The Galileans: A Novel of Mary Magdalene
protect her against the chill of the night if they were lucky enough to escape from the villa. All the while his thoughts were racing as he tried to decide what to do.
    Going over the walls was out of the question—they were much too high—nor could he leave the way he had come, carrying an unconscious woman in his arms. One avenue only remained then, the lake. He had no way of knowing how deep the water was at the end of the wall where it entered the lake, but he must try to wade around the end of it. And if it was too deep he must swim, bearing the unconscious girl in his arms.
    His decision made, Joseph lifted Mary from the couch. Then, carrying her in his arms, he stepped through upon the close-cropped green lawn outside. Next he worked his way slowly against the wall of the villa in the protecting shadows until he came to the corner. The way seemed clear now and, moving quickly, he darted across the open space to the protection of the ten-foot wall that marched down into the lake itself. No outcry had arisen yet to show that he had been discovered, so he crept along beside the wall, steadying himself against it until his feet splashed in the water and a chill shot through his ankles.
    The water was icy, fed by the rushing torrent of the Jordan, which swelled to a flood during the spring months from the melted snows of Mount Hermon and the ranges to the north. The chill of it threatened to paralyze him as he waded deeper, pressing his body against the wall on his left side so as not to leave it in the darkness, in case he stepped off into a deeper spot and needed something to cling to.
    Wading was difficult, for he had to hold Mary high enough so that she would not get soaked by the icy water, an accident that might bring on unwanted complications with her body shocked and exhausted as it was. The water reached his waist, then his armpits. A few more steps and he must swim. Then suddenly there was no more wall against his left side, and with a thrill of exultation he knew that he had reached the end. Turning sharply to the left around the end of the wall, Joseph felt the bottom begin to shelve up as he waded ashore on the outside. A few yards more and he was out of the water, staggering up the shore toward the path where he had left Hadja, with Mary’s unconscious body in his arms.
    While Joseph was gone, the Nabatean had recovered enough to bring the mule and cart in which they had come from Magdala down to the path beside Joseph’s mule. Mary still showed no sign of consciousness when they carried her up the shelving beach and placed her on the rough floorboards of the cart, but although both were staggering from near exhaustion, they wasted no time in leaving the villa, knowing that the alarm might be given at any moment.
    As they pushed along the path, Joseph explained to Hadja only that Mary had suffered one of her fainting spells and that he had found her in a room in the palace. Hardly half a mile beyond the villa, the road branched. The fork to the left ascended the hills past the great aqueduct bringing water to Tiberias and went on to Magdala, which overlooked the lake from a considerable height. The road on the right, however, followed the shore line to Capernaum and on to Bethsaida and the northern towns around the lake. They were turning into the left fork leading to Magdala, when Hadja said suddenly, “Wait, Joseph! I hear something behind us.”
    Joseph stopped at once. For a moment he heard nothing except the lap of the waves on the shore close by and the wind in the trees. Then, faintly, he detected the sound which had first reached the keen ears of the desert man: the sharp ring of metal on metal. Such a sound could have many causes, but only one was likely tonight—the ring of a sword on a shield.
    Hurriedly they worked the cart and animals off the road and out of sight among the trees. The terrain was rough, but a fringe of trees grew just back of the shoreline, so they did not have to go far to

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