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Title: Homo Sum — 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 "Homo Sum — Volume 04" ***

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HOMO SUM

By Georg Ebers

Volume 4.



CHAPTER XIII.

The light in the town, which had attracted Paulus, was in Petrus' house,
and burnt in Polykarp's room, which formed the whole of a small upper-
story, which the senator had constructed for his son over the northern
portion of the spacious flat roof of the main building.  The young man
had arrived about noon with the slaves he had just procured, had learned
all that had happened in his absence, and had silently withdrawn into his
own room after supper was ended.  Here he still lingered over his work.

A bed, a table on and under which lay a multitude of wax-tablets,
papyrus-rolls, metal-points, and writing-reeds, with a small bench, on
which stood a water-jar and basin, composed the furniture of this room;
on its whitewashed walls hung several admirable carvings in relief, and
figures of men and animals stood near them in long rows.  In one corner,
near a stone water-jar, lay a large, damp, shining mass of clay.

Three lamps fastened to stands abundantly lighted this work-room, but
chiefly a figure standing on a high trestle, which Polykarp's fingers
were industriously moulding.

Phoebicius had called the young sculptor a fop, and not altogether
unjustly, for he loved to be well dressed and was choice as to the cut
and color of his simple garments, and he rarely neglected to arrange his
abundant hair with care, and to anoint it well; and yet it was almost
indifferent to him, whether his appearance pleased other people or no,
but he knew nothing nobler than the human form, and an instinct, which he
did not attempt to check, impelled him to keep his own person as nice as
he liked to see that of his neighbor.

Now at this hour of the night, he wore only a shirt of white woollen
stuff, with a deep red border.  His locks, usually so well-kept, seemed
to stand out from his head separately, and instead of smoothing and
confining them, he added to their wild disorder, for, as be worked, he
frequently passed his hand through them with a hasty movement.  A bat,
attracted by the bright light, flew in at the open window--which was
screened only at the bottom by a dark curtain--and fluttered round the
ceiling; but he did not observe it, for his work absorbed his whole soul
and mind.  In this eager and passionate occupation, in which every nerve
and vein in his being seemed to bear a part, no cry for help would have
struck his ear--even a flame breaking out close to him would not have
caught his eye.  His cheeks glowed, a fine dew of glistening sweat
covered his brow, and his very gaze seemed to become more and more firmly
riveted to the sculpture as it took form under his hand.  Now and again
he stepped back from it, and leaned backwards from his hips, raising his
hands to the level of his temples, as if to narrow the field of vision;
then he went up to the model, and clutched the plastic mass of clay, as
though it were the flesh of his enemy.

He was now at work on the flowing hair of the figure before him, which
had already taken the outline of a female head, and he flung the bits of
clay, which he removed from the back of it, to the ground, as violently
as though he were casting them at an antagonist at his feet.  Again his
finger-tips and modelling-tool were busy with the mouth, nose, cheeks,
and eyes, and his own eyes took a softer expression, which gradually grew
to be a gaze of ecstatic delight, as the features he was moulding began
to agree more and more with the image, which at this time excluded every
other from his imagination.

At last, with glowing cheeks, he had finished rounding the soft form of
the shoulders, and drew back once more to contemplate the effect of the
completed work; a cold shiver seized him, and he felt himself impelled
to lift it up, and dash it to the ground with all his force.  But he soon
mastered this stormy excitement, he pushed his hand through his hair
again and again, and posted himself, with a melancholy smile and with
folded hands, in front of his creation; sunk deeper and deeper in his
contemplation of it, he did not observe that the door behind him was
opened, although the flame of his lamps flickered in the draught, and
that his mother had entered the work-room, and by no means endeavored to
approach him unheard, or to surprise him.  In her anxiety for her
darling, who had gone through so many bitter experiences during the past
day, she had not been able to sleep.  Polykarp's room lay above her
bedroom, and when his steps over head betrayed that, though it was now
near morning, he had not yet gone to rest, she had risen from her bed
without waking Petrus, who seemed to be sleeping.  She obeyed her
motherly impulse to encourage Polykarp with some loving words, and
climbing up the narrow stair that led to the roof, she went into his
room.  Surprised, irresolute, and speechless she stood for some time
behind the young man, and looked at the strongly illuminated and
beautiful features of the newly-formed bust, which was only too like its
well-known prototype.  At last she laid her hand on her son's shoulder,
and spoke his name.  Polykarp stepped back, and looked at his mother in
bewilderment, like a man roused from sleep; but she interrupted the
stammering speech with which he tried to greet her, by saying, gravely
and not without severity, as she pointed to the statue, "What does this
mean?"

"What should it mean, mother?"  answered Polykarp in a low tone, and
shaking his head sadly.  "Ask me no more at present, for if you gave me
no rest, and even if I tried to explain to you how to-day--this very day
--I have felt impelled and driven to make this woman's image, still you
could not understand me--no, nor any one else."

"God forbid that I should ever understand it!"  cried Dorothea.  "'Thou
shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife,' was the commandment of the Lord on
this mountain.  And you?  You think I could not understand you?  Who
should understand you then, if not your mother?  This I certainly do not
comprehend, that a son of Petrus and of mine should have thrown all the
teaching and the example of his parents so utterly to the wind.  But what
you are aiming at with this statue, it seems to me is not hard to guess.
As the forbidden-fruit hangs too high for you, you degrade your art, and
make to yourself an image that resembles her according to your taste.
Simply and plainly it comes to this; as you can no longer see the Gaul's
wife in her own person, and yet cannot exist without the sweet presence
of the fair one, you make a portrait of clay to make love to, and you
will carry on idolatry before it, as once the Jews did before the golden
calf and the brazen serpent."

Polykarp submitted to his mother's angry blame in silence, but in painful
emotion.  Dorothea had never before spoken to him thus, and to hear such
words from the very lips which were used to address him with such heart-
felt tenderness, gave him unspeakable pain.  Hitherto she had always been
inclined to make excuses for his weaknesses and little faults, nay, the
zeal with which she had observed and pointed out his merits and
performances before strangers as well as before their own family, had
often seemed to him embarrassing.  And now?  She had indeed reason to
blame him, for Sirona was the wife of another, she had never even noticed
his admiration, and now, they all said, had committed a crime for the
sake of a stranger.  It must seem both a mad and a sinful thing in the
eyes of men that he of all others should sacrifice the best he had--his
Art--and how little could Dorothea, who usually endeavored to understand
him, comprehend the overpowering impulse which had driven him to his
task.

He loved and honored his mother with his whole heart, and feeling that
she was doing herself an injustice by her false and low estimate of his
proceedings, he interrupted her eager discourse, raising his hands
imploringly to her.

"No, mother, no!"  he exclaimed.  "As truly as God is my helper, it is
not so.  It is true that I have moulded this head, but not to keep it,
and commit the sin of worshipping it, but rather to free myself from the
image that stands before my mind's eye by day and by night, in the city
and in the desert, whose beauty distracts my mind when I think, and my
devotions when I try to pray.  To whom is it given to read the soul of
man?  And is not Sirona's form and face the loveliest image of the Most
High?  So to represent it, that the whole charm that her presence
exercises over me might also be felt by every beholder, is a task that I
have set myself ever since her arrival in our house.  I had to go back to
the capital, and the work I longed to achieve took a clearer form; at
every hour I discovered something to change and to improve in the pose of
the head, the glance of the eye or the expression of the mouth.  But
still I lacked courage to put the work in hand, for it seemed too
audacious to attempt to give reality to the glorious image in my soul, by
the aid of gray clay and pale cold marble; to reproduce it so that the
perfect work should delight the eye of sense, no less than the image
enshrined in my breast delights my inward eye.  At the same time I was
not idle, I gained the prize for the model of the lions, and if I have
succeeded with the Good Shepherd blessing the flock, which is for the
sarcophagus of Comes, and if the master could praise the expression of
devoted tenderness in the look of the Redeemer, I know--nay, do not
interrupt me, mother, for what I felt was a pure emotion and no sin--
I know that it was because I was myself so full of love, that I was
enabled to inspire the very stone with love.  At last I had no peace, and
even without my father's orders I must have returned home; then I saw her
again, and found her even more lovely than the image which reigned in my
soul.  I heard her voice, and her silvery bell-like laughter--and then--
and then--.  You know very well what I learned yesterday.  The unworthy
wife of an unworthy husband, the woman Sirona, is gone from me for ever,
and I was striving to drive her image from my soul, to annihilate it and
dissipate it--but in vain! and by degrees a wonderful stress of creative
power came upon me.  I hastily placed the lamps, took the clay in my
hand, and feature by feature I brought forth with bitter joy the image
that is deeply graven in my heart, believing that thus I might be
released from the spell.  There is the fruit which was ripened in my
heart, but there, where it so long has dwelt, I feel a dismal void, and
if the husk which so long tenderly enfolded this image were to wither and
fall asunder, I should not wonder at it.--To that thing there clings the
best part of my life."

"Enough!"  exclaimed Dorothea, interrupting her son who stood before her
in great agitation and with trembling lips.  "God forbid that that mask
there should destroy your life and soul.  I suffer nothing impure within
my house, and you should not in your heart.  That which is evil can never
more be fair, and however lovely the face there may look to you, it looks
quite as repulsive to me when I reflect that it probably smiled still
more fascinatingly on some strolling beggar.  If the Gaul brings her back
I will turn her out of my house, and I will destroy her image with my own
hands if you do not break it in pieces on the spot."

Dorothea's eyes were swimming in tears as she spoke these words.  She had
felt with pride and emotion during her son's speech how noble and high-
minded he was, and the idea that this rare and precious treasure should
be spoilt or perhaps altogether ruined for the sake of a lost woman,
drove her to desperation, and filled her motherly heart with indignation.

Firmly resolved to carry out her threat she stepped towards the figure,
but Polykarp placed himself in her way, raising his arm imploringly to
defend it, and saying, "Not to-day--not yet, mother!  I will cover it up,
and will not look at it again till to-morrow, but once--only once--I must
see it again by sunlight."

"So that to-morrow the old madness may revive in you!"  cried Dorothea.
"Move out of my way or take the hammer yourself."

"You order it, and you are my mother," said Polykarp.

He slowly went up to the chest in which his tools and instruments lay,
and bitter tears ran down his cheeks, as he took his heaviest hammer in
his hand.

When the sky has shown for many days in summer-blue, and then suddenly
the clouds gather for a storm, when the first silent but fearful flash
with it noisy but harmless associate the thunder-clap has terrified the
world, a second and third thunder-bolt immediately follow.  Since the
stormy night of yesterday had broken in on the peaceful, industrious, and
monotonous life by the senator's hearth, many things had happened that
had filled him and his wife with fresh anxiety.

In other houses it was nothing remarkable that a slave should run away,
but in the senator's it was more than twenty years since such a thing had
occurred, and yesterday the goat-herd Miriam had disappeared.  This was
vexatious, but the silent sorrow of his son Polykarp was a greater
anxiety to Petrus.  It did not please him that the youth, who was usually
so vehement, should submit unresistingly and almost indifferently to the
Bishop Agapitus, who prohibited his completing his lions.  His son's sad
gaze, his crushed and broken aspect were still in his mind when at last
he went to rest for the night; it was already late, but sleep avoided him
even as it had avoided Dorothea.  While the mother was thinking of her
son's sinful love and the bleeding wound in his young and betrayed heart,
the father grieved for Polykarp's baffled hopes of exercising his art on
a great work and recalled the saddest, bitterest day of his own youth;
for he too had served his apprenticeship under a sculptor in Alexandria,
had looked up to the works of the heathen as noble models, and striven to
form himself upon them.  He had already been permitted by his master to
execute designs of his own, and out of the abundance of subjects which
offered themselves, he had chosen to model an Ariadne, waiting and
longing for the return of Thescus, as a symbolic image of his own
soul awaiting its salvation.  How this work had filled his mind! how
delightful had the hours of labor seemed to him!--when, suddenly, his
stern father had come to the city, had seen his work before it was quite
finished, and instead of praising it had scorned it; had abused it as a
heathen idol, and had commanded Petrus to return home with him
immediately, and to remain there, for that his son should be a pious
Christian, and a good stone-mason withal--not half a heathen, and a maker
of false gods.

Petrus had much loved his art, but he offered no resistance to his
father's orders; he followed him back to the oasis, there to superintend
the work of the slaves who hewed the stone, to measure granite-blocks for
sarcophagi and pillars, and to direct the cutting of them.  His father
was a man of steel, and he himself a lad of iron, and when he saw himself
compelled to yield to his father and to leave his master's workshop, to
abandon his cherished and unfinished work and to become an artizan and
mail of business, he swore never again to take a piece of clay in his
hand, or to wield a chisel.  And he kept his word even after his fathers
death; but his creative instincts and love of art continued to live and
work in him, and were transmitted to his two sons.

Antonius was a highly gifted artist, and if Polykarp's master was not
mistaken, and if he himself were not misled by fatherly affection, his
second son was on the high road to the very first rank in art--to a
position reached only by elect spirits.

Petrus knew the models for the Good Shepherd and for the lions, and
declared to himself that these last were unsurpassable in truth, power,
and majesty.  How eagerly must the young artist long to execute them in
hard stone, and to see them placed in the honored, though indeed pagan,
spot, which was intended for them.  And now the bishop forbade him the
work, and the poor fellow might well be feeling just as he himself had
felt thirty years ago, when he had been commanded to abandon the immature
first-fruits of his labor.

Was the bishop indeed right?  This and many other questions agitated the
sleepless father, and as soon as he heard that his wife had risen from
her bed to go to her son, whose footsteps he too could hear overhead, he
got up and followed her.

He found the door of the work-room open, and, himself unseen and unheard,
he was witness to his wife's vehement speech, and to the lad's
justification, while Polykarp's work stood in the full light of the
lamps, exactly in front of him.

His gaze was spell-bound to the mass of clay; he looked and looked, and
was not weary of looking, and his soul swelled with the same awe-struck
sense of devout admiration that it had experienced, when for the first
time, in his early youth, he saw with his own eyes the works of the great
old Athenian masters in the Caesareum.

And this head was his son's work!

He stood there greatly overcome, his hands clasped together, holding his
breath till his mouth was dry, and swallowing his tears to keep them from
falling.  At the same time he listened with anxious attention, so as not
to lose one word of Polykarp's.

"Aye, thus and thus only are great works of art begotten," said he to
himself, "and if the Lord had bestowed on me such gifts as on this lad,
no father, nay, no god, should have compelled me to leave my Ariadne
unfinished.  The attitude of the body was not bad I should say--but the
head, the face--Aye, the man who can mould such a likeness as that has
his hand and eye guided by the holy spirits of art.  He who has done that
head will be praised in the latter days together with the great Athenian
masters--and he-yes, he, merciful Heaven! he is my own beloved son!"

A blessed sense of rejoicing, such as he had not felt since his early
youth, filled his heart, and Dorothea's ardor seemed to him half pitiful
and half amusing.

It was not till his duteous son took the hammer in his hand, that he
stepped between his wife and the bust, saying kindly:

"There will be time enough to-morrow to destroy the work.  Forget the
model, my son, now that you have taken advantage of it so successfully.
I know of a better mistress for you--Art--to whom belongs everything of
beauty that the Most High has created--In Art in all its breadth and
fulness, not fettered and narrowed by any Agapitus."

Polykarp flung himself into his father's arms, and the stern man, hardly
master of his emotions, kissed the boy's forehead, his eyes, and his
cheeks.



CHAPTER XIV.

At noon of the following day the senator went to the women's room, and
while he was still on the threshold, he asked his wife--who was busy at
the loom:

"Where is Polykarp?  I did not find him with Antonius, who is working at
the placing of the altar, and I thought I might find him here."

"After going to the church," said Dorothea, "he went up the mountain.
Go down to the workshops, Marthana, and see if your brother has come
back."

Her daughter obeyed quickly and gladly, for her brother was to her the
dearest, and seemed to her to be the best, of men.  As soon as the pair
were alone together Petrus said, while he held out his hand to his wife
with genial affection, "Well, mother--shake hands."  Dorothea paused for
an instant, looking him in the face, as if to ask him, "Does your pride
at last allow you to cease doing me an injustice?"  It was a reproach,
but in truth not a severe one, or her lips would hardly have trembled so
tenderly, as she said.

"You cannot be angry with me any longer, and it is well that all should
once more be as it ought."

All certainly had not been "as it ought," for since the husband and wife
had met in Polykarp's work-room, they had behaved to each other as if
they were strangers.  In their bedroom, on the way to church, and at
breakfast, they had spoken to each no more than was absolutely necessary,
or than was requisite in order to conceal their difference from the
servants and children.  Up to this time, an understanding had always
subsisted between them that had never taken form in words, and yet that
had scarcely in a single case been infringed, that neither should ever
praise one of their children for anything that the other thought
blameworthy, and vice versa.

But in this night, her husband had followed up her severest condemnation
by passionately embracing the wrong-doer.  Never had she been so stern in
any circumstances, while on the other hand her husband, so long as she
could remember, had never been so softhearted and tender to his son, and
yet she had controlled herself so far, as not to contradict Petrus in
Polykarp's presence, and to leave the work-room in silence with her
husband.

"When we are once alone together in the bedroom," thought she, "I will
represent to him his error as I ought, and he will have to answer for
himself."

But she did not carry out this purpose, for she felt that something must
be passing in her husband's mind that she did not understand; otherwise
how could his grave eyes shine so mildly and kindly, and his stern lips
smile so affectionately after all that had occurred when he, lamp in
hand, had mounted the narrow stair.

He had often told her that she could read his soul like an open book, but
she did not conceal from herself that there were certain sides of that
complex structure whose meaning she was incapable of comprehending.
And strange to say, she ever and again came upon these incomprehensible
phases of his soul, when the images of the gods, and the idolatrous
temples of the heathen, or when their sons' enterprises and work were the
matters in hand.  And yet Petrus was the son of a pious Christian; but
his grandfather had been a Greek heathen, and hence perhaps a certain
something wrought in his blood which tormented her, because she could not
reconcile it with Agapitus' doctrine, but which she nevertheless dared
not attempt to oppose because her taciturn husband never spoke out with
so much cheerfulness and frankness as when he might talk of these things
with his sons and their friends, who often accompanied them to the oasis.
Certainly, it could be nothing sinful that at this particular moment
seemed to light up her husband's face, and restore his youth.

"They just are men," said she to herself, "and in many things they have
the advantage of us women.  The old man looks as he did on his wedding-
day!  Polykarp is the very image of him, as every one says, and now,
looking at the father, and recalling to my mind how the boy looked when
he told me how he could not refrain from making Sirona's portrait, I must
say that I never saw such a likeness in the whole course of my life."

He bid her a friendly good night, and extinguished the lamp.  She would
willingly have said a loving word to him, for his contented expression
touched and comforted her, but that would just then have been too much
after what she had gone through in her son's workroom.  In former years
it had happened pretty often that, when one of them had caused
dissatisfaction to the other, and there had been some quarrel between
them, they had gone to rest unreconciled, but the older they grew the
more rarely did this occur, and it was now a long time since any shadow
had fallen on the perfect serenity of their married life.

Three years ago, on the occasion of the marriage of their eldest son,
they had been standing together, looking up at the starry sky, when
Petrus had come close up to her, and had said, "How calmly and peacefully
the wanderers up there follow their roads without jostling or touching
one another!  As I walked home alone from the quarries by their friendly
light, I thought of many things.  Perhaps there was once a time when the
stars rushed wildly about in confusion, crossing each other's path, while
many a star flew in pieces at the impact.  Then the Lord created man, and
love came into the world and filled the heavens and the earth, and he
commanded the stars to be our light by night; then each began to respect
the path of the other, and the stars more rarely came into collision till
even the smallest and swiftest kept to its own path and its own period,
and the shining host above grew to be as harmonious as it is numberless.
Love and a common purpose worked this marvel, for he who loves another,
will do him no injury, and he who is bound to perfect a work with the
help of another, will not hinder nor delay him.  We two have long since
found the right road, and if at any time one of us is inclined to cross
the path of the other, we are held back by love and by our common duty,
namely to shed a pure light on the path of our children."

Dorothea had never forgotten these words, and they came into her mind now
again when Petrus held out his hand to her so warmly; as she laid hers in
it, she said:

"For the sake of dear peace, well and good--but one thing I cannot leave
unsaid.  Soft-hearted weakness is not usually your defect, but you will
utterly spoil Polykarp."

"Leave him, let us leave him as he is," cried Petrus, kissing his wife's
brow.  "It is strange how we have exchanged parts!  Yesterday you were
exhorting me to mildness towards the lad, and to-day--"

"To-day I am severer than you," interrupted Dorothea.  "Who, indeed,
could guess that an old graybeard would derogate from the duties of his
office as father and as judge for the sake of a woman's smiling face in
clay--as Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage?"

"And to whom would it occur," asked Petrus, taking up his wife's tone,
"that so tender a mother as you would condemn her favorite son, because
he labored to earn peace for his soul by a deed--by a work for which his
master might envy him?"

"I have indeed observed," interrupted Dorothea, that Sirona's image has
bewitched you, and you speak as if the boy had achieved some great
miracle.  I do not know much about modelling and sculpture, and I will
not contradict you, but if the fair-haired creature's face were less
pretty, and if Polykarp had not executed any thing remarkable, would it
have made the smallest difference in what he has done and felt wrong?
Certainly not.  But that is just like men, they care only for success."

"And with perfect justice," answered Petrus, "if the success is attained,
not in mere child's play, but by a severe struggle.  'To him, that hath,
shall more be given,' says the scripture, and he who has a soul more
richly graced than others have--he who is helped by good spirits--he
shall be forgiven many things that even a mild judge would be unwilling
to pardon in a man of poor gifts, who torments and exerts himself and yet
brings nothing to perfection.  Be kind to the boy again.  Do you know
what prospect lies before you through him?  You yourself in your life
have done much good, and spoken much wisdom, and I, and the children, and
the people in this place, will never forget it all.  But I can promise
you the gratitude of the best and noblest who now live or who will live
in centuries to come--for that you are the mother of Polykarp!"

"And people say," cried Dorothea, "that every mother has four eyes for
her children's merits.  If that is true, then fathers no doubt have ten,
and you as many as Argus, of whom the heathen legend speaks--But there
comes Polykarp."

Petrus went forward to meet his son, and gave him his hand, but in quite
a different manner to what he had formerly shown; at least it seemed to
Dorothea that her husband received the youth, no longer as his father and
master, but as a friend greets a friend who is his equal in privileges
and judgment.  When Polykarp turned to greet her also she colored all
over, for the thought flashed through her mind that her son, when he
thought of the past night, must regard her as unjust or foolish; but she
soon recovered her own calm equanimity, for Polykarp was the same as
ever, and she read in his eyes that he felt towards her the same as
yesterday and as ever.

"Love," thought she, "is not extinguished by injustice, as fire is by
water.  It blazes up brighter or less bright, no doubt, according to the
way the wind blows, but it cannot be wholly smothered--least of all by
death."

Polykarp had been up the mountain, and Dorothea was quite satisfied when
he related what had led him thither.  He had long since planned the
execution of a statue of Moses, and when his father had left him, he
could not get the tall and dignified figure of the old man out of his
mind.  He felt that he had found the right model for his work.  He must,
he would forget--and he knew, that he could only succeed if he found a
task which might promise to give some new occupation to his bereaved
soul.  Still, he had seen the form of the mighty man of God which he
proposed to model, only in vague outline before his mind's eye, and he
had been prompted to go to a spot whither many pilgrims resorted, and
which was known as the Place of Communion, because it was there that the
Lord had spoken to Moses.  There Polykarp had spent some time, for there,
if anywhere--there, where the Law-giver himself had stood, must he find
right inspiration.

"And you have accomplished your end?"  asked his father.

Polykarp shook his head.

"If you go often enough to the sacred spot, it will come to you," said
Dorothea.  "The beginning is always the chief difficulty; only begin at
once to model your father's head."

"I have already begun it," replied Polykarp, "but I am still tired from
last night."

"You look pale, and have dark lines under your eyes," said Dorothea
anxiously.  "Go up stairs and he down to rest.  I will follow you and
bring you a beaker of old wine."

"That will not hurt him," said Petrus, thinking as he spoke--"A draught
of Lethe would serve him even better."

When, an hour later, the senator sought his son in his work-room, he
found him sleeping, and the wine stood untouched on the table.  Petrus
softly laid his hand on his son's forehead and found it cool and free
from fever.  Then he went quietly up to the portrait of Sirona, raised
the cloth with which it was covered, and stood before it a long time sunk
in thought.  At last he drew back, covered it up again, and examined the
models which stood on a shelf fastened to the wall.

A small female figure particularly fixed his attention, and he was taking
it admiringly in his band when Polykarp awoke.

"That is the image of the goddess of fate--that is a Tyche," said Petrus.

"Do not be angry with me, father," entreated Polykarp.  "You know, the
figure of a Tyche is to stand in the hand of the statue of the Caesar
that is intended for the new city of Constantine, and so I have tried to
represent the goddess.  The drapery and pose of the arms, I think, have
succeeded, but I failed in the head."  Petrus, who had listened to him
with attention, glanced involuntarily at the head of Sirona, and Polykarp
followed his eyes surprised and almost startled.

The father and son had understood each other, and Polykarp said, "I had
already thought of that."

Then he sighed bitterly, and said to himself, "Yes and verily, she is
the goddess of my fate."  But he dared not utter this aloud.

But Petrus had heard him sigh, and said, "Let that pass.  This head
smiles with sweet fascination, and the countenance of the goddess that
rules the actions even of the immortals, should be stern and grave."

Polykarp could contain himself no longer.

"Yes, father," he exclaimed.  "Fate is terrible--and yet I will represent
the goddess with a smiling mouth, for that which is most terrible in her
is, that she rules not by stern laws, but smiles while she makes us her
sport."



CHAPTER XV.

It was a splendid morning; not a cloud dimmed the sky which spread high
above desert, mountain, and oasis, like an arched tent of uniform deep-
blue silk.  How delicious it is to breathe the pure, light, aromatic air
on the heights, before the rays of the sun acquire their mid-day power,
and the shadows of the heated porphyry cliffs, growing shorter and
shorter, at last wholly disappear!

With what delight did Sirona inhale this pure atmosphere, when after a
long night--the fourth that she had passed in the anchorite's dismal
cave-she stepped out into the air.  Paulus sat by the hearth, and was so
busily engaged with some carving, that he did not observe her approach.

"Kind good man!"  thought Sirona, as she perceived a steaming pot on the
fire, and the palm-branches which the Alexandrian had fastened up by the
entrance to the cave, to screen her from the mounting sun.  She knew the
way without a guide to the spring from which Paulus had brought her water
at their first meeting, and she now slipped away, and went down to it
with a pretty little pitcher of burnt clay in her hand.  Paulus did
indeed see her, but he made as though he neither, saw nor heard, for he
knew she was going there to wash herself, and to dress and smarten
herself as well as might be--for was she not a woman!  When she returned,
she looked not less fresh and charming than on that morning when she had
been seen and watched by Hermas.  True, her heart was sore, true, she was
perplexed and miserable, but sleep and rest had long since effaced from
her healthy, youthful, and elastic frame all traces left by that fearful
day of flight; and fate, which often means best by us when it shows us a
hostile face, had sent her a minor anxiety to divert her from her graver
cares.

Her greyhound was very ill, and it seemed that in the ill-treatment it
had experienced, not only its leg had been broken, but that it had
suffered some internal injury.  The brisk, lively little creature fell
down powerless when ever it tried to stand, and when she took it up to
nurse it comfortably in her lap, it whined pitifully, and looked up at
her sorrowfully, and as if complaining to her.  It would take neither
food nor drink; its cool little nose was hot; and when she left the cave,
Iambe lay panting on the fine woollen coverlet which Paulus had spread
upon the bed, unable even to look after her.

Before taking the dog the water she had fetched in the graceful jar--
which was another gift from her hospitable friend--she went up to Paulus
and greeted him kindly.  He looked up from his work, thanked her, and a
few minutes later, when she came out of the cave again, asked her, "How
is the poor little creature?"

Sirona shrugged her shoulders, and said sadly, "She has drunk nothing,
and does not even know me, and pants as rapidly as last evening--if I
were to lose the poor little beast!--"

She could say no more for emotion, but Paulus shook his head.

"It is sinful," he said, "to grieve so for a beast devoid of reason."

"Iambe is not devoid of reason," replied Sirona.  "And even if she were,
what have I left if she dies?  She grew up in my father's house, where
all loved me; I had her first when she was only a few days old, and I
brought her up on milk on a little bit of sponge.  Many a time, when I
heard the little thing whining for food, have I got out of bed at night
with bare feet; and so she came to cling to me like a child, and could
not do without me.  No one can know how another feels about such things.
My father used to tell us of a spider that beautified the life of a
prisoner, and what is a dirty dumb creature like that to my clever,
graceful little dog!  I have lost my home, and here every one believes
the worst of me, although I have done no one any harm, and no one, no one
loves me but Iambe."

"But I know of one who loves every one with a divine and equal love,"
interrupted Paulus.

"I do not care for such a one," answered Sirona.  "Iambe follows no one
but me; what good can a love do me that I must share with all the world!
But you mean the crucified God of the Christians?  He is good and
pitiful, so says Dame Dorothea; but he is dead--I cannot see him, nor
hear him, and, certainly, I cannot long for one who only shows me grace.
I want one to whom I can count for something, and to whose life and
happiness I am indispensable."

A scarcely perceptible shudder thrilled through the Alexandrian as she
spoke these words, and he thought, as he glanced at her face and figure
with a mingled expression of regret and admiration, "Satan, before he
fell, was the fairest among the pure spirits, and he still has power over
this woman.  She is still far from being ripe for salvation, and yet she
has a gentle heart, and even if she has erred, she is not lost."

Sirona's eyes had met his, and she said with a sigh, "You look at me so
compassionately--if only Iambe were well, and if I succeeded in reaching
Alexandria, my destiny would perhaps take a turn for the better."

Paulus had risen while she spoke, and had taken the pot from the hearth;
he now offered it to his guest, saying:

"For the present we will trust to this broth to compensate to you for the
delights of the capital; I am glad that you relish it.  But tell me now,
have you seriously considered what danger may threaten a beautiful,
young, and unprotected woman in the wicked city of the Greeks?  Would it
not be better that you should submit to the consequences of your guilt,
and return to Phoebicius, to whom unfortunately you belong?"

Sirona, at these words, had set down the vessel out of which she was
eating, and rising in passionate haste, she exclaimed:

"That shall never, never be!--And when I was sitting up there half-dead,
and took your step for that of Phoebicius, the gods showed me a way to
escape from him, and from you or anyone who would drag me back to him.
When I fled to the edge of the abyss, I was raving and crazed, but what I
then would have done in my madness, I would do now in cold blood--as
surely as I hope to see my own people in Arelas once more!  What was I
once, and to what have I come through Phoebicius!  Life was to me a sunny
garden with golden trellises and shady trees and waters as bright as
crystal, with rosy flowers and singing birds; and he, he has darkened its
light, and fouled its springs, and broken down its flowers.  All now
seems dumb and colorless, and if the abyss is my grave, no one will miss
me nor mourn for me."

"Poor woman!"  said Paulus.  "Your husband then showed you very little
love."

"Love," laughed Sirona, "Phoebicius and love!  Only yesterday I told you,
how cruelly he used to torture me after his feasts, when he was drunk or
when he recovered from one of his swoons.  But one thing he did to me,
one thing which broke the last thread of a tie between us.  No one yet
has ever heard a word of it from me; not even Dorothea, who often blamed
me when I let slip a hard word against my husband.  It was well for her
to talk--if I had found a husband like Petrus I might perhaps have been
like Dorothea.  It is a marvel, which I myself do not understand, that I
did not grow wicked with such a man, a man who--why should I conceal it--
who, when we were at Rome, because he was in debt, and because he hoped
to get promotion through his legate Quintillus, sold me--me--to him.  He
himself brought the old man--who had often followed me about--into his
house, but our hostess, a good woman, had overheard the matter, and
betrayed it all to me.  It is so base, so vile--it seems to blacken my
soul only to think of it!  The legate got little enough in return for his
sesterces, but Phoebicius did not restore his wages of sin, and his rage
against me knew no bounds when he was transferred to the oasis at the
instigation of his betrayed chief.  Now you know all, and never advise me
again to return to that man to whom my misfortune has bound me.

"Only listen how the poor little beast in there is whining.  It wants to
come to me, and has not the strength to move."

Paulus looked after her sympathetically as she disappeared under the
opening in the rock, and he awaited her return with folded arms.  He
could not see into the cave, for the space in which the bed stood was
closed at the end by the narrow passage which formed the entrance, and
which joined it at an angle as the handle of a scythe joins the blade.
She remained a long time, and he could hear now and then a tender word
with which she tried to comfort the suffering creature.  Suddenly he was
startled by a loud and bitter cry from Sirona; no doubt, the poor woman's
affectionate little companion was dead, and in the dim twilight of the
cave she had seen its dulled eye, and felt the stiffness of death
overspreading and paralyzing its slender limbs.  He dared not go into the
cavern, but he felt his eyes fill with tears, and he would willingly have
spoken some word of consolation to her.

At last she came out, her eyes red with weeping.  Paulus had guessed
rightly for she held the body of little Iambe in her arms.

"How sorry I am," said Paulus, "the poor little creature was so pretty."

Sirona nodded, sat down, and unfastened the prettily embroidered band
from the dog's neck, saying half to herself, and half to Paulus, "My
little Agnes worked this collar.  I myself had taught her to sew, and
this was the first piece of work that was all her own."  She held the
collar up to the anchorite.  "This clasp is of real silver," she went on,
"and my father himself gave it to me.  He was fond of the poor little dog
too.  Now it will never leap and spring again, poor thing."

She looked sadly down at the dead dog.  Then she collected herself, and
said hurriedly, "Now I will go away from here.  Nothing--nothing keeps me
any longer in this wilderness, for the senator's house, where I have
spent many happy hours, and where everyone was fond of me, is closed
against me, and must ever be so long as he lives there.  If you have not
been kind to me only to do me harm in the end, let me go today, and help
me to reach Alexandria."

"Not to-day, in any case not to-day," replied Paulus.  "First I must find
out when a vessel sails for Klysma or for Berenike, and then I have many
other things to see to for you.  You owe me an answer to my question, as
to what you expect to do and to find in Alexandria.  Poor child--the
younger and the fairer you are--"

"I know all you would say to me," interrupted Sirona.  "Wherever I have
been, I have attracted the eyes of men, and when I have read in their
looks that I pleased them, it has greatly pleased me--why should I deny
it?  Many a one has spoken fair words to me or given me flowers, and sent
old women to my house to win me for them, but even if one has happened to
please me better than another, still I have never found it hard to send
them home again as was fitting."

"Till Hermas laid his love at your feet," said Paulus.  "He is a bold
lad--"

"A pretty, inexperienced boy," said Sirona, "neither more nor less.  It
was a heedless thing, no doubt, to admit him to my rooms, but no vestal
need be ashamed to own to such favor as I showed him.  I am innocent, and
I will remain so that I may stand in my father's presence without a blush
when I have earned money enough in the capital for the long journey."

Paulus looked in her face astonished and almost horrified.

Then he had in fact taken on himself guilt which did not exist, and
perhaps the senator would have been slower to condemn Sirona, if it had
not been for his falsely acknowledging it.  He stood before her, feeling
like a child that would fain put together some object of artistic
workmanship, and who has broken it to pieces for want of skill.  At the
same time he could not doubt a word that she said, for the voice within
him had long since plainly told him that this woman was no common
criminal.

For some time he was at a loss for words; at last he said timidly:

"What do you purpose doing in Alexandria?"

"Polykarp says, that all good work finds a purchaser there," she
answered.  "And I can weave particularly well, and embroider with gold-
thread.  Perhaps I may find shelter under some roof where there are
children, and I would willingly attend to them during the day.  In my
free time and at night I could work at my frame, and when I have scraped
enough together I shall soon find a ship that will carry me to Gaul, to
my own people.  Do you not see that I cannot go back to Phoebicius, and
can you help me?"

"Most willingly, and better perhaps than you fancy," said Paulus.  "I
cannot explain this to you just now; but you need not request me, but may
rather feel that you have a good right to demand of me that I should
rescue you."

She looked at him in surprised enquiry, and he continued:

"First let me carry away the little dog, and bury it down there.  I will
put a stone over the grave, that you may know where it lies.  It must be
so, the body cannot be here any longer.  Take the thing, which lies
there.  I had tried before to cut it out for you, for you complained
yesterday that your hair was all in a tangle because you had not a comb,
so I tried to carve you one out of bone.  There were none at the shop in
the oasis, and I am myself only a wild creature of the wilderness, a
sorry, foolish animal, and do not use one.

"Was that a stone that fell?  Aye, certainly, I hear a man's step; go
quickly into the cave and do not stir till I call you."

Sirona withdrew into her rock-dwelling, and Paulus took the body of the
dog in his arms to conceal it from the man who was approaching.  He
looked round, undecided, and seeking a hiding-place for it, but two sharp
eyes had already detected him and his small burden from the height above
him; before he had found a suitable place, stones were rolling and
crashing down from the cliff to the right of the cavern, and at the same
time a man came springing down with rash boldness from rock to rock, and
without heeding the warning voice of the anchorite, flung himself down
the slope, straight in front of him, exclaiming, while he struggled for
breath and his face was hot with hatred and excitement:

"That--I know it well-that is Sirona's greyhound--where is its mistress?
Tell me this instant, where is Sirona--I must and will know."

Paulus had frequently seen, from the penitent's room in the church, the
senator and his family in their places near the altar, and he was much
astonished to recognize in the daring leaper, who rushed upon him like a
mad man with dishevelled hair and fiery eyes, Polykarp, Petrus' second
son.

The anchorite found it difficult to preserve his calm, and composed
demeanor, for since he had been aware that he had accused Sirona falsely
of a heavy sin, while at the same time he had equally falsely confessed
himself the partner of her misdeed, he felt an anxiety that amounted to
anguish, and a leaden oppression checked the rapidity of his thoughts.
He at first stammered out a few unintelligible words, but his opponent
was in fearful earnest with his question; he seized the collar of the
anchorite's coarse garment with terrible violence, and cried in a husky
voice, "Where did you find the dog?  Where is--?"

But suddenly he left go his hold of the Alexandrian, looked at him from
head to foot, and said softly and slowly:

"Can it be possible?  Are you Paulus, the Alexandrian?"

The anchorite nodded assent.  Polykarp laughed loud and bitterly, pressed
his hand to his forehead, and exclaimed in a tone of the deepest disgust
and contempt:

"And is it so, indeed!  and such a repulsive ape too!  But I will not
believe that she even held out a hand to you, for the mere sight of you
makes me dirty."  Paulus felt his heart beating like a hammer within his
breast; and there was a singing and roaring in his ears.  When once more
Polykarp threatened him with his fist he involuntarily took the posture
of an athlete in a wrestling match, he stretched out his arms to try to
get a good hold of his adversary, and said in a hollow, deep tone of
angry warning, "Stand back, or something will happen to you that will not
be good for your bones."

The speaker was indeed Paulus--and yet--not Paulus; it was Menander, the
pride of the Palaestra, who had never let pass a word of his comrades
that did not altogether please him.  And yet yesterday in the oasis he
had quietly submitted to far worse insults than Polykarp had offered him,
and had accepted them with contented cheerfulness.  Whence then to-day
this wild sensitiveness and eager desire to fight?

When, two days since, he had gone to his old cave to fetch the last of
his hidden gold pieces, he had wished to greet old Stephanus, but the
Egyptian attendant had scared him off like an evil spirit with angry
curses, and had thrown stones after him.  In the oasis he had attempted
to enter the church in spite of the bishop's prohibition, there to put up
a prayer; for he thought that the antechamber, where the spring was and
in which penitents were wont to tarry, would certainly not be closed even
to him; but the acolytes had driven him away with abusive words, and the
door-keeper, who a short time since had trusted him with the key, spit in
his face, and yet he had not found it difficult to turn his back on his
persecutors without anger or complaint.

At the counter of the dealer of whom he had bought the woollen coverlet,
the little jug, and many other things for Sirona, a priest had passed by,
had pointed to his money, and had said, "Satan takes care of his own."

Paulus had answered him nothing, had returned to his charge with an
uplifted and grateful heart, and had heartily rejoiced once more in the
exalted and encouraging consciousness that he was enduring disgrace and
suffering for another in humble imitation of Christ.  What was it then
that made him so acutely sensitive with regard to Polykarp, and once more
snapped those threads, which long years of self-denial had twined into
fetters for his impatient spirit?  Was it that to the man, who mortified
his flesh in order to free his soul from its bonds it seemed a lighter
matter to be contemned as a sinner, hated of God, than to let his person
and his manly dignity be treated with contempt?  Was he thinking of the
fair listener in the cave, who was a witness to his humiliation?  Had his
wrath blazed up because he saw in Polykarp, not so much an exasperated
fellow-believer, as merely a man who with bold scorn had put himself in
the path of another man?

The lad and the gray-bearded athlete stood face to face like mortal
enemies ready for the fight, and Polykarp did not waver, although he,
like most Christian youths, had been forbidden to take part in the
wrestling-games in the Palaestra, and though he knew that he had to deal
with a strong and practised antagonist.

He himself was indeed no weakling, and his stormy indignation added to
his desire to measure himself against the hated seducer.

"Come on--come on!"  he cried; his eyes flashing, and leaning forward
with his neck out-stretched and ready on his part for the struggle.
"Grip hold! you were a gladiator, or something of the kind, before you
put on that filthy dress that you might break into houses at night, and
go unpunished.  Make this sacred spot an arena, and if you succeed in
making an end of me I will thank you, for what made life worth having to
me, you have already ruined whether or no.  Only come on.  Or perhaps you
think it easier to ruin the life of a woman than to measure your strength
against her defender?  Clutch hold, I say, clutch hold, or--"

"Or you will fall upon me," said Paulus, whose arms had dropped by his
side during the youth's address.  He spoke in a quite altered tone of
indifference.  "Throw yourself upon me, and do with me what you will; I
will not prevent you.  Here I shall stand, and I will not fight, for you
have so far hit the truth--this holy place is not an arena.  But the
Gaulish lady belongs neither to you nor to me, and who gives you
a claim--?"

"Who gives me a right over her?"  interrupted Polykarp, stepping close up
to his questioner with sparkling eyes.  "He who permits the worshipper to
speak of his God.  Sirona is mine, as the sun and moon and stars are
mine, because they shed a beautiful light on my murky path.  My life is
mine--and she was the life of my life, and therefore I say boldly, and
would say, if there were twenty such as Phoebicius here, she belongs to
me.  And because I regarded her as my own, and so regard her still, I
hate you and fling my scorn in your teeth--you are like a hungry sheep
that has got into the gardener's flower-bed, and stolen from the stem the
wonderful, lovely flower that he has nurtured with care, and that only
blooms once in a hundred years--like a cat that has sneaked into some
marble hall, and that to satisfy its greed has strangled some rare and
splendid bird that a traveller has brought from a distant land.  But you!
you hypocritical robber, who disregard your own body with beastly pride,
and sacrifice it to low brutality--what should you know of the magic
charm of beauty--that daughter of heaven, that can touch even thoughtless
children, and before which the gods themselves do homage!  I have a right
to Sirona; for hide her where you will--or even if the centurion were to
find her, and to fetter her to himself with chains and rivets of brass--
still that which makes her the noblest work of the Most High--the image
of her beauty--lives in no one, in no one as it lives in me.  This hand
has never even touched your victim--and yet God has given Sirona to no
man as he has given her wholly to me, for to no man can she be what she
is to me, and no man can love her as I do!  She has the nature of an
angel, and the heart of a child; she is without spot, and as pure as the
diamond, or the swan's breast, or the morning-dew in the bosom of a rose.
And though she had let you into her house a thousand times, and though my
father even, and my own mother, and every one, every one pointed at her
and condemned her, I would never cease to believe in her purity.  It is
you who have brought her to shame; it is you--"

"I kept silence while all condemned her," said Paulus with warmth, "for I
believed that she was guilty, just as you believe that I am, just as
every one that is bound by no ties of love is more ready to believe evil
than good,  Now I know, aye, know for certain, that we did the poor woman
an injustice.  If the splendor of the lovely dream, that you call Sirona,
has been clouded by my fault--"

"Clouded?  And by you?"  laughed Polykarp.  "Can the toad that plunges
into the sea, cloud its shining blue, can the black bat that flits across
the night, cloud the pure light of the full-moon?"

An emotion of rage again shot through the anchorite's heart, but he was
by this time on his guard against himself, and he only said bitterly, and
with hardly-won composure:

"And how was it then with the flower, and with the bird, that were
destroyed by beasts without understanding?  I fancy you meant no absent
third person by that beast, and yet now you declare that it is not within
my power even to throw a shadow over your day-star!  You see you
contradict yourself in your anger, and the son of a wise man, who himself
has not long since left the school of rhetoric, should try to avoid that.
You might regard me with less hostility, for I will not offend you; nay,
I will repay your evil words with good--perhaps the very best indeed that
you ever heard in your life.  Sirona is a worthy and innocent woman, and
at the time when Phoebicius came out to seek her, I had never even set
eyes upon her nor had my ears ever heard a word pass her lips."

At these words Polykarp's threatening manner changed, and feeling at once
incapable of understanding the matter, and anxious to believe, he eagerly
exclaimed:

"But yet the sheepskin was yours, and you let yourself be thrashed by
Phoebicius without defending yourself."

"So filthy an ape," said Paulus, imitating Polykarp's voice, "needs many
blows, and that day I could not venture to defend myself because--
because--But that is no concern of yours.  You must subdue your curiosity
for a few days longer, and then it may easily happen that the man whose
very aspect makes you feel dirty--the bat, the toad--"

"Let that pass now," cried Polykarp.  "Perhaps the excitement which the
sight of you stirred up in my bruised and wounded heart, led me to use
unseemly language.  Now, indeed, I see that your matted hair sits round a
well featured countenance.  Forgive my violent and unjust attack.  I was
beside myself, and I opened my whole soul to you, and now that you know
how it is with me, once more I ask you, where is Sirona?"

Polykarp looked Paulus in the face with anxious and urgent entreaty,
pointing to the dog as much as to say, "You must know, for here is the
evidence."

The Alexandrian hesitated to answer; he glanced by chance at the entrance
of the cave, and seeing the gleam of Sirona's white robe behind the palm-
branches, he said to himself that if Polykarp lingered much longer, he
could not fail to discover her--a consummation to be avoided.

There were many reasons which might have made him resolve to stand in the
way of a meeting between the lady and the young man, but not one of them
occurred to him, and though he did not even dream that a feeling akin to
jealousy had begun to influence him, still he was conscious that it was
his lively repugnance to seeing the two sink into each other's arms
before his very eyes, that prompted him to turn shortly round, to take up
the body of the little dog, and to say to the enquirer:

"It is true, I do know where she is hiding, and when the time comes you
shall know it too.  Now I must bury the animal, and if you will you can
help me."

Without waiting for any objection on Polykarp's part, he hurried from
stone to stone up to the plateau on the precipitous edge of which he had
first seen Sirona.  The younger man followed him breathlessly, and only
joined him when he had already begun to dig out the earth with his hands
at the foot of a cliff.  Polykarp was now standing close to the
anchorite, and repeated his question with vehement eagerness, but Paulus
did not look up from his work, and only said, digging faster and faster:

"Come to this place again to-morrow, and then it may perhaps be possible
that I should tell you."

"You think to put me off with that," cried the lad.  "Then you are
mistaken in me, and if you cheat me with your honest-sounding words, I
will--"

But he did not end his threat, for a clear longing cry distinctly broke
the silence of the deserted mountain: "Polykarp--Polykarp."  It sounded
nearer and nearer, and the words had a magic effect on him for whose ear
they were intended.

With his head erect and trembling in every limb, the young man listened
eagerly.  Then he cried out, "It is her voice!  I am coming, Sirona, I am
coming."  And without paying any heed to the anchorite, he was on the
point of hurrying off to meet her.  But Paulus placed himself close in
front of him, and said sternly: "You stay here."

"Out of my way," shouted Polykarp beside himself.  "She is calling to me
out of the hole where you are keeping her--you slanderer--you cowardly
liar!  Out of the way I say!  You will not?  Then defend yourself, you
hideous toad, or I will tread you down, if my foot does not fear to be
soiled with your poison."

Up to this moment Paulus had stood before the young man with out-spread
arms, motionless, but immovable as an oak-tree; now Polykarp first hit
him.  This blow shattered the anchorite's patience, and, no longer master
of himself, he exclaimed, "You shall answer to me for this!"  and before
a third and fourth call had come from Sirona's lips, he had grasped the
artist's slender body, and with a mighty swing he flung him backwards
over his own broad and powerful shoulders on to the stony ground.

After this mad act he stood over his victim with out-stretched legs,
folded arms, and rolling eyes, as if rooted to the earth.  He waited till
Polykarp had picked himself up, and, without looking round, but pressing
his hands to the back of his head, had tottered away like a drunken man.

Paulus looked after him till he disappeared over the cliff at the edge of
the level ground; but he did not see how Polykarp fell senseless to the
ground with a stifled cry, not far from the very spring whence his enemy
had fetched the water to refresh Sirona's parched lips.



CHAPTER XVI.

"She will attract the attention of Damianus or Salathiel or one of the
others up there," thought Paulus as he heard Sirona's call once more,
and, following her voice, he went hastily and excitedly down the
mountainside.

"We shall have peace for to-day at any rate from that audacious fellow,"
muttered he to himself, "and perhaps to-morrow too, for his blue bruises
will be a greeting from me.  But how difficult it is to forget what we
have once known!  The grip, with which I flung him, I learned--how long
ago?--from the chief-gymnast at Delphi.  My marrow is not yet quite dried
up, and that I will prove to the boy with these fists, if he comes back
with three or four of the same mettle."

But Paulus had not long to indulge in such wild thoughts, for on the way
to the cave he met Sirona.  "Where is Polykarp?"  she called out from
afar.

"I have sent him home," he answered.  "And he obeyed you?"  she asked
again.

"I gave him striking reasons for doing so," he replied quickly.

"But he will return?"

"He has learned enough up here for to-day.  We have now to think of your
journey to Alexandria."

"But it seems to me," replied Sirona, blushing, "that I am safely hidden
in your cave, and just now you yourself said--"

"I warned you against the dangers of the expedition," interrupted Paulus.
"But since that it has occurred to me that I know of a shelter, and of a
safe protector for you.  There, we are at home again.  Now go into the
cave, for very probably some one may have heard you calling, and if other
anchorites were to discover you here, they would compel me to take you
back to your husband."

"I will go directly," sighed Sirona, "but first explain to me--for I
heard all that you said to each other--" and she colored, "how it
happened that Phoebicius took Hermas' sheepskin for yours, and why you
let him beat you without giving any explanation."

"Because my back is even broader than that great fellow's," replied the
Alexandrian quickly.  "I will tell you all about it in some quiet hour,
perhaps on our journey to Klysma.  Now go into the cave, or you may spoil
everything.  I know too what you lack most since you heard the fair words
of the senator's son."

"Well--what?"  asked Sirona.

"A mirror!"  laughed Paulus.

"How much you are mistaken!"  said Sirona; and she thought to herself,
"The woman that Polykarp looks at as he does at me, does not need a
mirror."

An old Jewish merchant lived in the fishing-town on the western declivity
of the mountain; he shipped the charcoal for Egypt, which was made in the
valleys of the peninsula by burning the sajal acacia, and he had formerly
supplied fuel for the drying-room of the papyrus-factory of Paulus'
father.  He now had a business connection with his brother, and Paulus
himself had had dealings with him.  He was prudent and wealthy, and
whenever he met the anchorite, he blamed him for his flight from the
world, and implored him to put his hospitality to the test, and to
command his resources and means as if they were his own.

This man was now to find a boat, and to provide the means of flight for
Sirona.  The longer Paulus thought it over, the more indispensable it
seemed to him that he should himself accompany the Gaulish lady to
Alexandria, and in his own person find her a safe shelter.  He knew that
he was free to dispose of his brother's enormous fortune-half of which in
fact was his--as though it were all his own, and he began to rejoice in
his possessions for the first time for many years.  Soon he was occupied
in thinking of the furnishing of the house, which he intended to assign
to the fair Sirona.  At first he thought of a simple citizen's dwelling,
but by degrees he began to picture the house intended for her as fitted
with shining gold, white and colored marble, many-colored Syrian carpets,
nay even with vain works of the heathen, with statues, and a luxurious
bath.  In increasing unrest he wandered from rock to rock, and many times
as he went up and down he paused in front of the cave where Sirona was.
Once he saw her light robe, and its conspicuous gleam led him to the
reflection, that it would be imprudent to conduct her to the humble
fishing-village in that dress.  If he meant to conceal her traces from
the search of Phoebicius and Polykarp, he must first provide her with a
simple dress, and a veil that should hide her shining hair and fair face,
which even in the capital could find no match.

The Amalekite, from whom he had twice bought some goat's-milk for her,
lived in a but which Paulus could easily reach.  He still possessed a few
drachmas, and with these he could purchase what he needed from the wife
and daughter of the goatherd.  Although the sky was now covered with mist
and a hot sweltering south-wind had risen, he prepared to start at once.
The sun was no longer visible though its scorching heat could be felt,
but Paulus paid no heed to this sign of an approaching storm.

Hastily, and with so little attention that he confused one object with
another in the little store-cellar, he laid some bread, a knife, and some
dates in front of the entrance to the cave, called out to his guest that
he should soon return, and hurried at a rapid pace up the mountain.

Sirona answered him with a gentle word of farewell, and did not even look
round after him, for she was glad to be alone, and so soon as the sound
of his step had died away she gave herself up once more to the
overwhelming torrent of new and deep feelings which had flooded her soul
ever since she had heard Polykarp's ardent hymn of love.

Paulus, in the last few hours, was Menander again, but the lonely woman
in the cavern--the cause of this transformation--the wife of Phoebicius,
had undergone an even greater change than he.  She was still Sirona, and
yet not Sirona.

When the anchorite had commanded her to retire into the cave she had
obeyed him willingly, nay, she would have withdrawn even without his
desire, and have sought for solitude; for she felt that something mighty,
hitherto unknown to her, and incomprehensible even to herself, was
passing in her soul, and that a nameless but potent something had grown
up in her heart, had struggled free, and had found life and motion; a
something that was strange, and yet precious to her, frightening, and yet
sweet, a pain, and yet unspeakably delightful.  An emotion such as she
had never before known had mastered her, and she felt, since hearing
Polykarp's speech, as if a new and purer blood was flowing rapidly
through her veins.  Every nerve quivered like the leaves of the poplars
in her former home when the wind blows down to meet the Rhone, and she
found it difficult to follow what Paulus said, and still more so to find
the right answer to his questions.

As soon as she was alone she sat down on her bed, rested her elbows on
her knees, and her head in her hand, and the growing and surging flood of
her passion broke out in an abundant stream of warm tears.

She had never wept so before; no anguish, no bitterness was infused into
the sweet refreshing dew of those tears.  Fair flowers of never dreamed
of splendor and beauty blossomed in the heart of the weeping woman, and
when at length her tears ceased, there was a great silence, but also a
great glory within her and around her.  She was like a man who has grown
up in an under-ground-room, where no light of day can ever shine, and who
at last is allowed to look at the blue heavens, at the splendor of the
sun, at the myriad flowers and leaves in the green woods, and on the
meadows.

She was wretched, and yet a happy woman.

"That is love!" were the words that her heart sang in triumph, and as her
memory looked back on the admirers who had approached her in Arelas when
she was still little more than a child, and afterwards in Rome, with
tender words and looks, they all appeared like phantom forms carrying
feeble tapers, whose light paled pitifully, for Polykarp had now come on
the scene, bearing the very sun itself in his hands.

"They--and he," she murmured to herself, and she beheld as it were a
balance, and on one of the scales lay the homage which in her vain fancy
she had so coveted.  It was of no more weight than chaff, and its whole
mass was like a heap of straw, which flew up as soon as Polykarp laid his
love--a hundredweight of pure gold, in the other scale.

"And if all the nations and kings of the earth brought their treasures
together," thought she, "and laid them at my feet, they could not make me
as rich as he has made me, and if all the stars were fused into one, the
vast globe of light which they would form could not shine so brightly as
the joy that fills my soul.  Come now what may, I will never complain
after that hour of delight."

Then she thought over each of her former meetings with Polykarp, and
remembered that he had never spoken to her of love.  What must it not
have cost him to control himself thus; and a great triumphant joy filled
her heart at the thought that she was pure, and not unworthy of him, and
an unutterable sense of gratitude rose up in her soul.  The love she bore
this man seemed to take wings, and it spread itself over the common life
and aspect of the world, and rose to a spirit of devotion.  With a deep
sigh she raised her eyes and hands to heaven, and in her longing to prove
her love to every living being, nay to every created thing, her spirit
sought the mighty and beneficent Power to whom she owed such exalted
happiness.

In her youth her father had kept her very strictly, but still he had
allowed her to go through the streets of the town with her young
companions, wreathed with flowers, and all dressed in their best, in the
procession of maidens at the feast of Venus of Arelas, to whom all the
women of her native town were wont to turn with prayers and sacrifices
when their hearts were touched by love.

Now she tried to pray to Venus, but again and again the wanton jests of
the men who were used to accompany the maidens came into her mind, and
memories of how she herself had eagerly listened for the only too
frequent cries of admiration, and had enticed the silent with a glance,
or thanked the more clamorous with a smile.  To-day certainly she had no
mind for such sport, and she recollected the stern words which had fallen
from Dorothea's lips on the worship of Venus, when she had once told her
how well the natives of Arelas knew how to keep their feasts.

And Polykarp, whose heart was nevertheless so full of love, he no doubt
thought like his mother, and she pictured him as she had frequently seen
him following his parents by the side of his sister Marthana--often hand
in hand with her--as they went to church.  The senator's son had always
had a kindly glance for her, excepting when he was one of this procession
to the temple of the God of whom they said that He was love itself, and
whose votaries indeed were not poor in love; for in Petrus' house, if
anywhere, all hearts were united by a tender affection.  It then occurred
to her that Paulus had just now advised her to turn to the crucified God
of the Christians, who was full of an equal and divine love to all men.
To him Polykarp also prayed--was praying perhaps this very hour; and if
she now did the same her prayers would ascend together with his, and so
she might be in some sort one with that beloved friend, from whom
everything else conspired to part her.

She knelt down and folded her hands, as she had so often seen Christians
do, and she reflected on the torments that the poor Man, who hung with
pierced hands on the cross, had so meekly endured, though He suffered
innocently; she felt the deepest pity for Him, and softly said to
herself, as she raised her eyes to the low roof of her cave-dwelling:

"Thou poor good Son of God, Thou knowest what it is when all men condemn
us unjustly, and surely, Thou canst understand when I say to Thee how
sore my poor heart is!  And they say too, that of all hearts Thine is the
most loving, and so thou wilt know how it is that, in spite of all my
misery, it still seems to me that I am a happy woman.  The very breath of
a God must be rapture, and that Thou too must have learned when they
tortured and mocked Thee, for Thou halt suffered out of love.  They say,
that Thou wast wholly pure and perfectly sinless.  Now I--I have
committed many follies, but not a sin--a real sin--no, indeed, I have
not; and Thou must know it, for Thou art a God, and knowest the past, and
canst read hearts.  And, indeed, I also would fain remain innocent, and
yet how can that be when I cannot help being devoted to Polykarp, and yet
I am another man's wife.  But am I indeed the true and lawful wife of
that horrible wretch who sold me to another?  He is as far from my heart
--as far as if I had never seen him with these eyes.  And yet--believe
me--I wish him no ill, and I will be quite content, if only I need never
go back to him.

"When I was a child, I was afraid of frogs; my brothers and sisters knew
it, and once my brother Licinius laid a large one, that he had caught,
on my bare neck.  I started, and shuddered, and screamed out loud, for it
was so hideously cold and damp--I cannot express it.  And that is exactly
how I have always felt since those days in Rome whenever Phoebicius
touched me, and yet I dared not scream when he did.

"But Polykarp! oh! would that he were here, and might only grasp my hand.
He said I was his own, and yet I have never encouraged him.  But now!
if a danger threatened him or a sorrow, and if by any means I could save
him from it, indeed--indeed--though I never could bear pain well, and am
afraid of death, I would let them nail me to a cross for him, as Thou
wast crucified for us all.

"But then he must know that I had died for him, and if he looked into my
dying eyes with his strange, deep gaze, I would tell him that it is to
him that I owe a love so great that it is a thing altogether different
and higher than any love I have ever before seen.  And a feeling that is
so far above all measure of what ordinary mortals experience, it seems to
me, must be divine.  Can such love be wrong?  I know not; but Thou
knowest, and Thou, whom they name the Good Shepherd, lead Thou us--
each apart from the other, if it be best so for him--but yet, if it be
possible, unite us once more, if it be only for one single hour.  If only
he could know that I am not wicked, and that poor Sirona would willingly
belong to him, and to no other, then I would be ready to die.  O Thou
good, kind Shepherd, take me too into Thy flock, and guide me."

Thus prayed Sirona, and before her fancy there floated the image of a
lovely and loving youthful form; she had seen the original in the model
for Polykarp's noble work, and she had not forgotten the exquisite
details of the face.  It seemed to her as well known and familiar as if
she had known--what in fact she could not even guess--that she herself
had had some share in the success of the work.

The love which unites two hearts is like the ocean of Homer which
encircles both halves of the earth.  It flows and rolls on.  Where shall
we seek its source--here or there--who can tell?

It was Dame Dorothea who in her motherly pride had led the Gaulish lady
into her son's workshop.  Sirona thought of her and her husband and her
house, where over the door a motto was carved in the stone which she had
seen every morning from her sleeping-room.  She could not read Greek, but
Polykarp's sister, Marthana, had more than once told her what it meant.
"Commit thy way to the Lord, and put thy trust in Him," ran the
inscription, and she repeated it to herself again and again, and then
drew fancy-pictures of the future in smiling day-dreams, which by degrees
assumed sharper outlines and brighter colors.

She saw herself united to Polykarp, and as the daughter of Petrus and
Dorothea, at home in the senator's house; she had a right now to the
children who loved her, and who were so dear to her; she helped the
deaconess in all her labors, and won praise, and looks of approval.  She
had learned to use her hands in her father's house and now she could show
what she could do; Polykarp even gazed at her with surprise and
admiration, and said that she was as clever as she was beautiful, and
promised to become a second Dorothea.  She went with him into his
workshop, and there arranged all the things that lay about in confusion,
and dusted it, while he followed her every movement with his gaze, and
at last stood before her, his arms wide--wide open to clasp her.

She started, and pressed her hands over her eyes, and flung herself
loving and beloved on his breast, and would have thrown her arms round
his neck, while her hot tears flowed--but the sweet vision was suddenly
shattered, for a swift flash of light pierced the gloom of the cavern,
and immediately after she heard the heavy roll of the thunder-clap,
dulled by the rocky walls of her dwelling.

Completely recalled to actuality she listened for a moment, and then
stepped to the entrance of the cave.  It was already dusk, and heavy
rain-drops were falling from the dark clouds which seemed to shroud the
mountain peaks in a vast veil of black crape.  Paulus was nowhere to be
seen, but there stood the food he had prepared for her.  She had eaten
nothing since her breakfast, and she now tried to drink the milk, but it
had curdled and was not fit to use; a small bit of bread and a few dates
quite satisfied her.

As the lightning and thunder began to follow each other more and more
quickly, and the darkness fast grew deeper, a great fear fell upon her;
she pushed the food on one side, and looked up to the mountain where the
peaks were now wholly veiled in night, now seemed afloat in a sea of
flame, and more distinctly visible than by daylight.  Again and again a
forked flash like a saw-blade of fire cut through the black curtain of
cloud with terrific swiftness, again and again the thunder sounded like a
blast of trumpets through the silent wilderness, and multiplied itself,
clattering, growling, roaring, and echoing from rock to rock.  Light and
sound at last seemed to be hurled from Heaven together, and the very rock
in which her cave was formed quaked.

Crushed and trembling she drew back into the inmost depth of her rocky
chamber, starting at each flash that illumined the darkness.

At length they occurred at longer intervals, the thunder lost its
appalling fury, and as the wind drove the storm farther and farther to
the southwards, at last it wholly died away.



CHAPTER XVII.

It was quite dark in Sirona's cavern, fearfully dark, and the blacker
grew the night which shrouded her, the more her terror increased.  From
time to time she shut her eyes as tightly as she could, for she fancied
she could see a crimson glare, and she longed for light in that hour as a
drowning man longs for the shore.  Dark forebodings of every kind
oppressed her soul.

What if Paulus had abandoned her, and had left her to her fate?  Or if
Polykarp should have been searching for her on the mountain in this
storm, and in the darkness should have fallen into some abyss, or have
been struck by the lightning?  Suppose the mass of rock that overhung the
entrance to the cave should have been loosened in the storm, and should
fall, and bar her exit to the open air?  Then she would be buried alive,
and she must perish alone, without seeing him whom she loved once more,
or telling him that she had not been unworthy of his trust in her.

Cruelly tormented by such thoughts as these, she dragged herself up and
felt her way out into the air and wind, for she could no longer hold out
in the gloomy solitude and fearful darkness.  She had hardly reached the
mouth of the cave, when she heard steps approaching her lurking place,
and again she shrank back.  Who was it that could venture in this pitch-
dark night to climb from rock to rock?  Was it Paulus returning?  Was it
he--was it Polykarp seeking her?  She felt intoxicated; she pressed her
hands to her heart, and longed to cry out, but she dared not, and her
tongue refused its office.  She listened with the tension of terror to
the sound of the steps which came straight towards her nearer and nearer,
then the wanderer perceived the faint gleam of her white dress, and
called out to her.  It was Paulus.

She drew a deep breath of relief when she recognized his voice, and
answered his call.

"In such weather as this," said the anchorite, "it is better to be within
than without, it seems to me, for it is not particularly pleasant out
here, so far as I have found."

"But it has been frightful here inside the cave too," Sirona answered,
"I have been so dreadfully frightened, I was so lonely in the horrible
darkness.  If only I had had my little dog with me, it would at least
have been a living being."

"I have made haste as well as I could," interrupted Paulus.  "The paths
are not so smooth here as the Kanopic road in Alexandria, and as I have
not three necks like Cerberus, who lies at the feet of Serapis, it would
have been wiser of me to return to you a little more leisurely.  The
storm-bird has swallowed up all the stars as if they were flies, and the
poor old mountain is so grieved at it, that streams of tears are
everywhere flowing over his stony cheeks.  It is wet even here.  Now go
back into the cave, and let me lay this that I have got here for you in
my arms, in the dry passage.  I bring you good news; to-morrow evening,
when it is growing dusk, we start.  I have found out a vessel which will
convey us to Klysma, and from thence I myself will conduct you to
Alexandria.  In the sheepskin here you will find the dress and veil of an
Amalekite woman, and if your traces are to be kept hidden from
Phoebicius, you must accommodate yourself to this disguise; for if the
people down there were to see you as I saw you to-day, they would think
that Aphrodite herself had risen from the sea, and the report of the
fair-haired beauty that had appeared among them would soon spread even to
the oasis."

"But it seems to me that I am well hidden here," replied Sirona.  "I am
afraid of a sea-voyage, and even if we succeeded in reaching Alexandria
without impediment, still I do not know--"

"It shall be my business to provide for you there."  Paulus interrupted
with a decision that was almost boastful, and that somewhat disturbed
Sirona.  "You know the fable of the ass in the lion's skin, but there are
lions who wear the skin of an ass on their shoulders--or of a sheep, it
comes to the same thing.  Yesterday you were speaking of the splendid
palaces of the citizens, and lauding the happiness of their owners.  You
shall dwell in one of those marble houses, and rule it as its mistress,
and it shall be my care to procure you slaves, and litter-bearers, and a
carriage with four mules.  Do not doubt my word, for I am promising
nothing that I cannot perform.  The rain is ceasing, and I will try to
light a fire.  You want nothing more to eat?  Well then, I will wish you
good-night.  The rest will all do to-morrow."

Sirona had listened in astonishment to the anchorite's promises.

How often had she envied those who possessed all that her strange
protector now promised her--and now it had not the smallest charm for
her; and, fully determined in any case not to follow Paulus, whom she
began to distrust, she replied, as she coldly returned his greeting,
"There are many hours yet before tomorrow evening in which we can discuss
everything."

While Paulus was with great difficulty rekindling the fire, she was once
more alone, and again she began to be alarmed in the dark cavern.

She called the Alexandrian.  "The darkness terrifies me so," she said.
"You still had some oil in the jug this morning; perhaps you may be able
to contrive a little lamp for me; it is so fearful to stay here in the
dark."

Paulus at once took a shard, tore a strip from his tattered coat, twisted
it together, and laid it for a wick in the greasy fluid, lighted it at
the slowly reviving fire, and putting this more than simple light in
Sirona's hand, he said, "It will serve its purpose; in Alexandria I will
see that you have lamps which give more light, and which are made by a
better artist."

Sirona placed the lamp in a hollow in the rocky wall at the head of her
bed, and then lay down to rest.  Light scares away wild beasts and fear
too from the resting-place of man, and it kept terrifying thoughts far
away from the Gaulish woman.

She contemplated her situation clearly and calmly, and quite decided that
she would neither quit the cave, nor entrust herself to the anchorite,
till she had once more seen and spoken to Polykarp.  He no doubt knew
where to seek her, and certainly, she thought, he would by this time have
returned, if the storm and the starless night had not rendered it an
impossibility to come up the mountain from the oasis.

"To-morrow I shall see him again, and then I will open my heart to him,
and he shall read my soul like a book, and on every page, and in every
line he will find his own name.  And I will tell him too that I have
prayed to his 'Good Shepherd,' and how much good it has done me, and that
I will be a Christian like his sister Marthana and his mother.  Dorothea
will be glad indeed when she hears it, and she at any rate cannot have
thought that I was wicked, for she always loved me, and the children--the
children--"

The bright crowd of merry faces came smiling in upon her fancy, and her
thoughts passed insensibly into dreams; kindly sleep touched her heart
with its gentle hand, and its breath swept every shadow of trouble from
her soul.  She slept, smiling and untroubled as a child whose eyes some
guardian angel softly kisses, while her strange protector now turned the
flickering wood on the damp hearth and with a reddening face blew up the
dying charcoal-fire, and again walked restlessly up and down, and paused
each time he passed the entrance to the cave, to throw a longing glance
at the light which shone out from Sirona's sleeping-room.

Since the moment when he had flung Polykarp to the ground, Paulus had not
succeeded in recovering his self-command; not for a moment had he
regretted the deed, for the reflection had never occurred to him, that
a fall on the stony soil of the Sacred Mountain, which was as hard as
iron, must hurt more than a fall on the' sand of the arena.

"The impudent fellow," thought he, "richly deserved what he got.  Who
gave him a better right over Sirona than he, Paulus himself, had--he who
had saved her life, and had taken it upon himself to protect her?"  Her
great beauty had charmed him from the first moment of their meeting, but
no impure thought stirred his heart as he gazed at her with delight, and
listened with emotion to her childlike talk.  It was the hot torrent of
Polykarp's words that had first thrown the spark into his soul, which
jealousy and the dread of having to abandon Sirona to another, had soon
fanned into a consuming flame.  He would not give up this woman, he would
continue to care for her every need, she should owe everything to him,
and to him only.  And so, without reserve, he devoted himself body and
soul to the preparations for her flight.  The hot breath of the storm,
the thunder and lightning, torrents of rain, and blackness of night could
not delay him, while he leaped from rock to rock, feeling his way-soaked
through, weary and in peril; he thought only of her, and of how he could
most safely carry her to Alexandria, and then surround her with all that
could charm a woman's taste.  Nothing--nothing did he desire for himself,
and all that he dreamed of and planned turned only and exclusively on the
pleasure which he might afford her.  When he had prepared and lighted the
lamp for her he saw her again, and was startled at the beauty of the face
that the trembling flame revealed.  He could observe her a few seconds
only, and then she had vanished, and he must remain alone in the darkness
and the rain.  He walked restlessly up and down, and an agonizing longing
once more to see her face lighted up by the pale flame, and the white arm
that she had held out to take the lamp, grew more and more strong in him
and accelerated the pulses of his throbbing heart.  As often as he passed
the cave, and observed the glimmer of light that came from her room, he
felt prompted and urged to slip in, and to gaze on her once more.  He
never once thought of prayer and scourging, his old means of grace, he
sought rather for a reason that might serve him as an excuse if he went
in, and it struck him that it was cold, and that a sheepskin was lying in
the cavern.  He would fetch it, in spite of his vow never to wear a
sheepskin again; and supposing he were thus enabled to see her, what
next?

When he had Stepped across the threshold, an inward voice warned him
to return, and told him that he must be treading the path of
unrighteousness, for that he was stealing in on tiptoe like a thief; but
the excuse was ready at once.  "That is for fear of waking her, if she is
asleep."

And now all further reflection was silenced for he had already reached
the spot where, at the end of the rocky passage, the cave widened into
her sleeping-room; there she lay on her hard couch, sunk in slumber and
enchantingly fair.

A deep gloom reigned around, and the feeble light of the little lamp
lighted up only a small portion of the dismal chamber but the head,
throat, and arms that it illuminated seemed to shine with a light of
their own that enhanced and consecrated the light of the feeble flame.
Paulus fell breathless on his knees, and fixed his eyes with growing
eagerness on the graceful form of the sleeper.

Sirona was dreaming; her head, veiled in her golden hair, rested on a
high pillow of herbs, and her delicately rosy face was turned up to the
vault of the cave; her half-closed lips moved gently, and now she moved
her bent arm and her white hand, on which the light of the lamp fell, and
which rested half on her forehead and half on her shining hair.

"Is she saying anything?"  asked Paulus of himself, and he pressed his
brow against a projection of the rock as tightly as if he would stem the
rapid rush of his blood that it might not overwhelm his bewildered brain.

Again she moved her lips.  Had she indeed spoken?  Had she perhaps called
him?

That could not be, for she still slept; but he wished to believe it--and
he would believe it, and he stole nearer to her and nearer, and bent over
her, and listened--while his own strength failed him even to draw a
breath--listened to the soft regular breathing that heaved her bosom.
No longer master of himself he touched her white arm with his bearded
lips and she drew it back in her sleep, then his gaze fell on her parted
lips and the pearly teeth that shone between them, and a mad longing to
kiss them came irresistibly over him.  He bent trembling over her, and
was on the point of gratifying his impulse when, as if startled by a
sudden apparition, he drew back, and raised his eyes from the rosy lips
to the hand that rested on the sleeper's brow.

The lamplight played on a golden ring on Sirona's finger, and shone
brightly on an onyx on which was engraved an image of Tyche, the tutelary
goddess of Antioch, with a sphere upon her head, and bearing Amalthea's
horn in her hand.

A new and strange emotion took possession of the anchorite at the sight
of this stone.  With trembling hands he felt in the breast of his torn
garment, and presently drew forth a small iron crucifix and the ring that
he had taken from the cold hand of Hermas' mother.  In the golden circlet
was set an onyx, on which precisely the same device was visible as that
on Sirona's hand.  The string with its precious jewel fell from his
grasp, he clutched his matted hair with both hands, groaned deeply, and
repeated again and again, as though to crave forgiveness, the name of
"Magdalen."

Then he called Sirona in a loud voice, and as she awoke excessively
startled, he asked her in urgent tones: "Who gave you that ring?"

"It was a present from Phoebicius," replied she.  "He said he had had it
given to him many years since in Antioch, and that it had been engraved
by a great artist.  But I do not want it any more, and if you like to
have it you may."

"Throw it away!" exclaimed Paulus, "it will bring you nothing but
misfortune."  Then he collected himself, went out into the air with his
head sunk on his breast, and there, throwing himself down on the wet
stones by the hearth, he cried out:

"Magdalen! dearest and purest!  You, when you ceased to be Glycera,
became a saintly martyr, and found the road to heaven; I too had my day
of Damascus--of revelation and conversion--and I dared to call myself by
the name of Paulus--and now--now?"

Plunged in despair he beat his forehead, groaning out,
"All, all in vain!"



ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Can such love be wrong?





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