This was received by the company in silence, but it was noticed that Joram was deeply affected.
Perreeza took the instrument in her arms, swept her delicate hand over the well-tuned strings, and, after a moment’s pause sang in seraphic tones a plaintive melody peculiar to her life in Jerusalem.
Profound silence fell on the assembly after her song was finished. The performance and its effect were such that applause or compliments would have sounded ill-timed. All gazed with solemn delight on Perreeza as she laid aside her harp and took her seat beside Jupheena.
Suddenly, the disappearance of Joram was noticed, and Barzello sprang up in an agitated manner. The merchant was not in the room, and none had seen him depart.
“In the name of the gods, what has befallen my good friend!” cried the officer, as he went to the adjoining apartment.
“Be calm,” faintly replied the voice of Joram, as the host came to where he was reclining.
“Barzello,” said the guest, “thou hast given me reason these many years to believe in thy friendship.”
“Thou art not in the least mistaken,” responded Barzello.
“Then I shall proceed without delay to explain my singular conduct, and, in making these developments, I am confident I shall share the sympathies of my kind friend. To-night my heart has been almost rent with contending emotions. I have been well-nigh overwhelmed with both sadness and joy. During my long residence in this part of the world a degree of mystery has hung over myself and family, and even to-day my country and origin are not known. For many years past I have had strong doubts in regard to the wisdom of this course of secrecy. The time has at last arrived when my life history must be divulged.
“In the first place, then, let me inform you that I am a Hebrew. I was born of noble and wealthy parents who lived within the metropolis of Judah. I was the pride of my father, and by my mother I was almost idolized. Being of a lively temperament I was fond of company and overfond of amusements. I was sent to one of the city’s leading halls of learning and found but little trouble in mastering my studies. I was early thrown into the companionship of those who had not the fear of God before their eyes. I drank in their spirit, and, consequently, the yoke of parental authority became painful to my youthful neck. My affection for parents and near relatives was strong, and it was not without a hard struggle that I yielded to the enticements of older transgressors. Gradually I became the willing companion of youths whose chief object was amusement.
“One night we tarried together until a late hour and several of my companions indulged freely in wine. Before we left the scene of our carousal they had become quite boisterous. I was more sedate than usual, though entering into the spirit of the occasion. At that late hour the watchmen, or guards, of the city found it necessary to interfere and check our hilarity. A fight ensued in which I took part. Being recognized by one of the officers, I fled the city rather than face the disgrace of trial and punishment. Taking leave of my sisters, I was soon far from the land of my birth. My last act was to present to my favorite sister the harp which thou hast seen and heard to-night.