Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

laughed, he said: “It were better that Japhet slept in the tents of Shem.” When he had explained to Lampadephorus, the latter fell silent.

CHAPTER V

THE STRUGGLES OF THE PRIEST THE weeks had gone by like a weaver's shuttle, for, from desert stop to desert stop, the Greek Lampadephorus (he with the Oriental tincture in his veins) had been as a brilliant schoolmaster unto the Jew. Even as Pharaoh had instructed Moses, and the great Nebucchadnezzar in Babylon had taught the Jewish captives, and the wiser and greater Alexander had taught them in the Greek-Egyptian city of Alexandria, and, after that mightiest teacher, then also Ptolemy Philadelphus and Ptolemy Soter-all by direction or by indirection, with the learning of old priests and of Aristotle and of Plato, and of Euclid and eke of many others like unto them-bearers of the light. Little could Samson-Solomon do with Lampadephorus's instructions about sculpture, architecture, or painting, and when one day, at an oasis, he was handed by Lampadephorus a wooden carving of Apollo (whereon the Greek had labored but a golden hour) and was asked by his master to make the like upon another piece, behold his Jewish fingers failed him utterly. Nor, as the friends stood before the glorious paintings in an oasian temple, could the Jewish eye discern of color to the full satisfaction of the artist. Moreover, the Jew was afeard of idol images. But, when the sunny-headed Greek made wonderful songs, or delicately discoursed on cooing flute or twangling lyre, then the pupil did wholly surpass his shining master—who thereupon would tell the scholar as much. Also, in the matter of philosophy the boy went farther than his teacher. “I have an advantage of thee," he would shout, “O Lampadephorus, in that Adonai hath given me a rightness at the very beginnings of these

things."

And Lampadephorus taught Samson-Solomon often by subtle allegories, such as “The Picture," by Kebes, and that about Persephone and Demeter, and Chronos (who is simply “Time”) and eke many another, in which the story was single indeed but the meaning complex, and often not to be understood in its entirety by any one man. “Like a stone which standeth in the desert of a morning, so these tales cast shadows which are longer than themselves." So said Lampadephorus. And the Jew made allegories on his own account, turning (as the cliffs and abysses passed them by in the solemn darkness) his

[ocr errors]

own dear scriptures into tales of two-fold (sometimes of treble) meaning-so as to approximate the ultimate purport of those scriptures unto the significance of the tales which he had had from his sunnyheaded teacher, Lampadephorus.

And yet again the two went silent, side by side, each with his own-made dreams. And ever the Jew did see himself (in whatsoever dreams he had) as burdened and weighed upon by a great responsibility, the duty of his priesthood; but Lampadephorus, as he beheld the future in his visions, saw it as a thing of life and utter physical beauty, eating and drinking and pleasure—and all in moderation and very fitting and excellent. There was nothing of the spiritual about him, except the little he had caught from Samson. The thought of Cæsar, whenever it arose, the Greek strangled. There was yet another difference betwixt these two men. In the dreams of SamsonSolomon, the Jew himself was ever of the essence of the dreamhis was the character which made the whole vision or unmade it, and all the other characters in the dream appeared unto the Jew to be as it were of a Jewish cast, for he thought his own mind into them. But, as for the Greek, he was merely a calm observer, seeing the minds of all the people in his dreams, as truly the minds of people are in plain reality: independent, each with its own soul-life.

And there were other and irreconcilable differences between Greek and Jew-incompatibilities which, slumbering, only awaited—like steel and flint-some external force to draw fire between them. Especially the Jew was like to be provocative of anger in the sunnytempered Greek, because much less adaptive, much more resistant, not so capable of comprehending what might prove to be an occasion of offense.

And the Jew, on a day, was dreaming slowly of his priesthoodas he went along on foot beside the mounted Greek—of his priesthood in Jerusalem. He longed for his joyous turn at the smoking altar. He felt the very cleanness and the quiet of his sacerdotal functions, heard the bells on the high priest's garment, saw the rising incense, had the feeling of the Temple, the very stones, beneath his feet. He had almost touched, as he thought, Jehovah with his hands, when suddenly the Greek exclamied: "See yonder! the red star of wargrim Mars."

And the Jew, being startled, both by this and also by a dark shape which he saw in the desert, declared: “I care not,” giving thus an offense unto the Greek, who, after a time, began to interrogate him, with a certain mockery: Wilt thou stay for an oracle at Jupiter Ammon? Or wilt thou on to Crocodilopolis and Alexandria ?”

[ocr errors]

To Alexandria.”

“But why? Thou hast only perfume in thy veins. Thou hast wholly forgotten the occasion of thy revenge against Trivialis.”

Then felt Samson of Cyrene a deep loathing for the Greek. But he said to himself, “I will tell this man of all my feeling for Trivialis, for so it may lessen my friend's vexation toward me, for surely it will incline his heart unto forgiveness and so unto me."

But the Greek crieth out, “It is gone," and clapped his hand upon his girdle.

What is gone, good Lampadephorus ?”

Nothing! A special purse I had at my girdle. Yet it was much too. I will even go back and look for it.”

"And I," said the Jew, “will go and assist thee, for it very well may be that the beasts which follow a caravan will get thee; and I will not have it so.'

But Lampadephorus would not suffer the Jew or any other to accompany him, though many offered for the Greek had a manner like sunlight in the sky, and the company loved him.

So the Greek went back alone, and the Jew went on with the caravan, hanging, nevertheless, in its very end, and looking from time to time backward with much anxiety. Once he could have sworn he glimpsed a great shadowy figure on a tall black horse while the charger of Lampadephorus was white and his cloak a golden brown. But a cloud of sand arose in that portion of the desert, trailing an enormous shadow, and the Jew, who saw not always properly at some distance, began to believe that his eyes and the shadow and the uncertain moonlight must, of a truth, have deceived him.

Presently, over a rise, came the sunny-headed Greek on his frostwhite charger. He dangled in air a little silver purse, crying: “Eureka! Eureka! It is mine again. Rejoice, O Jew, with thy true friend."

But, in the Jew's mind had arisen doubts, and the boy thought that the finding of the purse was wholly and subtilly a ruse. Yet he only said, “I was to tell thee how the matters in my mind stood touching Trivialis." Then told he him of all the war that had waged in his heart because of the Mocker: how that man had carried him as a child, in his loyal arms, had made him cunning little camels and horses out of the red clay, and set them up for caravans, and made him his first little shepherd's crook. “And, therefore," said the Jew, “though I do truly hate Trivialis, yet I do love him also. Oh, what shall I do to gain me revenge upon him (a man I love as

a

well as hate) which shall not be worse for me than for that man? In any case, what a sorry priest am I!”

A sorry priest! Art thou, then, a priest ?”

"Have I not told thee? I am of the tribe of Levi, the family of Aaron, the course of Jedaiah, so that I am relative to the great high priest of Jerusalem. But behold! my genealogy (which was once in the archives of Jeshana) is wholly and forever lost, save only on a piece of parchment which is in a locket that I carry in my bosomthere and, as God may have it, on another that is in Jerusalem. If I shall ever get me unto Jerusalem, I shall be a priest, because of the parchment that is in this locket. There are also pearls therein, pearls that be priceless."

Now the Greek would see the locket-being of a nature inquisitive - but the Jew would not on any account disclose it to him or suffer him to touch it, saying: “There is none but the High Priest worthy." And at this the Greek was again angered, saying: “Thy high priest is a barbarian.

To calm him, the Jew (though an-angered himself) spake unto him about the glorious maiden Amahnah.

And who is Amahnah, a Berber or a Hebrew wench ?”

'She is Hebrew and very beautiful,” replied the Cyrenian, a-tremble. “Her name doth signify the Covenant.' She is called also ‘Berith,' which meaneth the same, and 'Leah,' which meaneth 'Labor,' and 'Keturah,' which signifieth 'a sweet odor,' and 'Machashebethel,' which meaneth 'the plan of God.' Though beautiful, she is yet at times severe. She is a child of God, and liveth with the Chazzan in the synagogue. Finally, thou hast called her wench. She is not as the harlot Aphrodite, a fine and unconscionable woman, protrectress of evil, she whom thou dost bow down before and worship.”

Then cried the Greek, “Enough! By Hecate Triformis!”

‘And all thy gods,” said Samson of Cyrene, for his soul blazed hotter even as he kept on talking, “are much upon the order of thine Aphrodite, either adulterers, or thieves, or else"

"By the light of the living sun! Barbarian! Thou callest thyself— Thy people are to teach the world, and thou to teach thy people! Dog! Cur! Bramble of an egotistical Jew and blasphemer against all things beautiful!”

“Thou art the blasphemer, good Lampadephorus!”

"Good' me not, sirrah, nor say thou unto me 'Lampadephorus,' but look thy last upon these stones, for I mean to assault thee and to kill thee where thou standest. Even as thou didst fail to destroy

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

the mocker of thine unbeautiful Adonai, so will I kill thee and fail not."

Now, all about the two had gathered the men of many nationsboth Indus and Persa; Arabs and Aegyptius; Aethiops, Spartanus, and Britannus—as well as many others. And all the languages of the world were heard among these roaring men, who, for the most part, declared, either in one tongue or another: “Let us be against this Samson fellow of Cyrene, for he is a Jew and a sore hater of idolatry—as we have truly heard from his very lips—and lo! all the other races will worship one another's gods in addition to their own, but not so the Jew, and he and his kind would interrupt our pleasures forever, if only the power were in them, and would also destroy the idols and the temples of our gods. Let us therefore be against him, and see that he surely falls before the Greek, that he may breed no more that is like unto him. Away with him! See! The Greek hath drawn two swords.”

But when the Jew beholdeth that all the world, as one might say, is arrayed against him, and that even his friend draweth not one single blade, but two, then his heart becometh like wax a-melted in the midst of his bowels, and he counteth all his bones, for lo! in the deeps of him, he feareth the cunning of the Greek and the great numbers of the multitude. Then he prayeth unto Jehovah, and there cometh to him the memory of much strength, and of a many wolves he hath slain, and the bars of iron his hands have twisted asunder. And his weakness departed, and he runneth to the pack-horse of the Greek and teareth from out the fardel both the great, stout tent-poles, and seeing at a little way a mighty rock with a slight recess therein, he attained unto it, crying: “Ebenezer!" I am ready: be it as ye will."

And Lampadephorus (he that had been his friend) assaulted him, and Samson parried and returned greater blows, a-crying “At thee!"

"At thee. Parriest so?
“Thou givest all the same, Idolater. Back!"
Here is Greece."
Here Judea.”
There is red in thy land.”
And in thine."
“With me, Hercules! Help!"
“He cannot help!"
Help! Death! Hercules !”

:

1 Stone-of-Help.

« AnteriorContinuar »