“Now, that every one may know our decision, we will escort you back to your house, and to show that we have taken the infant under our care, our brother Ithiel will carry it while you walk behind and give him such instruction in this matter as may be needful.”
Accordingly a great procession was formed, headed by the President and ended by the priests. In the centre of the line marched Ithiel bearing the babe Miriam, to his evident delight, and Nehushta, who instructed him so vigorously that at length he grew confused and nearly let it fall. Thereon, setting this detail of the judgment at defiance, Nehushta snatched it from his arms, calling him a clumsy and ignorant clown only fit to handle an ox. To this Ithiel made no answer, nor was he at all wroth, but finished the journey walking behind her and smiling foolishly.
Thus was the child Miriam, who afterwards came to be called the Queen of the Essenes, royally escorted to her home. But little did these good men know that it was not a house which they were giving her, but a throne, built of the pure gold of their own gentle hearts.
It may be wondered whether any girl who was ever born into the world could boast a stranger or a happier upbringing than Miriam. She was, it is true, motherless, but by way of compensation Fate endowed her with several hundred fathers, each of whom loved her as the apple of his eye. She did not call them “Father” indeed, a term which under the circumstances they thought incorrect. To her, one and all, they went by the designation of “Uncle,” with their name added if she happened to know it, if not as Uncle simply. It cannot be said, however, that Miriam brought peace to the community of the Essenes. Indeed, before she had done with them she rent it with deep and abiding jealousies, to the intense but secret delight of Nehushta, who, although she became a person of great importance among them as the one who had immediate charge of their jewel, could never forgive them certain of their doctrines or their habit of persistent interference.