TYPICAL CHARACTERS AT THE JOPPA GATE.
LET us take our stand by the gate, just out of the edge of the currents- one flowing in, the other out- and use our eyes and ears awhile.
In good time! Here come two men of a most noteworthy class.
“Gods! How cold it is!” says one of them, a powerful figure in armour; on his head a brazen helmet, on his body a shining breastplate and skirts of mail. “How cold it is! Dost thou remember, my Caius, that vault in the Comitium at home which the flamens say is the entrance to the lower world? By Pluto, I could stand there this morning long enough at least to get warm again!”
The party addressed drops the hood of his military cloak, leaving bare his head and face, and replies, with an ironic smile, “The helmets of the legions which conquered Mark Antony were full of Gallic snow; but thou- ah, my poor friend!- thou has just come from Egypt, bringing its summer in thy blood.”
And with the last word they disappear through the entrance. Though they had been silent, the armour and the sturdy step would have published them Roman soldiers.
From the throng a Jew comes next, meagre of frame, round-shouldered, and wearing a coarse brown robe; over his eyes and face, and down his back, hangs a mat of long, uncombed hair. He is alone. Those who meet him laugh, if they do not worse; for he is a Nazarite, one of a despised sect which rejects the books of Moses, devotes itself to abhorred vows, and goes unshorn while the vows endure.
As we watch his retiring figure, suddenly there is a commotion in the crowd, a parting quickly to the right and left, with exclamations sharp and decisive. Then the cause comes- a man, Hebrew in feature and dress. The mantle of snow-white linen, held to his head by cords of yellow silk, flows free over his shoulders; his robe is richly embroidered; a red sash with fringes of gold wraps his waist several times. His demeanour is calm; he even smiles upon those who, with such rude haste, make room for him. A leper? No; he is only a Samaritan. The shrinking crowd, if asked, would say he is a mongrel- an Assyrian- whose touch of the robe is pollution; from whom, consequently, an Israelite, though dying, might not accept life. In fact, the feud is not of blood. When David set his throne here on Mount Zion, with only Judah to support him, the ten tribes betook themselves to Shechem, a city much older, and, at that date, infinitely richer in holy memories. The final union of the tribes did not settle the dispute thus begun. The Samaritans clung to their tabernacle on Gerizim, and, while maintaining its superior sanctity, laughed at the irate doctors in Jerusalem. Time brought no assuagement of the hate. Under Herod, conversion to the faith was open to all the world except the Samaritans; they alone were absolutely and forever shut out from communion with Jews.