“Our farewell took place in this garden, ‘The peace of the Lord go with you!’- your last words. ‘The gods keep you!’ I said. Do you remember? How many years have passed since then?”
“Five,” answered the Jew, gazing into the water.
“Well, you have reason to be thankful to- whom shall I say? The gods? No matter. You have grown handsome; the Greek would call you beautiful- happy achievement of the years! If Jupiter would stay content with one Ganymede, what a cup-bearer you would make for the emperor! Tell me, my Judah, how the coming of the procurator is of such interest to you.”
Judah bent his large eyes upon the questioner; the gaze was grave and thoughtful, and caught the Roman’s, and held it while he replied, “Yes, five years. I remember the parting; you went to Rome; I saw you start, and cried, for I loved you. The years are gone, and you have come back to me accomplished and princely- I do not jest; and yet- yet- I wish you were the Messala you went away.”
The fine nostril of the satirist stirred, and he put on a longer drawl as he said, “No, no; not a Ganymede- an oracle, my Judah. A few lessons from my teacher of rhetoric hard by the Forum- I will give you a letter to him when you become wise enough to accept a suggestion which I am reminded to make you- a little practice of the art of mystery, and Delphi will receive you as Apollo himself. At sound of your solemn voice, the Pythia will come down to you with her crown. Seriously, O my friend, in what am I not the Messala I went away? I once heard the greatest logician in the world. His subject was Disputation. One saying I remember- ‘Understand your antagonist before you answer him.’ Let me understand you.”
The lad reddened under the cynical look to which he was subjected; yet he replied, firmly, “You have availed yourself, I see, of your opportunities; from your teachers you have brought away much knowledge and many graces. You talk with the ease of a master; yet your speech carries a sting. My Messala, when he went away, had no poison in his nature; not for the world would he have hurt the feelings of a friend.”
The Roman smiled as if complimented, and raised his patrician head a toss higher.
“O my solemn Judah, we are not at Dodona or Pytho. Drop the oracular, and be plain. Wherein have I hurt you?”
The other drew a long breath, and said, pulling at the cord about his waist, “In the five years, I, too, have learned somewhat. Hillel may not be the equal of the logician you heard, and Simeon and Shammai are, no doubt, inferior to your master hard by the Forum. Their learning goes not out into forbidden paths; those who sit at their feet arise enriched simply with knowledge of God, the law, and Israel; and the effect is love and reverence for everything that pertains to them. Attendance at the Great College, and study of what I heard there, have taught me that Judea is not as she used to be. I know the space that lies between an independent kingdom and the petty province Judea is. I were meaner, viler than a Samaritan not to resent the degradation of my country. Ishmael is not lawfully high-priest, and he cannot be while the noble Hannas lives; yet he is a Levite; one of the devoted who for thousands of years have acceptably served the Lord God of our faith and worship. His- “