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gustus, who to the common herd seemed When he awakened, the night had fallen, some strange omnipotent in his remote and he opened his eyes upon a high vault and sumptuous paradise of Rome, had of blue velvet darkness strewn with great issued a decree that all the world of his stars. He saw this at the first moment of subjects should be enrolled, and every man, his consciousness; then he realized that woman, and child must enroll himself in there was no longer to be heard the sound his own city. And to the little town of either of passing hoofs or treading feet. Bethlehem all these travelers were wend- The travelers who had gone by during the ing their way to the place of their nativ- day had probably reached their journey's ity, in obedience to the great Cæsar's end, and gone to rest in their tents, or command.
had found refuge in the inclosing khan All through the day he watched them that gave shelter to wayfarers and their – men and women and children who be- beasts of burden. longed to one another, who rode together But though there was no human creaon their beasts, or walked together hand ture near, and no sound of human voice in hand. Women on camels or asses held or human tread, a strange change had their little ones in their arms, or walked taken place in him. His loneliness had with the youngest slung on their backs. passed away, and left him lying still and He heard boys laugh and talk with their calm as though it had never existed, as fathers-boys of his own age, who trudged though the crushed and broken child who
— merrily along, and now and again ran had plunged from a precipice of woe into forward, shouting with glee. He saw deadly, exhausted sleep was only a vague more than one strong man swing his child memory of a creature in a dark past up to his shoulder and bear him along as dream. if he found joy in his burden. Boy and Had it been himself? Lying upon his girl companions played as they went and back, seeing only the immensity of the made holiday of their journey; young deep blue above him and the greatness of men or women who were friends, lovers, the stars, he scarcely dared to draw breath or brothers and sisters bore one another lest he should arouse himself to new ancompany.
guish. It had not been he who had so "No one is alone," said Zia, twisting suffered; surely it had been another Zia. his thin fingers together-"no one! no What had come upon him, what had one! And there are no lepers. The great come upon the world? All was so still Cæsar would not count a leper. Perhaps, that it was as if the earth waited -as if it if he saw one, he would command him to waited to hear some word that would be be put to death."
spoken out of the great space in which it And then he writhed upon the grass hung. He was not hungry or cold or and sobbed again, his bent chest almost tired. It was as if he had never stagbursting with his efforts to make no sound. gered and stumbled up the mountain path He had always been alone-always, al- and dropped shuddering, to hide behind ways; but this loneliness was such as no the bushes before the daylight came and young human thing could bear. He was
men could see his white face. Surely he no longer alive; he was no longer a hu- had rested long. He had never felt like man being. Unclean! Unclean! Un- this before, and he had never seen so wonclean!
derful a night. The stars had never been At last he slept, exhausted, and past his so many and so large. What made them piteous, prostrate childhood and helpless- so soft and brilliant that each one was ness the slow procession wound its way up almost like a sun? And he strangely felt the mountain road toward the crescent of that each looked down at him as if it said Bethlehem, knowing nothing of his near- the word, though he did not know what ness to its unburdened comfort and simple the word was.
Why had he been so peace.
terror-stricken? Why had he been so
wretched? There were no lepers; there ing, though he turned his own face towere no hunchbacks. There was only ward the climbing road and listened with Zia, and he was at peace, and akin to them. The floating radiance was so inthe stars that looked down.
creasing in the sky that at this point of How heavenly still the waiting world the mountain-side it seemed no longer to was, how heavenly still! He lay and be night, and the far-away pæans held smiled and smiled; perhaps he lay so for him breathless with mysterious awe. Was an hour. Then high, high above he saw, the sound on earth? Where did it come or thought he saw, in the remoteness of from? Where? the vault of blue a brilliant whiteness “Praised be Jehovah!” he heard his float. Was it a strange, snowy cloud or
weak and shaking young voice quaver. was he dreaming? It seemed to grow Some belated travelers were coming whiter, more brilliant. His breath came slowly up the road. He heard an ass's fast, and his heart beat trembling in his feet and low voices. breast, because he had never seen clouds The sheep heard them also. Had they so strangely, purely brilliant. There was been waiting for them? They rose one another, higher, farther distant, and yet by one-the whole flock-to their feet, more dazzling still. Another and an- and turned in a body toward the apother showed its radiance until at last an proaching sounds. arch of splendor seemed to stream across Zia stood up with them. He waited the sky.
also, and it was as if at this moment his "It is like the glory of the ark of the soul so lifted itself that it almost broke covenant,” he gasped, and threw his arm away from his body-almost. across his blinded eyes, shuddering with Around the cur an ass came slowly rapture.
bearing a woman, and led by a man who He could not uncover his face, and it walked by its side. He was a man of was as he lay quaking with an unearthly sober years and walked wearily. Zia's joy that he first thought he heard sounds eyes grew wide with awe and wondering of music as remotely distant as the lights. as he gazed, scarce breathing.
"Is it on earth?” he panted. "Is it on The light upon the hillside was so earth?”
softly radiant and so clear that he could He struggled to his knees. He had see that the woman's robe was blue and heard of miracles and wonders of old, and that she lifted her face to the stars as she of the past ages when the sons of God rode. It was a young face, and pale with visited the earth.
the pallor of lilies, and her eyes were as "Glory to God in the highest!” he stars of the morning. But this was not stammered again and again and again. all. A radiance shone from her pure pal“Glory to the great Jehovah!" and he lor, and bordering her blue robe and veil touched his forehead seven times to the was a faint, steady glow of light. And earth.
as she passed the standing and waiting Then he beheld a singular thing. sheep, they slowly bowed themselves upon When he had gone to sleep a flock of their knees before her, and so knelt until sheep had been lying near him on the she had passed by and was out of sight. grass. The flock was still there, but Then they returned to their places, and something seemed to be happening to it. slept as before. The creatures were awakening from their When she was gone, Zia found that sleep as if they had heard something. First he also was kneeling. He did not know one head was raised, and then another and when his knees had bent. He was faint another and another, until every head was
with ecstasy. lifted, and every one was turned toward a "She goes to Bethlehem,” he heard himcertain point as if listening. What were self say as he had heard himself speak they listening for? Heli could see noth- before. “I, too; I, too."
He stood a moment listening to the the night, he knew that he would find no sound of the ass's retreating feet as it grew place among the multitude within its fainter in the distance. His breath came walls. Too many of the great Cæsar's quick and soft. The light had died away subjects had been born in Bethlehem and from the hillside, but the high-floating had come back for their enrolment. The radiance seemed to pass to and fro in the khan was crowded to its utmost, and outheavens, and now and again he thought side lingered many who had not been able he heard the faint, far sound that was like to gain admission and who consulted music so distant that it was as a thing plaintively with one another as to where heard in a dream.
they might find a place to sleep, and to eat "Perhaps I behold visions," he mur
the food they carried with them. mured. “It may be that I shall awake.” Zia had made his way to the entrance
But he found himself making his way gate only because he knew the travelers through the bushes and setting his feet he had followed would seek shelter there, upon the road. He must follow, he must and that he might chance to hear of them. follow. Howsoever steep the hill, he He stood a little apart from the gate must climb to Bethlehem. But as he went and waited. Something would tell him on his way it did not seem steep, and he what he must do. Almost as this thought did not waver or toil as he usually did entered his mind he heard voices speaking when walking. He felt no weariness or near him. Two women were talking toache in his limbs, and the high radiance gether, and soon he began to hear their gently lighted the path and dimly revealed words. that many white Aowers he had never "Joseph of Nazareth and Mary his seen before seemed to have sprung up by wife," one said. “Both of the line of the roadside and to wave softly to and David. There was no room for them, fro, giving forth a fragrance so remote even as there was no room for others not and faint, yet so clear, that it did not of royal lineage. To the mangers in the seem of earth. It was perhaps part of the cave they have gone, seeing the woman vision.
had sore need of rest. She, thou knowOf the distance he climbed his thought took no cognizance. There was in this Zia heard no more.
He did not ask vision neither distance nor time. There where the cave lay. He had not needed was only faint radiance, far, strange to ask his way to Bethlehem. That which sounds, and the breathing of air which had led him again directed his feet away made him feel an ecstasy of lightness as from the entrance-gate of the khan, past he moved. The other Zia had traveled the crowded court and the long, low wall painfully, had stumbled and struck his of stone within the inclosure of which the feet against wayside stones. He seemed camels and asses browsed and slept, on at ten thousand miles, ten thousand years last to a pathway leading to the gray of away. It was not he who went to Bethle- rising rocks. Beneath them was the cave, hem, led as if by some power invisible. he knew, though none had told him so. To Bethlehem! To Bethlehem, where
To Bethlehem, where Only a short distance, and he saw what went the woman whose blue robe was drew him trembling nearer. bordered with a glow of fair luminous- entrance, through which he could see the ness and whose face, like an uplifted lily, rough mangers of stone, the heaps of fodsoftly shone. It she he followed, der, and the ass munching slowly in a knowing no reason but that his soul was corner, the woman who wore the blue called.
robe stood leaning wearily against the When he reached the little town and heavy wooden post. And the soft light stood at last near the gateway of the bordering her garments set her in a frame khan in which the day-long procession of of faint radiance and glowed in a halo wayfarers had crowded to take refuge for about her head.
At the open
"The light! the light!” cried Zia in were wet with dew, but he felt no chill. a breathless whisper. And he crossed his He remembered; yes, he remembered. If hands upon his breast.
he had lived in a vision the day before, he Her husband surely could not see it. was surely living in one yet. The Zia He moved soberly about, unpacking the who had been starved and beaten and burden the ass had carried and seeming driven out naked into the world, who had to see naught else. He heaped straw in a clutched his thin breast and sobbed, writhcorner with care, and threw his mantle ing upon the earth, where was he? He
looked down upon his hands and saw the "Come,” he said. "Here thou canst cracked and scaling palms, and it was as rest, and I can watch by thy side. The though they were not. He thrust back angels of the Lord be with thee!" The the covering from his chest and saw the woman turned from the door and went spots there. But there were no lepers, toward him, walking with slow steps. He there were no hunchbacks; there were gazed at her with mild, unillumined eyes. only Zia and the light. He knelt and
"Does he not see the light!” panted turned himself toward the cave and Zia. “Does he not see the light!"
prayed, and as he so knelt and prayed the Soon he himself no longer saw it. Jo- man Joseph rolled open the heavy wooden seph of Nazareth came to the wooden door. doors and drew them together, and the Then Zia, still kneeling, beat himself boy stood alone on the mountain-side, softly upon the breast and prayed again, trembling still, and wet with the dew of not as before to Jehovah, but to that the night; but not weary, not hungered, which he beheld. not athirst or afraid, only quaking with The light was there, fair, radiant, wonwonder and joy-he, the little hunchback derful. The cave was bathed in it. The Zia, who had known no joy before since woman in the blue robe sat upon the the hour of his birth.
straw, and in her arms she held a newHe sank upon the earth slowly in an born child. Zia touched his forehead to exquisite peace-a peace that thrilled his the earth again, again, again, unknowing whole being as it stole over his limbs, that he did so. The child was the light deepening moment by moment. His head itself! drooped softly upon a cushion of moss. He must rise and draw near. That As his eyelids fell, he saw the splendor of which had drawn him up the mountainwhiteness floating in the height of the side drew him again. The child was the purple vault above him.
light itself! As he crept near the cave's
entrance, the woman's eyes rested upon The dawn was breaking, and yet the him soft and wonderful. stars had not faded away. This was his She spoke to him-she spoke! thought when his eyes first opened on a "Be not afraid," she said. "Draw nigh great one, greater than any other in the and behold !” sky, and of so pure a brilliance that it Her voice was not as the voice of other seemed as if even the sun would not be women; it was like her eyes, soft and bright enough to put it out. It hung wonderful. It could not be withstood high in the paling blue, high as the even by awe such as his. He could not white radiance; and as he lay and gazed, remain outside, but entered trembling, he thought it surely moved. What new and trembling drew near. star was it that in that one night had been The child lying upon His mother's born? He had watched the stars through breast opened His eyes and smiled. Zia so many desolate hours that he knew each fell upon his knees before Him. He held great one as a friend, and this one he had out his piteous hands, remembering for never seen before.
one moment the Zia who had sobbed on The morning was cold, and his clothes the mountain-side alone.