So he brought the kid in his arms, and the weary flock straggling after him, to the south wall of the great fold again, and sat there by the embers at the foot of the tower, while the others were away. The moon rested like a ball on the edge of the western hills and rolled behind them. The stars faded in the east and the fires went out on the Mountain of the Little Paradise. Over the hills of Moab a gray flood of dawn rose slowly, and arrows of red shot far up before the sunrise.
The shepherds returned full of joy and told what they had seen.
“It was even as the angels said unto us,” said Shama, “and it must be true. The King of Israel has come. The faithful shall be blessed.”
“Herod shall fall,” cried Jotham, lifting his clenched fist toward the dark peaked mountain. “Burn, black Idumean, in the bottomless pit, where the fire is not quenched.”
Zadok spoke more quietly. “We found the new-born child of whom the angels told us wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. The ways of God are wonderful. His salvation comes out of darkness, and we trust in the promised deliverance. But you, Ammiel-ben-Jochanan, except you believe, you shall not see it. Yet since you have kept our flocks faithfully, and because of the joy that has come to us, I give you this piece of silver to help you on your way.”
But Nathan came close to the sad shepherd and touched him on the shoulder with a friendly hand, “Go you also to Bethlehem,” he said in a low voice, “for it is good to see what we have seen, and we will keep your flock until you return.”
“I will go,” said Ammiel, looking into his face, “for I think you wish me well. But whether I shall see what you have seen, or whether I shall ever return, I know not. Farewell.”
The narrow streets of Bethlehem were waking to the first stir of life as the sad shepherd came into the town with the morning, and passed through them like one walking in his sleep.
The court-yard of the great khan and the open rooms around it were crowded with travelers, rousing them from their night’s rest and making ready for the day’s journey. In front of the stables half hollowed in the rock beside the inn, men were saddling their horses and their beasts of burden, and there was much noise and confusion.
But beyond these, at the end of the line, there was a deeper grotto in the rock, which was used only when the nearer stalls were full. At the entrance of this an ass was tethered, and a man of middle age stood in the doorway.
The sad shepherd saluted him and told his name.
“I am Joseph the carpenter of Nazareth,” replied the man. “Have you also seen the angels of whom your brother shepherds came to tell us?”
“I have seen no angels,” answered Ammiel, “nor have I any brothers among the shepherds. But I would fain see what they have seen.”