The City of Delight - A Love Drama of the Siege and Fall of Jerusalem
195 Pages
English

The City of Delight - A Love Drama of the Siege and Fall of Jerusalem

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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The City of Delight, by Elizabeth Miller This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net Title: The City of Delight A Love Drama of the Siege and Fall of Jerusalem Author: Elizabeth Miller Illustrator: F. X. Leyendecker Release Date: May 31, 2005 [EBook #15953] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE CITY OF DELIGHT *** Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Stefan Cramme and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team. THE CITY OF DELIGHT A Love Drama of the Siege and Fall of Jerusalem by Elizabeth Miller Author of The Yoke and Saul of Tarsus With Illustrations by F.X. Leyendecker Indianapolis The Bobbs-Merrill Company Publishers 1908 March To My Elder Brother Otto Miller CONTENTS I. II. III. IV. V. VI. VII. VIII. IX. X. XI. XII. XIII. XIV. XV. XVI. XVII. XVIII. XIX. XX. XXI. XXII. XXIII. XXIV. A Prince's Bride On the Road to Jerusalem The Shepherd of Pella The Travelers By the Wayside Dawn in the Hills Imperial Cæsar Greek and Jew The Young Titus The Story of a Divine Tragedy The House of Offense The Prince Returns A New Pretender The Pride of Amaryllis The Image of Jealousy The Spread Net The Tangled Web In the Sunless Crypt The False Prophet As the Foam upon Water The Faithful Servant Vanished Hopes The Fulfilment The Road to Pella 1 31 56 85 108 124 148 169 189 212 233 253 274 284 300 322 337 358 374 390 408 417 427 441 THE CITY OF DELIGHT Chapter I A PRINCE'S BRIDE The chief merchant of Ascalon stood in the guest-chamber of his house. Although it was a late winter day the old man was clad in the free white garments of a midsummer afternoon, for to the sorrow of Philistia the cold season of the year sixtynine had been warm, wet and miasmic. An old woman entering presently glanced at the closed windows of the apartment when she noted the flushed face of the merchant but she made no movement to have them opened. More than the warmth of the day was engaging the attention of the grave old man, and the woman, by dress and manner of equal rank with him, stood aside until he could give her a moment. His porter bowed at his side. "The servants of Philip of Tyre are without," he said. "Shall they enter?" "They have come for the furnishings," Costobarus answered. "Take thou all the household but Momus and Hiram, and dismantle the rooms for them. Begin in the library; then the sleeping-rooms; this chamber next; the kitchen last of all. Send Hiram to the stables to except three good camels from the herd for our use. Let Momus look to the baggage. Where is Keturah?" A woman servant hastening after a line of men bearing a great divan, picking up the draperies and pillows that had dropped, stopped and salaamed to her master. "Is our apparel ready?" he asked. "Prepared, master," was the response. "Then send hither–" But at that moment a man-servant dressed in the garb of a physician hastened into the chamber. Without awaiting the notice of his master he hurried up and whispered in his ear. Costobarus' face grew instantly grave. "How near?" he asked anxiously. "In the next house–but a moment since. The household hath fled," was the low answer. "Haste, haste!" Costobarus cried to the rush of servants about him. "Lose no time. We must be gone from this place before mid-afternoon. Laodice! Where is Laodice?" he inquired. Then his wife who had stood aside spoke. "She is not yet prepared," she explained unreadily. "She needs a frieze cloak–" Costobarus broke in by beckoning his wife to one side, where the servants could not hear him say compassionately, "Let there be no delay for small things, Hannah. Let us haste, for Laodice is going on the Lord's business." "A matter of a day only," Hannah urged. "A delay that is further necessary, for Aquila's horse is lame." The old man shook his head and looked away to see a man-servant stagger out under a load of splendid carpets. The old woman came close. "The wayside is ambushed and the wilderness is patrolled with danger, Costobarus," she said. "Of a certainty you will not take Laodice out into a country perilous for caravans and armies!" "These very perils are the signs of the call of the hour," he maintained. "She dare not fail to respond. The Deliverer cometh; every prophecy is fulfilled. Rather rejoice that you have prepared your daughter for this great use. Be glad that you have borne her." But in Hannah's face wavered signs of another interpretation of these things. She broke in on him without the patience to wait until he had completed his sentence. "Are they prophecies of hope which are fulfilled, or the words of the prophet of despair?" she insisted. "What saith Daniel of this hour? Did he not name it the abomination of desolation? Said he not that the city and the sanctuary should be destroyed, that there should be a flood and that unto the end of the war desolations shall be determined? Desolations, Costobarus! And Laodice is but a child and delicately reared!" "All these things may come to pass and not a hair of the heads of the chosen people be harmed," he assured her. "But Laodice is too young to have part in the conflict of nations, the business of Heaven and earth and the end of all things!" A courier strode into the hall and approached Costobarus, saw that he was engaged in conversation and stopped. The merchant noted him and withdrew to read the message which the man carried. "A letter from Philadelphus," he said over his shoulder, as he moved away from Hannah. "He hath landed in Cæsarea with his cousin Julian of Ephesus. He will proceed at once to Jerusalem. We have no time to lose. Ah, Momus?" He spoke to a servant who had limped into the hall and stood waiting for his notice. He was the ruin of a man, physically powerful but as a tree wrecked by storm and grown strong again in spite of its mutilation. Pestilence in years long past had attacked him and had left him dumb, distorted of feature, wry-necked and stiffened in the right leg and arm. His left arm, forced to double duty, had become tremendously muscular, his left hand unusually dexterous. Much of his facial distortion was the result of his efforts to convey his ideas by expression and by his attempts to overcome the interference of his wry neck with the sweep of his vision. "Whom have we in our party, Momus?" Costobarus asked. As the man made rapid, uncouth signs, the master interpreted. "Keturah, Hiram and Aquila–and thou and I, Momus. Three camels, one of which is the beast of burden. Good! Aquila will ride a horse; ha! a horse in a party of camels –well, perhaps–if he were bought in Ascalon. How? What? St–t! The physician told me even now. Let none of the household know it–above all things not thy mistress!" The last sentence was delivered in a whisper in response to certain uneasy gestures the mute had made. The man bowed and withdrew. A second servitor now approached with papers which the merchant inspected and signed hastily with ink and stylus which the clerk bore. When this last item was disposed of, Hannah was again at her husband's side. "Costobarus," she whispered, "it is known that the East Gate of the Temple, which twenty Levites can close only with effort, opened of itself in the sixth hour of the night!" "A sign that God reëntereth His house," the merchant explained. "A sign, O my husband, that the security of the Holy House is dissolved of its own accord for the advantage of its enemies!" Costobarus observed two huge Ethiopians who appeared bewildered at the threshold of the unfamiliar interior, looking for the master of the house to tell them what to do. The merchant motioned toward a tall ebony case that stood against one of the walls and showed them that they were to carry it out. Hannah continued: "And thou hast not forgotten that night when the priests at the Pentecost, entering the inner court, were thrown down by the trembling of the Temple and that a vast multitude, which they could not see, cried: 'Let us go hence!' And that dreadful sunset which we watched and which all Israel saw when armies were seen fighting in the skies and cities with toppling towers and rocking walls fell into red clouds and vanished!" "What of thyself, Hannah?" he broke in. "Art thou ready to depart for Tyre? Philip will leave to-morrow. Do not delay him. Go and prepare." But the woman rushed on to indiscretion, in her desperate intent to stop the journey to Jerusalem at any cost. "But there are those of good repute here in Ascalon, sober men and excellent women, who say that our hope for the Branch of David is too late–that Israel is come to judgment, this hour–for He is come and gone and we received Him not!" Costobarus turned upon her sharply. "What is this?" he demanded. "O my husband," she insisted hopefully, "it measures up with prophecy! And they who speak thus confidently say that He prophesied the end of the Holy City, and that this is not the Advent, but doom!" "It is the Nazarene apostasy," he exclaimed in alarm, "alive though the power of Rome and the diligence of the Sanhedrim have striven to destroy it these forty years! Now the poison hath entered mine own house!" A servant bowed within earshot. Costobarus turned to him hastily. "Philip of Tyre," the attendant announced. "Let him enter," Costobarus said. "Go, Hannah; make Laodice ready–preparations are almost complete; be not her obstacle." "But–but," she insisted with whitening lips, "I have not said that I believe all this. I only urge that, in view of this time of war, of contending prophecies and of all known peril, that we should keep her, who is our one ewe lamb, our tender flower, our Rose of Sharon, yet within shelter until the signs are manifest and the purpose of the Lord God is made clear." He turned to her slowly. There was pain on his face, suffering that she knew her words had evoked and, more than that, a yearning to relent. She was ashamed and not hopeful, but her mother-love was stronger than her wifely pity. "Must I command you, Hannah?" he asked. Her figure, drawn up with the intensity of her wishfulness, relaxed. Her head drooped and slowly she turned away. Costobarus looked after her and struggled with rising emotion. But the curtain dropped behind her and left him alone. A moment later the curtains over the arch parted and a middle-aged Jew, richly habited, stood there. He raised his hand for the blessing of the threshold, then embraced Costobarus with more warmth than ceremony. "What is this I hear?" he demanded with affectionate concern. "Thou leavest Ascalon for the peril of Jerusalem?" "Can Jerusalem be more perilous than Ascalon this hour?" Costobarus asked. "Yes, by our fathers!" Philip declared. "Nothing can be so bad as the condition of the Holy City. But what has happened? Three days ago thou wast as securely settled here as a barnacle on a shore-rock! To-day thou sendest me word: 'Lo! the time long expected hath come; I go hence to Jerusalem.' What is it, my brother?" "Sit and listen." Philip looked about him. The divan was there, stripped of its covering of fine rugs, but the room otherwise was without furniture. Prepared for surprise, the Tyrian let no sign of his curiosity escape him, and, sitting, leaned on his knees and waited. "Philadelphus Maccabaeus hath sent to me, bidding me send Laodice to him–in Jerusalem," Costobarus said in a low voice. Philip's eyes widened with sudden comprehension. "He hath returned!" he exclaimed in a whisper. For a time there was silence between the two old men, while they gazed at each other. Then Philip's manner became intensely confident. "I see!" he exclaimed again, in the same whisper. "The throne is empty! He means to possess it, now that Agrippa hath abandoned it!" Costobarus pressed his lips together and bowed his head emphatically. Again there was silence. "Think of it!" Philip exclaimed presently. "I have done nothing else since his messenger arrived at daybreak. Little, little, did I think when I married Laodice to him, fourteen years ago, that the lad of ten and the little child of four might one day be king and queen over Judea!" Philip shook his head slowly and his gaze settled to the pavement. Presently he drew in a long breath. "He is twenty-four," he began thoughtfully. "He has all the learning of the pagans, both of letters and of war; he–Ah! But is he capable?" "He is the great-grandson of Judas Maccabaeus! That is enough! I have not seen him since the day he wedded Laodice and left her to go to Ephesus, but no man can change the blood of his fathers in him. And Philip–he shall have no excuse to fail. He shall be moneyed; he shall be moneyed!" Costobarus leaned toward his friend and with a sweep of his hand indicated the stripped room. It was a noble chamber. The stamp of the elegant simplicity of Cyrus, the Persian, was upon it. The ancient blue and white mosaics that had been laid by the Parsee builder and the fretwork and twisted pillars were there, but the silky carpets, the censers and the chairs of fine woods were gone. Costobarus looked steadily at the perplexed countenance of Philip. "Seest thou how much I believe in this youth?" he asked. A shade of uneasiness crossed Philip's forehead. "Thou art no longer young, Costobarus," he said, "and disappointments go hard with us, at our age–especially, especially." "I shall not be disappointed," Costobarus declared. The friendly Jew looked doubtful. "The nation is in a sad state," he observed. "We have cause. The procurators have been of a nature with their patrons, the emperors. It is enough but to say that! But Vespasian Cæsar is another kind of man. He is tractable. Young Titus, who will succeed him, is well-named the Darling of Mankind. We could get much redress from these if we would be content with redress. But no! We must revert to the days of Saul!" "Yes; but they declare they will have no king but God; no commander but the Messiah to come; no order but primitive impulse! But the Maccabee will change all that! It is but the far swing of the first revolt. Jerusalem is ready for reason at this hour, it is said." "Yes," Philip assented with a little more spirit. "It hath reached us, who have dealings with the East, that there is a better feeling in the city. Such slaughter has been done there among the Sadducees, such hordes of rebels from outlying subjugated towns have poured their license and violence in upon the safe City of Delight, that the citizens of Jerusalem actually look forward to the coming of Titus as a deliverance from the afflictions which their own people have visited upon them." "The hour for the Maccabee, indeed," Costobarus ruminated. "And the hour for Him whom we all expect," Philip added in a low tone. Costobarus bowed his head. Presently he drew a scroll from the folds of his ample robe. "Hear what Philadelphus writes me: Cæsarea, II Kal. Jul. XX. To Costobarus, greetings and these by messenger; I learn on arriving in this city that Judea is in truth no man's country. Wherefore it can be mine by cession or conquest. It is mine, however, by right. I shall possess it. I go hence to Jerusalem. Fail not to send my wife thither and her dowry. Aquila, my emissary, will safely conduct her. Trust him. Proceed with despatch and husband the dowry of your daughter, since it is to be the corner-stone of a new Israel. Peace to you and yours. To my wife my affection and my loyalty. PHILADELPHUS MACCABAEUS. Nota Bene. Julian of Ephesus accompanies me. He is my cousin. He will in all probability meet your daughter at the Gate. MACCABAEUS." Slowly the old man rolled the writing. "He wastes no words," Philip mused. "He writes as a siege-engine talks–without quarter." Costobarus nodded. "So I am giving him two hundred talents," he said deliberately. "Two hundred talents!" Philip echoed. "And I summoned thee, Philip, to say that in addition to my house and its goods, thou canst have my shipping, my trade, my caravans, which thou hast coveted so long at a price–at that price. I shall give Laodice two hundred talents." "Two hundred talents!" Philip echoed again, somewhat taken aback. Costobarus went to a cabinet on the wall and drew forth a shittim-wood case which he unlocked. Therefrom he took a small casket and opened it. He then held it so that the sun, falling into it, set fire to a bed of loose gems mingled without care for kind or value–a heap of glowing color emitting sparks. "Here are one hundred of the talents," Costobarus said. A flash of understanding lighted Philip's face not unmingled with the satisfaction of a shrewd Jew who has pleased himself at business. One hundred talents, then, for the best establishment in five cities, in all the Philistine country. But why? Costobarus supplied the answer at that instant. "I would depart with my daughter by mid-afternoon," he said. "I doubt the counting houses; if I had known sooner–" Philip began. "Aquila arrived only this morning. I sent a messenger to you at once." Philip rose. "We waste time in talk. I shall inform thee by messenger presently. God speed thee! My blessings on thy son-in-law and on thy daughter!" Costobarus rose and took his friend's hand. "Thou shalt have the portion of the wise-hearted man in this kingdom. And this yet further, my friend. If perchance the uncertainties of travel in this distressed land should prove disastrous and I should not return, I shall leave a widow here–" "And in that instance, be at peace. I am thy brother." Costobarus pressed Philip's hand. "Farewell," he said; and Philip embraced him and went forth. Costobarus turned to one of his closed windows and thrust it open, for the influence of the spring sun had made itself felt in the past important hour for Costobarus. Noon stood beautiful and golden over the city. The sky was clean-washed and blue, and the surface of the Mediterranean, glimpsed over white house-tops that dropped away toward the sea-front, was a wandering sheet of flashing silver. Here and there were the ruins of the last year's warfare, but over the fallen walls of gray earth the charity of running vines and the new growth of the spring spread a beauty, both tender and compassionate. In such open spaces inner gardens were exposed and almond trees tossed their crowns of white bloom over pleached arbors of old grape-vines. Here the Mediterranean birds sang with poignant sweetness while the new-budded limbs of the oleanders tilted suddenly under their weight as they circled from covert to covert. But the energy of the young spring was alive only in the birds and the blossoming orchards. Wherever the solid houses fronted in unbroken rows the passages between, there were no open windows, no carpets swung from latticed balconies; no buyers moved up the roofed-over Street of Bazaars. Not in all the range of the old man's vision was to be seen a living human being. For the chief city of the Philistine country Ascalon was nerveless and still. At times immense and ponderous creaking sounded in the distance, as if a great rusted crane swung in the wind. Again there were distant, voluminous flutterings, as if neglected and loosened sails flapped. Idle roaming donkeys brayed and a dog shut up and forgotten in a compound barked incessantly. Presently there came faint, far-off, failing cries that faded into silence. The Jew's brow contracted but he did not move. From his position, he could see the port to the east packed with lifeless vessels. The stretches of stone wharf and the mole were vacant and littered with rubbish. The yard-