Benoni watched him go, and as he watched, an evil look gathered on his face.
“Threatened. Trodden to the dirt. Outwitted by that Roman boy,” he murmured. “Is there any cup of shame left for me to drink? Who is the traitor and how much does he know? Something, but not all, else my arrest could scarcely have been left to the fancy of this patrician, favourite though he be. Yes, my lord Marcus, I too am sure that we shall meet again, but the fashion of that meeting may be little to your taste. You have had your hour, mine is to come. For the rest, I must keep my oath, since to break it would be too dangerous, and might cut the hair that holds the sword. Also, why should I wish to harm the girl, or to wed her to this rogue Caleb, than whom, mayhap, even the Roman would be better? At least he is a man who does not cheat or lie. Indeed, I long to see the maid. I will go at once to Jordan.”
Then he sounded his bell and commanded that the servant of the lord Marcus should be admitted.
THE ESSENES LOSE THEIR QUEEN
The Court of the Essenes was gathered in council debating the subject of the departure of their ward, Miriam. She must go, that was evident, since not even for her, whom they loved as though each of them had been in truth her father or her uncle, could their ancient, sacred rule be broken. But where was she to go and how should she be supported as became her? These were the questions that troubled them and that they debated earnestly. At length her great-uncle Ithiel suggested that she should be summoned before them, that they might hear her wishes. To this his brethren agreed, and he was sent to fetch her.
A while later, attended by Nehushta, Miriam arrived, clad in a robe of pure white, and wearing on her head a wimple of white, edged with purple, and about her waist a purple scarf. So greatly did the Essenes love and reverence this maid, that as she entered, all the hundred of the Court rose and remaining standing until she herself was seated. Then the President, who was sorrowful and even shamefaced, addressed her, telling her their trouble, and praying her pardon because the ordinance of their order forced them to arrange that she should depart from among them. At the end of this speech he asked her what were her wishes as regarded her own future, adding that for her maintenance she need have no fear, since out of their revenues a modest sum would be set aside annually which would suffice to keep her from poverty.