“We are man and woman, you and I. Our life is of this world. Of these other worlds is all a madness. Let these mad dreamers go the way of their dreaming. Deny them not what they desire above all things, above meat and wine, above song and battle, even above love of woman. Deny them not their hearts’ desires that draw them across the dark of the grave to their dreams of lives beyond this world. Let them pass. But you and I abide here in all the sweet we have discovered of each other. Quickly enough will come the dark, and you depart for your coasts of sun and flowers, and I for the roaring table of Valhalla.”
“No! no!” she cried, half-tearing herself away. “You do not understand. All of greatness, all of goodness, all of God are in this man who is more than man; and it is a shameful death to die. Only slaves and thieves so die. He is neither slave nor thief. He is an immortal. He is God. Truly I tell you He is God.”
“He is immortal you say,” I contended. “Then to die to-day on Golgotha will not shorten his immortality by a hair’s breadth in the span of time. He is a god you say. Gods cannot die. From all I have been told of them, it is certain that gods cannot die.”
“Oh!” she cried. “You will not understand. You are only a great giant thing of flesh.”
“Is it not said that this event was prophesied of old time?” I queried, for I had been learning from the Jews what I deemed their subtleties of thinking.
“Yes, yes,” she agreed, “the Messianic prophecies. This is the Messiah.”
“Then who am I,” I asked, “to make liars of the prophets? to make of the Messiah a false Messiah? Is the prophecy of your people so feeble a thing that I, a stupid stranger, a yellow northling in the Roman harness, can give the lie to prophecy and compel to be unfulfilled—the very thing willed by the gods and foretold by the wise men?”
“You do not understand,” she repeated.
“I understand too well,” I replied. “Am I greater than the gods that I may thwart the will of the gods? Then are gods vain things and the playthings of men. I am a man. I, too, bow to the gods, to all gods, for I do believe in all gods, else how came all gods to be?”
She flung herself so that my hungry arms were empty of her, and we stood apart and listened to the uproar of the street as Jesus and the soldiers emerged and started on their way. And my heart was sore in that so great a woman could be so foolish. She would save God. She would make herself greater than God.
“You do not love me,” she said slowly, and slowly grew in her eyes a promise of herself too deep and wide for any words.
“I love you beyond your understanding, it seems,” was my reply. “I am proud to love you, for I know I am worthy to love you and am worth all love you may give me. But Rome is my foster-mother, and were I untrue to her, of little pride, of little worth would be my love for you.”