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THE LAST BATTLE
 IT was the night before the battle. Day by day and hour by
hour the contagion of doubt and disaffection had
been spreading through the little army that followed
Judas. He had had three thousand men when he pitched
camp at Eleasa, and the three thousand had now dwindled
down to less than one.
Judas was sitting by one of the camp-fires with Azariah
and Seraiah, when two soldiers came up, bringing bound
between them a man, who had endeavoured, they said, to
make his way into the camp. He wore his hat drawn down
over his forehead, and little of his face could be seen,
but there was something in his figure that seemed
familiar to Azariah.
"Who are you?" said Judas, "and what want you in the
camp? Are you for us or for our enemies?"
 "My lord," said the man, "my name is Benjamin,
and—for I will hide nothing from you—I am a
robber. Once I was a
soldier in your army, but I broke the law, and I fled
lest I should be put to death. Now I am come, of my own
accord, to make such amends for my transgression as I
may. Slay me, if you will, as I stand here. There is no
need of a trial. I have been tried and condemned, and I
acknowledge that I deserve to die. But if you will be
merciful, let me fight in the morning by your side; and
on the morrow, if I yet live, let me suffer the due
punishment. Life I ask not, but only that I may strike
a blow for you before I die."
"Unbind him," said Judas to the soldiers.
"You are free to go or stay. But I would gladly have
you at my side to-morrow, for I have forgotten all but
that you are a brave man."
Benjamin stepped forward, and raising the hem of the
captain's robe to his lips, kissed it. He then knelt,
putting his head to the ground made as though he would
have placed Judas's foot upon his neck.
"Nay," said the captain, "we want not slaves, but
brothers." And he raised him from the ground. "And
went on, "sit down and tell us what you know, for I
make sure that you have not come empty of news."
Benjamin did indeed know all that could be known
 about the enemy, and, indeed, about the situation of
affairs. To a question from Seraiah he replied that a
surprise was impossible. The camp was too well guarded
"Do they know our real numbers?" asked Judas.
"Yes," was the answer, "the deserters have told them."
And he proceeded to give a number of names of those who
had gone over to the enemy, with a readiness and a
precision that showed how diligent had been his watch.
When he had told his story, and understood that there
was nothing more for him to do before the morrow, he
wrapped himself in his cloak, and with characteristic
indifference to the future, fell immediately into a
profound and dreamless sleep.
As soon as the first rays of light were seen Judas
mustered his soldiers and hastily numbered them. There
about eight hundred in all, while the army of
Bacchides, according to the calculations of Benjamin,
seemed to have been carefully made, could not be less
than twenty thousand.
Judas was not dismayed by this disparity of numbers,
but was still true to his old strategy of attack. "Let
go up against our enemies," was the exhortation that he
addressed to the remnant that was still faithful to
him. At first they shrank back. The odds were too vast;
the attempt too desperate. An old soldier who had
proved his valour
 on more than one battle-field was put forward as their
"This, sir," he said, "will be to tempt God. Let us now
save our lives. Hereafter we will return again, and
fight with them. But now we are too few."
But Judas did not waver for a moment. "God forbid," he
cried, "that I should do this thing, and flee away from
them. Not so; if our time is come, let us die manfully
for our brethren, and not stain our honour."
His words roused once more an answering echo in the
hearts of those who heard him. They replied with a cry
assent. Victory they could not hope for, but their
captain they would follow whithersoever he should lead
and as long as he lived they would guard his life with
The little host was then divided into five companies,
commanded by Judas and his two brothers, Simon and
Jonathan, by Seraiah and Micah respectively. Azariah,
whose standing in the army would have entitled him to a
separate command, had made a special request that he
might be allowed to fight by the side of Judas.
had begged and obtained the same privilege.
On both sides the trumpets sounded, and both armies
moved forward. It was with nothing less than
that the Greeks saw the slender proportion of the force
that was opposed to them.
 Most laughed aloud at the thought that such a handful
of men should venture to stand up against their own
well-appointed and numerous host. Others, who had
before crossed swords with Judas's men knew that that
battle, end as it might, would be no laughing matter.
And indeed they were right. The little company of
heroes fought as three centuries before Leonidas and
his men had fought at Thermopylae.
The Greeks came on with the same arrogant confidence
in their numbers as did the picked Persian force
the defenders of Greece, and met with a like
disastrous repulse. Such was the fury of the Jewish
such their agility and strength, that they kept the
attacking force in check during the whole day. When
approached the Greeks had made, it might almost be
said, absolutely no way.
But the resistance, successful as it had been, had cost
lives, and Judas saw his force dwindling before his
eyes. Then he made his last desperate effort. He threw
himself on the right wing, where Bacchides commanded in
person, broke the line, and drove it in confusion
before him. Possibly he
 was too rash in his pursuit, but on such a day, when
such odds are to be encountered, it is scarcely
to distinguish between rashness and courage. Anyhow, it
was but a brief success. The left wing closed in upon
his rear, and he and his gallant band were surrounded.
Judas was the mark of a hundred swords and spears. For
time he seemed to bear a charmed life. Azariah and
Benjamin, at his right hand and his left, beat down the
blows aimed at him, wholly careless of their own lives,
while he with the long sweep of his fatal
same that he had taken from the dead Apollonius on his
first battle-field—dealt blow after blow, till
ground was covered with the corpses of his enemies. But
a spear pierced the stout heart of Benjamin, and a
sword-stroke laid Azariah in the dust; and just as the
sun sank behind the rugged hills, the hero who had
smitten the enemies of his country at Bethhoron and
EmmaŁs, at Elah and at Adasa, had struck his last blow.
Hammer lay broken on the rock.