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The Ships of Tarshish

Chapter IX. On the Brink

Chapter IX. On the Brink.

The street lamps were being lighted, and the shades of evening were gathered in as Mandevil stood before Samuel's house. When he entered, he met Rachel.

"Come at last!" she exclaimed; "come before it is too late. But you know not how anxiously we have been expecting you. My grandfather will now have the only weight which troubled him taken off his mind before he departs."

"How goes it with the old man?" said Mandevil, softly; "does he suffer pain?"

"The physicians," she answered, "say that he cannot last more than a few hours longer. He is entirely free from pain. But he wished to see you directly you arrived. I will take you up to him; but first, will you put on these, as he is most acutely sensitive to any noise," she said, showing him into a side-room and offering him a pair of felt shoes. Mandevil did as required, and then they ascended the stairs to the room where Samuel was lying. As they entered, the old man raised himself in his bed and said—

"Thou art come at last then, descendant of one of the princes of the people! "Welcome, though late! Rachel—my children—leave me awhile, I would be alone with him;" he continued, addressing the members of his family, who were weeping round his bed.

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They withdrew in accordance with his wish. Then the old man addressed Mandevil again.

"Art thou in truth John Mandevil? And hast thou the ring?"

Mandevil gave him the ring. Samuel examined it for a few moments.

"This is truly the pattern," he said. "But come nearer, my son—sit thee down by the bedside; I would look on thy countenance."

Mandevil sat down on a low chair, as requested, by the side of the bed in silence, facing Samuel. He was too much affected by the solemnity of the occasion to trust his voice with words. There was a jet of gas near the head of the bed. The old man turned on a stronger light, and then with his large dark eyes, peered into Mandevil's truthful countenance, as though he would look into his very soul. As he looked, the expression of his features gradually toned, and a softened look of pleasure came over them. The attraction seemed to keep him spell-bound, for it was full two minutes before his recollection returned, when he said—

"It reads well and pleasant, like a page from the sweet Psalmist and out of the Book of Truth. There is nought but truth there; I needed not to have looked at the ring. But I must now despatch that for which I sent to thee, for the time is but short."

Mandevil's heart felt too full for utterance, and some tears escaped down his cheeks. Samuel observed them.

"Weep not for me, my son; rather rejoice! Death is better for me than to return into the Darkness that has been over me for thirty years. I am happy in the knowledge that I soon depart. Thy coming has removed the only cloud on my joy. And now," continued the old man, removing a key which hung on his neck, and giving it to Mandevil," open that iron safe standing at the foot of the bed, and give me the small box thou wilt find inside."

Mandevil silently did as Samuel requested, wondering almost whether he was in a dream or not. Samuel took the small box, examined it for a moment, then handed it back to Mandevil.

"All that thou wilt find in the box, my son," he said, "is thine, Thou wilt find a written statement concerning it, with the money. And now, having fulfilled my trust," continued he, reclining again on his pillow, "I prepare myself for my departure. Happy am I now that I have seen thee, for I know that the wealth will be well applied in thy hands. The sons of Belial would have wrested it from me for the purposes of darkness, but I was permitted to foil page 36them; and in thy hands I foreknow that it will be the means of defeating them still more."

All this time Mandevil said not one word. His hands trembled as he took the box, and he sunk on his seat again. He felt awe-impressed in the presence of the old man, watching him with intense interest, and listening anxiously to his words. Samuel was silent for a little while. A mental working seemed to be going on within him, and his countenance was lightened up with a kind of ecstasy when he next spoke. And then it seemed as though the lost reason of thirty years had been recovered and concentrated on that short space of time, enabling him to pre-estimate the progress of events with superhuman ken.

"Yes! my son," he said, with the air of one looking far away, "happy am I, for I know that in thy hands it will he used to increase the power and virtue of thy father's people. And in that it shall increase the power and virtue of that nation, so shall it also help to the quicker re-establishing of mine and thy fore-fathers' people.

"The day is not far distant—scarce another generation it may be—and then—the waters of the Euphrates being dried up—the great ones shall look to one another and ask to whom shall the dominion of the ancient land be given? And then, I know, the voice of the people, as of one man, shall declare fur the right of the ancient race.

"Then will it be seen for what purpose the superiority on the main has been fore-ordained to belong to them. 'And the ships of Tarshish shall be first.'—First to help to fulfil what has been determined. To bring the sons of our people from far, and their silver and gold with them. To help to build a City which shall be the centre of Nations.

"And in the time to come, when every valley shall be exalted, that the shining tracks may be extended across, and every hill made low, that the same may pass through,—then shall all these highways from the quarters of the earth unite in that city, and shall feed its greatness.

"Then shall Gog cast his evil eye of cruelty on the land and despise its unfortified condition, and shall seek to do unto its inhabitants as he hath done unto our own kinsfolk in these latter months, casting them out of their own lands, by myriads, to rot like sheep in a land where no pasture is.

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"But the hook shall be placed in his jaws, and the bridle between his teeth; and at last the punishment of this ruthless one shall be meted out to him. Shall innumerable cruelties for ever remain unpunished, and the voice of tortured ones for ever cry out in vain.—No! surely not. He who soweth the wind must reap the whirlwind.

"The ships of Tarshish shall be first.—Of a people that, it may be, is the beginning of the universal kingdom. A kingdom not fashioned by the conqueror's hand, nor carved out by the warrior's sword, nor established by holy bayonets, nor made up of discordant mixtures of feudal knightly iron and despised serfly clay. But a kingdom continually growing great, and whose members cleave to each other through mutual liking and interest.

"Not composed of Iron and Clay, but well knit together, and homogeneous like a Stone. Of which no part shall dare, or even think, to call any other 'inferior' or 'common.' A kingdom maintained in order and justice—not by means of any vaunted constitutions, but by the fear of God, which causes each man to be a law unto himself.

"The ships of Tarshish shall be first.

"The nation that Will not serve thee shall Perish."