“Thou hast done me no wrong,” answered Zoroaster. “Thou hast sent for me, and I am come to be thy faithful friend, as I swore to thee, long ago, in the tent at Shushan.”
Then they took Zoroaster’s torn clothes, and they clad him in white robes and set a spotless mitre upon his head; and the king, for the second time, took his golden chain from his own neck, and put it about Zoroaster’s shoulders. And they led him away into the palace.
When it was known that Zoroaster had returned, there was some stir in the palace. The news that he was made high priest soon reached Nehushta’s ears, and she wondered what change had come over him in three years that could have made a priest of such a man. She remembered him young and marvellously fair, a warrior at all points, though at the same time an accomplished courtier. She could not imagine him invested with the robes of priesthood, leading a chorus of singers in the chanting of the hymns.
But it was not only as a chief priest that Darius had reinstalled Zoroaster in the palace. The king needed a counsellor and adviser, and the learned priest seemed a person fitted for the post.
On the following day, Nehushta, as was her wont, went out, in the cool of the evening, to walk in the gardens, attended by her maidens, her fan-girls and the slaves who bore her carpet and cushions in case she wished to sit down. She walked languidly, as though she hardly cared to lift her delicate slippered feet from the smooth walk, and often she paused and plucked a flower, and all her train of serving-women stopped behind her, not daring even to whisper among themselves, for the young queen was in no gentle humour of mind. Her face was pale and her eyes were heavy, for she knew the man she had so loved in other days was near, and though he had so bitterly deceived her, the sound of his sweet promises was yet in her ears; and sometimes, in her dreams, she felt the gentle breath of his mouth upon her sleeping lips, and woke with a start of joy that was but the forerunner of a new sadness.
Slowly she paced the walks of the rose-gardens, thinking of another place in the far north, where there had been roses, and myrtles too, upon a terrace where the moonlight was very fair.
As she turned a sharp corner where the overhanging shrubbery darkened the declining light to a dusky shade, she found herself face to face with the man of whom she was thinking. His tall thin figure, clad in spotless white robes, seemed like a shadow in the gloom, and his snowy beard and hair made a strange halo about his young face, that was so thin and worn. He walked slowly, his hands folded together, and his eyes upon the ground; while a few paces behind him two young priests followed with measured steps, conversing in low tones, as though fearing to disturb the meditations of their master.
Nehushta started a little and would have passed on, although she recognised the face of him she had loved. But Zoroaster lifted his eyes, and looked on her with so strange an expression that she stopped short in the way. The deep, calm light in his eyes awed her, and there was something in his majestic presence that seemed of another world.