“Well,” said one of them, “you will wait for some time, for that house is no longer fortunate. Its owner is dead, killed in the wars, and no one knows who his heir may be.”
“What was his name?” he asked.
“Marcus, the favourite of Nero, also called the Fortunate.”
Then, with a bitter curse upon his lips Caleb turned and walked away.
THE JUDGMENT OF DOMITIAN
Two hours had gone by and Caleb, with fury in his heart, sat brooding in the office attached to the warehouse that he had hired. At that moment he had but one desire—to kill his successful rival, Marcus. Marcus had escaped and returned to Rome; of that there could be no doubt. He, one of the wealthiest of its patricians, had furnished the vast sum which enabled old Nehushta to buy the coveted Pearl-Maiden in the slave-ring. Then his newly acquired property had been taken to this house, where he awaited her. This then was the end of their long rivalry; for this he, Caleb, had fought, toiled, schemed and suffered. Oh! rather than such a thing should be, in that dark hour of his soul, he would have seen her cast to the foul Domitian, for Domitian, at least, she would have hated, whereas Marcus, he knew, she loved.
Now there remained nothing but revenge. Revenged he must be, but how? He might dog Marcus and murder him, only then his own life would be hazarded, since he knew well the fate that awaited the foreigner, and most of all the Jew, who dared to lift his hand against a Roman noble, and if he hired others to do the work they might bear evidence against him. Now Caleb did not wish to die; life seemed the only good that he had left. Also, while he lived he might still win Miriam—after his rival had ceased to live. Doubtless, then she would be sold with his other slaves, and he could buy her at the rate such tarnished goods command. No, he would do nothing to run himself into danger. He would wait, wait and watch his opportunity.
It was near at hand, for of old as to-day the king of evil was ever ready to aid those who called upon him with sufficient earnestness. Indeed, even as Caleb sat there in his office, there came a knock upon the door.
“Open!” he cried savagely, and through it entered a small man with close-cropped hair and a keen, hard face which seemed familiar to him. Just now, however, that face was somewhat damaged, for one of the eyes had been blackened and a wound upon the temple was strapped with plaster. Also its owner walked lame and continually twitched his shoulders as though they gave him uneasiness. The stranger opened his lips to speak, and Caleb knew him at once. He was the chamberlain of Domitian who had been outbid by Nehushta in the slave ring.
“Greeting, noble Saturius,” he said. “Be seated, I pray, for it seems to pain you to stand.”