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Flight






Source: Hebrew Heroes

It was with a strange sense of happiness mingling with fear that Zarah
followed her father out of the apartment which had been her place of
confinement. The blessing of Abner lay so warm at the heart of his
daughter! Zarah was no longer like one peering into depths of darkness
to catch a glimpse of some terrible object below; she had discovered
what she had sought, and by the cords of love was, as it were, drawing
up a perishing parent into security and light. It was rapture to Zarah
to reflect on what would be the joy of Hadassah on the restoration of
her son. The maiden could rejoice in past perils, and, with a courage
which surprised herself, confront those before her; so clearly could
she now perceive that her sufferings had been made a means of blessing
to those whom she loved.

With a light, noiseless step, Zarah, obeying the directions of her
newly-found parent, and keeping his form in sight, crossed the first
court which they had to traverse. It was paved, surrounded by pillars,
and open to the sky, of which the deep azure was paling into morning.
The place was perfectly silent. Zarah observed that her father glanced
up anxiously towards the building which formed the south side of the
court, where marble pillars, with wreathed columns and richly carved
capitals, supported a magnificent frieze. Antiochus himself occupied
that part of the palace. But no eye peered forth at that early hour on
the forms that glided over the marble-paved court below.

Under the shadow of the colonnade now reached, Pollux awaited his
daughter;--the first point of danger was happily passed. Pollux now
pointed to a broad, covered passage to the right, lighted by lamps, of
which some had already burnt out, and others were flickering. Zarah
saw at the further end forms of men dimly visible. The guards, weary
with the long night-watch, were apparently sleeping; for they appeared
to be half sitting, half reclining on the pavement, and perfectly still.

Zarah had now to go first, and with a throbbing heart the maiden
approached the soldiers, breathing an inaudible prayer, for she felt
the peril to be very great. The passage at the end of which the guards
kept ward opened into one of the small gardens which adorned the
interior of the extensive edifice, with a tank in the centre, from
which a graceful fountain usually rose from a statuary group of marble,
representing Niobe and her children. The fountain was not playing at
this hour, and there was not light sufficient to throw the shadow of
the statues upon the still water below.

It was impossible to reach the garden without passing between the two
guards. Zarah could not tell whether they were indeed sleeping, and
the space left between them was scarcely sufficiently wide to admit of
her traversing it. Frightened, yet clinging to hope, Zarah, with her
jar on her head walked slowly and cautiously on. Just as she was
gliding by the guards, one of them started and caught hold of her dress.

"Ha! slave, what mischief are you after at such an hour as this?"

"My lord has bidden me dip my jar in yon tank," said Zarah, in as calm
a tone as she could command.

"I trow your lord has heated himself with a stronger kind of drink, or
he would not need water to cool him now," said the Syrian, releasing
Zarah, who, wondering at her own success, rapidly hurried into the
garden. She almost forgot, in her haste to escape, that it was needful
to dip her jar into water, as she was still within view of the Syrian.
The maiden had to turn back one or two steps, and bend over the brink
of the tank. Its cool waters refreshed her, as she dipped her slender
fingers therein.

"Now," thought Zarah, "there is a long dark passage to traverse--is it
on the right or the left? I scarce can remember my father's
directions; and a mistake now might be fatal both to him and to me.
Oh, may Heaven direct me!"

As Zarah glanced anxiously on either side, she perceived to the left a
narrow opening in the mass of buildings which enclosed the garden. The
opening was so utterly dark, that it looked to the trembling girl like
the mouth of a sepulchre, and she feared to enter into it. As Zarah
stood hesitating, she could hear Pollux behind her giving the password
to the sentries. His voice strengthened the courage of his daughter;
it was a comfort to know that he was near. Quitting the garden, Zarah
entered the gloomy passage. It was not quite so dark within as it had
appeared from without. The maiden could dimly distinguish a niche in
the wall, in which she deposited her jar, which could now only burden
her in her flight.

The passage along which Zarah was groping her way was one merely
intended as a back-way, along which slaves carrying viands or other
burdens might pass, though it was not unfrequently used by courtiers
bound on secret errands. It conducted to a much wider passage or
corridor, which crossed it at right angles, and which led direct to a
postern-door of the palace, by which four guards kept watch night and
day. When Zarah reached the point where the smaller passage opened
into the larger, she became aware of the most formidable obstacle which
she had yet had to encounter--the presence of these guards; and to the
young fugitive the obstacle seemed insuperable. The door was strongly
bolted, and the soldiers were wide awake; there appeared to the mind of
Zarah not the smallest chance that they would unbar the door for her,
or suffer her to pass.

The heart of the young fugitive sank within her. It was terrible to be
so near to liberty, and yet have that impassable barrier between her
and freedom! How formidable looked the deadly weapons of the soldiers
as they gleamed in the waning torch-light; how stern the weather-beaten
countenances of that warriors of Antiochus Epiphanes!

Zarah leaned against the wall of the dark narrow passage, and listened
for the footsteps of her father behind her. She dared not venture out
of the shadow into the lighted corridor. Presently Pollux was at her
side; she felt his hand gently laid on her shoulder.

"All will be lost if you attempt to save me, father," murmured the
trembling girl. "Oh, go on without me--leave me to God's care; I can
never pass those guards."

"When I raise my hand, come forward and go forth," whispered Pollux.
Not like a prisoner escaping, but with the firm tread of a man who
doubts not his right and power to go where he will, the courtier of
Antiochus strode into the corridor and advanced towards the guards, who
saluted, in Oriental fashion, a noble of high distinction, whose person
was familiar to them all.

"The word is 'The sword of Antiochus.' Unbar that door, and quickly; I
am on business of importance which brooks no delay," said Pollux to the
guards in a tone of command.

The order was instantly obeyed. Zarah joyfully heard bolt after bolt
withdrawn, and then the creaking of the door upon its hinges; and felt
the freshness of outer air admitted through the opening.

Pollux seemed to be about to pass out, when he suddenly raised his
hand, as his appointed signal to his daughter. Zarah, gasping with
breathless anxiety, obeyed the sign, and glided forward to go forth
from the palace. One of the soldiers, however, instantly barred her
passage with his weapon.

"Let the slave pass," said Pollux sternly.

The point of the guard's weapon was lowered; but another of the
soldiers was about to remonstrate. "It is against orders," he began,
when Pollux interrupted him.

"Methinks you are one who served under me in the force of Giorgias,"
observed the courtier, with presence of mind.

"Ay, my lord," answered the soldier.

"When we next see Maccabeus, we must come to closer quarters with him,"
observed the noble. "Here, my brave men,"--he drew forth a purse heavy
with gold--"share this among you, and drink success to the brave."

The soldiers could scarcely repress a shout at the unexpected
liberality of Pollux. Not one of them so much as looked at Zarah as
she glided forth into the open air.

Oh, transporting sense of liberty! How delicious was the breath of
early morn on the fugitive's cheek; how glorious the open vault spread
above her, blushing in the first light of dawn! Pollux experienced,
though in a very inferior degree, some of the pleasure felt by his
daughter, as he joined her on the broad marble steps which led down
from the Grecian-built palace of Antiochus to the platform on which it
erected.

"This way, my child," whispered Pollux, as drew Zarah in the direction
of one of the high narrow streets of Jerusalem. "We must put as much
space as possible between us and pursuers before sunrise. Would that
we had started hours ago! Many dangers yet are before us."

One was nearer than the speaker was aware of. Scarcely had the
fugitives entered the nearest street when they encountered a Syrian
courtier, splendidly attired, whose unsteady gait betrayed in what
manner he had been passing the night. More than half intoxicated as he
was, Lysimachus instantly recognized Pollux.

"Ha! whither bound?" exclaimed Lysimachus, standing, or rather
staggering, in the narrow path directly in front of the fugitives.

"I give an account of my movements only to such as have a right to
demand it," said Pollux haughtily, attempting to pass his rival, while
Zarah kept close behind her father.

"The fox has caught sight of the trap--Pollux has found out that I hold
his death-warrant," cried Lysimachus; "and that his head must fall at
sunrise!"

Pollux started at the words of his enemy.

"He is making his escape!" continued Lysimachus, in a louder voice;
"he's falling off to the Hebrews! but this shall stop him!" and with a
quick, unexpected movement, the Syrian plunged a dagger into the breast
of Pollux, then himself fell heavily rolling over into the dust!
Lysimachus had been struck down by a blow from the hand of Lycidas, who
had been but a few paces behind him!

Zarah had caught sight of the Greek, and of the venerated form of
Hadassah at that momentous crisis; her eyes riveted on them, she had
not seen the blow inflicted on her father, who, though mortally
wounded, did not instantly fall. For Pollux also beheld his mother,
and the sudden, unexpected vision of her from whom he had so long been
divided, seemed to have power to arrest even the hand of death. Parent
and son met--they clasped--they locked each other in a first--a last
embrace!

"Oh, mother," exclaimed Zarah, "he has saved me; he is your own son
again, devoted to his country--to his God!"

Did Hadassah hear the joyful exclamation? If she did not, it mattered
but little, for she had already grasped with ecstasy all that its
meaning could convey; for the last sentence uttered by Lysimachus ere
he fell had reached her ear. Her son--her beloved--was "falling away
to the Hebrews," or rather was returning to the faith which he once had
abjured; he was given back--he was saved from perdition--he was
rescuing his child from death and his mother from despair! Hadassah's
mind had received all this, conveyed as it were in a lightning flash of
joy. She needed to know no more;--her son was folded in her arms!

Pollux and Hadassah sank together on the paved way. The sight of a few
drops of blood on the stones first startled Zarah into a knowledge that
Lysimachus had inflicted an injury on her father.

"Oh, he is wounded!" she exclaimed, throwing herself on her knees
beside him.

"Dead!" ejaculated Anna, who was vainly attempting to raise the head of
Pollux.

"No--no--not dead! Oh, Lycidas!--Lycidas!" exclaimed Zarah in horror,
intuitively appealing to the Athenian to relieve her from the terrible
fear which Anna had raised.

"It is too true," said Lycidas sadly; for he could not look upon the
countenance of Pollux and doubt that life was extinct. "We must gently
separate the son from the arms of his mother."

But they who had been so long separated in life could not be separated
in death; man had now no power to divide them. Often had Hadassah
thought that her heart would break with grief;--it had burst with joy!
Her day of sorrow was over; her long Sabbath rest had begun. The happy
smile which had lately played on her lips in sleep, now rested upon
them in that last peaceful slumber from which she should never again
awake to weep. She had been given her heart's desire, and so had
departed in peace. Blessed death; most joyful departure!





Next: United In The Grave

Previous: Weary Wanderings



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