Then Vergilius told his companion how he had won her from the son of Herod and left her in the keeping of Arria. David wept as he listened.
When the tale was finished he spoke bitterly: “’Twas she—the Beloved. My father was put to death, his property seized, his wife and children dragged to captivity. My heart is faint with sorrow. God! I weary of thy slowness.
“Send, quickly send the new king,
shall fly as the lightning
Making the mighty afraid and the proud to bow
low and the wicked to tremble.”
For a moment they rode in silence. David was first to speak.
“Forgive me,” said he, with fear of his imprudence. “My tongue has gone too far. I am true to Herod, being his debtor, for he gave me freedom. But I am of the house of David.”
“Fear not,” said Vergilius. “Never shall I betray the broken hearted. I give you friendship.”
“And I give you gratitude,” was the answer of the Jew.
“I am as a child here in Judea and seek understanding. You shall be my teacher.”
For a time neither spoke; soon David asked: “Will you tell me of her my sister is now serving?”
“Of all the daughters of Rome she is noblest. We love each other. Ah, friend! ’Tis a wonder—this great love. My tongue halts when I think of it.”
He paused, in meditation.
“I have heard much of it here in Judea—a love that exalts the soul,” said David.
“And changes the heart of man with all that is in it. My love has filled me with a tender feeling for all women; it has made me to hate injustice and even to complain of the gods.”
“To complain of the gods!” said David, turning and looking into the face of his friend.
“It does seem to me they set a bad example and are too childish for the work they have to do, but still—still I bow before them.”
“I do not understand you,” said David.
“They are given to spite, anger, vanity, lust, revenge, and idleness. Caesar is greater than they. He has learned self-control. And this new king of your faith, who, you tell me, is to conquer the world—he is no better.”
“And why think you so?”
“He is to conquer the world. Good sir, it has been conquered—how many times! He shall make the mighty afraid—have they not often trembled with fear and perished by the sword? He shall fling arrows of just revenge, as if our old earth were not already soaked in the blood of the wicked. Ah, my David, I wonder not you long for a king of the sword and the arrow. Revenge is ever the dream of the oppressed. But I have dreamed of a greater king.”
“Tell me who?”
“He would be like this love in me,” said Vergilius. “If it were to go abroad—if it were only to find the hearts of the mighty—what, think you, would happen?”
“Ay, if it were to go from friend to friend and from neighbor to neighbor,” said the young Jew, “it would indeed conquer the world.”