“As to that, Master Simonides, I can answer with much assurance. He is devoted to finding his mother and sister- that first. Then he has a grievance against Rome; and as the Messala of whom I told you had something to do with the wrong, the great present object is to humiliate him. The meeting at the fountain furnished an opportunity, but it was put aside as not sufficiently public.”
“The Messala is influential,” said Simonides, thoughtfully.
“Yes; but the next meeting will be in the Circus.”
“Well- and then?”
“The son of Arrius will win.”
“How know you?”
“I am judging by what he says.”
“Is that all?”
“No; there is a much better sign- his spirit.”
“Aye; but, Malluch, his idea of vengeance- what is its scope? Does he limit it to the few who did him the wrong, or does he take in the many? And more- is his feeling but the vagary of a sensitive boy, or has it the seasoning of suffering manhood to give it endurance? You know, Malluch, the vengeful thought that has root merely in the mind is but a dream of idlest sort which one clear day will dissipate; while revenge the passion is a disease of the heart which climbs up, up to the brain, and feeds itself on both alike.”
In this question, Simonides for the first time showed signs of feeling; he spoke with rapid utterance, and with clenched hands and the eagerness of a man illustrating the disease he described.
“Good, my master,” Malluch replied, “one of my reasons for believing the young man a Jew is the intensity of his hate. It was plain to me that he had himself under watch, as was natural, seeing how long he has lived in an atmosphere of Roman jealousy; yet I saw it blaze- once when he wanted to know Ilderim’s feeling towards Rome, and again when I told him the story of the sheik and the wise man, and spoke of the question, ‘Where is he that is born King of the Jews?'”
Simonides leaned forward quickly.
“Ah, Malluch, his words- give me his words; let me judge the impression the mystery made upon him.”
“He wanted to know the exact words. Were they to be or born to be? It appeared he was struck by a seeming difference in the effect of the two phrases.”
Simonides settled back into his pose of listening judge.
“Then,” said Malluch, “I told him Ilderim’s view of the mystery- that the king would come with the doom of Rome. The young man’s blood rose over his cheeks and forehead, and he said earnestly, ‘Who but a Herod can be king while Rome endures?'”
“That the empire must be destroyed before there could be another rule.”
Simonides gazed for a time at the ships and their shadows slowly swinging together in the river; when he looked up, it was to end the interview.