“If you cast out the Romans, and if you live. Caleb, I have no faith in the venture. We are old friends, and I pray of you to escape from it while there is yet time.”
“Because He Whom your people crucified and Whom I serve prophesied its end. The Romans will crush you, Caleb. His blood lies heavy upon the head of the Jews, and the hour of payment is at hand.”
Caleb thought a while, and when he spoke again the note of confidence had left his voice.
“It may be so, Miriam,” he said, “though I put no faith in the sayings of your prophet; but at least I have taken my part and will see the play through. Now for the second time I ask you to share its fortunes. I have not changed my mind. As I loved you in childhood and as a youth, so I love you as a man. I offer to you a great career. In the end I may fall, or I may triumph, still either the fall or the triumph will be worth your sharing. A throne, or a glorious grave—both are good; who can say which is the better? Seek them with me, Miriam.”
“Caleb, I cannot.”
“Because it is laid upon me as a birthright, or a birth-duty, that I should wed no man who is not a Christian. You know the story.”
“Then if there were no such duty would you wed me, Miriam?”
“No,” she answered faintly.
“Because I love another man whom also I am forbid to wed, and until death I am pledged to him.”
“The Roman, Marcus?”
“Aye, the Roman Marcus. See, I wear his ring,” and she lifted her hand, “and his gift is about my throat,” and she touched the necklet of pearls. “Till death I am his and his alone. This I say, because it is best for all of us that you should know the truth.”
Caleb ground his teeth in bitter jealousy.
“Then may death soon find him!” he said.
“It would not help you, Caleb. Oh! why cannot we be friends as we were in the old times!”
“Because I seek more than friendship, and soon or late, in this way or in that, I swear that I will have it.”
As the words left his lips footsteps were heard, and Benoni appeared.
“Friend Caleb,” he said, “we await you. Why, Miriam, what do you here? To your chamber, girl. Affairs are afoot in which women should have no part.”
“Yet as I fear, grandfather, women will have to bear the burden,” answered Miriam. Then, bowing to Caleb, she turned and left them.
WOE, WOE TO JERUSALEM