Found At Last





So profound was the slumber of the weary girl that she heard not the

sound of opening the door, nor a step on the marble floor, and lay

unconscious of the yearning, anxious, mournful gaze that was fixed upon

her she slept.



"Lovely, most lovely--fairer even than her mother!" murmured Pollux, as

he stood beside the couch of Zarah, upon whose slumbering form softly

fell the light from a silver lamp. "Even so beautiful and so pure lay

my Naomi, when the angel of death had in mercy called her soul away,

and bereft me of a gift of which I was so unworthy."



What bitter memories of early years passed through the renegade's soul

as he spoke! Happy days, when there was no shame on the brow, no

gnawing worm in the conscience--when he had feared the face of no man,

and had dared to lift his eyes towards heaven, and his heart to One who

dwelt there! Blessed days, never, never to come again!



"Hark! she speaks in her sleep. What says she?"



Pollux bent down his head to listen, and caught the faint murmur, "My

poor, poor father!"



The groan which burst from the apostate's lips awoke the sleeper.

Zarah started into a sitting posture, and, with a gesture of alarm,

threw back the long tresses which had partly fallen over her face.



"Fear not, poor child; I would not harm you," said Pollux, in a gentle,

soothing tone, which restored Zarah's confidence at once.



"Oh no! I will not fear you!" she cried, recognizing her protector;

"it was you--the God of Jacob requite you for it!--it was you who saved

me to-day."



"And will do so again," said Pollux, as he seated himself at Zarah's

side; "but I cannot save you in spite of yourself. You must let

yourself be guided by me."



"What would you have me do?" asked Zarah.



"Bend to the force of circumstances, humour the mighty king, give an

outward obedience to his will. I have pledged myself that you should

do so. There is nothing so dreadful, after all," continued the

courtier, forcing a smile, "in bowing the knee as others do, or in

burning a few grains of incense. It is but a little matter."



"A little matter!" repeated Zarah, opening wide her eyes in innocent

surprise; "is it a little matter for me to throw away my soul, and

break the heart of Hadassah?"



Pollux winced on hearing the name, but quickly recovering himself,

observed, "The heart of no woman would be thus broken. She would feel

a pang less keen at your falling away for a time, than that which would

wring her soul should you die by the executioner's hand."



"You have never seen Hadassah; you do not know her!" exclaimed Zarah

with spirit; "she has told me herself that she would rather lose seven

children by death than one by apostasy from God!"



Pollux bit his nether lip till the blood came. When he resumed

speaking, his voice sounded hoarse and strange.



"If you care not for your own danger, maiden, think of my peril; my

head is staked upon your submission," he said.



Zarah looked distressed and perplexed for a moment, then her fair face

brightened again. "Even cruel Antiochus," she replied, "would never

slay one of his nobles because he failed in persuading a Hebrew girl to

violate conscience. You are not--cannot be in peril through me."



"I am, whether you believe it or not," said the courtier. "But

methinks, when speaking to a girl like yourself in the morning of life,

with so much that might make existence delightful"--Pollux glanced at

the luxurious decorations of the apartment--"one might be supposed to

need small power of persuasion to convince her that music, dance, and

feasting are better than torture; life than death; nature's sunshine

and earth's love than a nameless grave. The king is munificent to

those who oppose not his will; his hand is bounteous and open. Listen

to me, fair maiden. Antiochus has promised, if you yield to his

commands, to give you in marriage; it shall be my care that his choice

for you shall fall upon one gentle and noble, one who will not deal

harshly with you if you choose to follow your own religion, but who

will accord to you in the privacy of your home all the freedom of

worship which you could desire." Pollux paused, turning over in his

mind who would be the noble most likely to fulfil these conditions; and

thinking aloud, he uttered the words, "such a one as Lycidas the

Athenian."



How the heart of Zarah bounded at the name! The temptation was

fearfully strong. She beheld life and Lycidas on the one hand; on the

other the cold steel and the glowing flame, and those black fearful

ministers of death, the remembrance of whom made her shudder.



Pollux, skilful in the courtier's art of reading the thoughts of men,

saw symptoms of yielding in the face of his prisoner, and pushed his

advantage. He had appealed to Zarah's instincts, now he attempted to

dazzle and pervert her reason. With subtle sophistry he brought

forward arguments with which his mind was but too familiar. Pollux

spoke of necessity, that artful plea of the tempter, who would try to

make the Deity Himself answerable for the sin of His creatures, as

having placed them under circumstances where such sin could not be

avoided; as if strength of temptation were excuse sufficient for

yielding to the temptation! Then the courtier spoke of the difference

between spiritual worship, the assent of the soul to a lofty creed, and

the mere outward posture of the body. The latter might bow down in the

house of Rimmon, Pollux argued, while the spirit retained its

allegiance to the only true God. Nay, the tempter quoted Scripture (as

the devil himself can quote it) to show that what God demands is the

heart, and that therefore He cares little for the homage of the knee.

The courtier tried to involve the artless girl in the meshes of his

false philosophy, but a woman's simple faith and love burst through

them all.



"Leave me--leave me!" cried Zarah passionately, at the first pause made

by Pollux; "it is sinful, cruel, to tempt me thus! You would have

tried to persuade the three children in Babylon to bow down to the

image of gold! I cannot argue, I cannot reason with one so learned as

you are, but I know that it is written in God's Law, _Thou shalt not

bow down nor worship_, and that is enough for me."



"But you never can endure the agonies which await you if you madly hold

out in your obstinate resistance!" cried Pollux.



"I know that I have no strength of my own; I know that I am a

trembling, feeble, cowardly girl, weak as water!" exclaimed Zarah,

bursting into tears; "but God--my God--once made a firm wall of water,

and He who sends the trial will send the strength to endure it!"



"Zarah, you will drive me to madness!" exclaimed Pollux, alarmed at the

constancy shown by so timid and fragile a being; "nay, turn not away, I

_will_ be heard! I command you to yield obedience to the king, and I

have a right to command; Zarah, he who speaks to you is--your father!"



Had not instinct suggested that before, had there not been something in

the voice, the face of the courtier of Epiphanes which had reminded

Zarah of Hadassah, and had strangely drawn the maiden's heart towards

him? Up sprang Abner's daughter with a cry, her arms were around his

neck, her head was pillowed on his bosom, his vest was wet with her

tears; she sobbed forth, "My father! my father!" forgetting for the

moment everything else in the delight of having found the lost one at

last, and of being locked in the embrace of a parent.



And Pollux, for a brief space, could think of nothing but the fact that

his child was clasped in his arms. He drew her close to his heart,

then held her back that he might gaze upon her face, and press kiss

after kiss on the lips of her whom he called his darling, his pride,

his beautiful child! But when the first burst of natural emotion was

over, Pollux made his daughter sit close beside him, and with his arm

round her slight form, resumed the conversation which had been

interrupted by his revealing the intimate relationship in which they

stood to each other.



"You see, my child," said the courtier, "that you may now yield with an

easy conscience. A parent's commands are law to a Hebrew maiden; if

there be any sin in what you do, it lies upon me alone."



"And think you that I would bring sin upon your head?" said Zarah. "Oh

no, that would be to wrong a parent indeed!"



"I have such a burden of my own to carry," observed Pollux, bitterly,

"that I shall scarcely be sensible of so small an addition to its

weight. Zarah, it is clearly your duty to submit, for my safety is

involved in your submission. If you refuse to obey Antiochus, you seal

the doom of your father."



In anguish Zarah clasped her throbbing temples with both her hands;

even the path of duty itself seemed dark and uncertain before her.

Then a thought, sudden and bright, as if it were an inspiration, came

into the young girl's mind.



"Oh no, I will save my father!" she exclaimed; "save him from worse

than death! Let us fly together at once," she continued; "no, not

together, I would cumber your flight; but make your escape, O my

father, from this wicked court, this barbarous king, this life which,

to a son of Hadassah, must be misery and bondage indeed! Oh, fly, fly;

be safe, be free; be again what you were once! it is not too late! it

is not too late!" There was intense delight to Zarah in the new-born

hope that she might draw her wretched parent from this den of infamy,

this pit of destruction.



Pollux was startled by the sudden suggestion. "Whither could I fly?"

asked the renegade gloomily.



"To Judas Maccabeus, our hero," cried Zarah; "his camp is the

rallying-place for all fugitives from oppression."



"Maccabeus!" exclaimed Pollux; "he would loathe--would spurn an

apostate!"



"Oh no, he would never spurn the father of Zarah," cried the maiden,

for once realizing and exulting in the secret power which she exercised

over the leader of the Hebrews; "Judas would welcome you, his brave

companions would welcome, coming as you would come to redeem the past

by devoting your sword to your country! God would receive you; and

Hadassah," continued Zarah, her enthusiasm kindling into rapture as she

went on, "Hadassah, in her joy, her ecstasy, would forget all her

grief--the thought of her long-lost son being with Maccabeus would

enable her almost to rejoice at her Zarah being--with God."



"Impossible, impossible," muttered Pollux, rising from his seat as if

to depart; but Zarah detected indecision in his tone. She threw

herself at his feet, she clasped his knees, she pleaded with passionate

fervour, for she deemed that a parent's life and soul were at stake.



"Oh, father, if you would but consent to leave for ever this horrible,

horrible place, to return to your people, your mother, your God, I feel

as if I could die happy, so happy; we should then meet again in a

brighter world, all, all re-united, and for ever!"



It was as the voice of his guardian angel--as if his once fondly-loved

wife had been suffered to visit Abner in mortal form, to counsel, warn,

entreat; to tell him that there yet might be mercy for him if he would

but turn and repent! There was a terrific struggle in the renegade's

mind. He could not at once decide on taking so bold and sudden a leap

as that to which he was urged, though conscious of the peril as well as

misery of his present position at the court. As the deer, driven by

wolves to the precipice's brink, hesitates on making the plunge

down--though it give him the only chance of escape from the ravening

jaws of his fierce pursuers--so hesitated the wretched Pollux.



He would have felt no indecision had he known that, at the very time

when Zarah was pleading in tears at his feet, Antiochus was signing, in

the presence of the exulting Lysimachus, a warrant for the execution of

Pollux on the morrow. His rival had succeeded in working his ruin; the

only door of safety yet open to the apostate was that towards which his

child, with fervent entreaties, was trying to draw him; shortly--little

dreamed Pollux how shortly--that door of safety would be closed.

Unable to form a sudden resolution, to come to a prompt decision,

seeing difficulties and dangers on every side, fearing to remain where

he was, yet afraid to fly, Pollux wasted the precious time yet given

him, he let the golden moments escape. In a state of strong

excitement, he at length quitted his daughter's presence, to seek that

solitude in which his perturbed mind might become sufficiently calm to

form a judgment which must be as the pivot upon which his whole future

life would turn. Pollux left Zarah still on her knees, nor did she

rise when he had torn himself from her clinging arms and left the

apartment. When the daughter could no longer plead with, she pleaded

for, her father--she implored that grace and wisdom might be given to

him at this momentous crisis. There was no more sleep for Zarah on

that eventful night.





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