With this, she again embraced Paula, who as she went out to enter the chariot also bestowed a farewell kiss on Eudoxia and Mandane, for they, too, stood modestly weeping in the background; then she gave her hand to the hump-backed gardener, and to the Masdakite, down whose cheeks tears were rolling. At this moment Katharina stood in her path, seized her arm in mortified excitement, and said insistantly:
“And have you not a word for me?”
Paula freed herself from her clutch and said in a low voice: “I thank you for lending me the chariot. As you know, it is taking me to prison, and I fear it is your perfidy that has brought me to this. If I am wrong, forgive me—if I am right, your punishment will hardly be lighter than my fate. You are still young, Katharina; try to grow better.”
And with this she stepped into the chariot with old Betta, and the last she saw was little Mary who threw herself sobbing into Joanna’s arms.
Susannah had never particularly cared for Paula, but her fate shocked her and moved her to pity. She must at once enquire whether it was not possible to send her some better food than the ordinary prison-fare. That was but Christian charity, and her daughter seemed to take her friend’s misfortune much to heart. When she and Martina returned home she looked so cast down and distracted that no stranger now would ever have dreamed of comparing her with a brisk little bird.
Once more a poisoned arrow had struck her. Till now she had been wicked only in her own eyes; now she was wicked in the eyes of another. Paula knew it was she who had betrayed her. The traitoress had been met by treachery. The woman she hated had a right to regard her as spiteful and malignant, and for this she hated her more than ever.
Till now she had nowhere failed to find an affectionate greeting and welcome; and to-day how coldly she had been repulsed—and not by Paula alone, but also by Martina, who no doubt had noticed something, and whose dry reserve had been quite intolerable to the girl.
It was all the old bishop’s fault; he had not kept his promise that her tale-bearing should remain as secret as a confession. Indeed, he must have deliberately revealed it, for no one but herself knew of the facts. Perhaps he had even mentioned her name to the Arabs; in that case she would have to bear witness before the judges, and then in what light would she appear to Orion, to her mother, to Joanna and Martina?
She had not failed to understand that old Rufinus must have perished in the expedition, and she was truly grieved. His wife and daughter had always been kind neighbors to her; and she would not have willingly brought sorrow on them. If she were called up to give evidence it might go hard with them, and she wished no harm to any one but those who had cheated her out of Orion’s love. This idea of standing before a court of justice was the worst of all; this must be warded off at any cost.