by the open casement did stand to breathe deep of the cool air. And those who had gathered in the street to set up the death-wail, did cry, 'A miracle! A miracle!'"
"But it is not a miracle to heal those who are not dead. Do not the Rabbis heal the sick?" Mary asked.
"And the prophets are all dead," Martha added.
"Wait and see," was Debora's answer.
HULDAH AND ELIZABETH
In a gala dress of blue with silver embroidery, Martha, her faithful Eli close at hand and girt in a clean towel, awaited the coming of Passover guests, for the few days preceding the Feast were used for visiting, and Lazarus and his sisters had many friends. The first guest to arrive was Huldah, wife of a Temple scribe. Martha opened the door. The servant took his place behind a stool near the door with a basin of water.
"Sit thee down," Martha said after greetings. "Let thy feet be cooled. The way is dusty for ten thousand feet press to the City of David."
"Yea, from all the world they come to see the Temple of the Jews," Huldah answered. "For a week hath the ring of the hammer sounded over the hills where the roadways are made safe, and tombs are fresh whitened that none be rendered unclean. All Jerusalem is a guest chamber. Where is Mary?" and she glanced about the room.
"She is in the garden with Anna and her Capernaum guest Debora. And Debora hath been saying a prophet hath arisen the like of which hath not been seen since Elijah went up in his fiery chariot."
"A prophet! A prophet!" exclaimed Huldah, greatly interested. "Whence cometh he?"
"From Galilee—but the maidens are coming. Ask Debora."
In festive attire and carrying flowers, Anna and Debora entered the room, followed by Mary, gowned in clinging white caught high on her breast and falling away leaving her arms bare. Her hair had blown softly about her face. Her cheeks were like almond blossoms and a white veil caught around her head by a carved silver chaplet, fell over her shoulders. After the greeting, Huldah turned to Debora.
"Hast thou said a prophet cometh from Galilee?"
"So I have spoken."
"Out of Galilee ariseth no prophet."
"From Galilee cometh Jesus of Nazareth."
"Jesus of Nazareth!" Huldah exclaimed, throwing up her hands.
"Hast heard of him?" Martha inquired.
"Jesus son of Gamaliel, successor to Jesus son of Damneus; Jesus son of Sie; Jesus son of Phabet! Be there no end to the Jesus' sons? And now cometh the worse of them all. Yea, I have heard of him. A wolf in sheep's clothing—a false prophet is he. Never was he taught in the Temple school, yet doth he dare within its sacred portals to teach others. By an evil one is he led."
"Why dost thou say by an evil one?" asked Debora.
"Dost thou, a daughter of Israel, so ask? Aye, is it not evil to speak against the traditions of the Elders? No worse to blaspheme the Temple itself! Is not Israel the chosen of God, and hath it not been written there is no salvation outside Israel? Had there been no Jew the Law from Sinai had not been given and we too would be unclean as the Gentiles. What worse could one do than set at naught the traditions of the Elders? But this is not all. He doth both harvest and winnow on the Holy Sabbath."
"Harvest and winnow on the Sabbath?" Martha asked in surprise.
"Yea, and this is not all. He is a friend of publicans."
"Publicans? Those vile wretches who filch from the pockets of Israel to pay for the pageantry of Rome?" It was Anna who questioned.
"Yea, and this is not all. He is also a friend of the defiled Samaritan, friendly as a brother is he with these heathen—and—and—" she whispered, "he keepeth company with harlots."
"Harlots!" exclaimed the maidens under their breath.
"Yea—what manner of prophet thinkest thou this be?"
"Hast thou thyself seen the evil things of which thou beareth witness?" Debora asked of Huldah.
"Nay, but such are the reports."
"Our guest Debora hath both seen the face of him and heard his voice," Mary observed.
Huldah laughed. "And what so easy for a false prophet to deceive with smooth speech and searching eyes, as a maiden's heart? But enough of such talk as doth vex the Rabbis. See thou my cloth of gold? With my needle I shall make it gay with crimson pomegranates." Huldah took her embroidery from her bag, and the young women stood around admiring her work when voices were heard outside. Martha turned to the lattice window and looked out.
"More pilgrims are coming. A mother in Israel is to be our guest. She cometh with a neighbor and leaneth heavily on her staff. Mary—Mary! It is Elizabeth. Hasten to meet her."
Mary hurried out. When she had gone Huldah asked, "Who is this aged Elizabeth?"
"Knowest thou not? She is the mother of John the Baptiser whose head Herod did give as a bauble to the vile Herodias." Huldah rose hurriedly and looked out the window.
"The mother of John Baptist, he who did come from the caves of the mountains with the garment of a wolf, the beard of a lion and the voice of a bear. Jerusalem turned out to hear the man. Possessed of a devil was he. Aye, and the hair of his mother be white like the cap of snow that sits on Hermon's head. Verily a foolish son bringeth down his mother's hair in sorrow. If the Rabbis are not able to teach the Law, shall one wild from the desert be able? For attending to business not his own lost he his head."
"Lean on me," said Mary, just outside the door. "My feet have not traveled the hard path so long."
"The blessing of Jehovah on thee, my daughter," Elizabeth replied as they came up the steps. In ample black drapery and wearing a widow's headdress, the aged woman entered. "Peace be to this house and to thy hearts, my daughters," she said with upraised hands. She was conducted to a wide armchair, and Mary threw back her black mantle and Eli unloosed her sandals.
"There are many pilgrim feet pressing toward the Passover Feast," Huldah said.
"Yea, my daughter. And some whose feet pressed the pilgrim path last year have gone on a longer pilgrimage, a farther journey than to the City of Zion—yea to the Heavenly Zion have they gone." Elizabeth rested her head wearily against the back of the chair and tears rolled down her withered cheeks. Mary knelt beside her and taking her hands said gently, "Weep not! From our brother have we heard what Herod hath done. It was cruel, aye, cruel as the grave to take thine son—the only son of thine old age. But weep not!"
"Cruel as the grave! So seemeth it. Yet the Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away. The Lord truly blessed me in that it was given me to be the mother of a prophet. Strange too, was it, for the spring-time of my life had gone. Yea, the ten years had passed after which the Israelite may give a writing of divorcement to a barren wife. Yet did the love of my husband live and in the fulness of time to us a son was born. A Nazarene did he grow, neither cutting his beard, nor drinking wine nor looking on women. And as Elijah came from the wilds of Gilead to confound Ahab, so came the son of my bosom from the wilds of Judea crying in the ear of an adulterous generation, 'Prepare ye! Prepare! There cometh one after me whose shoe latchet I am not worthy to unloose.' And as he did declare, so hath that mightier appeared—aye, the hope of Israel. Not a Nazarene is he. Came he both eating and drinking and loving womankind, and lo! of him they say 'a wine bibber and a glutton.' But, daughters, wisdom be justified of her children. Lo, he that hath been promised to restore again the glory of Israel is even now in the City of our God!"
"Strange words thou speakest," said Huldah.
"Thou dost not speak of Jesus of Nazareth?" Mary asked.
"Even of him," the aged woman answered.
"Art thou of his acquaintance?" Debora asked with interest.
"Even more, for was not the mother of her who bare Jesus even the sister of my father?"
"Thy kinsman he is? Thou hast looked upon his face and heard the wondrous voice that doth drive away fever?"
"Yea, have I seen and heard, both the son and his mother and father, for twice did I visit under the roof of my cousin."
"His mother—what of her? Is she skilled in savoring rich sop?" Martha asked.
"She hath not possessed the wherewithal to make rich sop, yet in her veins runneth the blood of kings. Of the house of David hath she come."
"And where hath she been in hiding, this royal-blooded Jewess?" Huldah asked.
"In the rude home of a Galilean peasant, for poverty hath been her lot. Yea, in the stone feed-trough of a cattle shed was Jesus born because his father had not the price of keep at the inn. A little lad at Nazareth was he when I first saw him."
"A little lad," Mary repeated. "What manner of little lad was he?"
"Beside his mother's knee he heard stories of the brave and mighty of Israel. He walked with his mother by the sea and in the fields. He loved the fowls of the air, the hares and the foxes. And such questions did he ask as no man hath wisdom to answer. While his mother toiled he played with the children of the village. When they played funeral right vigorously would he weep with the mourners. When they played wedding with those who piped, piped he, and with those who danced, danced he until his small garments, like wings, flew apace. Mild was he and obedient, yet when his hand was lifted in wrath it did strike hard. Once he did fight. Aye, and a good fight it was and over the wall did he send with the speed of a wild ass and fierce blows, a lad twice his size. His mother did bind his black eye in a fig leaf poultice and tell him fighting were not good for little lads. I remember yet his face as he did make answer, 'Woman, know'st thou not our father David did smite a giant which did torment Jehovah's chosen ones? Even so did I smite him who was plucking hair from the head of a feeble child who could do naught but cry out. For this did I send him over the wall, and no more will he do this evil thing when I am nigh.'"
"Blessings on him," laughed Debora, clapping her hands.
"My heart goeth out to such a lad," Mary said.
"What for?" Huldah asked. "For making bloody another lad's nose?"
"If so be that to bloody a nose is the only way to stay the hand of oppression."
"And yet another time did I see him," Elizabeth continued. "At a wedding in Cana, when he had grown to man's estate. Merry were the guests with feasting and shouting when the wine did fall short. In an outer room were some firkins which Jesus did order filled with water. When the water was drawn out, it was wine."
"This is no sign of a prophet," Huldah answered quickly. "Ofttimes have I with a cup of grape sirup well thickened, made a kid skin of wine. What sign hath he given of being a prophet that hath not already been given?"
"From the dungeon my John asked this question," Elizabeth answered slowly. "After other things did Jesus say, 'Tell John I have come to bring the gospel to the poor.'"
Huldah laughed heartily. Then she said, "Of a surety this is a sign no prophet hath given. The poor? Who taketh account of the poor? Poverty is a visitation of Jehovah. Ever have the poor been despised and forsaken. Cursed be the lot of the poor—yea, thrice cursed!"
"Yea, cursed be the lot of the poor. Even was this the lot of Jesus of Galilee. Oft was his food but dried locusts. Oft bore his thin garments many patches. Oft was a heavy yoke put on the burden of his childish shoulders. For this pitieth he the poor."
"Locusts for the belly; patches for the back; a yoke for the shoulders! Shame on Israel that of this sort it would call a king—even from Galilee where women labor in the field and men like cattle toil!" and Huldah's lip curled with scorn.
"The toiler toileth that Herod may make great banquets. Pilate doth ride in a golden chariot and Caesar feed men to tigers. When cometh the King of the Jews, such will be done away with, for again will slaves be set free and the Year of Jubilee proclaimed."
"A king must be a King—not a herder of sheep or a driver of oxen," was Huldah's emphatic reply.
"Was not our glorious David a keeper of sheep before the crown was put upon his head? Not whence he cometh, but the kind he is, doth decide the quality of kings," Mary observed thoughtfully.
The table was set for the evening meal in the home of Lazarus. Martha was in the kitchen urging Eli to more speed in final preparations, and Mary was arranging a bowl of vari-colored lilies on the table. Entering the room Martha paused to look at her sister. "Mary," she exclaimed, "thou dost spend time as though lilies made fit eating."
"Fit eating? Nay, but Zador Ben Amon doth sup with us to-night. From the splendors of Rome hath he come. Shall we not set forth for him the better splendors of lilies in all their glory? And should I not help make joyful the coming of Joel who hath been away two weeks?"
"It is wine in the cup and meat well seasoned that doth delight the heart of man."
"The perfume of flowers doth breathe of giving. So do they breathe of love which doth ever give, until a woman giveth herself to be loved of a man as thou art promised to Joel. How strange and holy a thing is love!"
"Mayhap it is strange; mayhap is [Transcriber's note: it?] is holy. But get thou the sop bowls. Joel and Lazarus are coming."
"Ha! ha! ha!" The laughing voice sounded just outside the door. "The face of him was like—ha! ha!—it was like—like—" and again the words ended in laughter.
"Like what was the face of him?" a second voice asked.
"A mild ass well beaten,—ha—ha!"
"Lazarus is in a merry mood to-day," Mary said to Martha.
"It taketh not much to gladden his heart," was Martha's answer, as the two men entered the room. When Joel had kissed Martha and exchanged greetings with Mary, she said to Lazarus, "Thou comest in good spirits, my brother."
"Yea," replied Joel, "a bit of wit doth make him to bubble over like sour wine in a kid skin, and thrice doth he bubble at wit from the lips of a prophet."
"Is there a prophet given to wit?" Mary inquired.
"Nay, not to wit," Lazarus answered. "To wisdom he is given, yet in his wisdom doth often sparkle wit."
"Who is this prophet that causeth thy pleasure?" Mary asked.
"Another Jesus—Jesus of Nazareth this one is."
"Is there none other at the Passover Feast than he to talk of?" was Martha's question. "Naught have we heard from our guests to-day save of him. Now again hear we more."
"Lazarus is much taken with his teachings which he calleth wisdom. Methinks his sayings are hard, eh, Lazarus?"
"Yea, hard sayings," the master of the house replied seriously, as he settled himself on the window couch. "Yet is there that within them which giveth wine its flavor," and again he laughed.
"What was the saying that did please thee?" Mary asked.
"Knowest thou what the Law sayeth about graven images? Aye, to touch one defileth a Jew. With fierce righteousness do those in authority contend for observance of the letter of the law. Was not much blood spilled when Pilate sought to put an image of Caesar in the Temple? The Galilean Prophet oft setteth aside the Law. For this reason do the Scribes and Pharisees seek to entangle him. Taking council, they did say to him, 'What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?' Hard by stood many with their ears well open. And near at hand stood I. Upon him who spoke and those his followers, did the Galilean look. Then did he say, 'Why tempt me, ye hypocrites?' With these words did the countenances of his tempters grow long like their beards and take on a grievous expression like a beast unjustly berated. 'Show me the tribute money,' said he. With exceeding quickness were their hands thrust into their pockets, while the eyes of those who stood by watched close. As the Prophet of Galilee did take on his palm the coins, the corners of his beard did twitch yet was his voice grave as he said, 'Whose is this image and superscription?' With one voice they did answer, 'Caesar's'—and by my most precious beard so bore the coins the image of Tiberius! Dost thou get the flavor of the situation? Breathing out fierce contention for the letter of the Law, go they about with their wallets stuffed with images—stuffed with images of Tiberius! Ha! ha! ha! Thou shouldst have seen their faces when those who stood by to see them entrap the Galilean laughed at them boisterously."
The story told by the young man ended in a hearty laugh, which was entered into by the others.
"Did he make answer?" Mary asked.
"Aye. Listen now if thou wouldst hear wisdom. Giving their images back to those who sought to entangle him, he said, 'Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's.'"
"Had they an answer?" It was Mary again who questioned.
"None save the face of them. It were enough—ha! ha!"
"Lazarus is much taken with this man," Martha observed. "Art thou, too, gone after him, Joel?"
"Nay. I like him not. Far be it from the business of a Galilean peasant to tell a merchant of Jerusalem that riches be a curse."
"And hath he said this to thee?" Martha inquired in astonishment.
"Yea, at the gate where my camel did stick and skin his nether quarters."
Lazarus laughed again as he exclaimed, "Enough it were to make dry bones shake! Such a sight! Tell it, Joel."
"Lazarus doth make light of matters sorely vexatious," Joel said without smiling.
"What did happen, Joel?" and there was concern in Martha's question.
"My camel train bearing great stores of silks had come from Damascus. The city gates were gorged with pilgrims so that my men did lead their beasts to the far side of the city wall where the small gates are. Here, when the camel would have walked under, he could not for the bales of silk that did wedge against the stones. Then did we strip the beasts, yet were their frames too large. Then did we get them on their knees and while some did pull, others did push. I stood with those in the rear and most mightily did I push until sweat did drop from my head and much straining did rend my kittuna."
"Didst get the camel through?" Martha asked anxiously.
"Yea, save the patch of hide he did leave sticking on the stone walls."
"Thou shouldst have seen," Lazarus laughed, "thou shouldst have seen thy Joel. Like a dog of the hills did he pant and like the swine of the heathen did he grunt."
"Were there bystanders to witness thy sad plight?" Martha asked the question of Joel.
"Yea, hard by stood a small company, one of them in the garment of a Rabbi. Beholding the struggling he said, 'Verily, verily, it is easier for a camel to get through a needle's eye than for a rich man to get into Heaven.' Then did those about fasten searching eyes on me, and I like him not."
"The truth doth fit close, friend Joel. Now to me did he also make a hard speech, yet I like him the more for his plain speaking."
"And hast thou too had speech with the Galilean? Tell me, my brother?" Mary asked.
"Lazarus would be his disciple," Joel remarked.
"Lazarus! Our brother? The son of a Sanhedrin Pharisee be the disciple of a Galilean?" and there was consternation in the voice of Martha.
"Thou hast spoken," he replied quietly, arranging himself more comfortably on the couch. "The Law have I studied since the days of my father. Hillel and Shammiah have I poured over and of Philo have I sought knowledge. Yea, even of the heathen Socrates have I sought knowledge. But, it is vain. The traditions of the Elders do weary me for at last tradition is no more than tradition. What avails fierce contentions over the ashes of the red heifer, the waving of willows or the pouring of holy water? Whether the Sadducees or the Pharisees gain the contention the burden remaineth the same. At times have I thought of turning to the spade and apron and white robe of the Essenes where there be no Aaronic priesthood or bloody sacrifice."
"But this Jesus—is he an Essene? Hast thou heard aught of his teachings?"
"Yea, Mary. In the Temple doth he tell of a Kingdom where the Law shall be less and justice and liberty more, a Kingdom of Brotherhood which the sword bringeth not but which cometh as spring-time brings a new earth. Wonderful did this teaching sound, and as I did drink it in, turned he his face to me as if my lips had called him. And I did know, even as his eye rested on mine, that I should love him, yea, as if he were a brother. Again did I draw near as he did pass on Solomon's porch, and again did his eyes find my face. Then did I ask what I should do to be his disciple. 'Keep the commandments,' was his answer. 'All these have I kept from my youth up,' I made answer. But it were not enough."
"It should be enough. What more doth the Law require?" Joel asked.
"Yet," observed Mary thoughtfully, "there be no virtue in keeping the Law which bids us not steal, so long as the belly is full of red wine and rich mutton."
"Or in coveting thy neighbor's fat wife when a shapely Martha is promised. Eh, Joel?" Lazarus questioned.
They all laughed. Joel's reply was, "Not virtue, nay. But where is virtue in the hard sayings he did put to Lazarus?"
"A hard saying truly," Lazarus repeated. "He did bid me sell my possessions and give to the poor."
"The Law doth not allow but a certain portion for the poor."
"Thou sayest truly, Mary. Yet him whose disciple I would be, says, 'Give all.'"
"Thy vineyards and wine presses?" and Martha's face was troubled.
"Thy olive orchard?" and Mary too expressed concern.
"Yea, and thy home and garden and fountain and thy chickens and lilies, Mary," Joel answered quickly.
"An evil spirit doth work in his head," was Martha's observation.
"Why said he this to thee, my brother?" and Mary stood by Lazarus with perplexed face.
"That I should love him more than all these."
"He doth require much love."
"Yea, verily, much love doth he require for much doth he give and everything doth he make of love. Sorrowful I turned away. Yet will I see him again. But, Mary—Martha—look thou at the western sky. Hast thou made ready for our honored guest, Zador Ben Amon, who arriveth shortly? Fortunate is he as those of the House of Annas since with the money-changers hath the High Priest given him a place so that he hath riches more abundant than us all. Since he hath been our guest before, his heart hath become settled on Mary and of her hand hath he spoken to me already."
"And thou wert not slow to say 'yes.'" There was joy in Martha's question, though it was not a question.
"'The heart of a woman should go out to him whose wife she would be; and the heart is not worn on the hand. Tell thy desire to Mary.' This said I to Zador who seeks her hand."
"Listen!" exclaimed Martha.
The sound of wheels on the pebble strewn incline just outside, told the approach of Zador Ben Amon.
The face of Zador Ben Amon was divided into two halves, the upper of which reached from the line of his black beard that ran straight under his cheek-bones, to the lower edge of his elegant head covering. Prominent in this half were the eyes of Zador Ben Amon, but whether those of a wolf, a fox or a saved son of Israel, was a matter of reciprocity depending on the kind and condition of profit-making at hand. The lower portion of the money-changer's face was again divided into two halves by a thin white line running from lip to chin; this line was preserved by choice oils applied liberally to his beard hair. The solidity of Zador Ben Amon, whether financial or otherwise, was suggested by the broad back of his short body and in the square shape of his feet, whose bones bulged in spite of the best of sandals. To cover his broad back, Zador had a wonderful cloak of blue with a purple stripe above the border where crimson pomegranates were embroidered. With this cloak over his arm, for the season was getting too warm for more back covering than the usual garment, with new hand-wrought silver buckles on his sandals, a jaunty sash with deep knotted fringes, and with hair and beard perfumed, he made his way to the home of Lazarus at Bethany.
The wheels of his carriage had not yet turned from the door when Zador Ben Amon was welcomed by Lazarus and bidden through the open door, inside which stood Mary and Martha and Joel. His greeting to Martha was brief. Toward Mary he advanced with smiling face, as if to embrace her. "Nay?" he questioned as she drew back. "Didst not thy brother tell thee I have decided to make thee my betrothed?"
"The words my brother spake I did not so understand," she replied, stepping yet farther back from him.
"Then hath the pleasure been left for Zador, son of Amon, to tell Mary of the House of Dates that he hath come to make her his betrothed and hath brought her a fit gift."
"But I know thee not save as a friend of my brother Lazarus, nor dost thou know me."
"And what needst thou to know save that I am among Israel's rich and mighty and would take thee to wife? And what need I to know of thee more than that thou art fair and a woman? Doth the hungry beast not know its heart's desire? To thy brother have I spoken."
"And hath Lazarus given you knowledge that my heart is in his keeping?" Mary asked.
"Hearts!" Zador exclaimed, laughing like one well fed. "Lazarus, thy fair sister doth take hearts into account rather than shekels and talents of gold."
"Perhaps there is wisdom in the words she speaketh when she saith you know her not," and Lazarus smiled. "Seat thyself and make ready for a better acquaintance."
"Thou speakest," Zador answered heartily, glancing toward the window-seat. "But before thou layest my cloak aside would I show it to the maidens. At a great price I secured this," and he held it toward Martha and Mary.
"Its colors are most beautiful," Mary said.
Martha had slipped her hand inside the folds and was closely examining the needlework.
"From hem to hem the pomegranates reach," Zador explained, noticing Martha's interest. "Doth not the needlework far exceed that of Israel's workers in fine thread?"
"The workmanship is wonderful. Yet here are loose stitches at the top of the border."
Zador caught up the cloak hem and examined it with careful eye as he said, "Thou knowest. On the morrow will it be mended. But now, since Zador hath come to know that Mary and Martha delight in rich apparel, let him tell them of garments that dazzle the eye for glory and riches."
"Robes of Rome?" Martha asked with keen interest
"Yea, as I saw them in banquet hall and amphitheatre."
When the guest's cloak had been carefully put aside and his feet washed, the group gathered in the wide window-seat where he reclined, to hear news from Rome. "Hath the fame of the garment of Lolilla Pauline come to your ears?" he asked.
"Nay," answered Martha.
"Of seed pearls was it covered and over the pearls lay leaves of emerald. Forty million sesterces did it cost. Thou holdest up thy hands? Then will I tell thee of one that did cost fifty million sesterces—the like of which eye hath not seen before. On a robe of pearls sprinkled with diamonds, sat a peacock of great size so that his head did rest on the shoulders of the wearer and the tail of the bird did cover her back. And of rare jewels was this bird made; emeralds and rubies and topaz and sapphire and amethyst and opals and jacinths, set with such skill as to make the breast-plate of the High Priest a bauble. What delighteth the heart of a woman more than rich wearing apparel?" The question followed his description of the jewels and he laughed heartily at Martha's expression of amazed delight.
"Yet another garment would I tell thee of, such a one as eye hath not before seen." He stopped to laugh heartily. "A garment it also was of many colors," and again he laughed. "In that which is filthy and cast away do rag-pickers stir and strive. And when they have great stores of that which is vile and useless, do they sew it together into a garment and sell it for a pittance to a slave to cover his naked body. Such a rag-picker's garment saw I. Such a sight—sold for such a pittance."
"But might not the pittance paid for a rag-picker's garment be more to the slave than fifty million sesterces to one whose toil earned not even the first of them?" asked Mary.
"Ask me not questions about slaves, the rabble. Thou knowest they are but broilers and vile."
"Perhaps," Mary answered thoughtfully, "if slaves and the rabble were better fed they would broil less. Doth not Baba Metzia say 'When the barley in the jar is finished, quarrels come thundering through the house'?"
"Thou knowest nothing of slaves and the rabble, fair Mary. Never are the poor content. Give them bran and vinegar and they want herbs. Give them herbs and they want lentils. Give them lentils and they want sop of mutton. And once sop-fed will they cry aloud for the mutton itself. Cursed be the poor, by God. Let them be accursed." And the money-changer nodded his head in approval of his speech.
"Yea, accursed be the poor," said Lazarus. "Yet it seemeth not so much according to the curse of God as to the greed of man. To the rich their riches come by inheritance as came mine. Or cometh riches by great cunning and skill in taking from others."
"As cometh mine," Zador Ben Amon laughed, rubbing his hands and looking from one to the other for approval. "And even now my palms grow hot for that which shall come into them from my Temple booths at the Passover. But how dost thou reason, Lazarus? If there are rich and mighty must there not of necessity be the poor and weak?"
"Yea. Yet is this according to the Law of Moses? According to the Law was not grain left in the corners for the gleaners? Was not stealing and lying forbidden among Israelites? Was usury not forbidden under great penalty? And was not the year of Jubilee proclaimed? Hath the Law no meaning?"
"Like fire is the Law, a good servant but a bad master, my friend Lazarus. But let us not talk of the Law but of the Great Feast. Gorged with pilgrims from all the earth is Jerusalem and this year's Temple business will exceed all bounds. Never did I see so many and strange peoples."
"Even wonder workers—eh, Mary?" Joel said.
Zador Ben Amon looked toward Mary for an answer.
"He speaketh of Jesus of Nazareth, methinks," she replied.
"Who is he?" and he turned to Lazarus.
"A Galilean Rabbi."
"Galilee is not noted for furnishing Rabbis. Hath he been taught in the Temple?"
"Nay. Yet in the Temple teacheth he such wisdom as hath not before been taught by any Rabbi."
"And he works wonders," Martha added.
Zador Ben Amon laughed heartily. "Women believe all things," he said. "There are no wonder workers but sorcerers. Even Eunus, who had the whole Isle of Sicily bewitched, did spit out fire by first putting fire in his mouth. So doeth this Jesus his wonders by Beelzebub—if indeed he doeth them."