ePub 版

formance; and I shrewdly suspect his presence purpose, the mountain and precipitous valley was more ornamental than useful-unless, indeed, lending depth and roll to the report. No more he performed the office of bell carrier to the flock. The dress of the escort was picturesque to a high degree; and our own was sui generis; each pilgrim-we had all become pilgrims now that we were facing towards Jordan-having one or more tin cases, for carrying back some of the Jordan slung across his shoulders. Thus equipped, thus mounted, and thus escorted, we turned our faces in the direction of the Dead Sea and the Jordan.


romantic appearance than that presented by the convent of Mar Saba could well be ima gined; and its history is as interesting and eventful as the position is striking. This con vent owes its existence to the fame and energy of a hermit named Saba, whose sanctity o tained for him the prefix Mar, which is, being interpreted, Saint. Mar Saba was, tradition saith, a pious recluse, who lived in the fourth century, and having selected the site of the present convent as his retreat, lived in a cave, from which he first dispossessed a lion, its earlier tenant, by the moral force of his sanctity. This cave, which is still pointed out to visitors, proved the germ of the future monastery; and Mar Saba had the satisfaction-for saints are human-of attracting numerous followers to his rocky retreat. The accession to the num ber of the saint's imitators and admirers sug ap-gested the formation of a brotherhood, and, to accommodate it, it became necessary to build a convent. It must have been a work of con siderable difficulty to construct a building at such a height as that of the convent; and, as it now stands, it presents a lasting memorial of the untiring perseverance of the founder.


Before we had travelled very far on our journey we were brought to a full stop by the pearance of a venerable figure emerging from an Arab encampment. This proved to be the Bedouin sheik, come out to claim the usual "black mail" from travellers. The grey beard, flowing robe, and long staff of our new friend would have formed an étude. Picturesque though they were however, they did not avail with our dragoman so much as the presence of the escort acted in counterbalance. After a brief parley we were allowed to proceed, moralizing by the way upon the weakness of a government that allows such a system of spoliation to exist within a few miles of the centre of authority. The fears of further robbery are supposed to be removed by a cheerful payment of the demand of each sheik, at least 'tis so whilst passing through the territory that acknowledge him as its hereditary ruler. To agree at once to the demands of a sheik is deemed the more prudent course, since by neglect of it a much greater loss in luggage is sometimes suffered. Whether the government could not, by prompt measures, suppress this system of robbery, or in what manner we were benefited by the presence of the escort in this respect, are questions and points I must leave to those more skilled in the art of governing.

The road by which we travelled was wild and picturesque, and the further we proceeded from civilized life the more striking became the scenic effect. Our way seemed to lie along the side of a mountain, as a shelf cut from out its surface; whilst the deep ravine below marked the course of the brook Kedron to the sea. Wild, varied forms of the same scenery were visible now for a considerable distance, and the only thing we

During the time of building, the monks were much troubled by their Arabian neighbours; and even after they had completed their la bours, there were frequent incursions of the barbarians. More than once has the conven been the scene of bloodshed and plunder, and of these there are still to be seen representations, rudely painted in oil, on the walls. These pic tures exhibit a strong family likeness in plot and execution, and are almost all representations of fierce Arabs with flashing eyes and drawn swords, who grasp unarmed monks by the throat preparatory to the decapitation of them.

Various miracles are recorded as having been performed by Mar Saba; but these all de pend upon oral tradition. A watch-tower and alarm-bell still remain, although it is to be hoped they are not likely to be ever used again for defence of the inoffensive community who inhabit the unattractive spot. We were hospitably received within the walls of the con vent, but the repast provided by our dragomar was none of the most profuse or tempting. After the usual cup of coffee, a lay-brother ap peared bearing a load of bedclothes, and proceeded to convert the long ottomans that lined the walls of the salle à manger into couches: many of our party were thus accommodated with beds, whilst the remainder betook them

were at all certain of was that there was a con- selves to a second and smaller room.
vent of Greek monks somewhere ahead of us,
at which we were to lodge for the night. A turn
of the road brought us at length in sight of the
convent of Mar Saba; which is half cut out of
the solid rock, and half-built upon it. The
dragoman now directed one of the escort to dis-
charge the musket, as a signal to the monks of
our approach; and well it must have served that

Early next morning we were again on foot, and, but for the delay caused by the dragoman in packing up the luggage, might have been ready at once to resume our journey. When once more en route, it became necessary, owing to the increasing wildness of the road, to keep our party in more compact order of march. We were already aware of the fact that a small

care than to ride pleasantly along. Our escort, in order to relieve the tedium of the journey, improvised a tournament, and dividing into pursuers and pursued, rode hither and thither across the plain. The fortune of the mimic fight changed from time to time, and the pursued became the pursuers; whilst all seemed equally careless as to the fatigue of their horses, whose lacerated flanks gave proof of the sharpness of the stirrup's edge.

party of American travellers had lately lost all their luggage here; and the fear of a similar misadventure suggested the wisdom of not riding too far in advance of the two pack-horses. The same high, shelf-like road, and the accompanying deep ravine, were now present with us for miles: one new feature, however, served to make the way more monotonous-the constant winding of the road, by reason of which we could never see far ahead of our position. Bedouin Arabs, on the look-out for plunder, Jericho at length put an end to the furious appeared from time to time on the distant hill-riding, and to our journey for that day. A huge tops, but without any more immediate annoyance to our comfort than that suggested by the sight of them. The dragoman pointed out one locality through which we passed, as being especially noted, from the number of robberies committed there, and called in consequence by an Arab name, of which the literal translation is "Bad man's place."

After a series of windings and turnings we came at last in sight of the Dead Sea, and, pushing our horses forward, were soon galloped over the sandy plain that leads down to its shores. It is impossible to imagine any sight more waste, dreary, and deserted than that of the Dead Sea. No tree, no shrub, no blade of grass was to be seen in the vicinity of our resting-place, as, weary with the hot, dusty ride, we flung ourselves upon the still hotter sand. Some of our number bathed in the waters, and others deferred that luxury till we should arrive at the Jordan.

After gathering some of the Dead Sea apples, and tasting of its bitter water, we mounted our horses once more, and turned our backs upon the site of the Cities of the Plain-that dreary waste with which there is not one pleasant memory associated. A brisk ride of an hour's duration now brought us within sight of the thick-wooded banks of the Jordan. Rich vegetation crowns this river on either side, and the cool shade of its trees was a most grateful resting-place, and contrasted favourably with the arid shores of the sea we had left. On arriving at the bathing-place we at once cast our horses adrift to graze at will, whilst we prepared to bathe in the rapid, muddy waters of the farfamed Jordan. The dragoman, meanwhile, whose enthusiasm was not of the highest order, applied himself to the spreading out of such edibles as he had brought for our lunch; and to these we did ample justice after we had bathed and dressed.

The duty next in importance to bathing in the Jordan, is to fill such tin-cases and bottles as the pilgrims possess with the water: this latter we duly attended to, and when we had made them all safe for travelling we once more mounted our horses. Jericho was now our destination, and lay at no great distance a-head of us. Tents, beds, cooking utensils, &c., had all been sent on before us to Jericho; so that we had no weightier

pitcher of lemonade awaited our arrival, and never was nectar more rapturously received. Dinner followed in due course, and as we were now very tired, we retired early to our sleepingtents: scarcely, however, had we done so, ere a number of Arab women assembled to serenade us, with a wild, monotonous chant, accompanied with clapping of hands and changing about from one place to another.

As there was no "second part" to the chant, we dismissed the singers with a gratuity, and flattered ourselves we might now retire in peace; such, however, was not the case, for the woman had no sooner announced their good fortune than the men of the village assembled in hopes of a similar reward. The war-song, or song of welcome, as the case may have been, was in this instance voted a bore, and the dragoman was hastily despatched to banish these disturbers. Sleep now came to our aid, and the long day's journey was-albeit we were tormented by flies all through the night-forgotten under shade of his mantle.

Early next morning we were up, and out of tent, inspecting the remains of ancient Jericho. Of the city's exact position there are no doubts that I am aware of; and portions of masonwork are pointed out as its only relics. The Arab village now called Jericho is so called by virtue of its position only, and does not deserve any detailed notice. To return to Jerusalem by the short way was now the order of the day; and as soon as we were all mounted and ready the order to move was given.

Our returning journey offered little or no incident or variety. Crowds of pilgrims of all ages, the aged, the infirm, and the young riding in panniers on the backs of camels and horses, thronged the high road. These pilgrims were almost all of the Greek church, and principally Russian subjects, and each batch was accompanied by its priest.

With the exception of a picturesque group presented by a British tourist-party halting at a wayside fountain, there was nothing scenic to be met with on our return to Jerusalem. Arriving once more on Mount Zion, we rested at our old quarters for the night, and next day returned to Jaffa, congratulating ourselves on our successful performance in Palestine.




You do not like this Lizzy Gurney? I know. There are a dozen healthy girls in that countrytown whose histories would have been pleasanter to write and to read. I chose hers purposely. I chose a bilious, morbid woman to talk to you of, because American women are bilious and morbid. Men all cling desperately to the old book-type of women, delicate, sunny, helpless. I confess to even a man's hungry partiality for them, these roses of humanity, their genus and species emphasized by but the faintest differing pungency of temper and common sense,-mere crumpling of the rose-leaves. But how many of them do you meet in the street?

McKinstry (with most men) kept this ideal in his brain, and bestowed it on every woman in a street-car possessed of soft eyes, gaiter-boots, and a blush. Dr. Blecker (with all women) saw through that mask, and knew them as they are. He knew there was no more prurient sign of the age of groping and essay in which we live, than the unrest and diseased brains of its women.

Lizzy Gurney was but like nine-tenths of the unmarried young girls of the Northern States; there was some inactive, dumb power within, she called it genius; there was a consciousness that with a man's body she would have been more of a man than her brother; there was, stronger than all, the unconquerable craving of Nature for a husband's and child's love, she, powerless. So it found vent in this girl, as in the others, in perpetual self-analyzing-in an hysteric clinging to one creed after another-in embracing the chimera of the Woman's Rights prophets with her brain, and thrusting it aside with her heart after a while, to lapse all into a marriage, made in heaven or hell, as the case might be.

Dr. Blecker used no delicate euphuism in talking of women, which, maybe, was as well. He knew, that, more than men, though quietly, they are facing the problem of their lives, their unused powers, their sham marriages, and speak of these things to their own souls with strong, plebeian words. So much his Northern education opened his eyes to see, but he stopped there; if he had been a clear-sighted truth-seeker, he would have known that some day the problem would be solved, and by no foul Free Love-ism. But Paul was enough Southerner by birth to shrink from all inquiry or disquiet in women. If there were any problem of life for them, Grey Gurney held it solved in her nature: that was

all he cared to know. Did she?

After the regiment was gone, she went into the old work,-cooking, sewing, nursing Pen. Very little of her brain or heart was needed for that; the heavy surplus lay dormant, No

matter; God knew. Jesus waited thirty years in a carpenter's shop before He began His work,-to teach us to wait: hardest lesson f all. Grey understood that well. Not only a night or morning, but through the day, at the machine, or singing songs to Pen, she used to tell her story over and over to this tre FRIEND, as she loved to call Him: He would not be tired of hearing it, how happy she was, she knew. She did not often speak of the war to Him, knowing how stupid she was, near-sighted, apt to be prejudiced, afraid to pray for one side or the other, there was such bitter wrong on both; she knew it all lay in His hand, though; so she was dumb, only saying, "He knows." But for herself, out of the need of her woman's nature, she used to say, “I can do more than I do here. Give me room, Lord. Let me be Paul Blecker's wife, for I love him." She blushed, when even praying that silently in her heart. Then she used to sing gayer songs, and have a good romp with the children and Pen in the evenings, being so sure it would al come right. How, nobody could see: who could keep this house up, with the ten hungry mouths, if she were gone? But she only changed the song to an earnest hearty hymn, with the thought of that. It would come at last: He knew. Was the problem solved in her?

It being so sure a thing to her that this was one day to be, she began in a shy way to prepare for it,-after the day's work was done to the last stitch, taking from the bottom of her work-basket certain pieces of muslin that fitted herself, and sewing on them in the quiet of her own room. She did not sing when she worked at these; her cheeks burned, though, and there was a happy shining in her eyes bright enough for tears.



Sitting, sewing there, when that July night came, she had no prescience that her trial-day was at hand for to stoop-shouldered over machines, as well as to Job, a trial-day does come, when Satan obtains leave in heaven to work his will on them, straining the fibre they are made of, that God may see what work they are fit for in the lives to come. This was the way it came to the girl: That morning, when she was stretching out some muslin to bleach in a light summer shower, there was a skirmish down yonder in among some of the low coalhills along the Shenandoah, and half-a-dozen men were brought wounded in to Harper's Ferry. There was no hospital there then; one of the half-burnt Government offices was used for the purpose; and as the surgeon at that post, Dr. Blecker, was one of the wounded, young Dr. Nott came over from the next camp to see to them. His first cases: he had opened an office only for six months, out in Portage,

Ohio, before he got into the army; in those six months he played chess principally, and did the poetry for the weekly paper,-his tastes being innocent: the war has been a grand outlet into a career for doctors and chaplains of that calibre. Dr. Nott, coming into the low arsenal-room that night, stopped to brush the clay off his trousers before going his rounds, and to whisk the attar of roses from his handkerchief. "No fever All wounds?" he asked of the orderly who carried the flaring tallow candle.

All wounds: few of them, but those desperate. Even the vapid eyes of Nott grew grave before he was through, and he ceased tipping on his toes, and tittering: he was a good-hearted fellow, at bottom, growing silent altogether when he came to operate on the surgeon, who had waited until the last. "The ball is out, Dr. Blecker,"-looking up at length, but not meeting the wounded man's eye.

"I know. Cross the bandage now. You'll send a despatch for me, Nott? There is some one I want to see, before I'll hold out two

or three days?"

"Pooh, pooh! Not so bad as that. We'll hope at least, Dr. Blecker, not so bad as that. I've paper and pencil here." So Dr. Blecker sent the despatch.

It was a hot July night, soon after the seven days' slaughter at Richmond. You remember how the air for weeks after that lay torpid with a suppressed heat,-as though the very earth held her breath to hear the sharp tidings of death. It never was fully told aloud,-whispered only, and even that hoarse whisper soon died out. We were growing used to the taste of blood by that time, in North and South, like bulls in a Spanish arena. This night, and in one or two following it, the ashy sultrines overhead was hint of some latent storm. It is one of the vats of the world where storms are brewed-Harper's Ferry: stagnant mountainair shut in by circling peaks whose edges cut into the sky; the sun looking straight down with a torrid compelling eye into the water all the day long, until at evening it goes wearily up to him in a pale sigh of mist, lingering to rest and say good-bye among the wooded sides of the hills. Our hill-storms are generally bred there it was not without a certain meaning that the political cloud took its rise in this town, whose thunder has shaken the continent with

its bruit.

Paul Blecker lay by a window: he could see the tempest gathering for days: it was a stimulus that pleased him well. Death, or that nearness to it which his wound had brought, fired his brain with a rare life, like some wine of the old gods. The earth-life cleared to him, so tired he grew then of paltry words and thoughts, standing closer to the inner real truth of things. So, when he had said to the only creature who cared for him, "They say I will not live, come and stay with me," he never had doubted, as a more vulgar man might have done, that she would come,-never doubted either, that if it

[ocr errors]

were true that he should die, she would come again after him some day, to work and love yonder with him-his wife. Nature sends this calmness, quiet reliance on the real verities of life, down there into that border-ground of death,-kind, as is her wont to be. When the third day was near its close, he knew she would come that night; half smiling to himself as he thought of what an ignorant, scared traveller she would be; wishing he could have seen her bear down all difficulties in that turbulent house with her childlike "He wants me-I must go." How kind people would be to her on the road, hearing her uncertain timid voice! Why, that woman might pass through the whole army, even Blecker's division, unscathed: no roughness could touch her, remembering the loving trust in her little freckled face, and how innocently her soul looked out of her hazel eyes. He used to call her Una sometimes: it was the only pet name he gave her. She was in the Virginia mountains now. If he could but have been with her when she first saw them! She would understand there why God took his prophets up into the heights when He would talk to them.

So thinking vaguely, but always of her, not of the fate that waited him, if he should die. Literally, the woman was dearer to him than his own soul.

The room was low-ceiled, but broad, with windows opening on each side. Overhead the light broke in through broken chinks in the rafters,-the house being, in fact, but a ruin.

A dozen low cots were scattered about the bare floor: on one a man lay dead, ready for burial in the morning; on the others the men who were wounded with him, bearing trouble cheerfully enough, trying, some of them, to hum a chorus to "We're marching along," which the sentry sang below.

The room was dark: he was glad of that; when she came, she could not see his altered face: only a dull sconce sputtered at one end, under which an orderly nodded over a dirty game of solitaire.

Outside, he could see the reddish shadow of the sky on the mountains: a dark shadow, making the unending forests look like dusky battalions of giants scaling the heights. Below, the great tide of water swelled and frothed angrily, trying to bury and hide the traces of the battles fought on its shore: ruined bridges, masses of masonry, blackened beams of cars and engines. One might fancy that Nature, in her grand temperance, was ashamed of man's petty rage, and was striving to hide it even from himself. Laurel and sumach bushes were thrusting green foliage and maroon velvet flowers over the sand ledges on the rock where the Confederate cannon had been placed; and even over the great masses of burnt brick and granite that choked the valley, the delicate moss, undaunted and in lefatigable, was beginning to work its veiling way. Near him he saw a small square building, uninjured,-the one in which

John Brown had been held prisoner: the Federal troops used it as a guard house now for captured Confederates.

One of these men, a guerilla, being sick, had been brought in to the hospital, and lay in the bed next to Blecker's,-a raw-boned, woodenfaced man, with oiled yellow whiskers, and cold, grey, sensual eye complaining incessantly in a whining voice-a treacherous humbug of a voice, Blecker fancied: it irritated him.

"Move that man's bed away from mine to-morrow," he said to the nurse that evening. "If I must die, let me hear something at the last that has grit in it."

He heard the man curse him; but even that was softly done.

as at a deadly something that had suddenly reared itself between him and his chance o heaven. The man was Grey Gurney's husband She was coming: in a moment, it might be, would be here. She thought that man dead. She always should think him dead. He held back his breath in his clenched teeth: that was all the sign of passion; his brain was never cooler, more alert.

Sheppard, the colonel of the regiment, a thickset, burley little fellow, with stubborn black whiskers and honest eyes, came stumping down the room.

"What is it, hey? Life and death, Blecker?” "More, to me," with a smile. "Make your men remove that man Gurney into the lower ward. Don't stop to question, Colonel: I' explain afterwards. I'm surgeon of this post." "Your crotchety as a woman, Paul," laughed the other, as he gave the order.

"What d' ye mean to do, old fellow, with this wound of yours? Go under for it, as you said at first?"

The storm was gathering slowly. Low, sharp gusts of wind crept along the ground at intervals, curdling the surface of the water, shivering the grass far-off moans in the mountain passes, beyond the Maryland Heights, heard in the dead silence abrupt frightened tremors in the near bushes and tree-tops, then the endless forests swaying with a sullen roar. The valley "This morning I would have told you yes. darkened quickly into night; a pale greenish I don't know now. I can't afford to leave the light, faint and fierce, began to flash in the north. world just yet. I'll fight death to the last breath." "Thunder-storm coming," said the sleepy Watching the removal of the prisoner as be orderly, Sam, coming closer to fasten the window. spoke; when the door closed on him, letting his "Let it be open," said Blecker, trying head fall on the pillow with a sigh of relief. nervously to rise on one arm. "It is ten o'clock." Sheppard, there was another matter I wished to see you about. Your mother came to see me yesterday."

I must hear the train come in."

The man turned away, stopping by the bed of the prisoner to gossip awhile before going down to camp. He thought, as they talked in a desultory way, as men do, thrown together in the army, of who and what they have been, that the Yankee doctor listened attentively, starting forward, and throwing off the bed-clothes.

"But he was an uneasy chap, always," thought Sam, "as my old woman would say,-in a kippage about somethin' or other. But darned ef this a'n't somethin' more'n usual,"-catching a glimpse of Blecker's face turned toward the prisoner, a curious tigerish look in his halfclosed eyes.

The whistle of the train was heard that moment, far-off in the gorge. Blecker did not heed it, beckoning silently to the orderly.

"Go for the Colonel, for Sheppard," in a breathless way; "bring some men, stout fellows that can lift. Quick, Sam, for God's sake!"

The man obeyed, glancing at the prisoner, who lay with his eyes closed as though asleep.

"Blecker glowers at him as though he were the Devil," thought Sam, stopping outside to light a cigar at the oil-lamp. "That little doctor has murder writ in his face plain as print this minute."

Sam may not have been wrong. Paul Blecker was virulent in hates, loves, or opinions in this sudden madness of a moment that possessed him, if his feet would have dragged him to that bed yonder, and his wrists been strong enough, he would have wrung the soul out of the man's body, and flung him from his way. Looking at the limbs stretched out under the sheet, the face, an obscene face, even with the eyes closed,

"Yes; was the soup good she sent this morning? We're famous for our broths on the farm, but old Nance isn't here, and"


Very good ;-but there was another favour I wished to ask."

“Well?"-staring into the white-washed wall to avoid seeing how red poor crotchety Blecker's face grew.

[ocr errors]

By the way, Paul, my mother desired me to bring that young lady you told her of, home with me. She means to adopt her for the

present, I believe."
The redness grew hotter.

"It was that I meant to ask of her,—you knew?"

"Yes, I knew. Bah, man, don't wring my fingers off. If the girl's good and pure enough to do this thing, my mother's the woman to appreciate it. She knows true blood in horses or men-mother. Not a better eye for mules in Kentucky than that little woman's. A Shelby, you know? Stock-raisers. By George, here she comes, with her charge in tow already !"

Blecker bit his parched lips: among the footsteps coming up the long hall, he heard only one, quick and light; it seemed to strike on his very brain, glancing to the yellow-panelled door, behind which the prisoner lay. She thought that man dead. She always should think him dead. She should be his wife before God; if He had any punishment for that crime, he took it on his own soul-now. And so he turned with a smile to meet her. "Don't mind Paul's face, if it is skin and bone," said the Colonel, hastily interposing his

« 上一頁繼續 »