Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: A Thorny Path — Volume 11
Author: Ebers, Georg
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Thorny Path — Volume 11" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



A THORNY PATH

By Georg Ebers

Volume 11.



CHAPTER XXX.

Scarcely had Macrinus closed the door behind him, when Caracalla threw
himself exhausted on the throne, and ordered wine to brought.

The gloomy gaze he bent upon the ground was not affected this time.
The physician noted with anxiety how his master's breast heaved and his
eyelids quivered; but when he offered Caesar a soothing potion, he waved
him away, and commanded him to cease from troubling him.

For all that, he listened a little later to the legate, who brought
the news that the youths of the city assembled on the race-course
were beginning to be impatient.  They were singing and applauding
boisterously, and the songs they so loudly insisted on having repeated
would certainly not contain matter flattering to the Romans.

"Leave them alone," answered Caesar, roughly.  "Every line is aimed at me
and no other.  But the condemned are always allowed their favorite meal
before the last journey.  The food they love is venomous satire.  Let
them enjoy it to the full once more!--Is it far to Zminis's prison?"

The reply was in the negative; and as Caracalla exclaimed, "So much the
better!" a significant smile played on his lips.

The high-priest of Serapis had looked on in much distress of mind.  He,
as the head of the Museum, had set high hopes on the youth who had come
to such a terrible end.  If Caesar should carry his threats into
execution, there would be an end to that celebrated home of learning
which, in his opinion, bore such noble fruits of study.  And what could
Caracalla mean by his dark saying that the sport and mockery of those
youths below was their last meal?  The worst might indeed be expected
from the fearful tyrant who was at once so deeply wounded and so
grievously offended; and the high-priest had already sent messengers--
Greeks of good credit--to warn the insurgent youths in the stadium.  But,
as the chief minister of the divinity, he also esteemed it his duty, at
any risk to himself, to warn the despot, whom he saw on the verge of
being carried away to deeds of unparalleled horror.  He thought the time
had come, when Caracalla looked up from the brooding reverie into which
he had again sunk, and with an ominous scowl asked Timotheus whether his
wife, under whose protection Melissa had been seen the day before, had
known that the false-hearted girl had given herself to another man while
she feigned love for him.

The high-priest repelled the suspicion with his usual dignity, and went
on to adjure Caesar not to visit on an industrious and dutiful community
the sins of a light-minded girl's base folly and falsehood.

But Caracalla would not suffer him to finish; he wrathfully inquired who
had given him a right to force his advice on Caesar.

On this Timotheus replied, with calm dignity:

"Your own noble words, great Caesar, when, to your honor be it spoken,
you reminded the misguided skeptic of the true meaning of the old gods
and of what is due to them.  The god whom I serve, great Caesar, is
second to none: the heavens are his head, the ocean is his body, and the
earth his feet; the sunshine is the light of his all-seeing eye, and
everything which stirs in the heart or brain of man is an emanation of
his divine spirit.  Thus he is the all-pervading soul of the universe,
and a portion of that soul dwells in you, in me, in all of us.  His power
is greater than any power on earth, and, though a well-grounded wrath and
only too just indignation urge you to exert the power lent you by him--"

"And I will exert it!"  Caesar exclaimed with haughty rage.  "It reaches
far.  I need no help, not even that of your god!"

"That I know," replied Timotheus.  "And the god will let those fall into
your hands who have sinned against your sacred majesty.  Any punishment,
even the severest, will be pleasing in his sight which you may inflict on
those guilty of high-treason, for you wear the purple as his gift and in
his name; those who insult you sin also against the god.  I myself, with
my small power, will help to bring the criminals to justice.  But when a
whole population is accused, when it is beyond the power of human justice
to separate the innocent from the guilty, punishment is the prerogative
of the god.  He will visit on this city the crimes it has committed
against you; and I implore you, in the name of your noble and admirable
mother--whom it has been my privilege to entertain under this roof, and
who in gratitude for the favors of Serapis--"

"And have I grudged sacrifices?"  Caesar broke in.  "I have done my
utmost to win the graces of your god--and with what success?  Everything
that can most aggrieve the heart of man has befallen me here under his
eyes.  I have as much reason to complain of him as to accuse the
reprobate natives of your city.  He, no doubt, knows how to be avenged;
the three-headed monster at his feet does not look like a lap-dog.  Why,
he would despise me if I should leave the punishment of the criminals to
his tender mercies!  Nay, I can do that for myself.  Though you have seen
me in many cases show mercy, it has always been for my mother's sake.
You have done well to remind me of her.  That lady--she is, I know, a
votary of your god.  But to me the Alexandrians have dared to violate the
laws of hospitality; to her they were cordial hosts.  I will remember
that in their favor.  And if many escape unpunished, I would have the
traitors to know that they owe it to the hospitality shown to my mother
by their parents, or perhaps by themselves."

He was here interrupted by the arrival of Aristides, who entered in
great haste and apparently pleased excitement.  His spies had seized a
malefactor who had affixed an epigram of malignant purport to the statue
of Julia Domna in the Caesareum.  The writer was a pupil of the Museum,
and had been taken in the stadium, where he was boasting of his exploit.
A spy, mingling with the crowd, had laid hands on him, and the captain of
the watch had forthwith hurried to the Serapeum to boast of a success
which might confirm him in his yet uncertain position.  The rough sketch
of the lines had been found on the culprit, and Aristides held the
tablets on which they were written while Caracalla listened to his
report.  Aristides was breathless with eagerness, and Caesar, snatching
the tablets impatiently from his hand, read the following lines:

"Wanton, I say, is this dam of irreconcilable brothers!"
"Mean you Jocasta?"
"Nay, worse--Julia, the wife of Severus."

"The worst of all--but the last!"  Caracalla snarled, as, turning pale,
he laid the tablets down.  But he almost instantly took them up again,
and handing the malignant and lying effusion to the high-priest, he
exclaimed, with a laugh:

"This seals the warrant!  Here is my mother slandered, too!  Now, the man
who sues for mercy condemns himself to death!"  And, clinching his fist,
he muttered, "And this, too, is from the Museum."

Timotheus, meanwhile, had also read the lines.  Even paler than
Caracalla, and fully aware that any further counsel would be thrown away
and only turn the emperor's wrath against himself, he expressed his anger
at this calumny directed against the noblest of women, and by a boy
hardly free from school!

But Caracalla furiously broke in:

"And woe to you if your god refuses me the only thing I crave in return
for so many sacrifices--revenge, complete and sanguinary; atonement from
great and small alike!"  But he interrupted himself with the exclamation:
"He grants it!  Now for the tool I need."

The tool was ready--Zminis, the Egyptian, answering in every particular
to the image which Caracalla had had in his mind of the instrument who
might execute his most bloodthirsty purpose.

With hair in disorder and a blue-black stubble of beard on his haggard
yellow cheeks, in a dirty gray prison shirt, barefoot, and treading as
silently as Fate when it creeps on a victim, the rascal approached his
sovereign.  He stood before Caracalla exactly as the prefect, in a swift
chariot, had brought him out of prison.  The white of his long, narrow
eyes, which had so terrified Melissa, had turned yellow, and his glance
was as restless and shifting as that of a hyena.  His small head on its
long neck was never for a moment still; the ruthless wretch had sat
waiting day after day in expectation of death, and it was by a miracle
that he found himself once more at the height of his ambition.  But when
at last he inquired of Caracalla, in the husky voice which had gained an
added hoarseness from the damp dungeon whence he had been brought, what
his commands were, looking up at him like a starving dog which hopes for
a titbit from his master's hand, even the fratricide, who himself held
the sword sharpened to kill, shuddered at the sight and sound.

But Caesar at once recovered himself, and when he asked the Egyptian:

"Will you undertake to help me, as captain of the night-watch, to punish
the traitors of Alexandria?"  the answer was confident:

"What man can do, I can do."

"Good!"  replied Caracalla.  "But this is not a matter of merely
capturing one or another.  Every one--mark me--every one has merited
death who has broken the laws of hospitality, that hospitality which this
lying city offered me.  Do you understand?  Yes?  Well, then, how are we
to detect the guilty?  Where are we to find spies and executioners
enough?  How can we punish worst those whose wickedness has involved the
rest in guilt, especially the epigramatists of the Museum?  How are we to
discover the ringleaders of those who insulted me yesterday in the
Circus, and of those among the youths in the stadium who have dared to
express their vile disapproval by whistling in my very face?  What steps
will you take to hinder a single one from escaping?  Consider.  How is it
to be done so effectually that I may lie down and say 'They have had
their deserts.  I am content'?"

The Egyptian's eyes wandered round the floor, but he presently drew
himself up and answered briefly and positively, as though he were issuing
an order to his men:

"Kill them all!"

Caracalla started, and repeated dully, "All?"

"All!" repeated  Zminis, with a hideous grin.  "The young ones are all
there, safe in the stadium.  The men in the Museum fear nothing.  Those
who are in the streets can be cut down.  Locked doors can be broken in."

At this, Caesar, who had dropped on to his throne, started to his feet,
flung the wine-cup he held across the room, laughed loudly, and
exclaimed:

"You are the man for me!  To work at once!  This will be a day!--
Macrinus, Theocritus, Antigonus, we need your troops.  Send up the
legates.  Those who do not like the taste of blood, may sweeten it with
plunder."

He looked young again, as if relieved from some burden on his mind, and
the thought flashed through his brain whether revenge were not sweeter
than love.

No one spoke.  Even Theocritus, on whose lips a word of flattery or
applause was always ready, looked down in his dismay; but Caracalla, in
his frenzy of excitement, heeded nothing.

The hideous suggestion of Zminis seemed to him worthy of his greatness by
its mere enormity.  It must be carried out.  Ever since he had first
donned the purple he had made it his aim to be feared.  If this
tremendous deed were done, he need never frown again at those whom he
wished to terrify.

And then, what a revenge!  If Melissa should hear of it, what an effect
it must have on her!

To work, then!

And he added in a gentler tone, as if he had a delightful surprise in
store for some old friend:

"But silence, perfect silence--do you hear?--till all is ready.--You,
Zminis, may begin on the pipers in the stadium and the chatterers in the
Museum.  The prize for soldiers and lictors alike lies in the merchants'
chests."

Still no one spoke; and now he observed it.  His scheme was too grand for
these feeble spirits.  He must teach them to silence their conscience and
the voice of Roman rectitude; he must take on himself the whole
responsibility of this deed, at which the timid quaked.  So he drew
himself up to his full height, and, affecting not to see the hesitancy of
his companions, he said, in a tone of cheerful confidence:

"Let each man do his part.  All I ask of you is to carry out the sentence
I pronounce as a judge.  You know the crime of the citizens of this town,
and, by virtue of the power I exercise over life and death, be it known
to all that I, Caesar, condemn--mark the word, condemn--every free male
of Alexandria, of whatever age or rank, to die by the sword of a Roman
warrior!  This is a conquered city, which has forfeited every claim to
quarter.  The blood and the treasure of the inhabitants are the prize of
my soldiery.  Only"--and he turned to Timotheus--"this house of your god,
which has given me shelter, with the priests and the treasure of great
Serapis, are spared.  Now it lies with each of you to show whether or no
he is faithful to me.  All of you"--and he addressed his friends--"all
who do me service in avenging me for the audacious insults which have
been offered to your sovereign, are assured of my imperial gratitude."

This declaration was not without effect, and murmurs of applause rose
from the "friends" and favorites, though less enthusiastic than Caracalla
was accustomed to hear.  But the feebleness of this demonstration made
him all the prouder of his own undaunted resolve.

Macrinus was one of those who had most loudly approved him, and Caracalla
rejoiced to think that this prudent counselor should advise his drinking
the cup of vengeance to the dregs.  Intoxicated already before he had
even sipped it, he called Macrinus and Zminis to his side, and with
glowing looks impressed on them to take particular care that Melissa,
with her father, Alexander, and Diodoros were brought to him alive.

"And remember," he added, "there will be many weeping mothers here by
to-morrow morning; but there is one I must see again, and that not as a
corpse--that bedizened thing in red whom I saw in the Circus--I mean the
wife of Seleukus, of the Kanopic way."



CHAPTER XXXI.

On the wide ascent leading to the Serapeum the praetorians stood awaiting
Caesar's commands.  They had not yet formed in rank and file, but were
grouped round the centurion Martialis, who had come to tell them, sadly,
of his removal to Edessa, and to take leave of his comrades.  He gave his
hand to each one of them in turn, and received a kindly pressure in
return; for the stubborn fellow, though not of the cleverest, had proved
himself a good soldier, and to many of them a trusty friend.  There was
not one who did not regret his going from among them.  But Caesar had
spoken, and there was no gainsaying his orders.  In the camp, after
service, they might talk the matter over; for the present it were wise
to guard their tongues.

The centurion had just said farewell to the last of his cohort, when the
prefect, with the legate Quintus Flavius Nobilior, who commanded the
legion, and several other higher officers, appeared among them.  Macrinus
greeted them briefly, and, instead of having the tuba blown as usual and
letting them fall into their ranks, he told them to gather close round
him, the centurions in front.  He then disclosed to them the emperor's
secret orders.  Caesar, he began, had long exercised patience and mercy,
but the insolence and malice of the Alexandrians knew no bounds;
therefore, in virtue of his power over life and death, he had pronounced
judgment upon them.  To them as being nearest to his person he handed
over the most remunerative part of the work of punishment.  Whomsoever
they found on the Kanopic way, the greatest and richest thoroughfare of
the city, they were to cut down as they would the rebellious inhabitants
of a conquered town.  Only the women and children and the slaves were to
be spared.  If for this task, a hideous one at best, they chose to pay
themselves out of the treasures of the citizens, nobody would blame them.

A loud cheer followed these orders, and many an eye gleamed brighter.
Even the coolest among them seemed to see a broad, deep pool of blood
into which he need only dip his hand and bring out something worth the
catching.  And the fish that were to be had there were not miserable
carp, but heavy gold and silver vessels, and coins and magnificent
ornaments.  Macrinus then proceeded to inform the higher and lower
officers of the course of action he had agreed upon with the emperor and
Zminis.  Seven trumpet-blasts from the terrace of the Serapeum would give
the signal for the attack to begin.  Then they were to advance, maniple
on maniple; but they were not required to keep their ranks--each man had
his own work to do.  The legion was to assemble again at sunset at the
Gate of the Sun, at the eastern end of the road, after having swept it
from end to end.

By order of the emperor, each man, however, must be particularly careful
whom he cut down in any hiding-place, for Caesar wished to give the
following Alexandrians--who had sinned most flagrantly against him--the
benefit of a trial, and they must therefore be taken alive.  He then
named the gem-cutter Heron, his son Alexander, and his daughter Melissa,
the Alexandrian senator Polybius, his son Diodoros, and the wife of
Seleukus.

He described them as well as he was able.  For each one Caesar promised
a reward of three thousand drachmas, and for Heron's daughter twice as
much, but only on condition of their being delivered up unhurt.
It would therefore be to their own advantage to keep their eyes open in
the houses, and to be cautious.  Whoever should take the daughter of the
gem-cutter--and he described Melissa once more--would render a special
service to Caesar and might reckon on promotion.

The centurion Julius Martialis stayed to hear the end of this discourse,
and then hurriedly departed.  He felt just as he had done in the war with
the Alemanni when a red-haired German had dealt him a blow on the helmet
with his club.  His head whirled and swam as it did then--only to-day
blood-red lights danced before his eyes instead of deep blue and gold.
It was some time before he could collect his thoughts to any purpose; but
when he did, he clinched his fists as he recalled Caesar's malignant
cruelty in forcing him away from his family.

Presently his large mouth widened into a satisfied smile.  He was no
longer in that company, and need take no part in the horrid butchery.
In any other place he would no doubt have joined in it like the rest,
glad of the rich booty; but here, in his own home, where his mother and
wife and child dwelt, it seemed a monstrous and accursed deed.  Besides
the gemcutter's family, in whom Martialis took no interest, Caesar seemed
to have a special grudge against the lady Berenike, whose husband
Seleukus had been master to the centurion's father; nay, his own
wife was still in the service of the merchant.

Not being skilled in any trade, he had entered the army early.  As
Evocatus he had married the daughter of a free gardener of Seleukus, and
when he was ordered to Rome to join the praetorians his wife had obtained
the post of superintendent of the merchant's villa at Kanopus.  For this
they had to thank the kindness of the lady Berenike and her now dead
daughter Korinna; and he was honestly grateful to the wife of Seleukus,
for, as his wife was established in the villa, he could leave her without
anxiety and go with the army wherever it was ordered.

Having by this time reached the Kanopic street on his way to his family,
he perceived the statues of Hermes and Demeter which stood on each side
of the entrance to the merchant's house, and his slow mind recapitulated
the long list of benefits he had received from Seleukus and his wife; a
secret voice urged upon him that it was his duty to warn them.

He owed nothing to Caesar, that crafty butcher, who out of pure malice
could deprive an honest soldier of his only joy in life and cheat him of
half his pay--for the praetorians had twice the wages of the other
troops; and if he only knew some handicraft, he would throw away his
sword today.

Here, at least, he could interfere with Caesar's ruthless schemes,
besides doing his benefactors a good turn.  He therefore entered the
house of the merchant, instead of pursuing on his homeward way.

He was well known, and the mistress of the house was at once apprised
of his arrival.

All the lower apartments were empty, the soldiers who had been quartered
in them having joined the others at the Serapeum.

But what had happened to the exquisite garden in the impluvium?  What
hideous traces showed where the soldiers had camped, and, drunk with
their host's costly wine, had given free play to their reckless spirits!

The velvet lawn looked like a stable-floor; the rare shrubs had been
denuded of their flowers and branches.  Blackened patches on the mosaic
pavement showed where fires had been kindled; the colonnades were turned
into drying-grounds for the soldiers' linen, and a rope on which hung
some newly washed clothes was wound at one end round the neck of a Venus
from the hand of Praxiteles, and at the other round the lyre of an Apollo
fashioned in marble by Bryaxis.  Some Indian shrubs, of which his father-
in-law had been very proud, were trampled underfoot; and in the great
banqueting-hall, which had served as sleeping-room for a hundred
praetorians, costly cushions and draperies were strewn, torn from the
couches and walls to make their beds more comfortable.

Used to the sights of war as he was, the soldier ground his teeth with
wrath at this scene.  As long as he could remember, he had looked upon
everything here with reverence and awe; and to think that his comrades
had destroyed it all made his blood boil.

As he approached the women's apartments he took fright.  How was he to
disclose to his mistress what threatened her?

But it must be done; so he followed the waiting-maid Johanna, who led him
to her lady's livingroom.

In it sat the Christian steward Johannes, with writing tablets and
scrolls of papyrus, working in the service of his patroness.  She herself
was with the wounded Aurelius; and Martialis, on hearing this, begged to
be admitted to her.

Berenike was in the act of renewing the wounded soldier's bandages, and
when the centurion saw how cruelly disfigured was the handsome, blooming
face of the young tribune, to whom he was heartily attached, the tears
rose to his eyes.  The matron observed it, and witnessed with much
surprise the affectionate greeting between the young noble and the plain
soldier.

The centurion greeted her respectfully; but it was not till Nernesianus
asked him how it was that the troops had been called to arms at this
hour, that Martialis plucked up courage and begged the lady of the house
to grant him an interview.

But Berenike had still to wash and bandage the wounds of her patient--
a task which she always performed herself and with the greatest care;
she therefore promised the soldier to be at his disposal in half an hour.

"Then it will be too late!" burst from the lips of the centurion; then
she knew, by his voice and the terror-stricken aspect of the man whom she
had known so long, that he meant to warn her, and there was but one from
whom the danger could come.

"Caesar?" she asked.  "He is sending out his creatures to murder me?"

The imperious gaze of Berenike's large eyes so overpowered the simple
soldier as to render him speechless for a while.  But Caesar had
threatened his mistress's life--he must collect himself, and thus he
managed to stammer:

"No, lady, no!  He will not have you killed assuredly not!  On the
contrary-they are to let you live when they cut down the others!"

"Cut down!" cried Apollinaris, raising himself up and staring horrified
at this messenger of terror; but his brother laid his hand upon the
centurion's broad shoulder, and, shaking him vigorously, commanded him as
his tribune to speak out.

The soldier, ever accustomed to obey, and only too anxious that his
warning should not come too late, disclosed in hurried words what he had
learned from the prefect.  The brothers interrupted him from time to time
with some exclamation of horror or disgust, but Berenike remained silent
till Martialis stopped with a deep breath.

Then the lady gave a shrill laugh, and as the others looked at her in
amazement she said coolly "You men will wade through blood and shame with
that reprobate, if he but orders you to do so.  I am only a woman, and
yet I will show him that there are limits even to his malignity."

She remained for a few moments lost in thought, and then ordered the
centurion to go and find out where her husband was.

Martialis obeyed at once, and no sooner was the door closed behind him
than she turned to the two brothers, and addressing herself first to one
and then to the other with equal vehemence, she cried "Who is right now?
Of all the villains who have brought shame upon the throne and name of
mighty Caesar, this is the most dastardly.  He has written plainly enough
upon Apollinaris's face how much he values a brave soldier, the son of a
noble house.  And you, Nemesianus--are you not also an Aurelius?  You say
so; and yet, had he not chanced to let you care for your brother, you
would at this moment be wandering through the city like a mad dog, biting
all who crossed your path.  Why do you not speak?  Why not tell me once
more, Nemesianus, that a soldier must obey his commander blindly?--And
you, Apollinaris, will you dare still to assert that the hand with which
Caesar tore your face was guided only by righteous indignation at an
insult offered to an innocent maiden?  Have you the courage to excuse the
murders by Caracalla of his own wife, and many other noble women, by his
anxiety for the safety of throne and state?  I, too, am a woman, and may
hold up my head with the best; but what have I to do with the state or
with the throne?  My eye met his, and from that moment the fiend was my
deadly enemy.  A quick death at the hands of one of his soldiers seemed
too good for the woman he hated.  Wild beasts were to tear me to pieces
before his eyes.  Is that not sufficient for you?  Put every abomination
together, everything unworthy of an honorable man and abhorrent to the
gods, and you have the man whom you so willingly obey.  I am only the
wife of a citizen.  But were I the widow of a noble Aurelian and your
mother--"  Here Apollinaris, whose wounds were beginning to burn again,
broke in: "She would have counseled us to leave revenge to the gods.  He
is Caesar!"

"He is a villain!" shrieked the matron--"the curse, the shame of
humanity, a damnable destroyer of peace and honor and life, such as the
world has never beheld before!  To kill him would be to earn the
gratitude and blessing of the universe.  And you, the scions of a noble
house, you, I say, prove that there still are men among so many slaves!
It is Rome herself who calls you through me--like her, a woman maltreated
and wounded to the heart's core--to bear arms in her service till she
gives you the signal for making an end of the dastardly blood hound!"

The brothers gazed at one another pale and speechless, till at last
Nemesianus ventured to say "He deserves to die, we know, a thousand
deaths, but we are neither judges nor executioners.  We can not do the
work of the assassin."

"No, lady, we can not," added Apollinaris, and shook his wounded head
energetically.

But the lady, nothing daunted, went on: "Who has  ever called  Brutus a
murderer?  You  are young--Life lies before you.  To plunge a sword into
the heart of this monster is a deed for which you are too good.  But I
know a hand that understands its work and would be ready to guide the
steel.  Call it out at the right moment and be its guide!"

"And that hand?" Apollinaris asked in anxious expectation.

"It is there," replied Berenike, pointing to Martialis, who entered the
room at that moment.  Again the brothers interchanged looks of doubt, but
the lady cried: "Consider for a moment!  I would fain go hence with the
certainty that the one burning desire shall be fulfilled which still
warms this frozen heart."

She motioned to the centurion, left the apartment with him, and preceded
him to her own room.  Arrived there, she ordered the astonished freedman
Johannes, in his office as notary, to add a codicil to her will.  In the
event of her death, she left to Xanthe, the wife of the centurion
Martialis, her lawful property the villa at Kanopus, with all it
contained, and the gardens appertaining to it, for the free use of
herself and her children.

The soldier listened speechless with astonishment.  This gift was worth
twenty houses in the city, and made its owner a rich man.  But the
testator was scarcely ten years older than his Xanthe, and, as he kissed
the hem of his mistress's robe in grateful emotion, he cried: "May the
gods reward you for your generosity; but we will pray and offer up
sacrifices that it may be long before this comes into our hands!"

The lady shook her head with a bitter smile, and, drawing the soldier
aside, she disclosed to him in rapid words her determination to quit this
life before the praetorians entered the house.  She then informed the
horror-stricken man that she had chosen him to be her avenger.  To him,
too, the emperor had dealt a malicious blow.  Let him remember that, when
the time came to plunge the sword in the tyrant's heart.  Should this
deed, however, cost Martialis his life--which he had risked in many a
battle for miserable pay--her will would enable his widow to bring up
their children in happiness and comfort.

The centurion had thrown in a deprecatory word or two, but Berenike
continued as if she had not heard him, till at last Martialis cried:

"You ask too much of me, lady.  Caesar is hateful to me, but I am no
longer one of the praetorians, and am banished the country.  How is it
possible that I should approach him?  How dare I, a common man--"

The lady came closer to him, and whispered:

"You will perform this deed to which I have appointed you in the name of
all the just.  We demand nothing from you but your sword.  Greater men
than you--the two Aurelians--will guide it.  At their word of command you
will do the deed.  When they give you the signal, brave Martialis,
remember the unfortunate woman in Alexandria whose death you swore
to revenge.  As soon as the tribunes--"

But the centurion was suddenly transformed.  "If the tribunes command
it," he interrupted with decision, his dull eye flashing--"if they demand
it of me, I do it willingly.  Tell them Martialis's sword is ever at
their service.  It has made short work of stronger men than that vicious
stripling."

Berenike gave the soldier her hand, thanked him hurriedly, and begged
him, as he could pass unharmed through the city, to hasten to her
husband's counting-house by the water-side, to warn him and carry him
her last greetings.

With tears in his eyes Martialis did as she desired.  When he had gone,
the steward began to implore his mistress to conceal herself, and not
cast away God's gift of life so sinfully; but she turned from him
resolutely though kindly, and repaired once more to the brothers' room.

One glance at them disclosed to her that they had come to no definite
conclusion; but their hesitation vanished as soon as they heard that the
centurion was ready to draw his sword upon the emperor when they should
give the signal; and Berenike breathed a sigh of relief at this
resolution, and clasped their hands in gratitude.

They, too, implored her to conceal herself, but she merely answered:

"May your youth grow into happy old age!  Life can offer me nothing more,
since my child was taken from me--But time presses--I welcome the
murderers, now that I know that revenge will not sleep."

"And your husband?"  interposed Nemesianus.

She answered with a bitter smile: "He?  He has the gift of being easily
consoled.--But what was that?"

Loud voices were audible outside the sick-room.  Nemesianus stationed
himself in front of the lady, sword in hand.  This protection, however,
proved unnecessary, for, instead of the praetorians, Johanna entered the
room, supporting on her arm the half-sinking form of a young man in whom
no one would have recognized the once beautifully curled and carefully
dressed Alexander.  A long caracalla covered his tall form; Dido the
slave had cut off his hair, and he himself had disguised his features
with streaks of paint.  A large, broad-brimmed hat had slipped to the
back of his head like a drunken man's, and covered a wound from which the
red blood flowed down upon his neck.  His whole aspect breathed pain and
horror, and Berenike, who took him for a hired cut-throat sent by
Caracalla, retreated hastily from him till Johanna revealed his name.

He nodded his head in confirmation, and then sank exhausted on his knees
beside Apollinaris's couch and managed with great difficulty to stammer
out: "I am searching for Philip.  He went into the town-ill-out of his
senses.  Did he not come to you?"

"No," answered  Berenike.  "But what is this fresh blood?  Has the
slaughter begun?"

The wounded man nodded.  Then he continued, with a groan: "In front of
the house of your neighbor Milon--the back of my head--I fled--a lance--"

His voice failed him, and Berenike cried to the tribune: "Support him,
Nemesianus!  Look after him and tend him.  He is the brother of the
maiden--you know--If I know you, you will do all in your power for him,
and keep him hidden here till all danger is over."

"We will defend him with our lives!" cried Apollinaris, giving his hand
to the lady.

But he withdrew it quickly, for from the impluvium arose the rattle of
arms, and loud, confused noise.

Berenike threw up her head and lifted her hands as if in prayer.  Her
bosom heaved with her deep breath, the delicate nostrils quivered, and
the great eyes flashed with wrathful light.  For a moment she stood thus
silent, then let her arms fall, and cried to the tribunes:

"My curse be upon you if you forget what you owe to yourselves, to the
Roman Empire, and to your dying friend.  My blessing, if you hold fast to
what you have promised."

She pressed their hands, and, turning to do the same to the artist, found
that he had lost consciousness.  Johanna and Nemesianus had removed his
hat and caracalla, to attend to his wound.

A strange smile passed over the matron's stern features.  Snatching the
Gallic mantle from the Christian's hand, she threw it over her own
shoulders, exclaiming:

"How the ruffian will wonder when, instead of the living woman, they
bring him a corpse wrapped in his barbarian's mantle!"

She pressed the hat upon her head, and from a corner of the room where
the brothers' weapons stood, selected a hunting-spear.  She asked if this
weapon might be recognized as belonging to them, and, on their answering
in the negative, said:

"My thanks, then, for this last gift!"

At the last moment she turned to the waiting-woman:

"Your brother will help you to burn Korinna's picture.  No shameless gaze
shall dishonor it again."  She tore her hand from that of the Christian,
who, with hot tears, tried to hold her back; then, carrying her head
proudly erect, she left them.

The brothers gazed shudderingly after her.  "And to know," cried
Nemesianus, striking his forehead, "that our own comrades will slay her!
Never were the swords of Rome so disgraced!"

"He shall pay for it!"  replied the wounded man,  gnashing  his  teeth.

"Brother, we  must avenge her!"

"Yes--her, and--may the gods hear me!--you too, Apollinaris," swore the
other, lifting his hand as for an oath.

Loud screams, the clash of arms, and quick orders sounded from below and
broke in upon the tribune's vow.  He was rushing to the window to draw
back the curtain and look upon the horrid deed with his own eyes, when
Apollinaris called him back, reminding him of their duty toward Melissa's
brother, who was lost if the others discovered him here.

Hereupon Nemesianus lifted the fainting youth in his strong arms and
carried him into the adjoining room, laying him upon the mat which had
served their faithful old slave as a bed.  He then covered him with his
own mantle, after hastily binding up the wound on his head and another on
his shoulder.

By the time the tribune returned to his brother the noise outside had
grown considerably less, only pitiable cries of anguish mingled with the
shouts of the soldiers.

Nemesianus hastily pulled aside the curtain, letting such a flood of
blinding sunshine into the room that Apollinaris covered his wounded face
with his hands and groaned aloud.

"Sickening!  Horrible!  Unheard of!"  cried his brother, beside himself
at the sight that met his eyes.  "A battle-field!  What do I say?  The
peaceful house of a Roman citizen turned into shambles.  Fifteen, twenty,
thirty bodies on the grass!  And the sunshine plays as brightly on the
pools of blood and the arms of the soldiers as if it rejoiced in it all.
But there--Oh, brother! our Marcipor--there lies our dear old Marci!--and
beside him the basket of roses he had fetched for the lady Berenike from
the flower-market.  There they be, steeped in blood, the red and white
roses; and the bright sun looks down from heaven and laughs upon it!"

He broke down into sobs, and then continued, gnashing his teeth with
rage: "Apollo smiles upon it, but he sees it; and wait--wait but a little
longer, Tarautas!  The god stretches out his hand already for the
avenging bow!  Has Berenike ventured among them?  Near the fountain-how
it flashes and glitters with the hues of Iris!--they are crowding round
something on the ground--Mayhap the body of Seleukus.  No--the crowd is
separating.  Eternal gods!  It is she--it is the woman who tended you!"

"Dead?"  asked the other.

"She is lying on the ground with a spear in her bosom.  Now the legate-
yes, it is Quintus Flavius Nobilior--bends over her and draws it out.
Dead--dead! and slain by a man of our cohort!"

He clasped his hands before his face, while Apollinaris muttered curses,
and the name of their faithful Marcipor, who had served their father
before them, coupled with wild vows of vengeance.

Nemesianus at length composed himself sufficiently to follow the course
of the horrible events going on below.

"Now," he went on, describing it to his brother, "now they are
surrounding Rufus.  That merciless scoundrel must have done something
abominable, that even goes beyond what his fellows can put up with.
There they have caught a slave with a bundle in his hand, perhaps stolen
goods.  They will punish him with death, and are themselves no better
than he.  If you could only see how they come swarming from every side
with their costly plunder!  The magnificent golden jug set with jewels,
out of which the lady Berenike poured the Byblos wine for you, is there
too!--Are we still soldiers, or robbers and murderers?"

"If we are," cried Apollinaris, "I know who has made us so."

They were startled by the approaching rattle of arms in the corridor, and
then a loud knock at the chamber-door.  The next moment a soldier's head
appeared in the doorway, to be quickly withdrawn with the exclamation,
"It is true--here lies Apollinaris!"

"One moment," said a second deep voice, and over the threshold stepped
the legate of the legion, Quintus Flavius Nobilior, in all the panoply of
war, and saluted the brothers.

Like them, he came of an old and honorable race, and was acting in place
of the prefect Macrinus, whose office in the state prevented him from
taking the military command of that mighty corps, the praetorians.
Twenty years older than the twins, and a companion-in-arms of their
father, he had managed their rapid promotion.  He was their faithful
friend and patron, and Apollinaris's misfortune had disgusted him no less
than the order in the execution of which he was now obliged to take part.
Having greeted the brothers affectionately, observed their painful
emotion, and heard their complaints over the murder of their slave, he
shook his manly head, and pointing to the blood that dripped from his
boots and greaves, "Forgive me for thus defiling your apartments," he
said.  "If we came from slaughtering men upon the field of battle, it
could only do honor to the soldier; but this is the blood of defenseless
citizens, and even women's gore is mixed with it."

"I saw the body of the lady of this house," said Nemesianus, gloomily.
"She has tended my brother like a mother."

"But, on the other hand, she was imprudent enough to draw down Caesar's
displeasure upon her," interposed the Flavian, shrugging his shoulders.
"We were to bring her to him alive, but he had anything but friendly
intentions toward her; however, she spoiled his game.  A wonderful woman!
I have scarcely seen a man look death--and self-sought death--in the face
like that!  While the soldiers down there were massacring all who fell
into their hands--those were the orders, and I looked on at the butchery,
for, rather than--well, you can imagine that for yourselves--through one
of the doors there came a tall, extraordinary figure.  The wide brim of a
traveling hat concealed the features, and it was wrapped in one of the
emperor's fool's mantles.  It hurried toward the maniple of Sempronius,
brandishing a javelin, and with a sonorous voice reviling the soldiers
till even my temper was roused.  Here I caught sight of a flowing robe
beneath the caracalla, and, the hat having fallen back, a beautiful
woman's face with large and fear-inspiring eyes.  Then it suddenly
flashed upon me that this grim despiser of death, being a woman, was
doubtless she whom we were to spare.  I shouted this to my men; but--and
at that moment I was heartily ashamed of my profession--it was too late.
Tall Rufus pierced her through with his lance.  Even in falling she
preserved the dignity of a queen, and when the men surrounded her she
fixed each one separately with her wonderful eyes and spoke through the
death-rattle in her throat:

"'Shame upon men and soldiers who let themselves be hounded on like dogs
to murder and dishonor!' Rufus raised his sword to make an end of her,
but I caught his arm and knelt beside her, begging her to let me see to
her wound.  With that she seized the lance in her breast with both hands,
and with her last breath murmured, 'He desired to see the living woman--
bring him my body, and my curse with it!  Then with a last supreme effort
she buried the spear still deeper in her bosom; but it was not necessary.

"I gazed petrified at the high-bred, wrathful face, still beautiful in
death, and the mysterious, wide-open eyes that must have flashed so
proudly in life.  It was enough to drive a man mad.  Even after I had
closed her eyes and spread the mantle over her--"

"What has been done with the body?"  asked Apollinaris.

"I caused it to be carried into the house and the door of the death-
chamber carefully locked.  But when I returned to the men.  I had to
prevent them from tearing Rufus to pieces for having lost them the large
reward which Caesar had promised for the living prisoner."

"And you," cried Apollinaris, excitedly, "had to look on while our men,
honest soldiers, plundered this house--which entertained many of us so
hospitably--as if they had been a band of robbers!  I saw them dragging
out things which were used in our service only yesterday."

"The emperor--his permission!" sighed Flavius.  "You know how it is.  The
lowest instincts of every nature come out at such a time as this, and the
sun shines upon it all.  Many a poor wretch of yesterday will go to bed a
wealthy man to-day.  But, for all that, I believe much was hidden from
them.  In the room of the mistress of the house whence I have just come,
a fire was still blazing in which a variety of objects had been burned.
The flames had destroyed a picture--a small painted fragment betrayed the
fact.  They perhaps possessed masterpieces of Apelles or Zeuxis.  This
woman's hatred would lead her to destroy them rather than let them fall
into the hands of her imperial enemy; and who can blame her?"

"It was her daughter's portrait," said Nemesianus, unguardedly.

The legate turned upon him in surprise.  "Then she confided in you?" he
asked.

"Yes," returned the tribune, "and we are proud to have been so honored by
her.  Before she went to her death she took leave of us.  We let her go;
for we at least could not bring ourselves to lay hands upon a noble
lady."

The officer looked sternly at him and exclaimed, angrily:

"Do you suppose, young upstart, that it was less painful to me and many
another among us?  Cursed be this day, that has soiled our weapons with
the blood of women and slaves, and may every drachma which I take from
the plunder here bring ill-luck with it!  Call the accident that has kept
you out of this despicable work a stroke of good fortune, but beware how
you look down upon those whose oath forces them to crush out every human
feeling from their hearts!  The soldier who takes part with his
commander's enemy--"

He was interrupted by the entrance of Johanna, the Christian, who saluted
the legate, and then stood confused and embarrassed by the side of
Apollinaris's bed.  The furtive glance she cast first at the side-room
and then at Nemesianus did not pass unobserved by the quick eye of the
commander, and with soldierly firmness he insisted on knowing what was
concealed behind that door.

"An unfortunate man," was Apollinaris's answer.

"Seleukus, the master of this house?"  asked Quintus Flavius, sternly.

"No," replied Nemesianus.  "It is only a poor, wounded painter.  And yet
--the praetorians will go through fire and water for you, if you deliver
up this man to them as their booty.  But if you are what I hold you to
be--"

"The opinion of hot-headed boys is of as little consequence to me as the
favor of my subordinates," interposed the commander.  "Whatever my con
science tells me is right, I shall do.  Quick, now!  Who is in there?"

"The brother of the maiden for whose sake Caesar--" stammered the wounded
man.

"The maiden whom you have to thank for that disfigured face?"  cried the
legate.  "You are true Aurelians, you boys; and, though you may doubt
whether I am the man you take me for, I confess with pleasure that you
are exactly as I would wish to have you.  The praetorians have slain your
friend and servant; I give you that man to make amends for it."

With deep emotion Nemesianus seized his old friend's hands, and
Apollinaris spoke words of gratitude to him from his couch.  The officer
would not listen to their thanks, and walked toward the door; but Johanna
stood before him, and entreated him to allow the twins, whose servant had
been killed, to take another, from whom they need have no fear of
treachery.  He had been captured in the impluvium by the praetorians
while trying, in the face of every danger, to enter the house where the
painter lay, to whose father he had belonged for many years.  He would be
able to tend both Apollinaris and Melissa's brother, and make it possible
to keep Alexander's hiding-place a secret.  The soldiery would be certain
to penetrate as far as this, and other lives would be endangered if they
should bear off the faithful servant and force him on the rack to
disclose where Melissa's father and relatives were hidden.

The legate promised to insure the freedom of Argutis.

A few more words of thanks and farewell, and Quintus had fulfilled his
mission to the Aurelians.  Shortly afterward the tuba sounded to assemble
the plunderers still scattered about Seleukus's house, and Nemesianus saw
the men marching in small companies into the great hall.  They were
followed by their armor-bearers, loaded with treasure of every kind; and
three chariots, drawn by fine horses, belonging to Seleukus and his
murdered wife, conveyed such booty as was too heavy for men to carry.  In
the last of these stood the statue of Eros by Praxiteles.  The glorious
sunshine lighted up the smiling marble face; with the charm of bewitching
beauty he seemed to gaze at the lurid crimson pools on the ground, and at
the armed cohorts which marched in front to shed more blood and rouse
more hatred.

As Nemesianus withdrew from the window, Argutis came into the room.  The
legate had released him; and when Johanna conducted the faithful fellow
to Alexander's bedside, and he saw the youth lying pale and with closed
eyes, as though death had claimed him for his prey, the old man dropped
on his knees, sobbing loudly.



CHAPTER XXXII.

While Alexander, well nursed by old Argutis and Johanna, lay in high
fever, raving in his delirium of Agatha and his brother Philip, and still
oftener calling for his sister, Melissa was alone in her hiding-place.
It was spacious enough, indeed, for she was concealed in the rooms
prepared to receive the Exoterics before the mysteries of Serapis.  A
whole suite of apartments, sleeping-rooms and halls, were devoted to
their use, extending all across the building from east to west.  Some of
these were square, others round or polygonal, but most of them much
longer than they were wide.  Painters and sculptors had everywhere
covered the walls with pictures in color and in high relief, calculated
to terrify or bewilder the uninitiated.  The statues, of which there were
many, bore strange symbols, the mosaic flooring was covered with images
intended to excite the fancy and the fears of the beholder.

When Melissa first entered her little sleeping room, darkness had
concealed all this from her gaze.  She had been only too glad to obey the
matron's bidding and go to rest at once.  Euryale had remained with her
some time, sitting on the edge of the bed to hear all that had happened
to the girl during the last few hours, and she had impressed on her how
she should conduct herself in case of her hiding-place being searched.

When she presently bade her good-night, Melissa repeated what the
waiting-woman Johanna had told her of the life of Jesus Christ; but she
expressed her interest in the person of the Redeemer in such a strange
and heathen fashion that Euryale only regretted that she could not at
once enlighten the exhausted girl.  With a hearty kiss she left her to
rest, and Melissa was no sooner alone than sleep closed her weary young
eyes.

It was near morning when she fell asleep; and when she awoke, accustomed
as she was to early hours, she was startled to see how much of the day
was spent.  So she rose hastily, and then perceived that the lady Euryale
must already have come to see her, for she found fresh milk by the
bedside, and some rolls of manuscript which had not been there the day
before.  Her first thought was for her imperiled relatives--her father,
her brothers, her lover--and she prayed for each, appealing first to the
manes of her mother, and then to mighty Serapis and kindly Isis, who
would surely hear her in these precincts dedicate to them.

The danger of those she loved made her forget her own, and she vividly
pictured to herself what might be happening to each, what each one might
be doing to protect her and save her from the spies of the despot, who by
this time must have received her missive.  Still, the doubt whether he
might not, after all, be magnanimous and forgive her, rose again and
again to her mind, though everything led her to think it impossible.

During her prayer and in her care for the others she had felt reasonably
calm; but at the first thought of Caesar a painful agitation took
possession of her soul, and to overcome it she began an inspection of her
spacious hiding-place, where the lady Euryale had prepared her to be
amazed.  And, indeed, it was not merely strange, but it filled her heart
and mind with astonishment and terror.  Wherever she looked, mystic
figures puzzled her; and Melissa turned from a picture in relief of
beheaded figures with their feet in the air, and a representation of the
damned stewing in great caldrons and fanning themselves with diabolical
irony, only to see a painting of a female form over whose writhing body
boats were sailing, or a four-headed ram, or birds with human heads
flying away with a mummified corpse.  On the ceiling, too, there was
strange imagery; and when she looked at the floor to rest her bewildered
fancy, her eyes fell on a troop of furies pursuing the wicked, or a pool
of fire by which horrible monsters kept guard.

And all these pictures were not stiff and formal like Egyptian decorative
art, but executed by Greek artists with such liveliness and truth that
they seemed about to speak; and Melissa could have fancied many times
that they were moving toward her from the ceiling or the walls.

If she remained here long, she thought she must go out of her mind; and
yet she was attracted, here by a huge furnace on whose metal floor large
masses of fuel seemed to be, and there by a pool of water with
crocodiles, frogs, tortoises, and shells, wrought in mosaic.

Besides these and other similar objects, her curiosity was aroused by
some large chests in which book-rolls, strange vessels, and an endless
variety of raiment of every shape and size were stored, from the simple
chiton of the common laborer to the star-embroidered talar of the adept.

Her protectress had told her that the mystics who desired to be admitted
to the highest grades here passed through fire and water, and had to go
through many ceremonies in various costumes.  She had also informed her
that the uninitiated who desired to enter these rooms had to open three
doors, each of which, as it was closed, gave rise to a violent ringing;
so that she might not venture to get away from the room, into which,
however, she could bar herself.  If the danger were pressing, there was a
door, known only to the initiated, which led to the steps and out of the
building.  Her sleeping-place, happily, was not far from a window looking
to the west, so that she was able to refresh her brain after the
bewildering impressions which had crowded on her in the inner rooms.

The paved roadway dividing the Serapeum from the stadium was at first
fairly crowded; but the chariots, horsemen, and foot-passengers on whose
heads she looked down from her high window interested her as little as
the wide inclosure of the stadium, part of which lay within sight.

A race, no doubt, was to be held there this morning, for slaves were
raking the sand smooth, and hanging flowers about a dais, which was no
doubt intended for Caesar.  Was it to be her fate to see the dreadful man
from the place where she was hiding from him?  Her heart began to beat
faster, and at the same time questions crowded on her excited brain, each
bringing with it fresh anxiety for those she loved, of whom, till now,
she had been thinking with calm reassurance.

Whither had Alexander fled?

Had her father and Philip succeeded in concealing themselves in the
sculptor's work-room?

Could Diodoros have escaped in time to reach the harbor with Polybius and
Praxilla?

How had Argutis contrived that her letter should reach Caesar's hands
without too greatly imperiling himself?

She was quite unconscious of any guilt toward Caracalla.  There had been,
indeed, a strong and strange attraction which had drawn her to him; even
now she was glad to have been of service to him, and to have helped him
to endure the sufferings laid upon him by a cruel fate.  But she could
never be his.  Her heart belonged to another, and this she had confessed
in a letter--perhaps, indeed, too late.  If he had a heart really capable
of love, and had set it on her, he would no doubt think it hard that he
should have bestowed his affections on a girl who was already plighted to
another, even when she first appeared before him as a suppliant, though
deeply moved by pity; still, he had certainly no right to condemn her
conduct.  And this was her firm conviction.

If her refusal roused his ire--if her father's prophecy and
Philostratus's fears must be verified, that his rage would involve many
others besides herself in ruin, then--But here her thought broke off with
a shudder.

Then she recalled the hour when she had been ready and willing to be his,
to sacrifice love and happiness only to soften his wild mood and protect
others from his unbridled rage.  Yes, she might have been his wife by
this time, if he himself had not proved to her that she could never gain
such power over him as would control his sudden fits of fury, or obtain
mercy for any victim of his cruelty.  The murder of Vindex and his nephew
had been the death-blow of this hope.  She best knew how seriously she
had come to the determination to give up every selfish claim to future
happiness in order that she might avert from others the horrors which
threatened them; and now, when she knew the history of the Divine Lord of
the Christians, she told herself that she had acted at that moment in a
manner well-pleasing to that sublime Teacher.  Still, her strong common
sense assured her that to sacrifice the dearest and fondest wish of her
heart in vain would not have been right and good, but foolish.

The evil deeds which Caracalla was now preparing to commit he would have
done even if she were at his side.  Of what small worth would she have
seemed to him, and to herself!--When this tyranny should be overpast,
when he should be gone to some other part of his immense empire, if those
she loved were spared she could be happy--ah! so happy with the man to
whom she had given her heart--as happy as she would have been miserable
if she had become the victim to unceasing terrors as Caesar's wife.

Euryale was right, and Fate, to which she had appealed, had decided well
for her.  That, the greatest conceivable sacrifice, would have been in
vain; for the sake of a ruthless tyrant's foul desire she would have been
guilty of the basest breach of faith, have poisoned her lover's heart and
soul, and have wrecked his whole future life as well as her own.  Away,
then, with foolish doubts!  Pythagoras was wise in warning her against
torturing her heart.  The die was cast.  She and Caracalla must go on
divergent roads,  Her duty now was to fight for her own happiness against
any who threatened it, and, above all, against the tyrant who had
compelled her, innocent as she was, to hide like a criminal.

She was full of righteous wrath against the sanguinary persecutor, and
holding her head high she went back into her sleeping-room to finish
dressing.  She moved more quickly than usual, for the bookrolls which
Euryale had laid by her bed while she was still asleep attracted her eye
with a suggestion of promise.  Eager to know what their contents were,
she took them up, drew a stool to the window, and tried to read.

But many voices came up to her from outside, and when she looked down
into the road she saw troops of youths crowding into the stadium.  What
fine fellows they were, as they marched on, talking and singing; and she
said to herself that Diodoros and Alexander were taller even than most of
these, and would have been handsome among the handsomest!  She amused
herself for some time with watching them; but when the last man had
entered the stadium, and they had formed in companies, she again took up
the rolls.

One contained the gospel of Matthew and the other that of Luke.

The first, beginning with the genealogy, gave her a string of strange,
barbarous names which did not attract her; so she took up the roll of
Luke, and his simple narrative style at once charmed her.  There were
difficulties in it, no doubt, and she skipped sundry unintelligible
passages, but the second chapter captivated her attention.  It spoke of
the birth of the great Teacher whom the Christians worshiped as their
God.  Angels had announced to the shepherds in the field that great joy
should come on the whole world, because the Saviour was born; and this
Saviour and Redeemer was no hero, no sage, but a child wrapped in
swaddling-clothes and lying in a manger.

At this she smiled, for she loved little children, and had long known no
greater pleasure than to play with them and help them.  How many
delightful hours did she owe to the grandchildren of their neighbor
Skopas!

And this child, hailed at its birth by a choir of angels, had become a
God in whom many believed! and the words of the angels' chant were:
"Glory to God on high, and on earth peace, good-will toward men!"

How great and good it sounded!  With eager excitement she fastened the
rolls together, and on her features was depicted impatient longing to put
an end to an intolerable state of things, as she exclaimed, though there
was no one but herself to hear: "Ay, peace, salvation, good-will!  Not
this hatred, this thirst for revenge, this blood, this persecution, and,
as their hideous fruit, this terror, these horrible, cruel fears--"

Here she was interrupted by the clatter of arms and rapping of hammers
which came up from below.  Caesar's Macedonian guard and other infantry
troops were silently coming up in companies and vanishing into the side-
doors which led to the upper tiers of the stadium.  What could this mean?
Meanwhile carpenters were busy fastening up the chief entrance with
wooden beams.  It looked like closing up sluice-gates to hinder the
invasion of a high tide.  But the stadium was already full of
men.  She had seen thousands of youths march in, and there they stood in
close ranks in the arena below her.  Besides these, there were now an
immense number of soldiers.  They must all get out again presently, and
what a crush there would be in the side exits if the vomitorium were
closed!  She longed to call down, to warn the carpenters of the folly of
their act.  Or was it that the youth of the town were to be pent into the
stadium to hear some new and more severe decree, while some of the more
refractory were secured?

It must be so.  What a shame!

Then came a few vexilla of Numidian troopers at a slow pace.  At their
head, on a particularly high horse, rode the legate, a very tall man.  He
glanced up to the side where she was, and Melissa recognized the Egyptian
Zminis.  At this her hand sought the place of her heart, for she felt as
though it had ceased to beat.  What!  This wretch, the deadly foe of her
father and brother, here, at the head of the Roman troops?  Something
horrible, impossible, must be about to happen!

The sun was mirrored in the shining coat of his horse, and in the
lictor's axe he bore, carrying it like a commander's staff.  He raised it
once, twice, and, high as she was above him, she could see how sharp the
contrast was between the yellow whites of his eyes and the swarthy color
of his face.

Now, for the third time, the bright steel of the axe flashed in the
sunshine, and immediately after trumpet-calls sounded and were repeated
at short intervals, which still, to her, seemed intolerably long.  How
Melissa had presence of mind enough to count them she knew not, but she
did.  At the seventh all was still, and soon after a short blast on the
tuba rang out from above, below, and from all sides of the stadium.  Each
went like an arrow to the heart of the anxious, breathless girl.  From
the moment when she had seen Zminis she had expected the worst, but the
cry of rage and despair from a thousand voices which now split her ear
told her how far the incredible reality outdid her most horrible
imaginings.

Breathless, and with a throbbing brain, she leaned out as far as she
could, and neither felt the burning sun-which was now beginning to fall
on the western face of the temple--nor heeded the risk of being seen and
involving herself and her protectress in ruin.  Trembling like a gazelle
in a frosty winter's night, she would gladly have withdrawn from the
window, but she felt as if some spell held her there.  She longed to shut
her ears and eyes, but she could not help looking on.  Her every instinct
prompted her to shriek for help, but she could not utter a sound.

There she stood, seeing and hearing, and her low moaning changed to that
laughter which anguish borrows from gladness when it has exhausted all
forms of expression.  At last she sank on her knees on the floor, and
while she shed tears of pain still laughed shrilly, till she understood
with sudden horror what was happening.  She started violently; a sob
convulsed her bosom; she wept and wept, and these tears did her good.

When, at one in the afternoon, the sun fell full on her window, she had
not yet found strength to move.  A flood of bright light, in which
whirled millions of motes, danced before her eyes; and as her breath sent
the atoms flying, it passed through her mind that at this very moment the
reprobate utterance of a madman's lips was blowing happiness, joy, peace,
and hope out of the lives of many thousands--blowing them into
nothingness, like the blast of a storm.

Then she commanded herself, for the horrible scene before her threatened
to stamp itself on her eye like the image her father could engrave on an
onyx; and she must avoid that, or give up all hope of ever being light-
hearted again.  Hardly an hour since she had seen the arena looking like
a basket of fresh flowers, full of splendid, youthful men.  Then the
warriors of the Macedonian phalanx had taken their places on the long
ranks of seats on which she looked down, with several cohorts of archers,
brown Numidians and black Ethiopians, like inquisitive spectators of the
expected show--but all in full armor.  At first the youths and men had
formed in companies, with singing, talk, and laughter, and here and there
a satirical chant; but presently there had been squabbles with the town-
watch, and while the younger and more careless still were gay enough,
whole companies on the other hand had looked up indignantly at the
Romans; some had anxiously questioned each other's eyes, or stared down
in sullen dismay at the sand.

The hot, seething blood of these men--the sons of a free city, and
accustomed to a life of rapid action in hard work and frenzied enjoyment
--took the delay very much amiss; and when it was rumored that the doors
were being locked, impatience and distrust found emphatic utterance.
Timid whistling and other expressions of disapproval had been followed by
louder demonstrations, for to be locked up was intolerable.  But the
lictors and guards took no notice, after removing the member of the
Museum who had perpetrated the epigram on Caesar's mother.  This one, who
had certainly gone too far, was to pay for all, it would seem.

Then the trumpets sounded, and the most heedless of the troop of youths
began to feel acute anxiety and alarm.  From her high post of observation
Melissa could see that, although the appearance of Zminis on the scene
had caused a fever of agitation, they now broke their serried squares,
wandered about as if undecided what to do, but prepared for the worst,
and turned their curly heads now to this side and now to that, till the
trumpetblast from the seats attracted every eye upward, and the butchery
began.

Did the cry, "Stop, wretches!" really break from Melissa's lips, or had
she only intended to shout it down to the people in the stadium?  She did
not know; but as she recollected the long rank of Numidians who, quick as
lightning, lifted their curved bows and sent a shower of arrows down on
the defenseless lads in the arena, she felt as though she had again
shrieked out: "Stop!"  Then it seemed as though a storm of wind had torn
thousands of straight boughs with metallic leaves that flashed in the
sunshine from some huge invisible tree, and flung them into the arena;
and, as her eve followed their fall, she could have fancied that she
looked on a corn-field beaten down by a terrific hail-storm; but the
boughs and leaves were lances and arrows, and each ear of corn cut down
was a young and promising human being.

Zminis's preposterous suggestion had been acted on.  Caracalla was
avenged on the youth of Alexandria.

Not a tongue could wag now in abuse; every pair of young lips which had
dared utter a scornful cry or purse up to whistle at the sight of Caesar,
was silenced forever-and, with the few guilty, a hundred times more who
were innocent.  She knew now why the great gate had been barred with
beams, and why the troop had entered by the side-doors.  The scene of the
brilliant display had become a lake of blood, full of the dead and dying.
Death had invaded the rows of seats; instead of laurel wreaths and
prizes, deadly weapons were showered down into the arena.  It seemed now
as though the sun, with its blinding radiance, were mercifully fain to
hinder the human eye from looking down on the horrible picture.  To avoid
the sickening sight.  Melissa closed her eyes and dragged herself to her
feet with an effort, to hide herself she knew not where.

But again there was a flourish of trumpets and loud acclamations, and
again an irresistible power dragged her to the window.

A splendid quadriga had stopped at the gate of the stadium, surrounded by
courtiers and guards.  It was Caracalla's, for Pandion held the reins.
Could Caracalla approve of this most horrible crime, organized by the
wretch Zminis, by appearing on the scene; or might it not be that, in his
wrath at the bloodthirsty zeal of his vile tool, he had come to dismiss
him?

She  hoped  it was this; and, at  any cost, she must know the truth as to
this question, which was not based on mere curiosity.  Holding one hand
to her wildly beating heart, she looked across the bloodstained arena to
the rows of seats and the dais decorated for Caesar.  There stood
Caracalla, with the Egyptian at his side, pointing down at the arena with
his finger.  And what was to be seen on the spot he indicated was so
horrible that she again shut her eyes, and this time she even covered
them with her hands.  But she would and must see, and once more she
looked across; and the man whose assurances she had once believed, that
it was only his care for the throne and state and the compulsion of cruel
fate which had ever made him shed blood--that man was standing side by
side with the vile, ruthless spy whose tall figure towered far above his
master's.  His hand lay on the villain's arm, his eye rested on the
corpse-strewn arena beneath; and now he raised his head, he turned his
face, whose look of suffering had once moved her soul, toward her--and he
laughed--she could see every feature--laughed so loud, so heartily, so
gleefully, as she had never before seen him laugh.  He laughed till his
whole body and shoulders shook.  Now he took his hand from the Egyptian's
arm and pointed to the dead lying at his feet.

As she saw that laugh, of which she could not hear a sound, Melissa felt
as though a hyena had yelled in her ear, and, yielding to an irresistible
impulse, she looked down once more at the destruction of youthful life
and happiness which had been wrought in one short hour--at the stream of
blood after which so many bitter tears must flow.  The sight indeed cut
her to the heart, and yet she was thankful for it; for the first time the
reckless cruelty of that laughing monster was evident in all its naked
atrocity.  Horror, aversion, loathing for that man to whom everything but
power, cruelty, and cunning, was as nothing, left no room for fear or
pity, or even the least shade of self-reproach for having aroused in him
a desire which she could not gratify.

She clenched her little fists, and, without vouchsafing another glance at
the detestable butcher who had dared to cast his eyes on her, she
withdrew from the window and cried out aloud, though startled at the
sound of her own voice: "The time, the time!  It is fulfilled for him
this day!"

And how her eyes flashed and her bosom heaved and fell!  With what a firm
step did she pace the long suite of rooms, while the conviction was borne
in on her that this deed of the vile assassin in the purple must bring
the day of salvation and peace nearer--that day of which Andreas dreamed!
As in her silent walk she passed the book-rolls which the lady Euryale
had so quietly laid by her bedside, she took up the glad message of Luke
with enthusiastic excitement, held it on high, and shouted the angels'
greeting which had impressed itself on her memory out of the window, as
though she longed that Caracalla should hear it--"Peace on earth and
good-will toward men!"

Then she resumed her walk through the rooms of the heathen mystics,
repeating to herself all the comfortable words she had ever heard from
Euryale and the freedman Andreas.  The image of the divine Lord, who had
come to bestow love on the world, and seal his sublime doctrine by
sacrificing his life, rose up before her soul, and all that the Christian
Johanna had told her of him made the picture clear, till he stood plainly
before her, beautiful and gentle, in a halo of love and kindness, and yet
strong and noble, for the crucified One was a heroic Saviour.

At this she remembered with satisfaction the struggle she herself had
fought, and her comfort when she had decided to sacrifice her own
happiness to save others from sorrow.  She now resolutely grasped the
lady Euryale's book-rolls, for they contained the key to the inner
chambers of the wondrous structure into whose forecourt life itself and
her own intimate experience had led her.  She was soon sitting with her
back to the window, and unrolled the gospel of Matthew till she came to
the first sentence which Euryale had marked for her with a red line.

Melissa was too restless to read straight on; as impatient as a child who
finds itself for the first time in a garden which its parents have
bought, she rushed from one tempting passage to another, applying each to
herself, to those whom she loved, or in another sense to the disturber of
her peace.

With a joyful heart she now believed the promise which at first had
staggered her, that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand.

But her eye ran swiftly over the open roll, and was attracted by a mark
drawing her attention to a whole chapter.  She there read how Jesus
Christ had gone up on to a mountain to address the vast multitude who
followed him.  He spoke of the kingdom of heaven, and of who those were
that should be suffered to enter there.  First, they were the poor in
spirit--and she no doubt was one of those.  Among those who were rich in
spirit her brother Philip was certainly one of the richest, and whither
had an acute understanding and restless brain led him that they so seldom
gave his feelings time to make themselves heard?

Then the mourners were to be comforted.  Oh, that she could have called
the lady Berenike to her side and bid her participate in this promise!
And the meek--well, they might come to power perhaps after the downfall
of the wretch who had flooded the world with blood, and who, of all men
on earth, was the farthest removed from the spirit which gazed at her
from this scripture, so mild and genial.  Of those who hungered and
thirsted after righteousness she again was one: they should be filled,
and the lady Euryale and Andreas had already loaded the board for her.

The merciful, she read, should obtain mercy; and she, if any one, had a
right to regard herself as a peacemaker: thus to her was the promise that
she should be called one of the children of God.

But at the next verse she drew herself up, and her face was radiant with
joy, for it seemed to have been written expressly for her; nay, to find
it here struck her as a marvel of good fortune, for there stood the
words: "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake:
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are ye when men shall
revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against
you."

All these things had come upon her in these last days-though not, indeed,
for the sake of Jesus Christ and righteousness, but only for the sake of
those she loved; yet she would have been ready to endure the worst.

And the hapless victims in the arena!  Might not the promised bliss await
them too?  Oh, how gladly would she have bestowed on them the fairest
reward!  And if this should indeed be their lot after death, where was
the revenge of their bloodthirsty murderer?

Oh, that her mother were still alive--that she, Melissa, had been
permitted to share this great consolation with her!  In a brief
aspiration she uplifted her soul to the beloved dead, and as she further
unrolled the manuscript her eye fell on the words: "Love your enemies;
bless them that curse you, and do good to them that hate you."  No, she
could not do this; this seemed to her to be too much to ask; even Andreas
had not attained to this; and yet it must be good and lovely, if only
because it helped to cement the peace for which she longed more fervently
than for any other blessing.

Next she read: "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged," and
she shuddered as she thought of the future fate of the man who had by
treachery brought murder and death on an industrious and flourishing city
as a punishment for the light words and jests of a few mockers, and the
disappointment he had suffered from an insignificant girl.

But then, again, she breathed more freely, for she read: "Ask, and it
shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be
opened."  Could there be a more precious promise?  And to her, she felt,
it was already fulfilled; for her trembling finger had, as it were, but
just touched the door, and, to! it stood open before her, and that which
she had so long sought she had now found.  But it was quite natural that
it should be so, for the God of the Christians loved those who turned to
him as His own children.  Here it was written why those who asked should
receive, and those who sought should find: "For what man is there of you
whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?"

If it were only as a peacemaker, she was already a child of Him who had
asked this, and she might look for none but good gifts from Him.  And
what was commanded immediately after seemed to her so simple, so easy to
obey, and yet so wise.  She thought it over a little, and saw that in
this precept--of which it was said that it was all the law and the
prophets--there was in fact a rule which, if it were obeyed, must keep
all mankind guiltless, and make every one happy.  These words, she
thought, should be written over every door and on every heart, as the
winged sun was placed over every Egyptian temple gate, so that no one
should ever forget them for an instant.  She herself would bear them in
mind, and she repeated them to herself in an undertone, "Whatsoever ye
would that men should do unto you, even so do unto them."  Her eye
wandered to the window and out to the stadium.  How happy might the world
be under a sovereign who should obey that law!  And Caracalla?--No, she
would not allow the contentment which filled her to be troubled by a
thought of him.

With a hasty gesture she placed the ivory rod which she had found in the
middle of the roll so as to flatten it out, and her eye fell on the
words, "Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy-laden, and I will
give you rest."  To her, if to any one, was this glorious bidding
addressed, for few had a heavier burden to bear.  But indeed she already
felt it lighter, after the terrors she had gone through on the very verge
of despair; and now, even though she was still surrounded by dangers, she
was far from feeling oppressed or terrified.  Now her heart beat higher
with hopeful gladness, and she was full of fervent gratitude as she told
herself with lively and confident assurance that she had found a new
guide, and, holding His loving and powerful hand, could walk in the way
in safety.  She felt as though some beloved hand had given her a vial of
precious medicine that would cure every disease, when she had learned
this verse, too, by heart.  She would never forget the friendly promise
and invitation that lay in those words.  And to Alexander, at least--
poor, conscience-stricken Alexander--they might bring some comfort,
if not to her father and Philip, since the call of the Son of God was
addressed to him too.  And she looked as happy as though she had heard
something to rejoice her heart and soul.  Her red lips parted once more,
showing the two white teeth which were never to be seen but when she
smiled and some real happiness stirred her soul.

She fancied she was alone, but, even while she was reading the words in
which the Saviour called to him the weary and heavy-laden, the lady
Euryale had noiselessly opened a secret door leading to Melissa's hiding-
place, known only to herself and her husband, and had come close to her.
She now stood watching the girl with surprise and astonishment, for she
had expected to find her beside herself, desperate, and more than ever
needing comfort and soothing.  The unhappy girl must have been drawn to
the window by the cries of the massacred, and at least have glanced at
the revolting scene in the stadium.  She would have thought it more
natural if she had found Melissa overcome by the horrors she had
witnessed, half distraught or paralyzed by distress and rage.  And there
sat the young creature, whom she knew to be soft-hearted and gentle,
smiling and with beaming eyes--though those eyes must have rested on the
most hideous spectacle--looking as though the roll in her lap were the
first enchanting raptures of a lover.  The book lying on Melissa's knees
was the gospel of Matthew, which she herself early this morning, while
the girl was still sleeping, had laid by her side to comfort her and give
her some insight into the blessings of Christianity.  But these
scriptures, so sacred to Euryale, had seemed to count for less than
nothing to this heathen girl, the sister of Philip the skeptic.

Euryale loved Melissa, but far dearer to her was the book to whose all-
important contents the maiden seemed to have closed her heart in
coldness.

It was for Melissa's sake that, when the high-priest's dwelling was
searched by the new magistrate's spies from cellar to garret, she had
patiently submitted to her husband's hard words.  She had liked to think
that she might bring this girl as a pure white lamb into the fold of the
Good Shepherd, who to herself was so dear, and through whom her saddened
life had found new charm, her broken heart new joys.  A few hours since
she had assured her friend Origen that she had found a young Greek who
would prove to him that a heathen who had gone through the school of
suffering with a pure and compassionate heart needed but a sign, a word
of flame, to recognize at once the beatitude of Christianity and long to
be baptized.  And here she discovered the maiden of whom she had such
fair hopes, with a smile on her lips and beaming looks, while so many
innocent men were being slaughtered, as though this were a joy to her!

What had become of the girl's soft, tender heart, which but yesterday had
been ready for self-sacrifice if only she might secure the well-being of
those she loved?  Was she, Euryale, in her dotage, that she could be so
deceived by a child?

Her heart beat faster with disappointment; and yet she would not condemn
the sinner unheard.  So, with a swift impulse she took the roll up from
Melissa's lap, and her voice was sorrowful rather than severe as she
exclaimed:

"I had hoped, my child, that these scriptures might prove to you, as to
so many before you, a key to open the gates of eternal truth.  I thought
that they would comfort you, and teach you to love the sublime Being
whose exemplary life and pathetic death are no longer unknown to you,
since Johanna told you the tale.  Nay, I believed that they might
presently arouse in you the desire to join us who--"

But here she stopped, for Melissa had fallen on her neck, and while
Euryale, much amazed, tried to release herself from her embrace, the girl
cried out, half laughing and half in tears:

"It has all come about as you expected!  I will live and die faithful to
that sublime Saviour, whom I love.  I am one of you--yes, mother, now--
even before the baptism I long for.  For I was weary and heavy-laden
above any, and the word of the Lord hath refreshed me.  This book has
taught me that there is but one path to true happiness, and it is that
which is shown us by Jesus Christ.  O lady, how much fairer would our
life on earth be if what is written here concerning blessedness were
stamped on every heart!  I feel as though in this hour I had been born
again.  I do not know myself; and how is it possible that a poor child of
man, in such fearful straits and peril as I, and after such a scene of
horror, should feel so thankful and so full of the purest gladness?"

The matron clasped her closely in her arms, and her tears bedewed the
girl's face while she kissed her again and again; and the cheerfulness
which had just now hurt her so deeply she now regarded as a beautiful
miracle.

Her time was limited, for she was watched; and she had seized the half-
hour during which the townguard had been mustered in the square to report
progress.  So Melissa had to be brief, and in a few hasty words she told
her friend all that she had seen and heard from her high window, and how
the gospel of Matthew had been to her glad tidings; how it had given her
comfort and filled her soul with infinite happiness in this the most
terrible hour of her life.  At this, Euryale also forgot the horrors
which surrounded them, till Melissa called her back to the dreadful
present; for, with bowed head and in deep anxiety, she desired to know
whether her friend knew anything of her relations and Diodoros.

The matron had a painful struggle with herself.  It grieved her to
inflict anxiety on Melissa's heart, as she stood before her eyes like one
of the maidens robed in white and going to be baptized, to whom presents
were given on the festive occasion, and who were carefully sheltered from
all that could disturb them and destroy the silent, holy joy of their
souls.  And yet the question must be answered: so she said that of the
other two she knew nothing, any more than of Berenike and Diodoros,
but that of Philip she had bad news.  He was a noble man, and,
notwithstanding his errors in the search after truth, well worthy of
pity.  At this, Melissa in great alarm begged to be told what had
happened to her brother, and the lady Euryale confessed that he no longer
walked among the living, but she did not relate the manner of his death;
and she bade the weeping girl to seek for comfort from the Friend of all
who grieve and whom she now knew; but to keep herself prepared for the
worst, in full assurance that none are tried beyond what they are able to
bear, for that the fury of the bloodthirsty tyrant hung like a black
cloud over Alexandria and its inhabitants.  She herself, merely by coming
to Melissa, exposed herself to great danger, and she could not see her
again till the morrow.  To Melissa's inquiry as to whether it was her
refusal to be his which had brought such a fearful fate on the innocent
youth of Alexandria, Euryale could reply in the negative; for she had
heard from her husband that it was a foul epigram written by a pupil of
the Museum which had led to Caesar's outbreak of rage.

With a few soothing words she pointed to a basket of food which she had
brought with her, showed the girl once more the secret door, and embraced
her at parting as fondly as though Heaven had restored to her in Melissa
the daughter she had lost.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

Melissa was once more alone.

She now knew that Philip walked no longer among the living.  He must have
fallen a victim to the fury of the monster, but the thought that he might
have been slain for her sake left her mind no peace.

She felt that with the death of this youth--so gifted, and so dear to
her--a corner-stone had been torn from the paternal house.

In the loving circle that surrounded her, death had made another gap
which yawned before her, dismal and void.

One storm more, and what was left standing would fall with the rest.

Her tears flowed fast, and the torturing thought that the emperor had
slain her brother as a punishment for his sister's flight pierced her to
the heart.

Now she belonged indeed to the afflicted and oppressed; and as yesterday,
in the trouble of her soul, she had called upon Jesus Christ, though she
scarcely knew of Him then, so now she lifted up her heart to Him who had
become her friend, praying to Him to remember His promise of comfort when
she came to Him weary and heavy-laden.

And while she tried to realize the nature of the Saviour who had laid
down His life for others, she remembered all she had dared for her father
and brothers, and what fate had been her's during the time since; and she
felt she might acknowledge to herself that even if Philip had met his
death because of Caracalla's anger toward her, at any rate she would
never have approached Caesar had she not wanted to save her father and
brothers.  She had never glossed over any wrong-doing of her own; but her
open and truthful nature was just as little inclined to the torment of
self-reproach when she was not absolutely certain of having committed a
fault.

In this case she was not quite sure of herself; but she now remembered a
saying of Euryale and Andreas which she had not understood before.  Jesus
Christ, it said, had taken upon Himself the sins of the world.  If she
understood its meaning aright, the merciful Lord would surely forgive her
a sin which she had committed unwittingly and in no wise for her own
advantage.  Her prayer grew more and more to be a discourse with her new-
found friend; and, as she finished, she felt absolutely sure that He at
least understood her and was not angry with her.  This reassured her, but
her cheerfulness had fled, and she could read no more.

Deeply troubled, and more and more distressed as time went on by new
disturbing thoughts, she hurriedly paced from side to side of the long,
narrow chamber in the gathering darkness.  The revolting images around
her began to affect her unbearably once more.  Near her chamber, to the
west, lay the race-course with its horrible scenes; so she turned to the
eastern end that looked out upon the street of Hermes, where the sight
could scarcely be so terrible as from the windows at the opposite end.
But she was mistaken; for, looking down upon the pavement, she perceived
that this, too, swam with blood, and that the ground was covered with
corpses.

Seized with a sudden horror, she flew back into the middle of the long
room.  There she remained standing, for the scene of slaughter in the
west was still more appalling than that from which she had just fled.
She could not help wondering who could here have fallen a victim to the
tyrant after he had swept all the youth of the city off the face of the
earth.

The evening sun cast long shafts of golden light across the race-course
and in at the western window, and Melissa knew how quickly the night fell
in Alexandria.  If she wished to find out who they were who had been
sacrificed to the fury of the tyrant, it must be done at once, for the
immense building of the temple already cast long shadows.  Determined to
force herself to look out, she walked quickly to the eastern window and
gazed below.  But it was some moments before she had the fortitude to
distinguish one form from another; they melted before her reluctant eyes
into one repulsive mass.

At last she succeeded in looking more calmly and critically.

Not heaped on one another as on the racecourse, hundreds of Caracalla's
victims lay scattered separately over the open square as far as the
entrance to the street of Hermes.  Here lay an old man with a thick
beard, probably a Syrian or a Jew; there, his dress betraying him, a
seaman; and farther on-no, she could not be mistaken--the youthful corpse
that lay so motionless just beneath the window was that of Myrtilos, a
friend of Philip, and, like him, a member of the Museum.

In a fresh fit of terror she was going to flee again into her dreadful
hiding-place, when she caught sight of a figure leaning against the basin
of the beautiful marble fountain just in front of the eastern side-door
of the Serapeum, and immediately below her.  The figure moved, and could
therefore only be wounded, not dead; and round the head was bound a white
cloth, reminding her of her beloved, and thereby attracting her
attention.  The youth moved again, turning his face upward, and with a
low cry she leaned farther forward and gazed and gazed, unmindful of the
danger of being seen and falling a victim to the tyrant's fury.  The
wounded, living man-there, he had moved again--was no other than
Diodoros, her lover!

Till the last glimmer of light disappeared she stood at the window with
bated breath, and eyes fixed upon him.  No faintest movement of his
escaped her, and at each one, trembling with awakening hope, she thanked
Heaven and prayed for his rescue.  At length the growing darkness hid him
from her sight.  With every instant the night deepened, and without
thinking, without stopping to reflect--driven on by one absorbing
thought--she felt her way back to her couch, beside which stood the lamp
and fire-stick, and lighted the wick; then, inspired with new courage at
the thought of rescuing her lover from death, she considered for a moment
what had best be done.

It was easy for her to get out.  She had a little money with her; on her
peplos she wore a clasp that had once belonged to her mother, with two
gems in it from her father's hand, and on her rounded arm a golden
circlet.  With these she could buy help.  The only thing now was to
disguise herself.

On the great, smoke-blackened metal plate over which those mystics passed
who had to walk through fire, there lay plenty of charcoal, and yonder
hung robes of every description.  The next moment she had thrown off her
own, in order to blacken her glistening white limbs and her face with
soot.  Among the sewing materials which the lady Euryale had laid beside
the scrolls was a pair of scissors.  These the girl seized, and with
quick, remorseless hand cut off the long, thick locks that were her
brother's and her lover's delight.  Then she chose out a chiton, which,
reaching only to her knees, gave her the appearance of a boy.  Her breath
came fast and her hands trembled, but she was already on her way to the
secret door through which she should flee from this place of horror, when
she came to a standstill, shaking her head gently.  She had looked around
her, and the wild disorder she was leaving behind her in the little room
went against her womanly feelings.  But though this feeling would not in
itself have kept her back, it warned her to steady her mind before
leaving the refuge her friend had accorded to her.  Thoughtful, and
accustomed to have regard for others, she realized at once how dangerous
it might prove to Euryale if these unmistakable traces of her presence
there should be discovered by an enemy.  The kindness of her motherly
friend should not bring misfortune upon her.  With active presence of
mind she gathered up her garments from the floor, swept the long locks of
hair together, and threw them all, with the sewing and the basket that
had contained the food, into the stove on the hearth, and set them
alight.  The scissors she took with her as a weapon in case of need.

Then, laying the books of the gospels beside the other manuscripts, and
casting a last look round to assure herself that every sign of her
presence had been destroyed, she addressed one more prayer to the tender
Comforter of the afflicted, who has promised to save those that are in
danger.

She then opened the secret door.

With a beating heart, and yet far more conscious of the desire to save
her lover while there was yet time than of the danger into which she was
rushing headlong, she flitted down the hidden staircase as lightly as a
child at play.  So much time had been lost in clearing the room--and yet
she could not have left it so!

She had not forgotten where to press, so that the heavy stone which
closed the entrance should move aside; but as she sprang from the last
step her lamp had blown out, and blackest darkness concealed the surface
of the smooth granite wall which lay between her and the street.

What if, when she got outside, she should be seen by the lictors or
spies?

At this thought fear overcame her for the first time.  As she felt about
the door her hands trembled and beads of perspiration stood upon her
brow.  But she must go to her wounded lover!  When any one was bleeding
to death every moment might bring the terrible "too late."  It meant
Diodoros's death if she did not succeed in opening the granite slab.

She took her hands from the stone and forced herself, with the whole
strength of her will, to be calm.

Where had been the place by pressing which the granite might be moved?

It must have been high up on the right side.  She carefully followed with
her fingers the groove in which the stone lay, and having recalled its
shape by her sense of touch, she began her search anew.  Suddenly she
felt something beneath her finger-tips that was colder than the stone.
She had found the metal bolt!  With a deep breath, and without stopping
to think of what might be before her, she pressed the spring; the slab
turned-one step-and she was in the street between the racecourse and the
Serapeum.

All was still around her.  Not a sound was to be heard except from the
square to the north of the temple, where all who carried arms had
gathered together to enjoy the wine which flowed in streams as a mark of
the emperor's approbation, and from the inner circle of the race-course
voices were audible.  Of the citizens not one dared show himself in the
streets, although the butchery had ceased at sundown.  All who did not
carry the imperial arms had shut themselves up in their houses, and the
streets and squares were deserted since the soldiers had assembled in
front of the Serapeum.

No one noticed Melissa.  The dangers that threatened her from afar
troubled her but little.  She only knew that she must go on--go on as
fast as her feet would carry her, if she were to reach her loved one in
time.

Skirting the south side of the temple, in order to get to the fountain,
her chief thought was to keep in its shadow.  The moon had not yet risen,
and they had forgotten to light either the pitch-pans or the torches
which usually burned in front of the south facade of the temple.  They
had been too busy with other matters to-day, and now they needed all
hands in heaping the bodies together.  The men whose voices sounded
across to her from the race-course had already begun the work.  On--she
must hurry on!

But it was not so easy as last night.  Her light sandals were wet
through, and there was ever a fresh impediment in her way.  She knew what
it was that had wetted her foot--blood--noble, human blood--and every
obstacle against which she stumbled was a human body.  But she would not
let herself dwell upon it, and hurried on as though they were but water
and stones, ever seeing before her the image of the wounded youth who
leaned against the basin.

Thus she reached the east side of the temple.  Already she could hear the
splashing of the fountain, she saw the marble gleaming through the
darkness, and began seeking for the spot where she had seen her lover.
She suddenly stopped short; at the same time as herself, lights faint and
bright were coming along from the south, from the entrance of the street
that led to Rhakotis, and down to the water.  She was in the middle of
the street, without a possibility of concealing herself except in one of
the niches of the Serapeum.

Should she abandon him?  She must go on, and to seek protection in the
outer wall of the temple meant turning back.  So she stood still and held
her breath as she watched the advancing lights.  Now they stopped.  She
heard the rattle of arms and men's voices.  The lantern-bearers were
being detained by the watch.  They were the first soldiers she had seen,
the others being engaged in drinking, or in the work on the race-course.
Would the soldiers find her, too?  But, no!  They moved on, the torch-
bearers in front, toward the street of Hermes.

Who were those people who went wandering about among the slain, turning
first to this side and then to that, as if searching for something?

They could not be robbing the dead, or the watch would have seized them.

Now they came quite close to her, and she trembled with fright, for one
of them was a soldier.  The light of the lantern shone upon his armor.
He went before a man and two lads who were following a laden ass, and in
one of them Melissa recognized with beating heart a garden slave of
Polybius, who had often done her a service.

And now she took courage to look more closely at the man--and it was--
yes, even in the peasant's clothes he wore he could not deceive her quick
eyes--it was Andreas!

She felt that every breath that came from her young bosom must be a
prayer of thanksgiving; nor was it long before the freedman recognized
Melissa in the light-footed black boy who seemed to spring from the earth
in order to show them the way, and he, too, felt as if a miracle had been
wrought.

Like fair flowers that spring up round a scaffold over which the hungry
ravens croak and hover, so here, in the midst of death and horror, joy
and hope began to blossom in thankful hearts.  Diodoros lived!  No word-
only a fleeting pressure of the hand and a quick look passed between the
elderly man and the maiden--who looked like a boy scarcely passed his
school-days--to show what they felt as they knelt beside the wounded
youth and bound up the deep gash in his shoulder dealt by the sword that
had felled him.

A little while afterward, Andreas drew from the basket which the ass
carried, and from which he had already taken bandages and medicine, a
light litter of matting.  He then lifted Melissa on to the back of the
beast of burden, and they all moved onward.

The sights that surrounded them as long as they were near the Serapeum
forced her to close her eyes, especially when the ass had to walk round
some obstruction, or when it and its guide waded through slimy pools.
She could not forget that they were red, nor whence they came; and this
ride brought her moments in which she thought to expire of shuddering
horror and sorrow and wrath.

Not till they reached a quiet lane in Rhakotis, where they could advance
without let or hindrance, did she open her eyes.  But a strange, heavy
pain oppressed her that she had never felt before, and her head burned so
that she could scarcely see Andreas and the two slaves, who, strong in
the joy of knowing that their young lord was alive, carried Diodoros
steadily along in the litter.  The soldier--it was the centurion
Martialis, who had been banished to the Pontus--still accompanied them,
but Melissa's aching head pained her so much that she did not think of
asking who he was or why he was with them.

Once or twice she felt impelled to ask whither they were taking her, but
she had not the power to raise her voice.  When Andreas came to her side
and pointed to the centurion, saying that without him he would never have
succeeded in saving her beloved, she heard it only as a hollow murmur,
without any consciousness of its meaning.  Indeed, she wished rather that
the freedman would keep silent when he began explaining his opportune
arrival at the fountain, which must seem such a miracle to her.

The slave-brand on his arm had enabled him to penetrate into the house of
Seleukus, where he hoped to obtain news of her.  There Johanna had led
him to Alexander, and with the Aurelians he had found the centurion and
the slave Argutis.  Argutis had just returned from the lady Euryale, and
swore that he had seen the wounded Diodoros.  Andreas had then declared
his intention of bringing the son of his former master to a place of
safety, and the centurion had been prevailed upon by the young tribunes
to open a way for the freedman through the sentinels.  The gardeners of
Polybius, with their ass, had been detained in an inn on this side of
Lake Mareotis by the closing of the harbor, and Andreas had taken the
precaution of making use of them.  Had it not been for the centurion, who
was known to the other soldiers, the watch would never have allowed the
freedman to get so far as the fountain; Andreas therefore begged Melissa
to thank their preserver.  But his words fell upon her ear unnoticed, and
when the strange soldier left her to devote himself again to Diodoros she
breathed more freely, for his rapidly spoken words hurt her.

If he would only not come again--only not speak to her!

She had even ceased to look for her lover.  Her one desire was to see and
hear nothing.  When she did force herself to raise her heavy, throbbing
lids, she noticed that they were passing poor-looking houses which she
never remembered seeing before.  She fancied, however, from the damp wind
that blew in her face and relieved her burning head, that they must be
nearing the lake or the sea.  Surely that was a fishing-net hanging
yonder on the fence round a but on which the light of the lantern fell.
But perhaps it was something quite different, for the images that passed
before her heavy eyes began to mingle confusedly, to repeat themselves,
and be surrounded by a ring of rainbow colors.  Her head had grown so
heavy that her mind had lost all sense of hope or fear; only her thoughts
stirred faintly as the procession moved on and on through the darkness,
without a pause for rest.

When they had passed the last of the huts she managed to look upward.

The evening star stood out clear against the sky, and she seemed to see
the other stars revolving quickly round it.

Her mouth was painful and parched, and more than once she had been seized
with giddiness, which forced her to hold tightly to the saddle.

Now they stopped beside a large piece of water, and she felt strangely
well and light of heart.  That must be the dear, familiar lake.  And
there stood Agatha waving to her, and at her side the lady Euryale under
the spreading shade of a mighty palm.  Bright sunshine flooded them both,
and yet it was the night; for there was the evening star beaming down
upon her.

How could that be?

Yet, when she tried to understand it all, her head pained her so, and she
turned so giddy, that she clutched the neck of the ass to save herself
from falling.

When she raised herself again she saw a large boat, out of which several
people came to meet them, the foremost of them a tall man in a long,
white garment.  That was no dream, she was quite certain.  And yet-why
did the lantern which one of them held aloft burn her face so much and
not his?  Oh, how it burned!

Everything turned in a circle round her, and grew dark before her eyes.

But not for long; suddenly it became light as day, and she heard a deep
and friendly voice calling her by name.  She answered without fear, "Here
am I," and saw before her a stranger in a long, white robe, of lofty yet
gentle aspect, just as she had imagined the crucified Saviour of the
Christians, and in her ear sounded the loving message with which he bids
the weary and heavy-laden come to him that he may give them rest.

How gentle, how consoling, and how full of gracious promise were the
words, and how gladly would she do his bidding!  "Here am I!" she cried
again, and saw the arms of the white-robed man stretched out to receive
her.  She staggered toward him, and felt a firm and manly hand clasp
hers, and then rest in blessing on her throbbing brow.  All grew dark
again before her, and she saw and heard no more.

Andreas had lifted her from the ass and supported her, while the two
Christians thanked the soldier for his timely aid.

Having assured them that he had had no thought of helping them, but only
of obeying his superior officers, he disappeared into the night, and the
freedman lifted Melissa in his strong arms and carried her down to Zeno's
boat, which was waiting for them.

"Her mind wanders," said the freedman, with a loving look at the precious
burden in his arms.  "Her spirit is strong, but the shocks she has
sustained this day have been too much for her.  "Thou wilt give me rest,"
were her last words before losing consciousness.  Can she have been
thinking of the promise of the Saviour?"

"If not," answered the deep, musical voice of Zeno, "we will show her Him
who called the little children to Him, and the weary and heavy-laden.
She belongs to them, and she will see that the Lord fulfills what He so
lovingly promises."

"One of Christ's sayings, and repeated by Paul in his letter to the
Galatians, has taken great hold upon her," added Andreas, "and I think
that in these days of terror, for her, too, the fullness of time has
come."

As he spoke he stepped on to the plank which led to the boat from the
shore: Diodoros had already been placed on board.  When Andreas laid the
girl on the cushioned seat in the little cabin, he exclaimed, with a sigh
of relief, "Now we are safe!"



ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

He has the gift of being easily consoled





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Thorny Path — Volume 11" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home