The Sons of Methuselah
"For as in the days that were before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until, the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came and took them all away: so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be." Matthew 24:38, 39.
Zilla hurried about, putting the last touch to the evening meal, speaking quietly to the children, who were getting impatient for their father's coming, when his heavy step sounded at the door, and he came in slowly.
Zilla was large, blonde and beautiful. The three smaller children shouted the ir welcome while Ada, the oldest, was busy with some finery for the coming ball. When all were seated at the table, Zilla asked, "What is the news, husband?" "The same as yesterday, only intensified." he remarked, helping himself liberally to the food. But it was evident that he scarcely touched what was on his plate. "Why bother to wait----the children know about it anyway," Ada said impatiently, and young Lamech sprang to his feet and peeped through the window. "There it is, that old big boat on dry land, and old man Noah safely shut up there. He's safe from any flood of waters! And Ada and Zilla both laughed with him, as though it were a great joke. The children giggled, but the father frowned.
"I met Chespa on my way home, he said.
"Oh Chespa makes me tired! It's a wonder she isn't in the old boat with her brother."
"Too bad we are not all there," the husband said humbly.
"Oh Cainan, you make me tired too. As though it wasn't enough to have all we have on earth sunk in that big boat up there on dry ground, without wishing more. if it were not for the monumental folly, we should have things like our neighbors. Look at the Mahalaleels and Enoses--everything they could wish for, and we, a part interest in the greatest hoax this world has ever seen,--besides being a laughing stock to the community!, and her eyes filled with tears.
A knock sounded at the door and a big burly fellow stepped in. He was a suitor for Ada's hand, and had hoped to take her to the ball that evening, but she declined. Cainan invited him to sit and eat. "No, I only stopped to tell you of the ball tonight. There is to be a big dance around the ark. This is the fifth day, you know, since that crazy preacher went into the boat and shut himself in. There is to be great rejoicing because his predictions have not come true. Come all and make merry," he invited them, with a significant look at Ada.
He had only left when Chespa came----Chespa, with beautiful brown curls, blue eyes, and a slight girlish figure. She refused to eat.
"Have some wine, then. Have you eaten today?" Zilla asked.
"Today? No, nor yesterday--maybe the day before. What is food at a time like this? What matter?" Chespa answered wearily.
As Zilla cleared away the things, Chespa and Cainan sat talking. "What is the talk this evening?" he asked.
"Nothing but scorn, derision. It is almost unsafe for a relative to be seen on the street."
"There was shouting and dancing around the ark when I came from there," Chespa answered.
"Your poor brother," said Cainan.
"My poor brother?" her eyes burned and danced. "Why don't you say rather poor us? lie is the safest one of us all----the only safe one, in fact."
"Chespa, do you believe his message yet?" he asked slowly.
"Of course I believe it. I know it is so."
"Why don't you go and call to your brother to let you in then?"
Her head dropped. "It is too late. He cannot let me in. Those eight persons could not have closed those doors. When they hung them, it took more than twice that many to move them into place."
"How did they do it?" Cainan asked.
"They didn't, she returned. "I was near them when they went into the ark; he bade me goodby just as he left. They were all at the window, when those doors closed of themselves, apparently."
"How do you account for it, then?"
"An angel closed them, and we are on the outside--Lost----" Despair and fear were in her voice and attitude.
"Cainan you are the youngest of grandfather's children. How many of your immediate family are left?"
"There must be close to three-score persons, and more counting the grandchildren," he answered.
"And all helped to build the ark, many putting all they had into it--and all are lost. Not one is saved." And she dropped her head on the table.
Zilla was busy getting her daughter ready for the coming ball, for she must he so very beautiful tonight. Her sweetheart was very fastidious. Chespa raised her head and said. "Cainan, I saw the animals go into the ark, and though there is"'to be great rejoicing tonight 'that Noah's prophecy has not come true, yet I know that we are all doomed."
"Why are you so hopeless? It is not like you. I feel thus, because all my works have failed, and we are the butt of ridicule, but you Chespa, are beautiful. You will get over it and be happy once more. Where is Jubal, thy husband? Perhaps he is drinking himself' into a stupor; you know how he loves strong wine."
"I know not, and care not--What shall we do tonight?"
Cainan thought for a moment. "We must go, of course, or we will he missed and bring down more ridicule on our heads". I must go with my family, and you go wi th us. it is safer thus. (PAUSE)
Cainan, and all the world had risen late, after the feasting around 'the ark. His head was groggy, so he decided to take a walk in the fresh air. He walked swiftly to the top of the hill. It was a fair world he looked upon, beautifully clear and bright, the sun shining in all its glory; the green world carpeted and bedecked wi, th every color, lay in radiance in the soft dew, lifting and drifting away, watering all things according to the will of the Creator.
There was an inharmonious note, and that was the ark, balanced on an even keel where it had rested for years. All about the boat was a smooth, even surface, where sight-seers, as well as those who came to hear the strange preacher of righteousness, had gathered so of tell As Cainan looked, a foreboding seized him. Would the God of heaven rise up and put an end to it all?
All was quiet, save the voice of the wild boasts now and then, to remind them there were occupants in the ark. Cainan turned and looked at his home, and saw Chespa coming up the hill, listless, and tired. He would be glad when all of this was over, and things settled down to their normal course again. After all, everything was normal------but men and 'their evil hearts.
"Where were you last night? Zilla and I were worried about you. You disappeared. Did you find Jubal?," he greeted her.
"The ball was not to my liking. I visited Grandfather Methuselah's sons."
"My brothers? How are they?" Cainan asked.
"Your brothers are all alike, Cainan, just as you and I--well in body, but knowing we have sinned away our day of grace. Javin acknowledged freely that he loved money more than he loved his Lord. He gave to 'that ark, yes, but he did not overcome his love of riches, so he did not go in when called, but clung to his money. Enos would have gone in but for his wife's influence; and Chil would have gone in, but her husband pulled her back. When brother made his last plea, Sarai clung to Enos's clothing for fear he would go in, and your brothers are absorbed in their cattle and their lands, though they all gave liberally to the building of the ark. The younger boys are married, but the young people are the hardest--really blasphemous. They are entirely absorbed in play and pleasure. They make sport of the ark the preaching, everything. There is nothing--no lengths to which they will not go. Your sister, she had a temper, to her sorrow. Janna says pride is her downfall, and the others were taken up wi th the cares, pleasures, riches, pride--anything and everything but the things of righteousness. And Cainan--we not only built the ark, hut many of your brothers preached the message in the beginning."
Their eyes stared in sadness upon the ark, scarcely a mile distant.
"Chespa, I do not understand why you are not there. Do you mind telling me why?" He asked her quietly.
"Do you remember, 120 years ago, when my little Shem was killed with some of the falling timbers from the first load that came to the ark? He was like his father, beautiful. I had only time to fold his hands and pray with him before he died. "Meet me in heaven Mother, and Father too" were his last words, and I promised him to get ready, but I have a temper too, of my sorrow. My conscience warned me -I kept it under control, but I did not overcome it. A week ago my brother took my hands and begged me to come into the ark with him, but I had been angry with Jubal, so I made the excuse that I needed things at home. walked back to the ark with him, and saw the door closed. My temper had blinded me to the real issue--and see what I have lost?"
"But Ham went into the ark, and he had a worse temper 'than you."
"Oh yes, but Ham overcame, you see. He obeyed God, and I did not--but what did you do, Cainan? What did you stumble over? He looked startled, but said slowly, "You see, I have Zilla and the children."
"But it wasn't Zilla and the children. What was it that took away your love of the message in the first place? What came between you and the message of righteousness? May I guess? Was it not the beautiful Iris? I've always believed her responsible for much."
"You are right," he answered. I would allow no one but you to talk to me thus, hut it is a fact that I traded my glorious inheritance for the unlawful, love of a beautiful woman." And a bitterness crept into his voice, "And little good it did me, for she ran away with Torbal."
"In the end, what difference does it make what one stumbles over--pride and riches, unlawful love, anger, or the pleasures" and fancies of this world----they all end in death.
I wonder what is going on now," queried Cainan, with a worried look. The day had drawn to a close. Preparations had been made to make this, the last night, the most hilarious around the ark. Chespa waved her hand toward the sinking sun and said, "look Cainan, the last sunset this world will ever see. Drink in its beauty, my uncle, it is the last we shall behold together."
The man started. 'Do you have access to knowledge that others do not?"
"No, but tomorrow is" the seventh day since brother was- shut in the ark, and I remember when I, as a little child, sat at Grandfather's feet, hearing him talk of God's numeral seven. It impressed an much, and my father Lamech taught on the same subject, so I look for some upheaval tomorrow--I know not how it will, come, but it will come," she said with finality.
"Why is it that so many others are happy and carefree, while our household feels that this is the end? Are we so different from others?"
"We know too much," she answered quickly. "We have lived very close to the prophets. Our family have had their teachings ever since we can remember of Enoch's teachings of the coming of the Just One with the saints to save the obedient of the earth, and all spiritual life--and that is what we miss now. That is why we, the descendants of Methuselah and the prophets are at a loss to know why there is no hope for us. We had the acquaintance with God, hut those who do not know him do not miss what they never had. Don't you see?"
"Perhaps you are right, but you are more righteous than Shem or Ham, and you should have gone into the ark before them," Cainan said with feeling.
"Let me tell you something. After listening to brother last week, I came away determined to live right and be saved--to overcome my temper. Hastening towards home I had to pass some bushes, and to my surprise it was Ham, in prayer, begging God to give him the victory over his temper. He wept and prayed and I ran for home determined to do the same.
When I came to 'the tiny shack of Shorn and his wife----you know 'they put everything they had in the ark--I heard him talking in the little shed, and going to the door, I saw Shem on his knees, praying for his brother, sisters, and for you, Cainan."
"Most people would curse God for not giving them another chance. Zilla would, I know." "Why should I be bitter with God? Did He not give me 120 years to overcome my temper? How much more time should I have had?"
"But it wasn't bad, Chespa."
"The more reason I should have overcome. God is not to be blamed. The size of the sin does not count. We must answer for every word and thought. I have broken my promise to my boy--" and her voice trailed off into silence.
"Sin is a terrible thing in its results, Chespa, even so small a sin as annoyance." "It was right for God to shut me out for my terrible sin, but you, 'to be shut out he-- cause you were indignant over things that were really wrong----I can't see the justice of it."
"Cainan, would you have a world like this, filled with murder, broken homes, evil, things, excuses of all kind, in every form?"
"No, I would not!" he answered, almost violently.
"Then God is right to shut out all sin and angry things. Abel was slain because of anger, the first blood was shed because of anger. No, God is just."
"Chespa, you do not weep, you do not seem to care about Jubal, you speak of little Shem without tears. What has changed you so?"
"Loss of the Spirit," she answered quietly. "You see, there is a loss of spiritual care.
"Do you mean to say that we will suffer no more?" Cainan demanded.
"When we see Zilla and the children drown, if Noah's prophecy is true, have no fear, we will suffer terrible, you and I. The fact that those we love could have escaped, w ill only increase our sufferings. If I had tried harder, Jubal might have overcome, lie was tender toward the message once."
The man's face blanched. "And if I had been true, Zilla and the children might have gone in. Oh, we have a heavy account to settle." The stillness o-f doom settled down, and in the distance they could hear the dancing and 'the laughter around the ark. They went down to the house, where Zilla greeted them.
"You will stay with us tonight, Chespa?" she asked, and Chespa nodded her assent. "So few know, so few suspicion, and they will not know until, the flood comes and takes them all away, and all our knowledge, prayers, and teats will avail us nothing, because we have excused ourselves in sin."
The door opened, and closed, and all, was quiet except around the ark.
The next morning, Cainan and Chespa wont for a horseback ride, past Chespa' s home, where than stopped for a moment. The beautiful and costly furnishings brought a pang of sorrow to Chespa's heart, for she knew that the money should have gone into the ark, especially of late when funds had been so low. But they passed on to stop at Shem's tiny shack.
"Why, they must have left in great hast," Cainan exclaimed. The table was set, the couches unmade in the sleeping rooms, the garments hanging near. Going into the yard, they saw the bags of grain open for the chickens.
"Six days eggs ungathered," muttered Chespa. "Evidently they did not expect to fellow at once," she said. Further on, they stoppe-d at Ham's place. here they also saw evidence of a hurried departure. Food was hal f--cooked, the lire had been put out hurriedly, and their best clothes wore gene.
"We deserve nothing, only as we ob'tain it by faith i.n GiCod's great sacrifice for sin. They believed and obeyed," she sighed, her face drawn and pale.
On returning home they found the children gone to the ark. The great scientists were going to prove how impossible it was for Noah's prophecy to come true. On 'the evening before, Ada and the young Mahalaheel had decided to get married. Cainan was furious when he heard of it. The man had six wives already. But Zilla argued that they were wealthy, so it didn't matter. They decided to wal.k down to the ark and listen to the,; lectures. Here they -found all a blaze of color and laughter. The scientists oxpiained how 'there never was a flood, and of course, there never could be one. One after another offered his version o'f the matter, and during a lull in the talking, Chespa told Cainan to look at the sun.
"I never saw the sun look like that in mid--day before----What does it mean?" All were so interested in the speakers that none had noticed that the sun had the appearance of the time of the day when the mists rose to water the earth. Yet it was midday. They wondered that others did not notice it. Tiny white clouds whirled about, and suddenly great drops of water, a few here and there, fell. One splashed on the hand o-f the celebrated speaker, and he looked about to see what small boy was playing pranks. A drop 'fell on Chespa's hand, and she shuddered. Cainan sprang up.
"I'm going to take my family home. Do you want to come with us?"
"If I may," and they made their way out of the crowd. By this time the clouds gathered and whirled, great drops falling 'faster and faster. Confusion reigned. The learned professors gazed about, dumb-founded. All faces gathered paleness. "Noah was right," lips whispored. Sot-ru rushed home. Ofhers rushed to the ark. Groans, larnentations and bitter curses filled the air.
Zilla called wildly to Chespa, "Why don't you call to your brother to let us into the ark?" Chespa looked at her pityingly. "You forget that when God shut him in, He shut us out."
They made their way home; by ths time the heavens were blackened, the rain came in torrents, and streams of water spouted from the ground itself. Soon the low places were lakes and running streams. (PAUSE)
The ark had been made in the hills, and Cainan's house stood on a little rise somewhat higher. For fourteen days the rain had been a steady downpour. The lightning, thunder, and cold blasts of air terrified the inhabitants. The beasts roamed around the ark. The fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. Water appeared to come 'from the clouds in mighty cataracts. Rivers broke away from their boundaries and overflowed the valleys. Jets of water burst from the earth, with indescribable force, throwing massive rocks hundreds of feet into the air, and these, falling, buried themselves in the earth.
The hil.l above Cainan 's house was naturally a gather'ing place for the stranded, and even the powerful beasts from the lowlands struggled with man for a foothold, to rest on their way to the mountain regions. Knowing that these beas-ts could seek the higher places, many parents had bound their children to their hacks, hoping to save them.
Cainan and his family, with Chespa, and others', had gathered on the spot above the house which was stil,l above the waters. Around them was- a sea o'f turbid water, carrying rafts that were made by many in their efforts to save themselves. Bodies of the living and the dead were carried on these rafts. Domestic animals, cows, horses, and other beasts, as well as the bodies of men, women, and little children were floating everywhere; a sight beyond description.
For days the cries of the lost and for the lost mingling with the curses of the hardened sinners, was a eorninn occurance. There had been no food for days. The children cried for food, and any beast that came along was slain and the raw flesh given to the stai'viug children to chew upon.
While they were standing by a tree, Ada and her husband came riding on two powerful beasts on their way to the mountains, saying that the great seientist had said that a few days of rain, and the moon would change and the rain would stop. They urged Cainan and Zilla to let them take some of the children with them. Two f the children were tied to the beasts, and soon, they and their burdens swam away.
"Where is my baby?" Zilla cried, looking about. "Cainan, where is she?" But the baby was nowhere to be found. A false step backward, a little slip, and the little fern disappeared.
Another pitiful night. Zilla cried for her children constantly. Chespa said little. her beautiful lips tightened about her mouth when she heard the dreadful cursing and blasphemy that went on all the time. People were disappearing in the swirling waters.
"It is our fault. We had 120 years of preparations," Chespa said at times.
"Don't you think that God is unjust to destroy the little children too, even if we had 120 years, they did not," Zilla cried.
"It may seem unjust, but it really is not--Remember that parents stand in the place of God to 'their children, until they come to the years of accountability. And then after that they stand for themselves. If the parents fail, the children suffer with them--and remember the young people of this generation had the invitation to go in, and also their parents, and to take their little ones with them. We and we alone are to blame for not entering in, so why pile up curses to answer for later on?" And no one could answer her a word. They stayed in the house most of the time, but soon Cainan came in and said, "Come with me and see something." Zilla screamed, "Cainan, be careful, the bank is caving in!" and she pulled him back just in time. They stood for some time watching f-he bank wash away, a powerful undercurrent of the swift waters between some hidden rocks which made a perfect mill race of the waters. Trees, bodies of people and anima Is f bated by. Suddenly Chespa leaned forward, screamed, turned and ran to the house. "What is it?" Cainan asked his wife.
"It was Jubal, her husband."
"Poor Chespa," and going to the house they found her drying her clothes by a fire made of some of the furniture. The rising waters soon entered the house, and once more they sought the higher ground.
Two hours later the house shivered, crumpled, and was carried away by the swift waters. It was late afternoon, and again they stood under a tree now waist deep in water, the rain still coming in torrents, the mountains visible new and then when the mists shifted enough to make vision possible. Cainan stood near wit-h his wife, when the footing suddenly seemed to give way under Zilla, and Cainan could net catch her in time. With a piercing scream she went under, and then coming to the surface for a minute, disappeared in the muddy waters.
Chespa's and Cainan's faces were like chalk in whiteness. "If will be but a moment and we too must go. Shall we go together?" Chespa asked quietly. She put her arm into his. Quickly he caught up a piece of a thong floating near and bound their arms tightly together. Hardly had he finished when their standing place crumpled. There was a moment of unsteadiness and the beautiful chestnut curls and handsome blond head disappeared.
Some two miles away, where the ark had rested so many years, was a quiet place, an eddy, formed by the returning waters. The debris floated about. A high bank of soft earth, loosened by the deluge of waters suddenly broke away completely covering the last one of the sons of Methuselah, and the beautiful woman, who knew so well of God's great mercy and love and care for His children, but who failed to go in, because it entailed the sacrifice of personal sins.
# # # # #