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readiness for a solemn state burial—strangely fascinated the maidens watched the gathering storm, Zamula exclaimed: “A storm is coming, 'twill break tonight: What a night of horrors it will be; I would it were past. A shudder ran through his delicate frame, his face was pale.
The vast stillness, the vast night was full of solemn wierdness. Presently the deep booming of a great bell smote heavily on the stillness. The temple of Shamas was lit up from base to summit. Twelve revolving stars on its twelve tall turrets cast forth penetrating beams into the darkness of the night. The doors stood open, and a thunderous hum of solemn music vibrated in waves of sound through the densely hot air. Enormous crowds of people were fast filling the temple. There was a dim, yet sparkling splendor in the immense dome above, lights twinkled everywhere. There were distant glimpses of jeweled shrines, and the luring faces of grotesque idols.
But the place of the inner shrine was spanned by an arch of pale blue fire from right to left, there from huge vessels, burning incense arose in thick and odorous clouds—there children clad in white stood about as still as statues, their hands folded and their eyes downcast. The sanctuary itself was not visible.
Before the holy of holies hung the dazzling folds of the Silver Veil. Across it in large characters was:–
I AM THE PAST, THE PRESENT,
There Nimrod was seated directly in front of the veil, Zamula was near him at his right hand. Presently out of a side arch way came a band of priests walking two by two, waving palm bows, these were clothed in purple and wore ivy wreaths; they marched sedately, chanting inaudibly; arriving at the lowest step of the shrine they prostrated themselves. The glistening veil moved, again it moved, waving to and fro; again it moved, then it began to part in the middle very slowly. A figure, angelically fair appeared, the central jewel of the stately shrine, Istar, High Priestess of the Sun, gloriously arrayed in Sin. She stood still; her hands folded across her breast, her eyes turned upward, her robe was pearly white, her diadem of serpents was a sparkling flame. Her arms were bare. The great symbolic eye flared from her bosom on all sides. After a brief pause, she unfolded her arms and raised them with a slow majestic movement above her head. She lifted up her voice and chanted:— “Give glory to the Sun O, ye people; for his light doth illumine your darkness.” The people murmured, “We give him glory.” “Give glory to Shamas O, ye people; for he alone can turn aside the wrath of the immortals.” “We give him glory,” rejoined the multitude. There was a time of strange silence; all loud music ceased, the lights in the body of the temple were lowered; the back of the sanctuary parted asunder, disclosing a huge image with outstretched arms. Then the priest, Lazel, advanced to the foot of the shrine with slow, solemn step, and spreading out his hands in the manner of one pronouncing a benediction, said loudly: “Shamas the divine doth hear the prayer of his people: Shamas the supreme doth accept the sacrifice: Bring forth the victim.” There was stern authority in the last words. A dreadful silence ensued. Suddenly a slight shudder of morbid expectancy seemed to quiver through the vast congregation. There was a loud burst of music. The arms of the great image spread apart, revealing a furnace of fire. The victim appeared and was being lowered into the fire. * A flash of time, an appalling roar of thunder, a dazzling flash of light in which appeared a majestic being not of earth. At the same time the startling boom of an approaching army and the tramping of horses. Then there followed a sudden calm; for a moment all was light and clear in which the mighty Abram was seen beside Zamula. King, priestess and priests had fallen as though dead, but soon arose. All the congregation were dumb with fear and amazement. Zamula and Abram were passing out. Suddenly a blood curdling shriek was heard. Shriek after shriek resounded through the dome of the temple. It was Istar. Now in the precincts of the temple there was an underground den of serpents. Victims were often cast alive to these serpents. It sometimes happened that a vestal virgin broke her vows, by wishing to wed, and when it was discovered that she secretly but truly loved a young man, she and the young man were cast alive into this den of snakes. One of the huge snakes had broke loose at the time of Abram's deliverance, and with a stealthy spring had fastened its coils about Istar's waist. The captor was a captive now, doomed to the same horrible death to which she had consigned so many of her victims. She and those with her had cherished the deadly poison that withers the soul, the deadly poison of doubt, the denial of God's existence. Now came death as sudden and fierce as the leap of the desert panther upon its prey. Zamula and Abram, with attendants, made haste and were soon at the poet's home. Sarai and the other maidens had remained at home, waiting with mingled hope and fear. And now when they saw Abram with Zamula, their joy and amazement was simply indescribable. It was very late that night when all retired for rest. But Zamula could not sleep. He was face to face with a crisis— even the crisis of his existence, the moment had come for him to decide: The God of Abram had decidedly proven his existence in demonstration of divine wrath against the cruel power of force and had delivered his servant who trusted in Him. Yet Zamula was gloomy, shadows deep and dark were all about him; for to believe in God would mean more than a change of garment, or a change of opinion. He had never prayed. He thought of Abram, and now he prayed. His prayer was mingled with intelligent thought and became the medium by which the soul is brought in contact with the Infinite on high. The shadows fled, all heaviness was gone, and a calm, quiet assurance filled his soul. Difficult to ex
* “When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, when, o, ** through the flame it shall not kindle upon ee. sa.