Already Heraklas could plainly see the leopard-skin that fitted over the linen robes of the Egyptian high priest who was coming. He sought places, to read it abroad. During their absence, the girl came to Timokles, bringing him water and dried dates. Seeing the character of the writing, he had kept the roll for secret perusal. Sara was there, disobeying rules with the others. Furiously, with all his strength, he dug and pulled till the staple yielded, and he fell down among the prisoners. Heraklas marked how the captive was represented to bend beneath the table's weight.
His eyes now ran over the preceding verses. We've been talking about Bible things that we haven't paid much attention to. He clutched the palm branch tightly. Resolving to see whither the hall led, he groped on, wondering if this were the place in which the inhabitants of the oasis were wont to confine prisoners. There was a secret agreement between the two men that if Athribis ever should gain any reward for betraying Heraklas to the authorities, the reward should be evenly divided. He sat up, and drew a breath. Heraklas lifted up his eyes, and marked how the vines by the lake's side contrasted with the burning whiteness of the desert beyond.
Oh, my brother, my brother! He did not fear death, but he dreaded capture and unknown terrors. Athribis dared not tarry longer. He must not fall into the jaws of this fearful beast! He missed his grasp, and fell back on the swinging, broken palm branch. The leopard walked leisurely, but steadily. Timokles, watching with steady eyes for the instant when he should be discovered, had a fleeting memory of that leopard-skin that covered a seat at home in.
He bathed his scratched arm, which had ceased to bleed but still felt very sore. Didst thou see Vivia Perpetua's old father press forward, carrying her babe in his arms, and beg her to recant for the child's sake? The half-ruined flat roof showed holes here and there where the old palm branches of its construction, covered with mats and plastered with mud, had given way. Having eaten dried dates and barley bread, the father and the son, first tightening Timokles' thongs, went away in the direction of the far distant village. Thenceforward, unspoken, yet felt as surely as though expressed, there existed in Heraklas' mind a constant suspicion of Athribis. Softly the two men proceeded toward the direction from which Heraklas had heard sounds. He started, for he saw, stretched out toward him from beneath the black tent, an arm. Didst thou not hear what was done last year at Carthage? The wind blew somewhat, but it did not cool the fever of excitement felt by him.
The three looked at him with curious yet not wholly unfriendly eyes, and Timokles felt relieved on seeing that he was not recognized as any one whom they had seen before. Stealthily Athribis passed out of sight of the court. I, too, am a Christian! Backward, backward, went Timokles—now a turn of a corner—backward, backward. He clutched the palm branch tightly. This offense, in the days of Roman rule, was punishable by condemnation to labor in the mines, or by branding and transportation to an oasis of the desert. He struggled mightily, till at last he lay exhausted, no nearer free than before.
Timokles could feel himself tremble. No suspicion concerning it had crossed his mind till now. Sleep came upon him at last, and when he woke it was day. The footsteps became inaudible once more. Would she not betray the fleeing Christians? Vivia Perpetua was the best loved of a heathen father's children.
Timokles sighed with relief, as he moved his cramped feet. Who would hinder so devout worshipers of the gods from taking a pleasure drive? What if her sons were not there? He had been reading John's record of the conversation between Christ and the man who was born blind. Now he began to feel that he must reach the roof. She is faithful to Egypt's gods, if thou art not! I have missed thee so! A great mass of mud, dislodged from the roof, fell, smiting alike boy and beast, enveloping them in a cloud of blinding dust. A man sprang forward, and the lash fell again and again on Timokles' prostrate body, but the boy did not stir. The silent menace of the groping hand was terrible.
The house resounded with outcries. This spot was so far from that on which the building stood where he had been given to the leopard, that the lad concluded these people had not witnessed that scene. Cliffs by the blue bay held many fossil shells. Helplessly Timokles watched the process. Other hands assisted, and Timokles was hurried away from the village, past palm trees and resting camels, toward the north.