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For The Temple by G. A. Henty

Chapter 12: Desultory Fighting.

After having gone through the camps of the whole of the companies, John assembled the leaders round him, and held a council as to future operations. It was agreed that it would be best to leave alone, for the present, the legion at Scythopolis; for rumors of the gathering would almost certainly have reached that city, and the Romans might be on their guard against attack. It was resolved, therefore, to cross the Jordan a few miles below Tarichea, to traverse the hills between Endor and Gelbus and, by a long march, to gain the range of hills extending from Carmel to Samaria, and forming the boundary between the latter province and Galilee. They would then be looking down upon the camp of Vespasian, at Caesarea.

The country, between these hills and the city, was too flat for them to engage with any hopes of success; for although, by a surprise, they might inflict great damage on the Romans, they would be wholly unable to withstand the charges of the Roman horse. They would, therefore, maintain a lookout from the mountains; and attack the Roman camp the first time it was pitched on ground whence a rapid retreat could be effected, to the hills.

As the Jordan was unfordable, between Scythopolis and the lake, all who could not swim were ordered to carry with them, on their march down to the river, logs of light wood sufficient to support them in crossing. Those who could swim were to assist in piloting over those unable to do so. This would be a work of no great difficulty, for the width of the Jordan is not great, and it was only for a short distance in the center that it would be unfordable. As was to be expected, the companies raised near the shores of the lake contained but few men unable to swim, while those from the mountain districts were almost wholly ignorant of the art.

The bands were, therefore, linked together for the purpose of crossing; one of those from the plains, and a company of mountaineers, marching down to the stream together. The preparations were all complete by the afternoon and, just as it was becoming twilight, the leading bands arrived on the banks of the Jordan. The crossing was effected without difficulty and, in two hours, all were over. Then the companies formed up under their leaders, and started independently; men who knew the country well being assigned, as guides, to each.

They crossed the hill between Endor and Gelbus, marched through Jezrael; and then, just as morning was breaking, ascended the slopes of Mount Carmel, leaving Legio on their right. It was a march of about fifty miles; but the men were all active and vigorous, lightly armed, and sustained by enthusiasm and excitement, and not a man dropped behind during the journey. Once among the hills, they threw themselves down for a rest of some hours. From the crest of the hill, it was but some twelve miles down to Caesarea; and the blue line of the sea extended, right and left, as far as the eye could reach.

In the afternoon Jonas was sent down to the city, to learn how matters stood there, and when Vespasian was going to move. He was to remain there that night, and return with the news on the following morning. He came back, however, at midnight; saying that the Romans had marched on the previous day, that they had taken the southern road which skirted the mountains for some distance, and would probably cross the central range at Sichem, and either proceed to Scythopolis, or join the legion thence on the plain of Aulon, west of the Jordan.

This was a disappointment but, at daybreak, the companies were afoot. It was decided they should march separately; each taking its own line to the east, following unfrequented roads, and keeping among the hills as far as possible, so that no report of the passage of any large gathering of men should reach the Romans. Although no time had been lost, John, when he approached the Jordan, learned that Vespasian had already joined the legion from Scythopolis, and had crossed the river into Peraea, and was marching with all speed against Gadara, its chief city.

Halting for the night near the Jordan; John crossed the river by a ford, next morning, and then moved forward, cautiously, to commence operations as soon as the Romans were engaged upon the siege of the city. But, ere many hours had passed, he learned that the inhabitants had sent forward a deputation to Vespasian; and that the war party, taken by surprise by the rapid advance of the Romans, had hastily evacuated the city, after slaying many of those who were willing to admit the Romans. When Vespasian arrived, he had been received with acclamations by the inhabitants; who had already destroyed a portion of their walls, to prove that they never thought of resistance.

Having thus established the Roman authority in Peraea, Vespasian left a garrison there; and set out, with the main body of his army, for Caesarea, leaving a garrison in the town; and dispatching Placidus, with five hundred horse and three thousand foot, in pursuit of the fugitives who had fled from Gadara before he entered it.

As Vespasian marched back, the band under John began their work. Wherever the road led through the mountains, they rolled down rocks upon the column. The light-armed allies of the Romans were sent out on each flank and, climbing the hills, attacked their assailants. As soon, however, as they neared the crests -- which were, as they believed, held by small parties, only, of the enemy -- the Jews rushed upon them with fury, overthrew them, and drove them down the hills; until the heavy-armed troops were obliged to advance to their assistance, upon which the Jews at once fell back to the higher slopes.

Growing bolder by success, they even ventured to rush down upon the baggage; breaking through its guard, and killing great numbers of the animals. A party of Roman horse which came up at full gallop was charged, just as they reached the spot, by two more companies from the hill; and these, before the Romans could face about and oppose their line of long spears to their assailants, were among them -- stabbing the horses, leaping up behind the soldiers and slaying them with their knives, and throwing the whole into confusion. Then the sound of a horn was heard on the hillside, and the whole of the Jews instantly relinquished their work and took to the mountains, just as a large body of cavalry, headed by Titus, came thundering up.

At night, the Romans were disturbed by constant alarms. Men crept up to the sentries, and slew them in the darkness. Numbers of the enemy penetrated into the camp; killing the soldiers as they slept, hocking the horses, and setting fire to the camp in several places; and it was not until the whole army got under arms that the attack ceased. The next day, they were similarly harassed upon the march; and it was not until they had crossed the mountains, and descended on to the western plain, that the Jews drew off, highly satisfied with the result of their first encounter with the Romans.

Their loss had been slight -- not more than twenty having fallen -- while they had killed more than two hundred of the light-armed troops, had inflicted some loss upon the Romans themselves, had slain numbers of baggage animals; and had shown the enemy that, however formidable the Roman soldiers might be on the plains, the legions of Vespasian were no more invincible than was that of Cestius, among the hills.

They regretted however that, instead of engaging the main army, they had not followed the force under Placidus -- of whose dispatch from Gadara they had not learned, until it was too late. The fugitives, of whom Placidus was in pursuit, had taken possession of the village of Bethennabris. He pursued the stratagem which had already succeeded so well. He feigned a retreat, and the Jews sallied out and attacked him. He cut off the greater part from returning to the village and, at night, attacked Bethennabris, captured it, and put all within it to the sword.

Those who had escaped were joined by great numbers of the country people; and made for the Jordan, intending to cross by the ford opposite Jericho. But the river was swollen with rain, and they were unable to cross. Placidus overtook and attacked them. Vast numbers were killed, and more were driven into the river and drowned. Fifteen thousand fell. Two thousand five hundred were taken prisoners, with a vast number of animals, of all kinds. Placidus then reduced the whole of Peraea, and the coast of the Dead Sea, as far as Machaerus.

Vespasian soon moved down from Caesarea, keeping near the sea, and capturing Antipatris, Lydda, and Thamna, and blocking Emmaus. Then, continuing his course southward, he wasted the country to the frontier of Idumea, and captured the towns Betaris and Caphartobas, putting to the sword about ten thousand men. Then he marched back, by Emmaus and Sichem, descended the hills and marched to Jericho; where he was joined by Placidus, with the troops from Peraea.

The city had been deserted by its inhabitants, and the Roman army rested here for some time until, just as Vespasian was about to march upon Jerusalem, the news arrived of the death of Nero and, unwilling to weaken his army by besieging the city -- strong in itself, and defended by a host -- Vespasian withdrew to Caesarea and, for another two years, Jerusalem had time for preparation, or submission.

As Vespasian's march had, except when he was crossing the mountains from Emmaus to Sichem, lain entirely in the plains, John had been able to do but little. Half the force had been sent across the Jordan, and its operations had greatly added to the difficulties Placidus had met with in subduing Peraea The other companies had closely followed the march of Vespasian, had made many attacks upon parties dispatched to pillage the country and, after the Romans marched north again, besieged and captured some of the small places in which they had left garrisons.

They had united when the two Roman armies met at Jericho; and were prepared to defend, desperately, the rugged mountain roads leading thence to Jerusalem when, to their surprise, they saw the Roman host moving away to the north again.

As soon as they ascertained that Vespasian had, for the present, entirely abandoned the idea of attacking Jerusalem, and that his troops had gone into permanent quarters, John held a council with the other commanders. Some were in favor of remaining in arms, and of constantly attacking the Roman garrisons. Others were for scattering and returning to their homes -- from which they had now been absent three months -- until the Romans again set themselves in motion against Jerusalem. Opinions were about equally divided, and John remained silent until all had spoken. Then he said:

|I think that we had better disperse. If we remained in arms, we might gain some successes, we might surprise and slay some Roman garrisons; but the others would speedily prepare themselves against attack, by strengthening their walls and taking every precaution. But, did we succeed in destroying the garrisons in every one of the towns they have captured, of what benefit would it be? It would rather excite the Romans yet more against the people. Yet more would they march through the land, burning, destroying, and slaying. They would turn the country into a desert; and either slay, or carry away all the people captives. We should irritate without seriously injuring the Romans; and the very people, whose sufferings we should heighten by our work, would turn against us.

|Now that the whole country has been scoured, all the towns which have resisted destroyed, and all the men who defended them put to the sword, there may be breathing space for the land, until the Romans advance against Jerusalem. It may be that those in Jerusalem may come to terms with the Romans, in which case there need not be any more bloodshed. Therefore, I say that it seems to me that it would be wrong to continue the war, so long as the Romans rest peacefully in their camps; but should Jerusalem have need of us in her defense, every one of us will again take the field.|

John's counsel was finally adopted. Many of the men were longing to return to their homes, where they knew that they would be welcomed, and honored, for the deeds they had performed; for although they had achieved no grand successes, they had done much by compelling the Romans to keep together, and had thus saved many towns from plunder and destruction. Their operations, too, had created a fresh sensation of hope, and had aroused the people from the dull despair in which they were sinking.

Had messengers been now sent out on all sides, a great multitude of men would have collected; but John knew well that numbers would be of no avail, and that in a pitched battle the Romans could defeat many times their number of the undisciplined and ill-armed Jews.

John himself stood even higher, in the estimation of his followers, than he did at the commencement of the campaign. His own band had been particularly successful, and had several times encountered parties of the Romans almost equal to themselves in numbers. His plans had been always well laid, and on no occasion had the Romans cut off and killed any numerous parties. Altogether, the justness of his views had been established by experience, the men had gained confidence in themselves and in him, and now only regretted that they had had no opportunity of attacking the Romans in anything like equal numbers.

Therefore, when the news spread that John was of opinion that the wisest course was for them to return to their homes, and there to hold themselves in readiness to reassemble, whenever the Romans moved against Jerusalem; the decision was willingly accepted and, a few hours after the Roman column had marched out from Jericho, the Jewish companies started for their respective homes, all promising to take up arms again, when the signal was given. Although the success that had attended them had not been so great as they had hoped, it had been sufficiently marked to inspire them with confidence in themselves, and their leader. But few lives had been lost; and they had learned that, so long as they persisted in the tactics their leader had laid down, there was but little chance of the Romans striking a heavy blow at them.

Surprise was mingled with joy, in the greetings John received on his return home.

|No disaster has befallen your bands, I hope, John?| Simon asked, anxiously. |We heard that the Romans had reached Jericho; and we have been praying the Lord, night and day, for his protection for you -- believing that you would doubtless fall upon the enemy, as they marched through the mountains towards Jerusalem.|

|We should have done so, father, and already had taken up a position on the heights commanding the roads; but there was no fighting, simply because Vespasian has marched away with his army to Caesarea, and will not, as we believe, make any movement against Jerusalem this year.|

|The Lord be praised!| Simon said, piously. |There is time yet for the city to repent, in sackcloth and ashes, for its sins; and to come to such terms with the Romans as may save the Temple.|

|So far as I have heard, father, Jerusalem is little likely either to repent or to negotiate. The news of what is passing there is even worse than that which the Rabbi Solomon told us; but I will not pain you by talking of these matters, now.

|You have heard what we have been doing. We have done no great deeds, but we have harassed the Romans sorely, so that they could not say that they held the country beyond the flight of their arrows. We have taken many cities where they had left small garrisons. We have cut off very many small parties, have captured many flocks and herds which they had carried off, and have lost but few men while inflicting much damage. Moreover, we have gained experience and confidence and, when the time comes for fighting hand-to-hand with the Romans, we shall enter upon the struggle without fear.|

|But what can have induced the Romans to retire, when almost within sight of Jerusalem?|

|Partly, no doubt, because Vespasian considered it better to let the Jews go on slaying each other, than to waste his strength in killing them; but partly, I believe, because of news from Rome. We heard a rumor that a messenger had arrived in the Roman camp, with news that Nero is dead; and Vespasian may well wish to keep his army together, to watch the course of events.|

This was, indeed, Vespasian's main object in retiring; and for nearly two years he kept his army in hand, waiting for his opportunity, while Galba, Otho, and Vitellius in turn gained and lost the imperial crown. John remained at home, except that he went out with the companies in the spring of 69; when Vespasian, for a time, set his troops in motion. As before, the Romans marched down into the south of Judea, and reduced the country on the western shore of the Dead Sea; while Cerealis entered Idumea and completely subdued it, so that there now remained only the towns of Herodium, Masada, Machaerus, and Jerusalem itself which still remained unconquered.

John's troops had pursued precisely the same tactics as in the previous year; and had contented themselves with harassing the Romans whenever the latter entered difficult country, and in preventing them from sending out small foraging parties. John himself would not have called his men under arms, as he saw that no real advantage was gained; but the men were eager to go, and he saw that there was a considerable advantage in their continued practice in arms, in the quickness with which they worked together, and in the confidence which they had in themselves.

The company suffered but slight loss in the operations; but John, himself, had an adventure which nearly cost him his life. Vespasian, with the bulk of his army, was encamped at Hebron; while Titus was at Carmelia, near the Dead Sea. John's company were in the hills near Hebron; and he, wishing to examine the Roman position at Carmelia, and the road between the two towns, started by himself. He carried, as usual, his buckler, two light javelins, and a sword. The road led down a series of precipitous valleys; and John, knowing that he could instantly gain the hills, out of reach of danger, did not hesitate to descend into it.

He was now nineteen, strong, active, and sinewy. The position in which he had been placed had given him the habit of command, and the heavy responsibility which had devolved upon him had added two or three years to his apparent age. He was taller than most of his countrymen, broad across the shoulders, and a match for any single man under his command.

As he walked along, he heard the sound of a horse's footsteps, coming up the valley. He sprang a short distance up the craggy hillside, and then paused as a single horseman came in sight. As he came a little nearer John saw, by the splendor of his armor, and that of the horse he was riding, that he was an officer of rank and distinction. John scorned to fly before a single foe, and stood quietly watching him, till he came nearly abreast of him. The horseman reined up his charger and, without a word, seized his javelin and hurled it at the armed figure, standing on the hillside some thirty feet above him. John sprang lightly aside, and the missile struck the rock with a sharp clang, close to him. In return, he threw a javelin at the Roman, which struck him on the armor and fell, blunted.

|Well thrown!| the Roman said, calmly, and hurled a second javelin.

The stroke was too swift to avoid; but John threw up his buckler so as to receive it at an angle, and the javelin glanced off, and flew far up the hillside. This time John sprang down the rocks, with the activity of a goat, till within a few feet of the Roman. Then he threw his javelin at the horse, with so true an aim that it struck at a spot unprotected by armor, and the animal fell.

With an exclamation of anger, the Roman threw himself off, as the animal sank beneath his legs. He had already drawn his sword, as John approached, and stood at once on the defensive. Without a moment's hesitation John sprang at him, and the combat commenced. John trusted to his activity, while the Roman had an immense advantage in his heavy armor -- John being unprotected, save by his buckler. The Roman stood calm and confident, while John attacked -- moving quickly, round and round him; springing in to deliver a blow, and then bounding out of reach of the sweep of the heavy Roman sword. For some time the combat continued. John had received two or three severe wounds while, although the Roman was bleeding, his armor protected him from any serious hurt.

Suddenly John sprang in at the Roman, throwing himself with all his force against him. He partially warded, with his sword, the blow which the Roman struck at him as he came in; but his weapon was beaten down, and the Roman blade cut through his thick headdress. But the impetus of his spring was sufficient. The Roman, taken by surprise by this sudden attack, tottered, and then fell with a crash, John falling on the top of him.

John was almost blinded by the blood which streamed down his forehead, from the blow he had last received; but he dashed it aside, seized his long knife and, in another moment, would have slain his enemy, had not the latter exclaimed:

|Strike, Jew! I am Titus.|

John was confused by the last blow he had received, but a thousand thoughts whirled in his brain. For an instant he grasped the knife more firmly, to slay the son of the chief enemy of his country; then the possibility of carrying him away a captive occurred to him, but he saw that this was out of the question. Then another thought dashed across his brain.

|Swear,| he said, in Greek, for he was ignorant of Latin, |by your gods, to spare the Temple, or I will kill you.|

There was a moment's hesitation. The knife was already descending, when Titus exclaimed, in the same language:

|I swear to do all in my power to save the Temple.|

John's knife fell from his hand. He tried to rise to his feet; then everything seemed to swim round, and he fell, insensible. Titus rose to his feet. He was shaken by the fall; and he, too, had lost much blood. Panting from his exertions, he looked down upon his prostrate foe; and the generosity which was the prevailing feature of his character, except when excited in battle, mastered him.

|By Hercules,| he exclaimed, |that is a gallant youth; though he is a Jew, and he has well-nigh made an end of me! What will Vespasian say, when he hears that I have been beaten in fair fight, and owe my life to the mercy of a Jew? How they think of their temple, these Jews! Why, I would not injure it, were it in my power to do so. Have not our emperors sent offerings there? Besides, we war not with the gods of the people we conquer.

|Ah, here come Plancus and the others! This will be a lesson to me not to trust myself, alone, among these mountains again. It is the first time I have done so, and it shall be the last.|

A messenger had, in fact, arrived at Carmelia, with an order from Vespasian for him to go to Hebron -- as he had a desire to speak with him -- and ordering Plancus, a centurion, to follow with his troop, Titus had sprung on his horse, and ridden off at once.

The Romans were soon upon the spot, and were loud in exclamation of surprise and grief at seeing their commander covered with dust, and bleeding from several wounds, while his horse lay dead beside him. To their inquiries whether he was seriously wounded, Titus replied, lightly:

|I am more dirty than hurt. Though, had it not been for my armor, there would have been a different tale to tell, for these Jews fight like demons. As you see, he first slew my horse with his javelin, and then we fought it out on foot.|

|Was there only this one?| the centurion asked, in surprise, pointing to John's body.

|Only that one,| Titus said, |and he nearly got the best of it. Fighting with these Jews is like fighting with wild cats, so fierce are they in the attack, and so quick are their movements. I tell you that, for a moment, my life was at his mercy.

|See if he is dead, Plancus.|

|No, he breathes,| Plancus said, stooping over him.

|Let four of the men make a litter, with their spears,| Titus said; |and take him down to Carmelia, and let my own leech attend him. I would gladly save his life, if I can. I began the fray and, truly, he has shown himself so gallant a young man that I would not that he should die.|

Accordingly, when John opened his eyes, he found himself lying in a Roman tent, where an old man was sitting by his couch; and a Roman sentry pacing, backwards and forwards, before the entrance of the tent.

|Drink this,| the old man said, placing a cordial to his lips. |You need have no fear, you are in the camp of Titus; and he, himself, has ordered that all attention shall be paid to you.|

John was too weak from loss of blood, and confused from the effects of the blow on his head, even to feel the sensation of wonder. He drank the potion, and closed his eyes again, and went off into a sleep which lasted for many hours. It was not until the next day that he thoroughly awoke. The leech continued to attend him and, at the end of four days, he was able to sit up.

Illustration: Titus Brings Josephus to See John.

In the afternoon, he heard a clash of arms as the sentry gave the military salute and, a moment later, Titus entered, accompanied by one whom John instantly recognized as Josephus. John rose to his feet.

|I told you he was but a young man,| Titus said to Josephus; |but now that I can see him more nearly or, at any rate, more calmly, I can see that he is little more than a lad; and yet, as you have heard me say, he is a man of valor, and defeated me in fair fight.|

|I seem to know his face,| Josephus said, and then addressed John in Hebrew.

|Who are you, young man?|

|I am that John whom you saved in the storm, on the Sea of Galilee, and who fought with you at Jotapata.|

|Is it possible?| Josephus exclaimed, in surprise. |I thought that I, alone, was saved there.|

|I lay hidden with the boy Jonas, who told us of the track down to the water,| John said, quietly, |and have since then been fighting the Romans. While you -- |

|While I have been their prisoner,| Josephus broke in. |I know that all my countrymen are enraged against me but, truly, without a cause.|

Josephus then translated to Titus what John had told him, adding that the young man had served him with zeal and devotion, and that he had an affection for him.

|Then I am the more glad that he has not lost his life,| Titus said, courteously.

|And now, my antagonist,| he said, in Greek, to John, |I would tell you that I bear you no malice; though you have shed my blood, and brought somewhat of disgrace upon me -- for truly it is a disgrace for a Roman soldier, in heavy armor, to be overthrown by one who carries but a light buckler as his protection. But I love a brave man, even though he be a foe; and I honor those who are fighting for what they believe to be the cause of their country. If I let you go free, will you promise me not to bear arms again, against Rome?|

|I could not promise that, Titus,| John said, quietly, |even were you to order me, now, to be taken out and slain. It is the first duty of all Jews to fight for the Holy City and, so long as I live, and the Holy City is in danger, so long I must fight for her. These are the commands of my religion; and I cannot, even to save my life, disobey them.|

|I will not press you to do so,| Titus said; |though Josephus, here, will tell you that Rome is not an unkind lord, even to those who have most withstood it. When you are well enough to leave us, you shall go unharmed; though, could you have seen your way to desist from hostility to us, I would have been a good friend to you; and have promoted you to posts of honor, and that in countries where you would not have been opposed to your countrymen. But if you will not have it so, you are free to go; and remember that, at any time, you have a friend in Titus; and that when this war is over, and peace restored, if you come to me I will repeat the offer that I have now made.

|Moreover, you may rely upon it that, in the last extremity, I will do all in my power to save the Temple; and indeed, in no case would I have injured a building so venerable and holy.|

Titus then left the tent, but Josephus remained for some time, talking with John.

|I suppose you, like all others, have looked upon me as a traitor, John?| he began.

|Not so,| John replied. |I knew that you fought bravely, at Jotapata; and risked your life many times in its defense I knew, too, that you from the first opposed the revolt against the Romans, and it is not for me to judge as to your position among them.|

|I am a prisoner,| Josephus said. |I am kindly treated, indeed, and Vespasian frequently asks my opinion of matters connected with the country; but surely I am doing more good to my countrymen, by softening his heart towards them, than if I had died at Jotapata -- still more if I had been, like John of Gischala, a scourge to it. I trust even yet that, through my influence, Jerusalem may be saved. When the time comes Vespasian will, I hope, grant terms; and my only fear is that the madness of the people will lead them to refuse all accommodation, and so force him into taking the city by storm -- in which case it cannot but be that terrible misery will fall upon it, and that vast numbers will lose their lives.

|And now, tell me how you are, at home, and what you have been doing since I last saw you.|

John thought it as well not to mention, to Josephus, the prominent part which he had taken among those who had so harassed the Romans; but he said that he had joined the bands raised in Galilee, and had been among those who had hung upon the Roman flank and rear, wherever they marched.

|The Jews have behaved with prudence and valor,| Josephus said, |and I now see that it would have been far better had I trusted more in mountain warfare, than in fenced cities; but it would have been the same, in the end. I know the Jews. They would have fought bravely, for a time; but the thought of each would have turned to his farm and his vineyard, and they would never have kept the field for any length of time. The Romans therefore would, in the end, have tired them out and, perhaps, the fate which has befallen the cities that resisted would have fallen upon all the land.

|And now remember that, although but a prisoner, I have much influence with Vespasian; and that at any time, should you fall into their hands again, I will exert that influence in your favor.|

John remained about ten days at Carmelia. Titus had several interviews with him, and at the last of these said:

|I have conceived a strong friendship for you, young man, and would willingly do you service. Take this signet ring. At all times, and in all places, it will pass you to my presence. If a Roman sword be raised to strike you, and you show this ring, it will be lowered. That you should fight against us to the last is, as you believe, your duty; and as I myself would so fight for Rome, I seek not further to dissuade you. But when resistance is at an end, and it is useless any longer to hold the sword, your death cannot benefit your country. Therefore, when that time comes -- if not before -- use this ring, and come to me; and I will grant you not only your own life, but that of such friends as you may wish to save.

|I do not forget that you had my life in your hands, and that you spared it. It is a life that may yet be valuable to Rome; and though even now, when I speak of it, my cheek flushes with humiliation, I am none the less grateful. It pleases me to see that, in the conversations you have had with my officers, you have borne yourself so modestly, and have made no mention of this; for although I, myself, do not hesitate to speak of the mishap which befell me, it is pleasant for me that it is not spoken of by others. Believe me, then, that at all times you will find a sincere friend in Titus.|

John replied in suitable terms; thanking Titus for the promises he had made, and disclaiming any merit in his success -- which was but the last effort of a beaten man, and was the result of the sudden surprise, and not of any skill or bravery.

Upon the following morning, Titus furnished him with an escort far beyond the confines of the camp; and then, taking to the hills, John rejoined his companions, who had long since given him up as dead. They could scarce credit him, when he told them that he had been lying wounded, in the hands of the Romans; and were still more surprised at hearing that he had been engaged in a personal encounter with Titus. Of this John gave no details, beyond the fact that, after throwing their javelins, the horse of Titus had fallen, and they had fought hand to hand until, at last, he had fallen, bleeding from a severe wound; and that Titus himself had been wounded.

|But how was it he did not slay you?| was the question. |It seems almost a miracle, especially after wounding Titus, himself.|

|Doubtless the Lord put it into his heart to spare me,| John said. |Titus only said that he preserved my life as that of a brave foe. The Romans esteem bravery and, as I had withstood Titus for some time, he was pleased to think that I had done well.|

|Ah, if you had killed him, what rejoicings there would have been in the land!|

|No,| John said earnestly, |there would have been mourning. You may be sure that Vespasian would have avenged his blood upon all the people. It would have been a misfortune, indeed, had Titus fallen. It is well that it ended as it did.|

John was, however, far too weak to be able to accompany his band upon its rapid marches; and therefore, for a time, resigned its command to one of his captains. He determined to go, until his strength returned to him, to a small community of which he had heard as dwelling in an almost inaccessible valley on the shore of the Dead Sea. He was told that they took no part in the commotion of the times, and that they lived in such poverty that even the robbers of Simon had not cared to interfere with them. They practiced hospitality to strangers, and spent their lives in religious observances. As John had often heard from his father of this sect -- which was at one time numerous in the land, but had been sorely persecuted by the priests and Pharisees -- he determined to stop for a time among them, and learn somewhat of their doctrines.

Accompanied by Jonas, he made his way across the mountains to the valley where they dwelt. As wounded, and a stranger, he was received without question among them; and a little hut, similar to that in which they all lived, was placed at his disposal. These huts were ranged in a square, in the center of which stood a larger building, used as their synagogue. Here John remained nearly a month; and was greatly struck by their religious fervor, the simplicity and austerity of their lives, and the doctrines which they held. He learned that the more rigorous of the sect abstained, altogether, from the use of meat and wine; and that celibacy was strictly enjoined. Those who married did not separate themselves from the sect, but were considered as occupying an inferior position in it. Their food was of the simplest kind, and only sufficient to sustain life. The community raised the grain and vegetables necessary for their use.

But it was the religious doctrines which they held which most greatly surprised John. They attached no importance, whatever, to the ceremonial law of the Jewish Scriptures; maintaining, in the first place, that the Scriptures had a spiritual signification wholly apart from the literal meaning, alone understood by the world; and that this spiritual meaning could only be attained by those who, after long probation, were initiated into the inner mysteries of the sect.

In the second place, they held that the written law had been altogether superseded by the coming of the great prophet, Christ, who had been put to death by the Jewish priests. John learned that there were already large numbers of Jews who had accepted the doctrines taught by this Christ, although they did not all embrace the strict rules and modes of life of the ascetics. John was greatly struck with their doctrines, although he did not hear enough to do more than to dimly understand their meaning. He determined however that, if he went safely through the war, he would inquire further into these mysteries.

At the end of the four weeks, his strength being comparatively restored, he took his leave of the community, and rejoined his band.

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