And had he needed further assurance as to the correctness of his theory he had only to cast his eyes upon the brownish-red stains that caked the stone altar and covered the floor in its immediate vicinity, or to the human skulls which grinned from countless niches in the towering walls.
Each priestess bore two golden cups, and as they formed in line along one side of the altar the men formed opposite them, advancing and taking each a cup from the female opposite.
As they streamed up the broad aisle, while the pews and pillars seemed to brighten on either side, their steps were as buoyant as if they mistook the church for a ball-room, and were ready to dance hand in hand to the altar. So brilliant was the spectacle that few took notice of a singular phenomenon that had marked its entrance.
If you, dearest Julia, were approaching the altar the bell would ring out its merriest peal.
Its altar, like that of all the Greek churches, is a lofty screen that extends clear across the chapel, and is gorgeous with gilding and pictures.
The next place the guide took us to in the holy church was an altar dedicated to the Roman soldier who was of the military guard that attended at the Crucifixion to keep order, and who--when the vail of the Temple was rent in the awful darkness that followed; when the rock of Golgotha was split asunder by an earthquake; when the artillery of heaven thundered, and in the baleful glare of the lightnings the shrouded dead flitted about the streets of Jerusalem--shook with fear and said, "Surely this was the Son of God!" Where this altar stands now, that Roman soldier stood then, in full view of the crucified Saviour--in full sight and hearing of all the marvels that were transpiring far and wide about the circumference of the Hill of Calvary.
And he looked up at the great painted window above the altar, and remembered how, when a little boy, he used to try not to look through it at the elm-trees and the rooks, before the painted glass came; and the subscription for the painted glass, and the letter he wrote home for money to give to it.
Then the grief which he began to share with others became gentle and holy, and he rose up once more, and walked up the steps to the altar, and while the tears flowed freely down his cheeks, knelt down humbly and hopefully, to lay down there his share of a burden which had proved itself too heavy for him to bear in his own strength.
Beside the opening in the floor, just behind the altar
, through which he had entered the court from the subterranean chamber below, the Belgian discovered several doors leading from the enclosure upon the level of the floor.
But if you will be moved by me -- for you, lord, are stronger and mightier than I, and your strength is very great -- build at Crisa below the glades of Parnassus: there no bright chariot will clash, and there will be no noise of swift-footed horses near your well-built altar
. But so the glorious tribes of men will bring gifts to you as Iepaeon (`Hail- Healer'), and you will receive with delight rich sacrifices from the people dwelling round about.' So said Telphusa, that she alone, and not the Far-Shooter, should have renown there; and she persuaded the Far-Shooter.
"Thou forgettest, however, Ben-Levi," replied Abel-Phittim, "that the Roman Pompey, who is now impiously besieging the city of the Most High, has no assurity that we apply not the lambs thus purchased for the altar
, to the sustenance of the body, rather than of the spirit."
She was sorry that she could not do anything for the altar
. If she could, at least, have contributed something towards it!
Their worshippers were such a precious set of fickle-minded and irreverent heathens, that there was no telling when they might topple one of them over, break it to pieces, and making a fire with it on the very altar
itself, fall to roasting the offerings of bread-fruit, and at them in spite of its teeth.
They reach the chapel vast and dim, and there, before the great altar
with its gleaming lights, the Abbot in his robes chants the services, but where the voices of choir and people were wont to join, there sounds only the clear high voice of one little boy.
The deacon's hand in a plush cuff accepted a three-rouble note unobtrusively, and the deacon said he would put it down in the register, and his new boots creaking jauntily over the flagstones of the empty church, he went to the altar
. A moment later he peeped out thence and beckoned to Levin.