When Mary Walked The Earth, part 3, by Daniel A. Lord, S.J


“A daughter of David the king,” explained the driver. “The family used to be rich-servants and money and a grand house. But nothing much left. Joseph, the man she just married, is a poor tradesman with a poor business. He will give her mighty little, I”m telling you, of luxury. But nobody ever hears her complain or fuss or bewail her fate. You saw her face, calm and contented and peaceful. Seems mighty unfair and unjust, though, that a daughter of David should carry a pitcher of water from the village well. Unjust, but she’s got the pluck to do it. Brave, I”d say.”
He wheeled his donkey in a cloud of dust and t o the jangling of the donkey’s bells moved whistling down the dusty street. The stranger stood at the well, his hands still clasping the hilt of his sword. Injustice? The daughter of David carrying water from the well, her young body bent under its weight. And calm, contented, uncomplaining, while he—Swiftly he slipped the sword from his belt, and it dropped with a clean-cut splash into the well. Then, squaring his shoulders, he went his way, his head high, the line of courage set in his jaw.


The Roman Finds a Captive and the Captive Finds a Protectress

Lucius read the letter carefully. It was so typical of his cynical old uncle -a humorous Roman, but a scamp if one ever lived. Sometimes one’s better instincts resented his heartless cynicism, his frank, unblushing profligacy, but as he turned a witty apology for himself, one forgot one’s resentment in the roar of laughter that acknowledged his cleverness.
“Lucius, my son,” he wrote, using, the young man noticed, the best parchment and not the common wax slates, “the slaves I send you are a bit of Roman civilisation to console you in the midst of your Jewish exile. They cost me a pretty penny; so use them well. The Gothic barbarian is strong enough to serve as porter or bully: the Greek is a skilled secretary, who will write your letters or dress your hair with equal skill; and the girl—Oh, Lucius, my generous heart alone makes me send her to you when my artistic nature bids me place her as a fair adornment in my own dwelling. Think of your old uncle affectionately. Hail and farewell.”
Lucius looked up at the messenger who had delivered the parchment.
“Where have you kept the slaves?” he asked.
The messenger touched his banded forehead respectfully. “At the exchange of Synesius the Persian. He awaits your acceptance. We brought them carefully from Rome to Jerusalem by the best boats and the smoothest wheels. Your uncle bade us commit them to you in perfect condition.”
“We shall see them,” said Lucius, rising and flinging his heavy cloak over his shoulders.
It was like his rascally old uncle to remember him in his Jewish diplomatic exile. The Goth he could use as a sort of bodyguard. Romans needed bodyguards when the mad Galileans ran the streets. The Greek would fit into a dozen places, for these Greeks were clever, useful chaps. But the girl—


How like his uncle to send him a girl slave. Lucius knitted his brow. He rather prided himself he had kept the stern old ways of early Roman times, not the easy, soft fashions of his contemporaries. Still everyone had his slaves nowadays, and girl slaves were fashionable in Rome. So he shrugged his shoulders. One might as well accept the standards of one’s times.
The exchange of Synesius the Persian welcomed in its capacious sheds the produce of the world. Lucius followed the messenger as he wound in and out among the bales and boxes, cages of animals, bunches of fruit hanging up to complete the ripening process, through the thousand smells of spices, sandalwood, and human sweat, until he came into a small room, rough, yet fitted for human occupancy. There, under the eyes of the slave master, sat the silent, hairy Goth, the Greek, sly and suave and spotlessly clean in spite of the long journey, and the girl, crouched at the foot of a column, her eyes closed wearily.
Lucius appraised the Goth and the Greek quickly and with a satisfied glance. Before the girl he stood uncomfortably abashed. She had the long blonde hair of a northern tribeswoman, bound loosely with silk bands about her exquisitely carved face. He had seen just such a delicate face on the carved finger ring of Augustus. Her long linen robe, bound about her slender hips with a sash of scarlet, showed, in splashes of mud and streaks of dust, signs of a rough journey. Her feet, soiled from the road, were shod in sandals, one strap of which was torn loose.
“She wouldn’t dress in the fine garments we brought her.” apologised the messenger. “I am sorry.”


The girl, as Lucius and the messenger stood before her, rose unsteadily. Then, with a brief effort at defiance, she lifted her chin. Lucius regarded her from under puzzled brows. That scamp of an uncle was complicating his life; for the girl fitted badly into his stern ancient-Roman theories. She was quite too young, too beautiful. Still—“Come,” Lucius said to the messenger. “We shall go with them back to my house.”
The great, burly Goth lumbered, the Greek minced, the girl walked with nervously painful self-control through the litter of the warehouse and out into the street
Lucius unconsciously walked more slowly than usual for he was thinking hard, thinking altogether of the girl passed by a profligate uncle into his hands. So engrossed was he that he paid no attention to the woman coming in his direction down the street.
But the slave girl noticed the look of mingled pity and anger that changed the expression of the woman's calm face, noticed, too, the protecting folds of the blue cloak that fell over her queenly shoulders, saw the instinctive pity that sent her motherly arms outstretched protectingly and unhesitatingly she ran from the dreadful procession of which she was a part and flung herself on her knees before the woman.
Lucius stopped, roused from his dreaming by the quickness of this move. He saw the messenger stride across and lay his rough hands on the shoulders of the girl. But as the man touched her, the fingers of the woman closed gently on his wrist and her other arm pressed the trembling shoulders of the girl tight against her. Hesitating the messenger stood and looked over his shoulder at the Roman.


Lucius walked toward the group frozen to immobility in the midst of the street. The girl crouched in the dust against the robe of the woman, the messenger leaning forward waiting for orders. As Lucius reached the group the woman, with a protecting graciousness, flung about the girl her own blue robe.
“Madam,” said the Roman courteously, “the girl is my slave.”
The woman did not move. Steadily she regarded Lucius, with a gaze so calm, so reproachful, so authoritative that, his eyes involuntarily dropped and rested on the white face of the girl, about whose head the blue cloak hung as if it were a veil. Gone was the defiance with which she had faced him; gone the look of terror, which he had not seen but which had accompanied the first brave steps from the warehouse. Instead there was a look of utter confidence; she had found her protectress, and now she was safe.


Quickly Lucius slipped from his girdle the purse he carried. He held it out toward the girl, but she shrank back from him into the closer shadow of her protectress. Lucius turned his glance from the girl to the woman and saw that she had never lost her look of reproach, sorrow, and quiet authority.
“Madam,” he said, “she is under your protection. Here is the money she will need for her future. Today I shall send the bill of freedom to your home. She may thank you, for you have set her free.”
The woman bowed her acknowledgement and the girl’s face lighted with wild joy. She was like a captive bird that suddenly felt her captor’s fingers opening to let her go.
“To whom,” asked Lucius, “shall I send the bill of freedom?”
“To Mary, the mother of Jesus of Nazareth,” answered the woman.
Lucius, with something of the air of the splendid Romans of ancient days, bowed, lifted his hand as he would in saluting the empress, and strode behind his men slaves down the street.


Mary Gives Her Blessing When Jesus Is Far Away

Over the bed the tall Jewish physician bent in silent, worried study. The boy lying there under the oriental canopy tossed restlessly; his eyes were closed, his fists clenched, and his cheeks were mottled with fever.
The physician raised his head and pulled at his heavy beard. Then he faced the expectant gathering around the bedside, but he looked past the villagers of friendly Nazareth, who had poured in to be with the widow in her grief, and fixed his look upon the agonised mother.
“What hope?” she asked, catching the hem of his long robe in a nervous clutch.
“Jehovah is good,” the physician said gently. “Your son is beyond my power; we must leave him to the All-Powerful.”
These words, the mother knew, were a death sentence and she fell back faintly into the arms of her friends, while a murmur of sympathy ran through the group. An only son, a widowed mother, and Galilee’s most skilful physician powerless to help!


As the wave of despair swept over the crowd and the low wail that preceded the awful mourning for the dead rose involuntarily from hysterical lips, the curtain of the little bedroom was lifted and a tall, calm woman stood framed in the doorway. Whether it came from the raised curtain or from the figure of the woman, a sudden glow of light seemed to fill the room, The mother raised her head to look at the quiet, dignified woman standing there regarding her dying son with pitying eyes. Swiftly the mother leaped to her feet and, ruthlessly pushing the crowd aside, ran and flung herself on her knees before the woman in the doorway.
“Mary,” she cried, “you can save my boy. Your son, they say, is doing wonderful things in Judea. At Naim he raised the dead son of a widowed mother. Beg him to save my boy.”
Mary placed her slim white hand on the head of the distracted mother and a pitying murmur ran through the crowd; for the request was one that only a woman quite out of her senses would have made. Jesus, they knew, was in far-off Jerusalem, and the swiftest horseman, riding day and night, could not take word to Him, much less bring Him back before the boy was dead and laid in the tomb. Yet, under the hand of Mary, the distracted mother grew suddenly quiet. It was as if the calm that permeated the gentle Mary had gone out from her and stilled the tempest raging in the mother’s breast. She rose from her knees and, taking Mary’s hand, led her to the bedside of the boy.


“Bless him,” whispered the mother. “I had forgotten your son is too far away to help him; but bless him for me.” Mary’s look of compassion seemed to wrap round mother and son. Then she dropped the clinging fingers of the mother, closed her eyes, and clasped her hands as if in prayer. Over the room came the hush of fixed attention as they knelt or stood or sat watching the tall, beautiful woman at the bedside pray for the dying boy. Was she praying, they wondered, to that Father in Heaven of whom her son preached and for whom he laboured? Too bad, they felt, that across the distance she could not ask her son for a miracle of his healing. Slowly Mary opened her eyes, smiled down upon the delirious boy, touched his hot forehead tenderly, and then, putting her hands on the shoulders of the mother, kissed her on the cheeks. Then through the hushed crowd she moved silently from the room.


A sense of disappointment gripped the spectators. Any of them could have done as much. They moved restlessly, and again the shrill preliminary cry of mourning broke from a woman’s lips.
But suddenly the watching mother sprang forward, flung wide her arms, and stood exultant above the bed. Her boy slowly opened his eyes. The hot flush of the fever faded into the normal pallor of health, and his arms, long weak and helpless, stretched out as he uttered “Mother!”
In a swift enveloping embrace the mother caught her son, and above the sound of her happy weeping the murmur of the crowd grew into an exultant shout.
“He lives! A miracle!”
But as Mary walked down the street toward her own little house, her heart was saying its prayer of gratitude to her far-away Son.


The Artist Sees Beauty That Cannot Be Embodied in Marble

“For a temporary studio, my friend, you have done extremely well.”
Philander bowed in acknowledgment of the compliment and then regarded his studio complacently. On the wall hung rich tapestries that fairly cried aloud in the joy of their colouring. Bits of hammered metal were everywhere, a drinking cup that looked as if it once held the Greek sacrificial wine, a bell that some daring sailor had stolen from a Chinese priest, a sword on the blade of which were graven Greeks warring with Trojans. And everywhere stood ivory and marble statues, some as old as the first chisel, some the latest work of the newest artist. It was beautiful, he felt, and it amused him to think that in art-hating Jerusalem he had filled his room with statues that would have caused a Pharisee to cry out against idolatry.
“Yes,” he agreed, smiling at his delighted visitor, “I knew that one could find priceless things here in the Orient if one had an eye for them. And I was right. For a few pieces of silver I have gathered all this wealth to carry back with me when next week I leave for Corinth.”


“But you are an artist, not a collector,” his friend protested. “Let lesser men gather art while you create it.” Philander’s eyes snapped.
“Do you fancy that my hands could have been idle?” Across the deep fur rugs he moved to a corner of the studio where the light from the opening in the roof poured down, tempered only by the filter of thin silk curtains. Philander caught the silken drapes that hung before this corner, and turned to address his friend:
“Would you be surprised,” he said, with unconcealed amusement, “if I told you that here in inartistic Jerusalem I had made my masterpiece?”
His guest sat forward in his chair taut with excitement “Yet I am certain that I have,” Philander hurried on. “Here in a land without goddesses I dreamed of one, and she has leapt full-grown from my fingers. Day after day as I haunted the markets I have watched these orient women, catching the line of nose and head, the curve of eyelashes, the bow of a woman’s back as she bent to lift a burden, the soft roundness of the arm and shoulder of slave girl carrying her water jar. And from all this I have made my goddess, perfect among women, waiting only for the breath of life to draw Jove from high Olympus. Would you like to see her?”


Without waiting for the inevitable answer, he pulled the curtain rope. His friend leaped to his feet and then, as if hypnotised, walked slowly toward the suddenly revealed statue.
Just less than human size, the white figure of the statue glowed like snow against the background of purple silk.
“Zeus!” cried his guest, in a hushed voice. “What a goddess! I could almost kneel and worship.”
“Men shall worship her,” laughed Philander. “My goddess will find her way into some columned temple, and men will kneel before her with solemn rite and priestly cult, with poured-out wine and religious procession, worshipping her as the perfection of womankind, the gods” dream of a woman for the first time made visible.”
“If there only were such a woman!” cried his guest.
“Friend,” answered Philander, laying his hand upon his friend’s arm, “I am so sure that in all the world there is no woman half so lovely that I have sworn a strange oath. If ever I see a woman who makes me ashamed of my goddess, who outshines her, out-beauties her, I have sworn before Olympus that with the very mallet that fashioned her I will smash my goddess to bits.”
“With that for your oath,” answered the friend, “your goddess is immortal.”

* * *

Philander entered his studio and sank upon a cushioned seat. It had been his custom since his statue was finished to run, as soon as he entered the studio, and lift the curtains and pay his goddess homage. But now he sat upon the stool near the farthest wall, his hands clasped tensely, and gazed off into space. For long moments he remained motionless. Then he arose, crossed the room, drew back the blind that covered the opening in the roof through which light flooded his studio, and then hastily flung back the curtains before his goddess.