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Then said he unto all these holy men, “Ye are much wiser than I, O Fathers. And ye—I know this only, that I do love the Lord. O Adonai, Adonai, but I have ever loved thee!” And he brake forth into words of such high praise and sweet affection for Adonai, Adonai the comrade of his all too lonesome hours, that the company ceased to whisper and to stir, believing it listened only to the music of a wonderful harp. Then brake Samson-Solomon suddenly off, as had he remembered a thing better not declared to the elders.
The sweet, grave Azrikam, after a time of waiting, said unto him: "Ah, my son, my son! Thou hast given in this matter a rebuke to us all. For thou art like Father Abraham, who was, as it is written, The Friend of Elohim."
“I would be His friend,” said Solomon.
“But sometimes I think that the Lord is very far away from me, that I never shall behold Him at all. Then I seek to forget Him. But lo! I cannot do so, but love Him the more. Yet I would He were not in a cloud, or dissolved in the invisible mist, or hidden beneath the rocks which build the foundations of the great earth. Oh that He might come forth, that He might stand beside me or before me, that He might speak, not in the thunderous voice, but in His own very words, and stretch forth unto me His own right hand.”
Said Amittai, who was nicknamed the Benjaminite: “The voice of the Lord is a still voice. Believest thou that thou couldst hear it, that thou couldst perceive it even as the words which now do fall from off my lips? 'There is no voice nor sound, yet the instruction goeth forth to all the world.' Nor doth He take thee by thy hand, and press His lips unto thine even as the lips of Azrikam were lately pressed. But thou shalt know Him in thy heart of hearts, and not by any outward pressure. Lo! it is in thy heart that He cometh unto thee, lieth beside thy table, speaketh a kindly word, and drinketh from out thy cup. Selah. I have spoken."
“I would see Him more plainly,” said Solomon. “I seek Him not only in the synagogue, but also in the folds and the fields. Yet, though I know of His blessings, I have not altogether found the Lord himself. Sometimes I seem to remember when I knew Him like a friend; then, once more, it seems I never have known Him at all. Ah! that life is poor indeed wherein we know Adonai but by fits and starts-like the wind that leapeth gustfully when summer is verging into winter, and the grasses are growing brown in all the fields.
“I could say, sometimes: 'How blessed it were to die if only I might then see God.' But behold, I do not wish to die, and yet I wish that these mine eyes might be laid upon Adonai.
“The Lord went before me down the dry bed of the mountain torrent, yet I saw Him not. He led me along the sweet springs of rivers where the wild grasses grew, and yet He showed me not himself. Yea, He took me in the hollow of His hand, but still was neither
. before me nor after. But that was because that He was everywhere: hence did I see Him not. But I loved Him. O grave and venerable fathers, I loved Him. This one thing I only know-I loved Him. And He was my friend."
So spake Samson-Solomon of Cyrene, and his eyes grew dark and wide with mystery unspoken. Then he said further, “I have looked for Adonai beneath the rocks, and up into the towers, and on to the clouds and the mountain tops and sky. Yet was He nowhere to be seen. Then I have looked the harder for Him, and have listened also. I have heard the sheep bleat, the goats cry, and the eagles scream. I have hearkened to the winds at noonday and at midnight, the pattering of rain upon the grass, and the hoarse moanings of the swollen brooks. Yet never did I either see or hear Adonai. I will look and I will listen again."
Then it was the sweet, reverend Azrikam (and not Pérek, or any of the other elders) which understanded the heart of the lover of Adonai, and all its dangers. Said he unto the boy, “My son, O
But Pérek looked up quickly,and complained unto Azrikam, saying: “Why dost thou reprove! I see no matter of reproof in all this, but am greatly edified.”
“I too am edified,” said Azrikam, “and yet, What wouldst thou, Justitia ?' (For that stern, if beautiful, servant had entered the room.) But hardly had she started to speak, when another and even elder slave that sate in the distant atrium by the side of the ever-hastening water-clock, brake in upon her, crying: “Vigilia prima! The night is young! Yet early, as well as late, let all men dream of Adonai!”
Said Justitia, with a less angry brow than that she had entered the room withal: “O Master, seest thou here thy servant, even the trifling Deformatus, he that is ever a maker of mischief ?”
“Yea,'' saith Azrikam. “What hath he done now?"
“Stolen," said Justitia, in a calm, but inflexible, voice, “thy gleaming jewels which lay within thine innermost chamber. Them did we find upon him as he slept. And when he awakened and discovered them gone, he crept in here, where he hath listened unto the young Jew-awaiting, like ourselves, a pause wherein he might speak unto thee, but he for pardon and with lies, we for his condign punishment
and with the solemn truth alone. Hast thou, O Master, given thine innermost jewels to Deformatus?"
Said Azrikam unto the despicable thief: "Hast thou stolen those things? Offered not I thy freedom unto thee ten years gone, and would gladly have had thee out of my house? And didst thou not insist that thine ear should be placed against the pillar of my doorway and a hole bored through the lobe thereof, in token thou wouldst stay with me forever, and wouldst not away? Answer me."
Deformatus answered him, and said: “I came in hither, O Master, with a strange defense and web of many lies. If the worst did come to the worst, I meant to inquire of thee a definition of the thing which men call ‘stealing,' thus, if I could, to trip thee up with subtle distinctions, fine subdivisions, numerous groupings and split-haired classifications. But behold, the youth from Cyrenaica was speaking of Adonai. And now I would not even attempt to deceive thee. For, from him, Samson-Solomon, I have learned to love the Lord. And now it seemeth that the only thing I can say in my defence is this, that I am deformed and helpless in my soul, as well as in my flesh. For even as mine arms and legs are terribly distorted from birth, and my nose and lips be drawn thus fearfully awry, so also it may be in my spirit. Who knoweth, Master? Here be all thy gems. He laid them down.
Now Azrikam took not the stones, but gazed long on the terrible form of the man, At length said he, “First, I pardon thee, O Brother.” Then, unto Justitia: "Send hither at once the surgeon of my house."
But Justitia cried in a rage: “It is not just, Master. It is not at all just, thy harmful pardoning. Nor can any surgeon help thee here at all in the case of a person so detestable and perverted as Deformatus. By all the gods, I say I will not have it so.
But Azrikam coolly considered her. "Stand thou yonder, Justitia, across the table from me, and listen with full intent unto all that I shall say to thee. Art thou a servant here, or art thou ruler of the establishment? Wilt thou domineer, or wilt thou, on the other hand, obey? If not obey, then thou too art criminal, in like manner as Deformatus is, but worse. For thou hast not any excuse.
“But behold, O all ye that lie about the tables and are rich and wise! I, even Azrikam, the ruler of this house, am worse even than Deformatus and Justitia combined. For behold, I have permitted this poor young man to grow thus distorted up in mine own home. Had I done my duty unto him, this had not been so. Nay, young man, it had not so been.
“But the man shall unto the surgeon. And the surgeon shall use his knife, and shall straighten the bones and the lips and the nose. And all the poor distorted features they shall be straight.
“And when the surgeon hath done all his work, and the flesh of the man is well to look upon, then shall we have seen that his soul, possessing no longer any bitterness, shall have an opportunity for its straight growth.”
Said Deformatus, "I will tell thee another thing.–Wait thou, O surgeon.-It was, in fact, Ophidion who seduced me to steal thy gems. He also said unto me that soon there would come to thy house a young man named Samson-Solomon, whose locket he much desired. I was to steal the locket, receiving in return for it a great reward. 'For,' said the man of lies, the locket, in any case, is mine.' And for all my crimes Ophidion promised me mighty protection, having, as he said, great influence with the authorities."
But Azrikam gave Deformatus a bright jewel.
And the man wept and departed with the surgeon, leaving the jewel behind.
And he that was called Deformatus was made straight in his body by the surgeon, and grew a better man from that hour. For he had learned from Samson-Solomon to love the Lord, and this had begun the straightness in him. On a certain time he confessed Adonai, becoming thereby a proselyte unto righteousness. And his name was changed, and he hight forever after Orthus, or Straight. And gave much help in the world. Going into many places, he taught that salvation is of the Jews, and brought hundreds unto God, until, at length, Jehovah, who long had loved him and supported him in earthly tribulations, reached forth and took him home.
Meanwhile, saith Azrikam: “There are things Justitia cannot understand. But Shiloh, when He cometh, shall understand them and shall teach us also. For behold, mercy may be but a deeper justice.” He stood up.
The rest of the company then arose, and, from the great triclinium passed in threes and twos, laughing and conversing, into a long, narrow, and brightly marbled passage. Here the attendant slaves waited, each upon his proper master, all with smoking torches in their upraised hands.
Came he which had said that he loved the Lord because of His temporal blessings, and declared unto Azrikam: “Behold I have been greatly builded up by the sayings of this son of thine, even Solomon of Cyrene. For see! I was not spiritual enough, but dwelt too much upon the things of the belly." And first one and yet another
came before Azrikam and before Solomon, saying: “Behold how blessed were the words of Samson-Solomon of Cyrene as he spake this night.” And Azrikam, while his young priest held his head downward, in red confusion, smiled at the departing elders as he were a gentle prayer. He sent all out into peace-holding at the last the young man by the arm, as though, perchance, he might somehow have lost him.
Then closed the Rabbi the outermost and the innermost door, and took back into the house the young priest.
And when they had come to the water clock, then the Rabbi Azrikam, in his robe of ashen purple, stood facing Samson-Solomon of Cyrene. Samson-Solomon, in his garment of springtime green, with a border of gold about the neck, stood, bowed and listening.
And Rabbi Azrikam, Archisynagogus of the place, said unto Samson-Solomon of far Cyrene: “O my son, my son."
And he said yet again, "O my son, my son!”
“What," asked Solomon, "what, O Father and dear Teacher, have I done that thou shouldst stand over against me, and cry in a lamentation (which indeed breaketh my heart) 'O my son, my son'?"
Then said he, “My son, be wise. Be ware, in especial, of that Ophidion, a ruiner of men's souls. Be ware also of Emah. Her beauty is that of the poisonous flower. Remember thy priesthood. Could aught say more! "They that are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousmess as the stars for ever and ever.' Thy servant, with a candle, awaiteth thee."
A FINDER OF TEMPTATION
WHEN the morning was come, and Samson, arisen, had bathed and put on fresh apparel, then appeared at his door the Rabbi, bringing certain monies and a little letter from Berith, which is Machashebethel. These, as he said, a messenger, the captain of a ship, had just delivered to him. “For the ships of the sea and of the river," said he, "are swifter than the horses of the desert. And so thou hast a letter already."
Samson took the monies and the letter, brake the letter's seal and read:
Amahnah unto Samson-Solomon of Cyrene, Greeting:
Art thou well? If so, then all is well.