Skip to main content

Full text of "The sweet miracle .."

See other formats


ç#O^XX> 




THE SWEET 
MIRACLE 



Hirst Edition, September 1904 
Second Edition, December 1904 



u 

t6e sweet 

MIRACLE 

BY ECA DE QUEIROZ 

DONE INTO ENGLISH BY 

EDGAR PRESTAGE 

OF THE LISBON ROYAL 
ACADEMY OF SCIENCES 
TRANSLATOR OF "THE 
LETTERS OF A PORTU- 
GUESE NUN" M & JS 



M 



LONDON * DAVID NUTT 

AT THE SIGN OF THE PHCENIX x IÇO4 




TO MY MOTHER 



Et circuibat Jesus cmnes civitates et 
castella, docens in synagogis eorum et 
praedicans evangelium regn et curans 
omnem languorem et omnem infirmitatem. 

Evangelium secundum Matthaeum, 
caput IX. 



PREFATORY NOTE 



Eça de Queiroz (born 1846, 
died J900) was probably Portu- 
gal's greatest prose-writer of 
the last quarter of the nineteenth 
century. He is known to us 
mainly by that splendid romance, 
cousin basil, which has ap- 
peared in English under the 
title of "Dragon 's Teeth, "* but 

the CORRESPONDENCE OF FRAD- 

ique mendes reveals a versa- 
tility of talent in this satyrist, 
observer, and critic of life which 
even the foremost novelists have 
lacked, and the city and the 
mountains contains pages of 
landscape-painting which are 
already classical The prose- 
poem here translated shows 

* Boston, U.S.A., 1889. 

9 c* 



PREFATORY NOTE 

that his journey through Pales- 
tine had penetrated the Master 
of Realism 'with the spirit of 
the East, and calls to mind 
scenes in another book of his, 
the relic, which sounds like 
an echo of Flaubert The fron- 
tispiece is a copy of a striking 
water-colour sketch by the King 
of Portugal of fered to the Count 
of Arnoso on the occasion of 
the fifteenth representation of 
the tatter's charming dramatised 
version of " The Sweet Mi- 
racle/' His Majesty has gra- 
ciously approved and the Count 
has very kindly permitted its 
reproduction here» 

Other short stories of Eça de 
Queiroz will follow if the 
present one continues to meet 
with a favourable reception» 

10 



THE SWEET MIRACLE 



IN those days Jesus had not yet 
departed from Galilee and the 
fair luminous margins of the Lake 
of Tiberias; but the news of his 
miracles had already penetrated 
as far as Enganim, a rich city of 
strong battlements set among vine- 
yards and olive-groves in the 
Country of Issachar. 

One afternoon there passed 
down the fresh valley a man of 
burning, dazzled eyes, who an- 
nounced that a new Prophet, a 
handsome Rabbi, was traversing 
the plains and villages of Galilee, 
foretelling the coming of the King- 
dom of God, and curing all human 



THE SWEET MIRACLE 

ills. And while he sat and rested be- 
side the Fountain of the Orchards, 
he went on to tell how this Rabbi 
had healed the slave of a Roman 
Decurion of leprosy on the Mag- 
dala Road, merely by spreading 
over him the shadow of his hands ; 
and how, another morning, he had 
crossed by boat to the Country of 
the Gerasenes where the balsam- 
harvest was commencing, and had 
raised to life the daughter of 
Jairus, a man of consideration and 
learning who expounded the Sacred 
Books in the Synagogue. And 
when the husbandmen and shep- 
herds round about, and the dark 
women with water-pots on their 
shoulders, inquired of him in their 
wonderment if this was in truth 
the Messias of Judah, and whether 
the sword of fire shone before him, 



THE SWEET MIRACLE 

and if the shadows of Gog and 
Magog, like the shadows of twin 
towers, walked on either side of 
him — the man, without even a 
draught of that thrice-cold water 
of which Joshua had drunk, took 
up his staff, shook his hair, and 
made his way pensively beneath 
the aqueduct, and straightway dis- 
appeared from sight in the mass 
of flowering almond trees. But a 
hope, delightful as the dew in the 
month when the grasshopper sings, 
refreshed these simple souls, and 
now, through all the Plain that 
stretches its verdure to Ascalon, 
the plough seemed easier to bury 
in the soil, and the stone of the 
winepress lighter to move ; the 
children, even while they plucked 
bunches of anemones, watched, as 
they went, for a light to rise past 
*3 



THE SWEET MIRACLE 
the turn of the wall, or under the 
sycamore, while the aged from 
their stone seats at the city gate 
ran their fingers through the 
threads of their beards, and no 
longer unfolded the old sayings 
with such wise certainty as of yore. 
Now there lived then in Enga- 
nim an old man, named Obed, of 
a priestly family of Samaria, who 
had offered sacrifices on the altars 
of Mount Ebal, and was possessed 
of well-nourished flocks and richly 
bearing vineyards, and a heart as 
full of pride as his cellar was full 
of wheat. But a dry burnt wind, 
that wind of desolation, which, at 
the Lord's command, blows from 
the savage lands of Assur, had 
slain the fattest beasts of his flocks, 
and, on the slopes where his vines 
twined round the elms and 
14 



THE SWEET MIRACLE 

stretched themselves on the grace- 
ful frames, it had left nought 
round the bare trees and pillars 
save broken twigs, shrunken stalks, 
and leaves eaten by curly blight. 
And Obed squatted at the thres- 
hold of his gate with the end of 
his cloak over his face, fingered 
the dust, lamented his old age, and 
ruminated complaints against a 
cruel God. 

Now as soon as he heard tell of 
the new Rabbi of Galilee, who fed 
the multitudes, scared demons, and 
repaired all misfortunes, Obed, 
who was a man of books, and had 
travelled in Phenicia, conceived in 
his mind that Jesus must be one of 
those soothsayers, well-known in 
Palestine, like Apollonius, or Rab- 
bi Ben-Dossa, or Simon the Subtle. 
These men, even when the nights 



THE SWEET MIRACLE 

are dark, hold converse with the 
stars, whose secrets to them are 
ever clear and simple; with a 
wand they drive the gadflies, born 
in the mud of Egypt, from the 
standing corn, and grasping in 
their fingers the shadows of trees, 
they draw them like kindly screens 
over the threshing-floors at the 
hour of rest. Of a surety Jesus of 
Galilee, a younger man with newer 
charms, would, in return for a 
liberal largess, bring the mortality 
among his flocks to an end, and 
make his vineyards green once 
mere. Thereupon Obed com- 
manded his servants to set forth 
and search through all Galilee for 
the new Rabbi, and bring him, with 
promises of money or goods, to En- 
ganim, in the Country of Issachar. 
His slaves tightened their leather 

l6 



THE SWEET MIRACLE. 

belts and swung out by the road of 
the caravans that coasts the lake 
and stretches as far as Damascus. 
One afternoon, over against the 
West, red as a fully ripe pome- 
granate, they caught sight of the 
fine snows of Mount Hermon. 
Next, amid the freshness of a soft 
morning, the Lake of Tiberias shone 
before them, transparent, cloaked 
in silence, more blue than the 
heavens, with its margins of 
flowery meadows, dense orchards, 
porphyry rocks, and white terraces 
amid the palm groves, under the 
flight of the doves. A fisherman, 
who was engaged in lazily untying 
his boat from a grassy point shaded 
by oleanders, Listened with a smile 
to the slaves. The Rabbi of 
Nazareth? Oh! since the month of 
Ijar, the Rabbi with his disciples 
17 c 



THE SWEET MIRACLE 

had descended to the sides whither 
the Jordan bears its waters. The 
slaves set out at a run along the 
margin of the stream until they 
came in front of the ford where it 
rests, stretching out in a great pool, 
and for a moment slumbers, mo- 
tionless and green, beneath the 
tamarinds' shade. A man of the 
tribe of the Essenes, clothed from 
head to foot in white linen, was 
slowly gathei ing health-giving 
herbs by the water side with a 
white lambkin in his arms. The 
slaves humbly saluted him, for the 
people love those men of honest, 
pure hearts, as white as the ves- 
tures they wash morning by morn- 
ing in the purified tanks. And did 
he know of the passing of the new 
Rabbi of Galilee who, like the 
Essenes, taught sweetness and 
18 



THE SWEET MIRACLE 

cured men and cattle ? The Es- 
sene murmured that the Rabbi had 
crossed the Oasis of Engaddi, 
and had passed further beyond. 
But where " beyond ? " With a 
bunch of purple flowers he had 
plucked, the Essene pointed to the 
country over Jordan, the plain of 
Moab. The slaves forded the 
river and sought Jesus in vain, 
toiling breathlessly up the rough 
tracks to the cliffs where the sinis- 
ter Citadel of Makaur raises its 
head. At Jacob's "Well they met a 
great caravan at rest that was 
carrying into Egypt myrrh, spices, 
and balm of Gilead, and the camel 
drivers, as they drew out the water 
in their leather buckets, told the 
slaves of Obed how in Gadara, at 
the new moon, a wonderful Rabbi, 
greater than David or Isaiah, had 
19 



THE SWEET MIRACLE 

torn seven devils from the breast 
of a weaver- woman, and how at 
his voice a man, whose head had 
been cut off by the robber Barab- 
bas, had risen from the tomb, and 
gone back to his garden. The 
slaves, still hopeful, straightway 
mounted in haste by the Pilgrim's 
"Way to Gadara, that city of lofty 
towers, and further on still to the 
Springs of Amalha. But that very 
morning, followed by a crowd 
singing and waving branches of 
mimosa, Jesus had embarked on 
the lake in a fishing smack, and 
made his way under sail towards 
Magdala. And the slaves of Obed, 
disheartened, passed the ford 
again by the Bridge of the 
Daughters of Jacob. One day, as 
they trod the country of Roman 
Judea, their sandals torn with the 



THE SWEET MIRACLE 

long ways, they crossed a sombre 
Pharisee, mounted on a mule, who 
was returning to Ephraim. "With 
devout reverence they stopped the 
man of the Law. Had he met, 
perchance, this new Prophet of 
Galilee who, like a God walking 
the earth, sowed miracles as he 
went ? The hooked face of the 
Pharisee darkened in every fur- 
row, and his wrath resounded like 
a proud drum. " Oh ! pagan 
slaves and blasphemers ! "Where 
have ye heard of prophets or 
miracles out of Jerusalem ? Only 
Jehovah in His Temple is mighty. 
Ignorant men and impostors come 
out of Galilee !" 

And as the slaves recoiled be- 
fore his raised fist wrapped round 
with sacred couplets, the furious 
doctor leapt from his mule and 



THE SWEET MIRACLE 

with stones from the road pelted 
the slaves of Obed, howling 
Racca ! Racca ! and all the ritual 
curses. The slaves fled to En- 
ganim, and great was the sorrow of 
Obed because his flockswere dying 
and his vineyards were scorched, 
and all the time, radiant like the 
dawn behind the mountains, the 
fame of Jesus of Galilee, consoling 
and full of Divine promises, grew 
and increased. 

At that time a Roman Centurion, 
named Publius Septimus, had com- 
mand of the fort which dominates 
the valley of Cesárea as far as the 
city and the sea. A rough man 
and a veteran of Tiberius' cam- 
paign against the Parthians, Pub- 
lius had grown rich with prizes 
and plunder during the revolt of 
Samaria. He owned mines in 



THE SWEET MIRACLE 

Attica, and enjoyed, as a supreme 
favour of the Gods, the friendship 
of Flaccus, the Imperial Legate in 
Syria. But a sorrow gnawed his 
boundless prosperity, even as a 
worm gnaws a very succulent fruit. 
His only daughter, dearer to him 
than life and fortune, was pining 
away with a slow subtle malady 
which escaped even the wisdom 
of the doctors and magicians whom 
he sent to consult at Tyre and 
Sidon. "White and sad like the 
moon in a cemetery, uncomplain- 
ing, with pallid smiles for her 
father, she grew weaker and more 
frail as she sat on the high es- 
planade of the fort under an awn- 
ing, and stretched her sad dark 
eyes with longing regret over the 
blue of the Tyrian Sea by which 
she had sailed from Italy in a rich 
23 



THE SWEET MIRACLE 

galley. Now and then, at her side, 
a legionary between the battle- 
ments aimed an arrow carelessly 
aloft and pierced a great eagle as 
it flew with serene wing in the 
rutilant sky. The daughter of 
Septimus followed the bird for a 
moment as it turned over and over 
until it crashed dead on the rocks, 
then with a sigh, sadder and more 
pale, began once more to gaze at 
the sea. Now Septimus, having 
heard the merchants of Chorazim 
tell of this wonderful Rabbi whose 
power over the Spirits was such 
that he cured the dark troubles of 
the soul, despatched three decuria 
of soldiers with orders to search 
for him through Galilee and in 
all the cities of Decapolis as far 
as the coast and up to Ascalon. 
The soldiers put up their shields 
24 



THE SWEET MIRACLE 

in the canvas bags, fixed boughs 
of the olive tree in their helmets, 
and hurriedly departed, their iron- 
shod sandals resounding on the 
basalt slabs of the Roman road 
which cuts the whole Tetrarchate 
of Herod from Cesárea to the Lake. 
At night their arms shone out 
on the tops of the hills amid the 
waving flames of the torches they 
bore aloft. By day they invaded 
the homesteads, searched through 
the thickest apple orchards, and 
drove the points of their lances 
into the haystacks, and the fright- 
ened women, to appease them, 
hastened in with cakes of honey, 
new figs, and bowls full of wine, 
which they drank at one draught 
as they sat in the shade of the 
sycamores. In this way they 
traversed Lower Galilee — but of 

25 D 



THE SWEET MIRACLE 

the Rabbi all they found was 
his bright track in the hearts of 
the people. "Wearied with futile 
marching, and suspecting that the 
Jews were concealing their wonder- 
worker lest the Romans should 
avail themselves of his superior 
magic, they let loose a tumult of 
anger as they passed through the 
pious subject-land. At the en- 
trance to bridges they stopped 
the Pilgrims, shouting the name of 
the Rabbi, tearing the veils from 
the virgins' faces, and, at the hour 
when pitchers are filled at the 
cisterns, they invaded the narrow 
streets of towns, penetrated into 
the Synagogues and beat sacrile* 
giously with their sword hilts on 
the Thebahs — the holy Arks of 
cedar which enclosed the Sacred 
Books. In the environs of Hebron 
26 



THE SWEET MIRACLE 

they dragged the Hermits by the 
beard from their caves to draw 
from them the name of the desert 
or palm grove where the Rabbi 
was hid, and two Phoenician mer- 
chants who were coming from 
Joppa with a cargo of malobatrum, 
and who had never heard the 
name of Jesus, paid one hundred 
drachmas for this crime to each 
Decurion. And now the peasan- 
try, and even the wild shepherds 
of Idumea who bring in the white 
beasts for the Temple, fled in ter- 
ror to the mountains as soon as 
they saw the arms of the violent 
band glittering at some turn of 
the road ; while from the edge of 
the terraces the old women shook 
the ends of their dishevelled hair 
like bags, and flung ill-luck at 
them, invoking the vengeance of 
27 



THE SWEET MIRACLE 

Elias. In this tumult they wan- 
dered as far as Ascalon, but failed 
to find Jesus, and returning along 
the coast they buried their sandals 
in the burning sands. One morn- 
ing near Cesárea, as they were 
marching in a valley, they caught 
sight of a dark green grove of 
laurels on a hill, among which the 
elegant bright portico of a temple 
shone white in its retirement. An 
old man of long white beard, 
crowned with laurel leaves, clothed 
in a saffron tunic and holding a short 
three-stringed lyre, was gravely 
awaiting the rising of the sun on 
the marble steps. Down below, the 
soldiers waved a branch of olive 
and shouted to the priest. Did he 
know a new Prophet who had 
arisen in Galilee and who was so 
clever in miracles that he raised 
28 



THE SWEET MIRACLE 

the dead to life, and changed 
water into wine ? Quietly extend- 
ing his arms, the serene old man 
cried out over the dewy verdure 
of the valley — "Ye Romans, believe 
ye that prophets appear working 
miracles in Galilee or Judea? 
How can a barbarian alter the 
order established by Zeus ? Magi- 
cians and soothsayers are pedlars 
who murmur empty words to 
snatch an alms from simple folk. 
"Without the permission of the 
Immortals, not a withered branch 
can fall from the tree, not a dry 
leaf be shaken. There are no 
prophets, no miracles. . . . The 
Delphic Apollo alone knoweth the 
secret of things ! " 

Slowly then, with heads cast 
down as after a defeat, the soldiers 
returned to the fortress of Cesárea, 
29 



THE SWEET MIRACLE 

and great was the despair of 
Septimus because his daughter 
was dying, and no complaint did 
she utter, but gazed as she lay 
there at the Tyrian Sea, and all 
the while the fame of Jesus, the 
healer of lingering maladies, grew 
ever fresher and more consoling, 
like the afternoon breeze that 
blows from Hermon and revives 
and lifts the drooping lilies in the 
gardens. 

Now between Enganim and 
Cesárea, in a wretched hut sunk 
in the cleft of a hillock, there 
lived at this time a widow, the 
most miserable of all the women 
in Israel. Her only son, a little boy 
crippled in every part, had passed 
from the lean breasts at which 
she had suckled him to the rags of 
a rotting mattress, where he had 
30 



THE SWEET MIRACLE 

lain starving and groaning nov 
seven years. And her, too, sick- 
ness had shrivelled within her 
never-changed rags until she was 
darker and more contorted than 
an uprooted vine. And, over the 
twain, misery had grown thick as 
the mould over broken potsherds 
lost in a desert. Even the oil in 
their red clay lamp had long since 
dried up, and neither seed nor 
crust was left in the painted chest. 
In the summer, their goat had 
died for lack of pasture ; next, the 
fig-tree in the garden ceased to 
bear. So far were they from an 
inhabited place that no alms of 
bread or honey ever entered their 
door. Herbs plucked in the fis- 
sures of the rocks and cooked 
without salt were all that nou- 
rished those creatures of God in 
31 



THE SWEET MIRACLE 

the Chosen Land where even birds 
of ill omen had enough and to 
spare ! 

One day a beggar entered the 
hut and shared his wallet with 
the sorrowing mother, and as he 
sat for a moment at the hearth- 
stone and scratched the wounds 
in his legs, he told of the great 
hope of the afflicted, this Rabbi 
who had appeared in Galilee and 
of one loaf in a basket made 
seven, and how he loved all little 
children and dried all tears, and 
promised the poor a great and 
luminous kingdom of more abun- 
dance than the Court of Solomon. 
The woman listened with famished 
eyes. And this sweet Rabbi, this 
hope of the sorrowful, where was 
he to be found ? The beggar sighed. 
Ah, this sweet Rabbi ! How many 
32 



THE SWEET MIRACLE 

had longed for him and been dis- 
appointed ! His fame was going 
over all Judea like the sun that 
leaves not even a stretch of old 
wall without its blessed rays, yet 
only those fortunate ones chosen 
of his will could gain a sight of 
his fair countenance. 

Obed, the rich, had sent his 
slaves throughout all Galilee to 
search for Jesus and bring him 
with promises to Enganim : Septi- 
mus, the powerful, had despatched 
his soldiers as far as the sea coast 
to find Jesus and conduct him by 
his orders to Cesárea. As he 
wandered and begged his bread 
on many a road, he had met the 
slaves of Obed and then the legion- 
aries of Septimus. And all had 
returned like beaten men, their 
sandals torn, without having dis- 

33 E 



THE SWEET MIRACLE 

covered the wood or city, hovel or 
palace, where Jesus lay hid. 

The evening was falling. The 
beggar took up his staff and de- 
scended by the hard track between 
the heather and the rocks, while 
the mother returned to her corner 
more cast down and desolate than 
before. And then in a murmur, 
weaker than the brush of a wing, 
her little son begged his mother to 
bring him this. Rabbi who loved 
even the poorest little children 
and healed even the longest sick- 
nesses. The mother clasped his 
tangled head and said : 

" Oh. my son ! How canst thou 
ask me to leave thee and set out 
on the road in search of the Rabbi 
of Galilee ? Obed is rich and 
hath slaves, and in vain they sought 
Jesus over hills, and through 

34 



THE SWEET MIRACLE 

sandy plains from Chorazim to 
the Country of Moab. Septimus 
is mighty and hath soldiers, yet in 
vain they hunted for Jesus from 
Hebron to the sea ! How canst 
thou ask me to leave thee ? Jesus 
is afar off, and our grief abideth 
with us within these walls and im- 
prisons us between them. And 
were I to meet with him, how 
should I persuade this longed-for 
Rabbi, for whom the rich and 
mighty sigh, to come down from 
city to city as far as this solitude 
in order to cure such a poor little 
impotent on such a ragged mat- 
tress !" 

But the child, with two long tears 
on its thin little face, murmured : 
" Mother, Jesus loveth all the little 
ones. And I am still so small 
and have such a heavy sickness 

35 



THE SWEET MIRACLE 

and should so like to be cured ! " 
To which the mother sobbing : 
" child of mine how can I leave 
thee? The roads of Galilee are 
long, and the pity of men is short. 
So ragged, so limping, so sorrow- 
ful am I, that even the dogs would 
bark at me from the homestead 
doors. None would give ear to 
my message, none would show me 
the dwelling-place of the sweet 
Rabbi. And, .ay child ! perhaps 
Jesus is dead, for not even the 
rich or the mighty meet with him. 
Heaven sent him. Heaven hath 
taken him away. And with him 
the hopes of the sorrowful have 
died for ever." The child raised 
his trembling little hands from 
out of his dark rags and mur- 
mured : "Mother, I want to see 
Jesus." 

36 



THE SWEET MIRACLE 

And immediately, opening the 
door slowly and smiling, Jesus said 
to the Child : "I am here." 



BALLANTYNE PKhSS 



H 
O 
CO 

H 



CD 

id 

w 



CO , 



If 

N 
O 

u 

•H 



■P 

CD 

e 

CD 
E-» 



CD 
CO 



* 5* 

O CO 

ex, c^- P 

t-} H W 



w 



University of Toronto 
Library 



DO NOT 

REMOVE 

THE 

CARD 

FROM 

THIS 

POCKET