WE need not to be told that our picture represents a scene in some Oriental country; and there is about the whole that air of quiet simplicity which makes us almost sure that it is in the Holy Land. It really rests one to look at the picture, with its expression of calm, happy contentment, and makes one almost long to go back to those early days when Heaven seemed not so far from earth.

The habits and customs, as well as the dress, of the people in Palestine are very simple; and what seems strange to us is that they have not materially changed during thousands of years. The modes of life in that country at the present time are but little different from those in the days of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and in some instances even the work of those hands so long returned to dust, still remains. The houses are built square, with flat roofs. The better of them are built of stone, and have a court in the center; but many are made of only mud, while some among the poorer classes, especially shepherds, dwell in caves and grottoes, and sometimes in tents.

The scene represented in our picture may be in the country; but it is more probably on the outskirts of a village, as the children appear to be leaning against an old stone ruin, whose very massiveness seems to live an air of security. There is nothing to tell us, which of the many villages of Palestine we have this glimpse of; but from the name the artist has given his picture, we conclude that it is Bethlehem. 'The word itself means- house of bread, and the use of the term was fully justified by the fruitful fields and vineyards that surrounded the town in the days of old, before the land was left desolate.

No village in all the Holy Land is so rich in pleasant and sacred associations. How many "children of Bethlehem" rise up before us as we think it all over, from the time when Jacob, with aching heart, buried his dead "in the way to Ephrath which is Bethlehem" to that other joyful day when "peace on earth, good-will toward men" was proclaimed above the plains of Bethlehem.

The scene before us seems to be in harvest time, and the woman coming with the sheaf of grain on her head reminds one of the gentle Ruth who gleaned in these very fields of Bethlehem after the reapers of Boaz. Perhaps this woman is the mother of the children who are so patiently waiting. 

The boy, with his fine Hebrew face and shepherd's pipe, seems a fit representative of that shepherd lad who finally came to be the poet king of Israel. The lamb may be one of a flock such as he kept for his father on the fields of Bethlehem, the very fields where so long afterward the shepherds were keeping their flocks by night when the glad tidings was made known to them of the birth of the Son of David, the Saviour of the world.

Near the gate of the little town is the well of Bethlehem, for whose cool waters David so longed when he had become a man of war, and was faint and weary with the battle. Surely "the streams most sweet are those at which our young lips drank." A little way out of the town is the tomb of Rachel; and we may easily imagine that the feet of our little shepherd lad and his sister have often visited the sacred spot where for nearly four thousand years has quietly rested Jacob's best-loved wife, alike undisturbed by the joys or sorrows, triumphs or defeats, of her restless children.  Verily, "thou Bethlehem in the land of Judah art not the least among the princes of Judah."