“Come in!” said the guide. “These piles upon the floor are for travellers like yourselves. Take what of them you need.”

Then he spoke to Mary.

“Can you rest here?”

“The place is sanctified,” she answered.

“I leave you then. Peace be with you all!”

When he was gone, they busied themselves making the cave habitable.


CHAPTER X.

THE LIGHT IN THE SKY.

AT a certain hour in the evening the shouting and stir of the people in and about the khan ceased; at the same time, every Israelite, if not already upon his feet, arose, solemnized his face, looked towards Jerusalem, crossed his hands upon his breast, and prayed; for it was the sacred ninth hour, when sacrifices were offered in the temple on Moriah, and God was supposed to be there. When the hands of the worshippers fell down, the commotion broke forth again; everybody hastened to bread, or to make his pallet. A little later the lights were put out, and there was silence, and then sleep.

* * * * *

About midnight some one on the roof cried, “What light is that in the sky? Awake, brethren, awake and see!”

The people, half asleep, sat up and looked; then they became wide-awake, though wonder-struck. And the stir spread to the court below, and into the lewens; soon the entire tenantry of the house and court and enclosure were out gazing at the sky.

And this was what they saw. A ray of light, beginning at a height immeasurably beyond the nearest stars, and dropping obliquely to the earth; at its top, a diminishing point; at its base, many furlongs in width; its sides blending softly with the darkness of the night; its core a roseate electrical splendour. The apparition seemed to rest on the nearest mountain south-east of the town, making a pale corona along the line of the summit. The khan was touched luminously, so that those upon the roof saw each other’s faces, all filled with wonder.

Steadily, through minutes, the ray lingered, and then the wonder changed to awe and fear; the timid trembled; the boldest spoke in whispers.

“Saw you ever the like?” asked one.

“It seems just over the mountain there. I cannot tell what it is, nor did I ever see anything like it,” was the answer.

“Can it be that a star has burst and fallen?” asked another, his tongue faltering.

“When a star falls, its light goes out.”

“I have it!” cried one, confidently. “The shepherds have seen a lion, and made fires to keep him from the flocks.”

The men next the speaker drew a breath of relief, and said, “Yes, that is it! The flocks were grazing in the valley over there to-day.”

A bystander dispelled the comfort.

“No, no! Though all the wood in all the valleys of Judah was brought together in one pile and fired, the blaze would not throw a light so strong and high.”