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passionate. Emah, thou wouldst understand. Being young, he is also weak of will. I must tell her, that she forget it not. She must overcome him with her will. Her strength of will, her beauty, her lambent passion. Let it be so, let it be all these. The plan is decided.'
And Ophidion summoned the Egyptian priestess, Emah, whose name, being interpreted, meaneth "A Horror, as That which is Felt Toward a Beast," and told her of his intrigue. “See thou, therefore, that the sacrificial meats are poisoned, that the giant, having eaten, may fall into a dulness, so that then we may easily rob him, despoiling him both of his priesthood and his pearls.”
She promised to obey in all things.
He went unto an oracle that stood in the temple, and, before he went out into the street, inquired of the oracle: "In all the ages yet to come, shall idolatry pass away?”
The voice was clear: “Images shall pass away, idolatry never.
The man was wroth, and put his hand about his heart, saying: "I would the images might remain also."
Yet he went his way.
And wandered to and fro about the streets—to and fro, and seeing a multitude of things which he meant to worsen. To and fro with resistless energy of will. He seemed to have no nationality, and yet to be of all nationalities. Sometimes he appeared to be of low and vulgar mold, like the stinking inhabitants of the lower portions of the city, again he was high and courtly in bearing. Sometimes grotesque and ugly, he again seemed clad in the beauty of an archangel.
At length he came before the house of the Rabbi where SamsonSolomon abode. “Thy guest,” said he,“O holy Rabbi, I will entirely seduce to unrighteousness, nor shall he ever- Be accursed, both thou and he that is under thy roof."
He stopped at a place in the Brucheium, where he made arrangements with a little spy to be upon the boat whereon Emah was to take the Jew (in case the coadjutor in Azrikam's house should fail) the day of his seduction, that he might be able to secure for himself (but not for Cæsar) yet another most intimate report of the ways of Emah upon the boat. He trusted nobody.
Then, to and fro he continued about the streets of the city: hating, contemning; scheming, intriguing; listening, whispering.
THE GODWARD SIDE
Now Samson-Solomon from the sheepfolds of far Pentapolis sought out the house of Azrikam. And it happened that Azrikam and other elders of the Jews lay, even of that hour, at a banquet in Azrikam's house.
And the soul of the young giant, as he passed on to Azrikam’s triclinium, was greatly troubled—not at the glow and Tyrian magnificence of the apartment-hundreds of candles, cooled and perfumed airs, the respectful slaves—but only at this: the sweet solemnity and high holiness of all those blessed elders, in especial Azrikam. Now, Azrikam's face was as the face of Nathan and of Solomon and of them that were with these men and of some that were before them. All at once, Samson seemed to catch the Rabbi's voice, as he said: “My son, already have I fully announced thee unto these, for I have heard of thy coming by a letter from Amahnah. She hath had word about thee out of the desert, and about whither thou didst mean to go. But why hast thou not Amahnah with thee?”
Said Samson, “It is solely because of mine own sin (either of one kind or another) that I came away without The Child of God. Yet it may be that, on some later day, I shall return unto her, and, God willing, espouse her."
Azrikam saith, “At all events, be amid us in sweetness and peace. Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
And he kissed the young man, and embraced him, and gave him one by one the names of the holy men that stood about.
Samson would have knelt and kissed the borders of all their garments, but Azrikam said: "Not so, thou who art a priest, and not merely a priest, but one of the course of Jedaiah-which is that of the High Priest himself. Not so. But the rather let us, elder though we be, make obeisance unto thee, who art priest above the common priests.' The elders made obeisance. And Samson blushed, and placed his
. arms across his breast, after the fashion of slaves.
Whereat Azrikam, well pleased, said: "Having laid aside the raiment of thy dusty journey, come in and be among us.”
And when Samson had gone with a slave, and been bathed, and put on fresh apparel, and returned unto them, they all lay again at meat, and Samson-Solomon of Cyrene in the bosom of Azrikam.
Azrikam said unto him, “How fareth the work of the Lord in Cyrenaica ?”
Samson blushed once more and said, “Not well. Many there be of our race who go the ways of idolatry, and of all the abominations which do belong unto the worship of false gods." And he blushed once more, for he remembered the hawk, before the which he had himself worshipped. He also remembered Temunah, who had seduced him whenas he had been a captive to the King in the South.
Azrikam said unto him, “Hast thou had an excellent journey?”
Said Solomon, “Lo, a most excellent journey." And he told of the wonderful things he had seen in the desert. But of the blow he had given Trivialis, of that spake he not. At length he said: “Whenas we arrived in Crocodilopolis, this selfsame Ophidion, he that had been so scornful unto me in the desert, he took me to a secret place within this hour, and, making a great pretence at my importance, presented me to a priestess, Emah. "See !' he cried, 'O priestess, one high above all other priests.' And him," said Samson, “I hated then more than ever before. But [with a blush) Emah is beautiful in the extreme.'
Azrikam, when he had gazed on the youth from far Pentapolis, and had seen in his face only the prayers and yearnings of the lonely pastures, said at length unto the rest, as he had just put a great suspicion down: “We do wrong, O brethren, that we suffer our guest even to speak to us concerning these things."
“Yea," snarled a great man with a long black beard and severe countenance. “Yea, we do wrong. But chiefly for this do we wrong, that we say not unto each other instead (with a very priest of priests in our circle) why the Lord our God is best, and why we would have Him in the place of all the other gods. It is a custom from earlier days. Is it not meet we should do this thing now? Is it not meet, Azrikam?"
Azrikam answered, “It is meet, Pérek. Begin, therefore, youth, thyself, and tell us the reason why the Lord our God is better than all other gods unto thee."
But Pérek (whose name meant "Harshness'') came before the young man, and hindered his speaking, and said unto him: “See, I will set thee an ensample, whereby thou shalt possibly come to understand the way in which thou shalt speak. For behold, thou art very young, but I have experience. And this, then, is the reason why the Lord our God is best, and why we would have Him in the stead of all other gods. It is for this, that the Lord is severe. He letteth no sinner escape. Behold He dwelleth in the sea, and on the land, and on the tops of the mighty mountains. His finger entereth the caves, and draggeth the sinner thence. Who shall escape the hand of the Lord? His lips utter destruction, and none shall get away. Selah!”
Then said still a larger man with yet a mightier beard (and he lay in a flaming garment, but that of the man that had spoken was black) said he, in a voice of thunder: “I am not accustomed—I mean to speak-I am not-I will only say unto you all that the Lord is mighty—is very mighty,I will say that I honor the Lord because of His might-He-for this it is I have Him before all the gods of the Egyptians, and before all the gods of the Petrans, and before all those of the Canaanites, and before all others of any place or time. He is mightier than—dare I say in this presence in these presences—He is from everlasting unto everlasting. It is not that He is severe, 0 Pérek, thou whose very name doth signify 'Harshness. It is because He is mighty. For this it is that I honor Him."
Then said another, “Not that the Lord is severe, O brethren, or yet mighty, do I honor the Lord, but for this, that He is surely the fountain of knowledge. They that study thee not, 0 Source of All Knowing, they are ignorant men and like wild beasts. They may sit at the doors of temples, and wear long beards, but behold! They lay themselves in the dust, and have known nothing, and it is because they have never known Thee. Is it not so, Father Azrikam?”
“It is so," said Azrikam, “but chiefly the Greeks,”
Then brake in a little shrill-voiced, ape-like elder in a robe of purple. He said-so loudly that all the slaves pricked up their ears: "Lo, it is not for His knowledge that I honor the Lord, but for this, that the Lord is very beautiful.” He smacked his baboon lips, and said again: "He is very beautiful. The stars of the firmament are naught before His beauty, nor the moon nor the sun. There is nothing at all like unto the Lord for beauty."
Azrikam laughed. “Thou shouldst have been a Greek.”
But Pérek, without laughing, added: “Yea, and a condemned worshipper of Apollo."
The man who had spoken the judgment declared the more strongly, “I worship the Lord for His beauty, for this alone."
“Beauty ?” cried another, who lay in a motley garment, and was all fatness and hunger. “'Beauty' dost thou say? Let be. I will speak the truth, and not lie. I worship the Lord because of His temporal blessings. I have not said pleasant things, brethren, even as ye have, nor pretended to be solely in love with higher matters. But lo! I am not a hypocrite."
He would have said more, but a man brake in: "The Lord is a help to all His creatures. For this I worship Him. Whenever I think of Him, I seem to behold a hand reaching down from a cloud. Selah. I have spoken."
“Spoken and said much !" cried another. “Yet not all. Helpful He is, of that there can be no question. But helpful unto whom? Unto the children of Israel. Yea Lord, thou forgettest not thy promises, which were made to Abraham.”
“Hath he not indeed forgotten?” cried a surly voice at the farthest of the tables. "Hath He not forgotten? The Lord is indeed ElShaddai. There is nothing that is beyond Him. But let no troubler of that fountain, Truth, declare that the Lord remembereth His people. He doth not remember them. Have I said He hath no cause for His forgetting? He hath a cause. But He remembereth them not. Lo! day and night is Israel buffeted about. The hand of the Roman is against him, and the fingers of all the Gentiles, on the right hand and on the left, be pointed in His very face. The Lord, I say, hath forgotten. He is mighty. He is beautiful. He is the Fountain of all Knowledge, yea and much more also—for all things come from Him. But He is, moreover, severe—"
“For that," brake in Pérek again, "I said that I adore Him, and hold Him as better than any other god. He knoweth to punish, and to keep His fingers in His ears. Selah."
For a time there was silence.
Azrikam, thereupon, said to Samson: “And thou, O priestthou Samson-Solomon of far Pentapolis—thou priest of priests, being priest of the course of Jedaiah, thou hast not yet spoken. Speak, therefore, and say unto us, not fearing because of thy youth, the meaning which the Lord hath for thee, and the reasons for the which thou worshippest Him."
Then cried Samson-Solomon, as it were with a deep groan, “Adonai!” He could get no further.
He sought once more to speak, and once again cried out: “Adonai!” And yet again he could get no further.
Then once more there was much silence in the great hall. The soft-footed throng of slaves shuffled and padded from table to table, and at times there was heard the splashing of a silvern fountain in the distant atrium.
And Samson remembered the sounds of the laughing waters by the which he had pastured his beloved sheep. The sights of the pastures rose again before him, and he remembered Adonai once more, and all the thoughts and feelings which he had had as concerning Adonai.