When the Phoenician had gone Nehushta sat by her sleeping mistress, and waited with an anxious heart. Had she done wisely? Would Amram betray them and send soldiers to conduct them, not to the ship, but to some dreadful death? Well, if so, at least she would have time to kill her mistress and herself, and thus escape the cruelties of men. Meanwhile she could only pray; and pray she did in her fierce, half-savage fashion, never for herself, but for her mistress whom she loved, and for the child that, she remembered thankfully, Anna had foretold would be born and live out its life. Then she remembered also that this same holy woman had said that its mother’s hours would be few, and at the thought Nehushta wept.
THE BIRTH OF MIRIAM
The time passed slowly, but none came to disturb them. Three hours after noon Rachel awoke, refreshed but hungry, and Nehushta had no food to give her except raw grain, from which she turned. Clearly and in few words she told her mistress all that had passed, asking her consent to the plan.
“It seems good as another,” said Rachel with a little sigh, “and I thank you for making it, Nou, and the Phoenician, if he is a true man. Also I do not desire to meet my father—at least, for many years. How can I, seeing the evil which he has brought upon me?”
“Do not speak of that,” interrupted Nehushta hastily, and for a long while they were silent.
It was an hour before sunset, or a little less, when at length Nehushta saw two persons walk on to the patch of open ground which she watched continually—Amram and a slave who bore a bundle on his head. Just then the rope which bound this bundle seemed to come loose; at least, at his master’s command, the man set it down and they began to retie it, then advanced slowly towards the archway. Now Nehushta descended, unlocked the door and admitted Amram, who carried the bundle.
“Where is the slave?” she asked.
“Have no fear, friend; he is trusty and watches without, not knowing why. Come, you must both of you be hungry, and I have food. Help me loose this cord.”
Presently the package was undone, and within it appeared, first, two flagons of old wine, then meats more tasty then Nehushta had seen for months, then rich cloaks and other garments made in the Phoenician fashion, and a robe of white with coloured edges, such as was worn by the body-slaves of the wealthy among that people. Lastly—and this Amram produced from his own person—there was a purse of gold, enough to support them for many weeks. Nehushta thanked him with her eyes, and was about to speak.
“There, say nothing,” he interrupted. “I passed my word, and I have kept it, that is all. Also on this money I shall charge interest, and your mistress can repay it in happier days. Now listen: I have taken the passages, and an hour after sunset we will go aboard. Only I warn you, do not let it be known that you are escaped Christians, for the seamen think that such folk bring them bad luck. Come, help me carry the food and wine. After you have eaten you can both of you retire here and robe yourselves.”