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hidden and unhidden many secrets of the sands—bones and treasures and crimes unrecorded. The air grew mistier, even at the very moment that Lampadephorus cried out: “The walls of Ammon!"
Then the wind wailed, and from the cliffs by the caravan track came sinister shrieks, and behold, from a little twisted oasis-road, which wound among many rocks, there issued, on a horse of black, to mingle with the caravan—was it not the mocker, Trivialis ? The same dark cloak, with spots and rings of red upon it! The same stiff bend in the shoulders! And all about the figure the same way of clownishness and sheer hollow mockery.
What did Trivialis here!
The heart of the Jew rose straight within him. He said: “I will strike. Mine eyes shall not come off thee, O Trivialis, till I have found both place and time." He brought his fists together, a mighty blow.
The Mocker rode on to the head of the caravan, as were he the one true owner thereof. And when he had entered the walls of Ammon, he dismounted. Giving his horse to the keep of one that straight did lead him within the temple stables, he began to slip and slide among the trees and shadows of a strange garden.
But Samson followed.
How elusive, this mocker, Trivialis! Yet how he seemed to grow, to become more and more majestic amid the temple deeps. How closely he held the mantle round about his bent head.
As he slipped, now here now there, the eye, for a time, could scarcely follow him at all. Yet, once more, there he appeared, moving on where least he might have been expected.
And so he led, like an evil shadow, to a far corner of the dark garden, there, in a place of stinking weeds and choking mists, paused, as if lost in thought.
Up ran Samson-Solomon of Cyrene, crying: “Thou art a cordial for low spirits, my man!” And would have laid violent hold upon him, but that he altogether failed to touch even his shape.
The figure turned slowly round, and the hood about the head relaxed and dropped. And Samson-Solomon beheld not the countenance of Trivialis of Cyrene, but a pale, triangular and mottled face, like that of a serpent. In the midst thereof two black, unwinking orbs. They saw to Samson's soul with unparalleled hatred.
For the first time, Samson observed that even the robes of the man were regal, and that, upon his bosom, was a mantle-clasp of heavy gold, wherein gleamed one great fiery carbuncle. Round the neck was a massive chain of scale-like links, which the majestic being,
with pliant fingers, did ever coil and yet again uncoil most nervously.
The Jew attempted to cry, "Who art thou ?” His lax lips only uttered, strangely: “Thou art here."
Said the hissing mouth, which a lean tongue wetted: “Both here and also all about the world.”
"I am Samson-Solomon, shepherd of Cyrene."
“Or ere thou wast within the dark of thy mother's womb I knew thee."
“Thee. 'Twas I that sold thee, later, to the King of the South: thou hast forgotten. And I will shape thy destinies. Why didst thou not kill thine enemy, when thou thoughtest thou hadst him alone? To the work another time, O Samson-Solomon of the sheeppastures of the world, and suffer him not to escape. Now back to the caravan!”
The boy would gladly have refrained from following, yet he went.
And when they twain had gone, and the strange being had received his horse again where the caravan waited, Samson placed his hand upon the withers of the gaunt one's charger (though he had not been told that he should do this) in the stead of that of Lampadephorus.
And, after a while of silence over the wrinkled sands, as the three led on the angling caravan, the Jew said to the mantled one: “I seem to know thou art called 'Ophidion.
"I am Ophidion.”
“I am a serpent-priest in Alexandria. The temples of Serapis know me; also those of the crocodile at Crocodilopolis; those of the sacred bull, Osiris or Apis; of the jackal-headed man, Anubis; Khnum, the ram-headed god of the water, and Heka, the Frog. I am also priest unto Mut, which is Space, and Seb, which is Time.”
Now the Jew thought that Ophidion spake yet again, but when he looked at the man's eyes, behold! they were gazing neither at him nor yet at Lampadephorus.
So Samson said, “Prayest thou, perchance, to Adonai?”
Turned Ophidion upon him egregious eyes, in the deeps whereof were red fires, and wetted his lips, and after a fashion laughed.
The lad began to make exculpation for having spoken of Adonai. But Ophidion : "Excuse thyself not, O shepherd : tell all."
Solomon (though greatly against his will) spake long about his knowledge of Adonai (while the countenance of the serpent-man was covered with its hood) also about his vision in the tomb of Shem,
and the lovely Amahnah, and the sweet-voiced Chazzan, also about the locket which the Chazzan had given him, and the pearls therein, and his genealogy–which was nowhere else to be found, perhaps, than in that locket.
Said Ophidion, without uncovering his head: “Sacrifice." “Where" “Throughout the world.” "To whom ' "To Seb and Set, but chiefly unto bloody Mars, the god of war." “But I am to be as a monument~"
“I will prevent thee. Thou shalt sacrifice much unto Mars. Study thou greatly, also, with Lampadephorus. He can teach thee a thousandfold more than can thy Betah, yea and the solemn truth besides, and not lies. Be accursed. Get thy hand from my steed, and take thee back half-way unto the caravan. There remain: there follow.-Lampadephorus!”
So the Jew fell midway back toward the caravan. And he saw the serpent-man Ophidion, with his head all covered, together with the sunny-headed Greek, riding in a strange, deep talk.
SERVANTS OF CÆSAR
Now when they had all come to Crocodilopolis, then SamsonSolomon of Cyrene took up his abode with a Jewish rabbi, named Azrikam. But Lampadephorus went to the Brucheium, or Greek quarter, seeking out there a certain house. And having been admitted, he passed all alone to an upper chamber. Here he clapped his hands, and servants appeared, who conducted him into a bath and gave him fresh apparel. Then he ordered parchment, ink and reeds, and, dismissing the servants, attempted to compose his thoughts.
For a time he paced the chamber restlessly. Then he said aloud, “It is all unbeautiful, for why should anyone attempt to strive with Cæsar! I will therefore write as I know that I finally must.
He sat therefore and composed in a secret cypher as follows :
To the Lord of All the World, Greeting:
I made report, O Cæsar, unto the Cyrenaic spy at Apollonia, even by the hand of the legionary, Adjutor, and again, in the desert, unto the chief of all thy delators, even Ophidion, yet again by the same man a little upon the way betwixt Jupiter Ammon and here, which is Crocodilopolis. And now, in accordance with thy former instructions, I report unto thee, direct, precisely those same matters which I reported to him of Apollonia, and also, twice, to Ophidion.
Know, then, that the treasure which thou seekest was stolen by Dysmas and Gestas, aided perchance by an even worser man, Barabbas. I have determined where the treasure lieth, and as I cannot take many fighters with me for fear of arousing suspicion, the men which I shall take will be of the best-giants and men of great skill, who can overcome anything.
In the margins of the desert, just at the tombs of Cyrene, I came across a man, a youth rather, who will be of the greatest value unto me and unto thee. A lasting friendship hath he formed for me. Hence I am sure that I can prevail upon him to go with me to the place where the treasure lieth, and, if I can, he is worth a hundred ordinary men. Such a dimachærus! Thou wilt see him on a day-of that I am certain.
But Ophidion hath formed an unaccountable dislike unto this youth. I believe he meaneth to rob him of a certain locket-why, it is hard to see.
There are pearls in the locket, so the young man told me. Also a piece of parchment with his genealogy writ thereon, the which, as he saith, containeth his right unto a certain priesthood in Jerusalem. Now Ophidion hateth this priesthood. As to what Ophidion desireth, I leave thee, Cæsar, to determine. As Ophidion standeth higher in thy service, O Lord of All the World, than do I, I make no endeavor to hinder the robbing which he intendeth on the Jew. Neither will I help it onward. So wouldst thou have me to do, I truly believe. But if the youth come out of the combat on life and fit for action, I will use him, even as I did just now declare unto thee, for the getting of the treasure from those robbers.
With him or without him, we shall get it-have no fear.
But if only thou couldst see my dimachærus! Ambidexter born is he. By all the gods! I saw him in a fearful fight (as we came along the desert way) with certain of those in the caravan. He drave two score of men about like little mice. Lord of All the World, he is thine ambidexter, and, on a day (I prophesy) will stand before thee on the sand (even as I myself have stood) twice-armed and accomplishing miracles. He is thine. I promise him to the Lord of All this World.
I am deeply beholden unto thee, O Divinity, for the stalwart sons of earth whom thou hast allotted for this expedition, but the youth whom I ran across by accident (if there be such things as accidents) is worth them all, and more also.
I will get thee back thy treasures—have no fear. I am strongly convinced of great success to come, as concerning this matter.
As to myself, I am often filled with the deepest forebodings of evil. I have the strangest dreams. In any case, O Cæsar, I am ever thine. I have always served thee loyally, and thou canst fully depend upon me till I die.
And when he had written, Lampadephorus made a duplicate. Sealing both the letters, he ordered unto him two servants separately, and despatched the letters to Rome, each servant with his own particular letter, and travelling Romeward by a different way.
But the messengers, having left the house by opposite doors, got themselves together again in a wine-shop. And, therein, when gloriously a-drunken, saith the one unto the other: “I havehic—wench I will see out here in oasis. Take thou both letters of Lampadephorus thy one-hic-self unto Rome, that I-hic—may be able to see wench. Thou, gotten unto Rome, ere thou goest in unto Cæsar-hic-get yet another messenger to take in letter I'm 'sposed to take. Good 's my goin'. Here's little gold." Said the other messenger, “Hic-fine enough. Lampadephorus
—. only man. We're gods. Man's drunk, 's good as gods. Overrule him. In gold, into my purse. See thy wench, god."
And Lampadephorus, in the house, sent for yet another servant, and said to him: “Scia (or shadow), sawest thou me today as I entered the city!"
“I saw, O Master."
“Watch thou him—thou and yet another watch him. Watch ye, and bring me report of everything he doth. But me ye need not watch unless I so order again."
Thus saying, he went out on the street, and so to the temple of the crocodile, where he knew that Ophidion dwelt, for he craved audience with him. But Ophidion refusing to see him, he went on down to the quays, among the ships, intending there to enquire from among Cæsar's spies the whereabouts of Trivialis. And he learned that the Mongrel, Trivialis, was not in Alexandria, but that, at Apollonia, he had taken a ship for Rhodes. Then sent Lampadephorus unto Samson-Solomon a messenger, saying: “My master, Lampadephorus, hath found out that thine enemy hath gone not unto Alexandria, but unto Joppa.” In sending such a message, the Greek had his own reasons.
Ophidion, meanwhile, he that Samson-Solomon had mistaken for Trivialis, paced the floor of a secret chamber in the temple unto the crocodile.
“As I am a righteous man,” cried he, "we will get the locketI and Emah. Trust ye a harlot. Already in the desert a plan did halfway come to me. Idolatry, what a help thou art to all righteous intentions! Without thee I might indeed overcome certain plebeians, but, with thee, procurators, knights, senators, governors of whole provinces, yea, and at length, it shall be even Cæsar himself. For there is no bound to my ambitions. I do remember my boyhood in Mesopotamia: even there I was called 'King of Tyre.'”
He whispered to some imaginary presence. “Now how to go about this? How to get the Jew-his locket? He tarrieth with the Rabbi, the Archisynagogus—which is bad. A holy man. His very name doth signify, 'a help against the enemy.' However, I have
‘ a coadjutor within that house. Let Azrikam be accursed. We will get the locket. Let me think.
“Now, Jehovah, I have thee." He placed a hand over his heart, as if in a great, sudden pain. "Accursed! Let me see."
He came in his pacing to a full stop, and his eyes grew dull with pondering.
“He is young," said the thin lips, after a while, “therefore