Then a great burly form strode up from the farther end of the hall, and a perceptible shudder went up from all the others as they watched him. "So, Tarca, you prefer to take the risks, and remain chief of the guard yourself?" she said with an angry scoff. "Truly there did not seem to be many thrusting forward to strip you of the office.
You have grown wild and shy, amongst these savage rebels, but I will not punish you for that. "Let me call your favourites to memory now. There was Tarca, of course, but Tarca had a difference with that ill-dressed father of yours, and wears a leprosy on half his face instead of that beard he used to trim so finely. And then there is Tatho, but Tatho is away overseas.
The banquet had ended abruptly with the terrible scene that I have set down above on these tablets, for with Tarca writhing on the floor, and thrusting out the gruesome scars of his leprosy, even the most gluttonous had little enough appetite for further gorging.
You affected a fine disbelief of Zaemon's sayings, and a simpering contempt for his priesthood, but when it comes to laying a hand on him, you show a discretion which, in the old days, we should have called by an ugly name. I had rather be Tarca, with all his uncleanness, than any of you now as you stand."
I shall have a fine sorting up of places in payment for this night's work. But for the present, Tarca, do your duty." The man came up, obviously timorous. He was a solidly made fellow, but not altogether unmartial, and though but little of his cheek showed above his decorated beard, I could see that he paled as he came near to the priest.
Back with you, outside this circle, or I'll have you whipped. Ay, and I'll do more. I'll serve you as Zaemon served my captain, Tarca. Shall I point a finger at you, and smite your pretty skin with a sudden leprosy?" The girl bowed her shoulders, and went away cowed, and Phorenice turned to me. "My lord," she said, "I am like a young bird in the nest that has suddenly found its wings.
In the morning we will take this country by the shoulders, and see it in some new order." She left the banqueting-hall then, Ylga following; and taking precedence of my rank, I went out next, whilst all others stood and made salutation. But I halted by Tarca first, and put my hand on his unclean flesh. "You are an unfortunate man," I said, "but I can admire a brave soldier.
"My lord," he said quietly, "I must ask you to come with me." "Stand aside," said the old man, thrusting out the Symbol in front of him. I could see his eyes gather on the soldier and his brows knit with a strain of will. Tarca saw this too, and I thought he would have fallen, but with an effort he kept his manhood, and doggedly repeated his summons.