Page images

him—struck, as we say to-day. Perhaps the hands of men were no longer against him and the need of this mighty bulwark about his place of refuge ceased. At all events, the first stone hewn out for the next layer stands in the quarry still.

We drove over there. It was half a mile away, at least-possibly a mile, down hill and rather rough going. The stones we saw in the wall were brought up that road. The one standing in the quarry had been lifted and started a little, and would have been on its way presently, if the strike, or the amnesty, had not interfered.

It is seventy-two feet long and seventeen feet thick. Try to think of a plain box building, a barn or a storehouse, say, of that size, then mentally convert it into a solid block of stone. Mark Twain likens it to two freight-cars placed end to end, but it is also as high and as wide. Eight freight-cars set four and four would just about express it! Think of that! Think of moving a stone of that size!

It is squared and dressed and ready to be taken to the temple wall. It will never be taken there. Perhaps that last item is gratuitous information, but at least it is authentic. We have no means of moving that stone half a mile up a rough hill in these puny times, and the speculations as to how Cain did it have been mainly hazy and random-quite random.

One writer suggests that such stones were "rolled up an inclined plane of earth prepared for the purpose.” I should love to see a stone like that rolled. I'd travel all the way to Baalbec again for the sight, and they could prepare the inclined plane any way they pleased. An Oriental authority declares that these stones were moved and laid by the demon Echmoudi, which is better than the rolling idea. I confess a weakness for Echmoudi, but I fear hard cold science will frown him out of court.

It has taken an Englishman to lead the way to light. He says that Cain employed mastodons to do his moving. Now we are on the way to truth, but we must go further—a good deal further. Cain did employ mastodons, but only for his light work. Even mastodons would balk at pulling stones like these. Cain would use brontosaurs for such work as that. There were plenty of them loafing about, and I can imagine nothing more impressive than Cain standing on a handy elevation overlooking his force of giants and a sixteen-span brontosaur team yanking a stone as big as a bonded warehouse up Baalbec hill.

Truly, there is no reason why those monster stones should not have been quarried a million or so years ago and moved by the vast animal creatures of that period. We have biblical authority for the giants, and I have seen a brontosaur in the New York Museum that seemed to go with stones of about that size. Think of any force the Romans could summon rolling a three-million-pound square stone up an inclined plane. Preposterous! The brontosaur's the thing.




THERE is a good deal of country, mainly desert,

between Baalbec and Damascus, and a good many barren hills. Crossing the Anti-Lebanon mountains there is a little of water and soil and much red, rocky waste. Here and there a guide pointed out a hill where Cain killed Abel—not always the same hill, but no matter, it was a hill in this neighborhood; any one of them would make a good place. Occasionally the train passed a squalid village, perched on a lonely shelf—a single roof stretching over most of the houses —the inhabitants scarcely visible. We wondered where they got their sustenance. They were shepherds, perhaps, but where did their flocks feed?

Across the divide, between snow-capped hills, and suddenly we are face to face with green banks and the orchard bloom of spring. We have reached the Abana, the river which all the ages has flowed down to Damascus with its gift of eternal youth. For as the desert defends, so the river sustains Damascus, and the banks of the Abana (they call it the Barada now) are just a garden—the Garden of Eden, if old tales be true.

It is not hard to believe that tradition here, at this season. Peach, apricot, almond, and plum fairly sing with blossom; birch and sycamore blend a cadence of tender green; the red earth from which Adam was created (and which his name signifies) forms an abundant underchord. If we could linger a little by these pleasant waters we might learn the lilt of the tree of life—its whisper of the forbidden fruit.

We are among our older traditions here—the beginnings of the race. We have returned after devious wanderings. These people whom we see leading donkeys and riding camels, tending their flocks and bathing in the Abana, they are our relatives—sons and daughters of Adam. Only, they did not move away. They stayed on the old place, as it were, and preserved the family traditions, and customs. I am moved to get out and call them "cousin” and embrace them, and thank them for not trailing off after the false gods and frivolities of the West..

The road that winds by the Abana is full of pictures. The story of the Old Testament—the New, too, for that matter-is dramatized here in a manner and a setting that would discourage the artificial stage. Not a group but might have stepped out of the Bible pages. This man leading a little donkey—a woman riding it—their garb and circumstance the immutable investment of the East: so the patriarchs journeyed; so, two thousand years later, Joseph and Mary travelled into Egypt. No change, you see, in all that time-no change in the two thousand years that have followed-no change in the two thousand years that lie ahead. Wonderful, changeless East! How frivolous we seem in comparison-always racing after some new pattern of head-gear or drapery! How can we hope to establish any individuality, any nationality,

any artistic stability when we have so little fixed foundation in what, more than any other one thing, becomes a part of the man himself-his clothing?

These hills are interesting. Some of them have verdure on them, and I can fancy Abraham pasturing his flocks on them, and with little Isaac chasing calves through the dews of Hermon. It would not be the “dews of Hermon," but I like the sound of that phrase. I believe history does not mention that Abraham and Isaac chased calves. No matter; anybody that keeps flocks has to chase calves now and then, and he has to get his little boy to help him. So Abraham must sometimes have called Isaac quite early in the morning to “go and head off that calf,” just as my father used to call me, and I can imagine how they raced up and down and sweat and panted, and how they said uncomplimentary things about the calf and his family, and declared that there was nothing on earth that could make a person so mad as a fool calf, anyhow.

Travel on the highway has increased-more camels, more donkeys, more patriarchs with their families and flocks. Merchandise trains follow close, one behind the other. Dust rises in a fog and settles on the wayside vegetation. Here and there on the hillsides are villas and entertainment gardens.

A widening of the valley, an expanse of green and bloom, mingled with domes and minarets; a slowing down of speed, a shouting of porters through the sunlit dust, and behold, we have reached the heart and wonder of the East, Damascus, the imperishableolder than history, yet forever young.

« PreviousContinue »