« AnteriorContinua »
The death warrant was written, and received Herod's reluctant hand and seal. As it was not yet midnight, Herodias determined to have the infamous deed done before
morning. She would run no risk of having her murderous will thwarted by delay.
Salome had retired to her room after making her request of Herod. Overcome by the sense of shame Joseph had inspired, and by her disappointment, the unhappy girl gave way to the bitterest tears. Instinctively she felt that the object of her affection and persistent plotting was irretrievably lost to her. And mingled with this sense of loss was the feeling that she had also forfeited her self-respect. Deeply did she regret the unhappy moment when, for her mother's desire for blood and her own hopeless love, she consented to compromise herself in the suggestive dance. The moment of her triumph was so brief, the time of her disappointment promised to be so long!
As she lay on her couch, still sobbing in her grief, a slave entered the room and bade her go to her mother's chamber. Her first impulse was to refuse; but there was that in the slave's face that told her to go. As she entered her mother's apartment, she found both Herod and Herodias there. An officer stood with his back toward her; and her heart gave a throb of anticipation. But when he turned, she saw that it was Servius.
"Salome," said Herodias, "the Baptist dies before dawn. The Jew must slay him."
"Mother!" Salome gasped. "Thou knowest not-"
"Peace, girl," said Herodias. "It is thou that knowest not. I know my mind and my proper purpose. For thy sake as well as mine, the Jew must do this deed."
"He will not do it!" Salome passionately exclaimed. "He is neither cowardly nor brutal. He will refuse."
"He may demur," Herodias answered with provoking calmness, "but he will not refuse. His will is mine, not his own. He can not refuse."
"Why is he chosen for this deed of blood?" Salome asked.
"Because a dog may tear another dog to pieces and no one need object."
In indignant resentment Salome sprang forward, with bitter words on her lips; but her mother's gesture checked her. "I see," she said, with a mocking smile, "that thou art still infatuated."
The blood rushed to Salome's face. Then in a whisper that only her daughter heard, Herodias said: "Foolish girl, must I explain all my plan? Canst thou take nothing for granted? Is not thy woman's wit keen and quick enough to divine my purpose?"
Salome bent eagerly forward, and her mother continued in a still lower tone: "He will be made to do this thing. Servius, who owes him an ancient grudge, will be the witness of the deed. Then Servius will take the warrant, fresh with the victim's scarlet dye, to this puling, weak, low-born rival of thine, infatuation for whom, and not love, has kept him from thee. If she will
forgive and take to her bosom the man who has slain her cherished rabbi, she is not a Jewess. Rejected and humiliated by her, and denounced in every synagogue as a man of blood, he will gladly return to his service and to thee.".
When the women raised their heads, the mother wore a look of triumph; the daughter one of hope.
"Servius," Herodias said, "take this warrant to Joseph. With it, take this letter, sealed with the signet ring of Herod, commanding him to return the warrant to thee, certified on its face that its intent has been carried out. Thou knowest what else there is to do."
With these words she dismissed him, and he proceeded to his treacherous task.
It may be asked why the crafty and infamous Herod had become as wax in the hands of his paramour. It was because through her greater craftiness and his momentary help lessness she had outwitted him and secured the long-sought edict. And now that the deed was determined upon, he was willing to leave all the details to her.
Overwhelmed with the grief the cruel turn of events had caused, Joseph returned to his post at the Castle of Machaerus. He had not the heart to tell John of his impending fate. In moody helplessness he walked back and forth before the castle entrance, vainly trying to think of some means of saving the life of the Baptist. But with all his thought he could find no way. The case was hopeless.
Soon he heard a horse galloping toward the castle. Determined to delay the ghastly deed as long as possible, he waved his watchman's torch. The horse stopped abruptly. To Joseph's surprise, not the armed assassin he had expected, but a girl
in a flowing, loosely-fitting robe dismounted.
"Salome!" he exclaimed. And then he added, in a low tone, which she was just able to hear, the single word, "Murderess!"
She tried to seize his hand, but he repulsed her. "Ah, Joseph, Joseph," she cried, "judge me not so harshly. Thou knowest it was the will of another, not mine own.'
"I know," he answered, "that thy wicked, wilful act has brought a prophet to death."
"It was not my will," she exclaimed again.
"But thine was the right to ask reward for thy lewd shamelessness."
She winced at the last two words. Then again the old, passionate appeal came into her face and voice. "Thou shalt listen to me," she said, "and thou shalt know the truth."
Surprised and overmastered by her voice and manner, he could not choose but listen.
"I know not why it is," she said, her voice a little more calm, "but thou has a strange power over me; and I who should command am ever pleading. It is love, Joseph," she added, wistfully, a break in voice like a sob. "Thou canst not know the feeling, or thou wouldst pity me."
"Pity thee!" he exclaimed. "I do. For it is not love, but an unholy, murderous desire that stoops to the arts thou hast practiced."
"Nay, Joseph," she answered, "thou shalt not misjudge me when the truth is known. It was all my mother's plan. I thought she had formed it for my sake. She told me I could appeal to thee by the dance, and win thee from my rival. That only was my thought and my hope. But I found when it was too late that my attempt was vain, and she
had made me a tool for her own purpose. And when I saw by thy look that my desire must fail, she could easily persuade me to put her wish into words."
Joseph had so far overcome his disgust and resentment that he pitied her evident distress. But before he could answer, a number of horsemen arrived. Springing into the middle of the road he challenged them. "Who approaches?" he called.
With a laugh, Servius leaped from his horse and answered, "A summons from the Tetrarch and his consort." A mocking note ran through his next words, for he did not see Salome. "The guileless Herodias and her innocent daughter bid me present to thee this missive."
Before Salome could make objection, Joseph had seen the fearful import of the paper. In a frenzy he turned to her.
"So this is the climax of thy work?" he exclaimed. "Not content with procuring the death of a man of righteousness, thou wouldst make his own friend his murderer."
In vain Salome tried to interpose a protest. Wrought up to the keenest excitement by the events of the night, Joseph could not restrain himself.
"Go and tell the murderous Herodias," he cried, "that I will never carry out the infamous edict. And for thee, Servius, I can best express my contempt by leaving thee to the mercy of this young tigress and her mother."
Before he could finish what he wished to say, a signal was given by Servius, and his men surrounded Joseph and carried him by main force into the castle. Salome was left outside alone.
It could not have been more than a few minutes, although the sus
pense made it hours to the unfortunate girl, before the sound of a short, sharp struggle reached her. A moment later Joseph sprang out of the door, which had been left open, and quickly closed and locked it; for his captors had failed to secure the key from him. In vain the entrapped assassins flung themselves against the door. It would not yield.
Then, turning to Salome, he said, in a voice of ineffable scorn and loathing, "Thy plan to make me the murderer of the rabbi has failed. I could not save him; but if he dies it will not be by my hand. For a moment the assassins were off their guard; and realizing the hopelessness of attempting to save the life of John, I determined not to be a witness of his death.
She tried to speak, but he would not listen. "And now," said he, "I leave thee and thy mother to the remorse and grief and shame that must overtake all who plot against the lives of the worthy and innocent. Neither thou nor she shall see me again. I renounce forever my service to Rome. I shall carry with me only a loathing for the iron rule, though I may be unable to rid myself or my people of it. But I shall have hands unstained with the blood of innocence, and a conscience unscatched with murder and oppression. Here is the key to the gloomy castle," he said, as he mounted one of the horses. "Thou mayest immediately release the wolves, but they can never overtake me."
He handed her the key, and rode away with the parting words, "Receive from Servius and take to thy mother the ghastly token of her infamy and thy shame. Let her gloat over it while she may, but her remorse shall be eternal." He spurred his horse to a gallop and was gone. Salome waited until he was at a
safe distance; for she was sincere enough in her love not to wish for him the death certain to overtake him if Servius should capture him. Then she opened the door.
A ghastly procession came out of the portal, the severed head of the Baptist borne in the van. The charger on which it was carried was handed to the girl; but she turned away with a convulsive sob.
She accompanied the party to her mother's palace, for she had no other choice. There the wicked Herodias gloated for an instant and then wept for hours over the head of the prophet, "a greater than whom had never been born of woman.” And And while she mourned the young Jew whom she had hounded to his death, her daughter wept in solitude for another of the chosen race, whom she had tried to win but had lost forever. A few days later, some disciples of John the Baptist took his body away and buried it.
Joseph passed safely through the perils of his journey to Jerusalem. There he gave up his worldly ambition, and became a devout follower
of Jesus of Nazareth. His marriage with Ruth was soon celebrated, and they enjoyed the happiness to which their faithfulness and long waiting had entitled them. And when at length Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected, Joseph and Ruth devoted their lives and their fortune to the spread of the gospel He had given them.
Herodias soon went into the lonely and ignominious exile to which, on account of her inordinate ambition, the will of Caesar consigned her and Herod. Salome forgot her grief sufficiently to make two successive incestuous marriages with her kinsmen, which, with similar marriages on the part of other descendants of Herod the Great, did more than all else to extinguish that line. Edom soon ceased to rule over Israel.
The temporal kingdom Herod represented, which was the object. of Joseph's severe temptation, has long since passed from the earth. The spiritual kingdom which Jesus promised is eternal, and bids fair to become the ruling power over the hearts of men.
The shadows of night have fallen,
And I dream 'neath the sapphire sky;
And I think as it shines above me
Each where the Master placed him,
Of a world made light, from chaos and night,
To exalt and give joy to man.
Musical Composers of the Century.
Ethel M. Connelly.
In a memorable issue of "Die neue Zeitschrift fuer Musik" for 1854, Robert Schuman wrote enthusiastic article announcing the advent of a new genius in the musical world. "He has come," he wrote, "the chosen youth over whose cradle the Graces and Heroes seem to have kept watch." This youth whom the great Schuman deemed worthy of his highest praise was a pale slender boy of twenty, named Johannes Brahms. He came originally from the busy city of Hamburg, where he was born May 7, 1833, the eldest of three children. His father, a performer in an orchestra, early discovered his son's talent for the piano, and secured for him the best possible teachers. Little Johannes was of a serious mind, and spent his childhood reading everything upon which he could lav his hands, and practicing with a faithfulness that surprised even his teachers. When he was fourteen he appeared for the first time in public, playing, among other things, difficult compositions by Bach and Beethoven. His success was flattering enough to have tempted many a teacher to send him on a concert tour, but fortunately the boy was in wiser. hands, and before he was allowed to play in public again, was sent back to five more years of hard work, during which he studied the works of the masters, and used
them as models for his own compositions.
Soon after his second appearance he accompanied Remenyi, the great Hungarian violinist on a concert tour which was to include all the large cities of Germany. It was in Goettingen that an incident happened which paved the way for Brahms immediate recognition in the musical world. On the night that they were to give their concert they found that the piano to be used was of the tin pan variety, out of the question for the rendition of good music. The managers sent for another instrument, but at the last moment the discovery was made that this new piano was half a tone below concert pitch. Remenyi, who was to play Beethoven's great Kreutzer Sonata, was in dispair. To procure another instrument was impossible, to lower the pitch of his violin was little short of desecration. While he fumed, Brahms stepped quietly forward and offered to play the accompaniment from memory and transpose it a half a tone higher. Such an undertaking might have made a veteran pianist hesitate, and Remenyi at first refused to play under such conditions. At last, however, he consented, and to his surprise Brahms played the difficult accompaniment through without a hitch. There were many musicians in the audience who knew