“It is false,” he answered angrily; “I said that I came to warn you, and afterwards to kill a hyena. To make you safe—that was my first thought, and until you were safe my enemy was safe also. Miriam, you know it well.”
“Why should I know it? To you, Caleb, I think revenge is more than friendship.”
“Perhaps; for I have few friends who am a penniless orphan brought up by charity. But, Miriam, to me revenge is not more than—love.”
“Love,” she stammered, turning crimson to her hair and stepping back a pace; “what do you mean, Caleb?”
“What I say, neither more nor less,” he answered sullenly. “As I have worked one crime to-day, I may as well work two, and dare to tell the lady Miriam, the Queen of the Essenes, that I love her, though she loves not me—as yet.”
“This is madness,” faltered Miriam.
“Mayhap, but it is a madness which began when first I saw you—that was soon after we learned to speak—a madness which will continue until I cease to see you, and that shall be soon before I grow silent forever. Listen, Miriam, and do not think my words only those of a foolish boy, for all my life shall prove them. This love of mine is a thing with which you must reckon. You love me not—therefore, even had I the power, I would not force myself upon you against your will; only I warn you, learn to love no other man, for then it shall go ill either with him or with me. By this I swear it,” and, snatching her to him, Caleb kissed her on the forehead, then let her go, saying, “Fear not. It is the first and last time, except by your own will. Or if you fear, tell the story to the Court of the Essenes, and—to Nehushta, who will right your wrongs.”
“Caleb,” she gasped, stamping her foot upon the ground in anger, “Caleb, you are more wicked than I dreamed, and,” she added, as though to herself—“and greater!”
“Yes,” he answered, as he turned to go, “I think that you are right. I am more wicked than you dreamed and—greater. Also, Miriam, I love you as you will never be loved again. Farewell!”
That night those of the curators who were engaged in prayer and fasting were disturbed by the return of an officer of those Jews that had robbed them, who complained violently that a man of his company had been murdered by one of the Essenes. They asked how and when, and were told that the man had been shot down with an arrow, in a gully upon the road to Jericho, by a person unknown. They replied that robbers sometimes met with robbers, and asked to see the arrow, which proved to be of a Roman make, such as these men carried in their own quivers. This the Essenes pointed out, and at length, growing angry at the unreasonableness of a complaint made by persons of the worst character, drove him and his escort from their doors, bidding them take their story to the high priest Ananos, with the goods which they had stolen, or, if they preferred it, to that still greater thief, the Roman procurator, Albinus.