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CHAPTER X



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 out, "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 splendor.
The apparition seemed to rest on the nearest mountain southeast
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."

After that there was silence on the house-top, broken but once
again while the mystery continued.

"Brethren!" exclaimed a Jew of venerable mien, "what we see is the
ladder our father Jacob saw in his dream. Blessed be the Lord God
of our fathers!"





Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace
Category:
General Fiction
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