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Title: Serapis — Volume 04
Author: Ebers, Georg
Language: English
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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 "Serapis — Volume 04" ***

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SERAPIS

By Georg Ebers

Volume 4.



CHAPTER XVI.

The day had flown swiftly for Dada under the roof of Medius; there were
costumes and scenery in wonderful variety for her to look over; the
children were bright and friendly, and she had enjoyed playing with them,
for all her little tricks and rhymes, which Papias was familiar with by
this time, were to them new and delightful.  It amused her, too, to see
what the domestic difficulties were of which the singer had described
himself as being a victim.

Medius was one of those men who buy everything that strikes them as
cheap--for instance, that very morning, at Kibotus he had stood to watch
a fish auction and had bought a whole tub-full of pickled fish for "a
mere trifle;" but when, presently, the cargo was delivered, his wife flew
into a great rage, which she vented first on the innocent lad who brought
the fish, and then on the less innocent purchaser.  They would not get to
the bottom of the barrel and eat the last herring, she asserted, till
they were a century old.  Medius, while he disputed so monstrous a
statement, vehemently declared that such wholesome and nutritious food as
those fish was undoubtedly calculated to prolong the lives of the whole
family to an exceptionally great age.

This discussion, which was not at all by way of a jest, amused Dada
far more than the tablets, cylinders and cones covered with numbers
and cabalistic signs, to which Medius tried to direct her attention.
She darted off in the midst of his eager explanations to show his
grandchildren how a rabbit sniffs and moves his ears when he is offered
a cabbage-leaf.

The report, which reached them in the afternoon, of the proceedings in
the square by the Prefect's house, disturbed Medius greatly, and he set
off at once for the scene of action.

He did not return till evening, and then he looked like an altered man.
He must have witnessed something very terrible, for his face was as pale
as death, and his usually confident and swaggering manner had given place
to a stricken and care-worn air.  He walked up and down the room,
groaning as he went; he flung himself on the divan and stared fixedly at
the ground; he wandered into the atrium and gazed cautiously out on the
street.  Dada's presence seemed suddenly to be the source of much anxiety
to him, and the girl, painfully conscious of this, hastened to tell him
that she would prefer to return home at once to her uncle and aunt.

"You can please yourself," was all he said, with a shrug and a sigh.
"You may stay for aught I care.  It is all the same now!"

So far his wife had left him to himself, for she was used to his violent
and eccentric behavior whenever anything had crossed him; but now she
peremptorily desired to be informed what had happened to him and he at
once acceded.  He had been unwilling to frighten them sooner than was
needful, but they must learn it sooner or later: Cynegius had arrived to
overthrow the image of Serapis, and what must ensue they knew only too
well.  "To-day," he cried, "we will live; but by to-morrow--a thousand to
one-by to-morrow there will be an end of all our joys and the earth will
swallow up the old home and us with it!"

His words fell on prepared ground; his wife and daughter were appalled,
and as Medius went on to paint the imminent catastrophe in more vivid
colors, his energy growing in proportion to its effect on them, they
began at first to sob and whimper and then to wail loudly.  When the
children, who by this time were in bed, heard the lamentations of their
elders, they, too, set up a howl, and even Dada caught the infection.
As for Medius himself, he had talked himself into such a state of terror
by his own descriptions of the approaching destruction of the world that
he abandoned all claim to his proud reputation as a strong-minded man,
and quite forgot his favorite theory that everything that went by the
name of God was a mere invention of priests and rulers to delude and
oppress the ignorant; at last he even went so far as to mutter a, prayer,
and when his wife begged to be allowed to join a family of neighbors in
sacrificing a black lamb at daybreak, he recklessly gave her a handful
of money.

None of the party closed an eye that night.  Dada could not bear to
remain in the house.  Perhaps all these horrors existed only in Medius'
fancy; but if destruction were indeed impending, she would a thousand
times rattier perish with her own relations than with these people, in
whom there was something--she did not know what--for which she felt a
deep aversion.  This she explained to her host early in the day and he
was ready to set out at once and restore her to the care of Karnis.

In fact, the purpose for which he had needed her must certainly come to
nothing.  He himself was attached to the service of Posidonius, a great
magician and wizard, to whom half Alexandria flocked--Christians, Jews,
and heathens--in order to communicate with the dead, with gods and with
demons, to obtain spells and charms by which to attract lovers or injure
foes, to learn the art of becoming invisible, or to gain a glimpse into
the future.  In the performance which was being planned Dada was to have
appeared to a bereaved mother as the glorified presence of her lost
daughter; but the disturbance in the city had driven the matron, who was
rich, to take refuge in the country the previous afternoon.  Nor was it
likely that the sorcerer's other clients--even if all turned out better
than could be hoped--would venture into the streets by night.  Rich
people were timid and suspicious; and as the Emperor had lately
promulgated fresh and more stringent edicts against the magic arts,
Posidonius had thought it prudent to postpone the meeting.  Hence Medius
had at present no use for the girl; but he affected to agree so readily
to her wishes merely out of anxiety to relieve Isarnis as soon as
possible of his uneasiness as to her fate.

The morning was bright and hot, and the town was swarming with an excited
mob soon after sunrise.  Terror, curiosity and defiance were painted on
every face; however, Medius and his young companion made their way
unhindered as far as the temple of Isis by the lake.  The doors of the
sanctuary were closed, and guarded by soldiers; but the southern and
western walls were surrounded by thousands and thousands of heathen.
Some hundreds, indeed, had passed the night there in prayer, or in sheer
terror of the catastrophe which could not fail to ensue, and they were
kneeling in groups, groaning, weeping, and cursing, or squatting in
stolid resignation, weary, crushed and hopeless.  It was a heart-rending
sight, and neither Dada--who till this moment had been dreading Dame
Herse's scolding tongue far more than the destruction of the world--nor
her companion could forbear joining in the wail that rose from this vast
multitude.  Medius fell on his knees groaning aloud and pulled the girl
down beside him; for, upon the wall that enclosed the temple precincts,
they now saw a priest who, after holding the sacred Sistrum up to view
and muttering some unintelligible prayers and invocations, proceeded to
address the people.

He was a short stout man, and the sweat streamed down his face as he
stood under the blazing sun to sketch a fearful picture of the monstrous
doom which was hanging over the city and its inhabitants.  He spoke with
pompous exaggeration, in a shrill, harsh voice, wiping his face meanwhile
with his white linen robe or gasping for air, when breath failed him,
like a fish stranded on the beach.  All this, however, did not trouble
his audience, for the hatred that inspired his language, and the terror
of the immediate future which betrayed itself in every word exactly
reflected their feelings.  Dada alone was moved to mirth; the longer she
looked at him the more she felt inclined to laugh; besides, the day was
so bright--a pigeon on the wall pattered round his mate, nodding and
wriggling after the funny manner of pigeons in love--and, above all, her
heart beat so high and she had such a happy instinctive feeling that all
was ordered for the best, that the world seemed to her a beautiful and
fairly secure dwelling-place, in spite of the dark forebodings of the
zealous preacher.  On the eve of destruction the earth must surely look
differently from this; and it struck her as highly improbable that the
gods should have revealed their purpose to such a queer old driveller as
this priest, and have hidden it from other men.  The very fact that this
burly personage should prophesy evil with such conviction made her doubt
it; and presently, when the plumes of three or four helmets became
visible behind the speaker, and a pair of strong hands grasped his thick
ancles and suddenly dragged him down from his eminence and back into the
temple, she could hardly keep herself from laughing outright.

Now, however, there was more real cause for alarm a trumpet-blast was
heard, and a maniple of the twenty-second legion marched down in close
order on the crowd who fled before them.  Medius was one of the first to
make off; Dada kept close to his side, and when, in his alarm, he fairly
took to his heels, she did the same; for, in spite of the reception she
apprehended, she felt that the sooner she could rejoin her own people the
better.  Never till now had she known how dear they were to her.  Herse
might scold; but her sharpest words were truer and better than the smooth
flattery of Medius.  It was a joy to think of seeing them again--Agne,
too, and little Papias--and she felt as though she were about to meet
them after years of separation.

By this time they were at the ship-yard, which was divided only by a lane
from the Temple-grove; there lay the barge.  Dada pulled off her veil and
waved it in the air, but the signal met with no response.  They were at
the house, no doubt, for some men were in the very act of drawing up the
wooden gangway which connected the vessel with the land.  Medius hurried
forward and was so fortunate as to overtake the steward, who had been
superintending the operation, before he reached the garden-gate.

The old man was rejoiced to see them, and told them at once that his old
mistress had promised Herse to give Dada shelter if she should return to
them.  But Dada was proud.  She had no liking for Gorgo or her
grandmother; and when she had caught up to Medius, quite out of breath,
she positively refused the old lady's hospitality.

The barge was deserted.  Karnis--so the steward informed her--had
withdrawn to the temple of Serapis with his son, intending to assist in
its defence; and Herse had accompanied them, for Olympius had said that
women would be found useful in the beleaguered sanctuary, in preparing
food for the combatants and in nursing the wounded.

Dada stood looking at their floating home, utterly disappointed and
discouraged.  She longed to follow her aunt and to gain admission to the
Serapeutn; but how could she do this now, and of what use could she hope
to be?  There was nothing heroic in her composition, and from her infancy
she had always sickened at the sight of blood.  She had no alternative
but to return with Medius, and take refuge under his roof.

The singer gave her ample time for reflection; he had seated himself,
with the steward, under the shade of a sycamore, and the two men were
absorbed in convincing each other, by a hundred arguments which they had
picked up during the last day or two, how inevitably the earth must be
annihilated if the statue of Serapis should be overthrown.  In the warmth
of their discussion they paid no heed to the young girl, who was sitting
on a fallen Hermes by the road-side.  Her vigorous and lively temperament
rendered her little apt to dream, or even meditate, in broad daylight;
but the heat and tie recent excitement had overwrought her and she felt
into a drowsy reverie.  Now and again, as her heavy head drooped on her
breast, she fancied the Serapeum had actually fallen; then, as she raised
it again, she recovered her consciousness that it was hot, that she had
lost her home, and that she must, however unwillingly, return with
Medius.  But at length her eyelids closed, and as she sat in the full
blaze of the sun, a rosy light filled her eyes and a bright vision
floated before her: Marcus took the modius--the corn measure--from the
head of the statue of Serapis and offered it to her; it was quite full of
lilies and roses and violets, and she was delighted with the flowers and
thanked him warmly when he set the modius down before her.  He held out
his hands to her calmly and kindly, and she gave him hers, feeling very
happy under the steady, compassionate gaze of his large eyes which had
often watched her, on board ship, for some minutes at a time.  She longed
to say something to him, but she could not speak; and she looked on quite
unmoved as the statue of the god and the hall in which it stood were
wrapt in flames.  No smoke mingled with this clear and genial blaze, but
it compelled her to shade her dazzled eyes; and as she lifted her hand
she woke to see Medius standing in front of her.

He desired her to come home with him at once, and she rose to obey,
listening in silence to his assurances that the lives of Karnis and
Orpheus would not be worth a sesterce if they fell into the hands of the
Roman soldiers.

She walked on, more hopeless and depressed than she had ever felt in her
life before, past the unfinished hulks in the ship-yard where no one was
at work to-day when, coming down the lane that divided the wharf from the
temple precincts, she saw an old man and a little boy.  She had not time
to ask herself whether she saw rightly or was mistaken before the child
caught sight of her, snatched his hand away from that of his companion,
and flew towards her, shouting her name.  In the next moment little
Papias had rushed rapturously into her arms and, as she lifted him up,
had thrown his hands round her neck, clinging to her as if he would never
leave go again, while she hugged him closely for joy, and kissed him with
her eyes full of tears.  She was herself again at once; the sad and
anxious girl was the lively Dada once more.

The man who had been leading the little boy was immediately besieged with
questions, and from his answers they learnt that he had found the child
the evening before at the corner of a street, crying bitterly; that he
had taken him home, and with some little difficulty had ascertained from
him that he belonged to some people who were living on board a barge,
close to a ship-yard.  In spite of the excitement that prevailed he had
brought the child home as soon as possible, for he could fancy how
anxious his parents must be.  Dada thanked the kind-hearted artisan with
sincere warmth, and the man, seeing how happy the girl and the child were
at having met, went his way quite satisfied.

Medius had stood by and had said nothing, but he looked on the pretty
little boy with much favor.  If the earth were not to crumble into
nothingness after all, this child would be a real treasure trove; and
when Dada begged him to find a corner for Papias in his house, though he
hinted at the smallness of his earnings and the limited space at his
command, he yielded, if reluctantly, to her entreaties, on her offering
him her gold brooch to cover his expenses.

As they made their way back she cast many loving glances at the child;
she was extremely fond of him, and he seemed a link to bind her to her
own people.



CHAPTER XVII.

The singer's wife and daughter had joined some neighbors in sacrificing
a black lamb to Zeus, a ceremony that was usual on the occasion of
earthquakes or very severe storms; but it was done very secretly, for the
edicts prohibiting the sacrifice of victims to the gods were promptly and
rigidly enforced.  The more the different members of the family came into
contact with other citizens, the more deeply rooted was their terror that
the end of all things was at hand.  As soon as it was dark the old man
buried all his savings, for even if everyone else were to perish, he felt
that he--though how or why he knew not--might be exempt from the common
doom.

The night was warm, and great and small alike slept--or lay awake--under
the stars so as not to be overwhelmed by the crash of roofs and walls;
the next day was oppressively hot, and the family cowered in a row in the
scanty shade of a palm and of a fig-tree, the only growth of any size in
the singer's garden.  Medius himself, in spite of the scorching sun,
could not be still.

He rushed off to the town again and again, but only to return each time
to enhance the anguish of the household by relating all sorts of horrors
which he had picked up in his wanderings.  They were obliged to satisfy
their hunger with bread, cheese, and fruit, for the two slave-women
positively refused to risk their lives by cooking in the house.

Medius' temper varied as he came and went; now he was gentle and
affectionate, and then again he raged like a madman; and his wife outdid
him.  At one moment she would abandon him and the children, while she
anointed the household altar and put up prayers; at the next she railed
at the baseness and cruelty of the gods.  When her husband brought the
news that the Serapeum was surrounded by the Imperial troops, she scoffed
and spit at the sacred images, and five minutes later she was vowing a
sacrifice to the deities of Olympus.  The general confusion was
distracting; as the sun rose, the anguish, physical and mental, of the
whole family greatly increased, and by noon had reached an appalling
pitch.

Dada looked on intensely disgusted, and only shook her head when one or
another of her companions was sure she felt a shock of earthquake or
heard the roll of distant thunder.  She could not explain to herself why
she, who was usually timid enough, was exempt from the universal panic
though she felt deeply pitiful towards the terrified women and children.
None of them troubled themselves about her; the day dragged on with
intolerable slowness, quenching all her gay vivacity, while she was
utterly exhausted by the scorching African sun, of which, till now, she
had never known the power.  At last, in the afternoon, she found the
little garden, which was by this time heated like an oven, quite
unbearable, and she looked round for Papias.  The child was sitting on
the wall looking at the congregation streaming into the basilica of St.
Mark.  Dada followed his example, and when the many-voiced psalms rang
out of the open door of the church, she listened to the music, for it
seemed long since she had heard any, and after wiping the perspiration
from the little boy's face with her peplos, she pointed to the building
and said: "It must be nice and cool in there."

"Of course it is," said Papias.

"It is never too hot in church.  I will tell you what--we will go there."
This was a bright idea; for, thought Dada, any place must be pleasanter
than this; and she felt strongly tempted, too, to see the inside of one
of Agne's temples and to sing once more, or, at any rate, hear others
sing.

"Come along," she said, and they stole through the deserted house to get
into the street by the atrium.  Medius saw them, but he made no attempt
to detain them; he had sunk into lethargic indifference.  It was not an
hour since he had taken stock of his life and means, setting the small
figure of his average income against his hospitality to Dada and her
little companion; but then, again, he had calculated that, if all went
well, he might make considerable profits out of the girl and the child.
Now, he felt it was all the same to him whether he and his family and
Dada met their doom in the house or out of it.

Dada and Papias soon reached the church of St. Mark, the oldest Christian
basilica in the city.  It consisted of a vestibule--the narthex--and the
body of the church, a very long hall, with a flat roof ceiled with
stained wood and supported on a double row of quite simple columns.  This
space was divided into two parts by a screen of pierced work; the
innermost portion had a raised floor or podium, on which stood a table
with chairs placed round it in a semicircle.  The centre seat was higher
and more richly decorated than the others.  These chairs were unoccupied;
a few deacons in 'talares' of light-colored brocade were busied about the
table.

In the middle of the vestibule there was a small tank; here a number of
penitents had collected who, with their flayed ribs and abject
lamentations, offered a more melancholy spectacle than even the terrified
crowd whom Dada had seen the day before, gathered round the temple of
Isis.  Indeed, site would have withdrawn at once but that Papias dragged
her forward, and when she had passed through the great door into the nave
she breathed a sigh of relief.  A soothing sense of respite came over
her, such as she had rarely felt; for the lofty building, which was only
half full, was deliciously cool and the subdued light was restful to her
eyes.  The slight perfume of incense and the sober singing of the
assembled worshippers were soothing to her senses, and, as she took a
seat on one of the benches, she felt sheltered and safe.

The old church struck her as a home of perfect peace; in all the city,
she thought, there could hardly be another spot where she might rest so
quietly and contentedly.  So for some little time she gave herself up,
body and soul, to the refreshing influences of the coolness, the
solemnity, the fragrance and the music; but presently her attention was
attracted to two women in the seats just in front of her.

One of them, who had a child on her arm, whispered to her neighbor:

"You here, Hannah, among the unbaptized?  How are you going on at home?"

"I cannot stay long," was the answer.  "It is all the same where one
sits, and when I leave I shall disturb no one.  But my heart is heavy;
the child is very bad.  The doctor says he cannot live through the day,
and I felt as if I must come to church."

Very right, very right.  Do you stay here and I will go to your house at
once; my husband will not mind waiting."

"Thank you very much, but Katharine is staying with the boy and he is
quite safe there."

"Then I will stay and pray with you for the dear little child."

Dada had not missed a word of this simple dialogue.  The woman whose
child was ill at home, and who had come here to pray for strength or
mercy, had a remarkably sweet face; as the girl saw the two friends bow
their heads and fold their hands with downcast eyes, she thought to
herself: "Now they are praying for the sick child.  .  ."  and
involuntarily she, too, bent her curly head, and murmured softly: "O ye
gods, or thou God of the Christians, or whatever thou art called that
hast power over life and death, make this poor woman's little son well
again.  When I get home again I will offer up a cake or a fowl--a lamb is
so costly."

And she fancied that some invisible spirit heard her, and it gave her a
vague satisfaction to repeat her simple supplication over and over again.

Meanwhile a miserable blind dwarf had seated himself by her side; near
him stood the old dog that guided him.  He held him by a string and had
been allowed to bring his indispensable comrade into the church.  The old
man joined loudly and devoutly in the psalm which the rest of the
congregation were singing; his voice had lost its freshness, no doubt,
but he sang in perfect tune.  It was a pleasure to Dada to listen, and
though she only half understood the words of the psalm she easily caught
the air and began to sing too, at first timidly and hardly audibly; but
she soon gained courage and, following the example of little Papias,
joined in with all her might.

She felt as though she had reached land after a stormy and uncomfortable
voyage, and had found refuge in a hospitable home; she looked about her
to discover whether the news of the approaching destruction of the world
had not penetrated even here, but she could not feel certain; for, though
many faces expressed anguish of mind, contrition, and a passionate
desire--perhaps for help or, perhaps, for something quite different--
not a cry of lamentation was to be heard, such as had rent the air by
the temple of Isis, and most of the men and women assembled here were
singing, or praying in silent absorption.  There were none of the
frenzied monks who had terrified her in the Xenodochium and in the
streets; on this day of tumult and anxiety they are devoting all their
small strength and great enthusiasm to the service of the Church
militant.

This meeting, at so unusual an hour, had been convened by Eusebius, the
deacon of the district, with the intention of calming the spirits of
those who had caught the general infection of alarm.  Dada could see
the old man step up into a raised pulpit on the inner side of the screen
which parted the baptized from the unbaptized members of the
congregation; his silvery hair and beard, and the cheerful calm of his
face, with the high white forehead and gentle, loving gaze, attracted her
greatly.  She had heard Karnis speak of Plato, and knew by heart some
axioms of his doctrine, and she had always thought of the sage as a young
man; but in advanced age, she fancied, he might have looked like
Eusebius.  Aye, and it would have well beseemed this old man to die,
like the great Athenian, at a mirthful wedding-feast.

The priest was evidently about to give a discourse, and much as she
admired him, this idea prompted her to quit the church; for, though she
could sit still for hours to hear music, she found nothing more irksome
than to be compelled to listen for any length of time to a speech she
might not interrupt.  She was therefore rising to leave; but Papias held
her back and entreated her so pathetically with his blue baby-eyes not
to take him away and spoil his pleasure that she yielded, though the
opportunity was favorable for moving unobserved, as the woman in front of
her was preparing to go and was shaking hands with her neighbor.  She had
indeed risen from her seat when a little girl came in behind her and
whispered, loud enough for Dada's keen ears to catch the words:  "Come
mother, come home at once.  He has opened his eyes and called for you.
The physician says all danger is over."

The mother in her turn whispered to her friend in glad haste: "All is
well!"  and hurried away with the girl.  The friend she had left raised
her hands and eyes in thanksgiving, and Dada, too, smiled in sympathy and
pleasure.  Had the God of the Christian heard her prayer with theirs.

Meanwhile the preacher had ended his preliminary prayer and began to
explain to his hearers that he had bidden them to the church in order to
warn them against foolish terrors, and to lead them into the frame of
mind in which the true Christian ought to live in these momentous times
of disturbance.  He wished to point out to his brethren and sisters in
the Lord what was to be feared from the idols and their overthrow, what
the world really owed to the heathen, and what he expected from his
fellow-believers when the splendid and imminent triumph of the Church
should be achieved.

"Let us look back a little, my beloved," he said, after this brief
introduction.  "You have all heard of the great Alexander, to whom this
noble city owes its existence and its name.  He was a mighty instrument
in the hand of the Lord, for he carried the tongue and the wisdom of the
Greeks throughout all lands, so that, in the fulness of time, the
doctrine which should proceed from the only Son of God might be
understood by all nations and go home to all hearts.  In those days
every people had its own idols by hundreds, and in every tongue on earth
men put up their prayers to the supreme Power which makes itself felt
wherever mortal creatures dwell.  Here, by the Nile, after Alexander's
death, reigned the Ptolemies; and the Egyptian citizens of Alexandria
prayed to other gods than their Greek neighbors, so that they could never
unite in worshipping their divinities; but Philadelphus, the second
Ptolemy, a very wise man, gave them a god in common.  In consequence of a
vision seen in a dream he had the divinity brought from Sinope, on the
shores of Pontus, to this town.  This idol was Serapis, and he was raised
to the throne of divinity here, not by Heaven, but by a shrewd and
prudent man; a grand temple was built for him, which is to this day one
of the wonders of the world, and a statue of him was made, as beautiful
as any image ever formed by the hand of man.  You have seen and know
them both, and you know too, how, before the gospel was preached in
Alexandria, crowds of all classes, excepting the Jews, thronged the
Serapeum.

"A dim perception of the sublime teaching of the Lord by whom God has
redeemed the world had dawned, even before His appearance on earth, on
the spirit of the best of the heathen, and in the hearts of those wise
men who--though not born into the state of grace--sought and strove after
the truth, after inward purity, and an apprehension of the Almighty.
The Lord chose them out to prepare the hearts of mankind for the good
tidings, and make them fit to receive the gospel when the Star should
rise over Bethlehem.

"Many of these sages had infused precious doctrine into the worship of
Serapis before the hour of true redemption had come.  They enjoined the
servants of Serapis to be more zealous in the care of the soul than in
that of the body, for they had detected the imperishable nature of the
spiritual and divine part of man; they saw that we are brought into
existence by sin and love, and we must therefore die to our sinful love
and rise again through the might of love eternal.  These Hellenes, like
the Egyptian sages of the times of the Pharaohs, divined and declared
that the soul was held responsible after death for all it had done of
good or evil in its mortal body.  They distinguished virtue and sin by
the eternal law, which was written in the hearts even of the heathen, to
the end that they, by nature, might do the works of the law; nay, there
were some of their loftiest spirits who, though they knew not the Lord,
it is true, required the repentance in the sinner, in the name of
Serapis, and pronounced that it was good to give up the delusive joys and
vain pleasures of the flesh and to break away from the evil--whether of
body or of soul--which we are led into by the senses.  They called upon
their disciples to hold meetings for meditation whereby they might
discern truth and the divinity; and the vast precincts of the Serapeum
contained cells and alcoves for penitents and devotees, in which many a
soul touched by grace, dead to the world and absorbed in the
contemplation of such things as they esteemed high and heavenly, has
ripened to old age and death.

"But, my beloved, the Light in which we rejoice, through no merits or
deserts of our own, had not yet been shed on the lost children of those
days of darkness; and all those noble, and indeed most admirable efforts
were polluted by an admixture, even here, of coarse superstition, bloody
sacrifices, and foolish adoration of perishable stone idols and beasts
without understanding; and in other places by the false and delusive arts
of Magians and sorcerers.  Even the dim apprehension of true salvation
was darkened and distorted by the subtleties of a vain and inconsistent
philosophy, which held a theory as immutably true one day and overthrew
or denied it the next.  Thus, by degrees, the temple of the idol of
Sinope degenerated into a stronghold of deceit and bloodshed, of the
basest superstition, the pleasures of the flesh, and abominations that
cried to Heaven.  Learning, to be sure, was still cherished in the halls
of the Serapeum; but its disciples turned with hardened hearts from the
truth which was sent into the world by the grace of God, and they
remained the prophets of error.  The doctrines which the sages had
associated with the idea of Serapis, debased and degraded by the most
contemptible trivialities; lost all their worth and dignity; and after
the great Apostle to whom this basilica is dedicated, had brought the
gospel to Alexandria, the idol's throne began to totter, and the tidings
of salvation shook its foundations and brought it to the verge of
destruction in spite of the persecutions, in spite of the edicts of the
apostate Julian, in spite of the desperate efforts of the philosophers,
sophists, and heathen--for our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, has given
certainty and actuality to the fleeting shadow of half-divined truth
which lies in the core of the worship of Serapis.  The pure and radiant
star of Christian love has risen in the place of the dim nebulous mist of
Serapis; and just as the moon pales when the sun appears triumphant, the
worship of Serapis has died away in a thousand places where the gospel
has been received.  Even here, in Alexandria, its feeble flame is kept
alive only by infinite care, and if the might of our pious and Christian
Emperor makes itself felt-tomorrow, or next day--then, my beloved, it
will vanish in smoke, and no power on earth can fan it into life again.
Not our grandsons, no, but our own children will ask: Who--what was
Serapis?  For he who shall be overthrown is no longer a mighty god but
an idol bereft of his splendor and his dignity.  This is no struggle of
might against might; it is the death-stroke given to a wounded and
vanquished foe.  The tree is rotten to the core and can crush no one in
its fall, but it will cover all who stand near it with dust and rubbish.
The sovereign has outlived his dominion, and when his fingers drop the
sceptre few indeed will bewail him, for the new King has already mounted
the throne and His is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever!
Amen."

Dada had listened to the deacon's address with no particular interest,
but the conclusion struck her attention.  The old man looked dignified
and honest; but Father Karnis was a well-meaning man, no doubt, and one
of those who are wont to keep on the winning side.  How was it that the
preacher could draw so pitiable a picture of the very same god whose
greatness her uncle had praised in such glowing terms only two days
since?  How could the same thing appear so totally different to two
different people?

The priest looked more sagacious than the musician; Marcus, the young
Christian, had a most kind heart; there was not a better or gentler
creature under the sun than Agne--it was quite possible that Christianity
was something very different in reality from what her foster parents
chose to represent.  As to the frightful consequences of the overthrow of
the temple of Serapis, on that point she was completely reassured, and
she prepared to listen with greater attention as Eusebius went on:

"Let us rejoice, beloved!  The great idol's days are numbered!  Do you
know what that false worship has been in our midst?  It has been like a
splendid and richly-dressed trireme sailing, plague-stricken, into a
harbor full of ships and boats.  Woe to those who allow themselves to be
tempted on board by the magnificence of its decorations!  How great is
their chance of infection, how easily they will carry it from ship to
ship, and from the ships on to the shore, till the pestilence has spread
from the harbor to the city!  Let us then be thankful to those who
destroy the gorgeous vessel, who drive it from amongst us, or sink or
burn it.  May our Father in Heaven give courage to their hearts, strength
to their hands and blessing on their deeds!  When we hear: "Great Serapis
has fallen to the earth and is no more, we and the world are free from
him! then, in this city, and wherever Christians dwell and worship, let a
solemn festival be held.

"But still let us be just, still let us bear in mind all the great and
good gifts that the trireme brought to our parents when it rode the waves
manned by a healthy crew.  If we do, it will be with sincere pity that we
shall watch the proud vessel sink to the bottom, and we shall understand
the grief of those whom once it bore over ebb and flow, and who believe
they owe every thing to it.  We shall rejoice doubly, too, to think that
we ourselves have a safe bark with stout planks and strong masts, and a
trustworthy pilot at the helm; and that we may confidently invite others
to join us on board as soon as they have purified themselves of the
plague with which they have been smitten.

"I think you will all have understood this parable.  When Serapis falls
there will be lamentation and woe among the heathen; but we, who are true
Christians, ought not to pass them by, but must strive to heal and save
the wounded and sick at heart.  When Serapis falls you must be the
physicians--healers of souls, as the Lord hath said; and if we desire to
heal, our first task must be to discover in what the sufferings consist
of those we wish to succor, for our choice of medicine must depend on the
nature of the injury.

"What I mean is this: None can give comfort but those who know how to
sympathize with the soul that craves it, who feel the sorrows of others
as keenly as though they were their own.  And this gift, my brethren, is,
next to faith, the Christian grace which of all others best pleases our
Heavenly Master.

"I see it in my mind's eye!  The ruined edifice of the Serapeum, the
masterpiece of Bryaxis laid in fragments in the dust, and thousands of
wailing heathen!  As the Jews wept and hung their harps on the trees by
the waters of Babylon when they remembered Zion, so do I see the heathen
weep as they think of the perished splendor.  They themselves, indeed,
ruined and desecrated the glory they bewail; and when something higher
and purer took its place they hardened their hearts, and, instead of
leaving the dead to bury their dead and throwing themselves hopefully
into the new life, they refused to be parted from the putrefying corpse.
They were fools, but their folly was fidelity; and if we can win them
over to our holy faith they will be faithful unto death, as they have
been to their old gods, clinging to Jesus and earning the crown of life.
'There will be more joy in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth than
over ninety and nine that need no repentance,'--that you have heard; and
whichever among you loves the Saviour can procure him a great joy if he
guides only one of these weeping heathen into the Kingdom of Heaven.

"But perhaps you will ask: Is not the sorrow of the heathen a vain thing?
What is it after all that they bewail?  To understand that, try to
picture to yourselves what it is that they think they are losing.  Verily
it is not a small matter, and it includes many things for which we and
all mankind owe them a debt of gratitude.  We call ourselves Christians
and are proud of the name; but we also call ourselves Hellenes, and are
proud of that name too.  It was under the protection of the old gods,
whose fall is about to be consummated, that the Greeks achieved
marvellous deeds, nurturing the gifts of the intellect which the Almighty
bestowed on their race, like faithful gardeners, and making them bring
forth marvellous fruit.  In the realm of thought the Greek is sovereign
of the nations, and he has given to perishable matter a perfection of
form which has elevated and vivified it to immortality.  Nothing more
beautiful has ever been imagined or executed, before or since, or by any
other people, than was produced by Greece in its prime.  But perhaps you
will ask, why did not the Redeemer come down among our fathers in those
glorious days?  Because beauty, as they conceived and still conceive of
it, is a mere perishable accident of matter, and because a race which
thus devoted every thought and feeling to an inspired and fervent worship
of beauty--which was so absorbed in the contemplation of the visible,
could have no longing for the invisible which is the real life that came
down among us with the only-begotten Son of God.  Nevertheless Beauty is
beautiful; and when the time shall come when the visible is married to
the invisible, when eternal Truth is clothed in perfect form, then, and
not till then, will the ideal which our fathers strove after in the great
old days be realized, by the grace of the Saviour.

"But this visible beauty, which they so passionately cherished, does us
good service too, so long as we do not allow it to dazzle us and lead us
astray from the one thing needful.  To whom, if not to the heathen
Hellenes, do our great teachers owe, under God, the noble art of
coordinating their loftiest feelings, and casting them in forms which are
intelligible to the Christian and at once instruct, delight, and edify
him?  It was in a heathen school that each one of your pastors--that even
I, the humblest of them--studied that rhetoric which enables me to utter
with a flowing tongue the things which the Spirit gives me to speak to
you; and if some day there are Christian schools, in which our sons may
acquire the same power, they must adopt many of the laws devised by the
heathen.  If in the future we are rich enough to raise churches to the
Almighty, to the Virgin Mary and the great Saints, in any way worthy of
their sublime merits, we shall owe our skill to the famous architects of
heathen Hellas.  We are indebted to the arts of the heathen for a
thousand things in daily use, beside numberless others that lend charm to
existence.  Yes, my beloved, when we consider all they did for us we
cannot in justice withhold our tribute of gratitude and admiration.

"Nor can we doubt that the best of them were acceptable to the Almighty
himself, for he granted to them to see darkly and from afar what he has
brought nigh to us, and poured into our hearts by divine revelation.
You all know the name of Plato.  He, from whom Salvation was hidden,
saw remotely, by presentiment as it were, many things which to us, the
Redeemed, are clear and plain and near.  He perceived the relation of
earthly beauty and heavenly truth.  The great gift of Love binds and
supports us all and Plato gave the name of the divine Eros, that is
divine love, to an inspired devotion to the Imperishable.  He placed
goodness--the Good--at the top of the great scale of Ideas which he
constructed.  The Good was, to him, the highest Idea and the uttermost of
which we can conceive:--Good, whose properties he made manifest by every
means his lofty and lucid mind could command.  This heathen, my brethren
and sisters, was well worthy of the grace bestowed on us.  Do justice
then to the blinded souls, justice in Plato's sense of the word; he calls
the virtue of reason Wisdom; the virtue of spirit Courage, and the virtue
of the senses Temperance.  Well, well!  'Prove all things and hold fast
that which is good.'  That is to say: consider what may be worth anything
in the works of the heathen that it may be duly preserved; but, on the
other hand, tread all that is idolatry in the dust, all that brings the
unclean thing among us, all that imperils our souls and bodies, or
anything that is high and pure in life; but do not forget, my beloved,
all that the heathen have done for us.  Be temperate in all things; avoid
excess of zeal; for thus, and thus only, can we be just.  'It is not to
hate, but to love each other that we are here.'  It was not a Christian
but Sophocles, one of the greatest of the heathen, who uttered those
words, and he speaks them still to us!"

Eusebius paused and drew a deep breath.

Dada had listened eagerly, for it pleased her to hear all that she had
been wont to prize spoken of here with due appreciation.  But since
Eusebius had begun to discourse about Plato she had been disturbed by two
men sitting just in front of her.  One was tall and lean, with a long
narrow head, and the other a shorter and more comfortable-looking
personage.  The first fidgeted incessantly, nudging and twitching his
companion, and looking now and then as if he were ready to start up and
interrupt the preacher.  This behavior evidently annoyed his neighbors
who kept signing to him to be quiet and hushing him down, while he took
no notice of their demonstrations but kept clearing his throat with
obtrusive emphasis and at last scraped and shuffled his feet on the
floor, though not very noisily.  But Eusebius began again:

"And now, my brethren, how ought we to demean ourselves in these fateful
times of disturbance?  As Christians; only--or rather, by God's aiding
grace as Christians in the true sense of our Lord and Master, according
to the precepts given by Him through the Apostles.  Their words shall be
mine.  They say there are two paths--the path of Life and the path of
Death, and there is a great difference between them.  The path of Life is
this: First, Thou shalt love God who hath created thee; next thou shalt
love thy neighbor as thyself, and whatsoever thou wouldst men should do
unto thee even so do unto them; but what thou wouldst not have done unto
thee do thou not to them.  And the sum of the doctrine contained in these
words is this: Bless those that curse you, pray for your enemies and
repent for those who persecute you, for 'if ye love them that love you
what thank have ye?  Do not even the heathen the same?'  Love those that
hate you and you will have no enemies.

"Take this teaching of the holy Apostles to heart this day.  Beware of
mocking or persecuting those who have been your enemies.  Even the nobler
heathen regarded it as an act of grace to respect the conquered foe, and
to you, as Christians, it should be a law.  It is not so hard to forgive
an enemy when we regard him as a possible friend in the future; and the
Christian can go so far as to love him when he remembers that every man
is his brother and neighbor, and equally precious in the sight of the
Saviour who is dearer to us than life.

"The heathen, the idolater, is the Christian's archfoe; but soon he will
he in fetters at our feet.  And, then, my brethren, pray for him; for
if the Almighty, who is without spot or stain and perfect beyond words,
can forgive the sinner, ye who are base and guilty may surely forgive.
'Fishers of souls' we all should be; try to fulfil the injunction.  Draw
the enemy to you by kindness and love; show him by your example the
beauty of the Christian life; let him perceive the benefits of Salvation;
lead those whose gods and temples we have overthrown, into our churches;
and when, after triumphing over those blind souls by the sword, we have
also conquered them by love, faith and prayer--when they can rejoice with
us in the Redemption by our Lord Jesus Christ--then shall we all be as
one fold under one shepherd, and peace and joy shall reign in the city
which is now torn by dissension and strife."

At this point the preacher was interrupted, for a loud uproar broke out
in the Narthex--[The vestibule of the early Christian basilica which was
open to penitents.]--shouts and cries of men fighting, mingled with the
dull roar of a bull.

The congregation started to their feet in extreme consternation, and the
door was flung open and a host of heathen youths rushed into the nave,
followed by an overwhelming force of Christians from whom they had sought
refuge in the sanctuary.  Here they turned at bay to make a last
desperate resistance.  Garlands, stripped of their leaves and flowers,
still crowned their heads and hung over their shoulders.  They had been
attacked close to the church, by a party of monks when in the act of
driving a gaily-decorated steer to the temple of Apollo, in defiance of
the Imperial edict; and the beast, terrified by the tumult, had rushed
into the narthex for shelter.

The fight in the church was a short one; the idolaters were soon
vanquished; but Eusebius threw himself between them and the monks, and
tried to save the victims from the revengeful fury of the conquerors.
The women had all made for the door, but they did not venture out into
the vestibule, for the young bull was still raging there, trampling or
tossing everything that came in his way.  At last, however, a soldier of
the city-watch dealt him a sword-thrust in the neck, and he fell rolling
in his own blood.  At once the congregation forced their way out,
shrieking with alarm and excitement, Dada among the number, dragging the
child with her.  Papias pulled with all his might to keep her back,
declaring with vehement insistence that he had seen Agne in the church
and wanted to go back to her.  Dada, however, neither heard nor heeded;
frightened out of her wits she went on with the crowd, taking him with
her.

She never paused till she reached the house of Medius, quite out of
breath; but then, as the little boy still asserted that he had seen his
sister in the sanctuary, she turned back with him, as soon as the throng
had dispersed.  In the church there was no one to hinder them; but they
got no further than the dividing screen, for on the floor beyond lay the
mutilated and bleeding bodies of many a youth who had fallen in the
contest.

How she made her way back to the house of Medius once more she never
knew.  For the first time she had been brought face to face with life in
hideous earnest, and when the singer went to look for her in her room, at
dusk, he was startled to find her bright face clouded and her eyes dim
with tears.  How bitterly she had been weeping Medius indeed could not
know; he ascribed her altered appearance to fear of the approaching
cataclysm and was happy to be able to tell her, in all good faith, that
the danger was as good as over.  Posidonius, the Magian, had been to see
him, and had completely reassured him.  This man, whose accomplice he had
been again and again in producing false apparitions of spirits and
demons, had once gained an extraordinary influence over him by casting
some mysterious spell upon him and reducing his will to abject subjection
to his own; and this magician, who had recovered his own self-possession,
had assured him, with an inimitable air of infallibility, that the fall
of the Temple of Serapis would involve no greater catastrophe than that
of any old worn-out statue.  Since this announcement Medius had laughed
at his own alarms; he had recovered his "strong-mindedness," and when
Posidonius had given him three tickets for the Hippodrome he had jumped
at the offer.

The races were to be run next day, in spite of the general panic that had
fallen on the citizens; and Dada, when he invited her to join him and his
daughter in-the enjoyment of so great a treat, dried her eyes and
accepted gleefully.



CHAPTER XVIII.

Alarming as was the outlook in Alexandria, the races, were to be held as
usual.  This had been decided only a few hours since at the Bishop's
palace, and criers had been sent abroad throughout the streets and
squares of the city to bid the inhabitants to this popular entertainment.
In the writing-office of the Ephemeris, which would be given to the
public the first thing in the morning, five hundred slaves or more were
occupied in writing from dictation a list of the owners of the horses, of
the 'agitatores' who would drive them, and of the prizes offered to the
winners, whether Christians or heathen.

     [Ephemeris--The news-sheet, which was brought out, not only in Rome,
     but in all the cities of the Empire, and which kept the citizens
     informed of all important events.]

The heat in the Episcopal council-hall had been oppressive, and not less
so the heat of temper among the priests assembled there; for they had
fully determined, for once, not to obey their prelate with blind
submission, and they knew full well that Theophilus, on occasion, if his
will were opposed, could not merely thunder but wield the bolt.

Besides the ecclesiastical members of the council, Cynegius, the Imperial
legate--Evagrius, the Prefect--and Romanus, the commander-in-chief and
Comes of Egypt,--had all been present.  The officials of the Empire--
Roman statesmen who knew Alexandria and her citizens well, and who had
often smarted under the spiritual haughtiness of her Bishop--were on the
prelate's side.  Cynegius was doubtful; but the priests, who had not
altogether escaped the alarms that had stricken the whole population,
were so bold as to declare against a too hasty decision, and to say that
the celebration of the games at a time of such desperate peril was not
only presumptuous but sinful, and a tempting of God.

In answer to a scornful enquiry from Theophilus as to where the danger
lay if--as the Comes promised--Serapis were to be overthrown on the
morrow, one of the assembly answered in the name of his colleagues.  This
man, now very old, had formerly been a wonderfully successful exorcist,
and, notwithstanding that he was a faithful Christian, he was the leader
of a gnostic sect and a diligent student of magic.  He proceeded to
argue, with all the zeal and vehemence of conviction, that Serapis was
the most terrible of all the heathen daemons, and that all the oracles
of antiquity, all the prophecies of the seers, and all the conclusions
of the Magians and astrologers would be proved false if his fall--which
the present assembly could only regard as a great boon from Heaven--did
not entail some tremendous convulsion of nature.

At this Theophilus gave the reins to his wrath; he snatched a little
crucifix from the wall above his episcopal throne, and broke it in
fragments, exclaiming in deep tones that quavered with wrath:

"And which do you regard as the greater: The only-begotten Son of God,
or that helpless image?"  And he flung the pieces of the broken crucifix
down on the table round which they were sitting.  Then, as though horror-
stricken at his own daring act, he fell on his knees, raised his eyes and
hands in prayer, and gathering up the broken image, kissed it devoutly.

This rapid scene had a tremendous effect.  Amazement and suspense were
painted on every face, not a hand, not a lip moved as Theophilus rose
again and cast a glance of proud and stern defiance round the assembly,
which each man took to himself.  For some moments he remained silent, as
though awaiting a reply; but his repellent mien and majestic bearing made
it sufficiently clear that he was ready to annihilate any opponent.  In
fact none of the priests contradicted him; and, though Evagrius looked at
him with a doubting shake of his shrewd head, Cynegius on the other hand
nodded assent.  The Bishop, however, seemed to care for neither dissent
nor approval, and it was in brief and cutting terms, with no flourish of
rhetoric, that he laid it down that wood and stone had nothing to do with
the divine Majesty, even though they were made in the image of all that
was Holy and worshipful or were most lavishly beautified by the hand of
man with the foul splendors of perishable wealth.  The greater the power
ascribed by superstition to the base material--whatever form it bore--the
more odious must it be to the Christian.  Any man who should believe that
a daemon could turn even a breath of the Most High to its own will and
purpose, would do well to beware of idolatry, for Satan had already laid
his clutches somewhere on his robe.

At this sweeping accusation many a cheek colored wrathfully, and not a
word was spoken when the Bishop proceeded to require of his hearers that,
if the Serapeum should fall into the hands of the Imperial troops, it
should be at once and ruthlessly destroyed, and that his hearers should
not cease from the work of ruin till this scandal of the city should be
swept from the face of the earth.

"If then the world crumbles to atoms!"  he cried, "well and good--the
heathen are right and we are wrong, and in that case it were better to
perish; but as surely as I sit on this throne by the grace of God,
Serapis is the vain imagining of fools and blind, and there is no god
but the God whose minister I am!"

"Whose Kingdom is everlasting, Amen!"  chanted an old priest; and
Cynegius rose to explain that he should do nothing to hinder the total
overthrow of the temple and image.

Then the Comes spoke in defence of the Bishop's resolution to allow the
races to be held, as usual, on the morrow.  He sketched a striking
picture of the shallow, unstable nature of the Alexandrians, a people
wholly given over to enjoyment.  The troops at his command were few in
number in comparison with the heathen population of the city, and it was
a very important matter to keep a large proportion of the worshippers of
Serapis occupied elsewhere at the moment of the decisive onset.
Gladiator-fights were prohibited, and the people were tired of wild
beasts; but races, in which heathen and Christian alike might enter their
horses for competition, must certainly prove most attractive just at this
time of bitter rivalry and oppugnancy between the two religions, and
would draw thousands of the most able-bodied idolaters to the Hippodrome.
All this he had already considered and discussed with the Bishop and
Cynegius; nay, that zealous destroyer of heathen worship had come to
Alexandria with the express purpose of overthrowing the Serapeum; but,
as a prudent statesman, he had first made sure that the time and
circumstances were propitious for the work of annihilation.  All that
he had here seen and heard had only strengthened his purpose; so, after
suggesting a few possible difficulties, and enjoining moderation and
mercy as the guiding principles of his sovereign, he commanded, in the
Emperor's name, that the sanctuary of Serapis should be seized by force
of arms and utterly destroyed, and that the races should be held on the
morrow.

The assembled council bowed low; and when Theophilus had closed the
meeting with a prayer he withdrew to his ungarnished study, with his head
bent and an air of profound humility, as though he had met with a defeat
instead of gaining a victory.

                    .......................

The fate of the great god of the heathen was sealed, but in the wide
precincts of the Serapeum no one thought of surrender or of prompt
defeat.  The basement of the building, on which stood the grandest temple
ever erected by the Hellenes, presented a smooth and slightly scarped
rampart of impregnable strength to the foe.  A sloping way extended up
over a handsomely-decorated incline, and from the middle of the grand
curve described by this road, two flights of steps led up to the three
great doors in the facade of the building.

The heathen had taken care to barricade this approach in all haste,
piling the road and steps with statuary-images of the gods of the finest
workmanship, figures and busts of kings, queens, and heroes, Hermes,
columns, stelae, sacrificial stones, chairs and benches-torn from their
places by a thousand eager hands.  The squared flags of the pavement and
the granite blocks of the steps had been built up into walls and these
were still being added to after the besiegers had surrounded the temple;
for the defenders tore down stones, pilasters, gutters and pieces of the
cornice, and flung them on to the outworks, or, when they could, on to
the foe who for the present were not eager to commence hostilities.

The captains of the Imperial force had miscalculated the strength of the
heathen garrison.  They supposed a few hundreds might have entrenched
themselves, but on the roof alone above a thousand men were to be seen,
and every hour seemed to increase the number of men and women crowding
into the Serapeum.  The Romans could only suppose that this constantly
growing multitude had been concealed in the secret halls and chambers of
the temple ever since Cynegius had first arrived, and had no idea that
they were still being constantly reinforced.

Karnis, Herse, and Orpheus, among others, had made their way thither from
the timber-yard, down the dry conduit, and an almost incessant stream of
the adherents of the old gods had preceded and followed them.

While Eusebius had been exhorting his congregation in the church of St.
Mark to Christian love towards the idolaters, these had collected in the
temple precincts to the number of about four thousand, all eager for the
struggle.  A vast multitude!  But the extent of the Serapeum was so
enormous that the mass of people was by no means densely packed on the
roof, in the halls, and in the underground passages and rooms.  There was
no crowding anywhere, least of all in the central halls of the temple
itself; indeed, in the great vestibule crowned with a dome which formed
the entrance, in the vast hall next to it, and in the magnificent
hypostyle with a semicircular niche on the furthest side in which stood
the far-famed image of the god, there were only scattered groups of men,
who looked like dwarfs as the eye compared them with the endless rows of
huge columns.

The full blaze of day penetrated nowhere but into the circular vestibule,
which was lighted by openings in the drum of the cupola that rested on
four gigantic columns.  In the inner hall there was only dim twilight;
while the hypostyle was quite dark, but for a singularly contrived shaft
of light which produced a most mysterious effect.

The shadows of the great columns in the fore hall, and of the double
colonnade on each side of the hypostyle, lay like bands of crape on the
many-colored pavement; borders, circles, and ellipses of mosaic
diversified the smooth and lucent surface, in which were mirrored the
astrological figures which sparkled in brighter hues on the ceiling, the
trophies of symbols and mythological groups that graced the walls in
tinted high relief, and the statues and Hermes between the columns.  A
wreath of lovely forms and colors dazzled the eye with their multiplicity
and profusion, and the heavy atmosphere of incense which filled the halls
was almost suffocating, while the magical and mystical signs and figures
were so many and so new that the enquiring mind, craving for an
explanation and an interpretation of all these incomprehensible
mysteries, hardly dared investigate them in detail.

A heavy curtain, that looked as though giants must have woven it on a
loom of superhuman proportions, hung, like a thick cloud shrouding a
mountain-peak, from the very top of the hypostyle, in grand folds over
the niche containing the statue, and down to the floor; and while it hid
the sacred image from the gaze of the worshipper it attracted his
attention by the infinite variety of symbolical patterns and beautiful
designs which were woven in it and embroidered on it.

The gold and silver vessels and precious jewels that lay concealed by
this hanging were of more value than many a mighty king's treasure; and
everything was on so vast a scale that man shuddered to feel his own
littleness, and the mind sought some new standard of measurement by which
to realize such unwonted proportions.  The finite here seemed to pass
into the infinite; and as the spectator gazed up, with his head thrown
back, at the capitals of the lofty columns and the remote height of the
ceiling, his sight failed him before he had succeeded in distinguishing
or even perceiving a small portion only of the bewildering confusion of
figures and emblems that were crowded on to the surface.  Greek feeling
for beauty had here worked hand in hand with Oriental taste for gorgeous
magnificence, and every detail could bear examination; for there was not
a motive of the architecture, not a work of sculpture, painting, or
mosaic, not a product of the foundry or the loom, which did not bear the
stamp of thorough workmanship and elaborate finish.  The ruddy, flecked
porphyry, the red, white, green, or yellow marbles which had been used
for the decorations were all the finest and purest ever wrought upon by
Greek craftsmen.  Each of the hundreds of sculptured works which here had
found a home was the masterpiece of some great artist; as the curious
visitor lingered in loving contemplation of the mosaics on the polished
floor, or examined the ornamental mouldings that framed the reliefs,
dividing the walls into panels, he was filled with wonder and delight at
the beauty, the elegance and the inventiveness that had given charm,
dignity, and significance to every detail.

Adjoining these great halls devoted especially to the worship of the god,
were hundreds of courts, passages, colonnades and rooms, and others not
less numerous lay underground.  There were long rows of rooms containing
above a hundred thousand rolls of books, the famous library of the
Serapeum, with separate apartments for readers and copyists; there were
store-rooms, refectories and assembly-rooms for the high-priests of the
temple, for teachers and disciples; while acrid odors came up from the
laboratories, and the fragrance of cooking from the kitchen and bake-
houses.  In the very thickness of the walls of the basement were cells
for penitents and recluses, long since abandoned, and rooms for the
menials and slaves, of whom hundreds were employed in the precincts;
under ground spread the mystical array of halls, grottoes, galleries and
catacombs dedicated to the practice of the Mysteries and the initiation
of neophytes; on the roof stood various observatories--among them one
erected for the study of the heavens by Eratosthenes, where Claudius
Ptolemaeus had watched and worked.  Up here astronomers, star-gazers,
horoscopists and Magians spent their nights, while, far below them, in
the temple-courts that were surrounded by store-houses and stables, the
blood of sacrificed beasts was shed and the entrails of the victims were
examined.

The house of Serapis was a whole world in little, and centuries had
enriched it with wealth, beauty, and the noblest treasures of art and
learning.  Magic and witchcraft hedged it in with a maze of mystical and
symbolical secrets, and philosophy had woven a tissue of speculation
round the person of the god.  The sanctuary was indeed the centre of
Hellenic culture in the city of Alexander; what marvel then, that the
heathen should believe that with the overthrow of Serapis and his temple,
the earth, nay the universe itself must sink into the abyss?

Anxious spirits and throbbing hearts were those that now sought shelter
in the Serapeum, fully prepared to perish with their god, and yet eager
with enthusiasm to avert his fall if possible.

A strange medley indeed of men and women had collected within these
sacred precincts!  Grave sages, philosophers, grammarians,
mathematicians, naturalists, and physicians clung to Olympius and obeyed
him in silence.  Rhetoricians with shaven faces, Magians and sorcerers,
whose long beards flowed over robes embroidered with strange figures;
students, dressed after the fashion of their forefathers in the palmy
days of Athens; men of every age, who dubbed themselves artists though
they were no more than imitators of the works of a greater epoch, unhappy
in that no one at this period of indifference to beauty called upon them
to prove what they could do, or to put forth their highest powers.
Actors, again, from the neglected theatres, starving histrions, to whom
the stage was prohibited by the Emperor and Bishop, singers and flute-
players; hungry priests and temple-servitors expelled from the closed
sanctuaries; lawyers, scribes, ships' captains, artisans, though but very
few merchants, for Christianity had ceased to be the creed of the poor,
and the wealthy attached themselves to the faith professed by those in
authority.

One of the students had contrived to bring a girl with him, and several
others, seeing this, went back into the streets by the secret way and
brought in damsels of no very fair repute, till the crowd of men was
diversified by a considerable sprinkling of wreathed and painted girls,
some of them the outcast maids of various temples, and others priestesses
of higher character, who had remained faithful to the old gods or who
practised magic arts.

Among these women one, a tall and dignified matron in mourning robes, was
a conspicuous figure.  This was Berenice, the mother of the young heathen
who had been ridden down and wounded in the skirmish near the Prefect's
house, and whose eyes Eusebius had afterwards closed.  She had come to
the Serapeum expressly to avenge her son's death and then to perish with
the fall of the gods for whom he had sacrificed his young life.  But the
mad turmoil that surrounded her was more than she could bear; she stood,
hour after hour, closely veiled and absorbed in her own thoughts, neither
raising her eyes nor uttering a word, at the foot of a bronze statue of
justice dispensing rewards and punishments.

Olympius had entrusted the command of the little garrison of armed men to
Memnon, a veteran legate of great experience, who had lost his left arm
in the war against the Goths.  The high-priest himself was occupied
alternately in trying to persuade the hastily-collected force to obey
their leader, and in settling quarrels, smoothing difficulties,
suppressing insubordination, and considering plans with reference to
supplies for his adherents, and the offering of a great sacrifice at
which all the worshippers of Serapis were to assist.  Karnis kept near
his friend, helping him so far as was possible; Orpheus, with others of
the younger men, had been ordered to the roof, where they were employed--
under the scorching sun, reflected from the copper-plated covering and
the radiating surface of the dome--in loosening blocks of stone from the
balustrade to be hurled down to-morrow on the besieging force.

Herse devoted herself to the sick and wounded, for a few who had ventured
forth too boldly to aid in barricading the entrance, had been hurt by
arrows and lances flung by the idle soldiery; and a still greater number
were suffering from sun-stroke in consequence of toiling on the top of
the building.

Inside the vast, thick-walled halls it was much cooler than in the
streets even, and the hours glided fast to the besieged heathen.  Many of
them were fully occupied, or placed on guard; others were discussing the
situation, and disputing or guessing at what the outcome might, or must
be.  Numbers, panic-stricken or absorbed in pious awe, sat huddled on the
ground, praying, muttering magical formulas, or wailing aloud.  The
Magians and astrologers had retired with knots of followers into the
adjoining studies, where they were comparing registers, making
calculations, reading signs, devising new formulas and defending them
against their opponents.

An incessant bustle went on, to and fro between these rooms and the great
library, and the tables were covered with rolls and tablets containing
ancient prophecies, horoscopes and potent exorcisms.  Messengers, one
after another, were sent out from thence to command silence in the great
halls, where the assembled youths and girls were kissing, singing,
shouting and dancing to the shrill pipe of flutes and twang of lutes,
clapping their hands, rattling tambourines--in short, enjoying to the
utmost the few hours that might yet be theirs before they must make the
fatal leap into nothingness, or at least into the dim shades of death.

The sun was sinking when suddenly the great brazen gong was loudly
struck, and the hard, blatant clatter rent the air of the temple-hall.
The mighty waves of sound reverberated from the walls of the sanctuary
like the surge of a clangorous sea, and sent their metallic vibration
ringing through every room and cell, from the topmost observatory-turret
to the deepest vault beneath, calling all who were within the precincts
to assemble.  The holy places filled at once; the throng poured in
through the vestibule, and in a few minutes even the hypostyle, the
sanctum of the veiled statue, was full to overflowing.  Without any
distinction of rank or sex, and regardless of all the usual formalities
or the degrees of initiation which each had passed through, the
worshippers of Serapis crowded towards the sacred niche, till a chain,
held up by neokores--[Temple-servants]--at a respectful distance from the
mystical spot, checked their advance.  Densely packed and in almost
breathless silence, they filled the nave and the colonnades, watching for
what might befall.

Presently a dull low chant of men's voices was heard.  This went on for a
few minutes, and then a loud pean in honor of the god rang through the
temple with an accompaniment of flutes, cymbals, lutes and trumpets.

Karnis had found a place with his wife and son; all three, holding hands,
joined enthusiastically in the stirring hymn; and, with them, Porphyrius,
who by accident was close to them, swelling the song of the multitude.
All now stood with hands uplifted and eyes fixed in anxious expectancy on
the curtain.  The figures and emblems on the hanging were invisible in
the gloom--but now-now there was a stir, as of life, in the ponderous
folds,--they moved--they began to ripple like streams, brooks, water-
falls, recovering motion after long stagnation--the curtain slowly sank,
and at length it fell so suddenly that the eye could scarcely note the
instant.  From every lip, as but one voice, rose a cry of admiration,
amazement, and delight, for Serapis stood revealed to his people.

The noble manhood of the god sat with dignity on a golden throne that was
covered with a blaze of jewels; his gracious and solemn face looked down
on the crowd of worshippers.  The hair that curled upon his thoughtful
brow, and the kalathos that crowned it were of pure gold  At his feet
crouched Cerberus, raising his three fierce heads with glistening ruby
eyes.  The body of the god--a model of strength in repose--and the
drapery were of gold and ivory.  In its perfect harmony as a whole, and
the exquisite beauty of every detail, this statue bore the stamp of
supreme power and divine majesty.  When such a divinity as this should
rise from his throne the earth indeed might quake and the heavens
tremble!  Before such a Lord the strongest might gladly bow, for no
mortal ever shone in such radiant beauty.  This Sovereign must triumph
over every foe, even over death--the monster that lay writhing in
impotent rage at his feet!

Gasping and thrilled with pious awe, enraptured but dumb with reverent
fear, the assembled thousands gazed on the god dimly revealed to them in
the twilight, when suddenly, for a moment of solemn glory, a ray of the
setting sun--a shaft of intense brightness--pierced the star-spangled
apse of the niche and fell on the lips of the god as though to kiss its
Lord and Father.

A shout like a thunder-clap-like the roar of breakers on a reef, burst
from the spectators; a shout of triumph so mighty that the statues
quivered, the brazen altars rang, the hangings swayed, the sacred vessels
clattered and the lamps trembled and swung; the echo rolled round the
aisles like a whirlpool at the flood, and was dashed from pillar to
column in a hundred wavelets of sound.  The glorious sun still recognized
its lord; Serapis still reigned in undiminished might; he had not yet
lost the power to defend himself, his world and his children!

The sun was gone, night fell on the temple and suddenly there was a
swaying movement of the apse above the statue; the stars were shaken by
invisible hands, and colored flames twinkled with dazzling brightness
from a myriad five-rayed perforations.  Once more the god was revealed to
his worshippers under a flood of magical glory, and now fully visible in
his unique beauty.  Again the great halls rang with the acclamations of
the delirious throng; Olympius stepped forth, arrayed in a flowing robe
with the insignia and decorations of the high-priesthood; standing in
front of the image he poured on the pedestal a libation to the gods out
of a golden cup, and waved a censer of the costliest incense.  Then, in
burning words, he exhorted all the followers of Serapis to fight and
conquer for their god, or--if need must--to perish for and with him.  He
added a fervent prayer in a loud ringing voice--a cry for help that came
from the bottom of his heart, and went to the souls of his hearers.

Then a solemn hymn was chanted as the curtain was raised; and while the
assembled multitude watched it rise in reverent silence, the temple-
servants lighted the lamps that illuminated the sanctuary from every
cornice and pillar.

Karnis had left hold of his companions' hands, for he wanted to wipe away
the tears of devotional excitement that flowed down his withered cheeks;
Orpheus had thrown his arms round his mother, and Porphyrius, who had
joined a group of philosophers and sages, sent a glance of sympathy to
the old musician.



CHAPTER XIX.

By an hour after sunset the sacrifice of a bull in the great court of the
Serapeum was consummated, and the Moscosphragist announced that the god
had graciously accepted it--the examination of the entrails showed more
favorable indications than it had the day before.  The flesh of the
slaughtered beast went forthwith to the kitchen; and, if the savor of
roast beef that presently rose up was as grateful to Serapis as to his
worshippers, they might surely reckon on a happy issue from the struggle.

The besieged, indeed, were, ere long, in excellent spirits; for Olympius
had taken care to store the cellars of the sanctuary with plenty of good
wine, and the happy auguries drawn from the appearance of the god and the
state of the victim had filled them with fresh confidence.  As there was
not sleeping accommodation for nearly all the men, they had to turn night
into day; and as, to most of them, life consisted wholly in the enjoyment
of the moment, and all was delightful that was new or strange, they soon
eat and drank themselves into a valiant frame of mind.

Couches, such as they were wont to be on at meals, there were not, so
each man snatched up the first thing he could lay his hands on to serve
as a seat.  When cups were lacking the jugs and vessels from the
sanctuary were sent for, and passed from one to another.  Many a youth
lounged with his head in some fair one's lap; many a girl leaned back to
back with some old man; and as flowers were not to be had, messengers
were sent to the town to buy them, with vine-wreaths and other greenery.

They were easily procured, and with them came the news that the races
were to be held next morning.

This information was regarded by many as being of the first importance;
Nicarchus, the son of the rich Hippocleides, and Zenodotus a weaver of
tapestry--whose quadriga had once proved victorious--hastily made their
way into the town to give the requisite orders in their stables, and they
were closely followed by Hippias, the handsome agitator, who was the
favorite driver in the arena for the horses belonging to wealthy owners.
In the train of these three every lover of horses vanished from the
scene, with a number of Hippias' friends, and of flower-sellers, door-
keepers, and ticket-holders-in short, of all who expected to derive
special pleasure or profit from the games.  Each man reflected that one
could not be missed, and as the god was favorably disposed he might
surely contrive to defend his own temple till after the races were over;
they would then return to conquer or die with the rest.

Then some others began to think of wives and children in bed at home,
and they, too, departed; still, by far the larger proportion remained
behind--above three thousand in all, men and women.  These at once
possessed themselves of the half-emptied wine-jars left by the deserters;
gay music was got up, and then, wreathed with garlands on their heads and
shoulders, and 'filled with the god' they drank, shouted and danced far
into the night.  The merry feast soon became a wild orgy; loud cries of
Evoe, and tumultuous singing reached the ears of the Magians, who had
once more settled down to calculations and discussions over their rolls
and tablets.

The mother of the youth that had been killed still sat huddled at the
foot of the statue of justice, enduring the anguish of listening to these
drunken revels with dull resignation.  Every shout of laughter, every
burst of mad mirth from the revellers above cut her to the heart--and
yet, how they would have gladdened her if only one other voice could have
mingled with those hundreds!  When Olympius, still in his fullest dress,
and carrying his head loftily as became him, made his way through the
temple at the head of his subordinates, he noticed Berenice--whom he had
known as a proud and happy mother--and begged her to join the friends
whom he had bidden to his own table; but she dreaded any social contact
with men whom she knew, and preferred to remain where she was at the feet
of the goddess.

Wherever the high-priest went he was hailed with enthusiasm: "Rejoice,"
he would say to encourage the feasters, cheering them with wise and
fervid exhortations, reminding them of Pharaoh Mycerinus who, having been
told by an oracle that he had only six years to live, determined to prove
the prophecy false, and by carousing through every night made the six
years allotted to him a good dozen.

"Imitate him!"  cried Olympius as he raised a cup to his lips, "crowd the
joys of a year into the few hours that still are left us, and pour a
libation to the god as I do, out of every cup ere you drink."

His appeal was answered by a rapturous shout; the flutes and cymbals
piped and clanged, metal cups rang sharply as the drinkers pledged each
other, and the girls thumped their tambourines, till the calf-skin droned
and the bells in the frames tinkled shrilly.

Olympius thanked them, and bowed on all sides, as he walked from group to
group of his adherents.  Seldom, indeed, had his heart beat so high!  His
end perhaps was very near, but it should at least be worthy of his life.

He knew how the sunbeam had been reflected so as to kiss the statue's
lips.  For centuries had this startling little scene and the sudden
illumination of the niche round the head of the god been worked in
precisely the same way at high festivals--[They are mentioned by
Rufinus.]--these were mere stimulants to the dull souls of the vulgar who
needed to be stirred up by the miraculous power of the god, which the
elect recognized throughout the universe, in the wondrous co-operation of
forces and results in nature, and in the lives of men.  He, for his part,
firmly believed in Serapis and his might, and in the prophecies and
calculations which declared that his fall must involve the dissolution
of the organic world and its relapse into chaos.

Many winds were battling in the air, each one driving the ship of life
towards the whirlpool.  To-day or to-morrow--what matter which?  The
threatened cataclysm had no terrors for Olympius.  One thing only was a
pang to his vanity:  No succeeding generations would preserve the memory
of his heroic struggle and death for the cause of the gods.  But all was
not yet lost, and his sunny nature read in the glow of the dying clay the
promise and dawn of a brilliant morrow.  If the expected succor should
arrive--if the good cause should triumph here in Alexandria--if the
rising were to be general throughout Greek heathendom, then indeed had he
been rightly named Olympius by his parents--then he would not change
places with any god of Olympus--then the glory of his name, more lasting
than bronze or marble, would shine forth like the sun, so long as one
Greek heart honored the ancient gods and loved its native land.

This night--perhaps its last--should see a grand, a sumptuous feast; he
invited his friends and adherents--the leaders of spiritual life in
Alexandria--to a 'symposium', after the manner of the philosophers and
dilettanti of ancient Athens, to be held in the great concert-hall of the
Serapeum.

How different was its aspect from that of the Bishop's council-chamber!
The Christians sat within bare walls, on wooden benches, round a plain
table; the large room in which Olympius received his supporters was
magnificently decorated, and furnished with treasures of art in fine
inlaid work, beaten brass and purple stuffs-a hall for kings to meet in.
Thick cushions, covered with lion and panther-skins, tempted fatigue or
indolence; and when the hero of the hour joined his guests, after his
progress through the precincts, every couch was occupied.  To his right
lay Helladius, the famous grammarian and high-priest of Zeus; Porphyrius,
the benefactor of the Serapeum, was on his left; even Karnis had been
allotted a place in his old friend's social circle, and greatly
appreciated the noble juice of the grape, that was passed round, as well
as the eager and intelligent friction of minds, from which he had long
been cut off.

Olympius himself was unanimously chosen Symposiarch, and he invited the
company to discuss, in the first instance, the time-honored question:
Which was the highest good?

One and all, he said, they were standing on a threshold, as it were;
and as travellers, quitting an old and beloved home to seek a new and
unknown one in a distant land, pause to consider what particular joy that
they have known under the shelter of the old Penates has been the
dearest, so it would beseem them to reflect, at this supreme moment, what
had been the highest good of their life in this world.  They were on the
eve, perhaps, of a splendid victory; but, perchance, on the other hand,
their foot was already on the plank that led from the shore of life to
Charon's bark.

The subject was a familiar one and a warm discussion was immediately
started.  The talk was more flowery and brilliant, no doubt, than in old
Athens, but it led to no deeper views and threw no clearer light on the
well-worn question.  The wranglers could only quote what had been said
long since as to the highest Good, and when presently Helladius called
upon them to bring their minds to bear on the nature of humanity, a
vehement disputation arose as to whether man were the best or the worst
of created beings.  This led to various utterances as to the mystical
connection of the spiritual and material worlds, and nothing could be
more amazing than the power of imagination which had enabled these
mystical thinkers to people with spirits and daemons every circle of the
ladder-like structure which connected the incomprehensible and self-
sufficing One with the divine manifestation known as Man.  It became
quite intelligible that many Alexandrians should fear to fling a stone
lest it might hit one of the good daemons of which the air was full--
a spirit of light perhaps, or a protecting spirit.  The more obscure
their theories, the more were they overloaded with image and metaphor;
all simplicity of statement was lost, and yet the disputants prided
themselves on the brilliancy of their language and the wealth of their
ideas.  They believed that they had brought the transcendental within the
grasp of intelligent sense, and that their empty speculations had carried
them far beyond the narrow limits of the Ancients.

Karnis was in raptures; Porphyrius only wished for Gorgo by his side,
for, like all fathers, he would rather that his child should have enjoyed
this supreme intellectual treat than himself.

                    ........................

In Porphyrius' house, meanwhile, all was gloom and anxiety.  In spite of
the terrific heat Damia would not be persuaded to come down from the
turret-room where she had collected all the instruments, manuals and
formulas used by astrologers and Magians.  A certain priest of Saturn,
who had a great reputation as a master of such arts, and who, for many
years, had been her assistant whenever she sought to apply her science
to any important event, was in attendance--to give her the astrological
tables, to draw circles, ellipses or triangles at her bidding, to
interpret the mystical sense of numbers or letters, which now and then
escaped her aged memory; he made her calculations or tested those she
made herself, and read out the incantations which she thought efficacious
under the circumstances.  Occasionally, too, he suggested some new method
or fresh formula by which she might verify her results.

She had fasted, according to rule, the whole forenoon, and was frequently
so far overcome by the heat as to drop asleep in the midst of her
studies; then, when she woke with a start, if her assistant had meanwhile
worked out his calculation to a result contrary to her anticipations, she
took him up sharply and made him begin again from the beginning.  Gorge,
went up from time to time; but, though she offered the old woman
refreshment prepared by her own hand, she could not persuade her even to
moisten her lips with a little fruitsyrup, for to break the prescribed
fast might endanger 3the accuracy of her prognostications and the result
of all her labor.  However, when she seemed to doze, her granddaughter
sprinkled strong waters about the room to freshen the air, poured a few
drops on the old lady's dress, wiped the dews from her brow, and fanned
her to cool her.  Damia submitted to all this; and though she had only
closed her weary eyes, she pretended to be asleep in order to have the
pleasure of being cared for by her darling.

Towards noon she dismissed the Magian and allowed herself a short
interval of rest and sleep; but as soon as she woke she collected her
wits, and set to work again with fresh zeal and diligence.  When, at
last, she had mastered all the signs and omens, she knew for certain that
nothing could avert the awful doom foretold by the oracles of old.

The fall of Serapis and the end of the world were at hand.

The Magian covered his head as he saw, plainly demonstrated, how she had
reached this conclusion, and he groaned in sincere terror; she, however,
dismissed him with perfect equanimity, handing him her purse, which she
had filled in the morning, and saying:

"To last till the end."

The sun was now long past the meridian and the old woman, quite worn out,
threw herself back in her chair and desired Gorgo to let no one disturb
her; nay, not to return herself till she was sent for.  As soon as Damia
was alone she gazed at herself in a mirror for some little time,
murmuring the seven vocables incessantly while she did so; and then she
fixed her eyes intently on the sky.  These strange proceedings were
directed to a particular end, she was endeavoring to close her senses to
the external world, to become blind, deaf, and impervious to everything
material--the polluting burthen which divided her divine and spiritual
part from the celestia fount whence it was derived; to set her soul free
from its earthly shroud--free to gaze on the god that was its father.
She had already more than once nearly attained to this state by long
fasting and resolute abstraction and once, in a moment she could never
forget, had enjoyed the dizzy ecstasy of feeling herself float, as it
were through infinite space, like a cloud, bathed in glorious radiance.
The fatigue that had been gradually over powering her now seconded her
efforts; she soon felt slight tremor; a cold sweat broke out all over
her; she lost all consciousness of her limbs, and all sense of sighs and
hearing; a fresher and cooler air seemed to revive not her lungs only,
but every part of her body, while undulating rays of red and violet light
danced before her eyes.  Was not their strange radiance an emanation
from the eternal glory that she sought?  Was not some mysterious power
uplifting her, bearing her towards the highest goal?  Was her soul
already free from the bondage of the flesh?  Had she indeed become
one with God and had her earnest seeking for the Divinity ended in
glorification?  No; her arms which she had thrown up as if to fly,
fell by her side it was all in vain.  A pain--a trifling pain in her
foot, had brought her down again to the base world of sense which she
so ardently strove to soar away from.

Several times she took up the mirror, looked in it fixedly as before,
and then gazed upwards; but each time that she lost consciousness of the
material world and that her liberated soul began to move its unfettered
pinions, some little noise, the twitch of a muscle, a fly settling on her
hand, a drop of perspiration falling from her brow on to her cheek,
roused her senses to reassert themselves.

Why--why was it so difficult to shake off this burthen of mortal clay?
She thought of herself as of a sculptor who chisels away all superfluous
material froth his block of marble, to reveal the image of the god
within; but it was easier to remove the enclosing stone than to release
the soul from the body to which it was so closely knit.  Still, she did
not give up the struggle to attain the object which others had achieved
before her; but she got no nearer to it--indeed, less and less near, for,
between her and that hoped-for climax, rose up a series of memories and
strange faces which she could not get rid of.  The chisel slipped aside,
went wrong or lost its edge before the image could be extracted from the
block.

One illusion after another floated before her eyes first it was Gorgo,
the idol of her old heart, lying pale and fair on a sea of surf that
rocked her on its watery waste--up high on the crest of a wave and then
deep down in the abyss that yawned behind it.  She, too--so young, a
hardly-opened blossom--must perish in the universal ruin, and be crushed
by the same omnipotent hand that could overthrow the greatest of the
gods; and a glow of passionate hatred snatched her away from the aim of
her hopes.  Then the dream changed she saw a scattered flock of ravens
flying in wide circles, at an unattainable height, against the clouds;
suddenly they vanished and she saw, in a grey mist, the monument to
Porphyrius' wife, Gorgo's long-departed mother.  She had often visited
the mausoleum with tender emotion, but she did not want to see it now--
not now, and she shook it off; but in its place rose up the image of her
daughter-in-law herself, the dweller in that tomb, and no effort of will
or energy availed to banish that face.  She saw the dead woman as she had
seen her on the last fateful occasion in her short life.  A solemn and
festal procession was passing out through the door of their house, headed
by flute-players and singing-girls; then came a white bull; a garland of
the scarlet flowers of the pomegranate--[This tree was regarded as the
symbol of fertility, on account of its many-seeded fruit.]--hung round
its massive neck, and its horns were gilt.  By its side walked slaves,
carrying white baskets full of bread and cakes and heaps of flowers, and
these were followed by others, bearing light-blue cages containing geese
and doves.  The bull, the calves, the flowers and the birds were all to
be deposited in the temple of Eileithyia, as a sacrifice to the
protecting goddess of women in child-birth.  Close behind the bull came
Gorgo's mother, dressed with wreaths, walking slowly and timidly, with
shy, downcast eyes-thinking perhaps of the anguish to come, and putting
up a silent prayer.

Damia followed with the female friends of the house, the clients and
their wives and some personal attendants, all carrying pomegranates in
the right hand, and holding in the left a long wreath of flowers which
thus connected the whole procession.

In this order they reached the ship-yard; but at that spot they were met
by a band of crazy monks from the desert monasteries, who, seeing the
beast for sacrifice, abused them loudly, cursing the heathen.  The slaves
indignantly drove them off, but then the starveling anchorites fell upon
the innocent beast which was the chief abomination in their eyes.  The
bull tossed his huge head, snuffing and snorting to right and left, stuck
out his tail and rushed away from the boy whose guidance he had till now
meekly followed, flung a monk high in the air with his huge horns, and
then turned in his fury on the women who were behind.

They fled like a flock of doves on which a hawk comes swooping down; some
were driven quite into the lake and others up against the paling of the
shipyard, while Damia herself--who was going through it all again in the
midst of her efforts to rise to the divinity--and the young wife whom she
had vainly tried to shelter and support, were both knocked down.  To that
hour of terror Gorgo owed her birth, while to her mother it was death.

On the following day Alexandria beheld a funeral ceremony as solemn,
as magnificent, and as crowded as though a conquering hero were being
entombed; it was that of the monk whom the bull had gored; the Bishop had
proclaimed that by this attack on the abomination of desolation--the
blood-sacrifice of idolatry--he had won an eternal crown in Paradise.

But now the black ravens crossed Damia's vision once more, till presently
a handsome young Greek gaily drove them off with his thyrsus.  His
powerful and supple limbs shone with oil, applied in the gymnasium of
Timagetes, the scene of his frequent triumphs in all the sports and
exercises of the youthful Greeks.  His features and waving hair were
those of her son Apelles; but suddenly his aspect changed: he was an
emaciated penitent, his knees bent under the weight of a heavy cross; his
widow, Mary, had declared him a martyr to the cause of the crucified Jew
and defamed his memory in the eyes of his own son and of all men.  Damia
clenched her trembling hands.  Again those ravens came swirling round,
flapping their wings wildly over the prostrate penitent.

Then her husband appeared to her, calmly indifferent to the birds of ill-
omen.  He looked just as she remembered him many--so many years ago, when
he had come in smiling and said: "The best stroke of business I ever did!
For a sprinkling of water I have secured the corn trade with Thessalonica
and Constantinople; that is a hundred gold solidi for each drop."

Yes, he had made a good bargain.  The profits of that day's work were
multiplied by tens, and water, nothing in the world but Nile water--
Baptismal water the priest had called it--had filled her son's money-
bags, too, and had turned their plot of land into broad estates; but it
had been tacitly understood that this sprinkling of water established a
claim for a return, and this both father and son had solemnly promised.
Its magic turned everything they touched to gold, but it brought a blight
on the peace of the household.  One branch, which had grown up in the
traditions of the old Macedonian stock, had separated from the other; and
her husband's great lie lay between them and the family still living in
the Canopic way, like a wide ocean embittered with the salt of hatred.
That he had infused poison into his son's life and compelled him, proud
as he was, to forfeit the dignity of a free and high-minded man.  Though
devoted in his heart to the old gods he had humbled himself, year after
year, to bow the knee with the hated votaries of the Christian faith, and
in their church, to their crucified Lord, and had publicly confessed
Christ.  The water--the terrible thaumaturgic stream--clung to him more
inseparably than the brand-mark on a slave's arm.  It could neither be
dried up nor wiped away; for if the false Christian, who was really a
zealous heathen, had boldly confessed the Olympian gods and abjured the
odious new faith, the gifts of the all-powerful water and all the
possessions of their old family would be confiscated to the State and
Church, and the children of Porphyrius, the grandchildren of the wealthy
Damia, would be beggars.  And this--all this--for the sake of a crucified
Jew.

The gods be praised the end of all this wretchedness was at hand!  A
thrill of ecstasy ran through her as she reflected that with herself and
her children, every soul, everything that bore the name of Christian
would be crushed, shattered and annihilated.  She could have laughed
aloud but that her throat was so dry, her tongue so parched; but her
scornful triumph was expressed in every feature, as her fancy showed her
Marcus riding along the Canopic street with that little heathen hussy
Dada, the singing girl, while her much-hated daughter-in-law looked
after them, beating her forehead in grief and rage.

Quite beside herself with delight the old woman rocked backwards and
forwards in her chair; not for long, however, for the black birds seemed
to fill the whole room, describing swift, interminable spirals round her
head.  She could not hear them, but she could see them, and the whirling
vortex fascinated her; she could not help turning her head to follow
their flight; she grew giddy and she was forced to try to recover her
balance.

The old woman sat huddled in her chair, her hands convulsively clutching
the arms, like a horseman whose steed has run away with him round and
round the arena; till at length, worn out by excitement and exhaustion,
she became unconscious, and sank in a heap on the ground, rigid and
apparently lifeless.



ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Christianity had ceased to be the creed of the poor
He spoke with pompous exaggeration
Whether man were the best or the worst of created beings





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