An overpowering feeling seized the three. The Greek with difficulty restrained an outcry. Herod’s gaze darted quickly from one to the other; he was more suspicious and dissatisfied than before.
“You are mocking me,” he said. “If not, tell me more. What is to follow the coming of the new king?”
“The salvation of men.”
“By the divine agencies- Faith, Love, and Good Works.”
“Then”- Herod paused, and from his look no man could have said with what feeling he continued- “you are the heralds of the Christ. Is that all?”
Balthasar bowed low.
“We are your servants, O king.”
The monarch touched a bell, and the attendant appeared.
“Bring the gifts,” the master said.
The attendant went out, but in a little while returned, and, kneeling before the guests, gave to each one an outer robe or mantle of scarlet and blue, and a girdle of gold. They acknowledged the honours with Eastern prostrations.
“A word further,” said Herod, when the ceremony was ended. “To the officer of the gate, and but now to me, you spoke of seeing a star in the east.”
“Yes,” said Balthasar, “His star, the star of the newly born.”
“What time did it appear?”
“When we were bidden come hither.”
Herod arose, signifying the audience was over. Stepping from the throne towards them, he said, with all graciousness- “If, as I believe, O illustrious men, you are indeed the heralds of the Christ just born, know that I have this night consulted those wisest in things Jewish, and they say with one voice He should be born in Bethlehem of Judea. I say to you, go thither; go and search diligently for the young child; and when you have found Him bring me word again, that I may come and worship Him. To your going there shall be no let or hindrance. Peace be with you!”
And folding his robe about him, he left the chamber.
Directly the guide came, and led them back to the street, and thence to the khan, at the portal of which the Greek said, impulsively, “Let us to Bethlehem, O brethren, as the king has advised.”
“Yes,” cried the Hindoo. “The Spirit burns within me.”
“Be it so,” said Balthasar, with equal warmth. “The camels are ready.”
They gave gifts to the steward, mounted into their saddles, received directions to the Joppa Gate, and departed. At their approach the great valves were unbarred, and they passed out into the open country, taking the road so lately travelled by Joseph and Mary. As they came up out of Hinnom, on the plain of Rephaim, a light appeared, at first wide-spread and faint. Their pulses fluttered fast The light intensified rapidly; they closed their eyes against its burning brilliance: when they dared look again, lo! the star, perfect as any in the heavens, but low down and moving slowly before them. And they folded their hands, and shouted, and rejoiced with exceeding great joy.