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tastic vessel, that with great prow and scarlet sails, moving gently in the breeze, was gliding leisurely yet majestically over the azure of the smooth water. Huge oars like golden fins projected from the sides and dipped every now and then, wielded by the hands of unseen rowers. Nearer and nearer it came—brighter and brighter it glowed,—the sound of stringed music, solemn and sweet rippled enchantingly over the placid river—nearer, and now the vessel slid round with a graceful sweep and courtesied forward, creamy hangings falling in rich folds draped it, gold cords looped the sails—on the deck a band of young girls dressed in white, and wreathed with flowers knelt, playing softly on stringed instruments; and there were cupid like young boys, half nude, grouped in reposeful attitudes alongside of the edge of the prow holding garlands of flowers reaching to the surface of the water beneath. The central figure of this strange vessel was a woman wonderfully beautiful, clothed in gold attire, and girdled with gems, she stood leaning against the middle mast of the vessel in an indolent manner, her dark eyes seemed to fall lazily upon the people whose roar of rapture and admiration sounded like the breaking of billows. Presently she slowly extended one hand and arm and made an imperious gesture to command silence. Instantly a profound silence ensued. Lifting a long slender wand, she described three circles in the air with an even majestic motion. Abram noticed as she did this, her eyes rested upon him; and turning he realized that he was the only unkneeling soul in that abject multitude.
The vessel now began to move onward, and soon it vanished. Suddenly a dozen hands were laid roughly on him, loud angry voices shouted on all sides, “A traitor,” “A spy,” “An infidel,” “into the water with him.”—“He denies the gods.” With a few agile movements he wrenched himself from their grasp, and stood like a stag at bay—“What have I done?—speak—is it the fashion of this city to condemn a man unheard?” No one answered this appeal.
The sound of musical instruments now directed the attention of his assailants to a youth arrayed in crimson, and carrying a small golden harp; as he approached, the people parted right and left, thus clearing the way for another personage who followed him, a graceful, Adonis-like personage in glittering white apparel, with collar of gold set with diamonds, and jeweled sheath, armlet and belt, and wearing a myrtle wreath on his abundant dark hair.
The populace now forgot the cause of their disturbance and greeted the personage with, “Hail,” “All Hail.” “Zamula.” The newcomer thus greeted bowed right and left—“What disturbance is here?” he demanded,—“A traitor,” a most insolent knave, he refuses homage to the High Priestess.”
Zamula now saw Abram. There was a brief pause in which the two young men surveyed each other.
“Who art thou?” demanded the Laureate.
“I am a stranger from Ur of the Chaldees, my name is Abram.”
“A stranger from Ur, then I insure thy safety, and bid thee welcome: thy distinguished appearance proclaims thee guest of the king's laureate.”
Now, turning he said to the people, Know you not that strangers are exempt from worship? “O, you hasty misjudging Akkadians.” To Abram he said: “You, my dear sir, will doubtless be glad to rest and recover from the ungentle treatment of my countrymen,”—As he said this he took Abram by the arm and passed on through the ranks nodding graciously here and there with the air of a monarch who occasionally bows to some of his poorest subjects. Abram began to express thanks for the timely rescue he had received—but Zamula waived all such acknowledgements. They passed through broad avenues lined with magnificent. palms, and soon came to the palace-like residence of Zamula. It was a dome-shaped building surrounded by fluted colonnades, and fronted by a spacious court, paved with mosaics, where flower-bordered fountains dashed up showers of refreshing spray. Into this court and across it he led his guest. Ascending a wide flight of steps they entered a large open hall, where the light poured in through rose color and pale blue glass giving the effect of mingled moonlight and sunset. Several beautiful girls were here reclining on richly covered cushions; some were amusing themselves with tame birds, some were weaving garlands of myrtle leaves. One was holding a golden harp, as though she were considering what chords she should next awaken from its responsive strings. As Zamula and his guest appeared, all arose and stood silently with bowed heads and folded hands. As Zamula led his guest past these fairy-like forms, he paused at the side
of the girl with the harp, “Ah, Sarai,”—(Abram and Sarai had exchanged glances of glad but secret recognition for there was quick understanding between them) “Ah, Sarai,” Sweet virtue, see I have brought with me a stranger-I must have thee warble for his pleasure some of my songs thou hast learned to render with such matchless tenderness. “Come,” said he to Abram, ”we shall pass the afternoon together, “Sarai, you will bring us fruit and wine,” bid my servant prepare the rose chamber for my guest, Myra and Athazel will wait upon him there.” Each girl touched her head with her hand in token of obedience. The poet escorted his visitor to the further end of the hall, there drawing aside curtains of azure silk, he ushered him into a splendid apartment opening out upon a charming terrace and garden beyond,-he bade Abram be seated. Abram sank indolently into a low richly cushioned chair and surveyed with admiration the elegant figure of his host who throwing himself on a couch covered with leopard skins looked at his guest with a smile of approval. “It is a fit place where the divine muse may dwell,”—nevertheless, air, light and flowers not lacking, methinks I could subsist were I deprived of all other things.” Abram sat silent and looked about him, the domed ceiling was wreathed with carved clusters of grapes and pomegranates, the walls were frescoed with glowing scenes of love and song tournament. The floor was inlaid with variegated mosaics and strewn with the soft, dark, furry skins of wild animals. Grand busts stood on pedestals or projecting brackets. There were velvet draped corners from which gleamed superb statuary. There were book cases overflowing with quaint volumes. Abram looking into the face of his host said, “Zamula, what are the laws by which this city is governed 2 What are the common laws of worship?” It seems that I committed an offence this morning that would have cost me my life but for thy timely deliverance? “The common laws of worship are the common laws of custom,” he replied—“nothing more and nothing less.” “We have an elected divinity—we accept a certain given definition of this suppositious divinity, accompanied with a suitable code of morals and maxims.” When people are persuaded to pay homage to an elected divinity they are but offering homage to an image of self, placed before them in a deified or heroic form. This satisfies the idolatrous cravings of human nature. Of course we in unison with all nations, worship the sun, sun-worship is the one leading principle in all nations, —in that our faith is universal. That refulgent Orb that gladdens and illumines the earth, and visibly controls the seasons is the acknowledged divinity in all nations. However, the well instructed know that the sun is no divinity at all, but simply a huge planet, a dense body surrounded by a luminous flame-darting atmosphere, but only one of many similar Orbs moving in strict obedience to fixed mathematical laws. They are neither self-acting nor omnipresent, nevertheless this knowledge is wisely kept back as much as possible from the populace, for were science to unveil her marvels too openly,–were education and enlightenment dispensed freely to the masses of people, the result