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HELON'S PILGRIMAGE

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JERUSALEM.

BOOK III.

THE FEAST OF PENTECOST.

CHAPTER I.

THE SACERDOTAL OFFICE.

The feast of the Passover was ended. The multitude had returned to their homes, or resumed their occupations in the city. The ashes on the altar of burnt-offering, whose gradual accumulation, during the week of the Passover, had raised them at last into a lofty pyramid, had been cleared away. The days of unleavened bread were past; the people had returned

VOL. II.

to their ordinary food, and all the glory of the festival seemed to have disappeared from the city.

Helon stood on the roof, on the following morning, contemplating the rising sun. His eyes turned towards the temple, and he remembered, with a feeling of disappointment and regret, that on this as on the preceding day, only a single customary sacrifice would be presented there. He looked down upon the streets -the exhilarating commotion of the festival had vanished, and all was solitary and still, save where a Tyrian merchant was seen hastening through the gate with his empty sacks, or a Galilean dealer in cattle, driving before him the remnant of his herd, for which he had been unable to find a purchaser. No pilgrim from Hebron or Libna, no stranger of the Diaspora was to be seen.

A deep melancholy took possession of Helon's mind, and this day seemed likely to pass even more gloomily than the preceding. The dejection of mind which for several years past had been his habitual companion, had suddenly

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vanished during the paschal week. The enthusiasm which began at Beersheba, when he knelt down to greet the land of his fathers, had gone on constantly increasing ; and he had felt within himself a resolution, which it seemed as if nothing could daunt, to keep the law of Jehovah. But now, though still in the Holy Land and in the city of God, his spirits sunk at every moment; his feelings had been too highly excited, and this depression was the natural consequence. He could not descend to the ordinary occupations of life in Jerusalem, in which, as the city of Jehovah, it seemed to him that a perpetual festival ought to prevail. .

In the preceding days only the psalms, with their tone of cheerful and exulting piety, or the joyous prophecies of Isaiah, had been in his heart and on his lips ; now the plaintive strains of Jeremiah, his former favourites, recurred to his mind, and he began to feel how removed he still was from that inward peace for which he longed, and which he thought that he had found in the first days of the festival. When he looked down upon the streets, whose compa

rative emptiness seemed to him absolute desolation, the beginning of the Lamentations came to his mind,

How doth the city sit solitary that was full of people ! How is she become as a widow !

And he could scarcely forbear adding from the same prophet, *

My soul is removed from peace,
And I said my confidence is perished
And my hope in Jehovah.

With such feelings he wandered up and down on the roof, in the cool air of morning. Suddenly the smoke of the morning-sacrifice arose on mount Moriah, and the sound of a solitary trumpet was heard from the hill of the Lord. All Helon's feelings returned with the associations of this sight and sound. “There is then,” he exclaimed, “one occupation in Jerusalem, which is a perpetual festival. It is theirs who dwell in the house of the Lord and minister at his altar. Why do I delay my resolution ?”

* Lam. iii. 18.

At this moment the door of the Alijah opened, and the venerable Elisama issued from it. He had been performing there his morning devotions. Helon went up to him, wished hin peace, and with kindling looks thus addressed him; “My uncle, often hast thou told me that Israel is Israel only in the Holy Land, yet even here I cannot remain, unless I become a priest.”

“Restless youth,” said Elisama smiling ; “ is it not enough for thee that thou art in the city of Jehovah ?”

“But,” replied Helon, “even in the city of Jehovah, the priests alone keep a perpetual festival; and I fain would keep it with them.”

Elisama looked at him in joyful surprise. It had been his own wish that Helon, whose dislike of commerce he perceived, should become a priest, but wishing that it should be his spontaneous choice, he had forborne to suggest it to him; and he had not hoped for so speedy and so decisive a declaration. Scarcely able to repress his joy, he replied, “In a son of Levi the wish is natural; but what has suggested it ?"

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