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Full text of "The Magi in the west and their search for the Christ : a tale for the Christmas tide"

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e OBIGI in n 



L. Campbell 


The ChristmasTide 




OW it happened a long The mountain 

time ago, in the year , of vision 

but the exact year does 

not matter, because you 
_ _ _ will not find this story 

written in the history of any of the 
nations of the world. But in one of 
the countries of Europe bordering on 
the Mediterranean Sea was a lofty 
mountain, which, to the dwellers in 
the plains below, seemed to reach to 
the very sky. At times its summit w^as 
covered with clouds, so that it could 
not be seen; at other times it stood 
out fair and clear, as though silently 
asking the people to look up and not 
down. The lower slopes of the moun 
tain were covered -with olive trees, 
with groves of oranges and lemons, 
and with vineyards, and they were 
dotted here and there with the little 
white cottages of the peasants who 
made their living from these groves 
and vineyards, the fruit of which they 
sold in the city not far away. 


Along the mountain-side wound a 
the sea foot-trail even to the summit, and no 
where, in all the region, was there a 
finer view of the Mediterranean than 
from the summit of this mountain. In 
the long summer afternoons the peas 
ants and children would climb to the 
top, and look off on the lovely picture 
of land and sea. Then they would eat 
their simple lunch of bread and dates 
and olives, quenching their thirst from 
the spring on the mountain-side, 
which they called "Dew-of-heaven," 
so clear and fresh and sparkling was 
it; and when the sun began to touch 
the western sky with his pencils of 
gold and carmine and purple, they 
hastened down, that they might reach 
their cottages before the night shut in. 

On the day when this story begins 
a man was standing on the summit of 
the mountain looking across the sea 
in the direction where you will find 


Tyre and Joppa on the map. He was, A stranger 
very plainly, not one of the peasants cometh 
-who lived on the. mountain-side. He 
looked about sixty years of age; he 
was tall and erect, though he carried 
a staff in his hand. His hair and beard 
were long and flowing, and almost 
gray, but his eye was clear and pene 
trating, and he was looking across 
the sea as though he expected some 
one to appear. 

And while he stood there gazing 
seaward, there appeared a second 
man on the summit, helping himself 
up with his staff, and panting with 
the effort of the long climb. From his 
dress and manner it was plain that 
this man, too, was not one of the 
peasants, for, like the first comer, he 
seemed to belong to another age and 
clime. The two men glanced at each 
other and gave such greeting as stran 
gers might -who should meet in so 
solitary a spot as a mountain summit. 


And findeth Then both lapsed into silence and 
a friend looked off across the sea. 

Presently the last corner seemed to 
wake from his reverie; he walked 
over to the place where the other was 
sitting, still gazing off toward Joppa, 
and touched him on the shoulder: 
"A thousand pardons, my friend," he 
said, "but my mind is haunted with 
some far-off recollection, as though 
in some other land and some far-off 
time I had seen thy face. Wilt thou 
have the kindness to tell me thy 

Without lifting his eyes from the 
sea, and in a tone which seemed re 
gretful and sad, the stranger replied: 
"My name is Gaspard." 

"Gaspard! Indeed, then have I seen 
thee! Look at me, my friend; dost 
thou not remember me? My name is 
Melchior. Dost thou not recall that 
time, how long ago I know not, when 
thou and I and Balthazar followed a 


star which led us to a little Jewish A far-off 
hamlet, thou bearing gold and I frank- pilgrimage 
incense, and Balthazar myrrh? Dost recalled 
thou not remember how, on the long 
journey thither, we talked about the 
young Prince, whom we expected to 
find in a royal palace, and how at last 
when we reached the village, follow 
ing the star, we were led not to a pal 
ace, but to a little inn, and not even 
to a room within the inn, but to the 
stable-yard, where we found a sweet- 
faced peasant woman bending over a 
babe cradled in a manger; and stand 
ing near, a sturdy peasant, proud and 
happy ,whose name was Joseph? Dost 
thou not remember, too, that when 
we had recovered from our surprise, 
we left our gifts and greetings, and 
went our way as men who had been 
dreaming? Gaspard, dost thou not 
And Gaspard, looking now intently 

in the other's face, replied: 


And Melchior, I remember thee, and I re- 
wanderings member the journey of which thou 
in many hast spoken better than I remember 
lands aught else. Neither have I forgotten 
the surprise and disappointment with 
which we came to the place whither 
the star led us; nor how, after leav 
ing our gifts, we went away as in a 
dream; and, Melchior, I have been 
dreaming ever since. Even here hast 
thou found me in a dream of perplex 
ity. I am still Gaspard, the wander 
ing magician; for how many years I 
know not, I have wandered up and 
down these lands' of Europe. I have 
crossed the seas; in every place I 
have sought to find the kingdom over 
which we were told this young prince 
was one day to reign. Dost thou not 
remember that we were told his king 
dom was to last forever, that he would 
reign in it himself forever and would 
never die? Alas! I have lost the old 
power of the magician's art. I can 

summon no star to guide me to the If only 
place where I shall find this kingdom Balthazar 
and its king." were here 

"Truly, Gaspard," answered Mel- 
chior, "the story of your wanderings 
is but the repetition of my own; and 
even now was I drawn to this moun 
tain summit on the self-same errand 
that brought you here, to see if I 
could not discover in the direction of 
yonder land, where Bethlenem was, 
some star which might prove to be 
His star, and which might guide me 
in the new quest. If only our old com 
panion, Balthazar, were with us now, 
he might give us the clew to our 
search, for not only was he more skil 
ful in the magician's art, but he was 
braver and more courageous, and 
withal more serene in spirit." 

Now, even while Melchior was 
speaking, a voice was heard a little 
way down the mountain. Gaspard 
and Melchior stopped to listen. The 


A song voice was singing, and the words of 
in the air the song floated up to them distinctly: 

If the sun has hid its light, 
If the day has turned to night, 
If the heavens are not benign, 
If the stars refuse to shine 

Heart of man lose not thy hope; 

Door, there's none that shall not ope; 

Path, there's none that shall not clear; 

Heart of man! why shouldst thou fear! 

If for years should be thy quest, 
If for years thou hast no rest, 
If thou circlest earth and sea, 
If thou worn and weary be 

Heart of man, lose not thy hope; 

Door, there's none that shall not ope; 

Path, there's none that shall not clear; 

Heart of man! why shouldst thou fear! 

"That," exclaimed Gaspard and 
Melchior together, "is the voice of 
Balthazar," and they hastened to 
meet him, for he was now almost at 
the summit, and the refrain of his 
song was still upon his lips. At that 


moment Balthazar sprang up from Balthazar 
the sloping path into full view of the cometh 
two men, and, giving each a hand, 
exclaimed: "Gaspard, Melchior, be 
loved companions, I have found you 
at last. The peasants below were not 
mistaken. From their description, I 
was certain I should find you here. 
And you, too, have been searching 
these long years for the kingdom of 
the Christ! and, like me, you have 
met with disappointment; but, com 
rades, be not of faint heart: 

Door, there's none that shall not ope; 
Path, there's none that shall not clear. 

Let us hasten down the mountain, 
for see! the sky is already growing 
gold and crimson beyond the pillars 
of Hercules. Let us seek the way 
farers' lodging with the hospitable 
peasants in the valley, and to-morrow 
let us begin our search for the Christ 
anew. We have wandered alone; let 


Forget not us invoke now the star to guide us 

hospitality together." 

That night, therefore, the three 
strangers lodged with the simple 
peasant people in the valley, partak 
ing with thankfulness of the coarse 
bread, the dates and the red wine 
the common fare of their daily life. 
Nor did they fail to notice a motto 
inscribed above the fireplace in rude 
Greek letters: 


( N the morrow they were 
together for the Christ, 
and they hoped not to 
wander far before they 
should find at least the outskirts of 
His kingdom. But whither should 
they go? In what direction should 
they first turn their steps? 

While they were thus wondering Once more 
and debating, Balthazar suddenly ex- a star 
claimed: "I see the star!" And be 
hold, a little way before them, and at 
no great distance above their heads, 
they discerned in the gray of the 
early morning a star of pale, opal 
light, which seemed to move forward 
as the men moved toward it. 

"We must follow the star!" Bal 
thazar said, in a whisper. Silently 
and breathlessly his companions 
followed on. 

Now, so intently did the three men 
keep their eyes fixed upon the star, 
and so eagerly did they follow in the 
direction where it seemed to lead, that 
it was only after a considerable time 
they discovered that they had become 
separated from each other, and that 
their paths were getting farther and 
farther apart. Yet, there before each 
of them was the star, shining with its 
soft, opalescent light, and still ringing 


The star f n their ears were the words of Bal- 
stands thazar "we must follow the star." 
still So each followed the star, each by 
himself alone. Gaspard's path wound 
along near the shore of the gulfs and 
bays of the Mediterranean, until at 
last the star turned southward and 
drew him nearer and nearer to a great 
city, and finally stood still over the 
dome of a vast cathedral. "It must 
be," thought Gaspard, "that I have 
come to the end of my search. This 
must be the capital and palace of the 
eternal king." 

The square in front of the cathedral 
was thronged with people; multitudes 
were pouring in through the great 
portals. Gaspard joined the throngs, 
and at last found himself under the 
mighty dome, which seemed to him 
as far away as the sky itself. Every 
thing in this wonderful place appealed 
to his imagination. There were great 
rows of massive columns, symbol of 


a strength eternal, and they seemed Marbled 
like wide-open arms holding out a aisle's 
welcome to the human race. There magnificence 
were statues and paintings by great 
masters in art. The light of the sun 
poured in through many-colored win 
dows, on which were blazoned the 
deeds of heroes and saints. Strains of 
music from the great organ in the 
distance floated out upon the air. 
Touched and thrilled by all he saw, 
Gaspard exclaimed to himself: "The 
placeon which I stand isholy ground." 
Soon, however, he perceived that 
the throngs of people were not linger 
ing, like himself, in awe and wonder 
over the great columns and the dome, 
and the statues, and the paintings, and 
the windows. Their eyes were fixed 
intently upon something that was go 
ing on in the far end of the cathedral. 
An altar was there, and priests in 
white robes passing up and down be 
fore it, and tall tapers burning around 


Kyrie it. Near the altar was the image of a 
eleison man hanging from a cross; his hands 
and feet were pierced with nails, and 
a cruel wound was in his side. The 
people were gazing at this altar, and 
at the image, and at what the white- 
robed priests were doing. The strains 
of solemn music from the organ blend 
ed with the voices of priests chanting 
the service. Clouds of incense rose 
from censers, swung with soldmn 
motion by the altar-boys, and the 
fragrance of the incense was wafted 
down the long aisles. At -last, the 
tinkling of a bell. The organ became 
silent for an instant, as though it felt 
within its heart the awful solemnity of 
the moment; and then it burst forth 
into new rapture, and the people be 
gan pouring out through-trie great 

Gaspard went forth with the throng 
intothe cathedral square. "And this," 
he said, "is the end of my search. I 

have found the Christ. His kingdom is We must 
in the imagination of man. How beau- follow 
tiful, how wonderful, how strange it the star 
was! 'Dominusvobiscum/didnotthe 
priests say? Here, then, at last I have 
found the city of the great King." 

But as he lingered, behold! the star 
which had stood over the dome of the 
cathedral was now before him, as at 
first, and seemed to waver and trem 
ble, as if beckoning him on. So, al 
though his feet seemed bound to the 
spot, and his heart was still throbbing 
with the.oVeep feelings the cathedral 
service had created in him, remem 
bering the words of Balthazar, "we 
must follow the star," he slowly and 
reluctantly" walked on. 

fN the meantime Melchior 
also had followed faith 
fully the path along which 
the star seemed to lead. 
Through forests in which 
he almost lost his way, across rivers 
difficult and dangerous to ford still 

The just he followed on. At length Melchior's 
shall live star seemed to tarry over the spire of 

by faith a gothic church, into which the peo 
ple were going in throngs. Waiting 
a moment, to be sure that the star was 
actually standing still, Melchior went 
in with the rest. In this place was no 
altar, such as Gaspard saw; no image 
on the cross; no white-robed priests; 
no swinging censers. But, as Mel 
chior entered he heard strains from 
the organ, and a chorus of voices was 
singing an anthem beginning with the 
words, "Te Deum Laudamus." And 
when the anthem came to a close, a 
man clothed in a black robe, such as 
scholars were wont to wear, rose in 
his place upon a platform elevated 
above thepeople,andbegantospeak to 
them about the kingdom of the Christ. 
Melchior listened in eager expect 
ancy. "The kingdom of the Christ," 
the preacher said, "is the kingdom of 
the Truth, and the truth is to be con- 

tinued and kept alive by the strength The truth 
and constancy of man's belief. Those shall make 
things which have been handed down you free 
by holy men and sacred oracles since 
Christ was here upon the earth, are 
the truths by which we live. How can 
Christ live, except He live in our be 
liefs? Why did the Father of all in 
trust us with our reasons, unless it 
were that we should make them the 
instruments of our faith and our sal 
vation? Let us therefore stand in our 
places, while we recite together the 
articles of our holy faith." 

These and many such words did the 
scholar-preacher declare. And as he 
sat there with the people, Melchior 
felt the weight of the solemn and ear 
nest words, and he said: "So at last 
have I come to the end of my search. 
The kingdom of Christ is in the mind 
of man. His kingdom is the kingdom 
of the truth." 

Then he followed the throngs as 
they went forth from the church; but 



light shall 
break forth 

the star which had tarried over the 
lofty spire -was now before him, and 
the opal light wavered and trembled, 
as if beckoning him on; and the 'words 
of the preacher, "we must believe," 
seemed to blend with the words of 
Balthazar, "we must follow the star." 
So, reluctantly and slowly, he fol 
lowed on. 

lUT Balthazar whither 
went he, following the 
star? Over many a rug 
ged way, through many a 
tangled thicket, through 
valleys and over hills. His star tarried 
over no cathedrals; it lingered over 
no gothic spires. It seemed capricious 
and restless and tireless. At times it 
seemed intent on coming to a pause 
over the head of some human being, 
but perhaps it was because these hu 
man beings themselves were so rest 
less and so busy that the star could not 
accomplish its intent. For Balthazar 

saw these men and women hurrying Thy 
hither and thither on errands of mer- sacramental 
cy, or deeds of justice; he saw them liturgies 
ferreting out great wrongs, laying 
heavy blows on the backs of men who 
oppressed and defrauded their fellow 

At length Balthazar seemed to un 
derstand the movements of the star, 
and, drawing nearer, he would seem 
to hear these men repeating cheering 
and encouraging words to one an 
other. "Pure religion and undefiled," 
he heard one exclaiming, "is to visit 
the fatherless and widows in their 
affliction, and to keep himself unspot 
ted from the world." And another 
echoed: "Inasmuch as we do it to the 
least of these, we do it unto Christ." 

"Ah!" thought Balthazar as he list 
ened, I see the meaning of it now; I 
am coming to the end of my search. 
The kingdom of Christ I have found 
it. It is in the deeds of men; it is in the 


The joy of conscience and the serving will. De- 
doing good vption to right, this is the law of the 
kingdom of Christ." 

Then Balthazar turned to go in 
search of his comrades again; but be 
hold! the opal star was trembling, as 
if beckoning him on. So, still doubt 
ing if he had reached the end of his 
search, he followed the star. 

>HUS Gaspard, Melchior 
and Balthazar, each fol 
lowing the star, at last 
approached each other. 
The star of each seemed 
to melt and blend into the star of the 
others, and the opal light stood at last 
in the center of the group. Gaspard 
exclaimed: "I have found that which 
we all were seeking. The kingdom of 
Christ is in the imagination; Christ 
lives in what man feels." 

"Nay," said Melchior, "I have fol 
lowed the star, and I have found what 
we sought. The kingdom of Christ is 


in the reason of man. Christ lives in The paths 
what man believes." converge 

"But," cried Balthazar, "my star 
has led me to a different end. The 
kingdom of Christ is in the will of 
man. Christ lives in what man does." 

"The truth," once more exclaimed 
Melchior, "is the law of the king 

"Not truth," declared Balthazar, 
"but justice, righteousness, goodness 
and purity these are its laws and its 

"Nay, comrades beloved, hearken 
to me," answered Gaspard; "it is the 
miracle of the divine presence. It 
is God among men, realized in the 
holy mass. I beheld it all in yonder 

But lo! once more the star began 
to tremble and to change its place. 

"Let us follow the star!" Balthazar 
whispered. "We will follow it," ech 
oed the other two. 


Once more Then the star led them on, and they 
the quest followed together until they came at 
length to the doorway of a little cot 
tage; and within the cottage they saw 
a woman bending over a cradle, and 
in the cradle a little child lay sleep 
ing. She was a peasant woman; her 
clothing was not rich; the furnishing 
of the cottage was humble and scanty. 
The cradle itself was rude, as if put 
together by hands unskilful in tasks 
like that. But when the mother looked 
at her babe a sweet smile played about 
her lips, and a light was in her eyes. 
Then all suddenly the three men re 
membered another scene long before, 
when they were bearers of gold and 
frankincense and myrrh to another 

And while they stood and wondered 
by the door, there came a strong and 
sturdy peasant, broad-shouldered, 
roughly clad, his face browned in the 
sun, his hands hardened with toil. 


He came and stood beside the woman, He that 
and they bent together over the era.- loveth 
die of the sleeping child, and the man knoweth God 
drew the woman tenderly toward him 
and kissed her brow. 

And still the three men lingered; 
for behold! the star stood still above 
the child, and they dared not speak. 
But the heart of Gaspard was saying 
in silence, "There is something great 
er than the repeated miracle of the 

And Melchior was thinking, "There 
is something mightier even than the 
mind; something superior to naked 

And Balthazar was confessing to 
himself that he had found something 
more potent even than the righteous 
deed. For here they all beheld how 
life was made sweet and blessed and 
holy by the power of love; and by 
love for a little child, in whom was all 
weakness and helplessness, whose 



For God only voice was a cry, but who was all 
is love strong and mighty with the power of 
God, because he could transform 
roughness into tenderness, and self 
ishness into loving care, and poverty 
itself into gifts of gold and fragrant 

"Truly, my comrades," Balthazar 
said, "love is the greatest of all." 

"And now I understand," said Gas- 
pard, "how the weak things of the 
world can confound the mighty." 

"And I, "added Melchior,"see what 
it means for God to come to earth in 
the form of a little child." 

And so they turned away, and the 
radiance of the star was round about 
them, and they were saying to each 
other: "Our search at last is ended." 


Copyright 1903 By 

The Sketching Club 

In Indianapolis 

Los Angeles 




3 1158 00675 7099 


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