Source: Hebrew Heroes
When Zarah, trembling and pale, after her interview with Lycidas, fled
to the apartment of Hadassah, she left her water-jar behind her at the
spring. The sight of her grandmother, stretched on her low couch, with
her eyes closed, and her lips parched and dry, recalled to the
remembrance of the poor young maiden the errand for which she had
quitted her side.
"The water! the water!" exclaimed Zarah, striking her brow. "She must
have it. But oh! I dare not--I dare not go back; for nothing on earth
could I go through that terrible struggle again!"
As Zarah stood on the threshold, in a state of painful indecision, to
her great relief she heard the voice of Anna below, and called to her
to bring up the jar of water which she would find at the fountain.
Anna quickly obeyed, and came up the stairs laden, not only with the
cooling fluid, but with ripe fruit and vegetables, which she had
brought from Jerusalem--the white mulberry and the nebeb, with early
figs, cucumbers, and a melon.
Very grateful was the supply to Hadassah; but more refreshing by far
than the draught of cold water were the tidings which Anna had brought
from the city. The Jewess was full of eagerness to a impart her
"I saw them myself--Giorgias and his horsemen--jaded, crestfallen, as
they rode through the streets," cried Anna. "I marvel that they dared
show their faces: they had not so much as crossed weapons with our
"Or they had not lived to tell the tale," exclaimed Hadassah, to whom
the news of the victory at Emmaus seemed to give new energy and life.
"We dared not clap our hands and shout," continued the Jewish servant;
"but there is not a Hebrew child that is not wild with joy. We blessed
the name of Maccabeus, though we could only breathe it in whispers."
"But a day is coming when the welkin shall ring with that name, and the
walls of Jerusalem echo back the sound," cried Hadassah. "Oh, my
child!" she continued, glancing joyfully at Zarah, "there will be a
thankful celebration of the Passover to-morrow. The Lord is giving
deliverance to His chosen, even as He once did from the power of the
"It must be a very quiet keeping of the Feast," observed Anna, shaking
her head. "It is said that King Antiochus is raging like a bear robbed
of her whelps at the flight of Nicanor and the disgraceful retreat of
Giorgias. A courier has ridden off, post-haste, bearer of despatches
from the king to Lycias, the regent of the western provinces."
"Is it known what the despatches contain?" asked Hadassah.
"It is reported in the city," said Anna, "that Lycias is to raise a
more mighty and terrible army than any that has swept the country
before--more mighty than those led by Apollonius, Seron, or Nicanor.
King Antiochus has sworn by all his false gods that he will destroy the
Asmoneans root and branch."
"What God hath planted, who shall root up? what God prospers, who
shall destroy?" cried Hadassah. "Thinks Antiochus Epiphanes that he
hath power to strive against the Lord?"
"He has terrible power to use against man," said Anna, who had a less
courageous spirit than her mistress. "Sharper measures than ever, it
is said, are to be taken to put down our secret worship. Woe unto them
who are found keeping the Passover to-morrow! It will be done unto
them, as it was done to Solomona and her sons."
"Would that God would give me strength to attend the holy Feast!" cried
Hadassah, on whom the idea of danger following its celebration appeared
to act as a stimulant; "no fear of man should keep me away. But He who
withholds the power accepts the will of His servant."
"I will go with my uncle Abishai," said Zarah.
"To rejoice and give thanks," cried Hadassah.
But Zarah's sinking heart could not respond to any accents of joy. She
bowed her head on he clasped hands, and faintly murmured,--
"To pray for you, for myself, and--"
No human ear could catch the word which pale lips inaudibly framed.
"Go to our young Greek guest, Anna," Hadassah. "Bear to him some of
this ripe, cooling fruit, and tell him of the triumphs of Judas.
Though Lycidas be but a heathen," she added, as her handmaiden quitted
the apartment to do her bidding, "he has a soul to admire, if he cannot
emulate, the lofty deeds of our heroes."
In a brief space of time Anna returned to the upper room, with alarm
and surprise depicted on her face.
"I can nowhere find the Greek lord," she exclaimed. "He has made his
escape from the house. There is nothing left but his mantle, and that
had fallen near the spring."
Hadassah glanced inquiringly at Zarah. But the maiden betrayed no
surprise, uttered no word. She only trembled a little, as if from
cold; for the sultry heat of Nisan seemed to her suddenly to have
changed to the chill of winter. Hadassah made little observation on
the flight of Lycidas until Anna had again quitted the apartment, when
the widow lady said abruptly,--
"It was strange to leave without a word of farewell, a word of thanks,
after having been for months treated as a guest, almost as a son!"
Zarah, with her cold, nervous fingers, was unconsciously engaged in
tearing the edge of her veil into a fringe.
"If I were not uneasy regarding the safety of Abishai," resumed
But here, for the first time in her life, Zarah, with an appearance of
impatience, interrupted the speech of her revered relative.
"Have no fear for Abishai," cried the maiden, raising her head, and
throwing back the long tresses which, from her drooping position, had
fallen over her pallid face. "Have no fear for Abishai," she repeated.
"The Greek will never repay your generous hospitality by revenging his
private injuries upon your son. I can answer for his forbearance."
"You are right, my child," said Hadassah, tenderly. "I did Lycidas a
wrong by expressing a doubt. Abishai is secure in his silence; and,
such being the case, I believe--nay, I feel assured--that, it is better
that we harbour the stranger here no longer. I am thankful that
Lycidas has left us though his manner of departing seem somewhat
Was Zarah thankful also? Perhaps she was, though a miserable void
seemed to be left in young heart, which she felt that nothing could
ever fill up. More an orphan than the fatherless and motherless, more
desolate than the widow, loving and beloved, yet--save for one sick and
aged woman--alone in the world, it seemed to Zarah that a slight tie
bound her to life, and that even that tie was gradually breaking. On
the eve of that day of sore trial, the spring behind the dwelling had
quite dried up: not a single drop gushed forth from the hill to revive
the fading oleanders.
Just before sunset a laden mule was driven to the door of Hadassah's
humble retreat. It was led by Joab, a Jew who had in former years been
servant to the lady, and who had been one of those who had bravely
assisted in digging the grave of the martyrs. His presence, therefore,
in that unfrequented spot excited no alarm.
"Anna," said he, addressing the handmaid who stood in the doorway (for
he knew her by name), "help me to unload my mule; and do you bear what
I bring to your mistress."
"From whence comes all this?" asked Anna, with no small curiosity.
"I met to-day," replied Joab, "the same stranger whom we caught lurking
amidst the olives on the night of the burial of Solomona--(that was
nigh being his last night upon earth!) He looked ghastly, as if
himself new risen from the grave, and scarcely able to drag his steps
along. I helped to raise him on my mule, and it bore him to a house in
the city which he mentioned. I doubt whether the Gentile recognized
me--his mind seemed to be strangely wandering--till I asked him where
he had been since we had met by moonlight under a tree; and then he
started, and looked fixedly into my face. He knew me, and did not
forget that I had been one to spare his life by stepping over the
spear," continued the muleteer, with a grim smile. "The Gentile is not
ungrateful. I suppose that he remembered that he owed a debt in
another quarter also, for he bade me return in a few hours; and when I
did so, charged me to bear these things to the dwelling of the Lady
Hadassah--ay, and gave me this purse of silver for her handmaid."
"The Lord Lycidas has a noble heart! Would that he were a son of
Abraham!" exclaimed the delighted Anna, as she received the gift of the
Greek. With mingled curiosity and pleasure Anna then carried up what
Joab had brought to the housetop, on which the Hebrew ladies were then
sitting, for the sake of the cooling breeze of even. At the bidding of
Hadassah, Anna removed the outer wrappings which enclosed what Lycidas
had sent, and drew forth a store of goodly gifts, selected with
exquisite taste--graceful ornaments, embroidery in gold, the lamp of
delicate workmanship, the mirror of polished steel. Anna could not
forbear uttering exclamations of admiration; but Hadassah and her
grand-daughter looked on in grave silence, until a scroll was handed to
the former, which she opened and read aloud.
"With these worthless tokens of remembrance, accept the deep gratitude
of one who has learned in a few too brief months under your roof more
than he could elsewhere have learned in a life-time, of the loftiness
of faith and the heroism of virtue."
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