“Whither do they take you?” asked Miriam as he passed her.
“To what I desire—death,” he answered, and was gone.
Now the Caesars, dismounting from their chariots, took up their stations by altars at the head of the steps, while beneath them, rank upon rank, gathered all those who had shared their Triumph, each company in its allotted place. Then followed a long pause, the multitude waiting for Miriam knew not what. Presently men were seen running from the Forum up a path that had been left open, one of them carrying in his hand some object wrapped in a napkin. Arriving in face of the Caesars he threw aside the cloth and held up before them and in sight of all the people the grizzly head of Simon, the son of Gioras. By this public murder of a brave captain of their foes was consummated the Triumph of the Romans, and at the sight of its red proof trumpets blew, banners waved, and from half a million throats went up a shout of victory that seemed to rend the very skies, for the multitude was drunk with the glory of its brutal vengeance.
Then silence was called, and there before the Temple of Jove the beasts were slain, and the Caesars offered sacrifice to the gods that had given them victory.
Thus ended the Triumph of Vespasian and Titus, and with it the record of the struggle of the Jews against the iron beak and claws of the Roman Eagle.
Had Miriam chanced to look out of her litter as she passed the Temple of Isis, escorted by Gallus and the guards before dawn broke upon that great day of the Triumph, and had there been light to enable her to see, she might have beheld two figures galloping into Rome as fast as their weary horses would carry them. Both rode after the fashion of men, but one of them, wrapped in an Eastern garment that hid the face, was in fact a woman.
“Fortune favours us, Nehushta,” said the man in a strained voice. “At least, we are in time for the Triumph, who might so easily have been too late. Look, yonder they gather already by Octavian’s Walks,” and he pointed to the companies of soldiers who hurried past them to the meeting-place.
“Yes, yes, my lord Marcus, we are in time. There go the eagles and here comes their prey,” and in her turn Nehushta pointed to a guarded litter—had they but known it, the very one that carried the beloved woman whom they sought. “But whither now? Would you also march in the train of Titus?”
“Nay, woman, it is too late. Also I know not what would be my welcome.”
“Your welcome? Why, you were his friend, and Titus is faithful to his friends.”
“Aye, but perhaps not to those who have been taken prisoner by the enemy. Towards the commencement of the siege that happened to a man I knew. He was captured with a companion. The companion the Jews slew, but as he was about to be beheaded upon the wall, this man slipped from the hands of the executioner, and leaping from it escaped with little hurt. Titus gave him his life, but dismissed him from his legion. Why should I fare better?”