7 Herculinus answered her in a bitter voice. "I am John's son, woman!"
8 "Then my doom is sealed," she cried to Heaven, "my journey is ended. I have hardly known life, yet now it is over. Good sir, let me have but a moment to repent that that I have done, and give myself over to God. For I know your father was a good man and delivering him to death is my rightful damnation."
9 Herculinus took pity on her. "Be at peace, woman," he answered, "pray your prayers. And when the moment comes I will not prolong it, but be as swift as a man can be. For I see in your heart that you are truly repentant and my father taught me to honor repentance."
10 When he was sure the girl had had ample time he took her hair so she would not struggle and put his blade to her throat. Then came a great Light and the Heavens were opened. Before them, in splendid glory, John stood. His words came like a gentle breeze.
11 "Herculinus, put away your blade. Let the child go her way."
12 Herculinus lowered his weapon and looked about him. "Father, it would not be mercy to leave her here. The night would not pass without her being devoured. The greater kindness would be for me to use my blade and end her suffering with compassion."
13 "Better yet," answered John, "that you give her an opportunity to redeem herself. She has taken a life, but if she returns two lives for that one lost surely she would be reconciled with God. Take her, and fulfill her, that she may redeem herself."
14 "But father," Herculinus answered, "you have taught me that it is wrong for a man to take a woman by force, even if she is a captive."
15 "Take off your cloak," John answered, "and throw it onto the ground and leave her. If she covers herself with the cloak and follows you, she is yours. If she chooses to risk the wilderness she is free to do so. The will is hers."
16 With that the Heavens darkened and John was gone. Herculinus took off his cloak and cast it to the ground, and left the trembling girl where she knelt. She stood slowly, trembling, looking to the Heavens, then looked about her in wonder. Then, she picked up the cloak, threw it over her, and hurried after Herculinus. "Wait, my husband!" she cried. "My legs are much shorter than yours. I cannot follow you if you do not slow down."
17 Herculinus stopped and looked at her. "And who said you are to be my wife?" he snapped.
18 The woman stopped and stared at him. "If you do not keep me as captive," she asked, "and I am to bear your sons, what else am I to be besides wife?"
19 Herculinus thought of this a moment, and then nodded. "What you say has merit, woman, but see that you make yourself a good wife!"
20 The girl smiled, and they continued on. Suddenly as they followed a turn in the trail they found two eunuchs before them, their swords drawn.

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Herculinus did not draw his weapon but backed off. "I wish no fight with you," he remarked, "put away your weapons and let us pass in peace."
2 "You cannot take the girl back into Israel," one of the eunuchs answered. "Herod has said if she is seen there again she is to be split from crotch to throat. We have no grievance with you, either. We have seen what has just occured. We will not interfere with the Will Of God. We come only to give you warning. If we had a place to go we would flee Herod also."
3 Herculinus thought a moment. "My wife shall need protectors," he remarked. "My grandfather has many estates. If you will follow me I will see that he sends you to one."
4 The eunuchs put away their swords and knelt before Herculinus. "Master!" they cried. "Lead us where you will. No harm come to the lady lest we die first."
5 "Then the only matter to resolve," Herculinus remarked, "is where we shall go."
6 The Heavens opened and a gentle voice spoke to them. "Go you down into Egypt and from there send a letter to your grandfather telling him all that has happened, and have him send your mother down to you, that you may depart for Rome. For it is not safe that you should stay any longer in Israel. After you have been a time in Rome journey as far west as you will. Stop not until a member of the brotherhood says unto you 'Go you no further, for this is where Herculinus shall leave his seed for the glory of mankind.'."
7 The Heavens darkened. "Having a prophet for a father," one of the eunuchs uttered, "makes one's decisions easy! I saw your belongings where you left them. I will go and fetch them."
8 So it was they pointed their feet in the direction of Egypt, and when they arose the next morning Herculinus could not find his wife. "She went to bathe," one of the eunuchs told him.
9 Herculinus went up and when he saw his wife in the water he understood Herod's lust. "Come," he told her, "this land is not safe. The sooner we reach the Roman garrison in Egypt, the better."
10 He saw the other eunuch standing by a rock in some distress, and went over. "What troubles you?" he asked.
11 "I don't know," the eunuch answered. "I was watching her and a strange pain came over me I have never felt before."

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