Read CHAPTER XXXII. of The Brook Kerith A Syrian story, free online book, by George Moore, on

Jesus feared to awaken him, but was constrained at last to call after him:  thou’rt dreaming, Paul.  Awake!  Remember the Essenes ... friends, friends.  But Paul did not hear him, and it was not till Jesus laid his hand on his shoulder that Paul opened his eyes:  thou hast been dreaming, Paul, Jesus said.  Where am I?  Paul inquired.  With the Essenes, Jesus answered.  I was too tired to sleep deeply, Paul said, and it would be useless for me to lie down again.  I am afraid of my dreams; and together they stood looking across the abyss watching the rocks opposite coming into their shapes against a strip of green sky.

The ravine was still full of mist, and a long time seemed to pass before the bridge and the ruins over against the bridge began to appear.  As the dawn advanced sleep came upon Paul’s eyelids.  He lay down and dozed awhile, for about an hour, and when he opened his eyes again Jesus’ hand was upon his shoulder and he was saying:  Paul, it is now daybreak:  at the Brook Kerith we go forth to meet the sunrise.  To meet the sunrise, Paul repeated, for he knew nothing of the doctrine of the Essenes.  But he followed Jesus through the gallery and received from him a small hatchet with instructions how he should use it, and a jar which he must fill with water at the well.  We carry water with us, Jesus said, for the way is long to the brook; only by sending nearly to the source can we reach it, for we are mindful not to foul the water we drink.  But come, we’re late already.  Jesus threw a garment over Paul’s shoulder and told him of the prayers he must murmur.  We do not speak of profane matters till after sunrise.  He broke off suddenly and pointed to a place where they might dig:  and as soon as we have purified ourselves, he continued, we will fare forth in search of shepherds, who, on being instructed by us, will be watchful for a young man lost on the hills and will direct him to the Essene settlement above the Brook Kerith.  Be of good courage, he will be found.  Hadst thou come before to-day myself would be seeking him for thee, but yesterday I gave over my flock to Jacob, a trustworthy lad, who will give the word to the next one, and he will pass it on to another, and so the news will be carried the best part of the way to Caesarea before noon.  It may be that thy companion has found his way to Caesarea already, for some can return whither they have come, however long and strange the way may be.  Pause, we shall hear Jacob’s pipe answer mine.  Jesus played a few notes, which were answered immediately, and not long afterwards the shepherd appeared over a ridge of hills.  Thy shepherd, Paul said, is but a few years younger than Timothy and he looks to thee as Timothy looks to me.  Tell him who I am and whom I seek.  Jacob, Jesus said, thou didst tell me last night of a preacher to whom the multitude would not listen, but sought to throw into the Jordan.  He has come amongst us seeking his companion Timothy.  The twain escaped from the multitude, Jacob interjected.  That is true, Jesus answered, but they ran apart above the brook, one keeping on to Caesarea, this man followed the path round the rocks (how he did it we are still wondering) and climbed up to our dwelling.  We must find his companion for him.  Jacob promised that every shepherd should hear that a young man was missing.  As soon as a shepherd appears on yon hillside, Jacob said, he shall have the word from me, and he will pass it on.  Jesus looked up into Paul’s anxious face.  We cannot do more, he said, and began to speak with Jacob of rams and ewes just as if Timothy had passed out of their minds.  Paul listened for a while, but finding little to beguile his attention in their talk, he bade Jesus and Jacob good-bye for the present, saying he was returning to the cenoby.  I wonder, he said to himself, as he went up the hill, if they’d take interest in my craft, I could talk to them for a long while of the thread which should always be carefully chosen, and which should be smooth and of equal strength, else, however deftly the shuttle be passed, the woof would be rough.  But no matter, if they’ll get news of Timothy for me I’ll listen to their talk of rams and ewes without complaint.  It was kind of Jacob to say he did not think Timothy had fallen down a precipice, but what does he know? and on his way back Paul tried to recall the ravine that he had seen in the dusk as he leaned over the balcony with Jesus.  And as he passed through the domed gallery he stopped for a moment by the well, it having struck him that he might ask the brother drawing water to come with him to look for Timothy.  If my son were lying at the bottom of the ravine, he said, I should not be able to get him out without help.  Come with me.

The Essene did not know who Paul was, nor of whom he was speaking, and at the end of Paul’s relation the brother answered that there might be two hundred feet from the pathway to the brook, more than that in many places; but thou’lt see for thyself; I may not leave my work.  If a man be dying the Essene, by his rule, must succour him, Paul said.  But I know not, the Essene answered, that any man be dying in the brook.  We believe thy comrade held on to the road to Caesarea.  So it may have befallen, Paul said, but it may be else.  It may be, the Essene answered, but not likely.  He held on to the road to Caesarea, and finding thee no longer with him kept on ­or rolled over the cliff, Paul interrupted.  Well, see for thyself; and if he be at the bottom I’ll come to help thee.  But it is a long way down, and it may be that we have no rope long enough, and without one we cannot reach him, but forgive me, for I see that my words hurt thee.  But how else am I to speak?  I know thy words were meant kindly, and if thy president should ask to see me thou’lt tell him I’ve gone down the terraces and will return as soon as I have made search.  This search should have been made before.  That was not possible; the mist is only; just cleared, the brother answered, and Paul proceeded up and down the terraces till he reached the bridge, and after crossing it he mounted the path and continued it, venturing close to the edge and looking down the steep sides as he went, but seeing nowhere any traces of Timothy.  Had he fallen here, he said to himself, he would be lying in the brook.  But were Timothy lying there I could not fail to see him, nor is there water enough to wash him down into Jordan.  It must be he is seeking his way to Caesarea.  Let it be so, I pray God, and Paul continued his search till he came to where the path twisted round a rock debouching on to the hillsides.  We separated here, he said, looking round, and then remembering that they had been pursued for several miles into the hills and that the enemy’s scouts might be lurking in the neighbourhood, he turned back and descended the path, convinced of the uselessness of his search.  We parted at that rock, Timothy keeping to the left and myself turning to the right, and if anything has befallen he must be sought for by shepherds, aided by dogs.  Only with the help of dogs can he be traced, he said, and returning slowly to the bridge, he stood there lost in feverish forebodings, new ones rising up in his mind continually, for it might well be, he reflected, that Timothy has been killed by robbers, for these hills are infested by robbers and wild beasts, and worse than the wild beasts and the robbers are the Jews, who would pay a large sum of money for his capture.

And his thoughts running on incontinently, he imagined Timothy a prisoner in Jerusalem and himself forced to decide whether he should go there to defend Timothy or abandon his mission.  A terrible choice it would be for him to have to choose between his duty towards men and his love of his son, for Timothy was more to him than many sons are to their fathers, the companion of all his travels and his hope, for he was falling into years and needed Timothy now more than ever.  But it was not likely that the Jews had heard that Timothy was travelling from Jericho to Caesarea, and it was a feverish imagination of his to think that they would have time to send out agents to capture Timothy.  But if such a thing befell how would he account to Eunice for the death of the son that she had given him, wishing that somebody should be near him to protect and to serve him.  He had thought never to see Eunice again, but if her son perished he would have to see her.  But no, there would be no time ­he had appealed to Cæsar.  He must send a letter to her telling that he had started out for Jericho.  A dangerous journey he knew it to be, but he was without strength to resist the temptation of one more effort to save the Jews:  a hard, bitter, stiff-necked, stubborn race that did not deserve salvation, that resisted it.  He had been scourged, how many times, at the instigation of the Jews? and they had stoned him at Lystra, a city ever dear to him, for it was there he had met Eunice; the memories that gathered round her beautiful name calmed his disquiet, and the brook murmuring under the bridge through the silence of the gorge disposed Paul to indulge his memory, and in it the past was so pathetic and poignant that it was almost a pain to remember.  But he must remember, and following after a glimpse of the synagogue and himself preaching in it there came upon him a vision of a tall, grave woman since known to him as a thorn in his flesh, but he need not trouble to remember his sins, for had not God himself forgiven him, telling him that his grace was enough?  Why then should he hesitate to recall the grave, oval face that he had loved?  He could see it as plainly in his memory as if it were before him in the flesh, her eyes asking for his help so appealingly that he had been constrained to relinquish the crowd to Barnabas and give his mind to Eunice.  And they had walked on together, he listening to her telling how she had not been to the Synagogue for many years, for though she and her mother were prosélytes to the Jewish faith, neither practised it, since her marriage, for her husband was a pagan.  She had indeed taught her son the Scriptures in Greek, but no restraint had been put upon him; and she did not know to what god or goddess he offered sacrifice.  But last night an angel visited her and told her that that which she had always been seeking (though she had forgotten it) awaited her in the synagogue.  So she had gone thither and was not disappointed.  I’ve always been seeking him of whom thou speakest.  Her very words, and the very intonation of her voice in these words came back to him; he had put questions to her, and they had not come to the end of their talk when Laos, calling from the doorstep, said:  wilt pass the door, Eunice, without asking the stranger to cross it?  Whereupon she turned her eyes on Paul and asked him to forgive her for her forgetfulness, and Barnabas arriving at that moment, she begged him to enter.

And they had stayed on and on, exceeding their apportioned time, Barnabas reproving the delay, but always agreeing that their departure should be adjourned since it was Paul’s wish to adjourn it.  So Barnabas had always spoken, for he was a weak man, and Paul acknowledged to himself that he too was a weak man in those days.

Laos seemed to love Barnabas as a mother, and Laos and Eunice were received by me into the faith, Paul said.  On these words his thoughts floated away and he became absorbed in recollections of the house in Lystra.  The months he had spent with these two women had been given to him, no doubt, as a recompense for the labours he had endured to bring men to believe that by faith only in our Lord Jesus Christ could they be saved.  He would never see Lystra again with his physical eye, but it would always be before him in his mind’s eye:  that terrible day the Jews had dragged him and Barnabas outside the town rose up before him.  Only by feigning death did they escape the fate of Stephen.  In the evening the disciples brought them back.  Laos and Eunice sponged their wounds, and at daybreak they left for Derbe, Barnabas saying that perhaps God was angry at their delay in Lystra and to bring them back to his work had bidden the Jews stone them without killing them.  Eunice was not sure that Barnabas had not spoken truly, and Paul remembered with gratitude that she always put his mission before herself.  Thou’lt be safer, she said, in Derbe, and from Derbe thou must go on carrying the glad tidings to the ends of the earth.  But thou must not forget thy Galatians, and when thou returnest to Lystra Timothy will be old enough to follow thee.  He had fared for ever onwards over seas and lands, ever mindful of his faithful Galatians and Eunice and her son whom she had promised to him, and whom he had left learning Greek so that he might fulfil the duties of amanuensis.

The silence of the gorge and the murmur of the brook enticed recollections and he was about to abandon himself to memories of his second visit to Lystra when a voice startled him from his reverie, and, looking round, he saw a tall, thin man who held his head picturesquely.  I presume you are our guest, and seeing you alone, I laid my notes aside and have come to offer my services to you.  Your services?  Paul repeated.  If you desire my services, Mathias replied; and if I am mistaken, and you do not require them, I will withdraw and apologise for my intrusion.  For your intrusion?  Paul repeated.  I am your guest, and the guest of the Essenes, for last night Timothy and myself were assailed by the Jews.  By the Jews?  Mathias replied, but we are Jews.  Whereupon Paul told him of his journey from Caesarea, and that he barely escaped drowning in the Jordan.  In the escape from drowning Mathias showed little interest, but he was curious to hear the doctrine that had given so much offence.  I spoke of the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul answered, the one Mediator between God and man who was sent by his Father to redeem the world.  Only by faith in him the world may be saved, and the Jews will not listen.  A hard, bitter, cruel race they are, that God will turn from in the end, choosing another from the Gentiles, since they will not accept him whom God has chosen to redeem men by the death and resurrection from the dead of the Lord Jesus Christ, raised from the dead by his Father.  Mathias raised his eyes at the words “resurrection from the dead.”  Of whom was Paul speaking?  He could still be interested in miracles, but not in the question whether the corruptible body could be raised up from earth to heaven.  He had wearied of that question long ago, and was now propense to rail against the little interest the Jews took in certain philosophical questions ­the relation of God to the universe, and suchlike ­and he began to speak to Paul of his country, Egypt, and of Alexandria’s schools of philosophy, continuing in this wise till Paul asked him how it was that he had left a country where the minds of the people were in harmony with his mind to come to live among people whose thoughts were opposed to his.  That would be a long story to tell, Mathias answered, and I am in the midst of my argument.

The expression that began to move over Mathias’ face told Paul that he was asking himself once again what his life would have been if he had remained in Alexandria.  Talking, he said, to these Essenes who stand midway between Jerusalem and Alexandria my life has gone by.  Why I remained with them so long is a question I have often asked myself.  Why I came hither with them from the cenoby on the eastern bank, that, too, is a matter that I have never been able to decide.  You have heard, he continued, of the schism of the Essenes.  How those on the eastern bank believe that the order can only be preserved by marriage, while those on the western bank, the traditionalists up there on that rock in that aerie, would rather the order died than that any change should be made in the rule of life.  In answer to a question from Paul he said he did not believe that the order would survive the schism.  It may be, too, that I return to Alexandria.  No man knows his destiny; but if you be minded, he said, to hear me, I will reserve a place near to me.  My mind is distracted, Paul replied, by fears for the safety of Timothy; and perhaps to save himself from Mathias’ somewhat monotonous discourse he spoke of his apostolic mission, interesting Mathias at once, who began to perceive that Paul, however crude and elementary his conceptions might be (so crude did they appear to Mathias that he was not inclined to include them in his code of philosophical notions at all), was a story in himself, and one not lacking in interest; his ideas though crude were not common, and their talk had lasted long enough for him to discern many original turns of speech in Paul’s incorrect Greek, altogether lacking in construction, but betraying constantly an abrupt vigour of thought.  He was therefore disappointed when Paul, dropping suddenly the story of the apostolic mission, which he had received from the apostles, who themselves had received it from the Lord Jesus Christ, began to tell suddenly that on his return from his mission to Cyprus with Barnabas he had preached in Derbe and Lystra.  It was in Lystra, he cried, that I met Timothy, whom I circumcised with my own hand; he was then a boy of ten, and his mother, who was a pious, God-fearing woman, foresaw in him a disciple, and said when we left, after having been cured by her and her mother of our wounds, when thou returnest to the Galatians he will be nearly old enough to follow thee, but tarry not so long, she added.  But it was a long while before I returned to Lystra, and then Timothy was a young man, and ever since our lives have been spent in the Lord’s service, suffering tortures from robbers that sought to obtain ransom.  We have been scourged and shipwrecked.  But, said Mathias, interrupting him, I know not of what you are speaking, and Paul was obliged to go over laboriously in words the story that he had dreamed in a few seconds.  And when it was told Mathias said:  your story is worth telling.  After my lecture the brethren will be glad to listen to you.  But, said Paul, what I have told you is nothing to what I could tell; and Mathias answered:  so much the better, for I shall not have to listen to a twice-told story.  And now, he added, I must leave you, for I have matter that must be carefully thought out, and in those ruins yonder my best thinking is done.

Speak to the Essenes; tell them of my conversion?  Paul repeated.  Why not? he asked himself, since he was here and could not leave till nightfall.  Festus had given him leave to go to Jericho to preach while waiting for the ship that was to take him to Rome, and he had found in Jericho the intolerance that had dragged him out of the Temple at Jerusalem; circumcision of the flesh but no circumcision of the spirit....  But here!  He had been led to the Essenes by God, and all that had seemed dark the night before now seemed clear to him.  There was no longer any doubt in his mind that the Lord wished his chosen people to hear the truth before his servant Paul left Palestine for ever.  He had been led by the Lord among these rocks, perhaps to find twelve disciples, who would leave their rocks when they heard the truth of the death and ascension of Jesus of Nazareth and would carry the joyful tidings to the ends of the earth.