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The Boy of Nazareth Dreams
by [?]

There were sixty or seventy kinsfolk and neighbors, plain rustic men and women, in the little company that set out from Nazareth. The men carried arms to protect the caravan from robbers or marauders. As they wound slowly down the steep, stony road to the plain of Esdraelon the Boy ran ahead, making short cuts, turning aside to find a partridge’s nest among the bushes, jumping from rock to rock like a young gazelle, or poising on the edge of some cliff in sheer delight of his own sure-footedness.

His body was outlined against the sky; his blue eyes (like those of his mother, who was a maid of Bethlehem) sparkled with the joy of living; his long hair was lifted and tossed by the wind of April. But his mother’s look followed him anxiously, and her heart often leaped in her throat.

“My son,” she said, as they took their noon-meal in the valley at the foot of dark Mount Gilboa, “you must be more careful. Your feet might slip.”

“Mother,” answered the Boy, “I am truly very careful. I always put my feet in the places that God has made for them–on the big, strong rocks that will not roll. It is only because I am so happy that you think I am careless.”

The tents were pitched, the first night, under the walls of Bethshan, a fortified city of the Romans. Set on a knoll above the river Jordan, the town loomed big and threatening over the little camp of the Galilean pilgrims. But they kept aloof from it, because it was a city of the heathen. Its theatres and temples and palaces were accursed. The tents were indifferent to the city, and when the night opened its star-fields above them and the heavenly lights rose over the mountains of Moab and Samaria, the Boy’s clear voice joined in the slumber-song of the pilgrims:

“I will lift up mine eyes to the hilis,
From whence cometh my help;
My help cometh from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to stumble,
He who keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, He who guardeth Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.”

Then they drew their woollen cloaks over their heads and rested on the ground in peace.

For two days their way led through the wide valley of the Jordan, along the level land that stretched from the mountains on either side to the rough gulch where the river was raging through its jungle. They passed through broad fields of ripe barley and ripening wheat, where the quail scuttled and piped among the thick-growing stalks. There were fruit-orchards and olive-groves on the foothills, and clear streams ran murmuring down through glistening oleander thickets. Wild flowers sprang in every untilled corner; tall spikes of hollyhocks, scarlet and blue anemones, clusters of mignonette, rock-roses, and cyclamens, purple iris in the moist places, and many-colored spathes of gladiolus growing plentifully among the wheat.

The larks sang themselves into the sky in the early morn. Hotter grew the sun and heavier the air in that long trough below the level of the sea. The song of birds melted away. Only the hawks wheeled on motionless wings above silent fields, watching for the young quail or the little rabbits, hidden among the grain.

The pilgrims plodded on in the heat. Companies of soldiers with glittering arms, merchants with laden mules jingling their bells, groups of ragged thieves and bold beggars met and jostled the peaceful travellers on the road. Once a little band of robbers, riding across the valley to the land of Moab, turned from a distance toward the Nazarenes, circled swiftly around them like hawks, whistling and calling shrilly to one another. But there was small booty in that country caravan, and the men who guarded it looked strong and tough; so the robbers whirled away as swiftly as they had come.

The Boy had stood close to his father in this moment of danger, looking on with surprise at the actions of the horsemen.

“What did those riders want?” he asked.

“All we have,” answered the man.

“But it is very little,” said the Boy. “Nothing but our clothes and some food for our journey. If they were hun
gry, why did they not ask of us?”