“Enough, Malluch,” he said. “Get you to eat, and make ready to return to the Orchard of Palms; you must help the young man in his coming trial. Come to me in the morning. I will send a letter to Ilderim.” Then in an undertone, as if to himself, he added, “I may attend the Circus myself.”

When Malluch, after the customary benediction given and received, was gone, Simonides took a deep draught of milk, and seemed refreshed and easy of mind.

“Put the meal down, Esther,” he said; “it is over.”

She obeyed.

“Here now.”

She resumed her place upon the arm of the chair close to him.

“God is good to me, very good,” he said, fervently. “His habit is to move in mystery, yet sometimes he permits us to think we see and understand him. I am old, dear, and must go; but now, in this eleventh hour, when my hope was beginning to die, he sends me this one with a promise, and I am lifted up. I see the way to a great part in a circumstance itself so great that it shall be as a new birth to the whole world. And I see a reason for the gift of my great riches, and the end for which they were designed. Verily, my child, I take hold on life anew.”

Esther nestled closer to him, as if to bring his thoughts from their far-flying.

“The king has been born,” he continued, imagining he was still speaking to her, “and he must be near the half of common life. Balthasar says he was a child on his mother’s lap when he saw him, and gave him presents and worship; and Ilderim holds it was twenty-seven years ago last December when Balthasar and his companions came to his tent asking a hiding-place from Herod. Wherefore the coming cannot now be long delayed. To-night- to-morrow it may be. Holy fathers of Israel, what happiness in the thought! I seem to hear the crash of the falling of old walls and the clamour of a universal change- aye, and for the uttermost joy of men, the earth opens to take Rome in, and they look up and laugh and sing that she is not, while we are;” then he laughed at himself. “Why, Esther, heard you ever the like? Surely, I have on me the passion of a singer, the heat of blood and the thrill of Miriam and David. In my thoughts, which should be those of a plain worker in figures and facts, there is a confusion of cymbals clashing and harp-strings loud beaten, and the voices of a multitude standing around a new-risen throne. I will put the thinking by for the present; only, dear, when the king comes he will need money and men, for as he was a child born of woman he will be but a man after all, bound to human ways as you and I are. And for the money he will have need of getters and keepers, and for the men leaders. There, there! See you not a broad road for my walking, and the running of the youth, our master?- and at the end of it glory and revenge for us both?- and- and”- he paused, struck with the selfishness of a scheme in which she had no part or good result; then added, kissing her, “And happiness for thy mother’s child.”