A Cry of Wo

My first object was to ascertain the fate of my family. From Constantius
I could learn nothing, for the severity of his wound had reduced him
to such a state that he recognized no one. I sat by him day after
day, watching with bitter solicitude for the return of his senses. He
raved continually of his wife, and of every other name that I loved.
The affecting eloquence of his appeals sometimes plunged me into the
deepest depression—sometimes drove me out to seek relief from them,
even in the horrors of the streets. I was the most solitary of men. In
those melancholy wanderings, none spoke to me; I spoke to none. The
kinsmen whom I had left under the command of my brave son were slain or
dispersed, and on the night when I saw him warring with his native ardor,
the men whom he led to the foot of the rampart were an accidental band,
excited by his brilliant intrepidity to choose him at the instant for
their captain. In sorrow, indeed, had I entered Jerusalem.

[Sidenote: The Devastation of Jerusalem]

The devastation of the city was enormous during its tumults. The great
factions were reduced to two, but in the struggle a large portion of the
Temple had been burned. The stately chambers of the priests were dust and
embers. The cloisters which surrounded the sanctuary were beaten down
or left naked to the visitation of the seasons, which now, as by the
peculiar wrath of heaven, had assumed a fierce and ominous inclemency.
Tremendous bursts of tempest constantly shook the city, and the popular
mind was kept in perpetual alarm at the accidents which followed those
storms. Fires were frequently caused by the lightning; deluges of rain
flooded the streets, and falling on the shattered roofs, increased the
misery of their famishing inhabitants; the sudden severity of winter in
the midst of spring added to the sufferings of a people doubly unprovided
to encounter it, by its unexpectedness and by their necessary exposure on
the battlements and in the field.

Within the walls all bore the look of a grave, and even that grave shaken
by some great convulsion of nature. From the battlements the sight was
absolute despair. The Roman camps covered the hills, and we could see
the soldiery sharpening the very lances that were to drink our blood.
The fires of their night-watches lighted up the horizon round. We hourly
heard the sound of their trumpets and their shouts, as the sheep in the
fold might hear the roaring of the lion and the tiger, ready to leap
their feeble boundary. Yet the valor of the people was never wearied
out. The vast mound, whose circle was to shut us up from the help of man
or the hope of escape, was the grand object of attack and defense; and
tho thousands of my countrymen covered the ground at its foot with their
corpses, the Jew was still ready to rush on the Roman spear. This valor
was spontaneous, for subordination had long been at an end. The names
of John of Giscala, and Simon, influential as they were in the earlier
periods of the war, had lost their force in the civil fury and desperate
pressures of the siege. No leaders were acknowledged but hatred of the
enemy, iron fortitude, and a determination not to survive the fall of
Jerusalem!

In this furious warfare I took my share with the rest; handled the spear,
and fought and watched without thinking of any distinction of rank. My
military experience, and the personal strength which enabled me to render
prominent services in those desultory attacks, often excited our warriors
to offer me the command; but ambition was dead within me.

[Sidenote: A Universal Outcry]

I was one day sitting beside the bed of Constantius, and bitterly
absorbed in gazing on what I thought the progress of death, when I heard
a universal outcry, more melancholy than human voices seemed ever made
to utter. My first thought was that the enemy had forced the gates. I
took my sword down and prepared to go out and die. I found the streets
filled with crowds hurrying forward without any apparent direction, but
all exhibiting a sorrow amounting to agony; wringing their hands, beating
their bosoms, tearing their hair, and casting dust and ashes on their
heads. A large body of the priesthood came rushing from the temple with
loud lamentations. The DAILY SACRIFICE had ceased![45] The perpetual
offering, which, twice a day, burned in testimonial of the sins and the
expiation of Israel, the peculiar homage of the nation to Heaven, was no
more! The siege had extinguished the resources of the Temple; the victims
could no longer be supplied, and the people must perish without the power
of atonement! This was the final cutting off—the declaration of the
sentence—the seal of the great condemnation. Jerusalem was undone!

Overpowered by this fatal sign, I was sadly returning to my worse than
solitary chamber, for there lay, speechless and powerless, the noblest
creature that breathed in Jerusalem—when I was driven aside by a new
torrent of the people, exclaiming “The prophet! the prophet! wo to the
city of David!”

[Sidenote: Wo, Wo, Wo]

They rushed on in haggard multitudes, and in the midst of them came
a maniac bounding and gesticulating with indescribable wildness. His
constant exclamation was “Wo!—wo!—wo!” uttered in a tone that searched
the very heart. He stopped from time to time, flung out some denunciation
against the popular crimes, and then recommenced his cry of “Wo!” and
bounded forward again.

He at length came opposite to the spot where I stood, and his features
struck me as resembling those I had seen before. But they were full of
a strange impulse—the grandeur of inspiration mingled with the animal
fierceness of frenzy. The eye shot fire under the sharp and hollow brows;
the nostrils contracted and opened like those of an angry steed, and
every muscle of a singularly elastic frame was quivering and exposed from
the effects alike of mental violence and famine.

“Ho, Prince of Naphtali! we meet at last!” was his instant outcry. His
countenance fell, and tears gushed from lids that looked incapable of a
human feeling. “I found her,” said he, “my beauty, my bride! She was in
the dungeon. The ring that I tore from that villain’s finger was worth a
gold-mine, for it opened the gates of her prison. Come forth, girl!”

[Sidenote: Sabat the Ishmaelite]

With these words he caught by the hand and led to me a pale creature,
with the traces of loveliness, but evidently in the last stage of mortal
decay. She stood silent as a statue. In compassion, I took her hand,
while the multitude gathered round us in curiosity. I now remembered
Sabat, the Ishmaelite, and his story.

“She is mad,” said Sabat, shaking his head mournfully, and gazing on the
fading form at his side. “Worlds would not restore her senses. But there
is a time for all things.” He sighed, and cast his large eyes on heaven.
“I watched her day and night,” he went on, “until I grew mad too. But the
world will have an end, and then—all will be well. Come, wife, we must be
going. To-night there are strange things within the walls, and without
the walls. There will be feasting and mourning; there will be blood and
tears; then comes the famine—then comes the fire—then the sword; and then
all is quiet, and forever!”

He paused, wiped away the tears, then began again wilder than ever:
“Heaven is mighty! To-night there will be wonders; watch well your walls,
people of the ruined city! To-night there will be signs; let no man sleep
but those who sleep in the grave. Prince of Naphtali, have you too sworn,
as I have, to die?” He lifted his meager hand. “Come, thunders! come,
fires! vengeance cries from the sanctuary. Listen, undone people! listen,
nation of sorrow! the ministers of wrath are on the wing. Wo!—wo!—wo!”

In pronouncing those words with a voice of the most sonorous yet
melancholy power, he threw himself into a succession of strange and
fearful gestures; then beckoning to the female, who submissively followed
his steps, plunged away among the multitude. I heard the howl of
“Wo!—wo!—wo!” long echoed through the windings of the ruined streets, and
thought that I heard the voice of the angel of desolation.

The seventeenth day of the month Tamuz, ever memorable in the sufferings
of Israel, was the last of the Daily Sacrifice. Sorrow and fear were on
the city, and the silence of the night was broken by the lamentations of
the multitude. I returned to my chamber of affliction, and busied myself
in preparing for the guard of the Temple, to withdraw my mind from the
gloom that was beginning to master me. Yet when I looked round the room,
and thought of what I had been, of the opulent enjoyments of my palace,
and of the beloved faces which surrounded me there, I felt the sickness
of the heart.

The chilling air that blew through the dilapidated walls, the cruse of
water, the scanty bread, the glimmering lamp, the comfortless and squalid
bed, on which lay in the last stages of weakness a patriot and a hero—a
being full of fine affections and abilities, reduced to the helplessness
of an infant, and whom in leaving for the night I might be leaving to
perish by the poniard of the robber—unmanned me. I cast the simitar from
my hand, and sat down with a sullen determination there to linger until
death, or that darker vengeance which haunted me, should do its will.

The night was stormy, and the wind howled in long and bitter gusts
through the deserted chambers of the huge mansion. But the mind is the
true place of suffering, and I felt the season’s visitation in my locks
drenched about my face, and my tattered robes swept by the freezing
blasts, as only the natural course of things.

I was sitting by the bedside, moistening the fevered lips of Constantius
with water, and pressing on him the last fragment of bread which I might
ever have to give, when I, with sudden delight, heard him utter for
the first time articulate sounds. I stooped to catch accents so dear
and full of hope. But the words were a supplication—he prayed to the
Christian’s God!

[Sidenote: The Prayer of Constantius]

I turned away from this resistless conviction of his belief. But this was
no time for debate, and I was won to listen again. His voice was scarcely
above a whisper, but his language was the aspiration of the heart. His
eyes were closed, and, evidently unconscious of my presence, in his high
communion with Heaven, he talked of things of which I had but imperfect
knowledge or none; of blood shed for the sins of man; of a descended
Spirit to guide the servants of Heaven; of the unspeakable love that gave
the Son of God to mortal suffering for the atonement of that human guilt
which nothing but such a sacrifice could atone. He finished by the names
dear to us both; and praying “for their safety if they still were in
life, or for their meeting beyond the grave, declared himself resigned to
the will of his Lord.”

I waited in sacred awe until I saw, by the subsiding motion of the lips,
that the prayer was done, and then, anxious to gain information of my
family, questioned him. But with the prayer the interval of mental power
had passed away. The veil was drawn over his senses once more, and
his answers were unintelligible. Yet even the hope of his restoration
lightened my gloom; my spirits, naturally elastic, shook off their
leaden weight; I took up the simitar, and pressing the cold hand of my
noble fellow victim, prepared to issue forth to the Temple. The storm
was partially gone, and the moon, approaching to the full, was high in
heaven, fighting her way through masses of rapid cloud. The wind still
roared in long blasts, as the tempest retired, like an army repulsed, and
indignant at being driven from the spoil. But the ground was deluged, and
a bitter sleet shot on our half-naked bodies. I had far to pass through
the streets of the upper city, and their aspect was deeply suited to the
melancholy of the hour.

Vast walls and buttresses of the burned and overthrown mansions remained,
that in the spectral light looked like gigantic specters. Ranges of
inferior ruins stretched to the utmost glance; some yet sending up the
smoke of recent conflagration, and others beaten down by the storms or
left to decay. The immense buildings of the hierarchy, once the scene
of all but kingly magnificence, stood roofless and windowless, with the
light sadly gleaming through their fissures, and the wind singing a dirge
of ruin through their halls. I scarcely met a human being, for the sword
and famine had fearfully reduced the once countless population.

But I often startled a flight of vultures from their meal; or, in the
sinking of the light, stumbled upon a heap that uttered a cry, and
showed that life was there; or from his horrid morsel, a wretch glared
upon me, as one wolf might glare upon another, that came to rob him of
his prey; or the twinkling of a miserable lamp in the corner of a ruin
glimmered over a knot of felony and murder, reckoning their hideous gains
and carousing with the dagger drawn. Heaps of bones, whitening in the
air, were the monuments of the wasted valor of my countrymen, and the
oppressive atmosphere gave the sensation of walking in a sepulcher.

[Sidenote: The Avenues of Death]

I dragged my limbs with increased difficulty through those long avenues
of death that, black, silent, and split into a thousand shapes of ruin,
looked less like the streets of a city than the rocky defiles of a
mountain shattered by lightnings and earthquakes. On the summit of the
hill I found a crowd of unhappy beings, who came, like myself, actuated
by zeal to defend the Temple from the insults to which its sanctity was
now nightly exposed. Faction had long extinguished the native homage of
the people. Battles had been fought within its walls, and many a corpse
loaded the sacred floors, that once would have required solemn ceremonies
to free them from the pollution of an unlicensed step.

And what a band was assembled there! Wretches mutilated by wounds, worn
with sleeplessness, haggard with want of food; shivering together on the
declivity, whose naked elevation exposed them to the whole inclemency
of the night; flung like the dead, on the ground, or gathered in little
knots among the ruined porticos, with death in every frame and despair in
every heart.

[Sidenote: Salathiel Views the Pomp of War]

I was sheltering myself behind the broken columns of the Grand gate,
from the bitter wind which searched every fiber, and was sinking into
that chilling torpor which benumbs body and mind alike, when a clash of
military music and the tramp of a multitude assailed my ear. I started up
and found my miserable companions mustered, from the various hollows of
the hill, to our post on the central ground of Mount Moriah, whence the
view was boundless on every side. A growing blaze rose up from the valley
and flashed upon the wall of circumvallation. The sounds of cymbal and
trumpet swelled; the light advanced rapidly; and going the circuit of the
wall, helmets and lances of the cavalry were seen glittering through the
gloom; a crowd of archers preceded a dense body of the legionary horse,
at whose head rode a group of officers. On this night the fatal wall had
been completed, and Titus was going its round in triumph. Every horseman
carried a torch, and strong divisions of infantry followed, bearing lamps
and vessels of combustible matter on the points of their spears. As the
whole moved, rolling and bending with the inequalities of the ground, I
thought that I saw a mighty serpent, coiling his burning spires round the
prey that was never to be rescued by the power of man.

But the pomp of war below and the wretchedness round me, raised
reflections of such bitterness that when Titus and his splendid troop
reached the mountain of the Temple, one outcry of sorrow and anticipated
ruin burst from us all. The conqueror heard it, and, from the instant
maneuvering of his troops, was evidently alarmed; he had known the
courage of the Jews too long not to dread the effect of their despair.
And despair it was, fierce and untamable!

I started forward, exclaiming: “If there is a man among you ready to
stake his life for his country, let him follow me.”

To the last hour the Jew was a warrior! The crowd seized their spears,
and we sprang down the cliffs. As we reached the outer wall of the city,
I restrained their exhaustless spirit until I had singly ascertained
the state of the enemy. Titus was passing the well-known ravine near
the fountain-gate, where the ground was difficult for cavalry, from its
being chiefly divided into gardens. I flung open the gate, and led the
way to the circumvallation. The sentinels, occupied with looking on the
pomp, suffered us to approach unperceived; we mounted the wall, overthrew
everything before us, and plunged down upon the cavalry, entangled in the
ravine. It was a complete surprise.

The bravery of the legions was not proof against the fury of our attack.
Even our wild faces and half-naked forms, by the uncertain glare of the
torches, looked scarcely human. Horse and man rolled down the declivity.
The arrival of fresh troops only increased the confusion; their torches
made them a mark for our pikes and arrows; every point told, and every
Roman that fell, armed a Jew. The conflict now became murderous, and we
stabbed at our ease the troopers of the Emperor’s guard, through their
mail, while their long lances were useless.

The defile gave us incalculable advantages, for the garden walls were
impassable by the cavalry, while we bounded over them like deer. All was
uproar, terror, and rage. We actually waded through blood. At every step,
I trod on horse or man; helmets and bucklers, lances and armor, lay in
heaps, and the stream of the ravine soon ran purple with the proudest
gore of the legions.

[Sidenote: The Roman Charge]

At length, while we were absolutely oppressed with the multitude of
dead, a sudden blast of trumpets and the shouts of the enemy led me to
prepare for a still fiercer effort. A tide of cavalry poured over the
ground; Titus, a gallant figure, cheering them on, with his helmet in
his hand, galloped in their front; I withdrew my wearied followers from
the exposed situation into which their success had led them, and posting
them behind a rampart of Roman dead, awaited the charge. It came with
the force of thunder; the powerful horses of the imperial squadron broke
over our rampart at the first shock and bore us down like stubble. Every
man of us was under their feet in a moment; and yet the very number of
our assailants saved us. The narrowness of the place gave no room for
the management of the horse; the darkness assisted both our escape and
assault; and even lying on the ground, we plunged our knives in horse
and rider, with terrible retaliation.

The cavalry at length gave way, but the Roman general, a man of the
heroic spirit that is only inflamed by repulse, rushed forward among
the disheartened troops, and roused them by his cries and gestures
to retrieve their honor. After a few bold words, he again charged at
their head. I singled him out, as I saw his golden helmet gleam in the
torch-light. To capture the son of Vespasian would have been a triumph
worth a thousand lives. Titus[46] was celebrated for personal dexterity
in the management of the horse and lance, and I could not withhold my
admiration of the skill with which he penetrated the difficulties of the
field, and the mastery with which he overthrew all that opposed him.

[Sidenote: Salathiel Attacks Titus]

Our motley ranks were already scattering, when I cried out my name and
defied him to the combat. He stooped over his charger’s neck to discover
his adversary, and seeing before him a being as blackened and beggared as
the most dismantled figure of the crowd, gave a laugh of fierce derision,
and was turning away, when our roar of scorn recalled him. He struck
in the spur, and couching his lance, bounded toward me. To have waited
his attack must have been destruction; I sprang aside, and with my full
vigor flung my javelin; it went through his buckler. He reeled, and a
groan rose from the legionaries who were rushing forward to his support.
He stopped them with a fierce gesture, and casting off the entangled
buckler, charged again. But the hope of the imperial diadem was not to be
thus cheaply hazarded. The whole circle of cavalry rolled in upon us; I
was dragged down by a hundred hands, and Titus was forced away, indignant
at the zeal which had thwarted his fiery valor.

In the confusion I was forgotten, burst through the concourse, and
rejoined my countrymen, who had given me over for lost, and now received
me with shouts of victory. The universal cry was to advance, but I felt
that the limit of triumph for that night was come; the engagement had
become known to the whole range of the enemy’s camps, and troops without
number were already pouring down. I ordered a retreat, but there was one
remaining exploit to make the night’s service memorable.

Leaving a few hundred pikemen outside the circumvallation, to keep off
any sudden attempt, I set every hand at work to gather the dry weeds,
rushes, and fragments of trees from the low grounds into a pile. It was
laid against the rampart. I flung the first torch, and pile and rampart
were soon alike in a blaze. Volumes of flame, carried by the wind,
rolled round its entire circuit. The Romans rushed down in multitudes
to extinguish the fire. But this became continually more difficult.
Jerusalem had been roused from its sleep, and the extravagant rumors
that a great victory was obtained, Titus slain, and the enemy’s camp
taken by storm, stimulated the natural spirit of the people to the
most boundless confidence. Every Jew who could find a lance, an arrow,
or a knife hurried to the gates, and the space between the walls and
the circumvallation was crowded with an army which, in that crisis of
superhuman exultation, perhaps no disciplined force on earth could have
outfought.

Nothing could now save the rampart. Torches innumerable, piles of
faggots, arms, even the dead, all things that could burn, were flung upon
it. Thousands, who at other times might have shrunk, forgot the name
of fear, leaped into the very midst of the flames, and tearing up the
blazing timbers, dug to the heart of the rampart and filled the hollows
with sulfur and bitumen; thousands struggled across the tumbling ruins,
to throw themselves among the Roman spearsmen and see the blood of an
enemy before they died.

[Sidenote: The Rampart’s Illumination]

War never had a bolder moment. Human nature, roused to the wildest
height of enthusiasm, was lavishing life like dust. The ramparts spread
a horrid light upon the havoc; every spot of the battle, every group
of the furious living, and the trampled and deformed dead, was keenly
visible. The ear was deafened by the incessant roar of flame, the falling
of the huge heaps of the rampart, and the agonies and exultations of men,
reveling in mutual slaughter.

[Sidenote: The Phenomenon in the Sky]

In that hour came one of those solemn signs that marked the downfall
of Jerusalem. The tempest, that had blown at intervals with tremendous
violence, died away at once; and a surge of light ascended from the
horizon and rolled up rapidly to the zenith. The phenomenon instantly
fixed every eye. There was an indefinable sense in the general mind that
a sign of power and providence was about to be given. The battle ceased;
the outcries were followed by utter silence; the armed ranks stood still,
in the very act of rushing on each other; all faces were turned on the
heavens.

The light rose pale and quivering like the meteors of a summer
evening. But in the zenith, it spread and swelled into a splendor that
distinguished it irresistibly from the wonders of earth or air. It
swiftly eclipsed every star. The moon vanished before it; the canopy of
the sky seemed to be dissolved, for a view into a bright and infinite
region beyond, fit for the career of those mighty beings to whom man is
but the dust on the gale.

As we gazed, this boundless field was transformed into a field of battle;
multitudes seemed to crowd it in the fiercest combat; horsemen charged
and died under their horses’ feet; armor and standards were trampled in
blood; column and line burst through each other. At length the battle
stooped toward the earth, and with hearts beating with indescribable
feelings we recognized in the fight the banners of the tribes. It was Jew
and Roman struggling for life; the very countenances of the combatants
became visible, and each man below saw a representative of himself above.
The fate of Jewish war was there written by the hand of Heaven; the fate
of the individual was there predicted in the individual triumph or fall.
What tongue of man can tell the intense interest with which we watched
every blow, every movement, every wound, of those images of ourselves?

The light now illumined the whole horizon below. The legions were seen
drawn out in front of the camps, ready for action—every helmet and
spear-point glittering in the radiance; every face turned up, gazing
in awe and terror on the sky. The tents spreading over the hills; the
thousands and tens of thousands of auxiliaries and captives; the little
groups of the peasantry, roused from sleep by the uproar of the night,
and gathered upon the knolls and eminences of their fields—all were
bathed in a flood of preternatural luster. But the wondrous battle
approached its close. The visionary Romans seemed to shake, column and
cohort gave way, and the banners of the tribes waved in victory over the
celestial field. Then human voices dared to be heard. From the city and
the plain burst forth one mighty shout of triumph!

[Sidenote: A Dreadful Sign]

But our presumption was soon to be checked. A peal of thunder that made
the very ground tremble under our feet rolled from the four quarters of
the heaven. The conquering host shook, broke, and fled in utter confusion
over the sapphire field. It was pursued, but by no semblance of the Roman.

An awful enemy was on its steps. Flashes of forked fire, like myriads of
lances, darted after it; cloud on cloud deepened down, as the smoke of
a mighty furnace; globes of light shot blasting and burning along its
track. Then amid the double roar of thunder rushed forth the chivalry
of heaven. Shapes of transcendent beauty, yet with looks of wrath that
withered the human eye—armed sons of immortality descending on the wing
by millions—mingled with shapes and instruments of ruin, for which the
mind has no conception. The circle of the heaven was filled with the
chariots and horses of fire. Flight was in vain; the weapons were seen to
drop from the Jewish host; their warriors sank upon the splendid field.
Still the immortal armies poured on, trampling and blasting, until the
last of the routed were consumed.

The angry pomp then paused. Countless wings were spread, and the angelic
multitudes, having done the work of vengeance, rushed upward, with the
sound of ocean in the storm. The roar of trumpets and thunders was heard,
until the splendor was lost in the heights of the empyrean.

We felt the terrible warning. Our strength was dried up at the sight;
despair seized upon our souls. We had seen the fate of Jerusalem. No
victory over man could now save us from the coming of final ruin!

[Sidenote: Despair]

Thousands never left the ground on which they stood; they perished by
their own hands, or lay down and died of broken hearts. The rest fled
through the night, that again wrapped them in tenfold darkness. The whole
multitude scattered with soundless steps, and in silence like an army of
specters.

In the deepest dejection that could overwhelm the human mind, I returned
to the city, where one melancholy care still bound me to existence. I
hastened to my comfortless shelter, but the battle had fluctuated so
far around the walls that I found myself perplexed, among the ruins of
a portion of the lower city, a crowd of obscure streets which belonged
almost wholly to strangers and the poorer population.

[Sidenote: In the Darkness of Night]

The faction of John of Giscala, composed chiefly of the more profligate
and beggared class, had made the lower city their stronghold, before they
became masters of Mount Moriah; and some desperate skirmishes, of which
conflagrations were the perpetual consequence, laid waste the principal
part of a district built and ruined by the haste and carelessness of
poverty. To find a guide through this scene of dilapidation was hopeless,
for every living creature, terrified by the awful portents of the sky,
had fled from the streets. The night was solid darkness. No expiring
gleam from the burned rampart, no fires of the Roman camps, no torch on
the Jewish battlements, broke the pitchy blackness. Life and light seemed
to have perished together.

To proceed soon became impossible, and I had no other resource than to
wait the coming of day. But to one accustomed as I was to hardships, this
inconvenience was trivial. I felt my way along the walls, to the entrance
of a house that promised some protection from the night, and flinging
myself into a corner, vainly tried to slumber. But the rising of the
storm and the rain pouring upon my lair drove me to seek a more sheltered
spot within the ruin. The destruction was so effectual that this was
difficult to discover, and I was hopelessly returning to take my chance
in the open air when I observed the glimmer of a lamp through a crevice
in the upper part of the building. My first impulse was to approach and
obtain assistance. But the abruptness of the ascent gave me time to
consider the hazard of breaking in upon such groups as might be gathered
at that hour, in a period when every atrocity under heaven reigned in
Jerusalem.

My patience was put to but brief trial, for in a few minutes I heard a
low hymn. It paused, as if followed by prayer. The hymn began again, in
accents so faint as evidently to express the fear of the worshipers. But
the sounds thrilled through my soul. I listened, in a struggle of doubt
and hope. Could I be deceived? and if I were, how bitter must be the
discovery. I sat down at the foot of the rude stair, to feed myself with
the fancied delight before it should be snatched from me forever.

[Sidenote: A Sudden Reunion]

But my perturbation would have risen to madness had I stopped longer. I
climbed up the tottering steps; half-way I found myself obstructed by a
door; I struck upon it, and called aloud. After an interval of miserable
delay, a still higher door was opened, and a figure enveloped in a veil
timidly looked out and asked my purpose. I saw, glancing over her, two
faces that I would have given the world to see. I called out “Miriam!”
Overpowered with emotion, my speech failed me. I lived only in my eyes. I
saw Miriam fling off the mantle with a scream of joy, and rush down the
steps. I saw my two daughters follow her with the speed of love; the door
was thrown open, and I fell fainting into their arms.

Tears, exclamations, and gazings were long our only language. My wife
hung over my wasted frame with endless embraces and sobs of joy. My
daughters fell at my feet, bathed my cold hands with their tears, smiled
on me in speechless delight, and then wept again. They had thought me
lost to them forever. I had thought them dead, or driven to some solitude
which forbade us to meet again on this side of the grave. For two
years, two dreadful years, a lonely man on earth, a wifeless husband, a
childless father, tried by every misery of mind and body; here—here I
found my treasure once more! On this spot, wretched and destitute as it
was, in the midst of public misery and personal wo, I had found those
whose loss would have made the riches of mankind, beggary to me. My soul
overflowed. Words were not made to tell the feverish fondness, the strong
delight that quivered through me. I wept with woman’s weakness; I held my
wife and children at arm’s length, that I might enjoy the full happiness
of gazing on them; then my eyes grew dim, and I caught them to my heart,
and in silence, the silence of unspeakable emotion, tried to collect my
thoughts and to convince myself that my joy was no dream.

The night passed in mutual inquiries. The career of my family had been
deeply diversified. On my capture in the great battle with Cestius, in
which it was said that I had fallen, they were on the point of coming to
Jerusalem to ascertain their misfortune. The advance of the Romans to
Masada precluded this. They sailed for Alexandria, and were overtaken by
a storm.

[Sidenote: The Terror of a Memory]

“In that storm,” said Miriam, with terror painted on her countenance,
“we saw a sight that appalled the firmest heart among us, and which to
this hour recalls fearful images. The night had fallen intensely dark.
Our vessel, laboring through the tempest during the day and greatly
shattered, was expected to go down before morn, and I had come upon the
deck, prepared to submit to the general fate, when I saw a flame in the
distance, and pointed it out to the mariners; but they were paralyzed by
weariness and fear, and instead of approaching what I conceived to be
a beacon, they left the vessel to the mercy of the wind. I watched the
light; to my astonishment, I saw it advancing over the waves. It was a
large ship on fire, and rushing down upon us. Then, indeed, there was no
insensibility among our mariners; they were like madmen, through excess
of fear—they did everything but make an effort to escape the danger.

“The blazing ship came toward us with terrific rapidity. As it
approached, the figure of a man was seen on the deck, standing unhurt, in
the midst of the burning. The Syrian pilot, hitherto the boldest of our
crew, at this sight cast the helm from his hands in despair, and tore his
beard, exclaiming that we were undone. To our questions, he would give no
other answer than by pointing to the solitary being who stood calmly in
the center of the conflagration, more like a demon than a man.

[Sidenote: The Solitary Figure Accursed]

“I proposed that we should make some effort to rescue this unfortunate
man. But the pilot, horror-struck at the thought, then gave up the tale
that it cost him agonies even to utter. He told us that the being whom
our frantic compassion would attempt to save, was an accursed thing; that
for some crime, too inexpiable to allow of his remaining among creatures
capable of hope, he was cast out from men, stricken into the nature of
the condemned spirits, and sentenced to rove the ocean in fire, ever
burning and never consumed!”

I felt every word, as if that fire was devouring my flesh. The sense of
what I was, and what I must be, was poison. My head swam; mortal pain
overwhelmed me. And this abhorred thing I was; this sentenced and fearful
wretch I was, covered with wrath and shame; this exile from human nature
I was; and I heard my sentence pronounced and my existence declared
hideous by the lips on which I hung for confidence and consolation
against the world.

Flinging my robe over my face to hide its writhings, I seemed to listen,
but my ears refused to hear. In my perturbation, I once thought of boldly
avowing the truth, and thus freeing myself from the pang of perpetual
concealment. But the offense and the retribution were too real and too
deadly to be disclosed, without destroying the last chance of happiness
to those innocent sufferers. I mastered the convulsion, and again bent my
ear.

“Our story exhausts you,” said Miriam; “but it is done. After a long
pursuit, in which the burning ship followed us as if with the express
purpose of our ruin, we were snatched from a death by fire, only to
undergo the chance of one by the waves, for we were sinking. Yet it may
have been owing even to that chase that we were saved. The ship had
driven us toward land. At sea we must have perished, but the shore was
found to be so near, that the country people, guided by the flame, saved
us, without the loss of a life. Once on shore, we met with some of the
fugitives from Masada, who brought us to Jerusalem, the only remaining
refuge for our unhappy nation.”

To prevent a recurrence of this torturing subject, I mastered my emotion
so far as to ask some question of the siege. But Miriam’s thoughts were
still busy with the sea. After some hesitation, and as if she dreaded the
answer, she said:

[Sidenote: A Cry of Recognition]

“One extraordinary circumstance made me take a strong interest in the
fate of that solitary being on board the burning vessel. It once seemed
to have the most striking likeness to you. I even cried out to it under
that impression, but fortunate it was for us all that my heedless cry
was not answered, for when it approached us I could see its countenance
change; it threw a sheet of flame across our vessel that almost scorched
us; and then perhaps thinking that our destruction was complete, the
human fiend ascended from the waters in a pillar of intense fire.”

I felt deep pain at this romantic narrative. My mysterious sentence was
the common talk of mankind. My frightful secret, that I had thought
locked up in my own heart, was loose as the air. This was enough to
make life bitter. But to be identified in the minds of my family with
the object of universal horror, was a chance which I determined not to
contemplate. My secret there was still safe; and my resolution became
fixed, never to destroy that safety by any frantic confidence of my own.

While, with my head bent on my knees, I hung in the misery of
self-abhorrence, I heard the name of Constantius sorrowfully pronounced
beside me. The state in which he must be left by my long absence flashed
upon my mind; I raised my eyes, and saw Salome. It was her voice that
sounded, and I then first observed the work of wo in her form and
features. She was almost a shadow; her eye was lusterless, and the hands
that she clasped in silent prayer were reduced to the bone. But before
I could speak, Miriam made a sign of silence to me, and led the mourner
away; then returning, said:

“I dreaded lest you might make any inquiries before Salome, for her
husband. Religion alone has kept her from the grave. On our arrival here,
we found our noble Constantius worn out by the fatigue of the time, but
he was our guardian spirit in the dreadful tumults of the city. When we
were burned out of one asylum, he led us to another. It is but a week
since he placed us in this melancholy spot, but yet the more secure and
unknown. He himself brought us provisions, supplied us with every comfort
that could be obtained by his impoverished means, and saved us from
famine. But now,”—the tears filled her eyes and she could not proceed.

“Yes—now,” said I, “he is a sight that would shock the eye; we must keep
Salome in ignorance as long as we can.”

[Sidenote: The Fate of Constantius]

“The unhappy girl knows his fate but too well. He left us a few days
since, to obtain some intelligence of the siege. We sat, during the
night, listening to the frightful sounds of battle. At daybreak, unable
any longer to bear the suspense or sit looking at Salome’s wretchedness,
I ventured to the fountain-gate, and there heard what I so bitterly
anticipated—our brave Constantius was slain!”

She wept aloud, and sobs and cries of irrepressible anguish answered her
from the chamber of my unhappy child.

[Sidenote: A False Report]

The danger of a too sudden discovery prevented me from drying those
tears, and I could proceed only by offering conjectures on the various
chances of battle, the possibility of his being made prisoner, and the
general difficulty of ascertaining the fates of men in the irregular
combats of a populace. But Salome sat fixed in cold incredulity. Esther
sorrowfully kissed my hand, for my disposition to give them a ray of
comfort; Miriam gazed on me with a sad and searching look, as if she
felt that I would not tamper with their distresses, yet she was deeply
perplexed for the issue. At last the delay grew painful to myself, and
taking Salome to my arms, and pressing a kiss of parental love on her
pale cheek, I whispered, “He lives!”

I was overwhelmed with transports and thanksgivings. Precaution was at
an end. If battle had been raging in the streets, I could not now have
restrained the generous impatience of friendship and love. We left the
mansion. There was not much to leave besides the walls; but such as it
was, the first fugitive was welcome to the possession. Night was still
within the building, which had belonged to some of the Roman officers of
state, and was massive and of great extent. But at the threshold the gray
dawn came quivering over the Mount of Olives.

We struggled through the long and winding streets, which even in the
light were nearly impassable. From the inhabitants we met with no
impediment; a few haggard and fierce-looking men stared at us from
the ruins,[47] but we, wrapped up in rude mantles and hurrying along,
wore too much the livery of despair to be disturbed by our fellows in
wretchedness. With a trembling heart I led the way to the chamber, where
lay one in whose life our general happiness was centered. Fearful of the
shock which our sudden appearance might give his enfeebled frame, and not
less of the misery with which he must be seen, I advanced alone to the
bedside. He gave no sign of recognition, tho he was evidently awake,
and I was about to close the curtains and keep, at least, Salome from
the hazardous sight of this living ruin, when I found her beside me. She
took his hand and sat down on the bed, with her eyes fixed on his hollow
features. She spoke not a word, but sat cherishing the wasted hand in her
own and kissing it with sad fondness. Her grief was too sacred for our
interference, and in sorrow scarcely less poignant than her own, I led
apart Miriam and Esther, who, like me, believed that the parting day was
come.

Such rude help as could be found in medicine—at a time when our men of
science had fled the city, and a few herbs were the only resource—had not
been neglected even in my distraction. But life seemed retiring hour by
hour, and if I dared to contemplate the death of this beloved being, it
was almost with a wish that it had happened before the arrival of those
to whom it must be a renewal of agony.

[Sidenote: Salathiel Faces Difficulties]

Still, the minor cares, which make so humble yet so necessary a page in
the history of life, were to occupy me. Food must be provided for the
increased number of my inmates, and where was that to be found in the
circle of a beleaguered city? Money was useless, even if I possessed
it; the friends who would once have shared their last meal with me were
exiled or slain, and it was in the midst of a fierce populace, themselves
dying of hunger, that I was to glean the daily subsistence of my wife
and children. The natural pride of the chieftain revolted at the idea of
supplicating for food, but this was one of the questions that show the
absurdity of pride, and I must beg if I would not see them die.

The dwelling had belonged to one of the noble families extinguished,
or driven away, in the first commotions of the war. The factions which
perpetually tore each other, and fought from house to house, had stripped
its lofty halls of everything that could be plundered in the hurry of
civil feud, and when I took refuge under its roof it looked the very
palace of desolation. But it was a shelter, undisturbed by the riots of
the crowd, too bare to invite the robber; and even in its vast and naked
chambers, its gloomy passages and frowning casements, congenial to the
mood of my mind. With Constantius insensible and dying before me, and
with my own spirit darkened by an eternal cloud, I loved loneliness and
darkness. When the echo of the winds came round me, as I sat during my
miserable midnights, watching the countenance of my son, and moistening
his feverish lip with the water that even then was becoming a commodity
of rare price in Jerusalem, I had communed with memories that I would not
have exchanged for the brightest enjoyments of life. I welcomed the sad
music, in which the beloved voices revisited my soul; what was earth now
to me but a tomb? Pomp—nay, comfort—would have been a mockery. I clung to
the solitude and obscurity that gave me the picture of the grave.

But the presence of my family made me feel the wretchedness of my abode.
When I cast my eyes round the squalid and chilling halls, and saw
wandering through them those gentle and delicate forms, and saw them
trying to disguise, by smiles and cheering words, the depression that
the whole scene must inspire, I felt a pang that might defy a firmer
philosophy than mine—the despair that finds its only relief in scorn.

[Sidenote: The Palace of the Winds]

“Here,” said I to Miriam, as I hastened to the door, “I leave you
mistress of a palace. The Asmonean blood once flourished within these
walls; and why not we? I have seen the nobles of the land crowded into
these chambers. They are not so full now, but we must make the most of
what we have. Those hangings, that I remember, the pride of the Sidonian
who sold them, are left to us still; if they are in fragments, they will
but show our handiwork the more. We must make our own music; and in
default of menials, serve with our own hands. The pile in that corner was
once a throne sent by a Persian king to the descendant of the Maccabee;
it will serve us at least for firing. The walls are thick; the roof may
hold out a few storms more; the casements, if they keep out nothing else,
keep out the daylight, an unwelcome guest, which would do anything but
reconcile us to the state of the mansion, and now, farewell for a few
hours.”

Miriam caught my arm, and said, in that sweet tone which always sank into
my heart:

[Sidenote: Miriam Chides Salathiel]

“Salathiel, you must not leave us in this temper. I would rather hear
your open complaints of fortune than this affectation of contempt for
your calamities. They are many and painful, I allow, tho I will not,
dare not, repine. They may even be such as are beyond human cure, but
who shall say that he has deserved better—or if he has, that suffering
may not be the determined means of exalting his nature? Is gold the only
thing that is to be tried in the fire?”

She waited my answer with a look of dejected love.

“Miriam, I need not say that I respect and honor your feelings, but no
resignation can combat the substantial evils of life. Will the finest
sentiments that ever came from human lips make this darkness light, turn
this bitter wind into warmth, or make these hideous chambers but the
dungeon?”

“My husband, I dread this language,” was the answer, with more than usual
solemnity; “it is—must I say it?—even unwise. Shall the creatures of the
Power by whom we are placed in life either defy His wrath or disregard
His mercy? Might we not be more severely tasked than we are? Are there
not thousands at this hour in the world who, with at least equal claims
to the divine benevolence (I tremble when I use the presumptuous phrase),
are undergoing calamities to which ours are happiness? Look from this
very threshold; are there not thousands within the walls of Jerusalem,
groaning in the pangs of unhealed wounds, mad, starving, stripped of
every succor of man, dying in hovels, the last survivors of their
wretched race? and yet we, still enjoying health, with a roof over our
heads, with our children round us safe, when the plague of the first-born
has fallen upon almost every house in Judea, can complain! Be comforted,
my love; I see but one actual calamity among us; and if Constantius
should survive, even that one would be at an end.”

I left my gentle despot, and hurried through the echoing halls of this
palace of the winds. As I approached the great avenues leading from the
gates to the Temple, unusual sounds struck my ears. Hitherto nothing
in the sadness of the besieged city was sadder than its silence. Death
was lord of Jerusalem, and the numberless ways in which life was
extinguished had left but the remnant of its once proud and flourishing
population.

[Sidenote: Gathering at Jerusalem]

But now shouts, and still more, the deep and perpetual murmur that
bespeaks the movements and gatherings of a crowded city, astonished me.
My first conception was that the enemy had advanced in force, and I was
turning toward the battlements to witness, or repel the general fate,
when I was involved in the multitude whose voices had perplexed me.

It was the season of the Passover. The Roman barrier had hitherto kept
back the tribes; but the victory that left it in embers opened the gates;
and from the most death-like solitude, we were once more to see the sons
of Judea filling the courts of the city of cities.