The Lord of the Sea
by M. P. Shiel
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6
Home - Random Browse

There Harris laid the bag on the floor of an empty back room, where through a broken window came a little light, and the three stood looking down upon the bag, solemnly as upon a body.

Then suddenly Harris: "Come, gentlemen of the jury, let's have my share of the dead meat: and 'ere's off out of it for this child— only this blooming arm of mine! it's going to get me nabbed as sure as sticks. Never mind—trot it out, Captain! and don't cheat an innocent orphan, lest the ravens of the valley pick out the yellow galls of some o' you".

Neither of the other two, however, seemed anxious for the division; and after a minute's silence Frankl said: "The third of 850, I believe, is 2, 8, 3; how are we going to carry away 283 thousand without something to put it in? I vote, Pat, that we leave the bag here, and come and divide at midnight sharp. How would that do?"

"Yes", said Harris, "I think I see old Pat leaving the lot with me— what O! You know 'ow I'd fondle it for you, and keep it out of the cold, cold world, till you came back, don't you, you bald-headed priest?"

"Shut your mouth, boy. We can't take it away without something, as Mr. Frankl very justly observes. Aren't there some safes, Frankl, in Adair Street?"

"Right you are: and one, as I happen to know, empty. Who'll keep the key?"

"You, if you like, my friend. I'll keep the keys of the room-doors. And Harris will stand guard".

"The very thing", remarked Frankl.

So it was agreed. Harris took the bag; they descended to the cellar; then, striking matches, down three marl steps to the subterranean way made for Hogarth; and along it, forty feet, they stumbled bent, Harris gripped by each sleeve.

Then in the Adair Street Board Room they lit a candle, and in the room next it found the safes, the largest of which admitting the bag, Frankl locked its door, took the key; O'Hara then locked the room door, took the key; and at the stair-bottom locked another door, took the key; so that Frankl could not now get at the bag without him, nor he without Frankl, nor Harris without both.

Two then went away, while Harris, sprawling cynically on a solitary chair down in the parlour with straight open legs, awaited the rendezvous at twelve.

He had not, however, sat very long, when the taper at his feet glared on a face of terror at a sound of ghosts in the tomb that the house was, and he started to his feet, prone, snatching his knife— thinking, as always, of the Only Reality, the police. But he had not prowled three ecstatic steps when O'Hara stood before him.

"Oh, damned fool!" he went with infinite contempt and reproach, "to frighten anybody like that! What's it you are after now? Frighten anybody like that...."

"Alfie!"—O'Hara whispered it breathfully as the hoarse sirocco, stepping daintily like the peacock. Tell it not in Gath! If Alfie rammed the knife into the marrow of Frankl's back at the moment when the safe was opened, then Alfie would have, not a third, but a half; and the thing was desirable for this reason: that a half is greater than a third...

Harris saw that: but he seemed reluctant, meditating upon the ground; then walking, hands in pockets.

"Why, boy, he is only an interloper", said O'Hara: "I meant the money to be divided fairly between you and me. Why should this Jew come in?"

"All right", said Harris: "I don't mind".

"And I know a little castle in Granada, Alfie, which we'll buy—"

"All right: you go away. It's agreed".

And O'Hara hurried away, took a cab, drove for the Palace; while Harris, left alone, sat serious, with sprawling straight legs, and presently muttered: "Blind me, I must be going dotty or something! p'raps it's this arm...."

He had not thought of killing Frankl, until it had been suggested!— some class-habit, or instinct, of honour among thieves (which, however, his reason despised)...But five minutes after O'Hara had gone he started alert, staring, with tight fist, and, "All right, you two", said he, "blood it is!"

He sat again: and again, after twenty minutes, the house gave a sound—Frankl, who had let himself in by the front door, each member possessing a key to that.

"Well, Alf", said he, "all alone? Then, we two can have a little chat between us little two".

And he stood and talked, while Harris sprawled and listened, Frankl's road to his end being more circuitous than O'Hara's, more hedged, too, with reasons, scruples, sanctions: but he reached it, pointing out that a half is greater than a third; also that O'Hara would be a continual witness against Harris' past, whereas he, Frankl, left England for Asia the next morning.

Alfie pretended aversion to bloodshed, but finally consented; upon which Frankl went away, and took cab for Scotland Yard: his idea being to have Harris arrested red-handed in the murder of O'Hara.

The streets through which he drove wore a singular aspect—of commotion, hurry, unrest, two dragoon-orderlies galloping past him at the Marble Arch, in Whitehall the tramp of some line-regiment battalion, and he said to himself: "He is going to fight it out with them, I suppose—Satan take the lot!"

At Scotland Yard he said to the Inspector in Charge, having given his card, that if two officers were placed at his disposition, he might be able to lead them to the arrest of a man long "wanted", who now premeditated another murder.

Meantime, O'Hara was in conversation with Loveday in the Regent's library, nearer the centre of which stood a group of four with their heads together—Prime Minister, First Lord, War Office Secretary, a Naval Lord; further still, a spurred General, cloaked over his out- stuck sword, writing, with a wet white brow; and, "I suppose he will want to see you", said Loveday, "if you have anything to say. But the doctors have first to be reckoned with: I suppose you know that he has been stabbed and beaten".

"Stabbed! by whom?"

"By Harris".

"No! When?"

"This afternoon".

"Ah! I did not know".

"It was by your recommendation, it appears, that Harris became Captain Macnaghten's servant", said Loveday with his smile, looking very gaunt and bent-down.

"Tut, sir!"—from O'Hara—"you are not my judge: I am here to see the Lord of the Sea, my King".

"Ah!—you still give him the title".

And now O'Hara, drawing his chair nearer to ask: "How did he take it?" stretching back the waiting mouth to hear that thing.

"The Lord Regent? Well, at eight-thirty he went to the House of Lords, where they beat him nearly to death on the throne, the gentle hearts, and the doctors forbade me to speak to him of the Sea; but his eyes seemed to question me, so I leant over, and told him".

"Yes—and whatever did he say?"

He said: "'What, old Pat?'"

O'Hara rose to stand by a hearth, black-robed to the heels and tonsured, and at the angle of his jaw some sinews ribbed and moved: not a syllable now from him.

"I am going in now to him", said Loveday: "if you care to wait here, I will see"—and passing through a palace pretty busy that night with feet and a thousand working purposes, went to sit at the sick bed, the doctors retiring.

"How is the pain?"

"The pain", said the Regent very weakly, "is nonsense: I am not going to be bullied by doctors, but shall do exactly as I like".

"And what is that, Richard?"

"There is a Normandy village, John, called Valee-les-Noisettes— white houses with an extraordinary sound of forest about, one of Poussin's landscapes, with a smithy under a chestnut precisely as in the poem; and the blacksmith is a charming man. I dare say someone will find me money enough to purchase a share of his smithy: and with him I shall work, starting for him before sunrise, with my sister".

Loveday, wondering if he was delirious, said irrelevantly: "I have to tell you that by five A.M. there will be 15,000 additional infantry in London, with—"

"Ah, I wish they'd lend them me to send out to those poor Jews, John. But, for myself—I was mad when I gave that order. It won't do! the world is addicted to its orbit, and relapses. I don't say that it will be always so, but it is now. As against the Empire of the Sea arises—Pat O'Hara; as against the brushing aside of these rebels arise—Germany, Russia, the hostile world. Consider the rancour of the nations at Britain's late advantages in sea-rent, try to conceive the scream of jubilation that rings to the sky to-night against her, and against me. Do you think I could now start a civil war in England? for the satisfaction of my own pride? I call God to witness that never for my own pride have I done aught, but that the Kingdom of God might come. I know that bitter tears will flow at the fall of the righteous man—many calling me 'traitor' for abandoning those ready to die for me. Yet it shall be. I never thought to fail, to fly, John Loveday, chased by such little fellows: but God has done it. Well, then, the smithy. You and all, therefore, will find enough to do to-night".

Loveday lifted a face streaming with tears to say: "The man, O'Hara, waits to see you".

"Really? Well, come, we will see him...." and in some minutes O'Hara was there by the bedside, the eyes of the two fixed together, over Hogarth's face five oblongs of sticking-plaster, his head bandaged, and at a corner of O'Hara's mouth a twitching.

"Pat, did you betray me?" asked Hogarth.

O'Hara nodded: "Yes".

"Well, you may sit and tell me, and ease your poor heart".

And a long time O'Hara sat, going into the mighty crime, torturing details, revelling in the vastness of the horror, the sickness of the self-inflicted filth, and pangs of the self-inflicted scalpel.

"And why did you do it, my friend?"

"Because I worship you...."

"Well, perhaps I understand you, crooked soul. But what will you do now?"

"We shall see. What will you?"

"I am going to France to live as a private person".

"Tut, you remain as simple as a child: the earth's not large enough to contain you, you couldn't now remain a private person for three weeks. Come, I have discrowned you: I will give you another crown, though I shall never see you wear it. Why not go to your own people?"

"Which people?"

"The Jews".

"Don't talk that same madness".

"My time with you is short, Raphael Spinoza"—O'Hara glanced at his watch—"in five minutes we part, never, I do assure you, to meet again. Listen, then, to me: you are a Jew. I knew your mother—the most intellectual woman, I suppose, who ever drew breath, the only one whom I have loved; and I should have known you merely from your resemblance to her at my first glance at you in Colmoor, though I had more precise data: the three moles, the bloodshot eye, for didn't I baptize you? haven't I rocked you in my arms? You know St. Hilda on the hill over Westring, which you found me examining that morning after our escape from the prison? I was priest there, three years, and twice I have confessed her—ah! and remember it! for when your foster-father wanted her to turn Methodist, she wouldn't stand that, and since she must needs be a meshumad (apostate), became a Catholic. Well, now, I once saw at Thring, and once in the Boodah, an old goat-hair trunk of yours: what is become of it?"

"I have it—" Hogarth was shivering, his eyes wide, and in his memory a strange singsong crooning of t'hillim, heard ages before in some other world over a cradle.

"Did you know that that trunk has a false bottom?" asked O'Hara.


"Oh, you knew...And have you never seen a bundle of papers under it?"

"Yes—I assumed them to be old farm-accounts...."

"They are all the proofs you need concerning your birth; it is my trunk by the way—Ah, I must go!"

At the door he fastened upon Hogarth a last reluctant gaze to say good-bye, but Hogarth, staring wildly afar, did not turn his eyes, and O'Hara, with a sigh, was gone.

He drove to Adair Street, and, as he passed by a mews, Frankl, waiting there with two detectives, saw him by a street-light, but made no remark.

When O'Hara entered the house, he looked about for Harris, but Harris had gone to the lodging of a woman in James Street near, to arrange a hiding-place for the bag, passing out through the Market Street house; and O'Hara, opening the two locked doors, entered the safe-room, where he stood waiting, his forehead low, resting on the steel top; and now a sob throbbed through his frame, and his lips let out " great...."

Count a minute's stillness: and now the man's soul and being foundered in a storm of sorrow, and half-words borne on shivering puffs of breath, and choking groans, broke the stillness: "My Liege! Richard! my King!"

This died to silence; and now he roamed the room with furious steps, and lowering brow, and an out-pushed under-lip, until, deciding, he drew from his pocket a penknife, opened it, leant now one elbow on the safe-top, blade in hand, considered, considered, hesitating, then with lifted chin and the thinnest whimpering like a puppy, pretty pitiful, cut from under his left ear to the chin.

Certainly a hurt so shallow could never have killed, for the hand had been cherishingly restrained, and the thing was no sooner done than the priest, seeing that he did not die, ran horror-eyed, streaming with blood, shouting a hoarse whisper: "Help! help! help!"

But at that cry he sighed, fell back, and effectually died, his heart pierced by the knife of Harris.

And some moments later the face of Frankl, who bore a candle, looked in at the door.

"Is that all right, Alfie?"—in the weakest whisper.

"Come on in, and don't ask any questions", said Harris.

Frankl entered, peered upon the dead visage of the priest; then, the detectives being now behind the parlour-door below, with handcuffs, rose to run to summon them: but, to his horror, Harris was now before the door; he saw in the candlelight those eyes of Alfie fixed upon him: and he knew: before the least threat or movement by Harris, the Jew sent to Heaven a piercing shriek, his hour come....

"...dirty-livered Jew..." striking in the breast, and, as Frankl fell, he gave him one other in the temple, with "Down, down to hell, and sye I sent thee thither"; and to dead O'Hara near he gave one in the cheek, with "Go up, thou bald-head, it is": all in two seconds' space; and he was now about to turn anew to hack at Frankl, when his keen ear heard a creak; and he sprang up a spinning motionlessness—the Reality before him.

And instantly on the realization of that fact, he was submissive, reverent, as before the very Helmet of Pallas, goddess of Blue; and said he with sullen dejection, reverent of the Helmet, but easy with the man: "All right: you've beat me...I suppose it's that Regent- stabbing affair brought you: it was I did it all right".

When they went down, almost from the door a crowd gathered, pressing close, Harris' hands and front all red from O'Hara's throat; and when one policeman, big with the fact, whispered a gentleman: "You may have heard, sir, that the Regent was stabbed to-day—it's been kept precious dark, but the fact's so: this is the beauty as done it", like loosened effluvia that news flew—but distorted, largened— the stains were Regent's blood!—and beyond measure had the crowd spread ere it reached the Edgware Road.

There at the corner, as the officers looked about for a cab, and one blew a whistle, a man reached out and fiercely struck Harris on the face, while another shouted: "Lynch the beggar!"; and now arose a hustling, huddled impulses, and now in full vogue that grave noising of congregations when the voice of God jogs them; while Harris, excessively pallid, handcuffed, began to whistle; a number of other police now seeking the crowd's centre, but with difficulty; a cab, too, slowly making a way which closed like water round it: and when this had nearly reached him, Harris, in his eagerness to get in, sprang far toward it—and slipped. He never rose again: the crowd rolled over his last howl, and in the midst of a great row as of hounds, trampled him to a paste.

About that very time that better man whom he had stabbed, in tying up in bed a bundle of old papers, was saying: "Yes, I will go to my people"....

And by six A.M. he was up, in his study, dressed, looking quite owlish with his excess of eyes, which, however, danced at the first news of the morning—the arrival at Portsmouth of the Boodah II., which had raced like a carrier-bird since 8.30 P.M. of the 29th, full of the news of the vanished Mahomet: on her being 200 marines.

After that he spoke through the telephone with various Government- offices, early astir that morning, till the Private Secretary looked in with the announcement that his train would be ready in ten minutes.

His last act in the Palace was the sending to the Treasurer at Jerusalem, for Miss Frankl, the telegram:

"Be surprised, but believe: I am a Jew." "RICHARD".

Of the Household some fifty, catching wind of what was toward, offered, even begged, to go with him; but in general he refused, and set out with a suite of only seven.

They reached Hastings at twenty minutes to ten, where, to the disgust of all, the region of Central Station was found crowded; whereupon Sir Francis Yeames held a consultation with a local rector, and a dash was made to a private hotel near the pier.

There, looking from behind window curtains at eleven, Hogarth saw before a paper-shop:


A minute afterwards he started backward from the splintered window.

Everything was known:


The street, to its two vanishing-points, was one scene of hats, mixed with upturned faces: and it was an aggressive crowd that gave out a sound.

Not till noon did the Boodah II. arrive; and then there was no setting out—all the front windows of the house now broken, and in the town a row like the feeding-time of lions, which uttered "coward", "murderer", "convict", "traitor". Hogarth had been put to bed, the two ladies were in a state of scare, Margaret anon crying on Loveday's shoulder, declaring that "He" (meaning Frankl) was in the crowd, and coming, coming, boring his way: she had seen him.

At last, near four P.M., a portion of the yard-wall at the back was broken down by the party, Hogarth was raised and dressed, and through the breach the party passed into another back-yard, then made beachward, Hogarth leaning on the arm of Sir Martin Phipps; but they had no sooner come to the Esplanade than they were surrounded, and when, on their attaining the pier, the pier-turnstile was closed against the mob, it was impossible to conceive whence so many missiles came. Once Hogarth stopped, faced round, looked at them, but now a pebble bruised his left temple, and he dropped, fainting.

Caught up by Sir Martin, Loveday, Sir Francis Yeames, and Colonel Lord Hallett of the body-guard, he was hurried, a hanging concave with abandoned head, to the long-waiting boat, and it was in a scurry of escape, out of stroke, that the oarsmen rowed away.

Yonder lay the yacht with her fires banked, and was soon under weigh.

She had started, when a harbour-master's motor-boat was observed giving chase, in her an officer from Scotland Yard who bore a bag, found by means of the key in Frankl's pocket in the Adair Street safe; on its clasp the name "Mahomet", and it contained L850,000: so that the yacht went wealthy on her way.



The voyage to Palestine was marked by two events: one the stoppage at Tarifa, where the five hundred from the Mahomet were, these, when taken on board the Boodah II., making an armed force of 700; and then, toward sunset of the fifth day, a steamer exchanged signals with the Boodah II., enquired after the whereabouts of the Lord of the Sea, received the reply "on board", and when she stopped it turned out that she had on board a Jewish Petition urging upon Spinoza to come and throw in his lot with them. And here again was that name of Rebekah, spelled now Ribkah.

For the news of his fall—the fact that he was a Jew—had created a mighty stirring in Israel, of wonder, of the pride of race.

By the seventh day the yacht was off the Palestine coast, and Joppa, seated on her cliffs, appeared over a foaming roadstead. But when a landing was effected, they were to hear that there had been a collision on the Jerusalem-Joppa railway, the line blocked, travel suspended; so, as the filthy town was congested, the Royal party took refuge in a great restaurant-tent, set up by a Polish Jew in gaberdine and fur cap, who vociferated invitation at the door. All was mud, beggary, narrowness, chaos, picturesque woe. Yet work had commenced: between the upper and the nether millstone a woman ground corn at a doorway; the camel passed loaded; the dragoman went with quicker step. In the afternoon Spinoza, wandering beyond the outskirts of the town, saw in an orange-grove, sitting before a roofless hut, six diligent two-handed Jews exhaustively drawing the cord of the cobbler; further still, and saw what could only have been a Petticoat-Lane Jew ploughing with a little cow and a camel: and he smiled, thanking God, and taking courage—had always loved this land.

The next morning he procured a number of clumsy waggons, with horses, asses, camels, and provisions; and his caravan set out, to travel all day over a plain, a "goodly land," the almond-tree in blossom, orange and olive, everywhere lilies, the scarlet anemone, he considering himself so familiar with the way, that he was their only guide, though the morning was misty; and through the plain of Sharon they wended over the worst roads in existence, until, passing into a country of rocks, they made out afar the mountains of Judaea, whose patches of white stone look like snow in sunshine, on the roads streams of wayfarers, tending all eastward to Jerusalem, lines of camels and waggons, pedestrians with wine-skins, mother and sucking child on the solitary ass, and the Bedouin troop; but Spinoza was all solitary among fastnesses on the third forenoon when he muttered nervously: "I must certainly have lost the way".

Thereupon he called halt, and the caravan turned back to re-find the road, Spinoza prying on camel-back foremost, clad now in the caftan and white robes of the Orient.

But all day the caravan wandered out of the track in a white sea of mist: no farmstead, nor cot, but the wild vine, and the wild fig, and twice a telegraph-tree, still with its bark on, and the abandoned hold of a bandit-sheik. Finally, near six P.M., Spinoza, finding himself in a valley-bottom, sent out the order to pitch camp: upon which the tents were fixed near a brook, waggons grouped around, and animals picketed to grass. Spinoza, the two ladies, and Loveday, then ate together at the door of one tent; after which he rose and strolled away, thinking how best to handle this crab of Israel.

He noticed that the mist was lifting a little; and suddenly, as he strolled, he stood still, listening: for remote tones of singing or mourning seemed to meet his ear—from the west: and in some moments more he saw the Mount of Olives—to the west, not, as he believed that it must be, to the east, he having, in fact, in losing his way from the coast, passed by Jerusalem to the north; and on the other side of the Mount of Olives, from its foot to the Brook Kedron, spread at that moment over the Valley of Jehosophat an innumerable multitude, covered in praying-shawls, many prostrate, many with the keen and stressful face of supplication lifted in appeal to God, that He would visit His people, and turn again in this latter day to His lost and helpless flock. Every child of Israel who could contrive it, at whatever cost, was there, since it was the prophesied day of—"the Coming".

But a bold woman, summoning her fainting strength, bracing her trembling knee, stepped a little up the hillside to fling high her hand as a sign—Rebecca Frankl, celebrated now through Israel as the elect of the sibyl Estrella; and at that signal the congregation, gazing keenly into heaven, lifted up their voice in meek song, singing the sibyl's "Hymn to the Messiah":

"The oceans trudge and tire their soul, desiring Thee; and night- winds homeless roam with dole, reproaching Thee; the clouds aspire, and find no goal, and gush for Thee, reproaching Thee."

"Thou scrawled'st 'I mean' in rocks and men, in trends and streams; the prophets raved, to sages' ken Thou shewed'st dreams; Thou shrouded'st dark the How and When in starry schemes, and trends and streams."

"The jungles blare, the glebe-lands low and bleat for Thee; the generations rage and go, agaze for Thee; creation travaileth in woe, with groans for Thee, agaze for Thee."

"Adonai, come! with crashing rote of chariots come; or moonlight- mild, alone, afloat, Messussah, come; with floods of lutes, or thundering throat, but come! O, come! Messussah come."

"The Arctics hawk-up their haunted heart, and raucous, spue; and north-winds, wawling calls, outstart, to droop anew; the clouds like scouts updart, depart, and truceless do, and droop anew."

"How long! They breeds have waited fain what sibyls ween; Thou scribbled'st in their secret brain 'I scheme; I mean'; the constellations stray and strain: Break out! be seen what sibyls ween".

"The pampas stamp and, nomad, low, reposeless, lone; raging the generations trow, and drudge, and drown; a anguished glance this latter woe throws to Thy Throne, reposeless, lone"...

Before them, above them, as they sang stood—a man.

Hard by a wall of that Moslem mosque, once a chapel which marked the supposed spot of "the Ascension", he stood, in an attitude of suspense, astonishment, his body half-twisted—Spinoza.

An instant, and he was aware of Jerusalem lying "as a city that is compact" before him—not to the east—to the west! Yet another instant, and he realized that the whole tract of humanity—man, woman, child—was on its face before him.

A faintness overcame him, shame, dismay; then, his blood now rushing to his brow, his mouth sent out the passionate shout:

"Not to me! Not to me! I am the Lord of the Sea....!"

But when the people heard this, saw him, knew him, they remained in adoration....

By a special ship they had sent him a petition to come; here he was weeks sooner than ship or airship could have conveyed him: and they took him as the answer to their supplication, the answer which Heaven willed, in the sure and certain faith that he would cure their ache, and the ache of the world.

An acclamation like the voice of many waters arose and rolled below him, and on the bosom of that tumult he moved among them into the Holy City, as darkness covered all.

* * * * * * *

He took the title of Shophet, or Judge, and for sixty years ruled over Israel.

It has been said that the initial "pull" over other nations possessed by Israel (in respect of the sea-forts remaining in the Gulf of Aden, Yellow Sea, Western Pacific) was the cause of his rise as of some thrice-ardent Star of the Morning and asterisk dancing in the dawn's dark: for the other nations, timorous of one another, made never an attempt to build; but, for our share, we insist that anyway Judaea was bound to become what she became—indeed, sea-rent after the Regency collapse was decreased at the three forts, and suddenly in the twelfth year of his judgeship Spinoza ordered its stoppage.

By which period the University of Jerusalem had become the chief nerve-centre of the world's research and upward effort: for in creating a "civilized State"—"proud and happy"—Spinoza did it with that spinning rapidity of the modernization of Japan, so that in whatever respects it was not a question of months, it was a question of not many years.

For, as in the soul of the Jewish people abode as before that genius for righteousness which wrote the Bible, and as the soul of righteousness lies even in this; Thou shalt not steal, therefore Israel with some little pain attained to this: whereupon with startling emphasis was brought to pass that statement: "Righteousness exalteth a nation".

For the promise says: "I will put a new spirit within them"; and this—very rapidly—found fulfilment.

Whereupon others fast, faster, found fulfilment, so that a stale and bitter word was in Pall Mall, saying: "The lot of them seem to have formed themselves into a syndicate to run the prophecies".

Again the promise has it: "I shall be with them"; and again: "They shall be a cleansed nation"; and again: "They shall fear Him".

The transformation was rapid for the reason that it was natural, seeing that it had been Europe only that, like a Circe, had bewitched them into beastial shapes, "sharks", and "bulls", and "bears", mediaeval Jews, for example, having been debarred from every pursuit save commerce: so that Shylock was obliged to turn into a Venetian; and, in ceasing to be a Hebrew, became more Venetian than the Venetians, for the reason that he had more brains, ready to beat them at any game they cared to mention; but the genuine self of Shylock was a vine-dresser or sandal-maker, as Hillel was a wood- chopper, David a shepherd, Amos a fig-gatherer, Saul an ass-driver, Rabbi Ben Zakkai a sail-maker, Paul a tent-maker: so that the return to simplicity and honesty was quickly accomplished.

And now, that done, behold a wonder: at the whirling of a wand the swine of Circe converted back to biped man; whereupon without fail whatsoever he does it shall astonishingly prosper: that succession of wits, seers, savants, Heines, Einsteins, inspired mouths, pens of iridium, brushes from the archangel's plumage, discoveries, new Americas, elations, sensations—in therapeutics—in aero-nautics- beyond-the-atmosphere—in the powers involved in sub-atoms—in the powers, latent till now, involved in soul...for now each of millions was free to think, free to manifest his own particular luck and knack in discovery, having a country, foothold, not hovering like Noah's dove, urging still the purposeless wing not to pitch into nowhere: for the promise says: "Ye shall not sow and another reap, ye shall not plant and another garner", but in a land of gentlemen ye shall live, as it were to swellings of music, while a noble height grows upon your smooth foreheads, and the sum-total of the blending movements of your bodies and brains shall, as seen from heaven, appear the minuet of a people.

Within forty years mighty works had been done: forts, irrigation of deserts, reclamation of the Dead Sea, passionate temples clapped to the lower clouds about the perpetual lamp, and that baroque Art of the Orient which at the Judges progresses in Summer through the country would draw multitudes of foreigners to gape at so great pomp, at Corinthian cities full of grace and riches which had arisen to crown with many crowns that plain of Mesopotamia, and where desolate Tyre had mourned her purples, and old Tadmor in the Wilderness (Palmyra) had sat in dirt; to gape, too, at a Jerusalem which in twenty years had crossed the Valley of Jehosophat, and might really then be called "the Golden", a purged Babylon, a London burnt to ashes and rebuilt somewhere else: for the Shophet proved true Duke and Leader, born mountaineer, climbing from pinnacle to wild pinnacle, becking his people after him with many a meaningful gesture skyward and suggesting smile; and Israel followed his thrilling way, hearing always the Excelsior of his calling as it were the voice direct of Heaven. What no merits of his could give, the land which he had chosen gave, Mesopotamia pretty soon proving herself a treasury of mineral riches: here is bdellium and the onyx- stone; and where the streaming Pison, dawdling, draws his twine of waters over that happy valley of Havilah, there is gold—hoard stored from before the Eozoic, as misers bury for their heirs, in mine and friable quarry, rollick rain: "and the gold of that land is good".

Here was not merely progress, but progress at increasing speed— acceleration—finally resembling flight, as of eagle or phoenix, eye fixed on the sun: Tyre by the fiftieth year having grown into the biggest of ports, her quays unloading 6,700,000 tons a year, mart of tangled masts, felucca, galiot, junk, cargoes of Tarshish and the Isles, Levantine stuffs, spice from the Southern Sea; while Jerusalem had grown into the recognized school of the wealthier youth of Europe, Asia and America.

For it says: "The Kings of the earth shall bring their honour and glory unto her"; and again: "She shall reign gloriously".

And not Israel alone reaped the fruits of his own fine weather, but his dews fell wide. For it says: "They shall be as dew from the Lord"; and again: "They shall fill the face of the earth with fruit"; and again: "All nations shall call them blessed".

And so it was: for the example of Israel, his suasive charm, proved compelling as sunshine to shoots, so that that heart of Spinoza lived to see the spectacle of a whole world deserting the gory path of Rome to go up into those uplands of mildness and gleefulness whither invites the smile of that lily Galilean.

The mission of "unbelieving" Israel was to convert Christendom to Christianity: and this he did.

We watch the Judge coming down the Mount of Olives in the midst of a jubilant throng all involved in a noise of timbrels and instruments of music: for his life was simple and one with the life of his people. It is evening, all the west yonder a bewitched Kingdom charm-embathed, wherein a barge of Venus bethronged with loves and roses voyages on a sea of dalliance en route for the last Beatific— the last, the seventh, Heaven—whitherward gads all a pilgrim-swarm of enraptured spirits, all, all thitherward, Paul caught up with clothes aflaunt, and soaring eagle, Enoch transfigured, green hippogriff, hop of squatted frog; and thitherward trots with blinkings, bleating, the Ram of the Golden Fleece, the flagrant flamingos flap and go.

The Judge, hoary-headed now, in a robe of cloth-of-silver which rippled, had but now got home from a Pilgrimage; and the time was Simcath Torah, the Rejoicing of the Law, and the carrying of Candles, in the month. Tishri: silver his robe and silver his hair that hung round a brown and puckered skin, but silvery, too, his every tooth still, and his vigour good; and, as down the Mount of Olives he stepped, he saw Mount Sion and that Temple that he had piled, across whose roughened frontispiece of gold glowed in a bow, bold like the rainbow's, in characters of blazing sapphire and chrysoprase, that inscription:


and, as he saw it, lo, buoyancy caught the old man's feet: for the cymballing and music had grown very fiercely hot, so that all the congregation reeled in dance; and as the lasso drops round the astonished prairie-horse and draws asprawl, so dancing caught and drew his foot, and he danced.

And his wife Rebecca, mother of many sons, prying from a window- lattice, writhed odd the eyebrows of the cynic, one beyond the other: for not with foot alone he danced, but his wrung belly laboured in that travail of Orient dancing; and she turned and smiled to Margaret Loveday a turned-down smile, implying shrug, implying girding, her eyelids lowered, yet indulgent of his nature's rage.

And not with foot and abdomen alone he danced, but his two balancing palms danced to the beat of the heat of the music's heart; and with heel and toe he danced. And as he danced, he sang, all apant, filling up with nonsense-sounds when the rhythm's imperative tramp outran his improvisation; and singing he danced, and dancing sang: with abdomen and arms he danced, and with toe and heel he danced.

And dancing he sang:

My hands, be dancing to God, your Guide, And peal my pipes, and riot my feet, and writhe to His Heat, my tripes. So fair! With Rum-te-te-Tum te Tum, And Rum and Tum, and Rum-te-te-Tum, and Rum-te-te-Tum, te Tum. So fair! This freehold for seraphs free! That flame! those skies! and Blest is Her Name, and blest are my eyes, that see.

I'll dance, I'll dance like a ram, for fun, I'll smack the sun, I'll dance at the breeze I'll dance till I breed a son. For Thou! Thou bringest Thine ends to pass: This hump so high, this lump and her sigh, Thou lead'st through the Nee- dle's Eye. 'Tis well the saurians sprawled, and roared! 'Tis well Thou art! and well that Thou wast, and well when at last they soared! And well, O well that Thou art to be When seraph hearts will laugh by this brook, and break for the love of Thee. Thy years shall still by increase te Tum, And dance and dance, With Rum-te-te-Tum....

so, singing, he danced, and, dancing, sang; and their sounds grew faint; and they entered into the City of Glory, and their sounds failed....

They took him for the Sent of Heaven, nor did the results of his glorious reign gainsay such a notion: the good Loveday, indeed, had the agreeable fancy that our greatest are really One, who eternally runs the circle of incarnation after incarnation from hoary old ages till now—the Ancient of Days, his hair white like wool, quietly turning up anew when the time yearns, and men are near to yield to the enemy: Proteus his name, and ever the shape he takes is strange, unexpected, yet ever sharing the same three traits of vision, rage and generousness—the Slayer of the Giant—Arthur come back—the Messenger of the Covenant—the genius of our species—Jesus the Oft- Born.


Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6
Home - Random Browse