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CHAPTER VII.

MARIAMNE-Continued.

The Feast of Tabernacles neared, and the whole population of Judæa flocked, in exact accordance with the Law, to Jerusalem. Festivity reigned throughout the citythe land was at rest from foreign oppressors—the spirit of faction itself seemed stilled-from palace to hut all was solemn rejoicing, and light-hearted merriment. On the holy days of convocation, the immense areas and courts of the temple were thronged with the dense multitudes, eager to receive the high priest's triennial blessing. And there he stood, the youthful descendant of a thousand priests, and warriors, and kings, in the first bloom of graceful youth, clothed in the magnificent vestments of the solemn office, majestic in his bearing, so unusually tall, and finely proportioned, in his still boyish figure-his beautiful countenance, so radiant with the holy thoughts and feelings, which his task called forth, that as the multitudes gazed upon him standing at the high altar, gracefully and collectedly performing his priestly duties, themselves never witnessed (from their peculiar sanctity and holy associations) without emotion, enthusiasm, even at that holy moment, could not be restrained. Tears burst forth from young and old—the warrior, even as the woman, wept, thrilled to the very heart, at the beauty, innocence, and sanctity he beheld, though himself unconscious why he wept. Tears, blessings, prayers, swelling at length into shouts

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of joyous greeting, betrayed the zeal and love which burst irrepressibly from every heart. What was the sovereign himself, though present, compared with the High Priest—their own, not only in himself, but in his glorious race and family, the traits of whom he bore upon his features ? And if such were the emotions of the multitude, what feelings must have swelled the hearts of the mother and sister ? However ill regulated ambition, and its awful train of evil passions, had marred the heart and mind of Alexandra, in all things relating to Aristobulus she felt as an anxious and affectionate mother; and some of the purest emotions which she had ever experienced, must have been excited in thus beholding him. And to his fond sister, what delicious emotions of love and admiration, ay, and reverence, for she knew him worthy of the solemn office, must have heightened and hallowed the deep affection she had ever borne him, as the hand-in-hand companion of her childhood and youth! Each quivering blessing, each ringing shout, found echo in her heart.

Darkly, and terribly in contrast with such emotions, did the storm of jealous hate rage in the bosom of Herod. He beheld, or fancied in the popular enthusiasm, rebellion against himself; in the grace and beauty of a boy, greater danger to his power and himself, than he had ever encountered, or feared from a thousand warriors, or from the wisdom and policy of a hundred veterans. But though the internal tempest could only be stilled by the victim's blood, Herod dissembled, and joined with apparent sincerity in the public rejoicing.

The festival passed; the multitudes dispersed in

quiet, from the capital to their respective homes. A hush of peace, foreign and domestic, seemed to have sunk on the troubled land; and Alexandra and her young son returned to the former's palace at Jericho. There, after a brief interval, they were joined by Herod and some of his court, no doubt including Mariamne ; and a period of feasting and royal amusements followed. All enmity against Aristobulus had apparently subsided. Herod treated the young man with a semblance of caressing fondness, only too likely to remove suspicion both from Mariamne and her brother. Alexandra herself seems at that time to have suspected nothing evil. The skies over their head, and the distant horizon, all were smiling in cloudless blue and glowing sunshine, when the bolt fell with a shock and horror, as if indeed, nature had thundered from her very smiling calm, and hurled a death-bolt from her sun-lit sky. The young prince had quitted the palace in company with the sovereign and their respective attendants; and wandered carelessly along the gardens and pastures, till they neared some spacious fishponds. The day was sultry, and many plunged into the refreshing waters, to indulge in the luxury (truly so, in the scorching East,) of bathing. At first, the young prince had stood aloof, amused at the various manoeuvres in the art of swimming, displayed by his attendants, but, instigated by Herod to try his skill also, willingly joined them. Twilight was advancing, but still the sports continued, till from the closing darkness a wild cry resounded, and then a suffocating moan, and then, a shout from many voices “for help, the prince was drowning;” but it came too late. The measures of the tyrant and his fiendish helpers had been too well taken, and the hapless youth was conveyed home to his distracted relatives, a lifeless corpse, not three hours after he had quitted them, radiant in loveliness and life. A violent death is always fearful to the bereaved survivors, and how doubly aggravated, when traced to relentless murder! The actual cause of the young man's death must certainly have transpired, else Josephus, who generally tries to exonerate Herod, would not so decidedly have attributed this murder to him. As deep and universal, as had been the love and sympathy which he had inspired at the altar, so deep and universal was the affliction at his loss. Every family to use the (in this instance) expressive words of the historian, “looking on this calamity, not as it belonged to another, but that one of themselves was slain.” How inexpressible, how harrowing, must then have been the agony of his mother and sister; and in the latter how awfully heightened, by the scarcely restrained voice of public indignation, pointing to her husband, as his ruthless murderer. How many circumstances must, in those moments of agony, have returned to the heart of Mariamne, startlingly, appalingly convincing of the foundations for these rumours. Herod had in truth wept, in fearful agitation, as the body of the youth was exposed before him; but there are moments when the vision of the soul is clearer than heretofore—when human agony is such, that semblances which successfully deceived before, cast down their robes of falsehood, and appear naked in their own hideousness and so it probably was with Mariamne. Tears and agitation, which a moment of less suffering might have so deceived, as to lead her to her husband's bosom for

consolation, now spoke the language, not of grief for bereavement, but remorse and horror for the deed; revealed him not mourner but murderer. Where was she to turn in that deep agony ? Her mother had concealed her utter desolation, her passionate cravings for revenge, under an exterior of such chilling despair, that how might she give comfort ? He, whom she had loved longest and best on earth, ay, even better than her husband; for Herod's was not a character so to concentrate all affection in himself, that the silver links of natural affection had been dulled before it; her brother in blood, in love, in the proud glories of their ancient race and heritage, he lay in his cold grave; and dark suspicions filled her heart, that the only other being in the wide world whom her young spirit could have loved, was that brother's murderer! What to her were the magnificent honours which were lavished on his senseless remains, but as a mockery to the dead, and triumph to the living, that the last obstacle to his ambition was removed? If thus it was considered even by the fickle multitude, whose opinion magnificence and show generally guide where a sovereign wills, can we doubt, that it was thus considered by the bereaved and agonised sister, to whom the private character of Herod must have been more unguardedly displayed ? She had been too young, too innocent, too confiding, to become aware of it before ; but when awakened by a flash of agony like this, how might the confidence, the guileless trust of youth return. She had lived little more than twenty years; but she was now ALONE, and in that word dwells AGE.

Mariamne's deep affliction was visible only in her

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