Page:The forerunners.djvu/128

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126 THE FORERUNNERS

Jeremiah, and the young man's ardent faith is superadded to and redoubles that of the prophet.

JEREMIAH. Thou believest in me when I myself scarcely believe in my own dreams. . . . Thou hast made my blood flow and hast mingled thy will with mine. . . . Thou art the first to believe in me, the first-born of my faith, the son of my anguish.

The crowd flocks back into the square, uttering cries of delight, for war has been decided on. Heading a solemn procession, the king appears, gloomy, with naked sword. Hananiah dances before him, like David. Jeremiah cries out to the king, " Throw down the sword. Save Jerusalem ! Peace ! God's peace ! " His words are drowned by the shouting, and he is pushed aside. But the king has heard. He halts for a moment, looking round and trying to find the speaker. Then, sword in hand, he marches forward, and goes up into the temple.

SCENE THREE

RUMOURS.

The war has begun. The crowd is awaiting news. They talk at random, catching at the words which please them, or shaping utterances which express their wishes. Longing for victory, they imagine it won. In masterly fashion, Zweig shows how a vague rumour spreads in the hallu- cinated mind of the multitude, to attain in an instant a certainty surpassing that of truth. Details pass from mouth to mouth ; precise figures of the false victory are given. Jeremiah, the defeatist prophet, is mocked. The bird of ill-omen is informed that the Chaldeans have been crushed, and that King Nebuchadnezzar has been slain. Jeremiah, at first dumb with astonishment, thanks God for having turned to derision his gloomy forebodings. Then, pricked by the foolish pride of the people, who become brutishly intoxicated with the victory and have learned nothing from their trials, he scourges them with new threats.

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