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Title: Serapis — Volume 02
Author: Ebers, Georg
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Serapis — Volume 02" ***

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SERAPIS

By Georg Ebers

Volume 2.


CHAPTER V.

Karnis and his two companions were a long time away.  Dada had almost
forgotten her wish to see the young soldier once more, and after playing
with little Papias for some time, as she might have played with a dog,
she began to feel dull and to think the quiet of the boat intolerable.
The sun was sinking when the absentees returned, but she at once reminded
Karnis that he had promised to take her for a walk and show her
Alexandria.  Herse, however, forbid her going on such an expedition
till the following day.  Dada, who was more irritable and fractious than
usual, burst into tears, flung the distaff that her foster-mother put
into her hand over the side of the ship, and declared between her sobs
that she was not a slave, that she would run away and find happiness
wherever it offered.  In short she was so insubordinate that Herse lost
patience and scolded her severely.  The girl sprang up, flung on a
handkerchief and in a moment would have crossed the plank to the shore;
Karnis, however, held her back.

"Why, child," he said, "do you not see how tired I am?"  The appeal had
its effect; Dada recovered her reason and tried to look up brightly, but
her eyes were still tearful and heavy and she could only creep away into
a corner and cry in silence.  The old man's heart was very soft towards
the girl; he would have been glad only to speak a few kind words to her
and smoothe down her hair; however, he made an effort, and whispering a
few words to his wife said he was ready, if Dada wished it, to take her
as far as the Canopic way and the Bruchium.

Dada laughed with delight, wiped away her tears, flung her arms round the
musician's neck and kissed his brown cheeks, exclaiming:

"You are the best of them all!  Make haste, and Agne shall come too; she
must see something of the city."

But Agne preferred to remain on board, so Karnis and Dada set out
together.  Orpheus followed them closely for, though the troops had
succeeded in quelling the uproar, the city was still in a state of
ferment.  Closely veiled, and without any kind of adornment--on this
Herse had positively insisted--the girl, clinging to the old man's arm,
made her way through the streets, asking questions about everything she
saw; and her spirits rose, and she was so full of droll suggestions that
Karnis soon forgot his fatigue and gave himself up to the enjoyment of
showing her the old scenes that he knew and the new beauties and
improvements.

In the Canopic way Dada was fairly beside herself with delight.  Houses
like palaces stood arrayed on each side.  Close to the buildings ran a
covered arcade, and down the centre of the roadway there was a broad
footpath shaded by sycamores.  This fine avenue swarmed with pedestrians,
while on each side chariots, drawn by magnificent horses, hurried past,
and riders galloped up and down; at every step there was something new
and interesting to be seen.

Rome, even, could not boast of a handsomer street, and Dada expressed her
delight with frank eagerness; but Karnis did not echo her praises; he was
indignant at finding that the Christians had removed a fine statue of the
venerable Nile-god surrounded by the playful forms of his infant
children, which had formerly graced the fountain in the middle of the
avenue, and had also overthrown or mutilated the statues of Hermes that
had stood by the roadside.  Orpheus sympathized in his wrath which
reached its climax when, on looking for two statues, of Demeter and of
Pallas Athene, of which Karnis had spoken to his son as decorating the
gateway of one of the finest houses in the city, they beheld instead,
mounted on the plinths, two coarsely-wrought images of the Lamb with its
Cross.

"Like two rats that have been caught under a stone!"  cried the old man.
"And what is most shameful is that I would wager that they have destroyed
the statues which were the pride of the town and thrown them on a rubbish
heap.  In my day this house belonged to a rich man named Philippus.  But
stop--was not he the father of our hospitable protector . . ."

"The steward spoke of Porphyrius as the son of Philippus," Orpheus said.

"And Philippus was a corn merchant, too," added Karnis.  "Demeter was
figurative of a blessing on the harvest, for it was from that the house
derived its wealth, and Pallas Athene was patroness of the learning that
was encouraged by its owners.  When I was a student here every wealthy
man belonged to some school of philosophy.  The money-bag did not count
for everything.  Heathen or Jew, whether engaged in business or enjoying
the revenues of an inherited fortune, a man was expected to be able to
talk of something besides the price of merchandise and the coming and
sailing of vessels."

During this conversation Dada had withdrawn her hand from the old man's
arm to raise her veil, for two men had gone up to the gate between the
images that had roused Karnis to wrath, and one of them, who at this
instant knocked at the door, was Mary's son.

"Father, see, there he is!"  cried Dada, as the door was opened, speaking
louder than was at all necessary to enable her companion to hear her; the
musician at once recognized Marcus, and turning to his son he said:

"Now we may be quite sure!  Porphyrius and this young Christian's father
were brothers.  Philippus must have left his house to his eldest son who
is the one that is dead, and it now belongs no doubt to Mary, his widow.
I must admit, child, that you choose your adorers from respectable
families!"

"I should think so," said the girl laughing.  "And that is why he is so
proud.  My fine gentleman has not even a glance to cast at us.  Bang!
the door is shut.  Come along, uncle!"

The young man in question entered the hall of his father's house with his
companion and paused there to say in a tone of pressing entreaty: "Only
come and speak with my mother; you really must not leave like this."

"How else?"  said the other roughly.  "You stick to your way, I will
go mine.  You can find a better steward for the estate--I go to-morrow.
May the earth open and swallow me up if I stay one hour longer than is
absolutely necessary in this demented place.  And after all Mary is your
mother and not mine."

"But she was your father's wife," retorted Marcus.

"Certainly, or you would not be my brother.  But she--I have amply repaid
any kindness she ever did me by ten years of service.  We do not
understand each other and we never shall."

"Yes, yes, you will indeed.  I have been in church and prayed--nay,
do not laugh--I prayed to the Lord that he would make it all work right
and He--well, you have been baptized and made one of His flock."

"To my misfortune!  You drive me frantic with your meek and mild ways,"
cried the other passionately.  "My own feet are strong enough for me to
stand on and my hand, though it is horny, can carry out what my brain
thinks right."

"No, no, Demetrius, no.  You see, you believe in the old gods. . ."

"Certainly," said the other with increasing irritation.  "You are merely
talking to the winds, and my time is precious.  I must pack up my small
possessions, and for your sake I will say a few words of farewell when I
take the account-books to your mother.  I have land enough belonging to
myself alone, at Arsinoe; I know my own business and am tired of letting
a woman meddle and mar it.  Good-bye for the present, youngster.  Tell
your mother I am coming; I shall be with her in just an hour."

"Demetrius!" cried the lad trying once more to detain his brother; but
Demetrius freed himself with a powerful wrench and hurried across the
court-yard--gay with flowers and with a fountain in the middle--into
which the apartments of the family opened, his own among the number.

Marcus looked after him sadly; they differed too widely in thought and
feeling ever to understand each other completely, and when they stood
side by side no one would have imagined that they were the sons of one
father, for even in appearance they were strongly dissimilar.  Marcus was
slight and delicate, Demetrius, on the contrary, broad-shouldered and
large-boned.

After this parting from his half-brother Marcus betook himself to the
women's rooms where Mary, after superintending the spinning and other
work of the slave-girls, in the rooms at the back, was wont to sit during
the evening.  He found his mother in eager conversation with a Christian
priest of advanced age, an imposing personage of gentle and dignified
aspect.  The widow, though past forty, might still pass for a handsome
woman: it was from her that her son had inherited his tall, thin figure
with narrow shoulders and a slight stoop, his finely-cut features, white
skin and soft, flowing, raven-black hair.  Their resemblance was rendered
all the more striking by the fact that each wore a simple, narrow circlet
of gold-round the head; nay it would have seemed some unusual trick of
Nature's but that their eyes were quite unlike.  Hers were black, and
their gaze was shrewd and sharp and sometimes sternly hard; while the
dreamy lustre of her son's, which were blue, lent his face an almost
feminine softness.

She must have been discussing some grave questions with the old man, for,
as the young man entered the room, she colored slightly and her long,
taper fingers impatiently tapped the back of the couch on which she was
lounging.

Marcus kissed first the priest's hand and then his mother's, and, after
enquiring with filial anxiety after her health, informed her that
Demetrius would presently be coming to take leave of her.

"How condescending?" she said coldly.  "You know reverend Father what it
is that I require of him and that he refuses.  His peasants--always his
peasants!  Now can you tell me why they, who must feel the influence and
power of their masters so much more directly than the lower class in
towns, they, whose weal or woe so obviously depends on the will of the
Most High, are so obstinately set against the Gospel of Salvation?"

"They cling to what they are used to," replied the old man.  "The seed
they sow bore fruit under the old gods; and as they cannot see nor handle
our Heavenly Father as they can their idols, and at the same time have
nothing better to hope for than a tenth or a twentieth of the grain. . ."

"Yes, mine and thine--the miserable profit of this world!"  sighed the
widow.  "Oh! Demetrius can defend the idolatry of his favorites warmly
enough, never fear.  If you can spare the time, good Father, stay and
help me to convince him."

"I have already stayed too long," replied the priest, "for the Bishop has
commanded my presence.  I should like to speak to you, my dear Marcus;
to-morrow morning, early, will you come to me?  The Lord be with you,
beloved!"

He rose, and as he gave Mary his hand she detained him a moment signing
to her son to leave them, and said in a low tone:

"Marcus must not suspect that I know of the error into which he has been
led; speak roundly to his conscience, and as to the girl, I will take her
in hand.  Will it not be possible for Theophilus to grant me an
interview?"

"Hardly, at present," replied the priest.  "As you know, Cynegius is here
and the fate of the Bishop and of our cause hangs on the next few days.
Give up your ambitious desires I beseech you, daughter, for even if
Theophilus were to admit you I firmly believe, nay--do not be angry--
I can but hope that he would never give way on this point."

"No?"  said the widow looking down in some embarrassment; but when her
visitor was gone she lifted her head with a flash of wilful defiance.

She then made Marcus, who had on the previous day given her a full
account of his voyage from Rome, tell her all that had passed between
himself and Demetrius; she asked him how he liked his horse, whether he
hoped to win the approaching races, and generally what he had been doing
and was going to do.  But it did not escape her notice that Marcus was
more reticent than usual and that he tried to bring the conversation
round to his voyage and to the guests in the Xenodochium; however, she
always stopped him, for she knew what he was aiming at and would not
listen to anything on that subject.

It was not till long after the slaves had lighted the three-branched
silver lamps that Demetrius appeared.  His stepmother received him kindly
and began to talk on indifferent subjects; but he replied with ill-
disguised impatience, for he had not come to chatter and gossip.  She
fully understood this; but it pleased her to check and provoke him and
she did it in a way which vividly reminded him of his early days, of the
desolation and unhappiness that had blighted his young life when this
woman had taken the place of his own tender gentle mother, and come
between him and his father.  Day after day, in that bygone time, she had
received him just as she had this evening: with words that sounded
kindly, but with a cold, unloving heart.  He knew that she had always
seen his boyish errors and petty faults in the worst light, attributing
them to bad propensities and innate wickedness, that she had injured him
in his father's eyes by painting a distorted image of his disposition and
doings--and all these sins he could not forgive her.  At the time of his
father's assassination Demetrius was already grown to man's estate, and
as the eldest son it would have been his right and duty to take part with
his uncle Porphyrius in the management of the business; but he could not
endure the idea of living in the same place with his stepmother, so,
having a pronounced taste for a country life, he left the widow in
possession of the house in the Canopic street, persuaded his uncle to pay
over his father's share in the business in hard cash and then had quitted
Alexandria to take entire charge of the family estates in Cyrenaica.
In the course of a few years he had become an admirable farmer; the
landowners throughout the province were glad to take his advice or follow
his example, and the accounts which he now laid on the table by the side
of Mary's couch--three goodly rolls--proved by the irrefragable evidence
of figures that he had actually doubled their revenues from the estates
of which he had been the manager.  He had earned his right to claim his
independence, to persist in his own determinations and to go his own way;
he was animated by the pride of an independent nature that recklessly
breaks away from a detested tie when it has means at command either to
rest without anxiety or to devote its energies to new enterprise.

When Demetrius had allowed his stepmother time enough for subjects in
which he took no interest, he laid his hand on the account-books and
abruptly observed that it was now time to talk seriously.  He had already
explained to Marcus that he could no longer undertake to meet her
requirements; and as, with him, to decide was to act, he wished at once
to come to a decision as to whether he should continue to manage the
family estates in the way he thought proper, or should retire and devote
himself to the care of his own land.  If Mary accepted the latter
alternative he would at once cancel their deed of agreement, but even
then he was very willing to stay on for a time in Cyrenaica, and put the
new steward, when she had appointed one, in the way of performing his
onerous duties.  After that he would have nothing more to do with the
family estates.  This was his last word; and whichever way she decided,
they might part without any final breach, which he was anxious to avoid
if only for the sake of Marcus.

Demetrius spoke gravely and calmly; still, the bitterness that filled his
soul imparted a flavor to his speech that did not escape the widow, and
she replied with some emphasis that she should be very sorry to think
that any motives personal to herself had led to his decision; she owed
much, very much, to his exertions and had great pleasure in expressing
her obligations.  He was aware, of course, that the property he had been
managing had been purchased originally partly with her fortune and partly
out of her husband's pocket, and that half of it was therefore hers and
half of it the property of Marcus and himself; but that by her husband's
will the control and management were hers absolutely.  She had endeavored
to carry out the intentions of her deceased husband by entrusting the
stewardship of the estate to Demetrius while he was still quite young;
under his care the income had increased, and she had no doubt that in the
future he might achieve even greater results; at the same time, the
misunderstandings that the whole business had given rise to were not to
be endured, and must positively be put an end to, even if their income
were to diminish by half.

"I," she  exclaimed, "am  a  Christian, with  my whole heart and soul.
I have dedicated my body and life to the service of my Saviour.  What
shall all the treasures of the world profit me if I lose my soul; and
that, which is my immortal part, must inevitably perish if I allow my
pockets to be filled by the toil of heathen peasants and slaves.  I
therefore must insist--and on this point I will not yield a jot--that our
slaves in Cyrenaica, a flock of more than three thousand erring sheep,
shall either submit to be baptized or be removed to make way for
Christians."

"That is to say .  .  ."  began Demetrius hastily.

"I have not yet done," she interrupted.  "So far as the peasants are
concerned who rent and farm our land they all, without exception--as you
said yesterday--are stiff-necked idolaters.  We must give them time to
think it over, but the annual agreement will not be renewed with any who
will not pledge themselves to give up the old sacrifices and to worship
the Redeemer.  If they submit they will be safe--in this world and the
next; if they refuse they must go, and the land must be let to Christians
in their stead."

"Just as I change this seat for another!"  said Demetrius with a laugh,
and lifting up a heavy bronze chair he flung it down again on the hard
mosaic pavement so that the floor shook.

Maria started violently.

"My body may tremble," she said in great excitement, "but my soul is firm
when its everlasting bliss is at stake.  I insist--and my representative,
whether he be you or another, must carry my orders into effect without an
hour's delay--I insist that every heathen shrine, every image of the
field and garden-gods, every altar and sacred stone which the heathens
use for their idolatrous practices shall be pulled down, overthrown,
mutilated and destroyed.  That is what I require and insist on."

"And that is what I will never consent to," cried Demetrius in a voice
like low thunder.  "I cannot and will not.  These things have been held
precious and sacred to men for thousands of years and I cannot, will not,
blow them off the face of the earth, as you blow a feather off your
cloak.  You may go and do it yourself; you may be able to achieve it."

"What do you mean?"  asked Mary drawing herself up with a glance of
indignant protest.

"Yes--if any one can do it you can!"  repeated Demetrius imperturbably.
"I went to-day to seek the images of our forefathers--the venerable
images that were clear to our infancy, the portraits of our fathers'
fathers and mothers, the founders of the honor of our race.  And where
are they?  They have gone with the protectors of our home, the pride and
ornament of this house--of the street, of the city--the Hermes and Pallas
Athene that you--you flung into the lime-kiln.  Old Phabis told me with
tears in his eyes.  Alas poor house that is robbed of its past, of its
glory, and of its patron deities!"

"I have placed it under a better safeguard," replied Maria in a tremulous
voice, and she looked it Marcus with an appeal for sympathy.  "Now, for
the last time, I ask you:  Will you accede to my demands or will you
not?"

"I will not," said Demetrius resolutely.

"Then I must find a new agent to manage the estates."

"You will soon find one; but your land--which is our land too--will
become a desert.  Poor land!  If you destroy its shrines and sanctuaries
you will destroy its soul; for they are the soul of the land.  The first
inhabitants gathered round the sanctuary, and on that sanctuary and the
gods that dwell there the peasant founds his hopes of increase on what he
sows and plants, and of prosperity for his wife and children and cattle
and all that he has.  In destroying his shrines you ruin his hopes, and
with them all the joy of life.  I know the peasant; he believes that his
labors must be vain if you deprive him of the gods that make it thrive.
He sows in hope, in the swelling of the grain he sees the hand of the
gods who claim his joyful thanksgiving after the harvest is gathered in.
You are depriving him of all that encourages and uplifts and rejoices his
soul when you ruin his shrines and altars!"

"But I give him other and better ones," replied Mary.

"Take care then that they are such as he can appreciate," said Demetrius
gravely.  "Persuade him to love, to believe, to hope in the creed you
force upon him; but do not rob him of what he trusts in before he is
prepared to accept the substitute you offer him.--Now, let me go; we are
neither of us in the temper to make the best arrangements for the future.
One thing, at any rate, is certain: I have nothing more to do with the
estate."



CHAPTER VI.

After leaving his stepmother Demetrius made good use of his time and
dictated a number of letters to his secretary, a slave he had brought
with him to Alexandria, for the use of the pen was to him unendurable
labor.  The letters were on business, relating to his departure from
Cyrenaica and his purpose of managing his own estates for the future, and
when they lay before him, finished, rolled up and sealed, he felt that he
had come to a mile-stone on his road, a landmark in his life.  He paced
the room in silence, trying to picture to himself the fate of the slaves
and peasants who, for so many years, had been his faithful servants and
fellow-laborers, whose confidence he had entirely won, and many of whom
he truly loved.  But he could not conceive of their life, their toil or
their festivals, bereft of images, offerings, garlands, and hymns of
rejoicing.  To him they were as children, forbidden to laugh and play,
and he could not help once more recurring to his boyhood and the day of
his going to school, when, instead of running and shouting in his
father's sunny garden, he had been made to sit still and silent in a dull
class-room.  And now had the whole world reached such a boundary line in
existence beyond which there was to be no more freedom and careless joy--
where a ceaseless struggle for higher things must begin and never end?

If the Gospel were indeed true, and if all it promised could ever find
fulfilment, it might perhaps be prudent to admit the sinfulness of man
and to give up the joys and glories of this world to win the eternal
treasure that it described.  Many a good and wise man whom he had known
--nay the Emperor, the great and learned Theodosius himself--was devoted
heart and soul to the Christian faith, and Demetrius knew from his own
experience that his mother's creed, in which he had been initiated as a
boy and from which his father, after holding him at the font had
perverted him at an early age, offered great consolations and enduring
help to those whose existence was one of care, poverty, and suffering.
But his laborers and servants?  They were healthy and contented.  What
power on earth could induce them--a race that clung devotedly to custom
--to desert the faith of their fathers, and the time-honored traditions
to which they owed all the comforts and pleasures of life, or to seek in
a strange creed the aid which they already believed that they possessed.

He did not repent of his determination; but he nevertheless said to
himself that, when once he was gone, Mary would proceed only too soon on
the work of extermination and destruction; and every temple on the
estate, every statue, every whispering grotto, every shrine and stone
anointed by pious hands, doomed now to perish, rose before his fancy.

Demetrius was accustomed to rise at cock-crow and go to bed at an early
hour, and he was on the point of retiring even before the usual time,
when Marcus came to his room and begged him to give him yet an hour.

"You are angry with my mother," said the younger man with a look of
melancholy entreaty, "but you know there is nothing that she would not
sacrifice for the faith.  And you can smile so bitterly!  But only put
yourself in my place.  Loving my mother as I do, it is acutely painful
to me to see another person--to see you whom I love, too, for you are
my friend and brother--to see you, I say, turn your back on her so
completely.  My heart is heavy enough to-day I can tell you."

"Poor boy!"  said the countryman.  "Yes, I am truly your friend, and am
anxious to remain so; you are not to blame in this business--and for that
matter, I am anything but cheerful.  You have chosen to say: Down with
the shrines!  Perish all those who do not think as we do!  Still, look at
the thing as you will, in some cases certainly violence must ensue--nay,
if no blood is shed it will be a wonder!  You sum up the matter in one
common term: The heathen peasants on the estate.  My view of it is
totally different; I know these farmers and their wives and children,
each one by name and by sight.  There is not one but is ready to bid me
good day and shake my hand or kiss my dress.  Many a one has come to me
in tears and left me happy.--By the great Zeus! no one ever accused me of
being soft-hearted, but I could wish this day that I were harder; and my
blood turns to gall as I ask--What is all this for--to what possible
end?"

"For the sake and honor of the faith, Demetrius; for the eternal
salvation of our people."

"Indeed!" retorted Demetrius with a drawl, "I know better.  If that and
that alone were intended you would build churches and chapels and send us
worthy priests--Eusebius and the like--and would try to win men's hearts
to your Lord by the love you are always talking so much about.  That was
my advice to your mother, only this morning.  I believe the end might be
attained by those means, among us as elsewhere; ultimately it will, no
doubt, be gained--but not to-day nor to-morrow.  A peasant, when he had
become accustomed to the church and grasped a trust in the new God, would
of his own accord give up the old gods and their sanctuaries; I could
count you off a dozen such instances.  That I could have looked on at
calmly, for I want only men's arms and legs and do not ask for their
souls; but to burn down the old house before you have collected wood and
stone to build a new one I call wicked.--It is cruelty and madness, and
when so shrewd a woman as your mother is bent on carrying through such a
measure, come what may, there is something more behind it."

"You think she wants to get rid of you--you, Demetrius!" interrupted
Marcus eagerly.  "But you are mistaken, you are altogether wrong.  What
you have done for the estate . . ."

"Oh! as for that!" cried the other, "what has my work to do with all
this?  Ere the year is out everything that can remind us of the heathen
gods is to be swept away from the hamlets and fields of the pious Mary.
That is what is intended!  Then they will hurry off to the Bishop with
the great news and to crown one marvel with another, the reversion will
be secured of a martyr's nimbus.  And this is what all this zeal is for
--this and nothing else!"

"You are speaking of my mother, remember!"  cried Marcus, looking at his
brother with a touching appeal in his eyes.  Demetrius shook his shaggy
head and spoke more temperately as he went on:

"Yes, child, I had forgotten that--and I may be mistaken of course, for I
am no more than human.  Here one thing follows so close on another, and
in this house I feel so battered and storm-tossed, that I hardly know
myself.  But old Phabis tells me that steps are being seriously taken to
procure the title of Martyr for our father Apelles."

"My mother is quite convinced that he died for the faith, and she loved
him devotedly . . ."

"Then it is so!"  cried Demetrius, grinding his teeth and thumping his
fist down on the table.  "The lies sown by one single man have produced a
deadly weed that is smothering this miserable house!  You--to be sure,
what can you know of our father?  I knew him; I have been present when he
and his friends, the philosophers, have laughed to scorn things which not
only you Christians but even pious heathen regard as sacred.  Lucretius
was his evangelist, and the Cosmogony of that utter atheist lay by his
pillow and was his companion wherever he went."

"He admired the heathen poets, but he was a Christian all the same,"
replied Marcus.

"Neither more nor less than Porphyrius, our uncle, or myself," retorted
his brother.  "Since the day when our grandfather Philippus was baptized,
wealth and happiness have deserted this house.  He gave up the old gods
solely that he might not lose the right of supplying the city and the
Emperor with corn, and became a Christian and made his sons Christians.
But he had us educated by his heathen friends, and though we passed for
Christians we were not so in fact.  When it was absolutely necessary he
showed himself in church with us; but our daily life, our pleasures, our
pastimes were heathen, and when life began for us in earnest we offered a
bleeding sacrifice to the gods.  It was impossible to retract honestly,
since a renegade Christian returning to the worship of the old gods is
incapacitated by law from making a will.  You know this; and when you ask
me why I am content to live alone, without either wife or child--and I
love children, even those of other people--a solitary man dragging out my
days and nights joylessly enough--I tell you: I am openly and honestly a
worshipper of our old gods, and I will not go to church because I scorn
a lie.  What should I do with children who, in consequence of my
retractation, must forfeit all I might leave them?  It was this question
of inheritance only that induced my father to have us baptized and to
make a pretense of Christianity.  He set out for Petra with his Lucretius
in his satchel--I packed it with my own hands into his money-bag--to put
in a claim to supply grain to the 'Rock city.'  He was slain on his way.
home; most likely by his servant Anubis, who certainly knew what money he
had with him, and who vanished and left no trace.  Because--about the
same time--a band of Saracens had fallen on some Christian anchorites and
travellers, in the district between Petra and Aila, your mother chose to
assume a right to call our father a martyr!  But she knew his opinions
full well, I tell you, and shed many a tear over them, too.--Now she has
expended vast sums on church-building, she has opened the Xenodochium and
pours her money by lavish handfuls clown the insatiable throats of monks
and priests.  To what end?  To have her husband recognized as a martyr.
Hitherto her toil and money have been wasted.  In my estimation the
Bishop is a perfectly detestable tyrant, and if I know him at all he will
take all she will give and never grant her wish.  Now she is preparing
her great move, and hopes to startle him into compliance by a new marvel.
She thinks that, like a juggler who turns a white egg black, she can turn
a heathen district into a Christian one by a twist of her finger.  Well--
so far as I am concerned I will have nothing to do with the trick."

During this harangue Marcus had alternately gazed at the floor and fixed
his large eyes in anguish on his brother's face.  For some minutes he
found nothing to reply, and he was evidently going through a bitter
mental struggle.  Demetrius spoke no more, but arranged the sheets of
papyrus that strewed the table.  At length Marcus, after a deep sigh,
broke out in a tone of fervent conviction and with a blissful smile that
lighted up his whole face:

"Poor mother!  And others misunderstand her just as you do; I myself was
in danger of doubting her.  But I think that now I understand her
perfectly.  She loved my father so completely that she hopes now to win
for his immortal soul the grace which he, in the flesh, neglected to
strive after.  He was baptized, so she longs to win, by her prayers and
oblations, the mercy of the Lord who is so ready to forgive.  She herself
firmly believes in the martyrdom of her beloved dead, and if only the
Church will rank him among those who have died for Her, he will he saved,
and she will find him standing in the pure radiance of the realms above,
with open arms, overflowing with fervent love and gratitude, to welcome
the faithful helpmate who will have purged his soul.  Yes, now I quite
understand; and from this day forth I will aid and second her; the
hardest task shall not be too hard, the best shall not be too good, if
only we may open the gates of Heaven to my poor father's imperilled
soul."

As he spoke his eye glistened with ecstatic light; his brother, too, was
touched, and to hide his emotion, he exclaimed, more recklessly and
sharply than was his wont:

"That will come all right, never fear, lad!"  But he hastily wiped his
eyes with his hand, slapped Marcus on the shoulder, and added gaily:  "It
is better to choke than to swallow down the thing you think right, and it
never hurt a man yet to make a clean breast of his feelings, even if we
do not quite agree we understand each other the better for it.  I have my
way of thinking, you have yours; thus we each know what the other means;
but after the tragedy comes the satyr play, and we may as well finish
this agitating evening with an hour's friendly chat."

So saying Demetrius stretched himself on a divan and invited Marcus to do
the same, and in a few minutes their conversation had turned, as usual,
to the subject of horses.  Marcus was full of praises of the stallions
his brother had bred for him, and which he had ridden that very day round
the Myssa--[The Myssa was the Meta, or turning-post]--in the Hippodrome,
and his brother added with no small complacency:

"They were all bred from the same sire and from the choicest mares.  I
broke them in myself, and I only wish....  But why did you not come to
the stables this morning?"

"I could not," replied Marcus coloring slightly.  Then we will go
to-morrow to Nicopolis and I will show you how to get Megaera past the
Taraxippios."--[The terror of the horses.]

"To-morrow?"  said Marcus somewhat embarrassed.  "In the morning I must
go to see Eusebius and then. . . ."

"Well, then?"

"Then I must--I mean I should like. . . ."

"What?"

"Well, to be sure I might, all the same.--But no, it is not to be done--I
have. . . ."

"What, what?" cried Demetrius with increasing impatience: "My time is
limited and if you start the horses without knowing my way of managing
them they will certainly not do their best.  As soon as the market
begins to fill we will set out.  We shall need a few hours for the
Hippodrome, then we will dine with Damon, and before dark. . . ."

"No, no," replied Marcus, "to-morrow, certainly, I positively cannot...."

"People who have nothing to do always lack time," replied the other.
"Is to-morrow one of your festivals?"

"No, not that=-and Good Heavens!  If only I could. . . ."

"Could, could!"  cried Demetrius angrily and standing close in front of
his brother with his arms folded.  "Say out honestly: 'I will not go,' or
else, 'my affairs are my own secret and I mean to keep it.'--But give me
no more of your silly equivocations."

His vehemence increased the younger man's embarrassment, and as he stood
trying to find an explanation which might come somewhat near the truth
and yet not betray him, Demetrius, who had stood watching him closely,
suddenly exclaimed:

"By Aphrodite, the daughter of the foam! it is a love affair--an
assignation.--Woman, woman, always woman!"

"An assignation!"  cried Marcus shaking his head.  "No indeed, no one
expects me; and yet--I had rather you should misunderstand me than think
that I had lied.  Yes--I am going to seek a woman; and if I do not find
her to-morrow, if in the course of tomorrow I do not succeed in my
heart's desire, she is lost--not only to me, though I cannot give up the
heavenly love for the sake of the earthly and fleshly--but to my Lord and
Saviour.  It is the life--the everlasting life or death of one of God's
loveliest creatures that hangs on to-morrow's work."

Demetrius was greatly astonished, and it was with an angry gesture of
impatience that he replied:

"Again you have overstepped the boundary within which we can possibly
understand each other.  In my opinion you are hardly old enough to
undertake the salvation of the imperilled souls of pretty women.  Take
care what you are about, youngster!  It is safe enough to go into the
water with those who can swim, but those who sink are apt to draw you
down with them.  You are a good-looking young fellow, you have money and
fine horses, and there are women enough who are only too ready to spread
their nets abroad. . ."

"What are you thinking of?"  cried Marcus passionately.  "It is I who am
the fisher--a fisher of souls, and so every true believer ought to be.
She--she is innocence and simplicity itself, in spite of her roguish
sauciness.  But she has fallen into the hands of a reprobate heathen, and
here, where vice prowls about the city like a roaring lion, she will be
lost--lost, if I do not rescue her.  Twice have I seen her in my dreams;
once close to the cavern of a raging dragon, and again on the edge of a
precipitous cliff, and each time an angel called out to me and bid me
save her from the jaws of the monster, and from falling into the abyss.
Since then I seem to see her constantly; at meals, when I am in company,
when I am driving,--and I always hear the warning voice of the angel.
And now I feel it a sacred duty to save her--a creature on whom the
Almighty has lavished every gift he ever bestowed on the daughters of
Eve--to lead her into the path of Salvation."

Demetrius had listened to his brother's enthusiastic speech with growing
anxiety, but he merely shrugged his shoulders and said:

"I almost envy you your acquaintance with this favorite of the gods; but
you might, it seems to me, postpone the work of salvation.  You were away
from Alexandria for half a year, and if she could hold out so long as
that . . ."

"Do not speak so; you ought not to speak so!"  cried Marcus, pressing his
hand on his heart as though in physical pain.  "But I have no time to
lose, for I must at once find out where the old singer has taken her.  I
am not so inexperienced as you seem to think.  He has brought her here to
trade in her beauty, and enrich himself.  Why, you, too, saw her on board
ship; I, as you know, had arranged for them to be taken in at my mother's
Xenodochium."

"Whom?"  asked Demetrius folding his hands.

"The singers whom I brought with me from Ostia.  And now they have
disappeared from thence, and Dada . . ."

"Dada!"  cried Demetrius, bursting into a loud laugh without heeding
Marcus who stepped up to him, crimson with rage.  "Dada!  that little
fair puss!  You see her day and night and an angel calls upon you to save
that child's merry soul?  You ought to be ashamed of yourself, boy!  Why,
what shall I wager now?  I will stake this roll of gold that I could make
her come with me to-morrow--with me, a hard-featured countryman, freckled
all over like a plover's egg, where my clothes do not protect my skin,
and with hair on end like the top of a broom--yes, that she will follow
me to Arsinoe or wherever I choose to bid her.  Let the hussy go, you
simple innocent.  Such a Soul as hers is of small account even in a less
exclusive Heaven than yours is."

"Take back those words!"  cried Marcus, beside himself and clenching his
fist.  "But that is just like you!  Your impure eyes and heart defile
purity itself, and see spots even in the sun.  Nothing is too bad for
a 'singing girl,' I know.  But that is just the marrow of the matter; it
is from that very curse that I mean to save her.  If you can accuse her
of anything, speak; if not, and if you do not want to appear a base
slanderer in my eyes, take back the words you have just spoken!"

"Oh! I take them back of course," said Demetrius indifferently.  "I know
nothing of your beauty beyond what she has herself said to me and you and
Cynegius and his Secretaries--with her pretty, saucy eyes.  But the
language of the eye, they say, is not always to be depended on; so take
it as unsaid.  And, if I understood you rightly, you do not even know
where the singers are hiding?  If you have no objection, I will help you
to seek them out."

"That is as you please," answered Marcus hotly.  "All your mockery will
not prevent my doing my duty."

"Very right, very right," said his brother.  "Perhaps this damsel is
unlike all the other singing-girls with whom I used so often to spend a
jolly evening in my younger days.  Once, at Barca, I saw a white raven--
but perhaps after all it was only a dove.  Your opinion, in this case, is
at any rate better founded than mine, for I never thought twice about the
girl and you did.--But it is late; till to-morrow, Marcus."

The brothers parted for the night, but when Demetrius found himself alone
he walked up and down the room, shaking his head doubtfully.  Presently,
when his body-slave came in to pack for him, he called out crossly:

"Let that alone--I shall stay in Alexandria a few days longer."

Marcus could not go to bed; his brother's scorn had shaken his soul to
the foundations.  An inward voice told him that his more experienced
senior might be right, but at the same time he hated and contemned
himself for listening to its warnings at all.  The curse that rested on
Dada was that of her position; she herself was pure--as pure as a lily,
as pure as the heart of a child, as pure as the blue of her eyes and the
ring of her voice.  He would obey the angel's behest!  He could and he
must save her!

In the greatest excitement he went out of the house, through the great
gate, into the Canopic way, and walked on.  As he was about to turn down
a side street to go to the lake he found the road stopped by soldiers,
for this street led past the prefect's house where Cynegius, the
Emperor's emissary, was staying; he had come, it was said, to close the
Temples, and the excited populace had gathered outside the building,
during the afternoon, to signify their indignant disapprobation.  At
sundown an armed force had been called out and had dispersed the crowd;
but it was by another road that the young Christian at length made his
way to the shore.



CHAPTER VII.

While Marcus was restlessly wandering on the shore of Mareotis, dreaming
of Dada's image and arranging speeches of persuasive eloquence by which
to touch her heart and appeal to her soul, silence had fallen on the
floating home of the singers.  A light white mist, like a filmy veil--a
tissue of clouds and moonbeams--hung over the lake.  Work was long since
over in the ship-yard, and the huge skeletons of the unfinished ships
threw weird and ghostly shadows on the silvered strand-forms like black
visions of crayfish, centipedes, or enormous spiders.

From the town there came not a sound; it lay in the silence of
intoxicated sleep.  The Roman troops had cleared the streets, the lights
were dead in every house, and in all the alleys and squares; only the
moon shone over the roofs of Alexandria, while the blazing beacon of the
light-house on the north-eastern point of the island of Pharos shone like
a sun through the darkness.

In a large cabin in the stern of the vessel lay the two girls, on soft
woollen couches and covered with rugs.  Agne was gazing wide-eyed into
the darkness; Dada had long been asleep, but she breathed painfully and
her rosy lips were puckered now and then as if she were in some distress.
She was dreaming of the infuriated mob who had snatched the garland from
her hair--she saw Marcus suddenly interfere to protect her and rescue her
from her persecutors--then she thought she had fallen off the gangway
that led from the land to the barge, and was in the water while old Damia
stood on the shore and laughed at her without trying to help her.  Night
generally brought the child sound sleep or pleasant dreams, but now one
hideous face after another haunted her.

And yet the evening had brought her a great pleasure.  Not long after
their return from their walk the steward had come down to the boat and
brought her a very beautiful dress, with greetings from his old mistress;
he had at the same time brought an Egyptian slave-woman, well skilled in
all the arts of the toilet, who was to wait upon her so long as she
remained in Alexandria.  Dada had never owned such a lovely dress!  The
under-robe was of soft sea-green bombyx silk, with a broad border,
delicately embroidered, of a garland of roses and buds.  The peplos was
of the same color and decorated to match; costly clasps of mosaic,
representing full-blown roses and set in oval gold settings, fastened it
on the shoulders.  In a separate case were a gold girdle, a bracelet,
also of gold, in the shape of a snake, a gold crescent with a rose, like
those on the shoulder-clasps, in its centre, and a metal mirror of
spotless lustre.

The slave, a middle-aged woman with a dark cunning face, had helped her
to put on this new garment; she had also insisted on dressing her hair,
and all the time had never ceased praising the charms that nature had
bestowed on her young mistress, with the zeal of a lover.

Agne had looked on smiling, good-naturedly handing the slave the pins and
ribbands she had needed, and sincerely rejoicing in her companion's
beauty and delight.

At last Dada had made her appearance in the deckroom and was greeted by
many an Ah! and Oh! of admiration from the men of the party, including
Medius, the singer whom Karnis had met in the street.  Even Herse, who
had received her quite disagreeably on her return from the city, could
not suppress a smile of kindly approval, though she shook her finger at
her saying:

"The old lady has set her heart on turning your head completely I see.
All that is very pretty, but all the good it will do will be to rouse
spiteful tongues.  Remember, Dada, that you are my sister's child; I
promise you I shall not forget it, and I shall keep my eye upon you."

Orpheus made haste to light every lamp and taper, of which there were
plenty, for the barge was handsomely furnished, and when Dada was plainly
visible in the brilliant illumination Karnis exclaimed:

"You look like a senator's daughter!  Long live the Fair!"

She ran up to him and kissed him; but when Orpheus walked all round her,
examining the fineness of the tissue and the artistic finish of the
clasps, and even turned the snake above her round elbow, she sharply bid
him let her be.

Medius, a man of the age of Karnis who had formerly been his intimate
companion, never took his eyes off the girl, and whispered to the old
musician that Dada would easily carry off the palm for beauty in
Alexandria, and that with such a jewel in his keeping he might recover
wealth and position and by quite honest means.  At his suggestion she
then assumed a variety of attitudes; she stood as Hebe, offering nectar
to the gods--as Nausicae, listening to the tale of Odysseus--and as
Sappho, singing to her lyre.  The girl was delighted at all this, and
when Medius, who kept close to her, tried to persuade her to perform in a
similar manner in the magical representations at the house of Posidonius,
before a select company of spectators, she clapped her hands exclaiming:

"You took me all round the city, father, and as your reward I should like
to earn back your pretty vineyards, I should stand like this, you know,
and like this--to be stared at.  I only hope I might not be seized with a
sudden impulse to make a face at the audience.  But if they did not come
too close I really might . . ."

"You could do no better than to play the parts that Posidonius might give
you," interrupted Medius.  "His audiences like to see good daemons, the
kindly protecting spirits, and so forth.  You would have to appear among
clouds behind a transparent veil, and the people would hail you with
acclamations or even raise their hands in adoration."

All this seemed to Dada perfectly delightful, and she was on the point of
giving her hand to Medius in token of agreement, when her eye caught the
anxious gaze of the young Christian girl who stood before her with a deep
flush on her face.  Agne seemed to be blushing for her.  The color rushed
to her own cheeks, and shortly saying: "No--after all, I think not," she
turned her back on the old man and threw herself on the cushions close to
where the wine-jug was standing.  Medius now began to besiege Karnis and
Herse with arguments, but they refused all his offers as they intended
quitting Alexandria in a few days, so he had no alternative but to
submit.  Still, he did not altogether throw up the game, and to win
Dada's consent, at any rate, he made her laugh with a variety of comical
pranks and showed her some ingenious conjuring tricks, and ere long their
floating home echoed with merriment, with the clinking of wine-cups and
with songs, in which even Agne was obliged to take part.  Medius did not
leave till near midnight and Herse then sent them all to bed.

As soon as the slave had undressed her young mistress and left the girls
alone, Dada threw herself into the arms of Agne who was on the point of
getting into bed, and kissed her vehemently, exclaiming: "You are much--
so much better than I!  How is that you always know what is right?"

Then she lay down; but before she fell asleep she once more spoke to
Agne: "Marcus will find us out, I am certain," she said, "and I should
really like to know what he has to say to me."

In a few minutes sleep had sealed her eyes, but the Christian girl lay
awake; her thoughts would not rest, and Sleep, who the night before had
taken her to his heart, to-night would not come near her pillow; so much
to agitate and disturb her soul had taken place during the day.

She had often before now been a silent spectator of the wild rejoicings
of the musician's family, and she had always thought of these light-
hearted creatures as spendthrifts who waste all their substance in a few
days to linger afterwards through years of privation and repentance.
Troubled, as she could not fail to be, as to the eternal salvation of
these lost souls, though happy in her own faith, she had constantly
turned for peace to her Saviour and always found it; but to-night it was
not so, for a new and unexpected temptation had sprung up for her in the
house of Porphyrius.

She had heard Gorgo sing again, and joined her own voice with hers.
Dirges, yearning hymns, passionate outpourings in praise of the mighty
and beautiful divinity had filled her ear and stirred her soul with an
ecstatic thrill, although she knew that they, were the composition of
heathen poets and had first been sung to the harmony of lutes by
reprobate idolaters.  And yet, and yet they had touched her heart, and
moved her soul to rapture, and filled her eyes with tears.

She could not but confess to herself that she could have given no purer,
sweeter, or loftier expression to her own woes, thankfulness,
aspirations, and hopes of ever lasting life and glory, than this gifted
creature had given to the utterance of her idolatry.  Surprise, unrest,
nay, some little jealousy had been mingled with her delight at Gorgo's
singing.  How was it that this heathen could feel and utter emotions
which she had always conceived of as the special privilege of the
Christian, and, for her own part, had never felt so fervently as in the
hours when she had drawn closest to her Lord?  Were not her own
sentiments the true and right ones; had her intercourse with these
heathens tainted her?

This doubt disturbed her greatly; it must be based on something more than
mere self-torture, for she had not once thought of asking to whom the
two-part hymn, with its tender appeal, was addressed, when Karnis had
first gone through it with her alone; nor even subsequently, when she had
sung it with Gorgo--timidly at first, more boldly the second time, and
finally without a mistake, but carried completely away by the beauty and
passion of the emotions it expressed.

She knew now, for Karnis himself had told her.  It was the Lament of Isis
for her--lost husband and brother--oh that horrible heathen confusion!--
The departed Osiris.  The wailing widow, who called on him to return with
"the silent speech of tears," was that queen of the idolater's devils
whose shameful worship her father had often spoke of with horror.  Still,
this dirge was so true and noble, so penetrated with fervent, agonized
grief, that it had gone to her heart.  The sorrowing Mother of God, Mary
herself, might thus have besought the resurrection of her Son; just thus
must the "God-like maid"--as she was called in the Arian confession of
her father--have uttered her grief, her prayers, and her longings.

But it was all a heathen delusion, all the trickery and jugglery of the
Devil, though she had failed to see through it, and had given herself up
to it, heart and soul.  Nay, worse! for after she had learnt that Gorgo
was to represent Isis and she herself Nephthys, the sister of the divine
pair, she had opposed the suggestion but feebly, even though she knew
that they were to sing the hymn together in the Temple of Isis; and when
Gorgo had clasped her in her arms with sisterly kindness, begging her not
to spoil her plans but to oblige her in this, she had not repulsed the
tempter with firm decision, but merely asked for time to think it over.

How indeed could she have found the heart to refuse the noble girl, whose
beauty and voice had so struck and fascinated her, when she flung her
arms round her neck, looked into her eyes and earnestly besought her:

"Do it for my sake, to please me.  I do not ask you to do anything
wicked.  Pure song is acceptable to every god.  Think of your lament, if
you like, as being for your own god who suffered on the cross.  But I
like singing with you so much; say yes.  Do not refuse, for my sake!"

She had thrown her arms so gladly, so much too gladly round the heathen
lady--for she had a loving heart and no one else had ever made it a
return in kind--and clinging closely to her she had said:

"As you will; I will do whatever you like."

Then Orpheus, too, had urged her to oblige Gorgo, and himself, and all of
them; and it had seemed almost impossible to refuse the first request
that the modest youth--to whom she would willingly have granted anything
and everything--had ever made.  Still, she had held back; and in her
anxious bewilderment, not daring to think or act, she had tried every
form of excuse and postponement.  She would probably have been awkward
enough about this, but Gorgo was content to press her no further, and
when, after leaving the house, she had summoned up courage to refuse to
enter the Temple of Isis, Karnis had only said: "Be thankful that this
gifted lady, the favorite of the Muses, should think you worthy to sing
with her.  We will see about the rest by-and-bye."

Now, in the watches of the sleepless night, she saw clearly the abyss
above which she was standing.  She, like Judas, was on the point of
betraying her Saviour; not indeed for money, but in obedience to the
transient sound of an earthly voice, for the pleasure of exercising her
art, to indulge a hastily-formed liking; nay, perhaps because it
satisfied her childish vanity to find herself put on an equality with a
lady of rank and wealth, and matched with a singer who had roused Karnis
and Orpheus to such ardent admiration.

She was an enigma to herself; while passages out of the Bible crowded on
her memory to reproach her conscience.

There lay Dada's embroidered dress.  Worn for the first time this day, in
a month it would be unpresentably shabby and then, ere long, flung aside
as past wearing.  Like this--just like this--was every earthly pleasure,
every joy of this brief existence.  Alas, she certainly was not happy
here in Karnis' sense of the word; but in the other world there were joys
eternal, and she had only to deny herself the petty enjoyments of this
life to secure unfailing and everlasting happiness in the next.  There
she would find an endless flow of all her soul could desire, there
perhaps she might be allowed to cool the lips of Gorgo, as Lazarus cooled
those of the rich man.

She was quite clear now what her answer would be to-morrow, and, firmly
resolved not to allow herself to think of singing in the Temple of Isis,
she at last fell asleep just as the light began to dawn in the east.  She
did not wake till late, and it was with downcast eyes and set lips that
she went with Karnis and Orpheus to the house of Porphyrius.



CHAPTER VIII.

When the steward went to summons the musicians to his master's house he
had again had no bidding for Dada, and she was very indignant at being
left behind.  "That old cornsack's daughter," she said, "was full of her
airs, and would have nothing to say to them excepting to make use of them
for her own purposes!"  If she had not been afraid of being thought
intrusive she would have acted on old Damia's invitation to visit her
frequently, and have made her appearance, in defiance of Gorgo, dropping
like a shooting-star into the midst of their practising.  It never
occurred to her to fancy that the young lady had any personal dislike to
her, for, though she might be ignored and forgotten, who had ever had any
but a kind word for her.  At the same time she assumed the right of
feeling that "she could not bear" the haughty Gorgo, and as the party set
out she exclaimed to Agne, "Well, you need not kill her for me, but at
any rate, I send her no greeting; it is a shame that I should be left to
mope alone with Herse.  Do not be surprised if you find me turned to a
stark, brown mummy--for we are in Egypt, you know, the land of mummies.
I bequeath my old dress to you, my dear, for I know you would never put
on the new one.  If you bewail me as you ought I will visit you in a
dream, and put a sugarplum in your mouth--a cake of ambrosia such as the
gods eat.  You are not even leaving me Papias to tease!"

For in fact Agne's little brother, dressed in a clean garment, was to be
taken to Gorgo who had expressed a wish to see him.

When they had all left the ship Dada soon betrayed how superficial her
indignation had been; for, presently spying through the window of the
cabin the young cavalry officer's grey-bearded father, she sprang up the
narrow steps--barefoot as she was accustomed to be when at home--and
threw herself on a cushion to lean over the gunwale of the upper deck,
which was shaded by a canvas awning, to watch the ship-yard and the
shore-path.  Before she had begun to weary of this occupation the
waiting-slave, who had been up to the house to put various matters in
order, came back to the vessel, and squatting down at her feet was ready
to give her all the information she chose to require.  Dada's first
questions naturally related to Gorgo.  The young mistress, said the
slave, had already dismissed many suitors, the sons of the greatest
families of Alexandria, and if her suspicions--those of Sachepris, the
slave--were well founded, all for the sake of the old shipbuilder's son,
whom she had known from childhood and who was now an officer in the
Imperial guard.  However, as she opined, this attachment could hardly
lead to marriage, since Constantine was a zealous Christian and his
family were immeasurably beneath that of Porphyrius in rank; and though
he had distinguished himself greatly and risen to the grade of Prefect,
Damia, who on all occasions had the casting-vote, had quite other views
for her granddaughter.

All this excited Dada's sympathies to the highest pitch, but she listened
with even greater attention when her gossip began to speak of Marcus, his
mother, and his brother.  In this the Egyptian slave was the tool of old
Damia.  She had counted on being questioned about the young Christian,
and as soon as Dada mentioned his name she shuffled on her knees close up
to the girl, laid her hand gently on her arm and looking up into her eyes
with a meaning flash, she whispered in broken Greek--and hastily, for
Herse was bustling about the deck: "Such a pretty mistress, such a young
mistress as you, and kept here like a slave!  If the young mistress only
chose she could easily--quite easily--have as good a lover as our Gorgo,
and better; so pretty and so young!  And I know some one who would dress
the pretty mistress in red gold and pale pearls and bright jewels, if
sweet Dada only said the word."

"And why should sweet Dada not say the word?"  echoed the girl gaily.
"Who is it that has so many nice things and all for me?  You--I shall
never remember your name if I live to be as old as Damia. . . ."

"Sachepris, Sachepris is my name," said the woman, but call me anything
else you like.  The lover I mean is the son of the rich Christian, Mary.
A handsome man, my lord Marcus; and he has horses, such fine horses, and
more gold pieces than the pebbles on the shore there.  Sachepris knows
that he has sent out slaves to look for the pretty mistress.  Send him a
token--write to my lord Marcus."

"Write?"  laughed Dada.  "Girls learn other things in my country; but if
I could--shall I tell you something?  I would not write him a line.
Those who want me may seek me!"

"He is seeking, he is trying to find the pretty mistress," declared the
woman; "he is full of you, quite full of you, and if I dared...."

"Well?"

"I would go and say to my lord Marcus, quite in a secret. . . ."

"Well, what?  Speak out, woman."

"First I would tell him where the pretty mistress is hidden; and then say
that he might hope once--this evening perhaps--he is not far off, he is
quite near this.  .  .  over there; do you see that little white house?
It is a tavern and the host is a freedman attached to the lady Damia, and
for money he would shut his shop up for a day, for a night, for many
days.--Well, and then I would say--shall I tell you all?  My lord Marcus
is there, waiting for his pretty mistress, and has brought her dresses
that would make the rose-garment look a rag.  You would have gold too, as
much gold as heart can wish.  I can take you there, and he will meet you
with open arms."

"What, this evening?"  cried Dada, and the blue veins swelled on her
white forehead.  "You hateful, brown serpent!  Did Gorgo teach you such
things as this?  It is horrible, disgraceful, sickening!"

So base a proposal was the last thing she would ever have expected from
Marcus--of all men in the world, Marcus, whom she had imagined so good
and pure!  She could not believe it; and as her glance met the cunning
glitter of the Egyptian's eyes her own sparkled keenly, and she exclaimed
with a vehemence and decision which her attendant had never suspected in
her:

"It is deceit and falsehood from beginning to end!  Go, woman, I will
hear no more of it.  Why should Marcus have come to you since yesterday
if he does not know where I am?  You are silent--you will not say?....
Oh!  I understand it all.  He--I know he would never have ventured it.
But it is your 'noble lady Damia'--that old woman, who has told you what
to say.  You are her echo, and as for Marcus ...  Confess, confess at
once, you witch . . ."

"Sachepris is only a poor slave," said the woman raising her hands in
entreaty.  "Sachepris can only obey, and if the pretty mistress were to
tell my lady Damia .  .  ."

"It was she then who sent for me to go to the little tavern?"

The woman nodded.  "And Marcus?"

"If the pretty mistress had consented .  .  ."

"Well?"

"Then--but Great Isis! if you tell of me!"

"I will not tell; go on."

"I should have gone to my lord Marcus and invited him, from you . . ."

"It is shameful!"  interrupted Dada, and a shudder ran through her slight
frame.  "How cruel, how horrible it is!  You--you will stay here till the
others come home and then you will go home to the old woman.  I thank the
gods, I have two hands and need no maid to wait upon me!  But look there
--what is the meaning of that?  That pretty litter has stopped and there
is an old man signing to you."

"It is the widow Mary's house steward," whined the woman, while Dada
turned pale, wondering what a messenger from Marcus' mother could want
here.

Herse, who had kept a watchful eye on the landing-plank, on Dada's
account, had also seen the approach of the widow's messenger and
suspected a love-message from Marcus; but she was utterly astounded when
the old man politely but imperiously desired her--Herse to get into the
litter which would convey her to his mistress's house.  Was this a trap?
Did he merely want to tempt her from the vessel so as to clear the way
for his young master?  No--for he handed her a tablet on which there was
a written message, and she, an Alexandrian, had been well educated and
could read:

"Mary, the widow of Apelles, to the wife of Karnis, the singer."  And
then followed the same urgent request as she had already received by word
of mouth.  To reassure herself entirely she called the slave-woman aside,
and asked her whether Phabis was indeed a trust worthy servant of the
widow's.  Evidently there was no treason to be apprehended and she must
obey the invitation, though it disturbed her greatly; but she was a
cautious woman, with not only her heart but her brains and tongue in the
right place, and she at once made up her mind what must be done under the
circumstances.  While she gave a few decorative touches to her person she
handed the tablet to the waiting-woman, whom she had taken into her own
room, and desired her to carry it at once to her husband, and tell him
whither she had gone, and to beg him to return without delay to take
care of Dada.  But what if her husband and son could not come away?  The
girl would be left quite alone, and then. . .  The picture rose before
her anxious mind of Marcus appearing on the scene and tempting Dada on
shore--of her niece stealing away by herself even, if the young Christian
failed to discover her present residence--loitering alone along the
Canopic way or the Bruclumn, where, at noon, all that was most
disreputable in Alexandria was to be seen at this time of year--she saw,
shuddered, considered--and suddenly thought of an expedient which seemed
to promise an issue from the difficulty.  It was nothing new and a
favorite trick among the Egyptians; she had seen is turned to account by
a lame tailor at whose house her father had lodged, when he had to go out
to his customers and leave his young negress wife alone at home.  Dada
was lying barefoot on the deck: Herse would hide her shoes.

She hastily acted on this idea, locking up not only Dada's sandals, but
also Agne's and her own, in the trunk they had saved; a glance at the
slave's feet assured her that hers could be of no use.

"Not if fire were to break out," thought she, "would my Dada be seen in
the streets with those preposterous things on her pretty little feet."

When this was done Herse breathed more freely, and as she took leave of
her niece, feeling perhaps that she owed her some little reparation, she
said in an unusually kind tone:

"Good bye, child.  Try to amuse yourself while I am gone.  There is
plenty to look at here, and the others will soon be back again.  If the
city is fairly quiet this evening we will all go out together, to
Canopus, to eat oysters.  Good bye till we meet again, my pet!"  She
kissed the child, who looked up at her in astonishment, for her adopted
mother was not usually lavish of such endearments.

Before long Dada was alone, cooling herself with her new fan and eating
sweetmeats; but she could not cease thinking of the shameful treachery
planned by old Damia, and while she rejoiced to reflect that she had not
fallen into the net, and had seen through the plot, her wrath against the
wicked old woman and Gorgo--whom she could not help including--burnt
within her.  Meanwhile she looked about her, expecting to see Marcus, or
perhaps the young officer.  Finding it impossible to think any evil of
the young Christian, and having already trusted him so far, her fancy
dwelt on him with particular pleasure; but she was curious, too, about
the prefect, the early love of the proud merchant's daughter.

Time went on; the sun was high in the heavens, she was tired of staring,
wondering and thinking, and, yawning wearily, she began to consider
whether she would make herself comfortable for a nap, or go down stairs
and fill up the time by dressing herself up in her new garments.
However, before she could do either, the slave returned from her errand
to the house, and a few moments after she espied the young officer
crossing the ship-yard towards the lake; she sat up, set the crescent
straight that she wore in her hair, and waved her fan in a graceful
greeting.

The cavalry prefect, who knew that, of old, the barge was often used by
Porphyrius' guests, though he did not happen to have heard who were its
present occupants--bowed, with military politeness and precision, to the
pretty girl lounging on the deck.  Dada returned the greeting; but this
seemed likely to be the end of their acquaintance, for the soldier walked
on without turning round.  He looked handsomer even than he had seemed
the day before; his hair was freshly oiled and curled, his scale-armor
gleamed as brightly, and his crimson tunic was as new and rich as if he
were going at once to guard the Imperial throne.  The merchant's daughter
had good taste, but her friend looked no less haughty than herself.  Dada
longed to make his acquaintance and find out whether he really had no
eyes for any one but Gorgo.  To discover that it was not so, little as
she cared about him personally, would have given her infinite
satisfaction, and she decided that she must put him to the test.  But
there was no time to lose, so, as it would hardly do to call after him,
she obeyed a sudden impulse, flung overboard the handsome fan which had
been in her possession but one day, and gave a little cry in which alarm
and regret were most skilfully and naturally expressed.

This had the wished-for effect.  The officer turned round, his eyes met
hers, and Dada leaned far over the boat's side pointing to the water and
exclaiming:

"It is in the water--it has fallen into the lake!--my fan!"

The officer again bowed slightly; then he walked from the path down to
the water's edge, while Dada went on more quietly:

"There, close there!  Oh, if only you would! ...

"I am so fond of the fan, it is so pretty.  Do you see, it is quite
obliging?  it is floating towards you!"  Constantine had soon secured the
fan, and shook it to dry it as he went across the plank to the vessel.
Dada joyfully received it, stroked the feathers smooth, and warmly
thanked its preserver, while he assured her that he only wished he could
have rendered her some greater service.  He was then about to retire with
a bow no less distant than before, but he found himself unexpectedly
detained by the Egyptian slave who, placing herself in his way, kissed
the hem of his tunic and exclaimed:

"What joy for my lord your father and the lady your mother, and for poor
Sachepris!  My lord Constantine at home again!"

"Yes, at home at last," said the soldier in a deep pleasant voice.  "Your
old mistress is still hale and hearty?  That is well.  I am on my way to
the others."

"They know that you have come," replied the slave.  "Glad, they are all
glad.  They asked if my lord Constantine forgot old friends."

"Never, not one!"

"How long now since my lord Constantine went away--two, three years, and
just the same.  Only a cut over the eyes--may the hand wither that gave
the blow!"

Dada had already observed a broad scar which marked the soldier's brow as
high up as she could see it for the helmet, and she broke in:

"How can you men like to slash and kill each other?  Just think, if that
cut had been only a finger's breadth lower--you would have lost your
eyes, and oh! it is better to be dead than blind.  When all the world is
bright not to be able to see it; what must that be!  The whole earth in
darkness so that you see nothing--no one; neither the sky, nor the lake,
nor the boat, nor even me."

"That would indeed be a pity," said the prefect with a laugh and a shrug.

"A pity!"  exclaimed Dada.  "As if it were nothing at all!  I should find
something else to say than that.  It gives me a shudder only to think of
being blind.  How dreadfully dull life can be with one's eyes open! so
what must it be when they are of no use and one cannot even look about
one.  Do you know that you have done me not one service only, but two at
once?"

"I?"  said the officer.

"Yes, you.  But the second is not yet complete.  Sit down awhile, I beg--
there is a seat.  You know it is a fatal omen if a visitor does not sit
down before he leaves.--That is well.--And now, may I ask you: do you
take off your helmet when you go into battle?  No.--Then how could a
swordcut hurt your forehead?"

"In a hand to hand scuffle," said the young man, "everything gets out of
place.  One man knocked my helmet off and another gave me this cut in my
face."

"Where did it happen?"

"On the Savus, where we defeated Maximus."

"And had you this same helmet on?"

"Certainly."

"Oh!  pray let me look at it!  I can still see the dent in the metal; how
heavy such a thing must be to wear!"

Constantine took off his helmet with resigned politeness and put it into
her hands.  She weighed it, thought it fearfully heavy, and then lifted
it up to put it on her own fair curls; but this did not seem to please
her new acquaintance, and saying rather shortly: "Allow me--" he took it
from her, set it on his head and rose.

But Dada pointed eagerly to the seat.

"No, no," she said, "I have not yet had enough of your second kindness.
I was on the point of death from sheer tedium; then you came, just in
time; and if you want to carry out your work of mercy you must tell me
something about the battle where you were wounded, and who took care of
you afterwards, and whether the women of Pannonia are really as handsome
as they are said to be. . ."

"I am sorry to say that I have not time," interrupted the officer.
"Sachepris here is far better qualified to amuse you than I; some years
since, at any rate, she lead a wonderful store of tales.  I wish you a
pleasant day!"

And with this farewell greeting, Constantine left the vessel, nor did he
once look back at it or its pretty inhabitant as he made his way towards
the house of Porphyrius.

Dada as she gazed after him colored with vexation; again she had done a
thing that Herse and--which she regretted still more--that Agne would
certainly disapprove of.  The stranger whom she had tried to draw into a
flirtation was a really chivalrous man.  Gorgo might be proud of such a
lover; and if now, he were to go to her and tell her, probably with some
annoyance, how provokingly he had been delayed by that pert little
singing-girl, it would be all her own fault.  She felt as though there
were something in her which forced her to seem much worse than she really
was, and wished to be.  Agne, Marcus, the young soldier--nay, even Gorgo,
were loftier and nobler than she or her people, and she was conscious for
the first time that the dangers from which Marcus had longed to protect
her were not the offspring of his fancy.  She could not have found a name
for them, but she understood that she was whirled and tossed through life
from one thing to another, like a leaf before the wind, bereft of every
stay or holdfast, defenceless even against the foolish vagaries of her
own nature.  Everyone, thought the girl to herself, distrusted and
suspected her, and, solely because she was one of a family of singers,
dared to insult and dishonor her.  A strange spite against Fate, against
her uncle and aunt, against herself even, surged up in her, and with it
a vague longing for another and a better life.

Thus meditating she looked down into the water, not noticing what was
going on around her, till the slave-woman, addressing her by name,
pointed to a carriage drawn up at the side of the road that divided the
grove of the Temple of Isis from the ship-yard, and which the Egyptian
believed that she recognized as belonging to Marcus.  Dada started up and
ran off to the cabin to fetch her shoes, but everything in the shape of a
sandal had vanished, and Herse had been wise when she had looked at those
of the Egyptian, for Dada did the same and would not have hesitated to
borrow them if they had been a little less dirty and clumsy.

Herse, no doubt, had played her this trick, and it was easy to guess why!
It was only to divert her suspicions that the false woman had been so
affectionate at parting.  It was cheating, treachery-cruel and shameful!
She, who had always submitted like a lamb--but this was too much--this
she could not bear--this!...  The slave-woman now followed her to desire
her to come up on deck; a new visitor had appeared on the scene, an old
acquaintance and fellow-voyager: Demetrius, Marcus' elder brother.

At any other time she would have made him gladly welcome, as a companion
and comfort in her solitude; but he had chosen an evil hour for his visit
and his proposals, as the girl's red cheeks and tearful eyes at once told
him.

He had come to fetch her, cost him what it might, and to carry her away
to his country-home, near Arsinoe on the coast.  It was not that he had
any mad desire to make her his own, but that he thought it his most
urgent duty to preserve his inexperienced brother from the danger into
which his foolish passion for the little singing-girl was certain to
plunge him.  A purse full of gold, and a necklace of turquoise and
diamonds, which he had purchased from a jeweller in the Jews' quarter for
a sum for which he had often sold a ship-load of corn or a whole cellar
full of wine or oil, were to supplement his proposals; and he went
straight to the point, asking the girl simply and plainly to leave her
friends and accompany him to Arsinoe.  When she asked him, in much
astonishment, "What to do  there?"  he told her he wanted a cheerful
companion; he had taken a fancy to her saucy little nose, and though he
could not flatter himself that he had ever found favor in her eyes he had
brought something with him which she would certainly like, and which
might help him to win her kindness.  He was not niggardly, and if this--
and this--and he displayed the sparkling necklace and laid the purse on
her pillow--could please her she might regard them as an earnest of more,
as much more as she chose, for his pockets were deep.

Dada did not interrupt him, for the growing indignation with which she
heard him took away her breath.  This fresh humiliation was beyond the
bounds of endurance; and when at last she recovered her powers of speech
and action, she flung the purse off the divan, and as it fell clattering
on the floor, she kicked it away as far as possible, as though it were
plague-tainted.  Then, standing upright in front of her suitor, she
exclaimed:

"Shame upon you all!  You thought that because I am a poor girl, a
singing-girl, and because you have filthy gold...  Your brother Marcus
would never have done such a thing, I am very sure!...  And you, a horrid
peasant!. . .  If you ever dare set foot on this vessel again, Karnis and
Orpheus shall drive you away as if you were a thief or an assassin!
Eternal Gods! what is it that I have done, that everyone thinks I must be
wicked?  Eternal Gods .  .  ."

And she burst into loud spasmodic sobs and vanished down the steps that
led below.

Demetrius called after her in soothing words and tones, but she would not
listen.  Then he sent down the slave to beg Dada to grant him a hearing,
but the only answer he received was an order to quit the barge at once.

He obeyed, and as he picked up the purse he thought to himself:

"I may buy ship and vineyard back again; but I would send four more
after those if I could undo this luckless deed.  If I were a better and
a worthier man, I might not so easily give others credit for being evil
and unworthy."



CHAPTER IX.

The town of Alexandria was stirred to its very foundations.  From dawn
till night every centre of public traffic and intercourse was the scene
of hostile meetings between Christians and heathen, with frequent frays
and bloodshed, only stopped by the intervention of the soldiery.  Still,
as we see that the trivial round of daily tasks is necessarily fulfilled,
even when the hand of Fate lies heaviest on a household, and that
children cannot forego their play even when their father is stretched on
his death-bed, so the minor interests of individual lives pursued their
course, even in the midst of the general agitation and peril.

The current of trade and of public business was, of course, checked at
many points, but they never came to a stand-still.  The physician visited
the sick, the convalescent made his first attempt, leaning on a friendly
arm, to walk from his bedroom to the "viridarium," and alms were given
and received.  Hatred was abroad and rampant, but love held its own,
strengthening old ties and forming new ones.  Terror and grief weighed
on thousands of hearts, while some tried to make a profit out of the
prevailing anxiety, and others--many others--went forth, as light-hearted
as ever, in pursuit of pleasure and amusement.

Horses were ridden and driven in the Hippodrome, and feasts were held in
the pleasure-houses of Canopus, with music and noisy mirth; in the public
gardens round the Paneum cock-fighting and quail-fighting were as popular
as ever, and eager was the betting in new gold or humble copper.  Thus
may we see a child, safe on the roof of its father's house, floating its
toy boat on the flood that has drowned them all out; thus might a boy fly
his gaudy kite in the face of a gathering storm; thus does the miser, on
whom death has already laid its bony hand, count his hoarded coin; thus
thoughtless youth dances over the heaving soil at the very foot of
a volcano.  What do these care for the common weal?  Each has his
separate life and personal interests.  What he himself needs or desires
--the greatest or the least--is to him more important and more absorbing
than the requirements of the vast organism in which he is no more than a
drop of blood or the hair of an eyelash.

Olympius was still in concealment in the house of Porphyrius--Olympius,
whose mind and will had formerly had such imperious hold on the fate of
the city, and to whose nod above half of the inhabitants were still
obedient.  Porphyrius and his family shared his views and regarded
themselves as his confederates; but, even among them, the minor details
of life claimed their place, and Gorgo, who entered into the struggle for
the triumph of the old gods, gave but a half-hearted attention to the
great cause to which she was enthusiastically devoted, because a
companion of her childhood, to whose attentions she had every claim,
delayed his visit longer than was kind.

She had performed her 'Isis' lament the day before with all her heart and
soul, and had urgently claimed Agne's assistance; but to-day, though she
had been singing again and well, she had stopped to listen whenever she
heard a door open in the adjoining room or voices in the garden, and had
sung altogether with so much less feeling and energy than before that
Karnis longed to reprove her sharply enough.  This, however, would have
been too indiscreet, so he could only express his annoyance by saying to
his son, in a loud whisper:

"The most remarkable gifts, you see, and the highest abilities are of no
avail so long as Art and Life are not one and the same--so long as Art is
not the Alpha and Omega of existence, but merely an amusement or a
decoration."

Agne had been true to herself, and had modestly but steadfastly declared
that she could not possibly enter the temple of Isis, and her refusal had
been accepted quite calmly, and without any argument or controversy.  She
had not been able to refuse Gorgo's request that she would repeat to-day
the rehearsal she had gone through yesterday, since, to all appearance,
her cooperation at the festival had been altogether given up.  How could
the girl guess that the venerable philosopher, who had listened with
breathless admiration to their joint performance, had taken upon himself
to dissipate her doubts and persuade her into compliance?

Olympius laid the greatest stress on Agne's assistance, for every one who
clung to the worship of the old gods was to assemble in the sanctuary of
Isis; and the more brilliant and splendid the ceremony could be made the
more would that enthusiasm be fired which, only too soon, would be put to
crucial proof.  On quitting the temple the crowd of worshippers, all in
holiday garb, were to pass in front of the Prefect's residence, and if
only they could effect this great march through the city in the right
frame of mind, it might confidently be expected that every one who was
not avowedly Jew or Christian, would join the procession.  It would thus
become a demonstration of overwhelming magnitude and Cynegius, the
Emperor's representative, could not fail to see what the feeling was
of the majority of the towns folk, and what it was to drive matters
to extremes and lay hands on the chief temples of such a city.

To Olympius the orator, grown grey in the exercise of logic and
eloquence, it seemed but a small matter to confute the foolish doubts of
a wilful girl.  He would sweep her arguments to the winds as the storm
drives the clouds before it; and any one who had seen the two together--
the fine old man with the face and front of Zeus, with his thoughtful
brow and broad chest, who could pour forth a flood of eloquence
fascinatingly persuasive or convincingly powerful, and the modest, timid
girl--could not have doubted on which side the victory must be.

To-day, for the first time, Olympius had found leisure for a prolonged
interview with his old friend Karnis, and while the girls were in the
garden, amusing little Papias by showing him the swans and tame gazelles,
the philosopher had made enquiries as to the Christian girl's history and
then had heard a full account of the old musician's past life.  Karnis
felt it as a great favor that his old friend, famous now for his
learning--the leader of his fellow-thinkers in the second city of the
world, the high-priest of Serapis, to whose superior intellect he himself
had bowed even in their student days--should remember his insignificant
person and allow him to give him the history of the vicissitudes which
had reduced him--the learned son of a wealthy house--to the position of a
wandering singer.

Olympius had been his friend at the time when Karnis, on leaving college,
instead of devoting himself to business and accounts, as his father
wished, had thrown himself into the study of music, and at once
distinguished himself as a singer, lute-player and leader of heathen
choirs.  Karnis was in Alexandria when the news reached him of his
father's death.  Before quitting the city he married Herse, who was
beneath him alike in birth and in fortune, and who accompanied him on his
return to Tauromenium in Sicily, where he found himself the possessor of
an inheritance of which the extent and importance greatly astonished him.

At Alexandria he had been far better acquainted with the theatre than
with the Museum or the school of the Serapeum; nay, as an amateur, he had
often sung in the chorus there and acted as deputy for the regular
leader.  The theatre in his native town of Tauromenium had also been a
famous one of old, but, at the time of his return, it had sunk to a very
low ebb.  Most of the inhabitants of the beautiful city nestling at the
foot off Etna, had been converted to Christianity; among them the wealthy
citizens at whose cost the plays had been performed and the chorus
maintained.  Small entertainments were still frequently given, but the
singers and actors had fallen off, and in that fine and spacious theatre
nothing was ever done at all worthy of its past glories.  This Karnis
deeply regretted, and with his wonted energy and vigor he soon managed to
win the interest of those of his fellow-citizens who remained faithful to
the old gods and had still some feeling for the music and poetry of the
ancient Greeks, in his plans for their revival.

His purpose was to make the theatre the centre of a reaction against the
influence of the Christians, by vieing with the Church in its efforts to
win back the renegade heathen and confirming the faithful in their
adhesion.  The Greeks of Tauromenium should be reminded from the stage-
boards of the might of the old gods and the glories of their past.  To
this end it was needful to restore the ruined theatre, and Karnis, after
advancing the greater part of the money required, was entrusted with the
management.  He devoted himself zealously to the task, and soon was so
successful that the plays at Tauromenium, and the musical performances in
its Odeum, attracted the citizens in crowds, and were talked of far and
wide.  Such success was of course only purchased at a heavy cost, and in
spite of Herse's warnings, Karnis would never hesitate when the object in
view was the preservation or advancement of his great work.

Thus passed twenty years; then there came a day when his fine fortune
was exhausted, and a time when the Christian congregation strained every
nerve to deal a death-blow to the abomination of desolation in their
midst.  Again and again, and with increasing frequency, there were
sanguinary riots between the Christians who forced their way into the
theatre and the heathen audience, till at last a decree of the Emperor
Theodosius prohibited the performance of heathen plays or music.

Now, the theatre at Tauromenium, for which Karnis had either given or
advanced his whole inheritance, had ceased to exist, and the usurers who,
when his own fortune was spent, had lent him moneys on the security of
the theatre itself--while it still flourished--or on his personal
security, seized his house and lands and would have cast him into the
debtor's prison if he had not escaped that last disgrace by flight.  Some
good friends had rescued his family and helped them to follow him, and
when they rejoined him he had begun his wanderings as a singer.  Many a
time had life proved miserable enough; still, be had always remained true
to his art and to the gods of Olympus.

Olympius had listened to his narrative with many tokens of sympathy and
agreement, and when Karnis, with tears in his eyes, brought his story to
a close, the philosopher laid his hand on his friend's shoulder and
drawing him towards him, exclaimed:

"Well done, my brave old comrade!  We will both be faithful to the same
good cause!  You have made sacrifices for it as I have; and we need not
despair yet.  If we triumph here our friends in a thousand towns will
begin to look up.  The reading of the stars last night, and the auguries
drawn from this morning's victims, portend great changes.  What is down
to the ground to-day may float high in the air to-morrow.  All the signs
indicate: 'A fall to the Greatest;' and what can be greater than Rome,
the old tyrant queen of the nations?  The immediate future, it is true,
can hardly bring the final crash, but it is fraught with important
consequences to us.  I dreamed of the fall of the Caesars, and of a great
Greek Empire risen from the ruins, powerful and brilliant under the
special protection of the gods of Olympus; and each one of us must labor
to bring about the realization of this dream.  You have set a noble
example of devotion and self-sacrifice, and I thank you in the name of
all those who feel with us--nay, in the name of the gods themselves whom
I serve!  The first thing to be done now is to avert the blow which the
Bishop intends shall strike us by the hand of Cynegius--it has already
fallen on the magnificent sanctuary of the Apamaean Zeus.  If the
ambassador retires without having gained his purpose the balance will be
greatly--enormously, in our favor, and it will cease to be a folly to
believe in the success of our cause."

"Ah! teach us to hope once more," cried the musician.  "That in itself is
half the victory; still, I cannot see how this delay. . ."

"It would give us time, and that is what we want,' replied Olympius.
"Everything is in preparation, but nothing is ready.  Alexandria, Athens,
Antioch, and Neapolis are to be the centres of the outbreak.  The great
Libanius is not a man of action, and even he approves of our scheme.  No
less a man than Florentin has undertaken to recruit for our cause among
the heathen officers in the army.  Messala, and the great Gothic captains
Fraiut and Generid are ready to fight for the old gods.  Our army will
not lack leaders. . ."

"Our army!"  exclaimed Karnis in surprise.  "Is the matter so far
advanced?"

"I mean the army of the future," cried Olympius enthusiastically.  "It
does not count a man as yet, but is already distributed into several
legions.  The vigor of mind and body--our learned youth on one hand and
strong-armed peasantry on the other--form the nucleus of our force.
Maximus could collect, in the utmost haste, the army which deprived
Gratian of his throne and life, and was within a Hair-breadth of
overthrowing Theodosius; and what was he but an ambitious rebel, and what
tempted his followers but their hopes of a share in the booty?  But we--
we enlist them in the name of the loftiest ideas and warmest desires of
the human heart, and, as the prize of victory, we show them the ancient
faith with freedom of thought--the ancient loveliness of life.  The
beings whom the Christians can win over--a patch-work medley of loathsome
Barbarians--let them wear out their lives as they choose!  We are Greeks
--the thinking brain, the subtle and sentient soul of the world.  The
polity, the empire, that we shall found on the overthrow of Theodosius
and of Rome shall be Hellenic, purely Hellenic.  The old national spirit,
which made the Greeks omnipotent against the millions of Darius and
Xerxes, shall live again, and we will keep the Barbarians at a distance
as a Patrician forbids his inferiors to count themselves as belonging to
his illustrious house.  The Greek gods, Greek heroism, Greek art and
Greek learning, under our rule shall rise from the dust--all the more
promptly for the stringent oppression under which their indomitable
spirit has so long languished."

"You speak to my heart!"  cried Karnis.  "My old blood flows more swiftly
already, and if I only had a thousand talents left to give. . ."

"You would  stake  them on the  future  Greek Empire,"  said Olympius
eagerly.  "And  we  have adherents without number who feel as you do,
my trusty friend.  We shall succeed--as the great Julian would have
succeeded but for the assassins who laid him low at so early an age;
for Rome. . ."

"Rome is still powerful."

"Rome is a colossus built up of a thousand blocks; but among them a
hundred and more be but loosely in their places, and are ready to drop
away from the body of the foul monster--sooner rather than later.  Our
shout alone will shake them down, and they will fall on our side, we may
choose the best for our own use.  Ere long--a few months only--the hosts
will gather in the champaign country at the foot of Vesuvius, by land and
by sea; Rome will open its gates wide to us who bring her back her old
gods; the Senate will proclaim the emperor deposed and the Republic
restored.  Theodosius will come out against us.  But the Idea for which
we go forth to fight will hover before us, will stir the hearts of those
soldiers and officers who would gladly--ah!  how gladly-sacrifice to the
Olympian gods and who only kiss the wounds of the crucified Jew under
compulsion.  They will desert from the labarum, which Constantine carried
to victory, to our standards; and those standards are all there, ready
for use; they have been made in this city and are lying hidden in the
house of Apollodorus.  Heaven-sent daemons showed them in a vision to my
disciple Ammonius, when he was full of the divinity and lost in ecstasy,
and I have had them made from his instructions."

"And what do they represent?"

"The bust of Serapis with the 'modius' on his head.  It is framed in a
circle with the signs of the zodiac and the images of the great Olympian
deities.  We have given our god the head of Zeus, and the corn-measure on
his head is emblematic of the blessing that the husbandman hopes for.
The zodiac promises us a good star, and the figures representing it are
not the common emblems, but each deeply significant.  The Twins, for
instance, are the mariner's divinities, Castor and Pollux; Hercules
stands by the Lion whom he has subdued; and the Fishes are dolphins,
which love music.  In the Scales, one holds the cross high in the air
while the other is weighed down by Apollo's laurel-wreath and the bolts
of Zeus; in short, our standard displays everything that is most dear to
the soul of a Greek or that fills him with devotion.  Above all, Nike
hovers with the crown of victory.  If only fitting leaders are to be
found at the centres of the movement, these standards will at once be
sent out, and with them arms for the country-folk.  A place of meeting
has already been selected in each province, the pass-word will be given,
and a day fixed for a general rising."

"And they will flock round you!"  interrupted Karnis, "and--I, my son,
will not be absent.  Oh glorious, happy, and triumphant day!  Gladly will
I die if only I may first live to see the smoking offerings sending up
their fragrance to the gods before the open doors of every temple in
Greece; see the young men and maidens dancing in rapt enthusiasm to the
sound of lutes and pipes, and joining their voices in the chorus!  Then
light will shine once more on the world, then life will once more mean
joy, and death a departure from a scene of bliss."

"Aye, and thus shall it be!" cried Olympius, fired by this eager
exposition of his own excitement, and he wrung the musician's hand.
"We will restore life to the Greeks and teach them to scorn death as of
yore.  Let the Christians, the Barbarians, make life miserable and seek
joy in death, if they list!  But the girls have ceased singing.  There is
still much to be done to-day, and first of all I must confute the
objections of your recalcitrant pupil."

"You will not find it an easy task," said Karnis.  "Reason is a feeble
weapon in contending with a woman."

"Not always," replied the philosopher.  "But you must know how to use it.
Leave me to deal with the child.  There are really no singing-women left
here; we have tried three, but they were all vulgar and ill taught.  This
girl, when she sings with Gorgo, has a voice that will go to the heart of
the audience.  What we want is to fire the crowd with enthusiasm, and she
will help us to do it."

"Well, well.  But you, Olympius, you who are the very soul of the
revulsion we hope for, you must not be present at the festival.  Indeed,
sheltered as you are under Porphyrius' roof, there is a price on your
head, and this house swarms with slaves, who all know you; if one of
them, tempted by filthy lucre . . ."

"They will not betray me," smiled the philosopher.  "They know that their
aged mistress, Damia, and I myself command the daemons of the upper and
lower spheres, and that at a sign from her or from me they would
instantly perish; and even if there were an Ephialtes among them,
a spring through that loop-hole would save me.  Be easy, my friend.
Oracles and stars alike foretell me death from another cause than the
treason of a slave."



CHAPTER X.

Olympius followed Agne into the garden where he found her sitting by the
marble margin of a small pool, giving her little brother pieces of bread
to feed the swans with.  He greeted her kindly and, taking up the child,
showed him a ball which rose and fell on the jet of water from the
fountain.  Papias was not at all frightened by the big man with his white
beard, for a bright and kindly gleam shone in his eyes, and his voice was
soft and attractive as he asked him whether he had such another ball and
could toss it as cleverly as the fountain did.

Papias said: "No," and Olympius, turning to Agne, went on:

"You should get him a ball.  There is no better plaything, for play ought
to consist in pleasant exertion which is in itself its object and gain.
Play is the toil of a little child; and a ball, which he can throw and
run after or catch, trains his eye, gives exercise to his limbs and
includes a double moral which men of every age and position should act
upon: To look down on the earth and keep his gaze on the heavens."

Agne nodded agreement and thanks, while Olympius set the child down and
bid him run away to the paddock where some tame gazelles were kept.
Then, going straight to the point, he said:

"I hear you have declined to sing in the temple of Isis; you have been
taught to regard the goddess to whom many good men turn in faith and
confidence, as a monster of iniquity, but, tell me, do you know what she
embodies?"

"No," replied Agne looking down; but she hastily rose from her seat and
added with some spirit: "And I do not want to know, for I am a Christian
and your gods are not mine."

"Well, well; your beliefs, of course, differ from ours in many points:
still, I fancy that you and I have much in common.  We belong to those
who have learnt to 'look upwards'--there goes the ball, up again!--and
who find comfort in doing so.  Do you know that many men believe that the
universe was formed by concurrence of mechanical processes and is still
slowly developing, that there is no divinity whose love and power guard,
guide and lend grace to the lives of men?"

"Oh! yes, I have been obliged to hear many such blasphemous things in
Rome!"

"And they ran off you like water off the silvery sheen of that swan's
plumage as he dips and raises his neck.  Those who deny a God are, in
your estimation, foolish or perhaps abominable?"

"I pity them, with all my heart."

"And with very good reason.  You are an orphan and what its parents are
to a child the divinity is to every member of the human race.  In this
Gorgo, and I, and many others whom you call heathen, feel exactly as you
do; but you--have you ever asked yourself why and how it is that you, to
whom life has been so bitter, have such a perfect conviction that there
is a benevolent divinity who rules the world and your own fate to kindly
ends?  Why, in short, do you believe in a God?"

"I?"  said Ague, looking puzzled, but straight into his face.  "How could
anything exist without God?  You ask such strange questions.  All I can
see was created by our Father in Heaven."

"But there are men born blind who nevertheless believe in Him."

"They feel Him just as I see Him."

"Nay you should say: 'As I believe that I see and feel Him.'  But I, for
my part, think that the intellect has a right to test what the soul only
divines, and that it must be a real happiness to see this divination
proved by well-founded arguments, and thus transformed to certainty.
Did you ever hear of Plato, the philosopher?"

"Yes, Karnis often speaks of him when he and Orpheus are discussing
things which I do not understand."

"Well, Plato, by his intellect, worked out the proof of the problem which
our feelings alone are so capable of apprehending rightly.  Listen to me:
If you stand on a spit of land at the entrance to a harbor and see a ship
in the distance sailing towards you--a ship which carefully avoids the
rocks, and makes straight for the shelter of the port--are you not
justified in concluding that there is, on board that ship, a man who
guides and steers it?  Certainly.  You not only may, but must infer that
it is directed by a pilot.  And if you look up at the sky and contemplate
the well-ordered courses of the stars--when you see how everything on
earth, great and small, obeys eternal laws and unerringly tends to
certain preordained ends and issues, you may and must infer the existence
of a ruling hand.  Whose then but that of the Great Pilot of the
universe--the Almighty Godhead.--Do you like my illustration?"

"Very much.  But it only proves what I knew before."

"Nevertheless, you must, I think, be pleased to find it so beautifully
expressed."

"Certainly."

"And must admire the wise man who thought out the comparison.  Yes?--
Well, that man again was one of those whom you call heathen, who believed
as we believe, and who at the same time worked out the evidence of the
foundations of his faith for you as well as himself.  And we, the later
disciples of Plato--[Known as the school of the Neo-Platonists]--have
gone even further than our master, and in many respects are much nearer
to you Christians than you perhaps suspect.  You see at once, of course,
that we are no more inclined than you to conceive of the existence of the
world and the destiny of man as independent of a God?  However, I dare
say you still think that your divinity and ours are as far asunder as the
east from the west.  But can you tell me where any difference lies?"

"I do not know,"  said Ague  uneasily.  "I am only an ignorant girl; and
who can learn the names even of all your gods?"

"Very true," said Olympius.  "There is great Serapis, whose temple you
saw yesterday; there is Apollo, to whom Karnis prefers to offer
sacrifice; there is Isis the bountiful, and her sister Nephthys, whose
lament you and my young friend sing together so thrillingly; and besides
these there are more immortals than I could name while Gorgo--who is
leading your little brother to the lake out there--walked ten times from
the shore to us and back; and yet--and yet my child, your God is ours and
ours is yours."

"No, no, He is not, indeed!"  cried Agne with increasing alarm.

"But listen," Olympius went on, with the same kind urgency but with
extreme dignity, "and answer my questions simply and honestly.  We are
agreed, are we not?--that we perceive the divinity in the works of his
creation, and even in his workings in our own souls.  Then which are the
phenomena of nature in which you discern Him as especially near to you?
You are silent.  I see, you have outlived your school-days and do not
choose to answer to an uninvited catechism.  And yet the things I wish
you to name are lovely in themselves and dear to your heart; and if only
you did not keep your soft lips so firmly closed, but would give me the
answer I ask for, you would remember much that is grand and beautiful.
You would speak of the pale light of dawn, the tender flush that tinges
the clouds as the glowing day-star rises from the waves, of the splendor
of the sun-as glorious as truth and as warm as divine love.  You would
say: In the myriad blossoms that open to the morning, in the dew that
bathes them and covers them with diamonds, in the ripening ears in the
field, in the swelling fruit on the trees--in all these I see the mercy
and wisdom of the divinity.  I feel his infinite greatness as I gaze on
the wide expanse of deep blue sea; it comes home to me at night when I
lift my eyes to the skies and see the sparkling hosts of stars roll over
my head.  Who created that countless multitude, who guides them so that
they glide past in glorious harmony, and rise and set, accurately timed
to minutes and seconds, silent but full of meaning, immeasurably distant
and yet closely linked with the fate of individual men?--All this bears
witness to the existence of a God, and as you contemplate it and admire
it with thankful emotion, you feel yourself drawn near to the Omnipotent.
Aye, and even if you were deaf and blind, and lay bound and fettered in
the gloom of a closely-shut cavern, you still could feel if love and pity
and hope touched your heart.  Rejoice then, child! for the immortals have
endowed you with good gifts, and granted you sound senses by which to
enjoy the beauty of creation.  You exercise an art which binds you to the
divinity like a bridge; when you give utterance to your whole soul in
song that divinity itself speaks through you, and when you hear noble
music its voice appeals to your ear.  All round you and within you, you
can recognize its power just as we feel it--everywhere and at all times.

"And  this incomprehensible, infinite, unfettered, bountiful and
infallibly wise Power, which penetrates and permeates the life of the
universe as it does the hearts of men, though called by different names
in different lands, is the same to every race, wherever it may dwell,
whatever its language or its beliefs.  You Christians call him the
Heavenly Father, we give him the name of the Primal One.  To you, too,
your God speaks in the surging seas, the waving corn, the pure light of
day; you, too, regard music which enchants your heart, and love which
draws man to man, as his gifts; and we go only a step further, giving a
special name to each phenomenon of nature, and each lofty emotion of the
soul in which we recognize the direct influence of the Most High; calling
the sea Poseidon, the corn-field Demeter, the charm of music Apollo, and
the rapture of love Eros.  When you see us offering sacrifice at the foot
of a marble image you must not suppose that the lifeless, perishable
stone is the object of our adoration.  The god does not descend to inform
the statue; but the statue is made after the Idea figured forth by the
divinity it is intended to represent; and through that Idea the image is
as intimately connected with the Godhead, as, by the bond of Soul,
everything else that is manifest to our senses is connected with the
phenomena of the supersensuous World.  But this is beyond you; it will be
enough for you if I assure you that the statue of Demeter, with the sheaf
in her arms, is only intended to remind us to be grateful to the Divinity
for our daily bread--a hymn of praise to Apollo expresses our thanks to
the Primal One for the wings of music and song, on which our soul is
borne upwards till it feels the very presence of the Most High.  These
are names, mere names that divide us; but if you were called anything
else than Agne--Ismene, for instance, or Eudoxia--would you be at all
different from what you are?--There you see--no, stay where you are--you
must listen while I tell you that Isis, the much--maligned Isis, is
nothing and represents nothing but the kindly influences of the Divinity,
on nature and on human life.  What she embodies to us is the abstraction
which you call the loving-kindness of the Father, revealed in his
manifold gifts, wherever we turn our eyes.  The image of Isis reminds us
of the lavish bounties of the Creator, just as you are reminded by the
cross, the fish, and the lamb, of your Redeemer.  Isis is the earth from
whose maternal bosom the creative God brings forth food and comfort for
man and beast; she is the tender yearning which He implants in the hearts
of the lover and the beloved one; she is the bond of affection which
unites husband and wife, brother and sister, which is rapture to the
mother with a child at her breast and makes her ready and able for any
sacrifice for the darling she has brought into the world.  She shines, a
star in the midnight sky, giving comfort to the sorrowing heart; she, who
has languished in grief, pours balm into the wounded souls of the
desolate and bereaved, and gives health and refreshment to the suffering.
When nature pines in winter cold or in summer drought and lacks power to
revive, when the sun is darkened, when lies and evil instincts alienate
the soul from its pure first cause, then Isis uplifts her complaint,
calling on her husband, Osiris, to return, to take her once more in his
arms and fill her with new powers, to show the benevolence of God once
more to the earth and to us men.  You have learnt that lament; and when
you sing it at her festival, picture yourself as standing with the Mother
of Sorrows--the mother of your crucified divinity, by his open grave, and
cry to your God that he may let him rise from the dead."

Olympius spoke the last words with excited enthusiasm as though he were
certain of the young girl's consent; but the effect was not what he
counted on; for Agne, who had listened to him, so far, with increasing
agitation, setting herself against his arguments like a bird under the
fascinating glare of the snake's eye, at this last address seemed
suddenly to shake off the spell of his seductive eloquence as the leaves
drop from the crown of a tree shaken by the blast; the ideas of her
Saviour and of the hymn she was to sing were utterly irreconcilable in
her mind; she remembered the struggle she had fought out during the
night, and the determination with which she had come to the house this
morning.  All the insidious language she had just heard was forgotten,
swept away like dust from a rocky path, and her voice was firmly
repellent as she said:

"Your Isis has nothing in common with the Mother of our God, and how can
you dare to compare your Osiris with the Lord who redeemed the world from
death?"

Olympius, startled at the decision of her tone, rose from his seat, but
he went on, as though he had expected this refusal:

"I will tell you--I will show you.  Osiris--we will take him as being an
Egyptian god, instead of Serapis in whose mysterious attributes you would
find much to commend itself even to a Christian soul--Osiris, like your
Master, voluntarily passed through death--to redeem the world from death
--in this resembling your Christ.  He, the Risen One, gives new light,
and life, and blossom, and verdure to all that is darkened, dead and
withered.  All that seems to have fallen a prey to death is, by him,
restored to a more beautiful existence; he, who has risen again, can
bring even the departed soul to a resurrection; and when during this life
its high aims have kept it unspotted by the dust of the sensual life, and
he, as the judge, sees that it has preserved itself worthy of its pure
First Cause, he allows it to return to the eternal and supreme Spirit
whence it originally proceeded.

"And do not you, too, strive after purification, to the end that your
soul may find an everlasting home in the radiant realms?  Again and again
do we meet with the same ideas, only they bear different forms and
names.  Try to feel the true bearing of my words, and then you will
gladly join in the pathetic appeal to the sublime god to return.  How
like he is to your Lord!  Is he not, like your Christ, a Saviour, and
risen from the dead?  The Temple or the Church--both are the sanctuaries
of the Deity.  By the ivy-wreathed altar of the weeping goddess, at the
foot of the tall cypresses which cast their mysterious shadows on the
snowy whiteness of the marble steps on which lies the bier of the god,
you will feel the sacred awe which falls upon every pure soul when it is
conscious of the presence of the Deity--call Him what you will.

"Isis, whom you now know, and who is neither more nor less than a
personification of divine mercy, will make you a return by restoring you
to the freedom for which you pine.  She will allow you to find a home in
some Christian house through our intervention, in acknowledgment of the
pious service you are rendering, not to her but to the faith in divine
goodness.  There you may live with your little brother, as free as
heart can desire.  To-morrow you will go with Gorgo to the temple of the
goddess . . ."

But Agne broke in on his speech: "No, I will not go with her!"

Her cheeks were scarlet and her breath came short and fast with
excitement as she went on:

"I will not, I must not, I cannot!  Do what you will with me: sell me and
my brother, put us to turn a mill--but I will not sing in the temple!"

Olympius knit his brows; his beard quivered and his lips parted in wrath,
but he controlled himself and going close to the girl he laid his hand on
her shoulder and said in a deep grave tone of fatherly admonition:

"Reflect, child, pause; think over what I have been saying to you;
remember, too, what you owe the little one you love, and to-morrow
morning tell us that you have duly weighed your answer.  Give me your
hand, my daughter; believe me, Olympius is one of your sincerest well-
wishers."

He turned his back on her and was going in doors.  In front of the house
Porphyrius and Karnis were standing in eager colloquy.  The news that
Marcus' mother Mary had sent for Herse had reached the singer, and his
vivid fancy painted his wife as surrounded by a thousand perils,
threatened by the widow, and carried before the judges.  The merchant
advised him to wait and see what came of it, as did Damia and Gorgo who
were attracted to the spot by the vehemence of the discussion; but Karnis
would not be detained, and he and Orpheus hurried off to the rescue.
Thus Agne was left alone in the garden with her little brother, and
perceiving that no one paid any further attention to their proceedings,
she fell on her knees, clasped the child closely to her and whispered:

"Pray with me, Papias; pray, pray that the Lord will protect us, and that
we may not be turned out of the way that leads us to our parents!  Pray,
as I do!"

For a minute she remained prostrate with the child by her side.  Then,
rising quickly, she took him by the hand and led him in almost breathless
haste through the garden-gate out into the road, bending her steps
towards the lake and then down the first turning that led to the city.



ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

People who have nothing to do always lack time
Perish all those who do not think as we do
Reason is a feeble weapon in contending with a woman
Words that sounded kindly, but with a cold, unloving heart





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Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

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



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