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Herodias Gustave Flaubert

Chapter II

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At that instant the trap-door was suddenly shut down and secured by Mannaeus, who would have liked to strangle Iaokanann then and there.

Herodias glided away and disappeared within the palace. The Pharisees were scandalised at what they had heard. Antipas, standing among them, attempted to justify his past conduct and to excuse his present situation.

"Without doubt," said Eleazar, "it was necessary for him to marry his brother's wife; but Herodias was not a widow, and besides, she had a child, which she abandoned; and that was an abomination."

"You are wrong," objected Jonathas the Sadducee; "the law condemns such marriages but does not actually forbid them."

"What matters it? All the world shows me injustice," said Antipas, bitterly; "and why? Did not Absalom lie with his father's wives, Judah with his daughter-in-law, Ammon with his sister, and Lot with his daughters?"

Aulus, who had been reposing within the palace, now reappeared in the court. After he had heard how matters stood, he approved of the attitude of the tetrarch. "A man should never allow himself to be annoyed," said he, "by such foolish criticism." And he laughed at the censure of the priests and the fury of Iaokanann, saying that his words were of little importance.

Herodias, who also had reappeared, and now stood at the top of a flight of steps, called loudly:

"You are wrong, my lord! He ordered the people to refuse to pay the tax!"

"Is that true?" he demanded. The general response was affirmative, Antipas adding his word to the declaration of the others.

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Vitellius had a misgiving that the prisoner might be able to escape; and as the conduct of Antipas appeared to him rather suspicious, he established his own sentinels at the gates, at intervals along the walls, and in the courtyard itself.

At last he retired to the apartments assigned to him, accompanied by the priests. Without touching directly upon the question of the coveted offices of public sacrificers, each one laid his own grievances before the proconsul. They fairly beset him with complaints and requests, but he soon dismissed them from his presence.

As Jonathas left the proconsul's apartments he perceived Antipas standing under an arch, talking to an Essene, who wore a long white robe and flowing locks. Jonathas regretted that he had raised his voice in defence of the tetrarch.

One thought now consoled Herod-Antipas. He was no longer personally responsible for the fate of Iaokanann. The Romans had assumed that charge. What a relief! He had noticed Phanuel pacing slowly through the court, and calling him to his side, he pointed put the guards established by Vitellius, saying:

"They are stronger than I! I cannot now set the prisoner free! It is not my fault if he remains in his dungeon."

The courtyard was empty. The slaves were sleeping. The day was drawing to a close, and the sunset spread a deep rosy glow over the horizon, against which the smallest objects stood out like silhouettes. Antipas was able to distinguish the excavations of the salt-mines at the farther end of the Dead Sea, but the tents of the Arabs were no longer visible. As the moon rose, the effect of the day's excitement passed away, and a feeling of peace entered his heart.

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