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Title:      The Big Fisherman (1949)
Author:     Lloyd C. Douglas
eBook No.:  0400641.txt
Edition:    1
Language:   English
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Date first posted:          August 2004
Date most recently updated: August 2004

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Title:      The Big Fisherman (1949)
Author:     Lloyd C. Douglas






Chapter I


It was a calm, early summer noon in the southern mountains of
Arabia.  Sheltering the King's well-guarded domain, a mile above
and a dozen miles east of the Dead Sea, motionless masses of
neighbourly white clouds hung suspended from a remote blue ceiling.

There had been an unusually heavy snowfall in the winter, not only
upon the King's land but throughout the country.  It was going to
be a prosperous season for everybody.  Intertribal jangling and
discontent would be reduced to a minimum.  Arabia anticipated a
relatively peaceful summer.

Viewed from the main entrance to the King's encampment the
undulating plateau was a rich pasture on which a thousand newly
shorn sheep, indifferent to the rough nuzzling of their hungry
lambs, grazed greedily as if some instinct warned that there might
be a famine next season.

Nor was a famine improbable, for the distribution of snow was
unpredictable.  Almost never were two consecutive winters partial
to the same area.  This accounted for the nomadic habits of the
people.  They held no permanent property, built no permanent homes.
They lived in tents; and, with their flocks, followed the snow and
the grass.  All but the King, whose encampment was a fixed
establishment.  When the King had a dry season the tribes
replenished his purse.

And few ever complained about this assessment, for the crown in
Arabia was more than an ornament worn on state occasions.  The King
was indispensable in this country.  He earned his wages and his
honours.  It required a strong and courageous man to deal equitably
with these restless, reckless, competitive tribesmen who were
distinguished throughout the East for the brevity of their tempers
and the dexterity of their knives.

It had been a long time since Arabia had been governed by a ruler
with the moral and physical strength of King Aretas.  Everyone
respected his relentless administration of justice to the rich and
poor alike.  There was no favouritism.  They all admired his
firmness, feared his frown, and--for the most part--obeyed his
decrees.

Of course it would have been foolish to say that the Arabian people
were sentimentally devoted to Aretas.  In his difficult position he
could not bid for their affection: he wanted only their obedience--
prompt obedience and plenty of it.  But there were a few who did
sincerely love the taciturn, sober-faced, cold-blooded Aretas.

First of all there was his motherless daughter Arnon, upon whom he
bestowed a tenderness that would have amazed the predatory sheiks
who had often been stilled to sullen silence under his hot
chastisements.  And there was battle-scarred old Kedar, who had
taught him to ride when he was a mere lad of ten, who had watched
him draw a man's bow to full tension when he was in his early
teens, and had followed him worshipfully into all his hazardous
adventures as Prince and King.  And there were his twelve
Councillors who, in varying degrees, shared his confidence.
Especially there was Ilderan, Chief of the King's Council.  And
young Zendi, Ilderan's eldest son who, everyone surmised, would
presently marry the Princess Arnon, with whom he was reputed to be
much in love.  Surely the wedding would be soon, they thought, for
the Princess had recently celebrated her sixteenth birthday.

The tribesmen, who rarely agreed about anything, were unanimous in
their approval of this alliance.  Not only was Arnon popular for
her beauty and Zendi for his almost foolhardy courage, but--taking
a long view of their marriage--there might come a day when Zendi
would be their ruler; for if an Arabian king was without male issue
the throne passed to the house of the Chief Councillor.  Ilderan
was nearing sixty.  If anything were to happen to Aretas, which was
not inconceivable, considering how dangerously he lived, the
gallant young Zendi might succeed him.  This would be generally
acceptable.  All Arabia looked forward to the royal wedding.  It
would be a great occasion.  It would last for a week.  There would
be games, races and feasting.

                         * * * * * *

In the shade of a clump of willows sheltering a walled spring, not
far from the royal encampment, Arnon was awaiting the return of her
father, who had ridden early to the camp of Ilderan, seven miles
east.  She had joined him at breakfast, shortly after dawn, finding
him moody and silent.

'Is anything amiss, my father?' Arnon had ventured to ask.

The King's reply was long delayed.  Slowly lifting his eyes he had
stared preoccupiedly at the tent-wall beyond her.

'Nothing you would know about,' he had said, as from a distance.

Arnon had not pressed her query.  Her father had made short work of
his breakfast.  At the tent-door he had turned to say, 'I am
consulting with Ilderan.  I shall return by midday.'

For a long time Arnon had sat alone, wondering what had happened.
Perhaps it had something to do with the message her father had
received yesterday.  Of course there was nothing strange about the
arrival of a courier with a message.  It happened nearly every day.
But this courier--she had seen him riding away--was apparently from
afar.  He was attended by half a dozen servants with a well-laden
pack-train.  The donkeys had seemed cruelly overburdened.  After
the courier had departed, the King had retired to his own quarters.
It was quite obvious that he did not want to be disturbed.

Arnon strolled restlessly about under the willows, her thoughts
busily at work on the riddle.  Presently her wide-set black eyes
lighted as she saw her father coming up the well-worn trail, at
full gallop, on his white stallion.  She knew what to do.  Emerging
from the shade, Arnon stood beside the bridle-path with her shapely
arms held high.  Aretas leaned far to the left--the stallion
suddenly slackening speed--and sweeping his arm about the girl's
slim waist, swung her lightly over the horse's shoulder and into
the saddle.  Arnon laughed softly and pressed her cheek against her
father's short, greying beard.  No words were exchanged for a
little while.

'You have something very serious on your mind, haven't you,
father?' murmured Arnon.

He drew the stallion down to an easy canter.

'I have had a strange message from Herod, the King of the Jews,'
said Aretas, slowing the impatient horse to a walk.  'Herod wants
me to meet him for a private conference a fortnight hence, in the
city of Petra.'

'How fine for you, father!' exclaimed Arnon.  'You've always said
you were going to visit that beautiful city!'  Quickly noting her
father's lack of enthusiasm, she inquired, 'But--you're going,
aren't you?'

'Yes; it sounds important.'

'Is it not a long journey from Jerusalem to Petra?  I wonder why
the Jewish King wishes the conference held there?'

'Perhaps it is something that concerns Petra, too.'

There was an interval of silence before Arnon spoke again.

'Is this not the first message you have ever had from the King of
the Jews?'

'It is indeed!  The first that has crossed our border for . . .'
Aretas paused to reflect.

'A hundred years?' guessed Arnon.

'A thousand years!' said Aretas.  'Many, many more than a
thousand!'

'What do you make of it, father?  What does the Jewish King want of
us?'

Aretas shook his head.  They were arriving at the encampment now.
Guards stepped out to meet them.  Arnon was released from her
father's arms and slipped lightly to the ground.  Dismounting, the
King beckoned to old Kedar, as his horse was led away.

'You will fit out an expedition to Petra.  We are leaving on the
third day of the week.  The Councillors will accompany us, and a
guard of twenty riders.  We may be tented at Petra for one day--or
ten: it is not yet determined.  The Councillors will have had their
instructions from Ilderan.  You will attend to all the other
arrangements.'

'The festival tents?' inquired Kedar, implying that his sharp old
eyes had observed the royal insignia on the accoutrements of
yesterday's courier.

'No,' replied Aretas.  'We will take only the equipment we commonly
use when we visit the tribesmen.'

Kedar bowed his grey head, his seamed face showing disappointment.
He wanted to say that if the event was of high importance the King
should make a better show of his royalty.  He was turning away when
Aretas spoke again, quite brusquely:

'And, Kedar, though you may have conjectured about the nature of
our errand in Petra, if anyone should ask you what is afoot you
will reply that you do not know.  And that will be the truth.'

                         * * * * * *

Retiring to his private quarters, the King resumed his
contemplation of the conundrum.  What manner of emergency could
have induced the proud and pompous Herod to ignore the age-old
enmity between their nations?

For fifteen centuries, notwithstanding they were neighbours
according to the map--their frontiers facing across an erratic
little river that a boy could wade in mid-summer--the Arabs and the
Jews had been implacable foes.  This ancient feud had not been
rooted in racial incompatibility, though there was plenty of that
too.  The antipathy had derived from a definite incident that had
occurred long ago: so very long ago that nobody knew how much of
the story might be mythical.  But--let the tale be half fact, half
fiction--it accounted for the bitter hatred of these people.

According to the saga chanted about the Arabian camp-fires by
wandering minstrels, a wise and wealthy migrant had ventured from
Chaldea to the Plains of Mamre.  It was a long story, but the
minstrels never omitted their elaborate tribute to Chaldea as a
land of seers and sages, oracles and astrologers.  In Chaldea men
dreamed prophetically and were entrusted with celestial secrets.
Abraham, distinguished above them all for his learning, had
received divine instructions to make a far journey southward and
found a new nation.

But the prophecy was in danger of lacking fulfilment, for the years
were passing and the founder of the new nation was childless.
Sarah, his ageing wife, was barren.

To solve this problem, the perplexed idealist had won the consent
of his wife to permit his alliance with a beautiful young native in
their employ.  A son was born to them.  They named him Ishmael.  He
was a handsome, headstrong, adventurous child, passionately devoted
to his desert-born mother, whom he closely resembled.  Sarah,
naturally enough, did not like him.  Abraham admired the boy's
vitality and courage, but Ishmael was quite a handful for the old
man, whose hours of pious meditation were becoming increasingly
brief and confused.

To further complicate this domestic dilemma, Sarah surprised
everybody by producing a son of her own.  They named him Isaac.  He
was not a rugged child.  His eyesight was defective; so defective
that in his later life he had gone stone-blind.  He was no match
for his athletic half-brother.  For a little while they all tried
to be polite and conciliatory, but the inevitable conflict
presently flared to alarming dimensions.  Sarah no longer made any
effort to control her bitter hatred for young Hagar and her
tempestuous son.  'These impostors,' she shouted, shrilly, 'must
go!  Today!  Now!'

With appropriate misgivings Abraham conducted Hagar and their
indignant boy to the rim of his claim, gave the bewildered girl a
loaf of bread and a jug of water, and pointed south toward the
mountains.  Not a word was spoken.  Abraham turned and plodded
slowly toward his little colony of tents.  Hagar did not look back.

When the vagabond minstrels sang the old story, which, as the ages
passed, lost nothing of the magical in the telling, they declared
that Ishmael grew to full manhood that day.  This may have been a
slight exaggeration, though enough had happened to hasten his
maturity.  He swore to his mother that from now and henceforth for
ever he and his seed would be at enmity with everyone else
descended from his father's house.

Seeking refuge among the savage tribes of itinerant shepherds and
camel-breeders in the southern mountains, Ishmael quickly became
their acknowledged leader, fighting his way to power with an
audacity and ruthlessness that commanded their admiration and
obedience.  It was no small matter to bind so many discordant
elements into something resembling a nation, but before Hagar's
forceful and fearless son was thirty the hard-riding, fierce-
fighting savages of the desert were boasting that they were
'Ishmaelites.'  The name was respected and feared, by rulers and
robbers alike, all the way from the Jordan to the Mediterranean,
all the way from Damascus to Gaza.  As time went on, the wild new
nation became known as 'Arabia,' meaning 'Men in Ambush.'

The descendants of Isaac, and his more resourceful but less
scrupulous son Jacob, after many misfortunes and migrations--
including a long, humiliating period of enslavement in Egypt--
fought their way back into their 'Promised Land,' their western
boundary on the world's busiest sea, their eastern rim within a
sling-shot of the domain controlled by the Men in Ambush.  If some
stupid stranger inquired, 'Why do the Jews and Arabs hate each
other so bitterly?' he was told, 'It is written in the sacred
prophecies of both nations that they are destined to be at enmity
for ever.'

It was commonly understood, therefore, that when the posterity of
Father Abraham's two families met they neither smiled nor saluted.
They never broke bread together; never gave aid, no matter how
serious the emergency.  They conducted their necessary business
briefly and gruffly; and, having brought it to a conclusion, turned
away and spat noisily on the ground.  It was not often that they
fought, but it was said that on such rare occasions the catamounts
crept out into the open to learn new techniques of tooth and claw.
Often the contentious children of Abraham quarrelled; screaming,
gesticulating, and reviling; for both of their languages, stemming
from a common origin, were rich with invective and ingenious in the
contrivance of exquisite insults.  Neither nation had ever sent an
ambassador to the other's court.  Officially, neither had ever
acknowledged the other's existence.

Not meaning, however, that there was no commerce at all between
these mutually contemptuous men.  Racial antipathies had not
deterred the ardent traders of both nations from venturing across
the Jordan to engage in an undercover barter that would have amazed
and enraged the ordinary rank-and-file of their respective kinsmen.
Jewish merchants, far travellers by nature, quietly forded the
river with pack-trains bearing imports from many distant lands, and
did not lack for wealthy Arabian customers when they appeared with
foreign fabrics of silk and velvet, fine linens, gold ornaments,
precious stones, medicinal herbs, spices, and other exotics.  It
was customary, on these occasions, for the negotiations to be
conducted with all the sullen impoliteness that the everlasting
feud demanded; but the expensive goods did change ownership, and
the pack-asses skipped home, under a young moon, freed of their
burdens.  Had either the Jews or the Arabians been gifted with a
sense of humour, all this might have seemed funny.

During the last score of years something resembling a commercial
truce had permitted a group of Arabian camel-breeders to bring
their incomparably beautiful and expensive animals to the
celebrated stock-show and auction held annually on the disused
drill-ground near Jerusalem during the Jewish Feast of Pentecost.

Indeed, it was the lure of the Arabians' superb camels that had
lately made this Pentecostal stock-show notable throughout the
East.  Rich Romans, ever competing with one another in the
lavishness of their gaudy turn-outs in the proud processions of the
Imperial City, would send their stewards to purchase the finest of
these majestic creatures, regardless of cost.  The Jews, well aware
that this uniquely attractive camel-market was responsible for
bringing desirable patrons from afar, tried to forget--for this one
day of the year--that the coveted camels were Arabian.  And the
Arabs who owned the camels pretended they didn't realize--on this
one day of the year--that they were doing business in the land of
Israel.  They growled and scowled and spat--but they bought the
camels.

This camel business, profitable alike to the merchants of Jerusalem
and the stock-breeders of Arabia, had come to a dramatic end a year
ago.  A most unfortunate incident had occurred.  The auction, last
summer, had attracted an unusually large assembly of well-to-do
foreigners.  They had come from everywhere: Romans, Egyptians,
Damascenes, Cyprians, Greeks from Petra and Askelon.  The bidding
was reckless and the Arabian camels were bringing unprecedented
figures.  By custom, the least valuable of the herd were offered
first; and so it was that as the afternoon wore on, the excitement
increased.  In many of the later contests, the spellbound crowd--
whose majority had long since been priced out of the market--held
its breath in amazement.

The finest beast of the lot was not offered until all the others
had been bought.  This tall, tawny, pompous three-year-old was
clearly the pick of the herd.  When, at last, the haughty creature
was led forward, two well-groomed men, who had taken no part in the
previous sales, shouldered their way through the pack from
different directions, and showed a serious interest.  Not many men
in the crowd recognized either of them; but Demos, the suave Greek
auctioneer, knew who they were, and was suddenly weak in the knees.
The clean-shaven, middle-aged Roman, with the cloth-of-gold bandeau
on his brow and the black eagle on the breast of his tunic, was a
purchasing agent for Legate Varus, Commander-in-Chief of the
Empire's Armies in the West.  The lean, austere, grey-bearded Jew,
in the long black robe, was Joel, the representative of the
immensely wealthy Simeon Maccabee, whose political power in Jewry
was responsible for Herod's strong position on the Judaean throne;
for the Maccabee family paid the bulk of the tribute which Rome
exacted of the province--and Herod was their man.

Commander Varus, who was distinguished chiefly for his high opinion
of himself, had become accustomed to getting what he wanted.
Simeon the Maccabee entertained a similar feeling about his
own desires.  It would be a very awkward situation if the
representatives of these eminent men staged a battle in which one
of them would be defeated.  Wars had risen out of incidents more
trivial.

Demos hastily consulted the Arabians, explaining the gravity of the
impasse, and suggested that they withdraw the camel from the sale.
Disappointed but comprehending, they consented.  The prize camel
was led away, and Demos announced that the Arabs had decided, at
the last moment, to keep the handsome king of their herd for the
continued improvement of their own stock.  This left the sons of
Ishmael in a very bad spot indeed.  The crowd jeered.  There was
some stone-throwing.  The little party of unpopular Arabians were
in no position to defend themselves, and they beat an inglorious
retreat.

Upon their return home, the whole matter was laid before King
Aretas, who decided, promptly and firmly, that the Arabs were not
again to participate in any of the Jews' affairs.  That had been a
year ago.  This summer the camel-breeders had let it be known that
they were marketing their valuable herd in Damascus.  The
announcement carried fast and far; and as a result the stock-show
at Jerusalem, on the Day of Pentecost, was poorly attended by the
people previously counted on to ensure its prestige.

As King Aretas sat in counsel with wise old Ilderan, advising him
of Herod's incredible request for a parley at Petra, the latter had
said, after a considerable silence between them, 'Perhaps he wishes
to have our camels brought again to his Pentecostal fair.'

Aretas shook his head slowly.

'No, my good Ilderan.  It's something more important than camels.'

                         * * * * * *

There was no city anywhere quite like Petra.  Nobody knew its
origin or its age; a thousand years, perhaps.  It was known to have
sheltered at least four successive civilizations, and had borne as
many names.  For the past three centuries it had belonged to a
wealthy colony of fugitive Greeks, who had expensively bestowed
upon it an incomparable beauty.  It was Athens minus the slums and
the smells.

Petra was more than a city; for it embraced not only an exquisitely
contrived municipality, distinguished for the architecture of its
baths, theatres, forums, temples, and stately residences, but a
broad, enveloping valley whose green meadows and fertile fields
were nourished by innumerable gushing springs.

Nature had also made provision for the defence of this self-
contained little city-state by encircling it with a ring of
precipitous stone mountains, converting it into a natural fortress.
Petra could be entered only through two gateways: on the west,
where a deep-worn camel-trail began its ambling toward distant Gaza
and the coast-road north to Damascus, and on the south, leading to
the Red Sea.  These approaches were made through narrow, high-
walled defiles which a handful of guards could--and often did--
defend against bands of reckless marauders.  It had been a long
time since the city had had to repulse a serious invasion: never,
indeed, since its occupation by the Greeks.

Naturally, it had been, through the ages, a much coveted
stronghold, populated and repopulated with rich traders of various
tints and tongues, whose dynasties successively fattened and fell,
each of them leaving monuments and tombs which their victors
wrecked to make room for the more extravagant memorials of their
own.

According to what passed for history in Arabia, which had never
gone to much bother about keeping records, the most recent invasion
of this territory had been made by their own tribesmen, some five
hundred years ago, who had thought it their turn to enter and sack
the rich old city, then in the hands of a decadent generation of
Nabataeans.  At small cost to themselves, the Arabs had driven out
all the inhabitants who were left from a ruthless slaughter, had
carried off everything of any value, and then had wondered what to
do with their new acquisition; for they were nomads and had no use
for cities.

After an interval of a couple of centuries, during which only the
bats and hyenas were in residence, one Andrakos, fleeing for refuge
from a Roman invasion with a large company of well-to-do Athenians,
offered King Retar of Arabia a great price for the deserted city.
Much gratified to have, as neighbours, a new kind of people, who
had seen much too much of warfare and might be expected to behave
themselves, Retar promised the Greeks that they would never be
molested by the Arabians, and published a decree warning his own
people that Petra was not to be violated.  This injunction they had
scrupulously obeyed, not only because King Retar was held in high
regard but because the penalty for annoying Petra was a public
stoning.  Arabia had kept the peace-pact; and, with this comforting
guarantee of security, Petra had built the most beautiful city in
the world.

As for the current relations of Petra and Arabia, it could hardly
be said that they had any at all.  In the opinion of the Arabs,
the Greeks were a queer lot of people who spent their time
carving figures out of stone, painting pictures, and reading old
scrolls written long ago by men as idle as themselves.  Such
preoccupations, however unprofitable, were harmless enough, and if
the citizens of Petra wanted to fritter away their lives in this
manner, it was agreeable with realistic and illiterate Arabia.  All
that Petra knew about the Arabs was that they raised and rode the
most beautiful and high-spirited horses to be found anywhere on
earth, that their magnificent camels--too expensive for draught
duty--were bred for showy parades in which they marched accoutred
with silver ornaments, that the long-fibred wool of the high
mountains was eagerly sought by the most famous weavers of
Caesarea, Corinth, and Rome, and that their interest in anything
artistic was completely non-existent.  Aside from the fact that the
bodily temperature of the Greeks and Arabs was maintained at
approximately the same level, they had nothing in common and
regarded each other with a condescension not unmixed with pity.

Upon the accession of Aretas to the Arabian throne (a venerable
cedar chest covered with the spliced white pelts of two long-haired
goats), a richly caparisoned deputation from Petra had come to pay
neighbourly respects.  For all parties concerned it was a pleasant
visit.  The pundits from Petra were shown every available
hospitality.  Their gift to the young King was a richly illuminated
scroll containing Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War;
and, to show his appreciation, Aretas sent the aged Governor of
Petra home on a tall, sleek, snobbish camel named Retar, in honour
of the Arabian king who had had such amicable dealings with the
Greeks in an earlier day.  When, some weeks after the coronation,
it was amusingly reported to Aretas that Retar had proved
unmanageable, he replied, 'That makes us even.'

Chief Councillor Ilderan, who had something of an instinct for
statesmanship and was canny enough to take a long view of
international relations, had sometimes urged Aretas to pay a visit
to Petra.

'The time may come, sire,' Ilderan had said, 'when it might be to
our advantage to have had a closer acquaintance with these people.'

'Very well, Ilderan,' Aretas had replied.  'Sometime we will do
that.'  But the young king had plenty of pressing problems on his
hands.  He had never found time to visit Petra, nor had he any
inclination to place himself at a disadvantage in the company of
men whose manner of life and thought was so foreign to his own.
One day Ilderan, still nourishing the hope for a closer friendship
with the Greeks, remarked that Herod and his sons were said to be
frequent visitors in Petra.

'That makes me even less eager to go there,' Aretas had replied
almost gruffly.  'If the King of the Jews has found favour with the
Governor of Petra--all the more reason why we should keep our
distance.'

                         * * * * * *

It was high noon when the Arabian cavalcade by a circuitous route
reached the southern gateway into Petra.  A brightly uniformed
detachment met the expected guests at the pass and conducted them
through the fortified defile.

After a three-mile ride on a well-kept road, flanked by green
pastures, orchards, and widely spaced villas of exquisite
architecture, the visitors climbed a long hill, reining in at the
summit to face a breath-taking view of the white marble city.
There they dismounted to rest their horses.  Aretas and Ilderan
sauntered a little way apart and for some moments silently surveyed
the beautiful panorama below them.

King Herod's encampment, easily identifiable, had already been set
up in a spacious park at the centre of the city.  It monopolized at
least three-quarters of the park.  The colourful tents and gay
banners moved Aretas to mutter that it was a more gaudy show than
he had expected of the ever dolorous Jews.

'That is the Roman touch, sire,' observed Ilderan.  'Herod does not
forget how he came by his kingship.'

'Aye,' rumbled Aretas.  'It was a lucky day for that Idumean
upstart when his foolhardy father stopped the Egyptian arrow
intended for Cassius.'

'I have often wondered, sire,' drawled old Ilderan, 'whether
Cassius might have been so generous with his gratitude had he known
how much wealth these Idumeans would acquire in Judaea.'

'It's never too late for the Empire to rectify a mistake of
generosity,' said Aretas.

'True--but there's no hurry.  Herod took over a Jerusalem built of
sun-baked brick and is refashioning it in granite and marble.  Old
Augustus should be willing to let him do that, at the Jews'
expense.  Besides,' continued Ilderan, 'Judea pays an exorbitant
tribute.  Why should the Emperor send an army in to kill the goose
that lays gold eggs?'

'Even so; Herod's nights must be troubled by bad dreams. . . .
Shall we proceed into the city, Ilderan?'

The old Councillor did not assent promptly.  His brow was furrowed.
Pointing toward the Jews' encampment with his riding-whip, he
remarked, 'Herod has occupied all but a corner of the park, sire.
Doubtless he expects us to content ourselves with what remains of
it.  Such an idea would become him, I dare say.'

'Let us not give him that satisfaction,' growled Aretas.  'We will
pitch our tents where we are--on this hill-top.  Agreed?'

Ilderan nodded approval.  Beckoning to Zendi, the popular young
Captain of the Royal Guard, Aretas gave the order.  Noting the
sudden disappointment in Zendi's face, he added, 'After our camp is
in order, you and your men are at liberty to ride down into the
city.'

There was a spontaneous murmur of pleasure from the tough young
cavalrymen, which prompted the King to announce sternly, 'You will
remember that we are guests here.  Zendi, you are to hold your men
strictly to account for their behaviour! . . .  And--one thing
more: there is to be no quarrelling with the Jews!'

Zendi raised his hand for permission to speak.

'Should the Jews attack us, Your Majesty, what shall I tell my men
to do?'

King Aretas swung into his saddle before replying.

'In that case, Zendi,' he said, with a shrug of his shoulder, 'your
men will know what to do--without being told.'  There was a
concerted shout of laughter.  Even Aretas, who rarely smiled,
pulled a reluctant grin as he rode away in the lead of his amused
Councillors.  Ilderan, riding beside him now, resumed their
conversation about Herod.

'Of course, sire, he cannot help realizing the instability of his
provincial throne.  He proves his apprehension by the frequency of
his journeys to visit the Emperor--and the fact that his sons spend
most of their time in Rome.'

'The Jews probably object to that,' surmised Aretas.

'Naturally, sire; but Herod is in greater need of the Emperor's
favour than the good opinion of the Jews, who would despise him, no
matter what he did--or left undone. . . .  All that flamboyant
display of Roman trinkets represents Herod's fear--rather than his
admiration--of Augustus.'

On the level now and four abreast, the Arabians quickened their
speed and swept through the suburbs of Petra, presently drawing up
before the stately palace of Sosthenes, the Governor, where Aretas
and his council were ceremoniously received.  Sosthenes seemed
flustered.

'I trust Your Majesty may find ample room in the park for your
encampment,' he said, with an apologetic smile which Aretas made no
sign of interpreting.  It was evident that the taciturn King of
Arabia, whatever he might think of the King of the Jews, was not
disposed to exhibit his feelings for the entertainment of this
smooth-tongued Greek.  'And if there is not sufficient camping-
space in the park,' continued Sosthenes uneasily, 'we will see to
it that your retinue does not lack for hospitality.'

'We have already encamped, my lord,' said Aretas; 'on the high
plateau south of the city.  Our people prefer the open spaces.
Will you advise King Herod that Arabia is at his service?'

'He awaits you, Your Majesty.'  Sosthenes' tone indicated his
relief that an awkward situation had been nicely disposed of.  'If
it is agreeable, your conference will be held here in our council-
chamber.'  With a deep bow, he led the way to a high-domed, marble-
walled room, luxuriously furnished with huge upholstered divans
arranged in two semi-circles fronting a massive teakwood table, at
either end of which stood a tall-backed, gold-covered, throne-like
chair.  The Arabians had not long to wait.  Attended by a dozen
venerable members of the Jewish Sanhedrin, Herod strutted in.
Stiff bows and crisp amenities were exchanged.  The Kings took
their places in the tall chairs.  The Councillors and the Sanhedrin
sat.  Facing each other, with calm, steady-eyed curiosity, the
rulers of Judaea and Arabia presented a striking contrast in
costume, bearing, and physique.

Herod was urbane, suave, quite the man of large affairs.  He was
sixty and paunchy, and there were pendulous pouches under his
experienced eyes.  It was apparent that the paunch and the pouches
were decorations won in courageous combat with nourishing food and
rich beverages.  His abundant thatch of greying hair--close-cropped
after the Roman manner--glistened with scented unguents.  His beard
was short and well-groomed, a compromise between the patriarchal
whiskers of Jerusalem and the cleanly shaved jowls of Rome.  His
robe was of fine-spun white linen, trimmed with purple at the
throat, cuffs, and skirt-hem.  Herod had the self-assured posture
of a man who had been everywhere, and always with the right people;
who had seen everything, and always from a reserved seat.

Aretas was carelessly dressed in a brown, travel-worn cashmere
burnous, the skirt of which was parted revealing his brown goat-
skin riding-breeches and thong-laced boots.  The only touch of
colour on his clothing was the ancient crest of the Ishmaelites, an
oval patch of blue silk appliqud to the left breast of his
burnous.  In this field of blue were the well-known devices seen on
Arabia's banners--a slim, gold-embroidered moon-crescent, half-
circling a silver star--and pierced, in the form of an X, by a
white sword and a shepherd's crook, the distinctive symbol of
Arabian royalty.  Aretas did not relax in his chair but sat rigidly
erect with the air of a man accustomed to brief parleys, laconic
statements, swift agreements, and an unceremonious adjournment.

In his early fifties, Arabia's King was lean as a leopard, tough as
a bowstring, and as tanned as an old saddle.  The hood of his
burnous had been pushed back from his deep-seamed forehead, showing
a tousled mop of grizzled hair.  He too wore a short beard, but
nobody had trimmed it that morning, much less anointed it with
fragrant oils.  There was nothing of smooth statesmanship in the
face or bearing of this Arabian.  Except for the royal crest, he
was not accoutred like a king, nor did he have the manner of one
accustomed to the adroit thrust and parry of diplomacy.  Yet there
were the deep-set black eyes to be reckoned with, eyes inured to
long vistas and well-versed in the lore of the sky.

Having spent most of his life indoors, Herod--cannily competent in
studying the minds and moods of similarly sheltered men--peered
into the fathomless eyes of Aretas, and the carefully rehearsed
speech he had obviously meant to make seemed to need revision.

'Your Excellency,' began Herod, measuring his words, 'we invited
you here to discuss a matter of grave concern to both our nations.'
He paused for some response; at least a slight lifting of the
Arabian's brows.  But the face of Aretas was impassive, giving no
sign of surprise or curiosity.

'We have recently returned from Rome with disturbing news,'
continued Herod.  'Plans are rapidly taking shape for a Roman
invasion into the north-east that will sweep this coast so bare of
everything valuable that when it is ended the very vultures will
die of starvation.  Neither of us--and you may be sure that we will
both be involved in this tragedy--can hope to withstand such an
attack, but, firmly resolved to unite in a defence of our
countries, we might exhibit enough force to dissuade Tiberius--'

'Tiberius!' broke in Aretas.  'Is Tiberius not leading the Army in
the West?'

'Not at present,' replied Herod, pleased to be able to instruct his
conferee from the hinterland.  Tiberius had been recalled to Rome
some months ago, to be co-regent with Augustus.  The Western Army,
in charge of the subjugation of the German tribes and the
occupation of all Gaul, was given to Varus, who had now been
completely overwhelmed--put to utter rout, destroyed!  'It is the
worst defeat that the Empire has ever experienced.  Never again
will the Romans cross the Rhine.  If they are to recover their lost
prestige, at home and abroad, they must extend their power in the
east--and the north.  And our countries are on the highway to
Damascus.'

Aretas frowned studiously, but made no reply, though the Jew gave
him plenty of time for a rejoinder.  Perhaps, mused Herod, the
remote Arabian does not fully realize the predicament of the Romans
and their necessity to strike a blow--or invite disaster.  He
decided to post Aretas on some recent history that might have
escaped him.  The speech lasted for a full half hour, Aretas
listening without commenting.

Augustus--Herod went on--had made a great Emperor; no doubt of
that.  In spite of the fact that he never had had any health, at
all, he had done much for Rome.  But now he was old, and so ill
that everybody knew about it.  The reins of government had been
slipping rapidly through his rheumatic fingers.  He had lost his
grip on the Senate.  The rabble was restless.  Of course the
trouble was largely fiscal.  Gone were the days when--in need of
money to finance a fortnight's free feasting for Rome's improvident
thousands--an expedition could be sent to raid Sicily or Crete or
Cyprus or Macedonia, returning with valuable slaves, grain, lumber,
leather, and gold.  True, the provinces could still be sacked and
pillaged, again and again; but the Romans had less and less to show
for it.

'You remember, don't you, Your Excellency, how Augustus was so hard
up--a few years ago--that he required every man, in all the
provinces tributary to Rome, to pay a poll-tax?'  Herod snorted
with disgust.  'It was a paltry thing to do, the act of a miser or
a bankrupt.  The provinces were already taxed to the limit of their
endurance.  And then this bewildered old Emperor childishly decides
to screw a poll-tax out of the hungry provincials!  He sought to
clothe the ridiculous affair with dignity by pretending the main
idea was to take a census; every man was commanded to report on a
certain day, in the place of his birth--wherever that was--and have
himself enumerated.  But that never fooled anybody.  Augustus
didn't care how many people were controlled from Rome.  All he was
interested in was their wretched little five farthings.  Some of
our poor people had to travel so much as a week's journey to obey
the edict.'

'I had forgotten,' said Aretas.  'It did not affect my people.  The
Emperor would hardly chase an Arabian through the mountains for
five farthings.'

'I'm not so sure that he wouldn't,' remarked Herod, with a shrug.
'He will--this time!  Tiberius will want your sheep and cattle and
camels; and your daughters too.  There is only one way out for us,
Your Excellency.  Let us make a treaty--and stand together.
Tiberius will think twice before he risks another defeat.'

'Do you imagine, sire,' asked Aretas, 'that Tiberius could be made
to believe that the Jews and Arabs had concluded an alliance after
many centuries of hatred?'

'I had thought of that.'  Herod hitched at his big chair, which did
not move an inch, and leaned forward, lowering his voice to a
confidential tone.  'I too had thought of that.  Tiberius will need
sound proof that out alliance is genuine.'

'Have you something to suggest?' inquired Aretas.

'A tangible unity.  I am told that you have a marriageable
daughter.  I have an unmarried son.'

Aretas winced, and shook his head.

'My daughter,' he muttered, 'would not like that.'

'Nor would my son,' said Herod, with equal candour.  'But for what
reason are princes and princesses fted and sheltered; for what
reason are they given ices cooled with snow brought from the
mountains by swift runners with lungs on fire; and to what end do
courtiers bow before them--if not that when the day comes on which
they must subordinate their own desires for the good of their
country, they shall pay their debt cheerfully and in full?'

'Perhaps this may apply to your son, my lord, but not to my
daughter.  She has lived simply, even frugally, as becomes an
Arabian of whatever position.  Arnon has had no ices in summer.'

'Be that as it may,' said Herod crisply.  'Ices or no ices, your
daughter loves her country, I think.  She would sacrifice much
rather than see Arabia laid waste.  Nor would she suffer hardship
at the hands of my son, Antipas.  He is a noble young fellow,
gracious, kind, wealthy.  They might even come to love each other,
though that, of course, is unimportant.'

'It would not be unimportant to my daughter,' said Aretas.
'Besides--she is already in love with a young man of our own
people.'

Herod stroked his chin with the backs of his plump fingers, and
meditated.

'Has her betrothal been announced?'

'No,' admitted Aretas.

'That is good,' nodded Herod.  He clapped his hands and an aide
appeared.  'We will dine,' he said.

Aretas was not hungry, but it would have been impolitic to say so.

                         * * * * * *

The Councillors were in session all night.  Aretas set forth their
dilemma, expressing it as his opinion that Herod knew what he was
talking about and had not exaggerated the threatened disaster.

Dumah made bold to say, 'I had rather be enslaved by the Romans
than allied to the Jews.'

'As for you, yourself, yes,' said Tema, 'but how about your wife
and daughters?  The Romans are shameless butchers!'

'But how can we be certain that there is to be an invasion?'
scoffed Dumah.  'This fellow Sosthenes would be directly in the
path of it--and he doesn't appear to be much upset.'

'Well, he will be,' muttered Tema, 'when Herod tells him how much
is expected of him--in gold!'

'Ah--so that's why we're meeting in Petra, is it?' queried Adbeel.

'It's a good enough reason,' said Tema wearily.  'No--it's quite
useless to debate this matter.  We've been over all the ground--and
there's no way out.  An alliance of the Jews and Arabians is quite
as distasteful to Herod as it is to us.  He knows the danger or he
would never have made this proposal.  We may be sure of that!'

'It is asking too much of our Princess,' said Adbeel.  'She will
have a wretched life with this young Jewish scamp.'

'Doubtless,' agreed Naphish, 'but at least she will live.'

'I think she would prefer to die,' muttered Adbeel.

'But that is not the point,' said Mishma.  'If the Princess marries
Antipas she will be saving her country.  When this is explained to
her, she will consent.'

There was a long interval of moody silence, broken by Jetur, who
ventured to raise the question that was on everyone's mind:  What
would young Zendi think of all this?

Ilderan was prompt with a reply.

'My son will be deeply grieved,' he said slowly, 'but he too loves
Arabia.'

Aretas nodded his head, without looking up.

'Is there anything further to be said?' he asked; and when no one
spoke, he rose, walked toward the door, and dispatched the fateful
message to Herod.  The Council adjourned, but not to sleep.
Breakfast was disposed of shortly before dawn.  The tents were
quickly packed.  By the time the Jews in the park were astir, the
Arabian camp-site on the hill was deserted.

The journey home was swift, and for the most part silent.  At dusk
on the evening of the fourth day of hard travel they separated
gloomily.

Arnon was anxiously waiting at the entrance to the encampment.
Aretas dismounted slowly, heavily; a haggard old man.

'Father!' exclaimed Arnon.  'What has happened to distress you so?
Are you hurt?'

Aretas took her by the hand, as if she were a little child, and
silently led her into the tent.  When they were seated together on
a divan, Arnon summoned a servant and ordered supper to be brought
for her father, but Aretas shook his head.  Drawing her close, he
gazed sadly into her wide, frightened eyes and blurted out the
story.  Arabia had made an alliance with the Jews.  It was the only
way of escaping a Roman invasion that would utterly destroy both
countries.

'But--if you have made the alliance and have saved our country,'
said Arnon hopefully, 'why are you so downhearted?'

'Because--the alliance provides for a royal marriage of Arabia and
Judaea.'

Arnon gave a little gasp and her face paled.

'Does that mean--me?' she asked weakly.

'Can you do this, my child, for Arabia?'

Closing her eyes, Arnon drew a long, shuddering breath, and slowly
relaxed into her father's arms.  After an agonizing moment, she
straightened and looked up bravely into his deep-lined face.

'For Arabia--yes--my father,' she said, barely above a whisper.

They sat in silence for a little while.  Arnon patted him tenderly
on the cheek.  Swallowing convulsively in a dry throat, she
murmured, 'May I go now, father?'

Aretas released her and she walked toward the door of her room with
the short groping steps of the blind.  He watched her with brooding
sorrow.  He would gladly have given his life to save her this
painful martyrdom.

                         * * * * * *

If it was necessary for the Arabs and the Jews to guarantee the
genuineness of their alliance by arranging an international
marriage it was equally important that the wedding occur without
delay, for Tiberius could not afford to wait very long after the
catastrophe to Roman arms in the West before attempting elsewhere a
recovery of the Empire's ailing prestige.

Nor was this royal wedding an event that might be conducted
quietly.  It must be distinguished for its pomp and flamboyant
extravagance.  The full military power of Judaea and Arabia was to
be put on exhibition so that Tiberius, when appraised of it, would
realize that these passionate little nations had resolved not only
to stand together but had the strength to make their unity
formidable.

Of course the responsibility for this impressive spectacle would
fall more heavily upon Herod than Aretas, for the Arabians were
inexperienced in showmanship.  At this game Herod was skilled.  He
had a natural talent for it and his long acquaintance with Roman
pageantry had made him fully conversant with its tactics.

The big show would be held in Jerusalem immediately after the
wedding in Arabia.  With amazing speed Herod assembled his widely
scattered troops, secured the financial backing of the wealthy
guilds, and even won the timid support of Annas, the High Priest,
who never liked to take sides in a political issue until sure which
way the cat was going to jump.

The skeletonized 'Legion' of Roman soldiers stationed in Jerusalem,
ostensibly for police duty but really to keep the restless Jews in
remembrance of their provincial status, merely joked about Herod's
bombastic show, until the habitually sequestered Jewish troops
began mobilizing in surprising numbers on the unkempt and disused
drill-grounds in the Kedron Valley.  Fully accoutred, they were
marching boldly through the city, en route from Joppa, Caesarea,
Hebron, Jericho, and remote Capernaum in Galilee.

That, complained young Legate Julian to his Centurions, was what
ailed the Jews: they never knew when they were whipped.  The
Sanhedrin made deep bows to the Empire's representatives, and
retired to plot.  Every evening at sunset the faithful appeared at
the Wailing Wall to howl hopelessly over their subjugation, and
strolled back to their cellars to sharpen their knives and spin
tougher bow-strings.

Apprehensive of a dangerous incident, and anxious to head it off by
polite appeasement--for he had been sent to Jerusalem to keep the
peace at all costs--Julian went to Herod.  Why all these military
manoeuvres?  Herod smiled innocently.  There was to be a wedding,
he said.  His son Antipas was marrying the young Princess of
Arabia.  Yes, yes, Julian knew all about that, and said it would be
quite agreeable to the Empire, he thought, if a detachment of
Jewish patrolmen marched in the wedding procession, but--

'A detachment!' broke in Herod disappointedly.

'Well--a legion, then,' conceded Julian, 'if that would better
please Your Excellency; but we see no occasion for a parade of
catapults weighing two thousand pounds.  Is that customary--at a
wedding?'

'It would be an interesting novelty,' reflected Herod, in a tone of
childish wistfulness.  'Many of our people will be surprised to
know that we have catapults.'

'Our people will be surprised too!' exclaimed Julian.  'And if a
large display is made of such heavy weapons, Your Excellency may
soon have a more serious use for them.'

Herod smiled enigmatically, patted a yawn, and drummed absently on
the table with his knuckles.  Julian dourly accepted his dismissal
and rose to go.

'In any case,' pursued Herod, 'they are good catapults, and they
are ours, and they are here!  It would be no easy matter to bring
as large ones, or as many, from Rome.'

Slightly stunned by this unexpected impudence, Julian stammered, 'I
am aware of that, sire.'

'And so is Tiberius,' added Herod recklessly.

'Meaning that Your Excellency would like me to inform the Emperor?'

'As you please, Julian.  You will anyway, you know.'

This raw arrogance was something new to the Legate, whom Herod had
always treated with a suave, if insincere deference.  It was
evident that the crafty Jew intended to gamble this time for very
high stakes.

'The Emperor may suspect that this wedding is primarily a display
of defensive armour!'

'How quick you are, Julian,' drawled Herod, now candidly
contemptuous.  'You are wasted as a mere peace officer.  You should
be a Consul, at the very least.'  He rose and bowed ceremoniously.
'Forgive us if we have to let you go now.  We have another
appointment; and you, doubtless, have business of your own.'

As the troubled young Legate made his inglorious exit from the
spacious gold and blue audience chamber, Prince Antipas lounged in
through the King's private entrance.  Herod glanced up, nodded
amiably, and resumed his writing.  His face expressed satisfaction
with his favourite son, something of pride too; for Antipas--not
always so docile--was showing himself surprisingly co-operative in
this affair of the Arabian nuptials.  Not meaning that he was
enthusiastic--which would have been too much to expect--but quietly
acquiescent.

Of Herod's three sons by his much loved Mariamne, Antipas was his
pet.  Antipas was respectful, courteous, good to look upon, of
better than average height, with a handsome face, an athletic
figure, and the confident carriage of a soldier.  The firm
discipline of the Roman Military Academy was stamped on him.  At
twenty-five, his slow, agnostic smile gave more than a hint of the
fashionable cynicism which characterized the indolent crew of rich
men's sons who gambled all day at the baths and banqueted all night
in the best possible places.  Antipas was already an experienced
man of the world.

As for his other sons by Mariamne, Herod had had but little
occasion for pride in them.  Archelaus, the eldest, was a
contentious fellow, for ever getting himself into embarrassing
brawls.  Philip, the youngest, whom the family invariably referred
to as 'Poor Philip,' was so listless and impractical that he even
had much difficulty in holding the government job his eminent
father had found for him in Rome at the cost of much coaxing--and a
bit of bribery.  And, as if poor Philip were not sufficiently
weighted with handicaps, he had allowed himself to be led into an
unhappy marriage by Herodias--a cousin twice removed--who was his
senior by ten years and a century older in experience.  A widow,
Herodias had brought along a pert young daughter, Salome, whose
adventures were common talk.  Herod could not be proud of poor
Philip.  But Antipas--here was a son worthy of all the costly
investments that had been made in him!

Noting that his father was occupied or pretended to be, the well-
favoured Prince strolled across to the high bank of cases which
lined the eastern wall, drew out a new, heavily gilded scroll, read
the title, and chuckled audibly.  Herod regarded him with interest.

'Did the old man give you this?' inquired Antipas, amused.

'If you are referring to the aged Emperor Augustus,' reproved
Herod, 'he did.'

'Gave it to you--personally?' nagged Antipas.

Herod hitched uneasily in his chair, as if to admit that the
ostentatious scroll was one of a large number presented to Consuls,
Prefects, Governors, Provincial Kings--and Senators too, perhaps.

'I'll wager a hundred shekels that Your Majesty hasn't read a line
of it!' taunted Antipas; and, when his father had shrugged, added,
'You'd better, sire.  This is Virgil's new eulogy to Augustus,
extolling his brave deeds.  He calls it The Aeneid.'

'We shall have to peruse it,' consented Herod absently.

'Indeed you will, sire!'  Antipas made pretence of seriousness.
'You may have to take an examination on it some time.'  He flipped
the gaudy scroll back into the case, sauntered to the King's dais,
flung himself into a chair--and yawned.  Herod put down his stylus
and smiled benevolently.

'And how are you amusing yourself, my son?  We hope the time does
not hang too heavily on your hands while you wait for your
marriage.'

'Not heavily at all, sire.  Your Majesty will recall that Salome,
who is very good company, returned with us on our ship, for a
visit.'

'Specifically--she came to represent poor Philip's family at the
wedding,' amended Herod.  'Otherwise she would not have been
tolerated--much less invited: you may be sure of that!'  He lowered
his voice, discarded his kingship, and impulsively became a father.
'If I were in your place, Antipas, I should arrange not to be seen
in public with the little trollop.'

'My niece, sire!'  Antipas feigned indignation, but his ironical
smirk showed through.

'Niece?  Nonsense!' growled Herod.  'Since when did poor Philip's
notorious step-daughter become your niece?'

'Technically she is my niece, sire; and Your Majesty's grand-
daughter.  Does that not entitle her to some courteous consideration?'

'Not from you!  The women of the court can attend to Salome's
wants.  The Queen will arrange for her entertainment.'

'But mother does not care for her,' said Antipas sadly.

'Not much wonder!' muttered Herod.  'But--however that may be--you
are to have nothing further to do with her.  The fact that your
half-witted brother married her mother does not obligate you in the
least.  Your association with this Salome will do you no good,
especially now that your heart is in Arabia.'

'Is it?'  Instantly Antipas realized that he had overtaxed his
royal parent's patience.  He had been sweetly wheedled into
returning to wed the Arabian princess.  It had required a deal of
coaxing.  At first he had loudly protested, and his father had
promised him an immediate cash payment of his patrimony.  He had
shaken his head sorrowfully, and his father had conferred on him
the Tetrarchy of Galilee.  Finally he had yielded to the King's
importunate pressure.  It had placed him in an advantageous
position, and he had been trading on it sharply, with all the
inconsiderate tyranny of a spoiled invalid.  His father's dark
frown warned him now that his impudence had reached a limit.

'It had better be!' rasped Herod hotly.  'This is a serious
business!  And you are a fool not to realize it!'  He rose and
paced to and fro, with mounting rage.  'You should be in Arabia at
this moment--as I counselled you--making friends with these aliens.
I tell you they are no more eager for this wedding than you are!
And if you treat it too lightly you may get a dagger between your
ribs--blood-letting is a mere pastime with these Arabians!  They
never forget an injury or an insult.'  The King was breathing
heavily as he strode toward the door.  'Don't say I did not warn
you!' he shouted.

                         * * * * * *

Arnon was given but little time to brood over coming events.
Preparations for the marriage proceeded with breath-taking speed.
Every day couriers arrived from Jerusalem to inquire of the
Princess--or, more correctly, to report to the Princess--what were
her wishes in respect to details which, in the opinion of an
Arabian, were childishly trivial, but apparently important enough
to warrant a laborious journey from the Jewish capital.

The vanguard of servants and equipment began to appear in
increasing numbers.  Long caravans toiled up the tortuous trail
from the valley floor, widening the bridle-path to a hard-beaten
road.  Skilled Arabian seamstresses and weavers worked in feverish
haste on the wedding garments for the Princess and her attendants.

Tactfully, mercifully, Aretas had dispatched Zendi to faraway
Corinth on an errand no less important than the conclusion of a
pending deal to lease another large parcel of land in the north to
war-weary Greeks.  It was a relief to Arnon when Zendi, pressed for
time, called to say farewell; both of them glad that the leave-
taking was done in the presence of their fathers.  Arnon couldn't
have borne it, she knew, if they had had their final moment in
seclusion.  Poor Zendi!  He had been so determined to deal manfully
with his sorrow that he had hardly raised his eyes to hers when
they parted.

The thousand sheep were led to another pasture, and on their
grazing ground an awe-inspiring tented city rose.  Soldiers in
colourful uniforms made camp with such dexterity and precision that
Arnon was forced to admire their skill.  They did not squat in
small huddles, an Arabian custom, to discuss what procedures were
best.  They knew exactly what to do.  This, thought Arnon, was
probably the way everything went in the outside world beyond her
untamed but beloved mountains.  Though firmly loyal to Arabia and
its haphazard way of doing things, she felt a tug of excitement
over being made a part of that competent society whose urbane
representatives were now demonstrating their disciplined self-
assurance.

Now delegations of wealthy Arabian sheiks swept by on their sleek
horses and entered the tents their servants had prepared on the
broad plateau, each contingent accompanied by entertainers:
minstrels, magicians, field athletes, acrobats, and comedians.

Then came the awaited day of King Herod's arrival with Prince
Antipas, their tall camels resplendent with costly housings and
trappings of gold and silver.  Proudly, haughtily, the impressive
caravan swung past the encampment of King Aretas and came to rest a
few hundred yards away.  With fluttering heart, Arnon watched her
father and the Councillors greet the party from Jerusalem.  It was
a dizzying spectacle.  King Herod was undeniably a distinguished
personage and the Prince was tall and handsome.  And there was the
High Priest, guessed Nephti, Arnon's lifetime nurse, who was
holding the tent-panel open to see.  Doubtless he had come, added
Nephti, to conduct the wedding.

'I had not realized it was to be a Jewish wedding,' said Arnon.

'The Jews like ceremonies,' declared Nephti.

'And we don't?' asked Arnon childishly.

'Ours is more simple.  If you were marrying Zendi--'

'Don't, Nephti!' murmured Arnon.  'You promised me.'

'I am sorry, Princess.  I only meant to explain that you would have
taken his hand, in the presence of the Councillors, and promised to
obey and serve him all the days of your life.'

'And will I not be asked to obey and serve Prince Antipas?'

'Of course--but it will take longer, I suppose.  The Jews are like
that.'

Nephti closed the leather panel as the girl turned aside soberly.
Her intuition read Arnon's thoughts.  These strange people from
afar were of immense interest, but they were of another world.

'I had hoped that Queen Mariamne might come,' said Arnon.  'You saw
no women in the party, Nephti?'

No--the whole event was to be a man's affair: a political
transaction, in which one woman would be included because she was
necessary.  Gladly would they have done without her, reflected
Arnon, if that were possible.  The wedding was a confirmation of an
international alliance.  The treaty had been formally written on a
sheet of papyrus, duly signed, and now it must be ratified.  Arnon
was but so much sealing-wax stamped on an official document.
Suddenly she was overwhelmed with a sense of heart-sickening
loneliness.

That evening there was a banquet attended by the Kings, the Prince,
the High Priest, several ranking members of the Sanhedrin, and the
Arabian Councillors.  After an hour's feasting on the part of the
men, Arnon was brought in to be introduced.  She felt and looked
very small and helpless.

Antipas stepped forward to greet her.  He took both her hands in
his and smiled down into her timidly upraised eyes.  It was an
experienced smile that skilfully appraised and evidently approved.
For a moment the silence in the tent grew oppressive as they waited
for an opinion from the beautiful young Princess.  Presently she
gave a shy, tremulous smile--and the suspense lifted.  They all
breathed freely again; and, with the exception of Aretas, exchanged
glances of relief and satisfaction.  Herod drained his goblet and
smacked his lips.  It was good wine.  And--what was still better--
by this time tomorrow the alliance would be an attested fact and he
would be ready--if need be--to confront Tiberius.



Chapter II


Now that the month of Tishri had come and the trees were taking on
rich colours, Arnon's homesickness became almost insupportable.
Jerusalem was slowly strangling her.  But for the understanding
sympathy and tenderness of Queen Mariamne, she would have died or
gone mad.

Nature had not intended that Arnon should be surrounded by walls.
Because her own people were of necessity nomadic they had built no
cities.  Indeed, the Arabians were contemptuous of cities,
considering them pestilent prisons, stultifying to both body and
spirit.

Every morning, in the far away and long ago, Arnon had risen at
dawn to breathe deeply of the invigorating mountain breeze and
rejoice in the peace of a silence broken only by the distant tinkle
of camel bells.  But here in Jerusalem she felt stifled, caged.
Late in the morning she would struggle back to consciousness,
finding herself hungry for clean, bracing air.  The beautifully
wrought antique tapestries which curtained her luxurious bed gave
off a sickening odour of mould and the exquisite mosaics leaked the
sour stench of disintegrating plaster.

Added to the tomblike atmosphere of her spacious bed-chamber was a
conglomeration of city smells seeping in from the outside, smells
of old and decaying things: old walls, old towers, old markets, old
stables, old cobbled streets.  There were plenty of distasteful
sights, sounds, and scents in this ancient city, but the worst
thing of all was the stagnant, fetid air.

Every day now, Arnon woke nauseated; though the servants--who found
nothing wrong with the air--graciously assured the foreign Princess
that her morning sickness was due to her condition, always adding,
piously, 'For which the Lord God of Israel be praised!'

On this tenth day of Tishri, Arnon tugged herself loose from a
nostalgic dream of riding swiftly beside her father in a noisy
mountain storm, galloping, galloping hard, quite out of breath,
with big splashes of warm rain pelting them.  Half-suffocated and
drenched with perspiration, she gazed up dully into the smiling
eyes of the Queen.

Mariamne was the most beautiful woman Arnon had ever seen.  She was
in her early fifties, but seemed much younger, for by her
abstemiousness she had retained a youthful figure.  She had all the
traditional dignity of a queen, but none of the arrogance.  Arnon
had known from the first moment of their meeting that she was going
to like Mariamne.  The Queen had no daughter and Arnon had never
known a mother.  Their friendship was instant and mutual.

But in spite of the affection she felt for her charming mother-in-
law, Arnon had extended no confidences.  Her father had warned her
to guard her tongue in the presence of these people.  'Spies are
always friendly, and free to share their secrets with you.'
Sometimes it had been difficult to observe this reticence, her
intuition assuring her that Mariamne's devotion to her was sincere.

'How are you, my child?' asked the Queen gently.

'Very warm,' mumbled Arnon; 'and a bit sick, as usual.  I shall
feel better when I've had something cold to drink.  You are up
early, Your Majesty.  Have you had your breakfast?'

Summoning a servant to bring the Princess a goblet of cold
pomegranate juice, Mariamne sat down on the edge of the bed.

'I am not to have breakfast this morning, my dear.  This is a fast
day.'

'All day?'  Arnon's eyes widened incredulously.

'Until evening.  Then there will be a bountiful feast.  You are not
expected to do any fasting, but we will want you to attend the
banquet.'

Arnon sat up in bed, pushed her tousled black hair out of her eyes,
and inquired what this fast was about.

'It is the Day of Atonement,' explained Mariamne.  'Of all our
special occasions this one means the most.  It really begins the
day before, with all the faithful Jews going about making things
right with one another--doing neglected duties, paying their debts,
returning things borrowed, and asking forgiveness for wrongs done
and hot words spoken.  Damaged friendships are mended, estrangements
are cleared up.  And then today--with clean hands and a right
spirit--everyone brings a gift to the Temple and receives a
blessing.'

Arnon's eyes shone.

'It is very beautiful!' she whispered.  'May I do it, too?  It
would be a relief--to go to the Temple and be blessed.'  She bowed
her head dejectedly.  'My heart has been so bitter.'  Slowly she
raised tear-filled eyes.  'Your Majesty, I have been very unhappy.'

Mariamne slipped an arm around her compassionately.

'Arnon, dear, would you like to call me "mother" instead of "Your
Majesty"?  Don't do it if--if it takes an effort,' she added, 'but
it would please me.'

With that, Arnon's tears overflowed and she sobbed like a little
child.

'I should like to,' she murmured brokenly.  'You have been so good
to me.  I want you to be my mother.  That's the way I think of
you.'

Mariamne drew her closer.

'Tell me, Arnon,' she said softly, 'has the Prince been unkind to
you?'

Arnon indecisively shook her head, but the pent-up tears ran
unchecked.  When she could speak she said, 'No; he has not
mistreated me--mother.  I see very little of him, you know.  But
the Prince is a busy man.  He can't be spending all his time
entertaining me.'

'Men are always busy, my dear.'  The Queen's usually placid voice
showed a trace of asperity.  'There are the games at Gath and a new
Greek play at Askelon--and other important engagements.'  She
paused for a moment.  Dropping her tone of raillery, she went on,
'Our Antipas is really a sweet boy.  He wouldn't intentionally hurt
a fly.  But he is selfish and spoiled.  How could it be otherwise?
Too much money; too much leisure.'

'And too many people wanting to win his favour,' added Arnon.

'Sometimes I have thought,' said Mariamne soberly, 'that a baby
Prince should be left on the doorstep of an honest, frugal, hard-
working family and brought up as their son until he is about--'

'Twenty?' suggested Arnon, when the Queen had seemed at a loss for
the right figure.

'Forty!' amended Mariamne.  'Then he should be brought to the
throne, knowing what his people need.  As it stands, there is
nobody in the kingdom quite so ignorant of his duties as the ruler
himself.  He lives in a different world.'  After an interval of
silence she asked, abruptly, 'Is anything else wrong, dear?'

'Almost everything,' confessed Arnon.  'Everything but you!  It may
be my own fault.  I cannot be myself here.  In my own country I am
happy and free.  I love to ride.  The shepherds wave a hand and
smile as I pass by and I wave my hand and smile too.  We are
friends.  Their wives and daughters weave gay scarves for me and I
visit them when they are sick.  Often I stop at their tents and
play with the little children.'

'That is as it should be,' approved Mariamne.  'And they are not in
awe of you, as the King's daughter?'

'They call me "Princess," but when we play they do not throw the
game away to humour me.  Maybe that is what ails a royal family:
they are allowed to win all the games. . . .  Here in Jerusalem I
am a Princess; always, every hour, a Princess.  I am unused to
these stiff ceremonies--people bowing worshipfully--and backing out
of the room.  I have to change my costumes half a dozen times a
day, and none of them is comfortable.  Everything is strange--and I
am becoming a stranger even to myself.'  Her voice broke
completely.  'Please--may I not go home--just for a little while?'

There was a long delay before Mariamne replied.

'I wish you might, Arnon.  Doubtless the King would consent if it
were not for this military alliance.  If it should come to the ears
of the Emperor--'

'I understand,' said Arnon weakly.  'Let us think no more about
it. . . .  And--I should like to go with you to the Temple.  Is the
Prince going with us?'

Mariamne frowned and shook her head.

'Antipas set off early this morning for the north.  You know he has
been made the ruler of Galilee?'

'Yes, mother.  He did not tell me, but I heard a friend
congratulate him on it, at our wedding.  Are we to live in
Galilee?'

'Part of the time, perhaps,' said Mariamne uncertainly.  'Antipas
is a restless fellow.  He does not like to stay long in one place.
The King is building a Galilean embassy here in the city.  Antipas
will spend a couple of months every year in Jerusalem, attending to
provincial business.  He loves Rome, and I dare say he will want to
be there occasionally.  At the moment he is infatuated with the
idea of building a beautiful villa on the western shore of the Lake
Gennesaret in Galilee.'

Arnon brightened.

'That would be lovely!' she exclaimed.  'I have heard so much of
that beautiful Sea of Galilee.  Perhaps there would be sailing!'

Mariamne did not share Arnon's sudden enthusiasm.

'I doubt whether the Prince would be interested in sailing.  There
are some warm springs on the western shore.  Antipas, who loves
bathing, will build commodious bath-houses in connection with his
villa.  I think he hopes to induce a few of his wealthy Roman
friends to build villas there.'

Arnon's interest gradually faded.  Instinctively she gathered that
the Queen had thought it time for her to know what manner of life
she should anticipate.  But perhaps Antipas had not included her in
all--or any--of his plans.  If he had expected her to live with him
in Galilee, he might have inquired what sort of home she would
like.

'Has the Prince planned the villa?' she asked.

Mariamne stirred uneasily, reluctant to discuss the matter.

'Perhaps,' she said.  'He spent all last week in Petra inspecting a
few of the beautiful marble villas built by wealthy Athenians.  He
may have told you.'

'He tells me nothing,' said Arnon.

Mariamne sighed deeply and rose to her feet.

'If you wish to go with us to the Temple, dear, you should be ready
at noon.  Your maid will tell you what you are to wear.  His
Majesty expects to leave the palace promptly at mid-day.  It has
been announced.'

'I hope I shall be prepared for the blessing,' said Arnon
wistfully.  'I am much in need of it.  Is there anything I should
do?  I'm afraid I do not owe anything that should be paid back; and
I have spoken no hot words, though I have had them in my mind,
which is probably just as bad.  Perhaps if my husband were here I
might ask him to forgive me for all the unkind things I have
thought about him.'

The Queen drew a slow, sober smile and shook her head.

'In that case,' she said quietly, 'it is just as well that he isn't
here.'

                         * * * * * *

It was traditionally considered a misfortune in royal households if
a titled infant was a girl.  The father of the hapless child was
expected to be grumpy and the mother was ashamed of herself.  But
nobody seemed much upset over the sex of Princess Arnon's baby;
certainly not Arnon herself, whose experience with one Prince had
not made her eager to produce another.

Antipas was up in Galilee when it happened.  But for a handful of
servants, he had been spending his time alone.  The new villa, on
which more than two hundred skilled stone-masons had been engaged
for five months, had risen a few feet above the massive foundation.
One could easily imagine its oncoming beauty, even in the
bewildering clutter of construction.  The great oval pool, to be
related to the house by a series of graceful arcades, had been
completed--all but the mosaic lining, a tedious business, to be
postponed until the Prince should be absent for a season.  The
marble flagging that bounded the pool, the exquisitely sculptured
balustrades, and the commodious dressing-rooms were quite finished.
Antipas had given much attention to the architecture and
appointments of these sumptuous rooms, furnishing them so lavishly
that he was using them for his living quarters.  The pool had in
every way surpassed his expectations.  The warm water, reputed to
be of invigorating quality, poured generously from stone lions'
mouths in a steady flow that promised to be endless.

It was a great privilege, reflected Antipas, to be the ruler of the
Province of Galilee.  True, he had not yet become acquainted with
any of his subjects, nor had he given a moment's thought to his
executive duties, whatever they might be.  He knew very little
about the Galileans, except what everybody knew--that they were a
stolid, inoffensive, pious people, who minded their own small
business and had no ambitions to make their country known abroad.
They grew their own grain, wine, flax, and wool.  They fished in
the Lake Gennesaret.  Their men were adept at fashioning articles
of household furniture, sometimes showing themselves to be
excellent craftsmen.  Their women wove serviceable fabrics for
domestic uses.  Their lives were self-contained and, in
consequence, narrowly circumscribed.  They almost never travelled
beyond their own communities, except on the occasion of the annual
'Passover,' when considerable numbers of them made a pilgrimage to
Jerusalem, where a week was spent in the performance of religious
rites.  Customarily they took along some of the products of their
lathes and looms, which they offered for sale at the bazaars.  They
wore no distinctive costume, but were readily identified in the
city by their accent and colloquialisms.  They were a bit self-
conscious and shy in the presence of urbane strangers, aware that
they were considered outlanders.

Antipas felt that the task of governing these simple-hearted
country folk would not be arduous.  Doubtless their trivial
disagreements would be quietly settled among themselves; and, as
for possible entanglements with the other provinces, the Galileans,
exporting and importing nothing of any value, would not be likely
to invoke judicial aid.  He had little or nothing to do; his wealth
would enable him to live in luxury.  Whenever he wearied of his
lethargy, he could easily trek to Caesarea and sail for Rome.

Life in Galilee was still a novelty.  Antipas had fallen in love
with the entrancing view to be had from the eastern portico of the
pool.  At his command the servants habitually roused him early to
see the dawn come in.  It was a glorious pageant, with the steep
banks of cumulus clouds transformed into symmetrical garlands of
gold as the sun illumined them from behind the distant mountain
range, while the beautiful Lake Gennesaret--which everybody, except
the natives, called 'The Sea of Galilee'--reflected the deep blue
of a further sky.

Then would come the dramatic moment when the sun itself would mount
regally into the open, stripping the clouds of their gold and
arraying them with silver.  The slanting sails of the little
fishing boats would flash brightly.  The tall tower of the Roman
fort, a mile to the north, and the squat dome of the Jewish
synagogue, a mile further in the heart of Capernaum, would be
flatteringly high-lighted.  The untidy clutter of fishermen's
shacks and wharves on the lake-shore would seem less ugly than
picturesque.  And the ruler of Galilee, suffused with a sense of
well-being, would send for his breakfast.

Only one thing was lacking, congenial company.  And on this
eighteenth day of Adar that want was supplied.  The arrival of Mark
Varus was not a surprise, though Antipas had not expected him so
soon.  He had promised to come in mid-summer.  Attended by half a
dozen servants from home and a pack-train of baggage which had been
disembarked at Caesarea, Mark had turned up in the late afternoon,
warm, dusty, and noisy with his approval of all these impressive
building operations.  Antipas hugged him with fervour, then picked
him up and threw him headlong into the pool, where he wriggled
himself out of most of his clothing, his host following along the
ledge with a pike-staff, fishing out the discarded garments as they
accumulated in the water.

Presently, refreshed and clad, Mark joined his friend, who,
sprawled at full length on an ornamented lectus, was in
conversation with the butler concerning the arrival of a courier
from Jerusalem.

'Make him comfortable,' the Prince was saying, 'and tell him we
will see him in an hour or two.'

'He says it is urgent, sire.'

'Nothing is urgent--in Tiberias,' drawled Antipas.

'"Tiberias"?' queried Mark lazily, from the adjacent loggia.  'Name
of your new villa?'

'Name of my new city!' declared Antipas.  'One of the most
beautiful cities in all the world.  All of it--every building in it--
great and small--to be of white marble.  You're planning to build
your villa of white marble, aren't you?'

'Apparently,' chuckled Mark; 'though I hadn't thought much about
it.'

'Are you ready now for a tankard of wine?'

'I've been ready this half-hour.'

Antipas clapped his hands and the wine arrived.  They drank
earnestly and their tongues were loosened.  Mark was besought for
the latest news of Rome.  He shook his head dourly.  Rome had quite
lost her charm: many changes--and all of them for the worse.  He
did not bother to explain that his eminent father's disastrous
defeat at the hands of the barbarous Germanic tribes had done the
Varus family no good socially; Antipas could--and did--form his own
conclusions about that.  Mark would be glad enough, he went on, to
change his residence.  Rome was filling up with vulgar upstarts,
rich nobodies busy with business; a strange crowd now at all court
festivities.  Old Augustus had his faults, to be sure, but he had
some dignity.  Tiberius had brought in an entirely new breed of
favourites.  He had made Rome the dullest place on earth.  He hated
games; considered them a waste of public funds.  He was going in
for all manner of economies, as if the Empire was on the verge of
bankruptcy.

'Well--it is, isn't it?' mumbled Antipas.

Mark agreed that it was, and always had been, but it still
contrived to carry on.

'This new Tiberian dynasty,' he continued, 'is going to strip the
city of everything that made her name famous.  All that we hear
about now is the importance of making the land more productive and
the common people more contented.'

'Sounds sensible,' said Antipas.

'That's what ails it,' muttered Mark.  'How can there be any
pleasure in a country that has resolved to be--sensible?'

'Is Tiberius still thinking of a northern invasion?'

'He probably never entertained such a thought,' scoffed Mark.  'I'm
surprised your father was ever taken in by that rumour.  The
Emperor is working night and day to rebuild his Western Army.'

'Indeed!  I had supposed there was nothing left of it,' remarked
Antipas ineptly.  To cover his unintentional rudeness he added
quickly, 'So--we no longer have anything to fear?  That is good--if
you're sure you know.'

'I've had it on the best of authority.  You might have been spared
that matrimonial alliance with Arabia.  By the way'--Mark's eyes
twinkled mischievously--'how has that little treaty worked out?  Is
she pretty?'

Antipas frowned slightly, shrugged the impertinence away, up-ended
his goblet, sat up, blinked thoughtfully, and began slowly counting
his fingers.

Beckoning to the butler he said, 'Tell the courier we will see him
now.'  Presently he was thrusting his jewelled dagger through the
wax sheath of a heavily gilded scroll.  In silence and without
betraying any sign of interest--for he was aware of Mark's lively
curiosity--he read the formal message from his mother.  Signalling
the courier, waiting at a little distance, he said casually, 'After
you have rested, you may return to Jerusalem.  Convey our regards
to Their Majesties and our good wishes to the Princess Arnon, for
her health and happiness.  And you may say,' he added, as an
afterthought, 'that the child's name is Esther.'

'Why do you want her called Esther?' asked Mark, with childish
impudence, when the courier had bowed himself away.

'Because she was born on the fifteenth of Adar, a feast-day in
honour of Queen Esther.'

'Never heard of her.  What's she queen of?'

'Persia--a century and a half ago.'

'Jewess?'

'Of course.'

'Why "of course"?  Persia is not a Jewish country.'

Antipas dismissed this query with a negligent gesture, adding that
he was not an authority on Persian history; but Esther, a very
beautiful Jewess, had once been Queen of Persia, and did Mark want
to bet anything on it?

'Is your baby a Jewess?' hectored Mark.  'Half Arabian, isn't she?'

'That will not matter much,' yawned Antipas.  'She will be brought
up as a Jewess.'

'In my poor judgment,' declared Mark, suddenly serious, 'it's going
to be an awkward situation for her, all her life.  A very
unfortunate combination--half Arab, half Jew.'

'Not so bad as you think,' said Antipas reassuringly.  'Both
nations will want to claim her.'

'You know better than that!' said Mark.  'Neither nation will
accept her, much less claim her!  My guess is that your Esther is
going to be a very unhappy little girl.'

'Well,' muttered Antipas, 'it's too late to fret about that now.'
He held up his goblet for refilling.  'Of course, you've no idea
how beautiful this pool will be when the lining is in.  I'll show
you the designs after dinner.  They are absolutely incomparable!'

                         * * * * * *

Again it was Tishri.  The summer was over and the grass was tipped
with white in the mornings.  Varus had left for Rome, gratified
with the Prince's assurance that he would be joining him in a
couple of months, after he had paid his respects to his family.

Arriving home, Antipas had spent a leisurely hour refreshing
himself after the tedious journey.  Strolling into the Queen's
apartment as casually as if he had taken leave of his mother an
hour ago, he eased himself into a deeply cushioned chair and waited
for her appearance.

'Antipas!'  Mariamne threw her arms about him, hugging him
hungrily.  'You have stayed away so long!  We wondered if we were
ever to see you again!'  She held him at arms' length.  'You're
brown as a peasant.'

He patted her on the cheek.

'Beautiful as ever!' he declared.  'How do you do it?'

They sat down together on the divan, Mariamne gently caressing his
tanned forearm.

'You've seen Arnon?' she inquired anxiously.

'Not yet.'  Noting his mother's frown, he added, 'Naturally, I
wanted to see you first.'

Mariamne accepted the tribute with a wisp of a smile, but grew
serious again, shaking her head slowly.

'I think I should tell you, my dear, that your neglect of Arnon has
all but broken her heart.  You might at least have written her a
friendly letter--about the baby.'

'Sorry,' muttered Antipas.  'I've been very busy.  The villa, you
know.  I must tell you all about it.  You see, when I first thought
of it--'

'The villa can wait,' said Mariamne crisply.  'In the name of
common decency, you should go at once to see your Princess--and
this beautiful child, Fara.  Come--I shall go with you if that will
make it any easier.'  She rose and tugged him to his feet.

'Why do you call the child Fara?' inquired Antipas testily.  'I
named her Esther.'

'You may call her Esther if you like.'  Mariamne's tone was frankly
indignant.  'But Arnon has named her Fara!'

'Against my wishes?'

'Of course!  Why should Arnon pay any heed to your wishes after the
way you have treated her?'

'She is my wife!'

'Oh--is she?  I thought you had forgotten.'  Mariamne was angry
now, and her words came hot and fast.  'I don't want to upset you,
my son, the first hour you are home, but not everyone has forgotten
that you married the Princess of Arabia.  King Aretas remembers!
Your father has had a message from him.  He will tell you.'

Antipas searched his mother's eyes and swallowed noisily.

'You mean--the Arabian is hostile?'

'Your father will tell you,' said Mariamne.  'Come!  Better do what
you can to make amends to Arnon.'

'No!' growled Antipas.  'I shall not be applying for any Arabian's
pardon--not even Arnon's!  And if this sullen shepherd, who calls
himself a king, has the effrontery to dictate to a Prince of
Israel--'

Mariamne held up a hand warningly.

'It is quite apparent,' she decided, 'that you are in no mood to
visit Arnon.  Go at once to your father and learn where you stand--
in this unfortunate business.  I shall tell the Princess that you
are here and eager to see her, but that the King has summoned you
to an urgent conference.  And--let me say one thing more,' she
added, as Antipas moved toward the door, 'it will be much to your
advantage if you conduct yourself respectfully in your audience
with your father.  No strutting, no levity, no assumption that you
are a petted favourite of the King!'

'Angry, is he?'

'"Angry" is a very mild word for it!  And--don't bother to tell him
what you have been building in Galilee.  The King has other plans
for Galilee!'

                         * * * * * *

It was not a happy interview.  To begin with, Antipas was halted--
politely enough, but definitely halted--at the door of his father's
audience room, the Chamberlain announcing firmly that the King was
engaged.

'But he will see me,' rasped Antipas.  'Go and tell him.'

'His Majesty has been notified that you are here, Your Highness.
He bids you wait until you are summoned.'

Antipas turned to go.

'Say to His Majesty that I shall return when he is less busy,' he
said indifferently.

'If I may venture a suggestion,' murmured the obsequious
Chamberlain, 'the Prince would be well advised to remain here until
he is called.'

Something of warning in the old man's tone checked Antipas'
impulsive decision to leave.  Indignantly he glanced about for a
chair to fling himself into, but to his surprise and annoyance
there were no chairs in the corridor.  He was about to order one
brought to him, but the Chamberlain had already slipped back into
the room, closing the door behind him.  Antipas paced up and down,
fuming.  He had never been treated like this before.  Once he made
up his mind to go, stalked as far as the great door that gave on to
the terrace, but thought better of it--and returned.  It was a
whole hour before the Chamberlain reappeared to say that His
Majesty would see His Highness now.

Forcing a filial smile, Antipas entered, bowed, and said:  'My
greetings, sire!  I hope I find you well.'

'Sit down!' barked the King.

Antipas' expression sobered and he sat rigidly at attention.

It was immediately evident that the King had carefully composed the
speech upon which he launched with icy restraint.  He had tried, he
said quietly, to be an indulgent father.  It was not easy for a
King--hard pressed with cares of state--to give his children the
firm discipline necessary to the production of a strong character.
He had paid his sons the compliment of believing that--with their
superb advantages--they would develop strength, dignity, integrity.

But he had been bitterly disappointed, he went on dejectedly.
Where was there a father in all this realm who had less cause for
satisfaction in his sons?  There was Philip, the weakling, the
cuckold!  Herod's voice shook with contempt.  And there was this
insufferable braggart and brawler, Archelaus!  What had he ever
done, the King asked himself, to have deserved an affliction like
Archelaus?

'Only last week,' he went on, with rising heat, 'your impudent
brother came to advise us that we were too old to continue our
rule: that we had toiled too long, too diligently; that we should
retire, and confer on him the regency!  Think of that!  The regency--
of all Judaea!  To be conferred upon a loud-mouthed, contentious
fellow who can't even get along harmoniously with his own lazy
drinking-companions!'

Antipas smiled a little reminiscently.  Feeling himself to be
presently in need of mercy, he thought it opportune to put in a
defensive word for his elder brother.  Herod, noting that the
Prince wanted to speak, paused to listen.

'Archelaus was indeed over-reaching himself, sire; but is it so
unthinkable that he should be made regent of Judaea?  He is the
heir to this throne, is he not?'

'That,' snapped Herod, 'is none of your business!  We are just now
about to come to your business!'

And so--after this considerable delay--they had come to the
Prince's business, and a bad business it was, too.  Antipas, had he
the normal instinct of a six-year-old waif, would have known,
declared the King, what a dangerous position he had accepted when
he consented to be the son-in-law of an Arabian King.

Antipas feebly protested that the honour had been forced upon him,
but Herod wasn't entertaining any mitigating circumstances.

'You have treated this Arabian girl shamefully!  What a fool you
are--to think that these savages in Arabia who, for all their
uncouth manners, have their pride, would let you heap indignities
upon the only child of their King!  Now you have it to settle for--
and in full, mind you.  I have had word from Aretas.  His message
is brief but clear.  His daughter is to be brought home to Arabia!'

Antipas raised his head and brightened perceptibly.  He drew a
long, comforting sigh.  His father, observing his relief, rose from
his chair and stabbed a finger in the air.

'Mind you'--he shouted--'the Princess is to be taken home to
Arabia; not sent home.  And you, Your Brightness, will accompany
her.  Aretas insists upon that.  His much cherished daughter, he
says, has suffered enough at the hands of this court.  She is not
to be returned like some article of rejected merchandise!  Those
were his words.  Her husband is to bring her home in a manner
befitting their station, and show her the honours she--and her
countrymen--have a right to expect.'

'But'--spluttered Antipas--'why does he want me to play this farce?
He probably despises me.'

'Indeed he does!' yelled Herod.  'And not probably!  And why
shouldn't he?'

'They will kill me if I appear over there,' muttered Antipas.

'They will kill you if you don't!'

'How long must I stay?'

'Until you have fully restored Arnon's damaged pride; until you
have satisfied Aretas and his Council that you respect their
Princess as your wife.'

There was a long silence.

'I had expected to leave for Rome,' protested Antipas.  'I have
business there.'

'That may be,' snorted Herod.  'But you have no business in Rome
that can compare in urgency with the business you have in Arabia.'

'How about my obligations in Galilee?'

'You are to forget all about Galilee!'

'Meaning that you have deposed me, sire?'

'For the present, yes.  We will take care of all Galilean matters.
Whether you ever find yourself in Galilee again is a question you
may answer for yourself.  You may go now.  Make peace with your
Princess.  And prepare to take her home without delay.'

Antipas noisily exhaled a self-piteous sigh, slapped his palms down
hard on the arms of his chair, and rose to his feet.

'This, sire,' he muttered, 'is the unhappiest day of my life.'

'So far as you have gone,' assisted the King.  'See to it now that
you do not encounter unhappier days.  Make things right with your
Princess.  Tell her how you have longed to return to her, but that
a revolt among the people of your Province--'  He broke off,
annoyed to find his son attentively listening for further light on
this extemporaneous alibi.  'Contrive your own lie,' he went on
impatiently, 'but make it good!  Arnon will try to believe you, but
she lacks a great deal of being such a fool as her husband.'

'A revolt, eh?' reflected Antipas.

'A dangerous uprising; and you had to stay there--and deal with
it.'  Herod grew thoughtful and continued, to himself, 'I shall say
that to Aretas.  He may doubt the truth of it, but a poor excuse in
a case so desperate is better than none.  When a man's pride is
injured, almost any medicine is welcome.'

'May I take my leave now, Your Majesty?' asked Antipas, with
elaborate humility, hopeful that his father might relent and smile
a little.

'Indeed you may, Your Highness,' mocked Herod, with a profound bow.
'What an ass you are!'

                         * * * * * *

The return to Arabia was not as difficult as Antipas had feared.
He was regarded with deference.  It was obvious that his shameful
neglect of the Princess had been a well-kept secret.  On the
surface Arnon had been treated kindly in Jerusalem.  King Aretas
received his son-in-law graciously enough, though without any
ostentatious amiability, an attitude readily explained by his
habitual reticence.

The Councillors, promptly assembling to pay their respects, were
forced to concede to one another (for none of them knew how badly
their Princess had fared but Ilderan and Tema) that if Antipas were
not a Jew he would be almost likeable.

'It isn't his fault that he's a Jew,' remarked Adbeel.

'No,' agreed Mishma; 'but it is a great misfortune.'

Arnon had wondered whether there might be some constraint in her
meeting with Zendi, but when he called with his pretty wife Rennah,
Dumah's daughter, the air was instantly cleared for them all by
little Fata.  Rennah, presently to bear a child, had taken Arnon's
uncommonly beautiful baby into her arms, while the others, for
various reasons, beamed happily over her unselfconscious display of
maternal tenderness.  They all laughed merrily when Fara laid a
small pink palm against Rennah's cheek--and smiled.  Antipas, who
had a talent for making friends easily, was delighted with his
daughter's charming response to Rennah's caresses.

'What an adorable child!' declared Zendi.

'I never saw her take to any one so quickly,' said Arnon.  'I'm
quite jealous of you, Rennah.'

'Beautiful women,' commented Antipas, 'do not have to be jealous of
one another.'

Arnon's eyes had brightened at that.  There was no doubt now that
the Prince was proving to be a good husband.  Even Aretas, standing
by, seemed gratified.

'They are beautiful,' he put in unexpectedly, for he was not given
to compliments--'all three of them!'

And so--the return of Antipas to Arabia was made much easier for
him than he had expected or deserved.  The baby Fara had paved his
way.  The Arabians came from near and far to see this endearing
child whose extraordinary beauty was on everybody's tongue.  Grim
old shepherds, who had bitterly resented Arnon's marriage to a Jew,
came to see if her baby was really as lovely as the rumour, and
found the Prince so obviously devoted to his family that they went
away to report favourably.

'He may be a Jew,' they said, 'but he is doing well by the
Princess.'

The ranking Arabians of his own age, suspicious and cold at first,
gradually thawed toward Antipas.  He was no match for them as an
equestrian, but he was by no means inexperienced in the saddle.
Respect for him increased almost to friendliness when, invited to
join a party on a wolf hunt, he had appeared on a nervous, fidgety,
unpredictable filly whose wet flanks showed that she had stoutly
disputed his authority.  Aretas had told him to select his own
horse that morning.  Old Kedar had been instructed to assist him.
The Prince had looked them over carefully.

'I'll take this young bay mare, Kedar,' said Antipas.

Kedar had drawn a long face.

'She needs quite a bit of handling, sire,' he said.

'I dare say,' drawled Antipas.  'She probably wants exercise--and
so do I.'

Privileged by his age to speak his mind candidly, Kedar chuckled a
little, deep in his throat, and replied, 'Well--you'll both get it,
I think.'

When the young blades, waiting for him on a little knoll, saw him
coming at an easy canter, they exchanged knowing grins.
Approaching, Antipas dismounted.

'The girth is a bit tight,' he remarked, loosening it with a
practised hand.  'It annoys her, I think.'

Everybody laughed companionably.

'It doesn't take much to annoy that filly,' said Zendi.  'Have any
trouble with her, sir?'

'Nothing to speak of,' said Antipas.  He patted the perspiring mare
on her neck and gently tousled her forelock.  'You'll be a good
girl now, won't you?' he murmured kindly.  The filly tossed her
head; but apparently thinking better of it, rubbed her muzzle
across his arm.  They all laughed again.  Antipas was getting along
very nicely with the Arabians.

Winter closed in.  It was rather hard to bear.  The days were short
and cold and uneventful.  Sometimes Antipas would talk to Arnon
about Rome, and she would listen with wide-eyed interest, thinking
to please him.  When the first hardy little edelweiss peeped
through the melting snow, he suggested that they plan a trip to
Rome--not to stay very long.  He knew she would enjoy the voyage,
he said, and she would be interested in seeing this greatest of all
the cities in the world.

Arnon demurred at first.  She would like to go--but there was
little Fara.  We will take her along, said Antipas.  That would be
difficult, said Arnon.  Then leave her here, said Antipas; she has
an excellent nurse and we will soon be back.  Do think it over, he
implored, adding wistfully, 'I am really a city-bred man, my dear--
and it has been a long time since I have been on a paved street.'

'He has done very well, Arnon,' said her father, when she consulted
him for advice.  'Much better than we had thought.  Perhaps you
should humour him.'

'I'm not very happy in a big city,' said Arnon.

'And your husband is not very happy in the open country,' said
Aretas.  'Better meet him halfway in this matter.  Otherwise he may
grow restless here.'

She nodded her head.  It was good counsel.  Antipas would grow
restless here.  She did not add that Antipas was already so
restless that it was making him moody and detached.

                         * * * * * *

No one could have been more graciously attentive than was Antipas
on their long voyage from the port city of Gaza to Rome.  The early
summer weather was perfect for sailing, the little ship had better
accommodations than most and the ports of call were of fascinating
interest.

Arnon could not be quite sure whether the Prince's good humour and
high spirits represented his desire to make her contented or could
be accounted for by a boyish anticipation of a return to his
enchanted city.  She gave him the benefit of the doubt and enjoyed
the comfortable journey.

Antipas spent long hours, on lazy afternoons under the gay deck-
canopy, discoursing on the life he had lived in Rome and the
friends to whom he would introduce her.  But the more he talked,
the less confidence she had in her capacity to find pleasure in the
pursuits of such people as he described.  Did they ride? she asked.
No--there really was no safe and quiet place to ride unless one
lived on an estate in the country.  But--couldn't they do that?
inquired Arnon.  Antipas had whimsically wrinkled his nose: he had
had quite enough of country life for the present.  But--wouldn't it
be frightfully noisy in the city?  Doubtless; but Antipas didn't
object to the sound of traffic; it made him feel alive.

One day she asked about the language of Rome.  Latin, wasn't it?
Perhaps Antipas would teach her.  No, Antipas had replied, they did
not speak Latin; that is, it was spoken only by the lower classes.

'Everybody who is anybody,' he went on, 'has had private tutors,
and these men are invariably Greeks--Greek slaves.'

'The better people are taught by slaves?'

'My dear, our Greek slaves are the most intelligent men in the
world.  We Romans do not pretend to match them in learning.'

'"We Romans"?' laughed Arnon.  'You are not a Roman, are you?'

Antipas had glanced about, before replying in a guarded tone, 'I am
Jewish by race, but Rome is my city.'  Rearranging Arnon's pillows
for her better comfort, he reverted to the language question.  'You
will pick up the Greek quickly, I think.  You may speak with an odd
accent at first.  Most foreigners do.  That is to be expected.  But
the Romans will find it charming.  It always amuses them.'

Arnon smiled uncertainly.  Of course she knew that she would be
considered a foreigner, but the word made her lonely.  And she
would speak queerly, and it would amuse them.  Doubtless they would
treat her as a child learning to talk.  She wouldn't like that.
Some women were at their very best--playing they were six,
prattling baby-talk, but Arnon had been taught to despise such
silly affectations.  Now she would be forced to do the baby-role,
for which she felt temperamentally unfitted.  She frowned
thoughtfully.  If she had been at a disadvantage in Jerusalem,
where at least she could talk like an adult, how would she feel in
Rome?  It worried her so much that she asked the question of
Antipas who, summoned from his day-dreaming, replied absently, 'You
will not feel strange--after a day or two.'

But she did.  The great, garish, clamorous city bewildered her.
The elaborate house to which Antipas brought her was conducted in a
manner utterly unfamiliar.  She had such difficulty in making the
servants understand her wishes that she soon gave up trying to be
the mistress of her home and allowed the score or more of slaves to
run the establishment as they pleased.  Often they were drunk,
always they were lazy; it was suspected that the butler was
dishonest.  The meals were late and indifferently served.  The
rooms were untidy.  Antipas coolly remarked that he had never lived
less comfortably.  He did not say it was Arnon's fault; but whose
else could it be?

Their first social evening out was at the home of Mark Varus.
Antipas had reminded Claudia that his Arabian Princess would be
having language difficulties which might make her seem ill at ease,
and would Claudia limit the number of her guests to a very small
company who could be depended on to understand Arnon's predicament.
So Claudia had invited only twenty.

The first person to be introduced was Arnon's sister-in-law,
Herodias, who spread a wide, red mouth, nodded gaily to her new
relative--as if they had known each other since childhood--and
threw her long, slim, jingling arms around Antipas' neck, drawing
him to her in a daring embrace.  Lagging behind Herodias was a
sheepishly grinning, baldish man whom Arnon readily guessed was
Poor Philip.  He advanced shyly and spoke in Aramaic.

'Thrice welcome, Princess Arnon, to this overestimated city.  I am
Philip, the pampered husband of that lady who is so firmly attached
to my brother.  We are, as you see, a devoted family.'

Arnon smiled at this persiflage, but couldn't help feeling shocked
over Philip's indifference to his wife's sluttish behaviour.

'They must be very warm friends,' she said, trying to be casual.

Claudia had turned away to greet arriving guests.  Herodias had
eased her grip on Antipas and was whispering earnestly into his
ear.  Mark Varus, flushed and lusty, approached to say--in Greek,
'So--at last--we have the lovely Princess of Arabia with us!'

Arnon smiled, only half understanding.

'Her Greek isn't very nimble yet, Mark,' said Philip.  'Know any
Aramaic?'

Mark said 'Very little,' and proceeded to prove it by discoursing,
in extravagant terms, of the new villa in Galilee.  Arnon, who knew
less about the villa than Mark knew about Aramaic, could only say
that she hoped to see it, some day.  Mark's intuition suggesting
that this topic might profitably be dropped now, he offered her his
arm and led her--with a proprietorial swagger--among the groups of
guests, introducing her to faces rather than names.  Arnon had a
feeling that no one knew who she was or cared very much.  They
smirked, nodded, and continued their loud-pitched conversations in
which three or four women seemed endeavouring to talk one another
down.  Arnon was stunned by the confusion.  She had never been in a
place so astoundingly noisy or so appallingly rude.

Mark Varus continued to drag her about in a manner that made it
difficult to maintain any dignity at all, as if he were exhibiting
a blooded colt, pinioning her arm tightly under his, while he gaily
shouted greetings to new arrivals.  Arnon turned about to look for
Antipas, but he was lost in the crowd; probably had forgotten her.

Presently an elaborate dinner was served, the guests lounging
languidly on an elbow in the deep upholstery of divans drawn close
together about a long table.  Mark, seated next to Arnon, was most
attentive, embarrassingly attentive, finding frequent occasion to
bend over her in an effort to serve her plate personally with some
delicacy.  She instinctively drew away from these intimate
contacts; and Mark's ardour, after a few unmistakable rebuffs,
suddenly cooled.  Turning from her, he attempted to attract the
attention of Herodias on the other side, but finding her wholly
preoccupied with Antipas, he laboriously resumed his attention to
the Arabian Princess, scolding her gently for her abstinence.
Arnon tried to explain that it was not a custom among her people to
drink intoxicants.  Sometimes, she said, their men had a glass of
wine, but it was not considered suitable for an Arabian woman to
drink at all.

Philip, who was seated next to her, overheard the conversation and
leaned forward to remark that one was expected to drink deeply at
Roman banquets.

'It annoys half-drunken people,' he went on drolly, 'to talk to
anybody who remains sober.  It embarrasses them.  That's why Varus
presses you to imbibe, Princess Arnon.  He means it well enough.
He is your host--and he wants you to be a social success.'

Mark listened with a frown, but made no comment.

'And I won't be a success--unless I'm a little bit drunk?' inquired
Arnon.

'Well,' drawled Philip, with a chuckle, 'that's one way of saying
it--but I never heard it put so briefly and clearly before.'

He caught Mark's eye and was rewarded with a scowl and a shrug.

'I'm afraid I am not going to like it very well--in Rome,' murmured
Arnon.  It was some time before Philip commented on that.
Regarding her soberly, he said, 'No--you couldn't.  My brother
should not have brought you here.  You are of a texture much too
fine to be soiled with this degradation.'

For an instant Arnon searched Philip's eyes, suspecting that he was
taunting her, but found him seriously sincere.

'Perhaps you too would be happier--somewhere else,' she said.

'Anywhere else,' he replied.

                         * * * * * *

After a few weeks of earnest but unsuccessful endeavours to
accommodate herself to the mores of Rome, Arnon gave up trying and
begged Antipas to excuse her from further attendance at banquets.

'And am I to spend my evenings at home, then?' he demanded testily.
'Is it your idea that I should live the life of a hermit in a
cave?'

There was only one reasonable answer to that.  Arnon assured him
that he was quite free to go alone, whenever and wherever he
pleased; which he did.  It was not long before they were seeing
very little of each other, making no effort to repair their
estrangement.

One evening in early autumn when Arnon was about to sit down to a
solitary dinner, Philip surprised her by calling.  She insisted
upon his dining with her, and he seemed glad to accept.  She found
it easy to talk with Philip, whose reticence everybody mistook for
stupidity.  It was not long before the conversation was becoming
quite personal--by mutual consent, for they were both lonely.
Arnon's life in Rome, Philip was saying, must have turned out to be
very tiresome.  Tiresome, said Arnon, wasn't the word she would
have used, but it was at least that.

'Sometimes,' declared Philip dreamily, 'I can hardly endure it.  I
have often thought of running away--to Sicily, perhaps, to live
alone'--he seemed talking to himself now, with eyes half closed--
'in the country, in a little house, on a green hillside, with
fruits and flowers to cultivate, trees, grass, sunsets, and a
friendly dog or two.'

'But would you be happy--without your family?' asked Arnon, when he
had ended.

'I have no family,' he muttered.  'Herodias is never at home.  I do
not ask where she spends her time.'

'Why don't you?' ventured Arnon.  'She is your wife.'

'For the same reason that you do not ask Antipas where he spends
his time,' said Philip.  He chuckled unpleasantly.  'I dare say
that if we inquired of their present whereabouts we would find them
in the same place.'

'You mean--they are often together?'

'They are always together!  And if I were you, Arnon, I should
leave for Arabia at once--before this scandal humiliates you--and
your people.'

Arnon's heart beat hard and her throat hurt.

'I think that was why you came to see me tonight,' she said weakly.
'You thought it was high time for me to know.'

Philip nodded, without meeting her eyes.

'Everyone else knows,' he said.  'Why shouldn't you?'

Next morning the unavoidable interview between Antipas and Arnon
terminated their unhappy alliance.  To his considerable relief, the
Prince's scandalous behaviour was not discussed.  Arnon simply
stated that Rome was no place for an Arabian Princess to hope for
happiness, and Antipas cheerfully agreed that her return to her own
people was the only solution to their problem.  He would arrange
for it without delay.

A well-appointed pleasure barge was chartered, stocked with
everything that might make the long voyage comfortable.  A score of
trusted men, experienced in handling caravans, were engaged to
safeguard the overland journey from the port at Gaza.

On the day before the sailing, Antipas tried to turn the
conversation toward the probable attitude of King Aretas.
Reassuring Arnon on the wisdom of her decision to return home, he
added pleasantly, 'And how pleased your father will be to have you
come back to him!  I am sure he has been lonely without you.'

Arnon frowned, pursed her lips, and stared squarely into his uneasy
eyes.  He shifted his position and made a pretence of casualness.
Slowly lowering her head, she continued to search his face from
under her long lashes.  She gave him a slow, enigmatic smile.

'My father will welcome his daughter's return to his tent,' she
said, measuring her words.  'But Aretas, the King of Arabia, may
not be pleased when he learns that the Princess of Arabia has been
put to shame by an alien enemy.'

'Meaning that he will seek revenge?'  Antipas was serious now and
his voice was unsteady.

'Prince Antipas is not well versed in Arabian history,' replied
Arnon, 'if he thinks that this indignity might be easily
overlooked.'

The implied warning disposed of the Prince's suavity and self-
assurance.  He paced the floor, flushed and angry.

'Let the King of Arabia do what he will!' he shouted.  'Doubtless
the Princess will put the worst possible construction on her
difficulties.  She will not tell the King that she made no effort
to fulfil her obligations to her husband.'  He paused in his march
and regarded her sternly.  'I have not injured you!  On the
contrary, you are abandoning me!  And I may as well tell you now
that when your ship has sailed tomorrow I shall execute a bill of
divorcement--on the grounds of desertion!'

Arnon suddenly sat erect.  Her eyes lighted.

'Do you really mean that?' she exclaimed.  'Accept my thanks,
Antipas, for this gracious favour!'

Stunned by this unexpected blow to his vanity, he studied her eyes
soberly.  No--she was not ironical.  She meant it sincerely.  He
had hesitated to hand her this crushing news--and now it was
evident that she was delighted to receive it.  He bowed stiffly and
walked toward the door, where he turned for a final word.

'You will find on the barge a young, well-born Greek slave, whom I
bought yesterday at considerable cost.  She is your personal
property.  I hope you will take her with you.  She reads, writes,
and speaks Greek fluently.  In addition to her other duties,
perhaps she will teach my little daughter a more graceful language
than the crude imitation of Aramaic that is spoken in Arabia.'

Arnon flushed a little.

'Whether our language is crude or not,' she retorted, 'depends on
who speaks it!  And--I want no parting gift from you.'

'As you like,' said Antipas indifferently.  'The Greek slave will
be on the barge, and she is your property.  If you do not want her--
pitch her overboard.'

The Prince did not appear when the ship sailed.  Arnon had not
expected him, and was not disappointed.  At the last minute before
the hawsers were hauled aboard, Philip arrived in a surprisingly
happy mood.  He led her a little way apart on the afterdeck for a
final word.

'This is a good day for you,' he said gaily--'and for me too!  You
are going home to people who love you, freed from everything that
has made your life unpleasant.'

'And you?' queried Arnon.

'I too am free!  Herodias has informed me that she and my brother
want to be married; and would I divorce her.  Would I?  I do not
often move with so much alacrity.  And I am sailing in a week, for
Sicily.'

'How fortunate you are, Philip,' said Arnon.  'I do hope you will
be contented there.  I shall often think of you--in your garden.'
She lowered her voice.  'The Prince may have told you that he is
divorcing me.'

Philip nodded.

'I was gratified and a bit surprised that Antipas found the courage
to tell you himself.  My brother has always disliked to admit that
he is a scoundrel.'

After farewells were said and the ship had cast off, Arnon was
conducted to her commodious cabin, where an uncommonly bright and
pretty young woman, of nearly her own age, was unpacking her boxes.
She had quite forgotten about the slave.  The girl made a deep
curtsey, with eyes timidly averted, and continued with her task.

'I am told that you belong to me,' said Arnon kindly.  'What is
your name?'

'Ione, Your Highness,' said the girl, with another obsequious
curtsey.

'You may address me as "Princess Arnon"--and you need not curtsey.
Are you a good sailor?'

'I do not know, Princess Arnon.'

'But this is not your first voyage?'

'No, Princess Arnon.  I was brought to Rome from Piraeus in a slave-
ship when I was only ten, but we were crowded down deep in the
hold, where it was always dark and there was no air.  I was very
sick, all the time.  Perhaps I may do better if--'

'If you are allowed to breathe,' assisted Arnon.  'We will see to
that.'  She smiled reassuringly, and the girl's eyes softened.  'It
will be a long voyage,' she added.  'I am taking you to Arabia.'

'I am glad, Princess Arnon,' murmured Ione.

'You are not sorry to leave Rome?  You will not be homesick?'

'I have no home, Princess Arnon.  I am glad to leave Rome.  I shall
be happy in Arabia.'

'But you were never in Arabia,' said Arnon, amused.

'No, Princess Arnon,' said Ione, 'but I know I shall be happy--if
you are there.'

                         * * * * * *

The caravan wearily drew up before the King's encampment at sunset.
Old Kedar was much moved as he helped Arnon out of the cramped
camel-housing, lifting her down as if she were still a little girl.
Word spread rapidly that the Princess had come home.  Nephti met
her at the door and tenderly placed the baby Fara in her arms.
Arnon's eyes were misty as she looked down into the child's smiling
face.  The servants gathered about, making soft little murmurs of
fond delight.  The Princess inquired for her father.

'The King should be here soon,' said Kedar.  'They buried the good
Chief Ilderan this afternoon.'

As the twilight came on, Aretas arrived, sober and moody over the
loss of his great friend.  Arnon's presence comforted him, but he
was impatient to learn why she had been brought back by strangers.
She tried to spare him, tried to take most of the blame, tried to
temper his rising anger; but he demanded the full truth, and she
told him everything.  Aretas did not eat or sleep that night.

Next morning, well mounted couriers were dispatched in all
directions with messages to the Councillors tersely telling the
story.  The Councillors, in turn, sent word to their tribal sheiks
that an expedition would move at once upon Jerusalem.  A
mobilization of cavalry was ordered, the concentration to occur on
the east bank of the Jordan near the village of Jeshimoth.  By the
fifth day two thousand armed horsemen were assembled.

The violent rage that had swept Aretas was not apparent now.  That
fire, still dangerously hot, had been banked.  When the King spoke
to his impatient troops he was composed.  Arabia had suffered a
great humiliation at the hands of the Jews.  A swift and savage
blow was to be struck at Herod, seeing that the despicable Prince
Antipas was out of reach.

The Arabians needed no urging.  They were so eager to proceed that
the Councillors postponed the election of a successor to Ilderan.
Indeed, it was with much difficulty that Aretas detained the
vanguard until the contingents from far distances had arrived.
Young Zendi would have taken a score of his reckless neighbours on
ahead of the others had not Aretas spoken to him sharply.

'You may be the ruler of these brave men, some day,' he said, 'and
it is not too soon to let them know that you have not only a
courageous heart but a cool head.'

When the eagerly awaited order was shouted on that eventful morning
they bounded away to the west, forded the river, scrambled up the
bank into Judaea, galloped four abreast across the plain, through
the startled villages, over the highways, into the palm-bordered
avenue that bisected suburban Bethany.  They dashed down the long
hill from whose top the turrets and spires of Jerusalem shone
brightly in the noonday sun.  Still four abreast, they rode through
the massive open gates, a score of bewildered guards and revenue
officers scattering before them.  They proceeded at full gallop
through the narrow, winding, crowded streets, indifferent to the
shouts and screams of the panic-driven crowds that scurried for
safety in doorways and alleys.  Now they had reached Herod's
imposing palace, the Insula, where they drew rein.  Lining up in
precise ranks that filled the spacious plaza fronting the huge
marble Insula, they dismounted from their wet horses and stood
waiting while Aretas and the Councillors rode up the broad white
steps and across the stone-floored terrace and up another flight of
steps toward the impressive bronze doors.

A thousand Roman legionaries stood guard, but had received no order
to obstruct the mounted Arabians.  Perhaps the Legate was stunned
out of his wits by the sheer impudence of these grim horsemen who
had dared to ride up to the very doors of the Insula.

It struck Aretas strangely that so large a force guarded the King's
palace.  Surely he had had no word that the Arabians were making an
invasion; or, if he had ordered out his troops to repel an attack,
why were they standing there motionless?

Aretas shouted to the Legate, who approached respectfully.

'Take me to Herod!' he demanded.

'King Herod is dead, sire.'

'Have a care,' shouted Zendi.  'It is dangerous to lie to the King
of Arabia!'

'I have told you the truth, sire,' reiterated the Legate calmly.
'King Herod died of a shock early this morning.'  He gestured
toward his troops.  'This is a Guard of Honour.'

'Open those doors!' commanded Aretas.  'I came to see Herod and I
mean to see him--alive or dead!'

After a brief parley, Legate Julian gave the order.  The great
bronze doors slowly swung open.  The mounted detachment moved
forward.

'But, sire,' protested the Legate, 'I hope you are not going to
ride your horses into the Insula!  Surely you would show more
respect for the King of the Jews!'

'Stand aside!' growled Aretas.  'I am not here to show respect!'

They rode into the marble-lined palace, down the broad corridor,
inquired of a frightened sentry where Herod's body was to be found;
and, upon learning that it was in the Council Chamber, proceeded to
ride into the high-domed, beautifully appointed room.  In the
centre, on a bier, reposed the King of the Jews.  The military
guard, numbering a score, stood their ground.  Forming a circle
about the corpse, the Arabians sat for a long moment in silence.
Aretas pointed his riding-whip toward the waxen face.

'It is clear we cannot take revenge on that!' he said calmly.  'And
we have no cause to hew the Roman legion to pieces.  And there is
no Jewish army to fight.'  Aretas dismounted and the Councillors
followed his example.  With bridle-reins in hand, they stood in a
circle around the bier and held a conference.  All were agreed that
there was nothing further to do in Jerusalem.  Dumah, dissatisfied,
suggested that they hang Herod's body to a tree in the courtyard.
Mishma--who was expected to be appointed Chief of the Councillors--
objected to this on the ground that it wouldn't be dignified.

'It would be as dignified,' said Dumah, 'as what we are doing now!'
For Mishma's bay mare had taken a step forward and was inquisitively
sniffing the grey feet of the late king.  Everybody chuckled.  Even
Aretas grinned.  They mounted their horses, rode out of the Council
Chamber and down the corridor and out into the warm sunshine.  A
report was made to the cavalrymen.  They were instructed to be at
ease and do what they liked until sunset.

Disappointed and disgruntled, they rode back into the business
zone; and, after the manner of idling soldiers, made a nuisance of
themselves in the shops and markets.  No serious damage was done.
One indignant old goldsmith remarked, 'Kindly leave your horses
outside.  You are welcome--but we have no accommodation for
horses.'  The Arabians thought this was funny and laughed heartily
at the joke as they rode about through his bazaar, examining the
expensive merchandise.  Pleased that the Arabs did not loot his
store, the goldsmith cheerfully answered all their questions.

'How do you happen to be doing business today?' they asked.

'We've had no order to close up,' replied the old merchant.

'You know that King Herod is dead, don't you?'

'Of course.'

'Sick very long?'

'Hadn't you heard?'

'Heard he was dead--that's all.'

'There's more to it than that!  Prince Archelaus arrived from Rome
last night, and he and the King quarrelled.  Somehow the Prince was
stabbed--accidentally, they say; and the King had a stroke--and
died.'

The Arabians stopped browsing about the shop and surrounded the
goldsmith inquisitively.  Was the Prince badly hurt?  Yes; he was
said to be dying.

As the afternoon wore on some of the cavalrymen managed to find
some wine, which gave them renewed interest in their mission of
vengeance.  They rode their horses into the lobby of the Temple,
tore down several exquisitely wrought tapestries from the walls,
and set fire to the High Priest's palace.  But as for revenge--no
one was satisfied.  That could come later--when they had access to
Antipas.  He was the ruler of Galilee and would eventually return
to his domain.  Some day, they declared, a few picked men of Arabia
would pay him a visit.

At dusk they set off in the moonlight for their homeland.  Next
morning, as if the expedition had not already acquainted itself
with a sufficient number of unusual incidents, the King's white
stallion misjudged the width of a cross-country wall and pitched
his rider violently to the ground.  They hurriedly dismounted and
gathered about him.  Aretas was dead.

Improvising a litter made of young saplings, they slowly bore the
body toward home.  That evening they camped on the plain near
Jeshimoth.  After their supper, eaten in silence, the troops
assembled to hear Mishma confer the Kingship of Arabia upon Zendi,
the son of Ilderan.



Chapter III


To the satisfaction of Arabia, young Zendi dealt quite generously
with Princess Arnon.  This he could well afford to do, for he had
inherited from his father Ilderan large flocks of sheep, herds of
cattle, and enough camels to outfit a dozen caravans on their
regular journeys to the sea.

It was his right as the new King to take over the entire domain
controlled by Aretas, but he immediately asked the Councillors to
cede a tract of the King's land to the Princess for the pasturage
of livestock bequeathed by her father.

In view of the sympathy which the Arabians felt for their unhappy
Princess, this warm-hearted display of kindness greatly advantaged
the boyish monarch as he entered upon his duties.  And it was clear
that he would stand in need of his country's loyalty, for but
little snow had fallen during the previous winter and the
competition for grazing grounds would demand firm and wise control
when the midsummer sun had made the problem serious.  By this
magnanimous act, Zendi had made a good beginning.  Even Mishma, who
had come so nearly being the new king himself, expressed his belief
that Arabia was in competent hands and gave the son of Ilderan his
full support.

With the approval of the Councillors, Arnon's establishment was set
up on a broad plateau two miles south of the King's encampment, and
it seemed very much like home, for she was entitled to all the
furniture and household retainers belonging to her father.  At
Zendi's gracious suggestion, the royal ensign fluttered at her
imposing entrance door and its replica was embroidered on her
apparel.  'And Fara is to wear the royal crest on her clothing
too,' Zendi had added, much to Arnon's delight.

So many internal problems were distressing the King, the
Councillors, and the tribal chieftains as this trying summer wore
on, that the question of an immediate avenging of Arnon was
abandoned.  Affairs in Arabia were quite difficult enough without
the added risk and responsibility of setting forth on a punitive
errand requiring their best men and much valuable time.  Word had
drifted in that Prince Antipas and his disreputable wife had taken
up permanent residence in Galilee.  Very good, said Arabia.  We
will know where to find him.  Let him be patient and wait our
convenience.

A few of the more hot-headed young blades, still disgruntled over
the recent fiasco in Jerusalem, demurred at this postponement,
maintaining that the honour of Arabia was at stake and that any
delay to deal out retribution might be interpreted by the Jews as a
sign of indifference--or worse.  To soothe the indignation of their
reckless sons and nephews, the Councillors prepared an imposing
statement of intent to right this wrong, which any impatient young
Arabian might sign--and act upon--whenever he wished.

In the King's main tent, where all state business was conducted and
Council meetings were held, there was a massive oak table
elaborately carved with devices relating to the interests of
herders and shepherds.  This venerated table had long served as the
equivalent of a throne.  Nobody remembered the name of the
craftsman who had built it, for he had been dead at least three
centuries, but it had been in uninterrupted use as a symbol of
executive authority ever since the reign of the fabulous Terah,
whose deeds of strength and skill had inspired the minstrels for
many generations.  On this table were laid documents of high
importance: petitions to and edicts of the Councillors and decrees
of the King.

After much deliberation, the Councillors drew up a formal vow,
impressively lettered in colours, stating that the undersigned
hereby pledged himself to avenge the Princess Arnon by destroying
Antipas, the Tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea.  The avenger was to
choose his own time and manner of fulfilling his vow.  It was his
responsibility to decide whether he would perform it clandestinely
and alone or with the voluntary assistance of others.  But once he
had pledged to do it, the task was in his hands and Arabia would
expect him to keep his promise, whatever the cost.

The heavy sheet of papyrus was ceremoniously placed upon the table
and the word went forth that it was there--with a stylus and
inkhorn beside it--for any man to sign who felt urged to do so.
But the blazing sun continued to scorch the grass, and every man
was fully occupied with the desperate search for pasture to save
what remained of his decimated flocks.  Everybody agreed that the
contemptible Antipas must be put to death, but he would have to
wait for it until Arabia saw better times.

To Arnon, this tardiness to wreak vengeance upon Antipas was of
small concern.  It would be a dangerous business and whoever
attempted it would almost certainly lose his life, for the
stronghold in Galilee would be well guarded by the man who
doubtless lived in fear of a reprisal.  Quite enough unhappiness
had already resulted from Arabia's pact with the Jews.  She said
that to Zendi, upon learning of the vow that the Councillors had
prepared.  'I do not want to be responsible for any more trouble,'
protested Arnon.  'Why not let the matter rest?'  And Zendi had
agreed that her suggestion was sensible enough, but added that all
Arabia would sleep more comfortably when Antipas slept without
prospect of waking.

There were some encouraging rains that autumn, much too late to
benefit the burned pasture-lands, but giving promise of better fare
next season.  The winter, however, was bitterly cold and the snow
alarmingly scanty.

The Arabian shepherd was not without his superstitions, nor was
this fascination for the supernatural limited to the custody of
lonely men who guarded their flocks in outlying regions, where
fears and dreads were personalized.  Almost everybody felt that an
unusual epidemic of misfortunes hinted at retribution.  And while
the more intelligent disclaimed any interest in such witcheries,
even the best of them might be heard to remark--though pretending
not to mean it--that Someone or Something must have laid a curse
upon Arabia.

For the following summer was the worst season that the oldest could
remember, and in the fall there were but few caravans carrying
hides and wool to the Port of Gaza.  The young camels they would
have brought to market in Petra, Jericho, and Joppa were too lean
and shabby for profitable sale.  There was very little surplus of
grain to see the livestock through the approaching winter.

The air was tense with complaint and constraint.  Somebody was to
blame.  The trouble all seemed to stem from Arabia's alliance with
the Jews.  Everyone was able to recall now how he himself had
predicted, at the time, that no good could come of it.  Of course
no one held it against Arnon, for clearly she had suffered from it
far more than anybody.  And it would be cruel foolishness to frown
upon the hapless child who symbolized that unfortunate union.  But--
even so--the visits of Arnon's friends became less and less
frequent.  She did not fret about it at first, realizing that
everyone was weighted with worries at home, and in no mood for
sociability.

Curiously enough, there was better pasture on Arnon's land than
anywhere else for many miles.  Her neighbours did not openly
begrudge the Princess this bit of prosperity, but it did seem
strange.  One day a sheik remarked half-humorously that wherever
you found a Jew located you might expect to see fat sheep.

'A Jew?' queried the friend who rode beside him.  'What Jew?'

'Had you not noticed Princess Arnon's pasture?'

'The Princess is not a Jew!' retorted his friend.

'No--but her child is.'

It was all but incredible, the speed with which this idle quip
raced across the browned face of Arabia until it was repeated in
the coldest tents of the hungry highlands.

But there were a few whose unswerving loyalty to the Princess made
them all the more eager to show her friendly attentions as this
unfavourable sentiment developed.  Zendi and Rennah rode over every
few days to make sure of Arnon's welfare.  Although she was now a
Princess only by courtesy, Zendi endeavoured to keep her informed
of movements in the kingdom, as if she still had a right to know.
One day he talked of the unfortunate expedition to Jerusalem, and
reported that Emperor Tiberius had decided not to appoint another
Jew as a ruler of Judaea.  Henceforth the chief executive would be
a Roman.  The new appointee was already located in Jerusalem.  He
had been elevated from the Prefecture of Crete.  His name was
Pontius Pilate.  Doubtless he would get along with the Jews.  He
was said to be a tactful conciliator.

'Will this affect the position of Antipas--in Galilee?' Arnon
wanted to know.

'Probably not,' surmised Zendi.  'The tribute Rome receives from
poor little Galilee isn't worth what it costs to collect it.
Antipas could afford to pay their taxes himself and doubtless would
do so gladly enough, just to preserve the title of Tetrarch.'

Sometimes Zendi and Rennah gave Arnon an opportunity to speak of
the growing aloofness toward her, but she appeared not to be aware
of it, and the painful subject was not discussed.

Frequently Mishma's pretty daughter-in-law Kitra came to spend the
afternoon, bringing her four-year-old son Voldi, who had promptly
taken a fancy to little Fara.

The warm friendship of Kitra and Arnon, begun in childhood, had
ripened to a comforting intimacy, nourished perhaps by the fact
that Princess Arnon was no longer of the King's household, while
Kitra had missed being in that position by the mere accident of a
delayed appointment of her father-in-law Mishma as Chief of the
Councillors and, as such, the immediate successor to Aretas.  They
spent long afternoons together, happily watching their children's
absorption in one another, for Fara had had no other playmates and
Voldi had never taken such an interest in another child.  Sometimes
the two young mothers would wonder whether this tender little
friendship might continue as their children grew up, though they
admitted that it wasn't customary.

                          * * * * *

After three consecutive winters of such hardships as Arabia had
never known, succeeded by scorched summers presaging further
endurance of famine for both men and beasts, the snow fell in
abundance.  It fell endlessly and everywhere; on the mountains, in
the valleys, covering great tracts of arid desert that had not seen
any moisture for a score of years.  It snowed and thawed and snowed
again until the wadis were in flood.  Spring came early, the sun
was bright, all Arabia was a green pasture.

Men who had become so deeply depressed over their losses that they
had actually debated whether, for the country's sake, it might not
be advisable to carry Princess Arnon's child back to Jerusalem
'where she belongs,' were now glad that they had done no such
thing, and some of them felt sheepish over having shared in these
conversations.

It was hardly to be expected that such good fortune could happen
again, but it did.  Not only during the next winter, but the winter
following, heavy snows blanketed the entire nation; and in the
succeeding autumns long, heavily laden caravans trekked down the
mountains and rounded the southern shore of the Dead Sea, and
slowly marched to the old 'salt trail' from Engedi to Gaza.

Not infrequently some gratified shepherd, with silver jingling in
his pouch, would remark that the young daughter of Princess Arnon,
far from being a menace to Arabia, was bringing Jewish prosperity
to the nation, to which his neighbour would reply, 'I always said
you were a lot of fools for hating that pretty child!'

'But--you said yourself that she ought to be put out of the
country!'

'If I did, that doesn't make you any less a fool for saying so.'

Everybody who had seen little Fara agreed now that she was the most
beautiful child in Arabia, which was unquestionably true.  She had
the full, wide-set eyes and round face of a Jewess, and a much
fairer complexion than her attractive mother.  Her slim, lithe body
was distinctly Arabian, as was her interest in outdoor life.

She had been lifted into a small saddle when she was barely five,
the worshipful old Kedar walking alongside the pony.  It was not
long before she protested against such attendance.  One morning
when she was no more than six she appeared alone at the King's
encampment, to the consternation of the household.  Zendi himself
rode home beside her to make sure she arrived safely.  Arnon, quite
complacent, met them at the door.

'You shouldn't let her do that,' reproved Zendi.  'She isn't old
enough.'

'The pony is,' said Arnon.  'He wouldn't let her get into trouble.
He follows her about like a dog.'

'But ponies are treacherous, Arnon.  I should much sooner trust a
horse.'

'That is quite true, sire.  I shall let her ride one of the
horses.'  She had spoken half-playfully, but added, in a suddenly
serious tone, 'Don't forget, Zendi, that my little daughter is
every inch an Arabian!  You were taught to ride almost as soon as
you were able to walk--and so was I.'

This incident, trivial enough in itself, was reported to the
Councillors, who received it--and its implications--with smiles and
nods of approval.  The child was unfortunately afflicted with alien
blood, but it was clear that she was predominantly Arabian and
deserved recognition as one of their own people.  By the time the
story was well circulated, losing nothing in its travels, little
Fara was an accomplished rider, skilful and unafraid.  And the
rumour wasn't far from the truth.

But if Arabia had an imaginary picture of this growing child as a
reckless rowdy, leaping half-broken racehorses over high hedges and
deep wadis with the firm hands and pliant knees of an experienced
cavalryman, there was another side of Fara's life which nobody saw
but her own family--and King Zendi.  Thanks to Ione, Fara was
receiving a liberal education.

To all appearances, the beloved and indispensable Ione had fully
adjusted herself to her Arabian environment, but it was a sorrow to
her never to hear or speak a word of her native Greek.  When little
Fara was learning to talk, Ione amused herself by teaching her
Greek words for familiar objects.  When she handed the baby her
porridge plate, she would say, 'Pinakos.'  And Fara, ever eager to
please Ione, would lisp, 'Pinakos'; and because Ione seemed so
delighted, she proudly repeated the word, over and over.  The
little porridge plate was always 'pinakos' after that, and the
little cup was always 'poterion' and the napkin was 'soudarion.'
Arnon too enjoyed the game.  'Teach her to say "I love you," Ione.'

Taking the child on her lap, Ione said softly, 'Fara, I love you.
Philo seh.  Philo seh.  I love you.'

'Philo seh,' repeated Fara dutifully, happily.

'Say that to your mother, Fara.'

Arnon reached out her arms and little Fara cuddled close to her.

'I love you,' whispered Arnon.

'Philo seh,' said Fara.

As the days went by, the intrusion of Greek words into their
conversation was no longer a novelty that made them laugh merrily.
Common nouns needed action.  Words multiplied into sentences.
Table-talk was conducted in Greek.  After supper, on winter
evenings, Ione taught Fara to write it.  Happy to see her child
profitably entertained, Arnon joined in these exercises, though she
never acquired the effortless fluency with which Fara handled the
strange language.  By the time she was nine the little girl spoke
Greek by preference.

One day, King Zendi called to inquire about their welfare and
overheard Fara in the adjoining room talking to Ione.  He broke off
what he was saying--and listened--and then grinned incredulously.

'How long has this been going on?' he inquired.

'Ever since she was a tiny tot,' said Arnon.  'It's Ione's doing.
I suppose there's no harm in it?'

'Harm?  Of course not!  I wish I knew some Greek myself.'

'But--you do; don't you, Zendi?'

'A mere smattering--picked up on my journey to Corinth.  I often
have errands in Petra.  It would be much to my advantage if I could
speak their language.'

Arnon laughed a little as she said, 'Perhaps Fara could help you.'
To her surprise, Zendi did not see anything funny about this.  He
frowned thoughtfully.

'It just occurs to me,' he said, 'that we have, in our cabinet of
curiosities, a scroll that the people of Petra presented to your
father at his coronation.  I shall bring it over.  Maybe Fara might
like to see it.'

The next afternoon he brought the scroll.  Ione was invited in to
look at it.  She gasped with happy surprise.  What a treasure!
Unconsciously ignoring the King, she breathlessly explained the
subject of the scroll to Fara in a long sentence utterly
incomprehensible to their important guest.  And Fara clapped her
hands with delight.

'I would give much for that knowledge,' said Zendi soberly.

'It's easy, sire,' said Fara.

When he left, shortly afterward, Fara walked beside him in the
paddock.

He took her small hand.  The old master of the stables led forward
a beautiful roan gelding.  Fara's eyes shone.

'How do you like my new horse, Fara?' asked the King as he gathered
up the reins.

'Prosphilay!' murmured Fara reverentially, patting the gelding's
glossy shoulder.  'Prosphilay hippos!'

'What did you say?' demanded the King.

'Lovely!' said Fara.  'Lovely horse!'

Zendi chuckled and swung himself into the saddle.

'Kai megaleios hippikos!' ventured Fara coyly.

'And what does that mean?' the King wanted to know.

Fara shrugged a pretty shoulder, gave an enigmatic smile, and made
a graceful curtsey.  Zendi waved a hand and rode away.  It was
evident that Fara's final remark--whatever it meant--was
complimentary.

After that the tribesmen were often amused to see their King
cantering alongside Princess Arnon's pretty child, evidently
engaged in serious conversation.  One day, after a visit to Petra,
Zendi presented his young preceptress with an armful of scrolls
which he had bought.  Ione, on her knees, laid them out in a row on
the rug and caressed them with worshipful hands, murmuring,
'Thaumasia!  Thaumasia!'  To have such a rich library--it was
indeed wonderful!  Marvellous!

As for Fara's early knowledge of her origin, she had been contented
with the explanation that her father was a Prince who had been
required to leave them that he might perform his duties as the
ruler of a faraway country.  Now that she was asking for a little
more information, Arnon would talk of the great cities in which she
had lived with Fara's father, carefully avoiding any mention of her
unhappiness.

'Will my father ever visit us?' Fara had asked wistfully.

'He would find it difficult,' Arnon had replied; and this was the
exact truth.  'Great rulers,' she went on, 'have many cares.'

'But--does he not care--at all--for us?'

'A ruler's life, my dear, is not his own.  His only concern is for
the welfare of his country.'  Arnon despised herself for what, in
this case, was a ridiculous lie; but felt that it was an easy way
out of a painful discussion.  The time would come soon enough, she
knew, when the whole matter would have to be faced; but she hoped
to postpone it as long as possible.

Fara was beginning to be aware of her loneliness and singularity.
She was nearing ten and growing very restless.  She needed
companions of her own age.  It had been a long time since Kitra had
brought Voldi along when she came to visit.  One day Fara ventured
to inquire how he was.

'Oh--that boy!' exclaimed Kitra, busying herself with her
needlework.  'He thinks he is quite a man now.  Growing so fast;
tall as I am.  You know how boys of that age are, Fara.  They don't
want to play with girls.  All they think about is their horses--and
hunting dogs--and archery--and fencing.'  Her eyes slid past Fara
to Arnon.  'You may be glad Fara is a girl.  I never have a
peaceful moment when Voldi is riding that unruly horse of his!'

'Fara rides too,' said Arnon quietly.

'Yes--I know,' said Kitra.  'And Fara rides very well indeed!'

Then the talk veered off to another topic and Fara strolled away to
her own room.  She languidly took up the little tapestry on which
she had been investing oddments of unoccupied time.  Ione joined
her.  They sat in silence for awhile, Ione exasperatingly tranquil,
Fara recklessly stabbing her needle into the stiff fabric.

'Don't you ever feel penned in, Ione?'  The tapestry sailed across
the room and landed on the bed.  'How does it feel to be a slave?'
Fara went on savagely, as if she meant to offend.  'If I were a
slave, I'd run away!  Why don't you?'

'Where would I run to?' asked Ione, blinking back the tears, for
Fara's rudeness had hurt.

'You could go home,' gruffly.

'But--this is my home, dear; same as it is yours.'

'Nonsense!' muttered Fara.  'You can't be contented here any more
than I can!  This place stifles me!  Sometimes I think I'll jump
out of my skin!'

'Your mother would be very sorry, Fara, if she heard you say such
things,' reproved Ione.

'Well, she won't,' declared Fara.  'But'--suddenly dejected--'I had
to say it to somebody.  Please forgive me.'

'Of course,' murmured Ione, quick to understand.  'It's natural for
children of your age to be restless.  You're growing so fast that
the encampment isn't big enough to hold you.  You will get over
that when you are older.'

Fara crossed the room, flung herself down on her bed, and lacing
her fingers behind her head, stared at the blue ceiling.

'Wouldn't you like to see something besides sheep?' she mumbled,
mostly to herself.  'And go to some place where they talked about
other things than the price of camels--and how are we going to find
enough grass?  Wouldn't you like to live in a great house--in a
great city?'

'No, dear,' replied Ione, when some rejoinder seemed necessary.  'I
have done that.  I'm quite satisfied to be here--where I am, in
these beautiful mountains.'

'Maybe I should be satisfied too,' admitted Fara.  'I wish I was
like other people.  There's something wrong with me, Ione,' she
exclaimed impulsively.  'I'm different!  And I hate it!'

It was not until she was eleven that Fara learned how and why she
was different.  She came by accident upon the soul-sickening truth
about her father's perfidy and her mother's incurable unhappiness
and her own defenceless position as a half-breed.  She had ridden
with Arnon, that midsummer afternoon, to the King's encampment.
Zendi was absent on a tour of the eastern tribes.  Rennah and Arnon
lounged in the Queen's suite while Fara and the spoiled young
Prince Deran strolled about indifferently inspecting the kennels
and stables.

Tiring of this entertainment and agreeing that the sun was too hot,
the children returned to the spacious living quarters, where Deran,
eager to impress his guest, led the way into the huge, high-vaulted
tent which was set apart for the exclusive use of the King and his
Councillors.  With a boyish swagger, Deran stalked about,
explaining the various appointments.  Having casually seated
himself in the King's massive chair, he invited Fara to do the
same.  He wouldn't think, he said, of letting anyone else sit
there.  Fara smiled prettily to show her appreciation.  Thus
encouraged, Deran led her around the ancient table, declaiming what
he knew about the symbolic carvings, and--in a hushed voice--called
her attention to the impressive documents which lay waiting
official action.

Fara, who had come to have deep respect for ancient crafts and
historical writings, gave full attention to the table and its
important freight.

'You mustn't touch anything,' cautioned Deran.

Fara shook her head and continued to survey the awesome documents
with fascination.  Presently she came upon a slightly faded, multi-
coloured sheet of papyrus which she read, with widening eyes and
mounting comprehension.  Deran, a little younger but much taller,
stood at her shoulder, staring in bewilderment at her flushed
cheek.  She turned abruptly toward him, searching his face, but he
gave no sign of knowing or caring what tiresome thing she had been
reading.

When they arrived home shortly before sunset, Fara followed Arnon
into her bedroom, impulsively reported what she had seen in the
King's tent, and entreated her mother to tell her everything, which
she did.  Everything!--the alliance, the marriage, the lonely days
in Jerusalem, the humiliating days in Rome!  All the pent-up
wretchedness of Arnon's ruined life poured forth, accompanied by a
flood of tears.  When the sad, sordid story was finished, the
unhappy Princess dried her eyes and was surprised to find that
Fara, instead of sharing her mother's grief, was standing there dry-
eyed, with her childish mouth firmed into a straight line and her
brows contracted into an expression of bitter hatred.

'And why has no one hunted him down--and punished him?' she
demanded indignantly.

'It's much too late for that,' said Arnon.  'When it happened our
country was in great distress.  No one could be spared.  And now
that we have such great prosperity, no one remembers.'  She sighed
deeply, and went on, 'Perhaps it is just as well.  Galilee is a
long way off.  The Prince is well protected.  Let us try to forget
all about it, dear.'

Fara shook her head slowly.

'I shall remember--always!' she muttered.

That winter was long and severe.  Arnon fell ill with a fever and
relentless fits of coughing.  Fara through these anxious days had
no other concern but for her mother.  Ione tried unsuccessfully to
renew her interest in the classics, in her modelling, in her
drawing.

'Do persuade the unhappy child to get out and take some exercise!'
begged Arnon.  'She is so unlike herself, Ione.'

'It worries me too, Princess Arnon.  Something has come over her.'

'She is fretting because I am ill,' said Arnon.

'Of course, Princess Arnon,' agreed Ione obligingly, 'but you will
be better when spring comes again.'

And spring did come again, and Arnon improved enough to be able to
sit in the sunshine and walk in the garden, but Fara's depression
was unrelieved.  All her natural gaiety was gone.

One afternoon when Rennah came to call, she found Arnon and Fara
together in the garden.  Almost immediately, Fara excused herself
and strolled away.  Rennah followed her with troubled eyes.

'She is growing taller; but, Arnon, Fara does not look well.  Is
something worrying her?'

'Fara has been fretting all winter about me,' said Arnon.  'She is
a most dutiful child.'

'But now that you are getting well--'

'I have thought of that, Rennah.  She should be happy again.  I
wish we could think of something that might divert her.  She has no
interest in anything.'

'She will have a birthday soon,' remembered Rennah.  'How about
having a party?'  Her face lighted.  'Would you let me have a party
for Fara?  I know Zendi would be glad.  We will make quite a day of
it--with the Councillors and their wives and all the children and
grandchildren--and races and games and plenty to eat.'

'It is like you, dear Rennah, to want to do such a kindness,' said
Arnon.  'I hope you will not go to too much trouble.'

'Zendi will approve, I know,' said Rennah.  'It's high time we gave
that sweet child some attention.  We have neglected her too long.
It should mean something to the people that Fara's grandfathers
were Kings!'

So, on the fifteenth of Adar, which turned out to be the fairest
day of that early summer, the King and Queen celebrated Fara's
twelfth anniversary with a party that greatly exceeded Rennah's
original plan, not only in the entertainment provided but in the
number of guests; for, having decided to do it, Zendi included all
the sheiks and tribal leaders with their families.

Fara had been dismayed upon learning of the project in her honour
and so seriously objected that she was all but in open revolt,
until Zendi himself explained that as a child of royal blood she
was not only entitled to certain favours but was expected to
receive them graciously.  And when Fara continued to frown
disapprovingly, Zendi's patience gave out and he informed her that
whether she wanted it or not there was going to be a birthday party
for her at the King's encampment on the fifteenth day of Adar; and
that, whether she wanted to or not, she was going to be there,
bright and early!

Late in the night, after the party was over and everyone had gone
home, Zendi told Rennah what he had said, so impatiently, to Fara
when she had begged him not to celebrate her birthday.

'If I had had the slightest idea of what was troubling the child,'
he confided, 'I should have yielded to her wishes.  As it stands
now our celebration of her birthday has been of no advantage to
her.  Indeed, it has done her harm.  Everyone will think she is
queer, if not definitely out of her mind.'

The almost incredible thing that happened was reserved for the
banquet in the evening, attended only by the royal household, the
Councillors and their wives, and a few distinguished guests from
Petra, where Zendi was becoming favourably known.

Nothing unusual had marked the happy events of the day.  There
had been exciting contests of strength and skill; acrobatic
performances, wrestling, fencing, foot races.  Magicians had done
baffling tricks.  Minstrels had sung.  There were horseraces that
would have done credit to the famed elliptical track in Rome's
mighty Colosseum.  And there were equestrian exhibitions staged by
various groups of reckless young Arabs, some of the contestants
hardly more than children.  As was to be expected, there were a few
bad spills, some broken bones and ruined horses.  The final event
was a breath-taking hurdle race ridden by youths in their middle
teens.  The hurdles were high and the race was dangerous.  Of the
twelve horses that started, three finished.

Obliged by the circumstances to sit with the dignitaries in the
royal stand, Fara turned to her mother as the perspiring young
victor rode up to salute the King, and whispered, 'Who is that
boy?'

Before Arnon could reply, Kitra, seated immediately behind them,
leaned forward to say, with a proud but nervous little laugh, 'Why--
don't you remember him, Fara?  That's Voldi!  You used to play
together.'

Fara turned to her with a smile and a nod of remembrance.

'He is a wonderful rider,' she murmured, in the husky-timbred tone
that her voice had acquired.

Queen Rennah, overhearing, said, 'We will ask him to come up, Fara,
and renew acquaintance.'

Fara bit her lip and flushed a little.  Meeting Arnon's eyes, she
frowned and shook her head almost imperceptibly.  Arnon smiled,
pursed her lips, and nodded, as if to say, 'We mustn't object to
that: it's quite the thing to do.'

Presently Voldi, dismounting, came up into the royal enclosure,
bowed deeply to the King and Queen, and made his way toward his
mother.  They gave him a seat beside Fara.  She searched his brown,
freckled face with wide, sober eyes.  Then her full lips parted in
a smile of candid admiration.  He coloured a little through the
tan, under this frank inspection, and slowly met her smile with the
bewildered expression of one who has just come upon a valuable
discovery.

Rennah, keenly observant, turned her head toward Kitra and
whispered, 'Isn't that sweet?'  Kitra nodded and smiled briefly,
but there was a trace of anxiety in her eyes.  Rennah caught it,
and thought she understood.

'You grew up, didn't you?' murmured Fara, in her peculiarly low-
pitched voice that made everything she said sound confidential.

'So did you,' stammered Voldi.  'I shouldn't have known you.'

'That was really great riding, Voldi!' said Fara fervently.

'You ride too, don't you?'

'Not like that.'

'Want to take a ride with me, some day?'

'If you think it wouldn't be tiresome--to ride very carefully.'

Their mothers and the Queen, shamelessly eavesdropping, laughed at
Voldi's expense, but he was too fascinated to notice their
amusement.

'Tomorrow afternoon?' he asked.

Fara nodded slowly, smiled a little; then suddenly retreated from
the enraptured eyes.

'You promised to spend the day with your grandfather, Voldi,' put
in Kitra.

'I'll tell him.'  Voldi rose to go.  'Tomorrow afternoon, Fara.'
They all--except Fara--followed the tall boy with their eyes and
saw him pause to say something to his grandfather who soberly made
a show of concealing his pride in the youngster's obvious affection
for him.

'Happy days for good old Mishma,' remarked the Queen.

'Yes,' said Kitra absently.

Noting the remote tone of Kitra's uninterested response, Arnon
involuntarily turned her head to seek a reason for it, but Kitra
did not meet her inquiring eyes.  The little by-play was quite lost
on Fara, whose attention pursued Voldi as he strode down the steps
and mounted his tired horse.

In the evening oxen were roasted over deep pits of glowing coals,
and everybody feasted in the open but the royal hosts and their
important guests.  Fara was the only young person present at the
King's banquet.  There had been some debate whether to invite a few
of the younger ones of Fara's age, but it was difficult to
discriminate among them and the room would not accommodate them
all.

After the elaborate dinner was served, brief speeches were made in
honour of Fara, whom they all addressed as 'Princess'.  No one of
the eulogistic Councillors made any reference to the royal blood
contributed by Judaea, but memories were refreshed concerning the
wisdom and courage of Grandsire Aretas, who was already well on the
way to an exalted rating among Arabia's legendary heroes.

Throughout the ordeal--for it was nothing less than that--Fara sat
between her mother and King Zendi, attentive and sober-faced, as
became a young girl unused to so much adult acclaim.  She seemed to
be listening to everything that was said, though close observers
noticed that her expression remained unchanged when Chief
Councillor Mishma was reminded of an amusing incident and everyone
else laughed.  Apparently Fara had not heard it.  It was evident
that she had something on her mind.

When the speeches of felicitation were ended and nothing remained
to be said except a word of adjournment, Zendi turned with a
paternal smile toward his young guest of honour.

'Now, Princess Fara,' he said kindly, 'it is your turn.  You may
make a bow--or make a speech--or sing a song.'

They all applauded the King's half-playful suggestion, but stopped
suddenly when Fara rose to her feet.  Arnon, seated beside her,
glanced up apprehensively as if to inquire, 'What is my child
planning to do?'

Fara did not smile or speak.  Slowly leaving her place she walked
with determined steps to the massive table.  The audience leaned
forward and held its breath, wondering what was about to happen.
Moving around the table until she faced the King, Fara made a deep
bow.  Then, to the amazement of everyone, she whipped a little
dagger from her belt and deftly drew a red streak diagonally across
her left forearm.  Bending over the long neglected, unsigned vow of
vengeance, she took up the stylus, dipped it in her blood, and
wrote FARA.

For a moment they all sat stunned to silence.  Then Rennah rose and
hurried to Fara's side.  Arnon, much shaken, quickly joined the
Queen and together they led the bleeding Princess out to attend to
her wound.  Fara's face was pale but her eyes were bright and a
proud little smile trembled on her lips.

Zendi rose, instantly claiming the full attention of his silent,
bewildered guests.

'Some brave young blood has been shed here tonight,' he said
solemnly.  'You may be assured that Arabia will not permit this
gallant child ever to risk her life in an attempt to keep her vow;
but her courageous act, done in all sincerity, is proudly
appreciated by her country.'

'Aye!' mumbled old Mishma.

'Aye!  Aye!' responded many voices.

There was a long moment of silence before Zendi signified with a
gesture that they were now free to disperse.  The people stirred,
uneasily questing one another's baffled eyes.  Mishma, standing at
the King's elbow, suggested that the unprecedented event should be
kept a secret.

'That would be most desirable, Mishma, if we could,' agreed Zendi.
'But it cannot be done.  It is possible to pledge three people--or
five--to keep a secret; but not fifty.  Perhaps it is better to let
them all talk until they have tired of it--and then it will be
forgotten.  After all, she is only a child.'

And so it was told throughout the whole Kingdom of Arabia that
Princess Arnon's young daughter had vowed to assassinate her Jewish
father.  The first reaction was that of sheer admiration mixed with
amiable amusement.  The little girl had shown great courage.  She
might be part Jew, but she was all Arab!  Of course her vow--
considered practically--was ridiculous.  When she grew a little
older, her recollection of it would be embarrassing, no doubt.  And
after a few weeks of free discussion, the strange incident--as
Zendi had predicted--was forgotten.

Young Voldi, completely infatuated and not caring who knew it,
spent more and more time at Arnon's encampment, to the mounting
anxiety of his parents, for he was a popular, well-favoured youth,
giving promise of a bright future.  With his exceptional talents
for making friends and the reputation he had already won as a
fearless sportsman, it was not too much to hope that his country
might some day confer honours upon him.  He might easily win an
appointment to the King's Council.  But it seemed doubtful to Urson
and Kitra that their idolized son could fulfil these high
expectations if embarrassed by an alliance with a young woman of
alien blood, especially Jewish blood.  Whatever might be her
beauty, courage, and charm, Fara would be a heavy liability.

Nor was Voldi insensitive to his parents' uneasiness.  He was
deeply devoted to them and their anxiety distressed him.  There
were no stormy scenes.  Perhaps it might have been easier for him
to ignore their wishes if they had angered him with stern
admonitions--if Urson had lashed out at him with bitter scorn or if
his mother had become noisily hysterical.  The unhappy situation
was hardly mentioned among them, but it was ever present in their
thoughts.  Urson seldom laughed now.  And when Voldi, setting forth
in the morning to spend the day with the adorable young daughter of
Antipas the scoundrel, turned in his saddle to wave a hand to
Kitra, standing before the doorway, trying to smile through her
welling tears, he felt like an ingrate.

And he had other misgivings.  He was seeing very little of his
companions.  Until recently he had spent most of his time with his
hard-riding young cronies.  Indeed, he had been the acknowledged
leader of this adventurous crew.  What were they thinking about
him?  What were they saying about him, as they sat around their
evening camp-fire in the mountains after a long day's chase for
wild game?  It would be a sore affliction if his friends were to
chatter contemptuously of his demoralizing love-sickness.  He
resolved to free himself of this dread.

One morning, having had word of their plans for a three-day stag-
hunt, Voldi arrived early at the accustomed rendezvous, fully
equipped for the excursion.  There was a bit of embarrassment at
first, but the constraint quickly lifted.  Voldi was one of them
again.  Intent upon restoring himself to their good opinion, he led
them for hours in the maddest ride they had ever taken--leaping
deep gulleys cut by mountain streams, hurdling fallen timber,
plunging through tangled underbrush.  Challenged by his
recklessness, they did their utmost to follow.  Young Museph, the
elder son of Councillor Tema, kept hard on his leader's heels and
brought down the largest stag of the three killed that day.  Voldi
accounted for the others.  Most of the party were out-distanced and
came straggling into camp in the late afternoon, weary beyond any
words to tell of it.

A camp-fire was built beside a noisy mountain stream.  The stags
were hung up and dressed.  Museph flung himself down on the
aromatic pine-needles that carpeted the ground; and when Voldi sat
down beside him, regarding him with a teasing grin, Museph opened
one eye and muttered, 'My brother, you have lost your mind.'

The last to arrive in camp was young Prince Deran, King Zendi's
arrogant son, attended by four members of the hunt who had
reluctantly tarried with him when the pace had grown too hot.  The
Prince had bagged a little doe.  No one ventured to rebuke him, but
the general silence expressed the party's opinion.  Deran was quite
aware of his companions' disfavour, aware too that had he been
anyone else than the heir to the throne he would have been
appropriately chastised.  He cared nothing for their unspoken
disapproval.  His manner said that if the King's son wished to kill
a baby doe, who had a right to oppose him?

After supper there were some acrobatics, a wrestling match, and a
fencing bout with wooden broadswords.  It was proposed that they
have a duel with daggers.

'How about you and Museph, Voldi?' a voice inquired.

'I'm too tired,' said Museph.  'Besides, I'm no match for Voldi.'

'We will take him on!' shouted the Prince, getting to his feet.

All eyes--and they were sullen eyes--turned in his direction.  They
covertly scorned the pompous youngster, hated his poor sportsmanship,
loathed his insolent 'we'.

'It wouldn't be fair, Prince,' said Voldi, trying to make his tone
sound respectful.  'I am older than you--and I have had more
practice.'

'But not lately,' sneered Deran; 'or do you play with daggers when
you visit your Jewish friend?'

All breathing around the camp fire was suspended.  Voldi flushed
and frowned.

'I do not wish to fence with you, Prince Deran,' he said.

'As we thought!' crowed Deran.  'That's what comes of consorting
with soft aliens.'  He took a step forward and drew his dagger.
'Stand up and fight, fellow!'

Voldi slowly rose, and observed, as had several of the others, that
the blade of Deran's dagger flashed brightly in the firelight.

'You're not intending to fight me with steel, I hope!' he said
sharply.  A concerted murmur of disapproval instantly backed him
up.  It was a shameful abuse of royal privilege.  Every youth in
the party knew the Prince was not vulnerable to any injury.  It
would be worth any man's liberty, if not his life, to hurt this
boy.

Bewildered by his predicament Voldi stood with his thumbs under his
belt, making no move to defend himself.  Young Deran, crouching,
advanced with short steps.

'You'd better draw, Voldi,' he growled, 'or admit you're a coward.'

Apparently it was the wrong word even for the King's son to use.
Voldi lunged forward, drove his right elbow into the Prince's
midriff, clutched the wildly flailing forearm in a vice-like grip,
twisted the dagger out of Deran's hand, and tossed it into the
fire.  Panting with rage, the Prince again hurled himself at Voldi
who, disregarding the impotent fists, slapped the youngster full in
the face.

'You'll pay for that!' squeaked Deran.

Gentle if disgusted hands led the infuriated Prince to his tent for
repairs to his royal pride and bleeding lips.  Voldi resumed a seat
on the ground, a little way apart from the others, and sat with
bent head and slumped shoulders.

'I'm sorry,' he mumbled dejectedly, shaking his head.

It was a critical moment for all of them.  No one cared to risk
being quoted as having said, 'Good work, Voldi!  Just what he
deserved!  What else could you have done?'  At length Museph
scrambled to his feet, threw another pine stick on the fire, dusted
his hands; and, sauntering over to Voldi, companionably sat down
beside him.  Young Raboth, the lean, hawk-nosed nephew of
Councillor Dumah, crossed from the other side of the silent circle,
made a big business of poking the fire; and, as he passed Voldi,
gave him a friendly pat on the shoulder.  The rest of them breathed
more freely and exchanged grins.  Deran did not reappear that
night, and left for home early the next morning.

Voldi made no mention of the unpleasant affair at home, but for
many days he waited, in considerable trepidation, a summons to
present himself at the King's encampment; for it seemed almost
certain that Deran would have made a bad report of the incident.
But apparently the episode was to be overlooked.  Either the Prince
had decided to hold his tongue or the King, having heard his son's
story, had drawn his own conclusions and had thought it prudent to
let the matter drop.

But the true story unquestionably had got to the ears of the
Council; for a week later, Voldi was invited to spend the day with
his revered Grandfather Mishma.  He went with anxiety pounding in
his heart, for he was devoted to the old man and would be grieved
at his displeasure.  But it turned out to be a happy visit.
Nothing was said about the unfortunate incident in the woods.  When
Voldi left for home, Mishma followed him out to the paddock and
ceremoniously presented him with a beautiful, high-spirited, black
gelding.

With one arm on the superb young animal's neck and the other
hugging his grandfather, Voldi shouted his delight.  The eminent
Councillor stroked his white beard complacently and a twinkle shone
in his eye.

'This frisky colt's name,' he said, 'is Darik--after King Darik of
old.'

'He was called "Darik the Just," was he not, sire?' asked Voldi.

'Right!  Because he was always fair in his judgments,' said Mishma.
'It is told of him that King Darik was of a quick temper and knew
better than most men how to handle a blade; but he never drew his
sword against a weaker adversary--no matter what the provocation.'
The old man laid his thin hand on the gelding's velvet muzzle.
'This horse,' he reflected, 'will require some managing, but he is
of good character.  See to it, my son, that he behaves himself.'

Voldi's visits to Fara continued.  They rode together almost every
day throughout the summer, and when the early winter came, with
blustery weather driving them indoors, Arnon, observing their
restlessness and lack of occupation, proposed that Voldi join them
in their lately neglected studies.  He consented to it with well-
simulated interest.  He had no particular ambition to learn, but
any pastime was agreeable that would give him an excuse for
hovering close to Fara.  Ione was delighted with his progress.  He
had an aptitude for Greek, she declared; he had a feel for it;
would soon be speaking it like a native!  This was an exaggeration,
but it encouraged Voldi to do his best.  Moreover, he was able to
tell his mother that the long winter afternoons in Princess Arnon's
home were profitably spent.  Kitra would smile indulgently--but it
was plain to see that she was troubled.

And Fara too was troubled about Voldi's adoration, her intuition--
and the widening intervals between Kitra's visits--informing her
that he was getting into trouble at home because of her.  Once she
almost decided to tell Voldi frankly that he mustn't come to see
her any more, but her courage failed, for she loved him devotedly.
Sometime--no matter how severely it hurt--he must be told; but Fara
postponed the day of their sorrow.

As the seasons came and went, Fara took on a maturity beyond her
years.  The circumstances of her life had made her thoughtful even
as a child; now, with her sixteenth birthday in sight, she had the
mind of an adult.  The conviction had grown within her that she was
fated to be a person unwanted; viewed with suspicion, an alien.
The Jews would spurn her for being an Arabian; the Arabians would
ignore her for being a Jew.  What ailed the world that grown men
and women should treat one another so?  Once she had put the
question to Ione, who had replied, with a sigh, 'It was always that
way, my dear, from the beginning.'

'It's a lonely world--for some people,' said Fara.

'I know how you feel,' sympathized Ione.  'I have been lonely too.'

'Yes, but you have a nationality, Ione!  You are far away from your
own country; but you do have a country.  It isn't as if you were a
mixture of two countries that hated each other.  Me--I am nobody!'

'Do not be depressed, Fara,' entreated Ione.  'There are many who
love you, who will always love you.  No girl in the world ever had
such a devoted lover as Voldi.'

'I know,' murmured Fara, 'but--he shouldn't!'  Her voice trembled.
'I mustn't let him!  He can't marry me!  It would ruin him!  Ione--
what am I going to do?'

                         * * * * * *

Shortly before sunset the Princess Arnon, long ailing of
infirmities associated with a broken heart, slipped away so quietly
that for some little time they weren't quite sure.

It was Fara who first realized that it was all over.  Since noon
she had been crouching beside the bed with her forehead pressed
against her mother's thin arm, now raising up tearfully to peer
into the unresponsive face, then dejectedly slumping down again to
wait.

At mid-afternoon old Kedar noisily rolled up the leather panels on
the northern and eastern exposures of the octagonal tent, just as
he would have done at this hour on any other fair summer day.
Kedar had seen plenty of death in his four-score years and it
no longer upset him.  Indeed, he was almost too casual in its
presence today, strutting his old bones about with something of
a proprietorial swagger as if he and death had a private
understanding.

All day long the female servants, a dozen or more, had tiptoed in
by twos and threes to stand helplessly at a respectful distance
from the bed, regarding their dying mistress with compassionate
eyes, and had tiptoed out again as if remembering some neglected
duty.  Nothing remained to be done for Arnon; or, if so, there was
old Nephti who had nursed both Princesses from babyhood, and the
faithful Ione, hovering close--and a bit jealous of each other.

The whole mind of the household at present was concentrated on Fara
and her probable plans for the future.  Of course she would now
marry Voldi, whose constant attentions during the past few years
had been unceasing and whose intentions were unmistakable.  It was
generally taken for granted that Fara had decided not to marry
until her responsibility to her mother had ended.  And that
responsibility had increased as Arnon's strength declined; for the
unhappy Princess had developed an immense capacity for absorbing
all manner of trivial but incessant personal services.  'Hand me
the small pillow, please.  No--the other one, dear, the blue one.
Thanks, Fara, but I believe I'd rather have my shawl.  It's out in
the pergola, I think.  Would you mind getting it, darling?  I know
I'm a dreadful bother.'  And so she was; but it had never seemed to
annoy Fara, who stayed on duty day and night.  Obviously she
couldn't bring much happiness to Voldi until she was free.  It
wouldn't be long now.

But where would they live?  This was the question that troubled the
servants; especially the older ones.  Arnon's land had been ceded
to her only for her lifetime.  It was inconceivable that Voldi, as
Fara's husband, would press a claim to it, or that the King could
consent to such favouritism.  Voldi would be as nomadic as all
others of equal rating.  The fact that his father Urson was the son
of Mishma, who as Chief of the Councillors was the heir-apparent to
the throne, was of no immediate consequence.  Arnon's land would
revert to the King's domain.  Voldi and Fara would follow the snow
and the pasture.  And the older servants, long accustomed to soft
living, might be considered too frail for such a rigorous life.

Indeed, as they huddled in little groups, waiting, watching, they
wondered whether Fara herself was likely to be happy as a nomad.
She had never taken any interest in their herds and flocks.  She
had shown much friendly concern for the shepherds and their
families, but cared nothing for the business that provided her own
living.  Of course, there was no use trying to understand Fara.
They had never known what to make of this alien who had become more
of an enigma as she matured.  She was as mysterious as she was
beautiful.  Doubtless that could be explained by her racial
heritages.  It was an odd combination--Arab and Jew.  True, it was
an arrestingly lovely blend, viewed objectively.  Arabian women
were taller than Jewesses and more sinewy.  At sixteen, Fara's
figure was slim, supple, almost boyish: in short, Arabian.  Her
face was an interesting study in racial conflict.  The old
antipathy was written there as on a map.  The high, finely
sculptured nose, with the slightly flaring, mobile, haughty
nostrils, had been Arnon's gift.  The childishly rounded chin and
throat were Mariamne's.  It was a readily responsive face, well
disciplined in repose, but of swift reactions to any stirring
event.  She was capable of flashing Arabian rages like sudden
summer storms in the mountains, but it was well worth anyone's
patience and forbearance to wait for the penitent smile Fara had
inherited from long generations of highly emotional people who
believed in atonements and were never ashamed of their tears.

Arnon's last day wore on, and when the declining sun had been
nicked by the glowing tip of Arcturus, twenty miles away, old Kedar
rolled up the western tent-panels also, admitting a jasmine-scented
breeze.  Rousing, Fara lifted her eyes to the breath-taking
panorama of rolling hills in the foreground descending to the green
Valley of Aisne, with the majestic Arcturus in the far distance;
and, beyond the southern slope of the mountain, the dazzling white
shoreline of the Dead Sea.

Noting that Fara had been momentarily diverted from her vigil, Ione
drew closer to whisper that Voldi had come.  Did she want to see
him?  Fara shook her head.

'Tell Voldi not to wait,' she murmured; and, as Ione moved away,
she added, 'Tell him I cannot come now.  He will understand.'

Fara's heavy eyes slowly returned to her mother's drawn face.  She
laid her cheek against Arnon's breast and listened--and listened.
Old Nephti took a step forward and held up an outspread hand for
silence, though no place had ever been so quiet.  At length Fara
straightened and kissed her mother on the forehead, very gently, so
as not to waken her.  Then she came slowly to her feet.  Her eyes
were tearless now and her proud face was composed.  Lightly
touching old Nephti's shoulder in a brief caress and making a weary
little gesture of appreciation toward the others, she left the
tent.

Voldi was waiting in the garden.  Rising, he held out his arms and
Fara nestled her head against his breast.  He could feel the
silent, convulsive sobs and drew her closer.

'She is gone?' he asked.

Fara nodded wearily, dejectedly.

'I will take care of you, dear,' murmured Voldi.

'Let us not speak of that now,' said Fara, gently releasing herself
from his embrace.  'There are many things to do, I suppose.  Will
you ride over to the King's encampment--and tell them?'

'Of course; and then may I come back?'

'Voldi, I am so very tired.  Perhaps tomorrow . . .'

He took her in his arms again and kissed her, but her response was
apathetic.

After Voldi had ridden away, Ione joined Fara, who had remained in
the garden, seated in her mother's favourite chair.

'What do we do now, Ione?' she asked weakly.  'I know so little
about it.'

'The men will come tonight, dear, and attend to the burial.'

'And--am I to have anything to do with that?'

'No--you will not be expected to go along.  Nephti and I will dress
her for the burial.'  Ione reached out her hand.  'Come now--and
take some rest.  You are quite exhausted.  I shall bring you
something nourishing to drink.'

Late in the evening, King Zendi himself arrived, accompanied by a
dozen neighbours.  After a consoling word with Fara, he left her,
saying that he and the Queen would see her tomorrow.  Fara lay on
her bed, with eyes closed and a pillow pressed hard over her head
so that she might not hear the sounds of retiring hoofbeats.  When
she roused, everything was quiet.  The full moon shone brightly
through the tent-door.  Ione slipped in very quietly.  Fara sat up,
patted the bed, and Ione obediently sat down beside her.

'I want you to do something for me, Ione,' said Fara, hardly above
a whisper, 'and I want you to promise me you will never, never
tell.'

Ione's voice trembled a little as she promptly consented.

Fara faced her with sober eyes.

'I want you to hold up your hand, Ione, and swear by your gods that
you will do for me what I ask of you--and never reveal it to
anyone!'

Ione hesitated and began to cry.

'I wish I knew, dear,' she said, brokenly.  'I hope this isn't
something you shouldn't do!'

'Let me be the judge of that!'  Fara's tone was severe.  'Will you
do as I say--and keep my secret?'

Ione protestingly put up a trembling hand and said, 'Yes, Fara--I
will do as you wish--and never tell.'

Rising impetuously, Fara went to a small table where she kept her
needlework, returning with a pair of scissors which she handed to
the bewildered slave.

'You are to cut off my hair!'  Fara wound her fingers about her
heavy braid, at the back of her neck.  'There!  See, Ione?  Just
above my hand.  I am to be a boy.  Cut it like Voldi's.'

Ione was whimpering like a child.

'You promised!'  Fara shook her roughly by the shoulder.  'Don't
sit there crying!  Do as I say--and do it quickly!'

Still gasping incoherent protests, Ione committed the crime.  When
it was accomplished, Fara retired to the alcove and presently
returned to exhibit herself in the conventional garb of a well-to-
do young Arabian, the burnous patterned after Voldi's best.

'How do I look?' she demanded.

'Where did you get it?' asked Ione in a strained voice.

'Made it,' said Fara, 'a long time ago.'

'But why?  What are you going to do?'

'I am going very far away, Ione, to keep a vow,' declared Fara.
'Now--see to it that you keep yours!'



The alarming news broke early in the morning.  Old Kedar rode to
the King's encampment with the appalling report that Fara had
disappeared during the night.  The fractious bay filly that she had
insisted on stabling in a separate paddock was gone.  Zendi sent
word to a score of young cavalrymen, informing them of what had
happened.  In his opinion, Fara, beside herself with grief and
unable to sleep, had gone for a reckless ride in the moonlight.
Perhaps she had met with an accident.  They set off in all
directions.

Voldi dashed away at a gallop along their favourite bridle-path
skirting the rim of the plateau.  At places where the trail was
narrow and the descent precipitous, he dismounted and led his tired
horse slowly, searching for ominous signs.  When the late afternoon
came, his hopes were fading.  He was no longer meeting anxious
friends engaged in the quest, for he was many miles beyond the
furthest point he had ever travelled.

Slowly he retraced his course as the twilight settled down.  At
intervals, where the path was dangerous, he stopped and listened
into the deep silence, and despairingly called, 'Fara!  Fara!'



Chapter IV


Saidi, the bay filly, was independent and impertinent but sure-
footed.  Old Kedar, increasingly prudent at eighty, distrusted her;
but Fara, better understanding the filly's caprices, knew that
while Saidi was mischievous she was not malicious.

For the first five miles of a gradual descent, Fara did not spare
her.  Time was precious.  At any moment old Nephti, though strongly
admonished to take her rest, might come in and find the bed empty.
Immediately the household would be roused and a search would begin
forthwith.

At first Saidi--in need of exercise--wanted to play, changing her
gait without warning from canter to lope and pretending to be
frightened at every huge white boulder and pale grey clump of sage
standing in the bright moonlight, but Fara's spurs soon dissuaded
her from the belief that this was a romp.

After a while the grade levelled off for a few miles before taking
the sharp zigzags toward the valley floor.  Here Fara dismounted
and led Saidi until she began to toss her head impatiently, for she
always objected to being led unless quite exhausted.

Occasionally they passed a weaver's hut: no lights visible,
everyone asleep except the little huddle of goats that stirred and
lifted a few heads inquisitively.  The night was still.  Fara
thought it strange that she was not lonely.  Even her bereavement,
not yet of seven hours' duration, seemed to have occurred long ago;
as indeed it had, for that incurable sorrow had set in when Arnon's
waning strength presaged the inevitable end.

It was strange too, thought Fara, that she felt no apprehensions
about the grim and hazardous mission on which she had set forth.
She made the experiment of saying to herself that this was a very
serious business, a man's business, that undoubtedly would cause
her much trouble long before she reached her well-fortified
objective in Galilee; in short, that she was riding toward almost
certain disaster as fast as Saidi's slim legs could carry her.  But
this re-examination of her purpose did nothing to discompose her,
doubtless because she had so long and earnestly planned this
audacious undertaking that it had become the sole aim of her life.

And there was dear Voldi.  What a deal of anxiety she had caused
him!  How much more kind it would have been, reflected Fara, if she
had told him firmly that she could never marry him; and, if pressed
for the reason, she could have said that she did not love him.  But
Voldi would have known it wasn't true, for she had given him too
many guarantees of her affection.  However--Voldi would not fret
very long.  A girl might in similar circumstances, but a man would
quickly forget.  How fortunate men were in their ability to pull
their love up by the roots and transplant it so successfully that
it grew again without the loss of a leaf or a petal.  There was
really no need for her to worry about Voldi.

Only one anxiety disturbed her: what success would she have in
masquerading as a young man?  Of course there was no other
alternative.  It was quite inconceivable that a sixteen-year-old
girl could travel alone from southern Arabia to northern Galilee
without risking some very unpleasant, if not positively dangerous,
experiences; but this effort to pose as a young man would be a very
risky business.

A few facts were in Fara's favour.  Her natural speaking voice was
low-pitched and throaty; it might easily be mistaken by a stranger
for the voice of a boy in his mid-teens.  Too, the loose-fitting
burnous ignored the curves of her girlish figure.  But, even so, it
would require much courage and self-confidence to maintain her role
if suddenly projected into the company of men.  It had not yet
occurred to her that it would be quite as difficult to deceive
another woman.

This dilemma had cost Fara many an anxious hour.  She had privately
practised being a bold and bumptious youth, accustomed to rough
talk and capable of serving a large helping of convincing
profanity.  She had stalked up and down her bed-chamber with long,
stiff-legged strides, jerking her head arrogantly from side to side
as she scowled crossly into her mirrors, and growling gutturally.
Once the absurdity of it had momentarily overcome her, and she had
laughed at her reflection in the highly polished metal plate that
hung by her door; but had instantly sobered at the sight of a pair
of girlish dimples in this young man's cheeks, and resolved that
she would do no more smiling.

At the first signs of dawn Fara crossed the southern extremity of
the fertile Valley of Aisne and moved on into the arid Valley of
Zered, which skirted the eastern shore of the Dead Sea.  It was a
desolate expanse of parched and blistered land, utterly without
vegetation, birds, rodents, or reptiles.  There were even no
insects, with which most deserts abound.  The Dead Sea had been
aptly named.  Saidi clearly shared her rider's hope that they might
soon be out of this forsaken country, and quickened her pace, Fara
straining her eyes for a glimpse of the ancient village of Akra,
which, she knew, maintained a precarious existence on a bit of
oasis at the southernmost tip of the Dead Sea.

The sun was already hot when she sighted it, a clump of palms and
cypress, a straggling group of shabby cottages surrounding a large
brown tent.  This would be the khan where travellers and their pack-
trains were accommodated.  At the door of the tent, Fara dismounted
from the perspiring filly, handed the reins to a taciturn old
Arabian, and with long steps and an experimental swagger followed
along to the corral, where she gruffly gave instructions how her
mount was to be rubbed down and properly watered.  And when the
testy hostler growled that he knew how to take care of a horse,
Fara shouted untruthfully that if he did he was the first old man
she had ever seen who knew or cared whether a hot horse was safely
watered, and that she proposed to stand by him until he had done
it.

A wizened old woman glumly prepared a bad breakfast of stale eggs
and staler bread.  Feeling that she had need of practice in
maleness in the presence of women, Fara complained bitterly about
the food and reviled the old woman in what she felt might be the
customary terms for a man to use on such occasions.  Then she
demanded a bed, and denounced the old woman as a foul and dirty
slattern when she saw the untidy cubicle provided for her.  This
execration she attempted in Greek, aware that her vocabulary of
vituperation in that language--learned of the gentle Ione--would
need some polishing.

After two hours of deep sleep Fara was on her way again, after
paying her hosts twice what they asked and swearing manfully that
the place wasn't fit for a goat to live in; to which contemptuous
accusation the old man and his slovenly wife--grateful for their
unexpected windfall--respectfully agreed.  Fara smiled complacently
as Saidi bounded away over the north-bound trail, her fears about
her ability to be a man having been somewhat alleviated.

Late afternoon, after a sultry, monotonous ride along the blinding
white seashore, she entered the town of Engedi, eastern terminus of
the old salt trail from the Port of Gaza.  It was an incredibly
ugly place, its small, box-shaped houses built of sun-baked brick,
suffocating a narrow, dusty street.  At the principal inn, a little
further on, the stableyard of which was crowded with camels,
donkeys, and their grimy attendants, Fara asked courteously for
food and a bed for the night.  Instantly she realized that she had
made a mistake when the surly proprietor showed her a filthy pallet
in a room containing half a dozen similar cots.  Backing
disgustedly out of the room, she opened her accumulated treasures
of Arabian profanity and made it known to the master of the inn
that she wasn't in the habit of sleeping in rabbit-hutches, dog-
kennels, or pigsties.  Thus advised, the innkeeper deferentially
led the way to a private room where the bed, if not comfortable,
was less dirty than the one she had rejected.

Fara gave this incident much earnest thought.  It was obviously a
mistake to ask for anything politely.  The public considered
politeness a sign of weakness.  It had a very low opinion of gentle
speech.  To wait patiently and take your turn or to accept
unprotestingly whatever was offered you meant only that you were
accustomed to being pushed aside; that you knew you could not
defend your rights.  It was a thoroughly abominable world, decided
Fara; but if it was that kind of world she would try to meet it on
its own terms.  Contracting her brows into a sullen frown and
puffing her lips arrogantly, she marched heavily up and down the
bare, creaking floor.  In this belligerent mood she returned, with
long steps, to the common room and flung herself into a dilapidated
chair.  Crossing her legs she sat impatiently flicking her high-
laced boot with a finely crafted riding whip--a gift of Voldi's.

Well-dressed, good-looking men of affairs came and went,
occasionally nodding to one another.  Almost everybody knew
everybody else.  Fara honestly wished she were a man.  They all
seemed so effortlessly sure of themselves.  She admired their self-
sufficiency; tried to make herself think she was one of them.  For
the most part her presence in the big, dingy room went unnoticed.
Sometimes a young man, passing by, would toss an impersonal glance
in her direction and move on without giving her a second look.
This was good, and Fara breathed more comfortably.

Immediately to the left of her, in the row of battered chairs
backed against the wall, sat two men engaged in earnest
conversation.  They spoke in Greek, though it was evident that they
were Romans.  Fara had never seen any Romans, but she had been told
how they looked.

The man in the nearest chair was probably forty.  It was plain that
he was a person of some consequence.  Like his friend, who was many
years his senior, he was smooth-faced and his greying hair was
close-cropped.  His face was deeply tanned, except for a narrow
strip of white on his upper forehead which a bandeau had protected
from the sun.  His sand-coloured tunic, trimmed in red, was of fine
texture; his belt, dagger-sheath, and tooled-leather sandals,
strapped almost to the knee, showed expensive workmanship.  Fara
surmised that they both were directors of caravans, probably
belonging to the same company.  Another survey of them revealed
that the younger man had a small V-shaped notch in the top of his
ear.  So--he was a slave.  But apparently his servitude didn't
bother him much.

'I hope he is still there next week when we return,' the
distinguished-looking slave was saying.  'I should like to hear him
again.  But it is doubtful whether he will be at large by that
time.  The legionaries will have taken him in; for, as you have
said, it was very inflammatory talk.  But, by the Gods, Aulus, it
was all true--what he was saying.'

'Yes, yes,' agreed Aulus, 'the world is bad enough to deserve a
drubbing, and it always was.  But--the fellow is crazy as a beetle,
Tim.'  The older man turned his full face and Fara saw a long scar
across his cheek; relic of a savage fight long ago, she thought.

'That's where we differ, Aulus,' countered Tim.  'What the hermit
was preaching showed him to be indiscreet, foolhardy; but no merely
crazy man could collect a crowd like that and keep them standing
for hours in the broiling sun listening with wide eyes and open
mouths; and they say he has been doing it day after day!'

'Oh, you know how people are,' said Aulus indifferently.  'This
half-starved fanatic, living on dreams and desert bugs, climbs up
on a big rock and begins to yell that the world is due for
punishment.  Naturally the rabble, with nothing better to do,
gathers around to watch his antics and shudder at his predictions.'
Aulus shifted his position in the creaking chair and continued to
extemporize.  'People like to be scared, Tim.  Their empty lives
are without stimulating sensations and they enjoy feeling the cold
shivers run down their backs--especially when their instinct tells
them it's all a lot of damned nonsense.'

There was quite a pause here, and Fara, who had been intently
eavesdropping, leaned forward a little, hoping that Aulus hadn't
said the last word.  Presently Tim remarked soberly, 'I wonder if
it is--just damned nonsense.'

'Poof!' scoffed Aulus.  'The fellow is crazy as a beetle!'  He
rose, stretched, yawned.  'And so are you,' he added.  'I'll see
you at supper.  I must have another look at that lame camel.'

'Just a minute, Aulus.'  Tim patted the arm of the adjoining chair
and his scar-faced friend sat down again with an indulgent grin.
'You have been talking of that throng at Hebron as if it were
composed entirely of ignorant and lousy nobodies who would as
gladly stand all day watching a caged monkey scratch itself.  But
that doesn't account for it.  There were at least a dozen well-
dressed, intelligent men in the crowd giving serious attention to
everything the hermit said.'

Aulus dismissed this with a negligent flick of his hand.

'Local citizens, no doubt,' he explained, 'annoyed by the fellow's
presence in their town, and waiting for him to start a brawl--so
that they could lock him up as a disturber of the peace.'

'But some of them had come from afar, Aulus.  I asked a bright-
looking camel-boy if he wanted a job, and he loftily replied that
he was in the employ of an eminent lawyer, Ben-Judah, a member of
the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem.'

'What's this Sanhedrin?' demanded Aulus scornfully.

'The Jews' law-making body.'

'I thought Rome made their laws.'

'Just the laws on taxes.  The Sanhedrin attends to the rest of it.'

'You surely have a strange talent,' observed Aulus, 'for collecting
useless information.  What else do you know about Jewish laws?'

'Only that there are far too many of them.  Why, a Jew can be
arrested for dragging a chair across his dooryard on the Sabbath!
It might dig a little furrow in the ground--and that would be
ploughing.'

'I think you made that up, Timmie,' chuckled Aulus.  'But--be that
as it may--perhaps this wise Ben-Judah, in the course of a journey,
turned aside to listen to the prattle of this fool, just as we did--
out of curiosity.'

'Possibly; but it is much more likely that some influential people
are spying on this hermit.  He himself is a Jew, and he is talking
to his own countrymen.  Surely the Temple can't afford to let this
fellow go on, gathering up a bigger crowd every day, shouting that
the world is so bad it needs to be cleansed.  That's the Temple's
exclusive business: to see that the world--or at least the Jewish
world, which is all that matters in this country--behaves itself.
These learned lawyers and rabbis surely cannot permit a fiery
prophet to march across Judaea, informing thousands of people that
their land is filthy with graft, greed, and injustice, all the way
from top to bottom; and that his God--who is also theirs--means to
take the whole job of renovation out of the hands of the recognized
authorities, and attend to it personally!'

Aulus grinned at this long speech and again rose to his feet.

'Perhaps you're right,' he drawled.  'In that case, they will
probably toss the hermit into a dungeon--and forget about him.  And
so will the people.  If a man dies a bloody death as a martyr to
some new idea, the people remember, and build him a monument; but
if he gets pitched into prison--Pouf!  Let him rot!'  Aulus dusted
his hands and sauntered away.

After a while the handsome man with the deep crow's-feet at the
corners of his eyes and the notch on his ear turned his head slowly
toward Fara and coolly looked her over.

'Which way are you headed, young man?' he inquired in Aramaic,
signifying that he considered her a Jew.

'I am going west, sir,' replied Fara in Greek, 'as far as Gaza.'

'Ever been there?' asked Tim, and when Fara had shaken her head, he
remarked, 'Very fine place--to lose your shirt and have your throat
cut.  Let me warn you to ride straight down the middle of the
street and have nothing to do with any of the inhabitants.  Do not
eat their food or drink their water or believe their lies.'

'I gather that you do not care much for Gaza,' commented Fara.
'I shall take your advice.  The first large city to the west is
Hebron, is it not?  Is that any better?'

'Much!  Hebron has been sound asleep for two thousand years, so
there's nothing very lively about it; but at least it won't rob you
or poison your food or murder you in your bed.'  Tim recrossed his
long legs and gave Fara a candid stare.  'How do you happen to
speak Greek, young man?  You don't live in Greece, do you?'

'Nor do you, sir,' said Fara with equal bluntness, 'yet you speak
Greek.'

'I am a Greek!' declared Tim proudly.  'You are a Jew, are you
not?'

'I am not!' replied Fara.  'I am an Arabian.'

Tim studied her face with interest, pursed his lips, and nodded.

'My mistake,' he muttered.  'No offence, I hope.'

'Not at all, sir.  I have no quarrel with the Jewish people.'

Tim laughed quietly and said that he never thought he would hear an
Arabian say that.

'But it is not so long, sir,' Fara risked saying, 'since the Jews
and Arabians were in alliance.'

'What an alliance!' scoffed Tim.  'Of course you know all about
that wretched marriage.  One thing I never could understand: I know
many Arabians--fine fellows who love nothing better than a good
fight.  Why haven't they ripped the bowels out of that Jewish
rascal who humiliated your Princess?  Surely it can't be that they
have forgotten--or do not care!'

Unable to think of an appropriate answer to that, Fara abruptly
changed the subject by saying:

'I could not help overhearing your talk about a prophet you met who
said the world was to be punished for its misdeeds.  Does he
propose to attend to this chastisement?'

'No; not he,' said Tim.  'The fellow was careful to say that he
himself was only a courier, announcing the early arrival of a
divine person whom he depicted as a mighty avenger, a divinity to
be sent from Heaven with an axe in his hand.  The rotten old growth
we have called Civilization was to be cut down so that something
healthy and fruitful might grow.'

'Coming soon?' asked Fara.

'You would think, from his talk, that the prophet expected the
avenger by next week--at the latest.  If he had said it would occur
a hundred years from now, his prediction would have been less
risky.'

'And less interesting,' added Fara.  'Do you think the prophet
might be there--at Hebron--tomorrow?'

'Unless he has moved further toward the hills.  He was at least
half a mile north of the road when we sighted the crowd.
Apparently he does not study the people's convenience.  They say he
goes where he likes and the multitude follows.  If you are
interested I suggest that you inquire along the way as you approach
Hebron.  Almost anyone will tell you.  The air is full of him over
there.'  Tim rose to move away, and Fara also came to her feet.

'Am I right in surmising that you were inclined to believe what he
said?' she asked seriously.

Tim tugged at his lip, debating a reply.

'I don't know rightly what I do think about it,' he answered,
measuring his words.  'The Jews are a singular people.  They have
always had their prophets, and many of their predictions have
proved true, even to the dating of important events and the outcome
of far distant wars.  You'd better hear this man John for yourself.
He may be greatly mistaken, but he is no fool!'

'Your friend says the man is crazy as a beetle,' said Fara.

'My friend,' drawled Tim, 'is a typical Greek who became a typical
Roman.  He doesn't believe in anything he can't eat or wear or buy
or sell or ride.'

                         * * * * * *

In spite of Saidi's strong objections to leaving the broad highway,
Fara turned off at the unmistakable spot where an improvised road,
fully fifty yards wide, led northward through a stubble-field.  The
tilled ground had been trampled soft and the going was slow.

The deserted trail moved on across the field, across another less
travelled highway, through another harvested field, over a bridge
that spanned a little stream.  It curved to miss a grove of
cypress, climbed a hill, traversed a pasture, forded a creek, and
went on--and on.  After five miles of monotonous riding, Fara
sighted a village.  At the cross-roads a stone said the place was
Tekoa.  The trail had bypassed the little town, but Fara rode into
it.  Perhaps someone could inform her how far she must go to find
the prophet.

The village was quite abandoned.  The small bazaars and markets on
the principal street were closed.  Further on, in the residential
section, a frail old woman bent over the ledge of a community well,
tugging at the handle of the windlass.  Fara drew up alongside,
dismounted, and lent a hand.  The dripping chain brought up a large
wooden bucket which they pulled to anchorage on top of the low
wall.  The ragged old woman, breathing heavily, gave Fara a
toothless smile and offered a rusty iron dipper.

'It is good!' said Fara.  She filled the dipper for her hostess,
emptied the bucket into the stone trough beside the well, and
slipped off the filly's bridle.  'Saidi is thirsty too,' she added,
lowering the bucket again.

'Never knew of a horse named Saidi,' remarked the old woman.
'Where do you come from, young master?'

'Arabia.'

'But you are an Israelite, I think.'

'No--we are both Arabians, Saidi and I.'

The old woman tightened her shrunken lips and scowled.

'How do you happen to ask a drink of me?' she demanded crossly.

'Because you seemed friendly; and, besides, I was thirsty,' replied
Fara, unruffled by the woman's surliness.  'I shall gladly pay you
for the water.'

'We don't sell water.'

'Here is a little gift, then.'  Fara offered her a shekel.

The beady old eyes brightened at the sight of so much money, but
the white head shook vigorously.  Fara laid the shekel on the ledge
of the well.  The old woman turned and spat unprettily on the
ground.

Suppressing her amusement, Fara said, 'I am looking for a Jewish
prophet.  His name is John.  Many people are following him, and I
wish to hear him.  I think he has passed this way.  Do you know
where he has gone?'

'He is a son of Satan!' shrilled the old woman.  'A blasphemer!
Cursed be all the infidels who listen to his revilings of Israel!'

Fara, who had been toying with her coin-pouch, unwound its thong
and asked quietly, 'Do you know where he is?'

For a moment the old woman maintained a sullen silence while Fara
poured a few silver coins into her own palm.  Pouring them back
into the pouch, she vaulted into the saddle and gathered up the
bridle-reins.  The wrinkled old jaw was quivering.  Obviously her
poverty and her piety were in combat.  Impetuously she pointed
toward the north-east.

'They said he was heading for the river,' she shouted, 'and all
Judaea is following him!  Everybody in Tekoa has joined the
infidels!'  Tears ran down the leathery cheeks.  'My own son--and
my daughter and her husband--and their children--they too have gone
mad, like the others.'

Honestly sorry for the pitiable old creature, who was now weeping
aloud, Fara asked quietly, 'But what has this man been saying--to
distress you so?'

'He scorns our ancient faith!' sobbed the old woman, scrubbing her
cavernous eyes with the skirt of her faded apron.  'He sits out
there in the desert for years, doing no work, helping nobody, never
attending the Synagogue, never bringing a gift to the altar; and
now he comes forth railing at the religion of his fathers!'

'He has a new religion then?' asked Fara.

'An angel is about to appear, he says, who will show us what to do--
as if we were heathen who knew no God.'

'Your priests are probably annoyed by such talk,' surmised Fara.

'Annoyed!'  The old woman slowly nodded her head and drew an
unpleasant grin.  'You wait!  They will soon silence his
blasphemies!  God is not mocked!'

Fara opened her pouch and poured silver into the wrinkled hand.
The old woman clutched the money, scowled, and made an unsuccessful
effort to spit.  Saidi, who had been pawing the ground impatiently,
was pleased to be on their way at a brisk trot.

                         * * * * * *

Half an hour before sunset she found them, acres of them it seemed,
seated singly or in pairs or by families in a close-nibbled sheep
pasture on the high-banked shore of the Jordan.  They were busy
with their supper, which they had been foresighted enough to bring
with them.  Fara stopped a little way apart from the area where
most of the pack-animals were tethered, hung Saidi's bridle on the
pommel of the saddle, loosed the girths, adjusted a stout halter,
buckled on a well-filled feed-bag, and staked out the tired filly
for a hard-earned rest.

Strolling forward among the groups of people, she sat down near a
good-looking family--father, mother, two half-grown boys, and a
pretty girl of her own age.  The girl turned her head toward Fara
and smiled shyly.  Her father instantly muttered an inaudible
command and his daughter, with some reluctance, left her place and
wedged in between her parents.  Fara was amused.  She unwrapped her
parcel of food and made a leisurely survey of the great multitude.
It was a strangely quiet crowd.  There was a low, inarticulate
rumble of subdued conversation, but all faces were sober, pensive,
and there was no laughter to be heard anywhere.  A gentle but
insistent, one-sided argument was in progress near by.  The mother
of the adjacent family was pleading earnestly with her husband.
Yielding to her importunity he nodded at length, and their well-
favoured daughter rose to resume the place where she had sat
before.  Her long black hair, unbound, was spread out covering her
shoulders and back, and she seemed troubled about it.  Turning to
Fara with a smile she offered her a sweet roll, which was accepted
gratefully.

'My hair looks untidy,' said the girl.  'It's wet.  I was
baptized.'

'It's beautiful,' said Fara gallantly.  'How did you say it got
wet?'

'The great prophet was baptizing this afternoon.'

'I'm afraid I don't know,' confessed Fara.  'What does that mean--
baptizing?  This is my first time here.'

'The prophet leads us into the river and pushes us down under the
water.  That washes away our sins--and we are clean.'

'And very wet, I suppose,' remarked Fara sympathetically.

The girl's full lips parted in a slow, reluctant smile that
displayed the tips of beautiful teeth.  Unable to think of an
appropriate rejoinder to this dry drollery on a solemn occasion,
she suddenly sobered and nodded her head.

Nothing further was said for a while, Fara regretting that she had
spoken flippantly, the pretty Jewess, her face averted, apparently
wishing she knew how to explain the cleansing she had had in the
Jordan.

'I cannot think that you have been so very sinful,' ventured Fara
gently.

'We are all sinful,' murmured the girl in a lugubrious imitation of
experienced piety.

'Yes--I suppose so,' admitted Fara with a companionable sigh.  'Do
you think the prophet is finished--for the day?'

'Oh no, he will speak again when the people have had their supper.
It should not be long now.'  The young Jewess tipped her head
toward the groups who were rising and stirring about.

The girl's plump mother, now that her family had been fed, wrapped
up what was left; and, scrambling to her feet, came over and sat
down beside her daughter.  She and Fara exchanged amiable smiles.

'I am glad you made friends with our Ruth,' she leaned forward to
say.  'There are so few young people here of her own age.  Hundreds
of us older ones and swarms of small children; but it seems that
our young people nowadays--'  She broke off abruptly in response to
an imploring look from her daughter, but immediately continued,
'They don't seem to know that they have souls to save from the
wrath to come!'

Ruth turned her head slowly toward Fara, with an expression that
apologized for her zealous mother.  Quite at a loss for a suitable
comment, Fara mumbled, 'Probably not,' quickly aware that it was
the wrong thing to have said, for it showed a deplorable unconcern.
The woman's eyes were alive with reproach.

'Young man,' she said severely, 'may I ask whether you have come to
seek salvation?'

'I came to see and hear the prophet,' replied Fara.

'But not your own soul's salvation?' demanded the woman.

'The prophet is interested only in his own countrymen, I think,'
said Fara.

'Of course!  But you are an Israelite, are you not?'

'I am an Arabian.'

'Then you have no right to be here at all!'

'But--mother!' pleaded Ruth.

'Never mind!  You come with me!'  Rising, the indignant Jewess drew
her embarrassed daughter to her feet.

'Good-bye.'  Ruth turned to say softly.

Fara, who had risen, bowed and said with her lips rather than her
voice, 'I'm sorry.'  Striding through the milling crowd she
observed that the people well forward were seating themselves
compactly in rows.  Finding an unoccupied spot, she sat down to
wait.  Presently a murmur of expectation swept the great audience.
The prophet John, who had evidently been resting by the river's
brink, appeared over the top of the embankment.

He was indeed a striking figure, tall, lean, lithe, bronzed.  His
heavy, tousled hair indicated an immense latent vitality.  His
massive head was held high above broad, bony shoulders.  The craggy
face was bearded, the forehead deep-lined, the dark eyes deep-set.
He had the bearing of a man who had thought much and suffered.  The
crowd was very still.  Stretching forth his long brown arms, the
prophet began to speak in a tone and mood of quiet entreaty.  Fara
found herself yielding at once to the strange compulsion of his
vibrant voice.  It was as one speaking from a great distance; from
another age; from another world.

God had been patient--long--long.  Of old He had planted a garden
of delicious fruits and scented flowers for the delight of the
human creatures He had made.  It was a spacious garden, watered by
cool springs and graceful rivers, along whose green banks were to
be found much gold and many precious stones.  On the hillsides
jutted various metals which man's ingenuity might fashion into
ploughs, pruning-hooks and other implements of husbandry.  Great
quarries bulged with enduring granite and delicately tinted marbles
with which man might build temples and monuments.  There were tall
forests filled with all manner of trees from which might be hewn
boats and shelters.  Innumerable beasts pastured in the valleys,
some to provide food, some to bear burdens.  And had God's
fortunate children been content to preserve and bequeath their rich
heritage, their posterity might still be living comfortably and at
peace in a garden.

Here the voice of the prophet rose to a little higher pitch as he
proceeded to relate how this paradise was permitted to grow rank
with weeds and brambles.

For, from the very beginning, God's children cared nothing about
the garden.  The first man flouted God's instructions.  The elder
of his two sons slew his brother and fled to the jungle.  Restless
and dissatisfied, humanity abandoned their paradise and began to
roam, everywhere, without food, clothing, shelter, or destination,
hoping only to escape the reproving eyes of their disappointed
Father.

Sometimes, after long and aimless wandering, a group or tribe would
settle in a fertile valley and till the soil.  Another nomadic
tribe, jealous of their neighbours' small prosperities, would come
upon them with spears and swords and stones, killing the workers
together with their old and helpless ones and their little
children.  Their Father had endowed them with inventive minds, so
that they might make better and better tools, but their most
ingenious inventions were not better tools but deadlier weapons.
Stone was not quarried for the building of temples and monuments,
but for great fortifications.  Iron was not moulded into implements
of husbandry but into instruments of war.

Everywhere there was fear, hardship, hunger.  Pillage, rapine, and
slaughter spread over the face of the world until there was no
peace at all, anywhere at all, and a man was not safe even in the
home of his brother.

But--John was continuing with mounting heat--throughout all these
dreadful ages of hatred and oppression, God had waited, waited
patiently, anxiously for the world's great ones to become aware of
the poverty of their ill-gained wealth, and the empty sham of their
vaunted power, and the shabbiness of their royal raiment, and the
stink of starvation in their pilfered food.  Now and again some
brave voice would be raised in warning, but it would soon be
stilled.  Many were the messengers, sent of God, who were beaten,
imprisoned and slain; fed to wild beasts, sawn asunder.

As a child, Fara had heard the legends about the world's creation,
the disobedience of Adam, the wickedness of his posterity, and the
great flood that had drowned them all--except one family.  But the
ancient tales, as John recited them, seemed fresh and frightening.
For now his voice was at storm!  God's patience was exhausted!  He
finally gave up hope of seeing His incorrigible children develop
any beauty, any grace, any goodness, any peace.  He determined to
wash the world clean of them--thoroughly clean of them--and their
filth and their spoor and the ravages of their hands until not a
trace or a track or a trail of them remained!  He told one peace-
abiding old man to build a boat for his household; and the rain
began to fall.  The rain kept on coming--and coming--day after day
after day.  It poured as no rain had ever poured before!

Fara had listened, quite unmoved, when the wandering minstrels had
sung of the fabled rain, but today the graphic picture of that
appalling disaster made her draw her burnous tightly about her
shoulders.  The story made her flesh creep, as she heard the hoarse
cries and strangled gasps of the doomed, clutching at one another
in the swirl of rising waters, while the livid sky roared and the
tempest screamed and the lightning stabbed relentlessly at the
tossing debris.

And then--there was a sudden calm.  The waters stilled and
subsided.  The sun was shining again; not upon a garden this time,
but upon a stripped, deserted world of ruined cities levelled to
the ground, and of empty thrones half-buried in the mud.  Now men
could begin anew and try to build a better world.  But it was
without any success--and without any promise.

John's voice took on a tone of deep sadness--and of shame too--as
he reported how these men, wading out of the ooze and slime, began
again to plot against one another as before.  Prophets came and
went, reminding the people of the great calamity that had befallen
their fathers and predicting more trouble if they did not now obey
God's command for peace.  But the stronger ones ignored them and
those who sought the favour of the stronger ones laughed at them,
and even the weak, who were set upon daily and robbed of their very
rags--they too mocked the prophets and threw stones.

Here John paused for a long time--and bowed his head.  The awed
multitude sat transfixed, far-eyed, holding its breath, though well
it knew what was coming.

'So--now--in these latter days,' he went on sadly, measuring his
phrases, 'it is our fate to witness another outpouring of God's
wrath.  It is not a flood this time, but a purge of the world's
wickedness.  You will ask, "When is it coming?"  And I shall
answer, "It is not coming: it is here!"

'And do I hear you say, "It is not my fault that the world is
wicked: it is the Empire that enslaves and robs and kills; am I to
be punished for the crimes of Caesar?"  Then I must answer you that
every one of us is guilty!'  John's words came fast now, fast and
scathing.  'Do not blame all injustice, all cruelty, all meanness
on Caesar's Empire!  For each one of you is a little empire filled
with lust and greed and hate!  It is easy enough to condemn the
government, which is, indeed, a rapacious thing that God will
cleanse and cleanse until its bones show through!  Easy enough to
denounce the Temple for its well-fed lethargy: it deserves and will
receive just punishment!  But if any peace is to bless this sick
world, salvation must first come to you--to you, the lonely
shepherd in the hills; to you, the farmer at the plough; to you,
the carpenter at the bench; to you, the housewife at the loom; to
you, rabbi; to you, lawyer; to you, scribe; to you, magistrate.
For--except you repent, you shall perish!  It is so decreed.  God
has again spoken.  There is One near at hand to rid the world of
its iniquities!  Indeed--He is now here!'

Suddenly a black-robed, distinguished-looking man of middle age, at
the far end of the second row, arose from the small group of
similarly well-groomed company surrounding him and called out in a
loud voice that turned all eyes his way:

'Meaning you, Baptizer?  Are you, then, this avenger who will wreak
God's wrath upon Caesar--and the High Priest--and upon us all?'

'No, I am not He,' answered John humbly.  'I am but His courier,
unworthy to stoop down and buckle His sandal-straps.  I am but a
voice, crying in the desert.  I am commanded to say: make the way
straight for the oncoming of the Anointed One.  Level the road!
Lift up the valleys where the poor despair!  Pare down the mountain-
tops where the powerful have sat in their arrogance and pride!
Level the road for Him in your own hearts!'

Here the impassioned voice lashed out like the crack of a bull-
whip.

'Do not be content with saying that the world might find justice
and peace if the Greeks stopped hating the Egyptians and the Romans
stopped robbing the Greeks!  Look to yourselves!  Let the
Macedonian merchant stop hating the Syrian camel-driver!  Let the
Jew stop hating the Arab!  Let the Pharisees and Sadducees stop
hating one another!  Let the poor farmer with two cows and an ass
and twenty chickens stop his sneering at the poor farmer with only
two goats and ten chickens!  Let the woman with the fine cloak for
Sabbath and the wedding-feast stop her haughtiness toward the woman
with only a week-day cloak and no wedding garment!'

Another man of the little company of critics now stood up in his
place and said, 'Does this avenger come with a sword--to make
peace?'

'Not with a sword,' said John, 'but none the less with a power so
mighty that the whole world will be shaken by it!  He comes with an
axe and a flail!  The axe will be laid at the roots of all the
trees.  Every tree that bears fruit will be spared, but every tree
that is barren and an encumbrance to the ground will be cut down
and burned!  His flail will thresh the harvest of your deeds.  He
will save the grain, but the chaff will be blown away!'

It was some moments before the crowd realized that the prophet had
made an end of speaking, for he stood in silence before the people,
with his head bowed in weariness; or perhaps, Fara thought, in
silent prayer.

At length he lifted his head, turned slowly, and walked away toward
the neighbouring hill to the north.  Their eyes followed him until
he disappeared among the scraggy olive trees.  Wordlessly and
without looking at one another, they rose and moved toward the camp-
sites they had chosen in the broad pasture-field.

Dazed and bewildered, Fara followed the slow-moving crowd.  She
found herself abreast of the family she had met at supper.  The
pretty girl, Ruth, gave her a sidelong glance and smiled.  Her
mother, alert to her daughter's behaviour, scowled and muttered
intentionally loud enough for Fara to hear, 'Any more of that and I
shall tell your father!'

                         * * * * * *

Having brought no camping equipment except a pair of camel-hair
rugs, Fara slept for the first time in her life under the open sky.
She retired early, for there was little else to do.  A half-grown
boy had been given a few pennies for bringing water to Saidi, after
which Fara had removed the saddle and bridle, carrying them to a
grassy spot near a cypress tree.  During the slow twilight the
people quietly pitched their simple camps, and by the time the
stars appeared in full splendour the pasture-field was still.
Occasionally a tired baby cried, a dog barked, there was a brief
argument among the pack-asses; but the people were quiet.  Fara
wondered whether they slept or reflected soberly on the strange
words they had heard.  The distinguished men from the city--what
were they thinking?  Ruth's mother--did she say to herself that at
least she was innocent of any fault?  And what would this peace-
loving prophet think if he knew that one of his interested auditors
was on her way to kill her own father?  It was a long time before
her mental confusion gave way to her bodily fatigue.  She went to
sleep wondering whether Arabia, too, would be warned of what was
coming.  And would anyone speak to the Romans about it?  Surely the
world was larger than Judaea.

Even before dawn there was a stir of activity.  Fara rubbed the
sleep out of her eyes, sat up and combed her boyish hair, drew the
red bandeau down over her forehead, rolled up her rugs, and set off
to see how Saidi had fared.  Saidi was gone!  There was the stake
to which she had been tethered, but Saidi was nowhere to be seen.
Doubtless she had contrived to tug loose and wander away.  She
might even be well started for home.  Intelligent horses were known
to do that.

After fruitless inquiries of the men and boys who were attending to
their beasts, Fara decided to climb the hill for a wider view.  As
she reached the summit, her heart beating hard with the exertion
and alarm, she shaded her eyes and carefully surveyed the plain
below, every rod of it, from the faraway north to the congested
encampment; but there was no sight of Saidi.  She suddenly felt so
weak and faint that she laid a hand against the trunk of a tree for
support against the westerly morning breeze.  She started at the
sound of a voice immediately behind her.

'What are you looking for, daughter?'

Fara turned slowly to confront the prophet, who was regarding her
with sober eyes.

'My horse,' she replied unsteadily, returning to her search of the
valley.  'She must have wandered away in the night.'

'May have been stolen,' suggested John, advancing to stand beside
her.

'Surely no one, among these people, would steal!' said Fara.

'There is no place in this greedy world, my daughter, where men do
not steal.'

There it was again--'my daughter.'  Fara hoped she had misunderstood,
the first time; but there was no doubt about it now.  Somehow he
knew.  But she must listen, for he was speaking quietly, almost as
if to himself.

'They steal.  They steal anything, everything, anywhere,
everywhere; anything from a horse to a halter; anywhere from a
scroll in the Synagogue to a vase in the graveyard.  They steal on
the farm, in the marketplace, on the highway, at the inn, at the
goldsmith's, at the rag-picker's, in the gambling-house, and in the
Temple.  There is no limit to it.  They steal from babes and
pennies from dead men's eyes.  They steal from bankers and beggars.
Where do you live, young woman, that you should be incredulous of
theft?'

'I am from Arabia,' said Fara.

John chuckled briefly, but without smiling.

'You must have lived a sheltered life,' he said dryly.  'Your
people have taken no prizes for honesty.  Perhaps you are not very
well acquainted with your countrymen.  Have you always lived in
Arabia?  I detect an accent on your tongue, though I must say your
Aramaic is correct.  How do you happen to speak it?  And you look
Jewish--as much Jewish as Arabian.  Tell me, daughter, why are you
wearing a man's burnous; and why that shorn hair?'

Fara's knees were giving way now, and she sat down.  The prophet
seated himself on a small boulder near by.  Slowly turning her face
toward him, she encountered a searching gaze that compelled
frankness.

'I am on an errand, sir, that could not be safely performed by a
young woman.  I told you that I am an Arabian because I prefer to
think of myself that way; but it is only half true.  My mother was
an Arabian.  My father is a Jew.'

'Your mother is dead?'

'Only three days ago.'  Fara turned her eyes toward the valley.

'And that sent you on your errand, I think; and your errand takes
you to Judaea, and your father is a Jew.  Perhaps you go to notify
him of your mother's death.'

'Ye-yes,' stammered Fara, hoping the answer might suffice.

There was a considerable silence before John spoke.

'So it is something else besides telling your father.  Has he not
lived with your mother in Arabia?'

'Not for many years.'

'How did they happen to marry?'

'It's quite a long story, sir.  I have no wish to detain you.'  She
looked again into his inquiring eyes.  'Must I tell you?' she
asked, in a voice that seemed a little frightened.

'Not if you don't want to,' said John kindly, 'but perhaps it might
help--if you confided in someone you could trust.'

'I am on my way to find my father,' said Fara.  'He lives in
Galilee--at the city of Tiberias.'

'Then he must be in the employ of the Tetrarch,' surmised John.
'There is little else in Tiberias but the great establishment of
Antipas.'

Fara nodded and turned her eyes away.  Tardily and in a barely
audible, reluctant voice she said, 'Antipas is my father.'

John seemed a person not easily surprised, but he impulsively rose
to his feet and exclaimed, 'You don't mean it!'  He searched her
face, and apparently satisfied that she was telling the truth, he
said, 'Of course I know the story.  Everyone does.  You have no
cause to be proud of your father.'

'I am quite aware of that, sir,' agreed Fara.

'But--surely--after the cruel and shameful treatment he gave the
Princess of Arabia, you are not going to Tiberias to live with
this--'

'I have vowed to avenge my mother,' interrupted Fara huskily.

'You mean--you would kill your father?'

'If I can.'

'But you can't!' exclaimed John.  'In the first place, it's quite
impossible.  The place is fortified like a besieged city.  I was
born a Galilean, and my friends have told me that the Tetrarch
lives like a fugitive, heavily guarded by night and day.  You would
only lose your life to no purpose at all.  And--even if you
succeeded, which is inconceivable, your crime would haunt you all
your days.  No good ever comes of revenge.'

'I heard you say yesterday that there was One arriving now to
avenge God,' said Fara.  'Is no good to come of that?'

John did not have an answer ready.  After some delay, he said,
'That is a far different matter, my daughter.  Vengeance is
permitted only to God.  He will repay!'

'But I mustn't!'  Fara's tone was satirical.  'It's all right for
God to seek vengeance--but it is wrong for me to do it.  I'm
supposed to have a finer moral character?'

'That remark,' reproved John, 'does you small credit, daughter.  It
is irreverent.'

'But practical,' defended Fara.

'And excusable, I suppose,' reflected John.  'You probably had no
religious training--in Arabia.'

'Why not?' Fara demanded.  'The Jews and Arabians worship the same
God, do we not?  Abraham is our common father; is that not so?'

Any further discussion of this matter seeming fraught with more
heat than light, John nodded absently.

'Perhaps you may see the Anointed One in Galilee,' he said.  'I
wish you might be able to talk with Him.  He lives in the town of
Nazareth.  He is a carpenter.'

'Disguised as a carpenter?' wondered Fara.  'Same as I am disguised
as a boy?'

'No, He really is a carpenter, and a very good one, whereas you are
only pretending to be a boy--'

'And not doing so well at it,' she broke in, with a pensive smile.
'However,' she added, 'you are the first one to discover.'

'You mean--I am the first one to tell you.'  John paced back and
forth, frowning thoughtfully.  'But this is no light matter,' he
went on.  'You have vowed a vow.  I shall not be the one to induce
you to break it.  A vow is a vow.  You are intent upon going to
Tiberias.  Very well.  Go first to Nazareth: it is not far from
there.  Tell your story to the Carpenter--Jesus.  Abide by His
counsel.  You will make no mistake if you do as He tells you. . . .
I must leave you now.  Since your horse is gone, you will proceed
on foot, I suppose.  Follow the Jordan.  It is much shorter than by
the travelled roads and it will be safer for you.'  Pointing to an
angling path down the northern slope of the hill, he said, 'May God
be with you, daughter, and keep you safe from any harm.'  He
extended a big, bony hand, and she confidently gave him her small
one.  Turning it about for inspection, he smiled.  'It is not a
boy's hand.  You must be very careful.  I can't advise you, now
that your hair is shorn, to dress as a girl should; but,' he
repeated gently, 'you must be careful.  Those riding boots, that
fine burnous.  You should get into less conspicuous clothing--
peasant's clothes--as soon as possible.  You could be thrown into
prison for this, you know.'

'That would be unpleasant,' said Fara.  'They say that prisons are
very uncomfortable.'

'I have never been in one,' said John, 'but I expect to be--at
almost any hour now.  The authorities will arrest me as a disturber
of the peace.'

'But there is no peace,' said Fara.

'No--there is no peace,' agreed John soberly.

'Is it the Temple that would silence you?'

'Yes--but the Temple has no authority to imprison me.'

'Who, then?'

'The provincial government; and as I am a Galilean I shall be taken
before Antipas.'

'Then--we may meet again--in prison.'  Fara smiled grimly.

John shook his shaggy head in reproof of her ill-timed levity.

'It is quite clear that you do not realize the utter hopelessness
of your undertaking, my child,' he said sadly.  'I do not expect
ever to see you again. . . .  Farewell.'

'Until we meet,' persisted Fara.

Halfway down the long hill, she turned and looked back.  John was
still standing where she had left him.  She waved a hand and he
extended his arm, as if to give her his final blessing.



Chapter V


It was early morning on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.
Enough remained of an unusually hot summer to strip the fishermen
to the waist, but intimations of autumn were in the smoky haze that
overcast the distant mountains, obscured the dome of the new
Synagogue in Capernaum, and dulled the sheen of the Tetrarch's
marble palace.

The ugly huddle of weather-beaten shacks and wharves where the
fishermen kept their tackle and dried their nets had come alive to
the day's work.  Browned, bushy, bare-footed men and youths
scampered about on the docks, loading flat-bottomed dories with
equipment for the larger craft which rocked indolently in the quiet
cove, tugging in unison at their anchor-chains.

Fully a score of these boats, of all shapes, sizes, ages, and
degrees of dirtiness and disrepair, were congregated in the bay,
waiting for their skippers and crews to haul up the much-mended
sails and wallow forth to what they hoped might be promising
fishing-grounds.

Haughtily apart from the clutter of nondescript old tubs, and
conspicuous for their trimness, lay a fleet of three blue-hulled
schooners moored side by side and so closely lashed together from
midship to stern that their freshly painted gunwales would have
chafed but for the heavy hempen pads that cushioned them.  Built
for stability, they were broad in the beam and sat low in the
water; and they were of identical design, though the central ship,
The Abigail, carried three masts and was somewhat larger than her
two-masted companions, The Sara and The Rachael.  Tethered loosely
about their prows bobbed half a dozen empty dories.

On the closely yoked afterdecks the combined crews, totalling
thirty and ranging in age from sixteen to sixty, sat cross-legged a
few feet apart, forming a circle around a huge net that plainly
needed extensive repairs.

Alone on the broad tiller-seat of The Abigail a gigantic, hairy,
deeply tanned Galilean of thirty-five--as busy with his awl as were
his employees--occasionally looked up to survey their work, and
sometimes they met his eyes as if to inquire whether he was
satisfied with what they were doing.  They all worked skilfully,
swiftly, and in silence, though their faces did not indicate that
they were hard-driven.  It was obvious that the relation of the
master and his men was cordial; indeed, it was better than cordial,
for there was evident in their diligence a desire to please.
Especially was this loyalty noticeable in the attitude of the
younger ones, who seemed proud of their employment, as they had
reason to be, for it was a testimonial to a man's seamanship if he
was signed on to sail under Simon the son of Jonas.

Among the Galileans the name of Simon was so common that it had to
be tagged for better identification.  Every Simon bore a special
designation: Simon the tanner, Simon the weaver, Simon the
clubfoot, Simon the juggler, Simon the little, Simon the scribe,
Simon the sot, Simon the bald, Simon the son of Jonas.  Doubtless
if the skipper's sire had been less distinguished, an appellation
appropriate to his characteristics would have been promptly
contrived for him by the community.  In that case he might have
become known early in his youth as Simon the brawler, or Simon the
scoffer.  But to the neighbours and relatives who had known him
since childhood he was Simon the son of Jonas; and--they were
likely to add--not much of a credit to the good old man; for nobody
was more fanatically devoted to the Synagogue than Jonas, and
nobody had less use for it than his tough and burly son Simon.

It was inevitable, however, that the huge, noisy, quick-tempered,
lamentably irreverent son of Jonas should become known by a more
colourful name.  All up and down the western shore, throughout
Capernaum, Magdala, Bethsaida, and the hamlets between, and at the
Roman fort, and among the servants in the great villa of the
Tetrarch, and on the lake, and in the country round about, Simon
the son of Jonas was referred to as the Big Fisherman.

From early boyhood the sacrilegious and belligerent Simon had been
a growing affliction to his parents.  True, he obeyed the laws,
specializing in a scrupulous observance of the Fifth Commandment,
which in this case was not easy; for the religious duties of Jonas,
his diligent attention to all the fasts and feasts, his frequent
pilgrimages to Jerusalem, and his unctuous exhortations on the
streets and in the market-place left him but little time for any
gainful employment; and had it not been for the industry of Simon
and his elder brother, Andrew, their parents would have lived on
meagre fare.

As for the docile bachelor Andrew, his idea of keeping the Fifth
Commandment had required his regular attendance at the services of
the Synagogue and a strict observance of the stated fasts, but it
had laid no such burden on Simon, whose conception of honouring his
father and mother did not go any further than being kind and
respectful to them and seeing to it that they were well fed and
clothed.  By the time he was twelve Simon heartily despised the
Synagogue and everything it represented, because, he felt, it had
made a loafer and a tiresome bore of an otherwise fine man.

By a practice of great restraint, he never disclosed his private
contempt for his father's sanctimoniousness.  Sometimes it was
difficult to exhibit a proper respect when, on business in the
markets, he would come upon Jonas parading the aisles, scroll in
hand, solemnly haranguing the customers, who rarely paused to give
heed and more often grinned and winked at one another as he passed
by.  But if Simon's attitude toward his father was circumspect, he
found a measure of relief for his pent-up feelings by a forthright
excoriation of religion when in the company of his young
contemporaries.  He was still beardless when all the friends and
acquaintances of the family referred to him as an infidel--and an
uncommonly noisy one.  Jonas knew it and deplored it with tears,
and prayed aloud in the public places for his wayward son; but ate
with relish the provender that the incorrigible sceptic brought
home.

Beginning as a mere roustabout and chore-boy on a dirty trawler,
his wages paid in low-grade mud-suckers, which he peddled from door
to door among the very poor, Simon had gradually made himself
useful enough to be in a bargaining position among the fleet-
owners; for he was strong as an ox and fearless to the point of
foolhardiness.  In weather that tied up most of the ships in the
cove at Tiberias--for the little sea could be dangerously rough on
short notice--Simon would be eager to go out and do battle with the
waves; and the catch--taken in such circumstances--fetched higher
prices for lack of competition.

And so it was that before he was twenty-three Simon owned a half-
share in a fairly good fishing-smack.  At twenty-eight he owned it
fully and had taken on a crew of four.  And now he was master of
the most prosperous and best known fleet on the lake.

As his self-made success increased, the Big Fisherman's character
reflected both his earlier frustrations and his current
achievements, not always to his credit.  Conscious of having missed
almost everything that lent enchantment to a normal childhood, he
was inclined to be contemptuous of youngsters who wasted their time
at play when they might be making themselves useful.  He had never
been to school; could hardly read and rarely tried to write
anything more than his own name.  In consequence of this
illiteracy, he scoffed at education and considered the professional
scrivener an object of ridicule.  Physical weakness he viewed with
smiling condescension.

As for his loyalties and enthusiasms, Simon, though stridently
irreligious, possessed a passionate love of his race.  Not to be a
Jew was equivalent to not being anybody at all.  In his regard all
nations except Israel were of one ignominious category.  If they
were in any way different, their distinctions were trivial.  Never
having travelled more than twenty-five miles from home--and
privately sensitive about his provincialism--he had accumulated
quite a lot of prejudices about the world beyond little Galilee.
He spoke derisively of people who lived in cities, even Jewish
cities.  The Greeks foolishly pretended to be better scholars than
the Romans, when the fact was that they were only lazier than the
Romans and idled their time away on such fripperies as stone
statues and the spinning of arguments concerning theories on which
one man's guess was as good as another's; with nothing to come of
it, no matter who was right.  The Romans had proved themselves
better fighters than their weaker neighbours, but so were dogs
better fighters than conies, when it came to that.  The Egyptians
were in decay and thought only of building tombs to house their
bones.  And Arabia had never been anything but a murderous horde of
liars, cheats, and robbers.  Israel was not only the Chosen Race
but the Human Race.  The rest of the people were no better than
animals.  Simon could and did discourse on this subject by the
hour.  He was an Israelite indeed!

And he was loyal to his comrades.  From boyhood he had shown an
extraordinary talent for making friends among all classes of
people.  He had an instinctive love of common justice and fair
play, though he was not always himself a cheerful loser.  He liked
practical jokes but preferred not to be the object of them; and,
sometimes, when finding himself at a momentary disadvantage, the
Big Fisherman would display a childish petulance that seemed
amusingly incongruous when exhibited by a man of his heroic
stature.

In short, success had turned Simon's head a little.  Having come up
through many tribulations into a conspicuous prosperity, he was
intolerant of other men's failures to achieve.  He liked to be
complimented upon his accomplishments and was not reluctant to
speak pleasantly of them himself.  But--for all his vanity, his
intolerance, and his wide assortment of showy weaknesses, his
employees idolized him, worked long hours for him, applauded his
strength, laughed immoderately at his clumsy witticisms; and, when
off duty, imitated his swagger.

By the time the Big Fisherman had won his prowess as a fleet-owner,
saintly old Jonas and his mousey wife Rachael had been summoned
from their cottage in Capernaum to an abode Elsewhere, leaving him
free to marry young Abigail of Bethsaida, who lived with her
widowed mother Hannah.  Andrew, who rarely offered any unsolicited
advice to his more resourceful brother, perhaps because he was an
employee, had gently cautioned Simon against this marriage; for
Abigail, though winsome and pretty, had no health at all.
Doubtless it was her very flower-like fragility that had attracted
the big, brawny fellow whose latent talent for tenderness had never
been given a chance to develop.

He had been very considerate of Abigail.  As she slowly faded, the
common solicitude and sorrow shared by Simon and Hannah greatly
endeared them to one another, and when his girl-wife died he
continued to live with his much-cherished mother-in-law in her
commodious home on a quiet, shady corner in the northern suburbs of
Bethsaida.  Andrew joined them; though, unwilling to burn his
bridges until satisfied that this arrangement was mutually
agreeable, he kept the old family residence in Capernaum intact and
often went there to tend the flowers.

Now that the shadow was lifted from the small household in
Bethsaida, it took on an unaccustomed brightness, for Hannah was
gifted with a quiet drollery and an inexhaustible good humour
refreshing to the brothers who had found so little to amuse them in
their parental home.  Andrew, sober and taciturn, allowed many a
quip to pass unnoticed, though he could be depended upon to give an
amiable, bewildered smile.  Simon's big, booming laugh, on an open-
windowed summer evening, could be heard a long way off.  Near
neighbours often wondered, rather testily, what manner of
entertainment could produce such hilarity.  It was the general
opinion of the conservatives in that part of the town that the Big
Fisherman had added little to the gentility of Bethsaida.

But though they regarded Simon with scant respect, there was one
thing about him that stirred their curiosity--and their envy too.
He seemed to be on friendly terms with David, the wealthy, haughty
Sadducee.  Up the cross-street which bounded Hannah's property on
the north side and rose gently for a quarter-mile to the east, lay
the spacious grounds and imposing old mansion of the eminent Zadok
family, now reduced in numbers to a pair of unmarried, middle-aged
aristocrats and a score of elderly servants.

Old Zadok, the departed grandfather of David and Deborah, had held
himself aloof from the town; nor had Bethsaida made any effort to
intrude upon his lofty isolation, for he was a Sadducee, the only
Sadducee in all that region, and if he wanted to live in seclusion
Bethsaida was willing he should do so, the Sadducees being of a
cynical, supercilious sect that affected a social superiority.  Nor
was that all that ailed old Zadok and the Sadducees, in the opinion
of Bethsaida.  It was a known fact that he hated the government of
Galilee and had been heard to speak scornfully of Antipas the
Tetrarch.  It was a wonder he hadn't got into trouble about that.
Of course he paid exorbitant taxes.  Rich men who paid large taxes
might be able to speak their minds more recklessly than poor
people, who for the same indiscretion could be clapped in jail.
Maybe it was better not to have much to do with the Zadoks or any
other Sadducee.

Just why David had retained his residence at the old palace on the
hill was a mystery, for until his recent retirement he was seldom
at home.  Maybe it was the commanding view of the lake that had
held him and brought him back for his summers.  Surely it was
inconvenient for him to have lived there during his active life,
for his law practice was in Caesarea and the only local client he
served was Jairus, whose large estate lay in the foothills above
Capernaum.

Now David, it seemed, was home to stay; and on fair days it was his
habit to stroll slowly down the hill, with bent head, apparently in
deep meditation.  Persons meeting him did not venture to speak, nor
did he lift his eyes.  Doubtless he was too busy with his own
thoughts to take any account of them.

It was not surprising, therefore, that Hannah's neighbours should
have been amazed the first time David stopped beside her white
picket fence to engage the Big Fisherman in what seemed to be a
serious, man-to-man conversation.  And this happened again and
again, usually of a late afternoon when Simon had returned from his
work.  Sometimes Hannah joined them, presumably at David's
suggestion.  It was all very mysterious.

But while this friendship between Simon the uncouth and David the
refined was incomprehensible to the Bethsaidans, whose social
status was approximately level, it was not so unaccountable as it
seemed; for though aristocracy might shudder at the thought of
contamination with persons a notch or two lower in the social
scale, it was willing to unbend pleasantly for those who, everybody
knew, had no rating at all--and would not be expecting an
invitation to dinner.

In this case, however, there was still better reason for the
friendship of the lawyer and the fisherman.  The seed of it had
been sown many years before, when Simon, a self-conscious, ragged,
immensely overgrown youngster, had regularly delivered fish at the
Zadoks' kitchen door.  David, his senior by a decade, occasionally
encountered him on a garden path and stopped to feel his bulging
muscles in about the same careless manner with which he tousled the
ears of his dog; and Simon would grin and mumble 'Yes, sir' to
David's playful comments on the astounding number of his freckles
and the prodigious size of his bare feet.  And then David had gone
away to school in Athens; absent for five years.  Returning, he had
joined an eminent law firm in Caesarea, then rapidly becoming a
metropolis, and was seen only rarely, briefly, in Bethsaida.  At
wide-spaced intervals Simon passed him.  David would nod and smile,
absently.

Even after arriving at something like dignity in his lowly
occupation, Simon had continued personally to deliver choice fish
to a few important patrons: to the Tetrarch's palace, of course,
and to the Zadok mansion, and--for a while--to Jairus' beautiful
villa, though latterly he had given that up; it was too far.

Now that David, slightly stooped and grey, had come home for good,
Simon often saw him sauntering about on the grounds.  One day they
met.  Without any preliminary greeting, David said, 'Still peddling
fish, eh?  Surely you should have found a better job by now.'

Simon was offended, but kept his temper.

'I do have a better job, sir.  I do not peddle fish.  True, I still
select them carefully for you and bring them myself to your house--
and to the Tetrarch--but I could easily send them.'

If Simon had thought to flatter his customer by mentioning that the
House of Zadok and the Villa of the Tetrarch were somehow of the
same standing in his esteem, he was quickly set right about that.
David's lip curled unpleasantly.

'So--that abominable drunkard eats fish, eh?' he muttered.  'I had
supposed he lived exclusively on beverages.'

Simon didn't care to risk a comment on this seditious speech, but
he nodded perfunctorily; and David, dismissing the subject with a
flick of his fingers, said, 'You're doing well, then.  Perhaps you
own a market.'

Simon's lips twitched with a grin that hinted at something better
than a market.

'No, sir.  I am still a fisherman, but I own my ships and have a
score and ten men in my employ.'

'That is very good,' commented David.  'I am glad you have
prospered.  I dare say you have a home--and family.'

Simon explained briefly about that, and David was respectfully
sympathetic.  After a little pause, he remarked, 'Perhaps you have
some office in the Synagogue, now that you have done so well in
business.'

'No, sir,' replied Simon almost bluntly.  'I have no time for the
Synagogue.'

'You mean--you are not religious?' inquired David, surprised.

'Well, sir . . .'  Simon shifted his weight, deliberating a reply.
'I believe in the God of our fathers--who made the world--and gives
us our life--and the sunshine, rain and harvests.  I do not believe
that He takes any notice of our small doings--or cares whether we
roast calves and lambs in His honour.'

'Very well spoken,' said David soberly.  'You are thoughtful. . . .
I bid you good-day.'

That brief conversation had marked the beginning of an acquaintance
that was ripening to a friendship.  There were frequent talks
thereafter, Simon encouraged to speak his mind freely and David
nodding his approval.  Even when Simon had ventured quite beyond
his depth and it was obvious that he didn't know what he was
talking about, David--in need of diversion--would slowly nod his
head and smile.

Then came the visits at the fence, which brought all that section
of Bethsaida to the window.  And one afternoon David consented to
come into the yard and sit down with Simon in the shade of the tall
cypress, and Hannah brought them cups of pomegranate juice.

                         * * * * * *

The early morning haze had lifted now.  The sun had scented the old
tarred ropes and softened the pitch in the deck-seams.  The sailors
worked in silence, deftly spreading open the frayed cords of the
net and weaving into them the new twine.

Simon straightened his back, scratched his bushy head with his awl,
and shaded his sweating brow for keener observation of the dory
that was slowly approaching from the docks.  His face lighted up.
Other eyes followed his inquisitively.

'Who's that with John?' mumbled Andrew.

'I don't recognize him,' said Simon.  'Some youngster wanting a job
maybe.'

'Looks like a tramp,' thought James.

'That would be John--all over,' remarked old Zebedee, from the
adjacent deck of The Rachael, 'always bringing home a lost dog to
feed.'

'Well--he might do worse,' rumbled Simon deep in his throat.  'Go
forward, Thad, and toss him a rope.'

Work on the net was resumed without much enthusiasm, all of them
curious to see what sort of passenger John had picked up.  But,
whoever the stranger was, the Big Fisherman would doubtless approve
of his coming aboard.  Anything that Johnny did was agreeable with
Simon.  Every member of the crew took that for granted.

Sometimes newcomers to the fleet were a bit annoyed over the
skipper's partiality toward this absent-minded youth, but they soon
accepted it without jealousy; for nobody could help liking him.
Johnny was shamelessly lazy.  On warm afternoons when everybody
else was diligently fishing, Johnny could be found lying flat on
his back staring up into the sky.  If Simon teasingly queried for a
report on what he saw in the white clouds today he would raise his
arm and dreamily finger a pattern of a dome, a tower, a bridge, a
city; or perhaps a winged angel.

'You're not much good as a fisherman, Johnny,' Simon would say,
'but it's worth something to see pictures in the sky.'

It is doubtful, however, whether Simon would have tolerated any
such indolence had that been the boy's only distinction.  In
emergencies he was amazingly industrious, resourceful, and
courageous.  In fair weather, when the sails were hoisted or
reefed, the crew had to step over him while he indifferently viewed
their labours through half-closed eyes.  Let there be a storm,
Johnny astonished them with his seamanship.  If a ravelled rope
fouled a pulley high on the main-mast in the midst of a howling
gale, everybody knew that the drenched sailor inching his way up
the swaying ratlines was Johnny the dreamer.

Perhaps Simon loved the boy for his reckless bravery, perhaps for
his visions in the white clouds, perhaps for both of these
disparate talents; but whatever may have been the grounds of his
affection it was sincere and ever on display.  Nor was it a one-
sided devotion.  Simon was Johnny's hero.  It was a relationship
that gave something of fragrance to an occupation much in need of
it.

Now John and his unrecognized companion--a ragged youth of his own
age--were climbing over the forward rail.  Waving a hand, he led
the diffident stranger into the little galley in the forecastle.

'Feeding him, no doubt,' guessed Andrew.  'He certainly looked
hungry.'

'Johnny missed his calling,' said Simon.  'He should have been a
public almoner.'

'It would have increased the taxes,' remarked old Zebedee.  'The
boy has no regard for money.'

'No--Johnny will never be rich,' said Simon, 'but he will always
have friends.'

'And they will have him to bury sometime,' muttered Zebedee.

'You wouldn't expect him to bury himself,' said Simon.

They all chuckled a little at this, but gave full attention as John
appeared from the galley and came slowly aft, their curiosity about
his movements whetted by the fact that he had been absent since
noon yesterday.  Stepping with the carefulness of a cat he walked
across the big net and sat down beside Simon, who edged over to
make room.  They all put down their work and waited for
explanations.

'Camel-boy,' said John, tipping his head toward the galley.
'Hasn't had anything to eat for a couple of days; very tired.  I
found him sitting on the dock.  He looked as if he had been crying;
face all smeared and dirty.  He said he had run away from a caravan
bound for Damascus on the coast road, because they beat and starved
him.'

'You showed him where to wash--and gave him some food?' inquired
Simon.  He took up the net again as a hint to the crew, and they
bent over their work.  John nodded--and smiled.

'I never saw anyone eat before,' he remarked to Simon; 'not like
this boy.  The poor chap must be hollow all the way to his heels.'

'Did you question him?' asked Simon.

'No--I thought I'd let you do that.  He may be from the south.  He
speaks Aramaic--the Judaean kind; only down south further, maybe.'

'Well--we'll see,' rumbled Simon absently.  Leaning closer, he
asked in a low voice, 'Did you go out there, yesterday, as you
intended?'

John nodded dreamily, averting his eyes; then shook his head.

'Well?' snapped Simon, with a sudden impatience that widened his
audience.  'Did you go--or didn't you?'

Again John nodded, slowly lifted cloudy eyes, entreatingly shook
his head, and tapped his hand gently on the Big Fisherman's knee,
as if begging that his story might be deferred until he could tell
it in private.  But this signal for secrecy, now that the crew had
become interested in the pantomime, nettled Simon.

'And did you find this cracked Carpenter who has turned vintner--
and makes wine out of water?'

The crews of the three ships were leaning forward now, wide-eyed
with curiosity and frankly amused at the discomfiture of the
skipper's pet.  And when John still remained silent, crestfallen,
Simon went on with his ridicule.

'I suppose the Carpenter urged all the poor farmers and shepherds
to band together and storm the Roman fort with flails and
pitchforks.'

This brought a laugh.  Everybody had heard Simon's savagely
expressed opinions of the rumours afloat concerning the Carpenter
from Nazareth, and it would be prudent to share his contempt.  The
Big Fisherman appreciated this loyal acceptance of his views and
gave his men another occasion for a guffaw.  Turning toward John,
he said:

'Perhaps you saw the Carpenter turn a field of rocks into a pasture
full of fat sheep!  Speak up, lad!  You were bent on going out to
see the Carpenter--and I gave you the day off.  Tell us, now, what
did you make of him?'

'I--I don't know,' said John thickly.  He compressed his lips and
shook his bent head.  Presently he straightened, faced Simon with
an expression of utter bafflement, and repeated lamely, 'I don't
know, sir.  It's all very strange.'

'Hmm; so I gather,' muttered Simon.  'And what was so strange about
it--the man or his talk or his tricks?  Can't you tell us?  Or are
we too stupid to understand?'

'Please give me time, Simon.'  John seemed to be speaking from a
distance.  'The whole thing is mysterious.  I can't think straight
today.  Let me tell you about it--a little later.'  He lowered his
tone until it was inaudible to any but Simon, and added, 'But I
won't expect you to believe it.'

'Humph!' grunted Simon.

At this juncture the tension was eased.  The emaciated camel-boy--
in a tattered and grimy brown tunic and trousers, easily recognized
as the garb of a caravan lackey, ambled slowly toward them.
Uncertain what to do with himself, he halted and leaned against a
capstan.  Simon beckoned to him and the net was relaxed for his
crossing.  Obedient to the master's invitation, he sat down on what
was left of the tiller-seat.  The crew looked him over without
visible prejudice.

'Did you have something to eat, son?'  The Big Fisherman's voice
was friendly.

The newcomer nodded gratefully, and said in a husky tone inaudible
to any but the master and John, 'You are very kind, sir.'

'That was John's doing,' chuckled Simon, apparently anxious to set
himself right with his offended favourite, who sat demurely
reflecting on the ridicule he had suffered.  'Johnny attends to the
feeding of visitors. . . .  So--you're lost, maybe.  Well--don't
worry too much.  You look as if you needed a rest.  Where have you
been sleeping lately--in haystacks?'

'No, sir; under the hedges along the roadside.  They don't want you
sleeping in their haystacks.'

'They can't be much blamed for that,' commented Simon.  'Tramps are
always breaking down their berry-bushes and grapevines--and
frightening the cattle. . . .  What's your name, boy?'

'Joseph.'

'I suppose they call you Joe.'

'Y-yes, sir.  That--and a lot of other things lately.'

Simon acknowledged this grim little pleasantry with an appreciative
grin.  Evidently the ragged waif was not stupid.

'Where are you from, Joe?' he asked, kindly.

'Far south, sir; near the Dead Sea.'

'Idumea, maybe?'

The boy nodded tardily, his reluctance being quite understandable;
for no one had ever been heard to boast that he was a native of
Idumea.  Simon's lips tightened involuntarily and he regarded the
youngster with a frown, but instantly relented as he looked into
the drooping eyes.

'I suppose you know, son, that we Jews don't have much to do with
Idumeans.'

'But Idumeans are Jews, sir,' meekly protested the boy.

Simon sniffed and shrugged.  'Several centuries ago,' he remarked
crisply.  'Your people haven't been very good Jews--not for a long
time.'

'King Herod came from Idumea, sir,' ventured the boy softly.

'Well,' drawled Simon, 'that doesn't improve Idumea's reputation
very much.'

The sailors laughed a bit nervously.  Old Zebedee cackled loudly.

'I always say,' he shrilled, 'it's cheaper to feed an Idumean and
let him go on his way.  Then--maybe--he won't steal from you.'  The
old man grimaced for his immediate neighbours, feeling that he had
scored a point.

'I never stole anything in my life,' retorted the stranger, without
turning to see where the insult had originated.

'I believe you, Joe!' declared John.

'Yaa!' railed his father, 'you'd believe anything, anybody!  That's
your trouble.  You're too easily taken in.'

'I believe you too, my boy,' said Simon, so pointedly that old
Zebedee suddenly busied himself with his awl.  Then, turning to
John, the Big Fisherman inquired in a low tone.  'Many people out
there?  Where was it?'

'Up on the hill--on the road to Cana.'  John's voice was guarded.
It was apparent that he had no intention of explaining to the whole
company if he could avoid it.  'There were about a hundred people;
perhaps more.'  It had grown very quiet.  All work had stopped.
Everyone was candidly eavesdropping.  Simon observed it--and
grinned.

'May as well speak out, Johnny.  They're all interested. . . .
We're talking about the Carpenter, boys.  Johnny went out to see
him, yesterday. . . .  Go ahead, Johnny.  Tell us all about it.'

The men were pleased to be included in the conversation.  They
pocketed their awls.  Some rested their elbows on their knees and
cupped their chins in their hands.  Even the weary young tramp
showed a sudden interest at the mention of a carpenter whose doings
had excited public curiosity.  John was hesitant to begin; studied
his slim, brown fingers as if he had never seen them before, and
moistened his dry lips.

To fill in this awkward pause, Simon announced, 'I gave John leave
yesterday to go out into the country and see what this hullabaloo
amounted to.  There have been all manner of wild tales, and it's
high time somebody came forward with the truth.'

'Yaa!' yelled Zebedee.  'That yarn about his turning water into
wine, over at Cana!  You can't find anybody who will stand up and
say he saw it himself.  It's always the cousin of a brother-in-law
who saw it--and he lives over in Samaria somewhere.'

Simon turned about and faced the old man with a scowl.

'If that is all you have to say for the present, Zebedee, we will
give your son a chance to talk.'

There was now no way out for John, except to tell the story.  He
lifted his head and began his strange narrative.

'Learning that he had left Cana and was headed in this direction, I
went out, hoping to meet him.  On the hill I came upon quite a
multitude of people gathered about him.  Many of them had followed
him from Cana, and apparently the others had joined the crowd along
the way.'

'What did he look like?' broke in James.

'It was late afternoon when I arrived,' continued John, with a
brief little gesture that postponed a reply to his brother's query.
'I tried to question a few on the edge of the crowd, but they gave
no heed.  They were all closely packed together, pushing in on him
until he had hardly room to stand.  I thought it was quite rude of
them, though I soon found myself wanting to do the same thing.'  He
paused reminiscently, shook his head, and muttered, 'It was all
very strange.'

Simon hitched about impatiently.

'Get on with it, Johnny!  What was the fellow saying?'

'He wasn't what you'd call a big man,' continued John, with a
glance toward his brother.  'Simon would overtop him by a good six
inches.'

The Big Fisherman squared his shoulders and listened more
complacently.

'But not meaning that he was frail,' amended John.  'His skin was
much whiter than ours, though he wore nothing on his head and the
sun was hot enough to burn him.  He seemed very warm--and tired.
His brown hair was curly and the sweat had coiled some tight little
rings of it on his forehead, softening his face until it might have
looked boyish if it hadn't been for his short beard.  Even with the
beard he looked much younger than he talked.  His eyes . . .'

John broke off here and fumbled with the old net while his audience
waited in silence.  Presently he gave a deep sigh, shook his head--
and went on, in a monotone of reminiscence.

'He didn't talk in a loud voice; not like a teacher or a preacher.
You know what I mean: the way the scribes talk to people--as if
they were reciting something to the woods or the moon; but not to
anybody in particular.  The Carpenter didn't seem to be speaking to
the crowd as a crowd, but to each person, as if they were alone
together, apart. . . .  That was the first thing I noticed about
his talk.  I couldn't help feeling that he had singled me out and
was speaking directly to me.  Maybe that was why I wanted to get
closer.  I suppose that was why everyone crowded in, wanting to get
closer.'

'Very well!  Very well!' prodded Simon.  'You wanted to get closer.
Now--what did he say?'

'That's what we're all waiting for, John,' shouted old Zebedee.

'He was talking about freedom--and happiness.  Our country was
never going to be free, he said.  We should make up our minds to
that.  He said that if we were ever to have any happiness at all we
must accept this bondage as something we couldn't alter, and plan
to find our happiness within ourselves--seeing that our land would
be subjugated, as long as we lived--and longer.'

'Wants us to be contented with our slavery, does he?' called
Alphaeus from The Sara.

'No--it isn't that he approves of our slavery,' John went on,
unruffled by the interruption.  'He said that all men everywhere
are governed by conditions that curb their freedom, and--'

'Doesn't believe in government, eh?' commented Andrew dryly.  'The
Tetrarch will soon cure him of that.'

'What does he know about all men everywhere--this Carpenter from
Nazareth?' scoffed Simon.

'He didn't say that he was against the government,' answered John,
weary but patient.  'He said that every man could find freedom for
himself, regardless of the laws.  Freedom for his spirit.  The
richest gifts, he said, are beyond the control of any oppressor;
property which nobody can carry away or withhold from us--'

'Such as what?' sniffed Simon, in a tone of raillery that made the
sailors laugh.

'Dawn,' said John diffidently, knowing they would laugh again.
'Dawn--and the sunset--the mountains--the songs of birds--and'--his
voice fell to an almost inaudible murmur as he queried their
grinning faces--'and the warm rain--and morning dew on the grass--
and wild poppies growing on the hill-slopes--'

'Wild poppies!' broke in Thaddeus from across the old net.  'Wild
poppies!  Songs of birds!  Dew on the grass!  Why didn't someone
ask him how to make these things up into a porridge to feed the
family?'

This was so good, and they all enjoyed it so much that Thad,
embarrassed by his own wit, yawned widely to show that his sally
didn't really amount to anything and he could be funnier than that
if the occasion arose.  It pleased him particularly to hear the Big
Fisherman's roaring laugh.  John accepted the general merriment
with no sign of irritation.  It was what he had expected.

'The Carpenter talked about that, Thad,' he said quietly, when the
hilarity had subsided.  'He thinks that most people spend too much
time making things up into porridge, fretting about porridge,
thinking that nothing is any good unless it can be made up into
porridge; spending their lives worrying for fear they might be
short of food next winter--and in their old age.  Worrying--until
they have no happiness at all. . . .  He said the birds did not
worry--and yet they were fed.'

'Yaa!' yelled Zebedee--'but they've got to scratch for it!'

There was a gale of laughter.  Old Zebedee was a pest, but this
joke was excellent.  The applause delighted him, and he repeated
his witticism again and again for his nearest neighbours.  'Yes--
they've got to scratch for it! . . .  He!  Ha! . . .  Scratch for
it!'

'That about the birds,' said Simon, 'sounds just like my old
father.  He never worried about where the next meal was coming
from.'

The men chuckled discreetly.  Zebedee, to show that he knew more
than any of the younger ones about the pious improvidence of Jonas,
laughed himself into a noisy fit of coughing.  Andrew effectively
shut off this racket by scowling at him, as if to say that if Simon
wanted to jest a little about their righteous but unemployed
father, that was his business; but there was no occasion for any
comment from Zebedee, whose back always hurt him when there was
anything to do.

Feeling now that his audience was neither sympathetic nor
particularly interested in what he had been saying, John dug deep
into his pocket, fetched up an awl, drew the edge of the old net
across his knees and set to work.

'Aren't you going to tell us anything more?' asked Simon.

'Not at present,' said John remotely.  'I'd much rather not talk
about it now.  It's too serious. . . .  It isn't at all a laughing
matter.'

'But--please, Johnny!' entreated James.  'We will be quiet.'
Glancing about the circle, with his sober eyes coming to rest on
his father's smirk, he added, 'My brother has an important story to
tell if we will let him.  I, for one, would like to hear it.'

Slowly pocketing his awl and giving James a grateful smile, John
continued with his strange narrative--and the men listened.

How to find happiness: that was the thing.  Few of us would ever be
wealthy, no matter how hard we tried; no matter how greedily we
grabbed things out of other people's hands.  And the possessions we
got, whether by fair means or foul, would turn out to be
encumbrances.  We would always have to be on the lookout for
thieves.  We would be afraid to leave home, even if we left a
watchman, for he might be dishonest.  We would sleep with one eye
open, and we would be suspicious of strangers.  And it was not only
the threat of theft that would keep us disquieted.  Our possessions
would be menaced by moths--and rust.

'Surely he didn't object to our having a bed and a couple of stools
to sit on and a roof over our heads,' commented Alphaeus.

'First of all,' John went on, undiverted, 'we must stop fretting
and complaining about our national servitude.  Instead of flying
into a rage when some gruff legionary imposes on us, we should
quietly obey his orders, however unjust.  If the soldier encounters
one of us on the highway and hands us his pack to carry for a mile,
let us take it and carry it for him--a mile--two miles.'

There was some subdued grumbling here, but nobody spoke up.  Old
Zebedee vigorously shook his grey head and made a sour grimace.
Simon clenched a big fist and waggled it experimentally.  The dirty
camel-boy yawned.

'This led him to talk about the bearing of burdens,' pursued John.
'That was the best way to find happiness--bearing burdens for
others, whether they were friends or foes.  If enemies, they regard
you more mercifully; if friends, they love you for it.'

'I don't believe that!' objected Thaddeus.  'Toadying to enemies
doesn't make them a bit easier on you.  They get the idea that you
are afraid--and then they do lay it on!'

Many of the fishermen nodded their agreement.  John did not pause
to take note of this general disapproval.

'He said the way to find your happiness and peace is in helping
other people carry their heavy packs--whatever they are.'  Here
John paused so long that they thought he was through.  They shifted
their position for better comfort, and a few of them made as if to
resume their work on the net.  Simon stretched, yawned prodigiously,
and rubbed his eyes with his big knuckles.

'And that was all there was to it?' he queried.  'Nothing very
exciting about such talk.  You say the crowd listened?'

'Yes--we listened.  We listened with our mouths open, so our
breathing would not interfere with our hearing.  As I told you--
there is something peculiar about the Carpenter's voice.  He
doesn't talk as other men do.  Nobody--ever--talked--like that!'

'But he didn't do anything--out of the ordinary?' James wanted to
know.

'I had decided not to say anything about that; at least, not now,'
faltered John.  'Because--I know you won't believe it.'

They all came promptly to attention and were very quiet.

'It was while he was talking about our finding happiness by bearing
burdens.  There was a man standing only a few feet away from me who
had a paralysed arm--or something had ailed it so that it was much
shorter and thinner than the other.  But for this bad right arm, he
was a pretty husky fellow.  I had noticed him petting his short arm
as if he was proud of it and wanted people to see it.  All of a
sudden, he broke into the Carpenter's speech, and held up this poor
thing of an arm, hoisting it up by his good hand; and he shouted
out, "How about me, sir?  You can see that I cannot bear burdens!"'

Here John stopped, closed his eyes, and shook his head like an
emerging diver.

'No--no--I cannot tell you!' he muttered thickly.  'You will not
believe it!  If any one of you were to tell me this, I'm sure I
wouldn't believe a word of it!'

'Say on, Johnny!' commanded Simon.  'What happened?'

'The fellow's arm!'  John's voice trembled.  'It was well, I tell
you!  It was sound!  It was as long as the other!'

The fishermen stiffened their backs and stared at young John as if
he were a stranger.  Simon broke the silence.

'No, John, no!' he muttered.  'We can't have any of that, you
know!'

Old Zebedee scrambled to his feet, pointed a shaky finger at his
son, and shouted, 'That's the first time I ever heard you lie!'

James, habitually tolerant of his father's incessant airing of his
views, now surprised them all by rising to face the noisy old man
with a stern rebuke.

'My brother is not a liar, sir!' he exclaimed.  'Johnny may have
misunderstood what he saw, but I will not sit here silently and
hear him reviled as a liar--not even by his father!'

'It's a long, hard climb--up that hill,' put in Andrew, 'and
yesterday was a hot day.'

'Aye,' nodded Alphaeus, to his immediate neighbours, 'the boy must
have been a bit out of his head.'

'No, Johnny,' mumbled Simon, 'that's much too much!  Such things
don't happen.'

John hung his head, not as if he resented their disbelief, but
regretful that he had consented to tell the story.  Suddenly the
murmurs ceased as Simon held up a hand for silence.

'Well, Johnny, you may as well go on with it,' he said roughly.
'You can see that you've nothing to lose.  Nobody believes you--but
we'd better have the rest of it, if there is any more.  Did this
fortunate fellow, with the healed arm, thank the Carpenter--and
maybe hand him a shekel?'

'The people were stunned!' muttered John, without looking up.  'A
woman standing next to the man fainted and crumpled up on the
ground.  The man himself was panting hard, making queer little
squeaks in his throat.  You couldn't tell whether he was trying to
laugh or cry.  Everybody was quiet--and pale.  I felt a little sick
in my stomach, the way you feel at the sight of a bleeding wound--
only--I think--the shock of seeing a deformed arm suddenly made
well is worse than seeing a bad accident. . . .  While we were all
standing there, gaping at the arm, the Carpenter said, "Now, my
friend, you can bear burdens.  See to it that you do--or a worse
thing might come upon you."'  John's voice was unsteady as he
finished his story.  After an interval of silence, he rose slowly
and faced the company with sober eyes.  'I know that you do not
believe what I have told you,' he declared--'but may God strike me
dead if it is not the truth!'

'Blasphemy!' yelled old Zebedee.

'I'm not saying you lied, Johnny,' said Simon, 'but I do think you
have been seeing things--like the strange animals you find in the
clouds.  It's no harm to imagine things in the sky--but this is
different!  I only hope you aren't losing your mind!  Tell us truly
now: were you out there at all?  Did you really see this Carpenter?
I think you dreamed it--all of it--while you were asleep under a
tree.'

This brought on nervous laughter.

'Run along, Johnny,' said Simon, as if to a mere toddler.  'You've
done enough for one day.  Go somewhere and rest your dizzy head.'

Flushed with humiliation, John moved slowly across the net and
walked with uncertain steps toward the bow.  James watched him with
troubled eyes.

'I think I shall go too,' he said.

'Maybe you'd better ask permission,' advised his father.

'You may go, James,' growled Simon.  'Talk your flighty brother out
of this nonsense and bring him back when he's cured of it.'

'My brother may not want to come back,' said James, 'after the
shameful treatment he has had!'

'He may do as he likes about that,' snapped Simon hotly.  'The
fleet can get along without him. . . .  And you needn't come back,
either, if you're so easily offended.'

'Hear that?' shouted Zebedee.  'You'll be losing your job if you
aren't careful!'

James made no reply, but followed his brother.  A moment later the
silent sailors heard the clatter of oars in a dory's rowlocks.
Craning their necks, they saw the little boat making toward the
beach.  Simon stood to watch it, frowning darkly.  He turned about
and faced Andrew.

'I'll not go out today,' he said.  'Finish with the net, and take
the fleet over to the south shore where we fished yesterday.'

Andrew followed him as he stalked forward, overtaking him
amidships.

'What do you want done with this young tramp?' he inquired.

Simon gave a wry smile and stroked his jaw.  Now that Johnny had
turned out to be an ungrateful fool, he would teach him a lesson by
giving his flouted friendship to this ragged waif.  Johnny would
come creeping back tomorrow to find that he had lost his place as
the skipper's pet.  He beckoned to Joe, who came promptly to his
side.

'Come with me, son,' he said, kindly.  'You shall have a clean bed
to sleep in tonight.'

Old Zebedee had wriggled forward and stood by, rubbing his wrinkled
hands.

'I'm sorry my boys acted that way,' he whimpered.

'You'd do well to mind your own business,' growled Simon.

                         * * * * * *

There had been almost no conversation between them as they trudged
along on the well-beaten highway to suburban Bethsaida.  The sun
was high now--and hot.  A few steps in advance of his young
companion, the Big Fisherman marched steadily with long strides,
moodily preoccupied and quite oblivious of the sandal-patter behind
him.  These shorter footsteps were erratic, for the camel-boy
frequently turned about to survey the huge marble palace of the
Tetrarch, sometimes walking backwards for a dozen steps and shading
his eyes for better vision.

They were entering the residential district now where well-kept
houses sat back from the dusty street, partly hidden by tall
acacias, cypress, and olive trees.  A corner was turned to the
left.  At the next corner Simon slowed, encouraging the camel-boy
to come abreast of him.  Opening a small wicket-gate, he led the
way toward a commodious grey-brick cottage.  The door yard was
shady.  A pleasant-faced woman of middle age was raking leaves.

'What brings you home so early, Simon?' she inquired, with a side
glance at the dishevelled stranger.  'Anything the matter?'

'You sit down here on the stoop, son,' said Simon.  'I want a word
with you, Hannah.'

The Idumean tramp was gratified by this tentative hospitality, and
sank down wearily on the step, legs aching from trying to keep up
with the long steps of the Galilean giant.  The woman had put down
the rake and they had entered the house.  The skipper would confer
with this Hannah, who was probably his mother--though she seemed
too young for that--and she would shake her head and say, 'No--
please, Simon; not an Idumean!  And he looks so terribly dirty!
He's probably lousy too.'

After what seemed a very long time, they came out on the little
porch where Joe sat.  It was a relief to see a cordial smile on the
woman's face.

'My mother-in-law, Hannah, has consented to let you rest here with
us for a day or two, seeing how very tired you are,' said Simon.
Turning to Hannah, he added, 'I may not be home for supper.'

'Perhaps you should have a bite to eat before you go.'

'I'm not hungry.'  Without a farewell word Simon walked rapidly to
the gate and down the street as if his errand might be of some
urgency.

Hannah sat down on the step, a little way apart from her guest,
caught up a wisp of greying hair that had fallen over her temple;
and, after soberly searching the tired, long-lashed eyes, smiled a
little.

'Your name is Joe,' she said pleasantly.  'And you are from away
down in Idumea.'

Joe nodded, but offered no further facts about himself.

'We do not see many Idumeans up here,' said Hannah.  'In fact, I
never saw one before.'

Joe sighed deeply, but had nothing to say about Idumea.

'You would probably enjoy a bath,' said Hannah.

'Ohhh!' breathed the dirty boy.  'Would I!'

'Then--come with me.'  Hannah rose and led the way into the cool,
well-furnished house.  'That bedroom straight ahead of you, Joe.  I
shall bring you a tub of water.  You will find towels in the room.'

'Please let me do that!' insisted Joe.  'Show me where it is--and I
will help myself.'

Hannah darted an inquiring glance into the waif's eyes.  She had
not expected any graciousness on the part of this young vagabond.
Showing him the large wooden tub in the store-room off the kitchen,
and pointing to the cistern, she returned to her leaf-raking.
Presently she retraced her steps and tapped at the bedroom door.

'If you will hand me your soiled clothes, I will wash them, and
hang them out in the sun to dry.'

The splashing ceased and there was quite an interval of silence.
At length the boy made a flustered reply.

'Oh--but I didn't expect you to do that!'

'Surely you are not intending to put those dirty garments on
again?'  Hannah's voice rose in indignation.  'They have got to be
cleaned--for our sake if not yours!  Open that door now--a little
way--and hand them to me!'

After some silence and delay, the door was reluctantly opened wide
enough to accommodate a small, brown, wet hand holding a shabby
jacket and a pair of coarse trousers, clothing worn only by the
poorest of peasants.  Hannah took them gingerly with her finger-
tips and made a wry face.

'Didn't you have anything on under these dreadful rags?' she
inquired.

'Y-yes,' stammered Joe; 'but, please, I can wash them myself.'

'Don't be foolish!' snapped Hannah.  'I won't have those filthy
things in my house--not another minute!  Let me have them!'  And
when there was no immediate response, she called sternly, 'I'm
waiting!'

Again the door opened slightly, grudgingly, and the damp hand
delivered two badly rumpled under-garments which Hannah grabbed
impatiently.  Averting her face, she carried them to the back door
and pitched them out on the grass.  She was more than disgusted
with the task she had set for herself.  She had been foolish to
take this dirty tramp into her house.  Simon had no right to ask
her to do it.

Then something attracted her attention.  She stepped out on the
ground and inspected the under-garments with wide-eyed curiosity.
They were dainty and exquisitely made of the finest, sheerest linen
she had ever seen.  Unquestionably they were a woman's clothing.
This Joe was a thief then!

She might have known it.

She sat down on the grass and fingered the gauzy material.  Where
could this tramp have come upon such articles?  What opportunity
would he have had to steal clothing of this value?  And--imagine a
camel-boy wanting to wear a woman's clothes!  Now an utterly
preposterous idea arrived to confuse the problem.  Could this Joe
be a girl?  Hannah recalled her wonderment at the extraordinarily
long, curling lashes when she had looked into the boy's weary eyes.
And the small, slim hand.  But--even assuming that the youngster
was masquerading, that didn't explain this expensive underwear.

She held up the shirt, woven of costly linen.  On the left breast
there was embroidered a peculiar device.  Hannah studied it with
mystification.  The emblems in the blue oval meant something: she
was sure of that.  There was a new moon, done in gold thread,
circling about a silver star; and crossing through the slim moon
and the star, a white sword and a shepherd's crook.

Suddenly Hannah resolved to make an experiment that might solve the
mystery.  She returned to the bedroom door and listened.  It was
very quiet in there now.

'Joe,' she called.

'Yes.'  The voice was sleepy--or was it frightened?

'I've found out something about you.'

There was no reply.

'Joe--you're a girl!'

'Y-yes,' weakly, wearily; 'I know.'

'Well'--Hannah's voice was unsteady--'after you've rested, look in
the closet for some clothing.'  Her tone had softened.  'In the
chest you will find under-garments--not nearly so fine as yours,
but serviceable.  They belonged to my daughter--who died.'  And
when there was no reply, she added, 'Or would you prefer to go on
pretending you're a boy?'

The answer was muffled and inaudible.

'Perhaps you might enjoy being a girl again,' persisted Hannah
gently--'just for a day or two while you are here. . . .  I
wouldn't tell on you.'

'Yes--please,' murmured the girl brokenly.  She was crying. . . .
And so was Hannah.

After she had washed the clothes--and it had taken more time than
such a task should have called for in any other circumstance--
Hannah hung them out to dry.  It had gratified her to find that
while the rough outer garments were badly soiled, the dainty
underwear, though wrinkled, was fairly clean.  Apparently these
garments had been recently washed, perhaps in some forest brook.

Although consumed by curiosity to learn the girl's story, Hannah
had no thought of disturbing her now: she was utterly spent and
would probably sleep for hours.  There was still much leaf-raking
to be done, and it seemed that the leaves which needed immediate
attention were close to the north fence.  Incidentally, David would
be strolling by before long, as was his custom.  David was learned
and widely travelled.  He would be almost sure to know what these
strange symbols meant.  Should she ask him?

More than an hour had passed, with Hannah becoming very warm and
weary, before the eminent Sadducee appeared, sedately marching down
the hill.  He paused, laid a hand on the fence, and offered the
usual greeting.  The conversation did not flow freely.  Yes, Hannah
agreed, it was indeed a warm day for this time of the year.  But
she had enjoyed the exercise--and the leaves must be gathered up
before it rained.  No, Simon wasn't there and might not be home
until late.

When it appeared that nothing remained to be said, David bowed
soberly and was taking his leave.  Hannah advanced a step and
halted him with a diffident query.  She had come upon a bit of
linen, she said, that bore some strange tokens.  It was blue and
oval in shape, and in the centre there was the figure of a new moon
and a star.

David, smiling condescendingly, broke in with surprise that she did
not recognize the well-known star and crescent of Arabia.

'But that wasn't quite all,' continued Hannah.  'Crossing through
this moon and star there was a sword and a shepherd's crook.'

'Impossible!' muttered David.  'Where did you find this?'

Hannah was visibly embarrassed and her heart raced.  She had not
reckoned on a question that would demand fuller explanation and her
expression showed that she now regretted having introduced the
subject.  Her confusion spurred the lawyer's curiosity.  He stepped
closer and soberly searched her eyes.

'This morning a hungry and ragged camel-boy appeared on one of
Simon's ships,' began Hannah nervously, 'and Simon--you know, sir,
how big-hearted he is--took pity on the young fellow and brought
him home--to rest and be properly fed for a day or two.  I made him
take a bath; and, while he was doing that, I washed his clothing.
These strange figures were embroidered on one of his garments.'

'I should like to see it,' said David.

'It's still wet, sir--from the washing,' said Hannah.

David impatiently assured her that it wouldn't matter at all if the
garment was wet.  He wanted to see it, and he wanted to see it now!
So Hannah brought it and handed it over.

'This is a woman's raiment!' said David.

Hannah dropped her eyes--and nodded.

'You will keep it a secret, sir, won't you?' she entreated.  'I
gave her my word I wouldn't tell.'

'I should have no motive for betraying you, Hannah.'  He handed
back the garment.  'It is better that no one be told--about this
insignia.'

'Not even Simon?  When he discovers that his waif is a girl, he
will ask many questions.  She has consented to wear my daughter's
clothing while she is here.'

'Let Simon think whatever he likes about the girl's having
disguised herself.  She may or may not confide.  If I were you, I
should not press her for her story.'  David was again on the point
of moving away, but paused to inquire, 'Is she Jewish in
appearance?'

'Yes, sir.  She told Simon she was from Idumea.  That's Jewish, is
it not?'

'Idumea?  Nonsense!' snorted David.  'Had she been from Idumea she
wouldn't have wanted to bathe.  No, indeed!  That shirt did not
originate in Idumea! . . .  I shall see you again tomorrow. . . .
I bid you good-day.'  He turned slowly and was retracing his steps
toward home, with bent head, and hands clasped behind him.  After
he had gone a little way, he suddenly straightened, turned about,
and came back.

'You say the girl looks Jewish.  Think hard now!  If someone were
to tell you she is part Jewish--and part Arabian--what would you
say?'  David's eyes invaded Hannah's earnestly.

'I wouldn't know, sir,' she replied, shaking her head.  'I don't
know how the Arabians look.  The girl is a little taller than most
Jewish women of her age--and more slender, too.'

'What--would you say--is her age, Hannah?'

'Sixteen, perhaps; or seventeen, maybe.'

David made no comment on that; but stood silently, thoughtfully,
counting his fingers.  Having finished the addition, he nodded to
himself, drew an enigmatic smile, and withdrew.  'I bid you good-
day, Hannah,' he said absently.

For a long time the bewildered woman stood watching the venerable
Sadducee's deliberate march up the hill.  It was evident that David
had been deeply impressed.  Hannah hoped she wasn't getting into
trouble.  She wished she could feel free to confide the whole
matter to Simon.  But if the girl was--as David seemed to suspect--
of Arabian blood, Simon would undoubtedly be angry and turn her
out.  He hated the Arabians.  On the other hand, if he weren't told
and found out later, he would have good cause for being enraged
over the deception.  Any way you looked at it, the situation was
disturbing.  Hannah was not experienced in dissembling.

After standing there irresolutely until her legs were weary she
returned to the house.  The door of the guest's bedroom was now
open.  The girl, in a simple white dress of Abigail's, was sitting
on the edge of the bed, combing her cropped hair.  Hannah smiled,
but her eyes brimmed with tears.  The girl instinctively guessed
why.

'I'm afraid it makes you sad,' she said softly, 'to see a stranger
in this keep-sake dress.  I am sorry.'

Hannah brightened and dabbed at the tears.

'It was just for a moment, my dear.  I am glad to see my Abigail's
clothing put to some good use.  She was a beautiful child. . . .
And'--impulsively--'so are you! . . .  What shall we call you--now
that your name isn't Joe?'

There was a momentary pause before the girl replied:  'You may call
me Esther.'

'Though that is not your name--either,' commented Hannah,
disappointed--and hurt.

'I am told that Esther was the name my father chose for me,' said
the girl, eager to make amends.

'Shall I suppose, then,' persisted Hannah, 'that others in your
family preferred another name for you, and that their wishes
prevailed?'

Esther nodded, absently, diligently preoccupied with her combing.

Hannah waited uneasily in the doorway for a fuller confidence, and
when the girl responded only with a childish little smile of
entreaty, she turned away with an impatient gesture that said, Oh--
very well, then--if it's such a secret.  Presently the dishes
clattered in the kitchen as if they too were annoyed.  It was clear
that Hannah was offended by her guest's reticence.  Esther felt
very uncomfortable.  She had a momentary impulse to follow the
friendly woman and make a full disclosure of everything.  On second
thoughts she decided that too much was at stake.

                         * * * * * *

Having inflicted upon Hannah the thankless job of looking after the
ragged young Idumean--an impetuosity that had already caused him
some appropriate misgivings--Simon hurried away as if late for an
important engagement, though the fact was that he had no plans for
the day.  He had never been so restless in his life.  As he neared
the highway, his long strides shortened and slowed to an indecisive
saunter; and at the corner, he looked both ways, gnawing his
bearded under-lip.

Daily habit suggested that he return to the fleet, but the idea was
rejected.  Simon had no relish for reappearing among his men so
soon after the quarrel with Zebedee's boys, an affair which, he now
felt, might easily have been avoided.  Besides, Andrew would
probably have sailed by this time.  And, as for the Tetrarch's
fish, doubtless one of the crew had been sent to deliver them,
seeing the skipper had said he would not return today.

With no plausible errands in the direction of Tiberias, Simon
turned the other way and walked slowly toward the sleepy little
business zone of Bethsaida, for no reason at all except to keep in
motion.  He couldn't stand there on the corner any longer.
Salutations were offered along the road, to which he responded
grumpily, in no mood for neighbourly conversation.

Not for a long time had Simon been in this part of the town, but
nothing had changed.  Nothing ever changed in Bethsaida.  Old Seth
still sat where Simon had seen him last, on the stone flagging
before the open door of his pottery-shop, hugging his thin knees
tight against his bearded chin.

'Don't see you down this way very often,' shrilled the old man,
unexpectedly stirring from his torpor.  It was an invitation to
tarry and talk, but Simon merely grunted and ambled on.  At the
wide doorway of the blacksmith's shop he paused only long enough to
agree with sooty-faced, leather-aproned Ben-Abel that it was a hot
day.  Ben-Abel clanked down his hammer, advanced to the door, and
further deposed that we needed rain.  Simon nodded and moved away.

On the broad steps of the Synagogue lounged a beggar whom he
distastefully recognized by the bulky and filthy bandage on a
perennially sore arm.  The loathsome creature straightened,
grinned, and began to unwrap his odorous merchandise.  Wrinkling
his nose, Simon signed that he didn't want to see it, and dropped
three copper pennies in the battered cup.

'No use going out there now,' advised the beggar.  'Everybody
that's going today has gone a good two hours ago.  Time you get
there, it will be all over.'

'What will be all over?' demanded Simon gruffly.

'The Carpenter!  That's where you're going, isn't it?'

'What gave you that foolish idea?'

'Oh--I can tell,' snickered the beggar.  'Some of them try to
pretend they're going somewhere else, but I can spot 'em.  Take
yourself now.  I know you.  You're the Big Fisherman, that doesn't
hold with the Synagogue and curses religion.  But what business
brings you out here, on your way up the hill?  You're not carrying
any fish and there's none to be had where you're going.  You want
to have a look at this Carpenter, same as everybody else.  Heh!
Heh!'

'If you are so interested in this miracle-working Carpenter,'
growled Simon, 'why don't you show him that stinking arm?  Maybe he
would heal it for you.  But perhaps you don't want it healed.'

'The fellow is a fraud and a blasphemer!'  The beggar rattled his
cup and made a wry face.  'Three pennies!  And the Big Fisherman
owns three ships!  It isn't enough to buy a measure of leeks!'

Simon muttered a curse and strode angrily away, the beggar calling
after him, 'It won't do you any good to climb that long hill, I
tell you!  He'll be gone.  You'll be meeting all the other fools on
their way back.'

The Big Fisherman had left the town behind him now and the highway
was stiffly rising.  He had been walking rapidly, stomping along
still angry over his encounter with the impudent beggar.  The
dirty, insolent beast should be locked up as a public nuisance.
However, he was a canny fellow; you had to say that much for him.
He knew where Simon was bound for, even when Simon hadn't clearly
decided on it himself.  The impertinence of the filthy rascal!
Simon had a notion to turn about and retrace his steps, just to
show the beggar he had been wrong in his surmise; but then he might
think that Simon had decided to take his advice.  Simon wasn't in
the habit of taking advice from beggars--or anyone else, for that
matter.

The afternoon was hot and the Big Fisherman was not accustomed to
climbing steep grades.  He sat down in the shade of a wayside tree
to rest and get his breath.  He must be growing old.  Sooner or
later, men did grow old.  Their muscles got flabby, and their lungs
and their hearts--yes, and their heads, too.  An old man got more
and more testy, surly, quarrelsome, cantankerous, like an old dog;
like old Zebedee, who was always saying the wrong thing, making
himself ridiculous.  Fortunately for Simon, he wasn't that old yet.
He didn't pick quarrels.  No man should be blamed for defending his
beliefs.

Well--what had happened had happened: it was too late to do
anything about that now.  Johnny had walked out in a huff and
wasn't likely to make the first move toward a reconciliation; and,
naturally, the wilful boy wouldn't expect his boss to hunt him up--
and coax him to come back.  There'd be no living with the youngster
after that: he'd think he was an admiral or something.

No; the only sure cure for Johnny's folly was the exposure of this
Carpenter as an unscrupulous mountebank. . . .  Simon rose,
wincing, and plodded on, every step an effort. . . .  The Carpenter
must be pretty sure of himself, expecting people to climb a
mountain to find him.

The sun was all but setting when Simon's aching legs brought him
over the shoulder of the plateau.  There he paused uncertainly,
amazed at the size of the crowd.  Johnny had guessed there might
have been as many as a hundred out here yesterday.  There were more
than that today.  He sauntered slowly forward toward the closely
packed, silent, attentive multitude, wishing he might make himself
invisible.  It would be very annoying if he were recognized and a
rumour spread that he had been seen there.  It would be useless to
explain his reason for coming.  What if Johnny should see him?
Simon walked slowly, softly, and stood at the rear of the crowd.
No one paid the slightest attention to him.  He felt somewhat less
uneasy.  And presently he left off thinking about himself at all.

Having come here to criticize and, if possible, to discover some
trickery, the Big Fisherman had approached with a scowl.  He was
angry at this Carpenter for creating so much hubbub and for trying
to deceive a lot of weak-minded people; but, in all honesty, the
fellow did not look like an itinerant showman.  It wasn't the
impudent face of a juggler, nor was it the brazen voice of a street-
hawker with some nostrum to sell.  Johnny had been right about the
man's voice.  It was calm, deliberate, conversational, as if
addressed to a single individual, a personal friend.  You had to
listen closely or you wouldn't hear, certainly not from where Simon
stood; though it was to be observed that even the people in the
forward rows tipped up their good ear.  It was not a harangue.  And
the man was not exerting himself to compel attention.  It was
indeed a voice such as you had never heard in a public address: it
singled you out.  You!  Yes--Simon--you!

He edged in closer against the backs of his neighbours.  A head
taller than most, he had no trouble seeing the Carpenter clearly.
The man was tired.  Surely the people should be able to see that.
They had crowded in on him until he had hardly standing-room, nor
could he retreat for the great rock immediately behind him.  What
the Carpenter needed, reflected Simon, was somebody to keep the
crowd off him.  This heedless pack of curiosity seekers were
suffocating him; wearing him out.  One would think he might have
found at least one friend to stand by and protect him.  Perhaps he
didn't want any close friends.  Maybe you couldn't get acquainted
with him, even if you wanted to.  But that conjecture was not in
tune with the tone of the voice that appealed to your spirit of
neighbourliness--if not, indeed, to your comradeship.  Johnny was
right: there was something very strange about the man.  Not much
wonder the boy had stammered--and groped for words.

Simon's animosity had cooled now.  He had come hopeful of hearing
something revolutionary, something seditious; something that would
get the Carpenter into trouble.  He intended to be on the alert for
it; and if he heard anything incriminating, he would be willing to
testify when the matter came to court, as it surely would.  The
rabbis would see to that.  They too were eager to show him up as a
seditionist.  Simon hadn't given any thought to this phase of the
problem, and it now annoyed him to foresee that he might presently
be on the side of the rabbis.  No--he didn't want to have anything
to do with it personally.  Let the patrols and the priests attend
to it.

The extreme weariness of the Carpenter made a bid for Simon's
sympathy.  If it weren't for making a spectacle of himself, he
would like to get down into that front row and use his elbows.  He
wouldn't be above cracking a couple of heads together.  Simon had
often done that in a general brawl; suddenly grab two handfuls of
hair, and whack!  It was always effective.  Yes, he would enjoy
nothing better than a chance to teach these yokels better manners.

The soft voice was talking now about the Day of Atonement.  Simon
wouldn't be interested; wondered what the Carpenter could find to
say on such a dull subject; surely the multitude wouldn't have
climbed the long hill to listen to that.  The farmer in front of
him twisted his head around, looked up fretfully, and lifted a
cramped shoulder.  Simon had unwittingly crowded in on the fellow
until he couldn't stand straight.  The sour look suggested that
some people should mind their manners and stop pushing--even if
they were big as Goliath and knew they could impose on smaller
folks.  Simon moved back a step and tramped on a squirming toe.

He had quite forgotten that tomorrow was the Day of Atonement.  And
today, too, if you obeyed the Scriptures.  It was a two-day affair.
On the first day you went about paying debts, returning things
borrowed, and making up with people you had injured; though almost
nobody ever did anything about that.  On the second day, if you
were religious, you went to the Synagogue with such an offering as
you could afford, ranging in value from a pair of pigeons to a fat
steer, and received a blessing.

Time was when his father had talked of nothing else for a fortnight
preceding the Day of Atonement, but it had been many a year since
Simon had so much as made the motions of honouring it.  He always
dismissed the crews on the big day, the real day, the day of the
Synagogue ceremonies.  That was common practice.  You gave your
employees the day off: they could do what they pleased with it.  It
never had been customary to dismiss your help on the first day, the
day you were to go about making things right with people you had
defrauded or otherwise offended.  As for himself, he usually spent
the Day of Atonement mending ropes and oiling pulleys.  Sometimes
respectable people, marching soberly toward the Synagogue in their
Sabbath garb, would regard him with reproach when they met him on
the highway in his workaday clothes.

Now the Carpenter was going to flog the old straw; for surely there
was nothing new to be said about the Day of Atonement.  We would be
told how important it was to go to the Synagogue and have our sins
forgiven; not forgetting to take the yearling lamb along.

Simon came to attention.  The Carpenter was talking about the first
day of the Atonement event.  That was the important day.  That was
today!  What had you done about it?  How about the quarrels you had
had--since last Atonement Day?  Were you and old Naaman still
refusing to speak to one another because of that trouble over the
line fence?  Had you gone to see the old man today?  If not--you
would only be wasting your mutton tomorrow.  How about that feud
with the Ben-Gileads?  You remember--the chickens that got into
your garden and caused such a rumpus that everybody in the
neighbourhood took sides.  And cursed one another and threw stones.
Is that old quarrel still smouldering?  Did you do anything about
that today?  The sun is setting.  Are you going to do anything
about that before you sleep tonight?  If not--there's no sense in
taking your pigeons to the Synagogue tomorrow; nor will the lamb do
you any good; and you'd better sell the steer for whatever it will
fetch, or slaughter it and eat it.  Forgiveness and peace are to be
had--but not bartered for beef.

Simon liked that.  It was sensible.  Not much use asking for pardon
and peace if an old friend has something against you, especially if
the quarrel was your own fault.  The Carpenter was talking about
peace of mind, considered as 'property.'  You could toil all summer
in the fields and fill your barn with grain.  That was property,
too; only the barn might take fire or the rats destroy the wheat.
Peace was the kind of property that wouldn't burn, and you didn't
have to set a watchman over it to see that it wasn't stolen. . . .
Make things right with your offended brother; then go to the
Synagogue with your fat lamb--and be blessed.

There was some restlessness in the multitude now.  What the
Carpenter was saying was reasonable enough, thought Simon, but it
would just go in one ear and out the other.  You couldn't change
human nature very much. . . .  Take Johnny, for instance.  He was
probably in this crowd and listening to this good counsel.  But--do
you suppose the stubborn youngster would take it to heart--and
apologize?  Of course he wouldn't! . . .  It wasn't much wonder
that the Carpenter looked lonely.  If he really practised what he
taught, people would think him a queer one.  Friendship with the
man would be embarrassing.

The Carpenter had stopped speaking now and there was a perceptible
stir in the crowd.  It shifted its weight to the other leg,
straightened its back, and stretched its neck for a better view.

A tall, broad-shouldered, bearded man stood forward from the pack
and faced the Carpenter.  He had a small boy in his arms.  Whatever
happened then, it was done so quickly that Simon could only guess
that the child had received some attention; for the man who carried
him turned away, apparently satisfied, and was making his escape
through the craning multitude.  There was much jostling, the crowd
swarming about the man, blocking his way.  The little boy was
crying shrilly.

Simon impulsively went into action.  Reviewing it later on his way
home, he could not decide whether he had elbowed his way savagely
into the mob because of his indignation at the people's rudeness,
and a desire to rush to the man's defence, or to satisfy his own
curiosity; but, whatever inspired him to plunge through the crowd,
he made a success of it, thrusting a shoulder and a knee, tugging
at collars, elbowing ribs, pulling hair, tramping on feet, until he
had mowed a swath to the defenceless man in the centre of the
congestion.

'Stand back!' he shouted.  'Make way there!'  Planting the heels of
his open hands on the nearest chins, Simon cleared a path.
Presently he and the rescued were out in the open, and almost
alone; for the crowd seemed reluctant to follow.  The child's
frightened cries had subsided to convulsive sobs.

'Thank you, friend,' murmured the exhausted man.  He lowered the
boy to the ground.

'No, no, grandfather!' pleaded the little fellow.  'It hurts!  Lift
me up!'

'What's the matter with him?' asked Simon.

'A crooked foot.  Born that way.  I heard of this Jesus and hoped
he might heal the child.  I carried him--all the way from
Sepphoris.'

'That's a long tramp.'  Simon peered down at the foot.  'Apparently
it hasn't done the lad any good.'

'Are you a believer in this man?' inquired Justus soberly.

'No, I'm not.  We've been hearing many strange stories about him--
over in Tiberias.  I came out to see.  My name is Simon.'

'Mine is Justus, Barsabas Justus. . . .  Now, Jonathan, see if you
can't stand on the lame foot.  Grandfather will not let you fall.
Try it, my boy.'

The child clung for a moment, but consented to be put down, whining
with fear.  He took an uncertain step.

'It hurts!' he whimpered.  Justus gathered him up in his arms.

'Let's have a look at it,' suggested Simon kindly.  They inspected
the foot.

'It's hard to tell,' muttered Justus.  'It was bent over, like
this.  Seems straighter, don't you think, Simon?'

Simon felt both feet.

'They're about alike, I should say.  But why can't he stand on it?'

'Perhaps it's the rough ground,' said Justus, still hopeful.  'He
never stood squarely on that foot before.  It's tender as a baby's.
Besides--the lad's frightened.'

The crowd was dispersing now, many pausing to gape at the child.
Simon glanced toward the rock where the Carpenter stood.  He was
gone.

'Well, I'll be on my way, friend Simon,' Justus was saying, 'I hope
we may meet again.'

'You've a long journey ahead of you, Justus, carrying the lad.
Perhaps I should go with you, part way.'

'You are kind; but there will be moonlight presently.  The boy is
not heavy.  I shall stop for the night with friends in Cana.'

Simon was reluctant to see Justus leave.  He walked beside him to
the southern brow of the hill, where they paused.

'I wish I knew--about the boy's foot.  What do you think, Justus?
Has it been healed or hasn't it?'

'I don't know,' mumbled Justus.  'Maybe it's too early to tell.  I
only hope so.'

'Yes--so do I, Justus.  It would be a great blessing to the child.'

At that, Justus turned to face Simon with a sober stare.

'Do you--honestly--hope that?'

'Why, of course!' declared Simon.  'What a question!  Who could
wish it otherwise?'

'Because,' muttered Justus, 'if this village Carpenter can change
the laws of nature, nothing will ever be the same again; not for
any of us!  Do you realise that, Simon?  Nothing you ever thought--
about anything--will be true; not any more--ever!'

Having no ready rejoinder to this surprising speech, Simon said he
supposed it would affect one's views somewhat.  They bade each
other farewell; and Justus, shifting his burden to his other arm,
made off down the road, where he was promptly joined by many people
who had tarried to wait his coming.

He was a peculiar fellow, thought Simon, as he walked away toward
the other rim of the plateau; evidently had given a bit of careful
thought to this business of miracles; not only was inclined to be
sceptical about it, but wasn't sure he wanted to believe it.  If it
was true, nothing would ever be the same again; not for anybody!
If a man could go about straightening crooked feet and restoring
paralysed arms, everything would be topsy-turvy.

On his way down the hill the Big Fisherman's long legs and urgent
thoughts overtook and passed everybody.  He recognized no one, but
as he moved aside to pass one group that had slowed to discuss
whether they had seen a miracle or not, the voices were abruptly
hushed and he heard his name spoken in a half-whisper.  It annoyed
him more than a little.  He had as good a right to be out here as
anyone.  What business was it of theirs?  But--let them gabble!  He
didn't care.  To hell with them!  Simon was angry now--angry at
himself; out here on this fool's errand!  Miracles?  Rubbish!  He
had seen quite enough of this Carpenter: it was high time to put
all this nonsense out of his head.

Careless of his footing he stumbled along through the pale
moonlight, finally reaching the valley.  His legs were lame and his
feet were hot and sore.  He was exhausted in body and mind.  It was
to be hoped that Hannah had retired.  Simon was in no mood for
talking.  Hannah, if awake, would be anxious to know where he had
been.  She wouldn't ask a direct question, but she would probably
have it out of him somehow.

Bethsaida--at last!  He sat down wearily on the stoop and took off
his dusty sandals.  Tiptoeing softly through the silent house and
out through the kitchen door, he found a basin by the cistern and
washed his blistered feet.  Hannah appeared and handed him a towel,
for which he thanked her briefly.  In a tone of finality he bade
her good-night and retraced his steps down the hall to his own
room.

'I'll have a surprise for you--at breakfast,' whispered Hannah.

'Honey cakes, I suppose,' muttered Simon apathetically. . . .
Anything to detain him--and make him talk--he thought.

'Want to guess again?' pestered Hannah sweetly.

'No--not tonight, Hannah.  I am very tired.'  And because he didn't
care to risk any further conversation with her, he closed his door--
not noisily enough to give offence, he hoped, but with sufficient
emphasis to accent his desire to be let alone.

It turned out to be a bad night for Simon.  He tried to sleep, but
his busy brain shuttled to and fro from one dilemma to another.
Life had been suddenly stripped of all its brightness.  Everything
was in confusion.  There was Johnny, to whom he was as devoted as
he might have been to a son; Johnny had found another master, the
Carpenter.  If it hadn't been for this Carpenter, everything would
have continued to be in order; the way it ought to be.

The more he thought about it, the more sure he was that his first
impression of the rumours had been correct.  The fellow--for all
his gentle voice--was a deceiver; enticing people to follow him
about and listen to his prattle; pretending to heal diseases;
advising them to own nothing--and live like the birds.  He deserved
to be exposed.

This man Justus: he knew it was a fraud.  Oh yes--the poor man had
pretended to be hopeful, but you could see he had lost faith in it.

Simon turned the pillow over, dug his big fist into it, buried his
face in it, and returned to Johnny.  The boy never had been worth
anything as a fisherman.  He was worse than no help at all, a bad
influence on other lazy men.  If Simon hadn't liked him so much, he
wouldn't have signed him on; not even if he had worked for nothing--
and brought his own dinner!

Rolling over on his back, Simon stared wide-eyed into the darkness
and reviewed every unpleasant detail of yesterday's quarrel.  The
boy had behaved badly.  Doubtless there was some weakness in his
character that might account for it.  Surely he hadn't inherited
his disposition from old Zebedee, who couldn't see beyond the end
of his leaky nose and talked so incessantly that he never had time
to think.  We might as well discharge the old bore; would have done
it long ago if it hadn't been for the boys.

Of course Johnny hadn't inherited anything from his silly mother.
Mothers didn't bequeath any of their traits to their children:
everybody knew that.  But Naomi could have had an unhealthy
influence on him.  She was for ever nagging the lad to find a job
where he could earn more pay; lamenting that he hadn't trained to
be a scrivener, which, she thought, would give the family a better
social standing.  Zebedee had been a fool to marry Naomi; almost
old enough to be her grandfather.  Well--he was getting paid off
for wanting a young wife.  Naomi had the old codger saddled and
bridled; made him do most of the housework; beat him with a broom,
according to reports.  Maybe that was why Zebedee was such a
nuisance on shipboard: had no chance to express himself at home.
No; Johnny hadn't learned any star-gazing from Naomi.  All she
thought about was how to make her menfolk earn more money, the
greedy little devil.  More than once she had embarrassed the boys
by waylaying Simon, in their presence, with a whimpering plea that
they be paid better wages.

Johnny was a queer one; no doubt about that.  He loved to look at
the waves: the bigger they rolled the better he liked them.  He saw
pictures in the clouds and a brilliant sunset would set him off
into ecstasies.  Maybe that was what had drawn him to this
Carpenter.

Sunsets!  Wild poppies!  Bah!  Lilies wear good clothes without
having to spin and weave; better clothes than kings wear.  Why
should anybody work?  The birds don't work.  If you meet a soldier,
carry his pack.  Grin--and like it.  Johnny would love that kind of
talk.  Simon wished he had said to Johnny, 'How about making an
arrangement for all of the people to work part of the time, so that
everybody can get better acquainted with the poppies--and the birds--
and the sunsets--and the dew on the grass?'

But there was that paralysed arm.  Johnny wouldn't lie.  Why, if
that tale were true, everything in your life goes overboard!  If
the Carpenter has enough wisdom--and power--to do a thing like
that, then whatever he says must be true.  If he tells you to take
counsel of the poppies and the birds, you'd better do it.  Yes--and
if he tells you that the right way to walk is on your hands instead
of your feet, you'll have to do it; for the Carpenter will know
best. . . .  But it was all nonsense! . . .  In a few days the
legionaries would have the fellow in jail--and the deluded people
could get back to work.  Then Johnny would want his job again.
Well--if the boy came--in the right state of mind--admitting he had
been a fool to go out and listen to the Carpenter in the first
place--Simon would be willing to forgive him.



Chapter VI


After a wretched night of tossing about, of laboriously taking the
puzzle to pieces and reassembling it in patterns equally
perplexing, and of fantastic dreams--in one of which Johnny,
pretending lameness, limped up to the Carpenter and had himself
healed--Simon roused dully and prepared for breakfast.  His head
ached and he was very much out of sorts.

His place alone was laid at the table, which meant that Andrew had
eaten and gone and that Hannah too had breakfasted.  As for the
Idumean ragamuffin, Simon hadn't given him a thought since leaving
him yesterday in Hannah's care.  Doubtless the youngster was well
on his way by this time.

Seating himself, Simon folded his huge, hairy arms and rested them
on the table.  He knew that Hannah was aware of his arrival in the
little dining-room, for he could hear her gentle voice in the
kitchen monotonously reciting the Shepherd's Psalm, by which
measure she habitually timed the boiling of his eggs precisely to
his liking.

Presently he heard the door swing open behind him.  That would be
Hannah bringing him the eggs and a platter of wheaten bread and a
large mug of spiced pomegranate juice.  He did not look up.  By
that sign Hannah would know that he didn't want to talk and would
slip quietly out again to wait until he summoned her.  She already
knew, of course, that he was disturbed about something.  She was
ever quick to perceive his moods; much too quick, indeed.  Their
close comradeship made it difficult for him to withhold confidences
from her.

Now that the bread and butter plate had been put down before him,
and the small earthenware bowl containing the eggs, Simon stared
hard at the hand that served him.  It was not Hannah's hand; it was
younger and smaller.  He slowly turned his head and gazed up into a
stranger's face, his mouth sagging open in bewilderment.  Whoever
she was, the girl was beautiful, the most beautiful he had ever
seen.

She smiled down into the Big Fisherman's dumbfounded eyes, a
mischievous little smile that she seemed to be controlling with
some difficulty.

'Are you surprised, sir?' she asked, in a throaty tone that he
remembered having heard before.

For a moment Simon continued to stare at her, unsmiling and
speechless.  He shook his big, shaggy head.  Something queer had
happened to the world.  Miracles could be had now for a penny a
dozen.  Cripples walked.  Water became wine.  Dirty and ragged
camel-boys were transformed into comely young women.  He lowered
his eyes, blinked rapidly, and rubbed his fingers through his hair.
Hannah came in from the kitchen, beaming.

'Joe turned out to be a girl,' she said unnecessarily.

Simon nodded, and gazed at his mother-in-law as if he had never
seen her before.

'Her name is Esther,' explained Hannah, rather wistfully, as if
hoping that Simon might overlook the girl's deception; and, when he
had offered no comment, she said, 'The dress is Abigail's.  You
don't object to Esther's wearing it?'

'Sit down--both of you,' commanded Simon huskily, 'and tell me
whether I am losing my mind.'  This was said with such sober
sincerity that Hannah laughed until she had to pat the tears from
her eyes.  Esther smiled shyly.

'There is a great deal about it, Simon, that Esther hasn't had time
to tell me'--Hannah glanced at her encouragingly, as if to say that
she expected to have the full story out of her by nightfall, at the
latest--'but this much she wants us to know: her home was broken up
by the loss of her parents, and now she is on her way to find her
uncle, who lives somewhere in Galilee; not far from the lake, she
thinks.  It would have been unsafe for a young woman to travel
alone in a strange country; so she cut off her hair, put on a boy's
clothing, and--well--here she is.'

'You were lucky not to have got into trouble,' commented Simon,
munching his bread.  'Risky business, I'd say.  Anybody would know
at a glance that you're a girl.'

'She fooled you,' said Hannah.

'I didn't look at her closely,' retorted Simon.  'I had other
things on my mind. . . .  Haven't you any relatives, down there in
Idumea, who might have objected?  Maybe you ran away.'

'Yes, sir,' the girl admitted.  'They would have detained me.  I
ran away.'

Simon devoted himself to his breakfast, frowning thoughtfully.

'Her story sounds reasonable enough,' said Hannah.

'So did her other story,' muttered Simon ungraciously.  'You think
this uncle of yours lives in this vicinity, eh?  What's his name?'

'Joseph, sir.'

'We have a number of Josephs hereabouts.  What is your uncle's
occupation?'

'He is a stone-cutter.'

'Think he will be able to support you--on a stone-cutter's wages?
They are not very well paid.'

'My uncle is not a common labourer,' ventured Esther.  'He is
skilled.'

'In that case,' said Simon, 'he is probably in the employ of the
Tetrarch.  They are rebuilding the stables at the palace.'

'Stables!'  Esther's tone indicated that her Uncle Joseph was not
likely to be at work on a stable, not even the Tetrarch's.

'Stone stables!' explained Simon.'  White marble stables!  The
Tetrarch's Arabian horses live in mansions, while most of his
subjects live in hovels; and they eat good food while the little
children of Galilee often go to bed hungry. . . .  The Tetrarch's
stables are beautiful--ornamented with statues! . . .  But your
uncle would not be found at work on such carvings.'

'No?'  Esther's uplifted brows wondered why her uncle wasn't
competent enough to do sculpturing.

'He is a Jew, isn't he?' demanded Simon; and when Esther had nodded
he said gruffly, 'You should know that the Children of Israel are
not permitted to make graven images.'

'I thought that rule applied to the carving of idols,' said Esther.

'Apparently you Idumean Jews do not know the Commandments.  High
time you learned them!  Hear the law:  "Thou shalt not make unto
thee any graven image or any likeness--of anything!  Anything--that
is in heaven above--or in the earth beneath--or in the water that
is under the earth!"'  Simon pushed back his chair, still glowering
over Uncle Joseph's defection and his attractive niece's ignorance.
'However,' he added, as he moved toward the door, 'I have an errand
at the palace this morning.  I shall make inquiries.  Perhaps you
would like to go with me.'

'Let her rest here today, Simon,' urged Hannah.  'Tomorrow will do
as well.'

The Big Fisherman paused in the doorway to remark testily that he
wouldn't be going to the palace tomorrow; that if Esther wanted to
find her uncle she might as well be about it without further delay;
and Esther, thus advised that she had worn out her welcome so far
as Simon was concerned, promptly consented to accompany him.

His frown cleared momentarily, but deepened again as he noted
Hannah's expression of disapproval.  For some reason she didn't
want the girl to go.  Simon shrugged and petulantly mumbled
something that meant he didn't care a damn whether she ever found
her uncle.  Embarrassed by his asperity, Esther was tardy with a
reply: and Simon, tugging on his cap, left the house without a
farewell word to either of them.  After the outer door had banged,
Hannah remarked gently that Simon seemed to be upset about
something.

'Me--perhaps?' inquired Esther.

'I don't think so,' said Hannah.  'You have done nothing to annoy
him, my dear. . . .  I never saw him--quite like this--before.
Perhaps it has something to do with the fleet.  I feel sure that
Andrew knows, but it's hard to get anything out of Andrew.  I never
knew anyone who could keep his mouth shut as long--and tight--as
Andrew.  He was unusually quiet this morning; didn't say where he
was going: perhaps to potter about the old house in Capernaum, for
the fleet won't be going out today.  It's a holiday.'

Esther offered no help in Hannah's dilemma.  It occurred to her
that Simon's quarrel with Johnny might account for his disaffection,
but that was none of her business and she decided not to mention it.
After a moment's indecision, she rose and announced that she would
go--at once--and try to overtake Simon.

'He has been very kind--and I have offended him,' she said.

'Let me go with you,' said Hannah, 'as far as the highway.'

Even before they reached the gate it was evident that some unusual
excitement had stirred the neighbourhood.  People were pouring out
of their doorways and walking rapidly toward the corner where the
quiet street met the broad thoroughfare.  Already a sizeable
company had collected there, intent upon a procession approaching
from the direction of Tiberias.  They quickened their steps.

Observing David standing austerely apart from the others, but
apparently waiting for whatever had brought them out, Hannah moved
toward him to inquire while Esther sauntered on into the swelling
crowd.

'The Tetrarch,' explained David absently, his eyes following Esther
with undisguised interest.

'Of course,' remembered Hannah.  'The days have been so like
summer, I hadn't realized it was time for their voyage.'

'So--that's the girl, eh?' rumbled David.  'A most attractive young
creature!  Bring her here, Hannah: I want to meet her.'

'You won't give me away, sir,' pleaded Hannah, and when David had
reassured her, she followed Esther into the craning pack and told
her to come and meet a good friend of Simon's.  The girl only half
heard.  She was standing on tiptoe, completely fascinated by the
slowly advancing cavalcade.  Hannah took her arm.

'I suppose you know what this is about.  The Tetrarch and his
household journey to Rome every year at this season, to spend the
winter.'  And when Esther had nodded abstractedly, without taking
her eyes off the road, Hannah urged, 'There will be plenty of time
to see them.  Come, please, and meet Master David.'

Esther turned reluctantly and followed.

'I told him I would bring you,' Hannah explained.  'David is our
friend--but he is an eminent man, a lawyer, very learned, widely
travelled. . . .'  At that, Esther's steps lagged.

'But why should a man of such importance want to meet me?' she
protested.  'And why does he stare so?'

'All old men stare,' said Hannah.  'They can't see very well.'

'They don't have to be old,' retorted Esther, 'to stare.'

Hannah thought this amusing and they were both smiling when Esther
was presented.  She curtseyed, but dodged the intrusive eyes.
David bowed gravely, to Hannah's mystification and the girl's
anxiety.

'Welcome to beautiful Galilee, my child,' he said in a tone of
studied formality.  'It would be a pleasure to see more of you if
our good Hannah consents.  We must not detain you now.  You are
eager to have a glimpse of our beloved ruler and his charming
family.'  There was such forthright malice in his sneer that Esther
darted an inquiry into his crafty eyes.  Was he inviting her to
share his contempt for the Tetrarch?  Momentarily confused she
fought her way out of the little dilemma by asking to be excused,
and drifted quickly away to merge into the waiting crowd.  David
turned to Hannah and lifted an inquisitive eyebrow.

'She has told me a little more,' obliged Hannah.  'Her mother died
recently, leaving her without a home.  She is searching for an
uncle, a sculptor, who, she thinks, lives near the lake.'

'What has become of her father?'

'Dead, I suppose.  She didn't say.'

'Is this uncle presumed to be an Idumean?'

'I think so.'

'Well--I don't,' growled David.  'They do not produce sculptors in
Idumea.  I'll wager there isn't a chisel to be found in all that
country.  Their favourite tool is the dagger. . . .  Has she
offered any information about the device you found on her clothing?
No?  I thought not.  And you didn't inquire: that was right.'

They moved closer to the highway where Esther was sighted in the
front row of the spectators, the tall Sadducee observing that the
girl was utterly absorbed in the approaching cavalcade, the
vanguard of which was now only a few yards distant.  Hannah noted
that David's interest was not concentrated on the garish spectacle
but devoted entirely to her mysterious guest.

The procession was led by a company of gaudily uniformed cavalry
from the Roman fort at Capernaum.  They rode four abreast, their
mounts jingling with polished trappings.  After the military escort
had passed there was an open interval of a full hundred yards
before the second unit came on, led by a distinguished figure on a
superb white horse unmistakably of Arabian origin.  The man was
richly clad in a black tunic trimmed in red, red riding breeches,
and glossy black boots.  He rode alone.  His grey hair was close-
cropped and circled with a silver fillet.

Esther gazed hard at the haughty, dissipated face, at the wide-set,
bulging eyes that negligently drifted over the crowd with a bored
unconcern.  Now the roving eyes swept the upturned faces of the
area where Esther stood, transfixed, with a dry throat and pounding
heart.  An instant later they returned to her, the finely
sculptured brows lifted a little and a mere wisp of a smile--
compounded of surprise, insolence, admiration, and amusement--
twitched the Tetrarch's lips.  Esther's wide eyes gave no response.
She was frightened.

There was a considerable interval before the luxurious litters were
carried by.  There were three of them, single-file, each borne by
eight stalwart slaves--Greeks, Esther thought.  The curtains of the
first of the litters were tightly drawn.  It bore Herodias, no
doubt.  The second was open, and the lounging occupant, a heavily-
jewelled woman of thirty, smirked impudently through her paint.
This, Esther knew, would be Salome.  However notorious, she was
indeed a beautiful woman: even her awareness of her beauty did not
mar it.  The curtains of the third litter were closed.  Esther
hoped she might hear a name whispered by someone in the crowd, but
the occupant remained unidentified.

There came now a score or more of camel-borne men and women, most
of them in their twenties and thirties; household servants, no
doubt.  The majority of them were handsome.  They were evidently in
a carnival mood, exchanging banter that made them laugh.  Whatever
might be said of the Tetrarch, it was plain that his retainers were
well cared for and had no quarrel with their employment.

Trailing the camels, at a considerable distance, came a long pack-
train laden with baggage.

Losing interest now, Esther was about to turn away when there was a
sudden stir among her neighbours.  A brilliantly uniformed
cavalryman, leading his horse, had paused beside her.  The people,
with amazement and apprehension in their stares, drew hastily aside
to make room.

'Your name, please,' demanded the soldier, crisply but
respectfully.

Esther's knees trembled.  She felt sick and weak.  Before she was
able to stammer a reply, a hand was laid gently on her arm.

'I will answer for this young woman,' said David, calmly.  'She is
a member of my family.  Who wants to know her name, Centurion?'

'His Highness, sir!' retorted the soldier.  'And who are you?'

'I am David--of the House of Zadok.  You may bear my compliments to
His Highness and assure him that this young woman is not in need of
his solicitude.'

The Sadducee had spoken with such haughty self-confidence that the
Roman seemed at a loss for an appropriate response.

'Well!' he barked.  'We will see about that!  You will wait here
until I return!'  Mounting his horse, he galloped forward.  The
crowd stood stunned, silent, gaping at Esther.

'Come,' said David, quietly.  'There is nothing more to see.  We
will go home.'

'But--the man!' whispered Esther.  'Are we not to wait?'

'He will not return.'  David laid a protecting hand on her shoulder
and gently propelled her through the bewildered pack.

Hannah was pale with fright when they rejoined her.  David smiled
reassuringly as he walked between them.

'Have no fear, Hannah,' he said.  'No harm will come of this.  Our
Tetrarch is ever interested in a pretty face.  He likes to have
good-looking people about him.  In this instance he has made a
mistake--and probably knows it by now.  It is not to his advantage
to accumulate any more enemies.  You need not give it another
thought.'

'I do thank you, sir, for coming to my rescue!'  Esther's voice was
still shaken.

'It was my pleasure to serve you.'  David bowed.  'I bid you both
good-day.'  With lengthened steps, he strode majestically away and
proceeded toward his home.  The women faced each other with
inquiring eyes, puzzled over Esther's predicament.

'You had better come back with me,' advised Hannah.  'Search for
your uncle another day.  The people will recognize you and think it
peculiar to see you alone on the highway after what David said.'

'About my being a member of his household?  I wonder why he did say
it: he might have had to prove it.'

'Evidently he had no fear of that, Esther.  David is a man of great
influence--greater, perhaps, than I had realized.'

'Even so, he took the risk of offending the ruler.  Why should he
put himself in jeopardy--for me?  I mean nothing to him.'

Hannah's eyes were averted as she remarked, in a vague undertone,
that it wasn't always easy to understand David.  At that, Esther
came to a stop, laid a hand on Hannah's arm, and asked abruptly:
'How much have you told him--about me?'

'There wasn't much to tell, was there?' countered Hannah, with a
reproachful little smile.  'Look!  He is waiting for us, beside our
fence.  He has thought of something more he wants to say.'

'He will be wanting to talk to you alone, I think,' said Esther,
turning about.  'I shall go now--and try to overtake Simon.'  And
before Hannah had time to protest, she had hurried away.

                         * * * * * *

As he set off for Tiberias after breakfast, the Big Fisherman was
confused and unhappy.  The mysterious girl's account of herself and
her errand in Galilee--a much amended story--was anything but
satisfactory.  It was plain to see that Hannah was worried.  He had
been a fool to bring the waif home with him.

There was nothing to do today.  The crews were off duty, supposedly
at the Synagogue, but more likely to be found loafing at the wine-
shops.  However, there were always some odd jobs to be done on
shipboard.  He would net a basket of fish from the live-box at the
wharf and deliver them to the palace.  The rest of the empty day he
could spend alone, tinkering at trivial chores on The Abigail.

A quarter-mile down the road a procession was coming, led by a
large contingent of cavalry, the sunshine flashing from their
polished spears and the burnished bosses of the shields.

Still farther away a rising cloud of yellow dust, suspended over
the rear of the parade, meant that a long train of heavily laden
pack-asses was already scraping its hooves, though a laborious
three-day journey lay ahead.  Simon knew what it was all about:
Antipas was setting forth, as was his custom, on the annual
excursion to Rome.  The party would travel to Caesarea and embark.
Galilee would see no more of its Tetrarch until the flowers bloomed
again.

Not that it mattered.  He meant nothing to Galilee.  The people's
welfare did not concern him.  He was more a Roman than a Jew.
Nobody would care if he went to his precious Rome and stayed there.
But he would be back, as usual.  Returning, he would hold court for
a month at the Galilean embassy in Jerusalem, at the time of the
Passover fast and festivities; and then--with much pomp--he would
come home to Tiberias, accompanied by a horde of other rich idlers,
and sit half-naked in the sun--and swill his expensive wines--and
splash in his celebrated pool--until it was time to go to Rome
again. . . .  But Galilee would be no better off under another
ruler: provincial governors were all alike.  Indeed, Antipas might
be preferable to a more ambitious ruler: he was much too lazy to
stir up trouble among the people.  Perhaps the best ruler you could
have, after all, was a drunken loafer who would let the province
govern itself.

Ordinarily, when Simon sighted the Tetrarch's garish cavalcade
making off toward Caesarea, he indifferently sneered and spat on
the ground.  Today--he was cross, anyhow--the pageant made him hot
with indignation.  This renegade, Romanized Jew had so little
respect for the cherished traditions of Galilee that he thought
nothing of setting out on his pleasure trip while the people were
on their way to the Synagogue!  The insolence of it!  Fine way,
indeed, to observe the Day of Atonement!  It was little he cared
about the feelings of the people!  Antipas ought to be in the
Synagogue today, at least going through the motions of honouring
the religion of Israel.  He was a disgrace to the province!

Simon wondered how many of the servants, and which ones, would be
left behind, this time.  He hoped Leah and Anna would remain at the
palace.  He always enjoyed their banter.  Yes--and that impudent
minx Claudia, too.  It was impossible to have any respect for her:
she was an outrageous flirt; and, besides, she was a Roman; but she
was witty.  And the Greek girl, Helen, who never had anything to
say, but always smiled shyly as if she understood.  Maybe she did.
Sometimes he playfully winked at her, and she would show the tips
of very pretty teeth.  Helen often lingered for a while in Simon's
thoughts, after he had discharged his errands at the service
entrance, but he always put her out of his mind with a 'Pouf!'--for
however winsome, she was a heathen.  But--heathen or not--there was
something very attractive about this Helen; her physical frailty,
perhaps.  Simon often asked himself why he had so much interest in
fragile women when he was so contemptuous of any physical weakness
in men.

Sombrely dressed pedestrians along the road were withdrawing to the
weeds and brambles where they waited, gaping.  Some sat down on the
low stone fences.  Simon plodded doggedly on, resolved that he
would not leave the highway until it was necessary; nor was he
going to do Antipas the honour of staring at his damned parade.
Entering the little hamlet of Magdala, he turned off into a lane to
wait until the thing was over and the dust had settled.  He eased
himself down on the dry grass in the shade of an old olive tree
with his back to the highway.  The metallic clatter of the
approaching cavalry was insisting that he should turn and look, but
he scowled and closed his eyes.

Everything was going wrong for Simon, lately; everything!  It had
all stemmed from this mad Carpenter who had taken it into his head
that the people would be better off if--if--they weren't quite so
well off; that's what it came to: own nothing--and be happy.

And why did anyone in his right senses listen to it?  Because they
had heard a rumour that the fellow could cure diseases.  Well,
supposing he could: was that what we wanted, a man who went about
defying nature?  Before the Carpenter had added this confusion to
one's thoughts, life made some sense.  To be sure, it had its
difficulties, but you learned to accept them.  Simon glanced back
at his own complacency and wished he might recover it.  He had
never been one to bother himself about riddles.  Such dizzying old
problems as 'What are we here for?  What is the good of it?  What
is it all about?' had never cost him a moment's anxiety.

As a lad he had been forced to assume a man's responsibilities,
requiring him to work early and late while other children were at
play, but it had never occurred to him to complain that the world
was mistreating him or that Jehovah had singled him out for target
practice.  A lot of people were for ever whimpering that God had
'hidden His face' from them, when probably nothing much was the
matter except that their cistern was low or a few of their chickens
had died of the pip.

That's what you got for being so tangled up with religion; you were
always in a dither about God.  The new calf was a heifer and God
was on your side; your donkey went lame and God was angry at you.
Better not worry so much about God, who was probably not worrying
much about you.

Simon's religion--what little there was of it--had been quite
simple.  He assumed that there must be a Great Mind in charge of
the stars and the sky and other large undertakings, but he couldn't
believe that God ever stooped to such trivial engagements as
wilfully breaking the windlass-chain at the Abrams' well because
the old man had walked a little too far on the Sabbath.  Simon's
God was a neat and trustworthy housekeeper, who put the sun out in
the morning and took it in at night with a regularity you could
count on, and He arranged that the seasons should come along in a
dependable procession.  Nothing ever got out of kilter.

Pursuant to this elementary creed, the Big Fisherman had not
considered his childhood drudgeries as a visitation of God's
displeasure.  Indeed, he had taken pride in his ability to endure
hard knocks and prosper in the face of obstacles.  Never in his
life had Simon looked up and cried 'Why?'  Not even when poor
little Abigail died.  It didn't occur to him that perhaps God was
paying him off for his misdeeds.  He knew he had made plenty of
mistakes--mostly by letting his temper get the best of him, to
other men's serious discomfort--and he had missed many a religious
fast that he might have observed; but he couldn't think that God
had decided to take an interest in his small indiscretions.  And
when the elderly Rabbi Ben-Sholem, visiting them the day Abigail
died, had implied as much, Simon had retorted, bluntly:  'I don't
believe that God would do a mean thing like that!'

Sounds from the highway indicated that the company of cavalry was
passing now; the jingle of expensive harness, the clipped beats of
well-shod hooves, the creak of new leather, the sharp bark of a
military command, the crack of a whip.  Simon listened to it, hated
it, and returned to his reveries.

And next morning after the burial, he had gone back to work, quiet
and sad, but spending no time in useless brooding; for life was
like that; people sickened and died--even young people like
Abigail; even little babies who had had no chance to live at all.
But why ask questions about it when you knew that nobody could give
you an answer; not even the Rabbi, who should know if anyone did?

Now everything was in disorder.  Now you couldn't count on
anything!  Johnny was not a liar; and that business about the
little boy's foot, last night, was very peculiar--to say the least.
Of course there was a possibility that the Carpenter had planned a
hoax to deceive the people; but what could he expect to get out of
it?  He would be exposed; probably thrown into prison.  There was
nothing in it for him.  He charged no money for his supposed
healings; apparently had no money and didn't want any; owned
nothing; saw no value in anything--but birds and flowers.  That
didn't sound as if he hoped to fill his pockets by fraudulent
practices.

It was quiet on the road now.  But, Simon well knew, it was not
because the Tetrarch's pompous parade had passed.  No, this was
just the gap in the procession.  Presently Antipas himself would
ride by on his mincing stallion.  None of this belonged to Galilee:
a Roman ruler on an Arabian horse!  Surely poor little Galilee had
enough to confuse it utterly without having the Carpenter on its
hands!

Assuming that this Nazarene was entirely honest; that he really
could change water into wine and heal cripples--where did that
leave you?  The man must get his power from Heaven.  If so--God did
trouble Himself about a silly yokel with a short arm and a small
boy with a crooked foot.  If you admitted that He did things like
that, maybe it was true that the Abrams' water-bucket was lost in
the bottom of their well because old Abrams had absent-mindedly
walked too far on God's dull and doleful Sabbath Day.

There was another interval of silence; and then the rhythmic lisp
of sandal-straps.  They would be carrying the hussy Herodias.
Simon had seen her once, in the palace garden: she had stared
brazenly at him for a moment before shrugging a shoulder and
tossing her head and turning away.  Herodias was a hard one--
anybody could see that; the most important woman in Galilee: the
enormity of it!  What had poor, pious little Galilee ever done to
deserve such a humiliation?  Perhaps God would wreck the Tetrarch's
ship, this time, if He had determined to take a hand in the cure of
afflictions.  There was silence again on the road.

Now we had this mysterious Idumean girl to deal with.  It was clear
that Hannah didn't know what to make of her.  Suppose she couldn't
find her uncle: then what?  Hannah wouldn't want to turn her out.
Simon felt lonely; couldn't expect to be entirely comfortable
anywhere; not on the fleet, where his men--some of them, anyway--
would resentfully remember his quarrel; nor could he feel at ease
in his own home with that deceitful Idumean at the table.  What a
fool he had been to take the dirty beggar home with him.

There were more whispers of sandal-straps.  That would be Salome's
tall slaves, bearing her costly litter.  Simon had often seen
Salome on the road, always with a detachment of mounted guards.
She was a graceful rider; very pretty, too.  It was common talk
that she had no more chastity than a cat.  It was also rumoured
that her mother hated her because the Tetrarch showed her too much
attention.  You couldn't believe everything you heard, but where
there was so much smoke there must be some fire.  You couldn't
blame the Galileans for believing any evil tale about this young
woman.  They hated her: why, indeed, shouldn't they?

Simon shook away the contemptuous thoughts about Salome; and, for
better comfort, shifted his position against the tree.  He absently
plucked a dry seed-pod and slowly tore it apart.  How wretchedly he
had handled all that business with Johnny!  It was Johnny's fault,
of course, but he needn't have been so rough on the boy.  After
all, he had only reported what he imagined he had seen and heard;
and they had all urged him to tell it.  He said he had seen it with
his own eyes, in broad daylight; had been standing beside the
fellow; and a woman had seen it and fainted; and the man had made
funny little squeaks, though you couldn't tell whether he was
laughing or crying.  Simon tried unsuccessfully, a couple of times,
to make a funny little squeak like that; for this detail had
impressed him deeply.

Now there was much clamour on the highway.  The air was full of
dust and the raucous shouts of the donkey-boys and the thud of
blows on the bony rumps of over-burdened beasts.  The Romans were
cruel to animals; seemed to enjoy beating anything or anybody who
couldn't fight back.  And they ruled the world!  If God was going
to concern Himself with the behaviour of mankind, here would be a
good place to lend a hand.  Maybe we could have another flood; like
the one that had drowned everybody but Noah and his family.  Simon
grew drowsy waiting for the donkeys to pass and the dust to clear.
Noah had spent forty days in the big boat, along with all the
animals; landed on a muddy mountaintop; nothing living but a
grapevine.  And Noah had made some wine--and got drunk.  Well, you
couldn't blame him much.

Of course, if Johnny had really seen what he reported, he wouldn't
care whether he had a job or not.  He would follow along after this
Carpenter, and be content to live on bark and berries.  Well, we
would have to wait--and see.  The boys might come creeping back in
a day or two.  They had to eat, didn't they?  Nobody could nurse a
grievance very long on an empty stomach.  Simon came to his feet,
stretched his long arms--and yawned mightily.  Yes--they would be
coming back.  Their silly mother would see to that.  Naomi would
raise all hell until they returned to their jobs.

                         * * * * * *

The fleet rocked gently in the cove.  A dory was tethered to the
prow of The Abigail.  That would be one of the boys doing his trick
as watchman.  The rest of them were on holiday, supposedly
attending to their religious duties, though Simon surmised that
they would be strolling idly about on the quiet streets of
Capernaum, consorting with drunken legionaries from the
neighbouring fort and guzzling raw new wine.  That was about all a
religious holiday came to: the older folk would be huddled together
in the Synagogue, praying for their wayward whelps, who would show
up an hour late in the morning with white tongues and red eyes.
Simon had no patience with drunkenness and was frequently heard to
say that any wine at all was far too much wine.  It had been a long
time since he had tasted a fermented drink.

Pausing at his own wharf, he drew in the floating live-box and
filled a basket with perch.  The palace would not be needing so
many now that the number of residents had been greatly reduced, but
the few who remained would see to it that they had enough to eat.
Lysias, the steward who, during the family's absence, was always
left behind in charge of the establishment, made no effort to
economize and apparently gave but little attention to such trivial
expenditures as the daily order of fish.  Simon rarely saw the
shrewd, stocky, swarthy Greek steward while the Tetrarch was in
residence, but was always grimly amused at the swagger Lysias
affected once his master had departed.  Evidently the fellow had a
high opinion of his charms.  Simon gathered that the servant-girls
were more than a bit afraid of him.

Slipping his hairy arm under the handle of the dripping basket, the
Big Fisherman trudged up the winding driveway to the rear
courtyard, noting that all operations on the new stables had been
suspended.  That would be because of the religious holiday.  Not
that the Day of Atonement would mean anything to the stone-masons
and sculptors, who were all Greeks, but the hod-carriers and other
unskilled workmen were Galileans.  Their religion forbade them to
do carving, but it was quite permissible for them to carry the hewn
stones.  Simon snorted, contemptuous of this hypocrisy.  Nearing
the kitchen entrance he heard gay, bantering conversation.  The
servants were celebrating the family's departure.

At sight of him, the girls poured through the doorway, all talking
at once, and fluttered about him with hilarious greetings.  Murza,
the tall, dark Arimathean, who had never before accorded him better
regard than a nod and a sniff, relieved him of the basket and
patted him on his arm.  She was pungent with wine.  The Roman,
Claudia, seemed a little drunk.  Simon tried to be jovial, but the
pretence was not easy.

'Doesn't the Big Fisherman feel well today?'  Murza contrived a
condescending smile.

'Well enough,' retorted Simon unpleasantly.  'Do I look frail?'

'You look sour,' said Leah--'as if you'd eaten something.'

'His own fish, maybe!  No?'  Claudia gave a shrill giggle.

Helen stood by, demurely studying Simon's glum indifference to the
raillery which she couldn't understand very well.  He gave her a
brief smile.

'The Big Fisherman is in love!' shrieked Murza.  'It has taken his
appetite.'  She tossed a teasing glance toward the Greek girl, who
smiled childishly and shook her black curls, though whether she did
not comprehend or, comprehending, was showing a maidenly
embarrassment, Simon could not tell.  But it was an attractive
little smile--whatever it meant--and his heavy frown cleared as he
gave her a friendly look.

'See what I told you!' taunted Murza.  'That's his ailment: he is
lovesick!'

'I think you're right--for once,' drawled Leah.  'And he's always
pretending to be so tough--and strong--and manly: no use for women;
just a big man's man!  And now he cannot eat--for love!'

'He should be put in the dungeon along with the other solemn owl
who does not eat!  No?'  Claudia laughed gaily at her own drollery.

'She's talking about our new prisoner,' explained Anna, with
unexpected seriousness.  'The legionaries brought him in the day
before yesterday.  They said he had been living on grasshoppers and
other roasted bugs--in the desert.'

'Well, you should be able to find some bugs for him,' remarked
Simon, relieved at this turn in the conversation.  'It is late in
the season for the larger bugs,' he added, 'but there should be
plenty of the smaller ones in his bedding.'

'Not at all!' protested Anna.  'His cell is clean and comfortable.
His Highness gave orders about that.  He wants the man treated
kindly: he thinks the poor fellow is crazy--but innocent of any
crime.'

'What is he charged with?' inquired Simon unconcernedly.

'He is some sort of wandering prophet,' said Anna.  'Would you like
to see him?  He is a Galilean.  And he is permitted to have
visitors, though no one has come--so far.'

'Perhaps his friends are afraid to venture that close to a prison,'
observed Leah.  'I'm sure I would be.'

Simon had straightened to his full height.  He hitched manfully at
his belt and spat vehemently on the ground.

'I don't visit prophets!' he growled.  'I hadn't supposed I looked
that foolish.'

'Well, as for me'--Anna enigmatically arched her eyebrows to
signify that she knew more than she intended to divulge--'I don't
believe the man is crazy.  Maybe he really is a prophet!'

'And how do you happen to know so much about this--this bug-eater?'
grinned Simon.  'Are you his keeper?'

'I'm supposed to feed him.  He will not eat--but he will talk.  He
talks all the time!  You should hear him!  Brrr!  It frightens me!
He says that a Great One has been sent--from Heaven--to free the
slaves and throw the mighty from their high seats!'  Anna's frown
showed genuine anxiety.  'The whole world is to be shaken!' she
added soberly.

'As I live--it is true--what Anna's saying,' confirmed Claudia
excitedly.  'I was with her when he said it!  The whole world is to
be shaken! . . .  Until its ears rattle!' she added, for good
measure.

'You made that up,' sneered Leah.  'A prophet wouldn't say anything
that funny.'

'But it isn't funny!' declared Claudia, grinning.  'Not if it's
true!  And Anna thinks it is; don't you, Anna?'  She gave the sober-
faced Jewess a thumb-jab in the ribs.'  You do, too!' she went on,
when Anna impatiently flinched and shook her head.'  You were
scared and you made off at once to your--what you call--Synagogue!
No?  Your tiresome old god is much too hard on you poor Jews.  We
Romans now--we have many, many gods.  All kinds of gods.  One takes
one's pick of them, and if he does not please--pouf!'  She airily
kissed a rosette of fingertips and blew a negligent farewell to the
incompetent deity.

If the half-drunken Claudia had expected a laugh, she was
disappointed.  Anna and Leah gave her a withering look.  Murza
scowled; she was not very religious, but she was superstitious and
disapproved of sacrilege.  Helen, who didn't know what it was all
about and probably wouldn't have cared if she had known, turned to
gaze complacently at the faraway blue mountains.  Simon, who
through Claudia's silly speech had remained staring at Anna's
apprehensive face, took a step toward her.

'You say--this fellow said that a Great One is coming?' he
demanded, so sternly that Anna blinked.

'He said the Great One has come,' replied Anna.  'He is here--now!'

'That's what he said!' put in Claudia, helpfully.  'I heard him!'

'Shut up!' rasped Leah, as if to a noisy terrier.

'Where?' demanded Simon, searching Anna's eyes.

'I know what you're thinking,' replied Anna, after some hesitation.
'There has been all this talk--about a Carpenter--who does strange
things.'  She had lowered her voice to the tone of a confidence.
'But--apparently the Carpenter is not our man.  The Carpenter is
said to heal diseases.  This Great One isn't here to heal anybody:
he's here to punish the rulers--and the rich!'

'I wonder if His Highness knows what sort of blabbing our prisoner
can do,' remarked Murza.  'Perhaps he wouldn't have wanted the
fellow handled so gently if he had heard some of his talk.'

'But'--argued Simon, undiverted by Murza's comment--'if this Great
One is down on the rich, maybe he will aid the poor: why don't you
ask the bug-eater about that, Anna?'

'Ask him yourself if you're so interested,' snapped Anna, tiring of
the Big Fisherman's queries.

'Interested!' he retorted angrily.  'And why should I be
interested?  Your prophet is a crazy dunce who deserves to be
locked up!  And as for the Carpenter, he will soon turn out to be a
fraud!  They're both lunatics!  Anybody who wants to believe in
such nonsense is welcome to it!'  Simon's voice was vibrant with
indignation as he went on, 'I don't believe in any of this rubbish!
All religion is rubbish!  I don't believe in any of it! . . .  Not
in any of it, I tell you!'

His puzzled audience gaped at him for a long moment as he stood
glowering.  At length Leah broke the silence by remarking in a
disgusted drawl:  'Well--who said you did?'

'I'll wager you do,' yelled Claudia, 'or you wouldn't be so hot and
cross about it!'

The taunt rekindled Simon's anger and he muttered that all
religious prattle should be prohibited--by law!--a suggestion that
inspired Leah to remark, with a bitter, private smile, that he
would probably go to hell when he died.

'And he will not like that!' laughed Claudia.  'He detests big
crowds: I heard him say so!  No?'

'You're a fool, Claudia,' said Anna, stifling a yawn.

'Perhaps--but I am a happy fool!  You Jewish fools are much too
sober and sad.  No?  What you need, on your holiday, is good cheer!
Laughter!  Singing!  You should have a cup of wine to warm your
cold bellies!'  Claudia was whirling into a reckless dance.  'I
myself shall bring you wine!' she trilled, as she made off, pleased
to have had such a happy thought.

'You needn't bring any to me,' called Leah.

'Nor me,' said Anna.

'Then--I shall bring some to the Big Fisherman!' shouted Claudia,
gaily.

'Go--and stop her, Murza,' said Leah.  'She will listen to you.
And see that she doesn't take any more herself.  She's had too much
already.  If she gets any worse, Lysias will whip her.'

'No fear of that,' sniffed Murza, without moving.  'Lysias has been
warming his cold belly, too.'

'I must go,' mumbled Simon.  'I have work to do.  If you'll empty
my basket--'

Claudia was returning now, staggering under the weight of a massive
tray laden with a huge pitcher and wine-cups.  She breathlessly put
her burden down on the ledge of the sun-dial and gave the company a
bright smile.

'If Lysias catches you out here with that silver service--' warned
Leah.

'Never mind my basket,' muttered Simon, moving off.  'I'll pick it
up later.'

'But--how rude!' protested Claudia.  'Here I have gone to the
trouble to bring you wine--in His Highness's beautiful silver--and
you run away! and the Big Fisherman is said to be so strong and
brave!  Pouf!'  She faced him with cool contempt.  'Very well--
hurry off to your Synagogue, Big Fisherman!  And say your prayers!'

Simon flushed with anger.  Claudia, noting that her insult had
bitten him in a sensitive spot, poured a cup full of wine and held
it out to him, with a wheedling smile.

'I shouldn't have teased you: it wasn't fair.  We all know you are
so very big--and brave--and manly!'

'I wonder whether he is,' sniffed Leah negligently.

Stung by the indignities, Simon impetuously grabbed the cup and
drained it.  The heady wine warmed his throat and spread a pleasant
glow through his vitals.  Now that he had vindicated himself, he
would furnish additional proof that he was no pious weakling.  He
handed back the cup and Claudia, giggling happily, refilled it.

'Better not lay it on too fast, Big Fellow,' advised Anna, as Simon
tipped back his head.

'That's enough now, Claudia,' growled Murza.  'You don't want to
get him into trouble.  You can see he doesn't know how to drink
wine.  He'll be tight as a drum presently.'

Simon wiped his bearded lips with the back of his big hand, sighed
contentedly, grinned foolishly, and made a deep bow which amused
them all except Helen, whose tremulous smile showed anxiety.

They were relieved to see him go.  With long, springing, military
strides, the Big Fisherman made off toward the driveway--dizzy but
exultant.  He had never felt better in his life.  He triumphantly
swung his shaggy head from side to side, accenting his confident
swagger with swinging arms and squared shoulders.

What the Italian trollop had said was true: the Jews did take
themselves too seriously; they made the business of living a sad
and sorry undertaking.  As for himself, Simon was now resolved to
be more light-hearted in the future.  Any Jew so concerned over the
world's wickedness that he would withdraw alone to the desert--and
eat bugs--was entitled to all the pleasure he could find in it:
Simon would have no part in such foolishness.  Nor would he give
another thought to the penniless Carpenter.

The well-kept driveway was rougher than usual--doubtless cut up by
the hooves of the Tetrarch's pack-train--and Simon found himself
slipping and stumbling over the loose gravel.  He laughed aloud as
he tried to mend his lurching gait and hummed a little tune.  He
wanted to sing.  It had been a long time since he had loosed his
big, deep, roaring voice.  An old chant came back to him out of his
early childhood.  In the well-remembered, low-pitched monotone of
the Synagogue cantor, he began the plaintive recitative:


Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving-kindness:
according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out my
transgressions.  Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse
me from my sin.  For I acknowledge--


He broke off abruptly and muttered a savage imprecation as he
realized the meaning of the ancient Atonement Day hymn that, as a
little boy, he had learned by rote; learned so thoroughly that the
words had no significance at all; just an august procession of
sonorous words intricately woven into a haunting tune.  Simon
cursed himself bitterly.  Was he never to be delivered, then, from
these dour broodings that flowed in the milk and the blood of the
Jew?  Was he--by nature--beyond the reach of any happiness?  In a
mood to sing and to sing gaily, the only song he knew was a
whimpering cry of guilt!

But now it occurred to Simon that he did know another song, a
ribald sailor's ditty.  Sometimes his men guardedly hummed it deep
in their throats, knowing better than to articulate the dirty
words; for the Big Fisherman, eloquently profane as he was, hated
obscenities.  Scornful now of all the self-flogging hymns wailed
into his childhood by sanctimonious old Jonas, he sang the sailors'
song as loudly as he could yell, defiantly bellowing the filthiest
words as if he wanted God Himself to hear--and be hurt!

At the end of it, he laughed hysterically, laughed until his eyes
were so wet he couldn't see the road, and found his sleeve caught
in the shrubbery.  It sobered him a little.  The sound of his
idiotic laughter resounded in his whirling head.  He shambled back
on to the road, hoarsely muttering that he was a fool: a damned,
drunken fool!

He was nearing the highway now and its quietness warned him to
cease his racket.  There was a complete absence of the customary
clank and clatter of vehicular traffic.  Any man who pushed a
barrow or drove a donkey-cart today would do so at the expense of
his reputation for decency.  The few pedestrians moved slowly, out
of respect for the day.  Meeting them, Simon bowed gravely, as if
he too were mindful of the occasion.  His recent sensation of
reckless joy was completely dimmed out now.

At the wharf he stumbled awkwardly into a dory, sat down heavily,
and began pulling toward the fleet.  The vigorous exercise
immediately fatigued him.  His arms were heavy and the oars sliced
splashes of water into the boat.  Had he caught one of his boys
pounding the lake as if flailing a threshing-floor, the Big
Fisherman would have paid him off and kicked him out.  He was weak
with nausea and dripping with sweat when, at length, he pulled up
under the prow of The Abigail.

Thad appeared at the rail and tossed the master a rope, calling out
cheerily that it was a fine day.  Apparently the boy had not yet
noticed that anything was wrong with his hero.  Simon wished the
youngster was less attentive and thought of contriving an immediate
errand for him in some other part of the ship, but decided to
brazen it out the best he could.  With a great effort he heaved
himself aboard, produced a weak imitation of a smile, and said,
with laboured precision:

'I'll relieve you now, my boy.  Perhaps you would like to go to the
Synagogue.'

'Hell, no!' scoffed Thad, expectant of an approving grin.

But Simon's face was sober and he made no comment.  Walking slowly
aft, he sat down on the sun-warmed tiller-seat and dully occupied
himself with a pretence of mending some frayed odds and ends of old
ratlines.  After a while Thad strolled back and volunteered to
help, but Simon shook his head absently.  When an hour had passed,
the loyal young fellow--showing some concern now--returned with a
plate of smoked fish and a couple of hard biscuits in one hand and
a mug of sweet cider in the other.

The skipper nodded his appreciation, gestured to Thad to put the
plate down on the seat beside him, and reached out a hand for the
mug.  He raised it almost to his lips, sniffed it, blinked rapidly
a few times--and shuddered.

'Not feeling very well today, my boy,' mumbled Simon truthfully.

Thad murmured something that sounded like sympathy and moved
quietly away.  It was evident that the master did not want to be
disturbed.  Doubtless, reflected Simon, as he gazed at the
retreating figure, the boy had guessed why.  And that was too bad;
but at least Thad would know now what the trouble was, and not be
fretting for fear he had somehow got himself into the boss's
disfavour.

Simon continued thinking about young Thad.  He was a good boy, a
good sailor, a good fisherman; but a sore trial to his parents.  It
was said that they felt they had lost their son and that it was
Simon's fault.  Well--maybe it was true, viewed from the angle of
their fanatical piety.  The youngster was completely devoted to
him, even to the length of imitating the master's little tricks of
speech and manner until the crew joked about it.

Bending forward, with his aching head in his hands, Simon retched
disgustedly.  Thad's parents were right: he was a bad influence.
He wondered what Thad would say if he called to him and said, 'See
here, boy; why don't you wash your dirty face and comb your hair
and go to the Synagogue today?  It would please your mother.  Even
if it didn't do you any good, it would be worth something to make
your parents happy. . . .'  But no--he couldn't do that: he had
already bewildered young Thad with his extraordinary behaviour.  It
was enough disillusionment for one day.

Glancing up dully, he saw Thad vaulting over the starboard rail on
to the deck of The Sara.  Something had attracted his attention.
He was leaning far forward now at the taffrail, shading his eyes
with both hands.  Presently he turned about with a broad grin and
called to Simon excitedly:  'Damned if they haven't got her
moving!'

Simon's curiosity brought him lumbering to his feet.  He sluggishly
climbed aboard The Sara and followed Thad's pointing finger.  A
full half-mile away, the discarded little fishing-smack that had
been beached, at least three years ago, by poor old Japheth when he
was no longer able to work, was making sail, a few hundred yards
off shore.

'Somebody's going to get wet,' rumbled Simon.  'That old bucket
must leak at every seam.'  He chuckled disdainfully, remembering
the sign that Japheth had nailed on her prow when abandoning her:
'To Sell or Rent,' under which announcement some clown had
scrawled, 'Or Rot.'  He turned to Thad.  'Who--do you suppose--has
been fool enough to float her?'

'Why--don't you know, sir?  I thought you must have heard.  The
Zebedee boys have leased her.'  Thad's bright enthusiasm over the
amazing project was quickly dimmed by the Big Fisherman's surly
scowl.

'They're fools!' growled Simon.  'That old vessel is not seaworthy.
Even if she stays afloat, she's unmanageable.  First little puff of
wind--over she goes.'

'Yes, sir,' agreed Thad obediently.  'But Johnny is pretty good
with the sticks.  He'll ride out a gale if anyone can!'

'How much of a crew have they--or do you know?' queried Simon.  'I
suppose they have their old man with them.'

'No, sir; they picked up three or four boys in Capernaum, but they
didn't want to take Zebedee away from us.'  Thad risked a tongue-in-
cheek grin, but Simon, not being in a jocular mood, only frowned
bitterly and spat in the water as he swung about and returned to
his seat on The Abigail.  Thad, bored and unhappy, tagged along.

'You may go now, my boy,' said Simon.  'I'll stand watch.'

'But how about tonight, sir?'

'I expect to remain here.'

'I don't like to leave you alone, sir.'

Simon made no reply to that, and Thad lingered until the master
called out impatiently, 'Go!  Do as I tell you!  I prefer to be
alone!'

Crestfallen, the dismayed youngster slipped quietly away under this
unearned rebuff and dropped into one of the rocking dories.  When
he was safely gone, Simon--sick and wretched in body and spirit--
plodded feebly forward to the little cabin, eased himself down on
the bare bunk that nobody before had ever had occasion to use, and
reeled dizzily off into a troubled sleep.



Chapter VII


Once out of Hannah's sight, Esther abruptly slowed her scamper to
match the aimless amble of the dissolving holiday crowd, and
sauntered casually alongside the northbound groups of chattering
women.

It was a relief to find herself unnoticed by her fellow
pedestrians, whose low-pitched voices seemed completely preoccupied
with a review of the Tetrarch's cavalcade; or, at least, Esther
surmised that this was the subject under discussion, though it was
difficult to make out exactly what they were saying.  The Galilean
inflection of Aramaic had a tendency to slur a half dozen words
into one, and when spoken rapidly took on a singular cadence that
tipped every sentence up on end, making it sound like a query.

Inconspicuous in Abigail's simple country dress, Esther strolled
along at the verge of the highway, busy with her own accumulation
of problems.  She had had no intention of trying to overtake Simon
and make-believe she was searching for her fictitious Uncle Joseph.
She was simply killing time until the eminent David, having
concluded his conversation with Hannah, should have returned home.
Then she would feel safe to retrace her steps to Bethsaida.

This deeply learned and widely travelled lawyer's almost
reverential respect for her had been most disturbing.  It was
obvious that the shrewd old man had done some expert guessing about
her identity.  Her identity!--the thought produced a pensive,
momentary smile.  David wondered who she was.  Well--who was she?
Of late she had been required to change her identity so often that
she was a bit bewildered about it herself.

It was amazing, reflected Esther, what one could do to one's own
mind if some emergency demanded the practice of a deceit that
involved self-deception also.  To masquerade successfully as a boy
was a serious and hazardous business.  It wasn't enough to pretend
she was a boy.  To cut off her long hair and put on a man's
clothing was the smallest part of it.  The deception had required
diligent, earnest, relentless concentration.  Even when alone and
unobserved, she had hardened her face, lengthened her stride,
swaggered, scowled, growled and spat.  Every little feminine trick
of posture or gesture was critically examined and corrected.  She
practised walking with her feet wide apart; was mindful to keep her
fingers away from her throat and make them into fists; kept her
elbows away from her ribs, and swung her arms like a soldier.

John, the baptizer, had discovered her secret; that had been her
own fault.  The strong breeze on the hill-top that morning had
moulded her clothing tightly to her form.  But for this
carelessness of hers, the hermit might never have suspected.  She
had been lucky throughout the whole adventure.

When, however, it had become quite impossible to deceive Hannah,
she had accomplished her reconversion to her own sex with a minimum
of effort.  She had dressed in Abigail's clothes from the skin out,
tucking her own underclothing deep in the bottom of the old chest.
Now she was Esther.  But, curiously enough, the abandonment of her
studied role as a boy had suddenly affected her memory of all the
experiences she had had while playing that part.  No--she hadn't
forgotten them completely; but they were faded, distorted, as if
viewed dimly through a clouded glass.  It was a queer sensation,
being Esther.

Nor was that all that had happened to her mind now that she had
taken on a new personality.  This Esther had to account for
herself.  It wasn't sufficient to stop being a camel-boy, fugitive
from a caravan.  It was imperative that Esther should contrive--and
at very short notice, too--a new explanation for her presence in
Galilee.  So she had invented an uncle for whom she was searching.
Aware that she mustn't take the risk of impromptu replies to the
inevitable queries about this relative, she had elaborately created
an Uncle Joseph whom almost anyone should be able to recognize from
her detailed description.  Uncle Joseph became as real to her as
rain!  He had a short, grizzled beard; his near-sightedness gave
him the appearance of peering impudently into your face, though he
really wasn't that sort of person, at all; rather shy and reticent,
indeed.  Uncle Joseph was bald and slightly stooped and walked with
a limp.  Yes--he had broken his leg when a boy and it had lamed
him; not badly enough to interfere with his work.  He had a
friendly smile, though he never had much to say.  All that--and
plenty more--had Esther contrived about Uncle Joseph.

At the outskirts of unkempt little Magdala, she paused to take a
leisurely look at the lake, shimmering in the summerish noon,
turned slowly about, and began to saunter back toward Bethsaida.

No: it hadn't been difficult to become Esther, the orphaned niece
of Joseph, the lame, near-sighted stone-cutter of Idumea; but the
trouble was that in becoming Esther you were losing your hold on
Fara.  To be Esther you had to leave Fara far behind you; Fara--and
everything that pertained to Fara!

She half-closed her eyes and a little shudder swept over her.  Fara
and all that belonged to the Fara-personality had dimmed to the
vagueness of a dream.  Arabia!  Her mother!  Ione!  And Voldi!
Voldi!  She tried to recover the sensation of galloping alongside
him on a narrow mountain-trail; tried to feel the tight grip of her
knees hugging Saidi's hot, rippling withers; tried to smile up into
Voldi's laughing eyes; and, failing of it, found herself blinded by
sudden tears; tried--with a whimpering little sob--to feel again
the caress of Ione's gentle fingers combing her hair.  But it was
all unreal now, as unreal as if it had happened to someone else and
she was reading about it--or making it up.  Esther was very lonely
and lost and homesick for Fara--and frightened!  She quickened her
steps: she must get back to Hannah.  Hannah was real!

It was the first time in her life that she had given any serious
thought to the permanent effects of self-deception.  Apparently you
could deceive other people without suffering much damage, but once
you entered upon a determined effort to lie to yourself--about
yourself--you were in danger of losing your own personality!

A strict adherence to the truth had never seemed important.  Lies
were of no significance; unless, of course, they injured someone
else.  Certainly Arabia had never been scrupulous about truth-
telling; nor had the Jews distinguished themselves for any
sensitiveness on this subject.  How indeed could one do any
business at all if required to stick to the truth?  Esther recalled
that there was a Jewish commandment, written in their ancient law,
making it a punishable crime to 'bear false testimony against a
neighbour,' but that felony had very little relation, if any, to
the casual untruth invented to implement a sale or save one from an
embarrassing predicament.  Today it had begun to appear that not
only was the truth a form of property; but--what was still more
important--it was possible to commit suicide by a long-continued
course of self-deception.

Hannah was overjoyed at Esther's return and deeply touched when the
girl impulsively put her arm around her in a surprising display of
sincere affection.

'I have good news for you, dear,' she exclaimed.  'Master David has
invited us to come and see his garden; this afternoon, if we will.'

To her relief and satisfaction, for Hannah had expected some
reluctance, Esther promptly consented to go: indeed, she seemed
pleased to go.  An hour earlier she might have invented excuses.

                         * * * * * *

Upon their arrival in David's extensive grounds and after greetings
had been exchanged, Deborah--a tall, gaunt spinster of fifty or
more--abruptly suggested to Hannah that they stroll in the garden
and see what was left of the autumn flowers, though her crisp tone
hinted that it was much too late in the season and that the idea
had certainly not originated with herself.

This laconic invitation, so pointedly addressed to Hannah,
confirmed Esther's surmise that David had planned a private
interview.  His uneasy frown indicated that his forthright sister
might have displayed a little more tact in this connivance; and
Esther, unwilling to be thought too dumb to understand his
annoyance, flashed a mischievous smile into his eyes.  He accepted
it with pursed lips and a shrug--and a slow, begrudged grin.

'My sister Deborah,' he drawled, 'has always believed--with
Aristotle--that a straight line is the shortest journey between two
points.'

'And the safest,' added Esther, suddenly sober, as if renouncing
all devious ways.

He searched her eyes to make sure of her sincerity, and smiled his
appreciation of her evident decision to disarm.  They had been
slowly following the women at a widening distance.  Now David
cupped his hand lightly under her elbow and they angled off into
the well-kept grove containing a wide variety of trees, most of
which Esther had never seen.  For something to say, she remarked
that it seemed strange to find them growing here.

'My father,' replied David, 'often travelled in foreign lands.  He
was greatly interested in trees.  Not many of these are native to
Galilee.'  He halted to give her time to look about, and asked, in
a tone too craftily casual, 'Do you recognize any of them--as of
Idumea?'

She frowned impatiently.

'I know nothing whatsoever about Idumea, sir!'  The unbridled
asperity in her low-pitched voice reproached him for trying to trap
her.  Wasn't he going to play the game fairly?

Somewhat taken aback by the girl's irritation, David made the
additional mistake of murmuring apologetically that he had been
misinformed.

'I thought you were an Idumean,' he said.

'You did not!' exclaimed Esther hotly.  Then, in a husky tone of
entreaty, she asked, 'Why can't we be honest with each other?
That's why you asked me to come here, Master David.  You hoped I
might confide in you.  You are making it difficult.  I am much in
need of your counsel--and your friendship. . . .  I am lonely--and
lost.'

He pointed to a rustic seat beside the winding path and they sat
down.

'Forgive me, my child,' he said softly.  'Now--you tell me as much,
or as little, as you want me to know.  I shall respect your
confidence.'

'It may shorten my story, sir, if you tell me how much you already
know of it.'

David complied.  Some eighteen years ago, while a student in
Athens, chiefly concerned with contemporary political movements, he
had been obliged to inform himself about the unprecedented alliance
of the Jews and Arabians, who hoped their united strength might
discourage a Roman invasion.  A royal wedding had been arranged to
confirm this pact.  Antipas had married the Arabian Princess--and
shamefully mistreated her.  There was a child, a little girl.

'I never learned her name,' David was saying.

'It wouldn't be Esther?' she ventured, without looking up.

'Not likely.'  He pretended to be debating the matter.  'Esther is
definitely Jewish, and by the time this baby was born her Arabian
mother would hardly have wanted any more reminders of her unhappy
life in Jewry.'

'That is true, sir.  My name is Fara.'  After a lengthy pause she
added, 'But perhaps you had better continue to call me Esther.'

David nodded his approval of that decision.  She was much safer in
Galilee with a Jewish name, he said.

'By the way,' he continued, 'do you want to tell me what brings you
here?  Surely you have no thought of restoring relations with your
father.'

She shook her head slowly; and, after some deliberation, said, 'I
shall tell you--everything, Master David.'

And she did.  It was a long story, but David did not often break
into it with queries or comments.  When she had told him about
Ione's insistence that she learn Greek, his eyes lighted and he
interrupted her to say:  'Excellent!  It has been a long time since
I have conversed in that beautiful language.'

'It will please me, too,' she replied; and David smiled happily at
her evident relief in abandoning her imperfect Aramaic for the more
musical tongue in which she felt at home.  From there on, she
proceeded with more self-confidence, David watching her lips with
delight.  The effortless shift to Greek had given the girl a new
freedom that added much to her charm.

As she came to the end of her story, however, the old lawyer made a
long face and shook his head.

'No, no, my child!' he protested.  'What you have set out to do is
utterly impossible!  You are very brave, but this is something that
no amount of courage can accomplish!'

'Would you counsel me then to break my vow?'  There was
disappointment and reproach in her query.

'I hope you will not ask me to assist in sending you to certain
death!' he muttered.

Esther's eyes widened.  David didn't want to be asked to assist.
Perhaps that meant that he could--if he wished.

'Please remember, Master David,' she said entreatingly, 'I have
burned all my bridges to Arabia; I have no home in Jewry; I have
sworn to avenge my mother; and that I intend to do.  If I should
lose my life, well, is it not better for me to die with honour than
to live to no purpose at all--unwanted anywhere, an embarrassment
to those I love?'

The old man sat for a long time with half-closed eyes, stroking his
grey beard.  After a while he surprised her by what seemed an
abrupt change in their conversation.

'My long-time friend and client, Jairus, informs me that the
Tetrarch has recently acquired the entire private library of a
bankrupt Corinthian.  The scrolls--Greek classics, for the most
part--have been long neglected, their owner having spent his recent
years in a Roman prison.'

Esther had come to attention and was listening with wide eyes and
parted lips.

'Perhaps the Tetrarch will want someone to mend the broken
scrolls,' she said, 'and put his library in order.'

'Perhaps.  We shall see,' said David.  'I shall inquire of Lysias,
the steward.'

Deborah and Hannah were approaching.

'Let me see you again,' said David--'the day after tomorrow.'

                         * * * * * *

Simon had not been home for two whole days now and Hannah was
beside herself with anxiety.

At breakfast on the first morning of his absence she had given his
taciturn brother an opportunity to explain; but Andrew, whose only
distinction was a talent for minding his own business, had not gone
farther than to say that Simon had slept on shipboard.

But on the morning of the third day the desperate woman decided to
learn the meaning of it even at the risk of a rebuff.  Having
brought in their breakfast, she seated herself opposite Andrew and
stared at him until he reluctantly and briefly lifted his eyes.

'I cannot bear this any longer!' she exclaimed.  'Andrew, you must
tell me now what has happened to him!'

Andrew, finishing his cakes and honey, waited until he had
swallowed the last mouthful.  Glancing in her general direction, he
made what was--for him--quite an elaborate reply.

'I wish I knew,' he said.

'Have I offended him, Andrew?'

'You would know if you had.'

'Did Esther have anything to do with it?'

'Better ask her.'

'I did.'

Andrew grinned a little, but exhibited no curiosity about the
result of this inquiry, his silence proclaiming that it was none of
his business.  Hannah broke down now and cried.  It distressed
Andrew.  He had never seen her in tears since the day Abigail died.
Pushing back his chair, he faced her directly with sympathy in his
eyes.

'I do not know what troubles him.  The fleet goes out every day,
same as always.  The fishing has been good, and the weather.  There
has been no trouble among the men.  My brother attends to his
duties.  He has little to say to anyone.  His mind is not in his
work.  He is worried about something.'

'And you don't know what?' persisted Hannah, when Andrew seemed to
have ended his surprisingly long speech.

'No; he has not said and I have not asked him.'

'Why don't you?'

'It is not my habit to ask people what they are thinking about.'

'But Simon is your brother!'

Simon's brother acknowledged this relationship with a slow nod, and
rose to go.  At this, Hannah began weeping again piteously, and
Andrew resumed his seat, fumbling awkwardly with his knitted cap.
At length he spoke.

'As you know, he has been very fond of old Zebedee's boy John,
almost as if the youngster was his son.  A few days ago Johnny went
out into the country to hear this Carpenter who, they say, has been
performing miraculous deeds.  You have probably heard strange tales
about this man.  He is said to have been healing the sick.'

'Pish!' commented Hannah, drying her eyes.

'Of course,' agreed Andrew.  'Well--Johnny came back and said, in
the presence of all of us, that he had seen the Carpenter heal a
paralysed arm.'

'But you didn't believe it, I hope!' protested Hannah.

'Me?  No--I did not believe it; but Simon has not been himself
since Johnny told the story.'

'But--surely--Simon wouldn't take any interest in a thing like
that!'  Hannah's swollen eyes were wide with astonishment.  'Simon--
of all people!'

'Maybe not,' said Andrew.  'Perhaps he has been fretting about
Johnny.  The boy has quit the fleet.  He and his brother James have
rented an old boat and are fishing for themselves.'

'And Simon hasn't talked about it?'

'Not to me.'

'But--what are we going to do, Andrew?'

'We?  We aren't going to do anything.  You may do whatever you
like.  I intend to keep out of it.  My brother is an adult and of
sound mind--far as I know.  If he wants any advice from me, he will
ask for it.'  Andrew got up to go, resolutely this time, and pulled
on his fisherman's cap.  Hannah pursued him through the open door
and out on to the stoop.

'He can't sleep comfortably on that ship,' she said.

'In his present state,' rejoined Andrew, 'he might not sleep
comfortably anywhere.'  He started down the path.  'Don't fret
about it,' he flung back.  'Simon is big enough to look out for
himself--without anyone's help.'

Hannah kept tagging along as far as the gate.

'Easy enough to say, "Don't fret."  But that's all I have to do now
that Esther's gone.  She left yesterday--to work at the palace.'

Andrew absently rattled the gate-latch and frowned.

'I thought she was decent,' he muttered.

'Couldn't she work at the palace and be decent?'

'Perhaps--for the present,' conceded Andrew, 'now that the Tetrarch
and his family are gone.  They took most of the servants with
them.'

'Maybe that's why Esther got a job,' surmised Hannah.  'I hope she
doesn't fall into trouble there.  I didn't know it was such a
wicked place, Andrew.  Simon delivers fish at the palace every day.
Surely he wouldn't go there if--'

'My brother is not a rabbi or a policeman.  He is a fisherman.  Why
should he concern himself with the Tetrarch's behaviour--so long as
he likes fish?'  Andrew grinned with knowledge he would not be
sharing with Hannah, and went on, 'If Simon had to look into the
private lives of his customers before selling them fish, he might
soon be out of the fish business.'

'Rather than have anything to do with such nasty people,' snapped
Hannah, 'I should do just that; go out of the fish business!'

Chuckling a little at this impractical remark, Andrew inquired
dryly, as he closed the gate behind him, 'What other business would
you go into?'  And without waiting for a reply, he set off at a
brisk walk, for he was starting later than usual and did not want
to add the annoyance of his tardiness to his moody brother's frets.

                         * * * * * *

Having given some last-minute instructions to young Samuel, who had
been doing his turn as night watchman, Simon prepared to leave,
though dawn was barely breaking.

'I expect to be gone all day,' he said.  'You will tell Andrew,
when he comes, to take over until I return.  Tell him to see to it
that the palace delivery is made this afternoon; half the usual
order, now that the family is gone.'

As he climbed into a dory, he had called back to Samuel, 'And tell
Thad--or somebody--to go to my house and fetch another blanket for
my bunk.'

He had the Cana highway almost to himself for a couple of hours.
Nobody was awake in Bethsaida when he passed through.  The long,
winding hill beyond was deserted.  At the broad summit he paused to
survey the landscape gaily dressed in autumn colours.  In the area
of the great white rock, which dominated the high plateau, the
frost-touched grass had been trampled flat by innumerable feet.

The descending road began to veer toward the west.  It had been
many years since Simon had traversed this neighbourhood of small
farms and vineyards.  He had never been lured by the soil.  It was
a common jest that men who followed the sea were always chattering
about the ease and security of life in the country, declaring that
they would some day rent a couple of acres and raise their own
food.  And often they seemed to be quite in earnest about it.  This
had always amused Simon, who couldn't imagine a less interesting
tool than a hoe.  But today the serenity of the countryside made a
bid for his turbulent spirit.

Harvest was past, but the farmers were busy with the less urgent
affairs of autumn, snugging themselves in for the winter, carrying
well-laden baskets of root vegetables from the kitchen-garden to
the sod-roofed cellar, the old women gathering herbs and tying them
into bunches to be hung up and dried.

On the other side of the highway, a little farther on, three half-
grown youngsters were lazily roping wheat-sheaves to the backs of
as many shaggy pack-asses.  Simon waved a hand to them, but they
only stared back.  That's the way it was in the country.  Their
ideas came slowly.  Doubtless, if he stood there and waved at these
boys for half an hour, reflected Simon, they might respond to his
salute.  It was a dull life; no mistake about that.  He wondered
how the country people took to the Carpenter's belief that food was
less important than flowers.

At the far corner of the next farm, a larger one, father and the
boys were on their threshing-floor, beating a knee-deep carpet of
barley-sheaves.  The mother of the family wielded a much-mended
winnowing-fan.  The two girls were sweeping the cleaned grain on to
a hempen mat.

Simon paused here, turned off the highway, and approached them with
a friendly greeting.  They were early to work, he said.  The women
rested, sitting on the ground, and the boys--one of them as tall as
his father--leaned on the long handles of their flails.

'We wanted to get as much done as we could,' said the grey-thatched
farmer, strolling toward Simon.  'Not much work being done in these
parts just now--everybody scurrying off to listen to this fellow
from Nazareth.'

'Where is he today?' inquired Simon.  'I should like to see him.'

'There's no telling, exactly,' said the farmer.  'He moves around.'

'Yesterday he was about six miles from here,' said the oldest boy,
'over beyond Hammath.'

'Were you there?' asked Simon.

'The family went over in the afternoon,' said the farmer.  'I heard
him talk, about a week ago, over here on the hill.  Didn't think
much of it.  He was saying we should love our enemies.  I don't
hold with that kind of talk.  Though I'm not saying he isn't a good
speaker.  You can hardly take your eyes off him.'

'Big crowd yesterday?' Simon asked the young man.

'Bigger every day!' bragged the youth, as if he were part of the
show.  'Nothing ever like it in this country!'

'Tell me about it, won't you?' said Simon, squatting on his heels.

At this they gathered about him, and sat, apparently eager to talk.
It was plain on their faces that the subject was already well-worn--
but by no means worn out.  They all contributed to the conversation.
Very strange doings.  Very strange talk.  They were agreed on that.
As for the particulars, the testimony failed, in some respects, to
add up.

'The trouble is,' explained the woman, 'the crowd is so big you
can't get close enough to see rightly what's going on.'

'I saw him cure an old man who couldn't hear,' put in the youngest
boy.  'He danced up and down, he was so glad.'

'But you didn't know whether the old man was deaf or not,'
cautioned his father.  'He might have been putting it on.'

'He claimed he was deaf--and now he could hear,' declared the lad
doggedly.

'All old people have more or less trouble with their hearing,'
commented his mother.

'And sometimes they can hear better than other times,' added his
little sister.  'Father's like that.'

'Never mind,' mumbled her mother.

'But the sick woman on the cot,' said the tall boy.  'She really
was sick.  She wasn't putting it on: I'm sure of that!'

'Yes,' confirmed his brother, 'she got up and walked away after
Jesus spoke to her.'

'But not very lively,' demurred their mother.  'She leaned on her
son's arm; pretty heavily too.'

That's the way it would be, thought the older girl--if she hadn't
walked for a long time.

'Where do all these people come from?' Simon wanted to know.
'Everywhere; seems like,' said the farmer.  'A wool-buyer was
telling me, last week, that he saw whole families he knew from as
far away as Ramah and Shunem and Nain.  Brought their tents along,
and a couple of milch-goats.'

'Plenty of people from Nazareth too, I suppose,' said Simon, 'if
that's where he lives.'

'No; funny thing about that,' replied the farmer.  'Very few from
Nazareth, they say.  If he's such a great one, you'd think--'

'Maybe his own folks got used to seeing him do strange things,'
suggested the youngest boy.

'Home folks never give much heed when their neighbours do something
extra good, like fine wood-carving, or rug-weaving, or beautiful
singing,' said the mother.  'They think that because they know a
person and grew up with him, he can't be very much.'

'That's a fact,' declared her husband.  'Lots of country folks
sneer at what's going on around them and praise what's going on in
Bethsaida; and the people in Bethsaida laugh at their own town, and
envy the people in Cana, and--'

Simon laughed a little and said he supposed the people in Cana
thought everything was livelier in Jericho--and that Jericho wanted
to see the more interesting sights in Jerusalem.

'I'd like to see Jerusalem myself,' murmured the tall boy.

'Now you take our girl Judith here.'  Her mother laid a brown hand
on her elder daughter's arm.

Judith, apparently suspecting what was coming, lowered her eyes,
smiled shyly, and shook her head a little, as her mother went on:

'She plays the harp better than you'll hear it anywhere!  And a
poor old harp it is, too, that's been in my family for three
generations.  But do you suppose the people around here think
anything of her playing?  Not at all; you have to go to the city to
hear a harp played.'

'I should like to hear you play, Judith,' said Simon, at which the
girl's cheeks flushed prettily.

'No time for that today,' said her father, turning about toward the
threshing-floor.

'I told her to take her old harp along--and play for the people
when the Carpenter isn't speaking,' said her mother.

Simon politely approved of this as a good idea.  They reluctantly
ambled back to their tasks.  He waved a farewell and resumed his
westward journey.  So--the people of Nazareth hadn't been very much
impressed.  This wasn't a good sign.  There must be something shaky
about this business, reflected Simon.  The family he had just met
was not of one mind in respect to these strange occurrences.  It
was still a matter of debate with them whether the Carpenter of
Nazareth was a healer or a fraud.  Maybe some light would be shed
on that problem today.  Simon hoped so.  He hoped the Nazarene
would turn out to be merely a glib talker with a talent for making
sick people feel encouraged; for surely the world was a much more
reliable institution if nobody was playing tricks with it, not even
for the benefit of a few.  And--as he trudged along, moodily intent
on the road--Simon wondered whether the girl Judith, with the big,
solemn eyes and the wistful smile, was really a harpist.  Not very
likely, he thought.

                         * * * * * *

For the past hour the highway had been receiving more and more
traffic from the tributary roads and lanes, all manner of traffic:
high-wheeled market-wagons filled with people of all ages, elderly
couples in donkey-carts, here and there a garden-barrow occupied by
a frail and feeble old woman or a pale and wizened lad, pushed by
an earnest-faced young farmer.  Occasionally a cot joined the
procession bearing the prone figure of an emaciated, half-grown
girl or a crippled old man with pain in his eyes.  Clumps of people
on foot, by the dozen, by the score, overtook and passed the sick
ones.  Every path, every open gate, every cross-road fed them into
the highway.

Simon had found himself wishing that the Carpenter would be soon
exposed as an ordinary man who had nothing much to work with but a
winning voice, a confident manner, and the ability to make people
listen to him--and trust him.  But as he surveyed these sorry crews
of hopeful burden-bearers, he began to wish, with all his heart,
that something could be done for them.  If the Carpenter was a
fraud, this conglomeration of misery was indeed a tragic spectacle.
Maybe the Carpenter didn't realize what a responsibility he had
taken on.  If he didn't, it was high time he found out!

It was a pitiful sight.  Why couldn't this Nazarene have stayed in
his carpenter-shop?  What was the good of stirring up hope that
couldn't have any outcome but a cruel disappointment?  These
wretched ones had learned to bear their galling loads.  Most of
them had done all their crying and calluses had formed to ease the
pain of their yokes.  Now they would lay their burdens down at this
Carpenter's feet!  What monstrous cruelty if--after so great hope--
they must strap on their heavy packs again and plod wearily home,
broken-hearted!

A half-mile east of Hammath the highway divided, the road to the
right proceeding to the village and on toward Cana, the left fork
bearing southward through the Province of Samaria and onward to
Jerusalem.  In the triangle at the parting of the ways a small
encampment was breaking up.  The service tents were already down
and being loaded on to the pack-train.  The master tent, a
beautiful thing of white and blue, was in process of dismantling.
Half a dozen fine horses, expensively caparisoned, were restlessly
waiting their riders, who now emerged from the sagging tent.

Full of curiosity, Simon slowed his pace and candidly stared.  The
leader of the party was a mere youngster, certainly not more than
eighteen, and his companions were youthful, too, though not so
young as he.  They were extravagantly dressed.  Simon drew off to
the side of the highway, sat on the ledge of the stone-walled well,
and studied this pageantry at his leisure.  That it was a company
of nobles he had no doubt.  Presently, to his surprise, he saw the
young master of the group point toward him: and give an order to a
servant, who made off at once to the well.  Simon's brow furrowed
as he saw the man coming.  He was quite sure he was within his
rights to rest at the well.

'Do you live in this neighbourhood, sir?'

The servant, a tall bearded man of Simon's age, had bowed
respectfully, before asking the question in a quality of Aramaic
that was spoken in Judaea.

Simon shook his head and replied, 'Bethsaida.'

'But that is not far away,' continued the servant.  'Would you
perhaps know anything of this Carpenter who has stirred up so much
excitement?'  His arm swept the congested highway.

'Not much,' said Simon.  'I saw and heard him a few days ago, and I
am hoping to see him again today.'

'Would you object to having a word with my master, sir?'

'Who is your master?'

'Joseph--the Prince of Arimathaea,' said the servant proudly.

Simon rose now and followed.  It was little enough he knew about
the small but fertile Principality of Arimathaea, up north beyond
Ramah, which had been ceded to the fabulous Hyrcanus and his
descendants many generations ago, in consideration of some long-
forgotten favour to northern Jews.  Whenever Arimathaea was
mentioned the word suggested wealth.  'Rich as an Arimathaean' was
a trite phrase which the Galileans used without examining it more
closely than many another simile, such as 'Tricky as an Arab' or
'Wise as a serpent.'

The beautiful tent was down now and the swarming servants were
folding it with care.  The vanguard of the pack-train was moving
off down the Jerusalem road.  The young Prince was standing by his
white horse in evidently playful conversation with his friends.  He
was a handsome youth with a ready smile and a gracious manner.
Simon was favourably impressed and doffed his forebodings about the
interview.

Courteously requesting him to wait a moment, the servant approached
his master and made a brief report in low tones, after which he
beckoned to Simon, who advanced rather diffidently and removed his
cap.

'My friend,' said the Prince, looking up at the big Galilean who
towered over the lot of them, 'we are curious about this great
multitude and the man they are said to be seeking.  They tell us
that he speaks to great crowds and heals many sick ones.  Noting
your extraordinary height, it occurred to us that you might have
been able to hear and see what has been going on.'

'I would that I had more to tell you, sire,' said Simon.  'I heard
the man speak.  He has a strange voice.  The people hang on his
words as a sailor overboard in a storm clings to a rope.'

'Good!' approved the Prince to his companions.  'The fellow has
some imagination.'  Turning to Simon, he said, 'Perhaps you are a
sailor yourself.'

'A fisherman, sire.'  Simon smiled briefly, and went on, 'No matter
what he is saying, the people hardly breathe for fear of missing
something; yet they are simple words.'

'Such as what?' asked the Prince, interested now.

'He wants people to be kind to one another: that's about all,' said
Simon.  'Everyone is to be kind and helpful, all the way up and
down from the pauper to the . . .'  He hesitated, and the Prince,
frowning a little, crisply provided the obvious word.  It was
evident that he was annoyed.  His voice was challenging as he went
on.

'So--this fellow is trying to make the people restless!  Everybody
is to be generous, eh?  The pauper is as good as the Prince, eh?
Is that it?'

'Not if I heard rightly, sire.'  There was a stiffening dignity in
Simon's voice now.  His frown deepened.  He didn't like the
arrogant tone of this spoiled youngster.  After all, he hadn't
arranged this interview; nor was he on trial.  'Quite the
contrary,' he continued courageously; 'the Carpenter wants peace
among the people.  If a man is badly used by his oppressors, let
him find his happiness inside himself.'

'A good thought.'  There was a touch of mockery in the Prince's
voice, though he had mended his temper somewhat.  'And how does a
man go about it--to find happiness inside himself?'

'He leaves off fretting about the things he does not have,'
explained Simon, 'and he gives less heed to caring for the few
things he does have.  Thus he is freed from worry lest thieves
should make off with his small possessions.'

'And after the fellow says that,' sneered the Prince, 'he probably
passes his cap through the crowd, inviting them to pay him for
advising them to have nothing.'  They all chuckled a little at this
cynical gibe--all but Simon who remarked quietly, 'He has no cap,
sire.'  There was a moment of silent embarrassment here, Simon
having inadvertently flavoured the talk with a bit of disconcerting
sincerity.

'How about these strange deeds?' demanded the Prince.

'One hears differing opinions, sire,' said Simon.  'Some claim to
have seen miracles performed, others try to explain them, still
others doubt them.'

'Our servant says you are now on your way to hear him again.  Does
that mean that you yourself believe him honest?  Surely you would
not make the journey if you considered him an out-and-out
mountebank!'

'I am hoping to find out, sire,' murmured Simon.  Observing that
the Prince's friends were growing restless, he added respectfully,
'May I go now?'

The Prince shrugged and made a negligent gesture as if to say it
was of no concern to him whether the big, burly fisherman ambled
off at once or remained here for the rest of his life.  He laid a
jewelled hand on the pommel of his saddle.

'Just a moment!' he said.  'One thing more!  We are advised that a
homemade, self-appointed prophet has recently been gathered in by
our good friend, your Tetrarch, for predicting the advent of an
avenger who is to upset thrones, strip the wealthy, free the
slaves, and put all the riffraff on horseback.  Do the people
hereabouts think that this wonder-worker is out on such an errand?'

'It is quite impossible, sire!' declared Simon.  'Surely no one who
had heard him speak could have that opinion.  So far as I have
learned, the Carpenter has no quarrel with the rich; though I think
he pities them.'

'Pities them!' exclaimed the Prince, while the others grinned
incredulously.  'What impertinence!  Who does this wandering beggar
think he is--to be pitying his betters?'

Simon ventured no immediate comment on this smug remark, but his
lip curled to match a frown that had a good deal of scorn in it.
The Prince was quick to notice this irritation, and prodded it.

'If you do not object to the question, my massive friend, how do
you yourself feel toward the rich?  You are obviously not a man of
property.  Tell me truly: do you too pity the rich?'  The raw taunt
was stirring Simon to anger.

'No, sire,' he answered, staring fearlessly into the young man's
eyes, 'I do not pity the rich.  I envy them, as they expect me to
do.  I peer through their high fences and lament that I do not have
their great possessions, for this pleases them.'  Simon's voice
rose and rasped as he continued recklessly, 'Whenever we poor cease
envying the rich, we will be punished for robbing them of their
highest satisfaction!'

The Prince had mounted now.  He rose in his stirrups to shout:
'That is the most impudent thing that was ever said in our
presence!'

'Well,' growled Simon sullenly, 'you asked for it.'

'In our country, fisherman, you would get thirty-nine lashes for
that!'

'Aye, sire--and in my country too,' retorted Simon; and because he
now had nothing to lose by further frankness he added, 'The great
ones are the same everywhere, I am told.  They face the truth with
a bull-whip.'

'Be off with you!' shouted the Prince, raising his riding-crop.

'No--no--Joseph!' muttered the mounted friend at his side.

The Prince lashed his horse.  They bounded away.  Flushed with
rage, Simon watched them galloping down the road.  Never had he
felt such bitter contempt for a fellow creature.  Quite a
courageous youngster, this Prince, when surrounded by his fine
friends and a score of armed guards.  Had he been alone, he would
have been meek as a lamb.  Simon wished he could have had the
Prince all to himself for a few minutes.  No, he would not have
hurt the boy badly.  He would have been satisfied to take the
insolent brat by his beautifully curled hair--and fold him over the
ledge of the old well--and spank him: a thorough spanking; a
spanking he should have had earlier.  Simon was sore.  It had never
been his habit to covet other men's property or privileges.  He had
nothing against the rich.  Until now.  Now he despised them!  All
of them!  They were all alike!  To hell with them!  All of them!

He had trudged toward the Hammath highway now and had joined the
pilgrimage.  Looking across the field to the Jerusalem road, he
observed that the Prince's party had halted for a parley.  After a
rather lengthy colloquy, they wheeled about, galloped back to the
junction, and came bearing down upon the crowded highway.  The
people screamed and rushed to the sides of the road for safety as
the gay riders ploughed a wide furrow through them.  Everybody was
for saving his own skin in this frantic rout.  Old people were
trampled.  Carts were upset.  Children were crying.  Shouting with
laughter, the princely cavalcade swept on.

Simon stood still and watched the shameless scene, his every muscle
taut with impotent rage, his big fists clenched.

'Men on horses!' he shouted aloud.  'Brave men on horses!'

                         * * * * * *

The somnolent village of Hammath had swollen to a city of five
thousand and was adding to its population.  Every grass-grown path
was as a sleepy stream that had suddenly become a river at flood.

The huge crowd had congregated on a harvested field some distance
north of the main highway.  On the outskirts of the densely packed
multitude, vendors pursued a busy trade with huge baskets of smoked
fish, wheaten and barley rolls, sweetmeats and sun-cured figs
swarming with flies, for which they found ready customers among the
stragglers who were too far away from the point of interest to see
what was happening.

The Prince and his party had ridden up close against the rear of
the throng, apparently impatient at having been detained from
proceeding through to the front where the Carpenter stood.  The
whole affair was a lark, a country circus, and the management
should have been pleased to announce, 'We are honoured to have with
us today His Highness Joseph, the Prince of Arimathaea.  Clear the
way for His Highness and his retinue!  We welcome you, sire!'

The Carpenter continued speaking in a quiet voice, inaudible at
this distance.  Laughing loudly, the princely party urged their
horses forward until the foam from their champed bits flecked the
shoulders of men and women who were cupping their ears to listen.

'Make way!' shouted the mounted guards.  'Way--for the Prince of
Arimathaea.'

The people turned their heads and scowled angrily, but did not
budge.

'Hi!  You!  Fisherman!' yelled one of the Prince's friends, as
Simon moved into the pack.  'Clear a road for the Prince!'  But
Simon did not reply, nor did he turn about to face them.  Finding
it impossible to hear anything, he circled the throng and
discovered a spot nearer to the front where an amazingly large
colony of cots and carts bearing the sick awaited the end of the
Carpenter's address.  A shaggy young farmer, standing by a bed on
which an emaciated old woman lay shielding her sunken eyes against
the sun with a bony hand, glanced up at Simon and grinned a rustic
greeting.

'Your mother, maybe?' whispered Simon.

'Grandmother,' replied the young farmer.

'Came to be healed?'

'She hopes so.'

'Do you think there's anything in it?'

'There'd better be!' muttered the farmer truculently, pointing to
the quarter-acre of sick and crippled.  'If he's a fake, he'll be
stoned!'

'Has he been speaking long?' asked Simon.

'Long enough.  Granny is tired waiting.'

'What's her trouble?'

The farmer guarded his voice as he replied, 'Old age.'

'Think the Carpenter can cure old age?'

'No; but Granny does.  She's a little weak in the head.'

Simon edged gradually into the rim of the crowd.  By listening
intently he could hear snatches of the Carpenter's talk.  But it
was difficult.  What with the confusion of the people pushing in
from the rear, the moans of the sick, and the crying of the babies,
Simon had to be content with broken phrases.  But it was a haunting
voice, a magic voice that stilled and soothed and comforted you
even though you couldn't hear all the words.

From what Simon could make of it, a man could have a secret life
with God.  Once he determined to find happiness within himself, he
reached out for a strength greater than his own . . .  Like a babe,
creeping, he longed to rise and walk . . . lifts his small hand . . .
is gripped by a stronger hand . . . having learned to walk with
God . . . he wants to talk with God.  Too often, men try to talk
with God . . . only in the temple. . . .  Talk with Him alone. . . .
His voice more clear when you are alone with Him . . . a private
league with God . . . a secret life with God . . . an understanding
with Him . . . you and God alone . . . in your closet . . . closed
door . . .  He will listen . . .  He will bless you.

Some short-statured person was digging a sharp elbow into Simon's
back.  He turned about and looked down into the contorted face of a
woman with a little girl of five in her arms.  The child was blind.

'Please!' entreated the woman in a whisper.  'Help me to get
closer!  You are big and strong.  You must help me!'

'Stay where you are--behind me,' said Simon.  'When the time comes,
I'll do what I can.'

The Carpenter was talking about doing things for others.  That,
too, was better done in secret. . . .  When you make gifts . . . no
trumpet. . . .  A secret . . . so secret your own left hand does
not know.  Only God will see . . . only God will know . . . but He
will bless you.

There was a general stirring in the great congregation when the
Carpenter had stopped speaking.  Now, according to his custom, he
would receive the sick ones.  The crowd pushed and shoved for a
better view.  The people were not very considerate of one another.
The weak and timid were elbowed out of the way.  Even among the
very ill ones on their beds, the rivalry of the bearers was rude
beyond belief.  Simon wished he was up there in front to improve
their manners.  He expected and hoped that Jesus would rebuke the
importunate.  But, after all, they couldn't be much blamed, he
thought.  People couldn't be polite when it was a matter of life or
death for a loved one.

The little woman behind him was growing desperate.  She was crying
hysterically.  Bidding her follow him closely, Simon began edging
his way forward, but it was quite impossible for her to make any
use of his intervention.  Other people crowded in behind the big
man and pushed her roughly aside.  There seemed only one practical
thing to do now.  Simon would have to carry the child himself.
Turning, he held out his long arms, and the woman, tearfully
grateful, relinquished her burden.

It was an arduous journey forward through the solid mass of
seemingly immovable people.  Simon entreated, pushed, scolded,
shouldered, begged, shouted, as he pressed on.

'This child is blind!' he announced, in his big, booming voice.
'Let me through!  Please let me pass!'

And now--now--at last--he stood face to face with the strange man
of Nazareth, close enough to have touched him.  By comparison with
Simon's height and bulk, the Carpenter was of slight physique; but
something about him, emanating from him, made him a commanding
figure.  Simon sensed it, and felt inferior.  In point of years,
the man was his junior.  Every other way considered, Simon felt
himself a mere awkward, overgrown boy.  He looked down into a pair
of tranquil, steady, earnestly inquiring eyes.  They held him fast;
they brightened with a friendly smile, almost as if two long-time
companions were meeting after a separation.  The Carpenter's face
was pale.  Tiny beads of perspiration showed on his forehead, for
he was tired and the day was hot.

It was such a gentle gesture that it seemed like a caress when
Jesus laid his hand lightly upon the little girl's eyes.  The child
had been frightened by all the confusion and had been holding
herself rigidly, hugging her arms to her breast as if to ward off a
blow.  At the touch of Jesus' hand, she relaxed and drew a babyish
sigh of relief and reassurance.  Simon's eyes suddenly swam
blindingly as Jesus' forearm rested on his own.  It was a strange
sensation.  He knew now what it was that had suddenly soothed the
child and freed her of her fears.

Jesus was praying.  He had closed his eyes and was praying in a
soft voice barely above a whisper.  His prayer was made to his
'Father,' and it was as if they two were closeted together in some
secret place.  In a tone of intimate companionship and confidence
he asked his Father to give this little one her sight, for it was
through no fault of hers that she could not see.  Then--and there
was a note of sadness and longing in his voice--he prayed that all
men everywhere, groping in the shadows, might be led into the
bright sunshine of his Father's love.  Then--and this stirred Simon
deeply--he prayed for all those who, now and in days to come, would
lead the blind into the presence of the Eternal Light.

Simon thought he couldn't bear it--when it happened.  He gasped
involuntarily and stifled a sob.  The incredible thing had
happened!  It was impossible--but it had actually happened!  Jesus
had gently moved his hand from the child's eyes and his finger-tips
touched the damp little ringlets on her forehead.  Now she had
slowly raised her wondering eyes to his--and smiled.  Then, turning
her head, she gazed bewilderedly into Simon's face; and, seeing his
tears, her own little eyes overflowed.

Jesus was turning aside now to speak to a man on crutches.  Simon
tarried, trying hard to speak some word of gratitude.  Glancing
toward him, Jesus nodded his head and smiled companionably, as if
to say he understood.

A low murmur of astonishment swept the crowd as Simon turned about
with the child hugged tightly in his arms.  She was crying softly
now, for she was frightened.  Her mother, shrilly calling, 'She is
my child!  Oh, let me go to my baby!' finally made herself heard,
and was pulled, pushed, half-carried by the excited people around
her.  She was much too overwrought to thank Simon--even with a
smile--when he gently placed the little girl in her hungry arms.

Suffocated by his emotion and still half-blinded by his tears,
Simon was forcing his way through the throng--now standing
transfixed, breathless, and on tiptoe--in anticipation of another
marvel, when a hand clutched his sleeve.  He looked down into the
sober, white face of the Prince of Arimathaea.

'Tell me, Fisherman,' demanded the Prince huskily, 'was that child
really blind?'

'Aye, sire,' said Simon; 'and now she can see!'

The Prince held tightly to the Big Fisherman's sleeve, his wide,
baffled eyes questing more information, but Simon tugged away and
pressed on toward the outer air.  Circling the preoccupied
multitude, he made for the rear--and the highway.  He walked as a
man in a dream, as one suddenly transported into a different world.
A strange assurance of security possessed him--and a curious sense
of peace that was quite beyond his understanding.



Chapter VIII


Lysias was flattered and bewildered to have so gracious a note from
that haughty old Sadducee, David Ben-Zadok.

A bright young Jewess, well versed in the classics, orphaned and in
need of employment (wrote David), might be available to make
repairs on the dilapidated Corinthian library recently acquired by
His Highness the Tetrarch.  The letter was written in Greek, which
still further pleased the steward with implications that he was a
person of some culture.

But just why this crusty old lawyer, who had made no bones about
his contempt for the Tetrarch, should show any concern about the
reconditioning of these valuable but unsightly scrolls was not
clear.  One thing was sure: the old man hadn't bothered to offer
the suggestion from any love of Antipas.  Maybe he wanted an excuse
to have a peek at that library himself: he was known to be
something of an antiquarian.  Lysias gently fingered the old scar
on his ear, an involuntary aid to deep meditation, and reflected
that there must be more in this situation than met the eye.

But--no matter what might be the crafty Sadducee's motive in
proposing a remedy for these dreadful scrolls, it would be a great
relief to the steward if, upon his master's return from Rome in the
spring, he might be shown this costly collection in better dress;
for it had been Lysias himself who had recommended and negotiated
the purchase, and the Tetrarch had been noisily dissatisfied.

Much embarrassed by the shabbiness of the old books, Lysias had
tried to impress His Highness with the importance of their great
antiquity.  Digging deep into the most ill-conditioned of the
wicker hampers, he had brought up a mildewed scroll and held it
toward Antipas, who wrinkled his nose and put his hands behind him.

'This scroll, sire,' Lysias had announced in a tone of reverence,
'was written by Aristotle.  It is titled, The Directions and Names
of the Winds.  I do not mean, sire,' continued Lysias, 'that this
is a scrivener's reproduction of the book.  This is the original--
done by the hand of the master himself!'

'Well--whoever did it,' grumbled Antipas, 'it stinks.  And I don't
want it put anywhere where I have to look at it.'  Then, noting the
steward's chagrin, the Tetrarch had added, 'I dare say some people
would be proud to have a mummified cat of Aristotle's--with a gold
collar set with emeralds--perched on the mantel.'  Turning away, he
had sauntered toward the balcony window, where, pausing, he had
laughed aloud.

'And after they'd had Aristotle's cat on their mantel for a score
of years,' he called back to Lysias, 'some learned expert, with
great knowledge of dead cats, would come along and say, "Hell!--
that cat never belonged to Aristotle!  Much more recent!  Besides--
Aristotle hated cats!  But he never so much as kicked this cat: it
isn't half a century old!"'

'What is my lord's pleasure, then, in regard to the scrolls?'
Lysias had inquired, meekly.

'Box them up again.  Keep them in a dry place where they will
suffer no further decay.  Some day, perhaps, we will have them
repaired.'

Lysias was going to feel more comfortable when the Corinthian
scrolls were restored.  Quite apart from his responsibility for
their extravagant purchase, he had a sentimental interest in them,
for he too was a Corinthian; and the same Roman raid that had
despoiled his home and enslaved him at twenty had likewise brought
disaster to their neighbours of the House of Timotheus, a wealthy
shipowner and generous patron of the arts.

The Timotheus family and their rich possessions had been ruthlessly
disposed of.  Timotheus himself had been put to death; his
uncommonly beautiful wife had committed suicide; their two elder
sons, Leander and Philetus, school-mates of Lysias, had been taken
to serve as scribes and accountants in the office of the Prefect of
Achaea.  A younger son, Demetrius, who had already won some local
renown as an athlete, was carried off to Rome in chains, too
savagely rebellious to be of much use to anybody looking for a
servant.  Lysias had often wondered what became of the handsome,
reckless Demetrius--beaten to death, perhaps, for insubordination.

The Roman looters hadn't known what to do with the books.  There
was an enormous quantity of these scrolls, and not a man among the
invaders knew enough about literature to identify the extremely
valuable writings and give them special care.  The books had been
stored in a damp cellar and much of the writing on the rotted
papyrus was presently indecipherable; but, regardless of their
physical condition, many of these scrolls were historic treasures.
Think of it!--to own a book written by Aristotle!  In his own
handwriting!

Of course, reflected Lysias, you couldn't expect Antipas to have
much reverence for the old scrolls.  Antipas was a Roman, and Rome
had no veneration for the past.  Let the dreamy Greeks attend to
the rotted scrolls--and the tombs and the epitaphs.

The old Sadducee's note was answered forthwith, Lysias obsequiously
thanking the eminent David Ben-Zadok for the great kindness
tendered his master, the Tetrarch.  And he would be glad to see the
young person about the scrolls at her early convenience.

Lysias had spoken the truth.  He was glad at the prospect of having
some more attractive company than the kitchen afforded.  The
Tetrarch's palace could be a very lonely institution when the
family was abroad.  By experience the steward had learned that the
less he mingled with the servants the better account he could give
of his stewardship upon his lord's return.  On occasions he had
shown himself friendly with the gardeners and vine-growers, only to
encourage their laziness and disobedience.  As for the kitchen
crew, he had discovered that any playfulness in that department
would certainly be paid off in impudence and disrespect.

The new employee would rate a higher classification on account of
her learning.  The servants themselves would understand that
without being told.  Lysias would invite this girl to have her
meals with him.  He hoped she would be comely, though that was
almost too much to expect if she was--as old David said--well
versed in the classics.  Pretty girls didn't know anything.
Indeed, the really beautiful ones were forthright fools--all but
Salome, of course.  Salome was a deep one.  Lysias worshipped her.
And he was afraid of her, too.  Once, when Salome had had too much
wine, she had encouraged Lysias to kiss her.  She had managed the
kiss and it had left Lysias dizzy and weak in the knees.  Then she
had savagely slapped him on the mouth with the back of her hand.
The huge jewels in her rings had bloodied his lips.  Salome had
laughed.  She enjoyed rough play.  She wasn't punishing him for
offending her.  Quite to the contrary, she had been delighted with
his caresses.  But the sight of pain and the scent of warm blood
gave her a queer little thrill, she said, while repairing his
wounds.

Sometimes the Tetrarch too was confined to his rooms for a few days
while the cuts on his face were healing.  On these occasions, only
old Glaucus, the ex-butler, was permitted to minister to His
Highness.  Lysias surmised that Glaucus was the repository for many
a secret, his suspicion being based mostly on the animal-like
ferocity of Herodias' hatred for him.

Also, there was a tell-tale quality to the old fellow's impudence.
Herodias couldn't be blamed for despising him.  Shamelessly trading
on the stranglehold he apparently had on the Tetrarch, Glaucus
could be found on warm autumn afternoons in the most comfortable
chair in the sunniest corner of the patio, with a tankard of wine
at his elbow and a fat, elderly terrier asleep at his feet--as if
he had every right to all the luxuries that the establishment
afforded.  This type of impertinence could mean only one thing,
according to Lysias: Glaucus knew something about Antipas and
Herodias guessed what it was.  And it was making a haggard, sharp-
tongued, short-tempered old shrew of her.  Sometimes a whole week
would pass in which Herodias and Salome frankly avoided one
another, though they both took pains to be polite in the presence
of the servants.

Some day, reflected Lysias, as he sanded and sealed his letter to
David, some day there was going to be quite a lot of trouble here
at the palace; plenty--and plenty more--of trouble. . . .  There
would be an eruption of the Volcano Herodias--and somebody would
get hurt.

                         * * * * * *

Life at the palace was not only endurable; it was pleasant and
interesting.  Esther's relationships were quickly and comfortably
defined.  Lysias was disappointed but not disgruntled when she
declined his special hospitality by explaining that it would make
her unhappy if favours were extended to her which made the others
envious.  She also imputed to him a wealth of high-minded gallantry
that was quite too nebulous for assessment; but made such a
favourable impression that Lysias spent a whole afternoon
conducting her through the palace; ordered the furniture unshrouded
in the great banquet-hall, and invited her to sit in His Highness's
tall, gold-plated, throne-like chair, where she projected a brief,
unspoken query to the King of Arabia:  'Do you still think it's
impossible?'

Her appearance in the kitchen, ready to make friends but not over-
eager to the point of condescension, instantly gave her top rating.
Claudia stated the situation neatly when she declared, after Esther--
having carried her own dishes--had returned to her work, 'I like
her!  If she was only a little better than me, we would probably
hate each other, no? . . .  But she is so very much better than me
that we don't need to hate each other.'

Work on the Corinthian scrolls was fascinating; like a game to
play.  Esther was not wholly unfamiliar with the task.  The old
books that Zendi had picked up in Petra had required repairs.  You
carefully unrolled the long, narrow strip of papyrus, detached it--
whole or in pieces--from the spools, weighted it down on the
library floor; and, wherever it was broken, pasted it together.  If
the text had been damaged badly, you copied as much as was legible
and inserted the patch, with an editor's note explaining how much
was missing.  Then you sanded and scraped the mouldy old spools
down to the bare wood and redecorated them in black and gold.

Sometimes the girls came up from the kitchen and helped hold the
strips of papyrus in place for splicing.  Lysias frequently drifted
in to express approval.

On the morning of Esther's third day at the palace, Claudia
remarked, after the breakfast things had been cleared away, that
she must now go out to the prison--'and feed my wild man.'

'Wild man!' echoed Esther.  'Are you not afraid?'

'No--no--no!  That was what you call a joke!  He is not wild: he
just looks wild--with shaggy hair--and bony, like a starved cat.
It is because he does not eat.  And he is very sad.  I fear he will
die if he does not eat.'

'Why is he in prison?' inquired Esther.

'Ah--I don't know.'  Claudia waved a shapely armed salute to her
own disinterest in the matter.  'He talked too much, maybe--no?'

'He is a prophet,' assisted Anna, without conviction.  'He says the
world is coming to an end.'

'And for that he is locked up?' asked Esther, apparently
unconcerned.

'There was more to it than that,' explained Murza.  'He sees the
rulers overthrown, and the Empire smashed, and the poor made rich,
and--'

'That's right,' put in Claudia.  'That's what he says.  I've heard
him!  All hell's going to break loose! . . .  How would you like to
take him his breakfast, Esther?  Then you could hear him for
yourself.  And perhaps he will eat for you: you are so very pretty.
You need not be afraid of him.  He will not harm you.'

Esther pretended reluctance; hoped he was well guarded.

'Guarded?' laughed Claudia.  'A tough legionary from the fort was
in charge of him for a day, but he hasn't been seen since.  He is
on a big spree, no doubt.  But the prisoner is well locked in and
there are no others in the jail to help him escape.'

Assuming Esther's consent to feed the prisoner, Claudia had been
preparing the breakfast-tray, making an appetizing arrangement of a
plate of red apples, a dish of berries, a smoked perch and several
small barley-loaves.

'Here you are,' she said; 'and here is the key to the prison door.
You open the front door and there is a small corridor.  The cell is
the first one.  There is a barred window in the door.  You pass the
food through the bars.  Don't try to make love to him.  It's no
good.  He is cold.'

'For once,' called Murza, from the pantry, 'Claudia speaks the
truth.  It's no use to make love to the man.  It has been tried--by
experts.'

A startling 'Hush!' broke in on Murza's malicious comment,
presumably offered by the sober Jewess, Anna.

'Her Highness,' explained Claudia naively, 'is restless and lonely.
You never saw her--no? . . .'  And when Esther had shaken her head,
Claudia sighed and remarked in a confidential half-whisper, 'Her
Highness does not like to grow old.  But--who does? . . .  Come--
let me show you the way.'

Beyond the circular carriage-court a narrow path led through a
trellised arbour toward a sturdy stone structure some two hundred
yards distant.  Having given minute directions, Claudia returned to
the house and Esther proceeded on her errand.  Her heart quickened
as she reached the low wall that bounded the prison area.  She
wondered whether John, the baptizer, would recognize her.  There
were broad stone seats inset in the wall, doubtless for the
convenience of sentries.  Depositing the tray on one of the seats
nearest the entrance, Esther inserted the huge key and was trying
unsuccessfully to turn it in the obstinate lock when a resonant
voice deep in the prison startled her with the suggestion, 'The key
is crooked.  Bear down on it--and a little to the left.'

There was no mistaking the identity of that haunting voice.
Labouring with the protesting key, she pressed her weight hard
against the massive door and it grudgingly opened.

'Over here, my daughter,' called the voice.  'You are a stranger
here.'

They faced each other at the barred window and peered through the
gloom.

'It's you!' she murmured.

'Did we not have an appointment to meet here?'

'It's so dark!  You will be ill.'

'I do miss the sunshine; that is true.'

'You wouldn't try to run away if I gave you your breakfast
outside?'

'That might get you into trouble.'

'But--there's no one at the palace who would know or care--provided
you made no attempt to escape.'  Recovering the rusty key from the
main door, Esther opened the cell and John came out shielding his
cavernous eyes against the unaccustomed light.  They sat down on
the broad stone seat, with the tray between them.

'Tell me: where have you been?'  He ate hungrily, but listened
intently while she talked of her experiences as a solitary tramp on
the way to Tiberias.

'And have you seen him of whom I told you?' asked John eagerly.

'No--but I have heard of him.  On the day I arrived, a young
fisherman who befriended me told his shipmates about a strange
Carpenter who healed diseases and spoke words of comfort to the
people, gently admonishing them to bear their own and others'
burdens.'

'Gently?'

'I could hardly believe, sir, that this Carpenter was the one of
whom you spoke.'  She hesitated here, wishing she had not ventured
so far upon a subject of which she knew so little.  'Perhaps I
misunderstood the young fisherman--or perhaps I had misunderstood
you.  I had thought of him as a frowning man with a stern voice--on
an errand of vengeance.  Apparently that is a mistake.'

'Tell me more, daughter!' he demanded earnestly.

With that, Esther reviewed all she could remember of the report
made by the dreamy young fisherman.  The Carpenter had spoken with
a strangely soothing voice, seemingly not of this world.  No--there
had been no talk of divine retribution, no threats of doom; indeed,
no scolding at all.  The man had urged the people to find their
happiness within themselves, seeing they would never be free of
their enslavement to foreign masters.

'And--no talk at all about the mighty being thrown from their seats
and the exaltation of the poor?'

Esther shook her head.  After an uncertain moment, she said, 'I
shall go and hear him for myself.  I am sure I can get permission
to leave the palace for a day or two.  If the man is not too far
away--'

'Do that!' entreated John.  'Find out what manner of man he is!
Then--come and tell me.'  He rose and marched toward his cell.
Esther turned the big key.

'It hurts me to do this,' she said softly.

                         * * * * * *

It was noon when she reached the cottage in Bethsaida.  With a cry
of happy surprise, Hannah ran to meet her at the gate.  They
embraced each other with tenderness.

'You came home!' exulted Hannah.  'I hope they have not mistreated
you.'

No--they had not mistreated her, and she would be going back to her
work tomorrow.  But now--she was on a special errand, the strangest
of errands.

Over the dining-table--for Hannah had insisted on preparing their
luncheon--Esther told the story of the hermit and his gruesome
predictions; and his queries about the Carpenter.

'Everyone seems to be excited about him,' said Hannah.  'Last night
the neighbours were saying that he was leaving Hammath and heading
this way.'

'I wonder you have not gone out to hear him yourself, Hannah,' said
Esther.

Hannah seemed confused and did not at once reply.

'I might have done so, dear.  But--poor Simon, who for some reason
has been living on his ship, might decide to come home, and I ought
to be here.  I should be much embarrassed--and I fear he would be
very angry--if he came home to find that I had been away listening
to this Carpenter.  That would be very offensive to Simon.'

'Let us go, this afternoon, Hannah,' begged Esther.  'We would be
home before supper-time.  Simon is not likely to return earlier.'

Presently they were in the stream of pedestrian traffic on the
highway.  All Bethsaida, it seemed, was on the march southward, the
elderly stabbing their canes into the dusty road as they pegged
along intent upon their singular quest, the younger men and women
overtaking and passing them, sick people of all ages borne on
litters, sightless people being led much too fast for their
comfort.

There was very little talk.  Apparently no words were suitable to
this strange pilgrimage.  The urge to hurry was contagious.  Esther
and Hannah immediately caught it and lengthened their steps.
Hurry!  The voiceless crowd said, 'Hurry!  Something is happening
that never happened before and may never happen again!  We must not
miss this marvel!  Hurry!'  Esther and Hannah glanced into the
strained faces of their companions, and then briefly sought each
other's sober eyes, but exchanged no comments.  Their throats were
dry with the fast travel, the choking dust, the half-frightened
anticipation. . . .  Yes, this Carpenter--whether he was John's
Carpenter or not--was bringing sleepy little Galilee to life, was
turning stolid little Galilee upside down, was driving conservative
little Galilee stark, staring mad!

No need to inquire the way!  A mile south of Bethsaida a freshly
made highway veered off sharply toward the west: traversed a grove,
riddled a vineyard, toppled a stone fence, muddied a creek, and
fanned out into an open pasture swarming with thousands of people.

On a knoll, surrounded by a pressing throng, stood the man they had
come to see.  Apparently he had but now arrived, for he was not yet
speaking.  He was waiting, with folded hands and a faraway look in
his eyes as if in calm contemplation of the distant mountains.
There was no expression of surprise or gratification that so great
a multitude had done him honour.  Now he had slowly raised his
arms.  The people grew more quiet.  He lowered his arms in a
gesture that requested them to sit down.  Nobody was willing to
obey, for all wanted to see everything that might happen.  The
gesture was calmly repeated, and the people closest to the front
sat down.  Then, like a long, incoming tidal wave, the impulse
swept the throng until all were seated.  The Carpenter held up an
outspread hand and there was silence: a peculiar silence--not a
mere cessation of sound and confusion, but a vital, unifying
silence that made them kin.  They did not shrink from the
accidental touch of a neighbour's elbow, though the stranger had a
ragged sleeve.

When he began to speak, Esther instantly remembered what young
Johnny had said about this man's voice.  He spoke effortlessly, but
his words were clearly reaching to the outskirts of the great
assembly.  The uncanny thing about the voice was that it was
speaking to you!  To you alone!  There was a tone of quiet entreaty
in it.  Come--let us talk it over together.

He was speaking about the blessed life, the abundant life.  How few
had been far-visioned enough to claim that perfect life for their
own.  A life freed of fear and foreboding, freed of frets and
suspicions, freed of the sweating greed for perishable things.
This was the life he offered, a life of enduring peace in the midst
of the world's clamours and confusions.

Esther's senses yielded to it.  All about her she could see and
feel the people relax as she herself was relaxing in obedience to
the voice.  She had never realized before that her body and mind
had been continually at tension.  The Carpenter's peace invited her
spirit.  He was defining the terms of it now.  Anyone could possess
it.  It was to be had for the asking, but one must seek for it,
work for it; and, if need be, suffer for it.  It was like living
water, drawn from an ever-flowing spring.  Once you had tasted of
it, you would never again be satisfied without it.  It might cost
you many a sacrifice, but it would be worth the price.  Esther,
dreamily content, felt that any price would be reasonable.  Maybe
she wouldn't feel this way tomorrow, but it seemed reasonable and
attainable now--here--today--under the spell of the quiet voice.

Personal peace, the Carpenter was saying, gave you personal power;
not the kind of power that the world had to offer you for ambitious
striving, but the peace-power of the Father's Kingdom.  If you must
let everything go to possess that peace-power, let it go!  If an
oppressor demands your cloak, give up your cloak--and your coat,
too--but keep your peace-power.  Do not insist upon justice.  There
had been much too much talk about justice--and not nearly enough
talk about mercy.

'There is an old saying among us,' he went on, 'an old saying that
our fathers believed and practised, "An eye for an eye and a tooth
for a tooth."'

Esther had been brought up on that ancient adage.  Whatever injury
another person does to you, simple justice recommended that you
repay it in kind.  But the Carpenter was saying that we must have
done with that eye-for-an-eye justice, in the interest of mercy and
peace.  Henceforth--if you would possess the blessed life--you must
do unto others what you would like to have them do unto you. . . .
The blessed life sounded very attractive.  Esther was sensing an
intimation of its richness.  She sighed, shut her eyes, and
involuntarily shook her head; for she had an eye-for-an-eye vow to
keep.

The Carpenter had ended his speaking now and to the obvious
surprise of the multitude he sat down on the grassy knoll,
apparently very weary.  The crowd shifted its posture a little,
straightened its spine, re-crossed its cramped legs, but remained
seated.  Loosed from her deep reverie, Esther turned inquiring eyes
toward Hannah, who drew a long breath and shook her head
mystifiedly.

'Esther,' she whispered, 'there never was anyone like him--never--
never before--in this world!'

'There's something very queer about all this,' agreed Esther.

Hannah leaned closer and was about to speak again when a stir and a
murmur in the densely packed crowd fronting the knoll brought them
to attention.

Two little children, a boy of six and a girl of four, had run up
the slope and seated themselves on either side of the fatigued
Carpenter.  Perhaps he had beckoned to them.  But no--for now their
mothers were hurrying forward to bring them back.  The Carpenter
was shaking his head, apparently insisting that they let the
children remain with him.  Now--more little children broke loose
from their parents and were clambering up the bank.  They huddled
closely about him.  More and more children joined the party.  They
sat, blinking and squinting against the sun, seemingly intent upon
what he was saying to them, in a low tone inaudible to the
multitude.

From throughout the great assembly, scores of children, tugged by
some irresistible invitation, were rushing forward, stumbling
heedlessly over grown-up legs.  One thin-faced little fellow was
limping painfully up the slope, leaning his frail body against a
crutch.  The Carpenter, still speaking, had motioned to the
children to open a path for the lame boy, and they edged over to
give him room.

Now a spontaneous 'Oh!' went up from the people close enough to see
clearly what was happening.  Without pausing in his gentle speech,
the Carpenter had reached out his hand for the crutch.  The boy had
hesitated before giving it up, but now he stood on both feet, erect
and confident.  He took a few experimental steps.  Now, apparently
overcome by the amazing thing that had happened to him, he knelt
down, pressed his face hard against the Carpenter's knee--and
cried.  And so did everybody else.

Raising his voice to embrace the multitude, the Carpenter spoke.

'These children come to me because, in their innocence, they are of
the Father's Kingdom.  And if you, too, would be of this Kingdom,
you must enter it with the heart of a child.'

He then spoke a final word to the little ones alone and they arose.
The boy who had been lame marched down the slope with shining eyes.
Intent upon his reunion with his parents, who had pressed forward
to meet him, the crowd was not immediately aware of the Carpenter's
retreat down the further side of the knoll.  The people remained
seated, thinking that after he had rested--for he seemed quite
spent with weariness--he might return and speak again.  But it soon
became evident that the day's events had ended.  In groups the
multitude began to scramble to their feet.  There was almost no
conversation as the great crowd broke up and strolled back toward
the highway.

Hannah and Esther, hand in hand, too deeply moved for any talk,
trudged slowly along with the other awe-stricken people who had had
a brief, mystifying glimpse into a Kingdom that was not of this
world.

Far in advance of them, striding along alone, with slumped
shoulders and bent head, was Simon.  The women's eyes met
diffidently.  Nothing was said for a long moment.  Then Hannah
murmured, 'Now we know what ails him.  It's this Jesus.'

                         * * * * * *

A tall, handsome, self-assured young sentry was pacing back and
forth in front of the prison when Esther appeared, next morning,
with John's breakfast-tray.  He came briskly to attention as she
approached, saluted gracefully, and made a candid inventory of her,
with brightly approving eyes.

'You have come to feed the prisoner?' he inquired unnecessarily;
and when Esther had smiled an affirmative, he said, 'He is a lucky
fellow!'

'Yes--isn't he?' drawled Esther.  'Such a nice place to spend these
lovely autumn days.'

'Let me have that tray,' said the sentry, putting down his spear
and extending his hands.  'I'll give it to him, and while he is
eating we will get acquainted.  My name is Algerius.'

'And my name is Esther.'  She smiled, but held on to the tray.
'And the girl in the kitchen is Claudia, who is expecting you to
come and have some honey-cakes while I am giving your prisoner his
breakfast.'

'I don't know about that,' demurred the sentry, taking off his
heavy helmet and mopping his brow.  'If my captain were to hear of
this, I should be flogged.  And besides'--his voice lowered
conspiratorially--'I'd much rather stay here and talk to you.'

'What about?' she demanded, suddenly cool.

Algerius readjusted his helmet and picked up his spear.

'You say her name is Claudia?'

'Yes--and you needn't hurry back.  I will be responsible for the
prisoner.'

'Here's the key then.'

'I have one.'

'Sure you aren't afraid?'

'Of the prisoner?--No.  He is very respectful.'  She put the tray
down on the low stone wall.

'And I am not,' grumbled the lingering sentry, with a grin.

'You could be, I think, with a little more practice--and quite a
lot of encouragement.'

Having given the sentry time to be well on his way, she unlocked
the door and invited John to come out into the sunshine.

'I heard you tell the sentry your name, daughter,' he said, when
they had sat down together.

'Would you like to call me Esther?'  She handed him a goblet of
grape juice which he sniffed suspiciously.  'It is not fermented,'
she said.  'I pressed it only a few moments ago.  Claudia told me
you could not drink wine.'

'I am a Nazarite.'  He touched the goblet with his lips
experimentally, and then sipped it with relish.

'Do the people of Nazareth not drink wine?'

'I do not mean that I am of Nazareth.  I am a Nazarite, which is a
different thing altogether.  There is a monastic order among us
known as the Nazarites.  We take a vow--or, as in my own case--it
is taken for us at our birth; chastity, poverty, abstinence.'

Esther offered him the plate of wheaten bread.  He put down the
goblet and broke one of the small loaves.

'That doesn't seem quite fair,' she ventured, 'to have had a vow
imposed upon you when you were only a baby.'

'I have never regretted it,' he said.  'It is a good life.'  A shy,
unexpected smile lighted his deep eyes.  'And my name is John.  It
would please me--after so long away from home--to hear my name
spoken by a friend.'

'What a lonely life you have had!'

'Not until recently.  I have spent many years in solitude, pursuant
to my Nazarite vow, but they have been spent under the open sky.  I
was not unhappy.  But here, in this dark prison, I am quite
desolate, friendless, and strangely beset with forebodings.'  He
turned toward her with anxious eyes.  'Tell me, daughter, were you
able to see him?'

She had hoped to postpone this query as long as possible, for she
was unprepared to answer it to his satisfaction.

'Yes, sir--John--I saw and heard him yesterday afternoon.  There
was the greatest multitude I ever saw.  It was gathered about him--
in a pasture--not far from Bethsaida.  I was amazed to see so many
people.  I wondered where they all came from.  It was--'

He had been studying her face intently, as she laboriously put off
the moment when she must tell him what manner of man she had seen.
Divining her difficulty, he broke in upon her hesitations.

'You were disappointed, I think.'

'No, John, I was not disappointed--but I fear you will be.  This
man does not seem to be an avenger.  He speaks with the most
gentle, entreating voice I ever heard, a soothing voice that makes
you very quiet--inside.  He did not talk about punishment in store
for wrongdoers, nor did he say that the mighty would be dragged
from their seats, nor that those of low degree would be exalted.
But he spoke peace and courage to the poor.'  She paused for a long
moment.  'And little children crowded about him--and he cured a
small boy of his lameness.'

John stared hard at his prison-door and drew a deep sigh.

'Begin at the beginning then,' he said huskily, 'and tell me
everything.'

So Esther began at the beginning and told him everything she could
remember: the wistful, hurrying pilgrimage on the road, the great
mass of people in the field, the placid voice that reached far and
tugged hard at your heart, the silent, breathless, yearning
multitude, the uncanny sensation of peace.

'I can feel a little of it yet,' she went on dreamily.  'While he
spoke, this peculiar peace laid hold on me so fully that I wished--
above all things--that I might possess it for ever.'

Conscious that John had come out of his moody reverie, and was
giving her better attention, she turned toward him and continued:
'I think that everyone in the vast crowd must have felt the same
way.  I found myself hoping that he would not stop, for while he
spoke my heart grew still--and all the things that ever have
troubled me were forgotten.'

'Apparently his voice wrought a strange spell on the minds of the
people,' reflected John.

'Surely you should know, sir,' said Esther, 'for when I heard you
speaking to a great crowd, everyone listened intently to your
voice.'

'But the Carpenter's voice was different, I think.'

She nodded her head slowly, and groped for the words that might
define that difference without hurting him.

'Your voice, John, stunned me--and made me afraid of the days to
come.  The Carpenter's voice stilled me--and gave me peace.  I feel
a little of it today; but it is leaving me, and I am sorry.'  Again
she was silent for a time.  'Do you know,' she went on, suddenly
confident, 'I believe that if one could really get acquainted with
him--and stay close beside him for a while--one might learn how to
keep it!'

'Perhaps there are others who feel the same way,' wondered John.
'Does he seem to have any close friends about him?'

She didn't know.  She had not noticed any special companions with
him, on the knoll or when he departed.

'Why don't you try to meet him face to face, Esther?' suggested
John.  'If he is so gentle and kindly disposed, might he not be
willing to talk with you?'

'But what right would I have to intrude upon him when he is already
so overburdened and weary?'

'Go to him with a message--from me!' said John, in a tone of
command.  'Say to him that I have given my life to foretell the
coming of the Anointed One.  Ask him if he knows anything about
that--about me!  Ask him--in my name--if he is the One I foretold
or are we to expect another!'

Esther gave a little smile and shook her head.

'I'm afraid I couldn't do that, John.  He isn't the sort of person
one walks up to with such a query.'

'But I must know!  Can't you see that my very life depends on my
knowing?  Will you not try?'

'Let me think about it,' she said soberly.  'That's a very large
assignment--for a girl.'

'I agree,' conceded John.  'It is indeed a large assignment--for a
girl--or for anybody; for a rabbi, or the High Priest, or the
Tetrarch himself!  But you have already undertaken a very serious
and dangerous errand which shows the courage that is in you.  Do
this--for me!'  He challenged her silent indecision with urgent
eyes, and waited.

'I will try,' she whispered.

                         * * * * * *

It was on the same morning, but much earlier--the morning of the
twenty-sixth day of Tishri, a date to be remembered--that Simon
rose from his uncomfortable narrow bunk on shipboard, resolved that
he would go again today into the country and hear Jesus speak.

And he was resolved also that if circumstances permitted he would
try to stand close enough to the Carpenter to be of some aid in
keeping the selfish, jostling multitude from wearing the man out
with their thoughtless importunities.  He had slept hardly at all,
last night, for thinking about this, imagining himself standing
protectingly at Jesus' side, keeping the crowd back, admonishing
the cot bearers to take their time and remain in line, and not push
in ahead of others who had got there first.  Surely someone should
be doing this for Jesus--and why not he?  For he was tall and
strong, and the people might listen to his demand that they keep in
order.  He was quite alone on the ship, having sent young Thad home
at nightfall.  He had wanted to be alone, for his thoughts were
incommunicable and he did not want the boy to be bewildered and
distressed by his moody silence.

A greyish-blue light was showing faintly in the east, presaging
dawn.  The autumn mist hung low on the water, obscuring the beach.

Simon walked forward, lowered a bucket, and carried the water into
the little galley where he washed his face.  Then he broke one of
the barley loaves that Hannah had sent him and emerged from the
galley, munching the bread dutifully but without relish, for he was
wholly preoccupied with his thoughts about the day's possible
adventures.

Strolling aft, he climbed over the side of The Abigail, boarded The
Sara, and sauntered across to her starboard taffrail, where he
stood scanning the faraway eastern mountains.  The whole range
would show pink presently.  His eyes drifted about to the
northwesterly shore.  If the fog lifted a little, he might be able
to see whether Japheth's old boat was still afloat.  He thought he
heard a voice on the shore, and turned about, narrowing his eyes in
an effort to pierce the fog, but he could see nothing.  'Halloo!'
he called, funnelling his lips with his hands.  'Halloo!' came the
voice--and Simon wondered if it might be an echo; but--no--it
didn't sound like his voice.  His heart was beating strangely.  He
waited and listened, cupping his ear with his hand.

The dawn was coming now, coming fast, leaping over the mountains,
pouring down upon the sea.  Leaning far across the rail, Simon
peered hard into the dissolving mist that enveloped the shore.  He
made out a dim figure standing on the beach, close to the water's
edge.

The stranger waved his upraised arm, and Simon--after a moment of
indecision--put up his hand and waved it.  The fog was lifting.
Again the stranger waved his hand, and called:  'Simon!'

There was no mistaking that voice!  For there was no other voice
like it in the world--or ever had been!

'Coming!' shouted Simon, hoarse with excitement.  His throat was
dry and his big hands trembled as he vaulted over the rail and
dropped into a rocking dory.  He was an experienced oarsman, but no
one observing would have thought so from the awkwardness of his
nervous flailings and splashings.  It seemed a long voyage, but
eventually he arrived, very much out of breath, and dragged the
dory up on the sand.

Limp with emotion, his face twitching, he found himself staring
mystifiedly into the calm, friendly eyes of Jesus.  He dropped to
his knees.  He felt the wonder-working hands on his bent shoulders
and experienced the same sensation that had thrilled him when their
bare arms had touched--at Hammath.

Now Jesus was speaking, quietly but insistently.

'Simon, son of Jonas, I have need of you.'

'But I am a very sinful man, Master,' confessed Simon thickly.

'I have come to save sinners, my son,' said Jesus.

'How can I help you, Master?  I am only a fisherman.'  Simon's
voice was barely audible now, for his pent-up emotion was choking
him.

'You are to remain a fisherman always, Simon,' said Jesus.  'But--
from this day forward you will fish for men!'

Humbly and penitently, Simon bowed himself far forward, his eyes
overflowing.  Now the invigorating hands were laid gently upon his
shaggy head.  It gave him a strange feeling of exultation.

'Come!' said Jesus softly.  'Arise, Simon, and follow me!'

And Simon arose--and followed Jesus.

                         * * * * * *

But instead of leading the Big Fisherman to the highway, and south
through Bethsaida and on into the country near Hammath--as Simon
had expected--Jesus walked northward, keeping close to the shore.

He had asked Simon to follow him, and Simon was obeying; trudging
along through the sand, a few cubits behind him, and making no
effort to come abreast, though Jesus was walking slowly.

In this manner they proceeded for half a mile, in silence.

It seemed strange to the Big Fisherman that he could so
complacently consent to follow the Carpenter without asking him
where they were going.  It had been his intention to go out into
the country today and volunteer his services as a strong-armed
bodyguard to help keep the jostling people from harassing Jesus
with their importunities.  He could do that, he thought, without
making any alterations in his own beliefs or behaviour. . . .  Now,
it seemed, he was expected to join cause with Jesus--and 'fish for
men.' . . .  Had anyone--the servant-girl Anna, for example--had
Anna asked him, a week ago, whether he had a notion of following
Jesus, he would have sworn a surly oath and spat on the ground!

Now he was following Jesus--and with a curious sense of peace; for
the mysterious calmness that had briefly possessed him, yesterday
afternoon, had returned.

Japheth's old boat was lazily rocking at anchor, some three hundred
yards off shore, a dory bobbing at her stern.  Doubtless the
Zebedee boys were aboard preparing to sail early to a fishing-
ground.

Jesus' steps slowed to a stop here.  He turned about, silently
regarded Simon with an inquiring smile, and then shifted his gaze
seaward.  For a long moment Simon stood beside him, indecisively
stroking his chin.  Then he moved toward one of the beached dories,
pushed it into the water, climbed in, shipped the oars, and began
to pull steadily toward the storm-battered fishing-smack.

Facing astern, he kept his eyes fixed on Jesus, who remained
standing on the shore.  After a while, as Simon neared the old boat
where James and John were awaiting him at the rail, Jesus waved a
hand, turned about, and moved southward toward the highway.



Chapter IX


After a fortnight's diligent search for Fara, everyone but Voldi
gave it up.

With tireless persistence, but waning hope, the loyal young fellow
had continued his quest, investigating every square cubit of
terrain which she might have covered in a reckless midnight ride.

He had even gone to the length of having himself lowered over
precipices to the unexplored depths of bramble-choked chasms into
which she might have fallen, and had vigorously queried shepherds
in pasture-lands so far remote that the possibility of their having
any information for him was inconceivable.  He had pestered the
grief-stricken Ione with questions until she fled at the sight of
him.

The plight of the once so well-balanced and self-contained Ione was
indeed pitiable.  Upon the death of Arnon and the disappearance of
Fara, King Zendi had taken their helpless servants into his own
household where the older of them fitted at once into the well-
remembered routines of a King's establishment.  But the
inconsolable Greek slave seemed dazed.  Everyone thought that she
was going mad.

According to report, Ione sat all day alone in a far corner of the
female servants' quarters, occasionally breaking into hysterical
weeping; and, when anyone approached her, would shrink back
terrified as if expecting a blow.  Advised of her appalling
condition, Voldi had left off hoping that she might be able to
furnish a clue.

Of course there were many who recalled the fantastic vow that Fara
had taken when hardly more than a child, but it seemed beyond all
reason that she would have set off alone on a mission so palpably
impossible.

To clear the air of these speculations, and, more particularly, to
dissuade the now frantic Voldi from his half-formed decision to
seek for her in faraway Galilee, the King and his Councillors held
a conference in which the matter was fully discussed.  And when it
was ready to adjourn, Voldi was invited in to learn the outcome of
their parley.

Disheartened and ill, for his fatigue and sleepless anxiety had
worn him thin, he listened dejectedly while King Zendi reported
their unanimous opinion.  It was their firm belief, solemnly
declared Zendi, that no young woman in her right mind--as Fara had
seemed to be--would attempt a solitary expedition into a hostile
country with the intention of assassinating its well-fortified
king.  And it was the considered judgment of the Council that any
effort to seek for her in that region would be an act of sheer
lunacy.

Were the stronghold of Tetrarch Antipas situated twenty miles
beyond the Jordan, continued Zendi, a thousand experienced
cavalrymen might risk making an attack; but that a seventeen-year-
old girl would travel, unattended, over seventy leagues of bandit-
infested territory--to wreak vengeance upon a king in his fortress--
was too preposterous to be believed even by a courageous young man
whose loyalty and love and sorrow had driven him to desperation.

After Zendi had spoken there was a long silence which suggested
that Voldi might defend his foolish idea if he desired, but he did
not speak.  Old Dumah cleared his throat to add a word.

'Even if she had been mad enough to attempt it, she would have come
to grief long before now.'

Voldi suddenly raised his head.

'Do you mean, sir, that she may have been imprisoned?'

'Or worse,' muttered Dumah.

At that, Voldi rose from his place, fell on his knees before the
King, and cried, 'I can no longer bear this anxiety, sire!  I
entreat you!  Let me go and search for her in Jewry!'

Old Mishma, seated beside the King, whispered a suggestion.  Zendi
motioned Voldi to arise and told him to wait outside.  It was a
full hour before they called him back.  The Councillors had risen
from their seats and seemed restless to be off.

'At the request of your honoured grandfather, Voldi, we are
permitting you to go.  We will give you a certificate of your
Arabian citizenship, requesting safe passage through all Jewry.
You realize that this document does not have the value which would
be accorded it in Macedonia, Petra, Cyprus, or Rome.  If you get
into trouble over there in Judaea or Galilee, it will be your own
affair.  We wish you well, my son; but if you do not return, no one
will search for you.'

While Zendi was speaking, Voldi's grateful eyes drifted to his
grandfather's sober face.  What a grand old man was Mishma!  When
the King had finished, Voldi bowed deeply.  Zendi laid a hand on
his shoulder and wished him a safe journey.

'I shouldn't let you do it,' he added.

'If His Majesty were in my place,' ventured Voldi, 'he would take
the chance, I think.'

'What weapons will you carry?' inquired Zendi.

'Only a dagger, sire.'

'Very good.  It is better not to bear conspicuous arms.  And try to
avoid controversies, however trivial.  And don't draw your dagger
unless you intend to use it. . . .  Another thing: you should be
well provided with money!'

Voldi's heart skipped a beat.  He hadn't thought much about money.
He had never carried money with him; never had had occasion to use
money.  Old Mishma instantly lifted that weight.

'He shall have ample funds, my lord.'

Voldi impetuously reached for his grandfather's hand--and gripped
it.  Zendi stepped down from the dais, and was moving away.

'Arabia should be proud of you both!' he said.

At Mishma's request, Voldi rode home with him.  It had been a long
time since he had seen his grandfather in the saddle, and his heart
swelled with admiration as he watched the effortless skill with
which the old man handled the impatient bay stallion.  Mishma's
posture in the saddle was a score of years younger than his deep-
lined face.  They had little to say until they reached the old
Councillor's gate: there they drew their horses together.

'Shall we say good-bye, sire?'

'Presently.  Come in.'

Dismounting, they entered the luxurious living-quarters of Mishma's
home.  He disappeared into the adjacent bedroom and returned with a
newly made money-belt.  It was heavy with gold, so heavy that when
Voldi took it he nearly dropped it.

'It is the amount you would have inherited, my boy.'

'Was it not dangerous, sire, to have so much gold in your
possession?'

'True--but I have not had it many days.'

'Then--you had prepared it--for me?'

'I thought, at least a fortnight ago, that you would follow her.
It is a great grief to me, Voldi.  But I cannot detain you!'

It was a memorable moment.  Their voices were low.  They were both
deeply stirred.

'I shall not expect to see you again.  I am old.'  Mishma's words
were barely audible.  He was talking mostly to himself.  'I had
dreamed of you as a Councillor.  We must give that up now.  Whether
you find her or not--we have already lost that opportunity. . . .
But--I cannot find it in my heart to rebuke you. . . .  As I grow
older my ideas of values change.  The girl is courageous.  Not much
wonder if you love her enough to throw your life away for her. . . .
You may not find her.  I doubt whether you will.  If she is lost,
do not hurry to return.  You will have sufficient funds for a
considerable amount of foreign travel. . . .  If you find her, you
will marry her.  Do not bring her back here.  You would both be
unhappy.' . . .  Mishma rose heavily and laid his hands on Voldi's
shoulders. . . .  'Go now, my brave boy, and comfort your mother.'

After the painful scene in his own home, where Kitra, having made a
valorous effort to control her feelings, finally gave way to a
complete emotional breakdown, Voldi galloped away to pay his final
respects to the King and receive his worthless passport.

At the last minute it occurred to him to say farewell to Ione, but
the servants couldn't find her.  Mounting his tall black gelding he
rode away at a brisk trot toward the trail that descended to the
Valley of Aisne.

A few hundred yards ahead, a woman stepped out of the wild
shrubbery and waved an arm.  It was Ione, thin and haggard, but
surprisingly animated.  There was no accounting for the caprices of
an ailing mind.  Ione, who had sunk to the depths of melancholy,
now seemed almost happy.  Voldi reined in his horse--and stopped
beside her.

'Good, Voldi!' she cried excitedly.  'Go and find her!  Here is a
little gift for you!'

She handed up a parcel.  It was about the shape and size of a
baby's pillow, and soft to the touch.  A scarf that she had knitted
for him, perhaps, encased in an envelope of fine linen securely
stitched on all sides.

'Am I to open it now, Ione?' asked Voldi.

'No, no!  You've no time for that!  It's just a little present.'
She turned away, waving her hand and smiling.  'May all the gods
attend you, Voldi!' she shouted as he put the spurs to Darik and
rode on.  But Ione's strange behaviour stirred his curiosity.  A
few days ago she was unapproachable, depressed, fear-harried, and
clearly out of her head.  Now that she had learned of his intention
to search for Fara in Galilee, she was exultant!  Perhaps she knew
more than she had told about the events of that night when Fara had
disappeared.  He tried to reason it out.  Ione had been sworn to
secrecy!  That was what had driven her crazy!  In spite of all the
opinions to the contrary, Fara had unquestionably started for
Galilee, intending to keep her vow!  Voldi was on the right track:
there could be no doubt of that.  It made him impatient to press
on.  But when he considered the many possible misfortunes she might
have encountered, he despaired of finding her alive, unharmed.

That night he stopped for food and shelter at an unpromising
caravansary situated on a small oasis at the southernmost tip of
the Dead Sea.  After an abominable supper prepared by a sullen,
wizened old woman, he inquired of the testy inn-keeper, presumably
her husband, whether a well-favoured young Arabian woman had ridden
past that way on a bay filly--or perhaps rested there--some two
weeks ago.  And when the surly old fellow, with a frown and
protruding lips, had shaken his head, Voldi prodded hard at his
memory.  Was he sure?

Of course he was sure!  Would he be likely, he growled, to forget
such a strange and pleasant sight?  A young woman travelling alone
in this country?  No, sir; you could depend on him to remember
seeing a well-favoured young woman!  He chuckled slyly, and his
withered old spouse scowled at him, which made him laugh
unpleasantly.

Then Voldi tried to probe the old woman's recollection, but she
hadn't seen a pretty young woman, alone, on a horse, here or
anywhere else, ever in her life, which seemed to dispose of her as
a witness.

Though it was still early in the evening, there was little to do
but retire.  They lighted a candle for him and pointed out the
wretched hovel where he was to lodge.  Shouldering his saddle-bags,
he groped his way into the filthy and meagrely furnished hut.
Quite weary but not ready to sleep, he sat down on the edge of the
dirty cot, and for lack of any other occupation decided to see what
Ione had given him.

Taking the parcel from his pack, he attacked the fine stitches with
the point of his dagger.  It was a tedious and exasperating task,
for Ione had done her work well.  At length he laid the cover back,
and his eyes widened with astonishment.  The linen sheath contained
a long, heavy braid of hair!  Whose--but Fara's?

Voldi took it up and held it against his cheek.  He pressed his
lips to it.  His eyes were misty.  Gradually the implications of
Ione's gift dawned upon him, and he muttered an ejaculation of
sudden understanding.  Fara was impersonating a young man!  This
was Ione's way of telling him that he should not make inquiries
about a girl!  He was to look for a man!  How dared Fara take such
a risk?  But here was the incontrovertible evidence that she had
done so!  Poor Ione wasn't as crazy as they thought.  Voldi was
exultant, but not for long.  His apprehension soon cooled his joy.
How could Fara hope to preserve so difficult an incognito?  Sooner
or later she must be discovered--and be worse off for her disguise.

He went to sleep, after hours of wakefulness, with the tender
trophy on his pillow.  Awake at dawn, he found his taciturn host
pottering about in the stableyard.

'Let me ask you this question,' said Voldi sternly.  'Did you see a
young man, an Arabian, in these parts about a fortnight ago--riding
a bay filly?'

'That I did, sir,' replied the old man--'a handsome young fellow he
was, and very well dressed, too.  He stopped here; slept in the
same room you had last night.'

'Uhh--what a room!' growled Voldi.

The old man chuckled shamelessly.

'That other young Arab didn't like the room, either.  You should
have heard him!  Upon my word, sir, that young fellow could swear
like a drunken sailor!  I never heard such a mouthful of curses.
Some of 'em were new words that I didn't know.'

Voldi looked puzzled for a minute--and then laughed.

'A pretty rough youngster, was he?'

'He was indeed, sir.  He must be very rich; used to having his own
way.  He ordered us about as if we were slaves; though I must say
he was not stingy.'

'Why didn't you tell me about him last night when I asked you?'

The old fellow's jaw sagged and a look of comprehension came into
his crafty eyes.

'But you inquired about a young woman!' he countered.  'Might this
young man you're asking for be the young woman you thought you
wanted to know about last night?'  He threw back his grizzled head
and cackled shrilly.  'We thought there was something queer about
him!  He!  He!  Well, I still say that nobody ever cursed like that
on this oasis--and many's the camel-driver we've put up!'

                         * * * * * *

Voldi broke out into loud laughter several times on his way to
Engedi, but he had his sober moments too.  Fara was indeed playing
for high stakes.  She might deceive the grumpy old pair at the
filthy caravansary--but it was a long way to Galilee.

At Engedi the young Arabian--of a fortnight ago--was promptly
remembered.

'A proud, haughty young fellow?' queried the innkeeper; and when
Voldi had nodded, he went on:  'Do I remember him!  Rich, he was!
Rode a frisky bay mare with enough silver on her bridle and enough
jewels on his riding-whip to have bought everything in my house!'

'Did you find him just a bit--disagreeable?' pressed Voldi.

'Just a bit!' grinned the inn-keeper sourly.  'He swore at me in
three languages--Aramaic, Arabian, and Greek.  He swore at the
servants in Latin.  Nothing pleased him.'

Voldi tried to be serious, but he couldn't restrain a chuckle.

'That's the fellow I'm looking for,' he said.  'He's a tough one--
and no mistake!  Did you notice which way he went when he left?'

'The old Salt Trail.  Said he was headed for the port--and if he
wasn't robbed before he got there, they probably cleaned him out in
Gaza.  Any man's a fool to ride through that pest-hole alone--even
in broad daylight!'

'Did you warn him of that?'

'No--I didn't!' snapped the innkeeper.  'He was so damned sure of
himself.  It wasn't any of my business if he got into trouble.'

'I think my friend would be able to take care of himself,' bragged
Voldi, with much more confidence than he felt.

'He certainly could with his mouth,' rejoined the innkeeper.

'Yes--and with his dagger too!' retorted Voldi, wishing he spoke
the truth.

As he rode on, early the next morning, on the busy highway, his
mind was troubled.  So many misadventures might have confronted
Fara.  These lean, lazy, ragged fellows who led the camels in the
long caravans, what might they not do to annoy and provoke a
solitary rider who had taken no pains to conceal his wealth and
rating?  And the hawk-nosed, beady-eyed caravan-directors who
looked Voldi over with such candid impudence, what would Fara's
disguise amount to if they insisted on questioning her closely?
Apparently she had felt that to be convincing in her new rle she
must be noisy and arrogant.  Voldi hoped she wasn't overdoing it.
She might meet someone who wouldn't be favourably impressed by her
swagger and profanity.  The poor dear wouldn't last very long in a
fight.

At old Hebron he made inquiries at the two inns, but nobody
remembered seeing a well-to-do young Arabian on a bay filly.  After
a couple of hours spent in asking questions, Voldi decided that
Fara must have ridden directly on through the historic town without
pausing.  He fed and watered his horse, lunched briefly at the
principal inn, and proceeded on his journey.  It was a more fertile
country now, and the donkey-carts were coming into the highway
laden with melons, grapes, grain, and green forage.

A few miles west of Hebron, near a cross-road, Voldi saw a rider
approaching who stirred his interest, for the beautiful bay mare he
rode--far too good for the unkempt, loutish fellow astride--bore a
striking resemblance to Fara's Saidi.  Slowing to a walk, as the
distance between them lessened, Voldi's suspicions were confirmed.
The stocky, shaggy fellow with the ragged tunic and the uncombed
beard couldn't have afforded a mount of such value.  His dark brown
skin identified him as an Idumean, which was not to his credit.  He
was riding bareback.  The disgraceful old bridle was a patchwork of
straps and hempen cords, no fit equipment for a thoroughbred.

As they neared each other, the shifty-eyed Idumean, now aware that
he was being carefully scrutinized, dug his heels savagely into the
filly's ribs, apparently determined to pass quickly.  Voldi
instantly wheeled Darik across the road, blocking Saidi to an
abrupt stop.

'What do you mean by that?' yelled the lout in the thick guttural
of half-civilized Idumea.

'How did you come by this filly?' demanded Voldi.

'Who wants to know?' retorted the Idumean.

'I do, fellow!' shouted Voldi.  'She belongs to a friend of
mine. . . .  Here, Saidi!'  He held out his hand.  Saidi's nostrils
fluttered.  She tipped up her ears and took an inquiring step
forward, her rider jerking the reins to restrain her.

'This mare belongs to me!' growled the enraged Idumean.  'I bought
her many months ago!  Hands off that bridle now--or it will be the
worse for you!'

'No; the mare has been stolen!  She does not belong to you.  I see
you have disposed of the saddle and bridle.  Perhaps you can tell
me what became of the young Arabian who owns her.'

'What are you going to do about it, youngster?' sneered the
Idumean, uncoiling a well-worn bull-whip.  'Will you let me pass--
or won't you?'

'Not until you answer my question!' said Voldi.

The Idumean replied by drawing back his arm and lashing hard at
Voldi's face with the long whip.  Voldi had defensively thrown up
an arm, but the thong bit sharply into his neck.  Again the whip
descended, raising a welt across the gelding's withers.  He reared--
and backed away.

Neither the Arabian nor the Idumean seemed anxious to dismount and
fight on the public highway.  Already two market-carts had drawn up
to view the altercation.  A camel-train was bearing down on them
from the west.  Apparently apprehensive of trouble, the Idumean now
wheeled the filly about, lashing cruelly at her flanks.  Tearing
loose from Voldi's grip, she bolted.

At the crossing, her rider tugged her to the left, on to an
unfrequented road, little more than a lane, with Voldi in pursuit
at full gallop.  Both horses were experienced racers.  More than
half a mile had been covered before Darik was abreast of Saidi.
The country road had narrowed now, with dense thickets on either
side.  As Darik drew into the lead by a neck, the horses so close
together that their shoulders grazed, Voldi, turning about, saw the
Idumean leaning far forward with an upraised dagger poised for a
stab in his back.  He met the threat by striking the burly fellow
full in the face with his riding-whip.

Urging his horse, he shouldered Saidi into the briars where--after
a brief struggle to free herself--she stopped and stood quivering.
The Idumean made no effort to go further.  He dismounted now, as
did Voldi.  It was plain that he would be a very unsportsman-like
antagonist, as he had already proved.

They threw off their coats, drew their daggers, and faced each
other only a little way apart.  The Idumean gingerly fingered the
red welt on his cheek--and grinned.

'I am glad you followed, youngster,' he snarled.  'This is a safer
place for what I intend to do to you.'  Crouching, like an angry
bull, he began advancing, weaving slowly to and fro, slipping his
ragged sandals forward with short, calculated steps.  Voldi
remained standing erect, making no effort to assume a defensive
posture.

The stocky Idumean straightened and folded his arms, with an
expression of bewilderment.

'Are you going to stand there--and let me kill you--without raising
a finger?  I thought you Arabians were fighters!'

Voldi seemed not to hear the taunt.  He was staring, wide-eyed,
down the road, past the Idumean's shoulder.

'Look!' he shouted in amazement.

His swarthy foe instantly jerked his head about to see what might
be coming down on him from behind, and Voldi leaped on him, firmly
clutching the wrist of his dagger-hand.  The Idumean drew back his
free arm and struck hard, sinking his big fist into the needlesharp
point of the Arabian's dagger.

Now he had twisted his right hand loose, and raising his weapon,
drove it toward Voldi's heart, but the dexterous Arabian dagger
parried the thrust with a blade that opened a long, deep gash in
the Idumean's forearm.  The blood was dripping from the fingers of
both his hands.  Again he struck, desperately, but his arm was too
badly injured to deliver an effective blow.  Voldi caught at the
bleeding wrist and twisted the dagger out of his hand.  Then he
clutched the weary Idumean's beard, jerked his head back, and
pressed the flat of his blade against the bared throat.

'Where did you get that filly?' shouted Voldi.  'Answer me quickly--
or I'll kill you!'

The Idumean gritted his teeth and tried to tug loose, smearing his
beard with his dripping hands.  The Arabian's dagger-point moved
slightly, pricking the dirty neck.

With that, the battle was over.  The big fellow's knees buckled and
he slumped to the ground, where he lay noisily sick.  Voldi opened
one of his saddle-bags, tore up a towel, and bound it tightly above
the spurting wound in the Idumean's arm.

'I have no interest in saving your life, horse-thief,' he said, as
he tied the bandage, 'but I don't want you to die until you have
told me where this filly was when you stole her.'

Weakly the Idumean confessed.  It was a strange story, so strange
that it could hardly have been invented.  But why would Fara be a
member of a great crowd--in a pasture-field beside the Jordan--
assembled to hear an itinerant prophet?  It didn't sound like
anything that Fara would be likely to do!

No, mumbled the nauseated Idumean, he hadn't seen the man who owned
the mare.  He had followed the crowd; and at nightfall had found
the filly tethered quite a little way apart from the other animals.
No, he had seen nothing of a silver-mounted bridle or saddle.  He
had waited until the camp was asleep and had led the mare away,
after a struggle with her that threatened discovery.

'Very well,' said Voldi quietly.  'When you think you are through
vomiting, we will be on our way to the spot where you found the
filly.'

'I can't do it,' muttered the Idumean, 'I am too weak.'

'You should have thought of that before you tried to stab me in the
back, horse-thief!  Come on!  Get up--or I'll slit your bandage and
you can lie here and bleed to death!'

It was a tedious journey back to Hebron, and the riders drew many
inquisitive stares from the people they passed on the highway.  At
the first public watering-trough, the Idumean was helped down to do
a partial job of washing off the clotted blood.  Fortunately for
both of them, they encountered no patrols.  East of Hebron they
turned off the highway toward the north.  It was late in the
afternoon before they reached the pasture on the bank of the
Jordan.  The dead grass still showed the hard trampling of a huge
multitude.

'There!' pointed the ailing horse-thief.  'That's where the mare
had been staked out.'

Dismounting, Voldi walked about, surveying the landscape.  What, he
wondered, would Fara be likely to do when she discovered that Saidi
was gone?  Did she have enough gold with her to buy another horse?
Doubtless; for she was on a long journey and would not have started
without funds.  It was beyond belief that she would proceed on
foot.  Her contemplated trip would be hazardous enough without that
added risk.  No, he decided, Fara would have acquired a mount--of
some sort.

And now--what should he do with Saidi?  She was not his property.
He could not sell her into better hands; nor could he conveniently
take her along with him.  His journey involved enough danger.  It
would be difficult to explain a led horse this far away from home
territory.  After some debate with himself, he mounted and drew up
facing the slumped Idumean.  He patted Fara's filly on her velvet
muzzle.

'Good-bye, Saidi,' he said, completely ignoring her rascally rider.
'I am sorry to leave you--but it can't be helped.'

Without a word to the bewildered Idumean, he galloped away,
wondering where, when--and whether--he would overtake Fara.

                         * * * * * *

Having had enough excitement for one day, Voldi put back to old
Hebron for the night.  Early the next morning he was on his way
west again, past the cross-roads where yesterday he had encountered
the thieving Idumean, on through sleepy little Adoraim, whose
bloody history, had he known it, might have stirred his interest.
Frequently he paused to ask farmers, in their carts and at work in
their fields, whether they remembered seeing a young Arabian pass
that way, a little more than a fortnight ago.  Not only was there
no information to be had, but the surly replies indicated that
their concern for travelling Arabians was lacking in enthusiasm.
Indeed, they seemed very uncivil, until Voldi speculated on the
probable attitude of an Arabian shepherd if asked by a well-mounted
Jew whether he had seen another Jew on the road some time ago.  The
shepherd would have seared him with comprehensive curses involving
not only the Jew himself, but his parents, his uncle, his
grandfather, and his heirs and assigns for ever.  A very pretty
world, it was.

These occasional detainments, while brief, added up to a
considerable delay in the travel-schedule he had planned, and it
was late in the day when he arrived at the squalid old town of
Lachish, with fifteen miles more to go before reaching Gaza.  The
moon was too young to be of much service for night riding.  He drew
up in the stableyard of the only inn, finding it almost empty--a
bad sign.  He had already learned that where one found plenty of
room there was always an easily discoverable reason.

A couple of loutish hostlers ambled forward to meet him, but he
decided to attend personally to the comfort of his horse.  While
intent upon his task of rubbing down the faithful gelding--an
operation that involved some quiet conversation between them to
which Darik contributed an occasional nod and a playful nibble--
Voldi became aware of a silent onlooker standing behind him.
Turning, he met the amused eyes of a quite good-looking, well-
dressed man of forty, obviously a Roman.  Voldi straightened and
they exchanged amiable greetings.

'You ate an Arabian, I think,' said the Roman.

'Yes, sir.  My name is Voldi.'

'Mine is Mencius.  The caravan I am accompanying is camped up the
road a mile.  My horse is lame--or pretending.  I had hoped to find
a horseleech here, but there is none; and these stable-boys hardly
know the time o' day.'

'Want me to take a look at him, sir?' asked Voldi.

'That would be very kind,' Mencius said, 'if it isn't asking too
much.  You Arabians seem to know everything about horses.'

'Not everything,' protested Voldi.  'But we do know that they get
tired on a long journey and go lame; and the more intelligent they
are, the worse they limp.'

'Right!' chuckled Mencius.  'And sometimes they forget which leg it
is and give themselves away.  However--my horse may be telling the
truth.'

They sauntered across to the other side of the compound, where a
sleek white stallion was placidly munching his forage.  Voldi stood
silently watching him for so long that Mencius was moved to inquire
whether he should lead the horse about for inspection.

'Not yet,' said Voldi absently, studying the animal's posture.
Presently the stallion raised his right forefoot and set it down
gingerly.  Voldi immediately approached, patted the horse's
withers, ran his hand down the leg to the fetlock, and gently
lifted the foot for inspection.  Mencius hovered close.

'Badly shod,' said Voldi.  'The left wall of the hoof has been
pared deeper than the right, throwing the pastern-joint off
balance.'  He called to one of the roustabouts and inquired whether
there was a farrier in the neighbourhood.  The oaf nodded.

'I'm afraid no farrier we're likely to find in this place will do
us much good,' observed Mencius.

'That's true--but his tools may,' said Voldi.  'If we can get into
his shop, I'll reset the shoe myself.'

'Do you mean to say you know how to shoe a horse?'  Mencius'
astonishment was so sincere that Voldi laughed.  On the way to the
farrier's shop he went on to explain how every Arabian boy was a
horse-doctor by instinct.  'I never let a farrier touch my Darik's
feet,' he said, 'and we have some skilful farriers, too.'  Again
Voldi laughed boyishly as he noted the puzzled expression on the
Roman's face, and added, 'Our farriers are much better paid than
our scribes. . . .  Perhaps that's why Arabia rides more gracefully
than she reads.'

Mencius smiled a little at this drollery but apparently wasn't
quite sure whether he approved of the handsome young Arab's
careless lack of interest in education; he had taken an instant
liking to Voldi and didn't want to think of him as a shameless
illiterate.  Mencius--without meaning to be--was a bit of a snob
when it came to the question of education.

Stripping off his tunic and handing it to Mencius--who couldn't
help noting the fineness of its texture and workmanship--Voldi,
with the consent of the bewildered farrier, sorted out a few rusty
tools, dexterously removed and readjusted the badly balanced shoe,
gripping the stallion's foreleg hard between his knees while
driving the nails, to lessen the jar on the sensitive pastern-
joint.

Hearing a subdued conversation--in Greek--he glanced up briefly to
observe that Mencius had been joined by another urbane Roman, his
junior and apparently his subordinate.  Mencius was doing the
talking, and it was obvious that Voldi was not expected to
understand it.

'See how cleverly he does that, Pincus,' Mencius was saying.
'Loves horses; wants to spare them any unnecessary discomfort.
Horses!  That's all he lives for! . . .  It's an odd thing about
these Arabs--they're mentally keen, but they don't know anything
but horses!'

Voldi was through with the nailing now; but, not wanting to disturb
the Roman's disquisition on the Arabian mind, he held on to the
stallion's leg, rubbing it gently--and listening.

'You take this fine-looking boy, Pincus; obviously well-to-do,
undoubtedly from one of their better families, gracious, bright;
I'll wager you five hundred sesterces he can't write his own name!'

'I wouldn't mind taking you up on that, your Excellency,' said
Pincus.  'But how are you going to find out?'

'Why don't you ask him?' suggested Voldi, with a grin.

The awkward incident, which might so easily have given serious
offence, really speeded their friendship.  Mencius, experienced in
diplomacy, humbly admitted that any attempt at apology would only
add to their trouble, which prompted Voldi to say:  'You were
right, sir, about Arabia.  I should not have listened; but--well,
sir, I couldn't get away.  My knowing Greek was accidental--not
intentional, I assure you!'

Pincus, who had been trying hard to maintain his composure, gave
way to a whoop of laughter.  The whole episode had been too
ridiculous to be viewed soberly.  Voldi, too, thought it was funny.
Mencius recovered slowly from his embarrassment.  It was with the
dignity of refinement and respect that he formally presented Pincus
as the manager of the caravan with which he was travelling.

When the younger Roman had gone, with instructions to take his
caravan on to Gaza tomorrow and wait there at the port, Mencius and
Voldi talked.  They had supper together.  It was late in the
evening when they parted.  Their acquaintance had ripened quickly
into friendship.  They both felt it.

Mencius, perhaps without realizing it, had opened some gates for
the untravelled young Arabian.  Voldi, utterly fascinated, had
encouraged the Roman to talk of his far voyages.  The better to
explain the nature of his journeys, Mencius confided without
reserve that he was an agent of the Emperor, engaged in various
errands--of investigation, mostly, and organization, too.  He had
been on this present roundabout trip for many months: sailing from
Brindisi to Crete in charge of a fleet of ten Empire ships, he had
hustled the procrastinating Cretans into their mines for iron which
he had sent to Rome.  He had kept one of the ships and had sailed
to Cyprus, where he had organized a caravan to bring copper from
the mines of the interior; and, when his fleet had returned--in
ballast--from Rome, he had accompanied the copper to Caesarea,
where it was to be used in building the extensive docks.

'You should spend a few days in Caesarea, Voldi, seeing you are
intending to ride up the coast,' advised Mencius.  'The Empire is
doing great things there!  A two-mile-long stone breakwater;
magnificent harbour; destined to be one of the greatest ports on
our sea.'

'I had not realized that the Jews had so much to export,' remarked
Voldi.

'Nor have they,' agreed Mencius, lowering his voice; 'but the day
will come when the Empire will develop Jewry.  Then there will be
trade--in plenty.'

'Meaning that Rome intends a complete subjugation of Judaea?'

'Well'--Mencius debated how best to say it--'when you've seen
the new wharves at Caesarea, I think you will come to that
conclusion. . . .  However, I surmise that any calamity to the Jews
would not inconvenience you Arabians very much.'

'I don't know, sir,' said Voldi vaguely.  'We were persuaded to
think so, many years ago, and made a brief alliance, which we
regretted.'

Mencius nodded--and shrugged.

'Of course; I remember.  Herod got scared.  Married that cad
Antipas to your sweet little Princess--broke her heart; sent her
home. . . .  I had a glimpse of her, once.  Beautiful!  It has
always been a mystery to me, Voldi, why you Arabs didn't raise more
hell about that!'

Voldi flushed a little and muttered that the Arabs were sometimes a
bit tardy about paying their debts.  After a pause, he added, 'It's
a long story, Mencius.'

'I'd like to hear it,' declared Mencius with an unexpected
enthusiasm that proved somewhat disconcerting to the Arabian, who
dismissed the matter with a careless flick of his hands.

'Tell me more about your trip,' he said.  'You unloaded the copper
at Caesarea, and--'

'No; I did not unload the copper.  As I told you, I had taken my
stallion, Brutus, with me.  How the big fellow hated those voyages!
I left the fleet in the hands of its commander, Fulvius, and rode
south to Gaza.  There, according to previous arrangement, I found
my young fellow, Pincus, with a camel-train ready to start for
Engedi.  We had dropped Pincus off at Gaza on our north-bound trip
to Caesarea. . . .  I wanted to see how much of a working force we
had in the salt-fields and whether our resources there were
adequate.'

'And now you're headed back to Rome?' asked Voldi.

'No; not quite yet.  We load the salt and see it on its way.  That
will take a week, probably.  Then I am riding back to Caesarea to
join my friend Antonius, who will be sailing The Augusta to Rome.
I've had enough of these cargo ships: I'm going home in style.  The
Augusta is the Emperor's pleasure barge--and a beautiful ship she
is, too.'

When they separated, near midnight, they felt as if they had been
friends for years.  Mencius was leaving at dawn, anticipating that
he might have to lead his horse most of the day.  They parted
reluctantly.  Each man laid his right hand on the other's left
shoulder in a comradely farewell.

'If ever you find yourself in Rome, Voldi . . .' Mencius was
saying.

'Unlikely, sir, but you may be sure I should try to find you. . . .
By the way--how would I do that?'

'Inquire at The Praetorium.  They will direct you.  Ask for
Proconsul Nicator Mencius.'

'And when you come to Arabia, Mencius, our home is yours.  Go to
the King's encampment for directions.'

'Am I correct in surmising, Voldi, that your family is prominent in
Arabia?'

'My grandfather, Mishma,' replied Voldi, 'is King Zendi's Chief
Councillor.'

                         * * * * * *

It was noon before Voldi resumed his journey.  Fara would
unquestionably have ridden through Lachish, and since it was clear
that she had not tarried in Hebron, it was almost certain that she
must have stopped here.

He had had no opportunity to speak to the innkeeper on this
subject, for Mencius had been standing by, but this morning Voldi
pressed his inquiries.

The innkeeper wanted to be obliging, though he professed to have no
knowledge of the young Arabian who had passed this way.  Certainly
he had not stopped for accommodation at his house.  It was
possible, of course, he admitted, that the young man might have
paused to ask questions at a private home and had been offered
lodging for the night.  That happened occasionally.  He even
volunteered to accompany his generous guest on a tour of the homes
where travellers had been welcomed.  But no helpful information was
arrived at, though much valuable time was consumed.  Voldi's heart
was heavy as he gave up the quest in Lachish and rode on.

It was a monotonous journey.  A mile west he came upon evidences of
the recent encampment of Pincus' caravan.  Three miles farther on
he came to the tumbledown village of Melissa, where, without any
hope at all, he stopped to ask the usual questions, to which the
replies were bucolic stares, scowls, and a spitting on the ground.

The sun was setting when a stone guide-post advised him that Gaza
was still eight miles distant.  Twilight came on rapidly.  A
quarter moon helped a little, but it would be a long way to Gaza.
And Voldi had no relish for arriving in the night, seeing you could
easily have your throat cut there in the daytime.

As he plodded along in the thickening gloom, he saw--on the highway
some two hundred yards ahead--a group of dim figures engaged in
combat.  There was an unmistakable sound of clashing swords,
together with brief barks of warning and savage encouragements.

For an instant Voldi was undecided whether to ride into this mle,
which might turn out to be a fight between rival groups of
ruffians.  He drew the gelding to a stop.  Now he saw a white horse
being tugged off the highway, and the reason for the commotion was
clear.  Spurring Darik to a gallop, he found himself within a few
yards of a desperate fight in which Mencius was valiantly but
hopelessly defending himself against three!

Flinging himself out of the saddle, he rushed into the fray.  One
of the stalwart robbers turned to meet him with a broadsword raised
high.  Voldi did not wait for it to descend on him, but leaped for
it.  Gripping the man's wrist with his left hand, he held the sword
suspended for the instant required to drive his dagger deep into
the shoulder of the sword-arm.  With a scream of pain and rage, the
bandit tried to strike.  This time the dagger caught him in the
left breast.  It had found its mark.  As the body sagged, Voldi
flung it aside and dashed on into the battle which Mencius was
plainly losing; for one of his two remaining assailants had moved
to the rear of him and was preparing to strike.

'Behind you, Mencius!' he shouted.  'I'll take this fellow!'

As Mencius wheeled about to parry the blow, the robber who had been
facing him shifted his attention to the newcomer.  Apparently
satisfied that his fellow-bandit would deal successfully with the
wearied Roman, he seemed disposed to take his time--and enjoy the
slaughter of this youthful intruder.

'What have you there, youngster--only a dagger?  What do you expect
to do with it?'

Immediately Voldi showed him what he expected to do with the
dagger.  The savage thrust, with his full weight behind it, was so
swift, so recklessly ruthless, that the older man had no chance to
assume a defensive position.  The young Arabian had come at him
with a rush that upset his calculations.  The big fellow, who had
planned to enjoy the murder, was left no time to indulge in this
luxury.  It was only an eight-inch dagger-blade against a three-
foot broadsword, but it was a bold and busy little dagger that laid
open the sword-arm, pierced the hand that moved instinctively to
clutch the wound, and drew a deep semi-circular furrow from
forehead to chin; all this in one bewildering moment.  Voldi
stepped back quickly to avoid the last determined effort at
defence, but the tip of the descending broadsword slashed his upper
arm.  He could feel the warm blood soaking his sleeve.  He decided
that the robber must pay hard for that cut; but as he moved in to
finish him off the big fellow crumpled.

Meantime, Mencius had driven his antagonist off the highway and had
him backed up against the low stone fence, where he dropped his
sword and shouted for mercy, a favour that the Roman was pleased to
bestow, for he was thoroughly spent and wounded.  Voldi looked at
the bleeding hand and was happy to see that the cut was
superficial.

'If you hadn't turned up exactly when you did, Voldi--they would
have killed me.'  Mencius, still breathing heavily, leaned against
his friend for support.

'Have they got your money?' asked Voldi.

'Yes--and my horse.'

'Here, you!' shouted Voldi to the weary robber who had slumped down
on the wall.  'If you have the Roman's wallet, hand it over.  If
not--go through your friends' pockets and find it.  And be quick!'

Heaving himself to his feet, the bandit obeyed.  Mencius' money was
found in the blood-soaked tunic of the first robber Voldi had
encountered.  The recumbent man did not protest when they relieved
him of the wallet.  He lay very still.  Mencius picked up his limp
hand.

'The rascal's dead, Voldi!' he muttered.

Voldi was stooping over to peer into the grey face.  Mencius
interposed an arm and pushed him away.

'You don't want too clear a remembrance of him, Voldi,' he
explained.  'It's easy to see you never killed a man before.'

'You mean--he may haunt me?'

'Well, you haven't seen the last of him.  They come back in the
night--and waken you.  Sometimes they bring small children along
and weeping women.'

'But, Mencius!' stammered Voldi.  'The fellow had no right to
live!'

'True, but it makes no difference.  They return! . . .  But come--
let's see what is going on here.'

The ambulatory robber had half-led, half-dragged his injured friend
to the roadside and across the stone fence into the pasture where
the horses were tethered.  The shadowy figure who had taken charge
of the white stallion had abandoned him and was running through the
field to join his companions.  Brutus had made no attempt to leave,
and was quickly taken in hand.

'Give me a lift, Mencius,' said Voldi, after an unsuccessful effort
to mount.

'You've been hurt, Voldi!' exclaimed Mencius.  'Why didn't you tell
me?  Your sleeve is wet with blood.'

'I know.  Perhaps we had better bind it up.'

'We will stop at the Fort of Minoa,' said Mencius, as he applied a
bandage to Voldi's dripping wound.  'I know the Commandant, an old
friend of mine, Legate Vitelius.  I used always to stop there on
these trips; but--not lately.  The fort's badly run down, dirty, no
discipline.  Poor old Vitelius is a wine-bibber; never dead drunk,
never cold sober; just stupid--all the day long.'

It was midnight before they reached the huge, ugly, shabby, high-
walled rectangle with the faded Roman banners suspended over the
gates.  Sleepy sentries admitted them without much questioning.
Legate Vitelius, shaky and dull but sober enough to be affable, was
summoned from his bed; heard the travellers' story, routed out the
regimental surgeon, and had the wounds cleansed and dressed.

Voldi and Mencius shared a commodious chamber.  Neither seemed
ready to sleep.  The excitement of their encounter was still with
them.

'I feel as if I had known you always, Voldi,' murmured Mencius.
'You saved my life tonight!  I am deep in your debt!  What can I
ever do to repay your kindness, my friend?'

Somewhat to his own surprise, Voldi impulsively raised up on his
elbows, and said, 'I need your counsel.  I am in a serious dilemma.
I want to confide in you!'

Propping himself up on his pillows, Mencius gave full attention as
Voldi told his almost incredible story--of Fara's childhood vow and
her disappearance and his own desperate search for her.

'I don't know, Voldi,' muttered Mencius, shaking his head, when the
tale had been told.  'I doubt whether she could make such a journey
without being apprehended.  But she's surely worth looking for; and
if love and courage can find her, you will succeed!'

Before they slept, Voldi had promised to wait in Gaza until Mencius
had dispatched his fleet, and together they would ride to Caesarea.

'But I must exact a promise of you, Voldi, if you are going with me
to Caesarea.'  Mencius' tone was serious.

'Of course!' promised Voldi.  'Anything!'

'The Augusta's errand in Caesarea is to pick up a royal family, on
a pleasure excursion to Rome.  You are to show no interest in any
member of this royal household.'

'But--why should I?' exclaimed Voldi.

'The man is the ruler of Galilee.'

'Antipas!'

'Correct!  Mind you keep your promise.  Good-night!'



Chapter X


Voldi had never met anyone with so wide a range of interests as his
companionable new friend from Rome.  Proconsul Nicator Mencius knew
something about everything, classic and contemporary.

The Arabians were not very much concerned about history, not even
about their own.  Here and there in the high mountains massive
sepulchres of their national heroes bore extravagant, weather-
beaten epitaphs, but almost nobody tried to decipher them; for, in
the opinion of Ishmael's tough posterity, it was as effeminate to
be able to read as not to be able to ride.  Literacy was left to
the professional scriveners whose unenvied occupation was practised
mostly by men with crippled feet or weak chests.

There was no written history at all.  Vagabond minstrels--rating no
better than jugglers--toured the country, attending the auctions,
fairs, and festal events, where they chanted the ancient legends
and mumbled interminable epic poems extolling the prowess of
Arabia's distinguished kings and champions, but there was nothing
resembling a comprehensive, sensible, sequential story of the
Arabian people; and as for the average Arab's knowledge of the
world outside, it was practically non-existent.

The Arab knew that he should hate and despise the Jews.  That
prejudice he had had in his milk.  He never paused to examine it.
It was as natural and necessary as breathing and heart-beats.  He
likewise loathed the Romans, though his attitude toward them was of
distrust and suspicion rather than the forthright contempt he felt
for the Children of Israel.  As for other foreign nations--Egypt,
Greece, Persia, Macedonia, Pamphylia, Cyprus, Crete--they were but
outlandish names that were rarely on his tongue or in his thoughts.
He knew nothing about them--and cared less.

As the grandson of a Councillor, Voldi had been taught to read and
write the language of his own people; but it was not much of an
accomplishment, for there was almost no Arabian literature, nor did
many occasions arise when it was of advantage to know how to write.

At Fara's gentle insistence--and because it gave him a reasonable
excuse for spending longer evenings in her company--he had studied
Greek under the competent supervision of Ione; and, spurred by
their encouragement, he had done very well with the language.  As
for the contents of those venerable scrolls which they employed as
text-books, he had very little interest in them.  He was too polite
to say so, but privately he considered Aeschylus a morbid old owl,
Pindar a windy dreamer, Herodotus a tiresome bore, and Homer a
shameless liar.

Mencius was now introducing Voldi to a new world.  He did not
parade his knowledge.  Indeed, he seemed honestly apologetic
because he knew so little.  But in the opinion of his young friend
from Arabia, the Roman's wealth of information concerning past and
present world affairs was related to Voldi's meagre store as
everything was related to nothing.

This morning, as they rode slowly toward Gaza, now only two miles
distant, lagging far enough behind the shuffle-footed caravan to
avoid the worst of its dust, Mencius found plenty of entertainment
for himself and enlightenment for Voldi by calling attention to
certain historic landmarks along the old highway.

'See that huge, tumbled pile of hewn stone over there in the
field?'  Mencius pointed with his riding-whip.  'That was the great
fort where the Philistines made their last stand against
Alexander.'

'When was that?'  Voldi took no pride in his query.

'Of course you know about the various victories of Alexander, all
over the world,' said Mencius.

'Vaguely,' mumbled Voldi, hoping he would not be required to bound
or define the word.

'Well--as you undoubtedly recall--he died about three hundred years
ago, and this was one of his later conquests.  The Philistines made
a gallant defence.  It ended--over there.'

They drew their horses to a stop and surveyed the ruins.

'Those rocks do not appear to have been there so long,' commented
Voldi.

'Granite does not deteriorate as rapidly as the people who quarry
it,' observed Mencius, half to himself.  'To look about on the
lousy cutthroats who now inhabit this region, one wouldn't suspect
that they are descendants of the brave fellows who built that fort
and defended it until the last brave man was dead.'

'It's a wonder they haven't hauled that rock-pile away to use in
other buildings,' reflected Voldi.

'Oh--they will--sometime,' soliloquized Mencius.  'It is in the
nature of nations,' he went on dreamily, 'to rise--and toil--and
suffer--and prosper--and fatten--and fall.'  After a long pause he
continued, 'Then they lie prone in the dust until some strong man
appears among them--and commands the old stones and the old bones
to rise again.  All that these rascally beggars need to put them on
their feet is a great leader.  He will come--some day.  It always
happens--in time.  Destiny is in no hurry.'

'Mencius, you have the mind of a prophet,' said Voldi soberly.  'Or
are you just guessing?'

They spoke to their horses and rode on a little way before Mencius
replied.

'No, Voldi, I am not a prophet; nor am I guessing.  The earth is a
vast theatre with many stages on which companies of actors present
the same old play--a tragedy in five acts.  Sometimes the company
puts it through to the end at breath-taking speed, if the man who
enacts the principal role is very audacious and impetuous.  You
take Alexander, for example.  That was a one-man show.  He
conquered the whole world, and when he died his Empire--as a
military power--vanished overnight.  There wasn't enough left of
his army to give police protection to his own town.'

'I had thought that the Greeks held him in high honour,' remarked
Voldi.

'So they do,' declared Mencius, 'and very properly, too.  They lost
their rating as conquerors, but they gained something much more
valuable--the world's respect.  Everywhere they went, they carried
their culture.  They became known as the wise ones of the earth!
Moreover--their wide acquaintance with the other nations opened
their own eyes to the fact of their superiority as intellectuals.
It made the Greeks conscious of their cultural supremacy and more
eager than ever to develop their talents.'  After a pause, he
added, 'Militarily, of course, Alexander's whirlwind campaigns
accomplished little.  His was a very brief dynasty.'

'It usually takes much longer, then, for the actors to finish the
old play,' surmised Voldi, anxious to hear more of this unfamiliar
talk.

'Anywhere from three or four generations to half a dozen
centuries,' said Mencius.  'Consider the case of these Philistines:
they had been smashed before; eleven centuries ago.  The end of
that play was quite dramatic. . . .  You've heard of Samson, I
suppose.'

Voldi shook his head and grinned; and Mencius, having found his
polite supposition incorrect, proceeded to tell the story.  The
Philistines had had everything their own way for a handful of
centuries.  Then a powerful leader had developed in neighbouring
Jewry.

'It takes only one strong man, you know, to do the trick,'
continued Mencius.  'If he is bold enough, successful enough, his
people will follow him and fight for him.  But he had better stay
in the saddle!  That's the only trouble with a one-man show.  The
great man becomes so infatuated with his personal conquests that he
neglects to build up a few successors to take over in the event of
something happening to him. . . .  The Philistines were quite
unprepared to compete with a man of Samson's stature.  They had
grown rich, soft, over-confident--and, of course, corrupt.  Samson
bore down on them with the courage and voice of a mad bull! . . .
There are plenty of legends about him; most of them lies, no doubt,
but immensely entertaining.  One old story has it that he single-
handedly slaughtered three hundred Philistine braves with the jaw-
bone of an ass.'

'An odd weapon,' commented Voldi.

'Yes--but not altogether inappropriate.  The big fellow was a noisy
braggart and buffoon, without a trace of dignity or common sense.
It delighted him to make monkeys of the haughty Philistines; he
loved to play pranks on them.  His roars of laughter could be heard
for a mile.'

'What sort of pranks?' Voldi wanted to know.

'Oh--theatrical displays of his physical strength.  One night he
lifted the city gates of Gaza off their hinges and carried them
away on his shoulders. . . .  Then, when he had all Philistia
beaten and shamed, he made the customary mistake of successful
warriors, rested on his oars, enjoyed his fame, and strutted about
the city with his head held high.  Presently he became enamoured of
a beautiful and designing woman.'

'Of Philistia?' inquired Voldi.

Mencius nodded--and scowled.

'It's strange,' he went on bitterly, 'how many strong men have been
taken in by women.  It hasn't been so very long since our brave
Marcus Antonius, with the applause of the Empire in his ears,
traded his fame for the smiles of that scheming little Egyptian
slut Cleopatra!  A great man he was--until he threw himself away.'

'I gather that your admiration for Cleopatra is under control,'
drawled Voldi, for something to say.

Mencius growled--and went on with Samson.

'This Philistine girl, Delilah, soon had the big clown eating out
of her hand.  When the time was ripe she betrayed him to her fellow
countrymen and they took him into camp.  His cohorts made no effort
to rescue him.'

'So--that was the end of the Fifth Act?' asked Voldi.

'By no means!' declared Mencius.  'It was only the end of the
Fourth Act!  The Philistines went much too far in their vengeful
celebration of victory over Samson.  That, too, is customary.  They
made a thorough job of it; roped him and bore him away, burned out
his eyes, harnessed him like a donkey, and made him grind corn in
the King's mill.  Day after day after week after month the hapless
fellow plodded round and round hauling the heavy beam, until his
big, bare feet wore a path three cubits wide and two cubits deep.'

'Tiresome occupation--for a hero,' observed Voldi.

'One day,' pursued Mencius, '--and this was the last act of the
play--the sumptuously furnished balcony of Philistia's praetorium,
or whatever they called their capitol, was crammed with banqueting
royalty, generals, councillors, and wealthy tax-payers, celebrating
a religious festival--in honour of Dagon, I believe, or one of
their silly gods--'

'Were they so religious, the Philistines?' broke in Voldi.

'Just on feast-days.  I think that's true of all religions--so far
as the top layer is concerned.  The influential people like to set
a good example.  It makes the common people more confident of their
gods.'

'And more contented with their rags and hunger,' assisted Voldi.

'Up to a certain pitch of starvation--yes,' agreed Mencius--'but
that is another story. . . .  The paunchy Philistines were hugely
enjoying themselves at the banquet-table, when some ingenious fool
suggested that they parade poor old Samson in the plaza where
everybody could see him--and have a good laugh.  So--the flunkeys
in the mill haltered him and a small boy led him forth.  Suddenly
the blind giant felt a surge of his former strength, wrapped his
long, bony arms round a couple of the marble pillars supporting the
balcony--and pulled the whole house down.'

'Incredible!' shouted Voldi.  'You don't believe that, surely.'

Mencius remained sober-faced and was tardy with his rejoinder.

'Maybe not all of it, Voldi; not the fantastic details.  But the
fact remains that blind old Samson wrecked Philistia so completely
that she took orders from other nations for six hundred years!'
Mencius appeared to have ended his speech.  They rode on in silence
for some time.

'That was indeed a strange story,' mused Voldi, at length.

'No--not so strange, but a bit terrifying.  Sometimes, Voldi, I
wonder if the Roman Empire may not finish her play in much the same
manner.  We Romans may be nearing the end of the Fourth Act.'
Mencius was talking to himself now, and Voldi had to listen
sharply.  'We have gone about, almost everywhere, capturing and
roping and blinding other nations' giants and making them grind our
corn.  Some day--unless History is not to be trusted--they will
pull our house down.  I hope it doesn't happen in my lifetime.'

'Meaning that your enslaved provincials are growing restless?'

'Slaves are always restless, Voldi.  At present ours are helpless.
But--there will come a day and a strong man!  Then we will play the
final act!  To predict how long that might take or where the strong
man is to come from is a job for a better prophet than I.'

The noon sunshine bounced off the tarnished cupola of a distant
tower.  Mencius pointed down the descending highway toward the
city.

'Well, there she is, my friend, the famous old stronghold of
Philistia!'

'Waiting for a strong man to appear--and put her in order again,'
said Voldi, after the manner of reciting a lesson.

'Not consciously waiting,' amended Mencius.  'Gaza is too stupid to
be aware that she is waiting for anything.  Only when the strong
man shows up will she know that she has been waiting. . . .  And,
meantime, while she waits for Destiny to clean her up, we will not
drink her stinking water or her wretched wine; nor will we touch
her polluted food.  We will ride straight on through to the docks.
The fleet will be there.  We will find plenty to eat and drink on
shipboard.'

'And it will be clean food and sound wine, I suppose, seeing it is
provided by the Romans,' remarked Voldi, with a slow wink that made
his friend grin.

'Yes,' declared Mencius proudly.  'It will be clean and sound!  You
see--we Romans are still playing our Fourth Act--and doing a good
job of it!'

Suddenly, to Voldi's amazement, Mencius shed his quiet complacency
and assumed a new role.  The tail-end of the long caravan was
immediately ahead.

'You are to keep close behind me now!' barked Mencius, over his
shoulder, as he spurred Brutus to a sharp trot.

With his spine stiffened to an arrogant posture, he rode past the
camel-train, looking neither to the right nor left.  Arriving at
the docks, with Voldi trailing him, Mencius flung himself off his
horse and shouted a laconic order to Pincus.  Then he marched with
stiff-legged hauteur to the wharf where the flagship of the fleet
awaited him, Voldi trudging along behind, feeling much like a
convict on his way to prison.  Sailors and stevedores obsequiously
saluted, but Mencius gave them no attention.

Reaching the ship's waist, the haughty Mencius marched aboard,
passing between a double line of sailors and petty officers without
seeing them, and stood stiffly before the greying Commander, whose
pose was as icily formal.  Voldi was not introduced.  Bowing, the
Commander wheeled about and walked briskly aft, with Mencius
striding beside him, and Voldi--at a disadvantage and a bit
offended--tagging behind them.

When they had entered the Commander's spacious cabin and the door
had been closed, the mood of the Romans instantly changed.  They
whacked each other on the shoulder playfully.

'Fulvius, my lad,' shouted Mencius.  'It's a treat to see you
again!'

'High time you turned up, you lazy tramp!' rumbled the Commander.
'I've been rotting in this pest-hole for a week!'

'Serves you right!  You have been spoiled with luxury!'  Mencius
peeled off his tunic and tossed it on to Fulvius' bunk.  'Now I
want you to greet an Arabian friend of mine. . . .  Voldi, meet my
good Fulvius.'

The Commander, with candid lack of interest, pursed his lips and
nodded.

'Perhaps I should have added, Fulvius,' continued Mencius, 'that
Voldi saved my life, at the risk of his own, in a bloody battle
with highwaymen.'

At that Fulvius' eyes brightened--and he smiled amiably.

'Welcome to my ship, Voldi!' he said.

In gay spirits, Mencius became oratorical in his further
introduction of his friends.

'Here's where two of the finest and bravest have found each other!'
he exclaimed.  'Here's where the high mountains and the deep sea
clasp hands!  Here's where a gallant Arabian who knows all about
horses and daggers meets a Roman who knows all about ships and
storms!  Here's where--'

'If you're going to compose an ode, Mencius,' broke in Fulvius,
'let's have some wine to wash it down.  Odes are hard enough to
bear, in any case.'  He opened the door a little way and growled
with all the irascibility of an old dog, presumably addressing a
slave.  They sat down, and presently the wine arrived.

'Was it really much of a fight?' inquired Fulvius, eager for some
gory details.

'I was having it out with three bandits, alone and in the dark,'
explained Mencius.  'Suddenly, Voldi appeared and joined in the
battle.  They would have finished me promptly but for this
foolhardy fellow.'

Fulvius beamed toward Voldi and drawled, 'Well--even if you do
stick your nose into other people's business, you shall have a
drink.'

For three whole hours, over their dinner, the talk had been a
recital of the Romans' recent experiences, spiced with persiflage;
and at length Mencius and Voldi were shown to their bunks in an
adjacent cabin.

'What are you thinking about so seriously?' inquired Mencius,
tugging off a boot.

'You,' replied Voldi, with a brief chuckle.  'You astonished me
today, Mencius.  You play so many parts--and all of them so very
well.'

'Perhaps you are referring to our public formalities, as compared
with our unconventional behaviour in private?' asked Mencius,
amused.

'I shouldn't have known you for the same man!' said Voldi.

'It's only good usage among us,' said Mencius.  'It's the Roman way
of enforcing discipline.  We officers have to be high-handed with
our subordinates; and, in their presence, severely dignified in our
attitude toward one another.  It's a serious and dangerous
business, Voldi, keeping slaves and mercenaries in control.'

'Ever try the other way,' ventured Voldi, 'getting acquainted with
your men and showing them that you trust them?'

'No; I never tried that, personally,' admitted Mencius; 'but it has
been tried and it doesn't work.  Give the average man an inch and
he'll take a mile.  Let the commanding officer show himself to be
friendly and he is immediately suspected of being soft--if not
scared.'

'Our officials in Arabia do not strut and bark,' said Voldi.

'Of course not!' agreed Mencius.  'Why should they?  Your King
Zendi can eat with shepherds if he wants to, and they love him for
it.  But you're all Arabians: one big family!  Look what we have to
deal with, Voldi!  In my caravan there are rascally Philistines,
sullen Parthians, slit-eared Macedonians, and all manner of
scheming ruffians!  And on this ship--why, if good old Fulvius
relaxed his vigilance for a moment, the riffraff of a dozen nations
would stick him in the back and toss him overboard!  That's why
we're cold and haughty and severe!  It's the Roman method of
government--all the way down the line from the Emperor to the
overseer of my caravan!'

After a reflective moment, Voldi said, 'What if all the riffraff in
the Empire organized?'

'Slaves are hard to organize, Voldi.  The Parthians would insist on
having a Parthian as the great emancipator.  The cut-throats of
Sicily would follow only a Sicilian.  It would take a very strong
man to unite the Empire's provincials!'

'Like Alexander, maybe?' wondered Voldi.

'Much more powerful than Alexander!  He would have to appeal to
something that all these polyglots possess in common.  I'm sure I
don't know what that would be.'  Mencius leaned over toward the
table and snuffed out the lamp.  'Let's go to sleep, Voldi,' he
said drowsily.  'It's too big a problem to settle tonight.'

After a quiet moment, he asked, 'Have you your dagger in bed with
you?'

'No,' said Voldi.

'Better get it,' advised Mencius.

'Is that a Roman custom?' asked Voldi, suppressing a chuckle.

'He is an impoverished and forsaken Roman,' replied Mencius
soberly, 'who dares go to sleep without a dagger strapped to his
wrist.'

                         * * * * * *

Now they were riding north on the broad and busy coast highway,
their horses frisky after a three-day rest at the port; eventful
days for Voldi, who had never seen a ship before and knew nothing
of the ways of seafaring men.

Seemingly endless files of slaves, each with a huge cake of Dead
Sea salt on his shoulder, had plodded up the gangways and down the
ladders into the dark holds of eleven sturdy ships.  There was no
haste, nor was there any rest for these empty-faced toilers.
Overseers stood, small distances apart, along the wharf,
occasionally flicking their bull-whips expertly, as if to keep in
practice, but not often letting the lash bite into a slave's bare
hide.  It was enough for the burdened men to know that the whips
were in experienced hands.

As each ship was loaded and the hatches battened down, she would
move slowly away from her temporary berth and find a mooring half a
mile away in the quiet harbour, and another vessel would be warped
into the vacancy at the dock.  Voldi spent most of his time alone
at the stern of the flagship, listening dreamily to the lap of the
waves against the barnacled piles and the screams of careening
gulls; more enjoyable entertainment than might be had where the
work was in progress.  Indeed, Voldi was glad to find any
distraction from the sight and sound of that slave-labour.  With
his belligerent Arabian background, he was anything but thin-
skinned; but this monotonous scuff--scuff--scuff--scuff of
spiritless sandals had taken on an ominous significance.  Some day--
according to Mencius' confidential forecast--this hopeless,
helpless scuffing of enslaved sandals would suddenly attain a
swifter tempo!  It would spontaneously break into a run!  It would
be accompanied by savage shouts for vengeance!  And the Empire's
Fifth Act would open with a clash of angry metal!

For two hours, on that first day, Voldi had stood leaning against a
forward capstan, watching and listening, until he became oppressed
by an hallucination that the steady scuff--scuff--scuff--scuff was,
even now, this instant, accelerating to a threatening SCUFF!--
SCUFF!--SCUFF!--SCUFF! that would raise the curtain for the final
events of the old tragedy.  He tried to comfort himself with the
thought that, after all, the well-merited collapse of the Roman
Empire need be of no concern to Arabia.  But, on sober reflection,
Voldi decided that the wreck of the Empire would be everybody's
business; Arabia's too!

Bewildered and moody, he had moved away from the pattern and
symbols of this threat, finding a measure of serenity in the blue
sky and bluer sea.  This sky and this sea had witnessed many an
enactment of the inevitably recurrent drama and would doubtless
witness many more repetitions of it in the ages to come.  Nations
would come and go, rise and fall, but the same sky would look down
upon these mutations with calm detachment.  The tide would roll in
twice a day, no matter if all the nations in the world destroyed
one another--and themselves.  It was comforting to let one's eyes
rest upon something that would endure--for ever and ever.

At high noon on the third day, the last laden vessel was ready to
put out to sea.  Mencius and Voldi stood together on the wharf as
the flagship drew in her frowsy hawsers and drifted from the dock.
Commander Fulvius, with a letter in his pocket for personal
delivery to Mencius' wife explaining his delay, cupped his mouth to
shout into a brisk seaward breeze, 'What shall I say if she asks me
when to expect you?'

'Tell her you don't know,' yelled Mencius.

More canvas was slowly creeping up the foremast, sailors tugging in
unison at the ropes.  Pulleys squealed.  Fulvius and Mencius,
facing each other soberly, stood at attention, thrusting forward
stiff right arms in a farewell salute.  Voldi, less formally, waved
a hand.  A much-mended sail was crawling up the mizzen-mast.  Out
in the bay the other ships were winching up their anchors.  The
fleet was on its way to Rome.

In less than an hour Voldi and Mencius were riding through an
increasingly fertile and well-kept country, strikingly different
from the unproductive and ill-conditioned lands eastward of Gaza.
The vineyards showed good care.  The houses and barns were larger.
The cattle in the pastures were sleek and fat.  Mencius swept the
rich landscape with a panoramic gesture and discoursed of its
value.

'This is what Alexander wanted when he laid siege to Philistia.  It
has always been coveted by somebody, for it is truly a garden-spot.
The owners of these farms and vineyards are temporarily unmolested--
but it will not be for long.  Voldi, if a man hopes to live at
peace in this world he must pitch his tent in a desert so bare that
even a bug would starve on it.'

'How do you account for the peace that these prosperous people are
enjoying at present?' inquired Voldi.

'That is an interesting and amusing story,' replied Mencius.  'For
some time there has flourished in Jerusalem a politically powerful
family--the Maccabees.  They are rich as Midas and shrewd as Satan.
Many years ago they took pains to ingratiate themselves with Herod,
backed him solidly in his reign, flattered him with gifts and
compliments.  Remembering that the war-battered little town of
Askelon was Herod's birthplace, they volunteered to rebuild it in
splendour.  You will see, presently, what they made of it.  The
King, much gratified, donated a beautiful consulate.  Then the
Maccabees--with Herod's consent--encouraged a colony of wealthy
fugitives from Athens to move in and redeem the neglected
countryside.'

'Now that it has been put in order,' remarked Voldi, 'it's a wonder
you Romans haven't--'

'That's the amusing part of the story,' broke in Mencius.
'Tiberius would like to have it; but, if he were to take it, he
would instantly find himself at war with the Maccabees.  He isn't
quite ready for that--and the Maccabees know that he knows it.  As
the matter stands, the Emperor considers himself better off by
levying heavy taxes on the Maccabees than risking a costly war with
them.  That will come--later.'

'In our time?'

'You will think so when you see what is going on at the harbour in
Caesarea.'

'Don't the Jews realize what is in store for them?'

'Of course!  But they are riven by sects and parties.  It's the old
story of internal feuds and factions stubbornly refusing to co-
operate with one another even in the emergency of saving their own
skins!'  Mencius was silently thoughtful for a while.  'You may
recall my saying, a few days ago, that the strength of a nation
always depends upon the leadership of the one powerful man who has
it in him to bind all the discordant elements together--and induce
them to follow him!  Let him be popular enough and they will share
his glory or his shame!  Well, the Jews have no such man among
them.  Each fanatical party has its chieftain, but no one of them
can command the loyalty of the whole country.  For ages the Jews
have been expecting a great leader to appear and deliver them from
their enemies.  Their prophets have spoken of this fabulous person
as the "Messiah."  Now and again, the various sects have burst into
revolutionary flames incited by a "Messiah," but no one of these
leaders has lasted very long, not even in the esteem of his own
party.  They have always ended up in some drab little martyrdom.
And within the space of a generation or two nobody remembered what
became of the great man's ashes.'

'Apparently the real "Messiah," when he comes, if he comes, will
have a big job on his hands,' surmised Voldi.

'According to the Jewish prophets, he is to be something of a
divine person.  That might be greatly to his advantage.'  Mencius'
tone was so ironical that Voldi laughed outright.

'I gather that you are not very religious, Mencius,' he remarked
dryly.

'As for the traditional host of deities, no: I have no interest in
them, much less any faith in them.  If they serve any useful
purpose, it is only to frighten small children into behaving
themselves.'

A heavily laden caravan was bearing down on them from the north,
and they drew aside into a cypress-shaded lane to let the long
procession pass.  Mencius guessed that it was a cargo of grain for
embarkation at Gaza, but Voldi refused to be diverted from the
serious discussion they had begun.

'Surely, Mencius, you do believe in the existence of some Higher
Power,' he said soberly.

'Oh yes!' admitted Mencius.  'It is obvious that a Great Mind--
or a group of Great Minds--created the world.  Inconceivable that
it could have created itself.  Whether any High Power is still in
control of the world is, in my opinion, doubtful.  Humanity's antics
do not indicate that any sensible Overseer is in command. . . .
Sometimes, however, I find myself privately worshipping a god whom
I think of as the Torchbearer.'

Voldi's eyes widened with fresh interest.  He urged Mencius to
explain what he meant by a Torchbearer.

'He has been going about for ages, Voldi,' said Mencius, slowly
measuring his words.  'Up and down, across the world, in every era,
in every country--patiently searching for men with lamps in their
hands, larger lamps than those of their neighbours or their
fathers.  And this light-giving god touches the wicks of these
unusually capacious lamps with his divine torch.'

'Go on, please!' insisted Voldi, when Mencius, having seemed to
have made an end of his strange discourse, was counting the sullen,
nodding camels as they passed.

'That's about as far as I've gone into it,' confessed Mencius
vaguely.  'My favourite god, the Torchbearer, wants the world to
have more light, for men to see by--so he keeps on looking for
lamps.  It must be a very disappointing quest.  I marvel at his
perseverance.  Only a few men--widely separated by leagues and
centuries--have borne lamps worthy of the divine fire; and such
light as they have kindled has brightened the way for a mere
handful of adventurers.  As for the multitudes, they still stumble
along in the old darkness.  Sometimes the Torchbearer lights a
large lamp that attracts smaller lamps.  Plato brings his lamp to
Aristotle, and there is an unprecedented brightness on the path--
for a few, for a while.  For a little while.'

'But--the mass of the people, they will keep on groping through the
dark,' mused Voldi.  'Is that what you believe?'

'I'd much rather not, of course,' sighed Mencius.  'It would please
me to hope that the Torchbearer might some day come upon the one
great man--with the one powerful lamp that would illumine the
highway for us all!  But history does not encourage that hope.'

The camel-train had passed now and the dust was clearing.  They
rode, in thoughtful silence, on to the highway.  Mencius pointed to
a graceful tower in the distance.

'Askelon!'  His tone was almost reverential.  'Now you will see
what the Maccabee money made of a squalid, dilapidated little
town.'

'The Maccabees must be a great-hearted family,' remarked Voldi.

'That depends on one's point of view,' drawled Mencius.  'According
to general opinion the Maccabees are tyrants.  Wealthy patrons of
the arts,' he added, 'are not necessarily great-hearted.  The
finest architecture and sculpture in the world may be found in
Rome, but plenty of people could testify that we Romans are not
benevolent.'

                         * * * * * *

Two days later, at sundown, the travellers arrived in the amazing
city of Caesarea.  If Voldi had been bewildered by the transitions
from dirty and degraded Gaza, of the Philistines, to the marble
splendour of beautiful Askelon, of the Greeks, and to the
frowsiness of decayed Joppa, of the Judaeans, he was now even more
astonished by the feverish confusions of this rapidly rising
metropolis, which, according to Mencius, would one day be the focal
point from which the Empire would move toward the utter subjugation
of all Jewry.

Heretofore the Emperors had insisted only upon tribute in cash.
The Jews were sheep to be shorn annually but not converted into
mutton.  Presently the Romans would want more than Israel's fleece.
They would march in and take everything, Mencius had declared; and
when Voldi had inquired whether this threat was a secret, his
friend had replied airily, 'Secret?  Not at all!  The Jews know the
invasion is sure to come!  Preparations for it are going on right
under their noses!'

Too tired that night for sight-seeing, they had ridden through the
congested streets to the principal inn, The Agrippa, recently built
by the Romans to accommodate three hundred guests.  It was situated
in the very heart of the city and crowded to capacity; but Mencius
had a friend in the management and a room was found for them.

After an excellent supper, they strolled through the spacious,
newly furnished foyer, where scores of opulently dressed Romans of
self-assured and distinguished bearing stood in conversing groups
or lounged in the richly upholstered chairs and divans.  This
unfamiliar view of flamboyant wealth dazzled Voldi's senses.  He
wasn't quite sure whether he was infatuated or infuriated.  Every
man in sight was extravagantly garbed and groomed.  The air was
heavy with pomades.  Jewels flashed on well-kept hands.  It was
true then: the Romans were not only men of the world, they were the
important, the impressive men of the world!  It belonged to them--
there could be no doubt of that!

Voldi's memory--which he suspected of something like disloyalty--
rolled back for a glimpse of King Zendi and his Council, carelessly
clad in their unadorned burnouses; grave, hard-muscled men who
despised ostentation.  How their thin, haughty nostrils would have
flared in contempt of this gaudy show!  But--wasn't it costing
Arabia a pretty penny to maintain that attitude of scorn for
prosperous people?  Voldi wondered whether proud poverty wasn't, in
the long run, more expensive property than ropes of pearls.

Suddenly a tall, handsome, close-cropped Roman--on the left breast
of whose scarlet tunic the imperial black eagle was appliqud--
detached himself from a small party of friends and came forward
beaming a welcome.

'Nick!  You're here at last!  The gods be praised for your safe
arrival!  I was getting anxious.'

They clapped their hands on each other's shoulders.

'Why anxious, Tony?  I'm not late.  This was the day.'

'No, you're not late.  But my distinguished passengers showed up
this afternoon, hours before I expected them, and who knows when
they might decide to sail!  The wishes of Her Highness are never
predictable. . . .  I hope you've attended to all your business--
and are ready to be off at a moment's notice.'

Mencius nodded; and, reaching for Voldi's arm, drew him forward.

'Tony,' he said, 'I want you to meet a young Arabian friend of
mine. . . .  Voldi, greet my long-time-ago schoolmate, Antonius
Lucan, Commander of the Emperor's ship The Augusta.'

Voldi bowed briefly.  The Commander's eyes narrowed a little.  He
lifted his forearm perfunctorily and mumbled that any friend of
Proconsul Nicator Mencius was his friend also; after which he
turned toward his old crony with a quizzical arching of his
grizzled brows, plainly inquiring how we happened to have an
Arabian on our hands at this particular moment.  Mencius was prompt
to reply.  Voldi had come upon him in the night, on the road alone,
badly outnumbered by robbers, and had joined the fray.  The
reckless Arabian had saved his life; no less!

In response to this speech, the Commander of The Augusta bowed to
Voldi in recognition of invaluable services rendered to a comrade,
and Mencius supplemented his story of the fight with, 'It's amazing--
this young fellow's skill with a dagger!  I think his parents must
have given him a knife to play with when he was a baby.'

Voldi gave a deprecating grin, shrugged slightly, and seemed eager
for a change of topic.  He was conscious of the old sailor's
uneasiness about him.  The tension was somewhat relaxed, at this
juncture, by the appearance of another urbane, middle-aged Roman--
more conservatively dressed than any of the others--who paused to
greet Mencius with quiet affability, after nodding to Tony.

'What brings you here this time, Mencius?' he inquired lazily.
'More copper?'

'At present the fellow's not a peddler, Atrius,' drawled Tony.
'He's a tourist, absolutely empty-handed, sailing home with me on
The Augusta.  We're taking His Highness Antipas and his family on
their annual excursion.'

Atrius, taking pains to be extravagantly disrespectful, sniffed
audibly and wrinkled his nose.

'I wish somebody would explain to me,' he declaimed, 'how the ruler
of poor little Galilee rates a free voyage, every season, on the
Emperor's pleasure-barge!'

'Psst!' warned Tony.  'I mustn't be seen listening complacently to
such talk.'  Then, lowering his voice, he remarked, 'You may be
sure the Tetrarch will eventually pay his passage. . . .  And he is
abundantly able to do it--when Tiberius bills him for it.'

Mencius broke in now to introduce Voldi with appropriate
explanations of the circumstances accounting for their friendship.
Then, to Voldi, 'Should you get into any trouble while in Caesarea,
our excellent Atrius--who is the best-known lawyer in the city--
will befriend you, I know.'

Atrius, who had been gnawing at his bearded underlip and staring
into Voldi's face with undisguised curiosity, chuckled gruffly.

'Arabian, eh?  And handy with a blade!  Doesn't ask what the
fight's about, so long as he can get in there--and gut somebody!'
He laughed with evident relish and poked Tony in the ribs with his
thumb.  'Hell of a time for an Arabian gladiator to turn up, I must
say! . . .  What part of Arabia do you hail from, my son?'

'The southern mountains, sir,' replied Voldi stiffly.

'Anywhere near the King's domain?'

'Not very far, sir; a few miles.'

'Your King Zendi seems a popular man.'

'Yes, sir.'

'I dare say you know him,' ventured Atrius.  The others were
growing restless.  The Commander was absently patting his be-ringed
left fist with his right palm.  Mencius shifted his weight and
frowned.

'Voldi's grandfather, Mishma, is the King's Chief Councillor,
Atrius.'

'Ah?  So!'  Atrius grinned.  'Well, if there is anything we can do
for you while you are in Caesarea, Voldi, we will be happy to serve
you. . . .  See you later, Tony. . . .  You'll be glad to be home
again, Mencius.  Wish I were going with you.  You will be arriving
in time for Saturnalia.'

With the departure of Atrius, conversation lagged; and Voldi,
surmising that the two Romans might wish to have some private talk,
excused himself and sauntered through the lobbies to the loggia
which half circled a pool where a beautifully wrought fountain
played.  He sat down on a deeply upholstered divan and reviewed the
recent conversation. . . .  This Atrius might be a good man to
know.

For some little time after Voldi had strolled away from them,
Mencius and Tony found it difficult to sustain an interest in their
talk about the forthcoming voyage.  Finally Tony blurted out:
'What's this boy doing in Caesarea, Mencius?'

'He is on his way north.'

'Sight-seeing--or business?'

'A little of both, I think.'

'Meaning that you aren't going to tell me.'  Tony's voice showed
annoyance.

'He confided to me the nature of his errand,' admitted Mencius.
'It is nothing to cause you anxiety.  He is looking for a fugitive.
I shall be obliged if this much information contents you, Tony.  I
gave him my word.'

'Very well,' conceded Tony grumpily.  'But I'll expect you to see
to it that your blood-letting Arab keeps his distance from my ship!
If anybody sticks a knife into the Tetrarch while he is not in my
custody, I shall make no protest; but--By Jove!--he's not going to
be assassinated on The Augusta!'

'It's a wonder the fellow makes these voyages,' observed Mencius.

'He can't rot up there in Galilee all the year round!  He'd go
crazy!  Nothing ever happens.  He has no friends among his
subjects.  They all despise him. . . .  However--he may be in for
more excitement than he wants presently.  His Chief Scrivener was
telling me, this afternoon, that something like a revolution is
brewing--'

'In sleepy, stupid little Galilee?' scoffed Mencius.  'You're
jesting!'

'According to this scribbler, Pamphylios, it's not an uprising
against the government--at least not yet.  It seems that a young
carpenter has been haranguing great crowds.  So far, he has said
nothing to inflame the people.  On the contrary, he has been urging
them to be law-abiding and content with their poverty.'

'And how could such soft words collect a crowd?' wondered Mencius.

'Pamphylios says the man has been healing the sick by laying his
hands upon them,' said Tony.  'That, of course, is nonsense.
Pamphylios admits he has no first-hand knowledge of it.  But--the
rumour is in the air and all Galilee is buzzing with these
stories.'

'Bad time for the Tetrarch to absent himself,' remarked Mencius.

'That's what Pamphylios thinks,' assented Tony.  'But Antipas
couldn't be talked out of his customary excursion.  Half the year,
in Tiberias, he lives on his anticipation of the other half in
Rome.  The Scrivener says that a deputation of priests waited on
His Highness a few days ago, pleading with him to silence the
Carpenter; but Antipas made short work of them; told them they had
better make their synagogues a little more attractive and useful--
and maybe the people wouldn't be congregating in pasture-fields to
listen to this carpenter.'

'Not a bad suggestion,' put in Mencius, with a chuckle.

'Any suggestion would be good enough, in the Tetrarch's opinion, so
long as he wasn't hindered from going to Rome.  He wouldn't miss
the pageants and games of Saturnalia--not even if the Sea of
Galilee went dry!'

Mencius was soberly meditative for a while.

'Ever hear of the Jewish "Messiah," Tony?' he asked irrelevantly.

Tony shook his head and scowled; muttered that he had given up
trying to understand the Jews.  Mencius explained briefly; but his
friend was uninterested.  The Jews had always been too religious
for their own good, he said.

'I'm surprised that you have so much concern for such rubbish,'
continued Tony impatiently.  'You read too much!  You think too
much!  You know too much!  It wouldn't surprise me to hear, some
day, that you'd gone off to live in a cave in the mountains, having
it out with the gods--and the fleas.'

'I'll admit,' said Mencius, 'a man can live a much happier life by
not using his mind at all. . . .  I'm going to bed now.  I have
been all day in the saddle.  Doubtless you will be turning in,
too.'

'Not quite yet,' growled Tony.  'I've an errand to do first.  I
must go down to the docks and notify my mate to be on the alert for
an Arabian stowaway.'

'You're putting yourself to unnecessary bother,' said Mencius.

'I shall be satisfied if your new friend gives me no more bother
than that,' said Tony.

After Voldi had sat alone, staring absently at the fountain for a
quarter of an hour, he was joined on the divan by the lawyer, who
hoped he was not intruding.

'Expect to be with us for a while?' inquired Atrius casually.

'I am leaving in the morning, sir,' replied Voldi.  It had occurred
to him that if he showed an inclination to be frank, his
explanations might be more readily believed.  'I have an errand in
Galilee,' he went on.  'I have been sent to look for a young
Arabian who ran away from home and is believed to have gone up into
the neighbourhood of the Sea of Galilee.  I am to persuade him to
return--if I find him.'

'Know anything about the city of Tiberias?'

'Not much.  It's the seat of the Tetrarch.  There is a Roman fort
hard by.'

'You will make inquiries at the fort?'

'Not at first; not until I have to.  I'd much rather find my
fugitive friend without calling so much attention to him.  I shall
not needlessly embarrass him. . . .  Do you know that country,
sir?'

'A little.  If I may venture a suggestion, Voldi, there is a
discreet man of my acquaintance living in the small town of
Bethsaida, only a short distance from Tiberias.  He is a lawyer, in
retirement now: a man of broad sympathies and much prudence.  You
might give him your confidence.'

Voldi was glad to accept the advice.  He brought out a small slate
tablet from his pocket and wrote the Bethsaidan's name and the
directions for finding him.  Atrius negligently allowed his eyes to
follow the red chalk as the Arabian wrote.

'You've lived in Greece?' he inquired when Voldi had pocketed the
tablet.

'No, sir; I have never been in Greece.'

'Do many Arabians understand Greek?'

'Probably not.'  Voldi rose, thanked Atrius for his kindness, and
remarked that he must find Mencius before retiring.

'It would please me to learn how your mission succeeds,' said
Atrius, as they parted; 'and please convey my greetings to my
friend, and former colleague, David Ben-Zadok.'

                         * * * * * *

At the first intimation of dawn Voldi slipped out quietly so as not
to waken Mencius, to whom he had said farewell at midnight after a
lengthy but inconclusive discussion of the probability of his
finding Fara in Galilee.

Mencius had then gone promptly to sleep, apparently undisturbed by
the relentless racket of heavy traffic in the street below, where
enormous wagons, laden with building materials, ground their iron-
shod wheels into the cobble-stones, and drivers screamed and lashed
at their straining oxen.  The hideous clamour had not annoyed
Mencius.  He was quite accustomed to it, he said.  That was the way
it sounded all night, every night in Rome.  The Emperor, wanting to
keep the streets free of construction traffic in the daytime, had
decreed that all heavy hauling must be done between sunset and
sunrise.  Caesarea, being now a Roman city, observed this rule.
But Mencius didn't care.  He was more than a bit homesick and the
infernal din seemed to soothe him.  Not so with Voldi, who had had
no experience in big, bustling cities.  The unceasing noise had
kept him wide awake, and the dilemma confronting him had grown to
appalling dimensions in the darkness.

At the well-kept stables, where he found Darik sleek and shining
from the diligent grooming he had received (another attestation to
the proficiency of Roman discipline), Voldi was not much surprised
to encounter an armed legionary waiting courteously to escort him
out of the city; for Mencius had confided that Commander Antonius
Lucan of The Augusta would feel more comfortable after being
informed that the grudge-bearing young Arabian had ridden through
Caesarea's east gate and had disappeared on the open road toward
Galilee.

In half an hour he was alone on that road, after having received
the legionary's deferential wishes for a safe and pleasant journey,
though they were both fully aware of the reason why the honour of a
Roman escort had been conferred upon a young citizen of Arabia.
Voldi looked back over his shoulder, waved a hand, and laughed
quietly over the little drama in which he had been invited to play.
In spite of their reputation for insufferable egoism and bloody-
handed ruthlessness, reflected Voldi, the Romans were--in many
respects--to be admired.  They were superbly organized.  They were
effective.  They were cruel, yes; but not because they loved
cruelty.  They preferred your friendship to your enmity.  They
would rather lead than drive.  They could even set a watch over
your movements and do it so graciously that you wanted to wave a
friendly farewell to your keeper when he was done with you.

The road, angling to the north-east, was not so busy as the coast
highway.  It was therefore narrower.  With a long day's journey
ahead of him, Voldi encouraged Darik to settle down to a
comfortable canter.  They were in level country now, the broad
Plain of Esdraelon, where the landscape was too monotonous to
divert a stranger's attention from his own problems. . . .  One
fact brought a crumb of comfort: the Tetrarch was still alive.  Of
course, he didn't deserve to be alive; but at least Fara had not
got herself into trouble by killing him.  And it was unlikely that
she had attempted to kill him, for surely Commander Antonius Lucan
would have known of it; and having known of it, would have told of
it.

Came now a plodding donkey-train, bearing small, greasy-looking
casks, probably containing sesame and olive oil bound for Caesarea,
in charge of shabby, shaggy, sullen men who frowned and spat as
they passed.

But what would Fara be likely to do now that her mission had failed
of accomplishment?  Assuming that she had arrived in the vicinity
of Tiberias to await an opportunity for settling with her rascally
father, would she await his return from Rome?

Here came a lone traveller, ambling along on an infirm, sore-eyed
camel, followed--at a hundred yards--by a hump-backed old man with
a scowl on his wrinkled face and an axe on his bony shoulder.

Voldi greeted each of them in turn with a cheery good morning.
Neither replied.  Was that because he was riding a good horse and
they were envious?  Or was it because he was an Arabian?  Or
because he was a stranger--any stranger?  Or because they were by
nature impolite?  He had to admit, though, as he rode on, that the
Arabians would have shown no more courtesy to a travelling Jew.

Perhaps Fara would decide to return to Arabia, now that she had
failed.  But, having risked so much--to come so far--would she not
persevere and wait for the Tetrarch's return?  There really wasn't
much in Arabia for her to go back to since her mother was gone.
Himself, of course, but she may have put him out of her mind.
Having left him without a word of farewell, she might assume that
he would have given her up--and turned his attention elsewhere.

Now a family on foot, single-file, was overtaken.  Reluctantly they
sidled off the road and stood stolidly in the dusty weeds waiting
for the rider to pass.  Father, leading the procession, wore an
impressive black beard and a ragged black robe, but bore no burden.
Mother had a sleepy baby in the crook of one arm and a big basket
of wheat in the other.  The boy towed a white milch-goat.  The half-
grown girl carried a bulging bag of apples on her back.  Voldi rode
by slowly, yielding room.  He nodded amiably.  Father and the goat
raised their chins and sneered with expressions so similar that
Voldi grinned.  Mother, imitating her lord, made an ugly face.  The
boy stared, without malice.  The girl lifted pretty eyes and smiled
shyly.

It was the older people's fault, thought Voldi, that the different
races despised one another.  He wondered whether the world might be
more harmonious if all the old people were abolished: say, everyone
over twenty.  Luckily for himself, such a commendable decree would
leave him to help establish the new order in which strangers
meeting on the road would be more ready to smile than spit.  But--
they would all have to remain at twenty--and never grow old.
Perhaps the project was impracticable.

Well, it wouldn't be long now before he might know something more
about Fara.  An Arabian boy in his teens would be noticed in a
small fishing village, where everybody knew everybody else.
Someone would remember having seen this young Arab.  Voldi wondered
what success Fara might have had--posing as a boy.  Risky business
that was!

At a cross-roads in sight of a village that the sign-post said was
Megiddo, four legionaries, their spears and shields leaning against
the stone fence, were sprawled on the ground intent upon a dice-
game.  Voldi expected them to challenge him.  In that event he was
going to say that the Tetrarch had bought the black gelding while
in Caesarea and he was delivering it at Tiberias.  But the soldiers
barely glanced up as he passed.  Apparently the discipline of the
troops had been eased somewhat since the Tetrarch's departure.  Or
perhaps the attention of the officers had been diverted by the
large assemblies that Mencius had spoken of, lately congregating in
the vicinity of the Sea of Galilee.  A carpenter had been
addressing the people and was reputed to be healing all manner of
diseases.  This latter feat being clearly an incredible rumour, it
was not likely that the carpenter would last very long as a popular
leader, Mencius had said.  There was nothing inflammatory about it
or the Tetrarch would not have left the country.

Voldi wondered how much interest Fara might have in such a
movement.  He could not conceive of her showing any curiosity about
a thing like that, except for the fact that she had turned aside at
Hebron to listen to another itinerant prophet.  It had seemed quite
unlike Fara to be attracted by a performance of that nature.

A bad lunch--smoked fish and stale barley-bread--was sullenly
tossed on to a dirty table at Megiddo's only inn.  Voldi nibbled at
the unappetizing food and paid the pockmarked woman with a shekel.
She threw down a handful of unfamiliar copper coins.  He kept one
of them, meaning to examine it later, and went out to water his
horse at the public trough.  A group of small boys, in soiled
tatters, gathered about.  A woman screamed from a near-by doorway
and the oldest boy ambled off in that direction, turning to spit
before leaving.  There was another female screech from somewhere in
the neighbourhood and all the lads scurried away but two.  The
smaller boy's eyes were brimming with pus.  Voldi reached in his
pocket and brought up the copper he had been given in change at the
inn.  He offered it to the sore-eyed boy, who did not reach for it.

'He's blind,' explained his brother.  'Give it to me!'

Voldi handed him the coin.

'Yaa!  Yaa!' screamed the boy, flinging the copper down.  'Bad
money!  No good!  Yaa!  Yaa!'  He set off, dragging his little
brother--doubtless to report the incident.  Voldi mounted and rode
on.  A small group of indignant men and women was collecting about
the outraged boy who had been offered a worthless coin.  They
reviled the Arabian as he passed.  Megiddo was not an attractive
village.  Was it typical of Galilean communities?  Voldi hoped not.
Poor Fara!

As the afternoon wore on, the country became more fertile, but it
was plain to see that the inhabitants had not made the most of it.
It was indeed a backward land.  One day the Romans would come in
and prosper.  The Galileans would be virtually enslaved, but have
more to eat, no doubt, than now.

At sundown Nazareth was sighted.  At a distance, with the late
afternoon glow on the squat dome of the synagogue and the houses
whitely gleaming, the town promised to be picturesque.  On closer
acquaintance it was a disappointment.  The residences were small,
shabby, and forlorn.  As usual, the principal street widened at the
centre of the village, describing a circle around the inevitable
community well.  Apparently most of the mercantile business was
concentrated here.  Little bazaars and shops elbowed one another
for standing-room.  Beyond the circle was the inn.  The proprietor
made it obvious to Voldi that he was unwelcome, but grumblingly
consented to give him lodging when he heard the clink of
substantial money.  After toying disgustedly with the worst food
that had ever been set before him, Voldi strolled out on to the
deserted street.  Everyone was at supper.

He came upon a farrier's shop and found a greying man of fifty or
more at his forge, mending a broken cistern-wheel, probably a
matter of some urgency.  Always interested in farriers' shops, he
paused in the open doorway.  The man looked up from his work and
nodded amiably.  It was a pleasant surprise to be greeted in this
friendly manner, and Voldi sauntered in.

'Stranger in these parts?'  The farrier gave the bellows-rope
another tug and pointed to a seat on an old tool-chest.

'Yes--I am an Arabian.'  Voldi thought it better to have this
awkward subject disposed of without delay.

'We don't see many,' said the farrier.  'Are you staying with us
awhile, sir?'

'Tonight only.  I am on my way from Caesarea to Tiberias.'

'The Tetrarch came through here a couple of days ago.  Quite a
procession.  Going to Rome.  Perhaps you know about it.'

Voldi said he did.

'Ever been in Tiberias?' asked the farrier.

'No.  I suppose you have been there many a time.'

'Never.  But I mean to go--tomorrow.  That's why I'm working late.
Big doings over there, these days.  Perhaps you've had wind of it
along the way.  Our prophet, Jesus, has been talking to great
multitudes.'

'Your prophet?  Meaning that you believe in him?  Have you heard
him?'

'I've known him since he was a baby!  This is his home!'  The
farrier put his hammer down on the anvil and leaned comfortably
against his work-bench, relishing the stranger's evident interest
in him.

'Is it true that he performs miracles?' asked Voldi.  'I've heard a
rumour to that effect.'

'That's what I want to know,' said the farrier soberly.  'It
wouldn't surprise me much; though he never did anything strange
here in Nazareth.  He is a carpenter, a good one too.'  He pointed
through the open window behind Voldi, who turned to look.  'That's
the shop, over there, across the road.  It's his father's.  And it
was his father's before him.  Jesus has worked there ever since he
was a youngster--until a few months ago.'

'Anything queer about him?' encouraged Voldi.

'He was a dreamy little fellow,' remembered the farrier, averting
his eyes.  'The other children liked him though.  As a lad he used
to tell them stories.'

'What kind of stories?' wondered Voldi.

'I never heard any of them myself.  He seemed shy of grown-up
people and didn't talk much when they were around.  But my eldest
brother Laban's boy, Ephraim--my namesake--said the stories were
mostly about some far-away country where there was no winter and no
darkness--and the rivers never dried or overflowed--and nobody was
ever sick--and nobody died--and nobody wept.  And everyone loved
the King.'

Voldi waited in silence for the farrier to continue.

'It seemed strange for a small boy to have such fancies,'
soliloquized Ephraim.  'According to my nephew, Jesus always talked
about this distant land as if it was real; almost as if he had been
there.  The country was at peace.  There were no soldiers, no
forts, no prisons, no alms-houses.  Everyone had some work to do,
but not for money.  There wasn't any money.  No one was rich; no
one was poor.  And flowers grew everywhere and always--but nobody
gathered them. . . .  The child made much over flowers.  From the
time he was able to toddle, the little chap would carry water from
the village well to his garden.  We all thought he wouldn't amount
to much, being so interested in flowers.  But--as he grew up he
turned out to be a skilful carpenter; better than Joseph, his
father.'

'But he never gathered up a crowd--and talked?' asked Voldi.

'No.  As I say, he was not a one to talk much, except to the
smaller children; and, after he came into his teens, he was very
quiet and walked alone most of the time.  I think that was because--
as he grew up--the older children laughed among themselves at the
stories he had told.  Once it was spread about that a half-grown
boy, tormenting him about this faraway land, rudely accused him of
being a liar, and Jesus replied that he had told them the truth;
that there was such a country; that he knew more things about it
than he had told them.'

'And then the people thought he was crazy, I suppose,' remarked
Voldi.

'Well, we couldn't help feeling that he was different, and perhaps
he guessed how we felt about him--for he spent most of his time
alone, except when he was working in the shop.'

'What did his family think about him?'

'They didn't know quite what to make of him.  He used to go for
long walks by himself, in the hills.  His mother worried about him.
Shortly before he left Nazareth, he was gone for a couple of
months, and when he came back you would have thought he was walking
in his sleep.  He had something on his mind--and it weighted him.
Nobody seemed to know where he had been.  Maybe his folks did.  But
it was plain that he was much stirred up--inside. . . .  On the
morning of the day he left Nazareth--for good, I fear--he attended
the service in the Synagogue, for it was the Sabbath Day.  He sat
with the family, as usual.  Sometimes our good old Rabbi Ben-Naboth
would ask some man in the congregation to read the Scripture
Lesson; some one of the old men who were known for their piety.  On
this day the Rabbi called for Jesus to come forward.  It was
unusual to invite one so young.  The place grew very quiet.'

'You thought it would be something out of the ordinary?' asked
Voldi.

'Wouldn't you,' countered Ephraim, 'considering how out of the
ordinary Jesus was? . . .  Well--he walked forward and took up the
scroll containing the writing of the Prophet Esaias. . . .  I
suppose you've heard of our famed Prophet Esaias?' he interrupted
himself to say.

'No,' admitted Voldi.  'I have little knowledge of your great ones--
since our Father Abraham.'  They both grinned.

'Nearly as I can recall the words,' continued Ephraim, 'what Jesus
read went something like this:  "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.
He has appointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me
to release men in bondage and open the eyes of the blind.  I am to
raise up those who have been beaten down, and I am to announce that
the Lord will make this a blessed year. . . ."  Then Jesus rolled
up the scroll, handed it back to the Rabbi, and said, "This
prophecy is now to be fulfilled."  Then he returned to his seat.
All eyes were fixed on him.  Even the Rabbi seemed bewildered, and
it was some little time before he went on with the devotions. . . .
After the meeting, the congregation gathered about Jesus, as he
came out, and asked him what he meant; and was someone coming--here--
now--to Nazareth--to open the prison and free the slaves and give
sight to the blind?'

'It hadn't occurred to any of you that Jesus might be referring to
himself as the promised healer?'

'No; you see, he had grown up with us.  It was beyond our thought
that one of our own neighbours might be gifted to do such things.'

'What did Jesus say then?'

'He declared that it was to be his mission to spread the good news.
And the people were silent and unbelieving--and slanted their eyes
at one another with sulky faces.  One old man shouted crossly, "You
think you are going to open the eyes of the blind--here--in
Nazareth?"'

'I'll wager they all listened to his reply!' said Voldi.

'They did indeed--and it made them angry.  Jesus said, "Not here--
not in Nazareth.  A prophet has no value in his own community."  At
that, the people drifted away, grumbling; many of them turning to
scowl or laugh scornfully.'

'And--after that--they mistreated him?'

'No; he gave them no opportunity to mistreat him.  He left Nazareth
at once; not even tarrying to have dinner with his family.  After
the meeting at the Synagogue he wandered away--and he hasn't been
back.'

'Perhaps,' surmised Voldi, 'if he is really doing great things for
people elsewhere, the people of your town will beseech him to
return.'

Ephraim shook his head and renewed his forge-fire.

'No,' he replied.  'It wouldn't be like Nazareth--to do that.'

'Not even to have your blind ones see?' asked Voldi.

'No; not even to have our blind ones see!'  Ephraim was now
resuming his interrupted work with diligence.  Voldi felt that the
interview was over, and rose to go.  At the door he turned to say
with a smile:

'What will your fellow townsmen think of you for making a journey
to see Jesus?  Will they be annoyed?'

Ephraim tapped his anvil a couple of times, chuckling to himself.

'They can't be too much annoyed,' he said.  'I'm the only farrier
in Nazareth.  Perhaps if there were two, I shouldn't risk my
neighbours' displeasure.'

Voldi bade him farewell and returned to the inhospitable inn.
Shortly after midnight he was awakened by a violent thunderstorm
followed by a heavy rainfall that continued throughout the night
and until mid-forenoon of the next day.  When finally it cleared,
he set off at the best speed he could make on a slippery road,
hoping to arrive in Bethsaida before darkness fell.



Chapter XI


It had rained steadily all night and was still hard at it when
Jairus roused in the morning.  He sat up in bed and frowned.

Ordinarily, Jairus would not have cared.  Of complacent mind, it
was his habit to accept all weathers without complaint.  Besides,
the country needed rain, for it had been the sunniest autumn that
Galilee had seen for many years.

But, much as his cherished gardens and vineyards would benefit by a
refreshing downpour, this was clearly an inconvenient day for it,
and Jairus was annoyed; so very much annoyed that when Adiel, his
uncommonly attractive wife, entered the room, she found him in a
posture of dejection, with both hands in his tousled hair.  He
mumbled a gloomy acknowledgment of her presence without looking up.
Seating herself on the edge of his bed, Adiel gently patted him on
the shoulder.  What was the trouble?  Didn't he like the rain?

'Any other time,' muttered Jairus, slipping his arm about her.  'I
was a fool to consent to that meeting here today.  These tedious
discussions always bore me, even when the day is fine and they can
do their dull haranguing out in the pergola.  Now we will have them
on our hands--all day--indoors--with no chance of escape. . . .
But one can't offend Rabbi Ben-Sholem.  He is a good old man.'

'Yes, dear; he is indeed--though a bit tiresome,' murmured Adiel.
'I had forgotten that you were having company today.  What is this
party to be: one of those dreadful all-day meetings of the
Synagogue Regents?'

'Worse than that,' sighed Jairus.  'This is a deputation of
priests, scribes, legal counsellors, and such things, who are
coming all the way from Jerusalem to decide what should be done
with this preaching Carpenter.'

'Maybe they won't come,' said Adiel hopefully, 'now that it's such
a bad day.'

'Of course they'll come!' grumbled Jairus.  'They will have been on
the road for three days.  We may as well prepare for them.  They'll
be here.  You can depend on that!'  He glanced up, brightened
perceptibly, and waved his hand to a pair of smiling, twelve-year-
old eyes that had appeared in the crack of the slowly opening door.
His invitation brought the happy child dancing into the room.  She
snuggled down on the other side of her father.

'Breakfast's ready,' she announced gaily.  'And Rachael says we're
to come directly and eat it, for there's to be a lot of company
here for dinner. . . .  What kind of company, father?  Will they be
jolly--and tell funny stories; or are they the other people?'

Jairus absently fondled his daughter's curls and replied sadly that
they were--he regretted to say--the other people.

'No funny stories today, Sharon.'

'Go and tell Rachael we will be there immediately, dear,' said her
mother; and when the child had scrambled out of the bed and was on
her way Adiel asked, 'What are they planning to do to this strange
person?  You said he hadn't broken the laws.  What charge will they
bring against him?'

'That's what they are going to discuss today,' replied Jairus.
'They can't apprehend him as a disturber of the peace.  If he has
disturbed the peace by preaching to these big crowds, it is the
business of the provincial police to arrest him.  I had a talk with
Antipas about this, a few days before he left.  He had sent several
of his men out into the country to see what the Carpenter was
trying to do, and they reported that nothing seditious had been
said.  The Tetrarch seemed satisfied that the fellow was doing no
harm with his admonitions to the people that they should try to be
contented--and live at peace with all men.'

'Surely the Rabbis can't object to that,' reflected Adiel.
'Perhaps they have been disturbed by all these tales of miracles.'
She grew suddenly serious, searching her husband's eyes.  'You
don't think there can be any truth in these stories, do you,
Jairus?  All the people on our estate are talking of nothing else!
I've never known our house-servants to be so excited about
anything!'

'Well,' drawled Jairus, 'you know how servants are.  They dote on
such yarns.  It's quite beyond belief that the Carpenter is really
healing diseases.  Have any of our people told you that they
themselves have been cured of anything?'

'No, but they are convinced that the man has done some very
remarkable things.'  Rising, Adiel held up Jairus's exquisitely
quilted robe.  Hoisting himself out of bed, he slipped his arms
into it and ambled off toward the spacious bath, pausing in the
doorway to remark, 'I think it's rather undignified for these
pundits from Jerusalem to be making a big thing of this.  If they
pay no attention to the man, he will soon dispose of himself--and
the people will forget all about him and he can go back to his
carpenter-shop.  I'm ashamed to be serving as host to this foolish
business, Adiel.'

She loitered in the corridor for him, and when presently he
rejoined her, Adiel tucked her hand under his arm and said, with
some hesitation, 'I wish you would have a talk with a few of our
farmers; old Simeon, for one.  You can trust him to tell the truth.
He claims that he actually saw this Jesus give sight to a man who
had been born blind!'

'Pouf!' scoffed Jairus good-naturedly.  'Don't be silly!  There's
some sensible explanation for these tales.  You may be sure of
that!'

They strolled toward the breakfast-room.  It was on the east side
of the villa, adjoining the large dining-room, and was usually
flooded with sunshine.  On fine summer days the servants rolled
back the central panels of the roof, made of tightly woven goat-
hair, and the family breakfasted under the blue sky.  It was closed
today and the room was dreary.  Even the beautifully crafted
mosaics on the walls were dingy and lifeless.

As they neared the high-arched doorway, Jairus slowed to say,
before they entered, 'If our people want this sort of entertainment,
I've no objection.  The crops are all in.  The men have nothing much
to do.  Listening to the Carpenter is certainly better than
loitering around the wine-cellars down in Capernaum. . . .  Good
morning, Rachael!  We will make short work of our breakfast.  You
and the maids have a busy day before you, with the large party for
dinner.'

'Yes, sir,' sniffed old Rachael, beckoning to her crew to proceed
with their table-service.  Then, with the bland impudence to which
her seniority entitled her, she remarked, 'And they will eat a
lot!'

'What makes you think so?' inquired her master, anticipating some
astringent drollery.

'We've had their like before, sir--men who speak big words.  They
always eat big dinners.'

'I had never noticed that, Rachael,' chuckled Jairus; 'but by Jove
I believe you're right!  Well--make sure you have enough for them.'

Sharon now came up out of her half-drained milk-goblet, with a
gasp, and solemnly remarked, 'Nurse says "By-Jove" is a Roman swear-
word, father.'

'Perhaps, if we must swear,' commented her mother, 'it is better to
take the names of the heathen gods in vain.'

'Is this By-Jove a heathen?' asked Sharon.

'Drink your milk, little one,' admonished her father gently.
'We'll all have our fill of theology before the day is over,
without beginning it now.'

'I'm not expected to attend this dinner, am I?' asked Adiel.

'No, dear,' said Jairus.  'Not if you don't want to.  It's a
business affair.  You needn't show up at all.  It's Rabbi Ben-
Sholem's party really.  We're just providing food and shelter.'

                         * * * * * *

By mid-forenoon it had cleared.  Patches of blue sky were appearing
and the sun was glinting on the puddles in the rose-garden as
Jairus sauntered out to the pergola.  Perhaps it would dry off
sufficiently for the learned men--having fed well--to carry their
weighty matters out of the house.  That would be a relief.  Jairus
could see to it that they were comfortably seated--and then drift
quietly away.  The wise men would not miss him.

Upon examination, the vine-bowered pergola was still a-drip, but
giving off a promising steam, and the wicker chairs and divans were
drying fast.  Jairus was almost cheerful when Rabbi Ben-Sholem
appeared, punching holes in the wet gravel with his cane.  The
Rabbi, habitually sedate, was almost animated.

'This promises to be an interesting day, my son,' he said, in a
tone that hinted at a treat in store.

'That's good,' rejoined Jairus, without enthusiasm.  'I have been
hoping that the gardens and the pergola would be dry enough for
your people to hold their meeting, this afternoon, out-of-doors.'

'Well, as for that, this will not be a festive occasion,' declared
Ben-Sholem soberly.  'It is not a garden party.  What we have to do
today can better be done indoors!'

'Oh?  So serious as that?'

'Yes.  The Carpenter is to be here!'

Jairus, who had been shaking a dripping vine, straightened--and
brightened a little.

'Indeed!' he said.  'That's interesting!'

'Yes.  A couple of our young students for the priesthood hunted the
fellow down yesterday, and--'

'Hunted him down, eh?'  There was a trace of asperity in Jairus'
tone.  'That must have called for much shrewdness, seeing that the
Carpenter has been openly speaking to great throngs.  Had he hidden
himself somewhere?'

'No, he was not in hiding,' replied the old man frostily.  'He was
shamelessly eating his supper in the home of Simon the son of
Jonas.'

Jairus grinned and the Rabbi scowled at his amusement.

'You don't mean to say, sir, that he was visiting the Big
Fisherman!  I thought this Carpenter was some sort of a religious
teacher.  Apparently he isn't very particular about the company he
keeps.  The Big Fisherman hasn't any more religion than our dog!'

'That is one of the things we will discuss with him,' said the
Rabbi.  'He makes pretence of being a holy man; talks to the
multitude about holy things; and then associates himself with all
manner of profane and uncouth people.  Some of our men saw him, a
few days ago, sitting in the Revenue Office chatting with Levi--
that abominable Collector of Roman tribute!'

'Maybe he was trying to talk Levi into a reduction of his taxes,'
chuckled Jairus.  'I must ask him how he got on with it.'

'It is not a jesting matter, my son,' said the Rabbi sternly.

'Sorry,' mumbled Jairus.  After a moment of constrained silence, he
asked, 'Did your young men have any trouble getting the Carpenter's
consent to come here today?  Of course they couldn't command him to
come.'

'They did command him,' declared Ben-Sholem.  'By the authority of
the Synagogue!'

'Then he needn't come unless he wants to,' said Jairus brusquely.
'He probably knows--as well as you do, sir--that the Synagogue has
no power to arrest him--or subpoena him.'

'Be that as it may,' said Ben-Sholem testily, 'he is coming.  He
had the effrontery to say that he would be free to come because it
was going to be too stormy this afternoon for the people to turn
out.'

Jairus' jaw sagged a little and his brows contracted.

'You say he made that forecast yesterday--when there wasn't a cloud
in the sky?  He must be a weather prophet.'

'Not a very good one,' remarked the Rabbi, with a brief smile.  'It
will be fair this afternoon.'

'Apparently,' agreed Jairus.  'By the way--did your bright young
men invite the Carpenter to come early enough to have dinner with
us?'

'Certainly not!' snorted Ben-Sholem.  'He is not coming here as a
guest!  I must say, Jairus,' the old man continued hotly, 'I am
surprised at your attitude toward this matter.  Here you are, a
Regent of the Synagogue, the most influential man in this region,
supposed to set a good example--but not caring what manner of
doctrine is taught to the people.  You even talk of having this
blasphemer in your home as a guest, when it is clear that the
fellow consorts with the ungodly, dines with Simon the brawler who
openly reviles the Synagogue and hasn't attended its services for
years!'  The Rabbi's voice was trembling as he finished his
impassioned speech, and Jairus reproached himself for permitting
the unhappy episode to develop.  Perhaps good old Ben-Sholem had
some grounds for his indignation.  As a Regent of the Synagogue,
Jairus was expected to take more than a casual interest in the
community's religious beliefs.  To atone for his intimations of
indifference, he made a long face and showed concern for the
reclamation of Simon's wayward soul.

'Rabbi, did you ever speak to the Big Fisherman about his
infidelity?' he inquired solemnly.

'It wouldn't have done any good,' muttered Ben-Sholem.  'I have
known the headstrong fellow from his youth.  There is no doubt but
his apostasy hastened the death of his godly father. . . .  Once, a
few years ago, two of our young men of the Synagogue asked him
respectfully why he did not pay his tithe, and he sneered at them.
At that, they chided him--as indeed they should have done--and he
grabbed them by the hair and whacked their heads together.  Then,
realizing the gravity of his offence, he added insult to injury by
presenting them with a basket of perch!'

Jairus frowned heavily at this outrage and seemed about to denounce
such inexcusable conduct when, to the Rabbi's pained surprise, he
broke forth with a loud cackle of involuntary laughter.

'I am amazed, Jairus!' murmured the old man.

'So am I, sir,' confessed the culprit, suddenly sobering.  'But I
couldn't have helped that--if I had been on my death-bed.  Please
forgive me!'

'I sincerely hope, Jairus,' entreated Ben-Sholem, 'that you will
regard this unfortunate affair of the Carpenter with the gravity it
deserves.  When he appears in your house today you must give him to
understand that he is coming at the behest of the Synagogue!'

'Then you had better take him to the Synagogue!' retorted Jairus.
'I do not like the part you are asking me to play.  If I am to be
this young man's host, there will be no rudeness, certainly not by
me!  I had surmised that you were inviting him here for a
conference; now it appears that he is summoned for a condemnation.
I shall not be a party to such procedure!  Indeed, if he comes here
friendless and alone, you may expect me to be on his side!  Do you
mean to say that all the Rabbis in the neighbourhood are
congregating here to judge the man without giving him the advantage
of any defence?  Are you all solidly against him?'

'The man must be silenced, Jairus!' declared Ben-Sholem firmly.
'We are all agreed on that, except . . .'  He hesitated for a
moment, and went on reluctantly.  'I cannot understand the attitude
of Rabbi Elimelech of Bethsaida.  He came to see me yesterday, to
tell me not to expect him here today.'

'Did he give his reasons?' inquired Jairus, with interest.

'Elimelech is getting old,' explained the elderly Ben-Sholem.  'He
is in his second childhood.  Indeed, it is said that he spends most
of his time telling stories to the children.  The substantial
people of his congregation hardly know what to make of him.'

'And he refuses to join you in rebuking the Carpenter?'

'Elimelech was imprudent enough to go out into the country himself--
to hear this Jesus.  His people do not approve of that: he
admitted as much.  He even took more than a score of their children
with him.  Elimelech needs to be careful or he will be retired.'

'I must have a talk with the good old man,' remarked Jairus.  'It
might be worth knowing what he really does think of this Nazarene.
What did he say to you--about him?'

'He said the man might be the Messiah, for all we knew!  We can't
have that kind of talk, you know!'

'Of course not,' mumbled Jairus absently.

                         * * * * * *

The dinner was a dull and difficult affair.  Valiantly but vainly
did Jairus endeavour to dispel the constraint of his taciturn
guests.  At first he had breezily introduced conversational topics
which, he thought, might induce them to show some interest for
sheer courtesy's sake, but they gave him no aid.  They ate in
silence.

Turning to Nathan, the High Priest's representative, Jairus
inquired how Pilate was getting on these days with the Sanhedrin.
After a lengthy interval, Nathan had stiffly replied, with his eyes
on his plate, 'As usual.'  It was implicit in Nathan's icy
rejoinder that whatever might be the present relation of the Roman
Procurator and the Jewish Court it was certainly none of Jairus'
business.  The forthright rebuff nettled him, but he kept his
temper.

Addressing Obadiah, the eldest of the scribes, at his left, Jairus
asked whether the improvements to the Galilean Embassy had been
completed.  The old man shook his head.  After a pause he
elaborated on his response by mumbling that he did not know.  He
did not bother to add that he didn't care, but it was plain enough
that Jairus was talking too much.  He felt lonely and out of place.
Perhaps he had been impudent in seating himself with these
distinguished men.  He had done better, he felt, to have donned an
apron and helped serve the table.  A few times he lifted his eyes
hopefully in the direction of Rabbi Ben-Sholem, but the old man
moodily munched his mutton without glancing up.

Now it occurred to Jairus that Ben-Sholem, who had had time for a
private word with the Jerusalem party before dinner, might have
whispered that their host was not sympathetic with the inquisition
to be held in his home.  That was it!  They were deliberately
snubbing him!  After that, Jairus--in the role of a mere innkeeper--
saw to it that their plates and cups were replenished, addressing
himself only to the serving-maids. . . .  Another helping of
chicken, Rachael, he murmured behind his hand, for his Grace the
High Priest's Emissary. . . .  And bring more wine. . . .  And open
the windows.  It is close in here. . . .  And light the lamps.

Perhaps that was part of the trouble.  The air had become
oppressive and the room was growing dark.  Jairus turned about
toward the windows and faced a blackened sky.  There was going to
be a severe storm.  Presently the very house shook under a crash of
thunder.  Vivid tongues of flame stabbed at the close horizon.
Detached gusts of wind flung their weight at the awnings and thrust
their shoulders against the straining doors.

Spurts of rain splashed noisily on the tessellated pavement of the
loggia, as if pitched from enormous buckets.

Jairus rose hastily and made for the high-domed atrium, now
enveloped in gloom.  That precariously supported ceiling had always
worried him on stormy days, despite the architect's assurance that
it was strong.  He entered the huge room and looked up anxiously
into the dome as another blast of thunder roared overhead.

Calmly seated, quite within the range of a catastrophe, were four
men.  Apparently Joseph, the butler, having admitted them, had been
too busy fastening doors and windows to announce their presence.
They rose.  A gigantic, bearded man, whom Jairus instantly
recognized as the Big Fisherman, stepped forward, bowed, and
deferentially tipped his head toward the evident leader of their
party.

'Sir,' said Simon, in a deep voice, 'this is Jesus--of Nazareth.'

On any other occasion, Jairus would have had at least a nod and a
smile for the man who had so graciously introduced his friend, but
there was something about the Nazarene that demanded his full
attention.  So--this was the Carpenter!  Well, it was easy to see
why the people were following him about.  He was not an ordinary
man.  Jairus advanced toward him--and bowed respectfully.

'You and your friends are welcome to my house, sir,' he said.

There was another crash of thunder and Jairus glanced up
apprehensively.

'May I suggest, sir,' he urged, 'that you step back from underneath
this dome?  We are not safe here!'

'You need have no fear, Jairus,' said Jesus quietly.

'But that roof is dangerous!' insisted Jairus.

'Perhaps,' said Jesus; 'but not for me, nor for you while you are
beside me.  My time has not yet come.'

Jairus, rarely at a loss for an appropriate word, couldn't think of
a suitable thing to say.  He found himself held by the Carpenter's
reassuring eyes: strange, searching eyes they were, that asked,
without impudence, what manner of man you were, as if they had a
right to know.  There was another savage blast of thunder, but this
time Jairus did not look up.  Apparently divining his host's
relief, Jesus smiled, glanced aloft, and nodded his head.  And
Jairus smiled too, but shook his head a little, as if to say that
something was going on here that he couldn't understand.

Now the face of the Carpenter sobered.  He turned about and walked
slowly toward the tall windows facing the highway, the others
following him.  Simon indicated his two young friends, who had not
been presented.  'James and John, sir,' he said.  'Brothers.
Fishermen.'  Jairus nodded to them absently.  He was thinking of
the men from Jerusalem who were waiting, probably with some
impatience, to interrogate this mysterious Nazarene.  Perhaps they
were sitting with their heads together, organizing pedantic queries
that no untutored carpenter could be expected to understand;
hopeful of showing the fellow up as an ignoramus. . . .  Well--he
might surprise them!

Jairus joined the men at the window.  Out along the roadside a
great crowd stood huddled and hunched under the cypress and olive
trees in the drenching rain.  Simon, towering beside Jesus, turned
to Jairus and murmured apologetically, 'He entreated them not to
follow him here, sir.'

'Are these people friends of yours?' asked Jairus, moving to Jesus'
side.

Jesus nodded his head and continued to gaze compassionately at the
multitude.  Then, as if talking to himself, he said, 'They are
sheep--without a shepherd.'

'Well,' said Jairus, 'we can't have them out there in this storm!'
He turned to the Big Fisherman.  'Bid them come in!'

Striding quickly to the great doors opening upon the terrace, Simon
waved a beckoning arm.  The rain-soaked throng could not believe,
at first, that they had been invited into the palatial home of
Jairus.  Simon continued to beckon to them.  They raised a grateful
shout and broke into a run across the terraced lawn.  Jesus watched
them coming, for a moment; then turned to give his host a comradely
smile.

'You are bringing a blessing upon your house, Jairus,' he said
softly.

Gratified, but somewhat embarrassed by this tribute, Jairus replied
that he hoped his wife would think so, a sally that briefly
broadened Jesus' smile.

The crowd was literally pouring into the atrium now, wet to the
skin.  Simon, beside the open doors, was admonishing the people, in
a strangely compulsive, resonant voice, to be orderly, not to push,
and not to sit down anywhere in their soaked garments.  Jairus
thought it high time to conduct his strange guest away from this
swarming pack.  He touched Jesus' arm and signed for him to follow.
They moved toward the corridor.  As they came to the open door of
the breakfast-room, Jairus observed that the party from Jerusalem
had assembled there and were standing silently at the windows,
apparently watching the advancing crowd.  He signed to Jesus to
enter the room and invited him to sit down.  The storm was abating.
The rain still poured, but the thunder had subsided to mutterings
in the mountains.

Approaching the preoccupied group at the windows, Jairus spoke to
Rabbi Ben-Sholem.

'Your Carpenter is here,' he said

They all turned about and stared.

'I have the pleasure to present Jesus, whom you have asked to
meet,' said Jairus.

Jesus rose and bowed respectfully.  Jerusalem was glum.  They all
sat down.  The crowd had got out of hand, apparently, the foremost
inching along the broad corridor to the doorway of the room where
the conference sat.

Ben-Sholem, flushed with annoyance, rose to say sternly, 'Jairus,
the public has not been invited to this meeting!  I insist that the
house be cleared of these people!'

'They came in out of the rain, sir,' explained Jairus.

'But they have no business here!' expostulated Nathan.

Jairus was about to say that if they wanted to put the people out,
they were at liberty to do so--if they could--when a sudden
commotion overhead raised all eyes toward the roof.  The portable
roof-panels were being rolled back, letting in a downpour.
Hurriedly dragging their chairs away from the opening, the men of
Jerusalem were astounded at what they saw above them.  A cot was
being lowered into the room.  It bore the rain-soaked, shivering,
emaciated form of a young man.  The roof was quickly replaced as
the cot came to rest on the floor.  Everyone in the room remained
standing.  Nobody spoke.  Jairus tried to frown, without success.
The situation had become ludicrous.  It was quite clear that the
servants had connived with the sick man's friends to give him this
extraordinary entrance to the crowded house.  It had all the
appearance of an atrocity that old Rachael might have conceived,
probably in collusion with Joseph the butler, who was reputed to be
much interested in the Carpenter.

At this juncture, Jesus stepped forward and gazed down into the
bewildered eyes of the invalid.  Anybody could see at a glance what
ailed the emaciated young fellow with the twisted, shrunken limbs.
Every few years a dreaded epidemic of paralysis, to which children
and youths were unaccountably vulnerable, would make helpless
cripples of a dozen, a score, a hundred.  No one knew the cause--or
the cure.

Jairus edged in closer, full of curiosity to see what might happen.
The silence in the room was tense.  The Carpenter had quietly
become the commanding figure in this company.  All eyes were upon
him.

'My son,' he said gently, 'your sins are forgiven.'

There was an impatient stir among the critics from Jerusalem and a
sullen rumble of indignation.  Nathan, the High Priest's
representative, growled angrily, 'This is blasphemy!'  Old Obadiah,
Chief of the Temple Scribes, called out, 'How does this man forgive
sins?'  Ben-Sholem snorted, 'That is not what the sick man came
for!  He wants to be healed of his paralysis!'  'Aye!' they all
muttered.  'Heal him!'

Jairus' heart was pounding hard now.  He had found himself
instantly attracted to the Nazarene and had hoped that he might
give a good account of himself before these surly pedants; but it
was clear that he had got himself into an indefensible position.
The wiseacres from Jerusalem were right.  It was sheer blasphemy
for any man to forgive another man's sins.  The Carpenter was
merely temporizing with his problem--and doing it in the worst
possible way.  How could he expect his enemies--or his friends,
either--to endorse this stunning sacrilege?  Jesus would have to do
better than that if he hoped to combat the criticism of his
detractors.

Now the room was suddenly hushed to silence again as the Nazarene,
stretching forth an arm toward the sick man, calmly addressed the
murmurers:

'You have questioned my authority to forgive sins.  Let me ask you:
is it easier to forgive sins or to say to a paralytic, "Arise and
walk"?  To assure you that I have been given this authority . . .'
He broke off here to turn his full attention to the young man on
the cot.  Lowering his hand until it touched the thin arm, he
commanded, 'Rise up, my son, and walk!'

It was the craning crowd, massed in the open doorway, that broke
the strained silence with a gasp and a cry of astonishment.  The
paralytic had reached up to take the proffered hand of Jesus, had
pried himself up on his elbow, had sat erect, had struggled
laboriously to his feet!

Jairus' throat was tight and dry and he had a sickish feeling.
Confusion broke loose now among the men from the Temple.  'A
fraud!' they shouted derisively.  'Prearranged! . . .'  'The man
was not a cripple! . . .'  'Away with this impostor!'

Out in the broad corridor the wide-eyed throng backed away to clear
a path for the young man, who advanced with short, experimental
steps.  His eyes were swimming and his lower lip twitched.  The
open-mouthed spectators stared into his contorted face as they
lurched back to give him room, trampling their neighbours' toes.
No one offered him a word or a smile as he passed.  He was as one
risen from the dead.

The rain had ceased while this strange event was in progress, and
the sun was shining brightly.  Slowly and silently the awe-stricken
crowd was moving out of the house.  The visitors from Jerusalem had
circled into a compact, whispering group by the breakfast-room
window that gave upon the front verandah, now congested with the
departing multitude.  Nathan was addressing them.  Old Rabbi Ben-
Sholem was solemnly nodding his head.  Jairus gave them a brief
glance, and decided that his obligations as their host had been
discharged.  The venerable Ben-Sholem could attend to them from now
on.

Jesus had slumped into a chair near the doorway, his posture
denoting complete exhaustion.  His elbows rested on the broad arms
of the chair and his bowed head was supported by white, trembling
hands.  As Jairus neared he slowly lifted his head and smiled
wanly.  Tiny beads of perspiration dotted his pale brow.

'I shall go now,' he said huskily, 'if there are to be no further
questions.'

'You are welcome to remain, Master,' said Jairus.  'You seem to be
very tired.  Tarry with us--and rest awhile.  Come with me.'

Wearily acquiescing with a nod, Jesus rose slowly and followed his
host down the long corridor and through the atrium and on to the
adjacent library.  As they entered, Adiel and Sharon, who had been
seated by the window, apparently in complete ignorance of the
amazing thing that had happened, rose to go.

'My wife, Master,' said Jairus. . . .  'Adiel, this is Jesus--of
Nazareth.'

Sharon, hugging a small harp in her arms, stood staring up into the
stranger's face as her mother murmured a response to the
introduction.  Jesus looked down into the child's wondering eyes
with a smile.

'Our little daughter, Sharon,' said Jairus.

Laying his hand lightly on her curly head, Jesus remarked that it
was an appropriate name.  'Name of a rose,' he said.  Sharon nodded
soberly and continued to stare bewilderedly into his face.

'Come, dear,' said Adiel, taking her hand.

'Let her remain, Adiel,' said Jesus.  'I shall tell her a story.'

His calling her by name--a familiarity not to be taken by a
stranger--warmed Adiel's heart.  For an instant she felt as if they
had been long-time friends, but this sensation was quickly
succeeded by the feeling that he had addressed her as if she were a
child, though she surmised that she was somewhat older than he.
Jairus, taking note of her pleased bewilderment, remembered his own
surprise and gratification when Jesus had spoken his name.  It was
not customary for village carpenters to address him as 'Jairus.'

'May I stay too?' asked Adiel.

Jairus pushed the luxurious leather chairs into a smaller circle
and they sat down.  For a little while Jesus' head drooped and his
eyes were closed.  It was apparent that he was utterly spent.

At the conference in the breakfast-room the question had risen
whether it was easier to forgive a man's sins or to cure him of his
paralysis.  As Jairus sat sympathetically regarding the exhausted
Nazarene he reflected that it must have taken a tremendous volume
of energy to have done either of these mystifying deeds.  According
to the widespread but largely unsubstantiated tales of the
Carpenter's marvels, one gathered that the self-confident magician
had moved from one spectacular event to another with no diminution
of strength.  Now it appeared that these outgivings of vital force
were made at great cost.

Sharon, who had a child's natural diffidence in the presence of
adult strangers, now surprised her parents by drawing her low stool
close beside Jesus.  Becoming aware of her nearness, he opened his
eyes, sighed, smiled, and took her small hand in his.  Expectantly,
Sharon drew her legs up under her and rested her dimpled elbows on
the broad arms of his chair.  Jairus and Adiel exchanged puzzled
glances.

'This story,' began Jesus softly as if to the child alone, 'is
about a Kingdom in another land.'

'A fairy story?' asked Sharon hopefully.

'No--it is a true story, my child.'

In a quiet voice and with simple words, Jesus talked of his Kingdom
where all who wished to do so might live in happiness for ever.
Occasionally little Sharon interrupted with a query, somewhat to
the embarrassment of her parents, though Jesus regarded her
questions with interest and consideration.

As the colloquy proceeded, Jairus found himself yielding to the
infatuation of an ideal life to come, in a land where there were no
storms, no quarrels, no courts, no prisons, no slaves, no tears, no
fears.  And when Sharon wanted to know whether we would all go
there, Jesus had replied that not everyone would want to go; for it
was a brightly lighted city, and many people, accustomed to
performing their deeds in darkness, would not like the perpetual
light.  And many people who had been proud of their control over
others' lives would not enjoy a land where everyone was free.

The calm voice was interrupted now by a light tap on the door.
Joseph's face appeared.  Jairus, roused as from a dream, rose,
crossed the room, went out, and softly closed the door behind him.

'It is the Big Fisherman, sir,' whispered Joseph.  'He wonders how
the Master is feeling--and whether he is to wait.'

'The Master is very tired,' replied Jairus.  'When he is rested I
shall give him conveyance to wherever he wishes to go.  Tell the
Big Fisherman he need not tarry.'

The butler made off with his instructions and Jairus laid his hand
lightly on the library door, but hesitated to re-enter.  In some
curious manner, Joseph's intrusion had broken the strange spell
that had stilled his mind and had brought Jairus back abruptly to
familiar footing on solid ground.  His mind had resumed its normal
process.  There had been much too much mystery that day.  He had
drifted along on the compelling tide of it, offering no resistance,
asking no questions.  Now that he had been suddenly and roughly
beached by this clutch of the commonplace, he began--rather dazedly--
to put his thoughts in order.

One thing was sure: his credulity had been severely overtaxed.  He
had always been a practical fellow, with no talent for belief in
things he could not see, hear, taste, or handle.  Today he had
allowed himself to be influenced by a succession of mysterious
events for which the strange Carpenter was responsible.

To begin with, he had had a friendly interest in the Carpenter
because he had determined that the man should not be mistreated in
his house. . . .  Then, in the excitement and confusion of the
storm, there had been that peculiar incident under the dome of the
atrium.  The Carpenter had calmly assured him that it was safe, and
Jairus had taken his word for it.  But--so had the architect
assured him that the dome was safe.  Doubtless his fears had been
groundless.  Now that the storm was over, Jairus felt ashamed of
his apprehensions.

Then, there had been a miracle; or, so it had seemed, though until
now he had had no opportunity to examine it calmly.  The young man
was ill and crippled; there was no doubt about that.  Indeed, he
had been far from well when he departed, as one could see by his
pallor and weakness.  Whether he had been helpless and quite unable
to walk at all--well, there had been no testimony about that.  The
sullen critics from Jerusalem, whatever might be the unfairness of
their hostility to the Carpenter, certainly had a right to raise
that question.  To what extent was the young fellow paralysed?

Jairus had been willing--and was still willing--to give the
Nazarene the benefit of the doubt concerning the validity of this
miracle; though, with all respect for the Carpenter's obviously
honest belief in his own power, it would be less disturbing if it
could be shown that the young man had been able to walk; maybe not
very well or very far, but--able to walk.

But now another factor had been injected into the strange case of
the Carpenter.  He had been describing--and in a tone of deep
sincerity--a Kingdom prepared for all who might be presumed to
enjoy living in a land where it never stormed, where no one was
ever sick or sorry, where no one owned anything for himself, and
all were equal in the sight of the King.

Perhaps these were reassuring words when addressed to people who,
in this lifetime, had never possessed anything.  Jairus wished that
Jesus had not ventured upon this story of his Kingdom.  Let every
man have his own hopes and illusions about a world to come.  It
distressed Jairus that Jesus had turned out to be a visionary.
Apparently his imagination had been affected by his efforts to deal
with the invisible.

Turning away from the library door, Jairus strolled through the
atrium and out upon the trampled path that led to the rose-garden.
He would return presently and resume his duties as Jesus' host, but
he felt the need of this brief respite under the open sky.  It had
been his intention to invite the Nazarene Carpenter to stay for
supper--and to spend the night if he wished.  But now he felt that
it would be a relief to see this Kingdom-to-come dreamer on his
way.  What would he do with Jesus if he remained as their guest?
What would they talk about?  What had they in common?  No--the
man's presence here was an embarrassment.

The rose-garden had taken quite a beating.  In several places the
splintered arbours hung limp over the drooping bushes they were
intended to support.  Jairus sauntered across to a damaged trellis
where old Abner, the head gardener, was making repairs, bracing the
arbour, cutting away the broken branches and re-tying those that
remained unhurt.  Life, reflected Jairus, was something like that.
It had its misadventures and injuries; but, more often than not,
you could tie up what was left and expect it to blossom and bear
fruit again.  For all its buffeting, our life here was worth all
the worry and work it cost us.  It had its frights, frustrations,
and storms, but it also offered many satisfactions--and these
satisfactions were real--and they were to be had here and now.
What folly to spend one's days in brooding anticipation of a
Kingdom-to-come where it would always be fair weather!  Jairus
doubted whether he would enjoy such security even if it were to be
had.  He had accustomed himself to uncertainties; he knew how to
deal with them.  He was not so confident of his ability to deal
with certainties.  Even the promise of endless happiness threatened
one with a manner of living for which one had had no training.  Far
better, mused Jairus, to content ourselves with come-what-may.  Let
the Carpenter dream of his fair-weather Kingdom: Jairus would feel
more at home in a world beset by storms.

It occurred to him, as he slowly retraced his steps to the house,
that he must presently have a serious talk with his architect about
the dome of the atrium.  It would be foolhardy to take any more
chances there.

                         * * * * * *

With heavy steps and a heavier heart, Simon slogged along over the
muddy mile that slanted toward Capernaum.  He was alone and lonely.
This singular day of excitements and exultations had come to a drab
ending.

Early in the afternoon Simon had been amazed and uplifted to find
himself possessed of a peculiar talent that would make his service
to Jesus of much value.  At a difficult moment he had taken full
charge of an importunate multitude; and, if he did have to say so
himself, it had been a good job.  Tactfully but firmly he had kept
that sopping wet, tatterdemalion pack in order and had successfully
insisted upon an appropriate respect for the unusual privileges
accorded the public by the eminent Jairus.

Their prompt and willing compliance had surprised him.  He had not
shouted or scolded or entreated.  He had calmly commanded, as if he
had a right to tell them what to do, and they--all of them, young
and old--had acknowledged his authority.  Scores of them he had
recognized, finding in their sober, astonished eyes a bewilderment
over the power he was exercising, doubtless wondering by what
strange magic this huge, uncouth fisherman had achieved such
leadership; for surely they knew that they were under no obligation
to obey his voice.

It was the first time that Simon had ever issued orders to a crowd.
Until now his commands had reached no further than the decks of his
fishing smacks and had been obeyed only by his employees.  Today he
had suddenly become aware of a hitherto unsuspected capacity for
compelling the attention and respect of a great throng.  They had
seemed mystified by it, but no more than Simon himself.

Even Jairus had given him a grateful smile and an approving nod.
And Joseph, the butler, had sidled up to remark deferentially, 'I
don't see how you do it, sir!  I'm sure they wouldn't have listened
to me.'

When the densely packed crowd had finally come to a stand, Simon,
suffused with a new elation, had said to himself that this must be
the reason why Jesus had laid hands upon him. . . .  Apparently the
Master had divined that Simon had been gifted by nature for the
skilful handling of great multitudes.  Not much wonder that Jesus
had asked his assistance.  'Simon--I have need of you,' he had
said.  Or could it be that Jesus had endowed him with this power?
Well, however he had come by it, here it was; and Simon was deeply
stirred.

After the spectacular event of the day had occurred, and the rain
had ceased and it was time for the house to be cleared of its
dripping guests, Simon had again assumed command, speaking calmly
but confidently to the people; and again they had obeyed him.  His
words still re-echoed in his ears as he trudged through the mud on
the way to Capernaum.  He had said, simply, 'We are all leaving
now.'  And they had left, without disorder and without tarrying.

When the last of them were out of the house, Simon had come upon
James and John, who had lingered on the verandah, uncertain what
was expected of them.

'Jesus is with Jairus,' Simon had explained.  'He is resting.  I
shall wait for him. . . .  I think Andrew may he taking the fleet
across to the south shore for fishing at sundown, now that the
weather has cleared.  Perhaps he would be glad to have your help.'

Nodding briefly, the brothers had turned away to follow the
departing throng.  They too had accepted Simon's quiet orders
without a sign of reluctance.

Hitching up his belt, he had leaned against one of the marble
pillars in a posture that might easily have been mistaken for an
air of proprietorship, and had absently watched the bobbing heads
of the people as they plodded doggedly down the sloping road.  He
had been moved to pity over their bewilderment and their
helplessness.  They were like so many sheep.  Jesus had said so.
Simon had straightened to his full height and had drawn a sigh of
satisfaction.  'Sheep,' he murmured.

While thus reflecting upon the very considerable and gratifying
difference between his present rating and theirs, his attention was
diverted by the appearance of Joseph, attended by a crew of men-
servants bearing mops, buckets, and brooms.

'I am waiting for the Master,' said Simon casually.  'Do you happen
to know how long he may be tarrying?'

'No, sir,' said Joseph respectfully.

'See if you can find out.'  Simon had spoken quietly but
authoritatively; and, after an instant of perplexed indecision,
Joseph had set off on his errand, returning presently to say, with
some embarrassment, that Simon was not to wait.

It seemed a rather cool and curt dismissal.  Of course, Simon knew
he had no right to expect that Jesus himself would come out and
explain that he wasn't ready to go; nor was it likely that Jairus
would appear with this message.  As he tramped down the stone steps
which descended from one terrace to another, he tried not to feel
hurt.  Jesus was indeed very weary.  Jairus was taking good care of
him.  Perhaps it was an excellent opportunity for them to become
acquainted.  But--Simon was humiliated.  After the singular service
he had rendered, it was disquieting to be sent away by the butler.

Trudging along with his eyes on the road, Simon reviewed the events
of the past few days.  Not all of them had been entirely to his
liking or his understanding.  To begin with, there was that deeply
moving episode on the beach at dawn, when Jesus had laid his hands
on Simon's bowed head and had commanded him to follow.  It had been
a high moment!  And Simon had followed, gladly, proudly, blind with
welling tears.  But where had Jesus taken him?  Not to some quiet
spot for a conference or instructions in his new duties.  No; he
had silently led the way to the old boat leased by the Zebedee
youngsters and had indicated that Simon had an errand there.

As he recollected it, this reconciliation with James and Johnny had
given him some momentary pleasure.  It was a relief to have their
friendly relations restored.  But now, flushed with disappointment,
it occurred to him that if any apologies were due in patching up
that estrangement, it might have been more fitting if Johnny had
been invited to attend to it.  Simon had not abandoned Johnny: it
had been the other way about.  It wasn't quite fair to make Simon
do the apologizing; or so it seemed this afternoon, after the
rebuff at Jairus' house.

And then, the next day, Simon had invited Jesus to come aboard The
Abigail, and Jesus had seemed glad enough to say that he would do
so.  It had delighted Simon.  Doubtless Jesus would be surprised to
see what valuable ships he owned.  Maybe Jesus would appreciate the
sacrifice he had made when he consented to devote himself to the
new cause.

'Master,' Simon had said, 'I am going to show you the finest fleet
on the lake!'

And Jesus had suddenly changed his mind about visiting the ships.
'Another day, Simon,' he said absently, as if he didn't care
whether he ever saw them.

Wholly preoccupied with his depressing meditations, Simon marched
through the main thoroughfare of Capernaum, nodding soberly to
those who hailed him, and proceeded toward Tiberias.  His fleet, he
observed, had put out to sea.  He was glad that Andrew had decided
to sail, though it would have pleased him to go along.  It might
have lifted his depression.

He slowed his steps to a stop and for a long moment gazed at his
fleet with a feeling of pride.  They were indeed beautiful vessels,
even if Jesus had no interest in them and didn't care to visit
them.  A homesick memory of carefree, sunny, happy days at sea
swept through him, a vivid remembrance of restless sails overhead
bending to a capricious breeze, wisps of sailors' songs drifting
back from the little forecastle, the blended aromas of wet hemp,
warm tar, fresh paint.  Simon sighed deeply and wondered whether he
would ever be really happy again.

Perhaps there would be some comfort in going home.  Hannah would
welcome him, he was sure of that.  Hannah was dependable in all
weathers.  She could be sympathetic without being silly.  He hoped
she would not question him about his absence from home.  Maybe she
would chatter him out of his despondency.  He brightened a little
and lengthened his stride.

He found her near the front gate, mending a broken rose-trellis.

'Simon!' she cried, hurrying to meet him.  'What a storm!  And what
a day you have had!  How proud you should be!'

He laid a big hand on her shoulder affectionately.

'Proud?' he said, soberly.  'What about?'

'Why--how you took charge of that crowd at Jairus' house!  They're
all talking about it!  The neighbours have been here.  Many of them
were over there.  How happy you must have been to be of so much
help to Jesus!  Do tell me more about him!'

'How much do you know about him, Hannah?  Have you seen him?'

'Yes, Simon.  I went out into the country to hear him.  I would
have done so sooner; but I feared you might be offended.  Esther
wanted me to go.  He is indeed a wonderful man!'

They strolled toward the house.

'You were surprised, I think,' said Simon, 'that I should have
anything to do with him.'

'Yes--I was surprised.'  She waited for him to explain how it had
happened, but Simon said no more until they had sat down in the
little parlour.  Hannah's eyes were bright with expectation.

Impulsively--for he had not planned to confide any of his recent
experiences--Simon began, haltingly at first, to tell her how he
had been forced to abandon his prejudices and admit the miraculous
power of the strange young man from Nazareth.  He told Hannah about
the blind baby.  He told her how Jesus had summoned him, in the
early morning, to be his friend and helper.  It was a moving story,
and when he had ended it Hannah's eyes were full of tears.  There
was a long silence.

'But--it is not easy, Hannah,' murmured Simon, shaking his head.
'Following Jesus is not easy.'

'Tell me,' she entreated softly.

With averted eyes, he slowly unburdened himself of the
disappointments and humiliations he had suffered.  No--following
Jesus, he repeated, was not easy.  He reviewed the events of the
day at Jairus' mansion; the exaltation he had felt when Jesus had
looked to him to control that dripping, selfish mob of curiosity-
seekers; the strange sense of power that had come to him; and the
dismaying rebuff that had sent him plodding off alone through the
mud, plainly aware that--after all--he was nobody!

Hannah's eyes lighted with sudden understanding.

'Simon!' she exclaimed.  'Has it not occurred to you that Jesus may
be wanting you for some great service?  Maybe he is training you
for it! . . .  You know, the way they train soldiers--to endure
hardship--and learn to obey--and ask no questions!  The commander
gives them heavy packs to carry--and long marches--and they are not
told where they are going or why!'

For a long time Simon sat moodily staring out of the window before
attempting a reply.

'I should have been much happier, Hannah, if I had never met him.
I was quite contented to be--just a fisherman.  Now, I don't know
who--or what--I am!'

'Why don't you go out with your fleet for a few days--and get this
all off your mind?'

'I don't even want to do that!' rumbled Simon dejectedly.  'That's
part of the trouble, Hannah.  Even my ships mean nothing to me--any
more. . . .  I am this man's captive! . . .  What is to become of
me, I do not know.'

'You are tired and hungry,' said Hannah gently.  'I shall get your
supper ready.  You will feel better when you have eaten--and
rested. . . .  Come--and gather a few eggs for me.'

Willing to be diverted, Simon followed her to the kitchen, caught
up a small basket, and started out toward the chicken-yard, pausing
at the little feed-room in the storage shed for a basin of corn.
The hens fluttered about his feet, dabbing at the grain.  They were
unafraid, untroubled.  Nothing ailed their world.  Simon envied
them.

Hannah stood in the kitchen doorway, watching him with brooding
eyes.  Her intuition told her that their quiet, uneventful life
together had come to an end.  Simon, she felt, would never be the
same again.



Chapter XII


Considering all the dangers she had faced and escaped on her
audacious journey from the mountains of Southern Arabia to the Sea
of Galilee, the young daughter of the Tetrarch felt that her
expedition had been singularly successful.

However shabbily the gods had treated her in filling her veins with
the incompatible blood of two mutually contemptuous nations, making
it impossible for her to feel at home in either of their lands, it
was clear that her quest of vengeance had not been disapproved on
Mount Olympus where (according to Ione) these deities maintained
their headquarters.

True, Fara's vow still lacked fulfilment; but perhaps the gods,
having thus far blessed her adventure, might be counted upon to
help her see it through.  Even if it should culminate in a swift
tragedy for her, an untimely death would be preferable, she
thought, to any length of life in a world that had made such poor
provision for her happiness.

But, resolutely as she had schooled her mind to a stoical
acceptance of her probable fate, there were occasional days when
her courage ebbed, and for its renewal Fara would take counsel of
their heroism who had lived dangerously--and, in many cases,
briefly--for honour's sake.  She was in need of such courage today.

Curled up childishly in a heavily upholstered leather chair that
had been built expressly for the comfort of Tetrarch Antipas, and
was therefore several sizes too large for his daughter, Fara had
been trying to bolster her morale by reacquainting herself with her
favourite hero.  What a gallant youth was Demosthenes!  No burden
could weight him down; no obstacle could slow him up!  He too had
vowed a vow, pledging himself to prepare for a bold attack on the
rapacious merchants and wicked politicians who had impoverished and
debauched his beloved Athens.  Like Fara, Demosthenes had had his
bad days.  Sometimes he felt that he was throwing his youth away on
a hopeless undertaking, and only by the most rigorous self-
discipline had he been able to adhere to his resolution.

The story about him that Fara liked best was of his shaving one
side of his head so he wouldn't be tempted to abandon his hard
studies and rejoin his gay companions in the baths and at the
theatre.  Having herself done a bit of sacrificial barbering in the
interest of keeping a vow, Fara felt that she and young Demosthenes
had a great deal in common.  Her admiration of him was unbounded.
Of course this devotion took no toll of her maidenly modesty, for
her hero had been dead these three hundred and fifty years and
would never know how tender was her sympathy.

But this afternoon--it had been raining all day--not even
Demosthenes was able to do much for Fara.  As she riffled through
the yellow old scrolls that eulogized his bravery, she wondered
whether his famed career hadn't cost more than it was worth.  True,
he had stirred Greece to a noisy house-cleaning, but the evil-doers
had survived him.  Demosthenes had kept his vow--but lost his life.
Fara pushed the scrolls off her lap and asked herself what was the
good of it.  Maybe she and Demosthenes were a couple of fools to
have set their youthful, dancing feet on the rough and lonely road
toward a guaranteed disaster.

The afternoon was wearing on and the sombre, high-ceilinged
library, never a bright and cheerful room even when the sun shone,
was filled with depressing shadows.  The gilded spool-ends of a
pair of scrolls, high on a shelf in the corner, stared down at her
through the gloom as if to inquire how long she thought she could
sit there in the oppressive silence and ghostly shadows without
losing her mind.

It had been her intention, yesterday, to leave the palace early
this morning and spend the day with Hannah.  She was homesick to
see this motherly woman who had so tenderly befriended her.  And
perhaps Hannah could be persuaded to go with her into the country
for another glimpse of the Nazarene Carpenter.

For a whole day, after her first experience of listening to Jesus,
Fara had moved about, half dreamily, under the spell of his
tranquillizing voice.  Sitting there in that vast, stilled,
yearning multitude, she had gradually yielded herself to the
contagion of his calmness; and, retiring at length from his
presence, she had carried with her a new possession.  Indeed, it
had so suffused her habitually unquiet spirit that for many hours
thereafter nothing any longer mattered but the satisfaction of
walking confidently under an almost tangible aureole of peace.

But she was not without misgivings, for she had never been really
happy and carefree before, and something told her she had no right
to this relief from her anxieties.  Ever since she was a small
child, Fara had had something to worry about: her sweet mother's
frailty, her rascally father's neglect of them; and, overshadowing
all other frets, the feeling that she wasn't wanted anywhere.  She
was the little Arabian who wasn't really welcome in Arabia, the
little Jew who would never be really welcome in Jewry.

Now, by the magic of his persuasive voice, this Jesus had relaxed
her tension and lifted her burden.  'Let not your heart be
troubled,' he had said; and it was as if he spoke to her alone,
with a full understanding of her heart and its trouble.

But, after a day of this peculiar ecstasy, the sensation of peace
gradually gave way to the old anxieties.  Again she strapped on her
burden.  Nor was she disconsolate over the loss of her strange
quietude of mind; for had not Destiny ordained for her not only
certain cares to be carried but responsibilities to be accounted
for?  It was all very well to possess an untroubled heart if one's
troubles were honestly disposable.  Whether peace was a virtue
depended on how much duty-shirking was involved.  What indeed would
have become of Demosthenes' moral character had he resolved not to
let his heart be troubled?  Doubtless there were plenty of
fortunate people who could dismiss their cares; but Demosthenes
couldn't--nor could Fara.  Returning that day from her curious
experience in the presence of Jesus, she found that she had lost
all interest in her vow; and, that night, her brightly polished
dagger, with the jewelled handle, seemed an ugly, loathsome thing!

And so it was that Fara, briefly experiencing this singular sense
of peace, gave it up for duty's sake.  But the Carpenter's
entreating voice continued to haunt her, and she had a mounting
desire to hear him speak again.  Often and often she found herself
wondering about the nature of this strange man.  He was a Jew, a
citizen of Galilee, a carpenter; but these facts about him did not,
Fara thought, explain him at all.  He seemed to live outside the
bondage and security of his race and nationality.  This wasn't his
world.  Fara felt a strange kinship with him; for it wasn't her
world either.

This morning, when she had wakened to find it raining, her
disappointment had so depressed her that even Claudia's unfailing
cheerfulness brought no response.

'I shall myself take the bug-eater his breakfast,' Claudia had
volunteered.  'The poor fellow is sad enough without having to look
at you.'

Soberly nodding her approval, Fara had made off to the gloomy
library, where she had closeted herself throughout the whole
wretched day, now almost ended.

Because the great house had been for so many hours as quiet as a
tomb, the shrill voice of Claudia, quite obviously excited,
startled Fara out of her apathy.  From the foot of the winding
staircase Claudia was shouting some unintelligible urgency.
Perhaps the villa was on fire.  Bounding out of her chair, Fara
rushed to the doorway and ran into Voldi's open arms.

For a long moment their joy was too deep for any words of greeting.
Utterly unnerved by her surprise, Fata leaned limply against him,
snuggling her face into the folds of his tunic, while Voldi held
her slim body tightly to him.  After a time, she drew a long sigh,
with something like a childish sob tugging at her throat, and
softly patted his cheek.  Voldi tightened his embrace, drawing her
so close she was on tip-toe.  Slowly raising her arms, she circled
them around his neck and lifted her swimming eyes to meet his.  He
bent to kiss her parted lips and her instant response speeded his
heart.  It was not the first time he had kissed Fara, but always
before it had been Voldi's doing.  She had received his kisses
without reluctance; but they had been Voldi's kisses.  Now Fara was
sharing them, eagerly, hungrily!  Voldi was ecstatic, shaken,
suffocated by his emotion.  Again and again he kissed her until,
breathless and trembling, she relaxed in his arms.

'You are all mine now, darling!' he murmured, huskily.  'We belong
to each other--for ever and ever!'

Pressing her cheek hard against his breast, Fara slowly nodded her
head.  Deeply stirred by her complete surrender, Voldi felt free to
speak at once of their future.

'We will forget all about this dangerous business of revenge,' he
said, gently caressing the tight little curls on her forehead with
his fingertips.

'I'll take you home, sweetheart, and we'll never be separated
again.'

Fara made no response to this, and he continued softly while she
listened with her pale face uplifted and her eyes closed.
Impetuously he poured out the story of his grief, the agony of his
relentless search for her on the mountain trails, the lonely days
and sleepless nights, his despairing descents into deep ravines,
calling, calling.

'And now I have found you!  We will go back to our beautiful
mountains!  Nothing can ever part us--ever--as long as we live!'

Suddenly, to Voldi's surprise, for he had never seen her weep--not
even when Arnon died--Fara gave way to an uncontrollable seizure of
crying, her whole body racked with convulsive sobs.  Gently
supporting her in his arms, Voldi waited in bewildered silence for
the storm to subside.  Gradually the sobs diminished to involuntary
little spasms.  Resolutely, she straightened, dashed the tears from
her eyes and released herself from his arms.

'Come, Voldi,' she said thickly.  'Let us sit down--and talk calmly
if we can--and we must!'  Taking him by the hand, she led him
across the room to the huge leather chair and signed to him to sit
down.  He made a brief effort to draw her with him, but she gently
resisted, drew up a low footstool, and sat facing him, with her
arms folded on his knees.  There was a moment of silence, while her
tears again ran unchecked.  At length she spoke, barely above a
whisper.

'Voldi--dearest--I cannot go back with you to Arabia. . . .  No,
no, darling'--she went on, insistently, when he made a murmur of
protest--'you must hear me out! . . .  Voldi--if I loved you only a
little less than I do, perhaps I could obey my selfish heart--and
you.  Believe me, it is not easy for me to make this sacrifice.
You see, it isn't as if you were a common shepherd with no
responsibilities beyond the care of your cottage and your flock.
You are one of Arabia's most favoured sons, destined to be one of
the King's Councillors--provided you are not encumbered with me.'

'But I am willing, glad to give all that up for you!' broke in
Voldi earnestly.  'Nothing matters--but you!'

'That's the trouble, dear!' Fara went on.  'You would give up your
duty and your distinction for me.  Do you think I could ever be
happy, in the days to come, knowing it was my fault that you were
unable to serve your King and your country?'  And when Voldi
mumbled impatiently that it meant more to him to have her love than
any honour the King might bestow, Fara warned, 'It may seem so now--
but the time would come when we would realize that our love had
been too costly. . . .  Voldi--think of your father and mother and
their pride in you!'

'They would understand.'

'They might try to understand, but it would be a lasting grief to
them. . . .  And that wise and good old man, Councillor Mishma!
How he has counted on your future! . . .  And there is another
problem to be met.'  Fara lowered her voice almost to a whisper.
'We would have children.'

'Wouldn't that be wonderful, Fara!' exclaimed Voldi.

'Yes, dear, it would be wonderful--but not for them.  They would
soon learn that they were--somehow different from other children,
and that they were different because of me!  Voldi--they might even
grow to hate me as the cause of their unhappiness.'

They sat in silence for some time, Voldi having no answer to the
problem Fara had proposed.  At length, heartened by a new idea, he
said, 'Very well, then.  We will not return to Arabia.  We will
make a home somewhere else.  We will go to Rome.'

Fara shook her head and sighed.

'Dear heart, you know you would be wretched there,' she said.  'You
hate cities, as I do.  We would be exiles, we and our children--
people without a country.'

At this juncture, Claudia appeared at the door.  Supper was ready,
she said.  Would they come down, or should she bring it up?  Fara
murmured a word of thanks and said they would come down.  Claudia,
divining that she had arrived at an inopportune moment,
disappeared.

'Sorry, darling,' muttered Voldi, 'but I can't eat this rascal's
bread!'

'This is my father's house,' said Fara.  'Surely his daughter has a
right to invite a friend to supper.'

Voldi leaned forward and searched her eyes for a twinkle, but found
them sober and sincere.  The incongruity of the situation made him
laugh.

'What's so funny?' demanded Fara, soberly.

'You came here to kill your father, didn't you?'

'Yes--but I haven't done it yet.'  Fara's tone was still serious,
but a little smile twitched her lips.

'And so long as you haven't yet had a chance to kill him,' grinned
Voldi, 'you feel free to extend his hospitality to your guest!
Fara--this is very amusing!'

She rose and reached for his hand.

'I'm glad to hear you laugh again, darling,' she said, 'even if
you're laughing at me.  Come--let us see what Claudia has for us.
By the way, did she make eyes at you when you came?'

'Just a little, perhaps,' admitted Voldi obligingly.

'Well, don't let that turn your head,' drawled Fara, as they moved,
arm in arm, toward the stairway.  'Our Claudia is as friendly as a
muddy dog and not very particular in her choice of friends.'  They
both laughed.  It eased their tension.

                         * * * * * *

The next morning dawned brilliantly bright but chilly.  The two-
month season called winter in Northern Galilee was at hand, a
dreary period of searching winds and cold rains when the people
were more comfortable indoors.  This might be the last day of
autumn.

With Lysias' gracious co-operation, Fara had overcome Voldi's
reluctance to spend the night at the palace.  The steward had been
given to understand that Voldi was from Petra; and, as a student of
the classics, had wanted to see the famous library.  Seeing that
the personable young man had been directed there by no less a
prominent citizen than David, no further explanations of Voldi's
visit seemed necessary.  Anyone from Petra was welcome to the
Tetrarch's hospitality.  The beautiful, highly bred Darik had been
properly stabled, groomed, admired.

After an early breakfast, Fara and Voldi had repaired to the
library for a further discussion of their dilemma.  It was soon
made clear that the girl was adamant in her decision not to return
to Arabia.  She wasn't going to ruin Voldi's life and bring endless
humiliation upon herself by being his wife and the mother of his
children.  No, she conceded, it was no fault of hers that her veins
bore alien blood, but it was a misfortune that need not be
bequeathed to others still unborn.  In short, Fara had made up her
mind and it was useless to argue with her.

'Let me give you a little more time to think it over, dear,'
pleaded Voldi; and when Fara had pointed out that there was no
suitable place for him to lodge, either in Tiberias, Capernaum, or
Bethsaida, he said, 'I shall ride back to Caesarea and tarry for a
few weeks.  Then may I return--and see you again?'

She tried to convince him that this would only be salting their
wounds, that they would both be better off if he rode away to
occupy himself with other interests; but, after his earnest
entreaty to be allowed to come back in the spring-time, she
consented.  Voldi saw that she was glad to have made this
concession, and kissed her.  Fara shook her head demurely, but
shared the kiss, after murmuring helplessly that it wasn't fair to
either of them.  Voldi's failure to debate this point was an
admission that she was right about that; but, drawing her closer
into his arms, he kissed her again and again.  'I shouldn't let you
do this,' she whispered; but she did.  At length, reluctantly
tugging herself loose from his embrace, she walked to the open
window, Voldi slowly following.  He put his arm around her gently.

'Let us get out into the sunshine,' she said.  'We will take a
walk.'  Her eyes lighted with a happy thought.  'We will visit
Hannah!'

Voldi frowned thoughtfully, wondering whether it was discreet to
add this emphasis to Fara's Arabian origin.  Hannah might
inadvertently say something to a neighbour that would expose Fara
to the community's inquisitive conjectures.  How does this Jewish
girl happen, they would say, to be visited by a friend from Arabia?
He voiced his anxiety.

'Hannah will not talk,' said Fara.  'My secret will be as safe with
her as it is with David; and you have told me that you trust him
fully.'

'It is different with the Sadducee,' said Voldi.  'He knows who you
are--and why you are here.  Your friend Hannah is in the dark about
you.  If you trust her at all, you had better confide everything.'

'If I promise to do that, will you come?'

They sauntered down the winding driveway, Voldi leading Darik, who
tossed and shook his head impatiently, for he disliked to be led
and made no bones about his annoyance.  Presently they came out
through the imposing gates and upon the broad road, joining the
heavy southbound traffic.

'Where are all these people going?' Voldi wanted to know.  'They're
all headed in the same direction.  What is it; a fair or a feast-
day?  Hardly a carnival: none of them seems to be very gay.'

'Jews are never gay,' observed Fara, avoiding his query.

'That's true enough,' agreed Voldi.  'They are a sober lot.  But
these people look troubled, frightened!  Perhaps some calamity has
occurred.  Shall we inquire?'

She turned toward him momentarily, with indecision in her eyes as
if debating whether to explain, but did not reply, which added to
Voldi's bewilderment.

'You have more than your share of cripples in this country,' he
remarked.  'And there goes a woman, leading a blind man.'  They
drew aside to pass a party of four, carrying a half-grown girl on a
cot.  'What's all this about, Fara?' persisted Voldi.

'They are going out into the country, a little way beyond
Bethsaida,' said Fara, 'where a village carpenter speaks nearly
every day to great crowds.  He has been creating quite a sensation.
It is believed that he heals diseases.'

'The Carpenter!' exclaimed Voldi.  'The man from Nazareth!'

'You have heard of him, then?'  Fara searched his eyes.

'Indeed, yes, all along the way!  There was talk of him as far down
as Caesarea.  It's a wonder you haven't tried to see him, what with
your curious interest in religious prophets.'  He gave her a
teasing smile: she had lost a valuable horse by showing too much
concern about an itinerant preacher.  Fara accepted his raillery
with a wisp of a smile, but sobered to say that she had seen and
heard the Carpenter.  Voldi's steps slowed.  Cupping his hand under
her elbow, he drew her closer.

'But why are you so mysterious--and reticent--about it?' he
queried.  'It's nothing to be ashamed of.  Didn't you want me to
know?'

'I hesitated to tell you, Voldi,' she confessed.  'I know how you
feel about magic, and miracles, and the weak-mindedness of
superstitious people who believe in such things. . . .  I didn't
want you to think I had gone crazy.'

'That sounds a little as if you had been impressed by this fellow.
Did you see him do anything out of the ordinary?'

'If you like, we can go out and see him,' suggested Fara.  'Hannah
may want to go with us.  You will have a chance to form your own
opinion.'

'So you would rather not tell me any more until I have seen him?'

'I can tell you this much, Voldi,' she replied, measuring her words
deliberately; 'his voice is not like that of any other man, and the
things he says have not been spoken--just that way--ever before.
He does not scold or condemn or threaten: he quietly takes
possession of your whole mind. . . .  You shall see for yourself,
my dear. . . .  The man does not belong to this world, at all.'
Fara's voice had lowered to a mere whisper as she added, 'He is
from somewhere else!'

There wasn't anything much to be said in response to that strange
remark.  Voldi studied her eyes with candid anxiety.

'I wonder,' he murmured gently, 'whether you realize what you are
saying.  Surely you don't think that this Carpenter is a god!'

'I don't know,' she mumbled vaguely; and, after a long interval.
'It wouldn't surprise me--if that were true.'

They had come now to the northern outskirts of Bethsaida and were
turning off the busy highway into a quiet leaf-strewn street where
Fara pointed to the cottage shared by Hannah and the fishermen
Simon and Andrew.

'The men will not be at home,' she said.  'I wish you might meet
Simon, who is the master of his fleet--a gigantic fellow.  He has
no learning and knows nothing beyond his occupation, but one can't
help feeling that if he had had any advantages at all he might be a
very forceful person.'  Arriving in front of the cottage, Voldi
said he would wait at the gate while Fara inquired whether her
friend was prepared to receive them.

There was no response to her knock at the front door.  She stepped
into the hallway and called cheerily.  A weak voice bade her come
in.  Hannah, fully clothed, was lying on her bed.  She tried to
smile a welcome.

'Hannah!' cried Fara.  'You are ill!'

'It is nothing, dear,' protested Hannah feebly.  'I am very tired;
that is all.'  She made an effort to sit up, but slumped back upon
the pillows.  Her grey eyes were cloudy, her cheeks were flushed,
and an agitated pulse pumped hard at her temple.  'Give me your
hand, Esther,' she muttered thickly.  'Perhaps I can get up now.'
But a sudden seizure of faintness swept her and she made no further
protest when entreated to lie still.

After what seemed like a long delay to Voldi--and Darik, too, whose
restless capers were bringing elderly neighbours to their doors and
windows--Fara reappeared at the gate, her serious face warning that
something had gone amiss.  Hannah, she reported soberly, was ill,
perhaps very ill indeed.  Voldi had better go quickly down to the
business district where, hard by the Synagogue, he would find the
old physician Gershon.

'When I have found the doctor and sent him here, I think I shall be
on my way,' said Voldi.  'There is nothing I can do.  Hannah will
need your full attention.  My tarrying here will be only an
embarrassment to your friends--and you.'

Fara's face showed mingled regret and relief.  She nodded her
approval of his decision.  Promising to return with the spring
flowers, he vaulted into the saddle; and Darik, apparently already
late for some urgent engagement, clenched his teeth on the bit and
bolted.  At the corner of the street, Voldi was able to wave a
farewell.  It was not a satisfactory way to take leave of Fara, but--
was there a better way?  Perhaps this was less painful than a more
deliberate parting.

To locate the physician's house was easy enough.  The white-
bearded, taciturn Gershon, having stiffened haughtily when
approached by the young Arabian, listened, nodded, scrambled out of
his chair; and, hastily stuffing an old leather bag with the
various trinkets of his trade, tottered up the street in the
direction of Hannah's house.  He did not look back.  Voldi watched
him until he had disappeared round the corner.

The highway seemed even more congested with the unorganized
procession moving southward.  There were very few spectators along
the edges of the road.  This, thought Voldi, was in need of an
explanation.  Almost any parade, anywhere, however insignificant,
was good for at least a scattered audience of loafers; but the main
thoroughfare of Bethsaida was all but deserted except for the
passing throng.  Voldi ventured to express his curiosity about this
to a wizened, toothless, bent old man who stood near-by sourly
staring at the multitude.

'Where is everybody?' inquired Voldi, raising his voice as the old
man bared his gums and cupped his ear with a trembling hand.

'Out yonder!' growled the ancient, pointing with his stick.  'All
Bethsaida is out there listening to the blasphemer from Nazareth,
that dirty, thieving town from which no good thing could come!'  He
spat angrily but unskilfully, wiped his bearded chin with the back
of a shaky hand, and dried the hand on the skirt of his faded robe.
'You should laugh, Arabian, to see Israel renounce his proud
heritage!  This should be a day of rejoicing in the tents of
Ishmael!  Woe is come upon Bethsaida!  Even our Rabbi Elimelech has
joined the apostates!'

'How far do they go?' shouted Voldi, unimpressed by the tirade.

'To their destruction!' screamed the old man.

'I mean--is it a mile or five?'

'Less than a mile.  You had better go!  It's just the place for
you, Ishmaelite!  Then you can ride that fine horse back to Arabia
and say that you saw the House of Israel fall!'  The angry old eyes
were dripping.  Voldi could think of nothing to contribute to the
conversation.  Bowing, in respect to the Bethsaidan's years rather
than his views, he mounted and joined the procession, keeping close
to the rim of the road, Darik seeming to realize that no
foolishness would be tolerated.

It was unlike any pilgrimage that Voldi had ever seen.  Like a
river at flood, with swift currents channelling the central stream
and sluggish eddies eating into the weeds and bushes of its banks,
the crowd pressed on in silent, sober, sweating, desperate haste.
Crude, home-made crutches dug into the loose gravel, scraping
dangling legs and crooked feet through the dust.  Barrows and carts
bore haggard old men and women, pale, dull-eyed, emaciated
children, and on cots and litters helpless invalids lay supine,
their sunken eyes tightly closed against the glare of the mounting
sun and the callous stares of the passing pack; for, far
outnumbering and outspeeding these hapless ones trudged a pushing,
elbowing multitude apparently bent upon appeasing its curiosity.
It was by no means a pleasing spectacle, this conglomeration of
misery jostled by a heedless throng whose behaviour too closely
resembled the conduct of stampeded cattle.

The procession was moving faster now.  Three hundred yards ahead,
the more agile were breaking into a run as they reached the place
where their ruthless predecessors had toppled the stone wall, and
were racing across a flat-trampled stubble-field.  Darik jumped
easily over what was left of the wall.  Voldi turned toward the old
farmhouse and rode on to the stableyard, where a stocky, middle-
aged, greying man was stirred to prompt interest in the sleek
Arabian horse.

'You like horses, I think,' remarked Voldi, pleasantly.

'I don't know much about them,' replied the farmer.  'Never owned
one.  That's the finest horse I ever saw.'

'How would you like to take care of him for a little while?'  Voldi
dismounted, hopefully.  Darik tossed his head and snorted.

'Is he dangerous?' inquired the farmer dubiously.

'Tame as a kitten, after he's acquainted.  I see you keep bees.
Give him a little piece of honeycomb and he'll be one of your best
friends. . . .  Of course I shall want to pay you for your
trouble.'

'You're going over to hear the Carpenter?'

'Thought I would.  Quite a crowd.  I must see what it's all about.
Some kind of religion, isn't it?'

'I haven't heard him,' admitted the farmer.  'I've got to stay on
my place and see that the rabble don't carry anything off.  If it's
religion, it isn't doing them very much good.  They trample down as
many berry bushes on their way out as on their way in.'

'You could have them all thrown out for trespassing, couldn't you?'
suggested Voldi.

'I suppose so,' nodded the farmer; 'but that might cause trouble
for the Carpenter.  He stopped here, one day last week, for a drink
of water.'

'And you were favourably impressed?'

'Bring your horse into the paddock,' said the farmer, ignoring
Voldi's query.  'Want him to have a basin of grain?'

'Oh--I'll not be gone that long.'

'I wouldn't be too sure about that,' chuckled the farmer.  'If he
gets to healing diseases you may want to stay awhile.'

'You mean--the fellow really does heal the sick?'

'Well, my boy Jake--he's fourteen now--hadn't heard a word since he
had the red fever when he was nine.  I signed him to draw a bucket
of water from the well and give the stranger a drink.  The
Carpenter took the cup and said, "Thank you, son," and Jake heard
it.  You should have seen the way his eyes popped open wide!'

'And--now he can hear?'

'Good as you can!  Better than I can!  Jake's over there now,
listening to the Carpenter.  He likes to tell about it when the
neighbours ask him.'  The farmer laughed good-naturedly.  'I can't
get much work out of him any more.  The boy was quite a help to me
before the Carpenter came along.  In fact, nobody wants to work
since the Carpenter showed up in this country.  What time they're
not out here listening to him, they're sitting around at home
talking it over.  I hear that the landowners are complaining about
their labourers.  Lots of corn still out in the weather. . . .
There's going to be plenty of empty bellies this winter.'

                         * * * * * *

Upon Voldi's arrival at the luxurious new hostel in Caesarea, where
he was immediately recognized, welcomed, and accommodated, he
learned that an Empire ship, having disembarked a cargo of iron and
other building materials, was sailing tomorrow for Rome in ballast,
which promised a speedy voyage.  Having sought an introduction to
the Commander he requested that a letter should be conveyed to
Mencius.  The Commander, a long-time friend of the Proconsul,
gladly complied.  Voldi finished the letter at midnight.

He had found Fara (he wrote) employed in the Tetrarch's palace, if
Mencius would believe it!  Their meeting had been tender, painful,
disappointing.  Fara was determined to keep her vow.  It was
inconceivable that she would succeed; or if, by some strange
circumstance, she did succeed, it would be at the cost of her life;
no question about that!  Voldi had done his utmost to dissuade her,
had begged her to come back with him to Arabia; but none of his
arguments had availed. . . .  He would return to her in a few weeks
and try again.

Having ended his account of his unsuccessful visit with Fara he
proceeded to another subject that he felt would be of immense
interest to Mencius.

'Yesterday I saw the Nazarene Carpenter in action.  It was said
that more than three thousand were present.  The assembly had
gathered in an open field.  Many blind professed to have received
their sight, most of them so joyful over their good fortune that it
was difficult to disbelieve in the validity of their healing.

'When the crowd dissolved, after the meeting, the lucky ones were
surrounded by astonished neighbours and friends whose amazement was
too spontaneous to have been feigned.  One bewildered fellow, a man
of thirty, seemed annoyed when questioned.  A circle of scribes and
youngish priests blocked his way and asked questions which he was
reluctant to answer.  He was accompanied by his elderly parents,
who appeared to be embarrassed, if not frightened, by the attitude
of the critics.  When it was obvious that their son was in no mood
to discuss the matter, the old people were asked for their opinion
of what had happened, to which they replied cautiously, "We do not
know.  Our son is of age: ask him."  The inquisitors then renewed
their attack on the young fellow.  He tried to shake them off.  At
length he shouted, almost desperately, "I cannot say what he did to
me.  All I know is that I was blind and now I can see! . . ."
Things have come to a pretty pass in this wicked world when a
country's religion denounces a citizen born blind for accepting the
gift of sight!

'My own opinion of the mysterious Nazarene is difficult to define.
On first sight of him I was a bit disappointed.  He is not an
heroic figure.  I found myself wondering how he would look on a
horse--probably not very impressive; but I believe my Darik would
stand still while he mounted--a courtesy he does not often accord
to his owner.  The man has a compelling voice.  I can't describe it
or the effect of it.  It's a unifying voice that converts a great
crowd of mutually distrustful strangers into a tight little group
of blood relatives.

'I never have had any respect for people who pretend to work
wonders, but the things that happened out there yesterday, if not
miraculous, need quite a lot of explaining. . . .  But it was what
the Carpenter said, even more than what he did, that has disposed
me to write you at such length of this strange business.

'After he had apparently given sight to a dozen or more blind ones,
he went on to say that the entire population of the earth was
groping in darkness; and that went for everybody, kings and
peasants, philosophers and fools.  He had been sent, he said, to
give sight to these blind people.  "I am the light of the world!"
he declared; and, strangely enough, nobody laughed, nobody sneered.

'Of course an assertion of this character sounds like the boasting
of a crack-brained fanatic; and if I were to read of it in a
letter, instead of hearing it from the man's own lips, I should
marvel how the writer could have taken so much nonsense seriously.

'I confess I gasped a little when the Carpenter committed this
outrageous audacity, but I couldn't help remembering what you said,
one day, about your belief in a "Torchbearer".

'I was still further stirred to remembrance of your remarks on that
matter when the Carpenter added that the light he carried would
reflect from those who received it: they too would illumine the
path for those who were lost in the dark, even as a lighted city on
a hill-top.

'Whoever had his lamp lighted at the Nazarene's torch was in duty
bound to let it shine.  The lamp was not to be hidden where it
would benefit only the possessor in his little corner.  The lamp
was the property of the man who held it, but the light belonged to
the public! . . .  (I hope I am doing the Carpenter's speech
justice.  You should have been there, Mencius.  It was the sort of
thing you would have enjoyed--and understood.)

'It is unlikely that the political and religious pundits will
permit this Jesus to continue his present course very long.  He has
the whole province by the ears.  Many well-to-do employers of farm
and vineyard labour are protesting that their men have been absent
whole days from their duties.  Presently they will arrest the
Carpenter, as a disturber of the peace--which, of course, he is--
and if he gets a long term in prison he will be lucky. . . .  He
may be--as he says--the light of the world, but it is doubtful
whether the world wants light. . . .  I wish I might hear what you
think about this.

'I remain in Caesarea until spring.  Then I shall return--without
much hope, I admit--to Tiberias for further talk with Fara.  If she
still refuses to go back to Arabia, I may have no inclination to
return alone.  I cherish the memory of your kindness. . . .'

'VOLDI.'



Chapter XIII


Now that the weather had become too inclement for outdoor
assemblies, comfortable lodging was found for Jesus in the well-
kept cottage that had belonged to the departed Jonas and Rachael.

It had been Andrew's suggestion.  The snug little home in
Capernaum, though jointly owned by the two brothers, had been the
elder's special care, for Simon's chief concern was his fleet; and,
besides, Andrew's memories of his childhood were more cherishable.

While privately agreeing with his prosperous brother that their
good old father may have given too much of his time to the
Synagogue, as between the overworked piety of Jonas and the noisy
infidelity of Simon, Andrew had considered his saintly sire's
attitude toward religion less objectionable.

For a couple of years after their parents' death, and while Simon's
lovely but fragile Abigail still survived, Andrew had lived alone
in the old house.  When Abigail was gone, Simon had urged him to
join Hannah and himself in Bethsaida, but he had continued his
interest in the Capernaum home, visiting it every day or two,
tending his mother's flowers and dusting the shabby but beloved
furniture.

Various offers had been made to buy or lease the property.  Simon
had felt that this was a sensible thing to do and had generously
assured his less affluent brother that he might regard as his own
whatever income was derived, but Andrew had been reluctant to let
the place fall into the hands of strangers.

The general excitement stirred by the Nazarene Carpenter had not
affected Andrew very much, one way or the other.  He was not one to
take up readily with new ideas.  The old ones doubtless had their
imperfections but it was to be noticed that the new ones never
lasted very long.  Occasionally dissenters created local confusions
which put old friends at loggerheads, but the hotter the fire the
sooner it burned out, leaving everything much as it was before.
True, the expanding tales of the Carpenter's sayings and doings
were amazing, but Andrew's conservative intuition told him that it
wouldn't be long before the whole thing blew over.  The Carpenter
would be silenced and the people who had been following him about
would return, disillusioned, to their neglected duties.

Even when it had become common talk that Simon--of all people!--had
been taking a serious interest in the Carpenter, Andrew had
silently maintained his belief that there was something crazy about
all this hubbub and resolved that he wouldn't have any part of it.
He was privately amused, but not surprised, by his tempestuous
brother's avoidance of the subject in his presence.  Indeed, it
seemed that Simon was deliberately seeing to it that they were not
left alone together; but that was easy enough to understand.  Simon
had been so blatant in his excoriations of the Nazarene and so
contemptuous of all the half-wits who had been taken in by this
hullabaloo, that it wasn't much wonder if he preferred not to
discuss the matter.  That, thought Andrew, was the trouble about
uttering strongly spiced words of condemnation: they didn't taste
very good if one had to eat them.  Meditating on this, Andrew
grinned, asked no questions, made no comments, and waited for the
inevitable collapse of the new movement.

But when, one evening, Simon had brought this Jesus home with him
for supper and lodging for the night, Andrew became aware that they
were in the presence of a new kind of man.  Although Andrew had
never travelled further than a day's journey from home and had no
notion how others than Galileans talked, as he sat there directly
across the table from the Carpenter he felt sure that there could
be no one else in the world like him.

Upon Jesus' unexpected arrival at supper-time, Hannah had been
pretty badly flustered and was profuse with apologies for their
poor little house, which, she untruthfully declared, was untidy,
and for the skimpy meal, which, in fact, was more ample than usual
because she had known that Simon--frequently absent from home in
these days--intended to be here.

Apparently Jesus had heard such talk before, it being customary for
an excellent housekeeper to belittle her hospitality, but her
remarks had given him an occasion to speak about the things that
really mattered.  He defined poverty by telling a brief story of a
rich farmer who had prospered until his accumulations had become a
serious problem.  His fields had produced so abundantly that his
barns were too small to house the corn: so he had torn down the
barns and built bigger ones.  And his harvests increased, requiring
more barns, until all he thought about was larger barns.  And when,
one night, an Angel came for his soul and inquired what he was
worth, he had nothing to offer but huge barns bulging with corn.
This was unfortunate; for there was no market for corn where the
farmer was going, and there was nothing the Angel could do with a
barn--no matter how big it was.

The story was told soberly enough, but Andrew couldn't help smiling
a little.  It was so simple that a child could have understood it.
The priests, who never talked that way, might have considered it
trivial.  But, when Jesus told it, in his quiet voice, it was more
than a mere story: it seemed real!  You could see the puzzled old
rich man--whom everybody had envied for his wealth--sitting up in
bed at midnight with his grey hair tousled and his silken nightcap
askew, blinking into the disappointed eyes of the Angel who was
shaking his head, and saying, 'Corn?  No; you can't bring the corn
along--or the barns.  You may bring only whatever you have given
away.'

When the story was ended, Simon, who had been eating industriously,
made a little chuckle deep in his throat and glanced up to say:
'I'm afraid I wouldn't make a very good farmer, master.  If the
Angel were to come for me, I wouldn't even be able to offer him
corn-barns.'

Andrew had wished, in the embarrassing silence following this
speech, that his brother hadn't said it; for the attempted drollery
sounded as if Simon was showing his family that he and Jesus were
chummy enough to share a little jest.  But, if that had been
intended, the Master had quietly set Simon right by remarking:
'Ships--perhaps?'

Simon had not ventured to comment on that, and it was some time
before anything else was said.

By nature shy and reticent, Andrew was accustomed, when guests
(never of his own invitation) were present, to consider himself a
mere boarder who had purchased his place at the table and whose
sole interest in the party was his rightful share of the food.  He
always ate in silence, attentive to his plate, seeming not even to
hear the conversation, much less to show any interest in it; and by
his long practice of such detachment, guests who did not know him
very well but hoped to draw him into the talk for courtesy's sake,
invariably raised their voices when looking his way, presuming him
to be deaf.

But that night, such was his uncontrollable fascination, he
neglected his food and listened.  Presently, finding himself
staring hard into their guest's far-seeing eyes, he made an
impulsive effort to avert his gaze--and discovered that he couldn't
do it.  And the peculiar thing about this captivity was that--after
the first bewildering moment--he didn't want to get away; nor was
he any longer self-conscious.  Jesus had made him a member of the
party, in good and regular standing.  It was really the first time
in his life that Andrew had felt like a member of any party; and
when Jesus asked him if he enjoyed his occupation as a fisherman he
had surprised himself and his relatives by replying, with a smile,
that fishing was fun only for people who had some other means of
support.  They all laughed merrily; and Andrew, instead of being
embarrassed, felt a previously unexperienced glow of pleasure.

Next morning, after Jesus and Simon, having finished their
breakfast, had left the house, Andrew had made a clumsy effort to
define his impressions.

Hannah had said, when the silence between them had become
oppressive:  'Andrew, what is it--about this man--that makes him
different from everyone else?'

'Well,' Andrew had replied, after considerable deliberation,
'everyone else is a body--with a soul.  He is a soul--with a body.'

'But surely, Andrew--you don't think that Jesus is--is more than
human!' exclaimed Hannah.

'I don't know,' mumbled Andrew, rising from the table; 'but I think
he knows!'

                         * * * * * *

So it was arranged that Jesus was to have the use of the old home
in Capernaum.  Simon had been delighted with Andrew's offer of it.
Indeed, the proposal had drawn the brothers closer together than
they had been since early childhood.  The truth was that while
Simon had not wilfully patronized--and, by implications, belittled--
his self-effacing older brother, their relationship, in the
opinion of the fleet and everybody else who saw them together, was
no more intimate than that of any generous employer and a trusted
employee.  No one had ever heard Simon speak a harsh word to
Andrew, but no stranger would have suspected that they were of the
same flesh and blood.  Their acquaintance with Jesus had somehow
made them kin, Simon showing a new affection and Andrew beaming in
the warmth of it.

When Jesus had been shown through the house, he inquired whether
there would be any objection to his doing some light carpentry.
Both brothers were prompt to approve.  Indeed, Simon was
enthusiastic.  There had been criticism of Jesus.  Plenty of
substantial people had asked whether the Nazarene intended to live
off the country.  And didn't he believe in work?  And--it was easy
enough for him to tell the people to live like the lilies that
dressed better than kings, though they never spun or wove; or like
the birds that God fed.  That might be all very well for birds and
flowers, but it was impractical for the father of a family to
entertain any such delusions.

Even Jairus, who had shown a friendly attitude toward Jesus, had
been heard to express this opinion.  Jairus had said, further, that
if the Nazarene wanted to live without working, it was his own
business; but he shouldn't entice the people to leave their jobs
and trail around the country after him.  Jairus had been quite
outspoken!  Now Jesus was going to show them all that he did
believe in work.

Surmising that old Ebenezer, a recently retired carpenter in the
neighbourhood, would not be needing his equipment any more, Andrew
inquired whether they might rent it for the Master's use.  When he
returned to the cottage, well soaked by the rain, he was wheeling a
barrow piled high with all manner of wood-working implements, most
of them out of order.  Except for the adze, the drawknife, and
three variously sized planes, which were in fairly good condition,
the heavier and more complicated instruments would have to be
repaired or discarded.  The old lathe, clumsy at its best, had been
long in disuse because of Ebenezer's rheumatic feet, and the
chisels which served it were dull and rusty.  But Jesus was not
dismayed.  Ebenezer's lathe, he said, could be rebuilt.

The living-room, which fronted the street, was cleared and its
furniture stored in the basement.  In a day's time it was a
carpenter-shop, and Jesus had already begun the repair of the
tools.  Andrew had put the small guest-room to rights for the
Master's occupancy, and he himself had been sleeping at the cottage
for several nights.  The weather was cold, raw, and wet.

In all this work of transforming the old house into a place of
business, Simon had not participated.  He had remained at home.
Hannah was ill, had been ill for days; nor was she showing any
signs of improvement; growing worse, if anything.

The testy old physician, Gershon, had been attentive, but his
medicines were ineffective.  Rabbi Elimelech had called and was
astonished by Hannah's haggard appearance.  The relentless fever
had taken a heavy toll of her, as if she were gradually melting in
its fire.  Esther was doing her utmost to make the patient
comfortable, but every hour increased her anxiety about Hannah, who
lay half-conscious, unresponsive, rousing only to accept a spoonful
of cold water on a parched tongue.  Simon clumsily tried to help
Esther with the housework.  Most of the time he wandered about from
room to room, rubbing his bearded chin and trying to make Esther
say that Hannah was a little better.

Strangely enough, it had not occurred to the Big Fisherman that
Jesus should be summoned.  Somehow, Jesus' ministry of healing
seemed to belong to great crowds of miserable people, strangers,
the general public.  Simon sincerely believed in the Master's power
to heal diseases.  Had he not seen it happen again and again?
Indeed, he had become so accustomed to these breath-taking
restorations that even while they were in progress he would calmly
admonish the impatient cot-bearers, waiting their turn, to keep in
line.

'No crowding, please!' Simon would say.  'The Master will attend to
you.'  Why--it was almost as if Simon owned the show and employed
Jesus as an accomplished healer.  Simon had enjoyed the sensation
of seeing strangers tug their forelocks when they asked him,
deferentially, if he would not speak to Jesus on their behalf.

And now, with such dire necessity for better help than old Gershon
could offer, Simon had not called on Jesus.  Looking back upon it
afterwards he admitted to himself, with appropriate shame, that--
without realizing the foolishness of his vanity--he had become a
professional.  Jesus could do, and had done, amazing things for the
public; and Simon as partner in--if not manager of--this awe-
inspiring enterprise had let his distinction go to his head.  The
public listened when Simon spoke--and obeyed him, too.

How long it might have taken him to become aware that he, Simon,
desperately needed Jesus in the privacy of his own house!--now!--
was left undetermined by Esther's appearance in the open doorway of
the living-room where Simon sat holding his shaggy head in his
hands.

'I'm afraid Hannah is growing weaker, sir,' she said.

He rose quickly, mumbling that he would go and notify Gershon.  She
laid a detaining hand on his huge, hairy forearm, and murmured:
'Had you thought of sending for Jesus?'

The girl's query resounded accusingly in his mind all the way to
Capernaum.  Having reached the highway his rapid strides had
quickened to a run.  He was too heavy for such exertion.  His lungs
hurt and his mouth was dry; and his soul cried out against him.
Why hadn't he sent for Jesus?  His mind was in tumult as he ran.
What a weakling he was! . . .  True--he had confessed to Jesus,
that early morning on the lakeshore, that he was weak and sinful,
and that Jesus had better not have anything to do with him.  But he
really hadn't meant that he was that bad.  It had seemed the right
thing to say at the time.  Within an hour, he had begun to feel
that his self-abasement had been somewhat extravagant.  Jesus had
invited him to come and help him: Jesus knew what he was about;
Jesus would not have asked him had Simon been as weak and wicked as
he said. . . .  Well, now we knew how weak and wicked we were!

Through the early part of the forenoon, Jesus had been diligently
at work on Ebenezer's old lathe.  It had rained all night, but had
ceased now, and Andrew had been out in the door-yard bracing up
some fallen vines.  Passing the window, he observed that the Master
had discontinued his labours and was sitting bolt upright on the
battered tool-chest, staring straight ahead of him with troubled
eyes.  It worried Andrew; and after a while he decided to go in and
inquire.  Entering, he was relieved to find Jesus busily at work
again, his tension apparently eased.  Presently the Master walked
to the door and stood looking down the street expectantly.

Simon was ready to drop when he arrived.  Too breathless and
exhausted to speak, he flung himself into a chair, panting.

'Whatever is the matter with you?' demanded Andrew, stooping over
him.  Jesus was slipping his arms into the sleeves of his robe.

'Come quickly, Andrew,' he said quietly.  'Simon will follow us
when he is rested.'

                         * * * * * *

There had been need of haste.  Neighbour women filled the house and
their men stood about, in low-voiced groups, under the dripping
trees.  Everybody made way for Jesus as he entered.

Gershon was ostentatiously packing his bag.  He glanced up and
frowned darkly when the Nazarene, whom he had often reviled as a
conscienceless fraud, appeared in the doorway.

'And what might you be doing here?' he demanded savagely.

Rabbi Elimelech moved forward, looking as if he wanted to
intervene.

'I say the woman is dying!'  Gershon faced the Rabbi indignantly.
'Is she to be tormented by this--this Carpenter?'  He glared
scornfully at Jesus, who made no reply.

'But--if Hannah is dying, friend Gershon,' ventured Elimelech, 'she
is beyond any harm.  I beg you to let this young man see her.'

'Very well!' rasped Gershon, making off with his kit.  'You are all
fools!' he shouted, as he elbowed roughly through the silent
neighbours who had congregated in the hallway.  'Fools!' he yelled
back angrily from the open door.  'All of you!  Fools!'

'We must make allowances for Gershon, sir,' explained the Rabbi
gently.  'He is getting old--and he isn't very well.'

Jesus affectionately laid a hand on the Rabbi's thin shoulder and
smiled into the old man's eyes.

'That,' he said, softly, 'is the right spirit.  You are a blessing
to these people, Rabboni!'

Elimelech's eyes filled as he turned away.  The women stared into
his contorted face as he passed.  He seemed exalted!  Something--
they knew not what--had happened to their good old Rabbi!

Jesus now quickly and confidently assumed charge of the situation.
Motioning the women to withdraw, he was closing the bedroom door.
As Esther followed them out, he detained her.

'You will remain, daughter,' he said.

For a time he stood gazing down into Hannah's waxen face, with
sorrow and anxiety in his eyes.  Then he drew up a chair close
beside the bed and sat down.  Glancing up at Esther he signed for
her to kneel at the bedside; and, after some little hesitation--for
she wasn't sure what was expected of her--she obeyed, resting her
elbows on the edge of the bed and taking Hannah's hand in both of
her own.

'It's so cold, sir,' she said, in a half-whisper.

Jesus took Hannah's other hand in his and for a long moment there
was complete silence.

'Do you know how to pray, Fara?' he asked softly.

Startled, she looked up, wide-eyed, into his face; then put her
head down on Hannah's arm.

'No, sir,' she murmured in a shaken voice.

'Do they not pray--in Arabia?' he asked.

'Some do, I think,' she said.  'We never did--in my home--except
Ione.'  She did not explain Ione, implying that Jesus would know.
'Ione prayed often.  She had many Gods.'

'There is only one God, Fara.  Ione prayed for His many benefits
thinking that there were as many Gods. . . .  Shall I teach you how
to pray?'

She nodded her head, without replying.

'Say, "Our Father."'

'"Our Father,"' she mumbled, in a voice that was full of tears.

'Now, tell Him--in secret--that you love Hannah and want her to
recover.'

Fara was crying now.  Shaking her head despairingly, she looked up
through blinding tears and said thickly:  'It would do no good,
Master; not from me.  I am unworthy.'

'Then--perhaps you had better ask Him, first, to cleanse your heart
of evil.  You are carrying a great weight, Fara.  You too need to
be healed.'

Again she looked up into his compassionate eyes.

'You--you know about it, Master?'

Jesus drew a deep sigh.  'Ask our Father to set you free, Fara.
Then ask Him to help Hannah.'

She buried her face in Hannah's arm, her body trembling with
convulsive sobs.  Gradually her weeping ceased.  At length Jesus
spoke, not in a tone of entreaty but command!

'Hannah!' he called.  Rising to his feet, and grasping both her
hands, he called again:  'Hannah!  Come!  Awake!'

With a long, shuddering sigh, Hannah opened her eyes, looked up
dazedly into Jesus' face, smiled, and drifted off to sleep.  Fara
sat up, staring in open-mouthed amazement.

'Prepare some porridge for her,' said Jesus.  'She will waken
again, presently.'  The sweat was dripping from his face and his
hands were trembling.  As Fara reached the door, he spoke sternly.
'If you have made a new promise today, see that you keep it!  God
is not mocked!'

                         * * * * * *

Having been house-bound for several days by the rains, David had
decided to stretch his legs.  It was still wet underfoot and dark
overhead; not a pleasant day for a walk, but he couldn't stay
cooped up any longer.

Slogging along through the mud he wondered why, when he didn't
really have to, he remained in Galilee through the tedious and
depressing weeks of the winter season.  Of course there was his
sister to consider.  Deborah couldn't be budged from home and David
disliked the thought of leaving her alone with the servants.

Approaching the corner where Hannah lived, he was surprised to see
the number of people who had gathered about the house.  It was
apparent from their attitude that something serious had happened.
He paused and was about to beckon to one of the solemn-faced men
when he saw the Big Fisherman toiling wearily up from the highway.

Sighting his eminent neighbour, Simon moved toward him and
explained what the trouble was.  Hannah was grievously ill; beyond
recovery, maybe.  David shook his head and murmured his sympathy.

'She may have taken a turn for the worse,' added Simon, anxiously
surveying the silent assembly of neighbours.  'I have been gone for
an hour.  I went to summon Jesus.'

'Ah?  The Carpenter?'  David was astonished.  'I am surprised that
you have any faith in the fellow.'  And when Simon made no reply,
he went on dryly, 'And perhaps you haven't. . . .  Any port in a
storm; eh?'

Simon gnawed at his underlip, as if contemplating a response, but
remained silent.  It was evident that the cynical old Sadducee had
not heard of his public association with Jesus.  David had no
reason to think that the Big Fisherman would take the slightest
interest in this wandering preacher.

'Is the Carpenter in there now?' asked the lawyer.

'I suppose so,' said Simon almost indifferently.  'If you will
excuse me, sir'--turning away--'I will go in--and see how she is.'
He walked rapidly round the corner and was unlatching the gate when
the crowd on the stoop was ploughed apart by old Gershon, who,
noisy with indignation, tottered down the path.  Simon stood in his
way.

'What is it, Gershon?' he demanded.

'Fools!' shrilled the old man.

'How is Hannah?'  Simon clutched at Gershon's sleeve.

'Dying!  Let go of me!  You are all fools!'  Gershon nearly upset
himself by his angry tug to be free.  At the gate he came face to
face with David, who had rounded the corner and stood waiting.
Instantly the old physician's manner changed.  Bowing deeply, he
rubbed a shaky hand across his forehead and tried to steady his
voice as he explained his rage.

David listened impassively until Gershon had finished.

'How do you know he can't!' he inquired.  'Apparently, all you know
is--you can't!  Perhaps you had better wait and verify your
opinion.'

'But'--spluttered Gershon--'the fellow is not a physician!  He is a
carpenter!'  He was moving sullenly away, disappointed over this
interview with the most influential man in Bethsaida, when the
sound of many voices came from the cottage--excited, astonished,
happy voices!  Amazing news circulated through the crowd that
massed about the steps.  Simon, his heart pounding hard, pushed his
way into the house and down the hall toward Hannah's bedroom.
Andrew was emerging with wet eyes and a queer little whimper that
seemed oddly out of keeping with his radiant smile.  It was true
then!  It had happened! . . .  Hannah was sitting up.  Esther,
kneeling beside the bed, was feeding her from a bowl of broth.
Simon stood there silently, his eyes overflowing.

'Hannah!' he murmured.

'It was Jesus!' she said, hardly above a whisper.

'Where is he?' asked Simon.

Esther glanced up to say that he must be somewhere in the house;
that he was here only a moment ago.  Simon withdrew to inquire.  He
met Andrew, and asked him.

'The Master has gone,' replied Andrew.

'Did he say where he was going?'

'No.  He may have gone back to Capernaum.'

'You didn't see him leave?'

Andrew shook his head.

'He . . . the Master didn't inquire for me, did he?' asked Simon,
after some hesitation.

Andrew shook his head.

'Did he have anything to eat?' asked Simon.

'Probably didn't want anything,' said Andrew.  'He was very tired.'

'I shall try to overtake him--on the road,' said Simon, moving
away.

Walking rapidly to the highway, he shaded his eyes for better
vision and searched the thoroughfare, as far as he could see; but
without sighting Jesus.

Troubled, lonely, ashamed, and sick at heart, he trudged slowly
toward Capernaum.  As he neared the old home, his steps lagged.
The door was open.  Jesus was at work on the old lathe.  Simon went
in and sat down on the tool-chest.  He waited for Jesus to speak.

After a long silence, Jesus put down Ebenezer's broken contraption
and said, with a sigh:  'Simon, Satan has been beating you on his
threshing-floor.'

There was nothing that the remorseful Simon could say.  He hung his
head and tugged at his lip.

Leaning forward with a sigh, Jesus again took up the broken lathe
and resumed his work.  Presently he turned toward Simon with a
compassionate smile and said gently, as to a chastised child:  'But
I am still praying for you.'

                         * * * * * *

David had never been quite so confused.  There were plenty of
mysteries in life which nobody tried to understand, mysteries which
everybody took for granted.  But this one cried out for an
explanation.

Previous rumours of the Carpenter's miracles had not bothered him
too much.  It was conceivable that a clever magician could talk a
crowd of simple-minded, credulous people into a foolish interest in
his charlatanry.  Had he not seen it happen again and again on the
streets of Athens?  Even the Nazarene's alleged works of healing
were understandable.  It was a matter of record that bed-ridden
paralytics, finding their house on fire and no one to help them,
had risen and run to safety.  Long-time lunatics had been briefly
shocked into sanity.  Doubtless the Carpenter's feats of healing
could all be accounted for if anyone would go to the trouble of
examining them.

But this thing that had obviously happened to Hannah seemed
different.  The behaviour of the neighbours was puzzling.  They
were not all fools and the spontaneity of their amazement made it
incredible that they had connived with the Nazarene to create the
impression that a miracle had been performed.

For some time David remained standing outside the fence, watching
the people in the door-yard as they moved about with strained faces
in which there was something of bewildered gratification combined
with forthright terror, most of them mumbling questions which
nobody tried to answer, groups of them falling apart and re-forming
again, some crowding into the congested doorway, some struggling to
get out, shaking their heads when queried.  The thing that had
happened in there might have a reasonable explanation, but the
people didn't think so.

David felt at a disadvantage standing there, waiting.  It certainly
did not comport with his dignity to exhibit so much curiosity.  He
surveyed the crowd for a familiar face, someone he might beckon to
him, but nobody glanced his way. . . .  Now came the Big Fisherman,
around from the rear of the house, walking hurriedly toward the
gate, looking neither to right nor left.  David hoped to attract
his attention but Simon's errand was urgent and he gave no heed.
It was evident that he didn't want to talk to anyone.

Rabbi Elimelech now appeared, the crowd on the stoop making way for
him, and cautiously tottered down the two steps, leaning heavily on
his cane.  He glanced about at the staring faces, his own wearing a
laboured smile that he intended to be amiable and paternal, but an
inner stress showed through.  He laid a long, lean hand on his
beard, perhaps to compose his chin, which was trembling.  David
walked round the corner and waited for him at the gate.

'All--David!  I am glad to see you.  I hope you are well.'  The
Rabbi was trying to be casual.

'Well?'  David was brusque; he wasn't going to be put off with
trivial amenities.  'Not at all well!  I'm quite upset!  What has
been going on here, Rabbi?'

'Walk with me, David,' murmured the old man.  'I cannot stand long.
My legs, you know.  I must go home.  Take my arm, my friend.'

David promptly complied and found that the lean arm was trembling.
They moved slowly up the street together.  For something to say,
David remarked drolly, 'I'm afraid your congregation will think you
have fallen into bad company, Master.'

'It won't matter,' replied Elimelech huskily.  'Nothing matters
now.  My people have objected to my interest in the Nazarene; but
now--they don't know what to think--about anything!'

It wasn't as if they were strangers, the Rabbi and this Sadducee.
David had no connections with the Synagogue, never attended its
services, was presumed to hold it in contempt; but he was its chief
financial support.  Whenever he sent a contribution, he took pains
to explain that the gift was not meant to imply the slightest
interest in the Synagogue, but only his appreciation of Rabbi
Elimelech's kindness to the poor of Bethsaida.  The Regents of the
Synagogue always scowled when they got it, and indignantly talked
of refusing it, which they never did.

Once the good old man had climbed the hill and spent the afternoon
with the Sadducee.  And they had enjoyed each other.  On leaving,
however, Elimelech had remarked, with some embarrassment: 'I wish
we might do this--often--but--'

'I understand fully, Master,' David had said.  'You have enough to
bear without defending your friendship for a Sadducee.'

Impatient as he was to inspect the old man's mind in regard to the
alleged miracle of Hannah's healing, he refrained from pestering
him with questions while they were on the way.  They walked slowly,
arm in arm, with short, shuffling steps, David acquiring the
Rabbi's limp.  It seemed a long journey to the commodious old house
hard by the Synagogue.  David tenderly assisted Elimelech up the
steps and through the door.  Courtesy demanded that the Rabbi
invite his friend to sit down and courtesy compelled the Sadducee
to accept.

When Elimelech's breathing was easier, David asked:  'What think
you, Master?  Was Hannah's recovery miraculous?'

'That word is often used loosely, David,' replied the old man,
apparently hoping that his candid evasiveness would preclude
further questioning.  Noting David's shrug, he elaborated on his
irrelevant remark:  'Frequently a new experience is called
miraculous.'

'Let us not trouble ourselves about the careless use of big words,
Master,' said David reproachfully.  'This is a serious matter!'

Elimelech acknowledged his futile attempt to retreat from the main
issue: he closed his eyes and slowly nodded his head.

'You know as much about it as I, David.  Hannah was at the point of
death.  Gershon said so.  Everybody said so. . . .  Jesus spent a
few minutes at her side, and she sat up, recognized those who stood
by, and accepted food. . . .  If that is a miracle'--the weary old
voice faltered and finished lamely--'it was indeed a miracle.'

'Then the man is divine!' persisted David.  'Is that your opinion,
sir?'

'How should I know?'  Little beads of perspiration were dotting the
Rabbi's pale forehead, but the Sadducee continued his inquisition.

'If he is divine, might he be the promised Messiah?'

'Many Messiahs have come and gone, my friend.  None of them met the
requirements of prophecy.'

'Very true!' assented David.  'And each of them had his loyal
following, and most of them were honest and fearless men of good
intent, like this Jesus.  But they all failed of the one great
task.  According to the prophets, the Messiah would restore the
Kingdom to Israel.  No one of them could do that.'

Elimelech made no comment, and David went on:

'Rabbi, how recently have you visited Caesarea?'

'Never was there in my life.  Why do you ask?'

'Well, if this man has any thought of restoring the Kingdom to
Israel he had better set about it with all speed.  The Romans are
preparing Caesarea as a port of invasion.  It will not be long
now. . . .  Tell me, Rabbi.  You have heard this Nazarene speak:
has he talked about the Kingdom?'

'He talks of little else, David,' said Elimelech quietly.

'And what does he say?'  David leaned forward attentively.  'Does
this penniless Carpenter expect to withstand a Roman invasion?'

'The Romans will not invade his Kingdom, David.'

'I'm afraid I don't understand, Master.'

'No,' sighed the old man, 'you wouldn't understand.  This man's
Kingdom is his soul.  He teaches that our Kingdom is our soul.  The
Romans cannot take it; nor can they destroy its peace. . . .  You
should hear him talk, David.  Then you might understand.'

With that, David rose to go: he had no mind for further discussion
of this sort.  Besides, he had tormented the good old man long
enough.  He moved toward the door.

'And come and tell me what you think of him, my friend,' said
Elimelech, over his shoulder.  'The Carpenter may have a surprise
in store for you.'

                         * * * * * *

David of the Sadducean House of Zadok had been so stirred to
curiosity about the Nazarene that he resolved to pocket his
cynicism and pay the man a visit forthwith.

It was rumoured that the Carpenter had opened a shop in Capernaum
and during the season of rough weather would be available for
employment.  Would the Messiah be likely to do that?  None of the
other candidates for Messiahship had worked with his hands.
However, reflected David, it wasn't important that Jesus should
pattern his career in imitation of men who had failed.  Perhaps he
was showing wisdom in making common cause with toilers: perhaps
calluses on a prophet's hands were more to his credit than
concealed callosities less comfortably achieved. . . .  David
chuckled a little at the possibilities of a detestable epigram
dealing with this matter.

The crowd in Hannah's door-yard had thinned somewhat when he passed
the house on his way home.  He did not pause to ask questions.  He
walked more rapidly than usual, for he intended to visit the
Carpenter this afternoon.  In anticipation of the call it would be
more seemly, he thought, to provide himself with a legitimate
business errand.  To do this he would first have to go home.

On his latest visit to Athens, six years ago, David had bought an
exquisitely crafted curio-cabinet which, to his great disappointment,
had been badly damaged in transportation.  On various occasions he
had invited experienced woodworkers to attempt repairs, but none of
them wanted to undertake it.  They hadn't the tools for it, they
said.  Now he would take it to the Nazarene.

The servants dusted it with care, loaded it on a cart, and followed
their master to Capernaum--slowly, for the elderly lawyer was
prudent about overtaxing his tired heart.  It was mid-afternoon
when they arrived at the old home of Jonas, who, according to a
local legend, had often prayed publicly for the Sadducees in a tone
that poorly concealed his private lack of interest in their
welfare.

The Big Fisherman opened the door and showed surprise--and some
embarrassment too, from which he quickly recovered.  Ranged around
the walls, sitting on stools and benches, several men silently
surveyed the visitor.  They came to their feet as Simon presented
them to the eminent David, each of them bowing respectfully as his
name was spoken--one Nathaniel Bartholomew, a man of apparent
intelligence in his sixties; a light-complexioned, slender man of
forty, whose name was Philip--

'A Greek?' inquired David.

'Quite a long time back, sir,' Philip had replied.  'My people fled
from Macedonia a century ago.'

Then Simon pointed out the young brothers, James and John.

'Are you carpenters?' asked David, addressing John in particular.

'Fishermen,' said John, adding, 'but not today.'

A chuckle went round the circle.

'Johnny is not much of a fisherman, sir,' put in Simon, 'even in
the best of weather.  We take him along for ballast.'

This was amusing, for Johnny was of slight build and didn't weigh
very much.  When the others laughed he smiled obligingly and rubbed
a beardless chin.

Simon, they all felt, was doing very well: Simon had a way with
him.  Even the presence of the learned Sadducee had not
disconcerted him.

'I think you have met my brother,' said Simon, as Andrew came in
from an adjoining room carrying a comfortable chair obviously
intended for the honoured guest.  David politely nodded toward
Andrew and they all sat down.  After a little silence, David turned
to Simon and said, 'I came to see the Carpenter, Jesus.  I have
some work for him.'

'The Master is resting, sir,' said Simon.

David stiffened slightly and arched his eyebrows, as to wonder how
a carpenter could afford to be resting during working hours, but
Simon offered no explanation.  Philip, who sat by a front window
observing the cart, inquired, 'Is there anything we can do, sir?'

'Not unless you're a skilled carpenter,' replied David coolly; but
he went to the door and told his servants to bring in the cabinet.

They all gathered in a circle around it, admiring its craftsmanship
and deploring its injuries.  Unobserved, Jesus joined the
preoccupied group, standing beside and a little to the rear of
David.  Their sleeves lightly touched.  Of ponderous dignity and
deliberate movement, David was not one to act impulsively; but at
this accidental contact, he suddenly retreated, turned about, and
found himself staring into the steady eyes of a young man who
didn't seem to belong in this company at all.

Simon, observing, said, 'Master, our guest is David, of the House
of Zadok.'

The Sadducee bowed deferentially, silently, and Jesus said, 'You
are welcome, friend.  What may I do for you?'

David pointed toward the cabinet, but Jesus' eyes did not follow
the gesture, as had been expected.  His calm look of inquiry seemed
friendly enough, but it was apparent that he had no concern for the
cabinet.

'I shall make no attempt to deceive you, sir,' said David.  'The
cabinet does need mending; but, in truth, that was not the object
of my call.  I have heard many things of your words and deeds, and
I desired to see you.'

'You have spoken truthfully, David,' said Jesus.  'If that is your
custom you should be able to understand my sayings.  Men who love
the truth are my friends. . . .  Will you sit down?'

They all found their places and sat, with Jesus in the midst of
them.  Stooping over, he picked up a portion of the worn-out lathe,
shook his head, and let it fall with a clatter to the floor.

'Let us talk of redemption,' he said, 'and of salvation.'  He
pointed to the broken lathe and then to the cabinet.  In a low
voice, almost as if he were talking to himself, he began to speak
about the things that could and could not be reclaimed by mending.
Some things were beyond repair.  The life was gone out of them and
nothing but newness of life could redeem them.

'It is useless,' he went on, 'to sew a new patch on an old garment.
The worn-out fabric has no strength to support good cloth.  It is
of no profit to pour active new wine into an old, dried, inflexible
wineskin.'  Turning toward David, he asked, 'What say you, friend?'

'I fully agree with you, Master,' said David.  'And does it not
apply as well to old systems of thought, old laws, old beliefs?'

A slow, sidelong glance of apprehensive inquiry slipped from man to
man around the wall.  Was this shrewd lawyer baiting the Master to
some imprudent criticism of the Government or the Sanhedrin?

But apparently Jesus had no suspicions of the Sadducee's sincerity.
He seemed eager to discuss David's pertinent query. . . .  The
tendency of any ancient establishment of laws or doctrines was the
gradual accumulation of signs, symbols, tokens, amulets, sanctified
vessels and enchanted words, until the life of the institution was
smothered and its purposes forgotten. . . .  Endless debates dealt
with such trivialities of the law as how many cubits a man might
walk on the Sabbath Day, whether a man might carry a stool across
the room, whether a sailor was breaking the law of the Sabbath if
he had a needle in his coat; but they never defined how much rent a
landlord could exact of a poor tenant or how much interest a money-
lender could demand from a hard-pressed debtor. . . .  Solemn
conclaves dignifiedly wrangled over the proper compounding of herbs
for incense--precisely how much mint, how much anise, how much rue--
and days were spent in arguing about the breadth of a phylactery
or the depth of a hem on a priest's robe, while the needy lay
starving to death on rich men's doorsteps, and nobody cared! . . .
The Master's voice rose indignantly as he pictured groups of
hapless, hopeless men huddled together at the very lodge-gates of
well-fed pundits who spent their days splitting the hairs of ritual
and ceremonial.  And nobody noticed the plight of these wretched
ones but the homeless dogs who paused to lick their sores.  Nor was
there any talk of mercy and brotherly kindness! . . .  Any
government so far gone toward utter futility could never be
repaired.  It would have to be reborn.

'Do you think then,' asked David respectfully, 'that the old laws
should be repealed?'

'No, David!' exclaimed Jesus.  'Not repealed--but fulfilled!'

With that he rose and took leave of them, retiring to his bed-
chamber.  It was evident that he was very weary.  After a moment of
indecision, the Sadducee went to the front door to summon his
servants.  They had disappeared.  He stood in the doorway, looking
down the street; then impulsively beckoned to the men in the room,
and set off with obvious agitation.  They rose and followed
quickly.  Huge billows of black smoke puffed toward the sky in the
vicinity of the Synagogue.  Excited men were running down the
middle of the road.  Simon and the others soon overtook and passed
David, all but old Nathaniel Bartholomew, who had a weak leg and
poor wind.  The fire angrily spat and crackled and roared as they
neared the Synagogue plaza.  Rounding the corner they saw what it
was, the residence of Rabbi Ben-Sholem.

There Simon's steps slowed to a walk.  He was quite out of breath
from all the excitement and unusual exertion.  He let everybody
pass him and stood for a long moment panting hard.  The acrid smoke
stung his nostrils.  Apparently there wasn't much to be done for
the Rabbi's house.  In any case, it was none of Simon's business.
Rabbi Ben-Sholem had mistreated the Master.  Perhaps the haughty
old man was being punished for it.  Maybe it was God's will that
the Rabbi should lose his home.  If so, who was Simon that he
should have the impudence to interfere?

                         * * * * * *

Throughout those cheerless winter days the Big Fisherman learned
that whilst it was highly exciting to be a friend and follower of
Jesus when vast crowds of staring, sweating, importunate people
trampled one another for better standing-ground to see and hear the
Carpenter, it was very dull business when practised privately in
the rain.

It seemed that every circumstance of Simon's experience during this
bleak period was part of a diabolical conspiracy to break down his
faith and fortitude.

To begin with, nobody could remember such a protracted siege of bad
weather.  It rained relentlessly, a cold, marrow-chilling rain that
soaked the heaviest garments and leaked through into the soul.  The
oldsters, who were not required to go out into it very much,
counselled patience.  'This abundance of rain,' they said, 'will
bless our land next summer.'  And so it would--and did; but it was
tiresome while it lasted.

As for the fishing, it was utterly profitless.  Of course no one
ever expected much of a catch on a stormy day, but it at least
provided subsistence and kept the men out of mischief.  Ordinarily
the dismal weather had but little effect upon the spirits of
Simon's fleet.  The fishermen joked about their discomforts.  This
season it was different.  The fishing wasn't worth doing.  The men
were restless, sullen, and touchy.

Simon, who was never one to rush in ahead of everybody else to take
the blame for something that had gone amiss, knew who was
responsible for this unhappy state of affairs and knew that his men
knew that he knew. . . .  No--it wasn't the Big Fisherman's fault
if it rained all day and all night every day and every night, nor
could it be held against him that the perch wouldn't rise; but the
sour and surly attitude of his dispirited crews was because of the
skipper's indifference.  He had lost all interest in his business.
And if he didn't care, why should they?

Simon sat alone and had little to say.  His heart was heavy.  Ever
since he had met Jesus he had been increasingly inattentive to his
trade.  It was perhaps inevitable that this should have happened.
Once he had taken his place beside the Master as his foremost
friend and assistant, calmly directing an excitable throng of awe-
stricken people and competently keeping order among frantic
suppliants, the old routines of mending nets and splicing ropes and
sluicing the slimy decks of his fishing-smacks had lost their hold
on his imagination; and no longer had he any pride in his fleet or
any joy.

The worst thing about it was the quite apparent disaffection of the
men and boys whose love and loyalty had meant so much to him.  It
was plain to see that their devotion to him was in serious
disrepair.  As the Big Fisherman, as the noisy, quick-tempered,
profane, sacrilegious, hard-hitting Big Fisherman, they had
idolized him.  Now that he had been captivated by the soft-spoken
Jesus, Simon was no longer their hero.

Nor was this the only cause of his dejection.

Nobody could have tortured this confession out of him, but Simon
wished he were a little better satisfied with the Master's recent
activities and attitudes.  There was his carpentry, for example.
Simon had thought it would be just the right thing for Jesus to
engage in some gainful employment during the brief winter.  The
little carpenter-shop was indeed a happy thought.  Maybe the
influential Jairus would hear of it and approve.  Jairus might even
call, some day, and bring a chair to be mended; and remain to chat
a while.

But it hadn't turned out very well.  Who could foresee that Jesus
would consent to work on the interior of old Ben-Sholem's house?
Not only was he giving his full time to it every day, but he seemed
infatuated with the job of installing the fine-grained olive-wood
panelling on the walls and ceiling of the Rabbi's library,
panelling so perfectly matched and mortised that its symmetrical
pattern appeared to have been chiselled from one great tree.

Simon hadn't wanted him to do it at all.  Surely Jesus was under no
obligation to do a favour for the Rabbi.  Moreover the wages were
niggardly.  The contractor had had the impudence to say that any
man should consider it a privilege to work on 'a holy house,' even
if he were paid nothing at all.  That's the way it was with the
synagogues: they had a bad habit of imposing on people in this
manner, asking skilled craftsmen to donate their time.  Why was the
Rabbi a mendicant?  He had his share of the tithes, hadn't he?

And that wasn't the whole cause of Simon's petulance.  There was
Ben-Sholem's contemptuous attitude toward Jesus, even while the
Master was working for him!  One afternoon Simon had dropped in to
watch the progress of Jesus' labours.  Presently the Rabbi brought
Jairus in to show him what was going on.  Sighting Simon, he
testily inquired of the contractor, 'Is this man employed here?'
And when the contractor shook his head, the Rabbi scowled and said,
'Then perhaps he should be on his way.'

Flushed with humiliation, Simon had left the house.  It seemed to
him that Jesus might have said something in defence of his friend.
Had Simon been in Jesus' place he would have thrown down his tools
and walked off the job.  And then let the detestable old man try to
find another carpenter capable of finishing that beautiful room!

Simon earnestly wished that Jesus were made of tougher stuff!  With
all that miraculous power at his disposal, why didn't he use some
of it to defend himself and his cause; yes, and his friends, too,
who were giving up everything for his sake?

He recalled what the servants at the palace had said about a
strange, bug-eating hermit who had been jailed for predicting the
advent of an Avenger.  There was one coming who would put down the
mighty from their seats and exalt men of low degree.  He would
carry an axe and a flail!  The unjust would be cut down!  Threshed!
Abolished!  It was clear enough now that Jesus had no such
intentions.  Perhaps there was another Anointed One coming.

That night Simon stealthily approached the unguarded prison by a
circuitous route through the Tetrarch's vineyards; and, at the
window-bars, talked long and seriously with the emaciated prisoner.
It was true, as the servant-girls had reported: this John was
confident that stern judgment was at hand for evil-doers in high
places.  The whole world would be shaken!  Not only High Priests
and Prefects would be punished: Caesar himself would feel the sting
of that lash!

Next morning, the questing eyes of Jesus brought forth a full
confession from Simon of the interview he had had with John in
prison.  To his surprise and relief, the Master listened
complacently.  After a long silence between them, Jesus said:

'You were talking with one of the most courageous men this world
has ever produced.  But John--for all his bravery--does not
understand the workings of the Kingdom--my Kingdom.  He would see
all evil uprooted by the punishment of evil-doers.  To set things
right by violence has been tried again and again by earnest men,
ever since the world began, but to no avail.  My kingdom will
overcome evil with good.  It is not an easy way, my friend, but it
is the only way!'

'This saying is difficult to understand, Master,' murmured Simon.

Jesus brightened, smiled reassuringly, and said:  'Go and talk with
John again.  Tell him what you yourself have seen; how the blind
receive their sight, the deaf hear, cripples walk, and the poor are
comforted with good news. . . .  And tell him not to be disappointed
in me.'

That afternoon the sun shone and the sky was blue.  It seemed that
the long season of the rains was ended.  Jesus had completed his
work at Ben-Sholem's house.  At his suggestion, Andrew loaded the
borrowed tools on to a cart and returned them to Ebenezer, the
Master walking alongside.  At the old carpenter's house, he tarried
for a friendly word and gave Ebenezer half the wages he had
received from the Rabbi.

On their way back to the cottage Andrew, who had been moved by
Jesus' generosity and Ebenezer's tearful gratitude, found his voice
and inquired:

'Will you soon be speaking again to the people, Master?'

'Tomorrow,' said Jesus.  'At Hammath.  And then we are going on to
Cana.'



Chapter XIV


As had been predicted during the long season of the rains, spring--
as if to atone for tardiness--now came forward fast, fragrant,
beautiful.

Nobody could remember such an abundance or variety of wild flowers
along the roads and on the hillsides.  Indeed gay blossoms bloomed
in desert places and even the most arid areas on the Plains of
Esdraelon offered pasturage.

Not much farm work had begun yet, for the fields were still too wet
for ploughing, but everybody along the western shore of Lake
Gennesaret, except the definitely bedridden, had come out-of-doors
rejoicing; and of all who faced the spring with exultation there
was no heart in Galilee more nearly ready to burst with happiness
than Esther's.

So far she had not confided the nature of her ecstasy to anyone but
David, who had pressed her for an explanation.  She had wanted to
tell Hannah, and promised herself that some day she would, but it
involved a long, almost incredible story; and at the moment,
Hannah's mind was wholly occupied with the mystery of her own
miraculous recall from death.  It was clear enough that Hannah
wondered what had come over Esther: sometimes her soft, brown eyes,
resting on the girl's radiant face, suddenly widened, narrowed,
queried--and gave it up.  Simon, too, meeting Esther's luminous
eyes, would study them with a puzzled stare.  Andrew suspected that
her new radiance had something to do with Hannah's recovery, though
he couldn't guess what the connection might be, and certainly had
no intention of asking.  If she wanted him to know her secret she
would tell him.  This much he was sure of: she had been an entirely
different person ever since the day of Hannah's healing.

It had not immediately occurred to Esther that she no longer had
any business detaining her in Galilee.  Although her hazardous
errand of vengeance had suddenly and conclusively arrived at an
end, the new sensation of freedom had taken full possession of her
mind.  Nor had she any misgivings over her abandonment of the vow
to which she had been so long in bondage.  Jesus had commanded her
to put down the intolerable weight she had borne, and Jesus was to
be obeyed.  Whatever he said was right.

But she was soon going to need some advice about the future.
Obviously Jesus himself was the person she should confide in, but
she must wait for a suitable opportunity.  Meantime, she could be
helpful to Hannah, who had not yet recovered her full strength.

On the first fair afternoon, when the rains had ended, Hannah
insisted that Esther should take a walk in the sunshine.  She
gratefully complied, taking the road up the slope toward the Zadok
mansion.  It was not her intention to call; or, at least, that was
what she told herself as she entered the grounds; but presently she
found David sauntering along a garden path.  He seemed very happy
to see her, fell into step beside her, directed her to a rustic
seat.

'I have been impatient to talk with you, my child,' he said.  'You
were present, I think, when that strange thing happened to Hannah.
I should be glad to hear your own opinion of it.  The neighbours
believe there was a miracle wrought.  What say you, Esther?'

'Hannah was dying, sir,' she replied firmly.  'Everybody knew it.
No one who saw her has doubted it.'

'And you think this Jesus, the Carpenter, healed her?  Did you see
that?  What did he do?  What did he say?'

'I am glad you asked me to tell you, sir!'  Esther's throaty voice
was vibrant with excitement.  'I saw it.  I was the only one he
asked to remain in the room when he healed her.  And he healed me,
too,' she added impulsively.

'You!' exclaimed David.  'And what ailed you?'  Leaning forward,
with knitted brows, he listened while Esther ventured upon her
strange story.  Presently he broke in to inquire, 'You say he
called you Fara?'

She nodded slowly.

'He called me Fara, as if he had known me for a long time and was
accustomed to addressing me so.'

'I suppose you think, then, that he knows all about you--and your
errand in Galilee.'

Esther's reply was delayed, while David studied her eyes.

'I think, sir,' she murmured, 'that Jesus knows everything!
Everything about me!  Everything about everybody!'

'Proceed, please.  I shall not interrupt any more.'

With that encouragement, Esther continued; and, when she had ended,
she searched the old lawyer's narrowed eyes and disappointedly
shook her head.

'I'm afraid you don't believe me,' she said, with a sigh.

'I'm afraid I do, daughter,' confessed David.  'My whole mind cries
out against any credence in such things, but the evidence here is
too strong.  Whatever happened to Hannah, it is clear enough that
something has happened to you!  It is in your eyes, your voice,
your smile!  You are a new creature!  Transformed!'

They had been speaking in Aramaic, Esther having wanted to quote
the words of Jesus exactly as they were uttered.  She now replied
in Greek to David's unexpected comments on the change that had come
over her.  The old man watched her mobile lips with candid
pleasure.  It was not often, in these days, that he heard this
musical language, and it not only delighted but amused him to note
the new freedom and assurance in the girl's voice as she went on.

What to do now?  That was the question.  She confided in him as if
he were a parent.  Hannah would not need her much longer.  She did
not want to return to the palace.  There was nothing for her to do
in Galilee.

'But your friend Voldi will soon be returning for you,' suggested
David.  'Perhaps you should go back with him to Arabia.'

Her face clouded.

'I must not do that to Voldi!' she declared.

'Well--it needn't be settled today,' said David reassuringly.
'When in doubt about what to do, it is usually wise to do nothing
and wait for more light.  Perhaps you should talk with Jesus. . . .
And stay where you are until Voldi comes.  You have promised him
you would do that.'

                         * * * * * *

But Voldi, unfortunately, would not be coming.

It had not occurred to him, so courteously had he been treated
during his brief stop in Caesarea, when on his way to Tiberias in
Galilee, that his association with Proconsul Mencius had accounted
for the freedom he had enjoyed there.

Now that he had returned, alone, it was natural that the
authorities should take a fresh interest in his movements.  He was
cordially welcomed at The Domus Agrippa and given the best of
accommodations; but when, in reply to their query about the
probable length of his stay, he informed them that he wanted to
remain until spring, the management felt obliged to report; for the
Prefect's office had an active curiosity to learn what manner of
business in Caesarea required the attention of foreign visitors.

Routine inquiries would have been made into the affairs of any
Arabian, however insignificant he might be.  But Voldi was
conspicuous.  He had the air of a person of privilege, he was well-
dressed, he rode a valuable horse and the horse's trappings were
mounted with silver.  He had plenty of money.  But he had no
business acquaintances--and no business.

And so it was that on the third day after his arrival, Voldi
received a polite note requesting him to call at the Prefect's
office in the Praetorium.  The interview, with no less a personage
than Prefect Sergius himself, began cordially enough but soon
settled down to serious business.  The Captain of the Praetorian
Guard was called in as an observer, and a scholarly young
amanuensis began taking notes.  The Prefect's queries were
courteous enough to befit an examination of a foreign nobleman, it
having been already established that the guest was the grandson of
Mishma, the King of Arabia's Chief Councillor.

It would please the Prefect to know what errand had brought the
young Arabian to Caesarea and whom he had come to see, and anything
else that he wanted to say about his purposes.

Not having expected this inquisition, Voldi had made no preparation
for it, and the story he hastily contrived was not very convincing
to the shrewd old Roman, who had heard--and told--enough lies to be
able to recognize one that had been so casually extemporized.

'So--you went to Tiberias to examine some ancient manuscripts
belonging to the Tetrarch,' said Sergius dryly, 'but you were
already aware that the Tetrarch was not in residence.  Now, what
led you to believe that you might be welcome in His Grace's
absence?'

Voldi, appropriately embarrassed, explained that he had come a very
long way to see these scrolls, that they really belonged in a
museum available to the general public; adding that Lysias, the
steward, had shown him every courtesy.

The old Prefect sniffed cynically and drawled, 'Your interest in
ancient literature must be profound, sir.  No one has ever confided
to me that the men of your country have shown so much concern for
learning.  You say these scrolls you went to see are reputed to
have belonged to Aristotle.  How many Arabians are conversant with
the writings of Aristotle?  I'll wager that even your King Zendi
doesn't know enough Greek to bid the time o' day to the Governor of
Petra.'

Voldi grinned and replied, 'Just about that much, I think, sir.'

Sergius chuckled a little at that, but soberly resumed his
interrogations.

'Now my young friend, the whole world knows that Arabia bears a
grudge against Tetrarch Antipas--a very reasonable grudge, too, if
I may say so.  How do you happen to be so complacent about the
indignity he wrought upon your Royal Family that you would accept
the hospitality of his palace?  Are you sure you weren't there to
reconnoitre in preparation for a later visit?  Tell me, please:
where are you bound for--when you leave Caesarea?'

'I am going home, sir,' lied Voldi.

'Very well, then,' growled the Prefect.  'See that nothing
interferes with your plan.  You have the freedom of the city.
Should you decide to return to Tiberias, it will be an error of
judgment.'  He pushed back his chair and rose.  Turning to the
Captain of the Guard, he said gruffly, 'You have your orders,
Malus.  When this young man leaves us, he is going back--directly--
to his own country.'

After that, while Voldi did not have the uncomfortable feeling that
there were eyes at his keyhole, he found himself acknowledging the
respectful salutes of the Municipal Police wherever he went.  They
smiled pleasantly and lifted their spears to their foreheads when
he strolled along the docks.  When he exercised Darik, which was
almost every day, he invariably fell in with a mounted patrol.

One bleak morning when he was aimlessly sauntering through the
public rooms of The Domus Agrippa, Voldi came face to face with a
handsome, well-groomed Roman of his own age, who bluntly confronted
him with, 'You're the Arabian, aren't you?'

'Well,' drawled Voldi, 'I may not be the Arabian--but I am an
Arabian.'

'My name is Felix,' said the youth.

'Oh?' replied Voldi casually.  'Is there anything I can do for you?
If so I shall be glad to undertake it.  I am not very busy.'

'My father mentioned you to me.  He said you were a stranger in
Caesarea, and might welcome a little attention.  Father is the
Prefect.'

Voldi grinned.

'It's good of you, Felix,' he said.  'I am a bit lonesome and
restless here, though I must say your father has already provided
me with plenty of attention.  I can hardly turn round without
stepping on a policeman.'

It was the young Roman's turn to be amused.

'Don't let that bother you!  Important aliens in Caesarea always
come in for a lot of oversight.  But I'm not a policeman; and,
personally, I don't care a damn where you go or what you are up
to. . . .  I thought you might like to take a ride with me into the
country, just to kill time.'

'With pleasure!'  Voldi brightened at the prospect.  'Perhaps I
should tell you that I'm not supposed to leave the city by any of
the northerly routes.'

Felix nodded in a manner indicating that he knew all about it.

'You're suspected of a hankering to make the acquaintance of the
Tetrarch of Galilee.  My father wonders why--and so do I.  Antipas
is a cad, you know; a noisy, vain, arrogant old pretender.  I'm
sure you wouldn't like him.'  The Roman's eyes twinkled through
this ironical speech, inviting the Arab to commit himself, but
Voldi made no sign of understanding.  The friendly son of the
Prefect might not be a policeman, but this was no time to risk a
confidence.

'Perhaps not,' replied Voldi indifferently.  'One can't be expected
to like everybody.'

Felix chuckled over this forthright evasion.

'You win!' he said.  'Let's go for the ride.  It's clearing off a
little.  I'll promise not to badger you about Antipas. . . .  And
when you meet him, you may slit his throat--with my blessing.'

The Prefect's home was only a short way away.  Leading Darik, they
walked to Sergius' commodious stables and a groom brought out a
beautiful young sorrel mare.  Felix ran his fingers under the
saddle girths.  Voldi liked that.  It was commonly believed in
Arabia that the Romans were careless about the comfort of their
horses.  Felix cared.

'I dare say you've noticed that this filly is an Arabian,' he said.

'Yes,' replied Voldi.  'I know her family.  You probably bought her
in Damascus.'

'My father did.'  They mounted and rode toward the avenue.  'I'm
told that you Arabians used to market your select stock, on a
certain day, in Jerusalem; but--not any more.'

'We have lately resumed attendance at the camel-auction in
Jerusalem--on the Jewish Day of Pentecost,' explained Voldi.  'But
the horses still go to Damascus.'

'And why is that?' Felix wanted to know.

'Perhaps it's because the Jews aren't so much interested in
horses,' guessed Voldi.  'The Syrians pay a better price.'

They were proceeding southerly on the coast highway, at a leisurely
canter.

'Tell me about this camel-auction,' said Felix.

'I never attended it,' said Voldi.  'I never was in Jerusalem.'

'What is this Pentecost business about?'

'I don't know,' admitted Voldi.  'It's a Jewish feast-day; fifty
days after--after something; I forget what.'

Felix counted on his fingers, and thought it might be fifty days
after the Passover.  Voldi nodded uninterestedly and said he
supposed that might be correct.  The horses, impatient over their
mincing canter, changed their gait to a brisk trot.  After an
interval of silence, Felix slowed his filly to remark:

'The reason I happen to know about this annual Passover business:
the Tetrarch always returns for it in the spring.  He winters in
Rome, and turns up with the sparrows about the Ides of March; makes
much ado over his gaudy trip to Jerusalem.  You'd think the Emperor
had arrived.  He has a toy Embassy over there; holds court for a
couple of weeks; celebrates the Passover; and hurries back to
Tiberias for the summer. . . .  But--I suppose you know all about
that.'

Voldi showed no interest whatsoever in this discourse and abruptly
changed the conversation by remarking that the stableboys at The
Agrippa had been taking good care of Darik.

'See how his coat shines!'

'They're probably feeding him on eggs,' said Felix.  'You'll be
paying plenty for Darik's shine! . . .  It won't be long now until
Antipas appears.  He will arrive on the Emperor's barge.  You may
have a chance to see him.'

Voldi showed vexation.

'You're wasting all that on me, Felix,' he declared crossly.  'My
errand in this country does not concern old Herod Antipas.  You
surmise that because I am an Arabian I have designs on the
Tetrarch.  I am here on another matter.'

'I see you don't want to tell me,' said Felix reproachfully.
'Perhaps I could have helped you.'

'Perhaps--but perhaps not,' said Voldi.  'We'll see.  Meanwhile,
let us have no more talk about Antipas.  I have no business with
him.'

Felix pretended a childish pout.

'You wouldn't lie to me, would you, Voldi?' he asked petulantly.

'Don't be silly!' snapped Voldi.  'Of course I'd lie to you if
there was any reason for it.'

'Well--you're candid, anyway,' laughed Felix.

'Don't be too sure about that, my son,' warned Voldi dryly.

Felix knew now that he had employed the wrong tactics for the
relief of his curiosity.  The Arabian, albeit amiable enough,
wasn't going to have any confidences pried out of him; and his
determined reticence made the son of the Prefect feel years younger
than his tight-lipped acquaintance from the eastern mountains.

Their friendship ripened slowly.  Having begun with a verbal
fencing-match in which the Roman youth was much too hasty with his
queries, forcing Voldi to a stubborn defence, they found it
difficult to be at ease with one another.  Felix was encouraged to
talk about himself.  His father had been appointed to the
Prefecture five years ago, after long service as Captain of the
Praetorian Guard in Rome.  Felix had been left behind to finish his
course in the Military Academy, and had come to Caesarea only last
summer.  He was free to say that he hated the town and was bored to
extinction.  His father had promised that he might return to Rome--
'in a year or two'--but wanted him to acquaint himself with
conditions in Caesarea.  He did not say why, but Voldi could guess.
The Empire was preparing to complete the subjugation of Palestine,
and Felix would probably be in line for participation in it.

For something to say, Voldi remarked that life in Caesarea must be
rather dull after living in the excitements of the Empire's
capital.

'I'm slowly dying of it, Voldi!' confided Felix, adding, after a
brooding silence, 'That may account for my ruthless invasion of
your private affairs.  My instinct tells me that you're tangled up
with an adventure of some sort, and--'

'And you want to be in it,' assisted Voldi.

After that, they seemed to understand each other better.  They
sheathed their weapons.  Felix continued his daily calls at The
Agrippa, making himself at home in Voldi's apartment.  On clear
days they rode.  It was an unusual comradeship, based mostly on
their loneliness, boredom, and need of diversion.  Felix frankly
despised Aramaic and spoke it badly: he had been ecstatic when
Voldi had aired his Greek.

'You're coming to Rome, some day,' Felix said.  'I'll show you the
only city that really matters--in the whole world!  Know anybody
there?'

'Nicator Mencius,' replied Voldi.

'Indeed!  He's one of my father's closest friends.  How did you
make his acquaintance?'

Voldi told him briefly, and was privately pleased to learn of this
connection between the Proconsul and the Prefect.  It might be to
his advantage, some time, if he got into a scrape.

The long and tiresome winter finally blew itself out and spring
came on.  Voldi was beside himself with impatience to contrive some
way of seeing Fara.  She would be expecting him now and if he did
not soon appear she would surely conclude that he had given her up
and returned to Arabia.

One sunny afternoon the news was circulated in the lobbies of The
Agrippa that The Augusta had been sighted.  Everybody not otherwise
engaged had hurried to the docks to watch the Emperor's beautiful
ship come in.  The main point of interest would be the disembarkation
of the Tetrarch and his retinue and the setting forth of their
garish parade for Jerusalem.

Voldi felt that this was something worth seeing.  When he joined
the huge crowd at the wharf, The Augusta had already docked and the
important passengers were leaving the ship, the Tetrarch surrounded
by an unusually large company of fellow-travellers who--according
to the low-voiced chatter of spectators--had come from Rome to
spend the summer.

Felix had failed to put in an appearance at The Domus Agrippa
today.  Voldi saw him now, sauntering in his direction; but, when
he approached, he gave no sign of recognition.  As Felix passed,
almost brushing sleeves with Voldi, he muttered, 'This is no place
for you.  Better get out of here!'

The brusque command annoyed Voldi.  He didn't like the idea of
slinking away--like a dog that had been ordered home.  He stood his
ground.  The Romans loved to boss people around: Felix too was
learning to crow, the young cockerel!  Voldi was sore; but so
fascinated by the flamboyant pageantry on the wharf that he gave
the spectacle his full attention.  The Tetrarch's circus was moving
away now and the crowd was disintegrating.  As Voldi slowly
advanced with the throng, two tall Praetorian Guards fell into step
on either side of him, and the elder of them said quietly,
'Proceed, please, to your room at The Agrippa, and remain there
until the Prefect gives you your freedom.'

'May I ask what I have done?' demanded Voldi testily.

'Nothing, sir,' replied the Guard, 'but the Prefect wants you to be
kept under strict observance until Tetrarch Antipas has left the
city.'

Voldi shrugged and scowled but did as he was told, feeling like a
warmly spanked little boy who had better swallow his indignation if
he knew what was good for him.  As he ambled toward the street,
with the Guards trailing him at a respectful distance, he had to
admit to himself that Sergius had not dealt too severely with him,
considering the circumstances.  It had been very indiscreet of him
to come here, and he cursed himself for his imprudence.  Quickening
his steps, he proceeded to the tavern and went at once to his
suite.  A few minutes afterward, a servant appeared and took his
order for dinner.

'I understand you are to be served in your rooms, sir,' he said.
'Is that correct, sir? . . .'  Voldi said it was correct.  There
were three whole days of this polite and luxurious incarceration.
Felix did not appear; though whether he had been ordered to stay
away or was disgusted by his friend's impertinence could not be
cleared up at the moment.  On the morning of the fourth day, the
dining-room servant who had been bringing his meals said, as he put
down the breakfast tray, 'I understand, sir, that you are dining
downstairs at noon.'

'Yes,' said Voldi, as if he had been notified.

He was still eating his breakfast when Felix came in, glumly
nodded, and flung himself into an easy chair.

'You certainly played hell with yourself by going down to the
docks,' he growled.  'Now every move you make will be watched.  And
the Prefect will be annoyed if I am seen in your company.  That's
the worst part of it, as far as I am concerned.'

Voldi flushed a little at this rebuke and was on the point of
retorting angrily; but, aware that he had no case, replied, 'It was
a mistake, Felix.  For your own protection, perhaps you'd do well
to ignore me; at least until your father forgets about it.'

'My father never forgets anything,' said Felix.  'He has the memory
of an elephant. . . .  I'll go now.  And if I don't show up for a
few days, you'll know why.'  He rose, and at the door, turned to
remark, 'I hope you will be discreet now, Voldi.  I'm going to miss
you.'

Voldi nodded and smiled his understanding.  After the door had
closed slowly and reluctantly, he moodily contemplated the
dismaying position into which he had so heedlessly placed himself.
The companionship of young Felix had meant more to him than he had
realized.

The fine spring days were interminably long and empty.  Every
morning early, sometimes at the break of dawn, Darik would be
mounted for a fast ride on the coast highway to the south.  By
breakfast time Voldi would have returned to The Agrippa.  He began
to study maps of the surrounding country.  In his desperation to
ease Fara's mind about him and his interest in her, he began to
consider a swift ride to Bethsaida.  By getting away early, and
urging Darik to his best speed, he might be able to make the round
trip in three days.  They would be out looking for him, no doubt,
but he would be back at The Agrippa before they found him--he
hoped!

With the plan for his reckless adventure well organized, he slipped
past the sleepy night-watch while it was still dark, rode at a
leisurely trot until he had passed through the southern outskirts
of the city, pressed Darik to a gallop, and found an unfrequented
road that angled easterly to Antipatris where he turned north on a
weedy old donkey-trail.  The day was hot and Darik was not
conditioned for such a journey, but Voldi did not spare him.  So
far, so good.  He had not been followed.

Late that night he applied for lodging at a filthy inn which
befitted the remembered squalor of Megiddo.  After giving the
exhausted Darik a rub-down and a ration of grain, he tumbled down
fully clothed in the straw, and slept.

In the morning, two mounted patrols arrested him as he was leaving
the inn and conducted him back to Caesarea by the shortest route
and put him in prison to await trial for violating the Prefect's
orders.  He was not manacled and his quarters were not too
uncomfortable.  The food was coarse but edible.  The stoutly barred
window was too high for him to see out.  He had nothing to read.

When he inquired of the rotund jailor how long it might be before
he was brought to trial, the latter replied, 'You picked a bad time
to get yourself into trouble with the Prefect.  He sailed for Rome
this morning, on The Augusta.  However,' he added wittily, 'you're
still young; and, besides, you may be better off where you are than
where you might be later.  Prefect Sergius, my boy, is not a man to
be trifled with!  He has had men beheaded for less than you did!'



Chapter XV


The annual week of the Passover would begin tomorrow; and Antipas,
who had always anticipated its games, processions and ceremonies
with pleasure, was troubled by its arrival.  His Roman house-guests
at the Embassy, already bored to forthright rudeness toward their
host, would find it a dull affair.

He now realized that it had been a mistake to invite so many of
them.  He might have managed comfortably with two or three, but--
ignoring the warning of Herodias, who was not particularly chummy
with any of the women of the party--he had brought fifteen!

There were Mark and Aurelia Varus and their daughter Faustina,
recently divorced by Consul Narro for spending too much time with
Prince Gaius; Julius and Paula Fronto, lately recalled from the
prefecture in Crete; Senator Manius Cotta; Nerius and Drusilla
Hispo; the garrulous Valerie Flaccus, a friend of Salome's;
Proconsul Fabius Tiro, his gossiping wife Amelia and their restless
and flighty young Flavia; Junius Manilius, a retired Legate and
long-time crony of the Tetrarch; Tullius Fadilla, a wealthy, middle-
aged bachelor; and the ageing but kittenish Julia Drusus, who was
driving Fadilla insane with her attentions.  Deep in his cups at a
banquet, Antipas had invited everybody within sound of his voice to
accompany him home on The Augusta; and now he was paying for his
indiscretion.

Usually the month of Nisan, spent in Jerusalem, was thoroughly
enjoyed by the Tetrarch.  The Galilean Embassy, by grace of the
immense sums Antipas had spent upon it, was one of the most
beautiful public edifices in the city and spacious far beyond its
needs.  It would have gratified the Tetrarch if more attention had
been accorded it--and him.  He craved popularity.  He had even gone
to the length of announcing that the night patrols were welcome to
assemble, when off duty, in the huge carriage-court, and had
provided a wood-fire where, in chilly weather, they might warm
themselves.  As a further evidence of his hospitality, a midnight
snack was served to the legionaries.  But it couldn't be said that
all this generosity ever did the foolish fellow any good.  The
soldiers nightly warmed their hands, enjoyed the Tetrarch's cakes
and wine, and flirted with the servant-girls; but the Embassy was--
for all that--a hissing and a byword, even in the opinion of its
beneficiaries.

But the great man had pretended not to know where he stood in the
public's estimation.  For that one month every spring, he conducted
his Embassy as if it really mattered.  He had always taken pride
and pleasure in playing judge.  The cases brought before him were
rarely of any importance; and, when they were, the losing litigant
always appealed to Pilate, who, contemptuous of Antipas and his
pompous little tribunal, customarily reversed the decision.

Undaunted by these embarrassments, the Tetrarch made a great thing
of the trivial matters submitted to him, handling with ridiculous
ostentation mere border brawls between the Samaritans and
Galileans, involving such issues as their joint responsibility for
the repair of a wooden bridge on an unfrequented donkey-trail at a
cost of fifty shekels.  Indeed the Samaritans and Galileans had
often gone to law for less.  They had hated one another for at
least five centuries and relished the occasional opportunity of
exchanging elaborately contrived insults in this atmosphere of
ponderous dignity, even if a favourable decision cost more than it
was worth.

During his many winter seasons in Rome, Antipas, when queried about
his official duties as Tetrarch of Galilee, candidly admitted that
his executive responsibilities while in residence at Tiberias were
not onerous.  There was, of course, the month he spent annually at
the Embassy.  That, he implied, was quite another matter.  When
pressed for details he always closed his eyes, shook his head, and
waggled his hand, as if to say that it was too serious to be talked
about.  And he had foolishly allowed the growth of a legend to the
effect that his court in Jerusalem dealt out horrible punishments
to all manner of desperate criminals, seditionists and traitors.

Now the silly secret was out.  There was no blood-letting to be had
at the Embassy.  The Romans had attended court, one morning, and
had filed out presently, their shameless laughter echoing in the
high-domed, mosaic-lined foyer.  The Tetrarch's court, they said
truthfully, was a poor show.

Antipas now had had three weeks of these insufferable people.  He
hated them all.  There was nothing in Jerusalem that they wanted to
do, nothing they wanted to see.  Most of them had visited Greece,
all of them had been in Egypt.  As for architectural splendours and
hoary antiquities, the Holy City had little to offer to anybody who
had seen the Acropolis or the ruins at Karnak.

The Tetrarch was at his wits' end to find entertainment for his
jaded guests.  He had wangled an invitation for them to luncheon at
The Insula, but it was a painful event, Pontius and Calpurnia
Pilate making it plain that their hospitality was an official duty,
and no pleasure.  Besides, the very air was drugged with the long-
festering animosity of Pilate and Fronto; and Calpurnia had no use
for Herodias, whom she had publicly snubbed on numerous occasions.
The Procurator, brusque enough when on his best behaviour, went to
no bother to brighten the hour.  The most interest he showed in any
of them was when, after blinking solemnly into Fadilla's baggy eyes
for a long moment, he muttered, 'Tullius, you're getting paunchy;
probably drinking too much.  You'll have a stroke, one of these
days.'

And now the Passover was at hand.  These pagans couldn't be
expected to take much interest in that.  Obviously the most prudent
course now was to get them all out of Jerusalem before they
disgraced him with their flippant comments concerning an ancient
rite which--in the opinion of all Jewry--was no joke.  True, it
would be an appalling display of indifference, on his own part, to
leave at this moment; but he would risk it.  He tried the idea out
on Herodias, who approved it with the not very reassuring comment,
'You may as well do it: you have nothing to lose.'

Customarily, at the end of Passover Week, the Tetrarch's family and
retainers were escorted back to Tiberias by the Legion from
Capernaum.  It would have been foolhardy to attempt this journey
through the bandit-infested mountains of Samaria without
protection.  Seeing that the gala week in Jerusalem was in the
nature of a vacation for Julian's legionaries, it was doubtful
whether the Legate would consent to leave the city on the very eve
of the festival, even if Procurator Pilate had permitted the
withdrawal for no better reason than to accommodate a whim of the
Tetrarch's.

However, it was worth trying.  Antipas stated his case to Julian,
who, as was to be expected, flatly refused.  In desperation the
Tetrarch told the Legate that if he would release one company for
this service every man of them should be paid thirty shekels per
day.  This was tempting bait.  Julian said he would see.  That
afternoon he reported that a company of one hundred legionaries,
under the command of a trusted Centurion, would be on hand early
the next morning.  And it was with a deep sigh of relief that
Antipas saw his long caravan through the Damascus Gate and out into
the open country.  Now his malcontents, instead of fretting in the
tiresome confinement of the Embassy, could amuse themselves as they
liked.  They could ride, bathe in the beautiful pool, tan their
hides in the gardens; and, incidentally, relieve him of the
responsibility to find entertainment for them.

But in a few days after their arrival it became apparent that the
Romans were going to be as restless in Tiberias as they had been in
Jerusalem.  There were plenty of good horses in the Tetrarch's
marble stables, but the visitors petulantly remarked that there
were no interesting rides to be taken, nowhere to go.  The girls
inquired why no use was made of the lovely lake--ideal water for a
pleasure barge; moonlight, music, dancing.  It was queer, they
said, that the Tetrarch had never thought of that.  Well, it was
too late now.

By the end of Nisan everybody was at loggerheads with everybody
else.  Salome had had a falling out with Valerie, who, to punish
her, had transferred her attentions to the young Tiro girl, causing
an estrangement between Salome and Flavia.  At this juncture Amelia
Tiro, championing her child, remarked--in the presence of half a
dozen loungers beside the famous pool--that Salome was no fit
company for a young girl anyway; and although this comment did not
come as a shock to anybody, it did nothing to improve the climate
of a house party, already at storm.

Julia Drusus, savagely scorned by the exasperated Fadilla,
belatedly showed a comradely interest in Herodias who, resentful of
Julia's earlier aloofness, would have none of her.

Antipas made pretence of busying himself with the planting of a new
vineyard, and coolly despised them all.

Salome, now left to her own devices, sought consolation in the
companionship of her step-father, making their mutual affection so
flagrantly showy that everybody chattered evilly about them--and
Herodias could have killed them both.  Indeed, so hard pressed for
attention was the unhappy woman that she took to visiting John the
hermit in his cell, plying him with fruits, flowers, and flattery;
and when it became evident that the grim prophet was too
preoccupied with his own meditations to appraise hers correctly,
Herodias threw away the last shred of her counterfeit decency and
drove the hapless ascetic into a terrifying rage by attempting to
caress him.  Hot with such anger as she had never experienced, she
slapped him on the mouth and slammed the cell-door behind her,
screaming that he could stay there for ever--and rot--for all she
cared.  Her eyes burned with self-piteous tears as she stumbled
along toward the new vineyard, muttering that things had come to a
pretty pass when a shaggy, penniless ragamuffin from nowhere would
dare to yell into her face that she was a common slut.  That the
accusation was true did not mitigate the indignity.  She would see
to it that the bug-eater was punished.

By the time she reached Antipas, who was complacently viewing the
building of rustic trellises at the far corner of the vineyard,
Herodias had burned out her rage and was almost disposed to be
companionable.  Her husband nodded, smiled, and wondered what was
on her mind.

'Really, my dear,' she began, 'something must be done about these
unhappy people of yours.'

Antipas nodded.

'I know,' he said.  'It's getting worse every day.'  Presently he
brightened a little.  'How about a dinner party?  Something
amusing.  We will invite a few prominent citizens in to meet them.'

'Who, for instance?'

'Well, there are Jairus and his pretty wife Adiel.  Legate Julian,
of course.  Perhaps young Joseph of Arimathaea might come and bring
his sister Tamar.  Old David the Sadducee is learned and has been
everywhere.  His eminent friend Nicodemus Ben-Gorion, who is
retired in Cana, would be glad to come, I think.'

'It doesn't sound very lively,' mumbled Herodias.

'We can attend to that,' promised Antipas.

Within an hour he had dispatched messengers bearing irresistible,
cash-down invitations to several professional entertainers; a
renowned magician of Caesarea, a troupe of harpists in Jericho, a
famous family of Damascene acrobats, and a crippled girl of Cana
who was reputed to have a remarkable voice.  The date set was the
twenty-second of Iyar, the Tetrarch's birthday, now three weeks
distant.

Such was their host's enthusiasm over his project that even the
Romans began to show a pallid interest.  Fadilla said he would like
to talk with this well-travelled old David the Sadducee.  Julia
Drusus, still incorrigibly romantic in spite of many rebuffs,
cornered Herodias to ask eager questions about the rich young
Joseph of Arimathaea, to which her hostess replied dryly, 'Julia,
of all the fools I ever met, you are the silliest.'

When the couriers had returned from their errands it was found that
all the entertainers would be on hand except the singer from Cana,
who wasn't well enough to make the journey.

Replies from invited guests were less satisfactory.  Joseph of
Arimathaea and his sister Tamar were sorry (or said they were) that
they could not come.  The eminent Nicodemus Ben-Gorion was troubled
with rheumatism and couldn't travel.

Legate Julian, as was to be expected, sent word that he would be
honoured, though Antipas knew this was a lie and that if he ever
got into any serious trouble Julian would let him stew.  Jairus and
Adiel were pleased to accept, as was David the Sadducee, though his
aged sister Deborah was not well enough to accompany him.  Antipas
then dispatched a surprisingly amiable note to David saying he had
been advised that there was a charming young woman, said to be a
ward of the House of Zadok, who would be warmly welcomed, to which
the old lawyer replied that there was no such person in his
household.  This brazen effrontery annoyed the Tetrarch, but he
decided not to make an issue of it.  As the time for the party drew
near, the very thought of it wearied him.  His Roman pests would be
bored by such tepid and dreary entertainment.  Harpists!  Acrobats!
Jugglers!  Bah!

                         * * * * * *

Meantime--while Voldi fretted in prison and Antipas was unwittingly
contriving an event that would make his name stink wherever and
whenever it was uttered--all Galilee was astir with the news that
the Carpenter of Nazareth had come forth, with the spring flowers,
to resume his public ministry.

No such excitement had ever choked the highways of any Palestinian
province.  Crowds!  Confused and confusing crowds, immeasurably
larger than had followed the prophet and wonder-worker last summer.
They came from further distances now: from the hinterlands of
Northern Galilee and Perea; yes, and from Samaria, too, though the
Samaritans abominated the Galileans and only the most urgent
business could induce them to cross the border.

They came on foot, on donkeys, in carts, on cots.  Some prudently
brought tents and provisions; some carried only a blanket and slept
on the ground, buying, begging, or stealing their food.  Thrifty
hucksters made the most of their opportunity to fleece the hungry,
peddling stale bread, rancid fish, and fly-blown sweets at
exorbitant prices.  Vagabond minstrels and shabby outlanders with
tame bears and mangy monkeys set up booths alongside the food
vendors.  And the crowds increased hourly.

Every foot-path, every lane, every grass-grown donkey-trail for
miles and leagues were tributaries to the highways that intersected
at little Cana, where the resident population--as if ruthlessly
shouted out of a peaceful slumber--stared bewilderedly at the
mounting horde of strangers, and wondered whether the old well in
the central plaza would survive.  On Jesus' earlier visits they had
welcomed him.  It was a bit different this time.  They were still
friendly to him, but they wished they could have him all to
themselves.

The amazing news had spread far and wide that the miracle-worker of
Nazareth was healing lepers!  This had added the spice of adventure
to these strange doings.  Last season, Jesus had healed the blind,
the deaf, the crippled.  Such disabilities were deplorable, but
they were not contagious.  Leprosy was quite another matter!  The
leper was not only doomed, he was dangerous!  The very word struck
terror!  Nobody was safe from the threat of it, not even the well-
to-do, accustomed to clean living.  By no means was it the
exclusive monopoly of filthy ragamuffins.  All you needed to do to
become infected, was to drink from a cup that a conscienceless
leper had touched, or accidentally tread upon a discarded bandage.

Oh yes, there were laws, plenty of them, intended to protect the
public.  Once a man had contracted the disease, whatever his social
rating, he was for ever outcast, required to associate only with
persons similarly afflicted.  When he met anyone on the road he was
expected to withdraw to the wayside bushes and shout 'Unclean!'  It
was a living death, destroying the body piecemeal.

When the word went forth that Jesus was curing leprosy it was
natural that he should have plenty of clients eager to avail
themselves of his services.  It was their custom, when travelling
very far from the camps provided for them, to move in groups of ten
or a dozen, and when a party of them would show up for healing
there was an understandable consternation in the great throng.
When the cry 'Unclean!' was shouted, at the rear of the crowd,
nobody tried to stop them.  The legionaries, on hand to keep order,
scampered out of their way; and at whatever sacrifice of dignity,
the multitude cleared a wide path for the visitors.  However
bitterly the throng--comprised of all manner of discordant sects--
might disagree about everything else, there was a complete
unanimity in their sudden resolution to make way for a company of
lepers.

The first time it happened, only two men stood their ground and
calmly waited for the hapless crew to draw near.  They were Jesus
and Simon.  Simon had his jaw set and his big fists clenched to
tighten his courage, but he stayed by Jesus' side.  And when the
Master had spoken the words that healed them, Simon grasped the
leader of the party by the hand.  After they had turned to go,
their faces contorted so you couldn't rightly say whether they were
laughing or weeping, Jesus gave Simon a comradely smile that made
the Big Fisherman's eyes swim.  Jesus hadn't said anything to him,
but that approving smile had given him stature.  Andrew, John,
James, Philip, and Thaddeus, who had retreated to a safe distance,
gathered about Simon with admiration on their faces.  There was no
longer any doubt which one of them deserved to stand closest beside
their Master.

It was a quiet, awe-stricken crowd that slowly closed its broken
ranks and listened again to the interrupted message of Jesus.
Making no reference to the dangerous miracle he had performed, he
continued to speak about the security of a life that is lived by
faith.  There were, he said, two habitations from which one might
choose one's place of spiritual residence.  One of these houses was
built upon the rock of faith: the rain might pour in torrents and
the tempest might rage; but that house would stand firm, for it was
founded upon a rock. . . .  'Upon a petros,' he had added, for the
benefit of whatever Greeks might be in the audience. . . .  The
other house was built upon the sand; it might be good for fair
weather, but it could not survive a storm.

That evening, after the people had been dismissed to return to
their homes or their encampments, Jesus and his small party of
companions rested after supper in the shelter of a grove on a
secluded hillside.  The Master sat a little way apart from the
others, for he was very tired.  But he listened to the low voices
as they reviewed the unprecedented events of the day.

Philip, always proud of his Greek ancestry and his own familiarity
with the language, remarked, 'I wonder where he picks up his Greek
words.  He uses them frequently.  Did you notice how he said
"petros" when he talked about the rock?'

Nobody made any comment on that.  They were tired of Philip's
Greek.

Then they fell to discussing again the marvellous powers of the
Master and their speculations as to how he had come by these
amazing gifts.

'I was listening to one of these conversations in the crowd today,'
remarked Andrew.  'One of the old men from Nain said he believed
that Jesus is the great prophet Elisha returned in the flesh.'

'Why Elisha?' wondered the newest member of the group, one Judas
from the town of Kerioth.

'Perhaps because Elisha once healed a leper,' explained Andrew.
'Don't you remember?  The Scriptures say that Elisha cured Naaman,
a great one of Syria; made him bathe in the Jordan.'

Alpheus chuckled softly at the recollection of this old legend, and
remarked, 'Naaman objected at first, willing to bathe--but not in
the Jordan.'

'You've a good memory, Alpheus,' observed James.

'My father often told us the story,' said Alpheus.  'He thought it
was quite funny.'

'My father,' drawled Andrew, 'never thought that anything found in
the Scriptures could be funny.'

Apparently nobody cared to pursue that subject any further and
there was a long interval of silence before conversation was
resumed.

'Almost everyone seems to think,' said John,' that Jesus must be
one of the ancient prophets restored to life.'

At this point in their conversation, held in subdued tones to avoid
disturbing the Master's much needed rest, they were suddenly
startled by his voice, inquiring, 'And you!  What do you think of
me?  Who am I?'

They all shifted their eyes to Simon, whose courageous display of
faith that afternoon had earned him the right to be their
spokesman.  After a long, thoughtful pause, the Big Fisherman came
to his feet and declared, in a deep, impressive voice, 'Master--I
believe that you are the son of God!'

A hush fell upon them.

'Simon, son of Jonas,' said Jesus, 'henceforth your name shall be
Peter--Peter the Rock!  It is upon your faith that I shall build my
Kingdom!'

                         * * * * * *

At the close of the sixth eventful day in Cana, when the excitement
over his words and deeds was at its height, Jesus astounded his
companions by announcing that he must return to Capernaum tomorrow.
He gave no reasons for his impulsive decision, nor did they press
him for an explanation, though it seemed strange to them that he
should now retire from so promising an opportunity for preaching
his gospel.

At daybreak the next morning, the little company took to the
highway, leaving the Big Fisherman behind to tell the crowd when it
assembled that the Master was unexpectedly required to go back to
Capernaum, but would rejoin them here within a few days.  They
could remain or return to their homes as they pleased.  The
disappointing news was variously received.  Persons who had brought
their sick from afar resolved to wait.  Many disgruntled curiosity-
seekers decided to go home.  Hundreds of the younger and more agile
members of the crowd, men mostly, started immediately for
Capernaum.  Something spectacular might happen there and they
didn't propose to miss it.  And throughout the morning scores more
made up their minds to follow; so it was a long, straggling
procession that made the hot and wearisome journey north to the
western shore of Lake Gennesaret.

Peter, well spent by fast walking, overtook the Master and his
company near Hammath.  He had hoped that by this time Jesus might
have confided his reasons for this journey, but apparently he had
not done so.  He was leading the way, at a swift pace, fully
preoccupied by his own thoughts.  The others were too tired to
talk.

The further they went, in a silence that seemed ominous, the more
the Big Fisherman worried over the possibilities of trouble in
Capernaum.  Without doubt the Master would speak, and there was no
telling what he might say.  Already there were enemies awaiting an
opportunity to discredit him.  The priests, old and young, were
almost unanimously against him; had held conferences about him;
had appealed to the Sanhedrin; had sent a deputation to the
Tetrarch. . . .  There was Rabbi Ben-Sholem!  Would he remember,
with any gratitude, the skilled service Jesus had performed in
his house? Of course not!  Not that stiff-necked, vain old
Pharisee! . . .  And Jairus!  The labourers on his estate had often
dropped their hoes and scurried away to join the multitude that
swarmed about the Master, whenever he spoke.  Doubtless Jairus had
been glad enough to see Jesus leave the Capernaum area, and would
now be exasperated to find him returned.  Jairus, if he wanted to,
could have him silenced.

At the northern outskirts of Bethsaida, the Master's steps
shortened and Peter quickly came abreast of him.

'I shall stop, for a little while, at Hannah's house,' he said.
'You may proceed with the others.  I shall join you at Andrew's
cottage.'  With that, he turned off the highway, and walked slowly
up the shady street.

The vanguard of the pursuing crowd, now close on the heels of the
little company, came to a stop and seemed bewildered.  The Big
Fisherman turned and shouted, not very pleasantly, that the Master
had paused for a moment's rest at the home of a friend; and they
were not to follow him.  This appeared to satisfy most of them, but
scores broke from the procession and ran in the direction Jesus had
taken.  Shortly afterward they drifted back, apparently mystified.
Somehow they had lost track of their quarry, as if the ground had
opened and swallowed him up.  Men who had not joined them in the
chase pressed queries upon them:  What had become of the Carpenter?
Where did he go?  But they could not say . . .  And it was never
explained. . . .  Broad daylight!  A clear view in all directions!
It was very strange!

Andrew, frowning thoughtfully, turned to old Bartholomew, who was
all but exhausted by the forced march, and said in an awed
undertone, 'What do you make of that?'

Bartholomew shook his head, clumsily licked his dry lips, and
croaked, huskily, 'Perhaps he didn't want to be followed.'

                         * * * * * *

It was true, as Peter had learned, that Jesus had stopped to rest
and have a friendly word with Hannah, whom he had not seen since
the day he had miraculously healed her; but this was not the main
reason for his visit.  He wanted to see Esther; and said so, after
brief inquiries of Hannah about her health.

Sensing that her presence was not required or desired, Hannah
excused herself and left the two alone together.

'I have been anxious to talk with you, Master,' said Esther.
'There is no reason for my remaining here any longer.  What shall I
do?  Where shall I go?  I have no homeland now, no plans, no
future.'

He did not answer her importunate queries directly, but began to
talk about the great crowds that had followed him, and would be
following him, day by day, throughout the summer.  It was, he went
on, a multitude that stirred one's compassion.  So many grievously
sick ones were brought from long distances, through the heat and
into the confusion of a jostling throng.  Desperate young mothers
from afar carried their blind and crippled babies in their arms,
arriving hungry, dirty, and exhausted.  Something must be done for
them . . .  He paused and regarded the girl with entreating eyes.

'You mean--me?' she faltered.

'Yes, Fara,' he replied quietly.  'I offer you a mission--and a
homeland too.'

'A homeland?' she queried.

'In my Kingdom.'

There was a long moment before she spoke.

'I shall try to do what I can for them, Master; but I wish you had
asked me to do some service for you.  I owe you so very much!'

'My child,' said Jesus softly, 'whatever you do for the least of
these needy ones, you will have done it for me.'

                         * * * * * *

Within a few hours the swelling crowd had taken Capernaum.  The
whole countryside hurried in from the fields and vineyards to
double the throng that knew something important was about to
happen.

Early the next morning, Peter, James, and John appeared on the
broad stone steps in front of the Synagogue and stood in an
attitude of expectancy.  Already the spacious plaza was half filled
with restless people.  At the sight of these men, known to be
associates of the Carpenter, the crowd moved forward, and from the
side streets and near-by lake-shore a multitude poured into the
cobble-paved area.

At this juncture Rabbi Ben-Sholem opened the imposing entrance-door
of the Synagogue, came out upon the highest step, and sternly
commanded the crowd to disperse.

Nobody stirred.  In some quarters there was impudent laughter.
White and shaken with anger, the Rabbi shouted that they had no
right to be there, that they were defiling a holy place.

A sullen growl of protest rose from the unruly crowd.  Hecklers
cupped their mouths with their hands and yelled, 'Since when was
this plaza a holy place?' . . . 'The plaza belongs to the
public' . . .  One red-faced, wine-soaked tramp (probably from
Samaria, thought Peter) had the audacity to shout, 'Go to,
Greybeard!'

Ben-Sholem impotently shook an outraged fist, gathered the skirts
of his robe tightly about his thin legs, and retreated, to the
accompaniment of more laughter; jeering laughter.

Peter was sorry and chagrined.  He had no reason to be fond of the
Rabbi, but this indignity to the old man and his sacred office was
much too much!  It was a pity, he thought, that Jesus could not
pick his audience and exclude all this rough element, this rude
riff-raff from pagan Samaria, these no-account migrs from
Macedonia, these dirty, half-civilized Damascenes.  The Master's
message would be wasted on these rowdies!  What was the good of
talking to such people about a Kingdom of love--and good will--and
peace?

Now the enraged Ben-Sholem--and surely he had plenty to be angry
about--would call his Regents together and demand that something be
done.  And Jairus would be forced to notify Julian, the Commander
of the Fort.  And Jesus would be arrested, jailed, no doubt--and
flogged, too. . . .  He should have been contented with his
successes in Cana.

Presently the Master appeared on the steps of the Synagogue and
began to speak.  It was immediately obvious that he had been aware
of the rudeness of the crowd--and deplored it.  He had been
appointed, he said, to offer a way of salvation to the world; and
that meant everybody.  In a task so great as this, no prudent
thought could be taken about the cost of it or the waste of it.
His mission, he said, was to sow the seed of good will among men in
the hope of an eventual harvest of peace.  Much of this seed would
be squandered.  Some of it would fall among weeds and brambles,
where it would have no chance at all to grow, but the sower could
not pause or look back to lament this extravagance.  Some of the
seed would fall upon stony ground where there was very little soil
to nourish it and the tender plants would soon wither and die; but
the sower must not be dismayed.  Some of the life-giving grain
would grow!  Some of it would find friendly lodging in fertile
ground!

The multitude had grown very quiet.  Nobody was grinning now.  Even
the toughest of them knew what the Carpenter meant when he added
significantly, 'Whoever among you has ears to hear, let him hear.'

There was a sudden stir on the outskirts of the throng.  A path
through the densely packed crowd was opening to admit a person of
some importance who was forcing his way to the front.  Peter,
standing near Jesus, but on the step immediately below him, craned
his neck to identify if possible the well-dressed, determined man
who had assumed the right to intrude.  It was Jairus!  Jairus was
striding forward evidently intending to interrupt.  His face showed
agitation.  Peter's heart raced: now the blow would fall!

Jesus stopped speaking--and waited.  If he was apprehensive, he
gave no signs of anxiety.  The crowd was silent, expectant, on
tiptoe, holding its breath.  Jairus gazed up into the Carpenter's
friendly eyes and drew so close that when he spoke only those close
by were able to hear what he said.

'Master--my little daughter is grievously ill!  We fear she is
dying.  I implore you to help us!'

Before Jesus could reply, Joseph the butler, who had now arrived,
quite out of breath, huskily murmured into his master's ear, 'She
is gone, sir!'

Jairus' shaking head drooped and his tears were flowing as he
turned away.  Jesus laid a hand on his arm and said gently:  'I
shall go with you, Jairus.'

'It is too late, Master,' said Jairus brokenly.  'She is dead!'

'Come!' said Jesus.  'Let us go!'

                         * * * * * *

The astounding restoration of Jairus' little daughter was a notable
triumph for Jesus.  No one more keenly appreciated this than Peter,
who had doubted the Master's prudence in returning to Capernaum,
where, he  feared, there might be serious trouble.  Now it appeared
that Capernaum, instead of being a place of danger, was the safest
spot in all Galilee for Jesus to pursue his ministry without
molestation.

As for the influential Jairus, his gratitude was boundless.  He had
made it clear that he was on Jesus' side, and Jairus' opinion had
weight.  He was known for his sagacity and his insistence on
justice for all, and whatever he believed in was good enough for
Capernaum.

Ben-Sholem had got himself into an awkward predicament which had
eliminated him--at least for the present--as a hostile critic.
Beside himself with rage over the indignities he had suffered at
the hands of Jesus' audience, he had retreated from the scene of
his humiliation, before Jairus had arrived in the plaza, and had
impetuously dispatched messengers to each of the Synagogue Regents
summoning them to an immediate conference.  With the exception of
Jairus, they had all come at full speed, learning on the way that
Jesus had performed an amazing miracle in the home of the Chief
Regent.

By the time they were convened in Ben-Sholem's beautiful library,
the Rabbi himself had heard the strange tidings; but, so accustomed
was the old man to having his own will prevail in all matters, that
he proceeded with his demand to have Jesus tried as a heretic and a
disturber of the peace.  The Regents, minus their potent spokesman,
were embarrassed and speechless.

Freshly indignant over their apparent lack of interest in taking
this drastic action, the Rabbi impulsively resigned, his
resignation to take effect forthwith.  This, he well knew, would
bring these dunces to terms; for it was unthinkable that they would
permit such an appalling disaster to fall upon their Synagogue!

To his consternation, they all sat tongue-tied for a while; and
then, without debate, unhappily mumbled their acceptance.  The old
man wept inconsolably while they tiptoed quietly away.  After an
hour of lugubrious self-pity, Ben-Sholem dried his eyes in the
warmth of his renewed anger and decided to take his case to a
higher tribunal.  Summoning his servants, he set off for Jerusalem.

Old Annas, who had recently retired as High Priest, to be succeeded
by his son-in-law Caiaphas, was one of Ben-Sholem's closest
friends.  In the long ago they had been fellow-students in the
Rabbinical College.  Indeed, so intimate was their continuing
comradeship that on the annual occasion of Passover Week, Ben-
Sholem was the house-guest of his eminent friend, who, despite his
retirement, kept his ageing fingers on the pulse of the Sanhedrin,
composed of elderly men long accustomed to listening attentively
when he spoke.

Annas could be counted on to view Ben-Sholem's intolerable
grievances sympathetically; together they would tell the whole
story to Caiaphas.  Then we would see whether a brazen young
carpenter from obscure little Nazareth had a right to ruin the
Capernaum Synagogue and incite all Galilee to flout the faith of
their fathers!  Yes, and it would take more than the wealth and
popularity of Jairus to save this charlatan from the righteous
wrath of the Sanhedrin!

Peter knew nothing about the abdication of the old Rabbi and his
departure to avenge himself, nor would he have worried very much
had he known, for Jesus' position was secure.  He could take care
of himself in any emergency.

Late that afternoon the small group of close friends waited in
Andrew's cottage for Peter to return and report.  Arriving at
length, full of excitement over the day's events, the Big Fisherman
flung himself into a chair, scrubbed a perspiring brow with the
back of his hand, and declared, 'You know I didn't want him to come
back to Capernaum; but he knew what he was doing.  Never again will
I question his wisdom--about anything!  Jesus knows best!'

'High time you found that out!' remarked his brother.  'Now tell us
exactly what happened.  There are many stories afloat.'

Peter began at the beginning.  They would remember, he said, that
Jesus had beckoned him to follow as Jairus and the butler led the
way through the crowd.  Three tall racing camels, in the care of
their drivers, waited on a side-street.

'You mean to say you rode a camel?' exclaimed Johnny.

'Yes,' nodded Peter, 'but I shouldn't want to do it again.'

'And the Master!' wondered Philip, 'he rode a camel?  How did he
get along?'

'Very well, I think,' grinned Peter.  'I was too busy with my own
excursion to notice.  It was a rough voyage--but we got there. . . .
At the house we heard the clamour of lamentations.  A score of
professional mourners, who had been hanging about for hours waiting
to be hired, were huddled on the verandah, with their black hoods
over their faces, howling like dogs.  Jesus was vexed by the noise
and commanded them to cease and begone.'

'That's one advantage the poor have over the rich,' put in James.
'When there's death in the house, you aren't bothered with hired
mourners.'

'We went at once to the bed-chamber where the little girl lay,'
continued Peter.  'Jesus led the way, with Jairus and his wife
Adiel closely following.  They asked me to come too.  The Master
sat down on the edge of the bed and gazed fixedly at the child for
a long time.  Her face had the whiteness of death.  After a while,
the Master said softly, as if not to awaken her, "She is
sleeping."'

'You mean--she wasn't dead?' exclaimed Thaddeus.

'That's in doubt,' said Peter.  'They all thought she was.  She
certainly seemed to be dead.  He said she was asleep.'

'Perhaps he meant the sleep of death,' observed old Bartholomew.

'Perhaps,' mumbled Peter vaguely.  'Whatever he meant, that was
what he said.  Adiel must have thought he believed the child was
sleeping, for she burst out crying and shook her head.  "No,
Master!" she sobbed.  "My precious Sharon is gone!"  With that, he
leaned forward, patted the little girl gently on the cheek, and
said, "Come, Sharon, awake!"'

The Big Fisherman's voice was unsteady: he noisily cleared his
throat to control it.

'It was all very touching,' he went on huskily.  'Little Sharon
slowly opened her eyes; and as Adiel flung herself down by the
bedside with a cry of joy, the child smiled sleepily and said,
barely above a whisper, "There were beautiful flowers, everywhere,
just as he told us."'

'It was a dream,' thought Andrew.

'Who can say?' murmured Peter.  After an interval of silence, he
added, 'As for me--I think the child was dead!'

They had sat transfixed through this recital.  Now that the strange
story was ended, they stirred.

'What are we supposed to do now?' inquired Philip.  'Did the Master
tell you?'

'He spends the night at the house of Jairus,' said Peter.
'Tomorrow he will rest here at the cottage.  He is very tired.  The
next day we start back to Cana, though we are to make camp that
night at Hammath.'

'But why does he stop at Hammath,' queried James, 'when so many
people are waiting for him in Cana?'

'Yes--and a great crowd will doubtless follow him from Capernaum
and along the way,' said Philip.  'He will be forced to speak at
Hammath, and that will be wearisome.'

'Well,' said Peter, 'be that as it may.  We're stopping at
Hammath.'

'I think I shall go back to Bethsaida,' announced Andrew, rising.
'I should like to see Hannah before we leave.'

'I shouldn't object to sleeping in a bed tonight, myself,' said
Peter.  'Tell Hannah to expect me for supper.  I shall be over
there--in a couple of hours.  I have promised old Manasseh that I
would talk with him.  He wants to lease one of the ships--just for
the summer, of course.'

'Not The Abigail!' protested Thaddeus.

The Big Fisherman patted Thad on the shoulder, but did not reply.
The company was breaking up now.  At the door, Thomas remarked, to
no one in particular, 'I can't understand why the Master wants to
leave Capernaum, now that Jairus is solidly behind him--and the
people are so anxious to have him stay.'

'Don't forget,' admonished Peter, 'that we couldn't understand why
he wanted to leave Cana and come to Capernaum.'

'That was different,' mumbled Thomas.  'He felt that he was
urgently needed here.'

'Perhaps he feels that he is now needed elsewhere,' observed
Andrew; to which James added, 'I don't believe he cares very much
whether we understand him or not.'

'You're quite right, Jimmie,' rumbled old Bartholomew.  'He's
teaching us to have faith in him.'

'But--can't a man have faith and understanding too?' argued Thomas.

'No!' declared Bartholomew bluntly.  'That's what faith is for, my
son.  It's for when we can't understand.'

'That's true!' approved Peter.  'When a man understands, he doesn't
need any faith.'

'I don't like to be kept in the dark,' put in Philip.

'If a man has enough faith,' replied Peter, 'he can find his way in
the dark--with faith as his lamp.'



Chapter XVI


They were finishing a leisurely breakfast.  It was the first time
the four of them had eaten a meal together for many weeks.

Peter's place at the square table faced the kitchen door; Hannah
sat opposite him; Andrew was on his right; and, across from Andrew,
Esther dropped down between her frequent excursions to the kitchen,
for she had insisted on doing all the serving.

At appropriate intervals she had brought in the stewed figs, cups
of milk for Hannah, Andrew, and herself, a tall mug of pomegranate
juice for Peter, boiled eggs and wheaten loaves for all.

Every time Esther had risen, the Big Fisherman's eyes had followed
her with such undisguised admiration that Hannah--ever alert to
matters of fresh interest--was amazed and amused.  She wondered if
Andrew had noticed, and covertly aimed an inquiring glance in his
direction, but the stolid bachelor did not look up from his plate
to share her curiosity.  She had never known anyone so exasperatingly
indifferent to significant events transpiring under his very nose.

Esther, apparently oblivious of Peter's unusual awareness of her,
was wearing a simple white linen house-dress that had belonged to
his wife; but his fascinated expression as he frankly studied the
uncontrived sinuosity of the girl's movements did not reflect a
poignant memory of his all-but-forgotten bereavement.  Indeed, the
dress, which had hung limp and shapeless on his frail and ailing
Abigail, had so generously responded to Esther's figure that Peter
marvelled at its unsuspected beauty.  The girl was superb!  She was
altogether lovely!  It was as if he were seeing her for the first
time!

He had never tried to get acquainted with her.  Their relationship
had got off to a bad start.  On the very first day she had
irritated him by coming on to his ship in the guise of 'Joe,' a
half-starved, dirty, ragged camel-boy, presently turning out to be
'Esther,' a mysterious young woman whose inconsistent accounts of
herself seemed to have been recklessly made up while you waited.

The Big Fisherman had not known what to think about her, and had
given it up.  He had had many other things to bother him in those
days.  He had thrown away Johnny's friendship; he had scornfully
investigated the Nazarene Carpenter, only to be made captive by the
strange man's unquestionable power.  His orderly, uneventful,
workaday world had been turned upside down.  Not much wonder that
he had had no time or mind for this Esther person.

If Hannah, alone all day and in dire need of companionship, wanted
to mother this unexplained alien, Peter had no serious objections,
but he had gone to no trouble to conceal his antipathy to the new
member of their household.  Whoever the girl was and wherever she
had come from and whatever she was up to seemed to be a secret.
Hannah appeared satisfied that the mysterious waif merited their
hospitality; and, after all, it was Hannah's home.  Perhaps the
girl was helping Hannah to recover from the loss of Abigail.
Moreover, Peter was obliged to admit that Esther was earning her
keep and that her presence in the household had never discommoded
him in any way.  But he rarely had anything to say to her beyond a
perfunctory grunt at breakfast, nor had she made the slightest
effort to improve their acquaintance.

This mutually cool attitude had been altered considerably at the
time of Hannah's grave illness and miraculous recovery.  Esther had
taken charge of the house; she had become a member of the family.
Also, it was evident that the Master had taken an interest in her.
If Esther had a secret, he undoubtedly knew what it was; and either
in spite of it or because of it, had invited her to be the sole
witness to Hannah's restoration.  Exactly what had happened on that
occasion had not been disclosed, but the event had wrought a change
in the girl.  Her new demeanour was difficult to define.  It was as
if she had been released from prison.

The Big Fisherman had been required to make a fresh appraisal of
their increasingly interesting guest, even to the extent of
bestowing on her a clumsy friendliness, though he was embarrassed
somewhat by her indifference to his amiable condescensions.

This morning, every time she sat down beside him, Peter had turned
toward her with a pleasant smile, for which she had given him no
receipt, either of surprise or gratification.  He had remarked, as
she removed the empty bowl in which his figs were served, that they
were very good, very good indeed, and she had replied casually that
Hannah had cooked them.  A few minutes later, he had said that the
eggs were boiled just the way he liked them, and Esther had nodded
to Hannah as if inviting her to take a bow.

Finishing his breakfast and carefully folding his napkin, he had
had the audacity to tell Esther her hair had grown so rapidly that
she could never pass herself off for a boy any more, an observation
accompanied by a reminiscent chuckle.  And to this impertinence he
added that the little fringe of curls on her forehead certainly did
her no harm.

She gave him the merest wisp of a smile, as to a small boy who was
talking too much, and turned to Hannah with the irrelevant
statement that, if she might be excused, she would go out into the
garden and gather a basket of tulips, after which she left the
table, Hannah following her as far as the kitchen.

Peter fretfully rubbed his chin and seemed out of sorts.

'What makes this girl think she's so superior to the rest of us?'
he testily inquired of his brother.

'Perhaps she is,' drawled Andrew.

'I'm afraid I treated her like a dog,' admitted Peter, somewhat to
the surprise of both of them, for the Big Fisherman was not adroit
in offering apologies.

Andrew did not immediately abandon his meditations to refute this
statement; and Peter, anticipating something more comforting than
his brother's silence, went on to say, 'But she needn't hold it
against me--for ever!'

'If you're expecting her to come wagging up to lick your hand,'
remarked Andrew, 'you'll have to give her a little more time.'

'I should like to patch it up with her before we leave,' mumbled
Peter, half to himself.  'We will be gone all summer.  She might be
gone when we return.  There's no telling what she may do next.  I
might never see her again.'

'Oh, you'll be seeing her every day, Simon.'  Andrew hadn't yet got
his brother's new name firmly fixed in his mind.  'Esther is coming
along.'

'What?' barked Peter.  'With us?  Impossible!  Who told you that?'

'Hannah.  Esther is to help look after the sick babies--and their
mothers.'

'But'--spluttered Peter--'we can't permit that!  This girl--well,
she isn't a girl any more, Andy.  She is a young woman.  A very
beautiful and desirable young woman--much too attractive to be
exposed to all manner of indignities!  There are some very rough
people in these big crowds!  If it's anything like last summer, we
shall encounter plenty of unpleasant incidents--without having
Esther on our hands!'  After smouldering for a moment, he inquired,
'Whoever put this foolish idea into her head?'

'The Master,' said Andrew.

'She asked him if she might go along?'

'No; it was his own idea.  He invited her.'

Peter drew a deep, baffled breath that puffed his bearded lips when
he let go of it.  He shook his head, uncomprehendingly.

'Our Master does some strange things, Andy.'

His brother nodded.

'We had all noticed that, Simon.  But--so far--everything he has
done--'

'I know!  I know!' broke in Peter, with an impatient toss of his
big hand.  'Everything he does is right! . . .  But--how is it
going to look for this lovely creature to be camped all summer with
a dozen men?'

Andrew gave a slow, sly grin and remarked dryly that it would
probably look better than if she were to be camped all summer with
any one of them, a comment which his brother instantly resented
with a scowl, a shrug, and an abrupt departure from the room.

The soft-spoken bachelor, who had intended no disrespect by his
drollery, stared after the retreating figure and chuckled a
little. . . .  'Ah--so that's what ails Simon,' he mused.  'Esther
has become important to him.  He is getting touchy on the subject.
Well, well--who would have thought it?'

Hannah bustled in from the kitchen now.  It had been very quiet out
there for some time.  She began clearing the table and making quite
an energetic task of it.

'I wonder if Simon isn't fond of Esther,' she said, busily brushing
crumbs.

'Why not?' rejoined Andrew casually.  'We all are.'

Hannah's lips firmed in a little pout.  Then, deciding on a more
promising strategy, she smiled, lowered her voice to a confidential
whisper, and said, coaxingly, 'Surely you know, Andy, that I
wouldn't say anything.'

Andrew soberly nodded his approval.

'That has always been my policy, too,' he said.  'It certainly
keeps one out of trouble, doesn't it?'

Hannah did not pursue the subject any further, though the kitchen
door plainly said 'Humph!' when she closed it behind her.

                         * * * * * *

For many generations it had been customary for the reigning Prince
of Arimathaea to observe the fast and attend the festivities of
Passover Week in the Holy City.

This annual event, originally commemorative of the Jews' release
from their intolerable bondage in Egypt, had gradually evolved from
a stark and solemn re-enactment of that miraculous deliverance and
had acquired many irrelevant but attractive characteristics.  It
was Homecoming Week for all Jews who were able to return to their
Holy City.  Hundreds of them came from great distances and from
foreign countries, bringing with them all manner of merchandise.
Long caravans, laden with exotic foods, spices, jewels, and costly
textiles, encamped in the surrounding hills.  Minstrels, magicians,
actors, acrobats, soothsayers, fortune-tellers, vendors of
confections and medicinal herbs swarmed the narrow streets.
Passover Night was still solemnly celebrated in the silence and
seclusion of dimly lit Jewish homes, but Passover Week was a
carnival for many more visitors than viewed it as an austere
ceremonial.

Young Prince Joseph of Arimathaea always looked forward with happy
expectancy to this pilgrimage.  It belonged to springtime.  The
country was beautiful.  Had there been no pleasures in prospect at
his destination, Joseph would have felt repaid by the delights of
the journey.  He travelled in a style befitting his wealth and
position, attended by a gay group of his young cronies and an
impressive retinue of servants.

Jerusalem, in Joseph's opinion, was an enchanted city.  Generations
of his forebears had been conspicuous in the making of its history,
as the inscriptions on their massive tombs in the 'Garden of
Sepulchres' eloquently testified.  The day would come when Joseph
himself would join them there.  His own tomb, elaborately planned,
was even now under construction and would be completed by the end
of the summer.  He was in no hurry to occupy it, for life was good,
but it was a comfort to know that whenever he needed it the
sepulchre would be ready to welcome him.

And he had many influential friends in Jerusalem who received him
cordially.  Even the gruff and short-tempered Procurator, Pontius
Pilate, served him cakes and wine when he paid respects at the
Roman Insula--and called him Joe.

And he always paid a duty call at the Galilean Embassy, though this
was less to his taste.  By custom, all inter-provincial affairs
involving the Principality of Arimathaea were adjudicated by the
Tetrarch.  Joseph was glad that the services of Antipas were but
rarely invoked; for he did not like him and did not trust him.
Another reason for not wanting to visit the Embassy: he invariably
encountered the brazen, jingling, over-painted Salome, whom he
detested. . . .  And once he had been obliged to spend an unhappy
hour with her mother whose reputation was in such appalling
disrepair that to be on friendly terms with her was to invite a
scandal.

Now he was on his way home from Jerusalem.  Tonight they would
break the trip, as usual, by camping at the road junction near the
village of Hammath.

Early the next morning, the Prince's encampment was roused by the
unexpected noise of traffic on the highways.  A great crowd was
converging on a meadow not more than five hundred yards away.
Inquiries revealed that the Nazarene Carpenter was to appear.

Much annoyed by the intrusion of this rabble, Joseph's companions
importuned him to break camp at once and defer their breakfast
until they had arrived at some quiet spot farther down the road;
but he saw no reason for scurrying away.

'Indeed, I should like to see him again myself,' declared the
Prince.  'He must be something more than a mountebank or the people
would not continue to follow him.'

Remembering with embarrassment the cool reception they had had at
the hands of the Carpenter's following a few months earlier,
Joseph's friends so strongly counselled him against risking another
rebuff that he lost his patience and announced his intention of
going into the crowd alone.  And with that he set off by himself,
on foot, to join the increasing multitude.

The throng had quieted as the Master mounted the little knoll where
a space had been cleared for him.  He began at once to speak in the
effortless, intimate, far-reaching tone that always commanded
complete silence and rapt attention.

Today, he said, he would talk with them about the eternal life.
Citizens of his Kingdom did not have to wait until death to
experience its happiness and its peace.  If ever we were to be
immortal, we were immortal now.  'We are God's children,' he went
on, 'and while it is not yet apparent what we may become, we can be
sure that when we see Him, and know Him as He is, we shall find
ourselves to be like Him. . . .  But--if we are indeed the children
of God we are His children today.  To know this is to be of the
Kingdom; for the Kingdom is now, it is here, it is yours! . . .
Ask--and it shall be given you!  Seek it--and you shall find it!
What parent among you, if your child asks bread, will you give him
a stone?  And if you--heedless and selfish as you are--give good
gifts to your children, how many more blessings shall our Father in
Heaven bestow upon all who ask Him! . . .'  This, then, was the
life eternal; beginning now, beginning here; for you, for all!

He stepped down from the mound.  Peter beckoned to the nearest cot-
bearers.  The day's miracles had begun.

Joseph gradually worked his way toward the front.  For the most
part, the people moved aside to let him through, perhaps because of
his expensive clothing, his jewels, and his princely bearing.  Now
he was within a few feet of the strange business that the Nazarene
was conducting.  No--this was not trickery!  It was conceivable
that the emaciated fellow who had just risen from his cot, with
tears of gratitude and incoherent little whimpers of amazement, had
connived with the Carpenter to stage this dramatic scene; but it
was absurd to suppose that the baby, in the arms of this
dishevelled young woman, had joined in a conspiracy to deceive the
public.

Joseph's heart pounded hard and his mouth was dry.  The hot bodies
of his neighbours pressed close against him as they swayed for
better vision, but he was heedless of these contacts, which he
would have found intolerable in any other circumstances.  Indeed,
far from resenting this intimacy with the common people, the Prince
felt something almost like comradeship with them.  The Carpenter
had said that they were all children of God, and for the moment
Joseph believed it.

The sweat was beading the Carpenter's pale forehead.  It was
evident that he was utterly spent.  The gigantic Galilean who stood
beside him had halted the approaching procession of suppliants with
the announcement that the Master must rest.  With this, the Master
and his small coterie filed out toward the highway.  Joseph
followed close behind them.

Reaching the road, the Carpenter turned about and--to Joseph's
surprise--waited for him to approach.  His fatigue was such that
his hands were trembling, but he greeted the Prince with a cordial
smile.

'Master,' said Joseph, in an unsteady voice, 'what shall _I_ do--to
have this eternal life?'

Peter frowned.  He had instantly recognized the Prince of
Arimathaea.  Ah, so?  The Prince would be wanting eternal life on
special terms; terms provided for Princes.

'You have been brought up to know the laws, my friend,' said Jesus
kindly.

'True, Master,' said Joseph, 'and I have kept the laws since
childhood, loving God with all my heart, mind, and strength.'

'Proceed, friend,' urged Jesus; not smiling now.  'There is another
law; to love your neighbours as you love yourself. . . .  You have
glimpsed the Kingdom today, and you would share it.  That will be
more difficult for you than for these poor.  It is not easy for the
rich to inherit the Kingdom.  Their lives are too crowded with
Things!'

Joseph bowed his head, reluctantly nodded agreement, and remained
silent.

'If you would be of my Kingdom, friend, unburden yourself of your
great possessions.  Dispose of them!  Distribute them among the
poor! . . .  And then come--and follow me!'

They all stood for a long moment waiting for the Prince to speak,
but he had nothing to say.  With his head still bowed, he walked
slowly up the road.  Jesus took a couple of steps, as if he might
follow him; but halted and watched the departing Prince with
wistful, regretful eyes.  No one in the little group needed to be
told that their Master was disappointed.

After a while, Jesus turned with a sigh and signed that they would
proceed now to Cana.  Peter walked beside him.  He was not
disappointed, but he was hurt.

'Master,' he said pensively, 'we have given up all to follow you.'

'Yes, Peter,' replied Jesus wearily.  'I know.  And you will be
rewarded.'

Old Bartholomew, trudging along behind with Andrew, muttered, 'Andy--
that's the first thing the Prince ever wanted that he couldn't
afford; a place in the Master's Kingdom!'

                         * * * * * *

Contrary to Peter's expectation, Esther had not joined their
company when they passed through Bethsaida on the way to Hammath.

He had doubted the wisdom of her accompanying them at all; but, now
that she had been invited to do so, he was anxious to see her; and,
as they approached the corner nearest Hannah's house--followed by
the crowd that had assembled again in the plaza at Capernaum--his
eyes searched the street.  He did not know that she had received
instructions not to proceed to Cana until the following day.

The next morning, after tenderly embracing Hannah, who had cried a
little at their parting, she started on her journey; but not alone,
for the procession that had filed through sleepy little Bethsaida
all day yesterday continued to trudge along toward the south.

Arriving in the spacious field, half a mile east of Cana, she made
no effort to attach herself to the Master's company, but was
content to be a mere member of the multitude that increased hourly,
and immediately gave her attention to the weary and hungry women
who had brought their sick, blind, and crippled children for
healing.

It was not an easy assignment.  Esther had often seen poverty in
distress, but never before at such close range; nor had she ever
felt in any way responsible for its alleviation.  It had been her
supposition that the poor and needy were sympathetic toward one
another; it seemed reasonable that this should be true.  Her
present experience quickly disillusioned her.  Whatever might be
the traditional indifference of the rich to the plight of the poor,
it was becoming apparent that the poor had but little respect for
their unfortunate neighbours.  The women she tried to befriend were
not disposed to co-operate.  They wanted food and shelter and they
wanted it now--and they wanted it ahead of the others.  It angered
them to be asked to await their turn.  Each footsore, dirty and
dishevelled mother thought her case deserved immediate attention.

At first the girl was indignant.  When she asked half a dozen of
them to accompany her into the town, where she told her story to
not very sympathetic housewives and begged a few loaves of bread
here and a coney-skin of goat's milk there and a little basket of
sun-cured figs somewhere else, the women were reluctant to go.  And
the women who were asked to look after the absentees' babies
thought they were being imposed on.  And when she returned with
provisions for them, most of them quarrelled over the distribution
of food.  It was quite discouraging.

With her patience exhausted, she silenced one bickering group by
saying, 'I'm not being paid for helping you, you know!  I'm not
doing this because I think it's fun. . . .  Stop quarrelling now--
and listen to what the Master is saying!'  They scowled, but turned
their faces toward the Carpenter--and made pretence of listening.

Sometimes the sensitive girl marvelled at the complacency of Jesus
as he pleaded for kindness and good will among men and the mutual
bearing of burdens and sharing of benefits, while the impatient
audience that had come to see the working of miracles trampled on
toes and jabbed elbows into ribs and jostled for better vantage.

It was late afternoon on the fourth day of their mission in Cana
when the Big Fisherman unexpectedly came to her rescue, and none
too soon, for Esther was thoroughly disheartened and ready to admit
that she had failed in her task.  Only the promise she had made to
the Master kept her from running away.

Peter had resolutely kept his distance from her, quite against his
inclinations, for she was constantly on his mind.  Indecisively he
had lingered, today, as the great throng dispersed and the Master
with the others of his company proceeded up the slope toward their
sequestered encampment under a clump of acacias.  For a while he
sauntered aimlessly among the cots bearing the sick who had arrived
late and would presently be carried away to shelters for the night.
He paused beside them to speak words of encouragement.  Doubtless
the Master would take care of them tomorrow, he said.  They must
try to be patient.

His heart speeded a little as he neared the cluster of tents that
had been provided for mothers and their sick babies.  Apparently
they had had their supper, for none of them was in sight, and
Esther, having attended to their wants, was seated on a camp stool
apart from them, in a posture of fatigue and dejection.

She raised her head as he approached and rose to welcome him with a
pensive smile that unsteadied his voice when he inquired, kindly,
how things were going with her.

'Are these people wearing you out?' he asked.

She shook her head, as though to say that there were no words to
describe her dilemma; and asked, 'Have you time for a little talk
with me, Simon?'

Never before had she addressed him by name, and the implied
overture of friendship stirred him deeply.  It pleased him, too,
that she called him Simon.  His new name had aged him somewhat,
making him more sedate and discreet, setting him apart from his
fellows.  At the moment he felt more comfortable as Simon,
temporarily freed from the rigorous responsibilities incumbent upon
a Rock.

'Why not?' he had replied quickly.  'Or--I can take you to the
Master if you are troubled.'

'The Master has enough to bear,' she sighed.  'Let me tell you
about it, Simon.  Perhaps you can help me.'

'Come then,' he said, softly.  'Let us go to some place where we
may talk privately.'

They took the winding path up the slope toward Jesus' encampment,
Esther leading the way, for the old, deep-worn foot-path was
narrow.  Simon, following with long, slow strides, was fascinated
by the effortless ease and grace of the girl's supple figure.  No
conversation was attempted until they reached the flat, level
limestone boulder that jutted from the hillside, overlooking the
teeming valley where every road and lane was filled with plodding
pilgrims returning to their bivouacs in the hills.

Now that he was seated beside this beautiful girl, who had
unwittingly preoccupied his thoughts and disturbed his sleep, the
Big Fisherman was not sure how--or whether--to break the silence.
Esther promptly relieved him of this responsibility.

Turning toward him, she declared impetuously, 'The trouble is,
Simon, it all seems so hopeless, so pitiably hopeless!  They are so
rude, so mean to one another.'

'They are indeed,' agreed Simon, 'but I suppose some allowance must
be made for them.  A woman who has borne the grief of a blind or
crippled child--and now has a chance to see him made well--is
desperate.  She will lie, steal, and fight to be the first in line--
for his food--and his healing.  Their conduct is deplorable, but
it is understandable.'

'You have great patience, Simon,' murmured Esther.

'No, my dear,' he confessed.  'If I seem to have patience, it is
because of the Master's compassion on them.  I'm learning--from him--
to hold my tongue and keep my temper.  It isn't easy.'

'Perhaps I too might learn to be more sympathetic if there was
anything--anything good, anything at all--to come of it!'

'He heals their sick, Esther.  Surely that is something!'

'I know,' she conceded wearily.  'He opens their babies' poor
little blind eyes so that they can see; and what do they see but
unfriendliness and greed!'  The pent-up flood of her indignation
was loosed now, and her passionate words came tumbling recklessly
over one another, while Simon, amazed at the outburst, watched the
big tears gather and slowly trickle down her flushed cheeks.  He
tried to interject a gentle protest, but she went on, her husky
voice breaking with emotion.

'There he stands,' she cried, 'day after day, entreating them to be
kind and to love one another, and live at peace with one another--'

'I think some of them try to do that,' said Simon.

'A few, perhaps; but not enough,' persisted Esther.  'My heart
bleeds for him, Simon!  He is going to be so dreadfully
disappointed!  If he were just an ordinary man, deluded into
thinking that he could save the whole world by teaching people to
be merciful and generous, no attention need be paid to his
dreaming; but--Jesus has the power of a God in his hands.  He has
proved it--over and over!  I truly believe that he could save the
world--or end it, if he chose; but not this way!'

'How then?' asked Simon, soberly.

'I heard John the Baptizer tell of a Great One who would come and
wreck the world--and begin all over again--with better people in
control.  He would march across lands and seas, upsetting old
temples and thrones, humbling the rich, freeing the poor, levelling
the road for all the people.  Perhaps there's some hope for a plan
like that!  Jesus has the power to do it--if he wished. . . .
But--how does he expect to save the world by pleading with these
barefooted, half-starved country-people of Galilee! . . .  Tell me,
Simon!  You have great faith.  They are calling you "Petros" now.
Do you honestly believe that there is any hope for Jesus' Kingdom
of Love?'  Her long, wet lashes opened wide as she faced him with
an expression of childlike confidence.  'I will try to believe--if
you say you do!'

It had turned out to be one of the critical moments in the Big
Fisherman's experience.  He felt himself gaining stature and
dignity as he gazed into the girl's questing eyes.  Whatever had
been his foolish thoughts of her, his infatuation, his desire,
Esther had become as a trusting daughter now.

He laid his big hand over her small one, and said tenderly, 'I
believe, dear child, that Jesus is the Saviour of the world!'

After a little pause he went on, measuring his words.

'As for these poor--not many mighty will be called into the
Master's service.  He is not appealing to the mighty, for it is
they who have made the world what it is.  He does not expect to
change the world into a garden today, but he is sowing the seed.
We must be patient--and have faith in him.'

Esther rose--and smiled into his eyes.

'Very well, Petros,' she said softly, 'I will be patient--and I
will have faith! . . .  Shall we go now?'

They retraced their steps in silence.  At her tent-door, she
whispered, 'You have done much for me, tonight, Petros.'

'And you have strengthened me, my child,' said Peter.

The next afternoon, as if to confirm what Peter had said about the
Master's faith in the common people--and their value to him--he
told a story of a king who had planned a wedding-feast for his son,
the prince; and had invited all the great ones of his own and
neighbouring states to be his guests.  The nobility offered flimsy
excuses.  So--the king sent his servants out into the highways and
hedges to find guests for the banquet.

After the crowd had dispersed for the day, Peter paused at Esther's
tent for a friendly word.

'Did you tell the Master about our conversation last night?' she
asked.

Peter shook his head and smiled.

'I think you have in mind his parable about the king's banquet--and
the guests from the highways and hedges. . . .  No; I had not told
him about our talk.  I didn't need to.  He knew of it without being
told.'

'Do you mean to say that Jesus knows--without hearing--what we say
and think?' asked Esther mystifiedly.

'I'm afraid so,' said Peter.  'There's abundant proof of it.'  He
gave a slow grin, and added, 'I always know when he disapproves of
my thoughts.  He does not chide me, but he calls me Simon.'

Esther laughed a little and said she had never heard of anything so
strange.

'And who are you today?' she asked.  'Simon or Peter?'

'I'm Peter--today,' he said, smiling.

                         * * * * * *

It was the beginning of a comradeship which was to mean a great
deal to both of them.  The Big Fisherman's attitude toward the
trusting girl was strictly paternal and protective, though at times
uncomfortably possessive.  He could be as jealous as a lover.

One afternoon--it was the day before they left Cana on their
eastern journey--Philip surprised Esther by asking her to call on
his aged mother.  The lonely old lady was confined to her room, he
said, and had few visitors.

'The trouble is,' he explained, 'my mother never learned to speak
Aramaic with any confidence; and because she cannot talk with the
neighbours, they do not come to see her.  I think the sight of you
would do her good, even if you find conversation difficult.'

'What language does she speak, Philip?' Esther had inquired as they
neared the cottage.

'We are Macedonians,' he replied.

It appeared that Philip had promised his mother that he would try
to bring Esther to see her, for her widowed daughter who opened the
door for them seemed to be expecting their call.  The aged woman,
obviously made ready for company, was sitting up in bed.  Esther
took the proffered chair beside her, patted the thin hand, and was
rewarded with welcoming smiles and vigorous noddings of the old
grey head.

'I . . . do . . . not . . . speak . . . your . . . tongue,'
laboured the frail voice.

'Then we will talk in your tongue, Mother,' said Esther, in fluent
Greek.  'I'm never sure of myself in Aramaic either.'

Philip's mother took both of Esther's hands in hers, and cried,
'Bless you, my child!  Bless you!'

His sister laughed happily and drew her chair closer.  Philip,
dumbfounded, sat down on the other side of the bed and stared as
Esther and his ecstatic mother chatted companionably.

At the first pause in their conversation, he broke in to ask, 'Why
haven't you told me that you know Greek?'

'You never asked me,' said Esther, which made them all laugh.

'But you're not a Greek,' said Philip, suddenly serious.  'How did
you learn to speak it so well?'

'It's a long story, Philip,' she replied.  'Much too long to tell;
and, besides, we must be going now.'

'Tell me this, Esther,' he said soberly.  'Do you and the Master
speak to each other in Greek?  He seems to know the language.'

At that, she rose, and again affectionately patted the wrinkled
hand.  Noting that Philip felt somewhat rebuffed, she murmured, as
for him alone, 'Our Master knows everything, Philip.  Everything
about everything!'

On their way back to the field, where hundreds of people, aware
that the meetings were ended, were preparing to return to their
homes, Philip was still questioning her, without results, about her
origin.  Preoccupied with their conversation as they moved through
the throng, neither took notice that Peter was immediately behind
them.  Philip was finishing a remark as they turned to greet him.
The Big Fisherman was frowning darkly.

'Esther speaks Greek!' explained Philip, in a tone that invited
Peter to be pleasantly surprised; but it didn't have that effect on
him.  He was annoyed and went to no pains to conceal it.

'Humph!' he grunted.  'Now you should really enjoy yourself,
Philip.  Our own language is good enough for me!'

There wasn't much to be said in reply to that.  Momentarily stunned
by the Big Fisherman's unexpected rudeness, and looking as if they
had been slapped for no reason at all, Philip and Esther, having
exchanged a bewildered glance, turned to go.

Peter, angrily gnawing at his underlip, followed them for a little
way, saw them separate at Esther's little tent, and slowly trudged
up the hill.  At the limestone rock he halted, sat down, ran his
fingers through his shaggy hair and cursed himself bitterly.

Early the next morning they broke camp and took to the road, with
Peter far in advance of the others.  John said to James, 'D'you
suppose someone has hurt his feelings?'  To which his brother
replied, 'More likely he has hurt somebody else.'

'Let's catch up with him,' suggested John, 'and give him a chance
to air his trouble.'

'You may--if you like,' said James.  He turned about and called to
Philip, who was strolling along behind them.  'Phil--do you want to
move on ahead with Johnny and see what ails Peter?'

'Not me,' growled Philip.  'I don't want to know.'

'Let him alone,' advised Andrew.  'He'll get over it, whatever it
is.  If he needed any help, the Master would have joined him.'

Instinctively they turned to face the rear.  Far behind them they
saw Jesus walking between Esther and old Bartholomew, with young
Thaddeus, somewhat in advance of them, pushing a high-wheeled cart
containing Esther's tents and tackle.

'Where did she dig up those tents?' inquired Philip.

'Simon bought them,' said Andrew, 'with some of the money old
Manasseh paid him for The Rachael.  He gave most of it to Hannah.'
It was a long speech for Andrew and they listened attentively.  'My
brother has his odd moments,' he added, 'but he is not mean.'

'Come on, Johnny,' said Philip impulsively.  'Let us overtake him.'

'I'll go with you,' said James.

They lengthened their steps and moved forward.

'They're good boys,' said Andrew.

'Do you know how much he got for The Rachael?' asked Judas.

'Yes,' said Andrew crisply.

They walked along in silence for some time.

'I suppose old Manasseh got it for a song,' said Judas.

'He used to be the cantor at the Synagogue when he was a young
man,' reflected Andrew.  'Excellent voice, too.'

                         * * * * * *

By the time the party reached Nain, where they were to tarry for a
day, hundreds of people were following.  That evening a large crowd
assembled on the village green intent upon hearing Jesus speak.  As
he rose to address them, a lean middle-aged fellow raised his arm
for recognition and shouted, in a rasping tone:

'Good Master, I heard you speak a parable in Cana about the king's
banquet where the rich despised their invitations and the poor were
brought in.'  His harsh voice had risen until it had gripped and
silenced the restless crowd.  'I believe you, sir!' he went on.
'It is high time the poor, who outnumber the greedy rich, should
sit at the banquet-table!  I would that you repeat the story for
these slaves in Nain who are toiling their lives away, working for
beggarly wages, to keep old Simeon Ben-Edom in luxury.'

There was a dissenting murmur in the crowd as the revolutionary
diatribe came to an end.  It was evident that the people of Nain
considered the impudent fellow as a trouble-maker.  They grew quiet
now, wondering what Jesus would say.  Peter had stepped forward,
glowering at the self-appointed orator.  The Master laid a gently
detaining hand on the huge, flexed forearm; and in a friendly tone
obliged his inquisitor by retelling the parable of the king's
banquet, and how the poor were brought in from the highways and
hedges to attend the party.

But the parable had taken on a new chapter since it had been told
in Cana, Jesus continued.

The king, he said, was quite willing to welcome the ragamuffins
into his beautiful banquet-hall, but he wanted them to look and
feel and be as respectable as possible.  So he ordered his servants
to offer each guest a clean and suitable garment to wear at the
dinner.

But one sulky fellow, wanting to show his contempt for the king--
and the palace--and the feast, refused to accept the robe they gave
him to cover his dirty tatters.  'They asked me to come here just
as I was,' he growled, 'and now they can take me, just as I am--or
throw me out. . . .'  So they threw him out.

The crowd was delighted.  They laughed and cheered.  When the
meeting was over, Peter--who hadn't spoken to Esther since
yesterday--turned to her with a broad smile, and said, '"The meek
shall inherit the earth"--but they'd better be meek!'

                         * * * * * *

The news that Jesus was coming to Jericho had raced on ahead of him
and a great audience was awaiting his arrival.  It was the largest
assembly he had encountered.  Within a fortnight more than fifteen
thousand people--from all over Samaria and Judaea and the
contingent following from Galilee--had converted the open country
north of ancient Jericho into a city.  Those were memorable days
for the Master's companions.  Sometimes, when the day's trying work
was done, Peter had sought Esther for comfort and companionship.
They had become very close friends.  One evening he had asked her,
as they sat side by side on the grass at her tent-door, whether
Greek was a difficult language to learn.

'You shouldn't find it hard,' she had replied.  'Want me to teach
you a few words, Petros?'

He had smiled and nodded.

She patted the ground with the palm of her slim hand.

'Ge,' she said.  'The earth . . .  Say it, Peter.  Ge.'

He repeated the word after her.

She patted her head.  'Kephale. . . .'  She laid her hand upon her
heart.  'Kardia.'  She touched her girdle.  'Zone.'  She pointed
aloft at a brilliant star.  'Astron. . . .  Now what is the word
for head?' she asked, after the manner of a pedagogue.  Peter
couldn't remember--but he did recall the Greek word for heart,
and seemed happy over his progress.  He was learning Greek--and
fast. . . .  An inquisitive little lizard scampered across his worn
sandal.  He pointed to it.

'Sauros,' said Esther.

'What is the word for God?' he asked.

'Which one?' inquired Esther innocently.

'The only one,' he said severely.

'Theos,' she replied, after a little pause.

And that was the way they had spent most of their evenings during
the strenuous weeks in the region round about Jericho.  Peter, who
had never known a word of any language save his own--and was far
from being a master of that one--was infatuated with new interest
and proud of his progress.  Esther gave him every encouragement.
It was not long before the Big Fisherman was piecing his Greek
words into sentences.  He had been jealous of Philip.  Now he was
cultivating the Macedonian and vaingloriously talking to him in his
own language; though sometimes Philip laughed a little and offered
an amendment.

The summer was advancing.  There was an occasional whiff of autumn
in the early morning breeze.  Then came the day of Jesus' triumphal
entry into the city of Jericho, the welcoming crowds that lined the
streets, the memorable luncheon at the mansion where Zacchaeus
lived in lonely splendour, despised and feared by his fellow-
townsmen.  And, as an outcome of that interview, the rascally
Zacchaeus had publicly announced his intention of restoring, four-
fold, the unjust taxes he had filched from the people.

That night, at their encampment in the hills, Jesus told them the
summer's work was ended.  Tomorrow, he said, they would start back
to Capernaum.  The twelve were glad, but somewhat surprised; for it
might be a whole month before the rains came on.  The Master seemed
suddenly anxious to return to Capernaum.  They did not ask him why:
they knew better than to question him any more.



Chapter XVII


The longest week that Voldi had ever spent elapsed before Felix
called at the prison.  It seemed doubtful that their friendship
would survive.

It was after supper when he came.  Twilight was settling.  The dim
oil-lamp had been lighted.  Voldi was sitting apathetically on his
bunk when he heard an argument in the corridor.

'The Prefect isn't going to like this, you know,' the fat jailor
was whimpering.

'Did you have orders that no one was to see the Arabian?' came the
irritated voice of Felix.

'N-not exactly, sir; no,' admitted the jailor.  'But if your father
learns of it, he'll punish me.'

'Then you'd better not tell him.  Open that door now and run along.
I may be here for a couple of hours.'

There was another whine of protest from the jailor, followed by the
screech of the key in the rusty old lock, and Felix entered.  Voldi
came to his feet and they embraced each other in silence.

'I can't quite make you out,' said Felix soberly, when they were
seated.

'It must have been something very urgent indeed that would justify
your excursion into forbidden territory.  Obviously the Tetrarch
was not the object of it, for you knew he had gone to Jerusalem.'

'You deserve to know, Felix,' said Voldi, 'and I'm ready to tell
you.  My girl is up there, waiting to hear from me.  I had to go,
regardless of consequences.  I didn't succeed, but it was worth
trying.'

'Your girl, eh?'  Felix brightened with interest.  'It was a
foolhardy thing to do, though.  She must be something very special.
I never met a girl I would risk going to jail for. . . .  So--now--
when it's too late for anything to be done about it, you're going
to tell me. . . .  Very well: I'm listening.'

It took Voldi an hour to confide the story.  At first he tried to
explain--with many wide-open gaps in the tale--how and why Fara,
the incomparable Jewish-Arabian, had got herself away up into
Galilee.  But when he saw that Felix was darkly frowning his
dissatisfaction, Voldi went back to the beginning of his narrative
and told it all, every detail of it: Fara's shockingly rash vow of
vengeance; her daring journey alone and in the flimsiest of
disguises; the failure of her utterly impracticable mission; her
refusal to return to Arabia.  And when he had made an end of it, he
searched the shrewd Roman eyes in an entreaty for his friend's
sympathetic understanding.

Felix exhaled a deep breath, and said, as from a distance, 'I
wouldn't believe a word of it, Voldi, except that it's much too
fantastic ever to have been made up!  Nobody could invent a tale
like that!  The daughter of Antipas!  Vowed to assassinate the
Tetrarch of Galilee!  Single-handed!  Sixteen-year-old girl!  Still
plans on doing it! . . .  Well--she's either crazy as a hoot-owl--
or the bravest creature alive!'

'You wouldn't think she was crazy if you met her,' said Voldi.  'As
for her bravery, she doesn't value her life very highly.  Fara is a
woman without a country, you know.  She cares little whether she
lives or dies.  The trouble is: she undoubtedly knows now that she
cannot possibly succeed in her undertaking--and she has voluntarily
cut herself off from Arabia. . . .  I know she loves me, Felix, and
I would gladly die for her. . . .  Is it any wonder that I took a
chance?'

Felix sat for some time with his elbows on his knees, digging his
fingers into his close-cropped, curly hair; then he slowly raised
his head to inquire:

'Well--what's to be done, if anything?'

'It's easily to be seen that there's nothing I can do,' said Voldi
dejectedly.  'If I could only get a letter to her, explaining why I
cannot come; but a letter from me would certainly be intercepted
and lead to an investigation of Fara's business in Galilee.'

'I have it!' declared Felix impulsively.  'You write the letter.
I'll take it to her.'

There was a quiet moment before Voldi replied.  It was not natural
for either the Arabian or the Roman to show any emotion.  Laying a
hand on Felix's knee, Voldi murmured, 'You are indeed a loyal
friend, Felix!  I hope this doesn't get you into trouble.'

'It's time I had some trouble.  A bit of adventure will be good for
me. . . .  And this girl is well worth the risk.'

'What will the Prefect think of you?'

'He will be annoyed, I dare say; but I feel sure that if he were in
my place he would do exactly what I intend to do. . . .  The
Prefect,' added Felix proudly, 'is a very sound fellow!'

For the next half-hour they seriously discussed the ways and means.
Felix wondered if some embarrassing curiosity might be stirred in
little Bethsaida by the arrival of a stranger, easily identifiable
as a Roman, to pay a visit to a young woman whose presence there
had never been fully explained.  It was finally decided that Felix
should take the letter directly to the canny old Sadducee, David of
the House of Zadok.  Voldi confidently believed that David could be
trusted to deliver the message to Fara.

                         * * * * * *

A week later, Felix returned from his journey.  Voldi searched his
friend's face anxiously as he entered the cell, and was relieved to
note that he bore no evidence of trouble.

Felix had taken the letter to David's house, as they had planned.
He had been much impressed by the old man's sagacity, and wanted to
talk about him and the hospitality he had shown.

'But--what about Fara?' Voldi begged to know.

'She wasn't there,' said Felix.  'Fara is on a tour of the country
with this wonder-working Carpenter and his companions.'

'But--that's impossible!' protested Voldi.  'She had been much
impressed by this young prophet; but I cannot imagine her following
him about.  Fara is not a religious person at all!'

'Perhaps not,' conceded Felix, 'but she is infatuated with the
Carpenter.  When you were there, this woman, Hannah, with whom she
lodged, was very ill.  Some days later, when her life was despaired
of, the Carpenter came and healed her.  Fara believed it was a
miracle; no less.  She confided the whole story to old David; told
him the Carpenter had healed her, also.'

'Healed Fara?  And what was her trouble?'

'A bit of a riddle turns up at this point,' said Felix.  'She told
David that the Carpenter had healed her mind, lifted some
intolerable burden.  The good old fellow wouldn't say what the
burden was.  Perhaps he didn't know.  More likely he knew--but
wouldn't tell. . . .  My own guess is that the Carpenter talked her
out of her vow.'

'That's probably it,' thought Voldi.  'I hope so!'

'She left a verbal message for you, with David, in case you came
while she was absent.  Fara is very anxious for you to return to
Arabia.  She intends to stay in Galilee and assist this Jesus, the
Carpenter.'

'Assist him?  How?'

'David says she is helping to take care of the sick children who
are brought to the Carpenter for healing.  He thinks she is paying
a debt of gratitude for the miracle he performed on herself.'

After a long interval, Voldi said, 'That ends it, I suppose.  She
will give her life to this Jesus.  Well, it might be worse.  She
never could have done--the other thing.'

'Oh, it might have been possible,' reflected Felix.  'Fara could
have found employment in the Tetrarch's household easily enough;
could have become a trusted servant; could have killed him.  It
would have been suicidal, of course; but--she could have done it.'

'It's a disgrace to Arabia that this fellow is allowed to live!'
muttered Voldi.

'I agree with you,' nodded Felix.

'Perhaps you think it's my job now,' wondered Voldi.

Felix made no reply to that.  Rising, he said he would return
tomorrow.

'You do think that, don't you?' insisted Voldi, clutching at his
friend's sleeve.

Felix gave an enigmatic grin and dismissed the query with a shake
of his head--which Voldi could interpret any way he liked.

'By the way,' he said, at the door.  'Darik is in fine condition.
He is being exercised every day.  When you get out of here, he'll
take you--anywhere!'

                         * * * * * *

As Herodias had predicted, the dinner-party was proving to be as
dull as it was lavish and expensive.  The Romans, beginning too
early with the birthday celebration by drinking recklessly since
mid-afternoon, were apathetic as they clumsily slumped down on to
their couches round the banquet tables.  The magician from Caesarea
was half drunk and impudently vulgar.  The acrobats worked
furiously for their feeble applause.  As for the harpists, they had
not yet appeared.  Upon their arrival, at noon, Salome had taken
them in hand, after promising her stepfather that she--and the
musicians--would have an interesting surprise for him.

There was a deplorable lull in the programme as they waited for the
entertainment to proceed.  Senator Cotta yawned prodigiously and
inquired, 'What's next, Your Highness?'  Tiro suggested, 'Why
doesn't somebody make a speech?'  Mark Varus drawled, 'How about
that prophet you've had penned up, Antipas?'

'That's not a bad idea,' approved Fadilla.  'Bring him in!  Let him
talk!'

Antipas briefly demurred.  He had been drinking more than was his
custom, and was ready to agree with almost any proposal, but this
suggestion, he felt, needed to be deliberated.  Turning toward
Fadilla, who sat some little distance away, he said, 'There is an
ancient legend among our people, Tullius, about a prisoner--one
Samson--who was brought up from his dungeon to amuse a party of his
captors; and he pulled the house down over their heads.'

'The Tetrarch is superstitious,' remarked Aurelia Varus.

Antipas frowned, beckoned to a uniformed guard who stood behind
him, and muttered an order.  Then, raising his voice as the guard
left the room, he announced, 'We have a prisoner in our jail, a
demented fellow who thinks he is a prophet.  We are having him
brought in to make a few remarks.  We have no notion what he is
likely to say; but let us listen to him with a show of respect--or
he may be unwilling to talk, at all.'

The room grew suddenly quiet as the gaunt, unkempt prisoner was led
in, blinking against the blinding light of the huge stone lamps
that lined the walls.  Two tall guards brought him to a stand
before the Tetrarch's table.

'Prophet John,' said Antipas, 'a desire has been expressed to hear
you speak.  You may choose your own subject.  It may interest you
to know that this is our birthday.  Should you wish to take that
event as your text, we will be gratified.  Perhaps, if we like your
speech, we may set you free.'

There was a tense hush as they waited for the shaggy hermit to
begin.  When he spoke, his deep voice betrayed no agitation or
embarrassment, nor was there any evidence that he resented his role
as an object of ridicule.

'Sire,' he began, 'on Your Majesty's birthday it is fitting to
review Your Majesty's years and deeds.  Doubtless this might be
accomplished by any of the great and gifted ones in this presence
more eloquently than by a humble captive; but perhaps no more
truthfully.

'Not often, sire, in the history of this unhappy world, has it been
given into the hand of one man to bring about the peace of two
great nations, long at enmity.  This task was entrusted to Your
Majesty; the healing of the hatred between Ishmael and Israel.'

The Tetrarch frowned darkly and drummed on the table with his
finger-tips.  Hispo whispered to Paula Fronto, 'The man is crazy!'

'It is not for Your Majesty's prisoner,' continued John, 'to
conjecture why our God, in His wisdom, should have called to this
important task a man so vain and selfish as Your Majesty; but His
ways are mysterious and past finding out.  Who shall say when again--
if ever--it may be one man's privilege and duty to heal the breach
between the Arab and the Jew!'

'That will do, mad dog!' spluttered Antipas, lurching to his feet.
'Get you back to your kennel!'

Seizing him, the guards pushed the prisoner roughly toward the
door.  Throughout the room indignant murmurs rose, implying an
attempt to reassure the Tetrarch that no attention need be paid to
the hermit's ravings; but the damage had been done, and almost
everyone present--certainly the older ones--knew that the truth had
been spoken.  Antipas unwittingly sought David's eyes to learn
their view of the awkward situation, but the old Sadducee soberly
stroked his beard and did not look up.

It was Salome who, quite unaware of what had been going on in the
banquet-hall, now came to the temporary rescue of the stunned and
embarrassed Tetrarch.  Trailed by the score of well-rehearsed
harpists, she sailed gracefully into the room, made a deep curtsey
to her stepfather, and, snapping her castanets, pirouetted into a
reckless gambado.  She was light as a feather and almost completely
unencumbered by clothing of any sort.  Except for a braided chaplet
of rubies, an elaborate design of pearl necklaces, and a fringe of
sapphire-strands across her loins, Salome was nude.

Antipas, suddenly tugged out of his helpless anger by the girl's
beauty and grace, was beside himself with admiration and delight;
and when she had finished, with a flashing smile for him alone, he
shouted that she might ask what she would--and it should be hers!
There was much applause.  Salome had saved the day for the
Tetrarch, and they were all glad for him.

Herodias had slipped out into the corridor and was awaiting her
daughter when she emerged from the banquet-hall, beaming over her
plaudits.

'You heard what he said?' queried Salome, still breathing rapidly
from her exertions.  'What shall I ask?  A coronet of emeralds?'
She had a better thought.  'I know, I shall ask him for a beautiful
pleasure barge on the lake!'

Herodias scowled.

'No!' she muttered.  'I'll tell you what to ask.'  Drawing the girl
close she whispered into her ear.  Salome drew back, aghast.

'But--you're mad!' she breathed.  'What pleasure could I have in
the death of that poor fool?'

'This time, my daughter,' stormed Herodias, 'it's not going to be
what you want--but what I want!  You've been given enough.  And
what you haven't been given, you have stolen.  Do now as I command
you--or I shall punish you!  I mean that!  You say I am mad: well,
perhaps I am.  But that will not make your punishment lighter. . . .
Go! . . .  Now!'

She was hardly to be recognized as the same girl when she walked
slowly into the room, with uncertain steps and downcast eyes.  She
stood before the Tetrarch crestfallen.  The place became suddenly
quiet.

'Sire,' began Salome huskily, 'I desire, as my gift, the silver
serving-platter that the Empress Julia presented to you.'

'But--of course!' replied Antipas, relieved but bewildered.  'You
might have asked more, my child.'

'Sire--I do ask more.'  Salome's voice sank almost to a whisper.
'I want the head of this John, the prisoner, served to me--on the
silver platter.'

All breathing was suspended.  Pale and horrified, Antipas leaned
far back against his cushions, his face contorted.

'But--we--we can't do that!'

'You promised!' declared Salome with sober finality.

Like a tortured animal at bay, Antipas searched the faces about
him, piteously seeking a way out of his dilemma, but finding no
sympathy in the amused eyes of the cynical Romans.  After a long
moment of indecision, he beckoned to the Captain of the Guards and
mumbled the revolting order.

Jairus scribbled a hasty note to be passed along to his host.
Adiel, it said, had been taken suddenly ill--and might they be
pardoned for leaving?  Without waiting for consent, they made a
hurried exit.

Then there ensued a long, painful interval, the silence broken only
by brief and brittle bits of laboured conversation.  Herodias had
returned to her place between Manilius and Fadilla.  Salome was not
in sight.  At length the doors opened.  All eyes turned in that
direction.  The gruesome gift was carried in and deposited in front
of the Tetrarch, who recoiled at the sight.

Young Flavia Tiro collapsed into the arms of Senator Cotta and was
violently sick.  The Senator was wearing a scarlet tunic with a
black spread-eagle embroidered on his left breast.  He pushed the
sick girl off him and left the room, savagely damning Mark Varus,
who had chuckled.

Small groups of guests began to file out, reassembling presently on
the couches beside the pool.  Now the banquet-hall was empty except
for the Tetrarch and the Sadducee, who was rising to leave.
Antipas called to him.

'Master David,' he croaked unsteadily, 'you are a lawyer.  Is it
ever permissible for the Tetrarch to put a man to death?'

'I believe not, Your Highness,' said David.  'I bid you Goodnight.'

                         * * * * * *

Without an hour's delay the shocking story fanned out across the
country with incredible swiftness.  The palace courtyard had been
packed with servants and soldiers; Jairus' litter-bearers, David's
attendants, and a score of legionaries who had escorted Julian.
There were also the small party of armed guards who had accompanied
the magician from Caesarea, the family of acrobats from Damascus,
and the company of harpists from Jericho.  It was a ghastly tale,
and they all made the most of it.  A southbound caravan, which had
camped for the night near Capernaum, made off with the news at
dawn.  Within a week the sordid scandal had gone north through
Perea, had crossed the Jordan in half a dozen fording places, and
was common talk down deep in Judaea.  It had even penetrated the
thick walls of the old prison in Caesarea, conveyed by Felix.

Thousands who had listened apprehensively to the foolhardy hermit's
reckless predictions of an oncoming doom that would blast a wicked
world, toppling greedy temples and gaudy thrones--but had all but
forgotten them, and him--were stirred to sullen anger by the
monstrous crime.

Doubtless the shaggy preacher, who lived in a desert cave and ate
roasted locusts, had been misled: the catastrophe he had so boldly
threatened hadn't come off.  But by what right had this pompous
ruler of Galilee murdered his defenceless prisoner for no better
reason than to entertain a handful of pampered Romans?  Nobody knew
what should or could be done about it.  Pilate, with plenty of
troubles on his hands, had merely shrugged and muttered, 'It's no
affair of mine.  Let the Galileans attend to him.'

And so they did, not with violence, which the Tetrarch could easily
have overcome, but with a concerted campaign of inarticulate
contempt for which he had no defensive weapons.  A farmer could not
be punished for having his back turned toward the highway when the
Tetrarch rode by on his black stallion, nor could a whole village
be tried because every door was shut and not a soul in sight when
their ruler took his daily exercise.

Early the next morning after the disgraceful birthday banquet, when
the vine-dressers and carpenters arrived for their day's work in
the new vineyard, they learned what had happened; and, refusing to
take up their tools, ominously gathered about the prison where the
prophet's body lay.

The Tetrarch made no move to quell this incipient rebellion.
Instead, he voluntarily ordered the guards to be withdrawn and sent
word that if any of the dead man's friends wished to claim his body
they might do so without hindrance.  This unexpected concession was
obviously intended as a peace overture; but the outraged Galileans--
by no means the fools Antipas thought them to be--interpreted this
lenience as a sign that the great man was frightened, if not
remorseful.

Jesus, who had just returned to the Capernaum cottage after ten
laborious and exciting weeks of speaking to vast multitudes in
Cana, Ephraim, Bethel, Jericho, and the region round about, was
informed of the tragedy late in the night.  Andrew had wakened him
with the bad news.  At sunrise, Peter, hurrying in from Bethsaida,
drew up a chair beside Jesus' cot and repeated the story.

'They are burying him this afternoon, Master, in the cemetery at
Bethsaida.  The people are aroused.  A great crowd will assemble
there.  John thinks it would be well for you to speak some words of
comfort at the graveside.'

After a moment's deliberation, Jesus slowly shook his head.  That
indignant throng in the Bethsaida burial-ground would be in no mood
for comforting words.  Anything he might say to these angry people
would surely be misconstrued.  If he deplored the Tetrarch's crime--
and how was the subject to be avoided?--it would amount to a
sanction of public rebellion against their government, in direct
contradiction to his earnest pleas for peaceful submission.  Nor
was it an occasion when the multitude would listen, with any
patience at all, to calm advice about loving your enemies and
praying for them who despitefully use you and persecute you.  John
had indeed paid a high price for his courage in fearlessly speaking
the truth--but--

'But--Master!' broke in Peter impulsively.  'You have told us that
the truth will set men free!'

'Yes,' said Jesus softly, 'and John is free. . . .  Come--let us
cross the lake to some quiet place--apart from these resentful
people.  Tell the others to meet us at the shore.  I have much to
say to you.'

Though it was still early in the morning, a great throng, noisily
rebellious, had assembled in the Synagogue plaza.  At the sight of
Jesus a shout arose and the crowd surged about him, demanding that
he speak to them, but he proceeded to the lake-shore, where Peter
and the others--who had been quietly summoned--awaited his coming.

Stunned to silence by this unexpected withdrawal of the Carpenter
on whom they had depended for counsel in this critical hour, they
watched the three borrowed dories moving out toward Peter's long-
idle fleet, where their passengers boarded The Sara.  The sails
were quickly set and the little ship slowly sidled away from her
sister craft.

'I wonder why they took The Sara,' remarked one of the puzzled
onlookers, shading his eyes against the sun.

'They're bound for some shallow cove,' surmised a bystander wearing
a sailor's cap.  'See!  They're heading north-east--toward the
desert.'

'Let us follow them!' shouted someone.  The suggestion met favour.
The crowd moved forward along the shore, unorganized and without
leadership, but bent on finding Jesus.

It was a hard-breathing, shuffling, straggling procession that
laboured through the reeds and weeds and sand for eight long miles.
Many of the more provident ones, knowing what a difficult journey
faced them and aware that no food was to be had in that desolate
region, scurried to their near-by homes and the town's provision
stores to stuff their pockets with smoked fish and wheaten loaves.

Weary, bedraggled, footsore, their sandals ripped and clothing torn
by nettles and briers, five thousand exhausted people found Jesus
and his company at mid-afternoon.  There was no shouting now; they
were too utterly spent for shouting, too tired to hate anybody.

The Big Fisherman immediately took command.  In his self-confident,
booming voice he directed them to sit as closely together as
possible in semicircular rows facing the dune where the Master and
his companions waited.  Not until the last of the stragglers had
arrived did Jesus rise to speak.  A hush fell on the expectant
multitude as his gentle voice began its ministry of comfort.

He beheld them, he said, as one great family of brothers and
sisters who, weary and heavy-laden, had come to him for rest.  Not
strangers now, but men and women of one blood, all children of
their Father in Heaven; not drawn together by any hot desire for
revenge or redress but related by their mutual compassion. . . .
And as the quiet voice continued a strange miracle was wrought that
gave them a heart-warming sensation of kinship.

By the time his talk had ended, the shadows were lengthening on the
eastern mountains.  Released from the spell that had held them
silent and motionless, the crowd straightened its relaxed spine,
drew a long breath, and shifted its posture.  What now?  Should
they go?  They were hungry.  On any other occasion, those who had
been foresighted enough to bring their own food would have had no
hesitation at all to eat it in the presence of others as hungry as
themselves.  But, though many a man silently inspected his
neighbour out of the tail of his eye, nobody reached in his pocket.

There was a whispered colloquy among the Master's companions.  They
called him into conference with them, the expression on their sober
faces indicating that they were troubled.  Jesus did not seem
worried over the situation.

'Feed them!' he said.

'With what?' they inquired.  'Even if we had the money to buy that
much food, there is no place out here where it could be had.'

By now the crowd was craning its neck and listening sharply with
its good ear.  A small boy, overhearing the discussion, came
forward and handed his small lunch-basket to the Master, who
thanked him; and, holding up the basket, addressed the people.

'We will now have our supper,' he said.

Everybody laughed.  It was the first time anyone had laughed today.
But Jesus did not think it was funny.  He held up his hand for
silence, bowed his head, and prayed, thanking God for this food and
for the kind heart of the generous child who wanted to share what
he had with his neighbours.  Then, breaking up the lad's five
little loaves and his two fishes into tiny morsels, he told his
companions to distribute the food among the people.

With sheepish grins, the men and women who had provided for
themselves tugged their parcels out of their pockets and passed
them down the row. . . .  It had turned out to be a day of marvels!

Presently the crowd began to thin out.  The afternoon was far
advanced and the northern sky was darkening.  The people seemed
anxious to be on their way.

Andrew, turning to Bartholomew, remarked confidentially, 'I think I
know now why the Master brought us over here.'

'You're right, Andy,' said the shrewd old man.  'He knew the crowd
would follow, and he wanted to give those hot-heads a chance to
cool off.'

'And think about something else besides their hatred of Antipas,'
added Andrew.  'Well--they were cooled off by the time they got
here--no doubt about that!'

'Yes'--Bartholomew pointed toward the menacing cloud--'and they'll
be cooled off a little more before they reach Capernaum.'

The old man's prediction was correct.  It was hard travelling along
the shore-line.  And it was the roughest night that anybody could
remember on the lake.  The Sara all but capsized.

                         * * * * * *

And while all this strange business of feeding five thousand people
out of a little boy's lunch-basket was taking place in the desert,
a mere handful of Bethsaidans quietly buried John's body in the
village cemetery beside his long-departed father and mother.  Frail
old Rabbi Elimelech quaveringly intoned an ancient prayer for the
peace of the prophet's soul.  Esther, who had returned only
yesterday from her arduous labours in the hungry, thirsty, weary
crowds that had followed Jesus during his eastern journey, tarried
with Hannah until the grave was filled and covered it with garden
flowers.

So--there was no revolution in Galilee.  But the public's attitude
toward the Tetrarch and his household and his pagan guests, while
lacking in any demonstration of hostility, became quite
unendurable.  Without waiting for The Augusta to come for him, a
month hence, Antipas impetuously organized his retinue and made off
early one morning for Caesarea, hoping to be lucky enough to find a
vessel presently sailing for Rome.  No spectators lined the streets
to gape at the procession as it passed.

Fortunately for the harried Tetrarch, a dirty and dilapidated old
freight-ship, The Ostia, was--at the moment of his impromptu
departure from Tiberias--discharging the last shovelful of her
cargo of Cyprian copper on one of the new wharves in Caesarea, and
would sail home within a few days.

Among the small group of passengers who had disembarked from The
Ostia was Sergius, the Prefect.  Captain Malus, half expecting him
to arrive, was at the wharf and greeted his master with a warm
welcome.

'And how is Felix?' the Prefect wanted to know, as they rode
together toward the Praetorium.

'Very well, sir.  He will be overjoyed to see you.'

'Lonesome, I dare say,' mused Sergius.  'How has he been spending
his time?'

'He rides, sir,' reported the Captain.  'And he often visits the
young Arabian, Voldi, in prison.'

Sergius scowled.

'I do not like that, Malus.  You shouldn't have permitted it!  I
lock this fellow up for disobeying orders--and my son visits him.
I won't have it.  Suppose all this should reach the ear of the
Tetrarch!'

Malus meekly protested that there had been no instructions to
forbid callers at the prison.

'I had no authority, sir, to tell Felix where he might and might
not go in your absence.  I can't think that any harm's been done,'
he added.  'The Arabian is still in prison. . . .  And--by the way--
Antipas has just arrived in town with his large party.  They sail
for Rome on The Ostia.'

'That dirty old tub?' shouted Sergius.  'The Tetrarch must be in a
hurry.'

'Yes, sir.  Antipas made a mistake--all Galilee is buzzing with it,
on the verge of revolt.  Apparently it got too hot for him up
there.'

The Prefect demanded to know the story, and Malus told him of the
Tetrarch's revolting crime: beheading a harmless fanatic to
entertain a dinner party; having the bloody head brought to the
table on a platter.

Sergius grew purple with indignation as the sordid tale unfolded.
Never having had the slightest respect for this pompous Romanized
Jew, the loathsome story disgusted him almost to the point of
nausea.  The Prefect had had men beheaded, but not to entertain
anybody!

'Gossip has it,' went on Malus, 'that the idea was Herodias'.'

'It would be!' growled Sergius.  After smouldering in his anger for
a while, he suddenly blurted out, 'I've had quite enough of that
low-lived Tetrarch!  There'll be no pomp and ceremony wasted on
him, this time.  I don't intend to see him off.  And you needn't
make any ado about protecting him.  If he asks to see me, tell him
I'm sick abed--with leprosy! . . .  And, Malus, go down to the
prison and turn the Arabian loose.  Take him his horse.  Tell him
he is free to go wherever he likes!'

They had drawn up before the Praetorium now, and were stepping out
of the chariot.  Felix came running up and warmly embraced his
father.

'Greetings, my son!' said Sergius.  'I am glad to see you!  Malus
tells me you have been a good boy!'

'Thanks, Malus!' said Felix so fervently that his shrewd old father
grinned.

The three of them fell into step together and moved toward the
marble steps leading to the bronze doors of the Praetorium.
Sergius halted there and regarded his son so soberly that he
winced.  Good old Malus, reflected Felix, had let him down, after
all.

'My boy,' said the Prefect; and Felix's face fell, for whenever his
parent addressed him as 'My boy,' you wanted to look out.  There
would be bad news presently.

'My boy, I assume that in my absence you have continued your
friendship with that rash young Arabian.'

'Yes, father,' admitted Felix contritely.  'I have been seeing him--
almost every day.'

'Quite right!' declared the Prefect.  'Men should be loyal to their
friends, especially when they are in trouble.'

Felix gave a quick intake of breath and blinked a few times before
he gave a tentative smile of relief.

'I have just ordered Captain Malus to set this chap free,'
continued Sergius.  'But Malus is much too busy to attend to it
today.  Perhaps you would like to inform your friend that he is at
liberty to go his way, in any direction that suits his fancy.'  He
brought out a stylus, scribbled a note to the jailor, and handed it
to his son.

'You are very kind, sir,' stammered Felix.  'Thank you, sir! . . .
May I go now?'

'Why not?'  The Prefect and the Captain of the Guard marched up the
steps of the Praetorium.  Felix thought he heard a chuckle, but did
not look back as he made off for his horse--and Darik.

At the prison, Voldi was astonished when his half-hysterical friend
hugged the breath out of him.  The good news was so incoherently
spluttered that it was some minutes before the amazing tidings were
made clear.  They pounded each other on the back and shouted
joyously.  Soon the prisoner was out in the sunshine, squinting
against the unaccustomed glare, and affectionately patting Darik on
his glossy shoulder.

'Where to, now?' inquired Felix, suddenly sobering.  'I have been
so happy to see you freed that I've had no time to think about your
leaving.  I'm going to miss you, Voldi!'

'And I shall miss you, Felix,' said Voldi, with deep feeling.
'Something tells me I should return to Arabia and report to my
King.  He deserves to know what has become of Fara, and the
faithful Ione should be told.  And I must see my family.'

'But--you will be coming back, I think,' said Felix.

'Unquestionably,' said Voldi.  'King Zendi will doubtless consent
to my return--on a special mission.'

'Do I know what it is?'

'I'm sure you do.'

'Ticklish job, eh?' reflected Felix.

'It could be that,' agreed Voldi.

They mounted their horses to ride back to The Agrippa for personal
belongings that Voldi had deposited.

'If there is ever anything that I can do--if you should get into
trouble--if you should suddenly need a friend--' Felix was saying.

'There is no one I would rather trust, Felix,' said Voldi.  'But
this is a one-man undertaking--and strictly an Arabian duty. . . .
I shall try to be careful,' he added.

'Careful!' scoffed Felix.  'That sounds funny, coming from you!'



Chapter XVIII


Again the rains came on, earlier than usual this time but gentle
and intermittent, in comforting contrast to the relentless ferocity
of last winter's storms.

Sometimes there would be two or three consecutive days without
showers, though the sky remained obdurately overcast and nobody
ventured very far from home unless his errand was urgent.

Jesus seemed glad to retire to Andrew's cosy cottage in Capernaum
and the old house resumed its service as headquarters for most of
the devoted band that had left everything to follow their Master.

Of the absentees, Judas had returned to Kerioth to look after some
neglected business; Philip had gone home to Cana to visit his aged
mother; Thomas, lacking a lodging-place, had accepted a job carding
flax for Jairus; and Thaddeus, unhappy over the deterioration of
the fishing fleet, was living alone on The Abigail, diligently
caulking the deck-seams with pledgets of pitch and oakum.

The others, unemployed and restless, showed up every day at the
cottage and watched the Carpenter at his work; for the decrepit
tools belonging to Ebenezer, who had passed away in the summer, had
been reborrowed and the improvised shop had all the business it
could handle, though little of it was of any profit.  Much
discussion was had among them concerning tentative itineraries for
the coming spring: some were for going back to Hammath or Cana, and
some thought they should revisit Jericho.  Jesus was given every
encouragement to express an opinion but he only shook his head and
murmured, 'Not now'--an enigmatic response that sobered them.  It
seemed clear that he had already determined what he would do.  The
fact that he was reluctant to confide caused them much anxiety.
There was no telling what hazards might be in store for them
all. . . .  Following Jesus was not easy.

One morning, when a yellowish sun was feebly attempting to shine
through the ragged rents in a grey cloud-bank, John ventured the
remark that a great many idle people might be willing to risk a
wetting if it were announced that the Master would appear in the
plaza and speak to them, but the suggestion was not approved.
Noting his young friend's disappointment, Jesus explained briefly
that he didn't care to be responsible for an epidemic of bad colds.

When, that afternoon, John reported this conversation to
Bartholomew, adding, 'But he could easily cure their colds,' the
old man said, 'It would be much easier to prevent them.'  And then
he went on to say, 'These miracles of healing, son, make a heavy
drain on his strength.  Had you not noticed that?'

'I know,' nodded John.  'That's true.  They make him sweat.'

Bartholomew sat thoughtfully stroking his beard for a long moment:
then he said, 'Johnny--sometimes I have felt that every burden he
lifts is taken upon himself.  Don't misunderstand me: I do not mean
that when he heals a leper he takes on the man's leprosy: I mean
that whenever he lifts another man's burden he adds the weight of
it to his own.  Out Master is carrying a very heavy load. . . .  I
often think of Esaias' prophecy that the promised Messiah would be
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.'

The enforced inactivity of these inclement days, however irksome
for the others, was especially disquieting to Peter who had been
constantly in the forefront of the summer's excursions and
excitements.  And how he had looked forward to this period of rest
and recuperation!  Now--after a few days of idleness--he had begun
to fret under the weight of little Bethsaida's apathy; and, much as
he enjoyed the company of his Master, the long afternoons at the
cottage in Capernaum, where he sat with empty hands, were
increasingly depressing.

Sometimes during those tumultuous days of sultry Sivan and Tammuz,
the responsibility of directing the great multitudes of desperate
and inconsiderate people had been almost beyond his endurance.
Often when darkness fell and the throng had gone home or into
improvised camps in the neighbouring fields and hills, the Big
Fisherman would fling himself down on the ground, with his shaggy
head buried in his sun-browned arms, too utterly exhausted to eat
his supper.  Had it not been for Esther's gentle solicitude and the
challenge of her amazing fortitude, Peter couldn't have borne his
burden.  And he had been honest enough to tell her so.

It was a most unusual friendship.  A stranger, having made the
acquaintance of both of them, but never having seen them together,
would certainly have thought it incongruous if not impossible that
this huge, blustering, untravelled, uneducated fisherman, and the
sensitive girl who had been brought up in an environment of
exceptional privileges, could have anything in common.  By training
and temperament they were leagues apart.  Simon Peter had had no
use for Esther, nor she for him, until their boundless devotion and
tireless service to Jesus had made them kin.

They had often talked about this frankly, agreeing that their
peculiar relation was no less than a miracle, Peter declaring his
belief that a close friendship with the Master could provide a bond
for all the people who loved him, no matter how different they
might be as to race, colour, language, disposition or mode of
living.  If they loved him, they would love one another.  Jesus had
said so--and these two understood what he meant.

Their comradeship, that summer, had invited candid confidences.
Esther had told Peter all about herself, and when they were alone
together he had--at her request--called her Fara.  One evening, as
they sat for a little while on either side of the Master, Peter had
inadvertently addressed her as Fara, and Jesus had smiled with
pleasure, though he made no comment.

It was not, however, a selfish friendship.  Often a little group
formed about them.  Esther was one of the family.  She repaired old
Bartholomew's tattered sandal-thongs, bandaged Johnny's thorn-torn
hand, mended Andrew's jacket; even sewed on a button for Judas,
whom she intuitively distrusted and disliked.  Thad was always at
her heels, helping with the tents and carrying provisions as
devotedly as a friendly dog.  And on their hurried trip back to
Galilee, when Esther lagged a little one afternoon, he wanted her
to get into the high-wheeled cart, already heavily loaded with
tents and tackle--and ride.  She had declined the offer; but,
walking alongside him, she said tenderly that if everybody were as
kind to everyone else as Thad had been to her, the world would soon
be a beautiful place to live in.

A flush of pleasure, mixed with embarrassment, glowed through the
shy young fellow's tan.  After some deliberation he said that he
thought the world was beautiful enough to suit him; and he ventured
to give Esther a worshipful glance.

                         * * * * * *

The winter days had dragged drearily.  Peter, lodging at home in
Bethsaida, would trudge through the mud every morning to Capernaum
and return in the late afternoon, moody and taciturn.  Andrew
rarely came home; but last night he had accompanied his brother,
for John and James had arranged to spend the night with Jesus.

This morning, Hannah's household had assembled about the breakfast
table.  It was something of an event, for they were having fried
perch, the first they had had for a long time.

'I heard a meadow-lark a little while ago,' remarked Hannah
cheerily, 'and there's a patch of blue in the sky.  We may be
having some fair weather soon,' she went on, 'though I'm in no
hurry to see it come, for it means you will all be leaving me
again. . . .  I do wish you wouldn't go this time, Esther.  It's
too hard on you.'

'Well--as for me,' said Peter, splitting open another fish, 'I'll
be glad when it's time to go.  I've been penned up too long.  And I
want to see the Master get out of that shop.  They've been imposing
on him--dreadfully! . . .  Don't you think so, Andy?'

Andy slowly agreed that that was 'one way of looking at it'; and,
turning to Hannah, irrelevantly remarked that he had seen a blue
jay yesterday with a straw in its beak.  Esther couldn't help
smiling.  Andrew certainly had a gift for changing the subject.
But Hannah wasn't interested in Andy's blue jay.

'How do you mean, they impose on him?' she inquired.

Peter was ready with the particulars.  Apparently he had given the
matter considerable thought. . . .  Well, first there was all that
work on old Becky's loom.

'It happened just after we had come home,' he went on.  'The people
were all stirred up over the Tetrarch's crime and the hot-heads
were keen on punishing somebody.  Antipas had broken the law; and,
seeing they couldn't do anything to him, they decided to make
everybody else obey the laws.  This old Rebecca person lived alone
in a mere hovel on the outskirts of Magdala, and was generally
disliked.  Many people thought she was a witch--and she looked the
part, a very ugly old woman.  The children threw stones at her
whenever she appeared on the highway.  And she put a curse on the
neighbours' cattle, so that their milk dried up.'

'How ridiculous!' exclaimed Esther.  'You don't believe that!'

'Of course not,' said Peter, 'but what I believe isn't important in
this case.  A lot of people did believe it--or said they did. . . .
One charge they had against Becky was that she never attended the
Synagogue.  One Sabbath morning they heard her rickety old loom
clacking, and to show how righteous they were a dozen of them
stormed into her hut and smashed the loom to kindling-wood. . . .
And the next day she came to see Jesus about it.'

'Were you there?' wondered Hannah.

'Johnny and I.  Becky opened the door and came in, as if she lived
there.  She had on a dirty old dress.  Her tangled white hair
hadn't been combed and her bare feet were muddy.  She came directly
to where Jesus sat and dropped down in a chair beside him, without
a word.  Her wrinkled face was twitching and it was plain to see
that she was badly upset.  But if the Master saw anything peculiar
about her conduct he gave no sign of it.  He turned to her with a
friendly smile and said, 'Good morning, daughter.  What may I do
for you?'

'Her leathery old face softened,' continued Peter, 'and she put her
bony hands over her eyes, and cried.  And Jesus said, "What is the
trouble, Rebecca?"'

'And then she did cry, in earnest, I'll wager!' put in Hannah,
whose own eyes were misty.

'Little by little, he got the story out of her,' said Peter; 'and
when she had finished, he said, "You should not have been working
on the Sabbath Day--unless it was necessary to someone's welfare.
If a man's ox should fall into a pit on the Sabbath, he should come
to its rescue. . . .  But you say you were weaving a rug--to sell.
That was wrong, as you know.  However, your punishment was much too
severe. . . .  I shall build you a new loom, Rebecca."'

They listened attentively while Peter went on with his story.  The
Master had spent a fortnight making the loom, and when it was
finished and the boys had hauled it to Rebecca's little house, he
had gone with them.  Rebecca had cleaned up her room, and herself
too.  The neighbours had crowded in.  The old woman didn't seem so
ugly now.  Jesus was her friend, and her manner suggested that they
had better take notice.

'A few days ago,' said Peter, 'old Becky came and presented the
Master with a robe she had woven for him.'

'And that sweet soul will probably wear it,' said Hannah, 'no
matter what it looks like!'

'It looks very well,' said Andrew.  'He likes it.'

'Yes,' nodded Peter.  'He wears it constantly now.  I think he's
really proud of it. . . .  But--after all--he shouldn't be burdened
with hard labour; not for people like old Becky!'

'I think that is a beautiful story,' said Esther softly.  'He did
more for her than make her a new loom: he made her a new Becky!'

But now Peter had another tale to tell of the way people imposed on
Jesus. . . .  Last week, Zebedee's fretful and avaricious Naomi had
called at the cottage to complain that John and James were spending
most of their time at home doing nothing.  Their little house was
crowded.  Poor old Zebedee hardly had a place to sit down!

'So--what did the Master do but promise Naomi that he would make a
new chair for Zebedee, which he proceeded to do; a beautiful chair,
too, that will make everything else in their house look cheap and
shabby.  It took him all week to finish it.  Yesterday, Naomi came,
we thought, to thank him, but she had come to complain.  The boys,
she whimpered, should have more attention paid to them.  They were
giving the Master all of their time, and what were they ever going
to get out of it, she wanted to know!'  Peter snorted his disgust.

'Did she say what sort of honours they should have?' queried
Hannah.

'She did indeed!' growled Peter.  'She wanted them to have the most
prominent seats in the Master's Kingdom. . . .  Yes--and the
foolish creature got that off before the whole roomful of us.
Didn't she, Andy?  And the youngsters sat there, red-faced, making
no attempt to stop her!'

'Maybe they didn't want to stop her,' reflected Hannah.  She
glanced at Andrew, soliciting an opinion.

'I think they were embarrassed,' he said.

'But they made no protest,' Peter went on.  'They just sat there,
looking down their noses and counting their fingers while Naomi
babbled.  It was the first time the subject had ever come up, who
was the most important man among us.'

'And what did Jesus say to her?' asked Hannah.

'He said nothing directly to Naomi,' answered Andrew, 'but he did
say something to the rest of us.'

'It must have made Naomi feel very small--and insignificant,' said
Peter.  'Jesus paid no more attention to her than if she hadn't
been there.  He looked around the room, and seemed to gather us all
into a confidential little group; and then he said, "Whoever among
you would be great, let him be your servant.  And whoever would be
the greatest of all, let him be the servant of all."'

'And then what?' inquired Hannah.

'Well--Naomi left, and nobody could think of anything to say,'
replied Peter.  'John and James looked ashamed, as they should have
done.  They were foolish to think that anything they had
accomplished should give them prominence.'

'It was an awkward moment,' contributed Andrew.  'Even my brother'--
he gave Esther a slow wink--'was speechless.'

'Somebody should have changed the subject,' thought Hannah.

'That's what happened,' said Peter.  'The Master did it himself.
He turned toward the Zebedee boys, with a smile, and remarked that
it had been a long time since we had had any fresh fish.  And they
were quick enough to take the hint, for they certainly wanted to
get out of there.  They got up and left in a hurry.  It was the
best thing that could have happened to them--in the circumstances.'
Peter seemed about to go on with the story; but, apparently
thinking he had said enough, he tossed his napkin aside and pushed
back his chair.

'There's a little more to it,' drawled Andrew.  'As James and
Johnny went out of the door, Jesus asked Simon if he didn't want to
go too.'

Peter gnawed at his bearded underlip, and nodded.

'I suppose that's the reason we have perch for breakfast,' laughed
Hannah.

'It's a good enough reason,' said Andrew.  'There isn't a better
fisherman on the lake than my brother.'

No one seemed inclined to add anything to that.  The men rose,
pulled on their caps and heavy jackets, and proceeded to Capernaum.
The carpenter's shop was well filled when they arrived, everyone in
unusually high spirits over the signs of returning spring.  The
Master had finished the table he had been making as a gift for
Lydia, the widow of Ebenezer, in appreciation of the tools he had
borrowed.  It was evident that he had planned no further work.
Perhaps he would tell them now when and where they would go.

Peter ventured to bring up the subject.

'I suppose we will be leaving presently, Master,' he said, 'now
that fair weather is in sight.'

'Yes,' replied Jesus, 'we will start on the first day of the week,
and attend the Passover in Jerusalem.'

There was a heavy silence, and for a long moment all breathing was
suspended.

'No, Master, no!' entreated Peter.  'Anywhere but Jerusalem!  You
have dangerous enemies there.  This must not be!'

Jesus gazed steadily and sternly into the Big Fisherman's eyes.

'I must ask you to stand aside, Simon,' he said firmly.  'Your
counsel is not that of a faithful and courageous friend.  I am
going to Jerusalem--on business for my Father!'

One by one the dazed Galileans--all but the Big Fisherman, who sat
stunned and disheartened with his shaggy head in his hands--slipped
quietly out of the room and reassembled at the front gate.

Andrew broke the silence.

'Well--he apparently means it.  There's no use trying to dissuade
him.  He is going to Jerusalem.'

Old Bartholomew cleared his throat and murmured huskily, 'We too
will go--and die with him.'

                         * * * * * *

The oncoming winter season, so far, had not amounted to much in
Caesarea; light, frequent showers, but no snow and no cold weather.

It had been Voldi's intention to visit Jerusalem on his way home;
but, once started on the south-bound road, he decided to retrace
the course he had pursued in the company of Mencius.

At Joppa he spent a day touring the docks, surprised at the
extensive operations in progress there, where the Romans were
conducting harbour installations similar to those in Caesarea,
though on a less lavish scale.

That the Empire contemplated an invasion had been plainly evident
by the expensive works in Caesarea; now it appeared that the
military strategists were not putting all their eggs in one basket.
Frowsy old Joppa too was being converted into an available beach-
head; and with such undisguised urgency and earnestness that it
seemed the long-threatened Roman offensive might be imminent.  All
Palestine, preoccupied with her internal feuds, pretended not to
notice.  Perhaps Jehovah, who had fed the Children of Israel with
manna in the wilderness, would take care of this situation.  He'd
better, thought Voldi, or the Promised Land was doomed: yes, and
Arabia too, if the Romans thought it worth the bother of conquest;
though they might not want Arabia, for the Romans had no taste for
a nomadic life.  They might be content to levy a high tribute on
the Arabs and let them remain unmolested with their flocks and
herds.  It was high time, though, that Arabia considered the danger
she faced.  Voldi felt that he would have much to report to his
King.

And so on, day after day, with brief, begrudged pauses at night for
rest, he followed the much-travelled highways, through beautiful
Askelon, drowsing in charmingly unseasonable sunshine, to wretched
old Gaza, whose squalor, plagues, stenches, and wickedness no
felicity of climate could forgive; and on and steadily on through
ancient Hebron to parched Engedi and the Dead Sea.  He made a half-
circle of this dazzling white brine and turned east again over the
blistered crust of the salt-flats into the Valley of Aisne.

Darik was so tired now that he didn't care who knew it.  Instead of
picking up his feet smartly, as was his custom, he was shuffling
and stumbling along like a spiritless pack-ass; but after the
Valley of Aisne had been traversed and the winding road up through
the hills lay before him, the tall black gelding, recognizing his
homeland, renewed his strength.  As they gained altitude, snow was
encountered on the northern slopes, and when the shoulder of the
high plateau was reached Voldi was happy to find an endless,
undulating blanket of white that covered the hillsides and valleys
as far as he could see in all directions.  This was good!  Arabia
had the sure promise of a prosperous spring and summer.  There
would be fat cattle and sheep.  Well-fed camels would produce
strong, sleek foals.

Voldi breathed deeply of the crisp, tonic mountain air, inhaling it
hungrily as if he ate of it.  He rose in his stirrups and stirred
echoes in the hilltops with boyish shouts.  As never before, he
realized how much Arabia meant to him.  And Darik, noisily blowing
his nose, tugged for an easement of the bridle-reins, tossed his
head and stretched his long legs to a lope.

In the late afternoon King Zendi's encampment was sighted and a few
minutes later Voldi dismounted at the main entrance to the
extensive compound, warmly greeted by the amazed sentries.  Soon he
was surrounded by a score of excited household servants and
hostlers, patting and stroking the steaming Darik, who slobbered
over all of them with cordial impartiality.

Wrinkled old Kedar now came limping up, elbowing his way through
the pack to Voldi, who affectionately laid a hand on the bent
shoulder.

'You have ridden him hard, sir!' growled old Kedar, turning gruff
to hide his emotion.

'It was his own idea, Kedar,' laughed Voldi.  'Once he was on a
familiar road, there was no holding him in. . . .  But tell me: how
are Their Majesties?'

'They are well, sir, but very sad today.  You have come home none
too soon.  Councillor Mishma is ill; very low.  The King and Queen
are over there now.  You must go--without a moment's delay.  I'll
get you a fresh horse.'

Ione, pale, thin, and nervous, crept timidly into the circle.
Voldi threw his arm around her and drew her closely to him.  He
bent and whispered into her ear.

'Fara is safe and well, Ione, and sends her best love to you.  I
shall tell you everything, when I return.  I must go now--to my
grandfather.'

In a few minutes he had dashed away to Mishma's encampment, five
miles distant.  The commodious paddock was filled with beautiful
horses, some of which Voldi recognized.  His unannounced entrance
into the Chief Councillor's spacious bedchamber was greeted with
gasps of surprise and relief by the sober-faced group of old
retainers clustered within the doorway.  The tall, dignified
members of the King's Council stood in statuesque silence with
Zendi in the midst of them, a distinguished figure, his hair
prematurely greying.  It was evident, by the posture and demeanour
of all present, that they were waiting for the end to come.

Kitra gave a little cry of gladness in her grief and rushed forward
to embrace her son.  Taking him by the hand she led him to the
bedside; and, raising her voice, called:

'See, father!  Here is Voldi!'

The frail old Titan laboriously opened his eyes and gave a wan
smile.  Voldi dropped to his knees and slipped his arm tenderly
around the thin, deep-lined neck.  Mishma was trying to speak.
With a great effort he managed to ask huskily:

'Did you find her?'

Voldi's eyes were blind with tears.  Unable to speak, he nodded.

'But--she could not do it,' whispered Mishma, between laboured
breaths; and when Voldi had shaken his head, the old man drew a
satisfied sigh, and murmured, 'That is good.'

There was a long interval of silence, after which the fading voice
asked, 'Is she with you?'

'No, sire,' said Voldi regretfully.

'But--you will bring her home--to Arabia,' entreated Mishma.

'I hope to, sire, when I have completed the work she tried to do--
for our country.'

Old Mishma slowly nodded his approval and lapsed into sleep.  Zendi
had drawn closer, during this difficult conversation.  Voldi,
suddenly aware of the King's nearness, got to his feet--and
saluted.

Bending over the bed, and raising his voice so that it startled the
silent watchers, Zendi called:

'Mishma!  Open your eyes, Mishma!  Harken!  Have you a final
request to make of your King?  Speak, Mishma!'

The dying statesman tugged himself back to partial consciousness,
clumsily moistened his dry lips, and whispered:  'Voldi.'

The weary old head slowly sank.  There was an ineffectual reaching
of the lips for one more breath.  Mishma was dead.

Turning about to face the company, Zendi drew himself up to his
full height, and announced:  'I hereby appoint Voldi to fill the
vacancy in the King's Council!'



Chapter XIX


Captain Fulvius, never given to rash predictions, had remarked at
sunset to his most important passenger that if this brisk breeze
continued through the night The Vestris might see Gaza at dawn.

'Good!' exclaimed the Proconsul.  'I shall go down and tell poor
old Brutus.'

'Better take a handful of sugar along,' advised the Captain.  'Your
poor old Brutus is getting mean.  Yesterday, when I went down for a
friendly word with the horses, he laid his ears back and bared his
teeth.  I'm afraid he is at the end of his patience.'

'I don't blame him,' grumbled Mencius.  'So am I.'

It had been seven weeks since the fleet had sailed from Brindisi,
bound for Cyprus, where a cargo of copper awaited transport to the
new docks at Joppa.  The winter had been so mild that Fulvius,
hoping to make time, had risked a lighter ballast than the season
justified; and, once they had rounded the peninsula and headed
east, everybody was sick--and disgruntled, too, for the voyage was
to be long and, in the opinion of the crew, inexplicably
roundabout.

Their natural course, if they had business in old Gaza, would have
taken their seven cargo-ships with the copper directly to Joppa,
but The Vestris was under orders to sail first to Gaza, where the
Proconsul had an important errand at the Roman Fort of Minoa, a few
miles inland.  The rest of the fleet would proceed to Joppa and
stand by until rejoined by the flagship.

The capable Lieutenant Pincus, with a skeleton crew of experienced
men, would also disembark at Gaza and engage a camel-caravan for
the tedious trip to the salt-fields at Engedi on the Dead Sea.

Then The Vestris, having paid her brief call at Gaza, would sail to
Joppa, join the fleet, dump the copper, and double back to Gaza to
pick up Pincus and his salt.  And nobody knew how long they might
have to wait for the return of that plodding caravan.  It was
doubtful whether they would be back in Rome before mid-summer.

Mencius had paced the deck and counted the days like a jailbird.
He had been required to make these long voyages to Palestinian
ports so often that they had lost all interest for him.  Of course
he always enjoyed a shore-leave at Caesarea, where he found many
long-time friends at the luxurious Agrippa; but he wasn't going to
Caesarea this time; only as far as Joppa, which the Empire might
make something of, eventually, though the mouldy old city offered
few attractions at present.

There was only one thing about this whole trip that had stirred the
Proconsul's interest.  He had been commissioned to deliver a letter
to the young Legate recently appointed--for his sins--to command
the Fort at Minoa.  Mencius had not been informed about the
contents of this letter, and his curiosity had nearly devoured him.
All he knew about it was that the gaudily gilded scroll contained a
message of considerable significance, for it had been written by
the Emperor!  What the half-crazy and wholly unpredictable old
Tiberius might have to say to the incorrigible son of Senator
Gallio was anybody's guess.  The wayward young Legate, according to
a freely circulated rumour, had been sent to this ill-conditioned
outpost for publicly insulting the Regent, Prince Gaius.  And now
the Emperor was sending the impudent Marcellus a letter!

Mencius, feeling that he had to talk this over with somebody, had
discussed the probabilities with his canny old friend Fulvius.

'It's unlikely,' he had remarked, 'that these royal tidings are
felicitous.  Tiberius wouldn't put himself to much trouble to make
anybody happy; certainly not the roistering son of Gallio, who is
ever denouncing the Government for its extravagances.'

'I'm not so sure about that,' Fulvius had replied.  'As for Senator
Gallio's demand for economy, the Emperor himself is not a wastrel;
and as for the youngster's ridicule of the Prince, the old man
hates Gaius.'

'Granted--all that!  But can you picture Tiberius writing a
pleasant letter?'

'No, I really can't,' agreed Fulvius, 'and if I were you I should
just hand it to the boy--and run.'

'Maybe the letter is a commission for Marcellus to some better
command,' speculated Mencius.

'Oh, it might be anything!' rumbled Fulvius.  'The old codger's
crazy as a beetle!  For all you know, it's a notification to young
Gallio that you have been appointed his successor at Minoa!'

'That's a pleasant thought!' growled Mencius.

They had left it at that.  It wouldn't be long now before they
might know the answer to the riddle.  Tomorrow they would warp up
against the dock at Gaza.

The morning was bright and clear.  The long wharf swarmed with the
usual pack of filthy donkey-boys and villainous camel-drivers.
Pincus and his men were the first to leave the ship, and were
promptly swallowed up in the noisy throng of competitive caravan-
owners.  More deliberately, the Proconsul and the Captain came
ashore and mounted their stiff and clumsy horses.  It was but a
short ride to the fort, and they decided to dispose of their errand
without delay.

'Something seems to have happened here,' remarked Mencius, as the
heavy gates swung open to receive them.  'Marcellus has taught
these lazy louts to act like soldiers!'

'Perhaps the Emperor has heard of it,' thought Fulvius, 'and wants
the Legate to come back and renovate Rome.  She could do with a bit
of grooming.'

A bright young centurion appeared, smartly saluted, and asked if he
could be of service.  The Proconsul introduced himself and Fulvius.
They bore a letter for the Legate.

'Our Legate Marcellus, sir, left here yesterday with a company of
cavalry to attend the Jewish Passover at Jerusalem.'

'That's odd,' muttered Mencius.  'Since when has Minoa turned
Jewish?'

The centurion risked a dry grin.

'It is an annual custom, sir.  All our Palestinian forts send
deputations to the Holy City during the Week of the Passover, to
keep the peace.'

'And rattle our armour,' assisted the Proconsul.  'I presume your
Legate is to be found through the Procurator's Insula?'

'Yes, sir.'

'We will have to proceed to Jerusalem, then, and deliver our
message.  It is urgent.'

Mencius was turning Brutus about toward the gate when the centurion
invited them to tarry for such hospitality as the fort could offer,
but the Proconsul declined.  They must be on their way.  At the
gate he turned to say, 'This is a different place from the last
time I saw it, centurion.  Apparently your new Legate believes in
brooms and discipline.'

'He does indeed, sir!'

'Tough taskmaster, eh?'

'He keeps the Legion on its toes, sir; but we like it better that
way.  The Legate is tough--but he's fair.'

'Fine!' approved Mencius.  'He must be enjoying his command at
Minoa.'

'Yes, sir.  Probably not, sir.  I don't see how he could, sir.
Yes, sir!  Thank you, sir!'

The heavy gates closed behind them, and they laughed all the way up
the road.

'The fellow has humour, sir,' chuckled Fulvius, with a fair
imitation of the centurion's stiff drollery.  'He should go far,
sir.'

'Yes, sir,' snapped Mencius.  'Probably not, sir.'

In an hour, the crew of The Vestris, unhappy over the brief shore-
leave but with too much sense to protest, gave the old ship all the
canvas she could carry and sailed for Joppa.

'Want to ride with me--to Jerusalem?' asked Mencius.

'Why not, sir?' said Fulvius.

                         * * * * * *

Esther had not been forbidden nor had she been invited to accompany
the Master and his twelve close companions on their journey to
Jerusalem.

No plans had been made for it and no advance announcement had been
made of it.  The portentous decision had come as a stunning
surprise.  Jesus, in his prescient wisdom, made no mistakes.  How
often they had all agreed that this was true!  How often they had
had occasion to chide themselves for questioning his actions!  But
this time, they all felt, he was headed--quite unnecessarily--for
disaster.

Peter, deeply depressed, heart-sick with foreboding, had brought
the distressing news to the supper table in Bethsaida on a Sabbath
evening.  They were leaving early in the morning, he said,
travelling fast and with light equipment.

'Dear old Bartholomew!' murmured Esther.  'What will become of
him?'

'He'll probably die of a heart attack,' said Peter, 'but he intends
to come along.'

'And you think I'd better not go?' queried Esther.

'There will be nothing for you to do,' said Peter.  'No meetings
along the way, no healings; just a steady march to the city--and
into who knows how much trouble.'

For an hour they discussed the probabilities.  Yes, Peter agreed,
there would be hundreds, perhaps thousands of pilgrims in the city
who had heard Jesus speak, scores and scores who had received
marvellous benefits at his hands; but these friends of the Master
were not organized; they could not be expected to defend him.

'They're country people, mostly,' Peter went on, 'people like Andy
and me, and Johnny and James and Thad, people who lose their
confidence and courage in the confusions of a great city.'

'But--surely,' exclaimed Esther, 'no one would dare to harm the
Master when he is innocent of any wrong-doing!'

With a despairing sigh, the Big Fisherman tried to explain the
dangers that threatened them.  Jerusalem was the stronghold of all
the mutually intolerant religious sects and political parties.
They were ever on the alert to silence new voices that spoke the
restlessness of the people.

Again and again, remembered Peter, deputations from Jerusalem had
appeared in the Master's audiences asking questions intended to
betray him as a seditionist.  The very fact that the populace hung
on his words and found comfort in them was an indictment of his
loyalty to the ancient institutions of Jewry.

On the occasions of the Passover, these stubborn men were
particularly attentive to any indication of a movement among the
people in defence of their common rights.  Indeed, it was said that
during Passover Week when the city swarmed with home-coming Jews
from the provinces--habitually ignored and neglected by all
officials save only the tax-collector--the Roman patrols were under
orders to disperse even the little groups that gathered on the
street to hear a blind beggar sing! . . .  Now--Jesus would appear
in Jerusalem.  There would be hundreds, perhaps thousands of people
in the city who would crowd about him and entreat him to speak to
them; and undoubtedly he would do so. . . .  'Oh, why does he put
himself in this danger?'

Soon after supper, Peter had retired to his room, and when the
women awoke in the morning he had already gone.  They ate their
simple breakfast in moody silence; and, after the household chores
had been disposed of, Esther slipped out of the house and walked
briskly up the hill to talk with David the Sadducee.

By some means the old lawyer had already learned of Jesus' decision
to attend the Passover in Jerusalem.  He greeted Esther soberly,
and his replies to her anxious queries were anything but
reassuring.  David, of the ancient House of Zadok, knew more than
the Big Fisherman about the conditions to be faced--by any popular
prophet who might appear on the streets of the Holy City at the
time of the Passover.

'Yes, my dear,' said David, 'our friend Simon has good reasons to
be apprehensive.  The most influential men in Jerusalem--the
bankers, the lawyers, the rich merchants--cannot take the risk of a
scramble on the part of the people.  This Carpenter has talked
quite freely, to great multitudes, about fair dealing, good
measure, just weights and balances in the market-place.  He has had
much to say about exorbitant rents and usurious rates of interest.
He has told stories of poor men who died of starvation on rich
men's doorsteps.'

'That is true, sire,' put in Esther, 'but he has been equally
critical of the greed and ill-will among the poor themselves.  He
has not tried to set the poor against the rich.  He only wants
everyone to be kind and charitable to everyone else.'

'Yes, yes, dear child, but the thing that Jerusalem will remember
best is his bold denunciation of fraud and wickedness in high
places.  Even the Temple has not escaped his criticism!'

At that, Esther wanted to know how much influence the Temple was
able to exercise, seeing the city was governed by the Romans.
David proceeded to explain.  It was a long and involved story.

Yes, he said, the Romans governed all Palestine and their will was
supreme.  In any clash with the Sanhedrin, the Insula would have
the last word; that was true theoretically.

'But the Romans,' he went on, 'want no clash with Jewry now.  They
are deliberately preparing for the day when they will take full
possession of this country, looting it and enslaving it.  They
could do it tomorrow if their armies were not engaged in the
recovery of their losses in Gaul.  When they are ready, they will
strike.  Until then, they want no friction.  Pontius Pilate makes a
gaudy show of authority, but he is under strict instructions to
keep the peace of Jerusalem, whatever the cost to his personal
pride.  When Caiaphas, the High Priest, speaks, Pilate listens!'

David seemed to be talking to himself now.  After a long, silent
interval, he mumbled, 'Pilate scowls and squirms--but he listens.
When there's any sign of unrest among the people, the merchants
confer with the bankers and the bankers confer with the Sanhedrin,
and the Sanhedrin confers with the Procurator.'

Esther had many questions she wanted to ask, but hesitated to
interrupt the wise old man's monologue.  Turning about to face her
he asked, 'Did they tell you about Rabbi Ben-Sholem of Capernaum?'
Without waiting for her response, David continued.  'It seems that
some months ago a great crowd was waiting in the plaza for the
Carpenter to speak.  The Rabbi, beside himself with indignation,
appeared on the porch of the Synagogue to denounce the throng, and
he was reviled and ridiculed.  His Regents failed to support him,
and he has retired to Jerusalem.  Ben-Sholem and the old High
Priest were schoolmates. . . .  You may draw your own conclusions,
Esther.  The Rabbi is not a man to forget or forgive an affront to
his dignity.'

'But that unhappy affair wasn't the Master's fault, sire!' declared
Esther.  'He rebuked the crowd for its discourtesy.'

'Yes--I know, dear child,' said David, 'but that didn't restore Ben-
Sholem's wounded pride.  He wanted no favours from the Carpenter.'

The old lawyer sighed deeply and drew his robe about him.  It was
chilly in the shade of the trees.  Esther rose and they strolled
toward the gates.

'I feel that I should go to Jerusalem,' she said.

'I shouldn't if I were you,' advised David.  'You have had enough
trouble--and there is nothing that you can do.'  He bade her good-
day and slowly retraced his steps through the grove.

As Esther neared Hannah's house, she paused to note the little
companies of pilgrims on the highway, setting forth on their annual
journey to the Holy City.  In each family group one of the younger
men pushed a cart containing tents and provisions.  Some of the
larger carts were drawn by donkeys.  The people moved along slowly,
for it was a long trip on foot and they must conserve their
strength.

Hannah was cutting an armful of roses.  She wept inconsolably when
Esther said she had resolved to go to Jerusalem.  Silently they
packed a rucksack with the necessities of the journey; and that
afternoon they parted tearfully at the shady corner where the quiet
street met the broad highway.

'Something tells me,' sobbed Hannah, 'that I shall never see you
again!  Never!'

Esther was too moved to make a reply.  She kissed Hannah tenderly,
and joined the plodding pilgrims.  A friendly young woman told her
it was a beautiful day, and she agreed; but her heart was heavy.

'Are you alone?' asked her new friend.

'Yes,' said Esther.  It was true.  She had never felt more alone in
her life.

                         * * * * * *

It had been Peter's hope rather than his belief, as they set forth
from Capernaum in the early morning of the first day of Nisan, that
they might enter Jerusalem unobtrusively.

The city would be crowded with thousands of pilgrims, all of them
scrambling desperately for a lodging-house within the walls or a
tent-site in the suburbs.  They might be so preoccupied with their
own affairs that the arrival of Jesus would attract little
attention.  After the first half-hour on the highway, Peter
wondered why he had tried to comfort himself with such a foolish
delusion.  He might have known better.

Everybody on the road--and they were all bound for the same
destination--instantly recognized the Master, hailing him with
joyous shouts, crowding about him, begging him to speak to them.
It was not long before he was at the head of a procession that
increased by the hour, by the mile.

James, stepping to the edge of the highway, looked backward and
returned to his place between his brother and Andrew, and said,
'Remember the day in Bethsaida when he suddenly disappeared from
the people who followed him?  I wish he would do that now!'

But he didn't disappear, and the pilgrimage grew.  Every side road
that met the highway contributed.  At night, when Jesus stopped,
they all stopped, and the heavy-laden carts and the older people
caught up.  In the morning, when he resumed the journey, they were
all ready to follow.  Dozens of the well-to-do, who could afford
tall camels, paid their respects and preceded the pedestrian
parade.  They would arrive many hours earlier than Jesus, and would
have an amazing story to tell, no doubt.

When the Master's company broke camp at Ramah, on the morning of
the third day, Peter--who hadn't wanted a crowd along--began to
take pride in this astounding display of public interest. . . .
Could it be possible, he exclaimed to Philip, that Jesus intended
to enter Jerusalem in triumph?

'From the size and temper of this crowd, he could do it!' said
Philip.

'Perhaps that has been his plan--from the first!' said Peter in an
awed voice.  'Do you suppose he means to restore the Kingdom to
Israel?'

'I don't think he wants to be the King of Israel,' put in Andrew.

'Why not?' demanded Judas sharply.  'Has it not been foretold by
the prophets?  Is not the Kingdom to be restored to Israel?  Who
else has the power to do it?'

Throughout the Sabbath Day they remained quietly in camp at
Bethphage, with only three miles further to go on the morrow, the
day the Romans called 'Sunday.'  The village was suffocated with
the enormous concentration of excited pilgrims.  All manner of
rumours and conjectures were in circulation through the camps.  It
was generally believed that Jesus of Nazareth was about to proclaim
himself the King of the Jews, the Messiah, the Restorer of Israel!

Some of the older and more pious men remembered that an ancient
prophet had predicted such an event.  The King would ride into the
city on an ass.  A group of zealots set forth to find one.  By good
fortune they discovered a young ass, a beautiful white beast, tied
at the gate of a paddock.  He bore no saddle-scars or marks of
harness.  That was good; for the old men had said it should be an
ass that had never been ridden.  They besought the owner to lend
them the beast, and told him why.  Jesus, the wonder-worker of
Galilee, would ride into the city as Israel's King!  The man
laughed coarsely.

'You may have him--and welcome!' he said.  'And I'll go along with
you.  This is something I want to see!  Jasper has never been
broken to ride.'

'Good!' they exclaimed.  'You say no one has ever tried to ride him
before?'

'Oh yes, indeed!' guffawed the owner.  'It's just that Jasper
doesn't like the idea.  You'll see! . . .  No--I don't want any
money for the use of him.  I just want to go along!'

Next morning, shortly after dawn, the great multitude swarmed about
the house where Jesus was stopping.  It was a noisy, half-
hysterical crowd whose leaders shouted, 'Hail to the King!  Hail to
the King!'  The turbulent throng took up the chant!

Peter was experienced in handling great masses of people, but this
demonstration was already quite out of anyone's control.  The
little band stood close about the Master and tried to protect him
from the fanatical pilgrims.  A small company of men pushed through
the jostling pack leading a shaggy white ass.  Jesus mounted and
the frantic procession moved forward with his close friends walking
on either side of him, awed and anxious--but ecstatic.

They had left Bethphage now and were entering Bethany, the richest
of the city's suburbs.  The street was beautified with stately
palms, which the advance contingents of the crowd ruthlessly
pillaged of their branches, carpeting the highway for the King.

Jerusalem's towers and domes were plainly visible now across the
deep valley that marked the course of the shallow Kedron.  A huge
multitude of pilgrims, lodged in the city, had been shouted into
action by couriers from the main body of celebrants; and here they
came, hundreds of them, racing up the long slope of the Mount of
Olives.  At the brow of the hill the procession halted, and
gradually the triumphal shouts subsided.  A strange silence fell
upon them.  The King was about to make an announcement.  This was
the moment for which they had been waiting!

For a long while he sat in a posture of dejection, gazing down upon
the ancient stronghold of his people.  Then the transfixed
thousands who stood silently waiting witnessed an incredible sight.
The King was in tears.  He extended both arms in an embracing
gesture, and cried, 'O Jerusalem!  Jerusalem!  How often would I
have gathered you--as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings--
but you would not!'

For a moment the people were stunned and unbelieving.  The Nazarene
had thrown away a Kingdom!  The crowd began to disintegrate.
Everyone was scurrying down the hill.  The pilgrims had lost their
King, but they still had Jerusalem.  The man who owned Jasper came
and led him away.  Jesus' companions were speechless.  Peter gnawed
his underlip.  Andrew looked sober.  John and James consulted each
other's clouded eyes and shook their heads.  Philip's face was
pale.  Old Bartholomew had edged to the side of the street and was
sitting on the curb, mopping his forehead.  Thad was standing
beside him, holding the old man's pack. . . .  Judas had gone on
down the hill.

                         * * * * * *

The little company, with Jesus in the midst of them, proceeded
slowly toward the city.  Straggling groups of pilgrims overtook and
passed them, staring into the Master's face with various
expressions of sympathy, entreaty, disappointment and reproach.
Many were in tears.

Little was said, for there was little to say, as they trudged
along, each man busy with his own thoughts.  Although it was
dismayingly certain now that the spontaneous public clamour to
recognize Jesus as the promised Messiah had been silenced beyond
any possibility of its renewal, the disciples--albeit distressed
over the whole affair--were breathing easier than yesterday.  Then
they had feared that a great crowd of Jesus' admirers, surging
about him in the streets of Jerusalem, would evoke the attention of
the patrols, and the Master would be arrested--and punished as a
disturber of the peace.

As it had turned out, Jesus had dealt with that situation before it
had become acute.  He was safer now than he might have been if this
demonstration had not occurred.  It was unlikely, they thought,
that the authorities would take action against a movement which the
Master himself had dissolved.

When they came to the East Gate and were about to enter the city,
Jesus turned to say that they would go at once to the Temple.
Peter smiled his gratification.  Surely the authorities could find
no fault with that.  Had Jesus decided to ignore the Temple it
might have aroused criticism.  But, like any other pious pilgrim,
he would pay his respects to the hallowed shrine of Jewry.  The
moody silence that had gripped them was eased somewhat and they
conversed in voices that tried to sound casual.  'There's the Pool
of Siloam, Johnny,' remarked James.  'That's where Nehemiah began
the rebuilding of the wall.'  'See--there's Herod's Tower,' said
Andrew.  'Looks new,' observed Philip, 'compared to the rest of the
buildings.'

The Temple was having a busy day.  Everybody had brought a
sacrificial offering, each according to his means.  The beautiful
court of the Temple, lined and walled with exquisite designs in
mosaic, was crammed with the gifts of pilgrims: fat calves and
lambs and large slatted pens full of doves.  The air was heavy with
animal stench and raucous with the bellowings of the cattle and the
bleating of the sheep; and over all this racket shrilled the
strident voices of the money-changers who were there to serve the
donors.  For very frequently a lamb was found to be blemished, and
the astonished pilgrim, who had thought his offering was entirely
sound, would be told that they could provide him with an
unblemished lamb in exchange for a small cash difference.  The
pilgrim would glumly produce the money; but in many cases it was
coinage of the provinces and countries even more remote.  He had to
present himself at the desks of the exchangers, who could ill
afford to conduct this service free of charge.  It was a sordid
scene, especially to anyone from the open country, unused to such
haggling within consecrated walls.  Even if it had been entirely
honest, which it wasn't, this was not the place for it!

The Master's indignation suddenly flared.  Above the babel of
voices and bellows, he shouted, 'My Father's House is a place of
worship!  You have made it a place of merchandise!'

Seizing a drover's whip, he began to drive the animals out of the
Temple Court.  They stampeded toward the street, the crowd
scurrying to give them room.  The cages of the doves were thrown
open and the birds were soon all over the building.  Then the
unscrupulous exchangers came in for their share of the rebuke.
Jesus charged on them, upsetting their tables and money-tills.

The grim-faced companions of the Master retreated to the outer
wall, astounded by his action.  'This,' muttered Peter, 'will
settle it!  They will never forgive him!'

Nor did they.

                         * * * * * *

Esther's journey to Jerusalem was much more pleasant than she had
had any right to expect.  After her sad leave-taking of Hannah,
whose intuition informed her--and quite correctly, too--that they
would never meet again, she immediately realized her good fortune
in falling in with this friendly party from Capernaum.

There were a dozen of them, all related, and they seemed eager to
welcome her into their company.  The pretty girl Myra, instantly
divining that the stranger was facing the trip unhappily, had been
quick to confide that she herself hadn't wanted to come along
because all the others were so much older 'and so tiresomely
pious.'  And now that she had found a friend of her own age she was
going to have a good time, after all.

This warm-hearted proffer of comradeship was irresistible, and
Esther surprised herself by the promptness with which she accepted
it.  The peculiar circumstances which had surrounded her--and
almost suffocated her--ever since her early childhood had permitted
but few youthful acquaintances.  Since leaving Arabia she had had
no girl friends at all.  Myra was charming.

Having nothing to conceal, the girl from Capernaum opened the way
for mutual confidences by chatting freely about her family.
Wizened and wiry Grandfather Asher, with the patriarchal beard, no
teeth and two canes, was, by right of seniority, the leader and
mentor of the party.  Myra's father, Gideon, lean, sober, and
untalkative, walked beside the old man.  Her mother, with a timid
smile, followed with the other older women.

'My grandfather,' she said, 'is a great one for religion.  He
thinks of nothing but the Synagogue--and the Temple at the Holy
City.  He will be talking to you presently, and you'd better show
him you're interested, or he'll be annoyed.'

They agreed that old people were funny and should be humoured.
With her family accounted for, Myra talked about herself, her
friends, her harp, her weaving, her sheep-dog, and--demurely, with
lowered voice--about handsome young Joel, Jairus' chief vintner,
adding in a whisper that her parents, and particularly her
grandfather, did not approve of him.

'But you do, I think,' said Esther, which brought a pink flush to
the girl's cheeks.

'Now let's talk about you, Esther,' she said.

This wasn't going to be so easy as it had been for Myra.  Esther
was an orphan, vaguely related to a family in Bethsaida with whom
she had been living recently; but she was so indefinite about her
origin that she soon began to seem somewhat illegitimate.  Myra
came to her rescue by asking if she lived with the woman who had
accompanied her to the highway.

'Yes,' replied Esther.  'Her name is Hannah.'

'There was a Bethsaidan woman named Hannah who was supposed to have
been healed by that Carpenter when she was at death's door,' said
Myra in a tone of incredulity.

Esther nodded.  'That was my Hannah,' she said.  'And it was a
miracle.  I was there.  I saw it.'

Myra laid her hand lightly on Esther's arm, and murmured, 'Don't
let my grandfather hear you say that.  He gets very angry.  That's
what he has against Joel.'

They gradually improved their pace, putting a little distance
between themselves and the others.  Myra wanted to pursue their
talk about the Carpenter.

'I never heard him speak; never saw him,' she went on.  'I wasn't
allowed to.  But I don't like him because he has come between me
and Joel.'

'Joel believes in him, then,' said Esther.

'He not only believes in him,' said Myra.  'He has left his job,
for days on end, to follow him about!  He was gone so often that
Jairus discharged him.  And my grandfather was glad of it and said
it served him right. . . .  And then, when it was told that the
Carpenter had cured the sickness of little Sharon, Jairus' child,
Joel was taken back and his wages were raised.  We all thought my
grandfather would have a fit.'

'Did your grandfather ever see Jesus?' Esther inquired.

'Not he!' rasped Myra.  'Grandfather's got it into his head that
this Jesus person is down on the Synagogue, and encourages people
to break the Sabbath, and consorts with publicans and sinners.  You
should hear him! . . .  I hate religion,' she added angrily.  'Any
kind of religion!'

'I don't believe you would hate Jesus, if you knew him,' said
Esther quietly.

'Well--I'll never know him,' snapped Myra.  'My family will see to
that. . . .  Come--let us talk about something pleasant.'

So they talked about Joel.

That night they camped at Hammath.  The next morning they passed
through Cana.  Grandfather Asher, learning that this was Esther's
first trip to Jerusalem, took her in hand and pointed out memorable
landmarks.  She listened attentively, but asked no questions that
might betray her ignorance of Jewish history.  As they passed
through Samaria, the old man gathered his flock around Jacob's Well
and told them all about it.  It was the first time Esther had ever
heard of the hallowed well--or of Jacob; but she managed to show a
becoming reverence.  Indeed, she was much more deeply affected by
the story than Myra, who patted a yawn and gazed at an excited dog
that had chased a cat up a tree.

That afternoon, Asher hobbled forward, grasped Esther's arm and
pointed to a distant mountain-peak.

'It was up there,' he declaimed impressively, 'that the great
prophet Elijah lived!  Right up there where you see that notch!'

'Indeed!' murmured Esther.

The old man fell back to inform the others and Myra moved in close
beside her friend.

'Tell me more about this wonderful man Elijah,' said Esther.

'He lived centuries ago,' drawled Myra, 'lived alone, and important
people came to him for advice.  He was very poor.  Once he was so
hard up that the ravens brought food to him.'

'How did they know he was hungry?' inquired Esther.

Myra chuckled, a bit irreverently.

'Because he ate what they thought was good, I suppose.  A man would
have to be pretty hungry to enjoy a raven's choice of victuals.'

'You're incorrigible, Myra!' laughed Esther.  'It's a good thing
your grandfather didn't hear you say that.'

'Yes,' agreed Myra.  'He wouldn't like it.  He dotes on all these
old miracle-yarns, handed down from long ago. . . .  And Joel
can talk of little else than the miracles of his wonderful
Carpenter. . . .  Me?--I don't believe in any of it!  I hate the
whole business of miracles!'

At noon on the day the Romans called 'Monday' they entered the Holy
City through the ancient Damascus Gate and proceeded directly to
the Temple, as was the custom of pilgrims to the Passover.  Having
paid their respects there, the party from Capernaum would go, as
usual, to the home of wealthy Uncle Boaz in Bethany.  Myra, with
the full approval of the family, had invited Esther to be their
guest.  That would be quite agreeable, they all said, to their
hospitable Uncle Boaz.

Jerusalem was very old and showed many battle-scars.  The
thoroughfare they travelled was a bewildering hodge-podge of
dilapidated antiquities built of sun-baked brick, dwarfed by
magnificent modern structures in marble.  The cobbled street was
crowded with all manner of traffic, on foot and on wheels.  Camel-
caravans and heavily laden donkey-trains pushed the pedestrians to
the narrow sidewalks.  Beggars whined and thrust out their basins.
'Make way there!' barked the mounted patrols in their gaudy Roman
uniforms as they cleared a corridor for some haughty procession of
black robes.  It was very confusing to people from the country.

Myra, who had been here several times before and was able to
identify the most prominent buildings, walked arm-in-arm with
Esther. . . .  There was the Procurator's Insula, a breath-taking
achievement in Roman architecture. . . .  A little farther on, Myra
pointed out the palace of the High Priest, Caiaphas, a massive old
weather-beaten pile of marble.  It was grim as a fort.  The
shutters at the high windows were tightly closed.  A dozen sentries
strutted slowly to and fro on the broad terrace.

'Not very homelike,' commented Esther, for something to say.

'It has quite an interesting history,' said Myra.  'It was formerly
the palace of King Herod the Great.'

Esther tugged them to a stop for a longer look, wondering what Myra
might say if she told her that this was her birthplace.

At length they sighted the Temple.  It was the most beautiful
building that Esther had ever seen.  She stood fascinated, slowly
shaking her head in wonderment.  Their further progress was at a
snail's pace, for the street was packed to suffocation.  After many
long delays they reached the exquisitely sculptured entrance to the
Temple Court.  Old Asher had found an acquaintance of his own years
with whom he was exchanging affectionate hugs and excited
greetings.  Presently the other old man was whispering some
important news into Asher's ear.  His eyes widened as he listened.
He nodded vigorously.  His friend moved on.

It was easily to be seen that old Asher was bursting to tell what
he had heard.  Gathering his family about him he announced
dramatically:

'Galilee will be troubled no more by this Carpenter who has scorned
the faith of our fathers!  He came to the Temple yesterday and
created a disturbance--drove the people's sacrificial offerings
into the street; upset the tables of the exchangers who were here
to assist the pilgrims!  Now the authorities intend to deal with
him as he deserves!'  Asher scrubbed his thin hands together and
grinned happily.  'This time,' he shouted, 'the Carpenter will pay
for his disrespect to Israel!'

Esther leaned heavily on Myra's arm and felt her knees giving way.

'You're ill!' muttered Myra, supporting her.  'Hold on tight--and
we'll get out of here!'

'What's the matter with her?' demanded old Asher crossly.

'She is fainting,' said Myra.  'It's so stuffy and hot in here.
I'll take her outside. . . .  Help me, father!'

Gideon obediently took the other arm and they half-carried Esther
through the jostling pack and out on to the pavement, where she
revived enough to murmur that she was ashamed to have caused them
so much bother.

'We must find a place where you can sit down,' said Myra.  'I'll
take care of her, father.  You go back and join the others.  We
will meet you in Bethany.  I know the way.'

Gideon hesitated.

'Your grandfather will be put out, Myra, by your leaving.'

'You tell him I'm sorry,' she said.  'Esther can't go back in
there, the way she feels.  And I don't want to, myself.  It's
stifling!  It stinks!'

'That,' said Gideon reproachfully, 'is not the way to speak about
the House of God.'

'Forgive me, father,' said Myra contritely.  'I didn't mean to hurt
your feelings.'

Gideon clumsily patted her arm.

'It is rather close in there,' he conceded, as he turned away.
'Don't get lost.  We will see you at Uncle Boaz's house.'

'Your father is so gentle--and kind,' said Esther.

'Yes,' said Myra; 'when my grandfather isn't looking, my father can
be quite a darling.  Sometimes I wish I knew what he really thinks--
about our religion.'

They were walking slowly south in the direction of the old Sheep
Gate.  Although the whole Temple area for many blocks was densely
packed, it was so much more quiet here that by comparison the
street seemed almost deserted.  Esther had recovered from her
sudden weakness, but was silent and depressed.

'Tell me, Esther,' said Myra confidentially, 'was it really the bad
air in the Temple that affected you--or what my grandfather said
about the Carpenter getting into trouble?'

'It was a shock, Myra.  We were all afraid to have him come here.
I hope they don't hurt him.'

'If he can do miracles, as they say, maybe he can defend himself.'

'I'm sure he could, if he wanted to; but he seems unconcerned about
his own safety.  He will go to any lengths to help other people,
but--'

'Perhaps he has left the city,' thought Myra; but Esther doubted
it.

'He wouldn't run away,' she declared.

They were nearing the twin-towered Sheep Gate now.  Hard by, at the
end of the street, loomed a grimy old edifice, bearing a peculiar
star-shaped roof supported by massive stone columns.  On all of its
five faades it was open, without walls.  Esther inquired what it
was, and Myra obliged her with an amazing story.

The queer old pavilion sheltered a pool.  It was commonly believed
that an eccentric angel occasionally touched the water, and whoever
dived in immediately was cured of whatever disease he had.

'Surely you don't believe that!' said Esther.

'Me?  Of course not!  But plenty of sick people do; and they lie
here all day on the flagging, waiting for this angel.  It's quite
pitiful!  What an angel!  Swooping in here once in a while, to help
just one person, and letting the rest suffer!'

They paused on the well-worn steps that led into the cavernous old
structure, Esther remarking that apparently the institution wasn't
operating today.

'It's usually crowded,' said Myra.  'I suppose they're all up
around the Temple, begging. . . .  I see one man over there.'

Suddenly Esther clutched Myra's arm and uttered a little cry of
surprise.  A small group of men sauntered into the building through
an opposite entrance.

'Look, Myra!' she whispered excitedly.  'There is Jesus!  It seems
so strange to see him without a great crowd following.'

'It's not strange at all,' said Myra, 'if he's in trouble.  People
aren't going to risk being seen with him.'

'Come!' said Esther.  'I must speak to him!'  She took Myra by the
hand and tugged her forward.  Jesus, somewhat in advance of his
little company, was strolling beside the pool, gazing down into the
water.  He halted now before an emaciated invalid, lying motionless
on a mat, and engaged him in conversation.  The disciples had
gathered around to listen.  Esther and Myra, unnoticed, crept in
close behind them.

'The trouble is, sir,' the sick man was saying feebly, 'whenever
the angel comes, those who have very little ailing them, and are
more nimble, leap into the pool. . . .  My people have been
bringing me here, sir, day after day for many years, to be healed
of the palsy; but always another reaches the water before me.'

'Come, friend,' said Jesus gently.  'You have waited long enough.
You may get up now--and go home.'

Myra suddenly tightened her grasp on Esther's hand and drew a
quick, audible breath like a child's sob.  The paralytic was slowly
rising to his feet!  He was weeping, and incoherently mumbling his
thanks.

Peter, turning aside with wet eyes, recognized Esther and came to
greet her.

'This is Myra,' she said.  'I came to Jerusalem with her family.
Her father is Gideon, of Capernaum.'

'I used to know him well,' said Peter.  'Your father is an upright
man. . . .  And your grandfather is Asher,' he went on, a little
frown creasing his forehead.  'Did he come with you?'  And when
Myra had nodded, rather diffidently, he said, 'You have just
witnessed a miracle, Myra.  Is that not true?'

'Yes, sir!' declared Myra.  'That is true!'

'Your grandfather, Asher, is hostile to our Master,' said Peter.
'Will you tell him what you have seen here today?'

'He would not believe me,' said Myra.

'But you will tell him?' entreated Peter.

'I--I don't know, sir,' stammered Myra.  'It would only make him
angry with me.'

While this colloquy was in progress, Jesus had sauntered on through
the pavilion and was descending into the street, his company
following at a little distance.

'I'm sorry we weren't able to speak to him,' said Esther, as they
moved out into the sunshine.  Myra made no reply.

At the corner of the street, they came face to face with him.  He
smiled and extended his hands to them, saying, 'Peace to you, my
daughters.'  Esther warmly clasped one of his outstretched hands
and murmured, 'Master!'

Myra, visibly perturbed and with eyes averted, nervously toyed with
the fringes of her cape.  Then, tentatively, her eyes ventured to
meet his.  They widened and swam with tears.  Impulsively she
reached for his hand with both of hers, and whispered brokenly,
'Will you be my Master, too?'



Chapter XX


Fully an hour before sunset on the fourteenth day of Nisan
Jerusalem began to go into retirement.  It was as if the shadow of
some spectral hand had moved across the Holy City invoking silence.

The bazaars and food-markets, seemingly responsive to a prearranged
signal, were closing their shutters.  Vehicular traffic was rapidly
clearing from the streets.  The pedestrian throngs were melting
away.  Only the Roman patrols remained.

Residents and their Jewish relatives and guests from afar were
quietly assembling behind closed doors.  Even the Gentiles, who had
come to Jerusalem on business and were under no obligation to do
honour to Jewry's solemn observance, had tethered their camels and
were lounging in their tents.

On such a springtime night as this, fifteen centuries ago, the
Israelites had escaped from their intolerable bondage in Egypt.  On
that occasion, according to their sacred Scriptures, the Angel of
Death had passed over the Land of the Pharaohs, striking down the
first-born son of every Egyptian home; and that the avenging Angel
might identify the houses to be spared, the Children of Israel had
been instructed to sprinkle the blood of a lamb upon their door-
posts.  And while they waited for the summons to depart they stood
in silence round their tables, equipped for their adventure, and
solemnly ate the sacrificial lamb.

That was the 'Passover,' and it was still annually commemorated.
Perhaps the dramatic event might have been long since forgotten--
such is the inconsistency of human nature--had the daring flight to
freedom led the fugitives to a permanent peace and prosperity in
their 'Promised Land.'  They had not found peace and prosperity.
Through the ages they had worn the yokes and chains of many
oppressors; but in spite of their enslavements, or because of them,
they dutifully ate the paschal lamb, emblematic of a freedom
unachieved but still to come.  The Jew was a melancholy optimist.
He shed tears over a tragic past, but he had never lost his faith
in a triumphant future.

Tonight he was further from freedom than he had been for at least a
century.  Even while he devoutly ate the lamb he could hear the
ominous jangling of the Roman Empire's armour on the street outside
his blood-smeared door.

Grandfather, at the head of the family table, bent with the burden
of his years, piously read from the well-worn scroll in his
trembling hands, 'O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up
thy voice!  Say to the cities of Judah, "The Lord will come with a
strong hand."'

And while Grandfather read the comforting words, the young
Centurion on the street was harshly measuring, in clipped
syllables, the well-disciplined foot-beats of his marching
legionaries.

'Thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation; a tabernacle
that shall never be taken down!' intoned Grandfather.

'Un'! . . .  Du'! . . .  Tres! . . .  Quat'!' barked the Centurion.

                         * * * * * *

On a hillside in the country, halfway between Bethphage and
Bethany, with no shelter but the spreading branches of an ancient
cypress, a company of forlorn men from Galilee sat silently
watching the sun go down.

They had made no preparations for a celebration of The Passover,
and it was too late now to do anything about it, even if the
facilities had been available.  They had no lamb, no house, no door-
posts to anoint with blood, no roasting-oven, no table.

It wouldn't have mattered--certainly not to the Big Fisherman--had
they faced this predicament at home in Capernaum.  The Passover had
meant nothing to him for many years, not since he was a youngster
in his pious father's home; and even then he had regarded the
depressing ceremonies with glum indifference.  But here, on the
outskirts of the Holy City, where the commemoration was so
universally and reverently observed, the Jew in Simon the son of
Jonas felt lonely, lost, expatriated.

'Andy,' he remarked to his sober-faced brother, seated on the
ground beside him, 'Andy, down there in the city are hundreds,
perhaps thousands, from all the provinces, who would feel honoured
to have the Master eat the Passover with them; but are afraid to
admit that they are his friends.'

Andrew nodded slowly, but made no reply, and Peter continued
reminiscently:

'Last summer, when they brought their sick ones to him for healing,
and were deeply moved by his words of comfort, they wished they
might invite him home with them to be their guest.  Now that he is
in danger--'

Peter's low-voiced soliloquy was interrupted by a little stir
immediately behind them.  Jesus, who had been sitting quite apart
from the silent men, had come forward and reseated himself between
John and James.  All eyes slowly drifted in that direction.

'We will observe the Passover,' he said.  'You two brothers will
arrange for it.  Go now to the highway and proceed through Bethany
until you overtake a man who will be entering his home with a
pitcher of water on his shoulder.  There is an unused upper room in
his house.  Tell him to prepare it for your Master and his
company.'

They rose to do his bidding.

'Shall we try to find a sacrificial lamb?' asked John.

Jesus closed his eyes and shook his head.

'The master of the house will provide you with wheaten bread and a
flagon of wine,' he said.  'That will suffice.'

'Will we be returning here for the night, Master?' asked James.

'No.  Take your blankets with you.  After supper we will rest in
the Garden of Gethsemane.'

'Have you money to pay this man for the use of his room?' inquired
Judas, jingling the coin-pouch.

The brothers turned inquiring eyes toward Jesus and he waved them
on their way, making no reply to Judas, who, realizing that he had
spoken out of turn, shrugged and resumed his seat.  Young Thad,
sitting nearest him, presently got to his feet and strolled over to
drape his jacket about old Bartholomew's shoulders; for the sun was
setting and the air was chilly.

                         * * * * * *

It was a most depressing feast.  The fear that had haunted them for
many days was now confirmed.  The Master told them that the end was
near.  This, he said, would be their last supper together.

He had preceded them on the road, and when their intuition told
them he preferred to walk alone they slowed their steps as he
retraced last Sunday morning's journey, when he had been attended
by the shouting thousands who thought they wanted him to be their
King.  Under the bright moonlight could be seen the withered palm-
branches which the disappointed crowd had flung into the gutters.
Peter was blind with tears; and when Philip pointed to the palms,
he could only shake his head.  There were no words for his grief.

When they arrived at the house where John and James were standing
at the gate they found that Jesus had already entered and was
waiting for them at the doorway of the upper room.  He had provided
himself with towels and a basin of water.  It was customary, when
guests were expected, to station a servant at the door to wash the
visitors' dusty feet.  The disciples were appalled to find that the
Master intended to perform this menial service.  Peter, when his
turn came, stoutly refused to consent; but yielded reluctantly when
Jesus insisted.

They quietly took their places about the table.  The supper was not
after the manner of the traditional Passover feast.  This, Jesus
explained, was the inauguration of a new festival.  In the days to
come, he said, whenever they--and the others who would believe in
him--sat together, and the cup was passed among them, they were to
remember him as the sacrifice for men's salvation.  He would die
that all those who believed in him might live.

The words were spoken softly.  The disciples were heartsick.  Judas
slipped quietly out of the room.  They were all relieved to see him
go.  Johnny, sitting beside the Master, now broke down completely
and cried like a lost child.  Jesus put his arm around him tenderly
and drew him close.  They were all weeping.

'Let not your heart be troubled,' the Master was saying.  'In my
Father's house are many mansions.  I go to prepare a place for you,
that where I am you may be also.'

                         * * * * * *

It was close to midnight when Jesus rose from the table and
announced that they would now depart.  The evening, despite its
sadness, had passed quickly; for the disciples, now awake to the
fact that they were presently to be left without his guidance, had
many questions to ask of their Master.

And the questions were of a surprising nature.  Even in the face of
all the instructions they had received concerning a Kingdom-to-
come, their last-minute entreaties for reassurance showed how
vaguely they had understood.  So long as they had had him by their
side, walking and talking with him, the future seemed far off,
something to be dealt with when they got to it.  Now that they had
got to it, the future demanded a fresh examination.

Jesus had just finished saying, 'You all know where I am going.
Though you cannot come with me now, you know the way.'

Thomas had spoken up promptly:  'But, Master, we do not know where
you are going: how can we know the way?'

'I am the way,' said Jesus patiently.  'I go to our Father.'

'Tell us about the Father,' begged Philip, as if he had never heard
a word on the subject.

'The Father is in me,' said Jesus.  'The words that I have spoken
are His words.  The deeds that I have done are His deeds.'

They all nodded their belief that this was true, but their apparent
understanding did so little to assuage their feeling of utter
desolation that the Master continued, tenderly:

'I shall not leave you comfortless.  I shall come to you.'

At length they descended the stairs and came out into the
moonlight, Jesus pausing to offer a gracious word of thanks to
their host, who followed them to the gate as if reluctant to see
them leave his house.

It was only a short distance to the brow of the hill that
overlooked the silent city.  Jesus tarried there for a long moment
before turning off the highway to the hard-beaten path that wound
through the grove of aged olive-trees.

Peter, James, and John had followed closely, the others trailing at
some distance, not sure what was expected of them.  Deep in the
shadows of the grove, Jesus turned to the three and asked them to
wait there.  He went on a little way and knelt in the shadow of a
rock.  After a while the watchers' eyes grew heavy.  For the past
few nights they had been too gravely troubled to take their
accustomed rest, and this evening's drain on their emotions had
left them exhausted.  Soon they were stretched on the ground with
their heads pillowed in the crooks of their arms, fast asleep.

After an hour of anguished prayer, Jesus returned to them.  The
little group of men who had known him best and loved him most were
unprepared to support him with assurances of their sympathy and
affection.  He was alone now, without a friend in the world.

                         * * * * * *

The arrest was quite obviously unauthorized and singularly lacking
in dignity.  It was not conducted by the Roman patrols, but by an
unofficial rabble under the leadership of the High Priest's butler,
Malchus, a Roman.

Malchus, with an ear accustomed to lingering at keyholes, had
learned of his eminent employer's decision to hale the Galilean
into court; and, thinking to improve his rating in the esteem of
Caiaphas, had taken it upon himself to make the capture, which was
the last thing that the High Priest desired on the solemn night of
the Passover.

There was quite a crowd of them, armed with sticks and stones, as
if they were out to hunt down a mad dog and beat it to death.
Judas had been shameless enough to come along with the riff-raff
that comprised the mob.  Malchus needed him to identify the victim.

Peter lunged forward and surprised the butler with a savage blow on
the head, but Jesus cautioned him against further resistance.  He
would go with them quietly.  Seeing that their captive intended no
defence, the crowd became boldly courageous, bound his hands,
tugged him roughly down the long hill and through the darkened
streets to the palace of the High Priest.

Although it was long past old Annas' bedtime, he was still up.
With a dozen or more dignitaries of the Rabbinical College and the
Sanhedrin, he had accepted the invitation of Caiaphas to celebrate
the Passover with him in his council-chamber.  Deep in a discussion
of the most feasible procedure to dispose of the Nazarene with a
minimum of protest from his adherents, the pundits were suddenly
startled by an unseemly clamour in the corridor.

Malchus, exuberant over his conquest and confident of a warm
welcome, burst in upon the conclave with his quarry, pushing his
dishevelled prisoner into the midst of them and presenting him with
a proud flourish.  'Ecce homo!' announced Malchus dramatically.

The wise men were stunned to speechlessness.  This was not the
place and certainly not the time to prefer charges against this
man; but here he was, and they must do something about him.

'So--you are this Jesus of Nazareth!' snarled Caiaphas
contemptuously.

Jesus said he was; and, after an awkward pause, Caiaphas asked,
'What have you been teaching?'

'You might inquire of those who have heard me,' said Jesus.

Malchus, standing close beside him, slapped him in the face and
shouted, 'You should not speak so to the High Priest!'

Ignoring the blow, Jesus continued, 'I have not taught in secret,
but openly.'  His eyes swept the group and came to rest on the face
of Rabbi Ben-Sholem, who seemed annoyed by this searching scrutiny.
'Many people,' Jesus went on, 'could testify as to my sayings.'

'The rabble!' squeaked Ben-Sholem shrilly.  'Outlanders!
Damascenes!  Samaritans!  Camel-boys!'

Jesus made no reply to that.  A few more questions were asked, but
the inquisition lacked spirit.  They were all aware that there
wasn't much that they could do, and they surmised that Jesus knew
it.  It had been their intention to bring him to trial before the
regularly constituted authorities.  This present company could
badger him and insult him as long as they liked, and nothing would
come of it except damage to their own dignity.  It was difficult to
decide what to do with him.

Caiaphas ordered Malchus to take the prisoner outside and await
further instructions.  The command was growled so crossly that the
butler, disappointed over the apparent failure of his effort to
ingratiate himself with these learned men, jostled and jerked the
captive out of the room to make him share his own inglorious exit.
A servant slipped quietly into the room and up-ended the tall hour-
glass on the table at the High Priest's elbow.  It was two o'clock.

After a considerable silence, each man hoping that someone else
might come forward with a promising idea, Obadiah, Chief of the
Scribes, cleared his throat.

'Why not send him directly to Pilate?'

'What?' snorted Caiaphas.  'At this hour?'

'He'll still be up,' muttered old Nathan, the High Priest's legal
adviser.

'He'll be drinking and telling bawdy stories all night with the
visiting Legates.'

'He might even be pleased with some diversion,' chortled old Annas.
'Write him a note, Caiaphas.  Tell him we want him to try this
fellow--forthwith!'

'Good!' exclaimed Ben-Sholem.  'The whole thing might be over and
done with before the city awakes in the morning!'

'No--it's not that good!' grumbled Caiaphas.  'All this business on
Passover night!  What will he think of us?  If such a note is to go
to Pilate, Father Annas, you may write it!'

'I'm not the High Priest,' rumbled the old man.  'And what does
that Roman know or care about the Passover!'

'And why should we care what he thinks?' added Nathan.  'He will do
what he's told to do.'

They all seemed agreed on this.  Nathan got out his stylus and
wrote the note, Caiaphas signed it, and Malchus was given his
orders.  The mob hurried their prisoner to the Insula.

The Procurator was not only awake but, as Nathan had predicted, was
having a party for the visiting Legates and a Prefect or two who
had accompanied the legions from forts related to their cities.

It was a beautiful night, warm enough to be comfortable out-of-
doors, and the Procurator was entertaining his long-time friends on
the spacious porch of the Insula.

'What now?' he growled, as the mob swarmed up the marble steps.  He
scowled at the note that Malchus handed him and stared hard at the
prisoner.

'What evil have you been up to,' he demanded, 'on a night when
you're supposed to be attending to your religious duties?  You are
a Jew, aren't you?'

It was not a question that could be answered in a word, and Jesus
was tardy with a reply.  The butler jabbed him in the ribs with his
elbow and shouted, 'Speak up, fellow!'

Pilate's lip curled.

'And who are you?' he demanded scornfully.

'My name is Malchus.  I am of the High Priest's household.'

'Well, you're no credit to it, I must say.  Malchus, eh?  That
doesn't sound Jewish.'

'I'm a Roman, sir!' said the butler, with a little more confidence.

'That's unfortunate,' snapped Pilate.  'Take your hands off the
prisoner and stand aside!'  He held the note at arm's length and
scanned it distastefully.  'Now, then, Jesus, what's all this
about?  You're said to be a disturber of the peace.  In the name of
all the Gods, where--in this quarrelsome country--have you found
any peace to disturb?'

The crowd was getting restless, a few of them suspecting--and not
without warrant--that the Procurator was more interested in amusing
his grinning guests than attending to his business as judge.  The
muttering in the rear of the pack grew urgent.  Somebody shouted,
'Away with the Galilean!'

Pilate caught at it.

'Are you a Galilean?' he inquired, and slowly turning his head
toward Legate Julian of Capernaum, he winked impishly.

Jesus said that he was a Galilean.

'Then you don't belong here at all,' declared Pilate. . . .  'You--
Malchus--or whatever your name is.  Take him to the Galilean
Embassy and tell your troubles to Herod Antipas.'

There were many angry shouts of 'No!'  But the Procurator hurled an
overhand gesture of dismissal at the crowd--and ordered some more
wine.  The Chief of the city patrols stepped forward and whispered,
'Shall I send a deputation over there to keep order, sire?'  To
which Pilate replied indifferently, 'No--let the Tetrarch attend to
that; unless,' he added, 'there is disorderly conduct in the
streets.'

And so, bitterly disappointed and noisily disgruntled, they led
Jesus to the Embassy, the crowd increasing as they proceeded.  The
disciples had fallen far behind the shouting mob, and trudged
along, silent, helpless, frightened.

They hammered at the imposing bronze doors of the Embassy until
they were admitted, and stormed into the beautiful, high-domed
courtroom, yelling impudently for Antipas.  All of the disciples
edged themselves into the lobby, all but Peter.  For a while he
stood irresolute and alone on the pavement outside, tugging
nervously at his underlip.  Then he ambled over to the wide-open
gate to the carriage-court and looked in.

There was a pleasant fire burning in the middle of it and a few
tall, gaudily uniformed patrols were warming their hands.  Peter
felt chilly and advanced toward the fire.  The urbane legionaries
saw him coming--and grinned.  He knew they were amused at his
provincial garb.  For a moment he had a notion to retreat; but,
presuming that the soldiers would laugh scornfully if he did so, he
shambled on, feeling himself very much out of place; for the first
time in his life an object of derision.

                         * * * * * *

The Vestris had done very well on the voyage up from Gaza; had
berthed at one of the new wharves in Joppa shortly after dawn on
Thursday.  The sister-ships of the fleet had discharged their cargo
and were swinging lazily at anchor in the roadstead waiting orders
to sail.

Proconsul Mencius and Captain Fulvius limbered up their horses and
started on their thirty-mile journey to Jerusalem, intending to
break the trip at Ashnah; but after a bad supper and a glance at
the guest-rooms of the only inn, they decided to press on.  Their
horses were fresh and the moon was bright, and the highway, all but
deserted of traffic, was free of dust.  It was half-past two when
they reached the city.

They were going to put up at Levi's Inn, known to be the best
tavern in Jerusalem.  It was a little way outside the east gate, on
the slope leading up the long hill toward Bethany.  As they passed
the front of the large, high-walled compound adjacent to the
Insula, Mencius wondered whether they might not find better
accommodation for the horses in the barracks-stables.  It might be
worth inquiring about.

Fulvius was too tired to take any interest in this suggestion.  He
had no taste for a long walk.  He wanted to get to bed.  Mencius
decided to stop at the Insula's stables.  Fulvius, with the
Proconsul's saddlebags, was to go on and make a reservation for him
at the tavern.  He would be up later and see him at breakfast.

They were quite deferential at the military stables; but, 'as you
can see for yourself, sir, we haven't a stall.  Everything full up.
But I feel sure there is room in the stables at the Galilean
Embassy.  It's only a little way--just around the next corner to
the right.  You can't miss it, sir.  Some kind of a brawl going on
over there.'

'I don't want to get into a brawl,' said Mencius.

'It isn't among the horses, sir.  Everything will be quiet in the
stables.'

'What's the racket about?' asked Mencius.

'Oh, they're trying some country preacher for teaching the wrong
doctrine,' drawled the old hostler.  'The horses aren't in it.
They've too much sense to get mixed up with a thing like that,
sir.'

The Proconsul handed the old fellow a couple of shekels, remounted
Brutus, and followed directions.

There stood the costly and superfluous Embassy that Herod's rich
and worthless son had built to satisfy his vanity.  The main part
of the imposing structure, fronting the street, was brightly
lighted and noisily doing business.  From the tone of the excited
voices that shrilled through the open windows the litigants were
angry.  The Proconsul chuckled.  You'd never hear such a bedlam as
that in a Roman court.  No, indeed!  A Roman court wasn't always
fair, but it was always orderly. . . .  A country preacher--being
tried for his heresies--at three o'clock in the morning--when
everybody was supposed to be sequestered because of the Passover.
It was incredible! . . .  A country preacher, eh? . . .  Could it
be possible that this was Voldi's 'Torchbearer'? . . .  Mencius
rode on a short way further and found the stables.  They were of an
architecture consistent with the Embassy, ostentatious to the point
of absurdity if not vulgarity; quite appropriate for the official
seat of an Ambassador, but too foolishly grand for his horses.

The white marble stables were scrupulously clean, but Brutus had a
sharp nose and he was very tired.  He needed no urging to turn in.
A middle-aged man, whose tunic bore the Embassy's crest, came to
the door.  The Proconsul dismounted, identified himself, and made
his request, which was cheerfully granted.

'My name is Aulus, sir.  You've a fine horse there!  He deserves
the best.  The Tetrarch will be pleased to have him here.  His
Highness is a great one for beautiful horses.'  Aulus had tugged
off Brutus' trappings and was leading him into a roomy box-stall,
Mencius following along.  'You see that tall, black Arabian in the
next box, sir?' chattered Aulus.  'He's the latest one.  The
Tetrarch bought him--for a song--only the day before yesterday.'

Brutus had stretched his neck and was nuzzling the oak stanchions
that separated the stalls.  The black horse moved closer to the
partition and nickered softly.

'By Jupiter!' laughed Aulus.  'They act as if they were
acquainted!'

Mencius walked over to the waist-high door of the adjacent box.
Darik turned his head in that direction; and, sauntering to the
door, sniffed the visitor's extended hand.

'He's making up with you, sir, better than he has with me,'
remarked Aulus.  'He's not a friendly horse--sort of a one-man
horse, as we say.'

'The Tetrarch bought him cheap, eh?'  Mencius tried to sound
casual.  'How did that come about?  He is a very valuable animal.'

Aulus became confidential.

'If you ask me, sir, I think he was stolen.  The young Arab who
brought him here was in rags and tatters; had no business owning a
horse like this.  Wanted only three hundred shekels for him.  His
Highness was quick enough to take him.'

'It's a wonder the Tetrarch did not suspect that he was buying a
stolen horse.'

'Maybe he did.'  Aulus' crafty chuckle did not improve his royal
employer's reputation.  'The ragged young Arab is still hanging
around.  We gave him a job.  He's handy with horses.  All Arabs
are, I guess.  That's about all they know--horses.  It's a funny
thing now about this gelding.  He follows the fellow around like a
dog.  Maybe he did belong to him, though it doesn't sound
reasonable.'

'Is the Arabian on duty?'

'Just daytime, sir. . . .  Thank you, sir.  We'll take good care of
your horse.  Yes, sir!'

The Proconsul was turning toward the door.  Aulus, happy over the
half-dozen sesterces clinking in his hand, called after him:

'If you stop in the carriage-court, sir, the kitchen-girls will
gladly bring you a bowl of hot broth.  Might taste good after your
long ride.'

Mencius told him he was going directly to Levi's Inn and would have
his breakfast there. . . .  He walked north and halted before the
open doors of the noisy Embassy.  In the street a score of Roman
patrols leaned casually against their long lances, apparently under
orders to give no attention to the clamour within the building.

Mencius ascended the steps.  The spacious foyer was filled with
unpleasantly scented men who apparently had been unable to gain
entrance to the courtroom.  Mencius joined them.  They seemed to be
inquisitive spectators rather than partisans, all of them shabbily
dressed, probably tramps.  The Proconsul wore no distinctive
uniform; his credentials were in his pocket; but the loafers
inferred from his bearing that he was accustomed to being treated
with deference, and made way for him as he moved toward the door
into the high-ceilinged auditorium.

The place was full of restless, clamorous civilians who seemed to
have little in common but their exasperation over the proceedings
of the court.  A pompous, distinguished-looking man of fifty, in a
black robe, presided; or, more correctly, was seated behind the
massive table up in front where the magistrate would naturally be
found.  This puzzled man, with the frozen grin, was obviously the
Tetrarch, and it was equally obvious that the trial had got
completely out of hand.  The affair had degenerated into a
repulsive travesty.

The defendant was seated in a high-armed, tall-backed, throne-like
chair, facing the audience, clad in a scarlet robe absurdly
inappropriate to the man's pale, dejected face and slumped posture.
A thorn-bush, wound to imitate a crown, had been so roughly forced
upon his head that slender streams of blood were coursing his
cheeks and spattering the embroidered collar of his royal robe.

It was not difficult to guess what this undignified play-acting was
about.  The hapless captive was being mocked as a pretender to the
throne.  But what throne?  Mencius could hardly believe his own
eyes.  Surely this supine young man, with the bearing of a teacher
and the long, slim hand of an artist, could have no kingly
ambitions.  Apparently he had no following.  Nobody championed his
cause.  Whose throne would he attempt to usurp, even if he had ten
thousand troops behind him?  Caesar's?  Nonsense!  Could he have
been plotting to supplant Pilate?  Ridiculous!

But now the light broke for Mencius!  The noisy persecutors who
passed before the prisoner, with exaggerated bows of reverence,
were satirically hailing him as the King of the Jews!  That was it!
The young prophet must have identified himself as the 'Messiah' who
would restore the Kingdom to Israel.

The unhappy Tetrarch appeared now to have had more than enough of
the farce.  He rose and demanded order.  Gradually the racket died
down.  The crowd seemed expectant of a judicial decision.  It was
high time, they grumbled.

'Whip him--and let him go!' shouted Antipas.

A storm of protest rose.  One enraged zealot mounted a chair and
screamed, 'To death with him!  Nothing less!'  The crowd yelled its
approval.  Antipas held up a hand for silence, and the place grew
suddenly quiet again.

'It is not in the province of this court,' he exclaimed, 'to put
any man to death.'

'Yaa!' shouted the man on the chair.  'You sentenced the Baptizer
to death--for no reason at all!'  The noise was deafening now. . . .
The Tetrarch, clearly frightened, wheeled about and disappeared
through the small door behind him.  The prisoner was roughly jerked
from his mimic throne and a thick-set brute with a bull-whip began
lashing him cruelly.

The Proconsul's impulse was to leave the disgusting spectacle, but
the exit was already blocked and he stood aside to wait.
Pandemonium had broken loose in the vicinity of the magistrate's
elaborately carved bar.  The august tribunal was being wrecked.
The Tetrarch would presently learn his rating in the opinion of
Jerusalem's unwashed and irresponsible.  Costly tapestries were
being torn down, broadswords were thrust through the upholstery of
the furniture, pikes were gouged into the exquisite mosaic
portraits.  Even the haughty face of Emperor Tiberius had lost an
eye (not that the Proconsul cared a damn).

Pressing into the rioting pack that funnelled through the door,
Mencius struggled out into the street.  A score of the more
audacious were attempting to tear down the hoarding and scaffolding
from a building under repair across the street; and the
legionaries, feeling that enough was enough, were cracking heads
and making arrests.  The rioters had been free to do what they
liked to the inside of the Embassy, but they were not at liberty to
set the building on fire.

With no taste for getting himself involved in the brawl, Mencius
walked hurriedly north to the avenue of the Insula and turned to
the right.  Once away from the sight and sound of the frenzied mob,
his thoughts turned toward the doomed Galilean.  He wished he might
have heard the man speak.  He had never seen anyone quite like him.
Not much wonder that Voldi had been impressed.  It was a face that
puzzled you, difficult to assign to any category.  A profound
student?  A dreamer?  What manner of man was he?  A 'Torchbearer'?
No; Voldi had been clearly mistaken about that.  A Torchbearer,
with the mind and will of a Plato, a Socrates, or an Aristotle,
would never have got himself into such an appalling predicament.
He might be a teacher, but that didn't mean that he was a
Torchbearer.  Whatever light he had thrown upon the path of a few
people of the Palestinian provinces would be snuffed out before
another sunset.  Whose lamp--in backward little Galilee--would shed
a reflected glow beyond the borders of his own community?

Anyhow, mused Mencius bitterly, as he moved wearily up the long
slope toward Levi's Inn, the human race didn't want any light; it
didn't deserve any light; and it would never be granted any light--
certainly not in his time! . . .  The world was a disgrace to its
maker, whoever he was; or to its makers, whoever they were!  It was
a wonder it had survived so long in its brutalities.  Brutalities?
That was not the right word for it.  The brutes carried themselves
with some dignity!



Chapter XXI


As Peter neared the glowing fire he walked more slowly and
diffidently, realizing that he had made a mistake to enter the
courtyard.

The half-dozen tall patrols, self-confident in their brightly
polished helmets and scarlet-and-black uniforms, were awaiting his
approach with an embarrassing interest.  Yet, when he stood among
them, taller and heavier than they, he was relieved to see
something of friendliness in their faces.

'A chilly morning,' remarked the eldest, stepping aside to make
room for the massive stranger.  Peter agreed that it was, and
warmed his hands.  'The kitchen-girls will be bringing some mulled
wine, presently,' said another.  'Here they come--now.'

And here they came, the girls he had joked with when delivering
fish at the Tetrarch's palace in Tiberias in the almost forgotten
days before he had left all to follow Jesus.  He recognized them
instantly, with a sinking heart; the tough little Roman, Claudia;
Murza, the cynical Arimathaean; Anna and Leah, the Jewesses.

While still at some distance, Claudia, tripping along with a loaded
tray, shouted to the others:

'But look!  Murza!  Leah!  Do you see what I see?  It is the Big
Fisherman--no less!'  They put down their flagons and mugs and
honey-cakes on the serving table and swarmed about him with excited
little cries.  'The Big Fisherman!'  Claudia tried to span both
hands round his heavily muscled arm, as she had been accustomed to
do.  The patrols gathered closely about, enjoying the reunion.

'You girls seem to know this Hercules,' chaffed the grey-haired
soldier.

'Know him!' echoed Claudia.  'But of course!  And a bad influence
he was, too, what with his making sport of all the gods!  A quite
terrible fellow; no?'

'And what brings you to Jerusalem?' inquired Anna.  'I'll warrant
it wasn't to eat the Passover!'

Peter hadn't had a chance to put in a word.  He stood there
grinning foolishly; tugging at his underlip.

'Maybe he's here with this Carpenter,' teased Leah, 'this man who
thinks he's the Messiah.'

'That's it!' shrilled Claudia.  'The Big Fisherman's gone
religious!'  They all laughed.

'You know better than that!' growled Peter.  'I don't hold with
such nonsense!'

'Well--seriously,' said Anna, 'what do you think of this Jesus?'

'I have no opinion at all,' answered Peter huskily.  'Never met
him!'

'They're trying him over there--for blasphemy and treason!' said
Murza.

'Indeed?' grunted Peter.  'Well, he's no friend of mine.'

The patrols were tiring of this conversation and had edged toward
the serving-table, the girls following along.  Peter suddenly
turned to leave.

'Wait!' cried Claudia.  'Have some wine!'

But the Big Fisherman did not wait and he did not reply.
Unsteadily, for he felt sick and his legs were shaky, he made for
the gate.  Outside, he leaned against the wall, panting and
swallowing hard.  He walked with uncertain steps, bracing a hand on
the wall for support, toward the entrance to the Embassy.  Now he
could hear the clamour of angry voices.  He stopped.  The noise
subsided.  Now came the sound of lashes.  They were whipping his
Master!  He turned about and staggered down the street, still with
a groping hand on the wall.  His legs were weak and his knees
buckled under him at every step.  Now he began to cry, the
whimpering, retching cry of a badly hurt little boy.



Chapter XXII


Notwithstanding his weariness, Mencius was unable to sleep.
Obsequious old Levi had waited up to conduct the Proconsul to what
he asserted was the most comfortable bed in the house; the tavern
was quiet, nobody astir; there was no vehicular traffic on the
cobbled street.  But Mencius lay wide awake, still listening to the
bull-whip cutting into the bleeding shoulders of the defenceless
Galilean.

It was not because he was unused to the sight and sound of cruel
floggings.  Roman discipline was harsh and punishments were severe.
Three-quarters of the Empire's population were slaves.  To treat
their infractions of the law with any lenience at all was to invite
conspiracy and rebellion.  Every free-born Roman lived dangerously,
alert to the merest hint of insubordination.  Corporal punishment,
administered in public, was the best medicine for disobedience, far
more effective than imprisonment.  The brutal scourging of the
young Galilean, therefore, would have been--for the Proconsul--just
another brutal scourging added to all the brutal scourgings he had
witnessed on land and sea throughout the Empire, but for the fact
that the victim was a man of mystery, a man to be treated with
dignity; imprisoned, perhaps; beheaded, perhaps; but not flogged.

Mencius readjusted his pillow and resolved to stop thinking about
it.  It wasn't his problem, he told himself.  It was none of his
business.  He would go to sleep now.  But that whole affair at the
Galilean Embassy needed explanation.  The noisy prosecution was in
the hands of a mob that had no respect for the court, although the
baffled judge had utterly disgraced himself to humour the screaming
riff-raff, who apparently had no warrant for the captive's arrest,
no formal charges preferred by any recognized authority, and, in
short, represented nobody but themselves, which was the same as
saying that they represented nobody at all.

It was evident that Pilate, who couldn't help knowing of this
shocking abrogation of justice, had decided to keep out of it.  But
that didn't tally with what Mencius had heard of Pontius Pilate's
reputation as a self-respecting Prefect.  No Provincial Governor
could afford to ignore such an impudent flouting of the law.  It
would require some very potent behind-the-scenes pressure to
persuade the gruff Procurator of Judaea that he must keep his hands
off and let the riot run wild.  That course, for any Roman ruler,
was a direct road to ruin.

Pre-dawn light was breaking now.  With an exasperated apostrophe to
all the gods, for none of whom he had more than an antiquarian's
respect, Mencius rose, dressed, and went softly downstairs to the
small patio hedged at the rear of the quadrangle by a rose-garden
which extended almost to the high wall that enclosed the area.  The
roses were softly lighted by the oncoming sun.  Mencius strolled
toward the garden.  A few yards ahead of him, and moving slowly
with a furtive glance over his shoulder, was a tall, lean, ragged
young fellow, who, instead of stepping aside, turned and waited at
the wall, thrusting out a dirty hand for alms.  Mencius chuckled.

'You might have fooled me with your tatters,' he said, 'but I knew
you were in the city.  What's all this about, Voldi, selling your
horse to the Tetrarch and working as a hostler in his stables?'

'Let's step behind these rose-bushes,' said Voldi soberly.  'We
mustn't be seen together.  I've only a moment to stay.'

'Very well.  Talk fast.  I'll listen.  What's up?'

Voldi proceeded rapidly with his story.

'Aulus told me where you were, Mencius.'

'I was expecting you.'

'You know what happened in the night at the Embassy.  The mob all
but wrecked the building.  Antipas is badly frightened, as he need
be, and expects to leave within the hour for Tiberias.  He has
engaged a small detachment of cavalry from the Capernaum Fort to
accompany the caravan.  He will ride his own horse.  I am to ride
Darik.'

'But you aren't going all the way to Tiberias, I think,' put in
Mencius, with a knowing grin.

'Probably not.  There are bandits in the Samaritan mountains.  They
may attack us.  Our force is small.  Someone may get hurt. . . .  I
may be looking for some place to go--in a hurry.  What are your
travel-plans, Mencius?'

'I'm here to deliver an important letter to one of the visiting
Legates.  I shall do that this morning.  Then I ride to Joppa,
where my ship is ready to sail.  We will wait there until you
come.'

'Have you room in your hold for Darik?'

'Of course! . . .  But I thought you had sold Darik to the
Tetrarch?'

'He may not need a horse--after tomorrow night.'  Voldi was getting
restless to be on his way.

'Good luck!' said Mencius earnestly.  'We'll be on the lookout for
you.  It's The Vestris.  New pier number seven.'

'If I'm not there by noon Sunday, don't wait any longer; for I'll
not be coming. . . .  By the way, what's your next port?'

'Gaza--and then home.  Will you come with us, all the way?'

'It depends.  I don't know.  I must go now!'

Mencius clutched his sleeve.

'Your "Torchbearer" seems to be doomed.  Any news about that?'

'Aulus says they carried him off to the Sanhedrin, hoping for
authority to try him before Pilate.  If they succeed, the trial may
be held this morning. . . .  Did you see him?'

'Yes--but I didn't hear him speak.  I saw him scourged.  It's a
strange case.  I'm full of curiosity about the man.  Perhaps I'll
go down to the Insula--and see what happens.'

'It's all up with him, I'm afraid.'

'Doubtless.  If Pilate consents to hear the case at all, he will
probably accommodate them with a decision.  If the Sanhedrin's at
the back of it--'

'That's the trouble.  They're in the driver's seat.'

'Still think he's the "Torchbearer"?'

'Perhaps; I don't know.'

'Think a Torchbearer would let himself be condemned to death?'

'It's possible.  Socrates did.  I'll see you on Sunday--I hope.'

                         * * * * * *

After a brief breakfast alone, Mencius left a note for Fulvius,
before setting forth to the Insula.

'I am leaving early,' he wrote, 'to attend a trial of peculiar
interest in Pilate's Court, the case of that young Galilean who has
had the whole country by the ears and is now indicted for
blasphemy, treason, and the Gods only know what else.  I must see
it.  You have the Emperor's letter in your baggage and I do not
wish to disturb you.  Keep it locked.  I shall probably return
within a couple of hours.'

The broad, marble-paved terraces leading to the imposing portico of
the Insula were already packed with a scurrying crowd when Mencius
arrived.  Way was made for him as he advanced to the highest level,
where the prosecutors waited impatiently with their haggard
prisoner, still arrayed in the scarlet finery that had mocked his
phantom kingship last night at the Embassy.

Apparently it was the Procurator's custom to hold open-air court
from the spacious porch, for it seemed to be the focus of interest,
although still unoccupied.  A huge desk served as the bar of
justice; behind it stood a tall, throne-like chair, flanked on
either side with orderly rows of less conspicuous seats.

On any ordinary occasion Mencius would have felt free--indeed he
would have felt obliged--to enter the Insula and present himself.
It would have been no presumption for a Proconsul to express
fraternal greetings to a Prefect with the assurance of a cordial
welcome.  In terms of protocol they were of much the same rating.
And should Pontius Pilate learn that Nicator Mencius had attended a
session of his court without making himself known, he could
consider it a breach of etiquette.  But the extraordinary affair
confronting the Procurator of Judaea would be sufficiently
embarrassing, thought Mencius, without adding any more witnesses to
Pilate's discomfiture than were already available.

He surveyed the group of principals that clustered closely about
the captive.  There was quite a delegation of scribes, ostentatiously
busying themselves with their papyrus rolls--a detestable breed of
prigs and snobs wherever you found them, in any country.  There
was a sprinkling of priests, young ones mostly, none of them
distinguished in appearance.  Evidently the real prosecutors were
represented only by proxies.  Perhaps they had conveyed their
wishes--and demands--by letter.

Presently a shout went up as the great bronze doors swung open and
the impressive procession of dignitaries filed out into the
portico, Pilate leading in his official robes, followed by a dozen
Legates, Prefects, and other bigwigs.  Mencius recognized only a
few: there was Julian, who had been his instructor in tactics at
the Military Academy in Rome; Julian was getting to be an old man,
cropped hair white as a rat, wrinkled face brown as a boot; yes--
and there was dapper old Menelaus, Governor of Petra; Mencius had
sailed with him once. . . .  And of all things--there was Prefect
Sergius of Caesarea, though why, in the name of every unpredictable
God, Sergius should be in Jerusalem at Passover time, was beyond
imagination.  Mencius searched the faces for a youngish Legate who
might pass for the obstreperous son of Senator Gallio, but couldn't
find anybody with the probable measurements. . . .  The court sat.
The crowd quieted.  Pilate, frowning darkly, puffed his lips as he
studied the document which bragged of its importance with a clatter
of dangling waxen seals.  He pounded on the massive desk and looked
down sternly at the prisoner.  At length he spoke, in a tone so low
that it was obvious he didn't care whether the crowd heard him or
not.

'It says here that you have made pretence of being a King,' and
then he added, with fine irony, for the benefit of his Roman
guests, 'though the Sanhedrin'--Pilate tapped the ornate document
with his finger--'assures this court that it will recognize no King
but Caesar.  Doubtless Emperor Tiberius, when he learns of this,
will be pleasantly surprised.'  The distinguished guests grinned
appreciatively.  'Now, young man,' continued the Procurator, 'you
do not look much like a King, in spite of your royal garb.  Has it
been your custom to go about in this ridiculous costume?'

The prisoner shook his head without looking up.

'Has the prosecution anything to say about that?' demanded Pilate.

After some hesitation a young priest admitted sheepishly, 'It was
put on him at the Embassy, sire.'

'Then you will restore his clothing to him immediately,' growled
Pilate.  'This court, probably lacking in humour, is in no mood for
buffoonery.'

There was some delay before the defendant's brown homespun robe was
found.  His back, when they bared it, bore deep lash-wounds, still
bleeding.  Pilate's sharp eye may have seen the prisoner wince, may
have seen the people stare, for he commanded the Galilean to turn
round.

'It would appear,' he said, 'that the prisoner has been already
tried, convicted, and punished.  By what process of law has he now
been brought into this court?  Has he then committed some fresh
crime since his case was judged?'

Nobody volunteered to answer this question, but an ominous rumble
of dissatisfaction rose from the densely packed throng.  Pilate
glanced again, with distaste but something of anxiety, at the
indictment.  Mencius, studying the Procurator's expression,
gathered that the document worried him.  Putting down the papyrus
on the desk and leaning forward on his folded arms, Pilate asked:
'Are you, then, a king?'

'I am!'

It was the first time that Mencius had heard the Galilean speak and
the tone of his voice produced a peculiar sensation.  The words
were crazy enough, but the man who spoke them was not crazy.  The
voice was calm, respectful but self-confident.  Evidently Pilate
had been similarly affected, for his face remained soberly
attentive.  The murmuring in the crowd had ceased.

'Tell us about your Kingdom,' said Pilate.  'Where is it?'

'My Kingdom,' replied the Galilean, 'is not of this world.'

He paused.  Pilate listened.  The multitude was silent.

'Proceed,' said Pilate.  'Your Kingdom is not in this world, you
say.  Where, then, is it?'

'My Kingdom is not of this world, but it is in this world for all
who seek truth.  They who love truth hear my voice--and understand
what I say.'

The words were not spoken in the strident tone of a demagogue.
Mencius had a feeling that the Galilean was talking to him
personally.  Perhaps Pilate felt the same way.  The Romans who sat
on either side of the Procurator were leaning forward.  Nobody was
smiling.

'Truth,' mused Pilate, half to himself.  'What is truth?'

There was no reply to that.  The Galilean faced the Procurator
squarely for a moment and then averted his eyes, closed them,
smiled briefly, and shook his head, as if to say that this was not
the time or the place to explain truth.

The spell that had gripped the crowd suddenly lifted now, and
impatient voices rose in angry demand for a decision.  Pilate
pounded for order and didn't get it.  He rose and shouted for
silence in the court and there was a momentary cessation of the
tumult.

The defendant, he said, was apparently innocent of any wrongdoing.
There was no evidence that he had committed a crime.  He had
already been severely punished. . . .  But the crowd would have
none of it.  'Away with him!' they yelled.  'To death with him!
Crucify him!'  The fanatic shouting rose to a concerted roar!
'Crucify!  Crucify!'

Pilate sat down heavily.  His hand shook as he beckoned to one of
the guards, and flung an order over his shoulder.  Presently the
guard returned with a silver basin of water.  Pilate turned back
his sleeves. . . .  That settles it, thought Mencius.  The
Procurator is helpless--and has given in.  He will wash his hands
of the whole affair.  After all--Pilate wasn't there to quarrel
with Jewry, but to keep the peace or at least the semblance of it.
He could save the Galilean only at the risk of his position,
already precarious enough.  Pilate dipped his hands in the water,
and the crowd cheered. . . .  Mencius had seen enough now, and
wanted to get out of the snarling pack.  He turned about and worked
his way to the street, intending to return at once to Levi's Inn
and deliver the Emperor's message to the Legate from Minoa.

On the corner, across the street, stood a little group of forlorn
and frightened men, garbed in simple country dress.  Mencius
guessed that these despairing people might be the helpless friends
of the doomed man from Galilee.  He crossed over and joined them.
They were too preoccupied with their grief to notice his presence
among them.  One huge, middle-aged man, towering over the others,
with streaming eyes and a contorted face, stood beating an open
palm with a clenched fist, breathing in audible gasps like an
exhausted runner.

There were a few weeping women in the company, two of them quite
young and attractive in spite of their red and swollen eyes.

Now the crowd at the Insula was breaking up, coming apart, and a
platoon of Roman legionaries marched through and down the terraced
steps.  The Commander, with the insignia of a Legate, was a
handsome young fellow with an exaggerated military bearing which
Mencius surmised was not quite natural for him.  No--he was tipsy,
that was the trouble; and doing his best to walk straight.  A few
paces in advance of him strutted a grizzled veteran bearing a
banner.  Mencius recognized it as a duplicate of the old rag that
used to hang limp and listless over the big gate at the Fort at
Minoa.  So--it was young Gallio, then, who had been given this
disgraceful job. . . .  Now came the prisoner, towed by a rope, and
not gently, for the legionaries were marching with long strides.
The rabble pressed closely.  There was very little shouting now.
They had got what the Sanhedrin wanted.  Everybody would be
satisfied now--the moneylenders, the landlords, the grafters; yes,
and the Temple that couldn't afford to offend anybody with
property.

As the captive was tugged past his weeping friends, he turned his
face toward them compassionately.  They slowly followed the crowd
with irresolute steps as if they were uncertain what to do; all but
the gigantic fellow, who turned the other way and began to walk
rapidly, lurchingly toward the west.  Apparently he had no mind for
attending the execution.  Mencius followed him with his eyes,
trying to contrive a story that might explain the man's conduct.
Was he, for all his physical strength, a coward?  Or had the
condemnation of his hero driven him to utter stampede? . . .  Now a
youngish chap, who had been in the company of the Galilean's
friends, hurried past in the direction taken by the big man.
Mencius expected the young fellow to overtake him, but he made no
effort to do so.  He continued to follow at a distance.

There was no occasion now for any hurry in the delivery of the
Emperor's message to Marcellus Gallio, whose day's work had been
cut out for him.  It would take hours to complete it.  Mencius had
never seen a crucifixion and didn't intend to see one.

He walked the short distance to the Embassy stables.  The place was
practically deserted.  A hostler saddled Brutus and led him out.
Mencius mounted and started for the inn.  The usual traffic
clattered in the street.  Jerusalem had resumed her customary
activities.  The food-markets were crowded with shrilly bargaining
shoppers.  Somewhere, in an out-of-the-way place, nails were being
driven through the hands and feet of a man whose only offence was
his confessed devotion to the truth.  The quarrelling markets, with
their short measures, short weights, short change, and short
tempers, were still doing business in the old way, the merchants
trying to sell bad produce and the customers trying to pay for it
with bad coinage; and had any one of them adhered to the truth--
either as a buyer or seller--he would soon have nothing left but
his impracticable idea.  The truth was a luxury that nobody could
afford.  Mencius himself--he had to admit--couldn't afford it: a
Proconsul must be diplomatic.  Pontius Pilate couldn't afford it: a
resolve on his part to abide by the truth would have meant his
prompt recall from his Prefecture.  And had old Tiberius decided to
tell the truth he would have lost his Empire.  It was that kind of
a world.

The brave Galilean, reflected Mencius, had accomplished nothing.
He had thrown away his life to no purpose at all.  The world wasn't
ready to hear his voice.  There never had been a time, in human
history, when the world would have listened to his voice.  And--
there never would be such a time.  It was too much to expect.
Humanity had no capacity for moral grandeur.  This Jesus had
misjudged the world.  By sunset, this evening, he would be dead and
buried.  And by next week he would have been forgotten, except by a
little handful of little people in a poverty-cursed little
hinterland.

                         * * * * * *

It was mid-forenoon.  The sun was hot.  Esther and Myra were slowly
plodding up the long hill to Bethany.  They walked in silence, for
they were physically and emotionally exhausted: they had wept until
they could weep no more.

As for Myra, however deeply she grieved over the soul-sickening
tragedy, she still had her family to go back to--and Joel.  She
was definitely on Joel's side now, whatever her grandfather might
say. . . .  For Esther, everything was lost.  The Master, for all
his superhuman power, had been led away to die.  He had saved
others, but he had been unable to save himself.  Not a friend had
come to his aid.  Even Peter had run away.

In a day or two, Myra would return to her home and friends in
Galilee.  Esther had no home.  There would be no reason for her
returning to Galilee.  Hannah didn't need her.  And she wasn't sure
that she wanted ever to see Peter again.

As a guest in suburban Bethany, Esther might have known nothing of
the dreadful night and tragic morning that had befallen Jesus until
it was all over, had not an expected friend of Myra's Uncle Boaz--
who had met with a delaying misadventure on his long journey from
Askelon--arrived at daybreak with the appalling news.

Grandfather Asher's high-pitched voice had roused the house.
Habitually an early riser, Asher had been the first to hear the
report.  The Sanhedrin was sending the Nazarene blasphemer to
Pilate's court this morning to be tried for treason.  And that,
shouted the old man, would finish him!  And it was about time!

Uncle Boaz hadn't been much stirred by the announcement, and when
his excited father declared he was going to the Insula to hear the
trial he had cautioned him against it.  'It's a long trip.  It will
be a hot day.  There will be much confusion.'

'But I cannot miss this, my son!  I want to see this trouble-maker
finally disposed of!  A day to remember!  An historic occasion!'

Esther listened with a sinking heart.  She felt she must go.  Myra
had tried to dissuade her; and, failing of it, decided reluctantly
to go too.  They did not wait for Grandfather Asher, but left the
house through the patio and the garden gate.  They sped through
Bethany, down the hill, into the awakening city--and on to the
Insula.  A great crowd of clamorous men had massed there at the
entrance.  The girls did not venture into the angry throng, but
crossed the street and waited.  Huddled together at the corner were
the disciples.  But why were they not beside the Master?  There was
Peter, wide-eyed, haggard, gnawing at his lip.  Surely Peter could
have been depended on to stand by the Master, even at the risk of
his life!  Esther could not believe her own eyes.

Terrible things, incredible things were happening now.  A savage
voice had screamed, 'Crucify him!'  The mob instantly echoed it,
'Crucify him!  Crucify him!'  The words mounted into a horrifying
chant, 'Crucify!  Crucify!  Crucify! . . .'  There was a sudden
silence; then a wild cry of victory!  The mob spilled over the
terraces and cascaded into the street.  A company of Roman soldiers
marched rapidly down the steps, tugging Jesus by a rope.  The crowd
closed in behind them.  Now the bewildered disciples followed; all
but Peter, who was running away!  Young Thad had followed after
him.

Myra cried that she could bear no more, and entreated Esther to
return with her to Bethany.  There was nothing they could do.  But
Esther caught her by the hand and pulled her along into the
procession.  At the next corner, a dozen men came in from a side
street bearing a heavy piece of timber about twelve feet long with
a cross-bar near the top.  The parade halted.  Esther, still
dragging Myra by the hand, forced her way toward the front.  The
rough-hewn cross had been laid on the Master's shoulder.  He
staggered under its weight and sank to his knees.

A burly lieutenant, sighting a tall, heavily built man standing
among the spectators, shouted, 'You, there!  Put a shoulder under
this cross and help the man carry it!'

'That I will not!' boldly boomed the big man.  'I am a free-born
Roman citizen!  And this is no affair of mine!'

'We'll see about that!' shouted the young Commander.  'What's your
name, fellow?  And where do you come from?'

By this time the crowd had grown quiet, expectant.  It was not
customary to talk back to a Roman officer.

'My name, sir, is Simon.  I live in Cyrene, a ten days' fast
journey from here, in North Africa.  I am in Jerusalem on business,
with a caravan of herbs and spices.  I protest that you have no
right to impress me into this degrading service.'

In spite of his tragic predicament, Jesus was listening
sympathetically to the Cyrenian's courageous self-defence.  He gave
the big man a friendly look of compassion. . . .  Then, to the
surprise of the soldiers, the blustering Cyrenian stepped forward
and shouldered the cross.  Jesus smiled his gratitude and made a
feeble attempt to help.

'No,' said Simon kindly.  'I will carry it.  You have quite enough
to bear today.'

The procession moved on.  Esther and Myra stood, for a little
while, watching.  Then they turned and silently went their way.
Near the top of the long hill they sat down to rest under an
ancient olive tree.

'I have just now decided what I shall do, Myra,' said Esther.  'I
am going back to find my old nurse, Ione.  She is in the southern
mountains of Arabia.  If she still lives, perhaps I can do
something for her.'

'You mean--you would go alone all that long way?'

'It would be safe enough, I think.  I would keep to the main
highways--and stop at night in the homes of farmers.'  Esther
elaborated her plan.  She would provide herself with some
inexpensive trinkets--and be a peddler. . . .  Yes--and she would
try to find a tame little donkey to carry her pack.  Proceeding
from village to village in the daytime, no harm would befall her.

'You will need money,' cautioned Myra.

'I have money,' said Esther.  'Not much--but enough.'

Myra remembered having seen a sign on a paddock gate a little
farther up the road, announcing a donkey for sale.  Esther came to
her feet, eager to find the place.  They stopped before the gate
and a middle-aged man came toward them.  Was it true, Esther
inquired, that he had a donkey for sale?

'What do you want with a donkey?' he asked, suspiciously.  'Do you
live hereabouts?'

'No,' said Esther, 'I want a donkey to carry a light pack for me on
a journey--many miles away.'

'When are you going?'

'Early tomorrow morning.'

'Very well, you may have him--for ten shekels--if you take him at
once!'  The man went into the stable and led out a little white
donkey.

'What's the matter with him,' asked Esther, 'that you are selling
him for ten shekels?'

'There's nothing the matter with him,' said the man, 'except that I
don't want to be involved in any trouble.  If you're going away,
you won't be bothered.  But I lent him to a man a few days ago who
is accused of treason; and I don't care to be mixed up in it.  And
you'd better not go through the city when you leave!'

Esther produced the money and the man handed her the halter-strap.
The little donkey sniffed at her hands.

'His name is Jasper,' said the man, as he turned toward the house.

                         * * * * * *

Mencius tied Brutus to a hitching-rack in the stable-yard of Levi's
Inn and found Captain Fulvius lounging in his room.  Briefly he
recounted the events of the morning, Fulvius listening attentively.
When he had made an end of it, the Captain, who had been fascinated
by the story of Voldi's dangerous errand, inquired, 'But suppose
the youngster sees a chance to do his work while they are in camp
tonight?  In that case he would flee at once, and arrive in Joppa
many hours before the time he had set.  They would have no
authority to take him aboard The Vestris; and there he would be,
without protection; possibly pursued.'

'You are right!' said Mencius.  'I had not thought of that.
Perhaps I had better leave at once for Joppa and make sure he
doesn't get into trouble.'

'How about the Emperor's message?' queried Fulvius.  'This young
Legate Marcellus will be occupied most of the day.'

'Do me a great favour, Captain,' entreated Mencius.  'Take charge
of the letter.  See that it gets into the Legate's hands as soon as
he has returned to the Insula.'

Fulvius consented, without enthusiasm, and the Proconsul set out on
his journey.  Once out of the city's congested streets, Brutus was
encouraged to a brisk canter.  At the village of Emmaus, twelve
miles to the west, he drew up before a tidy-looking inn for
something to eat.  The place was doing a thriving business today.
In the paddock a dozen or more beautiful horses were tied, all of
them a glossy black, their saddle-blankets bearing the familiar
Roman device, the fasces.

In the centre of the dining-room there was a long table surrounded
by a dozen fine-looking patrols, impressive in their black-and-
scarlet tunics.  By a front window, Prefect Sergius sat alone.  He
rose with a welcoming smile, an action that brought his stalwart
guards instantly to their feet.

'By all the Gods, Mencius!' he exclaimed.  'So it was you then, and
not your ghost, that I saw in Pilate's loathsome congregation this
morning! . . .  Do sit down and we will find you something to eat.'

The old inn-keeper shuffled up and put a bowl of steaming lentil
soup and a plate of small barley loaves before the new guest.

'Yes, I was there, Sergius,' said Mencius soberly.  'It was a
disgraceful affair, was it not?'

'Shocking!' agreed Sergius.  'A sad tragedy for the young fellow
from Galilee, but worse for the Procurator.  By this time the
hapless Galilean will be dead and out of his trouble, while
Pilate's disaster is still to come.  The canny old men of the
Sanhedrin now know that they have him saddled, bridled, and ready
to ride whenever they like.'

'Didn't they know that before?'

'Not so definitely.  Pilate has been walking his tight-rope with
something like dignity.  Today he lost his balance.  They had no
case at all against that inoffensive young dreamer, and they knew
it.  And they knew that Pilate knew it.  Everybody knew it.  They
demanded that the Procurator commit a murder, and he did it. . . .
What I can't understand, Mencius, is the terrific volume of malice
hurled at that defenceless Galilean. . . .  A king?  Absurd!
Imagine that supine young philosopher--or fool--or whatever you
like--attempting to lead a revolution!  Imagine him on a horse!
Imagine him directing a charge of ten thousand bowmen!'  The
Prefect waved it all away with his spoon.  'The Sanhedrin has too
much sense to believe that this country preacher threatened their
prestige.'

'Better not be too sure about that,' cautioned Mencius.  'All you
saw of the Galilean this morning was an utterly exhausted, blood-
smeared young idealist on his way to execution.  The fact is: this
man has demonstrated supernormal power.  Thousands have followed
him about through the provinces.  There is plenty of good evidence
that he has healed the sick, the blind, the crippled.'

'Pouf!' railed the Prefect.  'I don't believe these tales and
neither do you!  Such things don't happen. . . .  Who told you?'

'I was informed by the last man in the world who could be taken in
by a trickster. . . .  Do you remember that rich young Arabian who
came with me to Caesarea, after he had saved my life in a fight?'

'Do I?'  Sergius laughed aloud.  'I had to lock the youngster up to
make sure he wouldn't murder our precious Tetrarch.'

'And turned him loose, later, to go wherever he pleased, and do
what he liked, with your blessing,' grinned Mencius.

'Well, Antipas isn't fit to live,' mumbled Sergius, defensively,
'but I couldn't have him assassinated while under my protection.
When he was out of my custody, I didn't care what happened to
him. . . .  By the way, what became of your handsome cut-throat?
Did he return to Arabia?'

Mencius nodded, and for a moment Sergius thought there might be
further information on that subject, but the Proconsul was
attentive to his food.

'I'm rather surprised that your Voldi hasn't tried to settle
Arabia's claim on Antipas.  The boy seemed not lacking in courage.
My Felix became greatly attached to him.'

'What's Felix doing?' inquired Mencius.

'He's in Rome, attending the Military Academy.'

'Good!  I'll look him up when I get home. . . .  Reverting to this
mysterious Galilean, Sergius, I'm no more gullible on the subject
of miracles than you are--or my cynical young Arab, who isn't
interested in anything but fine horses, sharp steel, and good
sportsmanship.  But there can be no doubt that this Jesus performed
some remarkable deeds, quite beyond human understanding.'

'Very well!  Very well!' barked the Prefect impatiently.  'Have it
your own way!  For the sake of argument, let us say that these
wonder-tales were true.  Let's concede that the Galilean gave sight
to the blind, ears to the deaf, new legs to the cripples.  Let's
say he cured leprosy and raised the dead!  Where does that leave
you?  Why didn't he try to help himself today?  Either he had
superhuman power or he hadn't!  If he had it, he could have
exercised it!  Instead of standing there, helpless, roped like an
animal on the way to slaughter, he could have pointed a finger at
Pilate and stiffened him into a cataleptic fit!'

'There you are!'  Mencius brought his fist down hard on the table.
'That's where the mystery mounts!  Let us say that the man was no
ordinary creature; that he did possess superhuman power; that he
had a commission to improve the world's way of living.  Let us
conjecture that he performed these miracles of healing solely to
attract an audience, and give the public a valid reason for
believing that he spoke with divine authority!  All he asked of
them was that they treat one another with kindness.  That, he said,
would cure the world of its afflictions.'  Mencius paused.

'Well--go on!' prodded Sergius.  'You haven't answered my question
yet.'

'We're coming to that--now.  Let us say that it finally dawned on
this Torchbearer that the world wasn't ready to receive the light.
Men were too selfish and greedy to make the experiment.  Everybody
wanted peace and prosperity; nobody would do anything to earn it.
Next-door neighbours quarrelled and fought, blood-relatives hated
one another, the religious sects were contemptuous of other
beliefs.

'He looked about him and found that every institution in the world
was at enmity to his proposed kingdom of truth, and good-will, and
peace.  No Government wants peace, Sergius!  Which one of us would
have a job if good-will became popular?  Can you imagine the Empire
taking steps toward peace? . . . Why, a wave of decency among men
would wreck the Empire! . . .  What would become of the temples,
the shrines, and the Gods themselves if humanity suddenly decided
to be honest and merciful?  No man would need to howl for somebody
to save his soul from hell if he lived a life of rectitude! . . .
But--it was a lost cause! . . .  And so,' concluded Mencius, 'the
messenger gave it up as a hopeless job!'

'That's certainly a fantastic theory,' commented Sergius.

'It's better than none,' said Mencius.

'Let me ask you'--the Prefect regarded the Proconsul with a sly
grin--'would you yourself have adopted this soft and silly
programme of patting everybody on the back--slaves and all--and
being kind?'

'Of course not!' declared Mencius.  'I couldn't afford it.  I'd
soon be on the street in rags, begging my bread.'

'Then--the Galilean's theory is no good?'

'Apparently not.  And that's why he gave it up.  You wondered why
he didn't stand up for himself, this morning.  My solution is that
he saw it was no use.  The world wasn't ready for it.'

'Do you think it ever will be, Mencius?'  The Prefect was pushing
back his chair.

'Frankly, no!  One would think that whoever devised the world might
have something better in store for it than hunger, slavery, and
bloodshed, but--'

'But--meantime,' grinned Sergius, 'you will continue to bring
copper for our invasion wharves, so that we may raise all hell with
these poor Jews. . . .  You're quietly losing your mind, Mencius.
You think too much.  You'd better accept things as they are.  The
world's a pretty grim show, but it's the only world we've got. . . .
Shall we go now?'

They preceded the patrols to the paddock, mounted their horses, and
rode for some distance in silence.

'You haven't told me what brought you to Jerusalem,' said Sergius.

Mencius told him briefly about the Emperor's message to Marcellus,
which Captain Fulvius would deliver before the day was over.

'What do you suppose it was about?' wondered Sergius.

Mencius had no idea, but surmised it might be a recall to Rome.

'The old man probably wouldn't order Marcellus to go and hang
himself,' he said.

'He's crazy enough to do that,' remarked Sergius.  'It was a dirty
assignment that Pilate gave the boy,' he added, wincing.  'But it's
doubtful if the Legate will have much to do with it personally.
Those tough rascals from Minoa will know how.  Marcellus was tight
as a drum. . . .  I was to have stayed for the banquet tonight, but
begged off.  Pilate will not have a very happy time, I'm thinking.
He'll have a load on his mind.'

They were nearing the fork in the highway, the road to the right
leading to Caesarea, straight ahead to Joppa.  Their horses were
slowed to a walk.

'Give my regards to my boy,' said Sergius.

'I will do that--with pleasure,' said Mencius.

'When do you expect to be home?'

'In seven weeks, if all goes well.'

'Well, good luck--and fair weather.'

They rose in their stirrups and exchanged a formal salute, for the
benefit of the observant patrols.  Spurs were put to the horses and
the distance between them rapidly widened.  Mencius was glad to be
on his way.  He had had a most distressing experience in Jerusalem
and hoped he would never have an occasion to visit the Holy City
again.  In seven weeks he would be at home with his family. . . .
It would have appalled him if he had known that in seven weeks he
would be back in Jerusalem again, on an errand of such mystery that
even he himself did not know who had summoned him--or why.

                         * * * * * *

All that afternoon, Thad followed Peter, making no effort to catch
up with him, but keeping him in sight.  It wasn't like Peter to be
running away.  Perhaps his grief over the Master's plight had gone
to his head.

Well, whatever it was that ailed Peter, he needed someone to look
after him.  There was nothing more that could be done for Jesus.

Peter had walked fast, with long, lurching strides, until the
Damascus Gate was reached.  Then he began to run.  It was not easy
for Thad to keep up with him.  Sometimes Peter would fling himself
down by the roadside, with his head buried in his arms; then he
would wearily drag himself to his feet and hurry on.

At the village of Lebonah, Thad bought half a dozen small wheaten
loaves and a few smoked perch.  Peter was out of sight when he took
to the road again, and it was a mile further before he overtook
him.  It was mid-afternoon now.  Peter was lying, face downward,
under a cypress tree.  Thad approached quietly and sat down on the
ground a few feet away.

After a long time, the Big Fisherman sat up.  His eyes were swollen
and bloodshot.  Thad silently opened his knapsack and offered the
food he had brought.  Peter shook his head.

'You shouldn't have followed me, Thad,' he said hoarsely.  'Don't
touch me!  I am unclean!'

'You mean--you're--a--leper?' mumbled Thad.

'Oh, my boy--if that were all!' moaned Peter.

'What's the trouble, sir?' begged Thad.

Tears were streaming down Peter's cheeks.

'I denied my Master!' he cried.  'They asked me if I was his friend--
and I said, No! . . .  Go back, Thad!  Join the others.  I'm no
fit company for you.  Go back, I tell you!'  And, with that, Peter
rose, and staggered on toward Galilee.

And Thad, bewildered, heartbroken, continued to follow him.

                         * * * * * *

Shortly after noon, Joseph of Arimathaea called at the Insula and
asked to see Pilate.  He was informed that the Procurator was
resting and must not be disturbed.  Joseph insisted that the matter
was urgent.  After a considerable delay, he was shown into the
council-chamber, where Pilate sat at his desk, blear-eyed and
sullen.

'Well, Joe,' muttered the unhappy Procurator gruffly, 'what is it?'

'I want permission, sire, to bury the Galilean--when he is dead.'

'Friend of yours, Joe?'

Joseph nodded slowly.

'At a distance, sire,' he said.  'I was not a follower.  I did not
have the courage.  But--I want to put him away . . . in my own
tomb.'

'Perhaps you think the Galilean was unjustly convicted,' rasped
Pilate crossly.

'I am not here to criticize,' murmured Joseph.

'But you think the man was innocent,' said Pilate.  After a pause,
he added impulsively, 'So do I, Joe! . . .  But--what could I do?'

'May I have his body, sire?'

The Procurator picked up his stylus and wrote a brief order.

'Give that to the Legate from Minoa.'

The door was quietly opened, and the Captain of the Insula Guard
approached the desk.

'A small delegation is here, sire, sent by the Sanhedrin,' he said.

'Very well,' muttered Pilate wearily, 'bring them in.'

The spokesman, a youngish priest, bowed deeply, and said:

'The writing, sire, that we requested, is misleading.'

'What writing?' demanded Pilate irascibly.

'That we nailed at the top of the cross, sire.  You wrote, "This is
the King of the Jews."  It is misunderstood.  We would like you to
write, "He said he was the King of the Jews."'

'Do your own writing!' shouted Pilate angrily.  'I have written
enough!  Quite enough!  Let me hear no more of it!'  He beat the
desk with both fists.  'No more of it--I tell you!'

The delegation bowed itself out.  Joseph rose to go.

'Farewell, sire,' he said, 'and thank you!'

Pilate, glumly preoccupied, nodded, but made no reply.



Chapter XXIII


Hard on the heels of the shocking news that Jesus had been
crucified bounded the incredible story that he was alive again.

The provinces couldn't believe their ears.  In areas where he had
spoken and healed the sick all work was suspended.  Nothing else
was talked about; nothing else mattered.

Nor was this excitement contained within the confines of Jewry.
The mysterious Galilean had for so long been a popular topic of
conversation that his fame had filtered into all the surrounding
countries.  His sayings and doings had been discussed not only all
the way from Damascus to Petra and from the Jordan to the Sea, but
up in far-away Cappadocia and down in farther-away Ethiopia.

It was not true, as Proconsul Mencius had surmised, that the
extraordinary career of the wonder-working Carpenter was a
localized phenomenon observed only by the farmers, vine-dressers,
and fishermen of Israel's hinterland.  Mencius was to discover
presently that the slaves who tugged at the heavy oars in his cargo-
ships had heard of Jesus and his forecast of a Kingdom in which all
men of good-will would be free.

The stunning news of Jesus' death and restoration to life had got
off to a swift start.  Ordinarily the long caravans that regularly
plodded to and fro between the interior and the ports were the
common carriers of current doings.  They were notorious gossips, in
a class with the wandering minstrels in respect to their
reliability.  And had the astounding story of Jesus' resurrection
been caravan-borne, it may be doubted whether many sensible people
would have believed it.  But this news had outsped the caravans.
At the end of Passover Week all the highways and their tributaries
were full of travellers and all the travellers were full of talk.

First on the roads were the Gentile merchants from distant places
who had no compunction about beginning a journey on the Sabbath
Day.  They told of the crucifixion.  Next came the Jewish pilgrims
who had set off for home at daylight on Sunday.  They sadly
confirmed the earlier reports of the Gentiles.  Then, later in the
forenoon, the confounding stories of the resurrection started on
their journeys, moving forward at various speeds, hour by hour and
day by day, on foot, on horseback, on camelback, in donkey-carts,
in litters, in chariots, in ferry-boats and deep-water ships, until
everybody for a thousand miles in all directions had heard that the
crucified Galilean wonder-worker had come alive!

It was the first time in anyone's experience that good news was
startling; the first time that good news was news at all.  Life was
uncertain for every man, but death was not.  When men died they
were permanently dead.  Nobody was exempt; not even the Caesars,
who claimed to be divine.  Now it appeared that a penniless
carpenter had overcome death.  He had more power than the Emperor.
Not everyone believed the story, but everyone talked about it.
Even those who shook their heads wished they could believe it;
hoped it was true.

There were various versions of the story.  Reduced to its simplest
form: certain women, devoted followers of the Master, had gone out
at dawn on Sunday to the beautiful Garden of Sepulchres to anoint
the mangled body with myrrh.  They had found the tomb open and
empty.  Then they had seen him, strolling among the flowers.  After
a tender moment of ecstatic recognition the women were told to
notify 'my disciples--and Peter.'

                         * * * * * *

Proconsul Mencius was restlessly pacing the wharf when Captain
Fulvius arrived at twilight on Saturday evening accompanied by the
Legate from Minoa, his slave, and half a dozen cavalrymen.

'We are taking Legate Marcellus Gallio with us to Rome,' explained
Fulvius as he wearily dismounted.  Lowering his voice, he added,
'Don't expect too much of this boy.  He's out of his head.'

Introductions were attempted unsuccessfully.  Young Gallio, pale,
haggard, and bewildered, made no effort to be gracious.

'The Legate is ill, sir,' interposed Fulvius.  'I will show him to
his quarters at once.'  He beckoned to the slave, who collected
their luggage and followed his badly befuddled master.  Mencius
reflected that he had never seen a more perfect specimen of
physical manhood than this handsome Greek.  In a few moments
Fulvius reappeared on deck and took the Proconsul aside.

'What a day!'  The Captain mopped his perspiring brow.  'First
chance I had to deliver the Emperor's letter was at Pilate's
banquet, last night, for the visiting officers.'

'And Marcellus read it--and lost his balance?' wondered Mencius.

'He had already lost his balance.  He was dazed, dead on his feet,
utterly indifferent to the Emperor's message ordering his return to
Rome.  He inquired when we were sailing and asked if he might go
with us.'  Fulvius shook his head.  'It's beyond me.  I tried to
talk to him today.  All he would say was, "Were you out there?"'

'Maybe the crucifixion was too much for him,' suggested Mencius.

'He's used to the sight of bloodshed.'

'The slave seems intelligent.  Think he knows what ails the
Legate?'

'Perhaps.  He is worried about him.  I told the Greek we weren't
sailing directly to Rome and he replied, "There's no hurry."'

'He probably wants the Legate to have time to recover his senses
before he meets the Emperor,' thought Mencius.

Fulvius chuckled.

'Old Tiberius may like him better if he is a bit crazy. . . .  By
the way, you haven't heard anything from your Arab?'

'It's hardly time yet.'

'Looks like an interesting voyage,' drawled Fulvius, 'with a crazy
man in one cabin and a fugitive in another.'

                         * * * * * *

Late in the forenoon on Sunday, Voldi cantered up the wharf to the
ship's side.  Somewhere along the line he had abandoned his rags
and tatters, and was well clad in riding clothes and boots.  He was
in good spirits.

'It was just as I expected,' he explained.  'At dusk, last night,
our caravan was set upon by bandits.  There was some hard fighting,
but we drove them off.  We lost a few men, among them the Tetrarch
himself.  Somebody killed him with his own dagger.'

'Perhaps you'd better go aboard,' advised Mencius, soberly.

'It's a good idea,' agreed Fulvius.

In a few minutes The Vestris was inching away from the dock and her
sails were creeping up the tall masts.  Darik and Brutus, in
adjoining stalls, were rubbing noses.  The other ships of the fleet
were winching up their anchors and hauling up canvas.

Voldi rejoined his Roman friends on deck.  A slave brought them
their luncheon.  Mencius grinned mischievously and remarked, 'You
stole the Tetrarch's horse.'

'Not at all!' protested Voldi.  'I stuffed the coin-pouch,
containing the three hundred shekels, into the Tetrarch's pocket.'

'And so,' said Fulvius solemnly, 'you and the Tetrarch are square.'

'Right!' declared Voldi.  'And the Tetrarch and Arabia are square!'

                         * * * * * *

It was Wednesday morning.  For the past hour the Big Fisherman had
been down on his knees, industriously caulking the open seams on
the deck of The Abigail.  He had found that this monotonous manual
labour, if he gave himself to it with diligence, temporarily eased
his wounded spirit.  There was something, too, about being on one's
knees.  That helped a little.

Thad had gone ashore for some provisions.  The loyal youngster had
hardly left Simon's side since their abrupt departure from
Jerusalem until their arrival Sunday evening.  As they hurried
through Capernaum, Thad had entreated the unhappy skipper to go
home and get some proper food and a good night's rest, but Simon
wasn't ready to face Hannah.  No; he would wait until Andrew had
had time to come home.  Andrew could tell her.

'I'll sleep on The Abigail,' he had said.  'But I want you to go
home tonight, Thad.  It's no more than fair to your parents.  You
row me out--and then you go home.'

'But that would leave you without a boat, sir.'

'That's the way I want it,' Simon had declared grimly.  'If there's
a dory tied up to the ship, it will mean that somebody's aboard.
And I want to be alone.'

Thad had remonstrated, but Simon had been obdurate; and after the
little boat had pulled away into the thickening gloom, The Abigail,
instead of offering a welcome, seemed aloof and reproachful.  The
long-unused blankets in the little forecastle were damp and mouldy.
Simon had dipped up a bucket of water and washed his dusty feet,
trying to pretend that he was back again on familiar ground and
repeating accustomed habits, but nothing was quite real.  He flung
himself down on the cot, hoping his exhaustion would compel sleep;
and presently he dozed, only to waken with a start, and the awful
thing that had happened to him would engulf him, bringing out the
sweat on his forehead.  The silence was profound, terrifying.  It
had been a mistake to let Thad go.

The long, wretched night had eventually ended and a pink dawn came
up rapidly from behind the eastern mountains, giving promise of a
beautiful early summer day.  It was an hour that had always stirred
Simon deeply, but this morning his spirit did not rise to sense the
oncoming glory.  He strolled aft and stood at the rail, dully
facing the pageant, and there recurred to his mind a remark of the
Master's--not fully understood at the time, 'You are the salt of
the earth; but if the salt lose its savour . . .'  That was the
trouble.  From now on, as long as he lived, Simon's life, he felt,
would be tasteless.

To his immeasurable relief, he saw the dory coming now.  Thad
pulled up under The Abigail's bow.  Simon lowered a basket and drew
it up, well filled with supplies, bread, smoked perch, and sun-
cured figs.  He leaned far over the rail and grasped one end of the
cot that Thad had brought from home, and hauled in a great roll of
bedding.  It was a comfort to know that he would have company now.

All that day they had worked side by side, and mostly in silence,
on the long neglected deck.  Occasionally Thad ventured some brief
comment, but received little co-operation.  Once, when he addressed
the taciturn skipper as 'Peter,' the Big Fisherman had said sadly,
'My name is Simon.  Please remember that.'  On Tuesday, Thad rowed
in for one of the tents Esther had used last summer.  If it should
rain in the night he would be protected.  His eyes were bright with
excitement when he returned.

'They're saying in the village,' he reported, 'that the Tetrarch's
caravan was set upon--and he was killed!'

But even this shocking news failed to lift Simon's apathy.  He was
silent for a while and then remarked, 'That will close the palace.'
After another interval, he added, 'They will not need any more
fish.'

And now it was Wednesday morning.  Thad had gone ashore on an
errand.  Simon's knees were lame from his unaccustomed exercise,
and after an hour of it he got wearily to his feet and walked the
length of the deck, wondering what had detained the boy.  Three
dories were on the water, and moving rapidly, their oars flashing
in the sun.  With narrowed eyes, shaded by his cupped hands, Simon
identified the occupants of the boats.  Thad was bringing Andrew.
James and John were in the second dory, which had overtaken and was
now passing Thad's.  Lagging behind came Philip with Thomas and old
Bartholomew.

Simon's heart was in his throat.  How could he face these men?
They were drawing closer now, near enough for him to see their
animation.  They seemed happy!  Whatever could have happened?  He
tossed a rope to the first dory and Johnny scrambled up, flung a
leg over the rail and threw his arms around the bewildered skipper.

'You haven't heard!' he shouted exultantly.  'You don't know!
Listen!  Jesus lives! . . .  I tell you--he is alive again!'

James had grasped Simon's arm.

'We have seen him, Peter!  He came to us--Sunday night--at Ben-
Josef's house!'

They had all swarmed over the rail now, all but Bartholomew, who
was being tugged on board by Thad.  Simon stood there dazed, his
lips quivering, the tears running down his cheeks.

'He told us to make haste and go home,' said Philip.  'He was
anxious for you to know.'

'That's what he said,' put in Johnny.  'He said, "Go and tell
Peter!"'

'Are you sure he said "Peter"?' asked the Big Fisherman huskily.

'Aye!  That he did!' declared Bartholomew.  '"Go--quickly--and tell
Peter!"'

'Where is he now?' entreated Peter.  'I must go to him!'

'We're to wait here,' said Andrew.  'He is coming to us.'

They slowly drifted to the afterdeck and sat in a circle around
Peter.  If anyone remembered his unaccountable apostasy and flight
on the morning of the great tragedy, it was not apparent.  They
were too full of joy to remember anything but their Master's
conquest.  They were all talking at once.  Peter's brightened eyes
darted from one to another as he tried to follow their fragmentary
narratives.  Then he began asking questions:  'Was Jesus the same--
with the same body?'

'Absolutely the same,' declared Thomas.  'A bit pale, perhaps.
There were deep black thorn-cuts on his forehead and purple nail-
wounds in his hands and feet, and the gash of a sword-thrust in his
side; but he was real!'

'Not just a spirit, then,' concluded Peter, 'but flesh and blood.'

At that, they suddenly fell silent.  Old Bartholomew cleared his
throat.

'There was a little difference, Peter,' he admitted.  'It is true,
as Thomas says, that he appeared in his real body--'

'And he ate, too, a bit of fish and some honey in the comb,'
interposed Philip.

'We don't know that--for sure,' put in James.  'The only light in
there was a small candle, for we were in hiding.'

'Well--he took the plate,' persisted Philip.  'He could have
eaten.'

Peter turned his attention to the old man.

'What was it you started to say, Bartholomew?'

They all listened, their eyes lowered as if they knew what was
coming.

'Only this, Peter,' replied Bartholomew.  'There was a little
difference.  When he came into the room, he didn't bother to open
the door.'

Peter's eyes widened.  The others did not look up.

'You mean--he walked through it!'

'I suppose so,' said Bartholomew lamely.  'The door did not open;
and then--he was standing there.'

'And when he left you,' pursued Peter, 'did he open the door?  And
do you know where he went?'

'That was mysterious, too,' rejoined Bartholomew.  'He was standing
there among us, as I say, talking earnestly with us; and, as James
has told you, the room was but dimly lighted; and, presently, he
was gone.'

'Didn't go out through the door?'

'Didn't go near the door!  Didn't move! . . .  He just vanished!'

Johnny broke the ensuing silence to say, 'It was reported that two
men met him on the highway near Emmaus, that evening at supper
time.  Both of them were firm believers in the Master; had often
seen him and had heard him talk.  They were discussing the report
of the resurrection when he overtook them and joined in the
conversation.  They invited him to have supper with them at the
Emmaus inn.  He sat with them for a time at the table--'

'But ate nothing,' put in James.

'And vanished!' ended John.

'The queer thing about it was that he talked with these men at
Emmaus about the same time that he appeared to us at Ben-Josef's
house,' contributed Thomas.

'And it's a good three-hour walk from Emmaus to Jerusalem,' said
Philip.

Nothing more was said for a while.  Peter sat thoughtfully stroking
his jaw.  Andrew observed that there was a mixture of white in his
brother's black beard.  Yes--and there was a patch of silver in his
forelock that had not been there before.  It must have taken a deal
of suffering to do that to Peter.

Thad had now caught Johnny's eye and wiggled a beckoning finger.
The two arose quietly and strolled arm in arm toward the little
galley, presumably to prepare food for the party.

'What it all comes to, Peter,' summed up old Bartholomew soberly,
'is that our Master, having overcome death, is set free to go
wherever he pleases, whenever he pleases!  He is independent of
miles--and hours!'

'He might even be here--on The Abigail--now!' mused Andrew.

Peter gave a startled look over his shoulder, and then stared into
his brother's eyes.

'Does that affright you, Andy?' he asked.

'No; it does not affright me,' replied Andrew.  'But--from now on--
so long as I live--I'm going to be more careful--about what I say--
and do. . . .  One never knows when he may be standing there.'

                         * * * * * *

Early the next morning--it was the twentieth day of Nisan--they
were all reassembled on The Abigail.  There was plenty of work to
be done in reconditioning the neglected ship and her sister craft,
The Sara, but no one had any keen interest in it.  They were
restless, inattentive, and preoccupied by their expectancy of a
visitation.  Every little while some one of them would make a tour
of the deck, scanning the horizon.  The animated discussions of
yesterday had reviewed the story, over and over again, until
nothing was left to be said.

'Think he will come today?' one would ask, aware that the question
had no answer.  The strain of waiting was beginning to tell:
waiting and watching and listening was hard work.  Late in the
afternoon Andrew, customarily so frugal with suggestions, startled
them by calling out to his brother who for the past hour had been
sitting on the tiller-seat, gazing across the shimmering water,
'Let us go fishing tomorrow!  I think he would rather find us
working--when he comes.'  The proposal brought general relief.  The
rest of the day was spent in putting the nets and sailing tackle in
order.  The tension was relaxed.  A frayed rope at the end of the
mainmast's boom broke with Johnny and dumped him into the lake.
They hauled him out dripping and everybody laughed.  How good it
seemed to be able to laugh again, especially at Johnny, whose
agility in scampering all over the rigging had made him amiably
envied.

Next day they fished off a cove on the north shore and with
considerable success; came back to anchorage in the evening,
stocked the big live-box, half submerged at their wharf, and
carried home well-filled baskets of perch.  Peter thought of
returning that night to Bethsaida, but when the time came to leave
the ship he decided to remain.  All the others went home, including
Thad, who was ordered to take some fish home to his family.  At
twilight the dories were all gone and Peter was alone, but with a
tranquil mind.  And that night he slept.

At the first grey-blue light before dawn, the Big Fisherman rose
and walked forward.  It was still too early to identify the
familiar landmarks.  On such a morning, he had stood here gazing
toward the shore in the predawn haze and had heard a voice calling
'Simon!'  With what heart-racing haste had he scrambled into the
little boat and flailed the lake with excited oars!  And then he
had received his commission as the fisherman who would now 'fish
for men.'

The sky was brightening a little and the fog was dissolving.  Dimly
the outlines of the wharves and huts became visible.  The Big
Fisherman's narrowed eyes slowly swept the shoreline.  A tall,
slender column of blue smoke was rising from a small, bright fire
at the water's edge.  Beside the fire, warming his hands, stood the
Master.  He raised his arm, waved a hand, and called:

'Peter!'

Half an hour later the disciples began to arrive, by twos and
threes, for the day's work.  They hurried to the spot where Jesus
and Peter sat side by side before the fire, and were greeted by the
Master's welcoming smile.  The Big Fisherman's shaggy head was wet;
he was bare to the waist; his shirt lay near-by on the sand,
drying.  His eyes were red and swollen with weeping, but strangely
luminous.  It was plain to see what had happened.  Peter had
tearfully repented his weakness and had been fully restored to the
Master's comradeship.

Thad and John ran to the live-box and returned with fish for
breakfast, which they broiled over the fire, and produced wheaten
bread from their well-filled baskets.  The hour that followed was
memorable.  In a few days, the Master said, he would return home to
his Father's House and leave them to continue his work.

Eventually he would revisit the world.  In the meantime, they who
believed in him--'and they who will believe in me through your
testimony'--would receive many indubitable evidences of his
spiritual presence.

'Can you tell us when to expect your return, Master?' asked Philip.

'No one knows the day, nor the hour, Philip,' replied Jesus.  'What
I say unto you, you may say unto all--Watch!'

In a quiet voice he gave them instructions for their movements in
the days immediately before them.  No more fishing now: their
fishing days were over.  They were to return to Jerusalem and await
further orders.  With that, he rose, held his outstretched hands
over them in blessing, and said tenderly, 'My peace be with you.'
They had all bowed their heads while the touching words were
spoken; and when, at length, they lifted their eyes, he was gone.

For a long moment they sat stunned to silence.  Peter was the first
to rise.  They all came to their feet and gathered about him, their
questing eyes fixed on his sober face.  No one needed to inquire
which, among them, was appointed to be their leader.  Peter had
suddenly acquired maturity.  His resonant voice, when he spoke, had
a tone of authority.  There was no trace of pride or arrogance in
it: indeed, it had something of the tenderness and compassion that
had distinguished the voice of the Master.  It quietly entreated,
but with full confidence that it would be heard with respect.  He
remembered the strange sensation of power that he had experienced
on the day, long ago, in the palatial home of Jairus when he had
been in complete command of the crowd that had swarmed in out of
the storm.  It had been a heady potion, that consciousness of
ability to command. . . .  Today, he had no pride of power:
instead, he felt weighted with responsibility.  Jesus had privately
said to him, 'You are a shepherd now!  Feed my sheep!'

'We will proceed to Jerusalem,' said Peter.  'James, John, and
Thaddeus, you will row out to the ships, stow the nets, and secure
the hatches.  Then you will return home and prepare for your
journey.  The rest of us will go to our homes and say farewell to
our families.  We will all meet in Bethsaida an hour after noon.'

The Big Fisherman picked up his shirt and tugged it on over his
massive shoulders.

'And bid farewell to the lake,' he added, as he turned away with
Andrew.  'It is unlikely that we will ever see it again.'

'What will you do with the ships?' asked Andrew, as they moved
toward the highway.

'I shall give them to Hannah,' said Peter.  'She can dispose of
them--and use the money for her support. . . .  And your house in
Capernaum, Andy?'

'That shall be Hannah's, too.'

                         * * * * * *

Making their headquarters at the shop of the old weaver Ben-Josef,
the disciples restlessly awaited their summons.  At length it was
announced that they were to assemble on a near-by hill-top in the
early morning of the twenty-fourth day of Iyar.

In obedience, they went singly up the long hill where the Master
met them; and, after a few enheartening words, instructed them to
remain in Jerusalem until they received further tidings.

Then they all knelt while he prayed for them; and when they arose
from their knees, he was gone.  Nor did they ever see him again,
though--to the end of their days--they were constantly on the alert
for his return.



Chapter XXIV


For more than a dozen centuries the fifth of Sivan, fiftieth day
after the Passover, had been celebrated as the harvest festival.
It was the gayest occasion of the Jewish year.

Many an oldster, with the ancient traditions as his hobby, would
tell you that Pentecost was originally intended to commemorate the
giving of the law to Moses on Mount Sinai; but little if anything
was made of that now.  This carefree day was singularly detached
from historic events.

Whereas the Passover enjoined a period when the houses were
shuttered and prayers were offered for the recovery of a long-lost
freedom, and the Day of Atonement implored on bended knees the
forgiveness of the people's sins, Pentecost was observed with
joyful music, colourful processions and dancing in the streets.

The gala-day marked the end of the barley harvest, Palestine's
largest and most reliable crop.  For a little while, and until the
grapes and other early autumn fruits were ripe, rural Jewry was at
leisure with a few well-earned shekels in its pocket.  It was an
appropriate time for a pleasure trip to the city.

And Jerusalem always did her best to accommodate the merrymakers.
Her open gates were adorned with bright bunting and banners.  The
booths and bazaars were decorated with garlands of mid-summer
flowers.  Merchants put away their expensive jewels, rugs, and
furniture to give display to gaudier items within the reach of a
reckless holiday wallet.  Trinkets and baubles and gimcracks,
anything that glittered on a necklace or jingled on a bracelet,
could be had at what seemed a bargain.  The narrow old streets
swarmed with crowds in a state of happy confusion.  Vendors with
trays of sweetmeats shouted their wares.  Confectioners, busy over
hot braziers, filled the air with tantalizing aromas of mint and
anise.  Harpists and pipers discordantly competed with mendicant
minstrels for the attention of hilarious groups that paused to
listen, laugh, drop a penny on the rug, and press on into the pack.
The youth of Israel were serious--but not on Pentecost.

It was not to be expected that everybody would behave.  There was
plenty of rowdiness and drunkenness, which the Roman patrols
pretended not to notice; for, in the opinion of the tough and
seasoned Roman soldier, inebriation was not a capital offence.
Tipsy country boys who embraced and harangued strangers on the
street were casually admonished by the legionaries to take it easy,
but nobody was arrested.  It was the one day of the year when the
Holy City unbent a little.  If the solemn greybeards didn't like
it, they could stay at home.

But