“I have killed the Roman governor. The tile fell upon him.”
An unseen hand appeared to sprinkle her face with the dust of ashes- it grew white so instantly. She put her arm around him, and looked wistfully, but without a word, into his eyes. His fears had passed to her, and the sight of them gave him strength.
“I did not do it purposely, Tirzah- it was an accident,” he said, more calmly.
“What will they do?” she asked.
He looked off over the tumult momentarily deepening in the street and on the roofs, and thought of the sullen countenance of Gratus. If he were not dead, where would his vengeance stop? And if he were dead, to what height of fury would not the violence of the people lash the legionaries? To evade an answer, he peered over the parapet again, just as the guard were assisting the Roman to remount his horse.
“He lives, he lives, Tirzah! Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers!”
With that outcry, and a brightened countenance, he drew back and replied to her question.
“Be not afraid, Tirzah. I will explain how it happened, and they will remember our father and his services, and not hurt us.”
He was leading her to the summer-house, when the roof jarred under their feet, and a crash of strong timbers being burst away, followed by a cry of surprise and agony, arose apparently from the court-yard below. He stopped and listened. The cry was repeated; then came a rush of many feet, and voices lifted in rage blent with voices in prayer; and then the screams of women in mortal terror. The soldiers had beaten in the north gate, and were in possession of the house. The terrible sense of being hunted smote him. His first impulse was to fly; but where? Nothing but wings would serve him. Tirzah, her eyes wild with fear, caught his arm.
“O Judah, what does it mean?”
The servants were being butchered- and his mother! Was not one of the voices he heard hers? With all the will left him, he said, “Stay here, and wait for me, Tirzah. I will go down and see what is the matter, and come back to you.”
His voice was not steady as he wished. She clung closer to him.
Clearer, shriller, no longer a fancy, his mother’s cry arose. He hesitated no longer.
“Come, then, let us go.”
The terrace or gallery at the foot of the steps was crowded with soldiers. Other soldiers, with drawn swords, ran in and out of the chambers. At one place a number of women on their knees clung to each other or prayed for mercy. Apart from them, one with torn garments, and long hair streaming over her face, struggled to tear lose from a man all whose strength was tasked to keep his hold. Her cries were shrillest of all; cutting through the clamour, they had risen distinguishably to the roof. To her Judah sprang- his steps were long and swift, almost a winged flight- “Mother, mother!” he shouted. She stretched her hands towards him; but when almost touching them he was seized and forced aside. Then he heard someone say, speaking loudly, “That is he!”