But before we retired to rest, my companion was seized with the rather original idea that we should pursue our journey at midnight. He asked me, indeed, if I was afraid, but at the same time observed, that it would be much safer for us to act upon his suggestion, as no one would suspect our departure by such a dangerous road at midnight. I certainly felt a little afraid, but my pride would not allow me to confess the truth; so our people received the order to be prepared to set out at midnight.
Thus we four persons, alone and totally unarmed, travelled at midnight through the wildest and most dangerous regions. Fortunately the bright moon looked smilingly down upon us, and illuminated our path so brightly, that the horses carried us with firm step over every obstruction. I was, I must confess, grievously frightened by the shadows! I saw living things moving to and fro— forms gigantic and forms dwarfish seemed sometimes approaching us, sometimes hiding behind masses of rock, or sinking back into nothingness. Lights and shadows, fears and anxiety, thus took alternate possession of my imagination.
A couple of miles from our starting-place we came upon a brook crossed by a narrow stone bridge. This brook is remarkable only as having been that from which David collected the five stones wherewith he slew the Philistine giant. At the season of my visit there was no water to be seen; the bed of the stream was completely dry.
About an hour’s journey from Jerusalem the valley opens, and little orchards give indication of a more fertile country, as well as of the proximity of the Holy City. Silently and thoughtfully we approached our destination, straining our eyes to the utmost to pierce the jealous twilight that shrouded the distance from our gaze. From the next hill we hoped to behold our sacred goal; but “hope deferred” is often the lot of mortals. We had to ascend another height, and another; at length the Mount of Olives lay spread before us, and lastly Jerusalem.
Residence at Jerusalem—Catholic church—The “Nuova Casa”—Via Dolorosa—Pilate’s house—The Mosque Omar—Herod’s house—Church of the Holy Sepulchre—Disturbances at the Greek Easter feasts—Knights of the Holy Sepulchre—Mount of Olives—Adventure among the ruin— Mount of Offence—Valley of Jehosaphat—Siloam—Mount Sion— Jeremiah’s grotto—Graves.
The red morning dawn had began to tinge the sky as we stood before the walls of Jerusalem, and with it the most beauteous morning of my life dawned upon me! I was so lost in reflection and in thankful emotion, that I saw and heard nothing of what was passing around me. And yet I should find it impossible to describe what I thought, what I felt. My emotion was deep and powerful; my expression of it would be poor and cold.
At half past four o’clock in the morning of the 29th May we arrived at the “Bethlehem Gate.” We were obliged to wait half an hour before this gate was opened; then we rode through the still silent and deserted streets of the Nuova Casa (Pilgrim-house), a building devoted by the Franciscan friars to the reception of rich and poor Roman Catholics and Protestants.