The Door of Unrest

I sat an hour by sun, in the editor’s room of the Montopolis Weekly Bugle. I was the editor. The saffron rays of the declining sunlight filtered through the cornstalks in Micajah Widdup’s garden-patch, and cast an amber glory upon my paste-pot. I sat at the editorial desk in my non-rotary revolving chair, and prepared my editorial against the oligarchies. The room, with its one window, was already a prey to the twilight. One by one, with my trenchant sentences, I lopped off the heads of the political hydra, while I listened, full of kindly peace, to the home-coming cow-bells and wondered what Mrs. Flanagan was going to have for supper.

Then in from the dusky, quiet street there drifted and perched himself upon a corner of my desk old Father Time’s younger brother. His face was beardless and as gnarled as an English walnut. I never saw clothes such as he wore. They would have reduced Joseph’s coat to a monochrome. But the colours were not the dyer’s. Stains and patches and the work of sun and rust were responsible for the diversity. On his coarse shoes was the dust, conceivably, of a thousand leagues. I can describe him no further, except to say that he was little and weird and old—old I began to estimate in centuries when I saw him. Yes, and I remember that there was an odour, a faint odour like aloes, or possibly like myrrh or leather; and I thought of museums.

And then I reached for a pad and pencil, for a business is business, and visits of the oldest inhabitants are sacred and honourable, requiring to be chronicled.

“I am glad to see you, sir,” I said. “I would offer you a chair, but—you see, sir,” I went on, “I have lived in Montopolis only three weeks, and I have not met many of our citizens.” I turned a doubtful eye upon his dust-stained shoes, and concluded with a newspaper phrase, “I suppose that you reside in our midst?”

My visitor fumbled in his raiment, drew forth a soiled card, and handed it to me. Upon it was written, in plain but unsteadily formed characters, the name “Michob Ader.”

“I am glad you called, Mr. Ader,” I said. “As one of our older citizens, you must view with pride the recent growth and enterprise of Montopolis. Among other improvements, I think I can promise that the town will now be provided with a live, enterprising newspa—”

“Do ye know the name on that card?” asked my caller, interrupting me.

“It is not a familiar one to me,” I said.

Again he visited the depths of his ancient vestments. This time he brought out a torn leaf of some book or journal, brown and flimsy with age. The heading of the page was the Turkish Spy in old-style type; the printing upon it was this:

“There is a man come to Paris in this year 1643 who pretends to have lived these sixteen hundred years. He says of himself that he was a shoemaker in Jerusalem at the time of the Crucifixion; that his name is Micob Ader; and that when Jesus, the Christian Messias, was condemned by Pontius Pilate, the Roman president, he paused to rest while bearing his cross to the place of crucifixion before the door of Michob Ader. The shoemaker struck Jesus with his fist, saying, ‘Go; why tarriest thou?’ The Messias answered him: ‘I indeed am going; but thou shalt tarry until I come’; thereby condemning him to live until the day of judgment. He lives for ever, but at the end of every hundred years he falls into a fit or trance, on recovering from which he finds himself in the same state of youth in which he was when Jesus suffered, being then about thirty years of age.

“Such is the story of the Wandering Jew, as told by Michob Ader, who relates—”

Here the printing ended.

I must have muttered aloud something to myself about the Wandering Jew, for the old man spake up, bitterly and loudly.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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