Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

and even about Amahnah, “the Child of God," and concerning his captivity, in earliest years, by the hand of the King of the South, of his return by Betah, his quarrel with the mongrel-mocker, Trivialis, his swift flight, his dream in his father's tomb. “And the Lord said unto me,” continued Samson, 'Thou shalt serve me as a lofty statue, for I know thy toughness and thy strength. And behold I will chisel thee twice, the first time roughly and the second exceeding fine. And when I have no further need of thee, I will break thee-and yet keep

thee.'11

The woman wept, not this time as an hypocrite, but for that she saw the Jew could not speak of himself save as he spake of Adonai. Her conscience was wounded sore. Said she to herself, “My people, Adonai, have wandered far from thee, but the Jews are thy peculiar children and preach of thee in words of fire both day and night." And Samson kissed her not, this time, spite of her great weeping, but continued to chant of Adonai. Nothing," said he, as in a great dream, “should come between us and Adonai."

The woman interrupted him. Pointing, she said: “See! on yonder bank! The Sphinx! I remember-years ago—I had gone to the Sphinx to rest, to gaze within its inscrutable eyes, if haply I might find therein an answer to vexing problems.

“But there stood at the foot of the Sphinx a man from Nazareth of Galilee called Joseph, and Mary his wife. In the hollow of the Sphinx's paws, they twain had set their only child. His name (said the father unto me) was ‘Joshua,' or 'Jesus,' for He should save His people from their sins, also 'Immanuel,' which meaneth God with us.'

And Herod had sought to destroy the child, for that certain wise men had known Him for the Messiah.'

"Messiah! Tellest thou truth?cried Samson.

She sware greatly. Then said, “Therefore had Joseph taken Him, likewise Mary His mother, and had brought them down into Egypt."

Samson cried, "Lo! Adonai, I would that thou mightest let thy servant see thee in the flesh.”

At this there came a golden barge down stream a-passing them. Throned upon its poop in glorious scarlet, the snake-like Ophidion.

Ophidion glanced at the priestess of Egypt, and held her with his small, impenitent eyes and so passed in regal majesty and strangeness of power.

Said Emah, sorrowing: “But that was many years ago, and the parents were surely mistaken as to their babe. Let us not grieve, O lovely Jew. When Adonai will have us to see Him in the flesh, will He not come? Meanwhile, drink and be merry, and tell me, O man

[ocr errors]

with the eyes of blessed dreaming, if ever thou sawest a lovelier scene than is on this boat ?—Let there be bright music, and forget that, in yonder cliffs, the dead are innumerable."

The music mingled with the sunshine and with the woman's perfume. Adonai was forgot.

And Emah was now one thing unto the Jew, now another: At one time languishing, at another self-willed: at one time seemingly indifferent and cruel and yet again as soft and tender as a dove. And in all her moods she was very, very beautiful.

She covered his eyes with her hands, and attempted to reach the locket, which, as she said, she had heard was on his breast.

But he held her hand, exclaiming: “No one shall touch the locket save myself and the High Priest in Jerusalem.'

She pouted and made as if to leave him for a time, but anon came back, more beautiful than ever, and with her silken mouth upturned for innumerable kisses.

Said she in her soul, “I shall have to take thee to the crocodile. And first I will make thee bow before him and kiss him, yea and worship him also.

“And then I will take thee to the sacrificial meats, and thou shalt eat thereof. And after that the rest is easy.'

Samson was bewildered with her changing ways, drunken with the sweet lights of her eyes Delilian. And he only knew that, after a time, they twain had come to a landing-stage of many glorious steps, and that they went, by the sounds of secret and seductive music, betwixt long files of sphinxes, and so to a marble platform, and on and on into a bright, vast temple, whose ceiling was like as the sky for azure, and set with whirling hosts of gleaming stars.

And the prophet of the temple, in a shining robe of leopard's skin, came unto them, and led them unto Sethos, a crocodile.

Its head was decked with massive rings of gold, its neck with necklaces, and its feet with bracelets. It followed its keeper slimily about. And many of the worshippers in the temple stooped down over the beast and kissed it on its heavy-lidded eyes.

Samson, being adjured by Emah that he also should stoop and kiss the beast, thought: “Oh, Adonai, Adonai, this is surely thou, not thou indeed in thine entirety but in one of thine innumerable and infinite attributes." And because he regarded the beast as an attribute of Adonai made into flesh, he stooped-and he kissed.

Then kissed the priestess him upon the forehead, thinking: “My beauty it is, and my strong will also, which have accomplished these things.” For she did not understand the Jew. But unto the Jew she said, “One more thing is yet for thee to accomplish. Eat thou here of the sacrificial meats, which are sacred unto Sethos. Then am I wholly thine. Also the flesh of the table, when thou hast eaten it, shall make thee of Sethos a part, and thou wilt then have given up Adonai. Renounce thou Adonai.'

Saw suddenly the woman wherein she had erred. Now she attempted to rectify that error by more lascivious and dominating eyes.

But Samson cried angrily, “Renounce Adonai! Harlot ! . Thou hast said that, by the way of Sethos, one might come closer anigh unto Adonai. And now thou sayest, ‘Renounce Him.'

The woman placed an arm about his throat, but Samson, perceiving a noise behind, turned fiercely. Then shouted, as he saw the snare: “Traitors! Harlot! Ye shall none have the locket!”

But the strong men of the temple set upon him, and he possessed no weapons.

He ran therefore, as he should have run at the beginning, away from the sons and the daughters of evil, crying: “I have sinned, I have sinned! Yet did I not wholly forget thee, 0 Adonai."

He dashed to an underground gallery, leading he knew not where, save into darkness.

And coming, in the labyrinthine ways, on a massive gate barred with brazen bars, he tore him weapons out of the bars, and remembering the words of Lampadephorus, how one, with advantage, could fight with many in the dark, he awaited the coming of the strong men.

And later, the people that were up above, beheld the raging Jew come again forth, all bathed in streaming blood, and weapons of brass in both his wounded hands.

And none there was in the temple which durst oppose him, even for a single step.

He ran therefore to the river bank, nor ceased to cry till he had got (by the way of the levies) back unto Crocodilopolis: “Gone, gone, gone! The locket, my precious locket, it is forever lost! Accursed be idolatry! Accursed the workers of iniquity! Accursed all who bow down unto beasts and unto stocks and unto stones! ACcursed be ye all forevermore, for my locket—it is now Ophidion's!”

So he went raging on, nor noticed, as he came in view of the house of Azrikam, that Lampadephorus, the bright-haired Athenian, pursued him with laughter and joyous shouts.

And Azrikam stood just without his own door.

Samson went and cast himself on the ground at the Rabbi's feet, moaning : "Oh I have sinned! I have sinned!”

"Like unto that other Solomon !" laughed the Rabbi.

“And my locket, it is gone—the locket and the pearls and the priesthood-all, all are gone forever!"

Not indeed forever," protesteth the smiling Rabbi. And he taketh from his own bosom the locket, saying: “I saw thy weakness and thy strength, for I understood thee and have been as a guardian over thee. Be thou now as a guardian to thyself. Thy locket is back again."

And he embraced the lad, and kissed him until the Athenian, coming up, cried: “There is need for haste! A ship doth leave for Joppa, where that man is whom thou desirest very much to see. I have passage for thee and myself, also a great abundance of apparel and everything needful. Stay not, but come."

He swept the Jew away. And took him in a boat across the Nile.

CHAPTER XII

COWARDS

a

MEANWHILE, Ophidion, in a secret chamber of a house, awaited the return of Emah.

His heart was touched with the memory of many things, for, on the night before, he had become a-drunken, so that now he did reproach himself for here a little and there a little of his iniquities and stiff-neckedness—which, as chief delator unto Cæsar, and as one whose heart was naturally bent on destruction, he had many times shown. “Time was,” thought he, “when I might have become a proselyte of the gate in holy Jerusalem. It is too late now.-What! Who knocketh? No one. Again, who knocketh? Emah? Enter thou. What news! If unsuccessful, be accursed.”

But Emah, as she went into the room, said, to compose him: Do not condemn till thou hast heard me.”

So, from storming about the apartment he did settle himself slowly down, coiling, like a snake, in a golden chair, to hear good news of evil accomplishments, licking the while his lips with slender tongue. A steady and remorseless leer lay all about his mouth, while his cold, surveying eyes were set, half-lidded. On his forehead was written, as in great flaming letters, Hatred, Deceit, Lust, All Inhumanity.

Emah began to speak softly of the journey whereunto she had enticed Samson-Solomon of Cyrene, at first (because she feared Ophidion) as though she might have been wholly successful, bringing the locket with her, and, as it might chance also, news of the Jew's death. And the little sparkling eyes of Ophidion squinted and dilated, as he thought of the locket with its three imperial margarites. And then

the title to the priesthood, he would have that also, destroying it. He rubbed his hands and gloated.

Then a swollen vein started out on his pale, imperious forehead, as the woman dropped some word which would show that the locket was not yet quite come.

He leaped to his feet, yelling.

Emah endeavored still to gaze upon him, but her sight failed. She swam in a great darkness and fell to the floor. There the man of evil spurned her, and cried many times: “Be accursed! Fool, be accursed!'

And she was questioned by him further, after a season in which she thought she should die. At length, in her answering, she came to the Jew's refusal to eat of the sacrifices of the dead. “Nor would Solomon,” said she, “in any wise renounce Jehovah, but cried out upon me, when I said that he should do this, calling me both trickster and harlot, and saying I had sorely deceived him in that I had said I would bring him closer to Adonai, that he might, in some wise, attain to behold Adonai in the flesh. “And now,' said he, 'thou sayest I should renounce Him.

“Said he indeed so?” questioned Ophidion. “So did he say indeed.”

Then was Ophidion silent for a very long time. At length he said unto her, “Summon thou me many soldiers, inasmuch as I have work for them. Jew, I understand thee now."

Then he laughed a laugh that was worse to the woman, as she left the apartment, even than the blows and the kicks. He said, “We did not clearly see thy soul, Giant of Cyrene. We thought thy lusts and thy youthfulness of will were of themselves enough to overwhelm thee. But behold! the heart and the core of thee is thy worship of Adonai. Who could have known that till once he had attempted thee? Thy weakness is only a portion of thy strength. Behold, I will take thee as thou art. And Hell shall triumph."

The soldiers came. But there was such a look about Ophidion that, when the men both of wounds and of blood did look upon him, some of them fell down fainting, while others ran screaming away.

And a little spy entered, one that Ophidion had placed upon the boat to watch Emah. And he held a report in his hand, but Ophidion tore his throat out.

Then pulled up Ophidion his pallium-hood about his ears, and turned aside his face a little (that the soldiers might be able to endure him) and then called back the men of war which had fled. And having writ an epistle, and made full many a copy thereof, he sent these

« AnteriorContinuar »