Chapter XXIV. THE ROAD TO PELLA
The chief merchant of Ascalon stood in the guest-chamber of
Although it was a late winter day the old man was clad in the
free white garments of a midsummer afternoon, for to the sorrow
of Philistia the cold season of the year sixty-nine had been
warm, wet and miasmic. An old woman entering presently glanced
at the closed windows of the apartment when she noted the
flushed face of the merchant but she made no movement to have
them opened. More than the warmth of the day was engaging the
attention of the grave old man, and the woman, by dress and
manner of equal rank with him, stood aside until he could give
her a moment.
His porter bowed at his side.
"The servants of Philip of Tyre are without," he said. "Shall
"They have come for the furnishings," Costobarus answered.
"Take thou all the household but Momus and Hiram, and dismantle
the rooms for them. Begin in the library; then the
sleeping-rooms; this chamber next; the kitchen last of all. Send
Hiram to the stables to except three good camels from the herd
for our use. Let Momus look to the baggage. Where is Keturah?"
A woman servant hastening after a line of men bearing a great
divan, picking up the draperies and pillows that had dropped,
stopped and salaamed to her master.
"Is our apparel ready?" he asked.
"Prepared, master," was the response.
"Then send hither--" But at that moment a man-servant dressed
in the garb of a physician hastened into the chamber. Without
awaiting the notice of his master he hurried up and whispered in
his ear. Costobarus' face grew instantly grave.
"How near?" he asked anxiously.
"In the next house--but a moment since. The household hath
fled," was the low answer.
"Haste, haste!" Costobarus cried to the rush of servants
about him. "Lose no time. We must be gone from this place before
mid-afternoon. Laodice! Where is Laodice?" he inquired.
Then his wife who had stood aside spoke.
"She is not yet prepared," she explained unreadily. "She
needs a frieze cloak--"
Costobarus broke in by beckoning his wife to one side, where
the servants could not hear him say compassionately,
"Let there be no delay for small things, Hannah. Let us
haste, for Laodice is going on the Lord's business."
"A matter of a day only," Hannah urged. "A delay that is
further necessary, for Aquila's horse is lame."
The old man shook his head and looked away to see a
man-servant stagger out under a load of splendid carpets. The
old woman came close.
"The wayside is ambushed and the wilderness is patrolled with
danger, Costobarus," she said. "Of a certainty you will not take
Laodice out into a country perilous for caravans and armies!"
"These very perils are the signs of the call of the hour," he
maintained. "She dare not fail to respond. The Deliverer cometh;
every prophecy is fulfilled. Rather rejoice that you have
prepared your daughter for this great use. Be glad that you have
But in Hannah's face wavered signs of another interpretation
of these things. She broke in on him without the patience to
wait until he had completed his sentence.
"Are they prophecies of hope which are fulfilled, or the
words of the prophet of despair?" she insisted. "What saith
Daniel of this hour? Did he not name it the abomination of
desolation? Said he not that the city and the sanctuary should
be destroyed, that there should be a flood and that unto the end
of the war desolations shall be determined? Desolations,
Costobarus! And Laodice is but a child and delicately reared!"
"All these things may come to pass and not a hair of the
heads of the chosen people be harmed," he assured her.
"But Laodice is too young to have part in the conflict of
nations, the business of Heaven and earth and the end of all
A courier strode into the hall and approached Costobarus, saw
that he was engaged in conversation and stopped. The merchant
noted him and withdrew to read the message which the man
"A letter from Philadelphus," he said over his shoulder, as
he moved away from Hannah. "He hath landed in Caesarea with his
cousin Julian of Ephesus. He will proceed at once to Jerusalem.
We have no time to lose. Ah, Momus?"
He spoke to a servant who had limped into the hall and stood
waiting for his notice. He was the ruin of a man, physically
powerful but as a tree wrecked by storm and grown strong again
in spite of its mutilation. Pestilence in years long past had
attacked him and had left him dumb, distorted of feature,
wry-necked and stiffened in the right leg and arm. His left arm,
forced to double duty, had become tremendously muscular, his
left hand unusually dexterous. Much of his facial distortion was
the result of his efforts to convey his ideas by expression and
by his attempts to overcome the interference of his wry neck
with the sweep of his vision.
"Whom have we in our party, Momus?" Costobarus asked. As the
man made rapid, uncouth signs, the master interpreted.
"Keturah, Hiram and Aquila--and thou and I, Momus. Three
camels, one of which is the beast of burden. Good! Aquila will
ride a horse; ha! a horse in a party of camels--well, perhaps--if
he were bought in Ascalon. How? What? St--t! The physician told
me even now. Let none of the household know it--above all things
not thy mistress!" The last sentence was delivered in a whisper
in response to certain uneasy gestures the mute had made. The
man bowed and withdrew.
A second servitor now approached with papers which the
merchant inspected and signed hastily with ink and stylus which
the clerk bore. When this last item was disposed of, Hannah was
again at her husband's side.
"Costobarus," she whispered, "it is known that the East Gate
of the Temple, which twenty Levites can close only with effort,
opened of itself in the sixth hour of the night!"
"A sign that God reentereth His house," the merchant
"A sign, O my husband, that the security of the Holy House is
dissolved of its own accord for the advantage of its enemies!"
Costobarus observed two huge Ethiopians who appeared
bewildered at the threshold of the unfamiliar interior, looking
for the master of the house to tell them what to do. The
merchant motioned toward a tall ebony case that stood against
one of the walls and showed them that they were to carry it out.
"And thou hast not forgotten that night when the priests at
the Pentecost, entering the inner court, were thrown down by the
trembling of the Temple and that a vast multitude, which they
could not see, cried: 'Let us go hence!' And that dreadful
sunset which we watched and which all Israel saw when armies
were seen fighting in the skies and cities with toppling towers
and rocking walls fell into red clouds and vanished!"
"What of thyself, Hannah?" he broke in. "Art thou ready to
depart for Tyre? Philip will leave to-morrow. Do not delay him.
Go and prepare."
But the woman rushed on to indiscretion, in her desperate
intent to stop the journey to Jerusalem at any cost.
"But there are those of good repute here in Ascalon, sober
men and excellent women, who say that our hope for the Branch of
David is too late--that Israel is come to judgment, this
hour--for He is come and gone and we received Him not!"
Costobarus turned upon her sharply.
"What is this?" he demanded.
"O my husband," she insisted hopefully, "it measures up with
prophecy! And they who speak thus confidently say that He
prophesied the end of the Holy City, and that this is not the
Advent, but doom!"
"It is the Nazarene apostasy," he exclaimed in alarm, "alive
though the power of Rome and the diligence of the Sanhedrim have
striven to destroy it these forty years! Now the poison hath
entered mine own house!"
A servant bowed within earshot. Costobarus turned to him
"Philip of Tyre," the attendant announced.
"Let him enter," Costobarus said. "Go, Hannah; make Laodice
ready--preparations are almost complete; be not her obstacle."
"But--but," she insisted with whitening lips, "I have not
said that I believe all this. I only urge that, in view of this
time of war, of contending prophecies and of all known peril,
that we should keep her, who is our one ewe lamb, our tender
flower, our Rose of Sharon, yet within shelter until the signs
are manifest and the purpose of the Lord God is made clear."
He turned to her slowly. There was pain on his face,
suffering that she knew her words had evoked and, more than
that, a yearning to relent. She was ashamed and not hopeful, but
her mother-love was stronger than her wifely pity.
"Must I command you, Hannah?" he asked.
Her figure, drawn up with the intensity of her wishfulness,
relaxed. Her head drooped and slowly she turned away. Costobarus
looked after her and struggled with rising emotion. But the
curtain dropped behind her and left him alone.
A moment later the curtains over the arch parted and a
middle-aged Jew, richly habited, stood there. He raised his hand
for the blessing of the threshold, then embraced Costobarus with
more warmth than ceremony.
"What is this I hear?" he demanded with affectionate concern.
"Thou leavest Ascalon for the peril of Jerusalem?"
"Can Jerusalem be more perilous than Ascalon this hour?"
"Yes, by our fathers!" Philip declared. "Nothing can be so
bad as the condition of the Holy City. But what has happened?
Three days ago thou wast as securely settled here as a barnacle
on a shore-rock! To-day thou sendest me word: 'Lo! the time long
expected hath come; I go hence to Jerusalem.' What is it, my
"Sit and listen."
Philip looked about him. The divan was there, stripped of its
covering of fine rugs, but the room otherwise was without
furniture. Prepared for surprise, the Tyrian let no sign of his
curiosity escape him, and, sitting, leaned on his knees and
"Philadelphus Maccabaeus hath sent to me, bidding me send
Laodice to him--in Jerusalem," Costobarus said in a low voice.
Philip's eyes widened with sudden comprehension.
"He hath returned!" he exclaimed in a whisper.
For a time there was silence between the two old men, while
they gazed at each other. Then Philip's manner became intensely
"I see!" he exclaimed again, in the same whisper. "The throne
is empty! He means to possess it, now that Agrippa hath
Costobarus pressed his lips together and bowed his head
emphatically. Again there was silence.
"Think of it!" Philip exclaimed presently.
"I have done nothing else since his messenger arrived at
daybreak. Little, little, did I think when I married Laodice to
him, fourteen years ago, that the lad of ten and the little
child of four might one day be king and queen over Judea!"
Philip shook his head slowly and his gaze settled to the
pavement. Presently he drew in a long breath.
"He is twenty-four," he began thoughtfully. "He has all the
learning of the pagans, both of letters and of war; he--Ah! But
is he capable?"
"He is the great-grandson of Judas Maccabaeus! That is
enough! I have not seen him since the day he wedded Laodice and
left her to go to Ephesus, but no man can change the blood of
his fathers in him. And Philip--he shall have no excuse to fail.
He shall be moneyed; he shall be moneyed!"
Costobarus leaned toward his friend and with a sweep of his
hand indicated the stripped room. It was a noble chamber. The
stamp of the elegant simplicity of Cyrus, the Persian, was upon
it. The ancient blue and white mosaics that had been laid by the
Parsee builder and the fretwork and twisted pillars were there,
but the silky carpets, the censers and the chairs of fine woods
were gone. Costobarus looked steadily at the perplexed
countenance of Philip.
"Seest thou how much I believe in this youth?" he asked.
A shade of uneasiness crossed Philip's forehead.
"Thou art no longer young, Costobarus," he said, "and
disappointments go hard with us, at our age--especially,
"I shall not be disappointed," Costobarus declared.
The friendly Jew looked doubtful.
"The nation is in a sad state," he observed. "We have cause.
The procurators have been of a nature with their patrons, the
emperors. It is enough but to say that! But Vespasian Caesar is
another kind of man. He is tractable. Young Titus, who will
succeed him, is well-named the Darling of Mankind. We could get
much redress from these if we would be content with redress. But
no! We must revert to the days of Saul!"
"Yes; but they declare they will have no king but God; no
commander but the Messiah to come; no order but primitive
impulse! But the Maccabee will change all that! It is but the
far swing of the first revolt. Jerusalem is ready for reason at
this hour, it is said."
"Yes," Philip assented with a little more spirit. "It hath
reached us, who have dealings with the East, that there is a
better feeling in the city. Such slaughter has been done there
among the Sadducees, such hordes of rebels from outlying
subjugated towns have poured their license and violence in upon
the safe City of Delight, that the citizens of Jerusalem
actually look forward to the coming of Titus as a deliverance
from the afflictions which their own people have visited upon
"The hour for the Maccabee, indeed," Costobarus ruminated.
"And the hour for Him whom we all expect," Philip added in a
low tone. Costobarus bowed his head. Presently he drew a scroll
from the folds of his ample robe.
"Hear what Philadelphus writes me:
Caesarea, II Kal. Jul. XX.
To Costobarus, greetings and these by messenger;
I learn on arriving in this city that Judea is in truth no
country. Wherefore it can be mine by cession or conquest. It
mine, however, by right. I shall possess it.
I go hence to Jerusalem.
Fail not to send my wife thither and her dowry. Aquila, my
emissary, will safely conduct her. Trust him.
Proceed with despatch and husband the dowry of your
since it is to be the corner-stone of a new Israel.
Peace to you and yours. To my wife my affection and my
Nota Bene. Julian of Ephesus accompanies me. He is my
will in all probability meet your daughter at the Gate.
Slowly the old man rolled the writing.
"He wastes no words," Philip mused. "He writes as a
siege-engine talks--without quarter."
"So I am giving him two hundred talents," he said
"Two hundred talents!" Philip echoed.
"And I summoned thee, Philip, to say that in addition to my
house and its goods, thou canst have my shipping, my trade, my
caravans, which thou hast coveted so long at a price--at that
price. I shall give Laodice two hundred talents."
"Two hundred talents!" Philip echoed again, somewhat taken
Costobarus went to a cabinet on the wall and drew forth a
shittim-wood case which he unlocked. Therefrom he took a small
casket and opened it. He then held it so that the sun, falling
into it, set fire to a bed of loose gems mingled without care
for kind or value--a heap of glowing color emitting sparks.
"Here are one hundred of the talents," Costobarus said.
A flash of understanding lighted Philip's face not unmingled
with the satisfaction of a shrewd Jew who has pleased himself at
business. One hundred talents, then, for the best establishment
in five cities, in all the Philistine country. But why?
Costobarus supplied the answer at that instant.
"I would depart with my daughter by mid-afternoon," he said.
"I doubt the counting houses; if I had known sooner--" Philip
"Aquila arrived only this morning. I sent a messenger to you
"We waste time in talk. I shall inform thee by messenger
presently. God speed thee! My blessings on thy son-in-law and on
Costobarus rose and took his friend's hand.
"Thou shalt have the portion of the wise-hearted man in this
kingdom. And this yet further, my friend. If perchance the
uncertainties of travel in this distressed land should prove
disastrous and I should not return, I shall leave a widow
"And in that instance, be at peace. I am thy brother."
Costobarus pressed Philip's hand.
"Farewell," he said; and Philip embraced him and went forth.
Costobarus turned to one of his closed windows and thrust it
open, for the influence of the spring sun had made itself felt
in the past important hour for Costobarus.
Noon stood beautiful and golden over the city. The sky was
clean-washed and blue, and the surface of the Mediterranean,
glimpsed over white house-tops that dropped away toward the
sea-front, was a wandering sheet of flashing silver. Here and
there were the ruins of the last year's warfare, but over the
fallen walls of gray earth the charity of running vines and the
new growth of the spring spread a beauty, both tender and
In such open spaces inner gardens were exposed and almond
trees tossed their crowns of white bloom over pleached arbors of
old grape-vines. Here the Mediterranean birds sang with poignant
sweetness while the new-budded limbs of the oleanders tilted
suddenly under their weight as they circled from covert to
But the energy of the young spring was alive only in the
birds and the blossoming orchards. Wherever the solid houses
fronted in unbroken rows the passages between, there were no
open windows, no carpets swung from latticed balconies; no
buyers moved up the roofed-over Street of Bazaars. Not in all
the range of the old man's vision was to be seen a living human
being. For the chief city of the Philistine country Ascalon was
nerveless and still. At times immense and ponderous creaking
sounded in the distance, as if a great rusted crane swung in the
wind. Again there were distant, voluminous flutterings, as if
neglected and loosened sails flapped. Idle roaming donkeys
brayed and a dog shut up and forgotten in a compound barked
incessantly. Presently there came faint, far-off, failing cries
that faded into silence. The Jew's brow contracted but he did
From his position, he could see the port to the east packed
with lifeless vessels. The stretches of stone wharf and the mole
were vacant and littered with rubbish. The yard-arms of
abandoned freighters were peculiarly beaded with tiny black
shapes that moved from time to time. Far out at sea, so far that
a blue mist embraced its base and set its sails mysteriously
afloat in air, a great galley, with all canvas crowded on, sped
like a frightened bird past the port that had once been its
A strange compelling odor stole up from the city. Costobarus
glanced down into his garden below him. It was a terraced court,
with vine-covered earthen retaining walls supporting each
successive tier and terminating against a domed gate flanked on
either side by a tall conical cypress.
He noted, on the flagging of the walk leading by flights of
steps down to the gate, a heap of garments with broad brown and
yellow stripes. Wondering at the untidiness of his gardener in
leaving his tunic here while he worked, Costobarus looked away
toward the large stones that lay here and there in gutters and
on grass-plots, remnants of the work of the Roman catapults the
previous summer. In the walls of houses were unrepaired
breaches, where the wounds of the missiles showed. On a slight
eminence overlooking the city from the west center-poles of
native cedar which had supported Roman tents were still
standing. But no garrison was there now, though the signs of the
savage Roman obsession still lay on the remnants of the
prostrate western wall. So as Costobarus' gaze wandered he did
not see far above that heap of striped garments in his garden
walk, fixed like an enchanted thing, moveless, dead-calm, a
great desert vulture poised in air. Presently another and yet
another materialized out of the blue, growing larger as they
fell down to the level of their fellow. Slowly the three swooped
down over the heap on the garden walk. The tiny black shapes
that beaded the yard-arms in port spread great wings and soared
solemnly into Ascalon. The three vultures dropped noiselessly on
Cries began suddenly somewhere nearer and instantly the
tremendous booming of a great oriental gong from the heathen
quarters swept heavy floods of sound over the outcry and drowned
it. The vultures flew up hastily and Costobarus saw them for the
first time. A chill rushed over him; revulsion of feeling showed
vividly on his face. He shut the window.
Noon was high over Ascalon and Pestilence was Caesar within
It was the penalty of warfare, the long black shadow that the
passage of a great army casts upon a battling nation. Physicians
could not give it a name. It seized upon healthy victims, rent
them, blasted them and cast them dead and distorted in their
tracks, before help could reach them. It passed like fire on a
high wind through whole countries and left behind it silence and
As Costobarus turned from his window to pace up and down his
chamber, Hannah's argument came back to him with new energy. He
felt with a kind of panic that his confident answer to her might
have been wrong. When a girl appeared in the archway, he moved
impulsively toward her, as if to retract the command that would
send her out into this land that the Lord had spoken against,
but the strength and repose in her face communicated itself to
Above all other suggestions in her presence was that
overpowering richness of oriental beauty which no other kind in
the world may surpass in its appeal to the loves of men. Enough
of the Roman stock in her line had given structural firmness and
stature to a type which at her age would have developed weight
and duskiness, but she was taller and more slender than the
women of her race, and supple and alive and splendid. About her
hips was knotted a silken scarf of red and white and green with
long undulant fringes that added to the lithe grace in her
movements. Under it was a glistening garment of silver tissue
that reached to the small ankles laced about by the ribbons of
white sandals. For sleeves there were netted fringes through
which the fine luster of her arms was visible. About her wrists,
her throat and in her hair, heavy and shining black, were golden
coins that marked her steps with stealthy tinkling.
Costobarus, in spite of the shock of doubt and fear in his
brain, looked at her as if with the happy eyes of the astonished
Maccabee. In those full tender lips, in the slope of those
black, silken brows, in the sparkling behind the dusky slumbrous
eyes, there was all the fire and generosity and limitless charm
that should make her lover's world a place of delight and
perfume and music.
"How is it with you, Laodice?" he asked, faltering a little.
"I am prepared, my father," she answered.
"I commend your despatch. I would be gone within an hour."
She bowed and Costobarus regarded her with growing
wistfulness. At this last moment his love was to become his
obstacle, his fear for his child his one cowardice.
"Dost thou remember him?" he asked without preliminary.
Laodice answered as if the thought were first in her mind.
"Not at all; and yet, if I could remember him, I may not
discover in the man of four-and-twenty anything of the lad of
"He may not have changed. There are such natures, and, as I
recall him, his may well be one of these. His disposition from
childhood to boyhood did not change. When I knew him in
Jerusalem, he was worthy the notice of a man. The manner he had
there he bore with him to this, a smaller city, and hence to
Ephesus, a city of another kind. It was good to see him examine
the world, reject this and that and look upon his choice
proudly. He made the schools observe him, consider him. He did
not enter them for alteration, nor was he shut up in a shell of
self-satisfaction. He entered them as a citizen of the world and
as an examiner of all philosophy. Yet the world taught him
nothing. It gave him merely the open school where regulation and
atmosphere helped him to teach himself. O wife of a child, thou
shalt not be ashamed of thy husband, man-grown!"
"How is he favored?" she asked with the first maiden
hesitation showing in the question.
"He was slender and dark and promised to be tall. He was
quick in movement, quick in temper, resourceful, aye, even
shifty, I should say; stubborn, cold in heart, hard to please."
"Fit attributes for a king," she said, half to herself, "yet
he will be no soft husband."
Costobarus looked away from her and was silent for a time.
"Daughter," he said finally, "thou hast learned indeed that
thine is to be no luxurious life. In thy restrained heart there
are no dreams. Let not thy youth, when thou seest him, put
obstacle in the way of thy duty. Whether thou lovest him or
lovest him not, he is thy husband, thy fellow in a great labor
for God and for Israel. Remember the times and the portents and
shut thine ears against selfish desire. Thou seest Judea. That
which the Lord hath uttered against it through the prophets has
come to pass. Abandon thy hopes in all save the Son of God;
forget thyself; prepare to give all and expect nothing but the
coming of the King! For verily thou lookest over the edge of the
world past the very end of time!"
The solemn announcement of the Advent by this white-bearded
prophet should have discovered in her a very human and terrified
girl. But it was no new tidings to her. Since her earliest
recollection she had heard it, expected it, contemplated it,
till the magnitude and terror of it had been lost in its
familiarity. She clasped her hands and dropped her eyes and her
lips moved in a silent prayer.
Costobarus remained for a space sunk in glorified meditation.
But presently he raised himself, with signs of his recent
feeling showing on his face.
"Send hither thy mother; bid Aquila and our servants stand
here before me a little later."
She bowed and withdrew. As she passed out a servant stepped
aside to give her room and at a sign from his master approached.
"A messenger from Philip of Tyre," he said.
A moment later an old courier carrying a sheepskin wallet
came into the chamber. He salaamed and produced a tablet which
he handed to Costobarus.
Herewith, O my brother, I send thee one hundred talents.
prove part of the corner-stone of a new Israel. Peace to thee
PHILIP OF TYRE.
Costobarus looked up at the old courier.
"Take my blessings to thy master. May he come to a high seat
in that new Israel which he hath helped to build! Farewell."
The courier withdrew. When his footsteps died away the old
merchant reached under the divan and drew forth the shittim-wood
box. Producing a key he unlocked and opened it. From his bosom
he drew forth the letter from Philadelphus and laid it within.
"Let her take it with her," he said, speaking aloud. "Here,"
lifting a cylinder of old silver exquisitely chased, "are her
marriage papers; this," lifting delicately embroidered squares
of linen, "her marriage tokens, and here, her dowry."
He opened the inner box and laid the sheepskin wallet in upon
the gems. He closed the lid, and, locking the case, lifted it
and set it beside him on the divan.
When he looked up, he saw a man standing within a few paces
of him and perfunctorily gazing at anything but the display of
He was lean, muscular, somewhat younger than forty but
already gray at the temples, of nervous temperament, direct of
gaze and of attractive presence. He wore a tunic of gray wool
bordered with red, and a gray mantle hung negligently from his
shoulders. Limbs and arms were bare and his head-covering of red
wool hung from his arm.
Costobarus, a little discomfited that he had been surprised
with Laodice's dowry exposed, spoke briskly.
"Well, Aquila? Prepared?"
"Everything is in order. I am ready to proceed at once."
"How many in your party?"
"Have you ever been to Jerusalem?"
"How, then," Costobarus asked, with a keen look, "came
Philadelphus to appoint you to conduct Laodice to the city?"
"His retinue is small; he could not come himself, and he
chose me as safer than the other member of his party," was the
Costobarus studied this reply before he questioned his
son-in-law's courier further.
"Jerusalem, they say, is in disorder. How will you get my
daughter to shelter when you have reached the city?"
"Philadelphus hath instructed me that there will be a Greek
at the Sun Gate daily, awaiting us. He will wear a purple turban
embroidered with a golden star. He will conduct us to the house
of Amaryllis the Seleucid, who is pledged to the Maccabee's
cause. Philadelphus will be in her house."
"Why hers?" Costobarus persisted.
"Because it is the only secure house in Jerusalem. She stands
in the good graces of John of Gischala and she is safe."
"There is too much detail; too many people to depend upon and
therefore too many who may fail you. Aquila!"
"I am going to Jerusalem with you."
He turned without waiting to see the effect of this speech
upon the Maccabee's courier and clapped his hands for an
attendant. To the servitor who responded he said:
"Send hither our party. It is time. Bring me my cloak."
He looked then suddenly at Aquila. The Roman's face had
cleared of its astonishment and discomfiture.
"Well enough," the courier said bluntly and closed his lips.
The servitor reappeared with his master's cloak and kerchief.
After him came Keturah, the handmaiden, and Hiram, a
camel-driver, prepared for a journey. The mute Momus presently
appeared. Costobarus got into his cloak without help, made
inquiry for this detail and that of his business and of his
journey, gave instruction to his attendants, and then asked for
There was a moment of silence more distressed than
embarrassed. Momus dropped his eyes; Keturah looked at her
master with moving lips and sudden flushing of color, as if she
were on the point of tears. Aquila stared absently out of the
Costobarus glanced from one to the other of his company and
then went toward the corridor to call his daughter. As he lifted
the curtain, he started and stopped.
[Illustration: At her feet Hannah knelt.]
The lifted curtain had revealed Laodice. At her feet Hannah
knelt, as if she had flung herself in her daughter's path, her
arms clasping the young figure close to her and an agony of
appeal stamped on her upraised face. The last of the rich color
had died out of the girl's face and with pitiful eyes and
quivering lips she was stroking the desperate hands that meant
to keep her for ever.
Except for the sudden sobbing of the woman servant, tense and
anguished silence prevailed. The old merchant was confronted
with a perplexity that found him without fortitude to solve. He
felt his strength slip from him. He, too, covered his face with
At the opposite arch another house servant appeared, lifted a
distorted, blackening face and, doubling like a wounded snake,
fell upon the floor.
A moment of stupefied silence in which Hannah, with her
mother instincts never so acutely alive, turned her strained
vision upon the writhing figure. Then shrieks broke from the
lips of the serving-woman; the hall filled with panic. Hannah
leaped to her feet and thrust Laodice toward her father.
"Away!" she cried. "The pestilence! The pestilence is upon
News of the appearance of the plague in the house of
Costobarus traveled fast after the death of the gardener, who
had fallen in the open and in sight of the watchful inhabitants
of Ascalon. So by the time the house servants of the merchant
were made aware of their peril by the death of one of their own
number, Philip of Tyre with the courage of affection and loyalty
stood on the threshold of the guest-chamber informed of the
situation and prepared to help. Hannah, supported by the
Tyrian's assurance of her rescue and protection, succeeded in
urging Costobarus and Laodice not to delay for her to the peril
of the thrice precious daughter.
So with his house yet ringing with the first convulsion of
terror Costobarus ordered his party with all haste to the
Keturah, Laodice's handmaiden, had fainted with terror and
was carried parcel-wise over the great arm of Momus, the mute,
out into the street and deposited summarily on the floor of
Laodice's bamboo howdah. The camel-driver, Hiram, seemed only a
little less stupefied than she. The mute, with a face as
determined and threatening as an uplifted gad, drove him from
the shelter of a dark corner out to his place on the neck of his
master's camel. Aquila, the emissary, showed the immemorial
composure in the face of disaster that was the badge of the
Roman in the days of the degenerate Caesars, and, mounting his
horse when the rest of the party were in their places, headed
the procession toward the northeast.
From an upper window behind a lattice, Hannah cried her
farewells and fluttered her scarf. She was smiling the drawn,
white smile of a mother who is forcing herself to be cheerful in
the face of danger, for the peace of those she loves. Laodice
understood the tender deception and when a sharp turn of the
street cut off the sight of the plumy trees of the garden, she
covered her face and wept inconsolably.
On either side of the passage there came muffled sounds from
houses; out of open alleys leading into interior courts stole
the fetor of death that even the spice of burning unguents could
not smother. The whole air shuddered with the drumming of
heathen physicians in the pagan quarters, through which the
silence of long stretches of ominously quiet houses shouted its
meaning. At times frantic barefoot flights could be glimpsed as
households deserted stricken houses, but whatever outcry arose
came from bedsides. Ascalon fled as a frightened animal flees,
silently and under cover.
They rode now through a shrieking wind, burdened with sallow
smoke and dreadful odors. Denser and denser the cloud grew till
the streets ahead were hidden in yellow vapor and near-by houses
loomed with dim outlines as if far off, and even the sounds of
death and disaster became choked in the immense prevalence of
smell. Blinded, with scarf and kerchief wrapped over mouth and
nostril, the fleeing party swept down upon the very heart of
that stifling mystery. Through it presently, as the houses
thinned out, they saw cores of great heat surmounted by
black-tipped flames that crackled savagely. Momus, now in the
lead, turned sharply to his right and the next instant had the
wind behind him. Almost involuntarily each member of the party
looked back. Outside the breach of the broken wall, standing
clear to view with the wind from the hills sweeping townward
from them, were diabolical figures, naked and black, feeding
immense pyres with hideous fuel.
Past this grisly line, a camel with a single rider swept in
from seaward. The traveler lifted an arm and signaled to the
party. Aquila seemed not to see this hail, and rode on; but
Costobarus, after the traveler motioned to them once more,
"Does not this person make signs to us, Aquila?"
The pagan looked back.
"Why should he?" he asked.
"He can tell us," the master observed and spoke to Momus and
Hiram, who drew up their camels. The traveler raced alongside.
It was a woman, veiled and wrapped with all the jealous care
of the East against the curious eyes of strangers. Aquila took
in her featureless presence with a single irritated look and
apparently lost interest.
"Greeting, lady," Costobarus said.
"Peace, sir, and greeting," she replied respectfully. Her
tones were marked with the deference of the serving-class and
Costobarus gave her permission to speak.
"Art thou a Jew and master of this train?" she asked.
"I was journeying to Jerusalem with a caravan of which my
master was owner, but the Romans came upon us and took every one
prisoner, except myself. I escaped, but I am without protection
and without friends. In Jerusalem, I have relatives who will
care for me, yet I fear to make the journey alone. I pray thee,
with the generosity of a Jew and the authority of a master,
permit me to go in the protection of thy company!"
Costobarus reflected and while he hesitated he became aware
that Momus was looking at him with warning in his eyes. But
Laodice, so filled with loneliness and apprehension, was moved
to sympathy for the solitary and friendless woman. She leaned
toward her father and said in a low voice:
"Let her come with us, father; she is a woman and afraid."
Aquila heard that low petition and he flashed a look at the
stranger that seemed reproachful. But Costobarus was speaking.
"Ride with us, then, and be welcome," he said.
The woman bowed her shawled head and murmured with emotion
after a silence:
"The blessings of a servant be upon you and yours; may the
God of Israel be with you for evermore."
She dropped back to the rear of the party and the train moved
Meanwhile, Keturah, who sat huddled on the floor of Laodice's
howdah, had not moved since they had left the doorway of
Costobarus' house. Momus, on the neck of Laodice's camel, had
observed her once or twice, and now he reached back and touched
her. He jerked his hand away and brought up his camel with a
wrench. Hiram, following close behind, by dint of main strength
managed to avoid a collision with Momus' beast so suddenly
halted. The mute leaped down from his place and in an instant
Costobarus joined him. Alarmed without understanding, Laodice
had risen and was drawn as far as she might from the
serving-woman. Momus, lifting himself by the stirrup, seized the
stiff figure and laid it down upon the sands. Aquila dismounted
and the three men bent over the woman. Then Costobarus glanced
up quickly at Laodice, made a sign to Momus, who, with a face
devoid of expression, climbed back into his place on the neck of
The strange woman who had stood her ground was heard to say
in a low voice, half lost in the muffling of her wrappings:
Momus drove on leisurely and Laodice, knowing that she must
not look, slipped down in her place and wrapped her vitta over
Pestilence was riding with them.
After a long time, Costobarus' camel ambled up beside hers,
and she ventured to uncover her eyes. Her father smiled at her
with that same heart-breaking smile which her mother had for her
in face of trouble.
"The frosts! The frosts!" he whispered to Momus, and the mute
laid goad about his camel.
Aquila, seeing this haste, checked his horse's gait and fell
back beside the strange woman. Together they permitted the rest
of the party to ride ahead, while they talked in voices too
restrained to be heard.
"There is pestilence in this company," Aquila said angrily;
"will that not persuade you to abandon this plan?"
"No. When all of you are like to die and leave this great
treasure sitting out in the wilderness without a guardian?" she
said lightly. There was no trace of a servant's humility in her
"Hast had the plague that thou seem'st to feel secure from
it?" he demanded.
"O no; then there would be no risk in this game. There is no
sport in an unfair advantage over conditions. No! But how comes
this Costobarus with you?"
"He would not trust his daughter and a dowry to me, alone."
"How shall we get to Emmaus, then?" she asked.
"We shall not get to Emmaus; so you must inform Julian, who
will expect us there," he declared.
The woman played with the silken reins of her camel. Behind
her veil a sarcastic smile played about the corners of her
mouth. Aquila watched her resentfully, waiting with an immense
reserve of caustic words for her refusal to accept the charge.
"So, my Mars of the gray temples, thou meanest in all faith
to deliver up this lady and her treasure to Julian?"
"By those same gray temples, I do! And hold thy peace about
my white hairs. Nothing made them so but thyself--and this evil
plot in which I am tangled. What does Julian mean to do with
this poor creature?"
"He has not got her yet and by the complication thou seest
now, wearing its turban over one ear in yonder howdah, it may
come to pass that he will never have her--and her dowry."
"Pfui! How little you know this Julian! Besides, I am pledged
to deliver him--at least the treasure."
"And thou meanest to line his purse with this great treasure
because he paid thee to do it?"
"I shall; and be rid of it!"
The woman smiled sarcastically.
"And scorn it for thyself?"
Aquila made no answer, but rode on in sulky silence.
"Perpol, it must be pleasant to be a queen," the woman
observed with an assumption of childishness in her voice.
"Peril's own habit!" Aquila declared.
"Peril! Fie! That is half the pleasure of this game of life.
It is tiresome to live any other way than hazardously."
"Thou shalt have pleasure enough in this journey thou art to
take," Aquila declared a little threateningly.
The woman laughed. When Aquila spoke again, his voice was
full of concern.
"I was a fool for not forcing you to stay in Ascalon. You are
"It was that which made me attractive," the woman broke in,
"to Nero, to Vitellius and to you."
"Reckless and useless!" Aquila went on decisively. "Hear me,
now; I trifle no longer. Sometime to-night thou'lt leave us and
journey to Emmaus and inform Julian what has wrecked his plans,
and send him with despatch to Zorah. This thou wilt do, by all
the Furies, or when I do catch thee as I shall, since there is
no other fool in Judea who will undertake to feed thee, I shall
leave the print of my displeasure on thee from thy head to thy
heel! Mark me!"
The woman laughed aloud, with such peculiar insolence and
amusement that one of the servants heard her and turned his head
"Pah! What a timid villain thou art," the woman said, when
the servant looked away again. "How much better it would have
been had Julian fixed upon me as his confederate!"
"Not for Julian! You plot against him even now. But say what
you will, you go to Emmaus to-night, without fail. I have
Aquila touched his horse and riding away from the woman came
up beside Costobarus who was gazing over the country through
which they were passing.
It was a great plain, advancing by benches and slopes to the
edge of a rocky shore. Without forests, spotted only with
verdure, vast, barren, exhausted with the constant production of
fourteen centuries, it was a cheerless sea-front at its best. To
the west the wash of the tideless Mediterranean tumbled along an
unindented coast; to the east the sallow stony earth went up and
up, toward an ever receding sallow horizon. Between lay humbled
towns, wholly abandoned to the bats and to the ignoble wild life
of the Judean wilderness. There were no sheep or cattle.
Vespasian had passed that way and required the flocks of the
nation for the subsistence of his four legions. There were no
olive or fig groves. They had been the first to fall under the
Roman ax, for the policy of Roman warfare was that the first
step in subduing a rebellious province was to starve it. The
vineyards had suffered the same end. The enriched soil of these
inclosures, made one now with the wild at the leveling of their
hedges, produced acres of profitless weeds, green against the
rising brown bosom of the hill-fronts. Here and there were the
fallen walls of isolated homes--wastes of masonry already losing
all domestic signs. There were no gardens; it had been two
seasons since the wheat and the barley had been reaped last, and
the seaboard of southern Judea, in the path of Rome the
destroyer, was a wilderness.
Over all this immense slope the eyes of Costobarus wandered.
However he had felt in the preceding days when he looked upon
this ruin of the land of milk and honey, he realized now
suddenly and in all its fearful actuality the predicament of
Judea, its despair and the gigantic travail before those who
would save it from the united sentence passed upon it by God and
the powers. Immense dejection seized him. He looked from the
face of the country, upon which not a single thing of profit
showed, toward the bowed head and oppressed figure of his young
and inexperienced daughter who was to put her tender self
between Ruin and its victim. Chills, succeeded by flashes of
fever, swept over him. He raised himself as if to give command
to Aquila but settled back under the canopy, grown immeasurably
older and feebler in that moment of helpless surrender to
conditions of which he had been part an artificer. It was not as
if he had made an incautious move in a political game; it was,
as it seemed to him undeniably then, that he had advanced
against the Lord God of Hosts, and there was no turning back!
He settled slowly into a stunned anguish that seemed to rise
gradually, like a filling tide, shutting out the sunset and the
seaboard, the bald earth and the streaming wind, and engulfing
him in roaring darkness and intense cold.
They were in sight of a cluster of Syrian huts, the first
inhabited village they had come upon since leaving Ascalon, but
he was not aware of it. The sudden halting of his camel and a
hoarse strained cry at hand seemed to bear some relation to his
condition, but he did not care. He felt his howdah lurch to one
side as some one leaped up beside him; he felt remotely the
great grasp of hands on him, which must have been Momus'; the
quick military voice of Aquila he heard and then, keen and
distinct as a call upon him, the sound of Laodice's tones made
sharp with terror.
He opened his eyes and saw her, holding him in her arms.
Somewhere in the background were the faces of Momus and Aquila.
Between the pagan and the old servant passed a look that the old
man caught. Then he heard Aquila say:
"The village--his sole chance, if there is a physician
Laodice held him fast only for a moment, when it seemed that
she was wrenched away. The dying man was glad. If this were
pestilence, she should not come near. The hiss of the lash and
the bound of the stung camel disturbed him but he lapsed into
the immense cold again as they raced down the slight declivity
toward the Syrian village. But Pestilence was riding with them
and the odds were with it.
But the dwellers of that little huddle of huts had nothing to
do but to sit in their doorways and suspect. Whatever came their
way from the sea for many months had brought them disaster and
long since they had learned to defend themselves. So now, when a
party riding at breakneck speed, bearing with them an old man on
whom the inertia of death was plain, came across the frontiers
of their little town, they met them with the convenient stones
of their rocky streets, with their savage, stark-ribbed dogs,
with offal from kitchen heap and donkey stall and with insults
"Away, ye bringers of plague! Out, lepers; be gone, ye
Laodice and Aquila who rode in the open were fair targets for
half the hail that fell about them. The girl groaned as the
missiles fell into the howdah upon the helpless shape of
Costobarus, who did not lift a hand to fend off the stones. The
pagan, bruised and raging, drew his weapon and spurred his horse
to ride down his assailants, but they scattered before him and
from safe refuge continued their assault with redoubled
Momus, seeing only injury in attempting to enforce
hospitality, turned his camel and, swinging around the outermost
limits of the settlement, fled. Aquila followed him, and a
moment later the rest of the party joined them.
Without the range of the village, the party halted. Momus and
Aquila lifted Costobarus down and laid him on a rug that Laodice
had spread for him. But when she would have knelt by him, he
motioned to Aquila not to permit her to approach. The mute stood
by his master. In that countenance fast passing under shade was
written charge and injunction as solemn as the darkness that
"Here, O faithful servant, is the wife of a prince, the
daughter of thy master, the joy of thine own declining days.
Shield her against wrong and misfortune by all the strength that
in thee lies, as thou hopest in the King to come and the reward
of the steadfast. Promise!"
They were silent lips that once knew the art and the sound of
speech. The old habit never entirely fell away from them. Under
this anguish they moved--fruitlessly; over the deformed face
flitted the keen agony of regret; then he lifted his great left
arm and bent it upward at the elbow; the huge, even monstrous
muscles, knotted and kinked from shoulder to elbow, sank down
under the broad barbarian bracelet of bronze and rippled under
and rose again from elbow to wrist, ferocious, superhuman! In
that movement the dying man read the mute's consecration of his
one great strength to the protection of the tenderly loved
Laodice. Costobarus motioned to the shittim-wood casket and
Momus undid it and strapped it on his own belt.
"The frosts! The frosts!" the dying man whispered. The mute
understood. Then the father's eyes wandered toward the figure of
his daughter fended away from him by the pagan. The agony of her
suffering and the agony of his distress for her bridged the
space between them. And while they yearned toward each other in
a silence that quivered with pain, the light darkened in
When Laodice came to herself, she was laid upon a spot of
rough grass, in the shelter of an overhanging bluff. It was not
the scene upon which her sorrow-stunned eyes had closed a while
before. The village was nowhere in sight; the plain had been
left behind; any further view was shut off by Aquila's horse,
and the two camels whose bridles were in the hands of Hiram.
Beside the stricken girl knelt Momus and Aquila; standing at her
feet was a new-comer, on whom her wandering and half-conscious
He was an old man, clad in a short tunic, ragged of hem and
girt about him with a rope. Barefoot, bareheaded and provided
only with a staff and a small wallet, he was to outward
appearances little more than one of the legion of mendicants
that infested the poverty-stricken land of Judea. But his large
eyes, under the tangle of wind-blown white hair and white
shelving brows, were infinitely intelligent and refined. Now,
they beamed with pity and concern on the bereaved girl.
But she forgot him the next instant, for returning
consciousness brought back like a blow the memory of the death
of her father.
From time to time she caught snatches of conversation between
the old wayfarer and Aquila. They were spoken in low tones and
only from time to time did they reach her.
"He was Costobarus, principal merchant of this coast," she
heard Aquila explain shortly.
"I shall go on to Ascalon; I do not fear," the old man said
next. "I shall bring his people to fetch his body. I marked the
spot. Comfort her with that, when she can bear to talk of it."
"We go to Jerusalem," Aquila went on, some time later, "else
we should turn back with him ourselves. But we dare not risk the
pestilence on her account, for it seems that she is very
necessary to the Jews at this hour--very necessary."
"I follow to the Holy City," the old wayfarer added at last.
"The Passover is celebrated there within two weeks. But I shall
not fail; nothing will harm me."
"What talisman do you carry to protect you?" the pagan asked
a little irritably.
"No talisman, but the love of Jesus Christ, the Saviour!"
"A Christian!" Aquila exclaimed.
Even through her stupor of grief and hopelessness, Laodice
heard this exclamation. Here, then, was one of the Nazarenes,
that mysterious sect whose tenets she had never been permitted
to hear; But also, she knew that the old apostate had braved the
plague and had buried her father. She turned to look at him in
time to see him extend his hands in blessing over her.
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and his comfort be
with you, for ever; amen. Farewell."
He was gone. Momus raised her in his arms and, lifting her
into her howdah, laid her tenderly on the improvised reclining
seat that had been made of the chair therein. In a twinkling the
whole party had mounted, and passed swiftly on toward Jerusalem.
As they moved forward, the strange woman murmured softly:
Laodice's camel mounted the slope toward the east and
stretched away on a comparative level toward an immense white
moon. Aquila's horse kept up with the matchless speed of the
tall camel only at times, and Laodice, dully sensing that they
were going at hot haste, realized that a race was on between
them and the pestilence. Momus was wielding the goad for a run
to the frosts.
A camel raced up beside Aquila.
"Look!" the woman said to him in a lowered tone, showing back
over the road by which they had come. Aquila turned in his
saddle and looked. Momus rose in his seat and looked. Behind
them only one camel rocked along in their wake. The other and
its driver had disappeared.
"Deserted!" Aquila exclaimed under his breath.
"Three!" the woman said.
"A pest on your counting for a Charon's toll-taker!" Aquila
whispered savagely. "We will have no more of it!"
"No?" the woman said with a meaning that made the pagan
Momus laid goad about his camel.
The way continually ascended toward the east; the soil was no
longer sandy, but rocky; no longer given up to desolate gardens,
but black with groves of cedars and highland shrubs. They swung
off a plateau that would have ended in a cliff, down a shaly
sheep-path into a wady. Under the moonlight, the bottom was seen
to be scarred with marks of hoof and wheel. It debouched
suddenly into a Roman road, straight, level, magnificently built
and running as a bird flies on to Jerusalem.
The camel's gait increased. Momus settled himself in a
securer position and Laodice, careless of the outcome of this
breathless hurry, yielded herself to the careen of her howdah.
At times, her indifferent vision caught, through moonlit notches
and gaps, glimpses of great blue vapors, crowned with pale fire
and piled in glorious disorder low on the eastern horizon. They
were the hills encompassing Jerusalem. The stream of wind on her
face cooled and drove stronger.
Aquila rode closer to her, his horse panting under the
effort. His face looked strange and distressed.
"Lady," he said in low tones, "necessity forces me to speak
to you in your grief; do not blame me for indifference to your
desire to be alone. But we must care for you, though in your
heart this moment you may resent a wish to live. But your father
She gave him attention.
"Let us not carry peril with us," he added in a half-whisper.
"Let us not carry food for pestilence with us."
"I do not understand," she answered, adopting his low tone.
"The more we are, the more of us to die. You must live; I
must live," he explained, nodding toward Momus.
After a little silence, she asked:
"Do we not ride toward the frosts?"
"Yes; but even now pestilence may ride on beside us--your
servant and this woman. Let us save ourselves."
"Abandon them?" she questioned.
"Lest they go on without us," he added.
Momus turned suddenly and gazed at Aquila. Then he
imperiously signed the pagan to fall back.
They rode on.
The pagan slackened his horse's gallop and reined in beside
the woman. They talked together, argumentatively, for a single
tense minute and then Aquila, with a bitter word, put spurs to
his animal and dashed up beside Laodice's camel. In his one
uplifted hand a knife gleamed. The other reached toward the
casket bound to Momus' hip. Laodice, raised to an upright
attitude in her fresh fright, saw that his face was black and
twisted and that he wavered stiffly in his saddle.
But the mute did not await the attack. He seized the pagan's
outstretched hands with that monstrous left and flung him
backward. Without an effort to save himself, falling rigidly and
with a strange cry, Aquila dropped back over his horse's crupper
into the dust of the road.
"Momus!" Laodice screamed.
Back of her the woman cried out:
"On! On! It is the pestilence!"
Momus wielded his goad. Laodice, shaking and crying aloud,
looked back to see the strange woman swerve her camel past the
dark shape lying with out-flung arms in the road and sweep
quickly on after them.
The scourge had overtaken Aquila.
All night the camels fled east, all night the soft footfall
of the woman's beast pursued them; all night the wind freshened
until Laodice's bared face stiffened with the cold and the
breath of the mute that sat upon her camel's neck steamed in the
moonlight. Up and up, by steep and winding wadies they mounted;
under overhanging cliffs and past bald towers of hill-rock
staring white in the moon, along black passes between brooding
eminences of solid night, crowned with ghost-light; over high
plateaus darkened with groves, down dales with singing,
invisible streams running seaward and up again and on until the
hills engulfed them wholly and those before were higher than any
they had seen. Then their flying beasts, leaving the Roman road
over which they had sped for some distance, followed a
sheep-path and burst into an open immersed in moonlight. Below
in the distance was a cluster of huts, white and lifeless. But
abroad, over the crisp grass and misty white on all the exposed
slopes, sparkled the deep hoar frost!
Momus drew up his camel. The woman who had followed halted.
Except for the hurried breathing of their beasts, a critical
silence brooded over the moon-silvered wilderness. The moment
was tense with the agony of human bitterness against the
immitigable despatch of death. There could be no thanksgiving
for their own safety from those who were not glad to be given
life. Laodice resented her preservation; old Momus, aside from
the wound of personal loss sore in his heart, was stricken with
the realization of the grief of his young mistress, which he
could not help. He did not raise his eyes to her face when he
turned toward her; there was no speech. In the young woman's
heart the pain was too great for her to venture expression
safely. The silence was poignant with unnatural restraint.
Presently Momus inquired of her by signs if she wished to go
on to the lifeless village below the camp. She did not observe
his gestures, and Momus decided for her. He drove on and the
woman, who had wrapped her cloak about her as the biting wind of
the hills heightened through the narrow defiles to the north,
But almost the next instant Momus drew up his mount so
suddenly that Laodice was roused. He turned and began to make
rapid signs. Laodice half rose as she read them and pressed her
"Seven days!" she exclaimed in dismay. There was silence.
Momus made the camel kneel. He dismounted slowly, and began
to undo the tent-cloth in a roll beside the howdah. The woman
rode up and instantly the mute stepped between her and his young
mistress and went on with his work.
Laodice understood the question in the woman's attitude
although, with true sense of an inferior's place, the stranger
did not speak.
"We are unclean," Laodice said with effort. "We have come
from a pestilential city and we have touched the dead. We can
not enter a town with these defilements upon us, except to
present ourselves to a priest for examination and separation.
Furthermore, we must burn our unessential belongings. If you are
a Jewess all these things are known to you."
The woman extended her hands, palms upward, with a grace that
was almost dainty.
"Lady," she said behind her unlifted veil, "I am an
unlettered woman and have been accustomed to the instruction of
my masters. I am obedient to the laws of our people."
"You would have been in less peril to have ridden alone,"
Laodice sighed. "Our company has been no help to you."
"We can not say that confidently. There are worse things than
pestilence in the wilderness," the woman replied.
Momus seemed to observe more confidence than was natural in
the ready answers of this professed servant, and before he would
leave Laodice to pitch camp, he helped her to alight and drew
her with him. The woman remained on her mount.
Gathering up sticks, dead needles of cedar and last year's
leaves, he made a fire upon which he heaped fuel till it lighted
up the near-by slopes of the hills and roared jovially in the
It was a pocket in the heart of high hills into which they
had fled. The bold, sure line of a Roman road divided it,
cutting tyrannically through the cowed hovels of the town as an
arrow drives through a flock of pigeons. On either side were the
dim shapes of great rocks and semi-recumbent cedars. Retiring
into shadow were the darker outlines of the surrounding circle
of hills, rived by intervals of black night where wadies
entered. From their summits the flying arch of the heavens
sprang, printed with a few faint stars, but all silvered with
the flood-light of a moon cold and pure as the frost itself. It
was unsympathetic, aloof and wild--a cold place into which to
bring broken hearts to assume banishment from the comfort and
companionship of mankind.
Laodice slowly and with effort began to separate those
belongings which were to be laid upon the fire from those which
were too necessary to be burned. The woman alighted but, on
offering to assist, was warned away from the girl with a
menacing gesture of Momus' great arm. The stranger drew herself
up suddenly with a wrath that she hardly controlled but came no
nearer Laodice. When the girl finally finished her selection,
the woman begged permission to attend to the camels and getting
the beasts on their feet led them together to be tethered.
Laodice, assisted by Momus, took up the condemned supplies
and flung them one at a time upon the roaring fire. Little by
little, with growing reluctance, the heap of spare belongings
was examined and condemned, until finally only the garments they
wore, the tents that were to shelter them and the essential
harness of the camels were left. Then Momus drew from his wallet
a fragment of aromatic gum and cast it on the blaze. While it
ignited and burned with great vapors of penetrating incense, he
unstrapped the precious casket, set it down between his feet,
stripped off his comfortable woolen tunic and passed it through
the volumes of white smoke piling up from the fire.
And while he stood thus a deft hand seized the casket from
behind. There was a sharp, warning cry from Laodice. The old man
staggered only a moment from the tripping that the wrench gave
him, but in that instant of hesitation the pillager vanished.
The old mute shouted the infuriated, half-animal yell of the
dumb and started in pursuit, but at his second step he saw the
fleeter camel swing down the declivity, at top-speed, with the
other trailing with difficulty at full length of its bridle
behind. The next instant the muffled beat of the padded hooves
drummed the solid bed of the Roman road, and the shapes of
camels and fugitive were lost in blue darkness beyond the town.
There was no need for the pair left behind to await a
realization of all that the loss meant to them. One running
swiftly as a fine young creature can run when spurred by
desperation, and the other, lamely but doggedly, as an old
determined man, rushed down the rough side of the slope, leaped
into the roadway and ran irrationally after the fugitive mounted
upon a camel, fleeter than the fastest horse.
Momus saw with fear that Laodice on this straight inviting
road would out-distance him to her peril. He shouted
inarticulately after her, but her reply came back, high with
desperation and terror.
"The corner-stone of Israel! All his treasure! God's portion,
She was out of his sight. The sudden barking of dogs told him
that she had crossed the outskirts of the village, and groaning
with alarm for her the old man stumbled on after her. He saw
lights flash out; heard shouts, and out of the confusion
distinguished Laodice's, vehement and urging. The yapping of the
town curs became less threatening and, by the time Momus reached
the settlement, half-dressed Jews were hurrying east out of the
village after the flying feet of the girl, in pursuit of the
For unmeasured time, while the moon crossed its meridian and
sloped down the west, the search continued. Momus did not
overtake the fleet-footed party that preceded him. Stragglers
that lost interest dropped back with him from time to time; but
finding him dumb and immensely distressed, they disappeared
eventually and returned to the town. One by one, at times by
twos and threes the party dropped off. The three or four who
remained helpful continued against hope, for simple pity for the
girl. But when she dropped suddenly by the wayside, exhausted
with the strain of many troubles, they stopped to tell her that
the chase was fruitless and to offer their rough condolences.
Then Momus hobbled up to them. Laodice refused to raise her
head to listen to them and they turned to the old man. But by
signs, he showed them that his tongue was dead, and finally,
with suppressed remarks upon the exceeding misfortune of the
pair, they, too, disappeared. A thoughtful one invited them to
return to the village. Laodice, careless now of what he should
think of his exposure to pestilence, told him bluntly that they
were unclean. Hastily he exclaimed at the sum of their troubles,
hastily blessed them, and hastily departed.
There was a pallor along the under-rim of the east; the wind
freshened with the sweet vigor of early morning.
Over the stunned silence came the sound of the infinite
trotting of tiny hooves and a high, wild, youthful yell.
Laodice, too worn to observe, sat still; but Momus, with a rush
of old fairy-tales in mind, sprang to her side and seized her
arm. His alarmed eyes searched the dark landscape for whatever
visitation it had to reveal.
There was the rush of countless hoof-beats and a low cloud of
dust obscured the crest of the hill just above them. The soft
tremolo of multitudinous bleating came out of it. The quick
excited bark of a fresh Natolian sheep-dog wakened an echo in
one of the ravines through a hill on the opposite side of the
road, while strong and insistent and happy the young cry
preceded this sudden animation in the wilderness.
There was a fall of gravel on the slope over their heads and
the next instant a fourteen-year-old boy descended upon the pair
in a fall of earth, his sandaled feet planted one ahead of the
other, his bare arms thrown above his head as he balanced
himself, his long, stiff, crinkled black locks blowing backward,
his face bright with the eager enjoyment of his simple feat.
After him came a veritable avalanche of Syrian sheep,
scrambling to right and left as they parted behind Momus and
Laodice and eddying around the young shepherd who stopped at
seeing the pair. His yell died away at once, though the effort
of sliding down a frozen, rocky slope had not interfered with a
He might well have been a young satyr, fresh from the groves
of Achaia, with his big, serious mouth and its range of
glittering teeth, his shining deer-like eyes, wide apart, his
faun curls low on his forehead, his big head set on a short
neck, his shoulders yet childish, his slim brown body half
smothered in skins, half bare as he was born, his large hard
hand gripping a crook of horn and wood. His gaze at Momus was
frank with boyish curiosity. His bright eyes plainly remarked on
the oddity of the old servant's appearance. Having catalogued
old Momus as worthy of further inspection, he looked then at
Laodice. Under the lowering moon and the listless effort of
coming day, her unmantled dress of silver tissue made of her a
moon-spirit, banished out of her world of pallor and solitude.
Before her splendid young beauty, pale with distress and
weariness, he was not abashed. His simple eyes studied her with
equal frankness, but with an admiration beyond words.
Feeling somehow that his sudden appearance might have
distressed her, he said finally:
"Go on, lady, or stay as it pleases you. I will not hurt
Momus' shoulders submerged his ears in an indignant shrug.
That this young calf of the pastures should insure him safe
But Laodice was still filled with the calamity of her loss.
"Hast seen a robber, here, along this road?" she asked.
"Many of them," was the prompt answer.
"With a chest of jewels?"
The boy shook his head.
"I never examined their booty," he said with perfect respect.
"Or then a woman riding one camel and leading another?"
"Never anything like that."
Laodice, with this hope gone, let her face fall into her
"His fortune given freely to Israel," she groaned. "His whole
life's ambition reduced to material form for the help of his
The shepherd grew instantly distressed. He looked at Momus
and asked in a whisper what had happened. But the old servant
signed to his lips irritably, and stroked his young mistress'
hair in a dumb effort to comfort her. The silence grew painful.
In his anxiety to relieve them, he bethought him of their
uncovered heads and houseless state.
"Do you live in the village; or do you camp near by?"
Momus shook his head. Laodice appreciated the boy's concern
for them but could not make an attempt to explain.
"Then," he offered promptly, "come have my fire and my rock.
It is the best rock in all these hills; and my tent," he added,
showing the skins that wrapped him. "I wear my tent; it saves my
carrying it. Indeed I do not need it; you may have it. Come!"
He spoke hurriedly, as if he would thrust his desire to
comfort between her and the wave of disconsolation that he felt
was about to cover her.
Old Momus, sensibly accepting the boy's suggestion as the
wisest course, raised Laodice and motioning the shepherd to lead
on, led his young mistress up the hill as the boy retraced his
steps. The flood of Syrian sheep turned back with him and
followed bleating between the urging of the sheep-dog, as the
On a slope to the west as a wady bent upon itself abruptly
before it debouched upon the hillside, there was a deep glow
illuminating a space in the depression. The shepherd dropped
down out of sight. His voice came over the shuffle and bleat of
"Follow me; this is my house."
Momus led his mistress over to the wady. There the shepherd
with uplifted hands helped her down with the superior courtesy
of a householder offering hospitality. There was a red circle of
fire in the sandy bottom of the dry wady, and beside it was a
flat boulder at the foot of which were prints of the shepherd's
sandals and, on the bank behind it, the mark where his shoulders
had comfortably rested. He made no apology for the poverty of
his entertainment; he had never known anything better.
"Now, brother," he said busily to Momus, "if thou'lt lend me
of thy height, thou shalt have of my agility and we will set up
a douar for the lady."
With frank composure he stripped off the burden of skins that
covered him until he stood forth in a single hide of wool, with
a tumble of sheep pelts at his feet. In each one was a thorn
preserved for use and with these he pinned them all together,
scrambled out on the bank, emitting his startling cry at the
sheep that obstructed his path. From above he shouted down to
"Stretch it, brother, over thy head. I shall pin it down with
stones on either side. Now, unless some jackal dislodges these
weights before morning, ye will be safe covered from the cold.
There! God never made a man till He prepared him a cave to sleep
under! I've never slept in the open, yet. How is it with thee
He was down again before her with the red light of the great
bed of coals illuminating him with a glow that was almost an
expression of his charity.
She saw that he had the straight serious features of the
Ishmaelite, but lacked the fierce yet wondering gaze of the
Arab. Aside from these superior indications in his face there
was nothing to separate him from any other shepherd that ranged
the mountainous pastures of Palestine.
She, who all her life had never known anything but to expect
the tenderest of ministrations, was humbly surprised and
grateful at the free-handed generosity of the young stranger.
Momus looked at him with grudging approval.
"It is kindly shelter," she said finally with effort, "and it
is warm. You are very good to us!"
"But you have not eaten of my salt," he declared.
Momus showed interest. It had been long since the last meal
in the luxurious house of Costobarus. The boy in the meantime
produced unleavened loaves from the carry-all of sheepskin that
hung over his shoulders, and without explanation disappeared
among his flock. Presently he returned with a small skin of
"We have goats in the flock," he said. "A shepherd can not
live without a goat. You do not know about shepherds," he added.
Laodice thought that she detected tactful inquiry in his last
remark and roused herself painfully to make due explanations to
her host. But he waved his hands at her, with the desert-man's
courtesy which covers fine points better than the greater ones.
"Eat my fare; I do not purchase thy history with salt and
shelter," he said, with a certain sublimity of honor.
Momus ate, and looked with growing grace at his young host.
But Laodice succeeded only in drinking the goat's milk and
lapsed into benumbed gazing at the red glow of fire that cast
its warmth about her. The shepherd talked on, attempting to
interest her in something other than her consuming sorrow.
"These be Christian sheep about you, friends," he said, "and
I am a Christian shepherd."
Momus sat up suddenly with a bit of the boy's bread arrested
on its way to his lips. He was eating the fare of an apostate,
of a despised Nazarene. The boy went on composedly.
"We are from Pella, the Christian city. We are, my sheep, my
city and I, the only secure people in all Judea. We, I and the
sheep, have been in the hills since the first new grass in
February. We are many leagues from home."
"So am I," Laodice said wearily.
"Jerusalem?" the shepherd asked, glad he had brought out a
response. "No? Yet all Judea is going to Jerusalem at this time.
Are you fugitives?"
"Come then to Pella," the shepherd urged. "You will be fed
there; Titus will not come there. We are poor but we are
happy--and we are safe."
Laodice thanked him so inertly that he sensed her
disinterest, and while he sat looking at her, searching his
heart for something kind to say, she put out her hand
impulsively and took his.
"God keep thee and forget thy heresy," she said. "If thou
livest in Pella, Pella is indeed happy."
He laughed with a flush stealing up under the brown of his
cheeks. A faint light came into Laodice's eyes as she looked at
him; he returned her gaze with a gradual softening that was
intensely complimentary. Between the two was effected instant
and lasting fellowship. Before Momus' indignant eyes the
shepherd was blushing happily.
"Who art thou?" Laodice asked.
"They call me Joseph, son of Thomas."
After a silence she said softly,
"I am not at liberty to tell my name." She remembered the
secrecy of Philadelphus' mission. "Yet perchance if the God of
my fathers prosper me and my husband, I may come to Pella--as
The boy's eyes brightened and he drew in a sharp breath, but
almost instantly the animation died and he looked at her
sorrowfully. It seemed that she read dissent and sympathy
commingled in his gaze. But he was a Christian; he could not
believe and hope as she hoped.
"Can I do aught for you?" he asked disjointedly.
"Our duty is rather toward you, child," she answered,
suddenly arousing to the peril they might bring their
free-handed host. "We have newly come from a country where there
But he smiled down on her uplifted face, with immense
"I am not afraid. Besides, if I perish giving you comfort, I
have done only as Jesus would have me do."
"Who is Jesus?" Laodice asked.
The shepherd made a little sign and bent his knee.
"The Christ!" he responded.
Momus plucked quickly at Laodice's sleeve and shook his head
at her in an admonitory manner. He had laid down his bread
unfinished. But the shepherd looked at him sympathetically.
"Never fear," he said. "It will not hurt her to hear about
Him. He makes Pella safe from armies. Let her come there and see
Laodice pressed his hand.
"I shall come," she said.
He heaved a contented sigh--contented with himself, contented
with her promise to come. Then he drew his hands away.
"The sheep are noisy; they will not let you sleep. We shall
go." Then as if afraid of her thanks he drew away, and halted at
the threshold of the shelter. Then the boy extended his hands
with a gesture so solemn that both of his guests bowed their
"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you for
evermore. Farewell," he said in a half-whisper.
He was gone.
Presently the rush of little feet swept after him and his
high, wild, youthful yell rang faintly in the distance. The
delicate crackling from the heated bed of coals was all that was
heard in the sheltered wady roofed with skins.
For the second time within the past few hours, Laodice had
met a Christian. Both had helped her; both had blessed her. And
one was an old man and one was a child.
The interest of the recent interview and the excitement of
the night slowly died away, leaving Laodice in the dead
hopelessness of weary despair. She lay down suddenly with her
face against the warmed sand and wept. Momus sat down beside
her, covered her with a leopard skin taken from his own swarthy
shoulders, and soothed her with awkward touches on cheek and
hair, till her tears exhausted her and she slept.
Stealthily then the old man rolled up her own mantle and put
it under her head and prepared to watch. And then as he sat with
his knee drawn up, his head bowed upon it, the weakness of
slumber gradually stole away his watchfulness and his concern.
Some time later, before the deliberate dawn of a March day
had put out the last of the greater stars, two men on horses
descended the declivity just above the shelter of sheepskins and
attracted by the dull glow of the fire drew up cautiously.
At a word from one of the men, the other alighted and,
peering from the shelter of a prostrate cedar, inspected the
pair. After assuring himself that there were but two about the
camp, one a woman and both asleep, he tiptoed back to his
"Only a man and a woman," he said. "Jews on their way to the
Passover. Their fire is almost out. Let us ride on."
"What haste!" the one who had kept his saddle said. "One
would think it were you going forward to meet a bride and her
dowry! I am hungry. Let us borrow of this fire and get
"Emmaus is only a little farther on," the first man
protested. "I am tired of wayside meals, Philadelphus. I would
eat at a khan again before I forget the custom."
"How is the pair favored?" the other said provokingly.
"I did not approach near enough," the other retorted. "It
seemed to be an old man and a girl."
"Pretty?" the one called Philadelphus asked.
"I did not see."
"How could I tell?" Julian flared.
Philadelphus laughed, and dismounted.
"I shall see for myself," he declared, walking over to the
sheltering cedar to look.
Julian followed him nervously, saying under his breath:
"You waste time deliberately!"
"Tut! You merely wish to keep me from seeing this girl,"
He, too, stopped at the prostrate cedar and gazed under the
sagging shelter of skins.
"Shade of Helen!" he exclaimed under his breath as the
firelight gave him perfect view of the sleeping girl. "What have
Julian made no response. He drew nearer and looked in
"Now what are they to each other?" Philadelphus continued.
"Father and daughter; lady and servant or--a courtezan and her
At the continued silence of his companion, he argued his
"No such ill-fashioned peasant loins as his ever begat such
sweet patrician perfection as that!" he declared. "And a lady
rich enough to have one servant would travel with more than one
or not at all--"
Julian broke in with sudden avid interest.
"Look at that deal of feminine flummery--that dress of silver
tissue, the ends of that silken scarf you see below the
covering--all those jewels and trinkets! Odd garb for travel
afoot, is it not? It is a badge not to be put off even in as
barren a market as this. She is going to Jerusalem for the
Passover. He will carry the purse, however, mark me."
"How well you know the marks of delinquency!" Philadelphus
said with a glimmer of resentment in his eyes.
"Who does not? What do the Jewish psalmists and
proverbialists and purists depict so minutely as that migrating
iniquity, the strange woman?"
"But look at her!" Philadelphus insisted. "I have not seen
anything so bewitching since I left Ephesus!"
"No; nor a long time before!" Julian declared. "I must have a
"Careful! You will wake her!"
Julian's face showed a sneer at his companion's concern.
"I'll have a care not to wake the old Boeotian," he said.
He stepped between Laodice and her sleeping servant. The mute
with the stupor of slumber further to disable his dulled
hearing, did not move.
"Young!" Philadelphus exclaimed in a whisper. "And new to the
"Pfui!" Julian scoffed. "Sleep makes even Venus look
"Then this is the most innocent wickedness I have seen in
"So you catalogue innocence as a charm! It's not here. But if
she had no beauty but that eyelash I'd be speared upon it!"
Philadelphus turned toward the old servant plunged in the
exhausted sleep of weary age.
"Thou grizzled nightmare!" he exclaimed vindictively.
He glanced again at the girl. Julian had knelt beside her.
Between the two men passed a look that was mutually understood.
"Remember," Julian whispered, "you are a married man."
Philadelphus paled suddenly with anger as the intent of his
companion dawned upon him, but he put off his temper shrewdly.
"And so approaching a time when wayside beauties will no
longer be free to me," he said, cutting off his fellow in the
beginning of his preemption. "And you have a long freedom before
There was so much challenge in his manner that Julian
accepted it. He reached into his tunic and drew forth a pair of
"We will play for her," he said.
The Maccabee put the tesserae aside.
"We will not use them," he said. "I know them to be cogged.
Let us have the judgment of a coin."
A bronze coin of Agrippa was produced. Julian in getting at
his purse brushed against the sleeping girl and as the pair
glanced at her before they tossed, her large eyes opened full in
Julian's face. A moment, almost breathless for the two, and
terror flared up in her eyes. She started up, but Julian's hand
dropped on her.
"Peace, Phryne!" he said.
She shrank from his touch, literally into the arms upon which
Philadelphus rested his weight. She looked up into his eyes, and
saw them soften with a smile, and moved no farther. Philadelphus
took the coin.
"Let Vespasian decide for me," he said.
"For me Fortunatus," said Julian.
Philadelphus filliped the coin and flung out a strong and
fending hand against his fellow covering it. Under the
brightening day, the lowering profile of the old plebeian
emperor Vespasian showed distinctly on the newly minted bronze.
Julian made a sharp menacing sound, and with clenched hands
rose on his knees. But Philadelphus looked at him steadily,
half-amused at the implied threat, half-inviting its fulfilment,
and under his gaze, Julian rose slowly and drew away.
Philadelphus tossed the coin after him. His cousin picked it up
and put it in his purse.
[Illustration: Philadelphus looked down upon his prize.]
Philadelphus looked down at his prize.
She had not flinched from him when she had found him beside
her, with Julian threatening her. But now her wide open eyes
fixed upon his brimmed with an agony of appeal. Innocent of the
world's wickedness, she could only sense supreme peril in this
mysterious game without understanding the stake. Momus was not
in sight--dead for all she knew--and the desert was an ally
against her. Over her, now, bent a face characteristic of a
great spirit, yet one which was coeval with the times--times of
violence and the supremacy of force. His lips were thin, the
contour of his face angular at the jaw, the nose straight and
long, his brows black and low over dark blue eyes of a
fathomless depth, the forehead strongly molded, and marked with
deep perpendicular lines between the eyes. He was dark,
heavy-haired, young, lean, broad and of fine height even as he
knelt beside her. Laodice did not note any of these things. She
was only conscious of the immense power her terror and her
helplessness had to combat. Back of all this iron selfishness,
she hoped that somewhere was a gentleness, even if inert and
useless. All her strength was concentrated in the effort to
bring it to life.
He gazed at her, apparently unconscious of the desperation in
the face lifted to him. The slow smile that presently grew again
in his eyes was none the less unthoughted. He slipped his hand
under a strand of her rich hair that had fallen and drew it out,
slowly, at full length. Slowly his eyes followed it as inch by
inch it slipped through his fingers. Old memories seemed to
struggle to the surface; old tendernesses; recollection of pure
hours and holy things; paganism dropped from him like a husk and
the spiritual hauteur of a Jew brought the expression of the
unhumbled house of Judah into his face. Through a notch in the
hills a golden beam shot from the sun and penetrating this
inwalled valley lay like an illuminating fire on the man's face
and glorified it. Laodice's breath stopped.
Slowly his fingers slipped along the fine silken length of
that shining strand until his arm extended to the full; and the
end of the lock yet rested on her breast. Thus might have been
the hair of that Rahab, who was no less a patriot because she
was frail; thus, the hair of Bathsheba, who was the mother of
the wisest Israelite though she sinned; thus the hair of that
mother of Samson, who slew armies single-handed! Badge of Judah,
mark of the haughty strength of the oldest enlightenment in the
world! He would not initiate his succor of Israel with violence
against its purest type.
He smiled slowly; slowly let the strand fall through his
fingers. He looked into her eyes and she saw a sudden light
immeasurably compassionate and tender grow there. A weakness
swept over her; she felt that she had been longing for that
light. Then he rose quickly and moved away.
Old Momus, the mute, with his head on his knees slept on.
Julian, who had been halted involuntarily by the attitude of
his companion and had been an amazed witness of this
extraordinary end of the incident, looked at Philadelphus' face
in frank stupefaction. But Philadelphus laid a hand so forceful
and compelling on his companion's shoulder that it left the pink
print of his fingers on the flesh, turned him toward the horses
and led him away.
"We will breakfast farther on," he said.
A moment and they were swinging down the stony side of the
hill toward the east, and Laodice, with her hand clutching her
excited heart, had not thought of flinging herself upon Momus.
She raised herself gradually to watch them as far as she could
see, and her fixed and stunned gaze rested with immense
homesickness and longing on the taller man radiant against the
background of a risen sun.
The Maccabee rode on, unconscious of Julian's critical gaze.
The smile on his lips flickered now brightly, now very faint.
The incident in the hills had not made him entirely happy, but
it had awakened in him something which was latent in him,
something which he had never felt before, but which held a sweet
familiarity that the blood of his fathers in him had recognized.
Julian was intensely disgusted and disappointed. But there
was still a sensation of shock on his shoulder where the
Maccabee's iron hand had rested and his famous caution stood him
in stead at this moment when a quarrel with such intense and
executive earnestness in his companion's manner might prove
disastrous. If quarrel they must before they reached Emmaus, now
but a few leagues east of them, he must insure himself against
defeat much less likely to be suffered from a man reluctant to
quarrel. He had been hunting for a pretext ever since they had
left Caesarea, but this one, suddenly opened to him, startled
him. He admitted now that it would not be wise to force a fight.
Whatever must be done should be done with least danger to
himself. It were better, he believed, to allay suspicion.
"How far is it to Jerusalem?"
"About eighty furlongs."
"Then if we continue, we shall approach the gates after
"We shall not continue," Philadelphus remarked. "We shall
halt at Emmaus."
"Do you think it would be better for us to camp here in the
hills rather than to stop without the walls of Jerusalem between
the city forces and the winter garrison of Titus and await the
opening of the Gates?" Julian asked after thought.
"We shall wait in Emmaus," the Maccabee repeated, his soul
too filled with dream to note the change in his companion's
"You have already lost three days," Julian charged him
"Jerusalem may be besieged; it may be long before I can ride
in the wilderness again," the Maccabee answered.
"Right; your next journey through this place may be afoot--at
the end of a chain," Julian averred.
The Maccabee raised his brows.
"Losing courage at the last end of the journey?" he inquired.
"No! I never have believed in this project," Julian declared.
"Who believes in the prospects of a man determined to leap
But the Maccabee was already riding on with his head lifted,
his eyes set upon the blue shadows on the western slopes of
hills, lifted against the early morning sun. Julian went on.
"You go, cousin, on a mission mad enough to measure up with
the antics of the frantic citizens of Jerusalem. It will not be
even a glorious defeat. You will be swallowed up in an immense
calamity too tremendous to offer publicity to so infinitesimal a
detail as the death of one Philadelphus Maccabaeus. Agrippa has
deserted the city and when a Herod lets go of his own, his own
is not worth the holding. The city is torn between factions as
implacable as the sea and the land. The conservatives are either
dead or fled; pillage and disorder are the main motives of all
that are left. And Titus advances with four legions. What can
you hope for this mob of crazed Jews?"
Julian's words had been more lively than the Maccabee had
expected. He was obliged to give attention before his kinsman
made an end.
"You are fond of summaries, Julian," he said, "dealt in your
own coin. Look you, now, at my hope. You confess that these Jews
lack a leader. They have lacked him so long that they hunger and
thirst for one. Also they have suffered the distresses of
disorder so intensely that peace in any form is most welcome to
them. Titus approacheth reluctantly. He had rather deliver
Jerusalem than besiege it. I am of the loved and dethroned
Maccabaean line--acceptable to every faction of Jewry, from the
Essenes to the Sicarii. Titus is my friend, unless he suspects
me as coming to undermine his better friend, the pretty Herod. I
shall help Jerusalem help herself; I shall make peace with Rome;
I shall be King of the Jews!--Behold, is not my summary as
practical as yours?"
Julian laughed with an amusement that had a ring of contempt
"There is naught to keep an astronomer from planning a
rearrangement of the stars," he said.
But the Maccabee rode on calmly. Julian sighed. After a while
"Well, how do you proceed? You tell me that these very
visionaries whom you would succor have never laid eyes on you.
What marks you as royal--as a sprig of the great, just and dead
"I bear proofs, Roman documents of my family and of my birth.
Certain of my party are already organized in Jerusalem and are
expecting me, and I wear the Maccabaean signet. Is not that
"Nothing of it worth the security of private citizenship and
a whole head!"
"No? Not when there is a dowry of two hundred talents
awaiting my courage to come and get it?"
"Ha! That wife! But will you enter that sure death for a
woman you do not know?"
"And for a fortune I have not possessed and for a kingdom
that I never owned."
"She will not be there! Old Costobarus is not so mired in
folly as to send his daughter into the Pit to provide you with
money to--pay Charon."
"Aquila sent me a messenger at Caesarea," Philadelphus
continued calmly, "saying that Costobarus was transfigured when
he had my summons. He feels that his God has been good to him to
choose his daughter to share the throne of Judea. Hence, by this
time my lady awaits me in Jerusalem."
Again Julian sighed.
"And there is none in Jerusalem who knows your face?" he
asked after a silence.
"None, except Amaryllis, and she has not seen me since I was
sixteen years old."
"And there also is an obstacle which I had forgotten to
enumerate," Julian said argumentatively. "You have put your
trust in a frail woman."
"Amaryllis may be frail," the Maccabee admitted, "but she is
sufficiently manly to have all that you and I demand of a man to
put faith in him. She is a good companion and she will not lie."
"Impossible! She is a woman!" Julian exclaimed.
"Even then," the Maccabee returned patiently, "her own
ambition safeguards me. She can not succeed except as I am
successful, and her purposes are of another kind than mine. She
helps herself when she helps me. Therefore I am depending on her
selfishness. It is usually a dependable thing."
"What does she want?"
"The old classic times of the heterae in Greece. She
wants to be the pioneer of art in Jerusalem. It is a fertile and
a neglected field. She had rather be known as the mother of
refinement in Judea than as the queen of kings over the world."
"A modest ambition!"
"A great one. How many monarchs are forgotten while Aspasia
is remembered! Who were the reigning kings during Sappho's
"But go on. You repose much on her influence. Perhaps she has
the will but not the power to help you."
"Power! She is the mistress of John of Gischala and actual
potentate over Jerusalem at this hour."
"Unless Simon bar Gioras hath taken the upper hand within the
last few days. Remember the fortunes of factionists are
Philadelphus jingled his harness. He was sorry that he had
permitted this discussion. Now its continuance was particularly
irritating, when he had rather think of something else. He was
near Jerusalem; but he was not going forward, now, with the same
eagerness, nor with the same enthusiasm for his cause. The
incident in the hills had marked the change in him. It was not,
then, with a patient tongue that he defended his intentions,
which had grown less inviting in the last hour.
"How little your wife will enjoy her," Julian's smooth voice
broke in once more, "seeing that the frail one is lovely."
"I do not know that she is lovely."
"What!" Julian exclaimed in genuine amazement. "You do not
know that she is lovely! Years of correspondence with a woman
whom you do not know to be lovely! Reposing kingdoms on a
woman's influence whom you do not know to be beautiful!"
"Beauty is no tie," the Maccabee retorted. "Have you
forgotten Salome, the Jewish actress who could play Aphrodite in
the theaters of Ephesus, to the confusion of the goddess
herself? They said she snared three procurators and an emperor
at one performance and lost them in a day!"
"Have you seen her?" Julian asked with a sidelong glance.
"Till your own eyes prove it, you should not accept that she is
"There is no need that I should see her; Aquila swears it!
And I would take his word against the testimony of even mine own
Julian looked up in a startled manner and hurriedly looked
away again. A half-frightened, half-amused smile played about
"Aquila is no judge of woman," he said finally. "And
furthermore, they say she got to trifling with magic and
prowling about the temples to see if the gods came true. They
were afraid she would get them blasted along with her sometime
for her sacrilege. I know all this because Aquila declared she
attached herself to him in sheer poverty in Ephesus and swore to
follow him to the ends of the earth."
The Maccabee smiled.
"Nevertheless, he told me that he was afraid of her, but that
she was a woman and in need and he could not reject her."
Julian's eyes grew insinuating.
"How much then your behavior this morning would have shocked
him!" he murmured.
The smile died on the Maccabee's face. Reference to the girl
in the hills seemed blasphemy on this man's lips.
"And you do not recall your wife's face?" Julian persisted.
The Maccabee's face hardened more. But he shook his head.
"Fourteen years can change a woman from a beauty to--a--a
Christian, ugly and old and cold," Julian augured.
The Maccabee turned his head away from his tormentor and
Julian's laughter trailed off into a half-jocular groan.
"How much you harp on beauty!" the Maccabee said
deliberately. "Are you then going to regret the actresses you
left behind when I tore you from your exalted calling as the
forelegs of the elephant in the theaters at Ephesus?"
Julian's face blackened. A foolhardy daring born of rage
resolved him at that instant. He flung himself out from his
saddle and raised his hand with a knife clenched in it. But the
Maccabee with a composed laugh caught the hand and wrenching it
about, dropped it, red and contracting with pain, at his
"Tut! Julian, you are a bad combatant. If you must make way
with a man," the Maccabee advised, "stab him in the back. It is
sure--for you. Ha! Is this Emmaus we see?"
They had ridden up a slight eminence and below them was a
disorder of fallen or decrepit Syrian huts in the hollow place
in the hills.
It had been the history of Emmaus for centuries to be known.
The feet of the Crucified One had pressed its ruined streets and
His devoted chroniclers had not failed to set it down in their
illuminated gospels. Army after army in endless procession had
thundered through it since the first invader humbled the glory
of Canaan, and few of the historians had forgotten to record the
unimportant incident. Warfare had hurtled about it for
centuries; the Roman army had come upon it and would continue to
come. It had not the spirit to resist; it was not worthy of
conquest. It simply stood in the path of events.
A single citizen appeared at the doorway of the most
habitable house and looked absently over the heads of the
new-comers. As they approached, the villager did not observe
them. Instead, he looked at the near horizon lifted on the
shoulder of the hills and meditated on the signs of the weather.
It was Emmaus' habit to find strangers at its door.
Julian, with natural desire to be first on this perilous
ground and away from the side of the man who had defeated him
and laughed at him, rode up to the door. The villager, seeing
the traveler stop, gazed at him.
Julian had about him an air of blood and breeding first to be
remarked even before his features. The grace of his bearing and
the excellence of his bodily condition were highly aristocratic.
His height was good, his figure modestly athletic as an
observance of fine form rather than a preparation for the arena.
He was simply dressed in a light blue woolen tunic. A
handkerchief was bound about his head. His forehead was very
white and half hidden by loose, curling black locks that escaped
with boyish negligence from his head-dress. His eyes were black,
his cheeks tanned but colorless, his mouth mirthful and red but
hard in its outlines. Clean-shaven, lithe, supple, he did not
appear to be more than twenty-two. But there was an
even-tempered cynicism and sophistication in the half-droop of
his level lids, indifference, hauteur and self-reliance in the
uplift of his chin. His soul was therefore older, more seasoned
and set than the frame that housed it. Now there was
considerable agitation in his manner, enough to make him sharp
in his speech to the villager.
"Is there a khan in Emmaus?" he demanded.
"There is," the villager responded calmly.
The citizen motioned toward a low-roofed rambling structure
of stone picked up on the native hills.
"Ask there," he said and passing out of his door went his
Julian touched his horse and rode through the worn passage
and into the court of the decrepit khan of Emmaus. The Maccabee
The Syrian host who was both waiter and hostler met Julian
"Quick!" Julian said, leaning from his horse. "Is there a
young man here with gray temples? A pagan?"
The Syrian, attracted by the anxiety in the demand, followed
a train of surmise before his answer.
"No pagans, here. Naught but Jews," he observed finally.
"Or a young woman of wealth? Quick!"
"No wealth at all; but plenty of women. The Passover
Julian heaved a sigh of relief and dismounted. The Maccabee
rode into the court of the khan at that instant.
The khan-keeper took their horses and a little later the two
men were led into the single cobwebby chamber, low-ceiled,
gloomy, cold and cheerless as a cave. There they were given food
and afterward a corner of the hall where a straw pallet had been
laid and a stone trough filled with water for a bath. After
refreshing himself the Maccabee lay down and slept with supreme
indifference to the rancor of the man who had attempted to kill
But Julian had another idea than pressing his vengeful
advantage at that time. He went out into Emmaus and engaging the
unemployed of the thriftless town sent them broadcast into the
hills in search of a pagan who was young, yet gray at the
Some of them went--and they were chiefly boys who were not old
enough to know that these strangers who come in pagan guise to
Emmaus are full of guile. But none returned to him. They had
neither seen nor heard of a pagan who was young though the white
hair of an old man snowed on his temples.
So Julian storming within went out into the hills himself, to
Meanwhile the Maccabee, a light sleeper and readily restored,
awoke and found himself alone. The khan-keeper informed him on
inquiry that Julian had ridden away.
"Too fair a hope to think that he has deserted me," the
Maccabee observed. "I shall await him a decent time. He will
He tramped about the chamber waiting for something that was
not Julian, intending to do something but unable to define that
thing. There was a vague admission that this last pause before
his entry into Jerusalem where he must accomplish so much was an
opportunity for some sort of preparation, but he lacked
direction and resource. He was irritable and purposeless.
Out of the low door that opened into the lewen of the khan he
caught glimpses of the town spread over the tilt of the hill
before him. It had become active since he had looked upon it in
the very early hours of the day. Over the gate he could see the
toss of canopies and the heads of camels passing; he could hear
the ring of mule-hooves on the stones and the tramp of
wayfarers. There were shoutings and debate; the cries of
servants and the gossip of parties. All this moved on always in
the direction of Jerusalem. Few paused. The single shop in
Emmaus became active; the khan caught a little of the drift, but
the great body of what seemed to be an unending stream of
pilgrims passed on. The Maccabee spoke to his host.
"What is this?" he asked.
The publican raised his brows.
"Hast never heard of the Passover?" he asked.
The Maccabee started. How far he had drifted from the customs
of his people, to fail to remember its vital feast--he who meant
to be king over the Jews!
He turned away a little abashed. The train of thought
awakened by the khan-keeper's answer led him back to the
hieratic customs of his race. What was his status as a Jew after
all these years of delinquency? What atonement did he owe, what
offering should he make?
He went out over the cobbled pavement of the lewen to the
gate. Here he should see part of his people and learn from
simple observation what material he would have in his work for
From his memories of the old Passovers of his boyhood, he saw
instantly that there had come a change over Judea and the
worshiping sons of Abraham.
They went in bodies, in numbers from a handful from some
remote but pious hamlet to great armies from the leveled cities
of Joppa, Ptolemais and Anthedon, from Caesarea and Tyre and
Sidon, from the enthusiastic towns in Galilee, and even from
far-off Antioch and Ephesus. They were not fewer in number,
because of a year of warfare and the menace of an approaching
army upon the city in which they were to take refuge. But there
were more--double, even triple the number that usually went up to
Jerusalem at this time. For of the millions of inhabitants in
Judea in the unhappy year of 70 A.D., a third of them were
plundered and homeless refugees from ruined cities. Therefore,
instead of the armies of men, happy, hopeful and enthusiastic,
who had journeyed in former years to Jerusalem, there passed
before the Maccabee a mixed multitude of men and women and
children. Thousands carried with them all that warfare had left
to them--pitiful parcels of treasure or household goods, or extra
clothing; other thousands bore nothing in their hands, and by
the wear in their garments and the hunger in their faces, it
seemed that they owned nothing to carry.
The Maccabee noted finally the entire absence of the
travelers who fared in state. Not in all that long procession
that wound up the stony passage from the west, did he see a
single Sadducee. There went mobs of laborers and farmers,
tradesmen, servants and small merchants, but the Jewish friends
of Rome that had once made part of the Passover pilgrimage a
royal progress were nowhere to be seen. Under the vast, vivid
blue of the mountain skies they moved, indifferent to the
splendid benevolence of the untroubled day. The pure wind swept
in from the radiance in the east, flinging out multi-colored
garments and scarves, rushing with its bracing chill without
obstruction through even the compactest mass of wayfarers. The
cedars on the hills about the little town whistled continuously
and at times some extremely narrow defile with an uninterrupted
draft would take voice and cry humanly. But there was no
responsive exhilaration to the vigor of morning on a
mountain-top. The great ever-growing migration was dark,
dangerous and moody.
Somewhere beyond the highest of the blue hills to the east,
the white walls of the city of David were receiving all this.
Somewhere to the west the four brassy legions of Titus were
marching down upon all this. About the Maccabee were assembling
all the circumstances that govern a tremendous struggle.
Eagerness, earnestness, all the strength and resolution of his
strong and resolute nature surged into his soul. It was his
hour. It should find him prepared.
He turned out of the gate and crowding along by the stone
wall to pass in the opposite direction from the flood of
pilgrims pouring through Emmaus, he searched for the synagogue
of the little town.
He came upon it, a solid square building of stone with an
Egyptic facade and an architrave carved with a great stone
flower set in an olive wreath. Without was the proseuchae, paved
with boulders now worn smooth by the summer sittings of the
congregation who gathered around the reader's stone. The
Maccabee stopped at the gate and unlacing his pagan sandals set
them outside the threshold.
Once over the stone sill with the imminent gloom covering
him, he felt the old sanctity envelop him with a reproach in its
forgotten familiarity. Old incense, old litanies, old rites
rushed back to him with the smell of the stagnant fragrance. He
heard again from the farther depths of the dark interior the
musical monotone of a rabbi reciting a ritual. The voice was
young and low. Presently he heard the responses spoken in a
woman's voice, so tender, so soft and so sad that he sensed
instantly the meaning of the sympathy in the young priest's
voice. Out of the incense-laden dusk he found old custom
stealing back upon him. His lips anticipated words unreadily;
gladly he realized that he could say these formulas, also; he
had not forgotten; he had not forgotten!
In this little synagogue in a poor town there were no
privacies; communicants had to depend on the courtesy of their
fellows for uninterrupted devotion. The wanderer had not
forgotten this. So he effaced himself in the darkness and
awaited his own turn.
He hardly knew why he had come. For what should he
ask--forgiveness or for the hope of the King who was to come?
What should he do--make atonement or promises; give an offering
or ask encouragement? He did not doubt for an instant that he
had done wisely in seeking the synagogue, but what had he for
it, or what had it for him?
Meanwhile the voice of the priest, disembodied in the gloom,
had put off its ritualistic tone and was delivering a charge:
"Since you are in haste to reach Jerusalem, you may depart,
so that you will give me your word that you will in all faith
abide upon the road seven days; and that at the end of the
separation you will present yourselves for examination and
cleansing at Jerusalem, and that you will in nowise transgress
the law of separation on the journey hence."
The Maccabee heard the woman give her word. After a little
further communication, he heard them move toward the entrance.
The white light from the day without revealed to him in a few
steps, a veiled woman, a deformed old man and a young rabbi. He
did not need to take the evidence of her dress or of her
companion to recognize under this veil the girl whom he had won
from Julian of Ephesus, in the hills, that very morning.
As if in response to his inner hope that she would see him,
she raised her eyes at the moment she passed, and started
quickly. Even under the shelter of her veil he saw her flush.
The next instant she was out of the synagogue and gone.
The Maccabee hesitated restlessly, forgot his mission to the
synagogue and then, with no definite purpose, followed.
At the edge of town, where the huddle of huts left off and
the gravel and rock and cedar began, he saw the priest dismiss
the pair with his blessing and turn back.
Undecided, restless and regretful, the Maccabee lingered,
looking after her as she went into the hills, unattended, except
for an anomalous old man. The sun of noon shone on her silver
dress that the dust of the wayside had not tarnished. He was
gloomy and wistful without understanding his discomfort, and
afraid for the beautiful unknown going out for seven days into
the unfriendly wilderness.
There was the click of a horse's hoof beside him. He glanced
up with a nervous start to see Julian of Ephesus, scowling, at
"It is time," he said, "for us to be off."
The Maccabee instantly determined that Julian of Ephesus
should not come up with this defenseless girl again.
"I am not ready," he returned promptly.
"It was three days, this morning, that you have lost.
To-morrow it will be four."
"And Sabbath, it will be seven. A long time, a long time!"
The Maccabee turned and went back to the khan. A gap in the
hills had hidden the girl in the silver tissue, and the
blitheness of the Maccabee's spirit had gone with her.
By sunset, the Maccabee and Julian of Ephesus had taken the
road to Jerusalem again.
As they reached the crest of a series of ridges there lay
before them a long gentle slope smooth and dun-colored as some
soft pelt, dropping down into a tender vale with levels of
purple vapor hanging over it. At the end of this declivity,
leagues in length, was a faint blue shape, cloudlike and almost
merged with the cold color of the eastern horizon, but suddenly
developing at its summit a delicate white peak. The sunset
reaching it as they rode changed the point to a pinnacle of ruby
before their eyes. Their shadows that had ridden before them
merged with the shade over the world. Then with a soft,
whispery, ghost-like intaking of the breath, a quantity of sand
on the straight road before them got up under their horses' feet
and moved away to another spot and dropped again with a
peppering sound and was dead moveless earth again. The little
breath of wind from under the edge of the sky had fallen.
In the silence between the muffled beat of hooves the
Maccabee heard at his ears the quick lively throb of a busy
pump. With it went the firm rush of a subdued stream. He was
hearing his own heart-beat, his own life flowing through his
veins. Since nature in him had hurried him out of the synagogue
after its own desire, he seemed to have become primitive,
conscious of the human creature in him. Now, though he rode
through a bewitching air through an enchanted land, he did not
ride in a dream. All his being was alert and sagacious. Though
the confusion of footprints in the dust showed plainly where men
had passed by thousands, he did not follow their lead. Over the
tangle of marks lay a slim paw-printed, confident, careless
trail of a jackal, following the scent to a well. The Maccabee
was obedient to the instinct of the animal instead of the reason
of man. At the end of that trail, surer than Ariadne's scarlet
thread in the labyrinth, he knew that thirst had taken the girl
in the dress of silver tissue. So as he rode along this
faultless highway that fared level and undeviating by arches,
causeways and bridges across mountains, over black marshes and
profound valleys, he kept his eyes on the jackal's trail.
Long after moonrise they came to a spot in the road where the
human marks passed on, by hundreds, by other hundreds deserted
the road and clambered up the side of the hill. Over this
deviation the jackal had trotted. The Maccabee, tall on his
horse, raised his fine head and searched all the brooding shapes
of the hills about.
The road at this point ran through a defile. On either side
the slopes crowded upon the pass. Above them were bold summits
with groves of cedars, and in one of these the Maccabee made out
a thin curl of smoke dimly illuminated by a moon-drowned fire.
Up there in the covert of the trees the girl in the silver
tissue was resting from her perilous and outlawed journey.
"We will eat here," the Maccabee said abruptly to Julian.
"Eat!" Julian exclaimed. "What?"
The Maccabee signed to the pack on Julian's horse. Julian
dismounted, shaking his head.
"What a savage appetite this travel in the untaught wilds of
Judea hath bred in you, my cousin! You, whom once a crust of
bread and a cup of wine would satisfy!"
But the Maccabee climbed out of the roadway and, finding a
sheltered spot behind a boulder, kicked together some of the
dead weeds and twigs and set fire to the heap with flint and
steel. Then he lost interest in the preparation of his comforts.
He turned to look up at the faint column of illumination in the
little copse of cedars and presently, stealthily, went that way.
It was a poor encampment that he came upon.
From the low-growing limbs of a couple of gnarly cedars, old
Momus had stretched the sheepskins which Joseph, the shepherd,
had given them. Three sides of the shelter were protected thus,
and the fourth side opened down-hill, with a low fire screening
them from the mountain wind. Within this inclosure, wrapped in
the coarse mantle of her servant, sat Laodice. She had raised
her veil and its misty texture flowed like a web of frost over
her brilliant hair and framed her face in cold vapor. In spite
of the marks of grief that had exhausted her tears, the fatigue
and discomfort, she seemed, to the Maccabee's eyes, more than
ever lovely. He was angry with the hieratic banishment that sent
her out to subsist by the roadside for seven days in early
spring; angry with the harsh inhospitality of the hills; and
angrier that he could not change it all. He looked at the old
mute to see that he was carefully putting away the remnants of a
meal of durra bread and curds. The primitive gallantry of the
original man stirred in the Maccabee. He had come unseen; with
silent step he departed.
A little later he stepped boldly into the circle of light
from their camp-fire. To Laodice, in her lowly position, he
seemed superhumanly big and splendid. Without mantle or any of
the accessories that would show preparation against the cold,
his bare arms and limbs and dark face, tanned, hardy and
resolute, seemed to be those of a strong aborigine, sturdy
friend of all of nature's rougher moods.
He did not look at Momus, who got up as quickly as he might
at the intrusion of the big stranger. His dark eyes rested on
Laodice, who sat transfixed with her sudden recognition of the
He held in one hand a brace of fowls, in the other a skin of
When he spoke the polish of the Ephesian andronitis in his
voice and manner destroyed the primitive illusion.
"Lady, I heard in the synagogue at Emmaus to-day the
exclusion that is laid upon you for seven days. This is a hungry
country and no man should waste food. I shall enter Jerusalem
to-morrow by daybreak; we, my companion and I, have no further
use for these. They are Milesian ducks, fattened on nuts. And
this is Falernian--Roman. I pray you, allow me to leave them
with your servant with my obeisances."
Without waiting for her reply the Maccabee passed fowls and
skin into the hands of Momus who stood near.
"Sir," she answered unreadily, with her small hands gripping
each other before her and her eyes veiled, "I thank you. It was
not the least of my anxieties how we should provide ourselves
with food under prohibition and in a country perilous with war.
You have made to-morrow easy for us. I thank you."
"To-morrow; yes," he argued, seizing upon a discussion for an
excuse to remain, "but the next day, and the next five days,
what shall you do?"
"Perchance," she said gravely, "God will send us another
stranger of a generous heart, with more than he needs for
Not likely, indeed, he thought, would such beauty as hers go
hungry as long as there were hearts in the wilderness as
impressionable as his. But the thought of another than himself
providing for her did not make him happy.
There was nothing more to be said, but he did not go. In his
face gathered signs of his interest in her identity.
"Is there more that I can do for you?" he asked. "Have you
friends in Jerusalem? I will bear your messages gladly."
But it was a grateful privilege which she had to refuse with
reluctance. If her husband awaited her in Jerusalem, he must
wait, rather than be informed of the cause of her delay at peril
of exposing his presence in the city. She shook her head.
"There is nothing more," she added. "I thank you."
Dismissal was so evident in her voice that he prepared to
"Shall you move on, then, in the morning?" he asked.
"We have seven days in the wilderness," she explained. "We
can not hasten. It is only a little way to Jerusalem."
"But it is a long road and a weary one for tender feet," he
answered; "and it is a time of warfare and much uncertainty."
She lifted her eyes now with trouble in them.
"Is there any less dangerous way than this?" she asked.
The Maccabee sat down and clasped his hands about his knees.
This grasping at the slightest excuse to remain exasperated the
perplexed Momus, who could not understand the stranger's
assurance. But the Maccabee failed to see him.
"There is," he said to Laodice. "One can journey with you. I
am under no restriction, and the rabbis do not bind you against
me. I can secure you comforts along the way, and give you
protection. There in no such dire need that I enter Jerusalem
under seven days."
Laodice was confused by this sudden offer of help from a
stranger in whom her confidence was not entirely settled.
Nevertheless a warmth and pleasure crept into her heart benumbed
with sorrow. She did not look at Momus, fearing instinctively
that the command in her old servant's eyes would not be of a
kind with the grateful response she meant to give this stranger.
"I have no right to expect so much--from a stranger," she
"Then I shall not be a stranger," he declared promptly. "Call
"Ephesus!" she echoed, looking up quickly.
"The maddest city in the world," he replied. "Dost know it?"
She hesitated. Could she say with entire truth that she did
not know Ephesus? Had she not read those letters that
Philadelphus had written to her father, which were glowing with
praise of the proud city of Diana? Was it not as if she had seen
the Odeum and the great Theater, the Temple with its golden
cows, the mount and the plain and the broad wandering of the
Rivers Hermus, Cayster and Maenander? Had she not made maps of
it from her young husband's accounts and then with enthusiasm
traced his steps by its stony, hilly streets from forum to
stadium and from school to museum? Had she not dreamed of its
shallow port, its rugged highways and its skyey marshes? It had
been her pride to know Ephesus, although she had never laid eyes
upon it. Even she had come to believe that she would know an
Ephesian by his aggressive joy in life! It went hard with her to
deny that she knew that city which she had all but seen.
The Maccabee observed her hesitation and when she looked up
to answer, his eyes full of question were resting upon her.
"I do not know Ephesus," she said quickly. "Are--are you a
She wanted mightily to know if he had met the young
Philadelphus in that city, but she feared to ask further lest
she betray him.
"A great city," he went on, "but there are greater pagan
cities. It is not like Jerusalem, which has no counterpart in
the world. Even the most intolerant pagan is curious about
She looked again at his face. It was not Greek or Roman,
neither more indicative of her own blood.
"Are you a Jew?" she asked.
He remembered that she had seen him in a synagogue.
"I was," he said after a silence.
She looked at him a moment before she made comment.
"I never heard a Jew say it that way before."
He acknowledged the rebuke with the flash of a smile that
appeared only in his eyes.
"A Jew entirely Jewish wears the mark on him. You have had to
ask if I were a Jew. Would I be consistent to claim to be that
which in no wise shows to be in me?"
"It is time to be a Jew or against the Jews," she said
gravely. "There is no middle ground concerning Judea at this
Serious words from the lips of a woman in whom a man expects
to find entertainment are obtrusive, a paradox. Still the new
generosity in his heart for this girl made any manner she chose,
engaging, so that it showed him the sight of her face and gave
him the sound of her voice.
"Seeing," he said, "that it is the hour of the Jewish hope,
is it politic for us to declare ourselves for its benefits?"
"The call at this hour," she exclaimed reproachfully, "is to
be great in sacrifice--not for reward. It is the word of the
prophets that we shall not attain glory until we have suffered
for it. We have not yet made the beginning."
She touched so familiarly on his own thoughts which had
haunted him since ambition had awakened in him in his boyhood,
that his interest in his own hope surged to the fore.
"How goes it in Jerusalem?" he asked earnestly.
"Evilly, they say," she answered, "but I have not been in the
city. Yet you see Judea. That which has destroyed it threatens
the city. Jews have no friends abroad over the world. We need
then our own, our own!"
"Trust me, lady, for a good Jew. I have said that I had been
one, because I admit how far I have drifted from my people. But
I am going back!"
Somehow that strong avowal touched the deep springs of her
grief. She knew the pleasure that her father would have felt in
it. With the greatness of his sacrifice in mind, she filled with
the determination that his work should not have been in vain.
She rose and flung back the cumbrous striped mantle on her
shoulders and put out her hands to the Maccabee.
"Hast seen these pilgrims going to the Passover?" she
exclaimed, with color rising as her emotion grew. "All day they
have passed; army after army of Jews, not only strong, but
filled with the spirit that makes men die for a cause! Hast seen
Judea, which was once the land of milk and honey? Wasted! a
sight to make Jews gnash their teeth and die of hate and rage!
What hast thou said of Jerusalem? 'The perfection of beauty and
the joy of the whole earth!' threatened with this same blight
that hath made a wilderness of Canaan! If the hour and the
circumstance and the cause will but unite us, this unweaponed
host will stretch away at once in majestic orders of tens of
thousands--legions upon legions that would shame Xerxes for
numbers and that first Caesar for strength. Then--oh, I can see
that calm battle-line pass like the ocean tide over the stony
Roman front, and forget as the sea forgets the pebbles that
She halted suddenly on the edge of tears. The Maccabee,
astonished and moved, looked at her in silence. This, then, was
what even the women of the shut chambers of Palestine expected
of him--if he freed Judea! If such spirit prevailed over the
armies of men assembling in the Holy City, what might he not
achieve with their help! The Maccabee felt confidence and
enthusiasm fill his heart to the full. He rose.
"Our blows will never weaken nor our hearts grow faint," he
said, "if we have such eloquence and such beauty to inspire us."
She drew back a little. His persistent happiness of mood fell
cruelly on her flinching heart at that moment. He noted her
sudden relapse into dejection, with disappointment.
"Do not be sad," he said. "Discomforts do not last for ever."
"It is not that," she said in a low voice. "I have buried
beloved dead on this journey and I have surrendered all my
substance to a pillager."
There was the silence of arrested thought. The Maccabee was
taken aback and embarrassed. He felt that he was an intruder.
But even the flush on her face in restraining emotion made her
loveliness more than ever winsome. He let his hand drop softly
on hers. But in the genuineness of his sympathy he was not too
moved to feel that her hand warmed under his clasp.
"The difference between a fool and a blunderer," he said
contritely, "is that the blunderer is always sorry for his
mistakes. I will go. None has a right to refuse another his hour
He hesitated a moment, as if he would have kissed her hand.
She glanced up at him with eyes too filled with the darkness of
grief for words.
The slow unconscious smile that had worked such perfect
transformation that first morning grew in his eyes. It was
comfort, compliment and protection all in one. Then he went away
into the moonlight.
Within a few feet he came upon Julian of Ephesus with immense
rancor written on his face. The Maccabee was disturbed. It was
not well that this conscienceless man should have discovered
that they were traveling near this girl and her old servant.
Much as the young man wished to loiter along the road to
Jerusalem to keep her in sight while he could, he saw plainly
that to defend her from Julian he must ride on and leave her.
"Your meal," said Julian, "is as cold as Jugurtha's bath."
"I have lost my appetite," the Maccabee said carelessly.
"Saddle and let us ride on."
At his words, a picture of his own comfortable progress to
Jerusalem compared to her long foot-weary tramp for days over
the inhospitable hills appeared to him. The instant impulse did
not permit himself to argue the immoderation of his care of her.
Julian clung to his side until they were ready to depart. Then
the Maccabee, using subterfuge to give him opportunity to escape
the vigilant eyes of the Ephesian, suddenly clapped his hand to
his hip, exclaiming that he had left his weapon at the camp.
Before Julian's sneer reached him, he mounted quickly and
rode up the hill, meaning to offer his horse to the girl.
The bed of coals still glowed cheerily, but the shelter of
sheepskins, the old servant and the girl in the tissue of woven
moonbeams were gone.
He stood still, vexed, disappointed and resentful.
"The old incubus has made her go on, purposely, to get rid of
me!" he decided finally. "Perpol! He won't!"
It was a night that the Maccabee did not readily forget.
Since the girl had moved on to avoid him, he had become alive to
a delinquency that was more of a sensation than an admission.
His thought of her, that had been a diversion before, now seemed
to be a transgression. An incident of this nature during the
fourteen years of his life in Ephesus would have engaged his
conscience only a moment if at all, but at this last hour it
amounted to a deflection from his newly resolved uprightness.
Julian rode in a constant air of expectancy and increasing
irritation. The slightest sound from the haunted hills elicited
a start from him and his intense attention until the origin of
the sound proved itself. Many Passover pilgrims who had
proceeded by night passed under his close scrutiny and from time
to time he stopped the Maccabee in a speech with a peremptory
command to listen. All this engaged the Maccabee's interest, but
he made no comment until, on occasion of his casual word in
praise of the fidelity of Aquila, Julian flew into a rage and
reviled the emissary until the Maccabee brought him up with a
"Enough of that!" he exclaimed. "What ails you, man?"
Julian caught his breath and after a silence replied in a
voice considerably sweetened that Aquila was a conscienceless
pagan and not to be praised till he was dead. But the Maccabee,
with the girl uppermost in his mind, believed that his cousin
was inwardly resenting his preemption of the pretty stranger.
The fact that Julian had changed the pace of their advance
confirmed him in this suspicion. From the smart trot that they
had maintained from the time they had left Caesarea, they had
declined to a walk. Julian next showed inclination to loiter. He
spent an unusual length of time at every spring at which they
watered their horses; an unseen break in his harness engaged a
prolonged halt on the road; he stopped at an unroofed hut to
rouse sleeping Passover pilgrims who had taken refuge within to
ask how far they were from Jerusalem, and wrangled with the
sleepy Jew for many minutes over the hazy estimate the man had
given him. With each of these pretenses the Maccabee's
conviction grew that the girl had something to do with the
altered behavior of his cousin. And with that growing
conviction, he became the more convinced that he ought to
maintain an espionage of Julian.
At midnight they were both tired, exasperated, moody, and
determined against each other. They had not journeyed thirty
In one of the high valleys in the hills a great well bubbled
up from a hollow by the road, overflowed the stone basin that
the ancients had built for it and wasted itself in the undrained
soil about. Here, then, was one of the few marshes in Judea. The
road by a series of arches crossed it and continued up the
shoulder of the hills toward the east. All about it flourished
the young growth of the rough sedge grass, green as emerald. The
spot was treeless and marked with broad low hummocks of new sod.
"Shall we camp here?" he asked.
"It hath the recommendation of variety," the Maccabee said
wearily. "Eheu! How I shall miss the greensward of Ephesus! Yes,
They dismounted and while Julian unpacked their blankets, the
Maccabee collected dead reeds and cedar twigs and built a fire.
Then he stretched himself by the sweet-smelling flame.
"She can not have kept up with our horses; indeed it is
unlikely that they moved far," he thought, and thus assured that
there was no danger to the girl for whom he had become a
self-constituted guardian, he ate a piece of bread, drank a cup
of wine and fell asleep.
His slumber was not entirely unconscious. So long as the
movements of his cousin continued regular about him, he lay
still, but once, when Julian approached too near, his eyes
opened full in the face of the man about to lean over him. The
Ephesian raised himself hastily and the Maccabee's eyes closed
"A pest on an eye that only half sleeps!" Julian said to
himself. "He hasn't lost count on the minutes since he left
The morning broke, the sun mounted, the deserted road became
populous with all the previous day's host of pilgrims, and the
silence in the hills failed before the procession that should
not cease till night fell again. Through all the shouting at
camel and mule, the talk of parties and the dogged trudging of
lonely and uncompanionable solitaries, the Maccabee slept. From
time to time Julian, who had wakened early, gazed with
smoldering eyes at the insolent composure of his enemy sleeping.
But slumber with so little control over the senses of a man was
not to be depended upon for any work that demanded stealth. At
times the gaze he bent upon the long lazy shape half buried in
the raw-edged grass was malevolent with uneasiness and hate.
Again, some one of the passing travelers that bore a resemblance
to the expected Aquila would bring the Ephesian to his feet,
only to sink back again with a muttered imprecation at his
"A pest on the waxen-hearted satyr!" he said to himself
finally. "Why should he have been more faithful to me than to
his first employer! I am old enough to have learned by this time
not to trust my success to any man but myself. Now where am I to
look for him--Ephesus, Syene, Gaul, Medea? Jerusalem first! By
Hecate, the fellow is handsome! And these Jewesses are
The rumination was broken off suddenly by a glimpse of an old
deformed man bearing a burden on his shoulders, followed by a
slender figure, jealously wrapped in a plebeian mantle that left
only a hem of silver tissue under its border. They were skirting
along the brow of the hill opposite, away from the rest of the
pilgrims on the road. Both were walking slowly and the old man
seemed to be examining the farther slope, as if meditating a
halt. Julian got upon his feet and watched. He saw the old man
sign to the girl presently and they moved down the farther side
of the hill and were lost to view.
Julian cast a look at the sleeper and hesitated. Then he
scanned the road; he might miss Aquila. He seemed to relinquish
the intent that had risen in him, and sat down again.
After a while as his constant gaze at the passers-by led him
again toward the overflowing well, he saw there, standing in a
long line, awaiting turn to dip a vessel in the water, the old
bowed servant, with a skin in his hand. The girl was nowhere to
Julian sprang to his feet and, hastening across the road,
considerably below the well, climbed the hill in the direction
in which he had seen the girl disappear.
That watchful alarm in the brain which, at moments of demand,
is instantly alive in certain sleepers, aroused the Maccabee
almost as soon as the stealthy, receding footsteps of Julian
died away. He stirred, sat up and looked about him. Julian was
nowhere to be seen. Both horses were feeding a little distance
away. The Maccabee sprang up and looked toward the well. There
patiently but apprehensively waiting was old Momus. The girl was
not with him. Suspicion grew vivid in the Maccabee's brain. The
tender rank grass about him showed the print of his cousin's
steps as they led away toward the road. He followed intently.
The slim marks of the well-shod feet led him across the dust of
the road up into gravel on the slope and finally eluded him on
the escarpment that soared away above him.
The Maccabee hurried to the top of the declivity to gain
whatever aid that point of vantage might offer and from that
height saw below him to the west a single nook shaped of rock
and hummock and a tree out of which rose a blue thread of smoke.
He dropped down the farther slope at a pace little short of a
He mounted the slight ridge that overlooked the depression in
time to see Julian of Ephesus appear over the opposite side.
Within, with her mantle laid off, her veil thrown back, the girl
knelt over a bed of coals, baking one of the Maccabee's Milesian
ducks. Julian had made a sound; the Maccabee had come silently.
She looked up and saw the less kindly man first, flashed white
with terror, sprang to her feet with a cry, and whirled to flee
up the other side. There she confronted the Maccabee with hands
extended to ward off the encroachment of his cousin. Without an
instant's hesitation she flew into the Maccabee's arms. His
clasp closed around her and she shrank against him, clinging to
the folds of his tunic over his breast with hands that were
Her flight to him for refuge achieved an instant change in
the Maccabee. The fear of defeat, the primal hate of a rival,
died in him. All that remained was big wrath at the presumption
and effrontery of Julian of Ephesus. He had no definite memory
of what followed, because of the rush of blood in his veins, the
whirl of pleasurable sensation in his brain and the weight of a
sweet frightened figure pressed to him. The Ephesian went,
leaving an impression of a most vindictive threat in the
glittering smile and the motion of his shapely hand clenched at
the victorious Maccabee. The girl drew away hastily. The veil
was over her face and through its silken meshes he saw the glow
on her cheeks and the sweep of her lowered lashes down upon that
She was faltering her thanks and her apologies.
"It is mine to ask pardon," he exclaimed, still smoldering
with wrath. "I had no part in this, except to interfere with
this bad companion of mine. I did not follow you; believe me."
It confused her to know that he had guessed why she had moved
from their encampment the night before. As necessary as old
Momus had made it seem to her then, it seemed now to have been
ungrateful. She could make no reply to that portion of his
"My servant went to the well," she said. "He will return
presently. I am not afraid now."
"I am; you ought to be. I shall wait till your extraordinary
At this decided speech Laodice showed a little panic.
"No, no! I am not afraid. He--"
But the Maccabee ignored the implied dismissal.
"I owe him both a reproof and thanks for leaving you here
alone for any wayfarer to approach--and for me to discover. I
wish," gazing abroad over the broken horizon, "there were no
well between here and Jerusalem, and that he were as thirsty as
She made no reply to this remark, but her whole presence
expressed discomfort in his determination to remain.
"Heathen Hecate ought to get him in these wilds for forcing
that cruel journey on you last night, when you were so weary and
sad! There was no good in it. He wanted simply to get you away
from me! Let us hope that Titus has got him for his museum by
this time, and be at ease!"
She raised her head and reproach flashed through the meshes
of her veil.
"Momus is a good man," she said.
"He can not be," he insisted. "Have I not set forth his
iniquities even now?"
"It was a short task," she maintained. "But time is not long
enough to count his virtues."
"I can spend time better," he declared.
He saw her silken brows lower in a spirited frown and he was
glad. She was showing some other feeling than that dead level of
unhappiness that had possessed her from the first moment he had
seen her. His was not the heart contented to go astray after a
tear. Men fall in search of joy.
"Momus is carrying a burden under which more brilliant men
would falter," she averred. "I am beyond reckoning his debtor!"
"Since he has shifted that sweet burden for a time on my
shoulders, I will forgive him for his looks. If he will stay
away, I'll be his debtor further. But enough of Momus! I came to
ask after your health, when your long journey by night is done."
"I am well; we did not journey all night."
"Sit, I pray you. There is no need for you to stand with that
air of finality. I am not going, yet. I went back to your camp
last night within a short time after I left you and found the
camp broken and your fire lonely. I wanted to offer you my
"We did not walk all night. We camped a little farther on,
and moved at daybreak this morning," she explained.
He cast a reflective look at the sun and considered how much
time Julian of Ephesus had lost for him upon the road, or else
how long he had slept, that this pair, who had camped all night
and had journeyed afoot by day, had caught up with him.
"Still it was a cruel journey--for those little feet," he
She glanced involuntarily at her sandals, worn and dusty.
"Yes," he said compassionately, following her eyes. "But let
me see no more, else I meet this good and burdened Momus with
the flat of my hand when he comes! What is he to you?"
"My servant--now almost my father!" she insisted, trying to
cover the tacit accusation that she had made in admitting by a
glance that she was weary. "He orders all things for my good. Do
you think that each of the stones over which I stumbled to-day
did not hurt him worse because they hurt me? Do you think he
would have me go on, unless the stake were worth the pain I had
to endure? Say no more against him!"
The Maccabee shrugged his shoulders; then noting that she
still stood, he smoothed down a spot of the sand with his foot,
tossed upon it one of the sheepskins that Momus had unrolled,
and extending his hand politely pressed her down on the place he
had made. Then he dropped down beside her, lounging on his
"What is the stake?" he asked after he had composed himself.
She hesitated, regretting that her defense of Momus had led
her to hint her mission and touch upon her husband's ambition.
"The welfare of hosts!" she replied finally.
"Heavens! What a menace I was!" the Maccabee smiled.
She colored quickly and he resented the veil that was
shutting away so much that was fine and fleeting by way of
expression under its folds.
"But you are just as dangerous," he declared. "Now, we should
be in Jerusalem this hour. Our welfare and the welfare of others
depend upon us--I mean my companion and me. But there is no
devoted prodigy to bear me away--thank fortune! I have come out
of a great turmoil; I must plunge into a greater one before many
days. Let me rest between them. It will be a long time before I
shall possess anything so sweet as the smell of this cedar fire
and the picture of you against this fair sky!"
She looked down quickly.
"Was Ephesus in turmoil?" she asked disconnectedly.
"Ephesus was never in any other state! A fit preparation for
the disorder in Jerusalem! I was met at Caesarea with such tales
as depressed me until it required such delight as you are to
bring back my spirits again! What takes you to Jerusalem?" he
asked earnestly. "The Passover? God will forgive you if you
neglect it one year. Nothing but the sternest necessity should
send any one there at this hour."
"My necessity is stern--it is Judea's necessity," she
"More similarity!" he exclaimed. "That is why I go! Certainly
Judea's fortunes have bettered with you and me both hastening to
her rescue. Come, let us compare further. I am going to crown a
king over Judea!"
She raised her veil to look at him with startled eyes. The
glimpse of her face, for ever a delight and an astonishment to
him because of its extraordinary loveliness, swept him out of
the half-serious air into which he had fallen. He stopped and
looked at her with pleased, boyish, happy eyes.
"Aurora!" he said softly. "I see now why day comes gradually.
Mankind would die of excitement if the dawn were unveiled to
them like this suddenly every morning!"
She released the veil hurriedly, but before it fell he put
out a hand, caught it and tossed it back over her head.
"Be consistent with your part," he said, still smiling. "No
man ever saw day cancel her dawn and live."
It was pleasant, this sweet possession and command. How much
like an overgrown boy he had become, since she had wakened to
find herself in his power that morning in the hills! The
harshness and inflexibility had left his atmosphere entirely.
She was only afraid of him now because he had refused to be
dismissed. But she drew down the veil.
"I, too, expect a king," she said in a lowered tone. "A
conqueror and a redeemer."
"The Messiah?" he said, and she knew by the inflection that
he had not meant that King when he had spoken.
He noted that her hair was coiled upon her head when he threw
back her veil and he turned to that at once.
"You wear your hair in a fashion," he said, "that once meant
that which men dislike to discover of a woman whom they greatly
admire. I hope it is no longer significant."
"I go," she said after a silence, "to join my husband in
The Maccabee's lips parted and an expression of
disappointment with an admixture of surprise and vexation came
over his face. But what did it matter? Were she as free as air,
he was a married man. The humor of the situation appealed to
him. He dropped his head into the bend of his elbow and laughed.
"Welladay, this is a respite for us both, then," he said. But
realizing that an admission that he was married might hopelessly
reduce their hour to a formal basis, he took refuge in a
"My companion expects to meet a wife in Jerusalem," he
continued. "A royal creature, daughter of an ancient and haughty
family, with all her life purpose congealed in lofty and serious
intent, her coffers lined with gold and her face as determined
and unbending as Juno's with her jealousy stirred. He is not
delighted, poor lad!"
Laodice sat very still and listened. There was enough
similarity in this story to interest her.
The Maccabee, seeing that he had made an impression with this
deception and feeling somehow a relief in making it, went on,
delighted with his deceit.
"He has not seen her since he married her in his childhood,
but he knows full well how she will look when he meets her."
Surprise paralyzed Laodice. Was the smiling and dangerous
companion of this man, her husband?
The Maccabee, meanwhile, deliberately remarked her charms and
recounted their antithesis in making up a picture of the woman
he expected to meet as his wife.
"She will, according to his expectations, be meager and thin,
not plump! Thoughtful women and women with a purpose are never
plump! And she will be black and pale, all eyes, with a nose
which is not the noble nose of our race. She will be religious
and it will not make her happy. She will realize her value to
her husband and he will not be permitted to forget it. She will
be ambitious and full of schemes. She will be the larger part of
his family, though by the balance she will weigh not so much as
an omer of barley."
Laodice got upon her feet in her agitation and raised her
veil to stare at this slander. Was this a picture of herself she
heard? The Maccabee was enjoying himself uncommonly.
"She will wear the garments of a queen, but--how little a
slip of silver tissue will become her!"
Laodice looked down in alarm at her gleaming garment, and
reached for her mantle. The Maccabee had no idea how much
pleasure he was to derive in making his own story, Julian's. He
continued, almost recklessly, now.
"Small wonder that he is so delinquent in the wilderness,
with such square-shouldered righteousness awaiting him in town!
Forgive him, lady, for his iniquities now, for he will be a good
man after he reaches Jerusalem; by my soul, you may be sure he
will be good!"
Laodice gasped under the pressure of astonishment and
indignation. It was bad enough to be pictured thus
unprepossessing, but to be suddenly made aware of her husband in
a man whom she feared, was desperate. She stared with frank and
horrified eyes at her tormentor.
"But--but--" she stammered.
"True," he sighed. "One can not know what calamity forces
another into misdeeds. Now were I my unfortunate friend, perhaps
I should afflict you with my hunger for sweetness also."
And that smooth, insinuating, violent pagan was Philadelphus
Maccabaeus! But what had her father said of him, as a child?
"Quick in temper, resourceful, aye, even shifty, stubborn, cold
in heart, hard to please!" And to this man she must present
herself, late, penniless and unhelpful. Panic seized her! How
could she go on to Jerusalem!
That long graceful figure stretched on the sand was speaking.
What was it in his voice that drew her so mightily from any
terror that possessed her at any time?
"Sit down, sit down! I have more to say," he was urging her.
She obeyed him numbly.
"He gets worse as he approaches the city. I think I ought to
leave him. It will not be safe to be near him when his moneyed
lady claims him for her own!"
"She--she--" Laodice burst out, "is--may be such a woman!"
"Such a woman as you! No; she will not be. That is what makes
him bad. And now that I bethink me, perhaps it is just as well
that you proceed to Jerusalem. He may comfort himself with a
sight of you, now and then."
"I? I comfort him?" she exclaimed.
"By my soul I know it! What blunders Fortune makes in
bestowing wives! Perchance your husband could have got on as
well without so radiant a spouse, while my poor beauty-loving
friend must needs be paired with a--Alas! there is too much
marrying in this world!"
There was a ring of genuine dejection in his voice and when
she looked down at him, she saw that his eyes were larger and
more sorrowful than she believed they could be. He was hurting
himself with his own deceit. She looked away hastily, frightened
at the sudden tenderness that his pathetic gaze had wakened in
"Alas!" he went on. "The greatest sacrifice and the
frequentest in this world of cross-purposes never gets into
poetry. I--" he halted a moment and looked away, "I ought to be
sorry for her, too. She is not getting the best of men."
"Verily!" she exclaimed impulsively.
He whirled his head toward her, stared; then with a flash of
intense expression in his eyes burst into a ringing laugh that
shook him from head to foot. He flung out his hand and catching
hers passed it across his lips without kissing it, and let it go
before he regained composure enough to speak.
"No! Not a good man! Verily! But hath he no cause to be
"No!" she said stubbornly. "He has judged her without seeing
her, when, by your own words, he expects her to bring him
fortune and position. What is he bringing her?"
The Maccabee looked at her thoughtfully before he answered.
"Nothing! Not even his heart!" he vowed.
Laodice caught her breath in an agony of indignation and
"He does not in any way deserve--" she stopped precipitately.
She was about to add "the great fortune he is to get," when she
realized that she was taking this husband nothing--not even her
own heart. She went on, for the first time a little glad that
she was penniless.
"He may find--neither fortune, nor position, nor heart
awaiting him!" she finished pointedly.
The Maccabee pulled one of his stubborn locks that had fallen
over his eyes. The smile grew less vivid.
He had no comment to make to this. Meanwhile Laodice looked
"Shall--you be with--your friend in Jerusalem?" she asked.
"It depends on his wife," he retorted with a grimace.
She would be glad if this tall, comely trifler, with a voice
as musical as some grave-toned viol, were to be seen from time
to time to relieve the tedium of life with the offensive
Philadelphus. This admission instantly brought a shock to her.
She had learned to study herself in these last few days since
she had become aware of the ways of the world. Life was to be no
longer a period of obedience to laws which the Torah had laid
down; it was to be a long resistance against desirable things
that she yearned for but which she dared not have. She learned
at this moment that she could be her own chief stumbling-block,
and that love, the most precious illumination in every life,
might be a destruction and a consuming fire. She looked at this
man, who lounged beside her, with a new sensation. He was
winsome, and therefore the more perilous. That smooth insulting
stranger whom this man had revealed as her husband with all his
violence and license was a humble and harmless thing compared to
this one, who had snared her by his care of her and by his
She felt a desire to cry out for Momus to take her back to
the inner chamber of the shut house in Ascalon, away from her
danger to herself and from the sight of the man who had done her
She did not know how plainly all this wrote itself on her
candid face. Wise pupil of that unbridled school, the city of
Diana, he could read in that slight frown on her forehead and
the pathetic curve of her lips, that she was contented with
him--that she was not glad to go on to that husband in Jerusalem.
He was near to her before she knew he had moved.
"After all," he was saying in a low voice, "I am glad you are
going to Jerusalem. You shall not be lost from me again. Whose
house shall I ask for when I can not endure separation longer?"
She moved away from him. There was a step behind her and
Laodice, coloring shamedly, looked straight into the accusing
eyes of Momus who stood there. The stranger rose.
"I shall see you again," he said to her.
He took her hand and lifted it to his lips. The next instant
he was gone.
When the Maccabee had returned to the spot in the sedgy
valley where he and Julian had halted, he found the Ephesian
white to the lips and with ignited eyes awaiting him.
"How much longer?" the Ephesian demanded.
"What! Fast and slow!" the Maccabee said calmly. "Last night
you wasted hours to spite me. To-day you begrudge me a moment's
talk with a lovely wayfarer. Or is it because she prefers me?
You have ordered our progress long enough. I shall move when it
He sat down by the fire, clasping his hands back of his head,
and half-closed his eyes. The Ephesian rose and tramped
restlessly about. As he glanced down at the reposeful attitude
of the man whom he could not exasperate he saw the sun glitter
on the Maccabaean signet on the hand clasped back of
Philadelphus' head. The sight of it in a way collected Julian's
purposes. He knew that by some misadventure he had missed Aquila
whom he had hoped to meet in Emmaus, bearing treasure stolen
from the daughter of Costobarus. By this time, then, the
Maccabee's emissary had doubtless arrived in Jerusalem--the last
possible point for the two conspirators to meet. To proceed to
Jerusalem without the Maccabee, with whatever excuse he could
invent, would not deliver the dowry of the bride into his hands,
in the event that Aquila had not succeeded in his instructions
to make way with Laodice before he reached Jerusalem. Nothing
occurred to Julian at that moment but to impersonate the
Maccabee until it was possible to get possession of the two
hundred talents from those friends in Jerusalem who were
interested in his cousin's welfare. No one in Jerusalem knew
Philadelphus Maccabaeus. Aquila, as fellow-conspirator, would
not dare to expose him if Julian appeared as his cousin.
Perilous at best, it seemed the only plan by which he was to get
possession of a fortune which even Caesar would be glad to have.
The resolution formed itself in a brain turbulent with
passion and desperation. He halted silently back of his cousin
and with a sudden flare of intent on his dead white face
snatched a dagger from his girdle and drove it between the
shoulders of the Maccabee. Without a word, Philadelphus turned
upon his assailant and started to his feet. But Julian, catching
a glimpse of the dire purpose in his cousin's darkened eyes,
struck again. The knife, blindly wielded, glanced on the
Maccabee's head with wild force. Under a veil of scarlet
Philadelphus sank to the earth.
Julian with a sob of terror sprang out of range of his
victim's gaze. After a time he took courage and looked. The lids
were fallen and the breast was still.
Julian bent hastily and snatched the signet from the
nerveless hand and fumbling in the bosom drew forth the wallet
there. He opened it, finding within ancient parchments with
heavy seals, new writings, rolls of notes and a packet of
letters. He rose, trembling violently, and backed away. After a
moment's fascinated gaze at the roadway to see if the pilgrims
passing had seen what he had done, he whirled about, mounted his
horse and galloped frantically toward Jerusalem.
Meanwhile the midday activity on the Roman roadway swept by
the smoldering fire and the motionless figure lying in the grass
some distance back from the highway. Along the splendid causeway
the Passover pilgrims fared, men afoot, men on camels, families
and solitary travelers; the poor, the once rich, the humble and
the haughty; figures in burnooses, gabardines, gowns and tunics;
striped and checkered woolens, linens or rags; noisy or silent,
angry or sad, hour in and hour out, until the hills were a-throb
with the human atmosphere. Time and again the sweet invitation
of the rare grass along the marsh invited the way-weary to halt
to tie a sandal, to bind up a wound, to eat a crust spread with
curds or simply to rest. No one approached the silent man who
had fallen beside a dying fire. They were tired enough to
refrain from disturbing a man who slept. So, though they looked
at him from where they sat and two or three asked each other if
he were asleep or merely weary, he was left alone. One by one
they who halted took up their journey again and the figure in
the grass lay still.
Finally near the noon hour there came from the summit of a
hill overhanging the road, a high, wild, youthful yell that cut
with startling distinctness through the dead level of human
communication on the highway. Each of the travelers below looked
up to see a young shepherd in sheepskins with long-blowing stiff
crinkled locks flying back from a dusky face, with eyes soft and
shining as those of some wild thing. Around him eddied a mob of
sheep as wild as he, and a Natolian dog raced hither and thither
in a cloud of dust, rounding the edge of the flock and shaping
it to the advance of the young faun that mastered it.
"Sheep! by the prophets!" one of the sedate Jews exclaimed.
"The only flock in existence in Judea, I venture!" his
"And so hopelessly doomed to Roman possession that it can not
be called in existence."
"Heigh! Hello! Young David!" one of the younger men called up
to the shepherd. "Does Titus pay you for minding his mutton?"
"Salute, neighbors!" another shouted. "Here is the Roman
"Ill-fathered son of an Ishmaelite!" a Tyrian said to this
jester. "That you should make sport of Judea's humiliation!"
The shepherd who had paused amid his whirlpool of sheep
wisely held his peace. There was a division of sentiment here
that were better not aggravated. He halted long enough for the
road to clear below him and then descended into the valley and
crossed to the low meadow on the opposite side.
His scamper of sheep flocked into the sedge, parting around
the prostrate figure by a circle of coals now dead, and plunged
into the pasture. The boy inspected the earth and shook his
head. It was too wet for a long stay, inviting as it seemed. But
here his flock might pasture for a day without injury.
He glanced at the sleeper as he passed and continued to the
farther side where the opposite hill sloped down into the
depression. Here he found for himself a comfortable spot and lay
down, prepared to watch all day. From time to time he looked
across at the motionless figure in the grass and commented to
himself that it was a weary man who slept so soundly, and then
lost interest in the maze of dreams that can entangle the wits
of a shepherd who is a boy.
The march of the Passover pilgrims continued to Jerusalem.
In mid-afternoon there came interruption. Along the level
highway came the rapid beat of hooves and the musical jingle of
harness. Every soul within sound of that un-Jewish mode of
travel turned apprehensively and looked back. Bearing down upon
them from the west came a stampede of Roman cavalry scouting.
The sunshine on their brass armor transformed them into shapes
of gold, and the recklessness of their advance swept the
pilgrims out of their path as far as could be seen. Right and
left the Jews scattered; some ran into the hills and hid
themselves; others merely stepped aside and with darkening faces
waited defiantly for the approach of the oppressor. The young
shepherd full of excitement sprang to his feet.
Neither the fleeing Jews nor the Jews that had stood their
ground attracted the attention of the approaching legionaries.
It was the close-packed, avid-feeding sheep, deep in the grass,
that won their instant and enthusiastic notice. The decurion in
charge of the squad brought up his gray horse with such
suddenness that the animal's feet slid in the gravel.
"Sheep, by the wings of Mercury!" he shouted. "Dismount,
fellows! Here's for a feast this night and an offering to Mars
The ten in brazen armor threw themselves from their horses
with the enthusiasm of boys and spread a panic of whooping and
of waving arms about the startled flock. The young shepherd, too
long a fugitive from the encroachments of this same army to
misunderstand the nature of the attack, ran into the thick of
the shouting Romans. His valiant dog with exposed teeth flew
straight at the nearest legionary.
"Cerberus!" the soldier howled, dodging. "Your pike, Paulus!
Quick! By Hector, it is a wolf!"
But the quickest soldier would not have been quick enough to
elude the enraged beast had not the shepherd with a spring and a
warning cry seized his dog by the ears and stopped him
"Down, Urge!" he cried. "Take away your men!" he shouted to
the decurion. "I can not hold him long."
"Only so long," Paulus growled, raising his pike over the
"Drop it!" the decurion ordered him peremptorily. "We are ten
to one and a dog. No blood-letting this day. It is Titus' order.
Boy, get you gone; these sheep are confiscate."
"I have been told they are only common stock," the boy
remonstrated gravely, "but you may be right. Howbeit, they are
not mine and I can not leave them."
"You have been misinformed," the decurion said gravely, while
his men, circling around the growling dog, went on with their
work. "These are Roman sheep, with the Flavian coat of arms and
the mark of the army in black on their hides--if you shear them.
But if you make away as fast as you can I shall not tell Titus
which way you went."
The sheep had started pell-mell toward the Roman road. The
decurion turned back to his horse. The shepherd released his
dog, which ran after the flock, and stepped into the decurion's
"However these sheep look when they are sheared," he said,
"this seems to be robbery to me."
"Robbery!" the good-natured decurion exclaimed. "This is but
a religious rite that Mercury got out of the cradle at two days
to establish. Only he took Apollo's cattle while we are
contenting ourselves with the sheep of mortal ownership.
Robbery! What an inelegant word!"
Meanwhile the stampeded sheep were making in a cloud of dust
back over the road toward the west from which the Romans had
"What shall I say to the citizens of Pella?" the little
shepherd shouted, pursuing the decurion who was making back to
his horse as fast as he could go.
"Salute them for me," the decurion shouted back, "and make
them my obeisances, and say that I shall report on the flavor of
the sheep by messenger from Jerusalem."
In a moment the boy sprang into the decurion's way so
suddenly that the soldier almost fell over him.
"Be fair!" the boy exclaimed. "At least leave me half!"
The decurion was losing patience and the shepherd had grown
more than ever serious.
"Fair!" the Roman echoed. "Why, I have been indulgent! This
is war! It is almost a breach of discipline to argue with you.
Out of the way!"
"The Roman army has all the world to feed it; Pella has only
its sheep. We, then, must face hunger and cold because your
appetites crave mutton this day!" the boy returned resentfully.
The decurion pointed down the road.
"Why waste your breath! There go the sheep."
The boy's dark eyes filled with tears. The decurion swung
around him and went back to the horses that waited in the road.
He knotted their bridles together and, leading one of the
number, remounted and rode west after the receding cloud of dust
which hid the flock.
The shepherd's head sank on his heaving breast and he stood
"Lord Jesus, I pray Thee, give me my sheep again!" he prayed.
A deep prolonged thunder that had been filling the hills with
sound began to multiply as the nearest slopes caught it and
tossed it from echo to echo. It was not loud but immensely
prevalent. Those wayfarers who had fled came back to the brink
of the hill and those who had stood their ground walked out into
the grass to look back. Around the curve of a buttress of rock
that stood out at the line of the road, the head of a column of
Roman cavalry appeared. The superb color-bearer bore on his hip
the staff supporting the Imperial standard.
At the forefront rode a young general; on either side a
tribune. Behind came a detachment of six hundred horse.
The sheep huddling in the way were swept like a scurry of
leaves out into the meadow alongside the road, and one of the
tribunes and the general turned in their saddles to look at the
confiscated flock. The second tribune observed their interest in
this trivial incident with disgust. The young general, whose
military cloak flaunted a purple border, called the decurion
"Well done, Sergius! A samnos of wine for your company
to-night for this."
The decurion saluted.
"Where did you get them?" the tribune demanded.
The shepherd who had withdrawn to the side of the road on the
approach of the column looked at the questioner with resentful
eyes from which the moisture had not vanished.
"From me!" he said.
Both the purple-wearing young general and his tribune looked
at him amusedly.
"How many killed and wounded, Sergius?" the tribune asked.
The silent and disapproving tribune, observing that the
commanding officer had not given an order to halt, brought the
six hundred to, lest they ride their general down.
"You!" the general exclaimed with his eyes on the young
The boy looked up into the face of the Roman who sat above
him on a snow-white horse.
It was a young face, tanned by the sun of Alexandria, but
bright with an emanation of light that somehow was made tangible
by the flash of his teeth as he talked and the sparkle of his
lively eyes. For a soldier exposed to the open air and the
ruffian life of the camp and burdened with the grave task of
subduing a desperate nation, he was free of disfigurements. His
brows were knitted as if to give his full soft eyes protection
and the frown, with the laughing cut of his youthful lips, gave
his face a quizzical expression that was entirely winning. In
countenance and figure he was handsome, refined and thoroughly
Roman. The little shepherd was won to him instantly. Without
knowing that the world from one border to the other had already
named this charming young Roman the Darling of Mankind, the
little shepherd, had his lips been shaped to poetry, would have
called him that.
So Joseph, the shepherd, son of Thomas, the Christian, and
Titus, son of Vespasian, Emperor of the World, looked at each
other with perfect fellowship.
"Those are sheep from Pella," Joseph said soberly, "in my
care. They were taken from me because," he paused till a more
tactful statement should suggest itself, but, lacking it, drove
ahead with spirit, "there was not more of me to stop your
"I believe you," Titus replied heartily. "But that is the
fortune of war. Still, you Jews have a habit of refusing to
accept defeat rationally."
"I am not a Jew," Joseph explained. "I am born of Arab blood,
and I am a Christian."
"Worse and worse," said Titus.
Joseph shifted his position argumentatively.
"Is it?" he asked. "Are you making war on Pella or Jerusalem?
Was it Pella or the hundred Jewish towns that cost Rome so much
of late? Pella is not exactly your friend, though neither are
most of your provinces; but are you going to pillage Egypt or
Persia because Judea is in rebellion?"
Titus threw his plump leg over the horn of his saddle and sat
sidewise. One of his tribunes looked at the other with a
flickering smile that was not entirely free of contempt. But his
fellow returned a stare that for immobility would have done
credit to the Memnon.
"Now," Titus began, "I have heard of this fault in the
Christians. They don't understand warfare."
"We don't," Joseph declared bluntly. "We do not see why you
should take my sheep to feed your army, when we have had nothing
to do with bringing your army over here. We haven't cost you one
drop of Roman blood or one denarius of Roman money, and yet you
are taking at one act the whole of our substance and punishing
us for the misdeeds of others--others whom you haven't succeeded
in punishing yet."
"That is bad judgment," Titus said, frowning at the last
"Unpleasant truth always is," Joseph retorted.
One of the tribunes laughed impulsively and Titus looked
around at him reproachfully.
"Come, come, Carus," he said.
"Thy pardon, Caesar," the tribune replied, "but we'll be
whipped in this wordy battle. And even a small defeat were an
unpropitious sign on this expedition."
"To Hades with your signs! If I am whipped with six hundred
back of me, I ought to be! Boy, we have your sheep by conquest;
you will have to take them back the same way."
Joseph's face fell.
"I have had them since I was nine years old. I've tended them
since they were lambs and their mothers before them. It is like
surrendering so many children," he said dejectedly. "In truth I
can fight for them even if it be but to lose, and I am bidden
not to fight at that."
"By Hector, that is not a Jewish tenet!" Titus exclaimed.
Joseph said nothing. He stood still in the path of the Roman
six hundred with his curly head sunk on his breast. There was
"Is it?" Titus demanded uncomfortably.
"No; and for that reason you are still fighting them and will
fight and lose and lose and lose, before you win. Still, it is
no safeguard not to fight you; you take our substance anyhow. Be
we peace-lovers or not, there is warfare; if we do not fight we
are fought against."
Titus thrust his helmet back from his full front of intensely
black curls and wiped his forehead.
"The sun is hot in these hills," he said disjointedly to the
tribune he had called Carus, "and the wind is cold.
Carus said nothing.
"Is it not?" Titus demanded irritably.
"Very," Carus observed hastily.
The little shepherd stood in the road and the six hundred
"Well," said Titus with a tone of finality, "you never
remember the wrongs the strong man endured--wrongs that the weak
man did him because of his weakness."
"It never hurts the strong man," Joseph said softly, "to give
the weak one another chance."
Titus closed his lips at that, and the tribune who had smiled
sarcastically looked with sudden intent at Carus. Carus silently
moved his horse to the sarcastic tribune's side with such
threatening expression on his face that the other discreetly
held his peace.
"Perhaps," Titus said thoughtfully, but the boy failed to see
more in that word than the simple expression. In his search for
some further plea that would give him his sheep again, the
presence of the young Roman appealed to him with hope. Surely
one so young and laughing, so ready to stop an army to argue
with a child, could not be beyond reach of persuasion. With the
simple frankness so innocent of guile as to make charming that
which upon other lips would have been the broadest insincerity,
he put that moment's thought into words.
"I thought," he said slowly, "because your horse is so white
and your dress so golden and your face so beautiful that I would
have but to ask--and I would have my sheep again."
Titus looked at him, not with the idea that his compliment
was effective, but with the thought that the boy was yet too
young to have lost faith in attractive things; that another than
himself would have to teach the shepherd that lesson in
"Have you examined these sheep for disease, Sergius?" he
demanded, with a show of severity. "I never saw a flock in this
country that was not full of peril for the cavalry."
Sergius, wisely catching excuse in this demand, saluted.
"I did not," he replied.
"So? Well, do it hereafter. Go stop those legionaries and
turn loose that flock. We lost five hundred horse in Caesarea
for just such negligence."
Joseph flung up his head, his eyes sparkling, his cheeks
aglow, his whole figure alive with a gratitude so potent that it
was painful. Titus, with the deep tide of a blush crawling over
his forehead, scowled down at this joy.
"Look well," he continued severely to Sergius, "and if they
But Joseph laughed and stepped out of the young general's
"And," said Titus, his face clearing before that laugh as he
directed his words to the little shepherd, "Jerusalem shall have
Transfiguration brightened the small dusky face. He put up
his hands for that blessing that was a part of his farewell.
"May my God supply all thy need according to his riches in
glory, by Jesus Christ. Amen!"
Titus, with a bowed head, touched his horse, and in response
to a silent flash of an uplifted sword the picked six hundred of
Caesar's army rode on in the subdued thunder of hoof and the
music of jingling harness toward Jerusalem.
After a long time there came the quick patter of a running
flock and the multitudinous complaint of lambs, and up from the
east rushed the mob of sheep. Behind them trotting comfortably
were the mounted scouts. The ten privates wore scornful
countenances highly expressive of their contempt for the
unwarlike restitution they had been forced to make, but as they
rode past when the sheep swept out of the road to their tender,
Sergius, the decurion, dropped back and with his tongue in his
cheek made such jovial threatening signs that the little
shepherd laughed again.
The squad galloped after the main body and were lost to view.
Many of the Jews called to the little shepherd, but after a time
travel was resumed on the road and deep monotonous composure
settled upon the valley again.
But Joseph, the Christian, turned into the high grass of the
meadow with bowed head and clasped hands.
"Lord Jesus, what may I do for Thee?" he asked impulsively.
He stopped suddenly. At his feet lay the silent sleeper in
the grass. On the tall growth upstanding about the prostrate
form were clear shining scarlet drops. The little shepherd
turned white and threw himself down on his knees beside the
still figure and put his hand over the heart. Then he lifted his
face to the skies.
"I was sick and ye visited me," he whispered
[Illustration: He threw himself down by the still figure.]
Julian of Ephesus, now the presumptive Philadelphus
Maccabaeus, rode up the broad brown bosom of a hill that had
confronted him for miles to the south, and the sun had sloped
until its early spring rays struck level from the west. At the
summit, he drew up his horse suddenly with a quick intaking of
Below him lay Jerusalem.
South and east the barren summits of brown hills shaped a
depression in which the city lay. North, clean-white and
regular, the wall of Agrippa was printed against the cold blue
of the sky. Below on three lesser mounts and overflowing the
vales between was the goodliest city in all Asia.
About it and through it climbed such walls, planted on such
bold natural escarpment, that made it the most inaccessible
fortification in the world. On its highest hill stood a vision
of marble and gold--a fortress in gemstone--the Temple. Behind it
towered Roman Antonia. Westward the Tyropean Bridge spanned a
deep, populous ravine. The high broad street upon which the
giant causeway terminated was marked by the solemn cenotaphs of
Mariamne and Phaselis and ended against the Tower of Hippicus--a
vast and unflinching citadel of stone. Under the shadow of this
pile was the high place of the Herods; in sight was a second
Herodian palace. South was the open space of the great markets;
near the southernmost segment of the outer wall was the
semicircular Hippodrome. Cut off from its neighbor by ancient
walls were Ophlas, overlooking Tophet and under the shadow of
the Temple; Mount Zion which the Lord had established, Akra of
the valley, Moriah, the Holy Hill, and Coenopolis or Bezetha
which Agrippa I had walled. About the immense outer
fortifications crawled the shadowy valleys of Tophet, of Brook
Kedron and of Hinnom. Thickly scattered like fallen patches of
skies the pools of Siloam, Gihon, Shiloh, En-Rogel, the Great
Pool, the Serpent's Pool and the Dragon's Well reflected the
color of the mountain heavens. Between them wandered the blue
threads of certain aqueducts that supplied them. Everywhere rose
the shafts of monuments and memorials, old as the pride of
Absalom, new as the folly of the Herods; everywhere the
aggressive paganism of Rome and Greece, which would have
paganized this monotheistic race out of very rancor against its
uprightness, violated with insolent beauty the hieratic severity
of the city's face. Rich, bold, strong, beautiful, Jerusalem was
at that hour, as viewed from the hill to the north, the
perfection of beauty and the joy of the whole earth.
For a moment ambition struggled nobly in the breast of the
man that overlooked it. Except for the obstacles he had placed
in his own way by his misdeeds, Julian of Ephesus at that moment
might have become great. But he had struck down his kinsman on
the way, and such deeds were remembered even in war-ridden
Judea; he had come to Jerusalem wearing his kinsman's name that
he might despoil that kinsman's bride of her dowry; a hundred
other crimes of his commission stood in the way to peace and
But about him the Passover pilgrims, catching their first
glimpse of the Holy City, gave way to the storm of emotion that
had gradually gathered as they drew near to the threatened City
It had moved him to look upon this most majestic
fortification, embattled and begirt for resistance against the
most majestic nation in the world. But he who came as a stranger
could not feel within him the tenderness of old love, the
sanctity of old tradition, and the desperation of kin in his
blood as he gazed upon Jerusalem. Yonder was a roof-garden; to
him, no more than that. But the inspired Jews beside him knew
that in that place the sun of noon had shone upon Bathsheba, the
beautiful; and in that neighboring high place the heart of the
Singing King had melted; to the north was a stretch of
monotonous ground overgrown with a new suburb; but that was the
camp of Sennacherib, the Assyrian whom the Angel of the Lord
smote and his army of one hundred and four score and five
thousand, before the morning. Yonder were squalid streets, older
than any others. But the Kings had walked them; the Prophets had
helped wear trenches in their stones; the heroes and the
strong-hearted women of the ancient days had gone that way. No
house but was holy with tradition; no street but was sanctified
by event. Small wonder, then, that these who came to this
Passover, the most momentous one since that calamity which had
occurred forty years ago on Golgotha, wept, cried aloud to
Heaven; became beatified and made prophecies; railed;
anathematized Jerusalem's enemies; assumed vows and were
threatening. Julian of Ephesus was shaken. He looked about him
on the tempestuous host, then touched his horse and rode down to
On the Hill Scopus over which he approached an inferior
number of Romans were camped, and these had maintained a
semblance of siege only sufficiently effective to close all the
gates on three sides. The Sun Gate to the south of the city was
therefore the most accessible point of entry for the pilgrims.
Following the people who had preceded him, Julian approached
this portal, left his horse with the stable-keeper without and
prepared to enter Jerusalem.
Collecting at the causeway of the Sun Gate the pilgrims came
with such impetus that the foremost were rushed struggling and
protesting through the tunnel under the wall and forced well
into Jerusalem before they could control their own motion. Once
within, the host spread out so that one looking at the immense
space they instantly covered wondered how so great a mass ever
passed through the circumscribed limits of a fifty-foot gate. At
times stopping was impossible. Again there were momentary lulls,
as when the sea recoils upon itself and is stilled for an
instant. They who stood to watch, wearied of days of such
invasion, unconsciously wished that the interval might endure
till they could rest their number-wearied brains. But, as if the
stagnation were the result of congestion somewhere without the
walls, when the wave returned it came with redoubled height and
power and the Sun Gate would roar with the noise of their entry.
After the Ephesian had been swept in with his own company of
pilgrims, he saw that which even few of the new-comers had
expected to see. The immediate vicinity of the gate was laid
waste. Up Mount Zion opposite Hippicus and along the margin of
the Tyropean Valley where the Herodian and Sadducean palaces had
seemed so fair from the north were great blackened shells of
walls and leaning pillars, partly buried in ruin and rubbish.
Far and wide the streets were littered with debris and charred
fragments of burned timbers. At another place on the breast of
Zion was a chaos of rock where a mansion had been literally
pulled down. Somewhere near Akra pale columns of pungent,
wind-blown smoke still rose from a colossal heap of fused matter
that the Ephesian could not identify. About it were neglected
houses; not a sign of festivity was apparent; windows hung open
carelessly; the hangings in colonnades were stripped away
entirely or whipped loose from the fastenings and abandoned to
the winds. Numbers of dwellings appeared to have been sacked;
others were so closely barred and fortified that their exteriors
appeared as inhospitable as jails.
Confusion prevailed on the smoked and untidy marble Walk of
the Purified leading down from the Temple. Here those who held
fast to the Law met and contested for their old exclusiveness
with wild heathen Idumean soldiers, starvelings, ruffians and
strange women from out-lying towns. Far and wide were wandering
crowds, surly, defiant, discourteous, exacting. Manifestly it
was the visitors who were the aggressors. They had been
overthrown and driven from their own into an unsubjugated city
which was secure. They felt the rage of the defeated which are
not subdued, and the resentment against another's unearned
immunity. The citizens of Jerusalem had not welcomed them and
they were enraged. Half a dozen fights of more or less
seriousness were in sight at once. A column of black wiry men in
some semblance of uniform pushed across the open space toward
the Essene Gate. They took no heed for any in their path. Those
who could not escape were overturned and trampled on. Meeting a
rush at the gate they drew swords and coolly hacked their way
through screams of fear and pain and amazement. After them went
a wave of curses and complaint. Citizens against the visitors;
visitors against the citizens; soldiers against them all!
"And this cousin of mine meant to pacify all this!" the
Ephesian exclaimed to himself.
Jerusalem, that had for fifteen hundred years adorned herself
at this time with tabrets and had gone forth in the dance of
them that make merry, was drunken with wormwood and covered with
All at once the Ephesian saw four soldiers standing together
and with them, manifestly under their protection, was a Greek of
striking beauty. He wore on his fine head a purple turban
embroidered with a golden star.
Without a moment's hesitation, the Ephesian approached. The
spears of the four soldiers fell and formed a barrier around the
Greek. The new-comer smiled confidently.
"Greeting, servant of Amaryllis," he said. "I am your lady's
The Greek came forth from the square formed by his guard.
"I am that servant of Amaryllis," he said courteously. "But
show me yet another sign."
The Ephesian drew from his bosom the Maccabaean signet and
flashed its blue fires at the Greek. The servant stepped hastily
between the soldiers and the new-comer.
"Thy name?" he asked in a whisper.
"I am Philadelphus Maccabaeus."
The servant bent and taking the hem of the woolen tunic
pressed it to his lips.
"Happy hour!" he exclaimed. "I pray you follow me."
The pretender breathed a relieved sigh and joined his
They passed down into Akra and approached the straight column
of pungent smoke towering up from a charred heap that the
Ephesian in spite of his haste inspected curiously.
"What is that?" he asked of the Greek.
"That, master, is the city granaries."
"The granaries!" the Ephesian cried, aghast.
The Greek inclined his head.
"What--what--fired them?" the Ephesian asked.
"John and Simon differed on the point of its control and each
fired it to keep the other from possessing it!"
For a moment the Ephesian was thunderstruck. Then he
quickened his pace.
"By the horns of Capricornus!" he avowed. "The sooner one
gets out of this, the wiser he must be counted!"
The Greek looked at him with lifted brows and led on.
They crossed the Tyropean Valley and approached a small new
house of stone, abutting the vast retaining wall that was built
against Moriah. A line of soldiers was thrown out from the
entrance to the house and his conductor, after whispering a word
to the captain, led the way up to a double-barred door. A long
time after he had rapped, there was the sound of falling chains
and the door swung open. A second Greek servant of no less
beauty bowed the new-comer and his companion within. The noise
of the streets was suddenly cut off. Soft dusk and quiet proved
that the doors of Amaryllis had been shut upon unhappy
The second servant drew a cord and a roller of matting lifted
and showed a skylight. Philadelphus the pretender was in the
andronitis of a Greek house.
It was typical. None but a Greek with the purest taste had
planned it. Walls and pavement were of unpolished marble,
lusterless white. A marble exedra built in a semicircle sat in
the farther end, facing a chair wholly of ivory set beside a
lectern of dull brass. At either end of the exedra on a pedestal
formed by the arms, a brass staff upheld a flat lamp that cast
its luster down on the seat by night. Against an opposite wall
built at full length of the hall, was a pigeonholed case, which
was stacked with brass cylinders. This was the library of the
Greek. At a third side was a compound arch concealed by a heavy
white curtain. There were low couches spread with costly white
material which were used when Amaryllis set her table in her
andronitis, and at the arches leading into the interior of the
house there were draperies. But the chamber, with all its
richness, had a splendid emptiness that made it imposing, not
After a single admiring survey of the hall in which he had
been left alone, the pretended Philadelphus fortified himself
against his most critical test.
Without a sound, without even so much as the rustling of a
garment to announce her, a woman emerged from a passage leading
into the interior of the house. He confronted the only person in
Jerusalem who might know him as an impostor.
The woolen chiton of her countrywomen draped a figure almost
too slender, yet perfect in its delicate modeling. Though her
eyes were black, her hair was fair and brilliant with a wash of
gold powder. Her features were Hellenic, cold, pure and classic,
and for all her youth and beauty there was an atmosphere about
her of middle-age, immense experience, and old sagacity.
The pretender braced himself for the scrutiny the eyes made
"You are that Philadelphus, as my servant tells me?" she
"I am he."
She inclined her head.
"Welcome; in the name of all the need of you!"
After a silence he came closer and lifted her hand to his
lips. He added nothing, but presently raised his eyes softened
with feeling and unexpressed appreciation.
"Certainly you have suffered, lady," he said finally in a
subdued tone. "But please God you will not suffer alone
Amaryllis' non-committal front changed.
"You are gentler of speech than is common among the
Maccabees," she said.
"Nevertheless the Maccabees are the more touched by
devotion," he maintained.
He led her to the exedra, unslung his wallet and laid it on
the lectern before them.
"When thou hast leisure, perchance thou wilt find interest in
these papers here."
She thanked him and there was a moment's silence. Under his
lashes the impostor saw that he had not filled her fancied
picture of the Maccabee made from long years of correspondence.
She was disappointed; her intuition was perplexed. He would
complete his work and get away in time.
"My wife is here?" he asked.
"She came yesterday," Amaryllis responded, clapping her hands
in summons. A female servant of such prepossessing appearance
that Philadelphus looked at her again, bowed in the archway.
"Send hither the princess," Amaryllis said.
"The princess," Philadelphus repeated to himself. "Then, by
Ate, I am the prince!"
"While we wait," Amaryllis continued, "let us talk of details
which you may not have patience to hear after she comes.
Jerusalem, as you have learned, is in grave danger--"
"Jerusalem should fear the Roman army less than herself. I
have seen its disease."
"The citizens will hail Titus as a deliverer. But this week's
ceremonies are bringing us disaster. Should Titus be forced to
lay siege about us, how shall we feed this multitude of a
million on the supplies gathered for only a third of that
"Gathered and burned."
"Even so. But of your creature comforts. My house is open to
your chief enemy. It must be so. You must be hidden--not
concealed, but disguised. You know my weakness for people of
charm and people of ability. My house is full of them. The
master of this place is indulgent; he permits me to add to my
collection whatever pleases me in the way of society. Therefore,
you are come as a student of this wonderful drama to be enacted
in Jerusalem presently. You may live under part of your name.
Substitute, however, your city for your surname. Be Philadelphus
of Ephesus. No one then will question your presence here.
"I have bound to me by oath and by fear one hundred Idumeans
who will rise or fall with you. They are of John's own army and
alienated to you without his knowledge. Hence they are in armor
and ready at any propitious moment. This house is provisioned
and equipped for siege; everything is prepared."
"At what cost, my Amaryllis?" he asked tenderly.
She drew away from him quickly, as if his tone had touched a
place of deeper disappointment.
"That I do not remember. I am your minister; you need no
other. More than the one would be multiplying chances for
"And what wilt thou have out of all this for thyself?" he
Slowly she turned her face back to him.
"I would have it said that I made a king," she said.
There was a step in the corridor leading into the andronitis,
and, smiling, Amaryllis rose. Philadelphus got upon his feet and
looked to catch the first glimpse of the woman who was bringing
him two hundred talents.
A woman entered the hall. Behind her came a servant bearing a
Had Amaryllis been looking for suspicious signs, she would
have observed in the intense silence that fell, in the arrested
attitude of the pair, more than a natural embarrassment. Any one
informed that these were a pair of impostors would have seen
that there was no confusion here, but amazement, chagrin and no
Instead, Amaryllis, nothing suspecting, glanced from one set
face to the other and laughed.
"Poor children! Married fourteen years and more than
strangers to each other! I will take myself off until you
She signed to the servant to follow her and passed out of the
Philadelphus then put off his stony quiet and gazed
wrathfully at the woman who had entered.
Hers was a fine frame, broad and square of shoulder, tall and
lank of hip as some great tiger-cat, and splendid in its
sinuosity. She had walked with a long stride and as she dropped
into the chair she crossed her limbs so that her well-turned
ankles showed and the hands she clasped about her knees were
long and strong, white and remarkably tapering. Her features
were almost too perfect; her beauty was sensuous, insolent and
dazzling. Withal her presence intimated tremendous primal charm
and the mystery of undiscovered potentialities. And she was
royal! No mere upstart of an impostor could have assumed that
perfect hauteur, that patrician bearing.
But the pretended Philadelphus was not impressed by this
"How now, Salome?" he demanded. "What play is this?"
The Ephesian actress motioned toward the shittim-wood casket.
"For that," she said calmly.
Her voice became, instantly, her foremost charm. It was a
deep voice; the profoundest contralto with an illimitable
strength in suggestion.
"Where is--what is that?"
"Two hundred talents."
Philadelphus took a step toward her.
"What!" he exclaimed evilly. "Whose two hundred talents?"
There was silence in which the man's fingers bent, as if he
felt her throat between them. Then he recovered himself.
"But--this woman--where is she?"
The actress lifted her shapely shoulders.
"Where is the Maccabee?" she asked in return.
He made no answer.
"Did you get that treasure here--since yesterday?" he asked at
"No, by Pluto! I got it in the hills near to Emmaus. You
would have had it in another day." She laughed impudently, in
spite of the murderous blackening in his face.
"Then, since you are such a shrewd thief, why did you come
here at all, since you had the gold?" he demanded, astonished in
spite of his rage.
She waved a pair of jeweled hands.
"They said that the Maccabee was strong and ambitious and
forceful, that he would be king over Judea. Knowing you, I
believed he would still come to Jerusalem in spite of you. How
did you do it? In his sleep? Now, I," she continued with an
assumption of concern, "failed in that detail. She was guarded
by a monster. I could not get near her. But I got the casket."
"She will come here then!" Philadelphus exclaimed.
"What of it! Amaryllis does not know her; no one else does.
And I have her proofs--and her dowry!"
After a silence in which she read the expression on his face,
she rose and came near him with determination in her manner.
"You will have the wisdom not to recognize her," she said,
"lest I suddenly discover that you are not the Philadelphus I
He made rapid survey of her advantage over him, and
"But there will be no need of waiting for such an issue," he
fumed, after a silence. "I am here and not the Maccabee, whose
crown you coveted. We shall get out of this perilous city."
"So?" she said, lifting her finely penciled brows. "No, we
"Why?" he stormed.
"Because," she answered, "John of Gischala may yet be king of
Judea--and John hath a queen's diadem for sale at two hundred
talents--or a heart which I can have for nothing."
There was malevolent and impotent silence in the andronitis
of Amaryllis, the Greek.
They who stood on the wall by the Tower of Psephinos in
Coenopolis of Jerusalem on a day in March, 70 A.D., saw prophecy
Since the hour in which the Roman eagles had appeared above
the horizon to the west in their circling over the rebellious
province of Judea there had not been one day of peace. Then
their coming had meant the approach of an enemy. But in a short
time such implacable and fierce oppressors, with such genius for
ferocity and bloodshed, had developed among the Jews' own
factions that the miserable citizens had turned to the tyrant
Rome for rescue. They who had risen against Florus and had
driven him out would have willingly accepted him again in place
of Simon bar Gioras and John of Gischala, before two years had
elapsed. Now, their plight was so desperate that they clambered
daily upon the walls of their unhappy city to look for the first
glimpse of the approaching enemy, Titus, whom they had learned
to call the Deliverer.
Near noon of this day in March certain citizens on the wall
beside Hippicus saw a flash down the road to the west beyond the
Serpent's Pool near Herod's monuments. Again they saw it and
again, until they observed that its appearance was rhythmic,
striking through a soft colored cloud of Judean dust.
Out of that yellow haze, rolling nearer, they saw now the
glittering Roman standards emerge, one by one; saw the spiky
level of shouldered spears; saw the shapes of horses, saw the
shapes of men; heard the soft thunder of six hundred horse on
the packed earth, heard the music of six hundred whetting
harnesses; heard like a tender, far-off song the winding of a
Roman bugle and heard then in their own hearts, the shout: "He
has come! The Deliverer!"
It was the hour of the City's last hope.
On the near side of the Pool of the Serpent, they saw the
body of horse break into a light trot and, wheeling in that fine
concord in which even the dumb beasts were perfect, turn the
broadside of the splendid column to Jerusalem as it swept up
Hill Gareb to the north.
The citizens clambered down from the wall by Hippicus and,
speeding silently but with moving lips and shining eyes through
alleys and byways, came finally to an angle in Agrippa's wall
that stood out toward Gareb. Here was built the Tower of
Psephinos. Dumb and callous as beasts to the blows and commands
of the sentries there mounted, the citizens clambered up on the
fortifications and, with their chins on the battlements that
stood shoulder-high, gazed avidly at the sight they saw.
Scattered confidently over the uneven country the six hundred
had broken file and were in easy disarray all over Gareb. Spears
were at rest, standards grounded, many were dismounted, whole
companies slouched in their saddles. The Jews, long used to
rigid military discipline among the Romans, looked in amazement.
Then a light click of a hoof attracted their attention to the
bridle-path immediately under the overhanging battlements.
There a solitary horseman rode. Not a scale of armor was upon
his horse; not a weapon, not even a shield depended from his
harness. His head was uncovered and a sheeny purple fillet
showed in the tumbled, dusty black hair. There was no guard on
the hand that held the bridle; the cloak that floated from his
shoulders was white wool; the tunic was the simple light garment
that soldiers usually wear under armor; the shoes alone were
mailed. It seemed that the young Roman had stripped off his
helmet, breast-plate and greaves to ride less encumbered or to
appear less warlike.
But the Jews who looked at him understood. Here was Titus
come in peace!
The horse went with loosened rein, while the young Roman's
eyes raised to the great wall towering over him had more of
admiration and a generous foe's appreciation of his enemy's
strength than of the note-making search of a spy in them.
"Ha! By Hector, that penurious Herod was a builder!" they
seemed to say. "There is enough stone insolence in these walls
to trouble Rome for a while!"
Rod after rod of the slowly rising ground he traversed; rod
after rod of the tall fortification passed under his inspection,
and now the twin Women's Towers rose upon the ashes and scarped
rock to the north.
Titus spoke to his horse and rode faster.
Meanwhile silent dozens climbed panting and dumbly resisting
the sentries up beside the first Jews. They were citizens who
dared not rejoice aloud. They followed the young Roman with
brightened eyes, saying each within his heart:
"Thus David came up against Saul, unto Israel!"
But there was an increase of uproar in the city below, as if
news of the coming of Titus had spread abroad.
Titus was now almost a mile from the nearest of his soldiers.
He passed the Gate of the Women's Towers. Hedges, gardens,
ditches and wind-breaks of cedars of Lebanon from time to time
obscured him. When he came in sight again, he had placed
obstruction between himself and retreat.
The next instant the Gate of the Women's Towers swung in. Out
of it rushed a sortie of motley soldiery, brandishing weapons
and shouting the war-cries of Simon and John.
The citizens on the walls pressed their hands to their
temples and watched, transfixed with horror. Jerusalem's
defenders had gone out against the Deliverer!
The attack had been seen by the disorganized troops on Gareb
and the rapid trumpet-calls showed formation. But between the
time of their movement and the moment of their relief a company
could have been unhorsed. Meanwhile Titus, with nothing less
than Fate preserving him for its own work, dodged javelins and,
enraging the white stallion that he rode, kept out of reach of
hand-to-hand encounter with his assailants. Back and forward he
rode, his horse carrying him at times out of range of missiles;
again, all but surrounded by the unorganized enemy. About his
head whizzed axes and spears, wild, and frequently slaying their
own. Far up the slope of Gareb the six hundred gathered itself
and swept in mass down upon the conflict.
Between them and Titus lay two furlongs. To join his column
with all honor to himself, he had to work back over the wadies
he had crossed and circle the gardens that stood in his way. But
a hedge pressed too close upon the space he must pass, between
it and the enemy, before he could return to his men. An ax
glanced beside his ear; he wavered in his saddle. Then, that
happened which a Roman of that day could not be forced to do and
Titus wheeled his horse and, plunging his spurs into its
sides, fled on into the open country to the north, with the
jeers of the men of Simon and John following him.
His troops rushed down upon his assailants. But the wary
soldiers turned when the Roman had fled and the Gate of the
Women's Towers closed upon them.
Up from the visitors within the wall rose a shout:
"A sign, a sign! An omen! Thus shall the children of God
overthrow the heathen in battle!"
But one of the Jews on the wall thrust his fingers under his
turban and seized his hair.
"Jerusalem is fallen! Woe! Woe to the wicked city!"
He turned in his place and leaped a good twenty feet to the
ground. When he raised himself the look of a maniac had settled
on his face. Tearing his garments from him as he went, he
entered a narrow street that made its ascent toward Zion by
steps and cobbled slants. Here he came upon great crowds of
terror-stricken citizens who had rushed together as the news
spread abroad over Jerusalem that the men of Simon and John had
gone out against the Deliverer. No definite news of the outcome
of the sortie had reached them and they were moving in a dense
pack down toward the walls to hear the worst. The whole hurrying
mass seemed to vibrate with suspense and dread. The maniac met
"Woe, woe to Jerusalem!" he cried.
A lean, apish, half-naked, lash-scarred idiot in the street,
instantly, as if in echo to that mad cry, shouted in a voice of
the most prodigious volume:
"A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from
the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the Holy house, a
voice against the bridegrooms and the brides and a voice against
this whole people!"
The temper of the crowd had reached that point of tension
that needed only a little more strain to become panic. Some one
received the discordant cries of the maniacs with piercing rapid
screams. Instantly the choked passage filled with frantic
uproar. Scores attempting to flee blindly trampled over those
transfixed with fear. They fought, men with women, youths with
old age, children with one another. Hundreds attracted by the
tumult rushed in on the panic and added fresh victims and new
death. Out of the horror rose the fearful cries of the madmen:
"Woe, woe to this wicked city!"
Meanwhile, the soldiers of Simon and John came to prevent
citizens from gathering in bodies, and with sword and spear
drove into the struggle and added murder to it all. The spirit
of terror then issued out of that bloody alley and seized upon
street by street. Far and wide the tumult ran, growing in volume
with every accession, until the raging and humiliated Titus,
among his six hundred, heard Jerusalem howl like a beaten slave
and hushed his pagan curses to listen.
Late that same afternoon, the Esquiline Gate, inaccessible,
despised and sealed, was broken open from within and under it
and down its difficult and dangerous approach poured a silent
multitude, numbering thousands. They were abandoning the Rock of
David to its fate. Among them went the last remnants of that
sect of Christians who had tarried long after their brethren had
been warned away, hoping against hope.
They were not missed among the numbers in Jerusalem, for the
Passover hosts still poured through the gates to the south and
took their places in the unhappy city. And with these that same
afternoon Laodice and her old servant came into Jerusalem.
It was the eighth day after they had applied to the priest at
Emmaus whither they had fled in their search for the frosts, a
good three leagues north of the direct road to Jerusalem. They
had stopped at the Lavatory outside the walls, washed themselves
and had purchased the white garments of the purified. Old Momus
carried with him the price of the lambs, of the fine flour and
the oil for their cleansing and the two were ready to present
themselves for their purification at the Temple. But all the
roar and disorder of the great city in its warfare and its
discord confused them. Ascalon had not a thousandth part of this
turmoil at its busiest season. Neither was there a servant in a
purple turban with the gold star to meet them and they were
bewildered and lost.
The rest of the visitors to the Passover hurried into the
heart of the city; wave after wave of new-comers replaced them;
but the young woman and her dumb old servant stood aside just
within reach of the shadow of the immemorial portal and waited.
Time and again wolfish Idumean soldiers who were numerous
about the place noted the pair and commented to one another or
spoke insolently to the shrinking girl who hid ineffectually
behind her veil. Hour after hour they stood with growing
distress and no friendly face in all that army of hurrying,
restless, quarreling Jews welcomed them.
The afternoon waned. Laodice thought of the darkness and
An old man fumbling a talisman of bone drew near them.
Laodice took courage and approached him.
"I pray thee, sir, I seek Amaryllis, the Seleucid."
The old man turned large, grave eyes upon her.
"Daughter, what dost thou know of this woman?" he asked.
"My husband knows her; I do not. I am to join him under her
The old man looked reassured.
"Follow this street unto one intersecting it on the summit of
Zion. That will be a broad street and a straight one,
terminating on a bridge. Go thence to the hither side of that
bridge, pass down the ravine and cross to the other side against
Moriah. There thou shalt see a new Greek house. It is the
residence of Amaryllis."
Laodice thanked her informant and began the pursuit of the
cloudy directions to her destination. Twice before she brought
up at the sentry line before the house of the Seleucid, she
asked further of other citizens. Many times she met affront,
once or twice she perilously escaped disaster. At last, near
sunset, she stood before the dwelling-place of the one secure
citizen of the Holy City.
A sentry dropped his spear across her path and she had not
the countersign to give him. There she and her helpless old
attendant stood and looked hopelessly at the refuge denied them.
Presently a man appeared in the colonnade across the front of
the house and descending to the sentry line called to him the
officer in command. They stood within a few paces of Laodice and
she heard the soldier address the man as John, and heard him
deliver a report of the day.
When the soldier withdrew to his place, Laodice stepped
forward and called to the Gischalan. He stopped, noted that she
was beautiful and waited.
"I would speak with the Lady Amaryllis," she hesitated.
"Have you the countersign?" he asked.
"No; else I should have entered. But Amaryllis will know me."
"Enter then," the Gischalan said.
In a moment she was admitted at the solid doors and led into
a vestibule. Here, a porter took charge of Momus and showed him
into a side passage, while Laodice followed her conductor
through a corridor into an interior hall of splendid simplicity.
Lounging on an exedra was a young woman in a woolen chiton,
barefoot and trifling with the Greek ampyx that bound her golden
Laodice put up her veil and looked with hurrying heart at her
hostess. Before she could get a preliminary idea of the woman
she was to meet, John spoke lightly:
"Be wearied no longer. I have brought you a mystery--a
stranger, without the countersign, asking audience with you."
"Go back to the fortress," the young woman answered.
"Sometime you will find strangers awaiting you there, also
without the password. You will lose Jerusalem trifling with me.
I have spoken!"
John filliped her ear as he passed through into a corridor
which must have led into the Temple precincts. Under the light,
Laodice saw that he was a middle-aged Jew, not handsome, but
luxuriant with virility. His face showed great ability with no
conscience, and force and charm without balance or morals. Here,
then, thought Laodice, is the first of Philadelphus' enemies.
The idler in the exedra, meanwhile, was awaiting the speech
of her visitor.
"Art thou she whom I seek?" Laodice asked. "Amaryllis, the
"I am called by that name."
"I was bidden," Laodice continued, "by one whom we both know,
to seek asylum with thee."
"So? Who may that be?"
Laodice whispered the name.
The Greek's eyes took on a puzzled look. Then she surveyed
the girl and as a full conception of the beauty of the young
creature before her formed in the Greek's mind, the perplexity
left her expression. Her air changed; a subtle smile played
about her lips.
"He sent you to me for protection?"
"Until he arrives in Jerusalem," Laodice assented.
"But he is already here."
It was the moment that Laodice had avoided fearfully ever
since she had gathered from that winsome stranger by the
roadside that his companion was her husband. Although, after
that fact had been made known to her, she had felt that she
ought to join Philadelphus and proceed with him to the Holy
City, she had endured the exposure of the hills, the want and
discomfort of insufficient supplies and the affronts of
wayfarers, that she might spare herself as long as possible her
union with the unsafe man who had become even more hateful by
comparison with the one who had called himself Hesper.
"Perchance thou wilt lead me to him," Laodice said finally.
Amaryllis made no immediate answer. It would have been a
natural impulse for her to wish to inquire for the girl's
business with the man that the Greek as hostess was expected to
conceal. But Amaryllis had her own explanation for this visit.
It had been plain to less observant eyes than hers that the
newly arrived Philadelphus was not delighted with the bride he
The Greek summoned a servant.
"Go summon thy master, Prisca; and haste. I doubt not I have
for him a sweet relief."
The woman bowed.
"If it please thee, madam, the master is without in the
vestibule, returning from the city." Amaryllis signed to the
ivory chair before her.
"Sit, lady," she said to Laodice. "He will come at once."
The young woman dropped into the seat and gazed wistfully at
her hostess. Instinctively, she knew that in this woman was no
relief from the darkened life she was to lead with her husband.
The Greek's face, palely lighted by a thoughtful smile, vanished
in sudden darkness. Laodice saw instead an image of a strong
intent face, brightening under the sunrise, saw it relax,
soften, grow inexpressibly kind, then pass, as a tender memory
taking leave for ever.
She was brought to herself by the Greek's rising suddenly.
The Ephesian appeared at the arch, tossing mantle and kerchief
to the porter as he entered. Laodice rose to her feet with
difficulty. It was he, indeed!
He was kissing Amaryllis' hand. The Greek was smiling an
accusing, conscious smile. She indicated Laodice. The Ephesian's
face showed startlement, suspicion and a quick recovery. He
bowed low and waited for explanation.
"Then I will go," Amaryllis said with amusement in her eyes,
"if you are acting pretenses for my sake."
[Illustration: Amaryllis the Greek.]
She turned toward the arch which led into the interior of the
house. The pretender glanced again at Laodice and again at the
"What is the play, lady?" he asked.
Amaryllis looked at Laodice standing stony white at her
place, and lost her confident smile.
"Is this not he?" she asked.
"Is this Philadelphus Maccabaeus?" Laodice asked.
The Ephesian's face changed quickly. Enlightenment mixed with
discomfiture appeared there for an instant.
"I am he," he said evenly.
"Then," Laodice said, "I am she whom thou hast expected."
Philadelphus smiled and dropped his head as if in thought.
"One always expects the pleasurable," he essayed, "but at
times one does not recognize it when it comes. Who art thou,
"Pestilence, war and the evil devices of men have desolated
me," she said coldly. "I have only a name. I am Laodice."
"Laodice!" he repeated amiably. "A familiar name; eh,
Laodice waited. Philadelphus looked again at her and appeared
"I am Laodice," the girl repeated, a little disconcerted,
"So!" Philadelphus exclaimed.
There was such well-assumed astonishment in the exclamation
that she raised her eyes quickly to his face. There was another
expression there; one wholly incredulous.
"Now did I in the profligacy of mine extreme youth marry two
Laodices?" he said. "For another Laodice, wife to me, joined me
some days since."
Laodice gazed at him without comprehending.
"I say," he repeated, "that my wife Laodice joined me some
"Why, I--I am Laodice, daughter to Costobarus, and thy wife!"
she exclaimed, while her eyes fixed upon him the full force of
He turned to Amaryllis.
"What labyrinth is this, O my friend," he asked, "in which
thou hast set my feet?"
"I do not know," Amaryllis laughed suddenly. "Call the
Philadelphus summoned a servant and instructed her to bring
his wife. For a short space the three did not speak, though
Laodice's lips parted and she stroked her forehead in a
Then Salome, late actress in the theaters at Ephesus, came
into the hall. Amaryllis bowed to her and the impostor gave her
a chair. He turned to Laodice and with the faintest shadow of a
grimace motioned toward the new-comer.
"This," he said, "is Laodice, daughter of Costobarus."
Laodice blazed at the insolent beauty who stared at her with
"That!" she cried. "The daughter of Costobarus!"
The fine brown eyes of the woman smoldered a little, but she
continued to gaze without the least discomposure.
"Who is this, sir?" she asked of Philadelphus.
"That," said Philadelphus evenly, to the actress, "is
Laodice, daughter of Costobarus."
"I do not understand," the actress said disgustedly. "You are
clumsy, Philadelphus, when you are playful. If this is all, I
shall return to my chamber."
She rose, but Laodice sprang into her path.
"Hold!" she cried. "Philadelphus, hast thou accepted this
woman without proofs?"
Philadelphus smiled and shook his head.
"And by the by," he asked, "what proof have you?"
Up to that moment Laodice had burned with confident rage,
feeling that, by force of the justice of her cause, she might
overthrow this preposterous villainy, but at Philadelphus'
question she suddenly chilled and blanched and shrank back. A
new and supreme disadvantage of her loss presented itself to her
at last. She could not prove her identity!
Meanwhile, seeing Laodice falter, the woman's lip curled.
"Weak! Very weak, Philadelphus," she said. "You must invent
something better. The success of a jest is all that pardons a
"She robbed me!" Laodice panted impotently. "Robbed me, after
my father had given her refuge!"
"Of what?" the Greek asked.
"My proofs--and two hundred talents!"
"Lady," the actress said to Amaryllis, "my husband's
emissary, Aquila, was a pagan. He had with him, on our journey,
this woman and her old deformed father who fled when the plague
broke out among us. She hoped, I surmise, that we should all die
on the way. Even Samson gave up secrets to Delilah, and this
Aquila was no better than Samson."
Oriental fury fulminated in the eyes of Laodice.
Philadelphus, fearing that she was about to spring at the throat
of her traducer, sprang between the two women. In his eyes shone
immense admiration at that moment.
There was an instant of critical silence. Then Laodice drew
herself up with a sudden accession of strength.
"Madam," she said coldly to Amaryllis, "with-hold thy
judgment a few days. I shall send my servant back to Ascalon for
other proof. He can go safely, for he has had the
Philadelphus started; the actress flinched.
"Friend," Philadelphus said in his smooth way, "I came upon
this woman by the wayside in the hills. I and a wayfarer cast a
coin for possession of her--and the other man won. Give thyself
Laodice flung her hands over her face and shrank in an agony
of shame down upon the exedra. Amaryllis looked down on her
"Is it true?" she asked. After a moment Laodice raised
"God of Israel," she said in a low voice, "how hast Thy
servant deserved these things!"
There was a space of silence, in which the two impostors
turned together and talking between themselves of anything but
the recent interview walked out of the chamber.
After a time Laodice lifted her head and spoke to the Greek.
"If thou wilt give me shelter, madam, for a few days only, I
promise thee thou shalt not regret it," she said.
The girl was interesting and Amaryllis had been disappointed
in Philadelphus. Nothing tender or compassionate; only a little
curiosity, a little rancor, a little ennui and a faint
instinctive hope that something of interest might yet develop,
moved the Greek.
"Send your servant to Ascalon for proofs," she said. "I shall
give you shelter here until you are proved undeserving of it.
And since the times are uncertain, do not delay."
The following morning, there was a rap at the door of the
chamber to which Laodice had been led and informed that it was
She had passed a sleepless night and had risen early, but the
knock came late in the morning.
She opened the door.
Without stood a ten year old girl, of the most bewitching
beauty, as barely clad as ever the children of her blood went
over the green meadows of Achaia. Her golden hair was knotted on
the back of her pretty head and held in place by an ampyx. On
her feet were tiny sheepskin buskins; about her perfect little
body, worn carelessly, was a simple chiton, out of which her
dimpled shoulders and small round arms showed pink and tender as
field-flowers. Nothing could have been more composed than her
gaze at Laodice.
"We breakfast in the hall, now. You are to join us," she
Laodice stepped, out of the chamber into the court and
followed her little guide.
"The mistress and her guests rise late," the child went on.
"That perforce starves the rest of us until mid-morning. Eheu!
It is the one injustice in this house."
Laodice dumbly wondered if she were to be classed with the
house servants while she waited until the return of her devoted
She was led into a long narrow room, showing the same simple
elegance that marked all the house of Amaryllis, the Greek. Down
the center were two tables, separated by a cluster of tall
plants that almost screened one from the other.
At the first table place was laid for one. At the other, she
found by the talk and laughter the rest of the company were
gathered. The little girl led Laodice to the single place,
seated her, and kissing her hand to her with an almost
too-practised bow, fled around the cluster of tall plants. There
she heard her childish voice imperiously ordering a servant to
attend the mistress' latest guest.
Prisca appeared and silently served Laodice with melon,
honey-cakes and milk. Other of the house-servants were visible
from time to time. This, then, manifestly was not the breakfast
of the menials. She glanced toward the cluster of tall plants.
Through an interstice she was able to see all the persons seated
at the other table.
There first was the blue-eyed, golden-haired girl. Beside her
was a youth, slim, dark, exquisitely fashioned, with limbs and
arms as strong as were ever displayed in the games, yet powerful
without brutality, graceful without weakness--marks of the ideal
athlete that had long since disappeared with the coming of the
Roman gladiator. Opposite was a grown man, tall, broad and deep
chested, with prominent eyes wide apart and a large mouth. There
was a singleness of attitude in him, as in all persons reared to
a purpose. It was that certain self-centeredness which is not
egotism, yet a subconsciousness of self in all acts. He was the
finished product of a specific, life-long training, and the
confidence in his atmosphere was the confidence of one aware of
his skill and prepared at all times.
Besides these three, there were two women, both in the
garments of the ancient atelier. One was bemarked with clay; the
other was stained with paint. Laodice knew at a glance that she
looked at a gathering of artists.
"Evidently a gift from John," the little girl was saying. "He
can not see that our lady does anything but collect curiosities
in this her search after art, and so he must needs add a
contribution in this Stygian monster we saw yesterday evening."
Laodice knew that they discussed Momus.
"Perhaps," the athlete said, "he bought this left-handed
catapult thinking he might throw the discus farther than I can
"Well enough," the woman with paint on her tunic put in; "she
sent the monster packing. He went out of the gates post-haste
last night, they say."
"The pretty stranger that came with him stayed, I observe,"
the athlete said.
"Pst!" the girl said in a low voice. "Where are the man's
eyes in your head, that you do not see her?"
"Looking at you!" the athlete answered.
"Too soon!" the child retorted. "A good six years before I
shall know what your looks mean!"
"Is she, this pretty stranger, something of John's taste?"
the woman who had blue clay on her garment asked.
"Tut!" the athlete broke in. "John never departed from his
ancient barbarism to that extent. That, unless I misjudge my own
inclinations in a similar matter, is something this mysterious
Philadelphus hath arranged to relieve the tedium of--"
"Tedium!" the girl exclaimed. "By Hector, this Jewish wife of
his would open his Ephesian eyes were she to let loose all I
suspect in her!"
"Brrr! But you are suspicious!" the athlete shivered. The
little girl shaped her lips into a kiss and the athlete leaning
across the table snatched it from her before she could avoid
The women caught him by the back of his tunic and pulled him
down in his chair.
"Sit down!" they whispered. "Don't you see that Juventius is
about to speak?"
The athlete glanced at the grown man, who had looked down
into his plate at the youth's frolic with the child, with the
utmost disdain and boredom in his expression. Now that the
silence became noticeable, he spoke in an affected voice, but
one of the deepest music.
"Alas, these Jews!" he said. "How little they know about art!
How long has it been since he introduced one of the Temple
singers into our lady's hall to show what a piercing high note
could be reached by a male voice? And he had the creature sing
to prove his contention. I thought I should die! It was worse
than awful; it was criminal!"
The athlete laughed.
"Any singer, then, but Juventius therefore is a malefactor!"
"No, it does not follow," Juventius protested in all
seriousness, while the child flashed a look of intense amusement
at the athlete. "But," waving a pair of long white hands, "none
should trifle with music. It is one of the graces of Nature,
divine and elemental. Wherefore, anything short of a perfect
production becometh a mockery and a mockery against divine
things is blasphemy. Ergo, the poor musician is in danger of
"The monster is safe, safe!" the girl protested. "He does not
sing, and from what I caught through the crack of the door, the
pretty stranger had better not. My lady, the princess, had a
merry time with my lord, the prince, at breakfast this morning,
all about this same pretty one. So this is why she breakfasts
with us--the second table."
Laodice heard this with a sinking heart. This was a strange
house in which to live at no definite status, with a future
blank and inscrutable.
"Is it, then, that you are wary of offending the over-nice
exactions of music, that you do not sing?" the athlete demanded
"Song," replied the singer gravely, "is originally the
expression of the highest exaltation. To sing before the high
mark of feeling is reached is an insincerity."
"Alas, Juventius," the girl was saying, "how much difficulty
you lay up for yourself in determining the limits of art! Teach
broadly and the fulfilment of your laws will not be such a task
for the overworked and irritable gods of art."
"Child!" Juventius cried passionately. "Your ignorance
outreaches your presumption!"
"Fie! Fie!" the athlete put in comfortably. "Let us make a
truce, for I announce to you the opportunity each to have
whatever you wish. We are to have at the proper moment,
according to the Jews, a celestial visitation which will enable
us to have what we most desire."
"You announce it!" the girl scoffed indignantly. "I have
heard of that ever since I was born!"
"I, too, have heard it," said Juventius.
"Well," said the unabashed athlete, "the Pharisee that brings
Amaryllis her fruit is so full of it that he gets prophecies
mixed with his prices and the patriarchs with his fruit. He says
that there are those that declare he is already in the city."
"That he has been seen?" Juventius asked, after a little
"No; merely suspected. They say that things go on in the
Temple which seem to show that some resident of their Olympus
already inhabits the air."
"I saw Seraiah to-day," one of the women said in a low voice.
"Silent as ever? Spotless as ever? Mysterious as ever?" the
The woman who had spoken shook her head at him as if alarmed.
"I can not bear to hear him ridiculed," she said. "Somehow it
seems blasphemous. They say he marks every one who laughs in his
"They are not many," the girl said. "For the most part, the
citizens of Jerusalem feel as apprehensive about him as you do."
"I wonder that John will stay in the Temple with a god in
it," Juventius said, as if he had not heard the rest of the
"John!" the athlete exclaimed. "John is an adventurer that
believes in nothing, has no cause and furthers this warfare for
loot and the possible chance of escape when the conflict comes."
"Simon is different," another said. "Now he is wild and mad
and insolent and foolhardy, because he believes that, no matter
what tangle the situation is in, the celestial emissary he
expects will straighten it out for him."
"In short, he means to work such a complexity here that the
man who unravels it must needs be divine."
At this moment the door that cut off the rest of the house
from this dining-room opened smartly and the supposed
Philadelphus stepped in. He closed the door behind him and
glanced at the filled table. Those there seated rose. He spoke
to each one by name, and after they had greeted him, they filed
out into the court and the servants began to remove the remnants
of their meal. Laodice rose at sign of this concerted deference
to Philadelphus but sat down again, with her lips compressed.
However they had disposed her, she would not accept the menial
attitude. She had not finished her honey-cakes.
He came round to her, drew up a chair and sat down beside
her. She ignored him, making a feint that was not entirely
successful at interest in her fruit.
"Who art thou, in truth?" he asked finally.
"Laodice," she answered coldly.
He sighed and she added nothing more.
"What can your purpose be in this?" he asked.
She ignored the question. After a longer silence, he said in
an altered and softened tone:
"What an innocent you are! Certainly this is your first
attempt! What marplot told you that such a thing as you have
essayed was possible?"
She put aside her plate and her cup, and turned to him.
"By your leave I will retire," she said.
"Not yet," he answered, smiling. "It is my duty as a Jew to
help you while there is time."
She settled back in her chair and looked at the cluster of
plants while he talked.
"Nothing so damages the beauty of a woman as trickery. No bad
woman is beautiful very long. There comes a canker on her soul's
beauty, in her face, that disfigures her, soon or late. Whoever
you are, whatever your condition, you are lovely yet. Be
beautiful; of a surety then you must be good."
It was the same old hypocritical pose that the bad man
assumes to cloak himself before innocence. Laodice remembered
the incident in the hills.
"Where," she asked coldly, "is he who was with you at
The pretender started a little, but the increase of alarm on
his face showed that he realized next that here was a peril in
this woman which he had overlooked.
"Gone," he said unreadily, "gone back to Ephesus."
She did not know what pain this announcement of that winsome
stranger's desertion would waken in her heart. Her eyes fell;
her brows lifted a little; the corners of her mouth became
pathetic. The pretender, casting a sidelong glance at her, saw
to his own safety that she had believed him.
"He was a parasite," he sighed, "living off my bounty. But
even that did not invite him when he neared the peril of this
city. So he turned back. I--I do not blame him," he added with a
"Blame him?" she said quickly. "You--you do not blame him?"
"No! Any place, any condition is more desirable than
residence in Jerusalem at this hour."
"If one seeks but to be comfortable. But here is a place for
work and for achievement," she declared.
"Too desperate an extreme. Nothing can be done here," he
observed, shrugging his shoulders.
She gazed at him with immense contempt.
"That from a son of Judas Maccabaeus!" she exclaimed.
He looked disconcerted.
"Why not?" he urged. "It is neither rational nor practical to
attempt the impossible. Jerusalem is doomed. I would but add
myself to the sacrifice did I interfere between destruction and
its sure prey."
After a silence in which she confronted him with many
emotions showing on her face, she said with infinite pity and
"O Philadelphus, you to throw greatness away!"
"Where, O my mysterious genius, are my army, my engines, my
subsistence, my advantage and the prize?"
"What was that dowry which was stolen from me to purchase for
you but these things? I brought it for this purpose. Another
than myself delivered it to you; the end is achieved; what use
will you make of it?"
"There is no nation here for that dowry to defend, no crown
for it to support. But for this same madness which possesses my
lady, the princess, I should depart this day for a safer
venture, in some safer country!"
She faced him intently.
"And you will do nothing for Judea?" she asked.
"What can be done?" he asked, throwing out his hands with a
"Oh," she exclaimed with a rush of passionate feeling, "that
I were you! You, with the materials for empire-building at your
feet! You, with the hour beseeching you, with a people searching
for you, with a treasury filled for you, with ancient prophecy
establishing you, ancient precept teaching you, and the cause of
God arming you! Philadelphus, son of a great patriot, what are
you saying! What can there be done! Oh rather, how dare you not
do! What have you about you but the inevitable end of Judah,
living contrary to God's plan for it! It is the conscience of
Israel rising against its sin and submission! It is the blood of
David rebelling against the heathen yoke! It is the hour
foretold by Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel and Daniel and the
Twelve, when Israel shall repent and be chastened and return to
the heritage of Jacob. Be the repairer of the breach! Be the
restorer of the paths to dwell in, my husband! Go out and let
Israel behold you! Help them to wipe out the shame of Babylonia
and Persia and Macedonia and Rome! Make Jerusalem not only a
sanctuary but a capital! Restore the glory of David and the
peace of Solomon, for those were God's days and Judah can not
prosper except as it returns to them! Philadelphus--"
Laodice halted abruptly in her appeal, breathless with
The amusement had gone out of his face and his expression was
one of mingled discomfort and surprise at her speech.
"Since you are a thinking woman," he answered, "I must answer
you soberly. Even I, expecting disorder and uproar in Jerusalem,
when I came from Ephesus, was not prepared for this chaos! Never
was such a time! Order is not possible in this extreme. It is
unthinkable. Nothing human can save Jerusalem!"
She laid her hand upon him.
"Nothing human!" she repeated quickly. "Seest not that this
is the time of the Messiah? Be ready to be helped of God!"
Philadelphus drew away from her uneasily and looked at her
from under lowered brows.
"They say," he said in a suppressed voice, as fearing his own
words, "that He has come and gone!"
She looked at him blankly. He was glad he had thought of
this; it would divert her from a discourse momently growing
unpleasant for him. And yet he was afraid of the thing he had
"What dost thou say?" she asked.
"He is come and gone--they say."
"Come and gone!"
He nodded irritably. It made him nervous to dwell on the
"Who say?" she demanded.
"Many! Many!" he whispered.
"It is not--do you believe it?" she persisted, with strange
terror waiting upon his answer. He moved uneasily but he
answered the truth. It was superstition in him that spoke.
"Something in me says it is true," Philadelphus whispered.
She stood transfixed; then all her horror rose in her and
cried out against the story.
"It can not be!" she cried. "See the misery and oppression,
here, tenfold! Nothing has been done! Nobody heard of Him! He
could not fail! What a blasphemy, what a travesty on His Word,
to come and fulfil it not and go hence unnoticed! It can not
"But, but--" he protested, somehow terrified by her denial,
"only you have not heard. Everywhere are those who believe it
and I saw--I saw--"
The growing violence of dissent on her face urged him to
speak what his shamed and guilty tongue hesitated to pronounce.
"I saw in Ephesus one who saw Him; I saw in Patmos one who
had reclined on His breast!"
"A--a--woman?" she whispered.
"No! No!" he returned in a panic. "A man, a prisoner, old and
white and terrible! But it was in his youth! He told me! And the
one in Ephesus, a red-beard, hunchbacked and half-blind and even
more terrible than the first! He saw Him after He was dead!"
"Dead!" Her lips shaped the word.
"They--yes! He was crucified!"
Her lips parted as if to speak the word, but her mind failed
to grasp it certainly. She stood moveless in an actual pain of
"But He rose again from the dead," he persisted, "and left
the earth to its own devices hereafter. And so behold Jerusalem!
"And there was one woman," he added, "who had been a scarlet
woman. She had anointed His feet with precious oil and wiped
them with her hair. And I saw her also--I sought them all out,
because they could do miracles and foretell events. Thousands
upon thousands believe in them."
"Crucified!" she whispered.
"They say," he went on, "that He pronounced judgment on
Jerusalem and that it now cometh to pass!"
The accumulated effect of the calamitous recital was to stun
her. She gazed at him with unintelligent eyes, and her lips
moved without speaking. For one reared in constant contemplation
of God's nearness to His children, acquainted with divine
politics, divine literature and divine law, cut off from the
world and devoted wholly to religion, the story of a divine
tragedy carried with it the full force of its fearful import.
Philadelphus' narrative meant to her the crumbling of earth and
the effacement of Heaven. She cried wildly her unbelief when
words returned to her. But under the fury of her denunciation,
unconsciously directed against the conviction that the story was
true, she felt her hope of a restored Kingdom of David wavering
toward a fall.
While she stood thus, Amaryllis, languid and pre-occupied,
entered the room with John of Gischala at her side. The Greek
noted Philadelphus with a quick accession of interest. John's
attention had been instantly arrested by the presence of the
other man. Philadelphus turned with fine ease to meet the man
whom he must regard as his enemy and Laodice shrank back in an
attempt to get out of sight of the trio.
"Welcome!" said Amaryllis to Philadelphus. "A fortunate visit
that makes possible an amnesty for two of my friends at once.
This, John, is Philadelphus of Ephesus, a seeker of diversion
out of mine own country come to see the end of this great
struggle thou wagest against Rome. And thou, Philadelphus, seest
before thee, John of Gischala, the arbiter of Judea's future. Be
With a comprehensive sweeping glance John inspected the man
"John of Gischala," he repeated in his feline voice, "the
oppressor John. Art thou not afraid of me, sir?"
"Dost thou meditate harm for me, sir?" Philadelphus smiled.
"Art thou, in that case, against me, sir?" John parried.
"On that hingeth his answer," Amaryllis said, glancing at
Laodice. "And here is this same pretty stranger who bewitched
thee yesterday. Know her as Laodice. Let that be parentage,
history, ambition and religion for her. She, too, seeks
diversion in Jerusalem, and is my guest for a while."
The Gischalan took Laodice's hand and held it.
"Welcome, thou," he said. "I will tolerate another man under
thy roof if thou wilt but make this pretty bird of passage a
permanency," he said to the Greek, after a silent study of
"Let her be a hostage dependent on thy good behavior. Lapse,
and I shall send her back to Olympus where they keep such
Philadelphus smiled at Laodice, but the shock of their recent
talk had shaken her too much to enter into this idle chaff on
the lips of those upon whom the fortunes of Israel depended at
that very hour.
John looked at her for a long time.
"Amaryllis veils thee in the enchantment of mystery. I think
she is tired of me and would have me interested in another
woman. She does all things well. Who art thou, in truth?"
The Greek lifted her head and gazed with overt anxiety at the
girl; Philadelphus turned toward her uneasily. Here was an
opportunity for Laodice either as a disappointed adventuress or
as a supplanted wife, to take revenge by exposing this pair of
conspirators pledged to undermine the Gischalan. But the girl
had no such thought.
"I am Laodice," she said unreadily. "What history I have
belongs to another. What future shall be mine depends on others.
"If you mean to throw me off, Amaryllis, I shall not miss
you," said John.
The Greek smiled and plucking Philadelphus' sleeve led both
"Do not commit yourself," she said to John, "there is yet
another woman under this roof. You shall have a choice."
They disappeared in the direction of her hall.
Laodice, stunned, amazed and shaken, stood still. The stock
of her troubles amounted to a sum of such magnitude that she
could not grasp it clearly. The entire structure which her life
training and all her purposes, the hope of her house and her
husband's, the future of Judea and the King to come, had
constituted, had been attacked and threatened to crumble and be
swept away in a few hours' time.
Out of the wreck she rescued one hope. Momus would return
from the west with proofs in a few days' time--only a few days!
On his way to the oaken door that was for ever double-barred,
in that small hall which led to the apartments of Amaryllis'
corps of artists, Philadelphus met Salome, the actress. He would
have passed her without a word, but the woman, armed with the
nettle of a small triumph over the man who held her in contempt,
could not forbear piercing him as he passed.
"Hieing away to excite your disappointment further?" she
said. "Has the forlorn lady convinced you, yet, that she is
indeed your wife?"
"Had I that two hundred talents, I would confess her!" he
"Cruel obstacle! But that two hundred talents is locked away
safely, out of your reach. Why do you not run away with this
Philadelphus glowered at her.
"I have been known to make way with those who stood in my
way," he declared.
"I sleep with my door locked," she answered, "and I ever face
you. I need never be afraid, therefore."
For a moment he was silent, while she sensed that overweening
hate and menace which charged the air about him.
"It is not all as it should be," he said finally. "You are
not rid of me. I shall stay."
"You should," she responded comfortably. "You are a show of
domesticity which lends color to our claim of wedded state. But
you may go or stay. As usual, you are not essential."
"I have been known to be superfluous. However it may be, I
get much pleasure in the companionship of this lovely creature,
the single flaw in the fine fabric of your villainy. Do not fear
her convincing me. She might convince others."
There was no response; after a silence he said as he moved
"I shall warn her to feed a morsel of her food to the parrots
ere she tastes it, however."
He was gone. The woman felt of the keys that swung under the
folds of her robes. Then she, too, went on.
The oaken door was still fast closed when Philadelphus
reached it, but he knew that the girl, who lived within, came
out to walk in the sunshine of Amaryllis' court at certain hours
while the household was engaged within doors.
He had not long to wait. She came out in a little while, and
glanced up and down the hall; but he had heard the turn of the
bolt and had stepped into shadow in time. Reassured that no one
was near, she emerged and passing down the hall entered the
And there presently he joined her.
He sat down on one of the stone seats and smiled at her.
"Do I appear excited?" he asked.
She glanced at him indifferently.
"No," she said.
"I have this day seen destruction resolved for the city."
She took his easy declaration with a frown. If it were true
he should not show that flippancy; if it were not he should not
"I saw," he continued, "Titus and his beloved Nicanor ride
around the walls. Though they were the full length of a bow-shot
from me, I knew what they talked about. Now, this young Nicanor
is a gad that tickles Titus when his soft heart would urge him
into tendernesses toward the enemy. But for Nicanor, Titus would
have withdrawn his legions long ago and left Jerusalem to die of
its own violences.
"On the day that you came into Jerusalem, Titus, as a display
of amicable intentions, rode up to the walls without arms or
armor, trusting to the Jews' soldierly honor in refusing to
attack an unarmed man. But the Jews have never been instructed
in the nice points of military courtesy, so they went out
against him by thousands. And but for the fact that he is
practised in dodging arrows and his horse is used to running
away, Emperor Vespasian would have to leave the aegis to the
"Any Roman but Titus would remember this against the Jews
until he had put the last one in bondage, but Titus is not a
Roman. I think some-times that he is a Christian, since it is
their boast to love their enemies. Whatever his feelings after
that ignominious adventure of a few days ago, forth he rides
this morning; beside him the Gad, Nicanor; behind him, that
sweet traitor, Josephus.
"The Darling of Mankind rode so meditatively, so dejectedly,
that I knew by his attitude, he said: 'Alack, it galls me to go
against this goodly city!'
"By the swagger of the Gad I knew he said: 'Dost gall thee,
in truth? Then truly, alack! Withhold thy hand until the city
comes out against thee, so thou canst hush thy conscience saying
that they began it!'
"Saith the Darling, 'But there be babes and innocent men and
women within those walls, who, deserving most of all, shall
suffer the greatest!'
"'By Hecate!' quoth the Gad, 'there is not a yearling within
that city possessing the power to pucker its lips but would spit
"'It would be sacred innocence!' declares Titus.
"'Or an old man that would not burn thine ears with
"'That would be holy dotage!'
"'Or a fine young man but would pale thee on a pike!'
"'Then let some one whom they hate less venomously, beseech
them to their own salvation,' implores the Darling.
"Whereupon the Gad beckons insinuatingly to Josephus.
"'Josephus,' says he, 'let us, being more lovable men than
Titus, go up unto these walls and give the Jews a chance to be
"Josephus turns pale, but Nicanor rides upon Jerusalem. And
at that what should a miscreant Jew do but string an arrow and
plunge it nicely, like a bodkin in a pincushion, in the fat
shoulder of the Gad! Alas! It was the ruin of the Holy City!
When Titus, pale with concern, reaches his friend kicking on the
ground, does the Gad curse the Jews and inveigh against the
hardy walls that contain them? Not he! He struggles about so
that he may look into the eyes of Titus and commands him to make
war on them instantly under pain of the accusation of partiality
to them against his friends! And behold, war is declared. I,
with mine own eyes, saw siege laid effectively about our unhappy
She gazed at him with alarmed, angry, accusing eyes.
"And yet you do nothing!" she said to him.
He smiled and let his lazy glance slip over her, but he made
"O Philadelphus," she said to him, "how you affront
"There are more captivating things than such opportunity. I
have known from the beginning that there was nothing here."
She looked at him with unquiet eyes. Why, then, had he
written so confidently to her father, if he had not believed in
the hope for Judea?
"From the beginning?" she repeated with inquiry. "You wrote
my father from Caesarea--"
"Your father?" he repeated, smiling with insinuation.
"Who is your father?" he asked.
She turned away from him and walked to the other end of the
garden. He had never meant to aspire to the Judean throne! He
had simply written so determinedly to Costobarus, that the
merchant of Ascalon would have no hesitancy in giving him two
hundred talents! In these past days, she had learned enough that
was blameworthy in this Philadelphus to make him more than
despicable in her eyes. Again, as hourly since the last
interview in the depression in the hills beyond the well, the
fine bigness of that lovable companion of his, that had vanished
for all time from her life, rose in radiant contrast. She turned
back to her husband, with the pallor of longing and homesickness
in her face.
"Does this other woman see no fault in this, your idleness?"
"She! By the Shades, she sees nothing in me but fault! I
would get me up like a sane man and go out of this mad place,
but she hath locked up her dowry away from me, which was the
simple cause that invited me to join her, and bids me go without
her. And I might--but for one other attraction, dearer than the
treasure, which also I would take with me."
"Even if she forces you into deeds, I shall forgive her," she
declared at last.
He smiled a baffling smile and she looked at him in despair.
The very charm of his personal appearance awakened resentment in
her; his deft and easy complaisance angered her because it could
be effective. She hated the superficial excellence in him which
made him a pleasant companion. He had refused to discuss her
identity further, except to prevent her in her own attempts to
identify herself. He did not refer to the incidents of their
journey to Jerusalem, but she felt that he was conscious of all
these things, and her resentment was so great that she put it
out of sight, lest at the time when she should be proved she
would have come to hate him to the further thwarting of their
work for Israel.
"It is sweet to have you concerned for me. Now you may
understand how much I am troubled for your own welfare. Do not
regard me with that unbending gaze. I am, first and before all
else, your friend."
"You have changed," she said slowly. "I did not find in you
this solicitude in the hills."
"Unhappiness," he sighed, "makes most men law-less. I should
be even now as bad, were I not sure of the sympathy you feel for
She looked at him with large disdain.
"Does not this woman treat you well?" she asked with the
first glimmer of sarcasm in her eyes.
"Her displeasure in me is that I do not make her a queen;
yours, however, that I can not save this doomed nation! Her
ambitions are for herself; yours are for me. Which waketh the
response in my heart, lady?"
"What have I lived for?" she burst out. "For what was I
brought up and schooled? For what have I sacrificed all the
light and desirable things of my youth, but for--"
"Nay! Do not show me, yet, that you are only bent on being
queen!" he exclaimed.
"I care for nothing but the rescue of Judea!" she cried
passionately. "There is nothing left to me but that!"
"Then your ambitions are still for me. Alas, that the Messiah
has come and gone!"
It was his first reference to the great calamity he had told
to her a short time before. Its recurrence after she had
resolved to regard it as an impossible and blasphemous tale
brought a chill to her heart.
"If I can prove to you that there is no hope for Jerusalem,
what then?" he asked suddenly.
She flung off the question with a gesture.
"Answer me. What then?"
"It is unimaginable what shall come to pass when God deserts
"No need for imaginings. Look at Jerusalem and observe the
fact. And if we be abandoned, what fealty do we owe to a God
that deserts us? If you believe or not you are lost. Let us go
out and live."
"If God has deserted us," she said scornfully, "how shall we
be happier elsewhere than here?"
"Every god to its own country. The Olympians are a jovial
lot. I have seen Joy's very self in heathendom."
She moved away but he rose and followed her.
"Whoever you are," he said in another tone, "your heritage of
innocence and earnestness is plain as an open scroll upon your
face. Nothing in all the world so appeals to the generosity in
the heart of a man as the purity of the woman who is pure. I
have said that I am your friend. I do not hold it against you
that you doubt that word. Nothing remains but the deed to
confirm it. This place is lost--as good as a heap of ashes and
splintered rock, this hour! Come away! I'll sacrifice the
treasure to protect you!"
"Philadelphus," she said gravely, "we were sent hither to
succeed or to suffer the penalty of our failure. My father died
that we might have this opportunity. We must use it, or perish
He shook his head and walked away a step or two.
"You have not the true meaning of life," he said. "Indeed how
few of us understand! Obstacles are not an incentive toward
attaining impossible things. They are barriers set up by the
kindly disposed gods to inform man that he is opposing destiny
when he aspires to things he should not have. We were not made
to fling ourselves against mighty opposition throughout the
little daylight we have; to wound ourselves, to deny ourselves,
to alienate that winsome sprite Pleasure, to attain something
which was not intended for us by the signs of the obstructions
placed in our paths. Who are we that we should achieve mightily!
What are we when the gods have done with us, but a handful of
dust! Who saves himself from age and unloveliness and ultimate
imbecility, by all the superhuman efforts he may exert! A pest
on the first morose man that made dismal endeavor a virtue!"
She looked at him with amazement, though until that hour she
believed that this man could astonish her no more.
"Misfortune comes often enough without our knocking at her
door," he continued. "Mankind is the only creature with conceit
enough to seek to emulate the gods. It is wrong to think that to
be moral is to be miserable. Nature's scheme for us, faithfully
fulfilled, is always pleasurable. We have only to recognize it,
and receive its benefits. Nothing on earth is luckier than man,
if he but knew it. A murrain on ambition! Let us be glad!"
How could she be glad with such a man! The time, the call of
the hour, the need of her nation, the obligation to her dead
father--all these things stood in her way. How had she felt, were
this that engaging stranger who had called himself Hesper,
urging her to be glad with him! She felt, then and there, the
recurrence of guilt which the sight of the reproachful face of
Momus had brought to her when she found herself forgetting her
loyalty in the presence of that winsome man. The thought stopped
the bitter speech that rose to her lips. She looked away and
made no answer. He was close beside her.
"Come away and let this woman who wishes the kingdom have it.
She had liefer be rid of me than not."
She gazed at him with a peculiar blankness stealing over her
"Oh, for the quintessence of all compounded oaths to charge
my vow!" he said.
"For what?" she asked.
"My love, Phryne!"
At the old pagan name with which he had affronted her that
morning in the hills, Laodice drew back sharply.
"Dost thou believe in me?" she asked.
"That I am thy wife."
"Tut! Back to the old quarrel! No! But by Heaven, thou art my
She stopped at the edge of an exclamation and looked at him
with widening eyes.
"Come, let us get out of this place. I can get the dowry! Let
her stay here and be queen over this place if she will. I had
rather possess you than all the kingdoms!"
But Laodice flung him off while a flame of anger crimsoned
"Thou to insult me, thy lawful wife!" she brought out between
clenched teeth. "Thou to offer affront to thine own marriage! I
to live in shame with mine own husband!"
The insult in his speech overwhelmed her and after a moment's
lingering for words to express her rage, she turned and fled
back to her room and barred her door upon him.
After sunset the lights leaped up in the hall of Amaryllis
the Greek. Presently there came a knock at Laodice's door. The
girl, fearing that Philadelphus stood without, sat still and
made no answer. A moment later the visitor spoke. It was the
little girl who acted as page for the Greek.
"Open, lady; it is I, Myrrha."
Laodice went to the windows.
"Amaryllis sends thee greeting and would speak with thee, in
her hall," the girl said.
Reluctantly Laodice, who feared the revelation which the
light might have to make of her stunned and revolted face,
followed the page.
The Greek was standing, as if in evidence that the interview
would not be long. She noted the intense change on the face of
her young guest and watched her narrowly for any new light which
her disclosure would bring.
"I have sent for thee," the Greek began smoothly, "to tell
thee somewhat that I should perhaps withhold, that thou shouldst
sleep well, this night. But it is a perplexity perhaps thou
wouldst face at once."
Laodice bowed her head.
"It is this: Titus and his friend, Nicanor, approached too
close the walls this day, and Nicanor was wounded by an arrow.
In retaliation, perfect siege hath been laid about the walls.
None may come into the city."
"And--Momus, my servant," Laodice cried, waking for the first
time to the calamity in this blockade, "he can not come back to
"No. If he attempts it, he will be captured and put to
Laodice clasped her hands, while drop by drop the color left
"In God's name," she whispered, "what will become of me?"
Amaryllis made no answer.
"Can--can I not go out?" Laodice asked presently, depending
entirely on the Greek as adviser.
"You can--but to what fortune? Perhaps--" She stopped a moment.
"No," she continued, "you have never been in a camp. No; you can
not go out."
"What, then, am I to do?" Laodice cried with increasing
Amaryllis shrugged her shoulders.
"I can advise with John," she said. "Doubtless he will allow
you to remain here until you can provide yourself with other
Laodice heard this cold sentence with a chill of fear that
was new to her. Faint pictures of hunger and violence,
terrifying in the extreme, confronted her. Yet not any of them
frightened her more than the offered favor of the Gischalan. Her
indignation at the woman who had supplanted her swept over her
with a reflexive flush of heat.
"God of my fathers, judge her in her lies, and pour the fire
of Thy wrath upon her!" she exclaimed vehemently.
Amaryllis gazed curiously at the girl. In her soul, she asked
herself if there might not be unsounded depths of fierceness in
this nature which she ought not to stir up.
"Thou hast hope," she said tactfully. "She hath no such
beauty as thine!"
"Nothing but my proofs!" Laodice broke in.
"And Philadelphus is a young man."
"Rejecting her only because I am fairer than she! He is no
just man!" Laodice cried hotly.
"Softly, child," the Greek said, smiling; "thou hast said
that he is thy husband."
Laodice turned away, her brain whirling with anger, fear and
"Well?" said the Greek coolly, after a silence.
"Where shall I go?" Laodice asked.
"Thou hast been too tenderly nurtured to go into the streets.
I shall ask John to shelter thee until thou canst care for
Laodice looked at her without understanding.
"Thou canst not stay here for long because the wife to
Philadelphus is in a way a power in my house and she will not
suffer it. But never fear; Jerusalem is not yet so far gone that
it would not enjoy a pretty stranger."
The curious sense of indignation that possessed Laodice was
purely instinctive. Her mind could not sense the actual insult
in the Greek's words.
"I would advise you to be kind to Philadelphus."
"But, but--" Laodice cried, struggling with tears and shame,
"he has this day offered insult to his own marriage with me, by
asking that I live in shame with him till it could be proved
that I am his wife!"
The Greek's smile did not change.
"If we weigh all the unpleasantness of wedded life in too
delicate a balance, my friend, I fear there would be little,
indeed, that would escape condemnation as humiliating."
Laodice raised her scarlet face to look in wonder at the
Greek. The cold smiling lips dismayed her for a moment.
"And thou seest no shame in this?" she faltered.
"Thou sayest he is thy husband; why resent it?"
"Dost thou not see--see that--what am I but a shameless
woman, if I live with him, though I be married to him thrice
"After all," said the Greek, after a silence which said more
than words, "it is the consciousness of your own integrity which
must influence you; not what others think of you. It is not as
if your husband thought better of you than you really are."
"And you believe that I--" Laodice began and stopped,
Amaryllis, smiling, moved toward the inner corridor of her
house. At the threshold of the arch she called back:
"Please yourself, my friend," and was gone.
Laodice was, by this time, stunned and intensely repelled.
The hand on which Amaryllis had laid hers in passing tingled
under the touch. Unconsciously she shook off the sensation of
contact. The whole clear white interior of the hall became
instantly unclean. Her standards of right and wrong were shaken;
the wholesale assaults on her ideals left her shocked and
unconfident. She felt the panic that all innocent women feel
when suddenly aroused to the unfitness of their surroundings.
When she turned to hurry to her room, a flood of scarlet
rushed into her cheeks and she shrank back, shaken with surprise
Before her stood a man, pale and thin, with his eyes upon
Joseph, the shepherd, son of Thomas of Pella, moved out of
the green marsh before sunset, as he had planned to do, but not
for the original motive. The sheep, indeed, would not have
flourished in that dampness, rich as it was in young grass, but,
more than that, there was no shelter for the wounded man who lay
by the roadside.
The shepherd, who knew the hills of Judea as far as the Plain
of Esdraelon as well as he knew the stony streets of the
Christian city, located the nearest roof as one which a
fagot-maker had occupied two years before. It was some distance
up in the hills to the west. Since the scourge of war had passed
over Palestine, there were scores of such hovels, vacant and
abandoned to the bats and the small wild life about the
countryside, and the boy doubted seriously if the thatch that
covered it were still whole. But he attracted the attention of a
pair of robust young Galileans on the way to the Passover, and,
by their help, carried the wounded man to shelter in this hut.
Urge, the sheep-dog, rushed the sheep out of the sedge and
hurried them after his master, and in an hour Joseph was once
more settled, his sheep were once more nosing over the rocky
slants of a hill, his dog once more flat on his belly, watching.
But it was a different day, after all.
The hut of the fagot-maker was the four walls and a roof and
the earth that floored it, but it was wealth because it was
shelter. It had two doors which were merely openings in the
sides and between them lay the man on sheep-pelts with a cotton
abas, which one of the Galileans had left, over him. At one of
these doors, sitting sidewise, so that he could watch in or out,
All night the man on the sheepskins spoke to the blackened
thatch above him of the siege of Jerusalem and the treachery of
Julian of Ephesus. He read letters from Costobarus and
instructed Aquila over and over again. Then he tossed a coin and
spent hours counting the hairs in the long locks that fell from
the shining head of the moon down upon his breast, at midnight.
At times the boy, with the exquisite beauty of sleep on his
heavy lids, would creep over from his vigil at the door and lay
his cool hand on the sick man's forehead. And the sick man would
speak in a low controlled voice, saying:
"Naaman being a leper, my friend, why was not the law
fulfilled against him?"
But the soothing influence of that touch did not endure.
Again, he took census of the fighting-men of Judea, by the Roman
statistics which he had from the decurion, and searched through
his tunic for his wallet to write down the result. Failing to
find it, he raised himself to shout for Julian to return his
Again the cool hands would stroke the fevered forehead and
the sick man would say:
"Good my Lord, they fetched snow from the mountains to cool
But how white the hands of that fair girl in the hills! Why,
these hands beside hers were as satyrs' hooves to anemones! Her
lashes were so long, and he knew that her lips were as cool as
the heart of a melon; but that husband of hers knew better than
And he, grandson of the just Maccabee, allied by marriage to
the noble line of Costobarus through his daughter, Laodice, the
bride with the greatest dowry in Judea, had staked his soul on
the toss of a coin and had lost it!
At this the shepherd boy straightened himself and gave
But he was wholly lost, the sick man would go on, rolling his
head from side to side; he could not join Laodice because he had
loved a woman of the wayside and could not cast out that love;
he was not a Jew because he had rather linger with this strange
beauty in the hills than hasten on the rescue of Jerusalem; he
had not apostatized, though he was as wholly lost as if he had
done so; he hated the heathen and would not be one of them. He
would abide in the wilderness and perish, if this young spirit
that abode by his side, with a face like Michael's and a form so
like the shepherd David's, would only suffer the darkness to
come at him.
"Unless I mistake," the little shepherd said at such times,
"there is more than a wound troubling this head."
Thus day in and day out the shepherd watched by the sick man
who had no medicine but the recuperative powers of his strong
young body. So there came a night when the boy, rousing from a
doze into which he had dropped, saw the sick man stretched upon
his pallet motionless as he had not been for days. The shepherd
felt the forehead and the wrists and sank again into slumber. At
dawn he rose from the earth which had been his bed throughout
this time and went forth to attend his flocks, and when he was
gone, the sick man opened his eyes.
He looked up at the blackened rafters; he looked out at
either door and frowned perplexed, first at the hills, then at
the valley. He raised his head and dropped it suddenly with
great amazement and much weariness. Finally he ventured to lift
a wilted and fragile hand and looked at it. It was not white;
but it was unsteady as a laurel leaf beside a waterfall. After a
moment's rest from the exertion he parted his lips to speak, but
a whisper faint as the sound of the air in the shrubs issued
from them. He listened but there was no answer. There was the
activity of birds and insects, moving leaves and bleating sheep
without, but it was all blithely indifferent to him. Finally he
extended his arms and pressing them on his pallet tried to rise,
but he could have lifted the earth as easily. Falling back and
dazed with weakness, he lay still and slept again.
When he awoke rested sufficiently to think, he recalled that
he had been twice stabbed by Julian of Ephesus by the marsh on
the road to Jerusalem. He had probably been carried to this
place and nursed back to life by the householder.
Then he remembered. In his search after cause for his
cousin's attack upon him, he readily fixed upon Julian's rage at
the Maccabee's preemption of the beautiful girl in the hills.
Instantly, the disgrace of violence committed in a quarrel
between himself and his cousin over the possession of a woman,
appealed to him. And even as instantly, his defiant heart
accepted its shame and persisted in its fault. It is an extreme
of love, indeed, if no circumstance however impelling raises a
regret in the heart of a man; for he flung off with a weak
gesture any chiding of conscience against cherishing his dream,
and abandoned himself wholly to his yearning for the girl in the
tissue of moonbeams.
There was a quiet step on the earth at the threshold. Joseph,
the shepherd, stood there. The two looked at each other; one
with inquiry and weakness in his face; the other with good-will
"Boy," said the Maccabee feebly, "I have been sick."
"Friend, I am witness to that. I am your nurse," the boy
After a little silence the Maccabee extended his hand. The
boy took it with a sudden flush of emotion, but feeling its
weakness, refrained from pressing it too hard, and laid it back
with great care on his patient's breast. The Maccabee looked out
at the door, away from the full eyes of his young host.
He was touched presently, and a cup of milk was silently put
to his lips. He drank and turning himself with effort fell
When he awoke again, after many hours, it was night. In the
door with his head dropped back between his shoulders gazing up
at the sky overhead, sat the boy.
"Where," the Maccabee began, "are the rest of you?"
The boy turned around quickly, and answered with all
"I am all here."
"Did you," the Maccabee began again, after silence, "care for
"There has been no one here but us," the boy said, hesitating
at the symptoms of gratitude in the Maccabee's voice.
"You and me."
After another silence, the Maccabee laughed weakly.
"It requires two to constitute 'us' and I am, by all signs,
not a whole one!"
"But you will be in a few days," the boy declared admiringly.
"You are an excellent sick man."
The Maccabee looked at him meditatively.
"I am merely perverse," he said darkly; "I knew it would be
so much pleasure to my murderer to know that I died, duly."
The shepherd repressed his curiosity, as the best thing for
his patient's welfare, and suggested another subject rather
"I have been thinking," he said, "about Jerusalem. I was
there once upon a time."
"Once!" the Maccabee said. "You are old enough to attend the
"But our people do not attend the feast. We are Christians."
The Maccabee moved so that he could look at the boy. He might
have known it, he exclaimed to himself. It was just such an
extreme act of mercy, this assuming the care of a stranger in a
wilderness, as he had ever known Christians to do in that city
of irrational faiths, Ephesus.
"Well?" he said, hoping the boy would go on and spare him an
expression on that announcement.
"I can not forget Jerusalem."
"No one forgets Jerusalem--except one that falls in love by
the wayside," the man said.
Again the boy detected a ring of unexplained melancholy in
his patient's voice, and talked on as a preventive.
"Urban, the pastor, took me there. It was in the days of mine
instruction for baptism. He went to Jerusalem to trial, but
there was disorder in the city about the procurator, who was
driven out that day, and Urban was not called. But he remained,
lest he be accused of fleeing, and then it was he took me over
the walks of Jesus."
"Jesus--that is the name," the Maccabee said to himself.
"They are born, given in marriage, fall or flourish, live and
die in that name. Likewise they pick up a wounded stranger and
care for him in that name. They are a strange people, a strange
"They would not let us into the Temple," Joseph went on,
"because I am an Arab, born a Christian. So I could not see
where Jesus was presented, in infancy. But we went to the
synagogues where He taught; we went out upon Olivet to
Gethsemane where He suffered in the Garden; we climbed that hill
to the south from which He looked upon the City and wept over
it, and prophesied this hour. Then we sought the ravine where
Judas betrayed Him with a kiss, and afterward Urban led me over
the streets by which He was taken first to Annas and to Caiaphas
and thence to Pilate and to Herod. After that, by the Way of the
Cross to Golgotha; from there to His Tomb. And when we had seen
the Guest-chamber and stood upon the Place of the Ascension, I
needed no further instruction."
The boy had forgotten his guest. By the rapt light in his
eyes, the Maccabee knew that the boy was once more journeying
over the stones of the streets of the Holy City, or standing
awed on the polished pavements of its lordly interiors, or on
the topmost point of her hills with the broad-winged wind from
the east flying his long locks.
"If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget
her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to
the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief
joy," the Maccabee said, half to himself.
The boy heard him, but his patient's words merged with the
dream that held him entranced. The Maccabee went on.
"So said the Psalmist to himself," he said. "What had he to
do for Jerusalem; what did he fear would win him away from that
labor for Jerusalem, that he took that vow? It was easy enough
to revile Babylon, the oppressor, that stood between him and
Jerusalem; but what if he had been the captive of beauty, and
chained by the bonds of lovely hair!"
The boy turned now and looked at the Maccabee. The eyes of
the two met fair. Then the Maccabee unburdened his soul and told
of the girl to this child, who was a Christian and a humble
shepherd in the starved hills of Judea.
"I met her," the boy said after a long silence. "And by what
I learned of her spirit that night, she will not be happy to
know that you have stepped aside for her sake."
"You met her, also; and you loved her, too?"
The boy assented gravely. The Maccabee slowly lifted his eyes
from the young shepherd's face, till they rested on the slope of
sky filled with stars visible through the open door.
"And she would have me go on to this city, to the one who
awaits me there and whom I shall not be glad to see; take up the
labor that will be robbed of its chief joy in its success and
live the long, long days of life without her?"
The boy made no answer to this; he knew that this white-faced
man was wrestling with himself and comment from him was not
expected. By the light of the failing fire without, he saw that
face sober, take on shadow and grow immeasurably sad. The
minutes passed and he knew that the Maccabee would not speak
Thereafter followed three days of silence, except the
essential communication or the mutterings of the Maccabee
against his weakness and unsteadiness. On the fourth day the
Maccabee declared that he was able to travel. Joseph protested,
but not for long. He had learned in the sojourn of his guest
that this man was in the habit of doing as he pleased. So the
shepherd sighed and let him go reluctantly.
"But," he insisted to the last moment, "remember that Pella
is a City of Refuge. If Jerusalem ceases to be hospitable, come
A thought struck him.
"She," he said in a low tone, "promised that she would come."
"Then expect me," the Maccabee said.
The shepherd boy smiled contentedly and blessed the Maccabee
and let him go. As long as the man could see, his young host
watched him, and at the summit of the hill the Maccabee turned
to wave his final farewell. When the path dipped down the other
side of the hill, the man felt that more than the sunshine had
been cut off by its great shadow.
He did not go forward with a light heart. The whole of his
purpose had suddenly resolved itself into duty. There had been a
certain nervous expectancy that was almost fear in the thought
of meeting the grown woman he had married in her babyhood. He
had lived in Ephesus with an unengaged heart in all the crowd of
opportunities for love, good and bad. He had magnetism,
strength, aloofness and a certain beauty--four qualifications
which had made him over and over again immensely attractive to
all classes of Ephesian women. But whatever his response to
them, he had not loved. Love and marriage were things so apart
from his activities as to be uninteresting. When finally he was
called in full manhood to assume without preliminary both of
these things, he was uncomfortable and apprehensive. But after
he had met the girl in the hills, his sensations of reluctance
became emphatic, became an actual dread, so that he thrust away
all thought of the domestic side of the life that confronted
him, and bitterly resigned all hope in the tender things that
were the portion of all men. The villainy of Julian of Ephesus
engaged him chiefly, and his punishment. After that, then the
establishment of his kingdom, politics, conquest and power--but
Late that afternoon, he stepped out of a wady west of
Jerusalem and halted.
Ahead of him ran a road depressed between worn, hard, bare
banks of earth, past a deserted pool, marged with stone, up
shining surfaces of outcropping rock, through avenues of
clustered tombs, pillars, pagan monuments which were tracks of
the Herods, dead and abandoned, splendid pleasure gardens,
suburban palaces lifeless and still, toward the looming Tower of
Hippicus, brooding over a fast-closed gate.
The Maccabee nodded. It was as he had expected. The city was
It was afternoon, a week-day at the busiest portal of
Jerusalem; but save for the fixed and pygmy sentry upon the
tower, there was no living thing to be seen, no single sound to
Beyond the mounting hills of the City of David stood up,
shouldering like mantles of snow their burden of sun-whitened
houses. Above it all, supreme over the blackened masonry of
Roman Antonia, stood a glittering vision in marble and gold--the
Temple. At a distance it could not be seen that any of those
inwalled splendors lacked; Jerusalem appeared intact, but the
multitudes at the gate were absent and the voice of the city was
For one expecting to find Jerusalem animated and beholding it
still and lifeless, how quickly its white walls, its white
houses and its sparkling Temple became haunted, dead crypts and
But presently there came across the considerable distance
that lay between him and Jerusalem, a sound remarkably distinct
because of the utter stillness that prevailed. It was the jingle
of harness and the ring of hoof-beats upon stones embedded in
the gray earth.
A Roman in armor polished like gold, with a floating mantle
significantly bordered in purple, rode slowly into the open
space, drew up his horse and stopped. The Maccabee looked at him
sharply, then quitted his shelter and walked down toward the
rider. At sight of him, the horseman clapped his hand to his
short sword, but the Maccabee put up his empty hands and smiled
at the man of all superior advantage. Then the light of
recognition broke over the Roman's face.
"You!" he cried.
"I, Caesar," the Maccabee responded. For a moment there was
silence in which the Jew watched the flickering of amazement and
perplexity on Titus' face.
"What do you here, away from Ephesus, and worse, attempting
to run my lines?" he demanded finally.
The Maccabee signed toward the walls.
"My wife is there," he said briefly.
The Roman made an exclamation which showed the sudden change
"Solicitous after these many years?" he demanded.
"She has two hundred talents," the Maccabee replied.
Titus smiled and shook his head.
"I ought to keep her there. Rome must get treasure enough out
of that rebellious city to repay her for her pains in
"Pay yourself out of another pocket than mine. It will take
two hundred talents to repay me for all that I have suffered to
get it. I want the countersign, Titus. You owe me it."
"Will you come out of there, at once?" the Roman demanded.
"Not that I suspect you will make the city harder to take, but I
should dislike to make war on an old comrade in my Ephesian
The Maccabee looked doubtful.
"I can not promise," he said. "At least do not hold off the
siege until you see me again without the walls. It might lose
you prestige in Rome."
Titus swung his bridle while he gazed at the Maccabee.
"I wish Nicanor were here," he said finally. "He might be
able to see harm in you; but I never could. You will have to
promise me something--anything so it is a promise--before I can
let you in. Something to appease Nicanor, else I shall never
hear the last of this."
The Maccabee laughed, the sudden harsh laugh of one impelled
to amusement unexpectedly.
"Assure Nicanor, for me, that I shall come out of Jerusalem
one day. Dead or alive, I shall do it! You need not add that I
did not specify the date of my exodus. What is the word?"
"Berenice. And Jove help you! Farewell."
Titus rode on.
A little later, after a parley with the Roman sentries and
again with the sentries at the Gate of Hippicus, the Maccabee
was admitted to the Holy City.
About him as he passed through the gates were the soldiers of
Simon. They were not such men as he expected to see defending
the City of David. There was an extravagant, half-pastoral
manner about them, a pose of which they should not have been
conscious at this hour of peril for the nation and the
hierarchy. He looked at their incomplete, meaningless uniform,
at their arms, half savage, at their faces, half mad, and
believed that he, with an army rationally organized and
effectually equipped, would have little difficulty in subduing
the unbalanced forces of Simon.
Since siege was laid, he did not expect to be met by
Amaryllis' servant in the purple turban. He approached a
"I seek Amaryllis, the Seleucid," he said.
The eye of the Jew traveled over him, with some disapproval.
"The mistress of the Gischalan?" was the returned inquiry.
The Maccabee assented calmly. The young man indicated a broad
street moving with people which led with tolerable directness
toward the base of Moriah.
"Hence to the Tyropean Bridge at the end of this street;
thence down beside the bridge into Gihon. Cross to the wall
supporting Moriah and builded against it thou wilt find a new
house, of the fashion of the Greeks. If thou canst pass her
sentries, thou wilt find her within."
The Maccabee thanked his informant and turned through the
Passover hosts to follow the directions.
To a visitor recently familiar with the city, Jerusalem would
have been strange; he would have been lost in its ruined and
disordered streets. But this man came with only the four corners
of the compass to direct him and the Temple as a landmark to
guide him. Therefore though he entered upon territory which he
had not traversed since childhood he went forward confidently.
It was not simple; it was not readily done; but the darkness
found him at his destination.
When he was within a rod of the house, he was halted by a
Jewish soldier. He whispered to the man the word which Amaryllis
had sent to him, and the soldier stepped aside and let him pass.
In another moment he was admitted to the house of Amaryllis.
A wick coated with aromatic wax burned in the brass bowl on a
tripod and cast a crystal clear light down upon the exedra and
the delicate lectern with its rolls of parchment and brass
cylinders from which they had been withdrawn. Opposite, with her
arms close down to her sides, her hands clenched, her shoulders
drawn up, stood the girl he had played for and won in the hills
A sudden wave of delight, a sudden rush of blood through his
veins, swept before it and away for that time all memory of his
struggle and his resolution to renounce her. All that was left
was the irresistible storm of impulse upon his reserve and his
When she recognized him, she started violently, smote her
hands together and gazed at him with such overweening joy
written on her face, that he would have swept her into his arms,
but for her quick recovery and retreat. In shelter behind the
exedra she halted, fended from him by the marble seat. He gazed
across its back at her with all the love of his determined soul
shining in his eyes.
"You! You!" she cried.
"But you!" he cried back at her across the exedra.
The preposterousness of their greetings appealed to them at
that moment and they both laughed. He started around the exedra;
she moved away.
"Stay!" he begged. "I want only to touch--your hand."
Shyly, she let him take both of her hands, and he lifted them
in spite of her little show of resistance and kissed them.
"We might have saved ourselves farewells and journeyed
together," he said blithely.
"But I thought you had gone back to Ephesus," she said.
"What! After you had told me you were going to Jerusalem? No.
I have been nursing a knife wound in a sheep hovel in the hills
since an hour after I saw you last."
Her lips parted and her face grew grave, deeply compassionate
and grieved. If there remained any weakness in his frame before
that moment, the spell of her pity enchanted him to strength
again. He found himself searching for words to describe his
pain, that he might elicit more of that curative sweet.
"I was very near to death," he added seriously.
"What--what happened?" she asked, noting the pallor on his
face under the suffusion which his pleasure had made there.
"There was one more in the party than was needed; so my
amiable companion reduced the number by stabbing me in the
back," he explained.
There was instant silence. Slowly she drew away from him.
Entire pallor covered her face and in her eyes grew a horror.
"Did--do you say that Philadelphus stabbed--you--in the back?"
she asked, speaking slowly.
"Phila--" he stopped on the brink of a puzzled inquiry, and
for a space they regarded each other, each turning over his own
perplexity for himself.
"Ask me that again," he commanded her suddenly. "I did not
She hesitated and closed her lips. Her husband had stabbed
this man in the back! Because of her? No! Philadelphus had
refused to believe her. Why then should he have committed such a
"So you are not ready to believe it of this--Philadelphus?" he
asked, venturing his question on an immense surmise that was
forcing itself upon him.
She looked at him with beseeching eyes. How was she to regard
herself in this matter? A partizan of the man she hated, or a
sympathizer with this stranger who had already given her too
much joy? Was she never to know any good of this man to whom she
was wedded? For a moment losing sight of her concern for Judea
and her resolution that her father should not have died in vain,
she was rejoiced that another woman had taken her place by his
side. The quasi liberty made her interest in this stranger at
least not entirely sinful.
"Who are you?" he demanded finally.
How, then, could she tell him that she was the wife of the
man who had treacherously attempted his life? How, also, since
she was denied by every one in that house, expect him to believe
her? The bitterness of her recent interview with Amaryllis rose
to the surface again.
"I am nothing; I have no name; I am nobody!" she cried.
He was startled.
"What is this? Are you not welcome in this house?" he
"Yes--and no! Amaryllis is good--but--"
She shook her head.
"Surely, thou canst speak without fear to me," he said
"There is--only Amaryllis is kind," she essayed finally.
He laid his hand on her wrist.
"Is it--the woman from Ascalon?" he asked, his suspicion
lighting instantly upon the wife whom he had expected to meet.
She flung up her head and gazed at him with startled eyes. He
believed that he had touched upon the fact.
"So!" he exclaimed.
"She has deceived Philadelphus--" she whispered defensively,
but he broke in sharply.
"Whom hath she deceived?"
She closed her lips and looked at him perplexed. Certainly
this was the companion of Philadelphus, who had told her freely
half of her husband's ambitions, long before he had come to
Jerusalem. She could not have betrayed her husband in thus
mentioning his name.
"Your companion of the journey hither--whom you even now
There was a dead pause in which his fingers still held her
wrist and his deep eyes were fixed on her face. He was recalling
by immense mental bounds all the evidence that would tend to
confirm the suspicion in his brain. He had told her his own
story but had invested it in Julian of Ephesus. His wallet, with
all its proofs, was gone; the Ephesian had examined him
carefully to know if any one in Jerusalem would recognize him;
and lastly, without cause, Julian had stabbed him in the back.
Could it be possible that Julian of Ephesus, believing that he
had made way with the Maccabee, had come to Jerusalem,
masquerading under his name?
While he stood thus gazing, hardly seeing the face that
looked up at him with such troubled wonder, he saw her turn her
eyes quickly, shrink; and then wrenching her hands from his, she
He looked up. Two women were standing before him.
"I seek Amaryllis, the Seleucid," he said, recovering
"I am she," the Greek said, stepping forward.
"Thou entertainest Laodice, daughter of Costobarus of
Ascalon?" he added.
The Greek bowed.
"I would see her," he said bluntly.
Amaryllis signed to the woman at her side.
"This is she," she said simply.
The Maccabee looked quickly at the woman. After his close
communication with the beautiful girl for whom his heart warmed
as it had never done before, he was instantly aware of an
immense contrast between her and the woman who had been
introduced to him at that moment. They were both Jewesses; both
were beautiful, each in her own way; both appeared intelligent
and winsome. But he loved the girl, and this woman stood in the
way of that love. Therefore her charms were nullified; her
latent faults intensified; all in all she repelled him because
she was an obstacle.
The injustice in his feelings toward her did not occur to
him. He was angry because she had come; he hated her for her
stateliness; he found himself looking for defects in her and
belittling her undeniable graces. Confused and for the moment
without plan, he looked at her frowning, and with cold
astonishment the woman gazed back at him.
"Thou art Laodice, daughter of Costobarus?" he asked, to gain
She inclined her head.
"When--when dost thou expect Philadelphus?" he asked next.
"Why do you ask?" she parried.
"I--I have a message for him," he essayed finally. "Is he
"Tell me, who art thou?" the woman asked pointedly.
A vision of the girl, flushed and trembling with pleasure at
sight of him, flashed with poignant effect upon him at that
moment. The warmth and softness of her hands under the pressure
of his happy lips was still with him. It would be infidelity to
his own feelings to renounce her then. It was becoming a
physical impossibility for him to accept this other woman.
He hesitated and reddened. An old subterfuge occurred to him
at a desperate minute.
"I--I am Hesper--of Ephesus," he essayed.
"What is thy business with Philadelphus?" the woman
Again the Maccabee floundered. It had been easy to invent a
story to keep the woman he loved from discovering that he was a
married man, but the point in question was different. Now,
filled with dismay and indignation, apprehension and reluctance,
his fertile mind failed him at the moment of its greatest need.
And the eyes of the Greek, filling with suspicion and intense
interest, rested upon him.
"I asked," the actress repeated calmly, "thy business with
At that instant a tremendous shock shook the house to its
foundations; the hanging lamps lurched; the exedra jarred and in
an instant several of the servants appeared at various openings
into passages. Before any of the group could stir, a second
thunderous shock sent a tremor over the room, and a fragment of
marble detached from a support overhead and dropped to the
"It is an attack!" Amaryllis cried.
"On this house?" Salome demanded.
There was a clatter of arms and several men in Jewish armor
rushed through the chamber from the passage that led in from the
"I shall see," said the Maccabee, and followed the men at
Without he saw the night sky overhead crossed by dark stones
flying over the wall to the east. Warfare had begun.
But the attack was simply preliminary and desultory. It
ceased while he waited. Presently it began farther toward the
north. The catapult had been moved. The Maccabee hesitated in
The beautiful girl in the house of Amaryllis was in no
further danger. The interruption had saved him at a critical
He walked down the steps and out into the night.
"Liberty!" he whispered with a sigh of relief. "Now what to
The night following the wounding of Nicanor, John spent on
his fortifications expecting an attack. It was one of the few
nights when the Gischalan kept vigil, for he refused to
contribute fatigue to the prospering of his cause.
Sometime in mid-morning he appeared in the house of Amaryllis
and sent a servant to her asking her to breakfast with him. The
Greek sent him in return a wax tablet on which she had written
that she was shut up in her chamber writing verse, but that she
had provided him a companion as entertaining as she.
When he passed into the Greek's dining-room, the woman who
called herself wife to Philadelphus awaited him at the table.
When he sat she dropped into a chair beside him and laid
before him a bunch of grapes from Crete, preserved throughout
the winter in casks filled with ground cork.
"It is the last, Amaryllis says," she observed. "And siege is
John looked ruefully at the fruit.
"Perhaps," he said after thought, "were I a thrifty man and a
spiteful one, I would not eat them. Instead, I should have the
same cluster served me every morning that I might say to mine
enemies, with truth, that I have Cretan grapes for breakfast
daily. They will keep," he added presently, "for it is tradition
that stores laid up for siege never decay."
"Obviously," said the woman, "they do not last long enough."
John plucked off one of the light green grapes and ate it
"Since thou doubtest the tradition, I shall not have these
"But you destroy even a better boast over your enemy. Then
you could say to him, 'We can not consume all our food. Behold
the grapes rot in the lofts!'"
"Half of the lies go to preserve another's opinion of us. How
much we respect our fellows!"
"Be comforted; there are as many lying for our sakes! But how
goes it without on the walls?"
"Against Rome or against Simon?"
"Ill enough. But when Titus presses too close Simon will lay
down his hostility toward me; and when Titus becomes too
effective, we are to have a divine interference, so our prophets
"I observe," the woman said, "we Jews at this time are
relying much on the prophets to fight our battles. Behold, our
stores will hold out, we say, because it is said; and we shall
fight indifferently, because Daniel hath bespoken a Deliverer
for us at this time!"
John, with his wine-glass between thumb and finger, looked at
"I should expect a heretic to be so critical for us," he
The woman sat with her elbows on the table, her chin in her
hands, gazing moodily at the sunlight falling through the brass
grill over the windows on the court. She ignored his remark, but
answered presently in another tone.
"There is nothing to employ a surfeited mind in this city."
"No?" he said lightly, while interest began to awaken in his
eyes. "The making of enjoyment is here. I have found it so."
"Perchance you have," but she halted and resumed her moody
gaze at the flood of sunlight.
"Are you weary?" he asked. "What is it?"
"Idleness! Eating, sleeping--no; not even that; for idleness
steals away my appetite and my repose."
"Strange restiveness for one reared in the quiet inner
chambers of a Jewish house," he observed.
Her eyes dropped away to the floor; he saw that she was
"I dreamed of a free life once," she said in a restrained
way. "I have not since been satisfied. I dreamed of cities and
kings, that were mine! of crises that I dared, of--of things
that I did!"
There was indignation and pride in the words, too much
recollection of an actuality to rise from the reminiscences of a
dream. John watched her alertly.
"Enough will happen here in time to divert you," he said.
She made a motion with her hand that swept the round of
masonry about her.
"Not until this falls."
"Come, then, up into my fortress and see my fellows from
Gischala," he offered. "They fled with me from that city when
Titus took it and together we came to this place. They are
hardened to disaster; they and death are fellow-jesters."
"Everything! Better athletes than soldiers, better mummers
than athletes; villains most engaging of all!"
She showed no interest and, after a critical pause, he
"They robbed the booth of some costumer whom the Sadducees
had made rich and captured a maid whom they held until she had
taught them how to use henna and kohl. So I had a garrison of
swearing girls until they wearied of the fatigue of stepping
mincingly and untangling their garments. It was that which
robbed the sport of its pleasure and changed my harem back to a
fortress. But while it lasted they were kings over Jerusalem.
And what dear mad dangerous wantons they were! What confusion to
short-sighted citizens; what affrights to sociable maidens! Even
I laughed at them."
"What antics indeed!" she murmured perfunctorily.
"Now they want new entertainment; something immense and
different," he said.
She looked up at him; in her eyes he read, "Even as I do!"
"But they are not unique in that," he continued. "All the
world seeks diversion. Observe the pretty stranger come here
fresh from some lady's tiring-room, hunting adventure, bearding
thee and wearing thy name!"
Her eyes sparkled.
"She shall have adventure enough," she declared.
"I hear," John pursued, "that she does not expect her servant
to return, whom she sent to Ascalon for proofs."
"No?" the woman cried, sitting up.
"How can she, when the siege is laid?"
There was a moment of silence. The woman drew in a deep
breath that was wholly one of relief.
"Now what will she do?" she asked.
"She expects," John answered, "the mediation of the Messiah.
It is the talk among the slaves that He is in the city and she
has heard it. She seems not to be overconfident, however."
"It is her end," the woman remarked with meaning.
"Perchance not. She is a good Jew, it seems, whatever else
she may be, and every good Jew may have his wishes come to pass
if the Messiah come. So it has become the national habit to
expect the Messiah in every individual difficulty. Now,
according to prophecies, the time is of a surety ripe and the
whole city is expectant. She may have her wish."
She stared at him coolly. There was implied disbelief in this
speech. She debated with herself if it would serve to resent his
doubt. Whatever her conclusion she added no more to the
discussion of Laodice's hopes.
"Are you expectant?" she asked.
"I see the need of a Messiah," he responded.
"Doubtless. You and Simon do not unite the city; nothing but
an united, confident and supremely capable people can resist
Rome in even this most majestic fortification in the
world--unless miracle be performed, indeed."
"Nothing but a divine visitor can achieve union here."
"What an event to behold!" she mused. "That would be an
excitement! Surely that would be a new thing! No one really ever
beheld a god before."
"What learned things dreams are! What things of experience!"
he remarked with a sly smile. She refused to observe his
insisted disbelief in her claim, but went on as if to herself.
"Whatever Jove can do, man can do!" she declared. "I never
heard that the gods do more than change maidens into trees or
themselves into swans for an old mortal purpose that even man's
a better adept at. Why can there not rise one who is greater
than Alexander and of stouter heart than Julius Caesar? There is
no limit to the greatness of mankind. Behold, here is a city
rich beyond even the wealth of Croesus; and a country which the
emperor is longing to bestow upon some orderly king! Heavens,
what an opportunity! I could pray, Jerusalem should pray, that
the hour may bring forth the man!"
Her eyes shone with an unnatural yearning. The immense scope
of her desires suddenly brought a smile to his lips that he
checked in time. He had remembered offering his Idumeans in
women's clothing for her diversion.
Hunger for power, the next greatest hunger after hunger for
love! He felt that he stood in the presence of a desire so
immense that it belittled his own hopes. He was not too much of
a Jew to have sympathy with the ambition that dwells in the
breasts of women. Cleopatra had been an evil that he had admired
profoundly, because she had attained that which his own soul
yearned after but which had eluded him. Yet he was large enough
not to be envious of a success. He was made of the stuff that
seekers of excitement are made of. If he could not furnish the
intoxication of activity he was a ready supporter of that one
"What disorder, then, in the world," she went on, as if she
had followed a train of imagination through the triumph of the
risen great man. "Rome, the ruler of nations humbled! Conquest
from Germany to the First Cataract, from Gaul to the dry rocks
of Ecbatana! A world in anarchy, for one greater than Alexander
to subjugate! The ancient splendor of Asia, the wisdom of Africa
and the virginity of Europe to be his, and the homage of the
four corners of the earth to be to him!"
John said nothing. Before him, the woman had entirely
stripped off her disguise. Now for the purpose!
At that moment one of Amaryllis' servants, who had stood
guard without the door, dodged apprehensively into the room and
fled across to the opposite arch. There he paused, ready for
flight, and looked back with wide eyes. John turned hastily but
with an impatient gesture fell again to his neglected meal. The
actress looked to see what had annoyed him. There passed in from
the outer corridor a young man, tall, magnificently formed,
covered with a turban and draped in quaint garments, which to
her who was familiar with all the guises of the theater seemed
to be Buddhistic. He looked neither to the right nor left, but
passed with a step infinitely soft and gliding across to the
arch, from which the terrified servant vanished instantly. The
stranger stayed only a dramatic instant on the threshold and
then disappeared into the corridor which led up into the Temple.
When he had gone the startled actress retained a picture of a
face, fearless, beatified, mystic to the very edge of the
"Who was that?" she asked of the Gischalan, who was gazing at
the color of his wine, sitting in a shaft of sunlight.
"Seraiah! But more than that, no one knows. He appeared with
the slaying of Zechariah the Just. He haunts the garrisons.
Hence his name--Soldier of Jehovah!"
"He did not speak; why did he come?"
"He never speaks; he goes where he will; no one would dare to
Then suddenly realizing that he was showing disinterest the
Gischalan drew himself up and smiled.
"He is mad; I believe he is mad. The city is full of
"There is something great about him!" the woman declared. "He
seems to be the instrument of miracle."
"Is it that?" John asked in an amused tone.
She studied him for a moment that was tense with meaning.
"Do you know," she began slowly, "that neither you nor Simon,
nor any of these who aspire to the control of Jerusalem, have
come upon the plan which will best appeal to your distracted
"Have we not?" he repeated. "We have bought them and bullied
them; we are fighting the Romans for them; we are preaching
patience in the will of the Lord. What more, lady?"
"What have you to offer them in their hope of a Messiah?" she
"Messiah! What else is preached in the Temple but the
Messiah, or in the proseuchae or the streets or on the walls? We
eat, drink, sleep, fight, buy, sell, rob or restore in the name
of the Messiah! They are surfeited with religion."
"Are they?" she asked sententiously. "But you haven't given
them a Messiah."
He looked at her without comprehending.
"You have a mad city here; you can not reason with it;
indulge it, then, as you indulge your lunatics," she suggested.
He shook his head, smiling that he did not understand her.
She turned again to Seraiah.
"Watch him," she insisted. "He possesses me."
After a long silence in which John trifled with his wine, she
prepared to rise.
"Send me the roll of the law," the woman said suddenly.
"Posthumus shall bring it. He is another lunatic. Experiment
with him and learn how I shall act toward the city."
"Well said," she averred; "and I will see your Idumeans. Is
it proper for me to appear in the Temple?"
The Gischalan's eyes flashed a sudden elation and delight. He
bent low and kissed her hand.
"And I will fetch somewhat which will divert us," she added
and was gone.
When a few moments later John passed again into the Greek's
apartment, Amaryllis entered from an inner corridor. Before she
spoke to the master of the house she addressed a servant who had
been a moment before summoned.
"Send hither my guest."
"The stranger?" John asked. "Is she still with you?"
"I mean to add her to my household, if you will," she
"Keep her or dismiss her at your pleasure."
"It shall be for my pleasure. She has a charm that besets me.
It will be entertainment to discover her history."
"I see no mystery in her. It is plain enough that there is
between her and this married Philadelphus some cause for her
coming. His wife is much more engaging."
She sighed and dropped into her ivory chair, pushed back the
locks of fair hair that had loosened from their fillet and
John studied her critically. In the last hour the slowly
dissolving bond between them seemed to have vanished, wholly, at
"O Queen of Kings," he said, "art thou lonely in this mad
"I have found diversion," she answered.
"With these new guests?"
"With these new guests. Observe them; there are a pair of
lovers among them, mersed in difficulty, hampering themselves,
multiplying sorrow and sure to accomplish the same end as if
they had proceeded happily."
"Interested no longer in thine own passion? Alas, my
Amaryllis, that love is dead that is interested no longer in
"O thou bearded warrior, are we then still in the
self-centered period of our romance?"
"I fear not; I see the twilight."
Amaryllis looked down and her face grew more weary.
"You have maintained a long fidelity, John," she said.
He gazed at her, waiting a further remark, and she went on at
"I wonder why?"
He flung out his hands.
"Shall I be faithless to Sheba? Is the charm of the Queen of
Kings faded? Shall I turn from Aphrodite or weary of the lips of
"Nothing so stamps your love of me as wicked, in your own
eyes, as the paganism you fall into when you speak of it!"
"But it is not that I am lovely which made you a lover--until
now," she went on. "I have seen men faithful to women unlovely
as Hecate. It is not that. And I am still as I was, but--"
He looked down on the triple bands of the ampyx that bound
her gold-powdered hair and said:
"It is you who have grown weary; not I."
She astutely drew back from the ground upon which she had
entered. It lay in the power of this Gischalan to refuse further
protection to her out of sheer spite if she made her
disaffection too patent.
"O leader of hosts, canst thou be mummer, languishing poet,
pettish woman and spoiled princeling all in one? No! And I shall
love the clanking of arms and thy mailed footsteps all the more
if thou permittest me to look upon irresponsible folly while
thou art absent."
"Have thy way. I have mine. Furthermore, I wish to thank thee
for the companion thou sentest me at breakfast. He who dines
alone with her, hath his table full. Farewell."
The Maccabee resolved that in spite of his heart-hunger, he
must not be a frequent visitor to the house of Amaryllis because
of the imminent risk of confronting the impostor Julian and the
danger of exposure. Not danger to his life, but danger to his
freedom to court the beautiful girl, which an unmasking might
accomplish. Besides, he had made an extraordinary entry into the
Greek's house in the beginning, and he was not prepared to
explain himself even now, if he returned.
But his longing to look at her again was stronger than his
caution. Much had happened since he had left the house of the
Greek on the evening of his first day in Jerusalem, and he
feared that his absorption in his own plans might result in the
loss of her soon or late. So when the evening of the second week
to a day of his sojourn in the city came round, unable to endure
longer, he turned his steps with considerable apprehension
toward the house of Amaryllis.
When he was led across the threshold of the Greek's hall, he
saw Amaryllis sitting in her exedra, her slim white arms crossed
back of her head, her tiring-woman, summoned for a casual
attention, busy with a parted ribbon on the sandal of the lady's
The Maccabee awaited her invitation. Her eyes flashed a
sudden pleasure when she looked up and saw him.
"Enter," she said, with an unwonted lightness in her voice
that was usually low and grave; "and be welcome."
He came to the place she indicated at her side and sat. In
silence he waited until the tiring-woman had finished her
service and departed. Then it was Amaryllis who spoke.
"You left us abruptly on occasion of your first visit."
"The siege was of greater interest to you than I was. When I
discovered the cause of the disturbance, you would have failed
to remember me."
"Yet I recall you readily after many days."
"The city is in disorder; conventions can not always be
observed in war-time. I returned when I could."
"Our interest in you as our guest has not abated.
Philadelphus is ready to see you, at any time," she said,
watching his face.
"And in time of war," he answered composedly, "we intend many
things in the first place which we do not carry out in the
second. I do not care to see--Philadelphus."
She lifted her brows. He answered the implied question.
"I was a familiar to this Philadelphus; he is young and
boastful, talkative as a woman. If he means to be king, as those
who knew him in Ephesus were given to believe, it is not
unnatural that some of us, without fortune or tie to keep us
home, should follow him--as parasites, if you will--to share in
the largess which he will surely give his friends if he
He did not face her when he made this speech, and he did not
observe the amusement that crept into her eyes. He could not
sense his own greatness of presence sufficiently to know that
his claim to be a parasite upon so incapable a creature as the
false Philadelphus would awaken doubt in the mind of an
intelligent woman like Amaryllis.
He felt that he was not covering his tracks well, and put his
ingenuity to a test.
"The boon-craver therefore should not sit like a dog, begging
crumbs, till the table is laid. My hunger would appear as
competition, if I showed it him, while he is yet unfed. Of a
truth, I would not have him know I am here."
"I will keep thy secret," she promised, smiling.
"I thank you," he said gravely. "I came, on this occasion, to
ask after the young woman, whose name I have not learned--her
whom you have sheltered."
Amaryllis' smiling eyes darkened suddenly.
"Pouf!" she said. "I had begun to hope that you had come to
"I had not John's permission," he objected.
"Have you Philadelphus' permission to see her?"
He looked his perplexity.
"What," she exclaimed, "has she not laid her claim before you
The Maccabee shook his head.
"Know, then, that this pretty nameless creature claims to be
the wife of this same Philadelphus."
He sat up in his earnestness.
"What!" he cried.
"Even so! Insists upon it in the face of the lady princess'
proofs and Philadelphus' denial!"
The Maccabee's brows dropped while he gazed down at the
Julian of Ephesus was then the husband that she was to join
in Jerusalem! Small wonder she had been indignant when he, the
Maccabee, in the spirit of mischief, had laid a wife to Julian's
door and had described her as most unprepossessing. And that was
why her terror of Julian had been so abject! That was why she
had flown to him, a stranger, rather than be left alone with a
husband who, it seemed, would be rid of her that he might pursue
his ends the better!
"What think you of it!" he exclaimed aloud, but to himself.
"And I never saw in all my life such pretensions of probity!"
the Greek continued. "She is outraged by any little word that
questions her virtue; she holds herself aloof from me as if she
were not certain that I am fit for her companionship; and she
flies with fluffed feathers and cries of rage in the face of the
least compliment that comes from any lips--even Philadelphus!"
The Maccabee continued to gaze at the Greek. He did not see
the woman's search of his face for an assent to her speech. He
was struggling with a desire to tell her that he was eager to
exchange his wife for Julian's.
"Perchance she is right," he said instead. "What know we of
this paganized young Jew? He has been separated from his lady
from childhood. It is right easy to marry, once we fall into the
"No, no! Her claim is hopeless. She confesses it. But she
maintains the assumption, nevertheless."
"Absolutely? No little sign of lapse among thy handsome
"I do not see her when she is with the servants," she said
"What will you do with her?" he asked.
"She is beautiful, unique, and so eligible to my collection
of arts and artists under this roof. She shall stay till fate
shows its hand for all of us."
"You have housed Discord under your roof, then," he said.
"Laodice, the wife to this Philadelphus, will not be a happy
woman; and I--I shall not be a happy man. Let me return favor
for your favor to me. I will take her away."
She laughed, though it seemed that a hard note had entered
"You will permit me, then, to surmise for myself why you came
to Jerusalem. You seem to have known this girl before. I shall
not ask you; in return for that promise that I may conclude what
"If you are too discerning, lady," he answered, while his
eyes sought down the corridor for a glimpse of the one he had
come to see, "you are dangerous."
"And what then?"
"I must devise a way to silence you."
She lifted her brows. In that very speech was the portrait of
the Maccabee that she had come to love through letters.
"There is something familiar in your mood," she said
thoughtfully. "It seems that I have known you--for many years."
He made no answer. He had said all that he wished to say to
this woman. She noted his silence and rose.
"I shall send the girl to you."
"Thou art good," he answered and she withdrew.
A moment later Laodice came into the chamber. She was not
startled. In her innocent soul she did not realize that this was
a sign of the depth of her love for him. He rose and met her
half-way across the hall; took her hand and held it while they
walked back to the exedra, and gazed at her face for evidence
that her sojourn in this house had been unhappy or otherwise;
noted that she had let down her hair and braided it; observed
every infinitesimal change that can attract only the lover's
"Sit," he said, giving her a place beside him. "I came of
habit to see you. Of habit, I was interrupted. Is there no way
that I can talk to you without the resentment of some one who
flourishes a better right to be with you than I can show?"
"Where hast thou been," Laodice asked, "so long?"
"Was it long," he demanded impulsively, "to you?"
"New places, new faces, uncertainty and other things make
time seem long," she explained hastily.
"Nay, then," he said, "I have been busy. I have been
attending to that labor I had in mind for Judea, of which we
spoke in the hills that morning."
Laodice drew in a quick breath. Then some one, if not herself
or the husband who had denied her, was at work for Judea.
"There is no nation, here, for a king," he went on. "It is a
great horde that needs organization. It wants a leader. I am
ambitious and Judea will be the prize to the ablest man. Seest
thou mine intent?"
"You--you aspire--" she began and halted, suddenly impressed
with the complication his announcement had effected.
"Go on," he said.
"You would take Judea?"
"But it belongs of descent to the Maccabees!"
"To Philadelphus Maccabaeus, yes; but what is he doing?"
She dropped her head.
"Nothing," she said in a half-whisper.
"No? But let me tell you what I have done already. Three days
ago Titus took revenge upon Coenopolis for her sortie against
Nicanor by firing the suburbs. The citizens could not spare
water to fight the fire, and after futile attempts they gathered
up food and treasure and fled into Jerusalem. Now, a thousand
householders in the streets of this oppressed city, with their
gods and their goods in their arms, made the pillagers of Simon
and John laugh aloud. They fell upon these wandering,
bewildered, treasure-laden people and robbed them as readily and
as joyously as a husbandman gathers olives in a fat year. Oh, it
was a merry time for the men of Simon and the men of John! But I
in my wanderings over the city came upon a party of Bezethans,
reluctant to surrender their goods for the asking, and they were
fighting with right good will a body of Idumeans twice their
number. In fact they fought so well, so unanimously, so silently
that I saw they lacked the essential part of the fight--the
shouting. That I supplied. And when they had whipped the
Idumeans and had a chance for flight before reinforcements came,
they obeyed my voice in so far as they followed me into a
subterranean chamber beneath a burned ruin on Zion.
"We were not followed and our hiding-place was not
discovered. In fact, their resistance was a complete success.
Whereupon, they were ready to unite and take Jerusalem! No--it
was not strange! It is the nature of men. I never saw a
wine-merchant in Ephesus, who, after clearing his shop of
brawlers single-handed, was not ready thereupon to march upon
Rome and besiege Caesar on the Palatine! So it was with these
"I, with my voice, expressed the yearnings that they felt in
their victorious breasts, and plotted for them. After council
and organization we went forth by night and finding Idumean
patrols by the score sleepy and inert from overfeeding we robbed
them of that which was our own. Then we sought out hungry
Bezethans and fed them when they promised to become of our
party. Nothing was more simple! By dawn we had a hundred under
our ruin, bound to us by oath and the enticements of our larder,
and hungry only for fight! Will you believe me when I boast that
I have an army in Jerusalem?"
She heard him with a strange confusion of emotions. In her
soul she was excited and eager for his success; but here was a
strong and growing enemy to Philadelphus, who was reluctant to
become a king! Her impulsive joy in a forceful man struggled
with her sense of duty to the man she could not love.
"Why do you tell me these things?" she said uneasily. "It is
perilous for any one to know that you are constructing sedition
against these ferocious powers in Jerusalem."
"Ah, but you fear for me; therefore you will not betray me.
None else but those as deeply committed know of it."
He had confided in her, and because of it his ambitions took
stealthy hold upon her.
"But--but is there no other way to take Jerusalem, except--by
predatory warfare?" she hesitated.
"No," he laughed. "We are fighting thieves and murderers;
they do not understand the open field; we must go into the dark
to find them."
"Then--then if your soldiers have the good of the city and the
love of their fellows in their hearts, and if you feed them and
shelter them--why shall you not succeed?" she asked, speaking
slowly as the sum of his advantages occurred to her.
He dropped his hand on hers.
"It lacks one thing; if I have discouragement in my soul, it
will weaken my arm, and so the arm of all my army."
Intuition bade her hesitate to ask for that essential thing;
his eyes named it to her and she looked away from him quickly
that he might not see the sudden flush which she could not
"Tell me," she said, "more of that night--"
"That would be recounting the same incident many times. But
one thing unusual happened; nay, two things. In the middle of
the night, after we had brought in our second enlistment of
patriots, we were feeding them and I was giving them
instruction. At the entrance, I had posted a sentry; none of us
believed that any one had seen us take refuge in that crypt.
Indeed, we were all frank in our congratulations and defiant in
our security. Suddenly, I saw half of my army scuttle to cover;
the rest stood transfixed in their tracks. I looked up and there
before me in the firelight stood a young man, whom I had not, I
am convinced, brought in with me. He was tall, comely, dressed
as I have seen the Hindu priests dress in Ephesus, but in
garments that were fairly radiant for whiteness. But his face
gave cause enough to make any man lose his tongue. Believe me,
when I say he looked as if he had seen angels, and had talked
with the dead. His eyes gazed through us as if we had been thin
air. So dreadful they were in their unseeing look that every man
asked himself what would happen if that gaze should light upon
him. He stood a moment, walked as soft-footed and as swiftly as
some shade through our burrow and vanished as he had come. In
all the time he tarried, he made not one sound!"
Laodice was looking at him with awed, but understanding eyes.
"It was Seraiah," she said in a low voice. "He entered this
place on a day last week. All the city is afraid of him."
"So my soldiers told me afterward, between chattering teeth.
He almost damped our patriotism. We uttered our bombast, sealed
our vows and made our sorties, thereafter, every man of us, with
our chins over our shoulders! Spare me Seraiah! He has too much
"Is he a madman?" she asked.
"Or else a supernatural man. Would I could manage men by the
fall of my foot, as he does. I should have Jerusalem's fealty by
to-morrow night. But it was near early morning that the other
incident occurred. That was of another nature. We stumbled upon
a pair huddled in the shadow of a building. We stumbled upon
many figures in shadows, but one of these murmured a name that I
heard once in the hills hereabout, and I had profited by that
name, so I halted. It was an old man, starved and weary and ill;
with him was a gray ghost of a creature with long white hair,
that seemed to be struck with terror the instant it heard my
voice. At first I thought it was a withered old woman, but it
proved to be a man--somehow seeming young in spite of the
snow-white hair and wasted frame. I had them taken up, the gray
ghost resisting mightily, and carried to my burrow where they
now lie. They eat; they take up space; they add nothing to my
cause. But I can not turn them out. The old man disarms me by
He looked down at her with softening eyes.
"And the shepherd held thy hand?" he said softly. She turned
upon him in astonishment. How much of joy and surprise and hope
he could bring in a single visit, she thought. Now, behold he
had met that same delightsome child that had passed like a dash
of sunlight across her dark day.
"Did you meet the shepherd of Pella?" she asked. Instant
deduction supplied her the name that had moved him to
compassion. "And did he serve you in the name of his Prophet?"
"He saved my life in the name of his Christ, but was tender
of me in thy name," he replied.
"His is a sweet apostasy," she ventured bravely, "if it be
his apostasy that made him kind. And I--I owe him much, that he
repaired that for which I feel at fault."
He smiled at her and stroked her hand once, soothingly.
"Let us not remember blames or injury. It damages my
happiness. But of this apostasy that the shepherd preached me. I
passed the stones of the Palace of Antipas to-day, a ruin, black
and shapeless. Thought I, where is the majesty of order and the
beauty of strength that was this place? And then," his voice
fell to a whisper, "beshrew the boy's tattle, I said, the
footprints of his Prophet before the throne of Herod are
"Even then," she whispered when he paused, "you do not
"No! Why, these streets, that should ring for me with the
footsteps of all the great from the days of David, are marked by
the passage of that Prophet. I might forget that Felix and
Florus and Gessius were legates in that Roman residence, but I
do not fail to remember that they took that Prophet before
Pilate there. By my soul, the street that leads north hath
become the way of the Cross, and there are three crosses for me
on the Hill of the Skull!"
She looked at him gravely and with alarm. What was it in this
history of the Nazarene which won aristocrats and shepherds
alike? She would see from this man if there were indeed any
truth in the story that Philadelphus had told her.
"I have heard," she began, faltering, "I have heard that--"
She stopped. Her tongue would not shape the story. But after a
glance at her, he understood.
"And thou hast heard it, also?" he whispered. "Thou believest
It seemed that to acknowledge her fear that the King had come
and gone would establish the fact.
"No!" she cried.
"It is enough," he said nervously. "We do not well to talk of
it. I came for another reason. Tell me; hast thou other shelter
than this house?"
"No," she answered.
"Hast thou talked with this Philadelphus, here?" he asked
She assented with averted face.
"Is he that one who was with me in the hills?" he persisted.
Again she assented, with surprise.
His hands clenched and for a moment he struggled with his
"This house is no place for you!" he declared at last.
"What manner of house is this?" she asked pathetically. "It
is so strange!"
"Why did you come here?"
"Because there was nowhere else to go."
He was silent.
"Who is this Amaryllis?" she asked.
She shrank away from him and looked at him with
"Hast thou not yet seen him, who buys thy bread and meat and
insures this safe roof?" he persisted.
"And--and I eat bread--bought--bought by--" she stammered.
Her hands dropped at her sides.
"Are the good all dead?" she said.
"In Jerusalem, yes; for Virtue gets hungry, at times."
She had risen and moved away from him, but he followed her
with interested eyes.
"Then--then--" she began, hesitating under a rush of
convictions. "That is why--why I can not--why he--he--"
He knew she spoke of Philadelphus.
"Go on," he said.
"Why I can not live in safety near him!"
He, too, arose. Until that moment it had not occurred to him
that Julian of Ephesus, as repugnant to her as she had shown him
ever to be, might prove a peril to her life as he had been to
the Maccabee who had stood in his way.
"What has he said to you?" he demanded fiercely. "How do you
live, here in this house?"
She threw up her head, seeing another meaning in his
"Shut in! Locked!" she said between her teeth.
"But even then you are not safe!"
She drew back hastily and looked at him with alarm. What did
He was beside her.
"Tell me, in truth, who you are," he said tenderly, "and I
shall reveal myself."
Then, indeed, Amaryllis had told him her claim and had
convinced him that it was fraudulent.
"And she told you?" she said wearily.
"Tell me," he insisted. "I have truly a revelation worth
She made no answer.
"You owe it me," he added presently. "Behold what damaging
things I have intrusted to you. You can ruin me by the droop of
"I should have told you at first who I am," she said finally.
"I will not betray what you told me in ignorance--"
"But Amaryllis told me this before you came."
"Nevertheless, tell me no more; if I must be a partizan, I
shall be a partizan to my husband."
"There is nothing for you here, clinging to this man," he
continued persuasively. "This woman brought him a great dowry.
She is ambitious and therefore jealous. You will win nothing but
mistreatment, and worse, if you stay here for him."
"It is my place," she said.
After a moment's helpless silence, he demanded bitterly:
"Dost thou love that man?"
The truth leaped to her lips with such wilful force that he
read the reply on her face, though her eyes were down and by
intense resolution she restrained the denial. He was close to
her, speaking quickly under the pressure of his earnestness.
"I have sacrificed name, birthright, fortune--even
honor--that I might be free to love thee!"
She drew back from him hurriedly, afraid that his very
insistence would destroy her fortitude.
"Let me not have bankrupted myself for a trust thou wilt not
"It--it is not mine to give," she stammered.
"Otherwise--otherwise--" he prompted, leaning near her. But she
put him back from her, desperately.
"Go, go!" she whispered. "I hear--I hear Philadelphus!"
He turned from her obediently.
"It is not my last hope," he said to himself. "Neither has
she suffered her last perplexity in this house. I shall come
He passed out into the streets of Jerusalem.
Beginning with the moment that the Maccabee first entered her
hall, Amaryllis struggled with a perplexity. Certain
discrepancies in the hastily concocted story which that stern
compelling stranger who had called himself Hesper of Ephesus had
told had started into life a doubt so feeble that it was little
more than a sensation.
Love and its signs had been a lifelong study to her; she knew
its stubbornness; she was wise in the judgment of human nature
to know that love in this stranger was no light thing to be
dislodged. And to finish the sum of her perplexities, she felt
in her own heart the kindling of a sorrowful longing to be
preferred by a spirit strong, forceful and magnetic as was that
of the man who had called himself Hesper of Ephesus.
With the egotism of the courtezan she summarized her charms.
Even there were spirits in that fleshly land of Judea to whom
the delicate refinement of her beauty, the reserve of her
bearing and the power of her mentality had appealed more
strongly than a mere opulence of physical attraction. She had
her ambitions; not the least of these was to be loved by an
understanding nature. The greater the congeniality, the greater
the attraction, she argued; but behold, was this iron Hesper,
the man of all force, to be dashed and shaken by the rich
loveliness of Laodice, who was simply a woman?
"Such attachments do not last," she argued hopefully. "Such
attachments make unfaithful husbands. They are monotonous and
wearisome. She is but a mirror giving back the blaze of the sun,
one-surfaced and blinding. It is the many lights of the diamond
that make it charming."
She had arrived at no definite resolution when she met
Laodice in the hall that led to the quarters of the artists, as
the Greek went that way for her day's observation of their work.
"What an unrefreshed face!" the Greek said softly, as the
light from the cancelli showed the weariness and distress that
had begun to make inroads on the animation of the girl's beauty.
"No woman who would preserve her loveliness should let her cares
trouble her dreams."
"How am I to do that?" Laodice asked with a flare of scorn.
"Do I perceive in that a desire for advice or an explanation
of a situation?"
Amaryllis smiled thoughtfully at the girl, while the light of
sudden intent appeared on her face.
"You are unhappy, my dear, through your prejudices," she
began. "We call convictions prejudices when they are other than
our own beliefs. By that sign, you shall know that I am going to
take issue with you. I am, perhaps, the ideal of that which you
would not be. But no man will say that my lot is not enviable."
"Are you happy?" Laodice asked in a low voice.
"Are you?" the Greek returned. "No," she went on after a
pause. "A woman has the less happy part in life, though the
greater one, if she will permit herself to make it great. It was
not her purpose on earth to be happy, but to make happy."
"You take issue with Philadelphus in that," Laodice
interposed. "It is his preachment to me that all that is
expected of all mankind is to be happy."
"He is a man, arguing from the man's view. It is inevitable
law that one must be gladder than another. Woman has the greater
capacity for suffering, hence her feeling for the suffering of
others is the quicker to respond. And some creature of the gods
must be compassionate, else creation long since had perished
from the earth."
Laodice made no answer. This was new philosophy to her, who
had been taught only to aspire at great sacrifice as long as God
gave her strength. She could not know that this strange and
purposeful creed might some day appeal to her beyond her
"Yet," Amaryllis added presently in a brighter tone, "there
is much that is sweet in the life of a woman."
Laodice played with the tassels of her girdle and did not
look up. What was all this to lead to?
"I have spoken to Philadelphus about you," the Greek
continued. "He has no doubt of this woman who hath established
her claim to his name by proofs but without the manner of the
wife he expected. Yet he can not turn her out. The siege hath
put an end to your efforts in your own behalf and it is time to
face your condition and make the best of it. John feels restive;
I dare not ask too much of him. My household was already full,
before you came."
Laodice was looking at her, now with enlightenment in her
"Philadelphus," Amaryllis continued, following up her
advantage, "is nothing more than a man and you are very lovely."
"All this," Laodice said, rousing, "is to persuade me to--"
"There are two standards for women," the Greek interposed
before Laodice finished her indignant sentence. "Yours and
another's. As between yours, who would have love from him whom
you have married, and hers, who hath love from him whom she hath
not married, there is only the difference of a formula. Between
her condition and yours, she is the freer; between her soul and
yours, she is the more willingly faithful. If woman be born to a
purpose, she fulfils it; if not she hath not consecrated her
life to a mistake. You overrate the importance of marriage. It
is your whole purpose to preserve yourself for a ceremony. It is
too much pains for too trivial an end. At least, there are many
things which are farther reaching and less selfish in intent.
And who, by the way, holds the longest claim on history? Your
kind or this other? The world does not perpetuate in its
chronicles the continence of women; it is too small, too
personal, too common to be noted. Cleopatra were lost among the
horde of forgotten sovereigns, had she wedded duly and scorned
Mark Antony; Aspasia would have been buried in a gynaeconitis
had she wedded Pericles, and Sappho--but the list is too long; I
will not bury you in testimony."
Laodice raised her head.
"You reason well," she said. "It never occurred to me how
wickedness could justify itself by reason. But I observe now how
serviceable a thing it is. It seems that you can reason away any
truth, any fact, any ideal. Perhaps you can banish God by
reason, or defend crime by reason; reason, I shall not be
surprised to learn, can make all things possible or impossible.
But--does reason hush that strange speaking voice in you, which
we Jews call conscience? Tell me; have you reasoned till it
ceases to rebuke you?"
"Ah, how hard you are to accommodate," Amaryllis smiled. "I
mean to show you how you can abide here. I can ask no more of
John. Philadelphus alone is master of your fate. I have not
sought to change you before I sought to change Philadelphus. He
will not change so long as you are beautiful. This is life, my
dear. You may as well prepare for it now."
Laodice gazed with wide, terrorized eyes at the Greek. She
saw force gathering against her. Amaryllis shaped her device to
"And if you do not accept this shelter," she concluded, "what
else is there for you?"
Hesper, many times her refuge, rose before the hard-pressed
"There is another in Jerusalem who will help me," she
"And that one?" Amaryllis asked coolly.
"Is he who calls himself Hesper, the Ephesian," Laodice
"Why should you trust him?" the Greek asked pointedly.
"He--when Philadelphus--you remember that Philadelphus told
you what happened--"
"That he tossed a coin with a wayfarer in the hills for you?"
the Greek asked.
Laodice dropped her head painfully.
"This Hesper let me go then, and afterward--"
"He has repented of that by this time. It is not safe to try
him a second time. Besides, if you must risk yourself to the
protection of men, why turn from him whom you call your husband
for this stranger?"
The question was deft and telling. Laodice started with the
suddenness of the accusation embodied in it. And while she
stood, wrestling with the intolerable alternative, the Greek
smiled at her and went her way.
Laodice stood where Amaryllis had left her, at times
motionless with helplessness, at others struck with panic. On no
occasion did homelessness in the war-ridden city of Jerusalem
appear half so terrible as shelter under the roof of that
The little golden-haired girl from the chamber of artists
beyond skipped by her.
"Hast seen Demetrius?" she called back as she passed.
"Demetrius, the athlete, stupid!"
Laodice turned away from her.
"Nay, then," the girl declared; "if I have insulted you let
me heal over the wound with the best jest, yet! John hath
written a sonnet on Philadelphus' wife and our Lady Amaryllis is
truing his meter for him. Ha! Gods! What a place this is for a
child to be brought up! I would not give a denarius for my
morals when I am grown. There's Demetrius! Now for a laugh!"
She was gone.
Where was that ancient rigor of atmosphere in which she had
been reared? thought Laodice. Had it existed only in the shut
house of Costobarus? Was all the world wicked except that which
was confined within the four walls of her father's house? Could
she survive long in this unanimously bad environment? But she
remembered Joseph of Pella, the shepherd; even then his
wholesomeness was not without its canker. He was a Christian!
Philadelphus was at her side.
She flinched from him and would have fled, but he stopped her
with a sign.
"My lady objects to your presence in this house," he said.
"You have not made it worth my while to insist on your shelter
"Your lady," she said hotly, "is two-fold evilly engaged,
then. She has time to ruin you, while she furnishes John with
all the inspiration he would have for sonnets."
"So she refrains from furnishing John with my two hundred
talents, I shall not quarrel with her. You have your own
difficulties to adjust, and mine, only in so far as they concern
His voice had lost none of its smoothness, but it had become
hard and purposeful.
"I have come to that point, Philadelphus, where my
difficulties and not yours concern me," she replied. "I had
nothing to give you but my good will. You have outraged even
that. Hereafter, no tie binds us."
"No? You cast off our ties as lightly as you assumed them.
With a word you announce me wedded to you; with another you
speak our divorcement. And I, poor clod, suffer it? The first,
yes; but the last, no. You see, I have fallen in love with you."
She turned her clear eyes away from him and waited calmly
till she could escape.
"You have spent your greatest argument in persuading me to be
a king. Kings, lady, are essentially tyrants, in these bad days.
Wherefore, if I am to be one, I shall not fail to be the other.
And you--ah, you! Will you endure the oppressor that you made?"
There was enough that was different in his manner and his
words for her to believe that something worthy of attention was
to follow. She looked at him, now.
"This roof, since the alienation of John to my wife, is mine
empire. Within it, I am despot. From its lady mistress, the
Greek, to the meanest slave, I have homage and subjection. Even
thou wilt be submissive to me--for having lost one wife through
indulgence, I shall be most tyrannical to the one yet in my
She drew herself up in splendid defiance.
"I have not submitted!" she said. "I will not submit!"
"No? Nothing stands in your way now but yourself. Your
supplanter hath removed herself. And I shall make your
She turned from him and would have hurried back into the
Greek's andronitis, but he put himself in her way.
"Listen!" he said, suddenly lifting his hand.
In the stillness which she finally was able to observe over
the tumultuous beating of her enraged heart, a profound moan of
great volume as from immense but remote struggle came into the
corridor. Through it at times cut a sharp accession of sound, as
if violence heightened at intervals, and steadily over it
pulsated the throb of tireless siege-engines. It was the groan
of the City of Delight in mortal anguish.
"This," he said in a soft voice touching his breast, "or
that," motioning toward the dying city. "Choose. And by
While she stood, gazing at him transfixed with the horror of
her predicament, there was the sweeping of garments, the soft
tinkle of pendants as they struck together, and Salome, the
actress, was beside the pair. Close at hand was Amaryllis. The
Greek showed for the first time discomfiture and an inability to
rise to the demand of the occasion. The glance she shot at
Laodice was full of cold anger that she had permitted herself to
be surprised in company with Philadelphus.
Philadelphus drew back a step, but made no further movement
toward withdrawing. Laodice would have retreated, but the
actress stood in her way. With a motion full of stately
indignation, Salome turned to Amaryllis.
"It so occurs, madam, that I can point out to you the disease
which saps my husband's ambition. You observe that he is
diverted now, as all men are diverted six weeks after
marriage--by another woman. I am not a jealous woman. I am only
concerned for his welfare and the welfare of the city of our
fathers. For it is not himself that his luxurious indolence
affects; but all the unhappy city which is suffering while he is
able to help it. He must be saved. And I shall go with him out
of this house into want and peril, but he shall be saved."
Laodice said nothing. She stood drawn up intensely; her brows
knitted; her teeth on her lip; her insulted pride and growing
resolution effecting a certain magnificence in her pose.
"I can find her another house," Amaryllis said.
"Also my husband can find it," the woman broke in. "Let the
streets do their will with the woman of the streets. Bread and
shelter are too precious to waste on the iniquitous this hour."
Amaryllis turned to Laodice.
"What wilt thou do?" she asked.
"The streets can offer me no more insult than is offered me
in this house," she said slowly.
It was in her mind that there were certainly unprotected
gates at which she could get out of the city and return to
At least the peril for her in this house was already too
imminent for her to remain longer. She continued to Amaryllis:
"Lady, you have been kind to me--in your way. You have been
so in the face of your doubt that I am what I claim to be. How
happy, then, you would have made my lot had I not been
supplanted and denied! For all this I thank you. Mine would be a
poor gratitude if I stay to make you regret your generosity.
Wherefore I will go."
She slipped past the three and entered her room. Before
Amaryllis could gather resolution to protest, she was out again,
clothed in mantle and vitta and, walking swiftly, disappeared
into the vestibule. As they sat in the darkening hall, the three
heard the doors close behind her.
"She will return," said Philadelphus coolly, moving away.
Gathering her robes about her, Salome swept out of the
corridor and away. Amaryllis stood alone.
Somewhere out in the city was Hesper the Ephesian. Amaryllis
knew that Laodice would not return.
Meanwhile Jerusalem was in the fury of barbarous warfare. At
this ravine and that debouching upon Golgotha, the Vale of
Hinnom and the Valley of Tophet, whole legions of besiegers were
stationed. Along the walls the men of Simon and the men of John
tramped in armor. From the various gates furious sorties were
made by swarms of unorganized Jews who fell upon the Romans
unused to frantic warfare, and slaughtered, set fire to engines,
destroyed banks and threw down fortifications and retreated
within the gates before the demoralized Romans could rally.
Catapult and ballista upon the eminences outside the walls
kept up an unceasing rain of enormous stones which whistled and
screamed in the air and shook Jerusalem to its foundations. The
reverberating boom and the tremor of earth were varied from time
to time by the splintering crash of houses crushing and the
increase of uproar, as scores of luckless inhabitants went down
under the falling rock. Giant cranes with huge, ludicrous
awkward arms, heaved up pots of burning pitch and oil and flung
them ponderously into the city to do whatever horror of fire and
torture had not been done by the engines. Hourly the rattle of
small stones increased, merely to attract the attention of the
citizens to an activity to which they were so accustomed that it
was almost unnoticed. At times citizens and soldiers rushed upon
a threatened gate or segment of the wall and lent strength to
keep the Romans out; at other times the defenses were forsaken
while the besieged fell upon one another. Back from the broad
summit of Olivet, which was the mountain of peace, the echoes
gave all day long the shudder of the struggling city.
The sun daily grew more heated; the cisterns and pools within
the city began to shrink so rapidly that the inhabitants feared
that the enemy had come at the source of the waters of Jerusalem
and had cut them off. Hundreds of the wounded were allowed to
die, simply as a defense of the wells and store-houses. Burial
became too gigantic a labor, and John and Simon ordered the
bodies thrown over the walls to prevent pestilence.
Titus riding around the city on a day came upon a heap of
this outcast dead and turned suddenly white. He rode back to his
camp and within the hour there approached the walls under a flag
of truce an imposing Jew of middle-age, with a superb beard and
a veritable mantle of rich black hair escaping from his turban
and falling heavy with life and strength upon a pair of great
shoulders. He was simply dressed, but his stately carriage and
splendid presence made a kingly garment out of his white gown.
Those upon the wall knew him and though they were obliged to
respect the banner under which he approached, they gnashed their
teeth and greeted him with epithets, poisonous with hate. He was
Flavius Josephus, one time patriot and enemy of Rome, but now
secure under Titus' patronage, abettor of his patron against his
The Maccabee, among the fighting-men on the wall, saw his
approach and discreetly stepped behind a soldier that he might
not be singled out as a familiar toward which the approaching
mediator would logically direct his appeal. He had no desire to
be addressed by his name before this precarious mob already mad
with rage at a turncoat.
And thus concealed the Maccabee heard Josephus appeal to the
Jews with apparent sincerity and affection, promise amnesty,
protection and justice in his patron's name; heard his overtures
greeted with fury and finally saw the Jews swarm over the walls
and drive him to fly for his life up Gareb to the camp of Titus.
It was not the first incident he had seen which showed him
his own fate if it became known that he intended to treat with
Rome. He put aside his calculations in that direction as a
detail not yet in order, and turned to the organization of his
army. Here again he met obstacle.
Among his council of Bezethans he found an enthusiasm for
some intangible purpose, objection to his own plans and a
certain hauteur that he could not understand.
"What is it you hope for, brethren?" he asked one night as he
stood in the gloom of the crypt under the ruin with fifty of his
ablest thinkers and soldiers about him.
"The days of Samuel before Israel cursed itself with a king,"
one man declared. The others were suddenly silent.
"Those days will not come to you," he answered patiently.
"You must fight for them."
"We will fight."
"Good! Let us unite and I will lead you," the Maccabee
"But after you have led us, perhaps to victory, then what?"
they asked pointedly.
The Maccabee saw that they were sounding him for his
ambitions, and discreetly effaced them.
"Do with me what you will; or if you doubt me, choose a
leader among yourselves."
They shook their heads.
"Then enlist under Simon and John and fight with them," he
cried, losing patience.
Murmurs and angry looks greeted this suggestion, and the
Maccabee put out his hands toward them hopelessly.
"Then what will you do?" he asked.
"It shall be shown us," they replied; and with this answer,
with his organization yet uneffected, his plans more than ever
chaotic, the Maccabee began another day. Shrewd and resourceful
as he believed himself to be, he beheld plan after plan reveal
its inefficiency. Forced by some act of the city to abandon one
idea, the next that followed found a new intractability. It
seemed that there were no two heads in Jerusalem of a similar
thought. Whoever was not demoralized by panic was fatally
stubborn or mad. The single purpose that seemed to prevail was
to hold out against reason.
Finally he determined to pick the most rational of his men
and shape an army that would be distinctly Jewish and enviable.
Nothing Roman should mar its organization. He would have again
the six hundred Gibborim of David, and after he had formed them
into a body he would trust to the existing circumstances to
direct him how to proceed to the assistance of Jerusalem with
them. He should be the sole captain, the sole authority, the
single commander of them all. He would not have an unwieldy
army, but one perfectly devoted. He would lead by his own
genius, attract and command by his own personality. With six
hundred absolutely subject to his will, trained in endurance and
steadfastness, he could achieve more surely than with an
undisciplined horde which first of all must be fed.
Throughout those days of predatory warfare he made careful
selection of material for his army. As yet, while famine had not
reduced Jerusalem to a skeleton, he could select for bodily
strength and mental balance. He worked swiftly, sparing his men
daily to the defense of the city against the Roman and daily
sacrificing precious numbers of them to the pit of the dead just
over the wall.
They were weary days--days of increasing storm and multiplying
calamity. Famine in some quarters of the city reached appalling
proportions. Insurrections in these regions were so vigorously
suppressed that the victims chose to starve and live rather than
to revolt and perish. Pestilence broke out among the inhabitants
near the eastern wall, against the other side of which the dead
had been cast by hundreds; and a general flight from the city
was stopped in full flood by the spectacle of some scores of
unfortunates crucified by the Roman soldiers and set up in sight
of the walls.
Simon and John had a disastrous quarrel and during the
interval, when the sentries and the fighting-men were killing
each other, the Romans possessed the first fortification around
Jerusalem, the Wall of Agrippa. The following day Titus pitched
his camp within the limits of the Holy City, upon the site of
Sennacherib's Assyrian bivouac.
At sight of this signal advance, tumult broke out afresh in
the city and for days Titus lay calmly by, merely harassing the
Jews while he watched Jerusalem weaken itself by internal
combat. The Maccabee, steadily training his picked Gibborim, saw
these lulls as signs that Titus was still in the hope that the
city would submit to occupation and spare him the repugnant task
of slaughtering half a nation. In his soul he knew that at no
time would Titus be unwilling to receive the voluntary
capitulation of the city.
So, composed and intent through struggle and terror, he
continued to prepare for the day when an organized army could
take the unhappy inhabitants out of the bloody hands of the two
factionists, Simon and John.
During one of the casual attacks on the Second Wall, a lean,
lash-scarred maniac that had not ceased to cry night or day for
seven years, "Woe unto Jerusalem!" mounted the Old Second Wall,
and there pointed to his breast and added, "Woe unto me also!"
At that instant a great stone struck him and tumbling with it to
the ground, he was crushed into the earth and left so buried for
With the hushing of that embodiment of doom, silence fell
upon the city and after that, panic; and during that Titus
heaved his four legions against the Second Wall and took it.
Simon was seized with frenzy, and with a body of crazed Idumeans
rushed out upon the banks of the Romans and in one hour's time
overthrew the army's work of days and so thoroughly set back the
advance of the besieger that Titus resolved that no more insane
sorties should be made from the gates.
He retired to his camp and in a short time soldiers appeared
with tape, stakes, sledges and spades and laid out an immense
circle, all but compassing the great city of Jerusalem.
The Maccabee saw all this. He stood on the wall above the
roar and frenzy and looked across bleached stretches of sunny,
rocky earth toward the orderly ranks of soldiers, the simple
business, the tranquil speed of Rome making war, and understood
that peaceful despatch as deadly.
He saw the young general ride down to this circle, dismount
and, catching a spade from the nearest legionary, drive it into
the earth. When he tossed out the first clay, each of the men in
the visible segment of that great cordon struck his implement
into the ground. And even as the Maccabee watched, he saw grow
up under his eyes a wall!
He understood. Titus was walling against a wall; turning upon
the Jews that same thing which they had reared against him. As
the Maccabee stood gazing transfixed at this grim work, he heard
beside him an old voice say, with terrible conviction:
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets,
and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I
have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her
chickens under her wings, and ye would not!... For the days
shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench
about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every
side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children
within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon
another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation."
The Maccabee, shaken with the culmination of Rome's
resolution and afraid in spite of himself, whirled angrily upon
that voice speaking doom at his side. There in the old ragged
tunic bound about him with rope, stood the old man he had
rescued and had sheltered persistently for many days.
The old man faced the young man's rage with supernatural
composure and strength. With clenched hands, the Maccabee stood
away from him and felt that he threatened with his fists a hoary
citadel that armies had beaten themselves against in vain.
The Maccabee did not speak to his old pensioner. He felt the
futility of words against this thing which seemed to be a
revelation, denying absolutely all of his ambitions. He dropped
from his position and, pushing his way through the distress upon
the city, turned toward the house of Amaryllis. It was a
climacteric hour, when men should look well to the protection of
all that was near and dear to them.
When he was gone a strange, bent figure with long white hair
and a gray distorted face came from the shadow of one of the
towers and plucked the old Christian's tunic. The Christian
turned and seeing who stood beside him said with intense surety
in his tones:
"It is proven. Accept the Lord Jesus while it is time, my
son, for behold the hour of the last day of this city is
The apparition lifted a palsied hand on which the skin was
yet fair and young and pointed after the Maccabee, losing
himself in the groaning mass in the city.
"If I believe, I must tell him!" he said.
"Whatever thou hast done against that man must be amended,"
the Christian declared.
The palsied figure shrank and wringing his hands about each
other said in a whisper that sounded like wind among dried
"I, who saw the candor of perfect trust in his eyes, once, I
can not behold their reproach--I, who love him, and sold
him--for a handful of gold!"
The old Christian laid his hand on the other's arm.
"Another Judas?" he said. The apparition made no answer.
"Nay, then; tell it me," the Christian urged. But the other
shrank away from him, while distrust collected in his eyes.
"I fear thee; the evil man fears the good one, even more than
the good man fears the evil one. I will not tell thee."
"But thou hast thy bread from this Hesper; thou hast thy
shelter from him. He will not injure thee."
"Injure me! Not with his hands, perhaps. But he would look at
me, he would kill me with his eyes! Thou canst not dream what
evil I have done him!"
The old Christian looked at him for a time, but with the
hopefulness of the spiritually confident.
"Christ spare thee, till thou hast the strength to do right!"
he exclaimed. But the palsied man covered his face with his
hands and groaned. The old Christian took him by the arm and led
him down from the wall and back to the cavern under the ruins.
"In thy good time, O Lord," he said to himself, beginning
with that incident a ministry that should not end.
It was dark when the Maccabee came down into the ravine in
which the Greek's house was builded. In the shadow the house
cast before it he saw some one pass the sentry lines. The
soldiers looked after that figure. Presently, emerging into the
lesser darkness of the open streets, it proved to be a woman.
The Maccabee stopped. By the movements, now hurried, now slow,
he believed that the night was full of apprehension for this
unknown faring into the disordered city. She was coming in his
direction. He stepped into shadow to see who would come forth
from shelter at such an hour.
The next instant she hurried by his hiding-place and the
Maccabee saw with amazement that it was the girl he loved. He
sprang out to speak to her, but the sound of his footsteps
frightened her and she ran.
The whole hilly foreground of Jerusalem was lifted like a
black and impending cloud over her, a-throb with violence and
strife. Here and there were lights on the bosom of the looming
blackness, but they only emphasized the darkness pressing on the
outskirts of the radiance. Every area way and alley had its
sound. The air was full of footsteps; behind her a voice called
to her. She dashed by yawning darkness that was an open alley,
hurried toward lights, halted precipitately at signals of danger
and veered aside at unexpected sounds. Once she stumbled upon
the body of a sleeper who had come down into the darkness of the
ravine to pass the night. At her suppressed cry the Maccabee
sprang forward, but she caught herself and ran faster.
He ceased then to attempt to stop her. Curiosity to know what
brought her out into danger at night impelled him to follow near
enough to protect her, but unsuspected until she had revealed
her mission to him.
A hungry dog, probably the last one to escape the execution
which had been meted out to all useless consumers of food,
barked at her heels and brought her up sharply.
The beast in his siege of her circled in the dark around near
enough to the Maccabee hidden in the darkness for him to deliver
a vindictive kick in the staring ribs of the brute. When the
howl of the surprised dog faded up the black ravine, Laodice ran
on. The Maccabee, silently pursuing, heard with a contracting
heart that she was crying softly from terror and bewilderment.
Not yet, however, had she approached the danger of Jerusalem,
which John had kept far removed from the precincts of Amaryllis'
She was entering Akra. The heap of grain, yet burning, showed
a dull black-red mound over which towered a column of strong
incense. Here, for the night was cool, lay in circles many of
the unhoused Passover guests. Here, also, was wakefulness and
the hatchment of evil.
The running girl was upon them before she knew it. One of the
figures that sat with its back to the dull glow saw her
approaching. Instantly he rose upon one knee and snatched her
dress as she ran.
Jerked from her balance, she screamed and threw out her hands
to keep from falling upon the shoulders of her assailant. One or
two others with unintelligible sounds struggled up, and as she
fell, the Maccabee leaped from the darkness, wrenched her from
the grasp of her captor, and warding off attack with his knife,
fled with her into the darkness.
The transfer of control over her had been made so swiftly
that in her stupor of terror she hardly realized it. She was
struggling silently and strongly in his hold, when he clasped
her to him with a firmer impulsive embrace and whispered to her:
"Comfort thee, dear heart! It is I, Hesper!"
She ceased to resist so suddenly and was so tensely still
that he knew the shock of immense reaction was having its way
He knew without asking that she had been forced to leave the
shelter of the Greek's roof, and though his rage threatened to
rise up and blind him he was not entirely unaware of the benefit
the inhospitality of others had given him. At last she was with
him; entirely in his care.
It was a safe shelter into which she was brought, but no
luxurious one. There was light enough from the single torch
stuck in a crevice in the ancient rock to show that it was
habitable. The immense floor was packed hard by the trampling of
many feet; overhead, lost in gloom, there must have been a rocky
roof, but it was invisible. On the ledges of rocks were
belongings by heaps and collections, showing that this was an
abiding-place for great numbers. In the far shadows she
distinguished long, silent, mummied windrows of men wrapped in
blankets, sleeping. Huge gloomy piles of provisions filled up
shadowy corners; about under the light was the litter left in
the wake of human counsel; over all was the air of repose and
occupancy that made a home out of the burrow.
Though the place held a great number of refugees, the
footstep of the Maccabee wakened resounding emptiness. At the
threshold he slackened his step and looked with pathetic anxiety
at whatever light on Laodice's face would show her opinion of
her refuge. But the uncertain torch revealed nothing and he led
her in and across to a solitary place where rugs from some
looted house had been folded up for a pallet and spread about
for carpets. She sat down and awaited his speech.
He motioned to the spacious barrenness about him.
"Canst thou content thyself in this place?" he asked,
She nodded, but feeling that her reply had not shown all that
words might, she lifted her face that he might see therein that
which she could not trust her lips to say.
It was her undoing. Her weakness overwhelmed her and burying
her face in the folds of her mantle, she wept.
After a dismayed silence, he bent over her and said with a
quiver of distress in his voice:
"I--I have work, here, to do, but I shall take thee out of
the city for better refuge--"
That she should seem to be grieving over the nature of the
shelter given her, stirred her deeply. She half rose and with
the light shining on her face, filled with gratitude in spite of
her tears, took his hand in both of hers and pressed it with
He understood her.
He laid a hand unsteady with its tremor of delight and young
eagerness upon the vitta and it slipped off her hair. As it
dropped, the subtle warm fragrance of the heavy locks, now
braided in maidenly style, reached him; the liveliness of her
relaxed young figure communicated itself to him without his
touch; all the invitation of her helplessness swept him to the
very edge of abandoning his restraint. On his dark face a
transformation occurred. All the hardness, even his years and
his experience vanished from him and a soft recovering flush
faintly colored his cheeks. In that sudden bloom of beauty in
his face was stamped a realization of the far progress of his
triumph. She was in his house and dependent on him, within the
very reach of his arms.
When she looked up at him again, she read all this in his
face, and instantly there returned to her, with warning
intensity, the fear of her love of him. The last obstacle but
her own conscience that stood between her and his perfect
supremacy over her life had suddenly been swept away.
She started away from him, and put up her hands to ward off
"If you do that," she said in a tone sharp with distress, "it
is sin and I shall be cursed! I shall have to go back to him!"
Then she had voluntarily left Julian, perhaps to seek him!
"You shall not go back to him!" he exclaimed. "After I have
given up everything but my life to have you for myself!"
"You must not think of me in that way!" she commanded him
vehemently. "I am a married woman! You shall remember that! If
you forget it, I will go out into the streets and ask the
Idumeans to kill me!"
"Nay, peace, peace! I shall do you no harm! You are
frightened! I will do nothing that you would not have me do! Be
comforted. Not any one in all the world has your happiness at
heart so much as I. Believe me!"
"Believe me!" she insisted. "I am weary of doubt and
denial. I am only safe if you recognize me as that which I claim
to be. Answer me! You do believe I am the wife of Philadelphus?"
"I believed it, at once," he said frankly.
"Then--then--" but she flung her hands over her face and
slipped down on the rugs. For a moment he hesitated, restraining
the impulse to break over the limits she had laid down for him.
Then he rose and, summoning one of the women who had taken
refuge in the crypt, sent her to remain with the girl, and
departed, shaken and uncertain, to his own place.
The twilight of the cavern rarely revealed enough of the
features of her fellows to Laodice for her to identify them or
for them to identify her. She lived among them a dusky shadow
among shadows. And because of her fear that Philadelphus might
be searching for her, she stayed in the sunless crypt day by day
until the Maccabee, noting with affectionate distress that she
was growing white and weak, bade her take one of the women and
venture up to the light.
There were, besides the women, two men who took no part in
the preparation for war which went on about them in the cavern
day and night. While weapons and armor were made and tramping
ranks formed and broke before the commands of the lithe dark
commander of that fortress and subdued but fierce councils took
place around torches--while all this went on, they kept back,
even apart from the women, and said nothing.
Laodice saw that they were physically unfit; that one was
very old and the other very feeble and her heart warmed again to
that stern master who saw them fed as abundantly as his most
valued men. These, then, were those Christians whom he had taken
into his protection because of the Name which had inspired a
shepherd boy to save his life.
When he commanded Laodice to go up into the sunlight, he
approached the corner in which the two useless men hid and bade
them, too, to go up into the air.
"Let us have no sickness in this place," he said bluntly and
turned on his heel and left them to obey.
Laodice took one of the older women and timidly climbing the
steps from which the rubbish had been pushed away by the
climbing hundreds, went through the dusk of the passage that
terminated in a brilliancy that dazzled her. And as she walked
she heard the footsteps of the two men behind her.
Up in the chaos of fallen columns, she stood a moment with
her hands pressed over her eyes. Only little by little was she
able to permit the full blaze of the Judean sun to reach them.
The uproar on Jerusalem after the muffled silence of the
underground cavern filled her with terror, and she pressed close
to the shelter of the entrance until the woman at her side
"It is nothing," the woman said, with a dreary patience. "It
is as it was yesterday. I come here every day. I know."
After a while Laodice looked about her. The entrance to their
refuge was about the middle of the ruin and therefore a great
many paces back from the streets, so that she did not see
Jerusalem's agonies face to face. But she saw enough to make her
cold and to turn her shivering and panic-stricken into the
darkness of the crypt below.
She saw the ascending streets of Zion and the tall
fortifications mounting the heights within the city's limits.
There she saw the flash of swords, swung afar off, spears
brandished and the running hither and thither of defenders on
the wall. Below she saw the remote constricted passages between
rows of desolate houses, moving with people, sounding with
clamor. There she saw combats, terrible scenes of frenzy, deaths
and unnamable horrors; starvelings gnawing their nails; shadows
of infants pressed to hollow bosoms; old men too weak to walk
that went on hands and knees; young men and young women in rags
that failed to cover them, and wandering skeletons screaming,
Meanwhile huge stones mounted over the walls and fell within
the city; three great towers planted beyond the walls, out of
range of the Jewish engines and equipped with superior machines,
were steadily devastating the entire quarter near which they
were erected. Here two-thirds of the forces of Jerusalem were
concentrated in a vain effort to resist the dire inroads of
these effective engines. Here, the Maccabee and his Gibborim
stood shoulder to shoulder with the Idumeans and fanatics of
Simon and John, and here the half-mad defenders awakened at last
to the fact that only divine interference could save the city
In the south and the east conflagrations roared and crackled,
where burning oil had been scattered over some remaining
structures near the walls. When a great ram began its thunder
somewhere near the Sheep Gate, there came a hollow booming noise
of deafening volume from the charnel pits outside the walls and
a black cloud of incredible depth soared up into the skies.
Laodice, dumb with horror, looked at the prodigy without
understanding, but the woman at her side shuddered.
"God help us!" she exclaimed. "They are vultures!"
Laodice turned to rush back into the cavern and so faced the
two men who stood behind her.
One, at sight of her, shrank with a gasp, and, averting his
shaggy head till the long white locks covered his face, fled
back into the crypt.
The other was gazing with unseeing eyes across groaning
"I am the man," he was saying aloud, but to himself, "that
hath seen affliction by the rod of His wrath."
The sight of him had a paralyzing effect upon Laodice. She
saw, before her, Nathan, the Christian, who had buried her
father, who had blessed her, who would know and could testify to
a surety that she was the wife of Philadelphus!
She slipped by him without a sound and hurried down into the
darkest corner of the cavern.
Circumstance had found her in her refuge and would drive her
away from this sweet home back to that hateful house, to the man
she did not love!
For many days, with increasing distress, Laodice avoided
Nathan, the Christian. With that fascinated terror which at
times forces human creatures to examine a peril, she felt
irresistibly impelled to try his memory of events, that she
might know if indeed he would recognize her.
Though she turned cold and flashed white when he came upon
her one day in the darkness of their shelter, she felt
nevertheless the relief of approaching a solution to her
"They tell me," he said with the deliberate speech of the
old, "that Titus is once more permitting citizens to depart from
"Then," she said, grasping at this hope, "why do you stay
here in this peril?"
"Why should I leave it? Even with the singers who wept by the
waters of Babylon, I prefer Jerusalem above my chief joy. Except
for the time when we of the Way were warned to depart, I have
been in Jerusalem all my life. Then, though I had gone as far as
Caesarea on my way to Antioch to join the brethren there,
homesickness overtook me and I turned in my tracks, saying no
man farewell, and came back."
"A weary journey for one so old," she said gently.
Would he remember also that it had been dangerous?
"Nay, but a journey full of works and reward. And I
discovered at the end of it that I had lived in error forty
years; that Christ never ceases to prove Himself."
Already the forbidden tenets of the Nazarene faith had
entered into his words. But feeling somehow that her deflection
from uprightness covered her whole life, there was no reason why
she should not hear what these people believed and have done
"Art thou a Christian?" she asked timidly.
"I am a believer in Christ, but whether I may call myself one
of the blessed I do not know, for they have had faith. But I
demanded a sign. Behold it! The ruin of the City of David!"
Her eyes widened with alarm.
"Is there no hope?" she exclaimed.
He looked at her, even in his old age impressed with the
immense importance life and love must have to so beautiful and
beloved a woman. Presently he said, as if to himself:
"Yea, be thou blessed, O thou Redeemer, that givest life to
them to whom life is dear and death approacheth."
Her concern for concealment vanished entirely in her rising
terror for the future of the Holy City.
"I pray thee, Rabbi," she said in a low voice, drawing close
to him, "tell me what thy people believe about the city. I have
heard--but it can not be true!"
"Do not be troubled about the city," he answered. "Ask me
rather how to become safeguarded against any disaster, greater
even than the fall of cities."
"It is not for myself," she protested earnestly, "but for the
world. Is there not a King to come to Israel?"
"There is, but not yet, my daughter. Of that day and hour no
man knoweth. Now is Daniel's abomination of desolation; the
generation passeth and the prophecy is fulfilled. Jerusalem is
Seeing the wave of panic sweep over her, he put out a
"Yet, do not fear. For such as you the Redeemer died; for
your kind the Kingdom of Heaven is built, and the King whom the
earth did not receive is for ever Lord of it."
The veiled reference to the tragedy which Philadelphus had
recounted stood out with more prominence than the promise in his
"Whom the earth did not receive?" she repeated. "O prophet,
as thou boasteth truthful lips and a hoary head, tell me what
hath befallen us."
"Hear it not as a calamity," he said reassuringly. "Thou
canst make it of all things the most profitable, if thou wilt.
Forget the city. I, who would forget it but can not, bid thee do
this. Behold, there is another Jerusalem which shall not fall.
Look to that and be not afraid."
Her lips, parted to protest against the vague answer, closed
at the final sentence and the Christian pressed his advantage.
"Of that Jerusalem there is no like on earth. Against its
walls no enemy ever comes; neither warfare nor hunger nor thirst
nor suffering nor death. This which David builded is a poor
city, a humble city compared to that New Jerusalem. There the
King is already come; there the citizens are at peace and in
love with one another. There thou shalt have all that thy heart
yearneth after, and all that thy heart yearneth after shall be
In that city would it be right that she love Hesper instead
of Philadelphus, and that she should have her lover instead of
her lawful husband?
While she turned these things over in her mind, he wisely
went on with his story. Shrewdly sensing the young woman's
anxiety, the old Christian guessed the interest to her of the
Messiah's history before His teaching and began with prophecy to
support the authenticity of the wonderful Galilean's claim to
divinity. It was no fisherman or weaver of tent-cloth who
brought forth the declarations of the comforter of Hezekiah, the
captive prophet and the priest in the land of the Chaldeans. His
was no barbarous manner or slipshod tongue of the market-place
and the wheat-fields, but the polish and the clean-cut flawless
language of the synagogues and the colleges. Laodice saw in the
gesture and phrase the refinement of her father, Costobarus, of
the gentlest Judean blood.
"I saw Him," he went on in a low voice.
Laodice with her intent gaze on the beatified face put her
hand to her heart.
"Forty years ago," the old voice continued, "I saw Him first
in Galilee. There He was disbelieved and cast out. He came then
unto Jerusalem and I saw Him there heal lepers, cast out evil
spirits, cure the blind and the sick and the palsied. And in the
house of Jairus and at Nain, I saw Him raise the dead.
"I saw Him come to Jerusalem. Multitudes followed Him and
accompanied Him, casting their mantles and palm-branches in the
way that His mule might tread upon them."
The old man pointed south toward the single summit from which
Christ approaching could overlook Jerusalem.
"On that hill," he said, "while the multitudes hailed Him and
the sound of Alleluia shook the air, He reined in His meek beast
and looked upon this city, and wept over it. When He spoke, He
said, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy
day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are
hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that
thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee
round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even
with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall
not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest
not the time of thy visitation.
[Illustration: "And there His enemies crucified Him."]
"And three days later, I saw the Rock of David and all that
multitude follow Him unto the Hill of the Skull and there His
enemies crucified Him!"
After a paralyzed silence, Laodice whispered with frozen
"In God's name, why?"
But he wisely did not pause with the calamity. He had the
whole of the beginnings of Christianity to tell, a long
narrative that contained as yet no dogma. Paul had seen the
great light on the road to Damascus, and accepting apostleship
to all the world had fought a good fight and had come unto his
crown of righteousness; Peter had established the Church and had
fed the sheep and had been offered up by the Beast who was Nero;
John the Divine was seeing visions of the Apocalypse in the
Island of Patmos; Herod Antipas, "that fox," had passed to his
own place, prisoner and exile, sacrifice to a mad Caesar's
imaginings; Judas had hanged himself; Pilate had drowned
himself; thousands of the saints had died for the faith by fire
and sword and wild beasts; kings had been converted and of the
believers in Rome it was said, Your faith is spoken of
throughout the whole world.
Laodice sat with clasped hands, intent on each word as it
fell from the lips of the aged teacher, seeing at one and the
same time the Kingdom of Heaven constructed and her dream of an
earthly empire falling.
"He said," the Christian continued, "They that are whole
need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call
the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
Repentance was a rite for Laodice, a payment of offering, a
process to the righteously inclined, a thing that could in no
wise purify the sinner as to make him worthy of association with
the upright. The old Christian's use of the word was different;
he had said that the Messiah came to the sinner, and not to the
righteous. Had the young Jewess been less in need of comfort in
her own consciousness of spiritual delinquency she would have
set down the old teacher as one of the idlest dealers in
contradiction. But now she listened with keener zest; perchance
in this doctrine there was balm for her hurt. She made some
answer which showed the awakening of this new interest and then
with infinite poetry and earnestness he began to unfold the
teachings of Christ.
A woman came to them with wine and food, for the midday had
come, but neither noticed it. In his fervor to enlighten this
tender soul, the old man forgot his weariness; in her wonder at
the strangely gentle doctrine which had contradicted all the
world's previous usage, the girl forgot her prejudice. She
listened; and with such signs as change of expression, flushes
of emotion, movements of surprise and brightenings of interest
to encourage him, the old Christian talked. When he had
progressed sufficiently to round out the theory of Christianity,
she had grasped a new standard. The contrast between the old and
the new made itself instantly felt. On one hand was the simple
and logical; on the other the complex and dogmatic. The
Christian was able to measure proportionately how much should be
laid upon her mind for study at once and while she still waited,
he rose from his place.
"There is more; yet there are other days," he said.
But she caught his hand as he rose and with a sudden yearning
in her eyes whispered:
"O Rabbi, what said He of love?"
"Love?" he repeated, with a softening about his lips. "The
Master blessed love between man and woman."
"But, but--" she faltered, "if one love another than one's
wedded spouse, then what?"
His face grew grave.
"That is not lawful even among you, who are still of the old
He laid a kindly hand on the one that held his.
"Suffer but sin not. He that endureth unto the end shall be
She was silent while she gazed at him with change showing on
her gradually paling face.
"Then--then what is in thy faith for the forlorn in love?" she
"Peace, and the consciousness of the joy of Christ in your
steadfastness," he said.
She rose. How much longer had she to live?
"And thou sayest we die?"
"Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to
kill the soul," he said gently.
Fear Hesper, then, but not the Roman. While she stood in the
immense debate of heart and conscience he laid a tender hand on
"Perchance in His mercy thou shalt be welcomed there first by
thy father, whom I buried, and by thy mother."
The sudden recurrence to that past tragedy and the unfolding
of his recognition fairly swept Laodice off her feet with shock
and alarm. If he noted her feeling, he was sorry he had not
succeeded in comforting her with a promise of reunion with her
beloved in that other land. He took away his tremulous hand from
Leaving her transfixed with all he had said, he moved
painfully away, stiffened by long sitting while he discoursed.
It was a different Amaryllis that the pretended Philadelphus
faced now, from the one who had welcomed him on his arrival in
Jerusalem months ago. Then she had been so cold and
self-contained that it would have been effrontery to discuss her
hopes with her. Now, with the avarice of love in her eyes, with
wishfulness and defeat making their sorry signs on her face, she
was a creature that even the humblest would have longed to help.
Philadelphus sat opposite her in the ivory chair which was
hers by right. She sat in the exedra and listened eagerly to the
things he said with her finger-tips on her lips and her eyes
gazing from under her brow as her head drooped.
She had ceased long ago to debate idly on the actual identity
of the man who had called himself Hesper of Ephesus. There was
another question that absorbed her. Of late, it had been brought
home to her that the charm of Laodice for the stranger from
Ephesus, to whom the Greek knew the girl had fled, had been her
purity. Why should it matter so much about virtue? she had asked
herself. Why should it weigh so immeasurably more than the noble
gifts of wit and beauty and strength and charm? Behold, she was
wise enough to educate a barbarous nation, beautiful enough to
bewitch potentates--for a time--strong enough to take a city; yet
Hesper, who best of all could appreciate the value of these
things, had turned from her to Laodice, who was merely chaste.
The greater part of the jealous and bitter passion that had
shaken her then was dumb regret that the measure of charm was so
irrational--and that she had not believed in it, in time, in
Now, however, since she had become convinced that Laodice had
gone to Hesper for refuge, hope had awakened in her, but so
filled with uncertainty and lack of confidence in another's
weakness that it was little more than a torture to her.
If Laodice had gone to this winsome stranger, either claiming
to be the wife of Philadelphus or acknowledging the imposture,
there was now no difference between Laodice and herself!
But, she asked herself, was it not possible that this lovely
girl who had shown signs of illimitable fortitude, could live in
the shelter of the captivating Hesper as uprightly as she had
lived under the roof of the man she called her husband?
In one exigency, the hopes of Amaryllis budded; in the other,
her intuitive belief in the strength of Laodice discouraged her.
And while she alternately hoped and doubted, Philadelphus, in
the chair opposite her, talked.
"It follows that you and I must work together to gain diverse
ends. If our fortunes are to be tragic, we are undoing each
other in this conjunction. Since I in all frankness prefer it to
turn out comedy, let us make no error. Are you weary of John? Do
you seek a new diversion?"
She looked at him, at first puzzled, then with a frown. It
leaped to her lips, grown impatient with suffering, to tell him
all that she had evolved of the histories of himself, his lady
and of Hesper; but there seemed to be an element of recklessness
in that which threatened to do away with a means for her
success. He did not wait for her answer.
"And I," he said with mock intensity, "am done to death with
weariness--with my moneyer, this lady of mine. Let us be
diverted while we live, for by the signs we shall all die soon."
"Where," he began when her mind wandered entirely from him,
"dost thou think the mysterious man hath taken my other wife?
"I would I knew," he continued, conducting his inquiry alone.
"It will be right simple to have her beauty spoiled in this
hungry town, unless he takes tenderest care of her."
There was still no comment, but the lively sparkle in the
Greek's eye showed that he had touched upon a jealous spot.
"And by the by," he pursued, "what does this stranger, whom I
can not remember having known, look like? A villain?"
She answered now in a voice filled with rancor.
"Win away the girl from him and thou wilt know thyself to be
the better man; but study how much he hath outstripped thee and
thou shalt decide for thyself, then, that he is handsomer, more
winsome, stronger and more profitable. Describe him for
"Out upon you! How irritable misfortune makes most of us!
Now, here is my lady. She would fail to see the humor in my
fetching back this pretty impostor. Alas! Were I Deucalion or
Pyrrha or whoever else it was that repeopled the world, I should
have left jealousy out of the make-up of wives. It is a needless
element. It gives them no pleasure, and Jove! how inconvenient
it is for husbands! Now, I am not jealous of my wife. In fact,
had any man the hardihood to supplant me, I should not
discourage him; I should not, by my soul!"
"Why," she burst out again, irritated beyond control at his
manner, "do you not leave this place?"
He swung his foot idly and smiled.
"I shall when I can take with me this dear pretty impostor
who is so determined to have me," he answered lightly.
"Will you?" she asked eagerly. "Is that why you remain?"
"And for my lady's dowry. She keeps the key. But had I the
girl cloaked and hooded for flight, I might go, even without the
treasure. The times are precarious, you observe."
She rose almost precipitately and hurried over to the swaying
curtain of some heavy white material like samite, covering that
which appeared to be a blind arch in the wall. She drew the
hanging aside. It had hidden the black mouth of a tunnel, closed
by a brass wicket which was locked.
"Here," she said rapidly, "is what strengthens John in his
folly. This is a passage that leads under the Temple through
Moriah into Tophet. The whole city is underlaid with these
galleries, but this is the only one which leads to safety."
She dropped the curtain and approached him.
"But thou canst not go out of that passage alone!"
He smiled, and then with that boyish impulsiveness that he
had cultivated to cover the evil in his nature, he thrust out
his hand to her.
"Here is my hand on it!" he exclaimed.
"Go, then, and cease not till you have found her. Then, by
any or all the gods, I shall see that you do not go out of that
He smiled at her radiantly and went at once to his chambers.
When he reached the apartments, he found them silent and
deserted. He seized upon the opportunity as most propitious for
a search for the possible hiding-place of the dowry of two
When he opened first the great press in which his lady kept
her raiment he was confronted by emptiness. Dismayed, he turned
to look into the room and found the chests for the most part
open and rifled. On the brazier, now cold, lay a wax tablet. He
snatched it up and read:
Received of Julian of Ephesus the appended salvage in good
Items: One wife, Two hundred talents.
JOHN, KING OF JERUSALEM.
He went back to the andronitis of Amaryllis.
"I have lost interest in the treasure," he said whimsically.
"But I'll go out and look for the girl. I--I should like to
discover of a truth if the passage leads out of Jerusalem."
Amaryllis closed her lips firmly. Philadelphus read in the
look that he could not escape without Laodice.
Without further speech, he went to the vestibule, took his
cloak and kerchief from the porter and went out into the city.
It was nearly midnight when he passed into the streets. The
tumult of assault on the walls had ceased. The long lines of
beacon-fires on the walls showed only a few men in arms posted
there. Without there came no sound of activity in the camp of
the Roman. The streets below, lighted up by the ever-burning
beacons, showed its usual restless tramping of houseless, hungry
ones. But there was no talk; each one who walked the passages
went wrapped in his own dismal thoughts; the thousands took no
notice of one another. Jerusalem was as silent as a city
stricken with plague.
From the summit of Zion, which Philadelphus mounted, he could
see three Roman war-towers, planted along the outer works, dimly
lighted, and manned by a vigilant garrison of legionaries. These
had been a dread and a destruction which the Jews had been
unable to overthrow; coigns of vantage from which the enemy had
been able to deal the sturdiest blows of the campaign. They had
permitted no rest to the defenders on the wall; they had spread
ruin by fire and carnage, by arrow and sling for days. Sorties
against them had resulted in the death of their assailants,
only. Jewish engines accomplished nothing against them. The
three, alone, were taking Jerusalem.
Philadelphus looked at their tall shapes, black against the
remote illumination of the Roman camp, and inwardly hoped that
they would hold off complete destruction of the city, until he
had found the desirable woman.
No one noticed him; men passed him like shadows with their
eyes ever on the ground; no one spoke; nothing disturbed the
deadly quiet of the falling city.
But the next minute, Philadelphus, who walked alertly, saw
people step out into gutters or press against walls, as if to
allow some one to pass. Awakening interest ran abroad over the
street ahead of him. A lane between the wandering multitude
opened almost by magic. Through it, walking swiftly, his head
up, his mystic eyes ignited, came Seraiah, soldier of Jehovah.
There was no sound of his footfall. His garments flashed in the
light of the beacons, but there was not even a whisper of their
motion. But he had changed. There was fierce, superhuman intent
in the despatch of his gait and in the uplift of his superb
head. After him, as he passed, ran whispers. Each one stopped
and looked. He went down the uneven slope of Zion as some great
shade borne on a swift air.
Two or three bold ones began to move after him. Others
followed. The little nucleus grew. Philadelphus was caught in
it. Numbers were added as courage grew with numbers. From
intersecting streets people came. Some, although oppressed by
the silence, asked what it was and were silenced quickly. Others
began to mutter unintelligible predictions, and their neighbors
shook their heads without understanding that which was said.
The news of Seraiah's mysterious progress communicated itself
to rank and rank and spread abroad. Faces appeared against a
background of lights at barred windows, along the balustrades of
house-tops, from areas and ruins. Philadelphus, fascinated and
astonished at this curious demonstration, was contented to pass
with it. Silence, except for the rustling of garments and the
multitudinous footfall, fell about the vicinity.
Ahead of them, Seraiah moved. His steps, finely balanced,
passed over obstructions where most of his followers stumbled,
and when he turned across Akra and faced the Old Wall, the
excitement became painful.
His pace was flying; many of his followers were running. It
seemed that he was going against the Wall. Dozens anticipated
that course and skirting through short ways clambered up on the
fortifications and clung there though menaced by the sentries
until Seraiah appeared.
At a narrow point in the street that ended against the wall,
Seraiah met that Jew who had become a maniac on the day
Jerusalem attacked Titus. Without warning the maniac leaped up
into an intensely rigid posture; his legs spread, his lean arms
upstretched at painful tension, his mouth wide, his eyes dilated
immensely in their hollow depths.
Seraiah passed him as if no man stood in his way. Instantly
the maniac wheeled, as a huge spread-eagle wind-vane on its
staff, and stood at gaze, the broad uninterrupted light of the
beacon shining down on him and the mysterious man. The street
ended short of the wall. About the base of the fortification was
an open space, in which was planted a scaling-ladder. Seraiah
climbed this, an infinitesimal detail on the great blank of
Hundreds, rushing upon the wall, though a goodly distance
from the point at which the strange man had mounted, climbed it
and beat off the sentries.
And the foremost who reached the top saw the Roman Tower
directly opposite Seraiah shudder suddenly and sink in a roaring
cloud of dust upon itself to the earth.
Instantly the maniac below broke the tense silence with a
scream that was heard in the paralyzed Roman camp:
"It is He, the Deliverer! Come!"
Of the thousands of Jews that heard the madman's cry, every
heart credited it. Hundreds melted away suddenly, as if stricken
with terror at what they might see; other hundreds scrambled
down from their places to run purposelessly, crying aimless
things to the night over the city; yet others covered their
faces with their arms and fell in their places, expecting the
end of the world; and of the rest, the less imaginative, the
more composed and the more curious, remained on the walls to see
enacted a further miracle. Uproar had broken out instantly among
the four stolid legions of Titus on the Assyrian bivouac. Lights
flashed out everywhere; great running to and fro could be
distinguished; rapid trumpet-calls and the prolonged roll of
drums from company quarters to quarters were echoed back from
Antonia and from Hippicus. The startled shouts of commanders;
the nervous dropping of arms; the sharp excited response to
roll-call; the sound of sentries challenging, the curt response
by countersign, showed everywhere irregularities and the
symptoms of panic in the immovable ranks of Titus.
Seraiah meanwhile had disappeared from his place as
mysteriously as he had come.
Many of the Jews who remained on the wall believed that he
had passed into the Roman camp and was troubling it. The fall of
the tower, and the confusion it had wrought in the Roman camp,
never occurred to them to have been fortuitous incidents with
which Seraiah had nothing to do. Of the thousands that witnessed
that miracle, most of them were convinced that the hour had
Meanwhile Jerusalem was roaring with excitement. The city was
ready for a Messiah. Seraiah had arisen at the psychological
moment. Earlier the Jews would have been too critical to accept
him readily; later they would have reviled him for coming too
late. Whatever his advent lacked in thunders, in darkness,
voices, and shaking of the earth, had been passed by his
miraculous work against the Romans.
Philadelphus, who had seen the fall of the tower, and had
dropped down from the wall as soon as he had explained it all to
himself, came upon new disorders. Great concourses of awakened
Jews were hurrying to the walls to see what had happened, or to
behold the Roman army wiped out by the Angel of Death as the
army of Sennacherib had perished. Others collected at the end of
the Tyropean Bridge and watched the pinnacle of the Temple for
the miracle which should restore the city. But the burned ruin
where the Herodian palace had stood was the center of the most
There thousands were congregated. A great bonfire had been
kindled and above the multitude, on a colossal architrave fallen
at one end from the giant columns that had supported it, stood a
figure, redly illuminated by the fire, tiny as compared to the
immense ruin of its high place, but Titan in its control over
the wild mob below it.
It was a woman, a Jewess, dressed in faithful imitation of
the archaic garb of the prophetesses, mantled with a storm of
flying black hair, stripped of veil or cloak, and splendidly
defiant of the restrictions laid upon woman long after the days
Over the heads of the panting multitude she shook a pair of
arms that glistened for whiteness, and bewitched by the spell of
their motion. From under her half-fallen lids shot gleams of
fire that transfixed any upon whom they fell; from her supple
body shaken at times with the power of its own dynamic force her
hearers caught the grosser infection of physical excitement;
they swayed with her as blown by the wind; they ceased to
breathe in her periods; they groaned as the intensity of her
fervor pressed upon them for response that they could not shape
in words; they wept, they shouted, they prophesied, and over
them swept ever the witchery of her wonderful voice, preaching
impiety--the worship of Seraiah!
Philadelphus looked at this frantic work with a creeping
chill. He knew the sorceress. Salome of Ephesus, who could send
the sated theaters wild with her appeal to their senses, had
found enchantment of a half-mad city not hard. Aside from the
impiety, in fear of which his own irreligious spirit stood, he
saw suddenly opened to him the immense scope of her influence.
Not Simon, not John, not Titus, had discovered the logical
appeal to the city's unbalanced impulses. But the reckless
woman, robing herself in the ancient garb of the days to which
the citizens would revert, assuming the pose of a woman they had
sanctified, preaching the dogma they would hear, showing them
the sign that helped them most, held Jerusalem, at least for
that hour, in her hands.
He realized at once that to attempt to denounce her would
expose him to destruction at the wolfish hands of the frenzied
mob. There were not soldiers enough in the city to destroy her
influence, for she had achieved in her followers that
infatuation that goes down to death before it relinquishes its
conviction. Her control was complete. Seraiah was the anointed
one, but the prophetess, the instigator, the founder of the
worship, as follows in all apostasies, was the final recipient
of the benefits of that devotion.
Philadelphus walked away from the sight of Salome's triumph.
He had surrendered instantly his hope of regaining the treasure.
The whole of mad Jerusalem had ranged itself with her to protect
it. And Laodice was not yet found.
The madness on Jerusalem poured like an overwhelming flood
into the cavern under the ruin of the Herodian palaces. There
was Hesper, with most of his Gibborim gathered, preparing to
proceed to the defense of the First Wall in Akra against which
the Roman would hurl himself in the morning.
For days he had controlled his men only by the force of his
fierce will. Restlessness, little short of turbulence, had
changed his six hundred from earnest recruits to bright-eyed,
contentious, irresponsible enthusiasts whom only intimidation
could manage. They seemed to be balanced, prepared, ready at the
least whisper in the wind to scatter madly, each in his own
direction, after a vagary, albeit the end were destruction.
Throughout these latter days the Maccabee had become strained
and unnatural in his manner. There was a vehemence in all he did
which seemed to be a final resolution against despair. His
decisions were arbitrary; his methods extreme. Laodice, sensing
something climacteric in his atmosphere, kept aloof from him,
and regarded him from the dusk of her corner with wonder and a
pity that she could not explain. The Christian on the other hand
seemed always in an unobtrusive way to be at the Maccabee's
elbow. The apparition with the long white hair, however, ran
away and was found on the streets by the Christian and brought
back to the cavern, where he hid in a dark shadow in the remote
end of the crypt and was not seen.
Of late the cavern was always full of suppressed excitement;
unpremeditated conferences among the Gibborim, which Hesper
harshly forbade; and general sharp resentment against imposed
regulations and military drill. On several occasions the six
hundred were sent in defense of the walls only by sheer force of
their leader's will-power. And there they fell in at once with
the irregular methods of the Idumeans and fanatics that fought
each after his own liking, and the careful instruction of the
Maccabee was disregarded. Only so long as he cowed them, they
obeyed him; and he seemed to feel, as they seemed to indicate,
that when that thing happened which all Jerusalem indefinitely
expected and could not name, his control over them would be lost
On the night of the fall of the Roman tower, the Maccabee's
forces had been withdrawn for rest to their retreat and at
midnight were formed again for return to the fortifications.
By the strange inscrutable spread of rumor, sweeping with the
air, the tidings of the miracle and the rise of Seraiah poured
in upon the restive hundreds that the Maccabee was attempting to
form in his fortress. It came like the gradual velocity of a
burning star across the sky. From the ranks nearest the exit
from the burrow the murmur issued, growing into intelligible
sound, mounting to the wildness of hysteria and prevailing
wholly over the Gibborim in the space between heart-beats.
Everywhere they cast down their spears and their weapons,
everywhere they gazed at him with brilliant threatening eyes and
cried in loud voices so that the things each mad mind put into
expression were lost in a great unintelligible raving.
Laodice, the Christian and that white-haired trembler in his
refuge, saw the Maccabee raise himself to his full height and
lifting his sword confront in one grand effort at command a mob
of six hundred madmen!
Perhaps that manifestation of iron courage and strength,
which the crazy lot somehow realized, saved him from death.
Instead of falling upon him they turned away from the scene of
the last vain effort for their own salvation and rushed,
trampling one another, into the mad city of Jerusalem.
From without, the hoarse uproar of their desertion was heard
to merge with the great tumult over the Holy City. Tense silence
fell in the crypt.
The light of the torch wavered up and down the tall figure of
the Maccabee as he stood transfixed in the attitude of command
that had achieved nothing. It seemed the final inclination
beyond the perpendicular that precedes the fall. The Christian
started from his place and hurried toward the tense figure in
the torch-light. Laodice, unconscious of what she did,
approached him with an agony of distress for him written in her
face. The white-haired apparition crept out a little way on his
knees and putting aside his tangled locks gazed with burning
eyes at the defeated man.
Laodice, in her anxiety, moved into the range of the
Maccabee's vision. The next instant he had thrown away his sword
and had caught her in a crushing embrace to him. His voice,
blunted and repressed as if something had him by the throat, was
stunning her ear.
"And thou!" he was saying. "What from thee, now? Hate!
Curses! Ingratitude! Hast thou poison for me, or a knife? Or
worse, yet, scorn? Speak! It is a day of enlightenment! I'll
brook anything but deceit!"
She stopped him in the midst of his vehement despair, by
laying her hands on his hair. There surged to her lips all the
eloquence of her love and sympathy, but beside her old Nathan
stood--an embodiment of her conscience, watching.
Twice she essayed to put into words the comfort of her
submission to his love. Twice her lips failed her; but the third
time she turned to the Christian.
"Rabbi, what shall I do?" she implored. "Tell me out of thy
"What is it?" he asked, feeling that there was more than
sympathy for the defeated man in her heart.
"What would thy Christ have me to do?" she insisted. "This
stranger, here, is the joy of my heart; I am like to die if I
can not give him the love that I feel for him this hour!"
The startled Christian looked at her with suspicion growing
in his eyes.
"Art thou a wife? Wedded to another than this man?" he asked
"Wedded," she whispered, "to one who hath denied me,
affronted me and cast me out of his house! In this man I have
found favor from the beginning. He has been tender of me, he has
sheltered me, and he has strengthened me against himself to this
hour. There has been nothing sinful between us!"
The old Christian's face grew immeasurably sad.
"There is but one thing for you to do," he said.
She wrenched herself away from the Maccabee, who had been
angrily protesting against her carrying his case to another for
decision, and confronted Nathan.
"But he rejected me!" she cried with earnestness. "That alone
is enough among our people for divorcement!"
The Christian shook his head sadly. He was not happy to lay
down this prohibition before them who suffered.
"There is no help in thy faith for such as I am. In that thy
religion fails!" she cried.
"Love, now, is all in all to thee, daughter. It is but the
speech of thy young blood running through thy veins, the claim
of thy youth to thy use upon earth. Resist it; for when thy
years are as many as mine thou wilt lose thy rebellious spirit
and the fervor will have died out of thy heart. Then, if thou
hast fallen in this hour, how vain and worthless it will seem to
thee! Divine fires in the heart of men never become changed in
value. Love purely and thou wilt never repent; but I say unto
thee thou fashionest for thyself humbled and shamed old age if
thou transgressest the Law!"
"What mercy, then, since thou preachest mercy, in filling me
with this weakness if my life must be darkened resisting it, and
my future show no relief for it?" she insisted passionately.
It was the cry old as the world. He looked at her sadly,
"As for God, His way is perfect," he said. "How
unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
Thou shalt struggle with the truth, my daughter, but without
fail and most readily thou shalt know when thou hast sinned!"
She was past the influence of argument. Impulse controlled
her now entirely. She would see if there were not an
intelligence, even a religion which would see her sorrow from
her own heart's position.
She listened now to the words of her lover.
"He is an exclaimer, a prophet of doom!" he was crying. "Love
me and let us die!"
Without in the entrance of the crypt some great-lunged
fanatic was calling the multitude to harken to the prophetess.
The Maccabee's lips were against her cheek as he continued to
"It is the end! There is no help for us. Love me, and let me
be happy an hour before we perish! The Nazarene is right! The
city is cursed! God's wrath is upon us. The hour is still ours.
Love me and let us die!"
Without the great voice, like an unwearying bell, was
"A sign! A sign! Behold the Deliverer! Come all ye who would
share his triumph and hear! Hear! Come ye and be fed, ye hungry;
be drunken, ye thirsty; love and be loved, ye forlorn!"
Laodice stiffened in the Maccabee's clasp.
"Dost thou hear?" she whispered. "It may be true!"
He shook his head that he had bowed upon her shoulder.
"Let us go," she urged. "Perchance he has comfort for us.
Come, Hesper; let us see what he has for the forlorn."
"Who?" he asked dully.
"They say the Deliverer has come."
He shook his head again, but with her two hands she lifted
his face from its refuge, and urging with her eyes and her hands
and her lips she led him toward the stairs. The Christian looked
"For there shall arise false Christs; and false prophets,
and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it
were possible, they shall deceive the very elect," he said
The horror of the city augmented hour by hour. The Jerusalem
Laodice locked upon now was infinitely more afflicted than the
one she had seen in the daylight days before.
The walls were now outlined by fire which illuminated all the
city that lay directly beneath the beacons. To the north gnomish
outlines by hundreds against the flames showed where the
soldiers of the factionists were placing the topmost stones upon
an inner wall or curtain erected just within the Old Wall, which
was by this time shaking and cracking under the assaults of a
great siege-engine without. Titus, awakened by the fall of his
tower, had immediately renewed the attack, although the morning
was still some hours distant.
But the citizens were no longer disinterested, no longer
wrapped in hopelessness and dull misery.
Hungry, sleepless, houseless, diseased and mad though they
were, their hollow eyes gleamed now with hope that was almost
defiant. Around the Maccabee and Laodice roared the comment of
"They say he climbed to the summit of the outer wall
overlooking Tophet and remains there a target for the Roman
arrows, which rebound from him!" cried one.
"One of John's men says that the heads of the arrows are
blunted and the most of them snapped in two when they are picked
"The Romans have ceased to shoot at him!"
"They say that his footprints in the dust on the Tyropean
Bridge are Hebrew letters writing 'Elia' in gold!"
"It is said that the inner Temple is rocking with trumpet
blasts and that John is struck dead!"
"They say that those who believe in him shall ask for
whatever they would have and have it!"
"The breaches in the First Wall have been healed; the old
rock is back in its place!"
"They say that the dead beyond the wall in Tophet are
"There is a bolt of lightning fixed in the sky over Titus'
camp. We are called to go forth and see it fall!"
A voice swept by distantly crying that a woman had eaten her
child. Crazed Posthumus, self-elected guardian of the Law, with
the sacred roll under his arm, declaimed, without any of his
audience attending, that prophecy which this horror fulfilled.
All Jerusalem was in the streets; all Jerusalem poured into
the immense open space where some palatial ruin stood, and
melted in the giant concourse that gathered to hear the
Laodice and the Maccabee were unable to see the woman; only
her voice, mystic, musical, pitched at a singing monotone,
intoning rather than speaking, reached them from the distance.
The long harangue, delivered as a chant, had long ago had a
mesmerizing effect on her audience. Absolutely she controlled
them; along the dead level of her preaching they maintained a
low continuous murmur, accompanied by a slight slow swaying of
the body; in the climaxes of the appeal they responded with
cries and wild gestures, flinging themselves about in attitudes
characteristic of their frenzy. In their faces was the
reflection of a peculiar light that proved that derangement had
settled over Jerusalem. It was the end of the reign of reason.
"It is the abomination of desolation. Even so, it is
finished! It is the time, it is full time, and Michael hath
come. There are seventy weeks; behold them. The transgression is
finished and the end hereto of all sins. Approacheth the hour
for the reconciliation for iniquity and to bring in everlasting
righteousness and to seal up the vision and prophecy and to
anoint the most Holy! Prepare ye!"
Somewhere in the city a voice that was heard even by the
fighting-men on the wall in Akra cried:
"The Sacrifice has failed! The Oblation is ceased! There is
no Offering for the Altar; none is left to offer it!"
The vast gathering heard it, and immediately from the high
place of the prophetess came back the words, prompt and
"And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week:
and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and
the oblation to cease!"
Posthumus, buried in the midst of the crowd, was shouting,
but over him the splendid mesmerism of the prophetess' voice
"The hands of the pitiful women have sodden their own
children; they were their meat in the destruction of the
daughter of my people ... The punishment of thine iniquity is
accomplished, O daughter of Zion; ... and for the overspreading
of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the
consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the
Among the crowd now growing frantic, people began to cry:
"A sign! A sign!"
"Persecute and destroy them in anger from under the Heaven of
"Lead us!" they still shouted.
They were hungry; they had been abstinent; they had
surrendered their riches and their comforts. It was not
independence but necessities that they wanted now. The primal
wants were at the surface.
"Come up and be filled!" she cried. "Ask and it shall be
given unto you! Eat of the grapes and the honey; drink of wine
and warm milk; sleep as kings; be housed in mansions; be rulers;
command potentates! Let kings bow at your footstools! Be
replenished; be great! Suffering hath been your portion since
the earth was; but the end is come. Draw nigh and have your
recompense. Laugh, you whose eyes have trickled down with the
waters of affliction! You in the low dungeon come forth and
range all the free boundaries of the world. Whosoever hath
gravel between his teeth, let them be grapes! He who sitteth
alone, gather company and revel unto him! Feast, ye hungry; be
drunken, ye thirsty; love and be loved, ye forlorn!"
Laodice leaned forward suddenly and hung on the woman's
"The time for sacrifice and humiliation is paid out! It was a
long time! Now, behold in the generosity of his repentance, ye
shall ask and nothing shall be denied. Speak! Ask! The whole
world, Heaven and earth and the delights of all the years are
yours, now and for all time!"
At Laodice's side was Amaryllis. The Greek's face was pale
but lighted with a certain enlightenment that was almost
Startled and frightened Laodice moved back from the Greek,
who moved with her, without a glance at the Maccabee.
The voice of the prophetess swept on:
"Ye have bowed to tyrants and bent your necks to murderers;
ye have waged wars for pillagers and shared not in the spoils.
Why are ye hungry now? Who is full-fed in these days of want,
yourselves or your masters? A sword, a sword is drawn; uphold
the arm that wields it!"
"Sedition!" Amaryllis whispered, as the mob began to murmur
and stir at this new doctrine.
"For behold, he shall go forth with great fury to destroy and
utterly to make away many!"
Amaryllis bent so she could whisper in Laodice's ear.
"John hath taken him a new woman to keep him cheerful this
hour. I was not daring enough. Philadelphus' wife hath
supplanted me. Your place with him is vacant. Go back and
"Why was appetite and desire and thirst of power and the love
of riches lighted in you, but to be satisfied?" The prophetess'
words swept in after Laodice's sudden fear of returning to
Philadelphus. "We have expiated the sin of Adam, the greed of
Jacob and the fault of David. The judgment is run out; ye have
come to your own! Verily, I say unto you, if ye follow me in the
name of him who hath come unto you, the world shall be yours!"
Amaryllis still continued to whisper, and Laodice, fearing
that the Maccabee might hear, drew farther away. He stood where
she had left him, with his head lowered, waiting--at last a
creature dependent on another's will.
"Listen!" Amaryllis said. "I have been seeking you since
midnight! Philadelphus' doubt was awakened in this woman. He
questioned her, so minutely that she betrayed ignorance of many
things she should have known had she been the real daughter of
Costobarus. And when finally he taxed her with imposture, she
robbed him of the dowry and fled to John. Convinced that you are
his wife, he set forth and hath since searched for you without
ceasing! See, over there! He seeks you, now!"
Laodice looked the way the Greek pointed and saw
Philadelphus, standing with lifted head and stretched to his
full height, as if searching over the crowd for her.
Panic seized her. She wrenched herself from the Greek's hold
and, forgetting even the protection of Hesper who was within
touch of her, she threw herself into the crowd behind her and
struggled out of the press.
Nathan, the Christian, saw her turn and followed instantly in
the path she made.
Once out, she turned in a bewildered manner this way and
that. What refuge, now, for her, indeed, but the cavern under
the ruin and the care of Hesper, until the end which should
swallow them all!
A trembling hand was laid on her arm.
She whirled, expecting to find Philadelphus. Beside her, his
old face radiant with emotion, stood Momus!
Within the Roman lines was a bent and deformed figure of an
old waif that the soldiers had picked up attempting to run the
lines into Jerusalem the second day after the siege had been
laid about the Holy City.
The old man, though wrinkled and twisted and bowed, had
fought with such terrible savagery and had incontinently laid in
the dust in succession three of the camp's best fighting-men,
that the Roman soldiers, for ever partizan to the strong man,
had finally with great difficulty succeeded in trussing the old
belligerent and had brought him before Titus.
There they laid the twisted old burden before the young
general and shamelessly told how he, thrice the age of the
vanquished men, had finished them with despatch.
It was evident that the old man was a Jew; it became also
apparent that he was dumb and partly deaf, and further to their
amazement and admiration, they discovered that his right leg and
arm were too stiff for ordinary use and that he had done his
wonderful execution with terrific left limbs.
This saved his life and gave him a partial liberty. Titus,
however, admitted to Carus that the old man's distress at being
kept out of Jerusalem was pitiable enough to urge the young
general to deport him and get him out of sight.
For it was manifest that the old minotaur was in deep
trouble. But his paralyzed tongue would not serve him, and his
menial ignorance had not provided him with the means of telling
his desire by writing. Titus was unable to understand from his
signs anything further than that he wished to get into the city.
The young general in one of his outbursts of generosity would
have permitted this, but that Nicanor happened in at an evil
moment and drew such pictures of calamitous effect in passing
the old servant into Jerusalem that Titus was forced reluctantly
and irritably to be convinced of the folly of his kindness. So
here, through the terrible days of the siege, old Momus at times
desperate and savage, at others piteously suppliant, wore on the
sentries' peace of mind and stood like a shadow, for ever
watching the white walls of the besieged city.
The Romans were now within the city. Only Zion and the Temple
held against them. A wall built with the thoroughness of David,
the ancient, and solidified by the mortising of Time, ran
directly from Hippicus to the Tyropean Valley, joining the
tremendous fortifications of Moriah and so cut off Zion from the
advance of the army. Securely intrenched within that quarter and
the Temple, Simon and John began the last resistance which
should tax Roman endurance and Roman patience as it had not been
Titus no longer lagged. Famine had long since become a
powerful ally and the honor of the Flavian house rested upon his
immediate subjugation of the rebellious city. He no longer
expected capitulation; yet he did not neglect to be prepared for
it and to encourage it. Though the heart of the historian
Josephus broke, he did not fail to serve his patron as mediator,
though without hope. Titus himself, as from time to time the
horror of his work impressed itself upon him, made overtures to
the factionists, neglecting no art or inducement which should
convince the seditious that their resistance was foolhardy, even
mad. At such times, Nicanor's face became contemptuous and Carus
himself frowned at the young general's attitude. But the spirit
of a Roman and the traditions of a soldier even could not
prevent the young man from weakening at times before the charnel
pit in Tophet where countless thousands of vultures fattened
with roaring of wings and hissing of combat.
But under an ever-thickening veil of horrid airs, the
struggle went on.
The Roman Ides of July arrived.
Titus had erected banks upon which his engines were raised to
batter the walls of the Temple.
From Titus' camp, the Romans on sick leave, the commissaries,
those attached to the army who were not fighting-men, and old
Momus, saw first, before the attack on the Temple began, a soft
increasing dun-colored vapor rise between the Temple and
Antonia. It issued from the cloister at the northwest which
joined the Roman tower. As they watched, they saw that vapor
grow into a pale but intensely luminous smoke, as if fine woods
and burning metals were consumed together. In a moment the whole
north-west section was embraced in a sublime pall of fire.
John was burning away the connection between the Temple and
the tower and was making the sacred edifice four-square.
As soon as it became confirmed, in the minds of the watchers
in the Roman camp, that the Temple had been fired, the old mute
among them seemed to become wholly unbalanced. Without warning,
he leaped upon the nearest sentry who, not expecting the attack,
went down with a clatter of armor and a shout of astonishment.
The next instant the old man was making across the intervening
space between the camp and Jerusalem as fast as his stiff legs
could carry him.
The purple sentry sprang to his feet and strung an arrow, but
before he could send it singing, the old minotaur was mixed with
a second soldier in such confusion that the first sentry
hesitated to shoot lest he should kill his fellow. Another
moment and a second soldier was struggling in the impediment of
his armor in the dust and the old mute was again hobbling
straight away toward the walls of Jerusalem. He was now a fair
mark for the first sentry, but that Roman's rancor died after he
had seen his own disgrace covered by the overthrow of his
fellow. Two of Titus' scouts next stood in the path of the
running old man. One went to the ground so suddenly and so
violently that the watchers, now breaking into howls of delight,
knew that he had been tripped. The other stood but a moment
longer, than he, too, rolled into the dust.
The old man might have gone no farther at this juncture, for
at every latest triumph he left a crimson soldier murderous with
shame. But before the arrow next strung to overtake him could
fly, Titus, Carus and Nicanor, accompanied by their escort, rode
between the fugitive and the men he had defeated.
"There goes our minotaur," Carus said quietly. Titus drew up
his horse and looked. Nicanor with a sidelong glance awaited the
young Roman's command to his escort to ride down the fugitive.
But he waited, and continued to wait, while Titus with lifted
head and with indecision in his eyes watched the deformed old
shape hobble on toward the Wall of Circumvallation.
"Shall we let him go?" Nicanor inquired coldly.
"If some of my legionaries or those erratic Jews fail to get
him between here and Jerusalem, he shall get into Jerusalem. But
by Hector, he will earn his entry!"
They saw the old man mount by the causeway of earth which the
Romans had built over the siege wall for the passage of the
troops, saw him an instant outlined against the sky on the
summit, and the next instant he disappeared.
Titus touched his horse and rode at a trot toward the
causeway himself. He would see the end of this mad venture.
In the hour of sunrise the sentinel above the North Gate in
the Old Wall saw among the ruins of the houses of Coenopolis a
figure dodging painfully hither and thither. It was not habited
in the brasses of the Roman armor. Also, it hobbled as if lame
and ran toward the gate fast closed below the sentry.
The Jew, too intensely interested in the great climax
enacting in the city below, ceased to remark on this figure.
Presently, however, he looked again into ruined Coenopolis.
He saw there this un-uniformed figure wrapped in fierce embrace
with a young legionary. Almost before the sentry's astonishment
shaped itself into exclamation, the legionary was tumbled aside
as if crushed and the old figure hobbled on.
Suddenly there appeared in the path of the wayfarer a
galloping horseman, who drew his mount back on his haunches,
then spurred him to ride down the old man.
The sentry on the Old Wall made a choked sound, unslung his
bow and sent an arrow singing. There was a shout and the figure
of the horseman plunged from his saddle face down on the earth.
The wayfarer flung himself away and rushed toward the wall,
only a little distance away.
But all Coenopolis seemed to swarm now with legionaries,
afoot or horseback.
The Jewish sentry rushed to the edge of the tower overhanging
"Open!" he shouted below. "One cometh!"
With a rattle and clang of falling bars and chains the gate
of the Old Wall swung.
Disregarding the known wishes of Titus, two of the
legionaries simultaneously let fly their javelins. But the mute,
hobbling uncertainly, was not a steady mark and under the
whistle of arrows received and sent, he blundered up the
causeway leading to the Gate of the Old Wall, and the portal
slowly and ponderously closed behind him.
Wild howls of derision and exultation went up from the Jews.
Many of the soldiers clambered down to satisfy their curiosity
about the latest addition to the starving garrison. But he
proved to be a deformed old man, mute and weary, who was
distressed for fear he would be detained by them and who hobbled
out into the besieged city and posted as fast as his legs could
carry him toward the house of Amaryllis, the Seleucid.
But at the edge of a great open space where the Herodian
palaces had stood he came upon a concourse which seemed to be
all Jerusalem. It was a gaunt horde, shouting, raging,
prophesying and drowning the roar of battle at the Temple
fortifications with the sound of religious frenzy.
Momus, fresh from the orderly camp of Titus, was struck with
terror. He would have retreated and followed some side street
toward his destination, when he caught sight of a girl on the
very outskirts of this mob. Momus laid a trembling hand on her
arm. She threw up her head with a start.
The tremulous old man, weakened from his long and superhuman
struggle to enter the doomed city, held Laodice to his breast
while she stroked his rough cheeks and murmured things that he
did not hear and which she did not realize in the rush of her
helplessness and dismay.
At the corner of Moriah and the Old Wall, the tumult was
infernal. Out of the suffocating sallow smoke from the tuns of
burning tar heaved over the fortification upon the engines and
their managers, the stones from the catapults soared into view
and fell upon the sun-colored marbles that paved the Court of
the Gentiles. Clouded by the vapor, targets for the immense
missiles, the Jews heaving and writhing in personal encounters
appeared black and inhuman. Every combatant shouted; the great
stones screamed; the boiling pitch hissed and roared, and the
thunder of the conflict shook the Temple to its very
Without, the Romans planted scaling ladders, mounted them and
were pitched backward into the moat regularly. Regularly, the
ladders were set up again after struggle, mounted without
hesitation and thrown down again, with an inevitability which
furnished a grim travesty to the struggle. The two remaining
towers were set in position against the base of Moriah and
resumed execution. One after another the engines of the Romans
were hauled into position, and worked unceasingly until covered
with burning oil from the battlements above and consumed. Others
were hauled into place; fresh detachments of Romans seized upon
the scaling-ladders or mounted to the towers, and the roar of
the conflict never abated.
Meanwhile on the slopes of Zion the whole of Jerusalem,
gaunt, dying and demoniacal, was packed in the ruins of the
palace of Herod.
Old Momus with triumph and tearful exultation was holding out
to Laodice a heavy roll of writings, dangling important seals,
ancient papers showing yellow beside the fresh parchment, and an
old record dark with long handling.
Here were the proofs of her identity!
Laodice shrank from him with a gasp that was almost a cry.
Behold, the faithful old servant had suffered she knew not what
to bring such evidence as would force her to do that which she
believed she could not do and survive!
Momus sought to put the papers in her hands, but she thrust
them away and he stood looking at her in amazement and sorrow.
Nathan, the Christian, stood close to her. From the opposite
side, Philadelphus rounded the outskirts of the mob, searching.
He did not see her. She flung herself between Momus and Nathan
and cowered down until Philadelphus had passed from sight. When
she lifted her head, Momus was gazing at her with the light of
shocked comprehension growing in his eyes. Nathan, the
Christian, touched her.
"Who was that man?" he asked gravely.
She rose and laid her hands on the Christian's shoulders.
"My husband," she said.
Something had happened at the Temple. She saw the Jews at the
wall recoil from the dust of battle, rally, plunge in and
disappear. From out that presently shone now and again, then
with increasing frequency and finally in great numbers, the
brass mail of Roman legionaries. Titus' forces had scaled the
From her position, she saw running toward them John of
Gischala, with his long garments whipping about him, wrapping
his tall figure in live cerements. He was disarmed and bleeding.
She saw next Amaryllis, with compassionate uplifted hands stop
in his way; saw next the Gischalan thrust her aside with a blow
and the next instant disappear as if the earth had swallowed
Nathan was speaking to her.
"How often, O my daughter, we recognize truth and deny it
because it does not give us our way! God put a sense of the
right in us. We transgress it oftener than we mistake it!"
The roar of the turning battle and the mob about her drowned
his next words, except,
"You can not be happy in iniquity; neither blessed; but you
are sure to be afraid. Right has its own terror, but there is at
least courage in being right, against your desires."
He was talking continuously, but only at times did the wind
from the uproar sweep his fervent words to her.
"Christ had His own conflict with Himself. What had become of
us had He listened to the tempter in the wilderness, or failed
to accept the cup in the Garden of Gethsemane! How much we have
the happiness of Christ in our hands! Alas! that His should be a
sorrowful countenance in Heaven!
"The love of a man for a woman was near to the Master's
heart! How can you feel that you must love and be loved in spite
of Him! Pity yourself all you may you can not then be pitied so
much as He pities you!
"Love as long and as wilfully as you will, and then it is
only a little space. The time of the supremacy of Christ cometh
surely, and that is all eternity! Which will you do--please
yourself for an hour, or be pleased by the will of God through
all time? Love is in the hands of the Lord; you can not consign
it longer than the little span of your life to the hands of the
Momus, in whose mind had passed an immense surmise, was again
at her side.
"O daughter of a noble father," his dumb gaze said, "wilt
thou put away that virtue which was born in thee and let my
labor come to naught?"
But the preaching of Nathan and the reproach of Momus were
feeble, compared to the great tumult that went on in her soul.
She had seen John of Gischala cast Amaryllis aside. Even the
Greek's sympathy was hateful to him. Yet when Laodice had first
entered the house of Amaryllis, the woman had been obliged to
dismiss John from her presence for his own welfare and the
welfare of the city. Why this change?
Amaryllis was no less beautiful, no less brilliant, no less
attractive than she had once been; but the Gischalan had wearied
Laodice recalled that she had not been surprised to see the
man throw Amaryllis aside. It seemed to be the logical outcome
of love such as theirs. How, then, was she to escape that which
no other woman escaped who loved without law? In the soul of
that stranger who had called himself Hesper, were lofty ideals,
which had not been the least charm which had attracted her to
him. Was she, then, to dislodge these holy convictions, to take
her place in his heart as one falling short of them, or were
they still to exist as standards which he loved and which she
could not reach? In either event, how long would he love--what
was the length of her probation before she, too, would encounter
the inevitable weariness?
It occurred to her, then, how nearly the natural law of such
love paralleled the religious prohibition that the Christian had
shown to her. However harsh and unjust the sentence seemed, it
was rational. With her own eyes she had seen its predictions
borne out. Already the relief of the sorrowing righteous
possessed her. She turned to the Christian.
"Take me to my husband," she said. "Now! While I have
Momus caught the old Christian by the arm and, signing
eagerly that he would lead, hurried away in advance of the two
down into the ravine and crossed to the house of Amaryllis.
There were no soldiers to stop them about the house. When no
response was made to her knock, Laodice opened the door and
Her old conductors followed her.
Amaryllis sat in her ivory chair; opposite her in the exedra
was Philadelphus. At sight of him, the last of the soft color
went out of Laodice's face. A curve of despair marked the
corners of her mouth and she seemed to grow old before those
that looked at her.
Philadelphus and the Greek sprang to their feet, the instant
the group entered.
Laodice waited for no preliminary. Amaryllis' design was
patent to her; it was part of her sorrow that now Hesper would
be free to the devices of this deceitful woman. So she did not
look at the Greek. She addressed Philadelphus in a voice from
which all hope and vivacity had gone.
"I have brought proofs. Behold them!"
Nathan, the Christian, stood forth.
"I, Nathan of Jerusalem, met and talked with this Laodice,
daughter of Costobarus, in company with Aquila, the Ephesian,
three men-servants in all the panoply and state of a coming
princess three leagues out of Ascalon, her native city. I buried
by the roadside her father, who died of pestilence on their
journey hither. I bear witness that she is the daughter of
Costobarus and thy wedded wife."
A great light sprang into the face of the Greek.
Philadelphus, nervous, albeit the news he heard filled him with
pleasure, stood and waited.
The Christian stepped back and Momus, bowing, approached and
handed the leather roll into the none too steady hands of the
Ephesian. He opened it and drew forth parchments.
Aloud he read a minute description of Laodice from the rabbi
of the synagogue in Ascalon; under the great seals of the Roman
state, he found and read the oath of the prefect, that such a
maiden as the rabbi had described had been married before him to
Philadelphus Maccabaeus fourteen years before. Then followed the
depositions of forty Jews and Gentiles who were nurses,
tradesmen and other people like to have daily contact with the
young woman in her house, setting entirely at naught any claim
that Laodice was other than the wife who had been supplanted by
an adventuress. Philadelphus did not read them all. Before he
made an end he dropped the documents and flung wide his arms.
But Laodice with a countenance frozen with suffering held him
off for a moment.
"Go," she said to the old Christian, "unto Hesper and lead
him into the belief of the Lord Jesus Christ which is mine."
The old Christian approached the fountain in the center of
the andronitis and taking up water in his palm sprinkled a few
drops on her hair while she knelt.
"In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, I
baptize thee, Laodice. Amen!"
While she knelt, he said:
"I shall search for him also. Christ have mercy on thee now
and for ever. Farewell."
He was gone.
When Nathan, the Christian, stepped into the streets once
more there was an immense accession of tumult about him.
He turned to look toward the corner of the Old Wall in time
to behold Jews in armor and Romans in blazing brass rush
together in a great cloud of dust as the Old Wall went in and
Titus swept down upon Jerusalem.
At the same instant from the ruined high place upon Zion came
a roar of stupendous menace. The Christian, with sublime
indifference to danger, kept his path toward the concourse from
which he had taken Laodice. As he ascended the opposite slope of
the ravine, he saw, descending toward the battle, the front of a
rushing multitude, as irresistible and as destructive as a great
sea in a storm.
He saw that the mob was turning toward Akra, and to avoid it,
the Christian climbed up to the Tyropean Bridge, and from that
point viewed the whole of Jerusalem sweeping down upon the
At the head of the inundation passed a melodious voice
"An end, an end is come upon the four corners of the land!
Draw near every man with his destroying weapon in his hands for
the glory of the Lord! For His house is filled with cloud and
the Court is full of the brightness of the Lord's glory! A
sword! A sword is sharpened! The way is appointed that the sword
may come! For the time for favor to Zion is here; yea, the set
time is come!"
After this poured a gaunt horde numbering tens of thousands.
They bore paving-stones, stakes, posts, railings, garden
implements, weapons from kitchens, from hardware booths and from
armories; anything that one man or a body of men could wield;
torches and kettles of tar; chains and ropes; knotted whips, and
bundles of fagots; iron spikes, instruments of torture, anything
and everything which could be turned as a weapon or to inflict
pain upon the Roman, who believed at this moment that Jerusalem
The Christian overlooked this ferocious inundation and shook
his head. On a mound near him stood the spirit of the mob
concentrated and personified. It was crazed Posthumus.
He was screaming: "It is finished; the law is run out! All
prophecy is fulfilled!"
And over his head he was swinging a parchment fiercely
It was the Scroll of the Law!
After uncounted minutes, vibrating with roar, the terrible
flood rushed by. Feeble arms clasped the Christian about the
knees and he looked down on the tangled white locks of the
palsied man, who had searched for him until he had found him.
The Christian laid his hand on the man's head but did not speak.
At the breach in the Old Wall, the watchers on that almost
deserted street saw the brazen wave of four legions gather and
sweep forward to gain ground in the city before the mob swept
down on them.
Between the two warring bodies, one orderly, prepared but
apprehensive, the other mad and perishing, was a considerable
space. Fighting still went on at the breach in the walls, but
the supreme conflict of a comparatively small body of soldiers
and an uncounted horde was not yet precipitated.
Ordinarily, the Roman army could have reduced any popular
insurrection with half that number of men. But at present the
legionaries confronted desperate citizens who were simply
choosing their own way to die. Reason and human fear long since
had ceased to inspire them. They were believing now and
following a prophet because it was the final respite before
despair. There was no alternative. It was death whatever they
did, unless, in truth, this splendid sorceress was indeed the
Voice of the Risen Prince. Force would be of no avail against
them. Madness had flung them against Rome; only some other
madness would turn them back.
The Christian, from his commanding position, expected
It was the moment which would show if the false prophet would
triumph. If the four legions went down before the multitude, it
would mean the ascendancy of a strange woman over Israel, and
the obliteration of the faith in Jesus Christ in the Holy Land.
It can not be said that the Christian watched the crisis with
a calm spirit. He did not wish to see the heathen overthrow the
ancient people of God, nor could he behold the triumph of a
false Christ. He put his hands together and prayed.
A figure appeared between the two bodies of combatants,
rushing on intensely, to grapple.
It was a tall commanding form, clothed in garments that
glittered for whiteness. By the step, by the poise of the head,
the Christian recognized Seraiah.
The front of the multitude fell on their faces at that moment
as if he had struck them down.
Out of the forefront, the prophetess appeared. The Christian
heard her splendid voice out of the uproar, and while he gazed,
he saw mad Seraiah turn away from her, with the front of the mob
turning after him, as a needle turns to the pole.
In that fatal moment of pause, out of which the warning cry
of the prophetess rang wildly, the Roman tribune, in view for a
moment under the blowing veils of smoke, flung up his sword, the
Roman bugle sang, and the brassy legions of Titus hurled
themselves upon the halted mob.
The Christian dropped his head into the bend of his elbow and
strove to shut out the sound. The nervous arms of the palsied
man at his feet gripped him frantically.
Up from the corner of the Old Wall, came the prolonged
"A-a-a-a!" of dying thousands.
Jerusalem had fallen.
The foremost of the mob, turning with Seraiah, escaped the
onslaught of the Romans, and as the mad Pretender strode toward
the broad street from which the Tyropean Bridge crossed to the
demesnes of the Temple, they followed him fatuously, blind to
the death behind them and the oncoming slaughter in which they
Seraiah passed above the spot where the sorrowful Christian
stood, crossed the great causeway leading toward the Royal
Portico and after him six thousand blind and insane enthusiasts
followed, expecting imminent miracle. Above them towered the
heights of Moriah, now veiled in smoke. Up the great white bank
of stairs they rushed after him, facing an ordeal which must
mean a baptism in fire, and on through a curtain of luminous
smoke into a gate pillared in flame, up into the Royal Portico,
resounding with the tread of the advancing Destroyer, out into
the great Court of Gentiles wrapped in cloud through which the
Temple showed, a stupendous cube of heat, through the Gate
Beautiful where the Keeper no longer stood, thence into the
Women's Court, raftered with red coals, up smoking stones tier
upon tier till the roof of the Royal Portico was reached.
At the brink of the pinnacle, they saw through tumbling
clouds Seraiah towering. He was looking down through masses of
smoke upon the City of Delight, perishing. They who had followed
watched, uplifted with terror and frenzy, and while they waited
for the miracle which should save, the roof crumbled under them
and a grave of thrice heated rock received them and covered them
Below, Nathan, the Christian, seized upon the shoulders of
the Maccabee as he was dashing after the thousands. His face was
black with terror for Laodice. He struggled to throw off Nathan,
crying futilely against the uproar that Laodice was perishing.
"Comfort thee!" the Christian shouted in his ear. "She is
saved. She sent me to thee."
The Maccabee stopped, as if he realized that he need not go
on, but had not comprehended what was said to him.
Nathan dragged him out of the way, still choked with people
struggling to pass on to the Temple or to flee from it. Half-way
down the Vale of Gihon, where speech was a little more possible,
the Maccabee, who had been crying questions, made the old man
"Where is she? Where is she?"
"She has returned to her husband. In love with thee, she has
done that only which she could do and escape sin. She has gone
to shelter with him whom she does not love!"
The Maccabee seized his head in his hands.
"It is like her--like her!" he groaned.
In the Christian's heart he knew how narrowly Laodice had
made her lover's mark for her.
"It is her wish," Nathan continued, "that I teach thee Christ
whom she hath received."
"How can I receive Him, when He sent her from me?" the
unhappy man groaned, unconscious of his contradictions.
"How canst thou reject Him when His teaching led thy love to
do that which thine own lips have confessed to be the better
"Then what of myself, when I love where I should not love?"
the Maccabee insisted.
"You may suffer and sin not," the Christian said kindly.
The unhappy man dropped to his knees.
"O Christ, why should I resist Thee!" he groaned. "Thou hast
stripped me and made me see that my loss is good!"
The Christian laid his hands on the Maccabee's head.
"Dost thou believe?" he asked.
"Will Christ accept me, coming because I must?"
"It is not laid down how we shall baptize in the thirst of a
famine," Nathan said, "yet He who sees fit to deny water never
yet hath denied grace."
But the Christian's hand extended over the kneeling man was
caught in a grip steadied with intense emotion. The unknown had
But for his feeling that this interruption was necessary to
the welfare of another soul, the Christian would not have paused
in his ministry.
The phantom straightened himself with a superb reinvestment
"Thou, son of the Maccabee, Philadelphus!" he exclaimed to
the kneeling man.
The Ephesian's arms sank.
"Who art thou that knoweth me?" he asked in a dead voice.
"I am all that plague and sin hath left of thy servant
Aquila," the phantom declared.
The Maccabee lifted his face for what should follow this
revelation. It was only a manifestation of his subjection to
another will than his own. He was not interested--he who was
hoping to die.
"Hear me, and curse me!" Aquila went on. "But save thy wife
yet. I say unto thee, master, that she whom thou hast sheltered
in the cavern is thy wife, Laodice!"
The Maccabee struggled up to his feet and gazed with stunned
and unbelieving eyes at this wreck of his pagan servant, who
went on precipitately.
"Her I plotted against at the instigation of Julian of
Ephesus. Her, my mistress, Salome the Cyprian, robbed and hath
impersonated thus long to her safety in the house of the Greek.
This hour, through ignorance of thine own identity, through my
fault, she hath gone reluctantly to his arms. Curse me and let
The Maccabee seized the hair at his temples. For a moment the
awful gaze he bent upon Aquila seemed to show that the gentler
spirit had been dislodged from his heart. Then he cried:
"God help us both, Aquila! My fault was greater than thine!"
He turned and fled toward the house of the Greek.
The four legions of Titus swept after him.
Aquila lifted his eyes for the first time and gazed at
"I cursed thee for sparing me to such an existence as was
mine! Behold, father, thou didst bless me, instead. I am ready
"Wait," the Christian said peacefully.
A moment later, the Maccabee dashed into the andronitis of
After him sprang a terrified servant crying:
"The Roman! The Roman is upon us!"
A roar of such magnitude that it penetrated the stone walls
of Amaryllis' house, swept in after the servant. Quaking menials
began to pour into the hall. Among them came the blue-eyed girl,
the athlete and Juventius the Swan. These three joined their
mistress who stood under a hanging lamp. Into the passage from
the court, left open by the frightened servants, swept the
prolonged outcry of perishing Jerusalem. Over it all thundered
the boom of the siege-engines shaking the earth.
The slaves slipped down upon their knees and began to groan
together. The silver coins on the lamp began to swing; the brass
cyanthus which Amaryllis had recently drained of her last drink
of wine moved gradually to the edge of the pedestal upon which
she had placed it.
The dual nature of the uproar was now distinct; organized
warfare and popular disaster at the same time. The Roman was
sweeping up the ancient ravine. Jerusalem had fallen.
The gradual crescendo now attained deafening proportions; the
hanging lamp increased its swing; the silver coins began to
strike together with keen and exquisitely fine music. Juventius
the Swan, with his dim eyes filled with horror, was looking at
them. The peculiar desperate indifference of the wholly hopeless
seized him. His long white hands began to move with the motion
of the lamp; the music of the meeting coins became regular; he
caught the note, and mounting, with a bound, the rostrum that
had been his Olympus all his life, began to sing. The melody of
his glorious voice struggled only a moment for supremacy with
the uproar of imminent death and then his increasing exaltation
gave him triumph. The great hall shook with the magnificent
power of his only song!
The Maccabee confronted Amaryllis, with fierce question in
his eyes. She pointed calmly at the heavy white curtain pulled
to one side and caught on a bracket. The brass wicket over the
black mouth of the tunnel was wide.
Without a word, the Maccabee plunged into it and was
Amaryllis looked after him.
"And no farewell?" she said.
The thunder of assault began at her door. Juventius sang it
down. The athlete and the girl crept toward the mouth of the
black passage, wavered a moment and plunged in. After them
tumbled a confusion of artists and servants who were swallowed
up, and the hall was filled only with music.
The woman by the lectern and the singer on the rostrum had
chosen. To live without beauty and to live without love were not
possible to the one who had known beauty all his life, to the
one who had learned love so late--after she had been beggared of
her dowry of purity.
There was hardly an appreciable interval between the time of
the desertion of her artists and the thunder of assault at her
door, but in that space there passed before Amaryllis that
useless retrospect which is death's recapitulation of the life
it means to take. And out of that long procession, she singled
one conviction which made the step of the Roman on her threshold
welcome. It was an old, old moral, so old that it had never had
weight with her, who believed it was time to reconstruct the
whole artistic attitude of the world.
And that was why she waited impatiently at her doorway for
death, which was a kinder thing than life.
There was no incident in the Maccabee's long struggle through
the inky blackness of the tunnel leading under Moriah.
It was night when the first new air from the outside world
reached him. So he rushed into great open darkness, lighted with
stars, before he knew that he had emerged from the underground
Entire silence after the turmoil which had shaken Jerusalem
for many months fell almost like a blow upon his unaccustomed
ears. The air was sweet. He had not breathed sweet air since
May. The hills were solitary. Week in and week out, he had never
been away from the sound of groaning thousands. Not since he had
assumed his disguise to Laodice in the wilderness had he been
close to the immemorial repose of nature. All his primitive
manhood rushed back to him, now infuriated with a fear that his
love was the spoil of another.
All instinct became alert; all his intelligence and resource
assembled to his aid. It came to him as inspiration always
occurs at such times, that if the pair proceeded rationally,
they would move toward a secure place at once. Pella occurred to
him in a happy moment.
He took his bearings by the stars and hurried north and east.
He came upon a road presently, almost obliterated by a
summer's drift of dust and sand. It had been long since any one
had gone up that way to Jerusalem. There was no moon to show him
whether there were any recent marks of fugitives fleeing that
He did not expect that Julian of Ephesus would have courage
to halt within sight of the glow on the western horizon which
was the burning from the Temple. He expected the Ephesian to
flee far and long, and in that consciousness of the cowardice of
his enemy he based his hope.
But he ran tirelessly, seeking right and left, led on by
instinct toward the Christian city in the north.
At times, his terror for Laodice made him cry out; again, he
made violent pictures of his revenge upon Julian; and at other
moments, he believed, while drops stood on his forehead from the
effort of faith, that his new Christ would save her yet. There
were moments when he was ready to die of despair, when he
wondered at himself attempting to trace Julian with all the
directions of wild Judea to invite the fugitives. Why might they
not have fled toward Arabia as well, or even toward the sea?
Perhaps they had not gone far, but had hidden in the rock, and
had been left behind. Conflicting argument strove to turn him
from his path, but the old instinct, final resource after the
mind gives up the puzzle, kept him straight on the road to
He came upon the rear of a flock of sheep, heading away from
him. A Natolian sheep-dog, galloping hither and thither in his
labor at keeping them moving, scented the new-comer. There was a
quick savage bark that heightened at the end in an excited yelp
of welcome. The shepherd, a dim figure at the head of the flock,
turned in time to see his dog leaping upon the Maccabee.
"Down, Urge," the shepherd cried.
"Joseph, in the name of God," the Maccabee cried, "where is
He threw off the excited dog and rushed toward the boy, who
turned back at the cry with extended hands.
"True to thy promise, friend, friend!" the boy cried. "She is
The Maccabee stiffened.
"Is there one with her?" he demanded fiercely.
"A man and her servant."
The Maccabee threw off the boy's hands.
"Where?" he cried.
"Ahead of the sheep," the boy said a little uncertainly.
The Maccabee dashed through the flock and rounding a turn in
the road came upon Laodice walking; behind her Momus; at her
side was Julian of Ephesus.
Immense strain had sharpened their sense of fear until it was
as acute as an instinct. Before the sound of the Maccabee's
furious approach reached Julian, the Ephesian whirled.
Towering over him, the very picture of retribution, was the
man he had left, apparently dead by his hand, by the roadside in
the hills of Judea months and months before.
For an instant, Julian stood petrified. Over his lips came a
faint, frozen whisper that Laodice heard--that was proof enough
to her, the moment after.
When his outraged kinsman put out vengeful hands to seize
him, the Maccabee grasped the air. Julian of Ephesus had
* * * * *
Among the rocks at the base of the cliff that sheltered
Christian Pella from the rude winds of the Perean mountains, the
procurator of the city, Philadelphus Maccabaeus, and his wife,
Laodice, sat side by side in the morning sun. There was a path
little wider than a man's hand wandering along below them toward
a well in the hollow of the rocks. Along this way, in early
morning, Joseph, the shepherd, was in the habit of driving his
sheep to drink. And hither the procurator and his wife came to
visit the boy from time to time. Within their hall, there was
too much state. Something in the wild open of Judea with its
winds gave them all an ease whenever they wished to talk with
But the shepherd was not in sight. The pair sat down and
waited for him.
Laodice rested against her husband's arm, laid along the rock
behind her. Presently he freed that arm and with the ease of
much usage withdrew the bodkins from her hair. The heavy coil
dropped over his breast down to his knee. With delicate touches
he began to free from the splendid tangle a single strand of
glistening white hair. When she saw it shining like spun silver
across the back of his hand, she looked up at him. With infinite
care he searched her face, while she waited with questioning in
her tender eyes.
"This," he said, lifting the hand that supported the silver
threads, "is the sole evidence that thou hast seen the
abomination of desolation."
"And that came the night I journeyed away from Jerusalem,
without you," she declared. "But, my Philadelphus," she said,
turning herself a little that she might hide her face away from
him, "had I stayed with you against my conscience, I had been by
this time wholly white."
He kissed her.
"I did not expect you to stay," he said. "I knew from the
beginning that you would not. Ask Joseph. He will bear me out."
Low on the slope of the hill, the shepherd approached,
calling his sheep that trailed after him contentedly by the
hundreds. The excited bark of Urge, the sheep-dog, came up
faintly to them.
While they leaned watching them, old Momus, bent and broken,
stood before them. Laodice hurriedly drew away from her
husband's clasp. It was a habit she had never entirely shaken
off, whenever the mute appeared, in spite of the old man's
pathetic dumb protest.
He handed a linen scroll to his master.
The captives whom thou hast asked for freedom at Caesar's
this day sent to thee, Philadelphus, under escort. They should
reach thee a little later than this messenger. However, it is
Caesar's pain to inform thee that the Greek Amaryllis as well
the actress Salome were not to be found. Julian of Ephesus,
named the woman for us, is here at Caesarea, but being a Roman
citizen, is not a captive. However it shall be seen to that
liberty is sufficiently curtailed for the welfare of the
Also, I send herewith a shittim-wood casket found with John of
Gischala when he was captured in a cavern under Jerusalem. It
contains treasure and certain writings which identify it as
property of thy wife. There were other features in it which,
coming to my hand first, made it advisable that the State
not know of its existence. And privately, it will be wise in
to destroy them.
The Maccabee stopped at this point and looked at Laodice.
"What does he mean?" he asked.
"My father put your last letter in the case," she said, with
a little panic in her face.
The Maccabee laughed, and went on,
Those that go forward to thee are Nathan of Jerusalem and
of Ephesus. To thy wife my obeisances. To thyself, greeting.