“My pleasure,” he said vacantly, “—that is a strange word on my lips to-night, is it not? Well, Nehushta, you have the best of the argument. All you say is quite true, if a little over-coloured. Of course, Miriam is quite right not to marry me if she has scruples, and, of course, I should be quite wrong to take advantage of the accident of my being able to purchase her in the slave-ring. I think that is all I have to say. Miriam, I free you, as indeed I remember I promised the Essenes that I would do. Since no one knows you belong to me, I suppose that no formal ceremony will be necessary. It is a manumission ‘inter amicos,’ as the lawyers say, but quite valid. As to the title to the Tyre property, I accept it in payment of the debt, but I beg that you will keep it a while on my behalf, for, at present, there might be trouble about transferring it into my name. Now, good-night. Nehushta will take you to her room, Miriam, and to-morrow you can depart whither you will. I wish you all fortune, and—why do you not thank me? Under the circumstances, it would be kind.”
But Miriam only burst into a flood of tears.
“What will you do, Marcus? Oh! what will you do?” she sobbed.
“In all probability, things which I would rather you did not know of,” he answered bitterly, “or I may take it into my head to accept the suggestion of our friend, Nehushta, and begin to search those Scriptures of which I have heard so much; that seem, by the way, specially designed to prevent the happiness of men and women.” Then he added fiercely, “Go, girl, go at once, for if you stand there weeping before me any longer, I tell you that I shall change my mind, and as Nehushta says, imperil the safety of your soul, and of my own—which does not matter.”
So Miriam stumbled from the room and through the curtained doorway. As Nehushta followed her Marcus caught her by the arm.
“I have half a mind to murder you,” he said, quietly.
The old Libyan only laughed.
“All I have said is true and for your own good, Marcus,” she answered, “and you will live to know it.”
“Where will you take her?”
“I don’t know yet, but Christians always have friends.”
“You will let me hear of her.”
“Surely, if it is safe.”
“And if she needs help you will tell me?”
“Surely, and if you need her help, and it can be done, I will bring her to you.”
“Then may I need help soon,” he said. “Begone.”
THE REWARD OF SATURIUS