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Produced by Chris Curnow and the Online Distributed
THE VERY GOD! THINK, ABIB; DOST THOU THINK? SO, THE ALL-GREAT, WERE THE ALL-LOVING TOO—SO, THROUGH THE THUNDER COMES A HUMAN VOICE SAYING: “O HEART I MADE, A HEART BEATS HERE! FACE, MY HANDS FASHIONED, SEE IT IN MYSELF! THOU HAST NO POWER NOR MAYST CONCEIVE OF MINE: BUT LOVE I GAVE THEE, WITH MYSELF TO LOVE, & THOU MUST LOVE ME WHO HAVE DIED FOR THEE!”
BY ROBERT BROWNING
KEEPER OF CAMELS
BEING THE PARABLE OF THE MAN WHOM THE DISCIPLES SAW CASTING OUT DEVILS
|¶ AND JOHN ANSWERED & SAID, MASTER, WE SAW ONE CASTING OUT DEVILS IN THY NAME; AND WE FORBAD HIM, BECAUSE HE FOLLOWETH NOT WITH US. ¶ AND JESUS SAID UNTO HIM, FORBID HIM NOT: FOR HE THAT IS NOT AGAINST US IS FOR US.—LUKE IX: 49-50.|
LUCIA CHASE BELL
PAUL ELDER & COMPANY
PUBLISHERS · SAN FRANCISCO
How did it happen that this unknown man could work that tremendous miracle? How, when, where, did he get this amazing power? Was he some mere street necromancer, amiably conjuring with the Holy Name? Was this story which the disciples brought to Jesus only a bit of incidental roadside news to Him? Was His reply simply a gentle beam of that tender love which shines upon all those who may be, ever so dimly, ever so stumblingly, following His “far flag”? ? Often I have asked of this or that one, what he thought of this wonder-worker. ? Every one has seemed to think of him vaguely, indifferently, as a figure carelessly thrown upon the canvas “for what he is worth,” or—in most minds—only to reveal the sweet, meek tolerance of Jesus. ? No wonder the disciples, who were themselves but just stumbling through the first lessons of infinite Love, could not understand. ? It came to me at last, that the reply of Jesus was really glowing with mighty inward joy, with the rapture of possession, of victory. ? The man casting out devils belonged to Him absolutely. No stranger, he, to the Christ. On the contrary, he had an intimate, secret, personal and blessed understanding with the Master. Somewhere, somehow, the World-Brother had looked into his soul, seized him, owned him, filled him with His own power, pity and love. He had entered into the divine joy, the divine Comradeship. ? He was working miracles of love because he must, not because he could.
by Paul Elder and Company
KEEPER OF CAMELS
|¶AND JOHN ANSWERED HIM, SAYING, MASTER, WE SAW ONE CASTING OUT DEVILS IN THY NAME, AND HE FOLLOWETH NOT US: AND WE FORBAD HIM, BECAUSE HE FOLLOWETH NOT US. ¶BUT JESUS SAID, FORBID HIM NOT: FOR THERE IS NO MAN WHICH SHALL DO A MIRACLE IN MY NAME, THAT CAN LIGHTLY SPEAK EVIL OF ME. ¶FOR HE THAT IS NOT AGAINST US IS ON OUR PART.—MARK IX: 38-40.|
|Women called their children to hide under mantles, or skurried with them to the shelter of dark huts, as Obil came riding up into Carmel on that day of the Lord’s Great Year in Galilee; Obil, and three others, horses and accoutrements and their own bodies steaming yet from the long rush through salt surf down from Akka to Haifa and through the clean-smelling waters of the yellow Kishon where it puts into the sea.|
What would he care—to ride a child down—that Obil? He would laugh to see it wildly flying from before his horse’s hoofs. Every one knew this, from Ptolemais to Jerusalem and even beyond, down into the wilderness, and over across Jordan.
Some people said that Obil served the evil priests—which was far from the truth; others, that he was a tool of Herod, more silent than lightnings out of summer heat, and as sure to kill. It was, besides, insisted with whisperings and shudderings that he served only himself, and that somewhere deep among the awful crags by the Salt Sea a wondrous treasure sparkled, hidden by the red hand of the robber, Obil.
Yet there were some, away out in the hill country beyond Hebron, as you go toward Beersheba, who could tell of years when Obil had tilled a few fields there under the kindly sun and had kept cattle of his own on the gentle hills.
With his young wife Miriam he had paid tithes and kept the pleasant feasts. In not one humble home did the Sabbath candles ever burn brighter. No one’s son had been brought up with more loving regard for the plain things of the law than the child of Obil and Miriam, from the very first. These things they knew in Hebron. But there was in Obil—here the heads came closer together under the mantles—in Obil there was a Strain of wild desert blood, strong in his race from the time of the first Obil, the Ishmaelite, Keeper of King David’s Camels, and master of the great caravans that went from great Hebron down to far Havilah.
Since he was a child, when his father took him on a chance journey far to the South, the desert-lust had come upon him year by year, driving him from his home till the lust was satisfied and he could return.
While he was gone, Miriam his wife, the soft-eyed, the meek one, tended the doves, the lambs, the goats and cattle.
Faithfully she taught their little son of the prophets, and of all the heroes of his race; of the great priest Simon; of Judas the Hammer, and his army.
When Obil came home, as the boy grew on, it came to be that he always took the boy on his knee, first breath, and asked for his tales of the heroes. And the boy loved to tell them as he stumbled after his father in the furrow, or lay with him in the cool evening under the vine at the door.
Every one marveled at this child as he recited long strings of the sayings of the sages, and prayers and psalms, and at the star-eyed reverence with which he would touch the name of the Most High on the little folded parchment that Miriam had placed on the lowly door-post of their home. Not only to his father but to every one the boy loved to tell his burning tales of the heroes and the prophets, until often it was whispered, “Perhaps God will raise up even this child, the son of Obil, to be liberator of Israel,—who can tell?”
Perhaps, all unguessed by themselves, this hope was the reason that, to those who knew the little family of three, it seemed a strange and evil thing, certainly unblessed of God, that so suddenly and silently each year Obil should go away out of sight.
As for Obil, he had cared nothing for these secret whisperings. He never had struggled against the call of the desert in those old days, but had yielded in absolute joy.
Each year he knew that far to the South he would find old Abdul in the same spot in the wilderness bordering the desert, waiting at his tent door, the same horizon before him silhouetted with the same three palms (one lop-eared), the same remote, tawny line of low hills against the beryl sky, like some vast lion’s long, lithe contour slipping through grass.
His horse’s harness would click dustily as it slipped down. Abdul would utter no word, Obil no word. There would be a fire of good coals and broiled meat ready—clean—such as was fit for a Son of the Law.
The big herd of camels would be there, and when Obil had eaten his meal the two would rise and walk with one accord out where the creatures lay, their drivers among them sound asleep, the beasts stirring with moans and complainings at sound of this half-familiar footfall. Then Abdul would open his mouth and speak, while Obil listened thirstily, of this camel and that; one here that was new, another old one there; this ugly one that was seized with the desert-lust every year, so evilly you could do nothing with her till the caravan started—and Obil affectionately patted her rough hide; of the various drivers, and the promise of trade, and bad shiftings in the route. Obil was head of the drivers in those days, and loved to sleep with them in the open air among the camels. It gave him deep content and oblivion for that time to all that lay beyond the horizon. He satisfied his hunger for the limitless skies at night, and soaked himself with unspeakable enjoyment in the passionate sun by day. No huge elemental turmoil of that wide life ever disturbed Obil. Sweeping fires of the wilderness, thunderings, earthquakes, winds, all gave him joy. Often he had wheeled his horse to chase the dry wild artichoke—the cursèd Wheel, when caught in the wilderness flames it was turned into a ball of fire, and, lifted and tossed in the fierce wind, eagerly kindled new fires in its wild flight.
Other men feared this fiery thing which maddened horses and camels and set vast tracts of wilderness on fire, but not Obil. It was true that he had listened with awe to the Chazzan reading from the Psalmist, in the little synagogue at home: “O my God, make them like a wheel, as the stubble before the wind. * * * So persecute them with thy tempest, and make them afraid with thy storm. Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek thy face, O Lord.” For he remembered how he had seen that fierce Wheel suddenly snuffed out before the rushing winds, and he knew by this what must be the angry breath of Jehovah upon the wicked; still Obil feared nothing in those old days, neither the tempests of the desert nor the fires of the wilderness nor the avenging hand of God, for his heart was good then, his hands pure.
IN THE year when Barzillai, his son, was ten, Obil said to his wife Miriam, “Next year the boy shall go with me to the desert, that his shoulders may grow broad and his heart strong.”