Orion and Paula had had much to talk about, since the young man had arrived. The discussion over the safe keeping of the girl’s money had been tedious. Finally, her counsellors had decided to entrust half of it to Gamaliel the jeweller and his brother, who carried on a large business in Constantinople. He happened to be in Memphis, and they had both declared themselves willing each to take half of the sum in question and use it at interest. They would be equally responsible for its security, so that each should make good the whole of the property in their hands in case of the other stopping payment. Nilus undertook to procure legal sanction and the necessary sixteen witnesses to this transaction.
The other half of her fortune was, by the advice of Philippus, to be placed in the hands of a brother of Haschim’s, the Arab merchant, who had a large business as money changer in Fostat, the new town on the further shore, in which the merchant himself was a partner. This investment had the advantage of being perfectly safe, at any rate so long as the Arabs ruled the land.
After all this was settled Nilus departed with that half of the money which Orion was to hand over to the keeping of the Moslem money changer on the following morning.
Paula, though she had taken no part in the men’s discussion, had been present throughout, and had expressed her grateful consent. The clearness, gravity, and decision which Orion had displayed had not escaped her notice; and though the treasurer’s shrewd remarks, briefly and modestly made, had in every case proved final, it was Orion’s reasoning and explanations that had most come home to her, for it seemed to her that he was always prompted by loftier, wider, and more statesmanlike considerations than the others.
When this was over she and Orion were left together, and neither she nor the young man had been able to escape a few moments of anxious heart-beating.
It was not till the governor’s son had summoned up his courage and, sinking on his knees, was imploring her pardon, that she recovered some firmness and reminded him of the letter he had sent her. But her heart drew her to him almost irresistibly, and in order not to yield to its urgent prompts, she hastily enquired what he had meant by the exchange he had written about.
At this he went up to her with downcast eyes, drew a small box out of the breast of his robe, and took out the emerald with the damaged setting. He held them towards her with a beseeching gesture, exclaiming, with all the peculiar sweetness of his deep voice:
“It is your property! Take it and give me in return your confidence, your forgiveness.”
She drew back a little, looking first at him and then at the stone and its setting—surprised, pleased, and deeply moved, with a bright light in her eyes. The young man found it impossible to utter a single word, only holding the jewel and the broken setting closer to her, and yet closer, like some poor man who makes bold to offer the best he has to a wealthy superior, though conscious that it is all too humble a gift to find favor.