The other stopped irresolute.
“Gods, Judah, how hot the sun shines!” cried the patrician, observing his perplexity. “Let us seek a shade.”
Judah answered, coldly- “We had better part. I wish I had not come. I sought a friend and find a- ”
“Roman,” said Messala, quickly.
The hands of the Jew clenched, but controlling himself again, he started off. Messala arose, and, taking the mantle from the bench, flung it over his shoulder, and followed after; when he gained his side, he put his hand upon his shoulder and walked with him.
“This is the way- my hand thus- we used to walk when we were children. Let us keep it as far as the gate.”
Apparently Messala was trying to be serious and kind, though he could not rid his countenance of the habitual satirical expression. Judah permitted the familiarity.
“You are a boy; I am a man; let me talk like one.”
The complacency of the Roman was superb. Mentor lecturing the young Telemachus could not have been more at ease.
“Do you believe in the Parcae? Ah, I forgot, you are a Sadducee: the Essenes are your sensible people; they believe in the sisters. So do I. How everlastingly the three are in the way of our doing what we please! I sit down scheming. I run paths here and there. Perpol! Just when I am reaching to take the world in hand. I hear behind me the grinding of scissors. I look, and there she is, the accursed Atropos! But, my Judah, why did you get mad when I spoke of succeeding old Cyrenius? You thought I meant to enrich myself plundering your Judea. Suppose so; it is what some Roman will do. Why not I?”
Judah shortened his step.
“There have been strangers in mastery of Judea before the Roman,” he said, with lifted hand. “Where are they, Messala? She has outlived them all. What has been will be again.”
Messala put on his drawl.
“The Parcae have believers outside the Essenes. Welcome Judah, welcome to the faith!”
“No, Messala, count me not with them. My faith rests on the rock which was the foundation of the faith of my fathers back further than Abraham; on the covenants of the Lord God of Israel.”
“Too much passion, my Judah. How my master would have been shocked had I been guilty of so much heat in his presence! There were other things I had to tell you, but I fear to now.”
When they had gone a few yards the Roman spoke again.
“I think you can hear me now, especially as what I have to say concerns yourself. I would serve you, O handsome as Ganymede; I would serve you with real good-will. I love you- all I can. I told you I meant to be a soldier. Why not you also? Why not you step out of the narrow circle which, as I have shown, is all of noble life your laws and customs allow?”