THE HERALD'S HEAD
 WHILE the King did these works of wonder
and spoke these words of wisdom, the King's
herald lay in prison. You remember how sternly
John the Baptist spoke to men who were living
in sin, and how it made no difference to him
whether the sinner was rich or poor. To the
gentlemen who were proud of their good birth,
he said that God, if he chose, could change
the stones of the river-bank into descendants of
Abraham, and that by their actions one would
guess that their real father was that old serpent,
the devil. Now Herod the Great, when
he came to die, had divided his kingdom among
his sons, and one of them, named Herod
Antipas, thus became ruler in Galilee and
beyond the Jordan. Of course, the Romans
were the real rulers, but they appointed him as
one of their governors. Herod Antipas was
married to the princess of a little kingdom in
Arabia, but about this time he went on a visit
 to Rome to see his half-brother, Herod Philip;
and while he was there he fell in love with
Herod Philip's wife, whose name was Herodias.
Then Herodias left her husband for Antipas,
and Antipas's wife fled home in great distress
and anger to her father. All the country knew
about these scandalous and wicked doings.
But Herodias and her daughter Salome came
and lived in Herod Antipas's splendid palace
at Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee, and nobody
said anything, except in whispers, for it is not
easy to reprove kings and queens.
But John the Baptist did not speak in a
whisper. He spoke up in a great loud voice,
and said in his sermons to the people, and at last
to the king himself, that it was all terribly bad;
and that it was against all laws of man and of
God, that he should have his brother's wife.
And that is how he went to prison. Herod
had a great, black stone fortress beyond the
Jordan, the fortress of Machærus, and there
he put John into a dungeon. Herodias would
have put him to death, but she was afraid of
the people, for the people reverenced John.
 Even Herod respected the brave man who was
not afraid to speak the truth to the king's face.
So John lay in prison, though his disciples
were allowed to come and visit him. It seemed
very hard to the Baptist, after all his free life
in the wilderness, to be shut up behind stone
walls. He had not had even a roof over his
head since he was a child. And one day, strong
man as he was, he became very discouraged, and
sent some of his disciples to Jesus, and said,
"Are you truly the King? Are you he that
should come, or must we look for another?"
For John the Baptist, like the other people,
was expecting a king like Herod—a better
and mightier Herod. And when Jesus kept
on living so quietly, and going about with a
group of fishermen, and saying that his kingdom
was not of this world, John knew not
what to think. So John's disciples came with
their master's question. And our Lord said,
"Stay with me this day." So they stayed with
him that day, and he did just what he was always
doing: the blind received their sight, and
the lame walked, the lepers were cleansed, and
 the deaf heard, the dead were raised up,
and the poor had the gospel preached to them.
"Now," he said, "go back to John and show
him what you have heard and seen." So they
went back, but what John said we do not
Then Herod had a birthday, and he made a
supper to his lords, high captains, and the chief
people of Galilee. The tables were spread in
a splendid room, with walls made beautiful
with pictures, with dishes of silver and gold,
music playing while the feast went on, and many
servants bringing all sorts of pleasant things
to eat. At last, when they had all had a great
deal more to drink than was good for them,
the king sent for Salome, the young daughter
of Herodias, and she came in and danced, so
that the king was delighted. And Herod,
hardly knowing what he was saying, spoke up
before all his nobles and said to the little
daughter, "Ask of me whatsoever you will,
and I will give it to you." And as she stopped
to think, and all the guests were looking at him
and at her, "Yes," he cried, "whatsoever
 thou shalt ask of me, I will give it to thee, unto
the half of my kingdom."
There was the promise, then, and the child
could have her wish. What should it be?
Among all the beautiful things in the world,
what shall the princess choose? One day,
King Solomon had a chance to ask for what
he wanted most, and he asked for wisdom.
But the king cannot give wisdom; indeed, this
king had no wisdom to spare. Well, lovely
gowns, then, or jewels, or gardens, or money
to buy them all. It was a hard matter to decide,
and the girl went to ask her mother; a
very good thing to do, if she had had a good
But now Herodias saw her opportunity.
All this time she had been longing to have
her revenge for what John the Baptist had
said about her. They were hard words, and
the worst of it was, she had deserved them
all: but so much the more she hated him.
Already, as we have seen, she had tried to
have him killed. Now was the time. So Salome
went out and said to her mother, "What
 shall I ask?" And Herodias said, "The head
of John the Baptist." And Salome came running
back in great haste into the dining-room,
and cried out in a high voice, so that everybody
heard what she said, "I will that thou
give me by and by in a charger [that is, on
a great platter] the head of John the Baptist."
Then what did the king do? If he had
been a good king, he would have told his
daughter what a wicked thing that was to ask.
But he did not do that. He was exceedingly
sorry. But he had promised to give her anything
she wished, and she had wished for John
the Baptist's head, and he did not consider
that we ought never to keep bad promises.
The only thing to do if we make a wicked
promise, is to break it. He was afraid that his
nobles would laugh at him if he did not do
what he said he would. For their sakes which
sat with him, he would not reject her. So he
sent an executioner, and commanded his head
to be brought; and the executioner went and
beheaded the herald of the King of Glory in
the prison. So he died, whose birth the angel
 had promised at the altar, whose name had
been given him amidst the rejoicings of his
father and mother and their friends, who had
lived for years in the wild woods, and then
had come forth to welcome the King of kings.
And his head was brought in by the executioner,
on a great silver platter, and the executioner
gave it to the girl, and the girl gave
it to her mother.