Another week went by and the eve of the Triumph was at hand. On the afternoon before the great day sewing-women had come to the house of Gallus, bringing with them the robe that Miriam must wear. As had been promised, it was splendid, of white silk covered with silver discs and having the picture of the gate Nicanor fashioned on the breast, but cut so low that it shamed Miriam to put it on.
“It is naught, it is naught,” said Julia. “The designer has made it thus that the multitude may see those pearls from which you take your name.” But to herself she thought: “Oh! monstrous age, and monstrous men, whose eyes can delight in the disgrace of a poor unfriended maiden. Surely the cup of iniquity of my people is full, and they shall drink it to the dregs!”
That same afternoon also came an assistant of the officer, who was called the Marshal, with orders to Gallus as to when and where he was to deliver over his charge upon the morrow. With him he brought a packet, which, when opened, proved to contain a splendid golden girdle, fashioned to the likeness of a fetter. The clasp was an amethyst, and round it were cut these words: “The gift of Domitian to her who to-morrow shall be his.”
Miriam threw the thing from her as though it were a snake.
“I will not wear it,” she said. “I say that I will not wear it; at least to-day I am my own,” while Julia groaned and Gallus cursed beneath his breath.
Knowing her sore plight, that evening there came to visit her one of the elders of the Christian Church in Rome, a bishop named Cyril, who had been the friend and disciple of the Apostle Peter. To him the poor girl poured out all the agony of her heart.
“Oh! my father, my father in Christ,” she said, “I swear to you that were I not of our holy faith, rather than endure this shame I would slay myself to-night! Other dangers have I passed, but they have been of the body alone, whereas this——. Pity me and tell me, you in whose ear God speaks, tell me, what must I do?”
“Daughter,” answered the grave and gentle man, “you must trust in God. Did He not save you in the house at Tyre? Did He not save you in the streets of Jerusalem? Did He not save you on the gate Nicanor?”
“He did,” answered Miriam.
“Aye, daughter, and so shall He save you in the slave-market of Rome. I have a message for your ear, and it is that no shame shall come near to you. Tread your path, drink your cup, and fear nothing, for the Lord shall send His angel to protect you until such time as it pleases Him to take you to Himself.”
Miriam looked at him, and as she looked peace fell upon her soul and shone in her soft eyes.
“I hear the word of the Lord spoken through the mouth of His messenger,” she said, “and henceforth I will strive to fear nothing, no, not even Domitian.”