“Oh, I see now why the Greek outstripped us,” said Judah, intensely interested. “And the ark; accursed be the Babylonians who destroyed it.”
“Nay, Judah, be of faith. It was not destroyed, only lost, hidden away too safely in some cavern of the mountains. One day- Hellel and Shammai both say so- one day, in the Lord’s good time, it will be found and brought forth, and Israel dance before it, singing as of old. And they who look upon the faces of the cherubim then, though they have seen the face of the ivory Minerva, will be ready to kiss the hand of the Jew from love of his genius, asleep through all the thousands of years.”
The mother, in her eagerness, had risen into something like the rapidity and vehemence of a speech-maker; but now, to recover herself, or to pluck up the thread of her thought, she rested awhile.
“You are so good, my mother,” he said, in a grateful way. “And I will never be done saying so. Shammai could not have talked better, nor Hillel. I am a true son of Israel again.”
“Flatterer!” she said. “You do not know that I am but repeating what I heard Hillel say in an argument he had one day in my presence with a sophist from Rome.”
“Well, the hearty words are yours.”
Directly all her earnestness returned.
“Where was I? Oh yes, I was claiming for our Hebrew fathers the first statues. The trick of the sculptor, Judah, is not all there is of art, any more than art is all there is of greatness. I always think of great men marching down the centuries in groups and goodly companies, separable according to nationalities; here the Indian, there the Egyptian, yonder the Assyrian; above them the music of trumpets and the beauty of banners; and on their right hand and left, as reverent spectators, the generations from the beginning numberless. As they go, I think of the Greek saying, ‘Lo! the Hellene leads the way.’ Then the Roman replies, ‘Silence! what was your place is ours now; we have left you behind as dust trodden on.’ And all the time, from the far front back over the line of march, as well as forward into the farthest future, streams a light of which the wranglers know nothing, except that it is forever leading them on- the Light of Revelation! Who are they that carry it? Ah, the old Judean blood! How it leaps at the thought! By the light we know them. Thrice blessed, O our fathers, servants of God, keepers of the covenants! Ye are the leaders of men, the living and the dead. The front is thine; and though every Roman were a Caesar, ye shall not lose it!”
Judah was deeply stirred.
“Do not stop, I pray you,” he cried. “You give me to hear the sound of timbrels. I wait for Miriam and the women who went after her dancing and singing.”