That is a sure sign of a religious purpose. She is most
devout, our lady Tsarpi!
A favourite of Rimmon, too! The High Priest has assured
her of it. He is a great man,—next to the King, now
that Naaman is gone.
But if Naaman should come back, healed of the leprosy?
How can he come back? The Hebrew slave that went away
with him, when they caught her, said that he was dead.
The High Priest has shut her up in the prison of the
temple, accusing her of her master’s death.
Yet I think he does not believe it, for I heard him telling
our mistress what to do if Naaman should return.
She will claim him as her husband. Was she not wedded to
him before the god? That is a sacred bond. Only the High
Priest can loose it. She will keep her hold on Naaman
for the sake of the House of Rimmon. A wife knows her
husband’s secrets, she can tell—
[Enter SHUMAKIM, with his flagon, walking unsteadily.]
Hush! here comes the fool Shumakim. He is never sober.
Are there two of you? I see two, but that is no proof.
I think there is only one, but beautiful enough for
two. What were you talking to yourself about, fairest
About the lady Tsarpi, fool, and what she would do if
her husband returned.
Fie! fie! That is no talk for an innocent fool to hear.
Has she a husband?
You know very well that she is the wife of Lord Naaman.
I remember that she used to wear his name and his jewels.
But I thought he had exchanged her,—for a leprosy.
You must have heard that he went away to Samaria to look
for healing. Some say that he died on the journey; but
others say he has been cured, and is on his way home
to his wife.
It may be, for this is a mad world, and men never know
when they are well off,—except us fools. But he must
come soon if he would find his wife as he parted from
her,—or the city where he left it. The Assyrians have
returned with a greater army, and this time they will
make an end of us. There is no Naaman now, and the Bull
will devour Damascus like a bunch of leeks, flowers and
all,—flowers and all, my double-budded fair one! Are
you not afraid?
We belong to the House of Rimmon. He will protect us.