David, going to the door of the cave, answered: “Here, within.”
“Tis he—the new king!” the tribune whispered. “I thought kings were born in palaces, and here are they so near the beasts of the field.”
Soon came David, and behind him, following in single file, three men, a God-sent majesty in step and countenance. Vergilius and Manius moved aside, saluting solemnly as the men passed. The young tribune turned to his friend and to Manius.
“Come,” he whispered. “The Judge of all the earth is here, and, as for me, I dare not remain.”
Softly, silently, they departed, their hearts lifted to that peace none may understand. Gently, gently, Vergilius took the hand of him who had been his enemy. They had forgotten their bitterness and the touch of awe had made them kin.
“All debts are paid, my brother,” said Vergilius. “I forgive you.”
He struck his sword deep in the earth. “Henceforth it shall be for a ploughshare,” he added.
The assessor bowed low, kissing the hand of Vergilius, who quickly mounted horse.
Then said the latter, turning to his followers: “Come, let us make haste. Before the gold is shining in the great lantern of Shushan. I must be on my way to the sea.”
“On your way to the sea!” said his friend.
As he answered, the voice of Vergilius had a note of longing and beloved memories: “Yes, for the day is come when I return to the city of Caesar. Nothing shall separate me longer from my beloved. But come, let us seek Appius at the beacon-fire.”
On all sides the great shadow was now thick-sown with stars. The group of horsemen, with colors flying, rode swiftly down the broad way to Jerusalem. Suddenly they drew rein. Great surges of song were rolling in upon this rounded isle from off the immeasurable, mighty deep of the heavens. Beating of drums, and waving of banners, and trumpet-sounds, and battle-cries of them unborn were in that new song—so it seemed to those who heard it. Winding over the gloomy hills near them under the light of the great star, they could see a long procession of shepherds bearing crooks. Awhile the horsemen looked and listened. The host of the dead now seemed to cry unto the host of the living:
“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good-will towards men.”
Slowly the song diminished.
“The everlasting gates are lifted up,” said David, thoughtfully. Then, thinking of the perils of the new king, he added: “I beseech you, say nothing of these things abroad.”
The song had ceased. A cloud, with all its borders bright, now curtained the great star. Another band of horsemen were descending the hill from Bethlehem. Swiftly they came near and halted.
“God send you peace,” said the voice of a maiden. “We seek one Vergilius, officer of the cohort.”
“And who is he that you should seek him?” said the young tribune, dismounting quickly.