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Joseph left the palace at Tiberias on the day following his conversation with Salome. He had now arisen to a station among the guards of Herod, where he could come and go with considerable freedom. He knew that only Salome would in any way connect his departure with the danger threatening the Baptist; and he was sure she had particular reasons for not desiring to place him in danger by giving any information.
He arrived at the castle of Machaerus two days after John had been immured in the gloomy prison. Hearing of his fate from some of his followers, he determined to find the group of disciples before they separated in dismay, and discuss plans for John's release. Accordingly, he set out rapidly for Enon. As the little group of faithful followers saw the Roman horseman approaching, they were seized with a tremulous fear. By a gesture Joseph reassured them.
"Your master is alive," was his first salutation. "He is held a prisoner by Herod. I have come to seek his release."
They crowded around him, and he briefly related to them the incident of John's capture and imprisonment, so far as he knew the circumstances. He then went into the details of a plan to secure the Baptist's freedom. He finished with the words, "Success depends on secrecy and caution. If your master desires freedom, and will accept it at our hands, it may be accomplished."
Joseph knew that Herod would
not refuse permission for John's disciples to visit him in prison. It was Joseph's plan to have some of John's followers secure admittance and ascertain if the Baptist would accept his liberty if it could be gained. Calling two of them, whose faces pleased him, he said, "Herod has done all he dares do now. He will wait before doing violence to John. Go to him and tell him rescue is within reach if he will accept it. If he refuses, our efforts must cease, for they will be vain. If he accepts, we may with patience and prudence mature our plans."
The two departed from Enon that night. As the dusk began to gather around the little camp of men, Joseph lapsed into moodiness and gloom. The excitement that had sustained him now gave way to an intense anxiety. He had learned to love the Baptist almost as well as he loved her who had instructed him in his teachings. And now that John was in danger, all his devotion arose in protest against his enforced inactivity. In his mingled gloom and impatience, he paced up and down before his tent, while the dusk slowly deepened and the moonlight flooded the scene.
The sound of an approaching caravan broke on his ears. He had already divested himself of his armor, and now he threw his sword within his tent, for he did not wish to appear to strangers as an officer of Rome. He listened alertly, with his hand on his short dagger. But as the company approached, he saw he had no cause to fear. With a cry of joy, he sprang forward to greet them; and led Ruth and her. father and their attendants to the
door of his own tent. As she dismounted from her palfrey, he took her in his arms and kissed her, and thanked Jehovah that she had come so opportunely.
"Where is the Baptist?" was her first question, after the greetings
"Alas, my Ruth," he answered, "it is ill news I must tell thee. Through the evil designs of them I serve, the Baptist has fallen into wicked hands. I fear not for his immediate safety, but I dread the future."
"Will Herod dare do him violence?" she anxiously asked.
"What he will not dare, Herodias may."
"Did he leave no message, no word of cheer?"
"On his last day with us," said one of the disciples, joining in the conversation on Joseph's invitation, "the Baptist spoke again of his own. littleness, and said that he must decrease, while Jesus of Nazareth must increase."
"And that is his last word to you?" she eagerly inquired.
"It is," he mournfully answered.
"Jehovah be praised!" she devoutedly exclaimed. Joseph looked at her in astonishment.
With the same compassionate smile he had seen on her face so often, she said, "Son of Judah, will it never be plain to thee that if John is what he claims, he must say and do what he has? If the bridegroom come, to him must be the joy and the triumph, not to his friend."
"O daughter of my people," exclaimed Joseph, "out of thy very love and peace come the lessons of wisdom. But what of John? What will he do?"
Her face was sad and thoughtful as she answered, "Alas, I know not.
His work is finished. He is in the hands of the Lord."
"But his friends. May they not serve him?" he eagerly asked.
"I can not answer the question. I do not know."
"Shall I not ask him?" he pursued.
"That is as thou shalt decide," she said.
The moon rode high in the heavens, and the oriental scene was one of exquisite beauty. The sweettoned night-bird sang in the treetop, a song as sadly-sweet as the scene itself. The aged father and the attendants had retired to their tents, and the lovers stood alone together. Yearningly Joseph held out his arms, and Ruth laid her head on his shoulder. In close embrace they stood, and their whispered words were of the old, old story, aged as the world, yet sweet and new as the breath of returning spring.
And in the heart of each of them arose the thought, "What of him who lies alone, unbefriended, in the dark dungeon; to whom the sweetness of love, the completeness of life, has been denied?" And with the thought there came to them a wonderful compassion, which melted their hearts together in perfect trust. For life was theirs, and love; love for each other and for him they followed.
The next day, just as the sun was setting, the messengers returned. It required but one look to convince the disciples that their mission had ended in disappointment. In answer to the question that sprang to the lips of all, they sadly shook their heads. They told of their visit; how they had been admitted; and how John had told them that his fate, like his mission, was in the hands of God. That if Jehovah required his death, as his life had al
ready been given to Him, the offering would be made. But that he must refuse the proffered rescue.
As Joseph turned his gloomy face toward Ruth, her look, radiant as with the exaltation of martyrhood, thrilled and inspired him. "He makes his claim secure," she said. "This is indeed the forerunner of the Kingdom of God. And now we know who is to be the King." And the followers of the Baptist heard and understood.
Feeling that the group would probably disband, Joseph asked that certain ones volunteer to visit occasionally the lonely prison, and give some cheer to the captive. The response was immediate and eager, for they all well knew that months would elapse before the Baptist's imprisonment would end.
Joseph determined to retain his place at the court of Herod, in the dim hope of an opportunity to serve the prisoner. For the others there seemed no other course than sorrowfully to disband and go to their own homes, or become disciples of Jesus. With the latter purpose in view, a party made preparations to go into Galilee, whither Jesus had gone on hearing of the Baptist's imprisonment. This party Joseph and Ruth accompanied; for she had her faith in the Messiahship of Jesus confirmed by the words and the fate of John; and he desired to gain greater light for his own guidance, before continuing his journey to Tiberias.
When Ruth and Joseph reached Nazareth they found that Jesus, rejected by the people of his own village and threatened with death, had gone to live at Capernaum, on the Sea of Galilee, north of Tiberias. Disappointed but unable to remain longer away from his post, Joseph returned to Tiberias, while Ruth went to her home in Jerusalem.
A year passed. Joseph devoted himself faithfully to his duties at Tiberias, making only such visits to Machaerus as he thought absolutely necessary. During all this period. he did not meet Ruth, although he had frequent communication with her. Salome watched him narrowly, and began to think he was recovering from a foolish infatuation.
It was a part of his plan to allow Salome and her mother to believe him recreant to the faith he had avowed. The continued imprisonment of John the Baptist and the destruction of the hope of securing earthly authority through him lent color to this belief. With the growth of this idea, Salome's hope of winning him from the Jewess became constantly brighter.
At length Joseph heard that Jesus was preaching and performing miracles at a point only a few miles north of Tiberias. His hunger for a meeting with the Nazarene and for the company of Ruth became so strong upon him that he determined to obtain a short leave of absence. He sent a request for Ruth to meet him at a village a few miles to the west of Tiberias, whence they could go together to the place of Jesus' teaching. The meeting of the lovers was most joyful; and the aged father, who accompanied her, now rid of all his narrow pharisaism and an enthusiastic convert to his daughter's faith, was scarcely less glad than she.
It was a glorious day in early summer. The velvet carpet of grass on the hillside was trodden with myriad feet; for a great multitude from the surrounding villages and from far-off Judea had followed the Master, to hang on his words and profit. by His works. Among them, the cynosure of all eyes, the object of their adoration, was the young man whom his cousin John the Bap
tist had acknowledged a year ago by the Jordan.
To this group came Joseph and Ruth and her father. As they approached, the crowd separated respectfully; and the Jewish maiden, her orthodox father, and the Roman officer were alike welcomed. To the Christ all men were one; the tie of relationship, belief in Him. Sitting at His feet, these faithful ones listened to the greatest sermon man has ever heard; the sermon that has furnished both text and inspiration for discourses in all tongues. For "seeing the multitude, Jesus opened his mouth and taught them."
At the close of the discourse, Joseph and Ruth went forward to greet the speaker. Bowing low, they
kissed the hem of His garment, and hailed Him in joy as the promised King. With a smile, partly of pleasure, partly of compassion, Jesus laid His hands on them in blessing; and they went from His presence thrilled with a joy they had never known. It was as if new light and new life had been given them. And Joseph now understood the fate of John and was reconciled to it.
For several days the lovers followed the Master, listening to His teachings and witnessing His miracles. Then Joseph reluctantly returned to his duties, while the faithful Ruth, enduring the sorrow of separation for the sake of the Baptist, remained for further enlightenment before returning to Jerusalem. (TO BE CONTINUED.)
The leaves hang limp among the smothered trees,
The feathered heads that twittered to the breeze
Down in the meadow where the grass spreads out
A tangled stubble makes a tawny rout
Through the parched valley stirs a sultry air
The sere noons swelter under brazen suns;
Musical Composers of the Ninteenth Century.
CHARLES FRANCOIS GOUNOD.
Ethel M. Connelly.
"Visitors at Paris, while the American Civil War was at its height, might frequently have observed at the beautiful Theatre Lyrique, afterwards burned by the vandals of the Commune, a noticeable looking man of blond complexion and tawny beard, clear cut features, and large, bright, almost somber looking eyes." Those who were familiar with the faces of great men, recognized in this man, the composer of the beautiful opera Faust, Charles Francois Gounod, one of the most prominent musicians of the nineteenth century.
He was born June 17, 1818 in Paris, the city that patriotic Frenchmen call the queen of the world. At his birth he came into an inheritance of a rich artistic temperament, handed down to him by his father from a family of artists. His father, a painter and engraver of considerable merit, did not marry until well along in years, and died when his little son was but five years old. The child's education devolved upon his mother, a woman of splendid character, high intelligence, and great personal charm, who expended her utmost efforts in securing for the boy the finest literary and artistic education. She herself was an accomplished musician, and not only gave her son his first lessons, but encouraged in him his growing love for the divine art.
At the age of sixteen, when he received his degree of Bachelor of
Letters at the St. Louis Lyceum, he was already an excellent pianist, and was immediately accepted as a pupil at the Conservatoire, where he continued his studies of harmony and counterpoint. The following year, 1837, he carried off the second prize in composition with a short cantata; and in 1839 was unanimously awarded the Grand Prix de Rome by a vote of twenty-five out of twenty-seven votes. The next three years he spent at Rome devoting himself almost exclusively to the study of religious music, and particularly to the works of Palestrina.
The year 1842 found him traveling through Germany, stopping for some time in Vienna, the home of the four great masters, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert. But his wanderings were of short duration. He returned to Paris, accepted the appointment of chapel master at the Church of Foreign Missions, and for six years lived a retired life in this quiet retreat. He wore the long priestly robe prescribed by the mission, studied theology for hours each day, and even seriously contemplated taking orders in the church. His marriage to Miss Zimmerman, the charming daughter of a professor at the Conservatoire, however, gave a powerful stimulus to his ambition, and from that time he gave no thought to anything but a musical career. Previous to this his work had been almost exclusively religious in tone,