Malluch came to the chair.
“Peace to you, good master,” he said, with a low obeisance- “and to you, Esther, most excellent of daughters.”
He stood before them deferentially, and the attitude and the address left it difficult to define his relation to them; the one was that of a servant, the other indicated the familiar and friend. On the other side, Simonides, as was his habit in business, after answering the salutation, went straight to the subject.
“What of the young man, Malluch?”
The events of the day were told quietly and in the simplest words, and until he was through there was no interruption; nor did the listener in the chair so much as move a hand during the narration; but for his eyes, wide open and bright, and an occasional long-drawn breath, he might have been accounted an effigy.
“Thank you, thank you, Malluch,” he said, heartily, at the conclusion; “you have done well- no one could have done better. Now what say you of the young man’s nationality?”
“He is an Israelite, good master, and of the tribe of Judah.”
“You are positive?”
“He appears to have told you but little of his life.”
“He has somewhere learned to be prudent. I might call him distrustful. He baffled all my attempts upon his confidence until we started from the Castalian fount going to the village of Daphne.”
“A place of abomination! Why went he there?”
“I would say from curiosity, the first motive of the many who go; but, very strangely, he took no interest in the things he saw. Of the Temple, he merely asked if it were Grecian. Good master, the young man has a trouble of mind from which he would hide, and he went to the Grove, I think, as we go to sepulchres with our dead- he went to bury it.”
“That were well, if so,” Simonides said, in a low voice; then louder, “Malluch, the curse of the time is prodigality. The poor make themselves poorer as apes of the rich, and the merely rich carry themselves like princes. Saw you signs of the weakness in the youth? Did he display moneys- coin of Rome or Israel?”
“None, none, good master.”
“Surely, Malluch, where there are so many inducements to folly- so much, I mean, to eat and drink- surely he made you generous offer of some sort. His age, if nothing more, would warrant that much.”
“He neither ate nor drank in my company.”
“In what he said or did, Malluch, could you in anywise detect his master-idea? You know they peep through cracks close enough to stop the wind.”
“Give me to understand you,” said Malluch, in doubt.
“Well, you know we nor speak nor act, much less decide grave questions concerning ourselves, except we be driven by a motive. In that respect, what make you of him?”