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already arrived and the inhabitants of the city, to welcome the new comers from Hebron and from Libna. The venerable pair, Mardochai of Ziph and his wife, who were still borne in front, received the blessings of all who met them.
Close by the gate, some one from behind laid hold of Elisama; “ Art thou Elisama of Alexandria ?” Elisama turned round and recognised Iddo, an old and faithful friend of his family. The old men met with inexpressible delight, and Elisama presented Helon to Iddo. The pilgrims had now reached the city, and were dispersing in different directions to their respective quarters. Iddo conducted the strangers through the Water-gate to his house on the open place.
THE DAY OF PREPARATION FOR THE PASSOVER,
Their reception in the house of Iddo surpassed all Helon's expectations. At the seasons of the festivals, no inhabitant of Jerusalem considered his house as his own. Their city was the city of the whole people, not of the inhabitants alone; and when Israel came up to appear before Jehovah, every citizen regarded his dwelling as belonging to his brethren as much as to himself. Jerusalem lies on the confines of Judah and Benjamin. Its names, the Holy City, the City of the Congregation of Israel, the Gate of the People, point out its destination. No other city was ever in the same sense the capital and centre of a country.
“ You are at home," said their host, as he led them into his house; “and at this time, I am not more so than you. The citizen of Jerusalem considers himself, equally with his brethren, as a pilgrim at the festival.”
In fact the whole house was filled with strangers. Elisama found among them many old acquaintances—but great was his joy when he discovered, in the number, Selumiel of Jericho, the brother of Iddo. His emotion overpowered his utterance, and he could only press him silently, and with tears in his eyes, to his breast. Selumiel had been the dearest friend of his youth; he had lived long in Alexandria, and they had spent the earliest days of manhood there together; they had imparted each to the other all their youthful plans. At a later period they had been separated, and had not met for more than thirty years : but their hearts had remained united, and their joy at meeting was mutual. Elisama seemed to be changed by the sight of him, as if youth itself had returned with the friend of his youth. While the feet of the guests were washing, which is the first duty of hospitality in the East, and indeed properly their welcome, Elisama and Selumiel were engaged in uninterrupted discourse, as if they had been sitting alone in the court, and rapidly ran over earlier and later times, Alexandria and Jericho.
In the mean time Iddo and some of the guests had joined Helon, and were congratulating him upon his first pilgrimage. Selumiel and Iddo had in common a hearty and straight forward character, by which they might have been known as brothers. But, besides that they were attached to different parties in religion, Iddo had more liveliness and cheerfulness. “My son out of Egypt,” he addressed Helon, “to-morrow at this time, when the Passover begins, thou wilt see what thou hast never seen before. Already, on the tenth of the month, I chose a lamb without blemish for the occasion. Before sunset this evening, I fetched the water into the house, with which the unleavened bread is to be made. If you please you shall go with me after supper and seek the leaven in the house. A young Israelite, who has come for the first time to the
Passover, should leave nothing unseen, but learn all the practices of Israel in the most complete manner possible. But I forgot, you are come from Hebron to-day, and must be weary.”
Helon seemed almost offended to be suspected of weariness, after a march made under such circumstances. With glowing cheek he repelled the imputation, and begged that Iddo would not spare
him. “ Just like his father," exclaimed his host, “ jealous of nothing so much as of being thought a genuine Aramæan Jew. To-morrow, I will conduct thee to his grave in the valley of Jehoshaphat. In truth he was a noble-minded man, an Israelite without guile. He died in this house, and it was of thee, Helon, that he spoke to me in his last moments.” He then related the circumstances of his death, and many anecdotes of his intercourse with him. Their connection had been much the same as that of Selumiel with Elisama. Helon listened to him, as if his father's spirit spoke from his lips, so intimate had been their friendship, so similar their characters.