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A Piece Of Possible History
by [?]

[This essay was first published in the Monthly Religious Magazine, Boston, for October, 1851. One or another professor of chronology has since taken pains to tell me that it is impossible. But until they satisfy themselves whether Homer ever lived at all, I shall hold to the note which I wrote to Miss Dryasdust’s cousin, which I printed originally at the end of the article, and which will be found there in this collection. The difficulties in the geography are perhaps worse than those of chronology.]

* * * * *

A summer bivouac had collected together a little troop of soldiers from Joppa, under the shelter of a grove, where they had spread their sheep-skins, tethered their horses, and pitched a single tent. With the carelessness of soldiers, they were chatting away the time till sleep might come, and help them to to-morrow with its chances; perhaps of fight, perhaps of another day of this camp indolence. Below the garden slope where they were lounging, the rapid torrent of Kishon ran brawling along. A full moon was rising above the rough edge of the Eastern hills, and the whole scene was alive with the loveliness of an Eastern landscape.

As they talked together, the strains of a harp came borne down the stream by the wind, mingling with the rippling of the brook.

“The boys were right,” said the captain of the little company. “They asked leave to go up the stream to spend their evening with the Carmel-men; and said that they had there a harper, who would sing and play for them.”

“Singing at night, and fighting in the morning! It is the true soldier’s life,” said another.

“Who have they there?” asked a third.

“One of those Ziklag-men,” replied the chief. “He came into camp a few days ago, seems to be an old favorite of the king’s, and is posted with his men, by the old tomb on the edge of the hill. If you cross the brook, he is not far from the Carmel post; and some of his young men have made acquaintance there.”

“One is not a soldier for nothing. If we make enemies at sight, we make friends at sight too.”

“Echish here says that the harper is a Jew.”

“What!–a deserter?”

“I do not know that; that is the king’s lookout. Their company came up a week ago, were reviewed the day I was on guard at the outposts, and they had this post I tell you of assigned to them. So the king is satisfied; and, if he is, I am.”

“Jew or Gentile, Jehovah’s man or Dagon’s man,” said one of the younger soldiers, with a half-irreverent tone, “I wish we had him here to sing to us.”

“And to keep us awake,” yawned another.

“Or to keep us from thinking of to-morrow,” said a third.

“Can nobody sing here, or play, or tell an old-time story?”

There was nobody. The only two soldiers of the post, who affected musical skill, were the two who had gone up to the Carmelites’ bivouac; and the little company of Joppa–catching louder notes and louder, as the bard’s inspiration carried him farther and farther away–crept as far up the stream as the limits of their station would permit; and lay, without noise, to catch, as they best could, the rich tones of the music as it swept down the valley.

Soothed by the sound, and by the moonlight, and by the summer breeze, they were just in mood to welcome the first interruption which broke the quiet of the night. It was the approach of one of their company, who had been detached to Accho a day or two before; and who came hurrying in to announce the speedy arrival of companions, for whom he bespoke a welcome. Just as they were to leave Accho, he said, that day, on their return to camp, an Ionian trading-vessel had entered port. He and his fellow-soldiers had waited to help her moor, and had been chatting with her seamen. They had told them of the chance of battle to which they were returning; and two or three of the younger Ionians, enchanted at the relief from the sea’s imprisonment, had begged them to let them volunteer in company with them. These men had come up into the country with the soldiers, therefore; and he who had broken the silence of the listeners to the distant serenade had hurried on to tell his comrades that such visitors were on their way.