“What do you think, Tirzah?- I am going away.”
She dropped her hands with amazement.
“Going away! When? Where? For what?”
“Three questions, all in a breath! What a body you are!” Next instant he became serious. “You know the law requires me to follow some occupation. Our good father set me an example. Even you would despise me if I spent in idleness the results of his industry and knowledge. I am going to Rome.”
“Oh, I will go with you.”
“You must stay with mother. If both of us leave her, she will die.”
The brightness faded from her face.
“Ah, yes, yes! But- must you go? Here in Jerusalem you can learn all that is needed to be a merchant- if that is what you are thinking of.”
“But that is not what I am thinking of. The law does not require the son to be what the father was.”
“What else can you be?”
“A soldier,” he replied, with a certain pride of voice.
Tears came into her eyes.
“You will be killed.”
“If God’s will, be it so. But, Tirzah, the soldiers are not all killed.”
She threw her arms around his neck as if to hold him back.
“We are so happy! Stay at home, my brother.”
“Home cannot always be what it is. You yourself will be going away before long.”
He smiled at her earnestness.
“A prince of Judah, or some other one of the tribes, will come soon and claim my Tirzah, and ride away with her, to be the light of another house. What will then become of me?”
She answered with sobs.
“War is a trade,” he continued, more soberly. “To learn it thoroughly, one must go to school, and there is no school like a Roman camp.”
“You would not fight for Rome?” she asked, holding her breath.
“And you- even you hate her. The whole world hates her. In that, O Tirzah, find the reason of the answer I give you- Yes, I will fight for her, if, in return, she will teach me how one day to fight against her.”
“When will you go?”
Amrah’s steps were then heard returning.
“Hist!” he said. “Do not let her know of what I am thinking.”
The faithful slave came in with breakfast, and placed the waiter, holding it upon a stool before them; then, with white napkins upon her arm, she remained to serve them. They dipped their fingers in a bowl of water, and were rinsing them, when a noise arrested their attention. They listened, and distinguished martial music in the street on the north side of the house.
“Soldiers from the Praetorium! I must see them,” he cried, springing from the divan, and running out.
In a moment more he was leaning over the parapet of tiles which guarded the roof at the extreme north-east corner, so absorbed that he did not notice Tirzah by his side, resting one hand upon his shoulder.