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shades, breathing to an ancient melody the soothing numbers of her cradle-hymn:
“He will not suffer thy foot to be moved :
But here, with a slight shriek, she ceases her song, and clasps her child to her breast. A sudden rushing is heard, as of the passage of a meteoric body. - The doors fly open. On all sides a ruddy glare is pouring; and in the red light, a band of weird pilgrims, tall, dark-gowned, and mystical, appear, from the folds of their robes plucking, as they come, caskets of sparkling jewels and royal treasures. At the astounded maiden's feet fall gold and
, frankincense and myrrh, while, in Oriental homage, each spacious forehead smites the dust.
6. This child,” 'exclaims the chief magian, placing his hand upon the infant's head, “O woman, shall be a king! From the hills of the east hath God sent us to adore one born King of the Jews, and this is he! And thou, O royal babe! blessings of the Almighty Spirit that dwelleth in the inaccessible flame, blessings of
all starry influences, blessings of the seven spirits before the throne, be forever on thy sacred head!"
They are gone. The room is empty and silent, till Joseph lights in haste the nightly lamp. Here lieth the child, almost enveloped in glittering treasure. Here the mother, flushed with excitement, scarce knowing what she does, wreathes him with strings of pearls, while Joseph gazes upon the whole like one in a dream. “ Arise ! shine !" at length he exclaims, "for thy light is come, And the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee! And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, And kings to the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see! All they gather themselves together, they come unto thee. The wealth of the Gentiles shall come unto thee: All they from Seba shall come. They shall bring gold and incense ; They shall show forth the praises of the Lord.”
Thus they commune together, rejoicing and praising God, until deep night settles around them. Thus they retire, and sink at length into slumber, little conjecturing their ominou awaking. A voice breaks silence in the dead of night by their bedside, in tones of warning:
“ Arise! take the young child, with Mary his mother, and flee into Egypt! and be thou there until I bring thee word; for HEROD will seek the young child's life to destroy him."
Ah, fearful reverse of their exalted anticipations! The terrified mother seems already to hear the tramp of approaching soldiery, and every rustling leaf creates a tremor in her agitated breast.
“ Fly! fly!" I hear her gentle voice exclaiming. “Let us fly at once, before the murderous messengers are upon us.”
Then is there sudden commotion in that midnight chamber. They hastily don their attire. They gather a small store. They secrete the treasures opportunely furnished by the magi; and, when all is ready, Joseph proceeds to prepare the means of speedy conveyance. All is still. She hears each breath of the yet slumbering infant, every note of the nightly cricket. Moments seem hours. Through the lattice she beholds the pale moon, just sinking to the horizon, and bids her haste her departure, and leave the earth in gloom. And when from without she hears the signal, flitting noiselessly forth, in a few moments she is silently and stealthily urging on their southward road.
CHAPTER XIII. The FLIGHT INTO EGYPT. THE air is mild and balmy, moist with the early rains, which have hardly ceased, and the temperature becomes more summer-like the further they leave behind the bold heights of the mountains. Nature is robed in fresh verdure; and delicate tints of blossoming trees--peach, citron, fig, palm, and pear-adorn the fields, while fragrant odors load the air.
Mildly the west wind breathes from off the shore, and the sky is covered with small light clouds. Reposing at noon beneath some shady terebinth, and at night in some lonely caravanserai, they reach, on the second evening, the borders of that vast desert, whose burning sands stretch westward to the mouths of the Nile, southward to the mountains of Arabia and the Red Sea.
Here, at a small sea-port town, Joseph procures two dromedaries, whose great speed may sooner carry them through the sterile wastes; and upon these fleet ships of the desert they embark, and leave their native land. Upon their right the horizon line of the glassy sea, upon their left the yellow, sickly haze of the fiery sands, and through the haze the misty peaks of Arabia. Above is a sky unrelieved by a single cloud, but every where one transparent bluish white, and a sun blazing all day with immitigable splendor. Thus they press forward, touching, if possible, at some island oasis, and reposing, during the hours of noon, beneath the stately palms, whose feathery tufts cast a soft shade to earth, riding only in the cool, dewy hours preceding dawn.
So swift is their monotonous course, that a few days bring them in sight of the blessed Nile, and of the ancient ruins of the city of the Sun.
With what interest do they cross the still fertile pasture-lands of Goshen, trodden ages ago by the shepherd patriarchs! And lo!
the other side of the river, raise their summits to the clouds those stupendous pyramids, in constructing which, tradition says their ancestors were enslaved.
“ Mountains of stone !” they exclaim to one another, " who could ever suppose them to have been the work of human hands! Yet there, perchance, our fathers toiled in bondage, not unavenged! Here Moses and Aaron trod, and wrought, by Jehovah's command, such mighty plagues upon their oppressors !"