Part 8 out of 10
did little but mutter incoherent rhapsodies, could scarcely eat, so
anxious were they to "take shipping" and sail in very person upon the
waters that had borne the vessels of the Apostles. Their anxiety grew
and their excitement augmented with every fleeting moment, until my fears
were aroused and I began to have misgivings that in their present
condition they might break recklessly loose from all considerations of
prudence and buy a whole fleet of ships to sail in instead of hiring a
single one for an hour, as quiet folk are wont to do. I trembled to
think of the ruined purses this day's performances might result in.
I could not help reflecting bodingly upon the intemperate zeal with which
middle-aged men are apt to surfeit themselves upon a seductive folly
which they have tasted for the first time. And yet I did not feel that
I had a right to be surprised at the state of things which was giving me
so much concern. These men had been taught from infancy to revere,
almost to worship, the holy places whereon their happy eyes were resting
now. For many and many a year this very picture had visited their
thoughts by day and floated through their dreams by night. To stand
before it in the flesh--to see it as they saw it now--to sail upon the
hallowed sea, and kiss the holy soil that compassed it about: these were
aspirations they had cherished while a generation dragged its lagging
seasons by and left its furrows in their faces and its frosts upon their
hair. To look upon this picture, and sail upon this sea, they had
forsaken home and its idols and journeyed thousands and thousands of
miles, in weariness and tribulation. What wonder that the sordid lights
of work-day prudence should pale before the glory of a hope like theirs
in the full splendor of its fruition? Let them squander millions!
I said--who speaks of money at a time like this?
In this frame of mind I followed, as fast as I could, the eager footsteps
of the pilgrims, and stood upon the shore of the lake, and swelled, with
hat and voice, the frantic hail they sent after the "ship" that was
speeding by. It was a success. The toilers of the sea ran in and
beached their barque. Joy sat upon every countenance.
"How much?--ask him how much, Ferguson!--how much to take us all--eight
of us, and you--to Bethsaida, yonder, and to the mouth of Jordan, and to
the place where the swine ran down into the sea--quick!--and we want to
coast around every where--every where!--all day long!--I could sail a
year in these waters!--and tell him we'll stop at Magdala and finish at
Tiberias!--ask him how much?--any thing--any thing whatever!--tell him we
don't care what the expense is!" [I said to myself, I knew how it would
Ferguson--(interpreting)--"He says two Napoleons--eight dollars."
One or two countenances fell. Then a pause.
"Too much!--we'll give him one!"
I never shall know how it was--I shudder yet when I think how the place
is given to miracles--but in a single instant of time, as it seemed to
me, that ship was twenty paces from the shore, and speeding away like a
frightened thing! Eight crestfallen creatures stood upon the shore, and
O, to think of it! this--this--after all that overmastering ecstacy!
Oh, shameful, shameful ending, after such unseemly boasting! It was too
much like "Ho! let me at him!" followed by a prudent "Two of you hold
him--one can hold me!"
Instantly there was wailing and gnashing of teeth in the camp. The two
Napoleons were offered--more if necessary--and pilgrims and dragoman
shouted themselves hoarse with pleadings to the retreating boatmen to
come back. But they sailed serenely away and paid no further heed to
pilgrims who had dreamed all their lives of some day skimming over the
sacred waters of Galilee and listening to its hallowed story in the
whisperings of its waves, and had journeyed countless leagues to do it,
and--and then concluded that the fare was too high. Impertinent
Mohammedan Arabs, to think such things of gentlemen of another faith!
Well, there was nothing to do but just submit and forego the privilege of
voyaging on Genessaret, after coming half around the globe to taste that
pleasure. There was a time, when the Saviour taught here, that boats
were plenty among the fishermen of the coasts--but boats and fishermen
both are gone, now; and old Josephus had a fleet of men-of-war in these
waters eighteen centuries ago--a hundred and thirty bold canoes--but
they, also, have passed away and left no sign. They battle here no more
by sea, and the commercial marine of Galilee numbers only two small
ships, just of a pattern with the little skiffs the disciples knew. One
was lost to us for good--the other was miles away and far out of hail.
So we mounted the horses and rode grimly on toward Magdala, cantering
along in the edge of the water for want of the means of passing over it.
How the pilgrims abused each other! Each said it was the other's fault,
and each in turn denied it. No word was spoken by the sinners--even the
mildest sarcasm might have been dangerous at such a time. Sinners that
have been kept down and had examples held up to them, and suffered
frequent lectures, and been so put upon in a moral way and in the matter
of going slow and being serious and bottling up slang, and so crowded in
regard to the matter of being proper and always and forever behaving,
that their lives have become a burden to them, would not lag behind
pilgrims at such a time as this, and wink furtively, and be joyful, and
commit other such crimes--because it would not occur to them to do it.
Otherwise they would. But they did do it, though--and it did them a
world of good to hear the pilgrims abuse each other, too. We took an
unworthy satisfaction in seeing them fall out, now and then, because it
showed that they were only poor human people like us, after all.
So we all rode down to Magdala, while the gnashing of teeth waxed and
waned by turns, and harsh words troubled the holy calm of Galilee.
Lest any man think I mean to be ill-natured when I talk about our
pilgrims as I have been talking, I wish to say in all sincerity that I do
not. I would not listen to lectures from men I did not like and could
not respect; and none of these can say I ever took their lectures
unkindly, or was restive under the infliction, or failed to try to profit
by what they said to me. They are better men than I am; I can say that
honestly; they are good friends of mine, too--and besides, if they did
not wish to be stirred up occasionally in print, why in the mischief did
they travel with me? They knew me. They knew my liberal way--that I
like to give and take--when it is for me to give and other people to
take. When one of them threatened to leave me in Damascus when I had the
cholera, he had no real idea of doing it--I know his passionate nature
and the good impulses that underlie it. And did I not overhear Church,
another pilgrim, say he did not care who went or who staid, he would
stand by me till I walked out of Damascus on my own feet or was carried
out in a coffin, if it was a year? And do I not include Church every
time I abuse the pilgrims--and would I be likely to speak ill-naturedly
of him? I wish to stir them up and make them healthy; that is all.
We had left Capernaum behind us. It was only a shapeless ruin. It bore
no semblance to a town, and had nothing about it to suggest that it had
ever been a town. But all desolate and unpeopled as it was, it was
illustrious ground. From it sprang that tree of Christianity whose broad
arms overshadow so many distant lands to-day. After Christ was tempted
of the devil in the desert, he came here and began his teachings; and
during the three or four years he lived afterward, this place was his
home almost altogether. He began to heal the sick, and his fame soon
spread so widely that sufferers came from Syria and beyond Jordan, and
even from Jerusalem, several days' journey away, to be cured of their
diseases. Here he healed the centurion's servant and Peter's mother-in-
law, and multitudes of the lame and the blind and persons possessed of
devils; and here, also, he raised Jairus's daughter from the dead. He
went into a ship with his disciples, and when they roused him from sleep
in the midst of a storm, he quieted the winds and lulled the troubled sea
to rest with his voice. He passed over to the other side, a few miles
away and relieved two men of devils, which passed into some swine. After
his return he called Matthew from the receipt of customs, performed some
cures, and created scandal by eating with publicans and sinners. Then he
went healing and teaching through Galilee, and even journeyed to Tyre and
Sidon. He chose the twelve disciples, and sent them abroad to preach the
new gospel. He worked miracles in Bethsaida and Chorazin--villages two
or three miles from Capernaum. It was near one of them that the
miraculous draft of fishes is supposed to have been taken, and it was in
the desert places near the other that he fed the thousands by the
miracles of the loaves and fishes. He cursed them both, and Capernaum
also, for not repenting, after all the great works he had done in their
midst, and prophesied against them. They are all in ruins, now--which is
gratifying to the pilgrims, for, as usual, they fit the eternal words of
gods to the evanescent things of this earth; Christ, it is more probable,
referred to the people, not their shabby villages of wigwams: he said it
would be sad for them at "the day of judgment"--and what business have
mud-hovels at the Day of Judgment? It would not affect the prophecy in
the least--it would neither prove it or disprove it--if these towns were
splendid cities now instead of the almost vanished ruins they are.
Christ visited Magdala, which is near by Capernaum, and he also visited
Cesarea Philippi. He went up to his old home at Nazareth, and saw his
brothers Joses, and Judas, and James, and Simon--those persons who, being
own brothers to Jesus Christ, one would expect to hear mentioned
sometimes, yet who ever saw their names in a newspaper or heard them from
a pulpit? Who ever inquires what manner of youths they were; and whether
they slept with Jesus, played with him and romped about him; quarreled
with him concerning toys and trifles; struck him in anger, not suspecting
what he was? Who ever wonders what they thought when they saw him come
back to Nazareth a celebrity, and looked long at his unfamiliar face to
make sure, and then said, "It is Jesus?" Who wonders what passed in
their minds when they saw this brother, (who was only a brother to them,
however much he might be to others a mysterious stranger who was a god
and had stood face to face with God above the clouds,) doing strange
miracles with crowds of astonished people for witnesses? Who wonders if
the brothers of Jesus asked him to come home with them, and said his
mother and his sisters were grieved at his long absence, and would be
wild with delight to see his face again? Who ever gives a thought to
the sisters of Jesus at all?--yet he had sisters; and memories of them
must have stolen into his mind often when he was ill-treated among
strangers; when he was homeless and said he had not where to lay his
head; when all deserted him, even Peter, and he stood alone among his
Christ did few miracles in Nazareth, and staid but a little while. The
people said, "This the Son of God! Why, his father is nothing but a
carpenter. We know the family. We see them every day. Are not his
brothers named so and so, and his sisters so and so, and is not his
mother the person they call Mary? This is absurd." He did not curse his
home, but he shook its dust from his feet and went away.
Capernaum lies close to the edge of the little sea, in a small plain some
five miles long and a mile or two wide, which is mildly adorned with
oleanders which look all the better contrasted with the bald hills and
the howling deserts which surround them, but they are not as deliriously
beautiful as the books paint them. If one be calm and resolute he can
look upon their comeliness and live.
One of the most astonishing things that have yet fallen under our
observation is the exceedingly small portion of the earth from which
sprang the now flourishing plant of Christianity. The longest journey
our Saviour ever performed was from here to Jerusalem--about one hundred
to one hundred and twenty miles. The next longest was from here to
Sidon--say about sixty or seventy miles. Instead of being wide apart--as
American appreciation of distances would naturally suggest--the places
made most particularly celebrated by the presence of Christ are nearly
all right here in full view, and within cannon-shot of Capernaum.
Leaving out two or three short journeys of the Saviour, he spent his
life, preached his gospel, and performed his miracles within a compass no
larger than an ordinary county in the United States. It is as much as I
can do to comprehend this stupefying fact. How it wears a man out to
have to read up a hundred pages of history every two or three miles--for
verily the celebrated localities of Palestine occur that close together.
How wearily, how bewilderingly they swarm about your path!
In due time we reached the ancient village of Magdala.
Magdala is not a beautiful place. It is thoroughly Syrian, and that is
to say that it is thoroughly ugly, and cramped, squalid, uncomfortable,
and filthy--just the style of cities that have adorned the country since
Adam's time, as all writers have labored hard to prove, and have
succeeded. The streets of Magdala are any where from three to six feet
wide, and reeking with uncleanliness. The houses are from five to seven
feet high, and all built upon one arbitrary plan--the ungraceful form of
a dry-goods box. The sides are daubed with a smooth white plaster, and
tastefully frescoed aloft and alow with disks of camel-dung placed there
to dry. This gives the edifice the romantic appearance of having been
riddled with cannon-balls, and imparts to it a very warlike aspect. When
the artist has arranged his materials with an eye to just proportion--the
small and the large flakes in alternate rows, and separated by carefully-
considered intervals--I know of nothing more cheerful to look upon than a
spirited Syrian fresco. The flat, plastered roof is garnished by
picturesque stacks of fresco materials, which, having become thoroughly
dried and cured, are placed there where it will be convenient. It is
used for fuel. There is no timber of any consequence in Palestine--none
at all to waste upon fires--and neither are there any mines of coal.
If my description has been intelligible, you will perceive, now, that a
square, flat-roofed hovel, neatly frescoed, with its wall-tops gallantly
bastioned and turreted with dried camel-refuse, gives to a landscape a
feature that is exceedingly festive and picturesque, especially if one is
careful to remember to stick in a cat wherever, about the premises, there
is room for a cat to sit. There are no windows to a Syrian hut, and no
chimneys. When I used to read that they let a bed-ridden man down
through the roof of a house in Capernaum to get him into the presence of
the Saviour, I generally had a three-story brick in my mind, and marveled
that they did not break his neck with the strange experiment. I perceive
now, however, that they might have taken him by the heels and thrown him
clear over the house without discommoding him very much. Palestine is
not changed any since those days, in manners, customs, architecture, or
As we rode into Magdala not a soul was visible. But the ring of the
horses' hoofs roused the stupid population, and they all came trooping
out--old men and old women, boys and girls, the blind, the crazy, and the
crippled, all in ragged, soiled and scanty raiment, and all abject
beggars by nature, instinct and education. How the vermin-tortured
vagabonds did swarm! How they showed their scars and sores, and
piteously pointed to their maimed and crooked limbs, and begged with
their pleading eyes for charity! We had invoked a spirit we could not
lay. They hung to the horses's tails, clung to their manes and the
stirrups, closed in on every aide in scorn of dangerous hoofs--and out of
their infidel throats, with one accord, burst an agonizing and most
infernal chorus: "Howajji, bucksheesh! howajji, bucksheesh! howajji,
bucksheesh! bucksheesh! bucksheesh!" I never was in a storm like that
As we paid the bucksheesh out to sore-eyed children and brown, buxom
girls with repulsively tattooed lips and chins, we filed through the town
and by many an exquisite fresco, till we came to a bramble-infested
inclosure and a Roman-looking ruin which had been the veritable dwelling
of St. Mary Magdalene, the friend and follower of Jesus. The guide
believed it, and so did I. I could not well do otherwise, with the house
right there before my eyes as plain as day. The pilgrims took down
portions of the front wall for specimens, as is their honored custom, and
then we departed.
We are camped in this place, now, just within the city walls of Tiberias.
We went into the town before nightfall and looked at its people--we cared
nothing about its houses. Its people are best examined at a distance.
They are particularly uncomely Jews, Arabs, and negroes. Squalor and
poverty are the pride of Tiberias. The young women wear their dower
strung upon a strong wire that curves downward from the top of the head
to the jaw--Turkish silver coins which they have raked together or
inherited. Most of these maidens were not wealthy, but some few had been
very kindly dealt with by fortune. I saw heiresses there worth, in their
own right--worth, well, I suppose I might venture to say, as much as nine
dollars and a half. But such cases are rare. When you come across one
of these, she naturally puts on airs. She will not ask for bucksheesh.
She will not even permit of undue familiarity. She assumes a crushing
dignity and goes on serenely practicing with her fine-tooth comb and
quoting poetry just the same as if you were not present at all. Some
people can not stand prosperity.
They say that the long-nosed, lanky, dyspeptic-looking body-snatchers,
with the indescribable hats on, and a long curl dangling down in front of
each ear, are the old, familiar, self-righteous Pharisees we read of in
the Scriptures. Verily, they look it. Judging merely by their general
style, and without other evidence, one might easily suspect that self-
righteousness was their specialty.
From various authorities I have culled information concerning Tiberias.
It was built by Herod Antipas, the murderer of John the Baptist, and
named after the Emperor Tiberius. It is believed that it stands upon the
site of what must have been, ages ago, a city of considerable
architectural pretensions, judging by the fine porphyry pillars that are
scattered through Tiberias and down the lake shore southward. These were
fluted, once, and yet, although the stone is about as hard as iron, the
flutings are almost worn away. These pillars are small, and doubtless
the edifices they adorned were distinguished more for elegance than
grandeur. This modern town--Tiberias--is only mentioned in the New
Testament; never in the Old.
The Sanhedrim met here last, and for three hundred years Tiberias was the
metropolis of the Jews in Palestine. It is one of the four holy cities
of the Israelites, and is to them what Mecca is to the Mohammedan and
Jerusalem to the Christian. It has been the abiding place of many
learned and famous Jewish rabbins. They lie buried here, and near them
lie also twenty-five thousand of their faith who traveled far to be near
them while they lived and lie with them when they died. The great Rabbi
Ben Israel spent three years here in the early part of the third century.
He is dead, now.
The celebrated Sea of Galilee is not so large a sea as Lake Tahoe--
[I measure all lakes by Tahoe, partly because I am far more familiar with
it than with any other, and partly because I have such a high admiration
for it and such a world of pleasant recollections of it, that it is very
nearly impossible for me to speak of lakes and not mention it.]--by a
good deal--it is just about two-thirds as large. And when we come to
speak of beauty, this sea is no more to be compared to Tahoe than a
meridian of longitude is to a rainbow. The dim waters of this pool can
not suggest the limpid brilliancy of Tahoe; these low, shaven, yellow
hillocks of rocks and sand, so devoid of perspective, can not suggest the
grand peaks that compass Tahoe like a wall, and whose ribbed and chasmed
fronts are clad with stately pines that seem to grow small and smaller as
they climb, till one might fancy them reduced to weeds and shrubs far
upward, where they join the everlasting snows. Silence and solitude
brood over Tahoe; and silence and solitude brood also over this lake of
Genessaret. But the solitude of the one is as cheerful and fascinating
as the solitude of the other is dismal and repellant.
In the early morning one watches the silent battle of dawn and darkness
upon the waters of Tahoe with a placid interest; but when the shadows
sulk away and one by one the hidden beauties of the shore unfold
themselves in the full splendor of noon; when the still surface is belted
like a rainbow with broad bars of blue and green and white, half the
distance from circumference to centre; when, in the lazy summer
afternoon, he lies in a boat, far out to where the dead blue of the deep
water begins, and smokes the pipe of peace and idly winks at the
distant crags and patches of snow from under his cap-brim; when the boat
drifts shoreward to the white water, and he lolls over the gunwale and
gazes by the hour down through the crystal depths and notes the colors of
the pebbles and reviews the finny armies gliding in procession a hundred
feet below; when at night he sees moon and stars, mountain ridges
feathered with pines, jutting white capes, bold promontories, grand
sweeps of rugged scenery topped with bald, glimmering peaks, all
magnificently pictured in the polished mirror of the lake, in richest,
softest detail, the tranquil interest that was born with the morning
deepens and deepens, by sure degrees, till it culminates at last in
It is solitude, for birds and squirrels on the shore and fishes in the
water are all the creatures that are near to make it otherwise, but it is
not the sort of solitude to make one dreary. Come to Galilee for that.
If these unpeopled deserts, these rusty mounds of barrenness, that never,
never, never do shake the glare from their harsh outlines, and fade and
faint into vague perspective; that melancholy ruin of Capernaum; this
stupid village of Tiberias, slumbering under its six funereal plumes of
palms; yonder desolate declivity where the swine of the miracle ran down
into the sea, and doubtless thought it was better to swallow a devil or
two and get drowned into the bargain than have to live longer in such a
place; this cloudless, blistering sky; this solemn, sailless, tintless
lake, reposing within its rim of yellow hills and low, steep banks, and
looking just as expressionless and unpoetical (when we leave its sublime
history out of the question,) as any metropolitan reservoir in
Christendom--if these things are not food for rock me to sleep, mother,
none exist, I think.
But I should not offer the evidence for the prosecution and leave the
defense unheard. Wm. C. Grimes deposes as follows:--
"We had taken ship to go over to the other side. The sea was not
more than six miles wide. Of the beauty of the scene, however, I
can not say enough, nor can I imagine where those travelers carried
their eyes who have described the scenery of the lake as tame or
uninteresting. The first great characteristic of it is the deep
basin in which it lies. This is from three to four hundred feet
deep on all sides except at the lower end, and the sharp slope of
the banks, which are all of the richest green, is broken and
diversified by the wadys and water-courses which work their way down
through the sides of the basin, forming dark chasms or light sunny
valleys. Near Tiberias these banks are rocky, and ancient
sepulchres open in them, with their doors toward the water. They
selected grand spots, as did the Egyptians of old, for burial
places, as if they designed that when the voice of God should reach
the sleepers, they should walk forth and open their eyes on scenes
of glorious beauty. On the east, the wild and desolate mountains
contrast finely with the deep blue lake; and toward the north,
sublime and majestic, Hermon looks down on the sea, lifting his
white crown to heaven with the pride of a hill that has seen the
departing footsteps of a hundred generations. On the north-east
shore of the sea was a single tree, and this is the only tree of any
size visible from the water of the lake, except a few lonely palms
in the city of Tiberias, and by its solitary position attracts more
attention than would a forest. The whole appearance of the scene is
precisely what we would expect and desire the scenery of Genessaret
to be, grand beauty, but quiet calm. The very mountains are calm."
It is an ingeniously written description, and well calculated to deceive.
But if the paint and the ribbons and the flowers be stripped from it, a
skeleton will be found beneath.
So stripped, there remains a lake six miles wide and neutral in color;
with steep green banks, unrelieved by shrubbery; at one end bare,
unsightly rocks, with (almost invisible) holes in them of no consequence
to the picture; eastward, "wild and desolate mountains;" (low, desolate
hills, he should have said;) in the north, a mountain called Hermon, with
snow on it; peculiarity of the picture, "calmness;" its prominent
feature, one tree.
No ingenuity could make such a picture beautiful--to one's actual vision.
I claim the right to correct misstatements, and have so corrected the
color of the water in the above recapitulation. The waters of Genessaret
are of an exceedingly mild blue, even from a high elevation and a
distance of five miles. Close at hand (the witness was sailing on the
lake,) it is hardly proper to call them blue at all, much less "deep"
blue. I wish to state, also, not as a correction, but as matter of
opinion, that Mount Hermon is not a striking or picturesque mountain by
any means, being too near the height of its immediate neighbors to be so.
That is all. I do not object to the witness dragging a mountain forty-
five miles to help the scenery under consideration, because it is
entirely proper to do it, and besides, the picture needs it.
"C. W. E.," (of "Life in the Holy Land,") deposes as follows:--
"A beautiful sea lies unbosomed among the Galilean hills, in the
midst of that land once possessed by Zebulon and Naphtali, Asher and
Dan. The azure of the sky penetrates the depths of the lake, and
the waters are sweet and cool. On the west, stretch broad fertile
plains; on the north the rocky shores rise step by step until in the
far distance tower the snowy heights of Hermon; on the east through
a misty veil are seen the high plains of Perea, which stretch away
in rugged mountains leading the mind by varied paths toward
Jerusalem the Holy. Flowers bloom in this terrestrial paradise,
once beautiful and verdant with waving trees; singing birds enchant
the ear; the turtle-dove soothes with its soft note; the crested
lark sends up its song toward heaven, and the grave and stately
stork inspires the mind with thought, and leads it on to meditation
and repose. Life here was once idyllic, charming; here were once no
rich, no poor, no high, no low. It was a world of ease, simplicity,
and beauty; now it is a scene of desolation and misery."
This is not an ingenious picture. It is the worst I ever saw. It
describes in elaborate detail what it terms a "terrestrial paradise," and
closes with the startling information that this paradise is "a scene of
desolation and misery."
I have given two fair, average specimens of the character of the
testimony offered by the majority of the writers who visit this region.
One says, "Of the beauty of the scene I can not say enough," and then
proceeds to cover up with a woof of glittering sentences a thing which,
when stripped for inspection, proves to be only an unobtrusive basin of
water, some mountainous desolation, and one tree. The other, after a
conscientious effort to build a terrestrial paradise out of the same
materials, with the addition of a "grave and stately stork," spoils it
all by blundering upon the ghastly truth at the last.
Nearly every book concerning Galilee and its lake describes the scenery
as beautiful. No--not always so straightforward as that. Sometimes the
impression intentionally conveyed is that it is beautiful, at the same
time that the author is careful not to say that it is, in plain Saxon.
But a careful analysis of these descriptions will show that the materials
of which they are formed are not individually beautiful and can not be
wrought into combinations that are beautiful. The veneration and the
affection which some of these men felt for the scenes they were speaking
of, heated their fancies and biased their judgment; but the pleasant
falsities they wrote were full of honest sincerity, at any rate. Others
wrote as they did, because they feared it would be unpopular to write
otherwise. Others were hypocrites and deliberately meant to deceive.
Any of them would say in a moment, if asked, that it was always right and
always best to tell the truth. They would say that, at any rate, if they
did not perceive the drift of the question.
But why should not the truth be spoken of this region? Is the truth
harmful? Has it ever needed to hide its face? God made the Sea of
Galilee and its surroundings as they are. Is it the province of Mr.
Grimes to improve upon the work?
I am sure, from the tenor of books I have read, that many who have
visited this land in years gone by, were Presbyterians, and came seeking
evidences in support of their particular creed; they found a Presbyterian
Palestine, and they had already made up their minds to find no other,
though possibly they did not know it, being blinded by their zeal.
Others were Baptists, seeking Baptist evidences and a Baptist Palestine.
Others were Catholics, Methodists, Episcopalians, seeking evidences
indorsing their several creeds, and a Catholic, a Methodist, an
Episcopalian Palestine. Honest as these men's intentions may have been,
they were full of partialities and prejudices, they entered the country
with their verdicts already prepared, and they could no more write
dispassionately and impartially about it than they could about their own
wives and children. Our pilgrims have brought their verdicts with them.
They have shown it in their conversation ever since we left Beirout.
I can almost tell, in set phrase, what they will say when they see Tabor,
Nazareth, Jericho and Jerusalem--because I have the books they will
"smouch" their ideas from. These authors write pictures and frame
rhapsodies, and lesser men follow and see with the author's eyes instead
of their own, and speak with his tongue. What the pilgrims said at
Cesarea Philippi surprised me with its wisdom. I found it afterwards in
Robinson. What they said when Genessaret burst upon their vision,
charmed me with its grace. I find it in Mr. Thompson's "Land and the
Book." They have spoken often, in happily worded language which never
varied, of how they mean to lay their weary heads upon a stone at Bethel,
as Jacob did, and close their dim eyes, and dream, perchance, of angels
descending out of heaven on a ladder. It was very pretty. But I have
recognized the weary head and the dim eyes, finally. They borrowed the
idea--and the words--and the construction--and the punctuation--from
Grimes. The pilgrims will tell of Palestine, when they get home, not as
it appeared to them, but as it appeared to Thompson and Robinson and
Grimes--with the tints varied to suit each pilgrim's creed.
Pilgrims, sinners and Arabs are all abed, now, and the camp is still.
Labor in loneliness is irksome. Since I made my last few notes, I have
been sitting outside the tent for half an hour. Night is the time to see
Galilee. Genessaret under these lustrous stars has nothing repulsive
about it. Genessaret with the glittering reflections of the
constellations flecking its surface, almost makes me regret that I ever
saw the rude glare of the day upon it. Its history and its associations
are its chiefest charm, in any eyes, and the spells they weave are feeble
in the searching light of the sun. Then, we scarcely feel the fetters.
Our thoughts wander constantly to the practical concerns of life, and
refuse to dwell upon things that seem vague and unreal. But when the day
is done, even the most unimpressible must yield to the dreamy influences
of this tranquil starlight. The old traditions of the place steal upon
his memory and haunt his reveries, and then his fancy clothes all sights
and sounds with the supernatural. In the lapping of the waves upon the
beach, he hears the dip of ghostly oars; in the secret noises of the
night he hears spirit voices; in the soft sweep of the breeze, the rush
of invisible wings. Phantom ships are on the sea, the dead of twenty
centuries come forth from the tombs, and in the dirges of the night wind
the songs of old forgotten ages find utterance again.
In the starlight, Galilee has no boundaries but the broad compass of the
heavens, and is a theatre meet for great events; meet for the birth of a
religion able to save a world; and meet for the stately Figure appointed
to stand upon its stage and proclaim its high decrees. But in the
sunlight, one says: Is it for the deeds which were done and the words
which were spoken in this little acre of rocks and sand eighteen
centuries gone, that the bells are ringing to-day in the remote islands
of the sea and far and wide over continents that clasp the circumference
of the huge globe?
One can comprehend it only when night has hidden all incongruities and
created a theatre proper for so grand a drama.
We took another swim in the Sea of Galilee at twilight yesterday, and
another at sunrise this morning. We have not sailed, but three swims are
equal to a sail, are they not? There were plenty of fish visible in the
water, but we have no outside aids in this pilgrimage but "Tent Life in
the Holy Land," "The Land and the Book," and other literature of like
description--no fishing-tackle. There were no fish to be had in the
village of Tiberias. True, we saw two or three vagabonds mending their
nets, but never trying to catch any thing with them.
We did not go to the ancient warm baths two miles below Tiberias. I had
no desire in the world to go there. This seemed a little strange, and
prompted me to try to discover what the cause of this unreasonable
indifference was. It turned out to be simply because Pliny mentions
them. I have conceived a sort of unwarrantable unfriendliness toward
Pliny and St. Paul, because it seems as if I can never ferret out a place
that I can have to myself. It always and eternally transpires that St.
Paul has been to that place, and Pliny has "mentioned" it.
In the early morning we mounted and started. And then a weird apparition
marched forth at the head of the procession--a pirate, I thought, if ever
a pirate dwelt upon land. It was a tall Arab, as swarthy as an Indian;
young-say thirty years of age. On his head he had closely bound a
gorgeous yellow and red striped silk scarf, whose ends, lavishly fringed
with tassels, hung down between his shoulders and dallied with the wind.
From his neck to his knees, in ample folds, a robe swept down that was a
very star-spangled banner of curved and sinuous bars of black and white.
Out of his back, somewhere, apparently, the long stem of a chibouk
projected, and reached far above his right shoulder. Athwart his back,
diagonally, and extending high above his left shoulder, was an Arab gum
of Saladin's time, that was splendid with silver plating from stock clear
up to the end of its measureless stretch of barrel. About his waist was
bound many and many a yard of elaborately figured but sadly tarnished
stuff that came from sumptuous Persia, and among the baggy folds in front
the sunbeams glinted from a formidable battery of old brass-mounted
horse-pistols and the gilded hilts of blood-thirsty knives. There were
holsters for more pistols appended to the wonderful stack of long-haired
goat-skins and Persian carpets, which the man had been taught to regard
in the light of a saddle; and down among the pendulous rank of vast
tassels that swung from that saddle, and clanging against the iron shovel
of a stirrup that propped the warrior's knees up toward his chin, was a
crooked, silver-clad scimitar of such awful dimensions and such
implacable expression that no man might hope to look upon it and not
shudder. The fringed and bedizened prince whose privilege it is to ride
the pony and lead the elephant into a country village is poor and naked
compared to this chaos of paraphernalia, and the happy vanity of the one
is the very poverty of satisfaction compared to the majestic serenity,
the overwhelming complacency of the other.
"Who is this? What is this?" That was the trembling inquiry all down
"Our guard! From Galilee to the birthplace of the Savior, the country is
infested with fierce Bedouins, whose sole happiness it is, in this life,
to cut and stab and mangle and murder unoffending Christians. Allah be
"Then hire a regiment! Would you send us out among these desperate
hordes, with no salvation in our utmost need but this old turret?"
The dragoman laughed--not at the facetiousness of the simile, for verily,
that guide or that courier or that dragoman never yet lived upon earth
who had in him the faintest appreciation of a joke, even though that joke
were so broad and so ponderous that if it fell on him it would flatten
him out like a postage stamp--the dragoman laughed, and then, emboldened
by some thought that was in his brain, no doubt, proceeded to extremities
In straits like these, when a man laughs, it is encouraging when he
winks, it is positively reassuring. He finally intimated that one guard
would be sufficient to protect us, but that that one was an absolute
necessity. It was because of the moral weight his awful panoply would
have with the Bedouins. Then I said we didn't want any guard at all.
If one fantastic vagabond could protect eight armed Christians and a pack
of Arab servants from all harm, surely that detachment could protect
themselves. He shook his head doubtfully. Then I said, just think of
how it looks--think of how it would read, to self-reliant Americans, that
we went sneaking through this deserted wilderness under the protection of
this masquerading Arab, who would break his neck getting out of the
country if a man that was a man ever started after him. It was a mean,
low, degrading position. Why were we ever told to bring navy revolvers
with us if we had to be protected at last by this infamous star-spangled
scum of the desert? These appeals were vain--the dragoman only smiled
and shook his head.
I rode to the front and struck up an acquaintance with King Solomon-in-
all-his-glory, and got him to show me his lingering eternity of a gun.
It had a rusty flint lock; it was ringed and barred and plated with
silver from end to end, but it was as desperately out of the
perpendicular as are the billiard cues of '49 that one finds yet in
service in the ancient mining camps of California. The muzzle was eaten
by the rust of centuries into a ragged filigree-work, like the end of a
burnt-out stove-pipe. I shut one eye and peered within--it was flaked
with iron rust like an old steamboat boiler. I borrowed the ponderous
pistols and snapped them. They were rusty inside, too--had not been
loaded for a generation. I went back, full of encouragement, and
reported to the guide, and asked him to discharge this dismantled
fortress. It came out, then. This fellow was a retainer of the Sheik of
Tiberias. He was a source of Government revenue. He was to the Empire
of Tiberias what the customs are to America. The Sheik imposed guards
upon travelers and charged them for it. It is a lucrative source of
emolument, and sometimes brings into the national treasury as much as
thirty-five or forty dollars a year.
I knew the warrior's secret now; I knew the hollow vanity of his rusty
trumpery, and despised his asinine complacency. I told on him, and with
reckless daring the cavalcade straight ahead into the perilous solitudes
of the desert, and scorned his frantic warnings of the mutilation and
death that hovered about them on every side.
Arrived at an elevation of twelve hundred feet above the lake, (I ought
to mention that the lake lies six hundred feet below the level of the
Mediterranean--no traveler ever neglects to flourish that fragment of
news in his letters,) as bald and unthrilling a panorama as any land can
afford, perhaps, was spread out before us. Yet it was so crowded with
historical interest, that if all the pages that have been written about
it were spread upon its surface, they would flag it from horizon to
horizon like a pavement. Among the localities comprised in this view,
were Mount Hermon; the hills that border Cesarea Philippi, Dan, the
Sources of the Jordan and the Waters of Merom; Tiberias; the Sea of
Galilee; Joseph's Pit; Capernaum; Bethsaida; the supposed scenes of the
Sermon on the Mount, the feeding of the multitudes and the miraculous
draught of fishes; the declivity down which the swine ran to the sea; the
entrance and the exit of the Jordan; Safed, "the city set upon a hill,"
one of the four holy cities of the Jews, and the place where they believe
the real Messiah will appear when he comes to redeem the world; part of
the battle-field of Hattin, where the knightly Crusaders fought their
last fight, and in a blaze of glory passed from the stage and ended their
splendid career forever; Mount Tabor, the traditional scene of the Lord's
Transfiguration. And down toward the southeast lay a landscape that
suggested to my mind a quotation (imperfectly remembered, no doubt:)
"The Ephraimites, not being called upon to share in the rich spoils
of the Ammonitish war, assembled a mighty host to fight against
Jeptha, Judge of Israel; who, being apprised of their approach,
gathered together the men of Israel and gave them battle and put
them to flight. To make his victory the more secure, he stationed
guards at the different fords and passages of the Jordan, with
instructions to let none pass who could not say Shibboleth. The
Ephraimites, being of a different tribe, could not frame to
pronounce the word right, but called it Sibboleth, which proved them
enemies and cost them their lives; wherefore, forty and two thousand
fell at the different fords and passages of the Jordan that day."
We jogged along peacefully over the great caravan route from Damascus to
Jerusalem and Egypt, past Lubia and other Syrian hamlets, perched, in the
unvarying style, upon the summit of steep mounds and hills, and fenced
round about with giant cactuses, (the sign of worthless land,) with
prickly pears upon them like hams, and came at last to the battle-field
It is a grand, irregular plateau, and looks as if it might have been
created for a battle-field. Here the peerless Saladin met the Christian
host some seven hundred years ago, and broke their power in Palestine for
all time to come. There had long been a truce between the opposing
forces, but according to the Guide-Book, Raynauld of Chatillon, Lord of
Kerak, broke it by plundering a Damascus caravan, and refusing to give up
either the merchants or their goods when Saladin demanded them. This
conduct of an insolent petty chieftain stung the Sultan to the quick, and
he swore that he would slaughter Raynauld with his own hand, no matter
how, or when, or where he found him. Both armies prepared for war.
Under the weak King of Jerusalem was the very flower of the Christian
chivalry. He foolishly compelled them to undergo a long, exhausting
march, in the scorching sun, and then, without water or other
refreshment, ordered them to encamp in this open plain. The splendidly
mounted masses of Moslem soldiers swept round the north end of
Genessaret, burning and destroying as they came, and pitched their camp
in front of the opposing lines. At dawn the terrific fight began.
Surrounded on all sides by the Sultan's swarming battalions, the
Christian Knights fought on without a hope for their lives. They fought
with desperate valor, but to no purpose; the odds of heat and numbers,
and consuming thirst, were too great against them. Towards the middle of
the day the bravest of their band cut their way through the Moslem ranks
and gained the summit of a little hill, and there, hour after hour, they
closed around the banner of the Cross, and beat back the charging
squadrons of the enemy.
But the doom of the Christian power was sealed. Sunset found Saladin
Lord of Palestine, the Christian chivalry strewn in heaps upon the field,
and the King of Jerusalem, the Grand Master of the Templars, and Raynauld
of Chatillon, captives in the Sultan's tent. Saladin treated two of the
prisoners with princely courtesy, and ordered refreshments to be set
before them. When the King handed an iced Sherbet to Chatillon, the
Sultan said," It is thou that givest it to him, not I." He remembered
his oath, and slaughtered the hapless Knight of Chatillon with his own
It was hard to realize that this silent plain had once resounded with
martial music and trembled to the tramp of armed men. It was hard to
people this solitude with rushing columns of cavalry, and stir its torpid
pulses with the shouts of victors, the shrieks of the wounded, and the
flash of banner and steel above the surging billows of war. A desolation
is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and
We reached Tabor safely, and considerably in advance of that old iron-
clad swindle of a guard. We never saw a human being on the whole route,
much less lawless hordes of Bedouins. Tabor stands solitary and alone,
a giant sentinel above the Plain of Esdraelon. It rises some fourteen
hundred feet above the surrounding level, a green, wooden cone,
symmetrical and full of grace--a prominent landmark, and one that is
exceedingly pleasant to eyes surfeited with the repulsive monotony of
desert Syria. We climbed the steep path to its summit, through breezy
glades of thorn and oak. The view presented from its highest peak was
almost beautiful. Below, was the broad, level plain of Esdraelon,
checkered with fields like a chess-board, and full as smooth and level,
seemingly; dotted about its borders with white, compact villages, and
faintly penciled, far and near, with the curving lines of roads and
trails. When it is robed in the fresh verdure of spring, it must form a
charming picture, even by itself. Skirting its southern border rises
"Little Hermon," over whose summit a glimpse of Gilboa is caught. Nain,
famous for the raising of the widow's son, and Endor, as famous for the
performances of her witch are in view. To the eastward lies the Valley
of the Jordan and beyond it the mountains of Gilead. Westward is Mount
Carmel. Hermon in the north--the table-lands of Bashan--Safed, the holy
city, gleaming white upon a tall spur of the mountains of Lebanon--a
steel-blue corner of the Sea of Galilee--saddle-peaked Hattin,
traditional "Mount of Beatitudes" and mute witness brave fights of the
Crusading host for Holy Cross--these fill up the picture.
To glance at the salient features of this landscape through the
picturesque framework of a ragged and ruined stone window--arch of the
time of Christ, thus hiding from sight all that is unattractive, is to
secure to yourself a pleasure worth climbing the mountain to enjoy. One
must stand on his head to get the best effect in a fine sunset, and set a
landscape in a bold, strong framework that is very close at hand, to
bring out all its beauty. One learns this latter truth never more to
forget it, in that mimic land of enchantment, the wonderful garden of my
lord the Count Pallavicini, near Genoa. You go wandering for hours among
hills and wooded glens, artfully contrived to leave the impression that
Nature shaped them and not man; following winding paths and coming
suddenly upon leaping cascades and rustic bridges; finding sylvan lakes
where you expected them not; loitering through battered mediaeval castles
in miniature that seem hoary with age and yet were built a dozen years
ago; meditating over ancient crumbling tombs, whose marble columns were
marred and broken purposely by the modern artist that made them;
stumbling unawares upon toy palaces, wrought of rare and costly
materials, and again upon a peasant's hut, whose dilapidated furniture
would never suggest that it was made so to order; sweeping round and
round in the midst of a forest on an enchanted wooden horse that is moved
by some invisible agency; traversing Roman roads and passing under
majestic triumphal arches; resting in quaint bowers where unseen spirits
discharge jets of water on you from every possible direction, and where
even the flowers you touch assail you with a shower; boating on a
subterranean lake among caverns and arches royally draped with clustering
stalactites, and passing out into open day upon another lake, which is
bordered with sloping banks of grass and gay with patrician barges that
swim at anchor in the shadow of a miniature marble temple that rises out
of the clear water and glasses its white statues, its rich capitals and
fluted columns in the tranquil depths. So, from marvel to marvel you
have drifted on, thinking all the time that the one last seen must be the
chiefest. And, verily, the chiefest wonder is reserved until the last,
but you do not see it until you step ashore, and passing through a
wilderness of rare flowers, collected from every corner of the earth, you
stand at the door of one more mimic temple. Right in this place the
artist taxed his genius to the utmost, and fairly opened the gates of
fairy land. You look through an unpretending pane of glass, stained
yellow--the first thing you see is a mass of quivering foliage, ten short
steps before you, in the midst of which is a ragged opening like a
gateway-a thing that is common enough in nature, and not apt to excite
suspicions of a deep human design--and above the bottom of the gateway,
project, in the most careless way! a few broad tropic leaves and
brilliant flowers. All of a sudden, through this bright, bold gateway,
you catch a glimpse of the faintest, softest, richest picture that ever
graced the dream of a dying Saint, since John saw the New Jerusalem
glimmering above the clouds of Heaven. A broad sweep of sea, flecked
with careening sails; a sharp, jutting cape, and a lofty lighthouse on
it; a sloping lawn behind it; beyond, a portion of the old "city of
palaces," with its parks and hills and stately mansions; beyond these, a
prodigious mountain, with its strong outlines sharply cut against ocean
and sky; and over all, vagrant shreds and flakes of cloud, floating in a
sea of gold. The ocean is gold, the city is gold, the meadow, the
mountain, the sky--every thing is golden-rich, and mellow, and dreamy as
a vision of Paradise. No artist could put upon canvas, its entrancing
beauty, and yet, without the yellow glass, and the carefully contrived
accident of a framework that cast it into enchanted distance and shut out
from it all unattractive features, it was not a picture to fall into
ecstasies over. Such is life, and the trail of the serpent is over us
There is nothing for it now but to come back to old Tabor, though the
subject is tiresome enough, and I can not stick to it for wandering off
to scenes that are pleasanter to remember. I think I will skip, any how.
There is nothing about Tabor (except we concede that it was the scene of
the Transfiguration,) but some gray old ruins, stacked up there in all
ages of the world from the days of stout Gideon and parties that
flourished thirty centuries ago to the fresh yesterday of Crusading
times. It has its Greek Convent, and the coffee there is good, but never
a splinter of the true cross or bone of a hallowed saint to arrest the
idle thoughts of worldlings and turn them into graver channels.
A Catholic church is nothing to me that has no relics.
The plain of Esdraelon--"the battle-field of the nations"--only sets one
to dreaming of Joshua, and Benhadad, and Saul, and Gideon; Tamerlane,
Tancred, Coeur de Lion, and Saladin; the warrior Kings of Persia, Egypt's
heroes, and Napoleon--for they all fought here. If the magic of the
moonlight could summon from the graves of forgotten centuries and many
lands the countless myriads that have battled on this wide, far-reaching
floor, and array them in the thousand strange Costumes of their hundred
nationalities, and send the vast host sweeping down the plain, splendid
with plumes and banners and glittering lances, I could stay here an age
to see the phantom pageant. But the magic of the moonlight is a vanity
and a fraud; and whoso putteth his trust in it shall suffer sorrow and
Down at the foot of Tabor, and just at the edge of the storied Plain of
Esdraelon, is the insignificant village of Deburieh, where Deborah,
prophetess of Israel, lived. It is just like Magdala.
We descended from Mount Tabor, crossed a deep ravine, followed a hilly,
rocky road to Nazareth--distant two hours. All distances in the East are
measured by hours, not miles. A good horse will walk three miles an hour
over nearly any kind of a road; therefore, an hour, here, always stands
for three miles. This method of computation is bothersome and annoying;
and until one gets thoroughly accustomed to it, it carries no
intelligence to his mind until he has stopped and translated the pagan
hours into Christian miles, just as people do with the spoken words of a
foreign language they are acquainted with, but not familiarly enough to
catch the meaning in a moment. Distances traveled by human feet are also
estimated by hours and minutes, though I do not know what the base of the
calculation is. In Constantinople you ask, "How far is it to the
Consulate?" and they answer, "About ten minutes." "How far is it to the
Lloyds' Agency?" "Quarter of an hour." "How far is it to the lower
bridge?" "Four minutes." I can not be positive about it, but I think
that there, when a man orders a pair of pantaloons, he says he wants them
a quarter of a minute in the legs and nine seconds around the waist.
Two hours from Tabor to Nazareth--and as it was an uncommonly narrow,
crooked trail, we necessarily met all the camel trains and jackass
caravans between Jericho and Jacksonville in that particular place and
nowhere else. The donkeys do not matter so much, because they are so
small that you can jump your horse over them if he is an animal of
spirit, but a camel is not jumpable. A camel is as tall as any ordinary
dwelling-house in Syria--which is to say a camel is from one to two, and
sometimes nearly three feet taller than a good-sized man. In this part
of the country his load is oftenest in the shape of colossal sacks--one
on each side. He and his cargo take up as much room as a carriage.
Think of meeting this style of obstruction in a narrow trail. The camel
would not turn out for a king. He stalks serenely along, bringing his
cushioned stilts forward with the long, regular swing of a pendulum, and
whatever is in the way must get out of the way peaceably, or be wiped out
forcibly by the bulky sacks. It was a tiresome ride to us, and perfectly
exhausting to the horses. We were compelled to jump over upwards of
eighteen hundred donkeys, and only one person in the party was unseated
less than sixty times by the camels. This seems like a powerful
statement, but the poet has said, "Things are not what they seem." I can
not think of any thing, now, more certain to make one shudder, than to
have a soft-footed camel sneak up behind him and touch him on the ear
with its cold, flabby under-lip. A camel did this for one of the boys,
who was drooping over his saddle in a brown study. He glanced up and saw
the majestic apparition hovering above him, and made frantic efforts to
get out of the way, but the camel reached out and bit him on the shoulder
before he accomplished it. This was the only pleasant incident of the
At Nazareth we camped in an olive grove near the Virgin Mary's fountain,
and that wonderful Arab "guard" came to collect some bucksheesh for his
"services" in following us from Tiberias and warding off invisible
dangers with the terrors of his armament. The dragoman had paid his
master, but that counted as nothing--if you hire a man to sneeze for you,
here, and another man chooses to help him, you have got to pay both.
They do nothing whatever without pay. How it must have surprised these
people to hear the way of salvation offered to them "without money and
without price." If the manners, the people or the customs of this
country have changed since the Saviour's time, the figures and metaphors
of the Bible are not the evidences to prove it by.
We entered the great Latin Convent which is built over the traditional
dwelling-place of the Holy Family. We went down a flight of fifteen
steps below the ground level, and stood in a small chapel tricked out
with tapestry hangings, silver lamps, and oil paintings. A spot marked
by a cross, in the marble floor, under the altar, was exhibited as the
place made forever holy by the feet of the Virgin when she stood up to
receive the message of the angel. So simple, so unpretending a locality,
to be the scene of so mighty an event! The very scene of the
Annunciation--an event which has been commemorated by splendid shrines
and august temples all over the civilized world, and one which the
princes of art have made it their loftiest ambition to picture worthily
on their canvas; a spot whose history is familiar to the very children of
every house, and city, and obscure hamlet of the furthest lands of
Christendom; a spot which myriads of men would toil across the breadth of
a world to see, would consider it a priceless privilege to look upon.
It was easy to think these thoughts. But it was not easy to bring myself
up to the magnitude of the situation. I could sit off several thousand
miles and imagine the angel appearing, with shadowy wings and lustrous
countenance, and note the glory that streamed downward upon the Virgin's
head while the message from the Throne of God fell upon her ears--any one
can do that, beyond the ocean, but few can do it here. I saw the little
recess from which the angel stepped, but could not fill its void. The
angels that I know are creatures of unstable fancy--they will not fit in
niches of substantial stone. Imagination labors best in distant fields.
I doubt if any man can stand in the Grotto of the Annunciation and people
with the phantom images of his mind its too tangible walls of stone.
They showed us a broken granite pillar, depending from the roof, which
they said was hacked in two by the Moslem conquerors of Nazareth, in the
vain hope of pulling down the sanctuary. But the pillar remained
miraculously suspended in the air, and, unsupported itself, supported
then and still supports the roof. By dividing this statement up among
eight, it was found not difficult to believe it.
These gifted Latin monks never do any thing by halves. If they were to
show you the Brazen Serpent that was elevated in the wilderness, you
could depend upon it that they had on hand the pole it was elevated on
also, and even the hole it stood in. They have got the "Grotto" of the
Annunciation here; and just as convenient to it as one's throat is to his
mouth, they have also the Virgin's Kitchen, and even her sitting-room,
where she and Joseph watched the infant Saviour play with Hebrew toys
eighteen hundred years ago. All under one roof, and all clean, spacious,
comfortable "grottoes." It seems curious that personages intimately
connected with the Holy Family always lived in grottoes--in Nazareth, in
Bethlehem, in imperial Ephesus--and yet nobody else in their day and
generation thought of doing any thing of the kind. If they ever did,
their grottoes are all gone, and I suppose we ought to wonder at the
peculiar marvel of the preservation of these I speak of. When the Virgin
fled from Herod's wrath, she hid in a grotto in Bethlehem, and the same
is there to this day. The slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem was
done in a grotto; the Saviour was born in a grotto--both are shown to
pilgrims yet. It is exceedingly strange that these tremendous events all
happened in grottoes--and exceedingly fortunate, likewise, because the
strongest houses must crumble to ruin in time, but a grotto in the living
rock will last forever. It is an imposture--this grotto stuff--but it is
one that all men ought to thank the Catholics for. Wherever they ferret
out a lost locality made holy by some Scriptural event, they straightway
build a massive--almost imperishable--church there, and preserve the
memory of that locality for the gratification of future generations. If
it had been left to Protestants to do this most worthy work, we would not
even know where Jerusalem is to-day, and the man who could go and put his
finger on Nazareth would be too wise for this world. The world owes the
Catholics its good will even for the happy rascality of hewing out these
bogus grottoes in the rock; for it is infinitely more satisfactory to
look at a grotto, where people have faithfully believed for centuries
that the Virgin once lived, than to have to imagine a dwelling-place for
her somewhere, any where, nowhere, loose and at large all over this town
of Nazareth. There is too large a scope of country. The imagination can
not work. There is no one particular spot to chain your eye, rivet your
interest, and make you think. The memory of the Pilgrims can not perish
while Plymouth Rock remains to us. The old monks are wise. They know
how to drive a stake through a pleasant tradition that will hold it to
its place forever.
We visited the places where Jesus worked for fifteen years as a
carpenter, and where he attempted to teach in the synagogue and was
driven out by a mob. Catholic chapels stand upon these sites and protect
the little fragments of the ancient walls which remain. Our pilgrims
broke off specimens. We visited, also, a new chapel, in the midst of the
town, which is built around a boulder some twelve feet long by four feet
thick; the priests discovered, a few years ago, that the disciples had
sat upon this rock to rest, once, when they had walked up from Capernaum.
They hastened to preserve the relic. Relics are very good property.
Travelers are expected to pay for seeing them, and they do it cheerfully.
We like the idea. One's conscience can never be the worse for the
knowledge that he has paid his way like a man. Our pilgrims would have
liked very well to get out their lampblack and stencil-plates and paint
their names on that rock, together with the names of the villages they
hail from in America, but the priests permit nothing of that kind.
To speak the strict truth, however, our party seldom offend in that way,
though we have men in the ship who never lose an opportunity to do it.
Our pilgrims' chief sin is their lust for "specimens." I suppose that by
this time they know the dimensions of that rock to an inch, and its
weight to a ton; and I do not hesitate to charge that they will go back
there to-night and try to carry it off.
This "Fountain of the Virgin" is the one which tradition says Mary used
to get water from, twenty times a day, when she was a girl, and bear it
away in a jar upon her head. The water streams through faucets in the
face of a wall of ancient masonry which stands removed from the houses of
the village. The young girls of Nazareth still collect about it by the
dozen and keep up a riotous laughter and sky-larking. The Nazarene girls
are homely. Some of them have large, lustrous eyes, but none of them
have pretty faces. These girls wear a single garment, usually, and it is
loose, shapeless, of undecided color; it is generally out of repair, too.
They wear, from crown to jaw, curious strings of old coins, after the
manner of the belles of Tiberias, and brass jewelry upon their wrists and
in their ears. They wear no shoes and stockings. They are the most
human girls we have found in the country yet, and the best natured.
But there is no question that these picturesque maidens sadly lack
A pilgrim--the "Enthusiast"--said: "See that tall, graceful girl! look at
the Madonna-like beauty of her countenance!"
Another pilgrim came along presently and said: "Observe that tall,
graceful girl; what queenly Madonna-like gracefulness of beauty is in her
I said: "She is not tall, she is short; she is not beautiful, she is
homely; she is graceful enough, I grant, but she is rather boisterous."
The third and last pilgrim moved by, before long, and he said: "Ah, what
a tall, graceful girl! what Madonna-like gracefulness of queenly beauty!"
The verdicts were all in. It was time, now, to look up the authorities
for all these opinions. I found this paragraph, which follows. Written
by whom? Wm. C. Grimes:
"After we were in the saddle, we rode down to the spring to have a
last look at the women of Nazareth, who were, as a class, much the
prettiest that we had seen in the East. As we approached the crowd
a tall girl of nineteen advanced toward Miriam and offered her a cup
of water. Her movement was graceful and queenly. We exclaimed on
the spot at the Madonna-like beauty of her countenance. Whitely was
suddenly thirsty, and begged for water, and drank it slowly, with
his eyes over the top of the cup, fixed on her large black eyes,
which gazed on him quite as curiously as he on her. Then Moreright
wanted water. She gave it to him and he managed to spill it so as
to ask for another cup, and by the time she came to me she saw
through the operation; her eyes were full of fun as she looked at
me. I laughed outright, and she joined me in as gay a shout as ever
country maiden in old Orange county. I wished for a picture of her.
A Madonna, whose face was a portrait of that beautiful Nazareth
girl, would be a 'thing of beauty' and 'a joy forever.'"
That is the kind of gruel which has been served out from Palestine for
ages. Commend me to Fennimore Cooper to find beauty in the Indians, and
to Grimes to find it in the Arabs. Arab men are often fine looking, but
Arab women are not. We can all believe that the Virgin Mary was
beautiful; it is not natural to think otherwise; but does it follow that
it is our duty to find beauty in these present women of Nazareth?
I love to quote from Grimes, because he is so dramatic. And because he
is so romantic. And because he seems to care but little whether he tells
the truth or not, so he scares the reader or excites his envy or his
He went through this peaceful land with one hand forever on his revolver,
and the other on his pocket-handkerchief. Always, when he was not on the
point of crying over a holy place, he was on the point of killing an
Arab. More surprising things happened to him in Palestine than ever
happened to any traveler here or elsewhere since Munchausen died.
At Beit Jin, where nobody had interfered with him, he crept out of his
tent at dead of night and shot at what he took to be an Arab lying on a
rock, some distance away, planning evil. The ball killed a wolf. Just
before he fired, he makes a dramatic picture of himself--as usual, to
scare the reader:
"Was it imagination, or did I see a moving object on the surface of
the rock? If it were a man, why did he not now drop me? He had a
beautiful shot as I stood out in my black boornoose against the
white tent. I had the sensation of an entering bullet in my throat,
Riding toward Genessaret, they saw two Bedouins, and "we looked to our
pistols and loosened them quietly in our shawls," etc. Always cool.
In Samaria, he charged up a hill, in the face of a volley of stones; he
fired into the crowd of men who threw them. He says:
"I never lost an opportunity of impressing the Arabs with the
perfection of American and English weapons, and the danger of
attacking any one of the armed Franks. I think the lesson of that
ball not lost."
At Beit Jin he gave his whole band of Arab muleteers a piece of his mind,
"I contented myself with a solemn assurance that if there occurred
another instance of disobedience to orders I would thrash the
responsible party as he never dreamed of being thrashed, and if I
could not find who was responsible, I would whip them all, from
first to last, whether there was a governor at hand to do it or I
had to do it myself"
Perfectly fearless, this man.
He rode down the perpendicular path in the rocks, from the Castle of
Banias to the oak grove, at a flying gallop, his horse striding "thirty
feet" at every bound. I stand prepared to bring thirty reliable
witnesses to prove that Putnam's famous feat at Horseneck was
insignificant compared to this.
Behold him--always theatrical--looking at Jerusalem--this time, by an
oversight, with his hand off his pistol for once.
"I stood in the road, my hand on my horse's neck, and with my dim
eyes sought to trace the outlines of the holy places which I had
long before fixed in my mind, but the fast-flowing tears forbade my
succeeding. There were our Mohammedan servants, a Latin monk, two
Armenians and a Jew in our cortege, and all alike gazed with
If Latin monks and Arabs cried, I know to a moral certainty that the
horses cried also, and so the picture is complete.
But when necessity demanded, he could be firm as adamant. In the Lebanon
Valley an Arab youth--a Christian; he is particular to explain that
Mohammedans do not steal--robbed him of a paltry ten dollars' worth of
powder and shot. He convicted him before a sheik and looked on while he
was punished by the terrible bastinado. Hear him:
"He (Mousa) was on his back in a twinkling, howling, shouting,
screaming, but he was carried out to the piazza before the door,
where we could see the operation, and laid face down. One man sat
on his back and one on his legs, the latter holding up his feet,
while a third laid on the bare soles a rhinoceros-hide koorbash
--["A Koorbash is Arabic for cowhide, the cow being a rhinoceros.
It is the most cruel whip known to fame. Heavy as lead, and
flexible as India-rubber, usually about forty inches long and
tapering gradually from an inch in diameter to a point, it
administers a blow which leaves its mark for time."--Scow Life in
Egypt, by the same author.]--that whizzed through the air at every
stroke. Poor Moreright was in agony, and Nama and Nama the Second
(mother and sister of Mousa,) were on their faces begging and
wailing, now embracing my knees and now Whitely's, while the
brother, outside, made the air ring with cries louder than Mousa's.
Even Yusef came and asked me on his knees to relent, and last of
all, Betuni--the rascal had lost a feed-bag in their house and had
been loudest in his denunciations that morning--besought the Howajji
to have mercy on the fellow."
But not he! The punishment was "suspended," at the fifteenth blow to
hear the confession. Then Grimes and his party rode away, and left the
entire Christian family to be fined and as severely punished as the
Mohammedan sheik should deem proper.
"As I mounted, Yusef once more begged me to interfere and have mercy
on them, but I looked around at the dark faces of the crowd, and I
couldn't find one drop of pity in my heart for them."
He closes his picture with a rollicking burst of humor which contrasts
finely with the grief of the mother and her children.
One more paragraph:
"Then once more I bowed my head. It is no shame to have wept in
Palestine. I wept, when I saw Jerusalem, I wept when I lay in the
starlight at Bethlehem. I wept on the blessed shores of Galilee.
My hand was no less firm on the rein, my anger did not tremble on
the trigger of my pistol when I rode with it in my right hand along
the shore of the blue sea" (weeping.) "My eye was not dimmed by
those tears nor my heart in aught weakened. Let him who would sneer
at my emotion close this volume here, for he will find little to his
taste in my journeyings through Holy Land."
He never bored but he struck water.
I am aware that this is a pretty voluminous notice of Mr. Grimes' book.
However, it is proper and legitimate to speak of it, for "Nomadic Life in
Palestine" is a representative book--the representative of a class of
Palestine books--and a criticism upon it will serve for a criticism upon
them all. And since I am treating it in the comprehensive capacity of a
representative book, I have taken the liberty of giving to both book and
author fictitious names. Perhaps it is in better taste, any how, to do
Nazareth is wonderfully interesting because the town has an air about it
of being precisely as Jesus left it, and one finds himself saying, all
the time, "The boy Jesus has stood in this doorway--has played in that
street--has touched these stones with his hands--has rambled over these
chalky hills." Whoever shall write the boyhood of Jesus ingeniously will
make a book which will possess a vivid interest for young and old alike.
I judge so from the greater interest we found in Nazareth than any of our
speculations upon Capernaum and the Sea of Galilee gave rise to. It was
not possible, standing by the Sea of Galilee, to frame more than a vague,
far-away idea of the majestic Personage who walked upon the crested waves
as if they had been solid earth, and who touched the dead and they rose
up and spoke. I read among my notes, now, with a new interest, some
sentences from an edition of 1621 of the Apocryphal New Testament.
"Christ, kissed by a bride made dumb by sorcerers, cures her. A
leprous girl cured by the water in which the infant Christ was
washed, and becomes the servant of Joseph and Mary. The leprous son
of a Prince cured in like manner.
"A young man who had been bewitched and turned into a mule,
miraculously cured by the infant Savior being put on his back, and
is married to the girl who had been cured of leprosy. Whereupon the
bystanders praise God.
"Chapter 16. Christ miraculously widens or contracts gates, milk-
pails, sieves or boxes, not properly made by Joseph, he not being
skillful at his carpenter's trade. The King of Jerusalem gives
Joseph an order for a throne. Joseph works on it for two years and
makes it two spans too short. The King being angry with him, Jesus
comforts him--commands him to pull one side of the throne while he
pulls the other, and brings it to its proper dimensions.
"Chapter 19. Jesus, charged with throwing a boy from the roof of a
house, miraculously causes the dead boy to speak and acquit him;
fetches water for his mother, breaks the pitcher and miraculously
gathers the water in his mantle and brings it home.
"Sent to a schoolmaster, refuses to tell his letters, and the
schoolmaster going to whip him, his hand withers."
Further on in this quaint volume of rejected gospels is an epistle of St.
Clement to the Corinthians, which was used in the churches and considered
genuine fourteen or fifteen hundred years ago. In it this account of the
fabled phoenix occurs:
"1. Let us consider that wonderful type of the resurrection, which
is seen in the Eastern countries, that is to say, in Arabia.
"2. There is a certain bird called a phoenix. Of this there is
never but one at a time, and that lives five hundred years. And
when the time of its dissolution draws near, that it must die, it
makes itself a nest of frankincense, and myrrh, and other spices,
into which, when its time is fulfilled, it enters and dies.
"3. But its flesh, putrefying, breeds a certain worm, which, being
nourished by the juice of the dead bird, brings forth feathers; and
when it is grown to a perfect state, it takes up the nest in which
the bones of its parent lie, and carries it from Arabia into Egypt,
to a city called Heliopolis:
"4. And flying in open day in the sight of all men, lays it upon
the altar of the sun, and so returns from whence it came.
"5. The priests then search into the records of the time, and find
that it returned precisely at the end of five hundred years."
Business is business, and there is nothing like punctuality, especially
in a phoenix.
The few chapters relating to the infancy of the Saviour contain many
things which seem frivolous and not worth preserving. A large part of
the remaining portions of the book read like good Scripture, however.
There is one verse that ought not to have been rejected, because it so
evidently prophetically refers to the general run of Congresses of the
"199. They carry themselves high, and as prudent men; and though
they are fools, yet would seem to be teachers."
I have set these extracts down, as I found them. Everywhere among the
cathedrals of France and Italy, one finds traditions of personages that
do not figure in the Bible, and of miracles that are not mentioned in its
pages. But they are all in this Apocryphal New Testament, and though
they have been ruled out of our modern Bible, it is claimed that they
were accepted gospel twelve or fifteen centuries ago, and ranked as high
in credit as any. One needs to read this book before he visits those
venerable cathedrals, with their treasures of tabooed and forgotten
They imposed another pirate upon us at Nazareth--another invincible Arab
guard. We took our last look at the city, clinging like a whitewashed
wasp's nest to the hill-side, and at eight o'clock in the morning
departed. We dismounted and drove the horses down a bridle-path which I
think was fully as crooked as a corkscrew, which I know to be as steep as
the downward sweep of a rainbow, and which I believe to be the worst
piece of road in the geography, except one in the Sandwich Islands, which
I remember painfully, and possibly one or two mountain trails in the
Sierra Nevadas. Often, in this narrow path the horse had to poise
himself nicely on a rude stone step and then drop his fore-feet over the
edge and down something more than half his own height. This brought his
nose near the ground, while his tail pointed up toward the sky somewhere,
and gave him the appearance of preparing to stand on his head. A horse
cannot look dignified in this position. We accomplished the long descent
at last, and trotted across the great Plain of Esdraelon.
Some of us will be shot before we finish this pilgrimage. The pilgrims
read "Nomadic Life" and keep themselves in a constant state of Quixotic
heroism. They have their hands on their pistols all the time, and every
now and then, when you least expect it, they snatch them out and take aim
at Bedouins who are not visible, and draw their knives and make savage
passes at other Bedouins who do not exist. I am in deadly peril always,
for these spasms are sudden and irregular, and of course I cannot tell
when to be getting out of the way. If I am accidentally murdered, some
time, during one of these romantic frenzies of the pilgrims, Mr. Grimes
must be rigidly held to answer as an accessory before the fact. If the
pilgrims would take deliberate aim and shoot at a man, it would be all
right and proper--because that man would not be in any danger; but these
random assaults are what I object to. I do not wish to see any more
places like Esdraelon, where the ground is level and people can gallop.
It puts melodramatic nonsense into the pilgrims' heads. All at once,
when one is jogging along stupidly in the sun, and thinking about
something ever so far away, here they come, at a stormy gallop, spurring
and whooping at those ridgy old sore-backed plugs till their heels fly
higher than their heads, and as they whiz by, out comes a little potato-
gum of a revolver, there is a startling little pop, and a small pellet
goes singing through the air. Now that I have begun this pilgrimage, I
intend to go through with it, though sooth to say, nothing but the most
desperate valor has kept me to my purpose up to the present time. I do
not mind Bedouins,--I am not afraid of them; because neither Bedouins nor
ordinary Arabs have shown any disposition to harm us, but I do feel
afraid of my own comrades.
Arriving at the furthest verge of the Plain, we rode a little way up a
hill and found ourselves at Endor, famous for its witch. Her descendants
are there yet. They were the wildest horde of half-naked savages we have
found thus far. They swarmed out of mud bee-hives; out of hovels of the
dry-goods box pattern; out of gaping caves under shelving rocks; out of
crevices in the earth. In five minutes the dead solitude and silence of
the place were no more, and a begging, screeching, shouting mob were
struggling about the horses' feet and blocking the way. "Bucksheesh!
bucksheesh! bucksheesh! howajji, bucksheesh!" It was Magdala over
again, only here the glare from the infidel eyes was fierce and full of
hate. The population numbers two hundred and fifty, and more than half
the citizens live in caves in the rock. Dirt, degradation and savagery
are Endor's specialty. We say no more about Magdala and Deburieh now.
Endor heads the list. It is worse than any Indian 'campoodie'. The hill
is barren, rocky, and forbidding. No sprig of grass is visible, and only
one tree. This is a fig-tree, which maintains a precarious footing among
the rocks at the mouth of the dismal cavern once occupied by the
veritable Witch of Endor. In this cavern, tradition says, Saul, the
king, sat at midnight, and stared and trembled, while the earth shook,
the thunders crashed among the hills, and out of the midst of fire and
smoke the spirit of the dead prophet rose up and confronted him. Saul
had crept to this place in the darkness, while his army slept, to learn
what fate awaited him in the morrow's battle. He went away a sad man, to
meet disgrace and death.
A spring trickles out of the rock in the gloomy recesses of the cavern,
and we were thirsty. The citizens of Endor objected to our going in
there. They do not mind dirt; they do not mind rags; they do not mind
vermin; they do not mind barbarous ignorance and savagery; they do not
mind a reasonable degree of starvation, but they do like to be pure and
holy before their god, whoever he may be, and therefore they shudder and
grow almost pale at the idea of Christian lips polluting a spring whose
waters must descend into their sanctified gullets. We had no wanton
desire to wound even their feelings or trample upon their prejudices, but
we were out of water, thus early in the day, and were burning up with
thirst. It was at this time, and under these circumstances, that I
framed an aphorism which has already become celebrated. I said:
"Necessity knows no law." We went in and drank.
We got away from the noisy wretches, finally, dropping them in squads and
couples as we filed over the hills--the aged first, the infants next, the
young girls further on; the strong men ran beside us a mile, and only
left when they had secured the last possible piastre in the way of
In an hour, we reached Nain, where Christ raised the widow's son to life.
Nain is Magdala on a small scale. It has no population of any
consequence. Within a hundred yards of it is the original graveyard, for
aught I know; the tombstones lie flat on the ground, which is Jewish
fashion in Syria. I believe the Moslems do not allow them to have
upright tombstones. A Moslem grave is usually roughly plastered over and
whitewashed, and has at one end an upright projection which is shaped
into exceedingly rude attempts at ornamentation. In the cities, there is
often no appearance of a grave at all; a tall, slender marble tombstone,
elaborately lettred, gilded and painted, marks the burial place, and this
is surmounted by a turban, so carved and shaped as to signify the dead
man's rank in life.
They showed a fragment of ancient wall which they said was one side of
the gate out of which the widow's dead son was being brought so many
centuries ago when Jesus met the procession:
"Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold there was a
dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a
widow: and much people of the city was with her.
"And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said, Weep
"And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood
still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, arise.
"And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered
him to his mother.
"And there came a fear on all. And they glorified God, saying, That
a great prophet is risen up among us; and That God hath visited his
A little mosque stands upon the spot which tradition says was occupied by
the widow's dwelling. Two or three aged Arabs sat about its door. We
entered, and the pilgrims broke specimens from the foundation walls,
though they had to touch, and even step, upon the "praying carpets" to do
it. It was almost the same as breaking pieces from the hearts of those
old Arabs. To step rudely upon the sacred praying mats, with booted
feet--a thing not done by any Arab--was to inflict pain upon men who had
not offended us in any way. Suppose a party of armed foreigners were to
enter a village church in America and break ornaments from the altar
railings for curiosities, and climb up and walk upon the Bible and the
pulpit cushions? However, the cases are different. One is the
profanation of a temple of our faith--the other only the profanation of a
We descended to the Plain again, and halted a moment at a well--of
Abraham's time, no doubt. It was in a desert place. It was walled three
feet above ground with squared and heavy blocks of stone, after the
manner of Bible pictures. Around it some camels stood, and others knelt.
There was a group of sober little donkeys with naked, dusky children
clambering about them, or sitting astride their rumps, or pulling their
tails. Tawny, black-eyed, barefooted maids, arrayed in rags and adorned
with brazen armlets and pinchbeck ear-rings, were poising water-jars upon
their heads, or drawing water from the well. A flock of sheep stood by,
waiting for the shepherds to fill the hollowed stones with water, so that
they might drink--stones which, like those that walled the well, were
worn smooth and deeply creased by the chafing chins of a hundred
generations of thirsty animals. Picturesque Arabs sat upon the ground,
in groups, and solemnly smoked their long-stemmed chibouks. Other Arabs
were filling black hog-skins with water--skins which, well filled, and
distended with water till the short legs projected painfully out of the
proper line, looked like the corpses of hogs bloated by drowning. Here
was a grand Oriental picture which I had worshiped a thousand times in
soft, rich steel engravings! But in the engraving there was no
desolation; no dirt; no rags; no fleas; no ugly features; no sore eyes;
no feasting flies; no besotted ignorance in the countenances; no raw
places on the donkeys' backs; no disagreeable jabbering in unknown
tongues; no stench of camels; no suggestion that a couple of tons of
powder placed under the party and touched off would heighten the effect
and give to the scene a genuine interest and a charm which it would
always be pleasant to recall, even though a man lived a thousand years.
Oriental scenes look best in steel engravings. I cannot be imposed upon
any more by that picture of the Queen of Sheba visiting Solomon. I shall
say to myself, You look fine, Madam but your feet are not clean and you
smell like a camel.
Presently a wild Arab in charge of a camel train recognized an old friend
in Ferguson, and they ran and fell upon each other's necks and kissed
each other's grimy, bearded faces upon both cheeks. It explained
instantly a something which had always seemed to me only a farfetched
Oriental figure of speech. I refer to the circumstance of Christ's
rebuking a Pharisee, or some such character, and reminding him that from
him he had received no "kiss of welcome." It did not seem reasonable to
me that men should kiss each other, but I am aware, now, that they did.
There was reason in it, too. The custom was natural and proper; because
people must kiss, and a man would not be likely to kiss one of the women
of this country of his own free will and accord. One must travel, to
learn. Every day, now, old Scriptural phrases that never possessed any
significance for me before, take to themselves a meaning.
We journeyed around the base of the mountain--"Little Hermon,"--past the
old Crusaders' castle of El Fuleh, and arrived at Shunem. This was
another Magdala, to a fraction, frescoes and all. Here, tradition says,
the prophet Samuel was born, and here the Shunamite woman built a little
house upon the city wall for the accommodation of the prophet Elisha.
Elisha asked her what she expected in return. It was a perfectly natural
question, for these people are and were in the habit of proffering favors
and services and then expecting and begging for pay. Elisha knew them
well. He could not comprehend that any body should build for him that
humble little chamber for the mere sake of old friendship, and with no
selfish motive whatever. It used to seem a very impolite, not to say a
rude, question, for Elisha to ask the woman, but it does not seem so to
me now. The woman said she expected nothing. Then for her goodness and
her unselfishness, he rejoiced her heart with the news that she should
bear a son. It was a high reward--but she would not have thanked him for
a daughter--daughters have always been unpopular here. The son was born,
grew, waxed strong, died. Elisha restored him to life in Shunem.
We found here a grove of lemon trees--cool, shady, hung with fruit. One
is apt to overestimate beauty when it is rare, but to me this grove
seemed very beautiful. It was beautiful. I do not overestimate it. I
must always remember Shunem gratefully, as a place which gave to us this
leafy shelter after our long, hot ride. We lunched, rested, chatted,
smoked our pipes an hour, and then mounted and moved on.
As we trotted across the Plain of Jezreel, we met half a dozen Digger
Indians (Bedouins) with very long spears in their hands, cavorting around
on old crowbait horses, and spearing imaginary enemies; whooping, and
fluttering their rags in the wind, and carrying on in every respect like
a pack of hopeless lunatics. At last, here were the "wild, free sons of
the desert, speeding over the plain like the wind, on their beautiful
Arabian mares" we had read so much about and longed so much to see! Here
were the "picturesque costumes!" This was the "gallant spectacle!"
Tatterdemalion vagrants--cheap braggadocio--"Arabian mares" spined and
necked like the ichthyosaurus in the museum, and humped and cornered like
a dromedary! To glance at the genuine son of the desert is to take the
romance out of him forever--to behold his steed is to long in charity to
strip his harness off and let him fall to pieces.
Presently we came to a ruinous old town on a hill, the same being the
Ahab, King of Samaria, (this was a very vast kingdom, for those days, and
was very nearly half as large as Rhode Island) dwelt in the city of
Jezreel, which was his capital. Near him lived a man by the name of
Naboth, who had a vineyard. The King asked him for it, and when he would
not give it, offered to buy it. But Naboth refused to sell it. In those
days it was considered a sort of crime to part with one's inheritance at
any price--and even if a man did part with it, it reverted to himself or
his heirs again at the next jubilee year. So this spoiled child of a
King went and lay down on the bed with his face to the wall, and grieved
sorely. The Queen, a notorious character in those days, and whose name
is a by-word and a reproach even in these, came in and asked him
wherefore he sorrowed, and he told her. Jezebel said she could secure
the vineyard; and she went forth and forged letters to the nobles and
wise men, in the King's name, and ordered them to proclaim a fast and set
Naboth on high before the people, and suborn two witnesses to swear that
he had blasphemed. They did it, and the people stoned the accused by the
city wall, and he died. Then Jezebel came and told the King, and said,
Behold, Naboth is no more--rise up and seize the vineyard. So Ahab
seized the vineyard, and went into it to possess it. But the Prophet
Elijah came to him there and read his fate to him, and the fate of
Jezebel; and said that in the place where dogs licked the blood of
Naboth, dogs should also lick his blood--and he said, likewise, the dogs
should eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel. In the course of time, the
King was killed in battle, and when his chariot wheels were washed in the
pool of Samaria, the dogs licked the blood. In after years, Jehu, who
was King of Israel, marched down against Jezreel, by order of one of the
Prophets, and administered one of those convincing rebukes so common
among the people of those days: he killed many kings and their subjects,
and as he came along he saw Jezebel, painted and finely dressed, looking
out of a window, and ordered that she be thrown down to him. A servant
did it, and Jehu's horse trampled her under foot. Then Jehu went in and
sat down to dinner; and presently he said, Go and bury this cursed woman,
for she is a King's daughter. The spirit of charity came upon him too
late, however, for the prophecy had already been fulfilled--the dogs had
eaten her, and they "found no more of her than the skull, and the feet,
and the palms of her hands."
Ahab, the late King, had left a helpless family behind him, and Jehu
killed seventy of the orphan sons. Then he killed all the relatives, and
teachers, and servants and friends of the family, and rested from his
labors, until he was come near to Samaria, where he met forty-two persons
and asked them who they were; they said they were brothers of the King of
Judah. He killed them. When he got to Samaria, he said he would show
his zeal for the Lord; so he gathered all the priests and people together
that worshiped Baal, pretending that he was going to adopt that worship
and offer up a great sacrifice; and when they were all shut up where they
could not defend themselves, he caused every person of them to be killed.
Then Jehu, the good missionary, rested from his labors once more.
We went back to the valley, and rode to the Fountain of Ain Jelud. They
call it the Fountain of Jezreel, usually. It is a pond about one hundred
feet square and four feet deep, with a stream of water trickling into it
from under an overhanging ledge of rocks. It is in the midst of a great
solitude. Here Gideon pitched his camp in the old times; behind Shunem
lay the "Midianites, the Amalekites, and the Children of the East," who
were "as grasshoppers for multitude; both they and their camels were
without number, as the sand by the sea-side for multitude." Which means
that there were one hundred and thirty-five thousand men, and that they
had transportation service accordingly.
Gideon, with only three hundred men, surprised them in the night, and
stood by and looked on while they butchered each other until a hundred
and twenty thousand lay dead on the field.
We camped at Jenin before night, and got up and started again at one
o'clock in the morning. Somewhere towards daylight we passed the
locality where the best authenticated tradition locates the pit into
which Joseph's brethren threw him, and about noon, after passing over a
succession of mountain tops, clad with groves of fig and olive trees,
with the Mediterranean in sight some forty miles away, and going by many
ancient Biblical cities whose inhabitants glowered savagely upon our
Christian procession, and were seemingly inclined to practice on it with
stones, we came to the singularly terraced and unlovely hills that
betrayed that we were out of Galilee and into Samaria at last.
We climbed a high hill to visit the city of Samaria, where the woman may
have hailed from who conversed with Christ at Jacob's Well, and from
whence, no doubt, came also the celebrated Good Samaritan. Herod the
Great is said to have made a magnificent city of this place, and a great
number of coarse limestone columns, twenty feet high and two feet
through, that are almost guiltless of architectural grace of shape and
ornament, are pointed out by many authors as evidence of the fact. They
would not have been considered handsome in ancient Greece, however.
The inhabitants of this camp are particularly vicious, and stoned two
parties of our pilgrims a day or two ago who brought about the difficulty
by showing their revolvers when they did not intend to use them--a thing
which is deemed bad judgment in the Far West, and ought certainly to be
so considered any where. In the new Territories, when a man puts his
hand on a weapon, he knows that he must use it; he must use it instantly
or expect to be shot down where he stands. Those pilgrims had been
There was nothing for us to do in Samaria but buy handfuls of old Roman
coins at a franc a dozen, and look at a dilapidated church of the
Crusaders and a vault in it which once contained the body of John the
Baptist. This relic was long ago carried away to Genoa.
Samaria stood a disastrous siege, once, in the days of Elisha, at the
hands of the King of Syria. Provisions reached such a figure that "an
ass' head was sold for eighty pieces of silver and the fourth part of a
cab of dove's dung for five pieces of silver."
An incident recorded of that heavy time will give one a very good idea of
the distress that prevailed within these crumbling walls. As the King
was walking upon the battlements one day, "a woman cried out, saying,
Help, my lord, O King! And the King said, What aileth thee? and she
answered, This woman said unto me, Give thy son, that we may eat him to-
day, and we will eat my son to-morrow. So we boiled my son, and did eat
him; and I said unto her on the next day, Give thy son that we may eat
him; and she hath hid her son."
The prophet Elisha declared that within four and twenty hours the prices
of food should go down to nothing, almost, and it was so. The Syrian
army broke camp and fled, for some cause or other, the famine was
relieved from without, and many a shoddy speculator in dove's dung and
ass's meat was ruined.
We were glad to leave this hot and dusty old village and hurry on. At
two o'clock we stopped to lunch and rest at ancient Shechem, between the
historic Mounts of Gerizim and Ebal, where in the old times the books of
the law, the curses and the blessings, were read from the heights to the
Jewish multitudes below.
The narrow canon in which Nablous, or Shechem, is situated, is under high
cultivation, and the soil is exceedingly black and fertile. It is well
watered, and its affluent vegetation gains effect by contrast with the
barren hills that tower on either side. One of these hills is the
ancient Mount of Blessings and the other the Mount of Curses and wise men
who seek for fulfillments of prophecy think they find here a wonder of
this kind--to wit, that the Mount of Blessings is strangely fertile and
its mate as strangely unproductive. We could not see that there was
really much difference between them in this respect, however.
Shechem is distinguished as one of the residences of the patriarch Jacob,
and as the seat of those tribes that cut themselves loose from their
brethren of Israel and propagated doctrines not in conformity with those
of the original Jewish creed. For thousands of years this clan have
dwelt in Shechem under strict tabu, and having little commerce or
fellowship with their fellow men of any religion or nationality. For
generations they have not numbered more than one or two hundred, but they
still adhere to their ancient faith and maintain their ancient rites and
ceremonies. Talk of family and old descent! Princes and nobles pride
themselves upon lineages they can trace back some hundreds of years.
What is this trifle to this handful of old first families of Shechem who
can name their fathers straight back without a flaw for thousands--
straight back to a period so remote that men reared in a country where
the days of two hundred years ago are called "ancient" times grow dazed
and bewildered when they try to comprehend it! Here is respectability
for you--here is "family"--here is high descent worth talking about.
This sad, proud remnant of a once mighty community still hold themselves
aloof from all the world; they still live as their fathers lived, labor
as their fathers labored, think as they did, feel as they did, worship in
the same place, in sight of the same landmarks, and in the same quaint,
patriarchal way their ancestors did more than thirty centuries ago. I
found myself gazing at any straggling scion of this strange race with a
riveted fascination, just as one would stare at a living mastodon, or a
megatherium that had moved in the grey dawn of creation and seen the
wonders of that mysterious world that was before the flood.
Carefully preserved among the sacred archives of this curious community
is a MSS. copy of the ancient Jewish law, which is said to be the oldest
document on earth. It is written on vellum, and is some four or five
thousand years old. Nothing but bucksheesh can purchase a sight. Its
fame is somewhat dimmed in these latter days, because of the doubts so
many authors of Palestine travels have felt themselves privileged to cast
upon it. Speaking of this MSS. reminds me that I procured from the high-
priest of this ancient Samaritan community, at great expense, a secret
document of still higher antiquity and far more extraordinary interest,
which I propose to publish as soon as I have finished translating it.
Joshua gave his dying injunction to the children of Israel at Shechem,
and buried a valuable treasure secretly under an oak tree there about the
same time. The superstitious Samaritans have always been afraid to hunt
for it. They believe it is guarded by fierce spirits invisible to men.
About a mile and a half from Shechem we halted at the base of Mount Ebal
before a little square area, inclosed by a high stone wall, neatly
whitewashed. Across one end of this inclosure is a tomb built after the
manner of the Moslems. It is the tomb of Joseph. No truth is better
authenticated than this.
When Joseph was dying he prophesied that exodus of the Israelites from
Egypt which occurred four hundred years afterwards. At the same time he
exacted of his people an oath that when they journeyed to the land of
Canaan they would bear his bones with them and bury them in the ancient
inheritance of his fathers. The oath was kept. "And the bones of Joseph,
which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in
Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor
the father of Shechem for a hundred pieces of silver."
Few tombs on earth command the veneration of so many races and men of
divers creeds as this of Joseph. "Samaritan and Jew, Moslem and
Christian alike, revere it, and honor it with their visits. The tomb of
Joseph, the dutiful son, the affectionate, forgiving brother, the
virtuous man, the wise Prince and ruler. Egypt felt his influence--the
world knows his history."
In this same "parcel of ground" which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor
for a hundred pieces of silver, is Jacob's celebrated well. It is cut in
the solid rock, and is nine feet square and ninety feet deep. The name
of this unpretending hole in the ground, which one might pass by and take
no notice of, is as familiar as household words to even the children and
the peasants of many a far-off country. It is more famous than the
Parthenon; it is older than the Pyramids.
It was by this well that Jesus sat and talked with a woman of that
strange, antiquated Samaritan community I have been speaking of, and told
her of the mysterious water of life. As descendants of old English
nobles still cherish in the traditions of their houses how that this king
or that king tarried a day with some favored ancestor three hundred years
ago, no doubt the descendants of the woman of Samaria, living there in
Shechem, still refer with pardonable vanity to this conversation of their
ancestor, held some little time gone by, with the Messiah of the
Christians. It is not likely that they undervalue a distinction such as
this. Samaritan nature is human nature, and human nature remembers
contact with the illustrious, always.
For an offense done to the family honor, the sons of Jacob exterminated
all Shechem once.
We left Jacob's Well and traveled till eight in the evening, but rather
slowly, for we had been in the saddle nineteen hours, and the horses were
cruelly tired. We got so far ahead of the tents that we had to camp in
an Arab village, and sleep on the ground. We could have slept in the
largest of the houses; but there were some little drawbacks: it was
populous with vermin, it had a dirt floor, it was in no respect cleanly,
and there was a family of goats in the only bedroom, and two donkeys in
the parlor. Outside there were no inconveniences, except that the dusky,
ragged, earnest-eyed villagers of both sexes and all ages grouped
themselves on their haunches all around us, and discussed us and
criticised us with noisy tongues till midnight. We did not mind the
noise, being tired, but, doubtless, the reader is aware that it is almost
an impossible thing to go to sleep when you know that people are looking
at you. We went to bed at ten, and got up again at two and started once
more. Thus are people persecuted by dragomen, whose sole ambition in
life is to get ahead of each other.
About daylight we passed Shiloh, where the Ark of the Covenant rested
three hundred years, and at whose gates good old Eli fell down and "brake
his neck" when the messenger, riding hard from the battle, told him of
the defeat of his people, the death of his sons, and, more than all, the
capture of Israel's pride, her hope, her refuge, the ancient Ark her
forefathers brought with them out of Egypt. It is little wonder that
under circumstances like these he fell down and brake his neck. But
Shiloh had no charms for us. We were so cold that there was no comfort
but in motion, and so drowsy we could hardly sit upon the horses.
After a while we came to a shapeless mass of ruins, which still bears the
name of Bethel. It was here that Jacob lay down and had that superb
vision of angels flitting up and down a ladder that reached from the
clouds to earth, and caught glimpses of their blessed home through the
open gates of Heaven.
The pilgrims took what was left of the hallowed ruin, and we pressed on
toward the goal of our crusade, renowned Jerusalem.
The further we went the hotter the sun got, and the more rocky and bare,
repulsive and dreary the landscape became. There could not have been
more fragments of stone strewn broadcast over this part of the world, if
every ten square feet of the land had been occupied by a separate and
distinct stonecutter's establishment for an age. There was hardly a tree
or a shrub any where. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends
of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country. No landscape
exists that is more tiresome to the eye than that which bounds the
approaches to Jerusalem. The only difference between the roads and the
surrounding country, perhaps, is that there are rather more rocks in the
roads than in the surrounding country.
We passed Ramah, and Beroth, and on the right saw the tomb of the prophet
Samuel, perched high upon a commanding eminence. Still no Jerusalem came
in sight. We hurried on impatiently. We halted a moment at the ancient
Fountain of Beira, but its stones, worn deeply by the chins of thirsty
animals that are dead and gone centuries ago, had no interest for us--we
longed to see Jerusalem. We spurred up hill after hill, and usually
began to stretch our necks minutes before we got to the top--but
disappointment always followed:--more stupid hills beyond--more unsightly
landscape--no Holy City.
At last, away in the middle of the day, ancient bite of wall and
crumbling arches began to line the way--we toiled up one more hill, and
every pilgrim and every sinner swung his hat on high! Jerusalem!
Perched on its eternal hills, white and domed and solid, massed together
and hooped with high gray walls, the venerable city gleamed in the sun.
So small! Why, it was no larger than an American village of four
thousand inhabitants, and no larger than an ordinary Syrian city of
thirty thousand. Jerusalem numbers only fourteen thousand people.
We dismounted and looked, without speaking a dozen sentences, across the
wide intervening valley for an hour or more; and noted those prominent
features of the city that pictures make familiar to all men from their
school days till their death. We could recognize the Tower of Hippicus,
the Mosque of Omar, the Damascus Gate, the Mount of Olives, the Valley of
Jehoshaphat, the Tower of David, and the Garden of Gethsemane--and dating
from these landmarks could tell very nearly the localities of many others
we were not able to distinguish.
I record it here as a notable but not discreditable fact that not even
our pilgrims wept. I think there was no individual in the party whose
brain was not teeming with thoughts and images and memories invoked by
the grand history of the venerable city that lay before us, but still
among them all was no "voice of them that wept."
There was no call for tears. Tears would have been out of place. The
thoughts Jerusalem suggests are full of poetry, sublimity, and more than
all, dignity. Such thoughts do not find their appropriate expression in
the emotions of the nursery.
Just after noon we entered these narrow, crooked streets, by the ancient
and the famed Damascus Gate, and now for several hours I have been trying
to comprehend that I am actually in the illustrious old city where
Solomon dwelt, where Abraham held converse with the Deity, and where
walls still stand that witnessed the spectacle of the Crucifixion.
A fast walker could go outside the walls of Jerusalem and walk entirely
around the city in an hour. I do not know how else to make one
understand how small it is. The appearance of the city is peculiar. It
is as knobby with countless little domes as a prison door is with bolt-
heads. Every house has from one to half a dozen of these white plastered
domes of stone, broad and low, sitting in the centre of, or in a cluster
upon, the flat roof. Wherefore, when one looks down from an eminence,
upon the compact mass of houses (so closely crowded together, in fact,
that there is no appearance of streets at all, and so the city looks
solid,) he sees the knobbiest town in the world, except Constantinople.
It looks as if it might be roofed, from centre to circumference, with
inverted saucers. The monotony of the view is interrupted only by the
great Mosque of Omar, the Tower of Hippicus, and one or two other
buildings that rise into commanding prominence.
The houses are generally two stories high, built strongly of masonry,
whitewashed or plastered outside, and have a cage of wooden lattice-work
projecting in front of every window. To reproduce a Jerusalem street, it
would only be necessary to up-end a chicken-coop and hang it before each
window in an alley of American houses.
The streets are roughly and badly paved with stone, and are tolerably
crooked--enough so to make each street appear to close together
constantly and come to an end about a hundred yards ahead of a pilgrim as
long as he chooses to walk in it. Projecting from the top of the lower
story of many of the houses is a very narrow porch-roof or shed, without
supports from below; and I have several times seen cats jump across the
street from one shed to the other when they were out calling. The cats
could have jumped double the distance without extraordinary exertion. I
mention these things to give an idea of how narrow the streets are.
Since a cat can jump across them without the least inconvenience, it is
hardly necessary to state that such streets are too narrow for carriages.
These vehicles cannot navigate the Holy City.
The population of Jerusalem is composed of Moslems, Jews, Greeks, Latins,
Armenians, Syrians, Copts, Abyssinians, Greek Catholics, and a handful of
Protestants. One hundred of the latter sect are all that dwell now in
this birthplace of Christianity. The nice shades of nationality
comprised in the above list, and the languages spoken by them, are
altogether too numerous to mention. It seems to me that all the races
and colors and tongues of the earth must be represented among the
fourteen thousand souls that dwell in Jerusalem. Rags, wretchedness,
poverty and dirt, those signs and symbols that indicate the presence of
Moslem rule more surely than the crescent-flag itself, abound. Lepers,
cripples, the blind, and the idiotic, assail you on every hand, and they
know but one word of but one language apparently--the eternal
"bucksheesh." To see the numbers of maimed, malformed and diseased
humanity that throng the holy places and obstruct the gates, one might
suppose that the ancient days had come again, and that the angel of the
Lord was expected to descend at any moment to stir the waters of
Bethesda. Jerusalem is mournful, and dreary, and lifeless. I would not
desire to live here.
One naturally goes first to the Holy Sepulchre. It is right in the city,
near the western gate; it and the place of the Crucifixion, and, in fact,
every other place intimately connected with that tremendous event, are
ingeniously massed together and covered by one roof--the dome of the
Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Entering the building, through the midst of the usual assemblage of
beggars, one sees on his left a few Turkish guards--for Christians of
different sects will not only quarrel, but fight, also, in this sacred
place, if allowed to do it. Before you is a marble slab, which covers
the Stone of Unction, whereon the Saviour's body was laid to prepare it
for burial. It was found necessary to conceal the real stone in this way
in order to save it from destruction. Pilgrims were too much given to
chipping off pieces of it to carry home. Near by is a circular railing
which marks the spot where the Virgin stood when the Lord's body was
Entering the great Rotunda, we stand before the most sacred locality in
Christendom--the grave of Jesus. It is in the centre of the church, and
immediately under the great dome. It is inclosed in a sort of little
temple of yellow and white stone, of fanciful design. Within the little
temple is a portion of the very stone which was rolled away from the door
of the Sepulchre, and on which the angel was sitting when Mary came
thither "at early dawn." Stooping low, we enter the vault--the Sepulchre
itself. It is only about six feet by seven, and the stone couch on which
the dead Saviour lay extends from end to end of the apartment and
occupies half its width. It is covered with a marble slab which has been
much worn by the lips of pilgrims. This slab serves as an altar, now.
Over it hang some fifty gold and silver lamps, which are kept always
burning, and the place is otherwise scandalized by trumpery, gewgaws, and
All sects of Christians (except Protestants,) have chapels under the roof
of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and each must keep to itself and not
venture upon another's ground. It has been proven conclusively that they
can not worship together around the grave of the Saviour of the World in
peace. The chapel of the Syrians is not handsome; that of the Copts is
the humblest of them all. It is nothing but a dismal cavern, roughly
hewn in the living rock of the Hill of Calvary. In one side of it two
ancient tombs are hewn, which are claimed to be those in which Nicodemus
and Joseph of Aramathea were buried.
As we moved among the great piers and pillars of another part of the
church, we came upon a party of black-robed, animal-looking Italian
monks, with candles in their hands, who were chanting something in Latin,
and going through some kind of religious performance around a disk of
white marble let into the floor. It was there that the risen Saviour
appeared to Mary Magdalen in the likeness of a gardener. Near by was a
similar stone, shaped like a star--here the Magdalen herself stood, at
the same time. Monks were performing in this place also. They perform
everywhere--all over the vast building, and at all hours. Their candles
are always flitting about in the gloom, and making the dim old church
more dismal than there is any necessity that it should be, even though it
is a tomb.
We were shown the place where our Lord appeared to His mother after the
Resurrection. Here, also, a marble slab marks the place where St.
Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, found the crosses about
three hundred years after the Crucifixion. According to the legend, this
great discovery elicited extravagant demonstrations of joy. But they
were of short duration. The question intruded itself: "Which bore the
blessed Saviour, and which the thieves?" To be in doubt, in so mighty a
matter as this--to be uncertain which one to adore--was a grievous
misfortune. It turned the public joy to sorrow. But when lived there a
holy priest who could not set so simple a trouble as this at rest? One
of these soon hit upon a plan that would be a certain test. A noble lady
lay very ill in Jerusalem. The wise priests ordered that the three
crosses be taken to her bedside one at a time. It was done. When her
eyes fell upon the first one, she uttered a scream that was heard beyond
the Damascus Gate, and even upon the Mount of Olives, it was said, and
then fell back in a deadly swoon. They recovered her and brought the
second cross. Instantly she went into fearful convulsions, and it was
with the greatest difficulty that six strong men could hold her. They
were afraid, now, to bring in the third cross. They began to fear that
possibly they had fallen upon the wrong crosses, and that the true cross
was not with this number at all. However, as the woman seemed likely to
die with the convulsions that were tearing her, they concluded that the
third could do no more than put her out of her misery with a happy
dispatch. So they brought it, and behold, a miracle! The woman sprang
from her bed, smiling and joyful, and perfectly restored to health. When
we listen to evidence like this, we cannot but believe. We would be
ashamed to doubt, and properly, too. Even the very part of Jerusalem
where this all occurred is there yet. So there is really no room for
The priests tried to show us, through a small screen, a fragment of the
genuine Pillar of Flagellation, to which Christ was bound when they
scourged him. But we could not see it, because it was dark inside the
screen. However, a baton is kept here, which the pilgrim thrusts through
a hole in the screen, and then he no longer doubts that the true Pillar
of Flagellation is in there. He can not have any excuse to doubt it, for
he can feel it with the stick. He can feel it as distinctly as he could
feel any thing.
Not far from here was a niche where they used to preserve a piece of the