“Tell him I loved him.”
The elder leper arose from bending over the fainting sufferer, and gazed about her with that sensation of hope perishing which is more nearly like annihilation of the soul than anything else. The supremest joy of the thought of cure was inseparable from Tirzah, who was not too old to forget, in the happiness of healthful life to come, the years of misery by which she had been so reduced in body and broken in spirit. Even as the brave woman was about leaving the venture they were engaged in to the determination of God, she saw a man on foot coming rapidly up the road from the east.
“Courage, Tirzah! Be of cheer,” she said. “Yonder I know is one to tell us of the Nazarene.”
Amrah helped the girl to a sitting posture, and supported her while the man advanced.
“In your goodness, mother, you forget what we are. The stranger will go around us; his best gift to us will be a curse, if not a stone.”
“We will see.”
There was no other answer to be given, since the mother was too well and sadly acquainted with the treatment outcasts of the class to which she belonged were accustomed to at the hands of her countrymen.
As has been said, the road at the edge of which the group was posted was little more than a worn path or trail, winding crookedly through tumuli of limestone. If the stranger kept it, he must meet them face to face; and he did so, until near enough to hear the cry she was bound to give. Then, uncovering her head, a further demand of the law, she shouted shrilly- “Unclean! unclean!”
To her surprise, the man came steadily on.
“What would you have?” he asked, stopping opposite them not four yards off.
“Thou seest us. Have a care,” the mother said, with dignity.
“Woman, I am the courier of him who speaketh but once to such as thou and they are healed. I am not afraid.”
“The Messiah,” he said.
“Is it true that he cometh to the city to-day?”
“He is now at Bethphage.”
“On what road, master?”
She clasped her hands, and looked up thankfully.
“For whom takest thou him?” the man asked, with pity.
“The Son of God,” she replied.
“Stay thou here then; or, as there is a multitude with him, take thy stand by the rock yonder, the white one under the tree; and as he goeth by fail not to call to him; call, and fear not. If thy faith but equal thy knowledge, he will hear thee though all the heavens thunder. I go to tell Israel, assembled in and about the city, that he is at hand, and to make ready to receive him. Peace to thee and thine, woman.”