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Title: Homo Sum — Volume 03
Author: Ebers, Georg
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Homo Sum — Volume 03" ***

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HOMO SUM

By Georg Ebers

Volume 3.



CHAPTER X.

Within a few minutes after Hermas had flung himself out of window into
the roadway, Phoebicius walked into his sleeping-room.  Sirona had had
time to throw herself on to her couch; she was terribly frightened, and
had turned her face to the wall.  Did he actually know that some one had
been with her?  And who could have betrayed her, and have called him
home?  Or could he have come home by accident sooner than usual?

It was dark in the room, and he could not see her face, and yet she kept
her eyes shut as if asleep, for every fraction of a minute in which she
could still escape seeing him in his fury seemed a reprieve; and yet her
heart beat so violently that it seemed to her that he must hear it, when
he approached the bed with a soft step that was peculiar to him.  She
heard him walk up and down, and at last go into the kitchen that adjoined
the sleeping-room.  In a few moments she perceived through her half-
closed eyes, that he, had brought in a light; he had lighted a lamp at
the hearth, and now searched both the rooms.

As yet he had not spoken to her, nor opened his lips to utter a word.

Now he was in the sitting-room, and now--involuntarily she drew herself
into a heap, and pulled the coverlet over her head--now he laughed aloud,
so loud and scornfully, that she felt her hands and feet turn cold, and a
rushing crimson mist floated before her eyes.  Then the light came back
into the bed-room, and came nearer and nearer.  She felt her head pushed
by his hard hand, and with a feeble scream she flung off the coverlet and
sat up.

Still he did not speak a word, but what she saw was quite enough to
smother the last spark of her courage and hope, for her husband's eyes
showed only the whites, his sallow features were ashy-pale, and on his
brow the branded mark of Mithras stood out more clearly than ever.  In
his right hand he held the lamp, in his left Hermas' sheepskin.

As his haggard eye met hers he held the anchorite's matted garment so
close to her face, that it touched her.  Then he threw it violently on
the floor, and asked in a low, husky voice, "What is that?"

She was silent.  He went up to the little table near her bed; on it stood
her night-draught in a pretty colored glass, that Polykarp had brought
her from Alexandria as a token, and with the back of his hand he swept it
from the table, so that it fell on the dais, and flew with a crash into a
thousand fragments.  She screamed, the greyhound sprang up and barked at
the Gaul.  He seized the little beast's collar, and flung it so violently
across the room, that it uttered a pitiful cry of pain.  The dog had
belonged to Sirona since she was quite a girl, it had come with her to
Rome, and from thence to the oasis; it clung to her with affection, and
she to it, for Iambe liked no one to caress and stroke her so much as her
mistress.  She was so much alone, and the greyhound was always with her,
and not only entertained her by such tricks as any other dog might have
learned, but was to her a beloved, dumb, but by no means deaf, companion
from her early home, who would prick its ears when she spoke the name of
her dear little sisters in distant Arelas, from whom she had not heard
for years; or it would look sadly in her face, and kiss her white hands,
when longing forced tears into her eyes.

In her solitary, idle, childless existence Iambe was much, very much, to
her, and now as she saw her faithful companion and friend creep ill-
treated and whining up to her bed--as the supple animal tried in vain to
spring up and take refuge in her lap, and held out to his mistress his
trembling, perhaps broken, little paw, fear vanished from the miserable
young woman's heart--she sprang from her couch, took the little dog in
her arms, and exclaimed with a glance, which flashed with anything rather
than fear or repentance: "You do not touch the poor little beast again,
if you take my advice."

"I will drown it to-morrow morning," replied Phoebicius with perfect
indifference, but with an evil smile on his flaccid lips.  "So many two-
legged lovers make themselves free to my house, that I do not see why I
should share your affections with a quadruped into the bargain.  How came
this sheepskin here?"  Sirona vouchsafed no answer to this last question,
but she exclaimed in great excitement, "By God--by your God--by the
mighty Rock, and by all the gods! if you do the little beast a harm, it
will be the last day I stop in your house."

"Hear her!"  said the centurion, "and where do you propose to travel to?
The desert is wide and there is room and to spare to starve in it, and
for your bones to bleach there.  How grieved your lovers would be--for
their sakes I will take care before drowning the dog to lock in its
mistress."

"Only try to touch me," screamed Sirona beside herself, and springing to
the window.  "If you lay a finger on me, I will call for help, and
Dorothea and her husband will protect me against you."

"Hardly," answered Phoebicius drily.  "It would suit you no doubt to find
yourself under the same roof as that great boy who brings you colored
glass, and throws roses into your window, and perhaps has strewed the
road with them by which he found his way to you to-day.  But there are
nevertheless laws which protect the Roman citizen from criminals and
impudent seducers.  You were always a great deal too much in the house
over there, and you have exchanged your games with the little screaming
beggars for one with the grownup child, the rose-thrower-the fop, who,
for your sake, and not to be recognized, covers up his purple coat with a
sheepskin!  Do you think, you can teach me anything about lovesick night-
wanderers and women?

"I see through it all!  Not one step do you set henceforth across Petrus'
threshold.  There is the open window--scream--scream as loud as you will,
and let all the people know of your disgrace.  I have the greatest mind
to carry this sheepskin to the judge, the first thing in the morning.  I
shall go now, and set the room behind the kitchen in order for you; there
is no window there through which men in sheepskin can get in to my house.
You shall live there till you are tamed, and kiss my feet, and confess
what has been going on here to-night.  I shall learn nothing from the
senator's slaves, that I very well know; for you have turned all their
heads too--they grin with delight when they see you.  All friends are
made welcome by you, even when they wear nothing but sheepskin.  But they
may do what they please--I have the right keeper for you in my own hand.
I am going at once--you may scream if you like, but I should myself
prefer that you should keep quiet.  As to the dog, we have not yet heard
the last of the matter; for the present I will keep him here.  If you are
quiet and come to your senses, he may live for aught I care; but if you
are refractory, a rope and a stone can soon be found, and the stream runs
close below.  You know I never jest--least of all just now."

Sirona's whole frame was in the most violent agitation.  Her breath came
quickly, her limbs trembled, but she could not find words to answer him.

Phoebicius saw what was passing in her mind, and he went on, "You may
snort proudly now; but an hour will come when you will crawl up to me
like your lame dog, and pray for mercy.  I have another idea--you will
want a couch in the dark room, and it must be soft, or I shall be blamed;
I will spread out the sheepskin for you.  You see I know how to value
your adorer's offerings."

The Gaul laughed loud, seized the hermit's garment, and went with the
lamp into the dark room behind the kitchen, in which vessels and utensils
of various sorts were kept.  These he set on one side to turn it into a
sleeping-room for his wife, of whose guilt he was fully convinced.

Who the man was for whose sake she had dishonored him, he knew not, for
Miriam had said nothing more than, "Go home, your wife is laughing with
her lover."

While her husband was still threatening and storming, Sirona had said to
herself, that she would rather die than live any longer with this man.
That she herself was not free from fault never occurred to her mind.  He
who is punished more severely than he deserves, easily overlooks his own
fault in his feeling of the judge's injustice.

Phoebicius was right; neither Petrus nor Dorothea had it in their power
to protect her against him, a Roman citizen.  If she could not contrive
to help her self she was a prisoner, and without air, light, and freedom
she could not live.  During his last speech her resolution had been
quickly matured, and hardly had he turned his back and crossed the
threshold, than she hurried up to her bed, wrapped the trembling
greyhound in the coverlet, took it in her arms like a child, and ran into
the sitting-room with her light burden; the shutters were still open of
the window through which Hermas had fled into the open.  With the help of
a stool she took the same way, let herself slip down from the sill into
the street, and hastened on without aim or goal--inspired only by the
wish to escape durance in the dark room, and to burst every bond that
tied her to her hated mate--up the church-hill and along the road which
lead over the mountain to the sea.

Phoebicius gave her a long start, for after having arranged her prison he
remained some time in the little room behind the kitchen, not in order to
give her time, collect his thoughts or to reflect on his future action,
but simply because he felt utterly exhausted.

The centurion was nearly sixty years of age, and his frame, originally a
powerful one, was now broken by every sort of dissipation, and could no
longer resist the effects of the strain and excitement of this night.

The lean, wiry, and very active man did not usually fall into these
fits of total enervation excepting in the daytime, for after sundown a
wonderful change would come over the gray-headed veteran, who
nevertheless still displayed much youthful energy in the exercise of his
official duties.  At night his drooping eyelids, that almost veiled his
eyes, opened more wildly, his flaccid hanging under-lip closed firmly,
his long neck and narrow elongated head were held erect, and when, at a
later hour, he went out to drinking-bouts or to the service in honor of
Mithras, he might often still be taken for a fine, indomitable young man.

But when he was drunk he was no longer gay, but wild, braggart, and
noisy.  It frequently happened that before he left the carouse, while he
was still in the midst of his boon-companions, the syncope would come
upon him which had so often alarmed Sirona, and from which he could never
feel perfectly safe even when he was on duty at the head of his soldiers.

The vehement big man in such moments offered a terrible image of helpless
impotence; the paleness of death would overspread his features, his back
was as if it were broken, and he lost his control over every limb.  His
eyes only continued to move, and now and then a shudder shook his frame.
His people said that when he was in this condition, the centurion's
ghastly demon had entered into him, and he himself believed in this evil
spirit, and dreaded it; nay, he had attempted to be released through
heathen spells, and even through Christian exorcisms.  Now he sat in the
dark room on the sheepfell, which in scorn of his wife he had spread on
a hard wooden bench.  His hands and feet turned cold, his eyes glowed,
and the power to move even a finger had wholly deserted him; only his
lips twitched, and his inward eye, looking back on the past with
preternaturally sharpened vision, saw, far away and beyond, the last
frightful hour.

"If," thought he, "after my mad run down to the oasis, which few younger
men could have vied with, I had given the reins to my fury instead of
restraining it, the demon would not have mastered me so easily.  How that
devil Miriam's eyes flashed as she told me that a man was betraying me.
She certainly must have seen the wearer of the sheepskin, but I lost
sight of her before I reached the oasis; I fancy she turned and went up
the mountain.  What indeed might not Sirona have done to her?  That woman
snares all hearts with her eyes as a bird-catcher snares birds with his
flute.  How the fine gentlemen ran after her in Rome!  Did she dishonor
me there, I wonder?  She dismissed the Legate Quintillus, who was so
anxious to please me--I may thank that fool of a woman that he became my
enemy--but he was older even than I, and she likes young men best.  She
is like all the rest of them, and I of all men might have known it.  It
is the way of the world: to-day one gives a blow and to-morrow takes
one."

A sad smile passed over his lips, then his features settled into a stern
gravity, for various unwelcome images rose clearly before his mind, and
would not be got rid of.

His conscience stood in inverse relation to the vigor of his body.  When
he was well, his too darkly stained past life troubled him little; but
when he was unmanned by weakness, he was incapable of fighting the
ghastly demon that forced upon his memory in painful vividness those very
deeds which he would most willingly have forgotten.  In such hours he
must need remember his friend, his benefactor, and superior officer, the
Tribune Servianus, whose fair young wife he had tempted with a thousand
arts to forsake her husband and child, and fly with him into the wide
world; and at this moment a bewildering illusion made him fancy that he
was the Tribune Servianus, and yet at the same time himself.  Every hour
of pain, and the whole bitter anguish that his betrayed benefactor had
suffered through his act when he had seduced Glycera, he himself now
seemed to realize, and at the same time the enemy that had betrayed him,
Servianus, was none other than himself, Phoebicius, the Gaul.  He tried
to protect himself and meditated revenge against the seducer, and still
he could not altogether lose the sense of his own identity.

This whirl of mad imagining, which he vainly endeavored to make clear to
himself, threatened to distract his reason, and he groaned aloud; the
sound of his own voice brought him back to actuality.

He was Phoebicius again and not another, that he knew now, and yet he
could not completely bring himself to comprehend the situation.  The
image of the lovely Glycera, who had followed him to Alexandria, and whom
he had there abandoned, when he had squandered his last piece of money
and her last costly jewels in the Greek city, no longer appeared to him
alone, but always side by side with his wife Sirona.

Glycera had been a melancholy sweetheart, who had wept much, and laughed
little after running away from her husband; he fancied he could hear her
speaking soft words of reproach, while Sirona defied him with loud
threats, and dared to nod and signal to the senator's son Polykarp.

The weary dreamer angrily shook himself, collected his thoughts, doubled
his fist, and lifted it angrily; this movement was the first sign of
returning physical energy; he stretched his limbs like a man awaking from
sleep, rubbed his eyes, pressed his hands to his temples; by degrees full
consciousness returned to him, and with it the recollection of all that
had occurred in the last hour or two.

He hastily left the dark room, refreshed himself in the kitchen with a
gulp of wine, and went up to the open window to gaze at the stars.

It was long past midnight; he was reminded of his companions now
sacrificing on the mountain, and addressed a long prayer "to the crown,"
"the invincible sun-god," "the great light," "the god begotten of the
rock," and to many other names of Mithras; for since he had belonged to
the mystics of this divinity, he had become a zealous devotee, and could
fast too with extraordinary constancy.  He had already passed through
several of the eighty trials, to which a man had to subject himself
before he could attain to the highest grades of the initiated, and the
weakness which had just now overpowered him, had attacked him for the
first time, after he had for a whole week lain for hours in the snow,
besides fasting severely, in order to attain the grade of "lion."

Sirona's rigorous mind was revolted by all these practices, and the
decision with which she had always refused to take any part in them,
had widened the breach which, without that, parted her from her husband.
Phoebicius was, in his fashion, very much in earnest with all these
things; for they alone saved him in some measure from himself, from dark
memories, and from the fear of meeting the reward of his evil deeds in a
future life, while Sirona found her best comfort in the remembrance of
her early life, and so gathered courage to endure the miserable present
cheerfully, and to hold fast to hope for better times.

Phoebicius ended his prayer to-day--a prayer for strength to break his
wife's strong spirit, for a successful issue to his revenge on her
seducer--ended it without haste, and with careful observance of all the
prescribed forms.  Then he took two strong ropes from the wall, pulled
himself up, straight and proud, as if he were about to exhort his
soldiers to courage before a battle, cleared his throat like an orator in
the Forum before he begins his discourse, and entered the bedroom with a
dignified demeanor.  Not the smallest suspicion of the possibility of her
escape troubled his sense of security, when, not finding Sirona in the
sleeping-room, he went into the sitting-room to carry out the meditated
punishment.  Here again--no one.

He paused in astonishment; but the thought that she could have fled
appeared to him so insane, that he immediately and decisively dismissed
it.  No doubt she feared his wrath, and was hidden under her bed or
behind the curtain which covered his clothes.  "The dog," thought he,
"is still cowering by her--" and he began to make a noise, half whistling
and half hissing, which Iambe could not bear, and which always provoked
her to bark angrily--but in vain.  All was still in the vacant room,
still as death.  He was now seriously anxious; at first deliberately, and
then with rapid haste, he threw the light under every vessel, into every
corner, behind every cloth, and rummaged in places that not even a child
--nay hardly a frightened bird could have availed itself of for
concealment.  At last his right hand fairly dropped the ropes, and his
left, in which he held the lamp, began to tremble.  He found the shutters
of the sleeping-room open; where Sirona had been sitting on the seat
looking at the moon, before Hermas had come upon the scene.  "Then she is
not here!"  he muttered, and setting the lamp on the little table, from
which he had just now flung Polykarp's glass, he tore open the door, and
hurried into the courtyard.  That she could have swung herself out into
the road, and have set out in the night for the open desert, had not yet
entered into his mind.  He shook the door that closed in the homestead,
and found it locked; the watch-dogs roused themselves, and gave tongue,
when Phoebicius turned to Petrus' house, and began to knock at the door
with the brazen knocker, at first softly and then with growing anger; he
considered it as certain that his wife had sought and found protection
under the senator's roof.  He could have shouted with rage and anguish,
and yet he hardly thought of his wife and the danger of losing her, but
only of Polykarp and the disgrace he had wrought upon him, and the
reparation he would exact from him, and his parents, who had dared to
tamper with his household rights--his, the imperial centurion's.

What was Sirona to him?  In the flush of an hour of excitement he had
linked her destiny to his.

At Arelas, about two years since, one of his comrades had joined their
circle of boon-companions, and had related that he had been the witness
of a remarkable scene.  A number of young fellows had surrounded a boy
and had unmercifully beaten him--he himself knew not wherefore.  The
little one had defended himself bravely, but was at last overcome by
numbers.  "Then suddenly," continued the soldier, "the door of a house
near the circus opened, and a young girl with long golden hair flew out,
and drove the boys to flight, and released the victim, her brother, from
his tormentors.  She looked like a lioness," cried the narrator, "Sirona
she is called, and of all the pretty girls of Arelas, she is beyond a
doubt the prettiest."  This opinion was confirmed on all sides, and
Phoebicius, who at that time had just been admitted to the grade of
"lion" among the worshippers of Mithras, and liked very well to hear
himself called "the lion," exclaimed, "I have long been seeking a
lioness, and here it seems to me that I have found one.  Phoebicius and
Sirona--the two names sound very finely together."

On the following day he asked Sirona of her father for his wife, and as
he had to set out for Rome in a few days the wedding was promptly
celebrated.  She had never before quitted Arelas, and knew not what she
was giving up, when she took leave of her father's house perhaps for
ever.  In Rome Phoebicius and his young wife met again; there many
admired the beautiful woman, and made every effort to obtain her favor,
but to him she was only a lightly won, and therefore a lightly valued,
possession; nay, ere long no more than a burden, ornamental no doubt but
troublesome to guard.  When presently his handsome wife attracted the
notice of the legate, he endeavored to gain profit and advancement
through her, but Sirona had rebuffed Quintillus with such insulting
disrespect, that his superior officer became the centurion's enemy, and
contrived to procure his removal to the oasis, which was tantamount to
banishment.

From that time he had regarded her too as his enemy, and firmly believed
that she designedly showed herself most friendly to those who seemed most
obnoxious to him, and among these he reckoned Polykarp.

Once more the knocker sounded on the senator's door; it opened, and
Petrus himself stood before the raging Gaul, a lamp in his hand.



CHAPTER XI.

The unfortunate Paulus sat on a stone bench in front of the senator's
door, and shivered; for, as dawn approached, the night-air grew cooler,
and he was accustomed to the warmth of the sheepskin, which he had now
given to Hermas.  In his hand he held the key of the church, which he had
promised the door-keeper to deliver to Petrus; but all was so still in
the senator's house, that he shrank from rousing the sleepers.

"What a strange night this has been!"  he muttered to himself, as he drew
his short and tattered tunic closer together.  "Even if it were warmer,
and if, instead of this threadbare rag, I had a sack of feathers to wrap
myself in, still I should feel a cold shiver if the spirits of hell that
wander about here were to meet me again.  Now I have actually seen one
with my own eyes.  Demons in women's form rush up the mountain out of the
oasis to tempt and torture us in our sleep.  What could it have been that
the goblin in a white robe and with flowing hair held in its arms?  Very
likely the stone with which the incubus loads our breast when he torments
us.  The other one seemed to fly, but I did not see its wings.  That
side-building must be where the Gaul lives with his ungodly wife, who has
ensnared my poor Hermas.  I wonder whether she is really so beautiful!
But what can a youth who has grown up among rocks and caves know of the
charms of women.  He would, of course, think the first who looked kindly
at him the most enchanting of her sex.  Besides she is fair, and
therefore a rare bird among the sunburnt bipeds of the desert.  The
centurion surely cannot have found the sheepskin or all would not be so
still here; once since I have been here an ass has brayed, once a camel
has groaned, and now already the first cock is crowing; but not a sound
have I heard from human lips, not even a snore from the stout senator or
his buxom wife Dorothea, and it would be strange indeed if they did not
both snore."

He rose, went up to the window of Phoebicius dwelling, and listened at
the half open shutters, but all was still.

An hour ago Miriam had been listening under Sirona's room; after
betraying her to Phoebicius she had followed him at a distance, and had
slipped back into the court-yard through the stables; she felt that she
must learn what was happening within, and what fate had befallen Hermas
and Sirona at the hands of the infuriated Gaul.  She was prepared for
anything, and the thought that the centurion might have killed them both
with the sword filled her with bitter-sweet satisfaction.  Then, seeing
the light through the crack between the partly open wooden shutters, she
softly pushed them farther apart, and, resting her bare feet against the
wall, she raised herself to look in.

She saw Sirona sitting up upon her couch, and opposite to her the Gaul
with pale distorted features; at his feet lay the sheepskin; in his right
hand he held the lamp, and its light fell on the paved floor in front of
the bed, and was reflected in a large dark red pool.

"That is blood," thought she, and she shuddered and closed her eyes.

When she reopened them she saw Sirona's face with crimson cheeks, turned
towards her husband; she was unhurt--but Hermas?

"'That is his blood!"  she thought with anguish, and a voice seemed to
scream in her very heart, "I, his murderess, have shed it."

Her hands lost their hold of the shutters, her feet touched the pavement
of the yard, and, driven by her bitter anguish of soul, she fled out by
the way she had come--out into the open and up to the mountain.  She felt
that rather would she defy the prowling panthers, the night-chill, hunger
and thirst, than appear again before Dame Dorothea, the senator, and
Marthana, with this guilt on her soul; and the flying Miriam was one of
the goblin forms that had terrified Paulus.

The patient anchorite sat down again on the stone seat.  "The frost is
really cruel," thought he, "and a very good thing is such a woolly
sheepskin; but the Saviour endured far other sufferings than these, and
for what did I quit the world but to imitate Him, and to endure to the
end here that I may win the joys of the other world.  There, where angels
soar, man will need no wretched ram's fell, and this time certainly
selfishness has been far from me, for I really and truly suffer for
another--I am freezing for Hermas, and to spare the old man pain.  I
would it were even colder!  Nay, I will never, absolutely never again lay
a sheepskin over my shoulders."

Paulus nodded his head as if to signify assent to his own resolve; but
presently he looked graver, for again it seemed to him that he was
walking in a wrong path.

"Aye!  Man achieves a handful of good, and forthwith his heart swells
with a camel-load of pride.  What though my teeth are chattering, I am
none the less a most miserable creature.  How it tickled my vanity, in
spite of all my meditations and scruples, when they came from Raithu and
offered me the office of elder; I felt more triumphant the first time I
won with the quadriga, but I was scarcely more puffed up with pride then,
than I was yesterday.  How many who think to follow the Lord strive only
to be exalted as He is; they keep well out of the way of His abasement.
Thou, O Thou Most High, art my witness that I earnestly seek it, but
so soon as the thorns tear my flesh the drops of blood turn to roses, and
if I put them aside, others come and still fling garlands in my way.  I
verily believe that it is as hard here on earth to find pain without
pleasure, as pleasure without pain."

While thus he meditated his teeth chattered with cold, but suddenly his
reflections were interrupted, for the dogs set up a loud barking.
Phoebicius was knocking at the senator's door.

Paulus rose at once, and approached the gate-way.  He could hear every
word that was spoken in the court-yard; the deep voice was the senator's,
the high sharp tones must be the centurion's.

Phoebicius was demanding his wife back from Petrus, as she had hidden in
his house, while Petrus positively declared that Sirona had not crossed
his threshold since the morning of the previous day.

In spite of the vehement and indignant tones in which his lodger spoke,
the senator remained perfectly calm, and presently went away to ask his
wife whether she by chance, while he was asleep, had opened the house to
the missing woman.  Paulus heard the soldier's steps as he paced up and
down the court-yard, but they soon ceased, for Dame Dorothea appeared at
the door with her husband, and on her part emphatically declared that she
knew nothing of Sirona.

"Your son Polykarp then," interrupted Phoebicius, "will be better
informed of her whereabouts."

"My son has been since yesterday at Raithu on business," said Petrus
resolutely but evasively; "we expect him home to-day only."

"It would seem that he has been quick, and has returned much sooner,"
retorted Phoebicius.  "Our preparations for sacrificing on the mountain
were no secret, and the absence of the master of the house is the
opportunity for thieves to break in--above all, for lovers who throw
roses into their ladies' windows.  You Christians boast that you regard
the marriage tie as sacred, but it seems to me that you apply the rule
only to your fellow-believers.  Your sons may make free to take their
pleasure among the wives of the heathen; it only remains to be proved
whether the heathen husbands will be trifled with or not.  So far as I am
concerned, I am inclined for anything rather than jesting.  I would have
you to understand that I will never let Caesar's uniform, which I wear,
be stained by disgrace, and that I am minded to search your house, and if
I find my undutiful wife and your son within its walls, I will carry them
and you before the judge, and sue for my rights."

"You will seek in vain," replied Petrus, commanding himself with
difficulty.  "My word is yea or nay, and I repeat once more no, we
harbor neither her nor him.  As for Dorothea and myself--neither of us
is inclined to interfere in your concerns, but neither will we permit
another--be he whom he may--to interfere in ours.  This threshold shall
never be crossed by any but those to whom I grant permission, or by the
emperor's judge, to whom I must yield.  You, I forbid to enter.  Sirona
is not here, and you would do better to seek her elsewhere than to
fritter away your time here."

"I do not require your advice!"  cried the centurion wrathfully.

"And I," retorted Petrus, "do not feel myself called upon to arrange your
matrimonial difficulties.  Besides you can get back Sirona without our
help, for it is always more difficult to keep a wife safe in the house,
than to fetch her back when she has run away."

"You shall learn whom you have to deal with!"  threatened the centurion,
and he threw a glance round at the slaves, who had collected in the
court, and who had been joined by the senator's eldest son.  "I shall
call my people together at once, and if you have the seducer among you we
will intercept his escape."

"Only wait an hour," said Dorothea, now taking up the word, while she
gently touched her husband's hand, for his self-control was almost
exhausted, "I and you will see Polykarp ride home on his father's horse.
Is it only from the roses that my son threw into your wife's window, that
you suppose him to be her seducer--she plays so kindly with all his
brothers and sisters--or are there other reasons, which move you to
insult and hurt us with so heavy an accusation?"

Often when wrathful men threaten to meet with an explosion, like black
thunder-clouds, a word from the mouth of a sensible woman gives them
pause, and restrains them like a breath of soft wind.

Phoebicius had no mind to listen to any speech from Polykarp's mother,
but her question suggested to him for the first time a rapid retrospect
of all that had occurred, and he could not conceal from himself that his
suspicions rested on weak grounds.  And at the same time he now said to
himself, that if indeed Sirona had fled into the desert instead of to the
senator's house he was wasting time, and letting the start, which she had
already gained, increase in a fatal degree.

But few seconds were needed for these reflections, and as he was
accustomed when need arose to control himself, he said:

"We must see--some means must be found--" and then without any greeting
to his host, he slowly returned to his own house.  But he had not reached
the door, when he heard hoofs on the road, and Petrus called after him,
"Grant us a few minutes longer, for here comes Polykarp, and he can
justify himself to you in his own person."

The centurion paused, the senator signed to old Jethro to open the gate;
a man was heard to spring from his saddle, but it was an Amalekite--and
not Polykarp--who came into the court.

"What news do you bring?"  asked the senator, turning half to the
messenger and half to the centurion.  "My lord Polykarp, your son,"
replied the Amalekite--a dark brown man of ripe years with supple limbs,
and a sharp tongue--"sends his greetings to you and to the mistress, and
would have you to know that before mid-day he will arrive at home with
eight workmen, whom he has engaged in Raithu.  Dame Dorothea must be good
enough to make ready for them all and to prepare a meal."

"When did you part from my son?"  inquired Petrus.

"Two hours before sundown."

Petrus heaved a sigh of relief, for he had not till now been perfectly
convinced of his son's innocence; but, far from triumphing or making
Phoebicius feel the injustice he had done him, he said kindly--for he
felt some sympathy with the Gaul in his misfortune:

"I wish the messenger could also give some news of your wife's retreat;
she found it hard to accommodate herself to the dull life here in the
oasis, perhaps she has only disappeared in order to seek a town which may
offer more variety to such a beautiful young creature than this quiet
spot in the desert."

Phoebicius waved his hand with a negative movement, implying that he knew
better, and said, "I will show you what your nice night-bird left in my
nest.  It may be that you can tell me to whom it belongs."

Just as he hastily stepped across the court-yard to his own dwelling
Paulus entered by the now open gate; he greeted the senator and his
family, and offered Petrus the key of the church.

The sun meanwhile had risen, and the Alexandrian blushed to show himself
in Dame Dorothea's presence in his short and ragged under-garment, which
was quite inefficient to cover the still athletic mould of his limbs.
Petrus had heard nothing but good of Paulus, and yet he measured him now
with no friendly eye, for all that wore the aspect of extravagance
repelled his temperate and methodical nature.  Paulus was made conscious
of what was passing in the senator's mind when, without vouchsafing a
single word, he took the key from his hand.  It was not a matter of
indifference to him, that this man should think ill of him, and he said,
with some embarrassment:

"We do not usually go among people without a sheepskin, but I have lost
mine."

Hardly had he uttered the words, when Phoebicius came back with Hermas'
sheepskin in his hand, and cried out to Petrus:

"This I found on my return home, in our sleeping-room."

"And when have you ever seen Polykarp in such a mantle?"  asked Dorothea.

"When the gods visit the daughters of men," replied the centurion, "they
have always made choice of strange disguises.  Why should not a perfumed
Alexandrian gentleman transform himself for once into one of those rough
fools on the mountain?  However, even old Homer sometimes nodded--and I
confess that I was in error with regard to your son.  I meant no offence,
senator!  You have lived here longer than I; who can have made me a
present of this skin, which still seems to be pretty new--horns and all."

Petrus examined and felt the skin, "This is an anchorite's garment," he
said; "the penitents on the mountain are all accustomed to wear such."

"It is one of those rascals then that has found his way into my house!"
exclaimed the centurion.  "I bear Caesar's commission, and I am to
exterminate ill vagabonds that trouble the dwellers in the oasis, or
travellers in the desert.  Thus run the orders which I brought with me
from Rome.  I will drive the low fellows together like deer for hunting,
for they are all rogues and villains, and I shall know how to torture
them until I find the right one."

"The emperor will ill-requite you for that," replied Petrus.  "They are
pious Christians, and you know that Constantine himself--"

"Constantine!"  exclaimed the centurion scornfully.  "Perhaps he will let
himself be baptized, for water can hurt no one, and he cannot, like the
great Diocletian, exterminate the masses who run after the crucified
miracle-monger, without depopulating the country.  Look at these coins;
here is the image of Caesar, and what is this on the other side?  Is this
your Nazarene, or is it the old god, the immortal and invincible sun?
And is that man one of your creed, who in Constantinople adores Tyche and
the Dioscuri Castor and Pollux?  The water he is baptized with to-day he
will wipe away to-morrow, and the old gods will be his defenders, if in
more peaceful times he maintains them against your superstitions."

"But it will be a good while till then," said Perrus coolly.  "For the
present, at least, Constantine is the protector of the Christians.  I
advise you to put your affair into the hands of Bishop Agapitus."

"That he may serve me up a dish of your doctrine, which is bad even for
women," said the centurion laughing; "and that I may kiss my enemies'
feet?  They are a vile rabble up there, I repeat it, and they shall be
treated as such till I have found my man.  I shall begin the hunt this
very day."

"And this very day you may end it, for the sheepskin is mine."

It was Paulus who spoke these words in a loud and decided tone; all eyes
were at once turned on him and on the centurion.

Petrus and the slaves had frequently seen the anchorite, but never
without a sheepskin similar to that which Phoebicius held in his hand.
The anchorite's self-accusation must have appeared incredible, and indeed
scarcely possible, to all who knew Paulus and Sirona; and nevertheless no
one, not even the senator, doubted it for an instant.  Dame Dorothea only
shook her head incredulously, and though she could find no explanation
for the occurrence, she still could not but say to herself, that this man
did not look like a lover, and that Sirona would hardly have forgotten
her duty for his sake.  She could not indeed bring herself to believe in
Sirona's guilt at all, for she was heartily well disposed towards her;
besides--though it, no doubt, was not right--her motherly vanity inclined
her to believe that if the handsome young woman had indeed sinned, she
would have preferred her fine tall Polykarp--whose roses and flaming
glances she blamed in all sincerity--to this shaggy, wild-looking
graybeard.

Quite otherwise thought the centurion.  He was quite ready to believe in
the anchorite's confession, for the more unworthy the man for whom Sirona
had broken faith, the greater seemed her guilt, and the more unpardonable
her levity; and to his man's vanity it seemed to him easier--particularly
in the presence of such witnesses as Petrus and Dorothea--to bear the
fact that his wife should have sought variety and pleasure at any cost,
even at that of devoting herself to a ragged beggar, than that she should
have given her affections to a younger, handsomer, and worthier man than
himself.  He had sinned much against her, but all that lay like feathers
on his side of the scales, while that which she had done weighed down
hers like a load of lead.  He began to feel like a man who, in wading
through a bog, has gained firm ground with one foot, and all these
feelings gave him energy to walk up to the anchorite with a self-control,
of which he was not generally master, excepting when on duty at the head
of his soldiers.

He approached the Alexandrian with an assumption of dignity and a
demeanor which testified to his formerly having taken part in the
representations of tragedies in the theatres of great cities.  Paulus,
on his part, did not retreat by a single step, but looked at him with a
smile that alarmed Petrus and the rest of the bystanders.  The law put
the anchorite absolutely into the power of the outraged husband, but
Phoebicius did not seem disposed to avail himself of his rights, and
nothing but contempt and loathing were perceptible in his tone, as he
said:

"A man who takes hold of a mangy dog in order to punish him, only dirties
his hand.  The woman who betrayed me for your sake, and you--you dirty
beggar--are worthy of each other.  I could crush you like a fly that can
be destroyed by a blow of my hand if I chose, but my sword is Caesar's,
and shall never be soiled by such foul blood as yours; however, the beast
shall not have cast off his skin for nothing, it is thick, and so you
have only spared me the trouble of tearing it off you before giving you
your due.  You shall find no lack of blows.  Confess where your
sweetheart has fled to and they shall be few, but if you are slow to
answer they will be many.  Lend me that thing there, fellow!"

With these words he took a whip of hippopotamus hide out of a camel-
driver's band, went close up to the Alexandrian, and asked: "Where is
Sirona?"

"Nay, you may beat me," said Paulus.  "However hard your whip may fall on
me, it cannot be heavy enough for my sins; but as to where your wife is
hiding, that I really cannot tell you--not even if you were to tear my
limbs with pincers instead of stroking me with that wretched thing."

There was something so genuinely honest in Paulus' voice and tone, that
the centurion was inclined to believe him; but it was not his way to let
a threatened punishment fail of execution, and this strange beggar should
learn by experience that when his hand intended to hit hard, it was far
from "stroking."  And Paulus did experience it, without uttering a cry,
and without stirring from the spot where he stood.

When at last Phoebicius dropped his weary arm and breathlessly repeated
his question, the ill-used man replied, "I told you before I do not know,
and therefore I cannot reveal it."

Up to this moment Petrus, though he had felt strongly impelled to rush
to the rescue of his severely handled fellow-believer, had nevertheless
allowed the injured husband to have his way, for he seemed disposed to
act with unusual mildness, and the Alexandrian to be worthy of all
punishment; but at this point Dorothea's request would not have been
needed to prompt him to interfere.

He went up to the centurion, and said to him in an undertone, "You have
given the evil-doer his due, and if you desire that he should undergo a
severer punishment than you can inflict, carry the matter--I say once
more--before the bishop.  You will gain nothing more here.  Take my word
for it, I know the man and his fellow-men; he actually knows nothing of
where your wife is hiding, and you are only wasting the time and strength
which you would do better to save, in order to search for Sirona.
I fancy she will have tried to reach the sea, and to get to Egypt or
possibly to Alexandria; and there--you know what the Greek city is--she
will fall into utter ruin."

"And so," laughed the Gaul, "find what she seeks--variety, and every kind
of pleasure.  For a young thing like that, who loves amusement, there is
no pleasant occupation but vice.  But I will spoil her game; you are
right, it is not well to give her too long a start.  If she has found
the road to the sea, she may already--Hey, here Talib!"  He beckoned to
Polykarp's Amalekite messenger.  "You have just come from Raithu; did you
meet a flying woman on the way, with yellow hair and a white face?"

The Amalekite, a free man with sharp eyes, who was highly esteemed in the
senator's house, and even by Phoebicius himself, as a trustworthy and
steady man, had expected this question, and eagerly replied:

"At two stadia beyond el Heswe I met a large caravan from Petra, which
rested yesterday in the oasis here; a woman, such as you describe, was
running with it.  When I heard what had happened here I wanted to speak,
but who listens to a cricket while it thunders?"

"Had she a lame greyhound with her?"  asked Phoebicius, full of
expectation.

"She carried something in her arms," answered the Amalekite.  "In the
moonlight I took it for a baby.  My brother, who was escorting the
caravan, told me the lady was no doubt running away, for she had paid the
charge for the escort not in ready money, but with a gold signet-ring."

The Gaul remembered a certain gold ring with a finely carved onyx, which
long years ago he had taken from Glycera's finger, for she had another
one like it, and which he had given to Sirona on the day of their
marriage.

"It is strange!"  thought he,  "what we give to women to bind them to us
they use as weapons to turn against us, be it to please some other man,
or to smooth the path by which they escape from us.  It was with a
bracelet of Glycera's that I paid the captain of the ship that brought us
to Alexandria; but the soft-hearted fool, whose dove flew after me, and I
are men of a different stamp; I will follow my flown bird, and catch it
again."  He spoke the last words aloud, and then desired one of the
senator's slaves to give his mule a good feed and drink, for his own
groom, and the superior decurion who during his absence must take his
place, were also worshippers of Mithras, and had not yet returned from
the mountain.

Phoebicius did not doubt that the woman who had joined the caravan--which
he himself had seen yesterday--was his fugitive wife, and he knew that
his delay might have reduced his earnest wish to overtake her and punish
her to the remotest probability; but he was a Roman soldier, and would
rather have laid violent hands on himself than have left his post without
a deputy.  When at last his fellow-worshippers came from their sacrifice
and worship of the rising sun, his preparations for his long journey were
completed.

Phoebicius carefully impressed on the decurion all he had to do during
his absence, and how he was to conduct himself; then he delivered the key
of his house into Petrus' keeping as well as the black slave-woman, who
wept loudly and passionately over the flight of her mistress; he
requested the senator to bring the anchorite's misdeed to the knowledge
of the bishop, and then, guided by the Amalekite Talib, who rode before
him on his dromedary, he trotted hastily away in pursuit of the caravan,
so as to reach the sea, if possible, before its embarkation.

As the hoofs of the mule sounded fainter and fainter in the distance,
Paulus also quitted the senator's courtyard; Dorothea pointed after him
as he walked towards the mountain.  "In truth, husband," said she, "this
has been a strange morning; everything that has occurred looks as clear
as day, and yet I cannot understand it all.  My heart aches when I think
what may happen to the wretched Sirona if her enraged husband overtakes
her.  It seems to me that there are two sorts of marriage; one was
instituted by the most loving of the angels, nay, by the All-merciful
Himself, but the other it is not to be thought of!  How can those two
live together for the future?  And that under our roof!  Their closed
house looks to me as though ruined and burnt-out, and we have already
seen the nettles spring up which grow everywhere among the ruins of human
dwellings."



CHAPTER XII.

The path of every star is fixed and limited, every plant bears flowers
and fruit which in form and color exactly resemble their kind, and in all
the fundamental characteristics of their qualities and dispositions, of
their instinctive bent and external impulse, all animals of the same
species resemble each other; thus, the hunter who knows the red-deer in
his father's forest, may know in every forest on earth how the stag will
behave in any given case.  The better a genus is fitted for variability
in the conformation of its individuals, the higher is the rank it is
entitled to hold in the graduated series of creatures capable of
development; and it is precisely that wonderful many-sidedness of his
inner life, and of its outward manifestation, which assigns to man his
superiority over all other animated beings.

Some few of our qualities and activities can be fitly symbolized in
allegorical fashion by animals; thus, courage finds an emblem in the
lion, gentleness in the dove, but the perfect human form has satisfied a
thousand generations, and will satisfy a thousand more, when we desire to
reduce the divinity to a sensible image, for, in truth, our heart is as
surely capable of comprehending "God in us,"--that is in our feelings--
as our intellect is capable of comprehending His outward manifestation
in the universe.

Every characteristic of every finite being is to be found again in man,
and no characteristic that we can attribute to the Most High is foreign
to our own soul, which, in like manner, is infinite and immeasurable, for
it can extend its investigating feelers to the very utmost boundary of
space and time.  Hence, the roads which are open to the soul, are
numberless as those of the divinity.  Often they seem strange, but the
initiated very well know that these roads are in accordance to fixed
laws, and that even the most exceptional emotions of the soul may be
traced back to causes which were capable of giving rise to them and to
no others.

Blows hurt, disgrace is a burden, and unjust punishment embitters the
heart, but Paulus' soul had sought and found a way to which these simple
propositions did not apply.

He had been ill-used and contemned, and, though perfectly innocent, ere
he left the oasis he was condemned to the severest penance.  As soon as
the bishop had heard from Petrus of all that had happened in his house,
he had sent for Paulus, and as he could answer nothing to the accusation,
he had expelled him from his flock--to which the anchorites belonged--
forbidden him to visit the church on week-days, and declared that this
his sentence should be publicly proclaimed before the assembled
congregation of the believers.

And how did this affect Paulus as he climbed the mountain, lonely and
proscribed?

A fisherman from the little seaport of Pharan, who met him half-way and
exchanged a greeting with him, thought to himself as he looked after him,
"The great graybeard looks as happy as if he had found a treasure."  Then
he walked on into the valley with his scaly wares, reminded, as he went,
of his son's expression of face when his wife bore him his first little
one.

Near the watch-tower at the edge of the defile, a party of anchorites
were piling some stones together.  They had already heard of the bishop's
sentence on Paulus, the sinner, and they gave him no greeting.  He
observed it and was silent, but when they could no longer see him he
laughed to himself and muttered, while he rubbed a weal that the
centurion's whip had left upon his back, "If they think that a Gaul's
cudgel has a pleasant flavor they are mistaken, however I would not
exchange it for a skin of Anthyllan wine; and if they could only know
that at least one of the stripes which torments me is due to each one of
themselves, they would be surprised!  But away with pride!  How they spat
on Thee, Jesus my Lord, and who am I, and how mildly have they dealt with
me, when I for once have taken on my back another's stripes.  Not a drop
of blood was drawn!  I wish the old man had hit harder!"

He walked cheerfully forward, and his mind recurred to the centurion's
speech that he could if he list, "tread him down like a worm," and he
laughed again softly, for he was quite aware that he was ten times as
strong as Phoebicius, and formerly he had overthrown the braggart
Arkesilaos of Kyrene and his cousin, the tall Xenophanes, both at once in
the sand of the Palaestra.  Then he thought of Hermas, of his sweet dead
mother, and of his father, and--which was the most comforting thought of
all--of how he had spared the old man this bitter sorrow.

On his path there grew a little plant with a reddish blossom.  In years
he had never looked at a flower or, at any rate, had never wished to
possess one; to-day he stooped down over the blossom that graced the
rock, meaning to pluck it.  But he did not carry out his intention, for
before he had laid his hand upon it, he reflected:

"To whom could I offer it?  And perhaps the flowers themselves rejoice in
the light, and in the silent life that is in their roots.  How tightly it
clings to the rock.  Farther away from the road flowers of even greater
beauty blow, seen by no mortal eye; they deck themselves in beauty for no
one but for their Creator, and because they rejoice in themselves.  I too
will withdraw from the highways of mankind; let them accuse me!  So long
as I live at peace with myself and my God I ask nothing of any one.  He
that abases himself--aye, he that abases himself!--My hour too shall
come, and above and beyond this life I shall see them all once more;
Petrus and Dorothea, Agapitus and the brethren who now refuse to receive
me, and then, when my Saviour himself beckons me to Him, they will see me
as I am, and hasten to me and greet me with double kindness."

He looked up, proud and rejoicing as he thought thus, and painted to
himself the joys of Paradise, to which this day he had earned an assured
claim.  He never took longer and swifter steps than when his mind was
occupied with such meditations, and when he reached Stephanus' cave he
thought the way from the oasis to the heights had been shorter than
usual.

He found the sick man in great anxiety, for he had waited until now for
his son in vain, and feared that Hermas had met with some accident--or
had abandoned him, and fled out into the world.  Paulus soothed him with
gentle words, and told him of the errand on which he had sent the lad to
the farther coast of the sea.

We are never better disposed to be satisfied with even bad news than
when we have expected it to be much worse; so Stephanus listened to his
friend's explanation quite calmly, and with signs of approval.  He could
no longer conceal from himself that Hermas was not ripe for the life of
an anchorite, and since he had learned that his unhappy wife--whom he had
so long given up for lost--had died a Christian, he found that he could
reconcile his thoughts to relinquishing the boy to the world.  He had
devoted himself and his son to a life of penance, hoping and striving
that so Glycera's soul might be snatched from damnation, and now he knew
that she herself had earned her title to Heaven.

"When will he come home again?"  he asked Paulus.

"In five or six days," was the answer.  "Ali, the fisherman--out of whose
foot I took a thorn some time since--informed me secretly, as I was going
to church yesterday, that the Blemmyes are gathering behind the sulphur-
mountains; when they have withdrawn, it will be high time to send Hermas
to Alexandria.  My brother is still alive, and for my sake he will
receive him as a blood-relation, for he too has been baptized."

"He may attend the school of catechumens in the metropolis, and if he--
if he--"

"That we shall see," interrupted Paulus.  "For the present it comes to
this, we must let him go from hence, and leave him to seek out his own
way.  You fancy that there may be in heaven a place of glory for such as
have never been overcome, and you would fain have seen Hermas among them.
It reminds me of the physician of Corinth, who boasted that he was
cleverer than any of his colleagues, for that not one of his patients had
ever died.  And the man was right, for neither man nor beast had ever
trusted to his healing arts.  Let Hermas try his young strength, and even
if he be no priest, but a valiant warrior like his forefathers, even so
he may honestly serve God.  But it will be a long time before all this
comes to pass.  So long as he is away I will attend on you--you still
have some water in your jar?"

"It has twice been filled for me," said the old man.  "The brown
shepherdess, who so often waters her goats at our spring, came to me the
first thing in the morning and again about two hours ago; she asked after
Hermas, and then offered of her own accord to fetch water for me so long
as he was away.  She is as timid as a bird, and flew off as soon as she
had set down the jug."

"She belongs to Petrus and cannot leave her goats for long," said Paulus.
"Now I will go and find you some herbs for a relish; there will be no
more wine in the first place.  Look me in the face--for how great a
sinner now do you take me?  Think the very worst of me, and yet perhaps
you will hear worse said of me.  But here come two men.  Stay! one is
Hilarion, one of the bishop's acolytes, and the other is Pachomius the
Memphite, who lately came to the mountain.  They are coming up here, and
the Egyptian is carrying a small jar.  I would it might hold some more
wine to keep up your strength."

The two friends had not long to remain in ignorance of their visitor's
purpose.  So soon as they reached Stephanus' cave, both turned their
backs on Paulus with conspicuously marked intention; nay the acolyte
signed his brow with the cross, as if he thought it necessary to protect
himself against evil influences.

The Alexandrian understood; he drew back and was silent, while Hilarion
explained to the sick man that Paulus was guilty of grave sins, and that,
until he had done full penance, he must remain excluded as a rotten sheep
from the bishop's flock, as well as interdicted from waiting on a pious
Christian.

"We know from Petrus," the speaker went on, "that your son, father, has
been sent across the sea, and as you still need waiting on, Agapitus
sends you by me his blessing and this strengthening wine; this youth too
will stay by you, and provide you with all necessaries until Hermas comes
home."

With these words he gave the wine-jar to the old man, who looked in
astonishment from him to Paulus, who felt indeed cut to the heart when
the bishop's messenger turned to him for an instant, and with the cry,
"Get thee out from among us!" disappeared.  How many kindly ties, how
many services willingly rendered and affectionately accepted were swept
away by these words--but Paulus obeyed at once.  He went up to his sick
friend, their eyes met and each could see that the eyes of the other were
dimmed with tears.

"Paulus!" cried the old man, stretching out both his hands to his
departing friend, whom he felt he could forgive whatever his guilt; but
the Alexandrian did not take them, but turned away, and, without looking
back, hastily went up the mountain to a pathless spot, and then on
towards the valley--onwards and still onwards, till he was brought to a
pause by the steep declivity of the hollow way which led southwards from
the mountains into the oasis.

The sun stood high and it was burning hot.  Streaming with sweat and
panting for breath he leaned against the glowing porphyry wall behind
him, hid his face in his hands and strove to collect himself, to think,
to pray--for a long time in vain; for instead of joy in the suffering
which he had taken upon himself, the grief of isolation weighed upon his
heart, and the lamentable cry of the old man had left a warning echo in
his soul, and roused doubts of the righteousness of a deed, by which even
the best and purest had been deceived, and led into injustice towards
him.  His heart was breaking with anguish and grief, but when at last he
returned to the consciousness of his sufferings physical and mental, he
began to recover his courage, and even smiled as he murmured to himself:

"It is well, it is well--the more I suffer the more surely shall I find
grace.  And besides, if the old man had seen Hermas go through what I
have experienced it would undoubtedly have killed him.  Certainly I wish
it could have been done without--without--aye, it is even so--without
deceit; even when I was a heathen I was truthful and held a lie, whether
in myself or in another, in as deep horror as father Abraham held murder,
and yet when the Lord required him, he led his son Isaac to the
slaughter.  And Moses when he beat the overseer--and Elias, and Deborah,
and Judith.  I have taken upon myself no less than they, but my lie will
surely be forgiven me, if it is not reckoned against them that they shed
blood."

These and such reflections restored Paulus to equanimity and to
satisfaction with his conduct, and he began to consider, whether he
should return to his old cave and the neighborhood of Stephanus, or seek
for a new abode.  He decided on the latter course; but first he must find
fresh water and some sort of nourishment; for his mouth and tongue were
quite parched.

Lower down in the valley sprang a brooklet of which he knew, and hard by
it grew various herbs and roots, with which he had often allayed his
hunger.  He followed the declivity to its base, then turning to the left,
he crossed a small table land, which was easily accessible from the
gorge, but which on the side of the oasis formed a perpendicular cliff
many fathoms deep.  Between it and the main mass of the mountain rose
numerous single peaks, like a camp of granite tents, or a wildly tossing
sea suddenly turned to stone; behind these blocks ran the streamlet,
which he found after a short search.

Perfectly refreshed, and with renewed resolve to bear the worst with
patience, he returned to the plateau, and from the edge of the precipice
he gazed down into the desert gorge that stretched away far below his
feet, and in whose deepest and remotest hollow the palmgroves and
tamarisk-thickets of the oasis showed as a sharply defined mass of green,
like a luxuriant wreath flung upon a bier.  The whitewashed roofs of the
little town of Pharan shone brightly among the branches and clumps of
verdure, and above them all rose the new church, which he was now
forbidden to enter.  For a moment the thought was keenly painful that he
was excluded from the devotions of the community, from the Lord's supper
and from congregational prayer, but then he asked, was not every block of
stone on the mountain an altar--was not the blue sky above a thousand
times wider, and more splendid than the mightiest dome raised by the
hand of man, not even excepting the vaulted roof of the Serapeum at
Alexandria, and he remembered the "Amen" of the stones, that had rung
out after the preaching of the blind man.  By this time he had quite
recovered himself, and he went towards the cliff in order to find a
cavern that he knew of, and that was empty--for its gray-headed
inhabitant had died some weeks since.  "Verily," thought he, "it seems to
me that I am by no means weighed down by the burden of my disgrace, but,
on the contrary, lifted up.  Here at least I need not cast down my eyes,
for I am alone with my God, and in his presence I feel I need not be
ashamed."

Thus meditating, he pressed on through a narrow space, which divided two
huge masses of porphyry, but suddenly he stood still, for he heard the
barking of a dog in his immediate neighborhood, and a few minutes after a
greyhound rushed towards him--now indignantly flying at him, and now
timidly retreating--while it carefully held up one leg, which was wrapped
in a many-colored bandage.

Paulus recollected the enquiry which Phoebicius lead addressed to the
Amalekite as to a greyhound, and he immediately guessed that the Gaul's
runaway wife must be not far off.  His heart beat more quickly, and
although he did not immediately know how he should meet the disloyal
wife, he felt himself impelled to go to seek her.  Without delay he
followed the way by which the dog had come, and soon caught sight of a
light garment, which vanished behind the nearest rock, and then behind a
farther, and yet a farther one.

At last he came up with the fleeing woman.  She was standing at the very
edge of a precipice, that rose high and sheer above the abyss--a strange
and fearful sight; her long golden hair had got tangled, and waved over
her bosom and shoulders, half plaited, half undone.  Only one foot was
firm on the ground; the other-with its thin sandal all torn by the sharp
stones--was stretched out over the abyss, ready for the next fatal step.
At the next instant she might disappear over the cliff, for though with
her right hand she held on to a point of rock, Paulus could see that the
boulder had no connection with the rock on which she stood, and rocked
too and fro.

She hung over the edge of the chasm like a sleepwalker, or a possessed
creature pursued by demons, and at the same time her eyes glistened with
such wild madness, and she drew her breath with such feverish rapidity
that Paulus, who had come close up to her, involuntarily drew back.  He
saw that her lips moved, and though he could not understand what she
said, he felt that her voiceless utterance was to warn him back.

What should he do?  If he hurried forward to save her by a hasty grip,
and if this manoeuvre failed, she would fling herself irredeemably into
the abyss: if he left her to herself, the stone to which she clung would
get looser and looser, and as soon as it fell she would certainly fall
too.  He had once heard it said, that sleep-walkers always threw
themselves down when they heard their names spoken; this statement now
recurred to his mind, and he forbore from calling out to her.

Once more the unhappy woman waved him off; his very heart stopped
beating, for her movements were wild and vehement, and he could see that
the stone which she was holding on by shifted its place.  He understood
nothing of all the words which she tried to say--for her voice, which
only yesterday had been so sweet, to-day was inaudibly hoarse--except the
one name "Phoebicius," and he felt no doubt that she clung to the stone
over the abyss, so that, like the mountain-goat when it sees itself
surprised by the hunter, she might fling herself into the depth below
rather than be taken by her pursuer.  Paulus saw in her neither her guilt
nor her beauty, but only a child of man trembling on the brink of a
fearful danger whom he must save from death at any cost; and the thought
that he was at any rate not a spy sent in pursuit of her by her husband,
suggested to him the first words which he found courage to address to the
desperate woman.  They were simple words enough, but they were spoken in
a tone which fully expressed the childlike amiability of his warm heart,
and the Alexandrian, who had been brought up in the most approved school
of the city of orators, involuntarily uttered his words in the admirably
rich and soft chest voice, which he so well knew how to use.

"Be thankful," said he, "poor dear woman--I have found you in a fortunate
hour.  I am Paulus, Hermas' best friend, and I would willingly serve you
in your sore need.  No danger is now threatening you, for Phoebicius is
seeking you on a wrong road; you may trust me.  Look at me!  I do not
look as if I could betray a poor erring woman.  But you are standing
on a spot, where I would rather see my enemy than you; lay your hand
confidently in mine--it is no longer white and slender, but it is strong
and honest--grant me this request and you will never rue it!  See, place
your foot here, and take care how you leave go of the rock there.  You
know not how suspiciously it shook its head over your strange confidence
in it.  Take care! there--your support has rolled over into the abyss!
how it crashes and splits.  It has reached the bottom, smashed into a
thousand pieces, and I am thankful that you preferred to follow me rather
than that false support."  While Paulus was speaking he had gone up to
Sirona, as a girl whose bird has escaped from its cage, and who creeps up
to it with timid care in the hope of recapturing it; he offered her his
hand, and as soon as he felt hers in his grasp, he had carefully rescued
her from her fearful position, and had led her down to a secure footing
on the plateau.  So long as she followed him unresistingly he led her on
towards the mountain--without aim or fixed destination--but away, away
from the abyss.

She paused by a square block of diorite, and Paulus, who had not failed
to observe how heavy her steps were, desired her to sit down; he pushed
up a flag of stone, which he propped with smaller ones, so that Sirona
might not lack a support for her weary back.  When he had accomplished
this, Sirona leaned back against the stone, and something of dawning
satisfaction was audible in the soft sigh, which was the first sound that
had escaped her tightly closed lips since her rescue.  Paulus smiled at
her encouragingly, and said, "Now rest a little, I see what you want;
one cannot defy the heat of the sun for a whole day with impunity."

Sirona nodded, pointed to her mouth, and implored wearily and very softly
for "water, a little water."   Paulus struck his hand against his
forehead, and cried eagerly, "Directly--I will bring you a fresh draught.
In a few minutes I will be back again."

Sirona looked after him as he hastened away.  Her gaze became more and
more staring and glazed, and she felt as if the rock, on which she was
sitting, were changing into the ship which had brought her from Massilia
to Ostia.  Every heaving motion of the vessel, which had made her so
giddy as it danced over the shifting waves, she now distinctly felt
again, and at last it seemed as if a whirlpool had seized the ship, and
was whirling it round faster and faster in a circle.  She closed her
eyes, felt vaguely and in vain in the air for some holdfast, her head
fell powerless on one side, and before her cheek sank upon her shoulder
she uttered one feeble cry of distress, for she felt as if all her limbs
were dropping from her body, as leaves in autumn fall from the boughs,
and she fell back unconscious on the stony couch which Paulus had
constructed for her.

It was the first swoon that Sirona, with her sound physical and mental
powers, had ever experienced; but the strongest of her sex would have
been overcome by the excitement, the efforts, the privations, and the
sufferings which had that day befallen the unfortunate fair one.

At first she had fled without any plan out into the night and up the
mountain; the moon lighted her on her way, and for fully an hour she
continued her upward road without any rest.  Then she heard the voices of
travellers who were coming towards her, and she left the beaten road and
tried to get away from them, for she feared that her greyhound, which she
still carried' on her arm, would betray her by barking, or if they
heard it whining, and saw it limp.  At last she had sunk down on a stone,
and had reflected on all the events of the last few hours, and on what
she had to do next.  She could look back dreamily on the past, and build
castles in the air in a blue-skyed future-this was easy enough; but she
did not find it easy to reflect with due deliberation, and to think in
earnest.  Only one thing was perfectly clear to her: she would rather
starve and die of thirst, and shame, and misery-nay, she would rather be
the instrument of her own death, than return to her husband.  She knew
that she must in the first instance expect ill-usage, scorn, and
imprisonment in a dark room at the Gaul's hands; but all that seemed to
her far more endurable than the tenderness with which he from time to
time approached her.  When she thought of that, she shuddered and
clenched her white teeth, and doubled her fists so tightly that her nails
cut the flesh.  But what was she to do?  If Hermas were to meet her?  And
yet what help could she look for from him, for what was he but a mere
lad, and the thought of linking her life to his, if only for a day,
appeared to her foolish and ridiculous.

Certainly she felt no inclination to repent or to blame herself; still it
had been a great folly on her part to call him into the house for the
sake of amusing herself with him.

Then she recollected the severe punishment she had once suffered,
because, when she was still quite little, and without meaning any harm,
she had taken her father's water-clock to pieces, and had spoiled it.

She felt that she was very superior to Hermas, and her position was now
too grave a one for her to feel inclined to play any more.  She thought
indeed of Petrus and Dorothea, but she could only reach them by going
back to the oasis, and then she feared to be discovered by Phoebicius.

If Polykarp now could only meet her on his way back from Raithu; but the
road she had just quitted did not lead from thence, but to the gate-way
that lay more to the southwards.

The senator's son loved her--of that she was sure, for no one else had
ever looked into her eyes with such deep delight, or such tender
affection; and he was no inexperienced boy, but a right earnest man,
whose busy and useful life now appeared to her in a quite different light
to that in which she had seen it formerly.  How willingly now would she
have allowed herself to be supported and guided by Polykarp!  But how
could she reach him?  No--even from him there was nothing to be expected;
she must rely upon her own strength, and she decided that so soon as the
morning should blush, and the sun begin to mount in the cloudless sky,
she would keep herself concealed during the day, among the mountains, and
then as evening came on, she would go down to the sea, and endeavor to
get on board a vessel to Klysma and thence reach Alexandria.  She wore a
ring with a finely cut onyx on her finger, elegant ear-rings in her ears,
and on her left arm a bracelet.  These jewels were of virgin gold, and
besides these she had with her a few silver coins and one large gold
piece, that her father had given her as token out of his small store,
when she had quitted him for Rome, and that she had hitherto preserved
as carefully as if it were a talisman.

She pressed the token, which was sewn into a little bag, to her lips, and
thought of her paternal home, and her brothers and sisters.

Meanwhile the sun mounted higher and higher: she wandered from rock to
rock in search of a shady spot and a spring of water, but none was to be
found, and she was tormented with violent thirst and aching hunger.  By
mid-day the strips of shade too had vanished, where she had found shelter
from the rays of the sun, which now beat down unmercifully on her un
protected head.  Her forehead and neck began to tingle violently, and she
fled before the burning beams like a soldier before the shafts of his
pursuer.  Behind the rocks which hemmed in the plateau on which Paulus
met her, at last, when she was quite exhausted, she found a shady
resting-place.  The greyhound lay panting in her lap, and held up its
broken paw, which she had carefully bound up in the morning when she had
first sat down to rest, with a strip of stuff that she had torn with the
help of her teeth from her under-garment.  She now bound it up afresh,
and nursed the little creature, caressing it like an infant.  The dog was
as wretched and suffering as herself, and besides it was the only being
that, in spite of her helplessness, she could cherish and be dear to.
But ere long she lost the power even to speak caressing words or to stir
a hand to stroke the dog.  It slipped off her lap and limped away, while
she sat staring blankly before her, and at last forgot her sufferings in
an uneasy slumber, till she was roused by Iambe's barking and the
Alexandrian's footstep.  Almost half-dead, her mouth parched and brain on
fire, while her thoughts whirled in confusion, she believed that
Phoebicius had found her track, and was come to seize her.  She had
already noted the deep precipice to the edge of which she now fled, fully
resolved to fling herself over into the depths below, rather than to
surrender herself prisoner.

Paulus had rescued her from the fall, but now--as he came up to her with
two pieces of stone which were slightly hollowed, so that he had been
able to bring some fresh water in them, and which he held level with
great difficulty, walking with the greatest care--he thought that
inexorable death had only too soon returned to claim the victim he had
snatched from him, for Sirona's head hung down upon her breast, her face
was sunk towards her lap, and at the back of her head, where her abundant
hair parted into two flowing tresses, Paulus observed on the snowy neck
of the insensible woman a red spot which the sun must have burnt there.

His whole soul was full of compassion for the young, fair, and unhappy
creature, and, while he took hold of her chin, which had sunk on her
bosom, lifted her white face, and moistened her forehead and lips with
water, he softly prayed for her salvation.

The shallow cavity of the stones only offered room for a very small
quantity of the refreshing moisture, and so he was obliged to return
several times to the spring.  While he was away the dog remained by his
mistress, and would now lick her hand, now put his sharp little nose
close up to her mouth, and examine her with an anxious expression, as if
to ascertain her state of health.

When Paulus had gone the first time to fetch some water for Sirona he had
found the dog by the side of the spring, and he could not help thinking,
"The unreasoning brute has found the water without a guide while his
mistress is dying of thirst.  Which is the wiser--the man or the brute?"
The little dog on his part strove to merit the anchorite's good feelings
towards him, for, though at first he had barked at him, he now was very
friendly to him, and looked him in the face from time to time as though
to ask, "Do you think she will recover?"

Paulus was fond of animals, and understood the little dog's language.
When Sirona's lips began to move and to recover their rosy color, he
stroked Iambe's smooth sharp head, and said, as he held a leaf that he
had curled up to hold some water to Sirona's lips, "Look, little fellow,
how she begins to enjoy it!  A little more of this, and again a little
more.  She smacks her lips as if I were giving her sweet Falernian.  I
will go and fill the stone again; you stop here with her, I shall be back
again directly, but before I return she will have opened her eyes; you
are pleasanter to look upon than a shaggy old graybeard, and she will be
better pleased to see you than me when she awakes."  Paulus' prognosis
was justified, for when he returned to Sirona with a fresh supply of
water she was sitting upright; she rubbed her open eyes, stretched her
limbs, clasped the greyhound in both arms, and burst into a violent flood
of tears.

The Alexandrian stood aside motionless, so as not to disturb her,
thinking to himself:

"These tears will wash away a large part of her suffering from her soul."

When at last she was calmer, and began to dry her eyes, he went up to
her, offered her the stone cup of water, and spoke to her kindly.  She
drank with eager satisfaction, and ate the last bit of bread that he
could find in the pocket of his garment, soaking it in the water.  She
thanked him with the childlike sweetness that was peculiar to her, and
then tried to rise, and willingly allowed him to support her.  She was
still very weary, and her head ached, but she could stand and walk.

As soon as Paulus had satisfied himself that she had no symptoms Of
fever, he said, "Now, for to-day, you want nothing more but a warm mess
of food, and a bed sheltered from the night-chill; I will provide both.
You sit down here; the rocks are already throwing long shadows, and
before the sun disappears behind the mountain I will return.  While I am
away, your four-footed companion here will while away the time."

He hastened down to the spring with quick steps; close to it was the
abandoned cave which he had counted on inhabiting instead of his former
dwelling.  He found it after a short search, and in it, to his great joy,
a well preserved bed of dried plants, which he soon shook up and relaid,
a hearth, and wood proper for producing fire by friction, a water-jar,
and in a cellar-like hole, whose opening was covered with stones and so
concealed from any but a practised eye, there were some cakes of hard
bread, and several pots.  In one of these were some good dates, in
another gleamed some white meal, a third was half full of sesame-oil, and
a fourth held some salt.

"How lucky it is," muttered the anchorite, as he quitted the cave, "that
the old anchorite was such a glutton."

By the time he returned to Sirona, the sun was going down.

There was something in the nature and demeanor of Paulus, which made all
distrust of him impossible, and Sirona was ready to follow him, but she
felt so weak that she could scarcely support herself on her feet.

"I feel," she said, "as if I were a little child, and must begin again to
learn to walk."

"Then let me be your nurse.  I knew a Spartan dame once, who had a beard
almost as rough as mine.  Lean confidently on me, and before we go down
the slope, we will go up and down the level here two or three times."
She took his arm, and he led her slowly up and down.

It vividly recalled a picture of the days of his youth, and he remembered
a day when his sister, who was recovering from a severe attack of fever,
was first allowed to go out into the open air.  She had gone out,
clinging to his arm into the peristyle of his father's house; as he
walked backward and forwards with poor, weary, abandoned Sirona, his
neglected figure seemed by degrees to assume the noble aspect of a high-
born Greek; and instead of the rough, rocky soil, he felt as if he were
treading the beautiful mosaic pavement of his father's court.  Paulus was
Menander again, and if there was little in the presence of the recluse,
which could recall his identity with the old man he had trodden down, the
despised anchorite felt, while the expelled and sinful woman leaned on
his arm, the same proud sense of succoring a woman, as when he was the
most distinguished youth of a metropolis, and when he had led forward the
master's much courted daughter in the midst of a shouting troop of
slaves.

Sirona had to remind Paulus that night was coming on, and was startled,
when the hermit removed her hand from his arm with ungentle haste, and
called to her to follow him with a roughness that was quite new to him.
She obeyed, and wherever it was necessary to climb over the rocks, he
supported and lifted her, but he only spoke when she addressed him.

When they had reached their destination, he showed her the bed, and
begged her to keep awake, till he should have prepared a dish of warm
food for her, and he shortly brought her a simple supper, and wished her
a good night's rest, after she had taken it.

Sirona shared the bread and the salted meal-porridge with her dog, and
then lay down on the couch, where she sank at once into a deep, dreamless
sleep, while Paulus passed the night sitting by the hearth.

He strove to banish sleep by constant prayer, but fatigue frequently
overcame him, and he could not help thinking of the Gaulish lady, and of
the many things, which if only he were still the rich Menander, he would
procure in Alexandria for her and for her comfort.  Not one prayer could
he bring to its due conclusion, for either his eyes closed before he came
to the "Amen," or else worldly images crowded round him, and forced him
to begin his devotions again from the beginning, when he had succeeded in
recollecting himself.  In this half-somnolent state he obtained not one
moment of inward collectedness, of quiet reflection; not even when he
gazed up at the starry heavens, or looked down on the oasis, veiled in
night, where many others like himself were deserted by sleep.  Which of
the citizens could it be that was watching by that light which he saw
glimmering down there in unwonted brightness?--till he himself,
overpowered by fatigue, fell asleep.



ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Overlooks his own fault in his feeling of the judge's injustice





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