Then, in her dream, the sun turned red as blood and the stars seemed to fall and winds shook the world, and darkness covered it, and in the winds and the darkness were voices, and standing upon the rock, its arms stretched east and west, a cross of fire, and filling the heavens above the cross, company upon company of angels. This last vision of judgment passed also and Miriam awoke again from her haunted, horror-begotten sleep, to see the watch-fires of the Romans burning in the Court of Women before her, and from the Court of Israel behind her, where they were herded like cattle in the slaughterer’s yard, to hear the groans of the starving Jews who to-morrow were destined to the sword.
THE DEATH-STRUGGLE OF ISRAEL
Now the light began to grow, but that morning no sun rose upon the sight of the thousands who waited for its coming. The whole heaven was dark with a gray mist that seemed to drift up in billows from the sea, bringing with it a salt dampness. For this mist Miriam was thankful, since had the sun shone hotly she knew not how she would have lived through another day. Already she grew very weak, who had suffered so much and eaten so little, and whose only drink had been the dew, but she felt that while the mist hid the sun her life would bide with her.
To others also this mist was welcome. Under cover of it Caleb approached the gateway, and although he could not ascend it, as the doors were locked and guarded, he cast on to its roof so cleverly, that it fell almost at Miriam’s feet, a linen bag in which was a leathern bottle containing wine and water, and with it a mouldy crust of bread, doubtless all that he could find, or buy, or steal. Kneeling down, Miriam loosed the string of the bag with her teeth and devoured the crust of bread, again returning thanks that Caleb had been moved to this thought. But from the bottle she could not drink, for her hands being bound behind her, she was able neither to lift it nor to untie the thong that made fast its neck. Therefore, as, notwithstanding the dew which she had lapped, she needed drink sorely and longed also for the use of her hands to protect herself from the tormenting attacks of stinging gnats and carrion flies, she set herself to try to free them.
Now the gilt spike that crowned her pillar was made fast with angle-irons let into the marble and the edge of one of these irons projected somewhat and was rough. Looking at it the thought came into Miriam’s mind that it might serve to rub through the cord with which her hands were bound. So standing with her back to the pillar she began her task, to find that it must be done little by little, since the awkward movement wearied her, moreover, her swollen arms chafing against the marble of the column became intolerably sore. Yet, although the pain made her weep, from time to time she persevered. But night fell before the frayed cord parted.