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- The Bride of the Nile, Volume 12. - 1/12 -

[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the file for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making an entire meal of them. D.W.]


By Georg Ebers

Volume 12.


While Rustem, to whom Mary had entrusted the jeweller's gold, was making his preparations for their journey with all the care of a practised guide, and while Mary was comforting her governess and Mandane, to whom she explained that Rustem's journey was to save Paula's life, a fresh trial was going forward in the Court of Justice.

This time Orion was the accused. He had scarcely begun to study the maps and lists he required for his undertaking when he was bidden to appear before his judges.

The members composing the Court were the same as yesterday. Among the witnesses were Paula and the new bishop, as well as Gamaliel, who had been sent for soon after Mary had left him.

The prosecutor accused the son of the Mukaukas of having made away, in defiance of the patriarch's injunction, with a costly emerald bequeathed to the Church by his father.

Orion had determined to conduct his own defence; he recapitulated everything that he had told the prelate in self-justification in his father's private room, and then added, that to put a speedy end to this odious affair he was now prepared to restore the stone, and he placed it at the disposal of his judges. He handed Paula's emerald to the Kadi who presented it to the bishop. John, however, did not seem satisfied; he referred to the written testimony of the widow Susannah, who had been present when the deceased Mukaukas had designated all the jewels in the Persian hanging as included in his gift to the Church. This was in Orion's presence so he was still under suspicion of a fraud; and it was difficult to determine whether the fine gem now lying on the table before them were indeed the same to which the Church laid claim.

All this was urged with excessive vehemence and bore the stamp of a hostile purpose.

Obedience and conviction alike prompted the zealous prelate to this demeanor, for the same carrier-pigeon which had brought from the patriarch his appointment to the bishopric required him to insist on Orion's punishment, for he was a thorn in the flesh of the Jacobite church, a tainted sheep who might infect the rest of the flock. If the young man should offer an emerald it was therefore to be closely examined, to see whether it were the original stone or a substitute.

On these grounds the bishop had expressed his doubts, and though they gave rise to an indignant murmur among the judges, the Kadi so far admitted the prelate's suspicions as to explain that last evening a letter had reached him from his uncle at Djidda, Haschim the merchant, in which mention was made of the emerald. His son happened to have weighed that stone, without his knowledge, before he started for Egypt, and Othman had here a note of its exact weight. The Jew Gamaliel had been desired to attend with his balances, and could at once use them to satisfy the bishop.

The jeweller immediately proceeded to do so, and old Horapollo, who was an expert in such matters, went close up to him, and watched him narrowly.

It was in feverish anxiety, and more eagerly than any other bystander, that Paula and Orion kept their eyes fixed on the Jew's hands and lips; after weighing it once, he did so a second time. Old Horapollo himself weighed it a third time, with a keen eye though his hands trembled a little; all three experiments gave the same result: this gem was heavier by a few grains of doura than that which the merchant's son had weighed, and yet the Jew declared that there was no purer, clearer, or finer emerald in the world than this.

Orion breathed more freely, and the question arose among the judges as to whether the young Arab might have failed in precision, or an exchange had in fact been effected. This was difficult to imagine, since in that case the accused would have given himself the loss, and the Church the advantage.

The bishop, an honest man, now said that the patriarch's suspicions had certainly led him too far in this instance, and after this he spoke no more.

All through this enquiry the Vekeel had kept silence, but the defiant gaze, assured of triumph, which he fixed on Paula and Orion alternately, augured the worst.

When the prosecutor next accused the young man of complicity in the much discussed escape of the nuns Orion again asserted his innocence, pointing out that during the fatal contest between the Arabs and the champions of the sisters, he had been with the Arab governor, as Amru himself could testify. By an act of unparalleled despotism, he had been deprived of his estates and his freedom on mere false suspicion, and he put his trust in the first instance in a just sentence from his judges and, failing that, he threw himself on the protection and satisfaction of his sovereign lord the Khaliff.

As he spoke his eyes flashed flames at the Vekeel; but the negro still preserved his self-control, and this doubled the alarm of those who wished the youth well.

It was clear from all this that Obada felt sure that he had the noose well around his victim's neck, and why he thought so, soon became evident; for Orion had hardly finished his defence when he rose, and with a malicious grin, handed to the Kadi the little tablet given him yesterday by old Horapollo, describing it as a document addressed to Paula and desiring the Kadi to examine it. The heat had effaced much of what had been written on the wax, but most of the words could still be deciphered. The venerable Horapollo had already made them out, and was quite ready to read to the judges all that the accused--who by his own account, was a spotless dove--had written in his innocence and truthfulness for his fair one. He signed to the old man and helped him as he rose with difficulty, but the Kadi begged him to wait, made himself acquainted with the contents of the letter by the help of the interpreter, and when the man had, with much pains, fulfilled his task, he turned, not to Horapollo, but to Obada, and asked whence this document had come.

"From Paula's desk," replied the Vekeel. "My old friend found it there." He pointed to Horapollo, who confirmed his statement by a nod of assent.

The Kadi rose, went up to the girl, whose cheeks were pale with indignation, and asked whether she recognized the tablets as her property; Paula, after convincing herself, replied with a flaming glance of scorn and aversion at Horapollo: "Yes, my lord. It is mine. That base old man has taken it with atrocious meanness from among my things." For an instant her voice failed her; then, turning to the judges, she exclaimed:

"If there is one among you to whom helplessness and innocence are sacred and malice and cunning odious, I beg him to go to Rufinus' wife, over whose threshold this man has crept like a ferret into a dovecote, for no other end but to tread hospitable kindness in the dust, to rifle her home and make use of whatever might serve his vile purpose--to go, I say, and warn the lonely woman against this treacherous spy and thief."

At this the old man, gasping and inarticulate, raised his withered arm; the Christian judges whispered together, but at cross-purposes, while the Jew fidgeted his round little person on the bench, drumming incessantly with his fingers on his breast, and trying to meet Orion's or Paula's eye and to make her understand that he was the man who would warn Joanna. But a thump from the Vekeel's fist, that came down on his shoulder unawares, reduced him to sitting still; and while he sat rubbing the place with subdued sounds of pain, not daring to reproach the all- powerful negro for his violence, the Kadi gave the tablets to Horapollo and bid him read the letter.

But the terrible accusation cast at him by the hated Patrician maiden, ascribing his removal to Rufinus house to a motive which, in truth, had been far from his, had so enraged and agitated him that his old lungs, at all times feeble, refused their office. This woman had done him a fresh wrong, for he had gone to live with the widow from the kindest impulse; only an accident had thrown this document in his way. And yet it would not fail to be reported to Joanna in the course of the day that he had gone to her house as a spy, and there would be an end to the pleasant life of which he had dreamed--nay, even Philippus might perhaps quarrel with him.

And all, all through this woman.

He could not utter a word but, as he sank back on the seat, a glance so full of hatred, so dark with malignant fury, fell on Paula that she shuddered, and told herself that this man was ready to die himself if only he could drag her down too.

The interpreter now began to read Orion's letter and to translate it for the Arabs; and while he blundered through it, declaring that not a letter could be plainly made out, she recovered her self-control and, before the interpreter had done his task, a gleam as of sunshine lighted up her pure features. Some great, lofty, and rapturous thought must have flashed through her brain, and it was evident that she had seized it and was feeding on it.

Orion, sitting opposite to her, noticed this; still, he did not understand what her beseeching gaze had to say to him, what it asked of him as she pressed her hand on her breast, and looked into his eyes with such urgent entreaty that it went to his very heart.

The interpreter ceased; but what he had read had had a great effect on the judges. The Kadi's benevolent face expressed extreme apprehension, and the contents of the letter were indeed such as to cause it. It ran as follows:

"After waiting for you a long time in vain, I must at last make up my mind to go; and how much I still had to say to you. A written farewell."

Here a few lines were effaced, and then came the--fatal and quite legible conclusion:

The Bride of the Nile, Volume 12. - 1/12

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