“A magnificent stone!” cried Orion. “Even Heliodora has nothing to equal it.—Well, father, what do you say is its value?”
“Great, very great,” replied the Mukaukas. “And yet the whole unmutilated work would be too small an offering for Him to whom I propose to offer it.”
“To the great general, Amru?” asked Orion.
“No child,” said the governor decidedly. “To the great, indivisible and divine Person of Jesus Christ and his Church.”
Orion looked down greatly disappointed; the idea of seeing this splendid gem hidden away in a reliquary in some dim cupboard did not please him: He could have found a much more gratifying use for it.
Neither his father nor his mother observed his dissatisfaction, for Neforis had rushed up to her husband’s couch, and fallen on her knees by his side, covering his cold, slender hand with kisses, as joyful as though this determination had relieved her of a heavy burden of dread: “Our souls, our souls, George! For such a gift—only wait—you will be forgiven all, and recover your lost peace!”
The governor shrugged his shoulders and said nothing; the hanging was rolled up and locked into the tablinum by Orion; then the Mukaukas bid the chamberlain show the Arab and his followers to quarters for the night.
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Pangs of soul and doubtings of conscience had, in fact, prompted the governor to purchase the hanging and he therefore might have been glad if it had cost him still dearer. The greater the gift the better founded his hope of grace and favor from the recipient! And he had grounds for being uneasy and for asking himself whether he had acted rightly. Revenge was no Christian virtue, but to let the evil done to him by the Melchites go unpunished when the opportunity offered for crushing them was more than he could bring himself to. Nay, what father whose two bright young sons had been murdered, but would have done as he did? That fearful blow had struck him in a vital spot. Since that day he had felt himself slowly dying; and that sense of weakness, those desperate tremors, the discomforts and suffering which blighted every hour of his life, were also to be set down to the account of the Melchite tyrants.