The City of Delight
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+ By Thanakorn Papan
A PRINCE'S BRIDE
The chief merchant of Ascalon stood in the guest-chamber of his house.
Although it was a late winter day the old man was clad in the free white garments of a midsummer afternoon, for to the sorrow of Philistia the cold season of the year sixty-nine had been warm, wet and miasmic. An old woman entering presently glanced at the closed windows of the apartment when she noted the flushed face of the merchant but she made no movement to have them opened. More than the warmth of the day was engaging the attention of the grave old man, and the woman, by dress and manner of equal rank with him, stood aside until he could give her a moment.
His porter bowed at his side.
"The servants of Philip of Tyre are without," he said. "Shall they enter?"
"They have come for the furnishings," Costobarus answered. "Take thou all the household but Momus and Hiram, and dismantle the rooms for them. Begin in the library; then the sleeping-rooms; this chamber next; the kitchen last of all. Send Hiram to the stables to except three good camels from the herd for our use. Let Momus look to the baggage. Where is Keturah?"
A woman servant hastening after a line of men bearing a great divan, picking up the draperies and pillows that had dropped, stopped and salaamed to her master.
"Is our apparel ready?" he asked.
"Prepared, master," was the response.
"Then send hither–" But at that moment a man-servant dressed in the garb of a physician hastened into the chamber. Without awaiting the notice of his master he hurried up and whispered in his ear. Costobarus' face grew instantly grave.
"How near?" he asked anxiously.
"In the next house–but a moment since. The household hath fled," was the low answer.
"Haste, haste!" Costobarus cried to the rush of servants about him. "Lose no time. We must be gone from this place before mid-afternoon. Laodice! Where is Laodice?" he inquired.
Then his wife who had stood aside spoke.