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JULIAN AT BETH-HAREM TO NAOMI IN ROME.
POLITICAL DIFFICULTIES. -THE NEW GARRISON.-ENMITY OF HEROD AND PILATE. - SATURNINUS. - ROMAN SOLDIERY.THE RABBIS. — PROFESSION AND PRACTICE.
KEEP my promise, my mother, and again present myself with wishes of health and peace.
Now when Onias had been absent, as I have said, many days, to the great concern of Judith-which in these times is not strange, for so much does wickedness abound in all parts of the land, that it is not without danger that any one trusts himself in remote or unfrequented places — he at length returned, in safety indeed, but as it seemed also in no small perturbation of mind. His manner was more close and dark than even that which is usual with him, and it was a long time before, by our approaches, whether more or less direct, we could arrive at the causes of his discomposure. Judith, by her playfulness at some seasons and her deep earnestness at others, seldom fails to reach her father's inward ear; and though he at times turns away even from her, yet is it done never with severity, or as if it were possible for any word from her to offend him. Although her questions now seemed to grate with harshness on his spirit, yet he refused not to answer them. "We have missed you greatly, father, these many days. But since you have been in kings' palaces we look to you to make amends for your long absence by the agreeable things you have to tell us. Saw you the fair daughter of Arabia?
They say she is unhappy."
"Who says so?" asked Onias.
"Surely," said Judith, "you have heard it many times. I speak but the common rumour."
"I know not how it is," replied Onias. it be so. The great should never marry
"It is a pity if or not till their
greatness is reached, and they can take their equal.”
"Because one is great then," exclaimed Judith," he must no longer be a man! Truly I think as to the women of Judea, they would rather marry a man for the reason that he hath the affections of man, than because he has the greatness of a king or hero."
"Yet," answered Onias, "a man may find all in one, which Herod hath not. The daughter of Aretas hath a seemly beauty enough if one great like Herod should have regard to the poor varnish, easily spoiled, of a fair skinbeauty more than enough to satisfy him,- but the wife of Antipas should show other and greater qualities."
“Surely she hath goodness," said Judith, "so the world reports of her. And is that not much?"
"But," said Onias with force, "she hath not greatness. She is no meet companion for a king."
"Alas for us!" rejoined Judith. "Let me die a maid. As I have ever judged, no greatness is greater than a true love. But this I see is woman's folly. The poor lady must be unhappy, I think; and all we have heard of Herodius is now I doubt not true. Herod's journeys to Jerusalem are in search of greatness. I marvel how the Arabian king will take these rumours. Methinks, if he be as fathers should be, Herod will have his hands more than full."
Seeing Onias to be disturbed, I asked, to divert the conversation to another subject, if at Macharus he had learned anything concerning the affairs of Cæsarea. This gave a new turn to his thoughts, but at first, I feared, hardly a more grateful one, for he was manifestly troubled. But he spake with freedom.
"Cæsarea," he replied, "is, as I learn, still at peace. But between Pilate and Herod there is growing up discord, springing from that affair. Angry letters have passed between them. Pilate hath even thrown upon Herod the blame of my presence and taking part in the fight; and though he
hath not continued to require my being delivered into his hands, as at first he did, he doth demand that the citadel of Beth-Harem be surrendered to the Roman forces to be occupied by them. To this Herod must yield-he can do no otherwise so that in not many days troops from Cæsarea will cross the Jordan on this errand."
"It appears to me," I replied, " an unreasonable measure of precaution, much beyond any possible danger to Rome, to set a garrison to watch an individual — a vine-dresser here on the banks of the Jordan. Pilate's vigilance in Cæsarea
was by no means in proportion to this."
"Doubtless, Julian, it is so. That is very true. It seems so indeed. What then is true, but that Pilate sees deeper than does the common eye, and discerns dangers brewing of which others are not aware.”
"But what other dangers are there that Rome should stand in fear of?" I asked. "I can see none. The people of these regions seem quiet and at peace."
"So they appear," replied Onias. "Surely there is nothing that shows otherwise. The Jew is all too well disposed to peace. In that rogue Jael who keeps the inn at Thebez you may behold one whom half the Jews of the land are not ashamed to resemble. Nevertheless there are others, if in the comparison few, who are of another mind. There may be danger from these. The cold rocky ground often covers over hidden and fatal fires."
"You utter yourself darkly, father," said Judith; "your words hint at more than they speak."
"Be content, my daughter, with so much; neither look farther nor deeper than the words themselves which I have spoken. But whether there be danger or not, I cannot like to see Romans in the citadel of Beth-Harem."
In this manner did Onias communicate with us on his return from the fortress of Machærus. What his apprehensions really are I cannot tell, for he plainly is not disposed at present to make even Judith a partner of his thoughts. It seems not to be believed that Pilate should have any such
fears of Onias or myself as to render so strong a measure necessary as that which he is about to take; and in my judgment he hath seized upon the affair at Cæsarea merely as a pretext, which with the people will possess some show of reason, and be abundantly justified at Rome, for taking possession of a stronghold which in the occurrence of hostilities would be of so great advantage to the stronger party. Herod is greatly and justly incensed at so high an act of usurpation on the part of Pilate, for Beth-Harem lies within the boundary of his tetrachy, and is secured to him by the same acts of the senate which have given him his dominion. But what people are secure against the aggressions of Rome or her governors, when it suits their purposes to encroach upon them? The possessions of any king tributary to her stand but in a breath. A word spoken beyond the seas in the heart of Italy, and thereupon distant empires are dismembered, kings and princes dethroned, treaties violated, territories alienated, honour, justice, and mercy trampled under foot. Herod has no power to contend with Rome. He can but remonstrate- and submit. But the friendship which hath heretofore subsisted between the Roman Governor and the Jewish Prince is from this moment at an end; and the mutual offences which will now be given and taken on the one side and on the other, it is not difficult to foresee will ere long lead to serious misunderstandings or open feud.
A few days have passed away, and what Onias feared and foretold has come to pass; the Roman power has made a secure conquest in Beth-Harem. We have witnessed the arrival of the Roman troops, and the departure of those of Herod. The populace of Beth-Harem were much stirred when they beheld the soldiers of their own prince giving way before the arrival of those of their oppressors. As it was known both by couriers who had gone before and by the distant clouds of dust and sounds of martial music, that the Romans were actually approaching, the inhabitants of the town poured forth, both for the purpose of beholding the
scene and of giving vent to their displeasure in insults and reproaches. We also repaired to the plains just without the walls, and standing beneath the shade of the groves which on this side the town everywhere encompass it, to which the inhabitants constantly resort for their recreations during the warmer days of summer, we awaited the approach of the soldiers. While here we perceived that the people were well disposed to stir up strife whenever the soldiers should appear, to which they were diligently encouraged by many of the chief citizens, who, not less than the rabble of this strange people, seem ever ready for tumult, though nothing be to be gained thereby. They seem to have no control over their passions or of their expression, but utter freely whatever they conceive in their minds, regardless of the possible or probable consequences which such rashness may draw after it. As we stood conversing we observed a large multitude posting themselves before the gates of the town, as if by merely placing themselves there they could obstruct the entrance of an armed force, while the most that could happen would be throwing an obstacle in their way for a few moments, in doing which many might in the confusion be trampled to death, while no possible benefit could accrue. Nor were the priests and rulers of the synagogue, Shammai and Zadok, ashamed to be among them, giving edge to their passions by their gestures and language. Zadok-the more zealous of the two, whom I had before seen in BethHarem on the Sabbath - when he had sufficiently bestowed his counsel on the rabble, came toward us, just then when by the braying of instruments and the neighing of horses we knew that the Romans were at hand.
"Well met, Onias," he cried, as he joined us, hot with his exertions and covered with dust; "and you too, Sir Roman—and"-laying his hand on his breast, or rather on his beard which swept over it, and bending his head toward Judith—"thou also, fair Rose of Sharon; but, daughter, there will be dust on thy leaves if thou standest here, and that too from filthy Roman feet. Get thee