BLTC Press Titles

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The Count of Monte Cristo

Alexandre Dumas

Paradoxes of the Highest Science

Eliphas Levi

Letters on the Aesthetical Education of Man

Friedrich Schiller

The Art of Worldly Wisdom

Baltasar Gracian

Helon's pilgrimage to Jerusalem

by Gerhard Friedrich Abraham Strauss


They had arranged their journey so well, that, by joining a Tyrian caravan from Pelusium to Gaza, they would be able to arrive in Judea time enough to accompany the pilgrims from Hebron on their way to Jerusalem. From Alexandria to Pelusium their road lay through Egypt, and they might venture to make it alone.

Alexandria lies upon a tongue of land, between the Mediterranean sea on the north, and the lake Mareotis on the south. Their journey at first lay between these two, affording them views first of one and then of the- other. The shore of the lake was covered with palm trees and papyrus, canals united it with the Nile, and splendid buildings rose on every side of it. Helon, in spite of his longing for the Holy Land, was compelled to confess, that Alexander had chosen a spot to bear his name, not only preeminently convenient for trade, but delightfully situated.

The places through which they passed, being well known to both our travellers, offered nothing to divert the course of their thoughts. They halted one day, because it was the sabbath, on which the law did not permit them to travel more than a thousand paces. The whole journey lasted nine days, in the course of which they ferried over several branches of the Nile, crossing both the great and the little Delta. They passed through Naucratis, celebrated for several centuries past, as the first emporium of Grecian commerce with Egypt; Sais, with its temple of Neitha ; Busiris, with the ruins of the largest temple of Isis in Egypt; and Tanis, anciently the royal residence. This land of wonders, however, had little other effect upon Helon, than to make him often repeat—

Blessed is the man who puts his confidence in thee,
And thinks of the way to Jerusalem .'

His uncle sometimes smiled at him, and observed that it was well that they had left the elder behind at Alexandria. For the rest but little conversation passed. Elisama was wearied by the journey, and Helon and Sallu were silent, or repeated passages from the Psalms.

At length they came in sight of Pelusium, where they were to meet the Phoenician caravan; and Helon rejoiced that he should leave the country of the grave and gloomy Egyptians, to penetrate into the desert that conducted him to the land of his forefathers.

As they made a circuit round the city, they saw outside one of the gates a promiscuous assemblage of men, goods, camels, and horses. The neighing of the Egyptian and Arabian steeds pierced through the hoarser cry of the camels. Egyptians, Phoenicians, Syrians, Romans, and swarthy Ethiopians, were hurrying in every direction, between the piled up heaps of merchandise; Greek, Aramaic, and Latin, were blended in one confused murmur. The main part of the caravan consisted of Phoenicians from Tyre, who, according to the custom which then prevailed, had carried wine in earthen jars to Egypt, where little wine was produced. They had gone through Alexandria to Memphis, and as they passed, Elisama had agreed with them to be conducted from Pelusium to Gaza. They had just arrived from Memphis, and this was the rendezvous for all who wished to accompany them in their journey through the desert. They had purchased, to carry back with them, horses, cotton and embroidered cloths, and the fine and costly linen of Egypt. The leader of the caravan, busied with a variety of cares, briefly saluted Elisama and Helon, and informed them that he should depart on the following morning at daybreak, and that the camels should be arranged four and four. Half the inhabitants of Pelusium had come out, to traffic or to gaze, and the tumult and bustle were indescribable. While Elisama and Helon endeavoured to find themselves a suitable lodging-place for the night, in the marshy land around this city, which borders on the vast sandy desert of Arabia, and Sallu was following them with the slaves, a well-known voice exclaimed, "Welcome Elisama and Helon! Are ye also for Tyre?" It was Myron, the young and handsome Greek from Alexandria, Helon's early friend, who had introduced him to the knowledge of Platonism, and studied Plato with him in the Museum. Since his return to the law, Helon had purposely avoided him, and would willingly not have encountered him here, just as he was entering en his journey to Jerusalem. Myron was going to Damascus, and meant to accompany the caravan to Tyre; and although they told him that their intention was only to go as far as Gaza, this did not prevent his offering to join company with them to that place; and he made his proposal with so much of Greek urbanity, that they knew not how to refuse. The pleasure of their society, he said, would save him from dying of tedium; which, if he kept company any longer with the Phoenicians, who could talk of nothing but their merchandise, threatened to be more fatal than thirst to him in crossing the desert. "Your oriental gravity," said he, " will be enlivened by my Grecian levity, and together we shall form the most agreeable party in the whole caravan." He took the hand of Elisama with a smile, and the bargain was concluded.

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