THE PILGRIM OF A NIGHT
N the ancient days of faith the doors of the churches used to be opened with the first glimmer of the
dawn in summer, and long before the moon had set in winter; and many a ditcher and woodcutter and
ploughman on his way to work used to enter and say a short prayer before beginning the labour of the
Now it happened that in Spain there was a farm-labourer named Isidore, who went daily to his early
prayer, whatever the weather might be. His fellow-workmen were slothful and careless, and they gibed
and jeered at his piety, but when they found that their mockery had no effect upon him, they spoke
spitefully of him in the hearing of the master, and accused him of wasting in prayer the time which
he should have given to his work.
When the farmer heard of this he was displeased, and he spoke to Isidore and bade him remember that
true and faithful service was better than any prayer that could be uttered in words.
"Master," replied Isidore, "what you say is true, but it is also true that no time is ever lost in
prayer. Those who
 pray have God to work with them, and the ploughshare which He guides draws as goodly and fruitful a
furrow as another."
This the master could not deny, but he resolved to keep a watch on Isidore's comings and goings, and
early on the morrow he went to the fields.
In the sharp air of the autumn morning he saw this one and that one of his men sullenly following
the plough behind the oxen, and taking little joy in the work. Then, as he passed on to the rising
ground, he heard a lark caroling gaily in the grey sky, and in the hundred-acre where Isidore was
engaged he saw to his amazement not one plough but three turning the hoary stubble into ruddy
furrows. And one plough was drawn by oxen and guided by Isidore, but the two others were drawn and
guided by Angels of heaven.
When next the master spoke to Isidore it was not to reproach him, but to beg that he might be
remembered in his prayers.
Now the one great longing of Isidore's life was to visit that hallowed and happy country beyond the
sea in which our Lord lived and died for us. He longed to gaze on the fields in which the Shepherds
heard the song of the Angels, and to know each spot named in the Gospels. All that he could save
from his earnings Isidore hoarded up, so that one day, before he was old, he might set out on
pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It took many years to swell the leather bag in which he kept his
treasure; and each coin told of some pleasure, or comfort, or necessary which he had denied himself.
 Now, when at length the bag was grown heavy, and it began to appear not impossible that he might yet
have his heart's desire, there came to his door an aged pilgrim with staff and scallop-shell, who
craved food and shelter for the night. Isidore bade him welcome, and gave him such homely fare as he
might—bread and apples and cheese and thin wine, and satisfied his hunger and thirst.
Long they talked together of the holy places and of the joy of treading the sacred dust that had
borne the marks of the feet of Christ. Then the pilgrim spoke of the long and weary journey he had
yet to go, begging his way from village to village (for his scrip was empty) till he could prevail
on some good mariner to give him ship-room and carry him to the green isle of home, far away on the
edge of sunset. Thinking of those whom he had left and who might be dead before he could return, the
pilgrim wept, and his tears so moved the heart of Isidore that he brought forth his treasure and
"This have I saved in the great hope that one day I might set eyes on what thou hast beheld, and sit
on the shores of the Lake of Galilee, and gaze on the hill of Calvary. But thy need is very great.
Take it, and hasten home (ere they be dead) to those who love thee and look for thy coming; and if
thou findest them alive bid them pray for me."
And when they had prayed together Isidore and the pilgrim lay down to sleep.
In the first sweet hours of the restful night Isidore became aware that he was walking among strange
 a hillside, and on the top of a hill some distance away there were the white walls and low
flat-roofed houses of a little town; and some one was speaking to him and saying, "These are the
fields in which the Shepherds watched, and that rocky pathway leads up the slope to Bethlehem."
At the sound of the voice Isidore hastily looked round, and behind him was the pilgrim, and yet he
knew that it was not truly the pilgrim, but an Angel disguised in pilgrim's weeds. And when he would
have fallen at the Angel's feet, the Angel stopped him and said, "Be not afraid; I have been sent to
show thee all the holy places that thy heart has longed to see."
On valley and hill and field and stream there now shone so clear and wonderful a light that even a
long way off the very flowers by the roadside were distinctly visible. Without effort and without
weariness Isidore glided from place to place as though it were a dream. And I cannot tell the half
of what he saw, for the Angel took him to the village where Jesus was a little child, which is
called Nazareth, "the flower-village;" and he showed him the River Jordan flowing through dark green
woods, and Hermon the high mountain, glittering with snow (and the snow of that mountain is
exceeding old), and the blue Lake of Gennesareth, with its fishing-craft, and the busy town of
Capernaum on the great road to Damascus, and Nain where Jesus watched the little children playing at
funerals and marriages in the market-place, and the wilderness where He was with the wild beasts,
and Bethany where Lazarus lived and died and was brought to life again (and in the fields of Bethany
Isidore gathered a bunch of wild flowers),
 and Jerusalem the holy city, and Gethsemane with its aged silver-grey olive-trees, and the hill of
Calvary, where in the darkness a great cry went up to heaven: "Why hast Thou forsaken me?" and the
new tomb in the white rock among the myrtles and rose-trees in the garden.
THESE ARE THE FIELDS IN WHICH THE SHEPHERDS WATCHED.
There was no place that Isidore had desired to see that was denied to him. And in all these places
he saw the children's children of the children of those who had looked on the face of the
Saviour—men and women and little ones—going to and fro in strangely coloured clothing, in the manner
of those who had sat down on the green grass and been fed with bread and fishes. And at the thought
of this Isidore wept.
"Why dost thou weep?" the Angel asked.
"I weep that I was not alive to look on the face of the Lord."
Then suddenly, as though it were a dream, they were on the sea-shore, and it was morning. And
Isidore saw on the sparkling sea a fisher-ship drifting a little way from the shore, but there was
no one in it; and on the shore a boat was aground; and half on the sand and half in the wash of the
sea there were swathes of brown nets filled with a hundred great fish which flounced and glittered
in the sun; and on the sand there was a coal fire with fish broiling on it, and on one side of the
fire seven men—one of them kneeling and shivering in his drenched fisher's coat—and on the other
side of the fire a benign and majestic figure, on whom the men were gazing in great joy and awe. And
Isidore, knowing that this was the Lord, gazed too at Christ standing there in the sun.
And this was what he beheld: a man of lofty stature and
 most grave and beautiful countenance. His eyes were blue and very brilliant, his cheeks were
slightly tinged with red, and his hair was of the ruddy golden colour of wine. From the top of his
head to his ears it was straight and without radiance; but from his ears to his shoulders and down
his back it fell in shining curls and clusters.
Again all was suddenly changed, and Isidore and the Angel were alone.
"Thou hast seen," said the Angel; "give me thy hand so that thou shalt not forget."
Isidore stretched out his hand, and the Angel opened it, and turning the palm upward, struck it.
Isidore groaned with the sharp pain of the stroke, and sank into unconsciousness.
When he awoke in the morning the sun was high in the heavens, and the pilgrim had departed on his
way. But the hut was filled with a heavenly fragrance, and on his bed Isidore perceived the wild
flowers that he had plucked in the fields of Bethany—red anemones and blue lupins and yellow
marigolds, with many others more sweet and lovely than the flowers that grew in the fields of Spain.
"Then surely," he cried, "it was not merely a dream."
And looking at his hand, he saw that the palm bore blue tracings such as one sees on the arms of
wanderers and seafaring men. These marks, Isidore learned afterwards, were the Hebrew letters that
spelt the name "JERUSALEM."
As long as he lived those letters recalled to his mind all the marvels that had been shown him. And
they did more than this, for whenever his eyes fell on them he said,
 "Blessed be the promise of the Lord the Redeemer of Israel, who hath us in His care for evermore!"
Now these are the words of that promise:
"Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her
womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have engraven thee upon the palms
of my hands."
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