“A voice from the East! a voice from the West! a voice from the four Winds! a voice against Jerusalem and against the Temple! a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides! a voice against the whole people! Woe, woe to Jerusalem!”
Now he was upon them, yes, and marching through them as though he saw them not, although they shrank to one side and the other of the narrow street to avoid the touch of this ominous, unclean creature who scarcely seemed to be a man.
“Fellow, what do these words mean?” cried Benoni in angry fear. But, taking no heed, his pale eyes fixed upon the heavens, the wanderer answered only, “Woe, woe to Jerusalem! Woe to you who come up to Jerusalem!”
So he passed on, still uttering those awful words, till at length they lost sight of his naked form and the sound of his crying grew faint and died away.
“What a fearful greeting is this!” said Miriam, wringing her hands.
“Ay!” answered Nehushta, “but the farewell will be worse. The place is doomed and all in it.”
Only Caleb said, striving to look unconcerned:
“Have no fear, Miriam. I know the man. He is mad.”
“Where does wisdom end and madness begin?” asked Nehushta.
Then they went on towards the gates of the Temple, always through the same blood-stained, empty streets.
THE ESSENES FIND THEIR QUEEN AGAIN
They went on towards the gates of the Temple, but many a long day was destined to go by ere Miriam reached them. The entrance by which they were told they must approach if they sought speech of the high priest, was one of the two Huldah Gates on the south side of the Royal Cloister, and thither they came across the valley of Tyropaeon. As they drew near to them of a sudden that gate which stood most to the east was flung wide, and out of it issued a thousand or more of armed men, like ants from a broken nest, who, shouting and waving swords, rushed towards their company. As it chanced, at the moment they were in the centre of an open space that once had been covered with houses but was now cumbered with hundreds of blackened and tottering walls, for fire had devoured them.
“It is the men of John who attack us,” cried a voice, whereon, moved by a common impulse, the little band turned and fled for shelter among the ruined houses; yes, even Caleb and Benoni fled.
Before they reached them, lo! from these crumbling walls that they had thought untenanted save by wandering dogs, out rushed another body of savage warriors, the men of Simon who held the Lower City.