There was a general movement on the part of the assemblage- a bending-forward in salaam by the more aged, a rising-up by the more courtly, followed by low genuflexions, hands upon the beard or breast.
His observations taken, Herod moved on until at the tripod opposite the venerable Hillel, who met his cold glance with an inclination of the head, and a slight lifting of the hands.
“The answer!” said the king, with imperious simplicity, addressing Hillel, and planting his staff before him with both hands. “The answer!”
The eyes of the patriarch glowed mildly, and, raising his head, and looking the inquisitor full in the face, he answered, his associates giving him closest attention- “With thee, O king, be the peace of God, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob!”
His manner was that of invocation; changing it, he resumed- “Thou hast demanded of us where the Christ should be born.”
The king bowed, though the evil eyes remained fixed upon the sage’s face.
“That is the question.”
“Then, O king, speaking for myself, and all my brethren here, not one dissenting, I say, in Bethlehem of Judea.”
Hillel glanced at the parchment on the tripod; and pointing with his tremulous finger, continued, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet, ‘And thou, Bethlehem, in the land of Judea, art not the least among the princes of Judah; for out of thee shall come a governor that shall rule my people Israel.'”
Herod’s face was troubled, and his eyes fell upon the parchment while he thought. Those beholding him scarcely breathed; they spoke not, nor did he. At length he turned about and left the chamber.
“Brethren,” said Hillel, “we are dismissed.”
The company then arose, and in groups departed.
“Simeon,” said Hillel again.
A man, quite fifty years old, but in the hearty prime of life, answered and came to him.
“Take up the sacred parchment, my son; roll it tenderly.”
The order was obeyed.
“Now lend me thy arm; I will to the litter.”
The strong man stooped; with his withered hands, the old one took the offered support, and, rising, moved feebly to the door.
So departed the famous Rector and Simeon, his son, who was to be his successor in wisdom, learning, and office.
* * * * *
Yet later in the evening the wise men were lying in a lewen of the khan awake. The stones which served them as pillows raised their heads so they could look out of the open arch into the depths of the sky; and as they watched the twinkling of the stars, they thought of the next manifestation. How would it come? What would it be? They were in Jerusalem at last; they had asked at the gate for Him they sought; they had born witness of His birth; it remained only to find Him; and as to that, they placed all trust in the Spirit. Men listening for the voice of God, or waiting a sign from Heaven, cannot sleep.