Page images
PDF
EPUB

thereof; she therefore requested only what was of no value to Herod, the life namely of a violent and wicked man already forfeit to the State, the fierce and constant enemy of her mother, and not less, as all Israel knew, of Herod himself, and who was now a prisoner in Machærus, — the life of John the Baptist. No sooner was this heard than loud cries of approbation arose from the tables, mingled with laughter and expressions of extreme astonishment also at the nature of the demand, when from the promise and the oath of the king, there was plainly no limit to what she might not with reason have exacted, and the king have been bound to bestow. Herod, though plainly troubled that she had asked nothing which it would have agreed better with his magnificence to give, and expressing some sorrow that the loss of John had been required, was not yet at liberty to take back what he had promised, so he at once gave the sign to his attendants, who quickly went, and returned bringing with them the head of the prophet, as some will continue to call him, which being delivered to Salome and her train of maidens, they departed, bearing it, with many noisy signs of satisfaction, to Herodias, who by her examination of it was satisfied that it was indeed the head of her enemy.

“ Thus perished John, who in my present judgment should have perished long before. And thus may all others perish who thrust themselves in between Israel and the accomplishment of her great designs! Doubtless, Julian, Jesus will fall in like manner. Already many times has his life been sought, and that too by Herod, so that many places have become dangerous to him, and he hath taken refuge now in the dominions of Philip and now in the desert places beyond Jordan. But as he changeth not his manner of speech, but still cries out against the chief men of the nation, still claims to be the Christ, while he prophesieth against Israel and for the Gentile, the same passions rage against him, and will rage until they gain their end. It is not his power to work miracles nor the mad worship of the rabble that will save him; unless indeed, performing such wonders in behalf of others, he, when the occasion comes, shall perform somewhat as surprising for himself, and transport himself beyond the reach of his pursuers. But thus much at least may be said for this strange person, that while he is lavish of his bounties upon others, even the most wretched outcasts, he provides nothing for himself, nor derives the least advantage from a power that would seem capable to furnish him not only with all the necessaries but the luxuries of life. Neither doth he seem to be guilty of any vice; for in this diligent inquiry hath been made, and many spies employed, that if such things were true, evidence might be had thereof, and witnesses found to accuse him. No earthly power, as I judge, can help him, unless he depart from his present customs, or put forth his arm of God, and save himself.

“Fail us not, Julian, at the Passover, when we shall surely look to see thee and converse of many things concerning which, with all our diligence, it is not possible to write. I shall still hope to see thee again joined to the cause of the only one who hath power to save us.

[ocr errors]

This was the letter of Onias concerning John. I was not surprised at his fate ; I rather wondered that Herod had refrained from his life so long, when there existed so many causes of anger, so many reasons why he must desire his destruction. And I did not believe what Onias seemed to set forth as if believed by him, that it was with any regret that the king consented to the death of John, and gave the orders for his execution. Had he not rather rejoiced in an opportunity for his destruction, which presented others before the world as the immediate authors of his death, and so shielded himself, he might easily have recalled an engagement made in haste, in his cups moreover, from which the world would readily, as he must have known, have held him excused, especially as the breaking of his word in one direction would have been accompanied by an

[ocr errors]

act of magnificence towards Salome that would have been more than keeping it in another. In words he would have broken it, while in its spirit he would have more than kept it. This was so plain to me, that no conviction could be stronger than that Herod rejoiced in the happy chance that rid him, so easily to himself, of an old and dangerous foe.

Being now determined to revisit Judea, and to be present at the Passover in Jerusalem, I waited with impatience for the passing away of the winter months; and the more, as the means of transmitting letters, by reason of the violence of the season, were greatly diminished. I rarely heard of what took place in Judea after the letter of Onias just given, which came not long after the Feast of Dedication. And if it was so with me, how was it to those of my countrymen in Rome, who were not bound by the living ties which connected me with the Holy Land,- and how was it with the proper Roman population of this vast capital ? What knew they, what could they know, of what was doing in Galilee, on the Jordan, at Machærus, in BethHarem? Not a sound reached their ear; and though Jesus was there doing the greatest works of his life, the rumour of them was scarcely heard by these multitudes, so remote, but what is much worse, so engaged by the affairs of a vast Empire and a tumultuous capital.

Spring at length approached, the Tiber opened his gates of ice, the imprisoned and impatient coursers of the sea broke loose from their bondage and set on their way toward all the ports of the known earth, bearing with them the luxuries of Roman art or her gold, to bring back in return the vegetable products or the rude manufacture of the half-civilized nations of Asia and Africa. It was on board a trader bound to Cæsarea that I embarked, and, after a quick and fortunate voyage, found myself once more entering the arms of her colossal port. No sooner had I left the ship with my effects than I departed for BethHarem, and, that I might renew former pleasures, travelled the same winding road as before, again stopped to be refreshed at the cottage among the hills near Samaria, and again slept at the inn of the complaisant Jael.

Of all that it now remains for me to say concerning the days passed in Judea, the record will be found in fragments of letters written, after my arrival at Beth-Harem, to Naomi in Rome.

CHAPTER XXI.

JULIAN AT BETH-HAREM TO NAOMI IN ROME.

News TOLD BY JUDITH. — THE HEALED LEPER.-Ruth's HOME.

ZADOK'S CRUEL ZEAL. - Going UP TO THE Feast.–JERU-
SALEM. -RESOLUTION OF THE PRIESTS.— THE TRIUMPHAL
ENTRY INTO JERUSALEM. A SOLEMN EVENING._ZENO THE
GREEK. — The CRUCIFIXION. — TESTIMONY OF SATURNINUS.
-RESURRECTION.

I

CANNOT easily tell you, my mother, with what pleas

ure I found myself again beneath the roofs of BethHarem; again seated where I was wont to sit and write to thee - overlooking the vineyards of Onias, the Jordan, and the distant hills; or else walking on the banks of the river with Judith, my old companion; or sitting on the housetop at the evening hour between her and Onias, conversing of the times and the prospects opening or closing before us. I find that my true home is now, and must henceforth be in Judea. I can never again dwell in Rome. And I doubt not, my mother, that when the aspect of affairs here shall become more settled, and it shall be determined concerning Jesus and Herod, whether either of them or neither shall reign in Israel, you will stand ready, as indeed your promises have assured me you will, to leave Rome behind, and pass the decline of life here in the land of our fathersand we will hope under the reign of some native prince, if not beneath the rule of the Messiah himself.

But of this I will speak hereafter; I am now to tell you of whatever takes place here in Beth-Harem concerning our household, or in Judea concerning Jesus.

I find Judith occupied only by one thought, that of Jesus and the probable events of the Passover. Though she will not admit that she doubts whether Jesus will confirm her

« PreviousContinue »