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A Child's Book of Warriors by  William Canton


 

 

BALT THE ATTACOT


[Illustration]

[15] "THE fairest spot on all the long Wall!" exclaimed Balt the Chapman, and his shrewd, kindly face lit up at the sight of Borcovicus, the great Roman station, glittering white and green on the ridge in the morning sunshine. "Yet I would give somewhat to know how I have been brought hither; to understand what force has been laid upon me—plain as hand on shoulder, turning me aside from my way and pressing me onward;" and Balt's brows were knitted in perplexity as he thought of the unaccountable impulses which had changed the course of his wanderings. Then he threw back his head with a laugh: "Why trouble? There be more that walk the world than they who leave footprints in the dust."

It was a wild, picturesque figure that strode, hunting-spear in hand, beside the string of three pack horses. Broad and thick-set, clad in dark [16] green tunic and deer-skin brogues; with heavy axe in belt, and shaggy red hair tumbling down behind on a short cloak of brown leather, such he was long remembered on the moors and by the woodsides between York city and the Solway shores of his own people.

The day was still at morning when the horses clattered through the town on the slope below the station, and as they stopped before the tavern of Paulus, the old centurion himself came hurrying from the courtyard.

"Ho, Balt! The very man! And how fares it with thee, brave Attacot?"

"And with thee, babe of Rome?" replied Balt, grasping his hand; "but why 'the very man'?"

"Faith, thy calling has sharpened thy wits, Balt. Well, 'tis thus," slipping his arm through the chapman's, and dropping his voice. "These three days I have had a message for thine ears alone. Lucius our Etheling has urgent need of thee, and bade me pray thee hasten to him at Cilurnum."

"So! Cilurnum! I knew the call was to Cilurnum. Canst thou guess the reason for this haste?"

"Nay. I only know that the need was great and the message secret."

"Give me food then, good Paulus, and the grass shall not grow under these feet."

[17] Without more words the beasts were stalled, the packs housed, and cup and trencher laid before the traveller; and as the chapman ate and drank, the two spoke in low voices of what was uppermost in Men's minds. And that was the evil which had fallen upon the Christians; for these were the days in which the Csar Galerius was the malignant genius of the empire, and the persecution of Diocletian had begun. Already in the south the earth of Britain had been drenched with the blood of martyrs, and though no one had yet been challenged for his faith in the towns along the Wall, the believers looked with anxious hearts for what each to-morrow might bring forth.

"I tell thee, friend," said Balt, "no man is safe. Every petty magistrate counts on his zeal for favour and profit. Our Caesar, Constantius, hates the edict, but though they say he is himself more than half a Christian, he cannot openly oppose it. Men's lives will be cheap with the sycophant and the secret enemy. But why do I talk when time presses? What I can tell thou shalt hear; for before I go I would have thee write for me to the holy presbyter Martinus. Take thy pen."

And this was Balt's letter to the priest.

"Here am I writing to thee in the house of Paulus. Yet not I, Balt the unlearned, but Paulus writes, [18] heeding well the words I say. As to this edict I pray the One God have thee in His keeping.

"I have travelled far, and my news is grievous, though we in the north have yet been nowise molested. Churches have been destroyed; houses filled with believers have been set on fire; men and women have been bound together and cast into the rivers. So many were slain in one place, they call it now 'the field of dead men.' But of that town, I praise the Lord of heaven and earth, and can tell thee such a portent as thou shalt scarce believe.

"For, look you, when Aurelian the prtor came to the forum with his lictors, they found a great crowd staring with white faces at the judgment-seat. And as the crowd parted, the prtor saw that a naked man sat in the very seat of judgment. His body was bloody with scourging. His head was crowned with thorns. For a moment the lictors stood in amazement; then as they thrust forward to seize the man, he arose and stretched out his hands to stay them; and blood from wounds in his hands fell in great drops. His eyes were fixed upon Aurelian, and so gazing he vanished from sight.

"What thinkst thou, venerable one? That day Aurelian judged no one, and at nightfall he was dead."

"Surely the Lord hath care of His saints," exclaimed Paulus; but Balt continued.

[19] "Many have fled to the forests and the mountains. It grieves me that, being so many, they should have fled. Why did they not think, setting shoulder to shoulder, to make a stand for Christus?

"Here Paulus stays his pen to answer me: 'They that take the sword, with the sword shall they perish.' And they that took no sword, say I, have also perished. 'He died for us,' said Paulus. Wherefore, say I, we live  for Him; is it not so thou teachest, Martinus?

"Till now we have been untroubled here, but no one can foresee what is to come. I hear strange rumours. Before this sun is set I am in Cilurnum, where new things are heard soonest. I know not why I should go thither in such haste. Yet these three days I have been pressed onward. Hast thou ever heard voices in thy sleep, calling thy name, and didst thou know they called thee from such or such a place?

"No more at this time. Balt the Attacot, writing to thee here with Paulus, who writes for me."

Having pondered for a time, chin on hand, "Write again, Paulus," said the chapman.

"Now I bethink me, yonder on the hill at Vindolana (Borcum) they worship Mithras; at Corstorpitum (Corbridge) 'tis Ashtoreth; here Sylvanus of the woods and heaths; there the ancient gods, the [20] mother goddesses—I know not what. Worship any of these, saith the edict; worship what you will, so it be not Christus. Worship Christus, and you die. What bondage and oppression of the soul is this! O Galerius, who hath made thee Csar over the thoughts and hearts of men?

"Worship Christus, and you die. Then not without iron in hand. Surely life is a gladsome thing—to drink in the bright air, to see the faces of one's kind, and the flower on the heather, and the light on the blue hills afar. I burn no incense; and I give my life to no man, Csar or Augustus. I die not till I must, and then not alone. It makes me mad to think that, being so many, they struck no blow for Christus and the joy of free men. What sayst thou, man of God?"

Eastward from Borcovicus the Great Wall swings from crag to crag along the ridge, which sinks down at last into the green woods of the Tyne valley; but Balt followed the broad way of the legions, which runs direct across the lower ground. Swallows frolicked in the heavens; rabbits scuttled through the broom and bracken; bees droned among the rose-purple tops of the willow-herb; butterflies fluttered round the white flowers of the enchanter's night-shade; people went by with friendly "good days;" [21] far away on the towered rampart sentries moved to and fro—it was all just the same as he had seen it hundreds of times before. And yet, in some strange fashion, he was aware that everything was changed; and as he fared onward, going he knew not why, and whither he had no will to go, he looked and listened with the interest of a traveller who sees and hears new things that he will not hear or see again.

Near the foot of the hill, where the road runs once more beside the Wall, a man sat on a boulder, drowsing in the hot sun. At the sight of him, Balt flourished his spear with a shout: "Hail, Trebonius Victor." Springing to his feet, the man waved his hand, and ran to meet him. He was a colossal negro, one of the Nubian auxiliaries who had served upon the Wall, and was now in the household of the Etheling. The genial black face, the huge black neck with its torque of gold, the brawny black arms with their silver arm-rings seemed doubly dark against his white woollen tunic.

"Praise to the Giver, thou art come!" he cried. "The master hath long waited for thee. This track through the wood, good Balt, is quickest."

They left the road, and striking through a green brake, plunged into a twilight of oak and beech. The track ended in a sunny clearing, in the midst of which a stockaded earth-ring and deep trench en- [22] circled the home of Lucius and of the ancient British princes of his race. Their coming was signalled by a fierce clamour of hounds, until the voice of the Nubian rang out for silence.

At the entrance of the great dyke Lucius met them: "Oh, friend Balt, I am fain to see thee. Much have I prayed to have thee, and the King of heaven hath surely sent thee."

"Wherein can I serve thee, highness?"

"That thou shalt know quickly; but first thou shalt honour this house."

"I will break bread, and I will drink with a proud heart to thee and thy house, but already have I eaten what befits a man."

"This then," said the Etheling, as they sat in the old hall, "is the bitter need in which I ask thy help." And glancing at the wicked terms of the edict, he told how he had been warned that a friend of his youth, now grown to a deadly enemy, had planned to impeach his faith in the gods and his loyalty to the emperor. At any moment, to-day, to-morrow, he might be called forth to burn incense to the idols.

"And thou wouldst draw sword first?" cried Balt with flashing eyes. "O prince, I am thy man. At thy side I stand."

"Nay, Balt, what wild man's thoughts are these? To fight were folly; to flee were shame, and an evil [23] end. I could stand in the face of men and the face of the Maker of men, and bear witness to Him crucified. And at my side Valeria, my wife, unshrinking. But oh, Balt!—my little lad; thou knowest him; he is but six years old joyous as a little bird, fairer than any flower; how could I bear to see him in torture, to see him in the flames, to see him hewn or strangled? Could I but send him to my kinsman, Fortunatus, in the palace at York, there he would be safe, and it would be well with us."

"Didst thou desire me for this? Then, by the Holy One in the heavens," said Balt, raising his hand on high, "I take the child for thee to York, or I perish by the way."

"Wilt thou take him? Oh, Balt, God give thee too a little son to be the joy of thy age. Thou hast lifted our heart out of anguish. Henceforth we shall know but a common sorrow. When canst thou go?"

For a moment the Attacot considered: "The river is not safe. We shall go by the ways of wood and wold. I know each ford, cave, hill-track, moorland gully 'twixt this and Knavesmire. Let it be when midnight has turned. The moon is at full and the dawn is early."

"The Nubian shall go with thee."

"Good! and better if thou wilt let him have a horse and one of thy wolf-hounds."

[24] "O Balt, the poor house is thine; spare for nothing thou canst need."

Bright shone the moon of the summer night on the grassy earthworks and the ancient roof-tree of a princely race. Again and again the little Marcus had been hugged and kissed with fond tears. There was no more to say but "God speed you" when Lucius gripped the men's hands hard, and "God bless you, O true hearts" as the mother caught the child once more to her bosom.

They passed through the dusk and glimmer of the sighing wood, Victor leading the horse, and the little man tripping between Balt and the wolf-hound, with a soft fist crumpled in Balt's fingers. Now they were in the midst of the vast open wonder of a world of misty silver and stillness, and the lad rode on the Nubian's shoulders, and short, black shadows went along the ground with them. Now the moon was sinking; a cold breath came from the east where the grey light was breaking, and Marcus lay asleep on the Nubian's arm in a fold of the cloak drawn close about them. Now the warm morning blazed in the pines, and he awoke to see fire burning among the rocks beside a brook, and breakfast ready.

Such a frolic never had been before as this day in the free air and sun, going onward and still onward, [25] with new things to see every moment. And how good it was to lie on heather under a tree at noon, and then to spring up again, to run, to ride, to walk, to chatter merrily in these summer wilds! They passed by upland villages and saw folk at work in the fields; they splashed through shallow rivers; here and there they spoke to a herdsman with his drove of swine in the glades, or a shepherd-boy on the high pastures. On every summit the men paused to scan the country they had left behind them; and then as they went on again Balt would speak of the land ahead—what streams were to cross; what villages and towns were near, where friends of his were to be found at need; what tracks led down to the great roads.

That night they slept in one of the hill-caves, with Grim's head laid on his paws before a fire at the entrance, and one or other of the men keeping watch by turns. When Marcus folded his little hands, the first tears came with remembrance of home, but the Nubian took him in his arms and comforted him, and the twilight sorrow of childhood ran into the quiet underworld of sleep.

It was the forenoon of the third day, and they had reached the moorland heights beyond the Tees river, when the Nubian, looking back, uttered a cry of warning: "See, see, Balt!" He pointed downward to three mounted figures, a long way distant on the [26] plain beyond the stream. "Spanish horse from Cilurnum, if I know my own hand."

"There is yet time," said Balt, "but let us push on;" and as they hastened through the waste, he gave the Nubian fresh instructions. "Less than an hour beyond where you leave me, for I must stop till the danger is over, a track drops down to Swale Water, and you come to Cataractoni (Catterick). Then to York—God willing—'tis a plain course. Do not linger, and doubt not I shall be with you long ere you win so far."

A mile or more over the heather, their journey would have ended at a long chasm which rent the moorland, but for a frail bridge of pine-trees. Far down in that rocky cleft a foaming torrent leaped and raged over ledge and boulder.

"This timber once cut away," said Balt when they had passed over, "we are safe. Leave Grim with me. Farewell, little hero, till I overtake you. Speed, friend Victor!"

Balt drew his axe from his belt and severed two of the pines on the northern side of the gulf. Returning to the opposite edge he hewed mightily. First one and then a second of the tall trunks bent, snapped, and plunged into the torrent. Then he toiled at the two remaining trees. As they parted and swung down with a crash, the wolf-hound growled and [27] sprang to his feet, and the beat of horses' hoofs came drumming over the turf. A glance served to show that Balt's work had been done well, and the riders drew rein.

"Surrender, in the name of Csar!"

"If I would I could not," replied Balt, pointing to the chasm.

"Let me help thee," laughed one of the troopers. He rode a little way back from the brink, wheeled swiftly round, and put his horse into a headlong race. In an instant the hound rushed forward and hurled himself against the wild charge. His fangs closed on the horse's throat in mid-leap, and hound, horse, and man were hurled down the sheer wall of the gulf.

"Good Grim!" cried Balt, "thou too wast Christian and Attacot."

Even as he spoke, another of the troopers rose in the saddle, and a spear flew from his hand. It struck the chapman in the chest. Balt staggered; steadied himself with a desperate effort; sent his axe whirling against his slayer, and reeled through the bracken. He fell against a boulder, and the spear snapped.

Then a mist settled upon the moor—blinding, chilling. Was this death? He struggled with the darkness, with the cold. He grasped the boulder, and tried to gain his feet.

[28] At last, oh joy! he felt a mortal burden fall away from him. The mighty spirit of the Attacot stood panting with life. He had never indeed been truly alive until now! The rapture of life overpowered every other feeling. He was unconscious of place or of time. Whether he had stood there one moment or a hundred years he could not tell. Then he became aware that there was One who stood beside him.

Two-and-twenty years had passed away. It was summer in the Bithynian hills. The chestnut woods were in the flush of June. Sails of many colours flitted upon the breezy waters. High over all, the snowy summits of Olympus floated like a dream. In Nica, at the head of the lake, the white storks looked down from the marble tops of the basilica upon such stir and excitement as had never yet been seen in its colonnaded streets. It was the year of that holy synod in which East and West met for the first time to restore the peace of Christendom.


[Illustration]

THEN HE BECAME AWARE THAT THERE WAS ONE WHO STOOD BESIDE HIM.

The voice of Constantine had echoed through the world: "Give me back my tranquil days and my nights free from care, O you ministers of the Most High God, who are destroying the one fold with your needless wrangling over mysteries beyond the subtlety of man." But still the wild songs of Arius drove the people to madness; artisans, tradesmen, sailors took [31] up the ribald tunes in the streets, and the emperor's statues were broken in the fierce encounter of rival mobs. "It was the clash of the rock-giants," said the Bishop of Csarea, "the Symplegades, when winter howls down the Hellespont."

There was no choice but to call together the great teachers and examplars of the Church, and bid them settle their bitter dissensions. They came from the ends of the empire—bishops from Spain and the rivers of Assyria, from the Gothic forests and the shores of Mauretania; gaunt desert-fathers who bore the names of the old gods of Egypt; aged confessors whose testimony was written in the seared faces, the scored sides, and the maimed limbs. Such a concourse of the mighty in Israel no man living could hope to see twice in the world.

The streets were thronged with fiery partisans, strangely clad anchorets, disputing philosophers, slaves, travellers, gay citizens, wondering country folk. Excitement and confusion were held in check by the imperial guards.

Beside the portals of the basilica, at the meeting of the four streets from the city gates, the Tribune Marcus, a tall young man of singularly gallant bearing, scanned the passing of the Fathers of the Council. Many were unknown; the names of others were tossed about by the crowd, and curious scraps of [32] gossip reached his ears from the garrulous spectators pressing about him.

"Nicolas! Nicolas!" And the Bishop of Myra, "one of the pillars of the world," goes by with silvery locks and a smile on his broad, ruddy face. Here is a man from the ends of the earth—John, Patriarch of India! This is Spyridion of Cyprus. "They took him from the sheep-cotes to make him bishop, but you may still see him with his crook on the hills." "Theophilus the Goth; those big, blue-eyed barbarians are all for Arius!"

Silence suddenly falls upon the spectators as an old man, frail and tremulous, comes leaning upon the shoulder of a youth, whose radiant face and wonderful auburn hair—the hair of the old-world queens of Egypt—have a touch of angelic brightness.

"Who, friend, are these?" asks Marcus of a bystander.

"The venerable man is Alexander, the Pope of Alexandria. How he has aged; and there is the look of death in his face!"

"And the youth?"

"The youth, as you name him, Sir Tribune, is his Archdeacon Athanasius."

And the dying patriarch moves on with the slight, shining figure, whose genius is to dominate this first universal Synod of the Christian Church, and whose [33] name will be held in remembrance for centuries throughout Christendom.

An uncouth form now goes by, clad in rough goat-skins, and were it not for his clear, humorous eyes, more like a wild being of the woods and hills than a bishop.

"'Tis Jacobus of Edessa, from the Land between the Rivers," another bystander tells Marcus. "Dost thou know, Sir Tribune, that thou may'st see there the face of the Lord, even as He was when He dwelt amongst us? This man, I doubt not, hath often looked upon it."

Before Marcus can reply, an outburst of exclamations and fierce counter-cries greets the appearance of an extremely tall, crazed-looking ascetic in a long sleeveless coat and sandals. With twitching hands, and dim eyes peering through the tangles of grizzled hair that hang about his head and bloodless face, he passes on, muttering to himself. Can this be Arius the Heresiarch, the leader of men, the fanatic who sings and dances the mob of Alexandria into frenzy?

As Marcus gazes after him in amazement, loud shouts hail Paphnutius, the hoary confessor and bishop from the Thebaid. He drags one leg painfully along with the aid of a staff, for long ago the persecutors severed the tendons to prevent his escape from the mines. His right eye had been gouged out [34] with a sword and the socket seared with hot iron; but the left is brilliantly dark, and see how those dusky features are illumined with infinite sweetness and peace!

Marcus thrills with emotion. "This man suffered. My mother, my father died!" All the delight, all the pain, all the broken recollections of his strange boyhood live again in those words.

With the arrival of the emperor Nica reached the height of splendour and enthusiasm. The synod was transferred to the palace. In the midst of the great hall the Holy Gospels were laid upon a throne of gold, as a visible image of the presence of Christ Himself. Constantine entered, without guards or attendants, and the venerable assembly rose to pay their homage.

What man had ever more truly looked the Master of the World? Great-statured, nobly featured, he surveyed the gathering with bright leonine glances. His long yellow hair, bound with a fillet of pearls, waved on his broad shoulders. A robe of purple silk, ablaze with barbaric gems and flowers of gold, fell to his scarlet shoes.

He stood, blushing, until by their bowing they had motioned him to be seated, and then, in a singularly sweet voice, he besought them to do away with all [35] causes of disagreement and to dissolve every knot of controversy. Unbuckling his sword, he gave it with his ring and sceptre into their keeping; he was but a fellow servant of their common Lord and Saviour. A brazier was brought into the hall, and burning before them unread all the complaints, accusations, and petitions he had received, "Is it not the word of Christ," he asked, "that he who would be forgiven should first forgive his brother?"

The discussion of the great controversy had hardly been begun when wild rumours flew through Nica that Arius had stood forth and denied the divinity of Christ—had declared that there was a time when the Son of God did not exist; that God had created Him; and that, being a creature, He might have fallen and sinned through the frailty of His created nature. Many of the bishops had stopped their ears in horror, but Nicolas of Myra had leaped from his seat and struck the blasphemer in the mouth. Nicolas had been deposed for his violence and was now in bonds.

At length there came a day when Arius had fled, and his book of songs denying the eternal Sonship of the Lord was cast into the flames; and the bishops, girding Constantine with the sword he had put into their keeping, laid in his hands the parchment on which Athanasius had copied the Creed of Nica:

[36] "We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible . . ."

This was the turning-point in the life of Marcus.

In Rome he had seen the godless splendour, the vicious luxury, the laughing paganism of an age which was crumbling into the abyss. In Nica he beheld the pageantry of a Christianity so torn asunder with passionate wranglings and bitter hatreds that there seemed to be no place in it for Christ Himself, the divine Shepherd who led His flock to still waters and carried the lambs in His bosom.

He resigned his sword, and for seventeen years he dwelt with the monks of Nematea in one of the ruined temples near the Nile. Over his head, bowed down in prayer, avenues of sphynxes gazed with stony eyes into the silence of the desert. Brightly coloured processions of Egyptian men and women sang to him a soundless dirge of dead men, of dead women, of dead delights, of the dust and ashes of a vanished race. Like his brethren he wove palm-leaf baskets, crossed the great river to sell them, to hire himself out as a labourer at harvest-time, to share the sorrows of the poor villagers, to worship with them at the same rude altars.

Thereafter he went forth into the mountains of the eastern wilderness where Paul the Hermit had lived [37] and died. The place was an oasis, open to the sky, set among the rocks of an ancient crater. A clear fountain gushed from a cleft in the rocks, and palm trees grew there. He was given charge of the monastery garden, and cultivated herbs and fruits, thinking with a quiet joy that the Lord Himself was once taken for a gardener.

There the days of his years were spent in labour and prayer, and his spirit was upheld by the sweet ministry of created things. For if he looked over the hill-tops into the bright immeasurable distances until sight itself was lost in the intense shining of the desert, why so would it be when the soul stood at gaze before the divine splendour. When the sun went westering and the light abated, far hills rose up in the desert, wonderful as a mirage yet sure and steadfast; why, even thus, when our day declines, shall we discern fair forms of truth which were invisible in the glare and heat. Then in the rosy sundown an owl flitted from tamarind to tamarind; like wisdom making profit of the bitter trees of life.

Thereafter as the sun dropped lower and lower, and the rim of the desert smouldered red, shadows passed over with the murmur of innumerable wings—first one and then a second flight, followed by a third and yet a fourth flight of goldfinches, which came every evening from the palms of the north to those [38] of the south. In the passage of these Marcus took such pure joy that there was no room for other thought or feeling. The wilderness gloomed, but the high heavens were still luminous; and winding and doubling, crossing and making wheels within wheels, the pelicans and flamingos sailed overhead until they faded into trails of shadow; and far into the night Marcus sat in the darkness of his cell, weaving rushes and reciting psalms.

Now it chanced that Marcus had planted a fig-tree, and it had waxed great and fruitful. In his old age, when his years fell little short of ninety, Macarius, the abbot of that desert, came to the oasis; and Marcus led him to the great tree, saying: "This was of my planting and watering; and the fruit is of exceeding virtue—yet I know not, for never yet have I tasted it." "Yea?" said Macarius, musing for a little while; "take thine axe and cut it down."

The old gardener's hands were lifted up in dismay; but he spoke no word and fetched the axe. "Give it to me," said the abbot, taking compassion on the troubled heart of age; "we will not harm the tree, seeing that it is a gift of God." But Marcus answered: "Woe is me, for I have sinned, "and fell at the abbot's feet. "O brother," said Macarius, "it was not so hard to fight with Constantine against barbarians as it is to fight against one's own will. [39] Yet 'tis in the same sign that we shall conquer." And the sign he spoke of was the cross which appeared in the heavens to Constantine.

When evening came, Marcus went up into the heights and beheld the hills ascend out of the desert. But lo! while he looked, their colour changed from dreamy blue and rose to green and russet, and they rolled up over against him in a vast naked moorland. And this change was a miracle.

Full eighty years had gone by, yet it seemed but as yesterday that he was a little lad on that wild heath. There yawned the chasm cloven deep through the moorland rock. Near the brink a man stood beside a boulder. Marcus recognised him; a long-forgotten name sprang to his lips, and he uttered a great cry.

The cry was heard below in the oasis, and the brethren ran from their cells in the rocks, fearing that some ill had befallen him.

"O Balt, is it you? Are you too still alive?"

The Attacot made no answer. But the soul of Marcus was illumined, and in that instant the mystery of the world was made clear to him. And he understood how Balt, in his clinging delight in existence—Balt, who would fight to the death for Christ, but would not freely die for any one, had stood for all these years upon the spot where he was slain; alive, [40] yet not living; kept apart, in a trance of being, from the illimitable life that follows death.

Then out upon the moorland Marcus was aware that there was One who stood beside the Attacot, speaking to him; and Marcus heard the words.

"So slow has thou been to come to me that now I am constrained to come to thee."

Balt seemed to waken suddenly from a trance; his face shone, and he spread abroad his arms, crying, "Lord, my Christus!"

And Christ said: "Dost thou still so cling to thyself that thou wilt not die until thou must?"

"Lord," Balt answered, "I was but a savage man. Now I see Thee; now I know Thee. My will is Thy will to live or to die."

"O Balt," said the Lord, "I am Life. Thou shalt not die; yet, as men count death, already thou hast long been dead. Look down at thy feet."

Marcus looked down at Balt's feet, and he saw, even as Balt saw, the bones of a man which lay white in the bracken; and wedged in the crate of the chest was the head of a spear.

The brethren found Marcus fallen on the hill, and when they thought to lift him, he besought them, "Forbear, dear brethren. This is my Pisgah. Suffer me to die where I have seen the Lord;" and he told [41] them of his vision. Then, as the breath fluttered upon his lips, "Watch with me," he said, "and pray, that I fail not at the last."

The sun dropped. The desert darkened. Overhead in the shining of the high air the pelicans and flamingos made wheels of white within wheels of rose; but before they faded into shadowy trails the old man's eyes glazed, and Marcus was once more with Balt, and both were with Christ.


[Illustration]


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