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Title: Homo Sum — 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 "Homo Sum — Volume 02" ***

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HOMO SUM

By Georg Ebers

Volume 2.


CHAPTER V.

Thanks to the senator's potion Stephanus soon fell asleep.  Paulus sat
near him and did not stir; he held his breath, and painfully suppressed
even an impulse to cough, so as not to disturb the sick man's light
slumbers.

An hour after midnight the old man awoke, and after he had lain
meditating for some time with his eyes open, he said thoughtfully: "You
called yourself and us all egotistic, and I certainly am so.  I have
often said so to myself; not for the first time to day, but for weeks
past, since Hermas came back from Alexandria, and seems to have forgotten
how to laugh.  He is not happy, and when I ask myself what is to become
of him when I am dead, and if he turns from the Lord and seeks the
pleasures of the world, my heart sickens.  I meant it for the best when
I brought him with me up to the Holy Mountain, but that was not the only
motive--it seemed to me too hard to part altogether from the child.
My God! the young of brutes are secure of their mother's faithful love,
and his never asked for him when she fled from my house with her seducer.
I thought he should at least not lose his father, and that if he grew up
far away from the world he would be spared all the sorrow that it had so
profusely heaped upon me, I would have brought him up fit for Heaven, and
yet through a life devoid of suffering.  And now--and now?  If he is
miserable it will be through me, and added to all my other troubles comes
this grief."

"You have sought out the way for him," interrupted Paulus, "and the rest
will be sure to come; he loves you and will certainly not leave you so
long as you are suffering."

"Certainly not?" asked the sick man sadly.  "And what weapons has he to
fight through life with?"

"You gave him the Saviour for a guide; that is enough," said Paulus
soothingly.  "There is no smooth road from earth to Heaven, and none can
win salvation for another."

Stephanus was silent for a long time, then he said: "It is not even
allowed to a father to earn the wretched experience of life for his son,
or to a teacher for his pupil.  We may point out the goal, but the way
thither is by a different road for each of us."

"And we may thank God for that," cried Paulus.  "For Hermas has been
started on the road which you and I had first to find for ourselves."

"You and I," repeated the sick man thoughtfully.  "Yes, each of us has
sought his own way, but has enquired only which was his own way, and has
never concerned himself about that of the other.  Self! self!--How many
years we have dwelt close together, and I have never felt impelled to ask
you what you could recall to mind about your youth, and how you were led
to grace.  I learnt by accident that you were an Alexandrian, and had
been a heathen, and had suffered much for the faith, and with that I was
satisfied.  Indeed you do not seem very ready to speak of those long past
days.  Our neighbor should be as dear to us as our self, and who is
nearer to me than you?  Aye, self and selfishness!  There are many gulfs
on the road towards God."

"I have not much to tell," said Paulus.  "But a man never forgets what
he once has been.  We may cast the old man from us, and believe we have
shaken ourselves free, when lo! it is there again and greets us as an old
acquaintance.  If a frog only once comes down from his tree he hops back
into the pond again."

"It is true, memory can never die!" cried the sick man.  "I can not sleep
any more; tell me about your early life and how you became a Christian.
When two men have journeyed by the same road, and the moment of parting
is at hand, they are fain to ask each other's name and where they came
from."

Paulus gazed for some time into space, and then he began: "The companions
of my youth called me Menander, the son of Herophilus.  Besides that, I
know for certain very little of my youth, for as I have already told you,
I have long since ceased to allow myself to think of the world.  He who
abandons a thing, but clings to the idea of the thing, continues--"

"That sounds like Plato," said Stephanus with a smile.

"All that heathen farrago comes back to me today," cried Paulus.  "I used
to know it well, and I have often thought that his face must have
resembled that of the Saviour."

"But only as a beautiful song might resemble the voice of an angel," said
Stephanus somewhat drily.  "He who plunges into the depths of philosophic
systems--"

"That never was quite my case," said Paulus.  "I did indeed go through
the whole educational course; Grammar, Rhetoric, Dialectic and Music--"

"And  Arithmetic,  Geometry, and Astronomy," added Stephanus.

"Those were left to the learned many years since," continued Paulus,
"and I was never very eager for learning.  In the school of Rhetoric I
remained far behind my fellows, and if Plato was dear to me I owe it to
Paedonomus of Athens, a worthy man whom my father engaged to teach us."

"They say he had been a great merchant," interrupted Stephanus.  "Can it
be that you were the son of that rich Herophilus, whose business in
Antioch was conducted by the worthy Jew Urbib?"

"Yes indeed," replied Paulus, looking down at the ground in some
confusion.  "Our mode of life was almost royal, and the multitude of our
slaves quite sinful.  When I look back on all the vain trifles that my
father had to care for, I feel quite giddy.  Twenty sea-going ships in
the harbor of Eunostus, and eighty Nile-boats on Lake Mareotis belonged
to him.  His profits on the manufacture of papyrus might have maintained
a cityfull of poor.  But we needed our revenues for other things.  Our
Cyraenian horses stood in marble stalls, and the great hall, in which my
father's friends were wont to meet, was like a temple.  But you see how
the world takes possession of us, when we begin to think about it!
Rather let us leave the past in peace.  You want me to tell you more of
myself?  Well; my childhood passed like that of a thousand other rich
citizens' sons, only my mother, indeed, was exceptionally beautiful and
sweet, and of angelic goodness."

"Every child thinks his own mother the best of mothers," murmured the
sick man.

"Mine certainly was the best to me," cried Paulus.  "And yet she was a
heathen.  When my father hurt me with severe words of blame, she always
had a kind word and loving glance for me.  There was little enough,
indeed, to praise in me.  Learning was utterly distasteful to me, and
even if I had done better at school, it would hardy have counted for much
to my credit, for my brother Apollonius, who was about a year younger
than I, learned all the most difficult things as if they were mere
child's play, and in dialectic exercises there soon was no rhetorician in
Alexandria who could compete with him.  No system was unknown to him, and
though no one ever knew of his troubling himself particularly to study,
he nevertheless was master of many departments of learning.  There were
but two things in which I could beat him--in music, and in all athletic
exercises; while he was studying and disputing I was winning garlands in
the palaestra.  But at that time the best master of rhetoric and argument
was the best man, and my father, who himself could shine in the senate as
an ardent and elegant orator, looked upon me as a half idiotic ne'er-do-
weel, until one clay a learned client of our house presented him with a
pebble on which was carved an epigram to this effect: 'He who would see
the noblest gifts of the Greek race, should visit the house of
Herophilus, for there he might admire strength and vigor of body in
Menander, and the same qualities of mind in Apollonius.'  These lines,
which were written in the form of a lute, passed from mouth to mouth, and
gratified my father's ambition; from that time he had words of praise for
me when my quadriga won the race in the Hippodrome, or when I came home
crowned from the wrestling-ring, or the singing match.  My whole life was
spent in the baths and the palaestra, or in gay feasting."

"I know it all," exclaimed Stephanus interrupting him, "and the memory of
it all often disturbs me.  Did you find it easy to banish these images
from your mind?"

"At first I had a hard fight," sighed Paulus.  "But for some time now,
since I have passed my fortieth year, the temptations of the world
torment me less often.  Only I must keep out of the way of the carriers
who bring fish from the fishing towns on the sea, and from Raithu to the
oasis."

Stephanus looked enquiringly at the speaker, and Paulus went on: "Yes, it
is very strange.  I may see men or women--the sea yonder or the mountain
here, without ever thinking of Alexandria, but only of sacred things; but
when the savor of fish rises up to my nostrils I see the market and fish
stalls and the oysters--"

"Those of Kanopus are famous," interrupted Steplianus, "they make little
pasties there--"Paulus passed the back of his hand over his bearded lips,
exclaiming, "At the shop of the fat cook--Philemon--in the street of
Herakleotis."  But he broke off, and cried with an impulse of shame, "It
were better that I should cease telling of my past life.  The day does
not dawn yet, and you must try to sleep."

"I cannot sleep," sighed Stephanus; "if you love me go on with your
story."

"But do not interrupt me again then," said Paulus, and he went on:
"With all this gay life I was not happy--by no means.  When I was alone
sometimes, and no longer sitting in the crowd of merry boon-companions
and complaisant wenches, emptying the wine cup and crowned with poplar,
I often felt as if I were walking on the brink of a dark abyss as if
every thing in myself and around me were utterly hollow and empty.  I
could stand gazing for hours at the sea, and as the waves rose only to
sink again and vanish, I often reflected that I was like them, and that
the future of my frivolous present must be a mere empty nothing.  Our
gods were of little account with us.  My mother sacrificed now in one
temple, and now in another, according to the needs of the moment; my
father took part in the high festivals, but he laughed at the belief of
the multitude, and my brother talked of the 'Primaeval Unity,' and dealt
with all sorts of demons, and magic formulas.  He accepted the doctrine
of Iamblichus, Ablavius, and the other Neoplatonic philosophers, which to
my poor understanding seemed either superhumanly profound or else
debasingly foolish; nevertheless my memory retains many of his sayings,
which I have learned to understand here in my loneliness.  It is vain to
seek reason outside ourselves; the highest to which we can attain is for
reason to behold itself in us!  As often as the world sinks into
nothingness in my soul, and I live in God only, and have Him, and
comprehend Him, and feel Him only--then that doctrine recurs to me.  How
all these fools sought and listened everywhere for the truth which was
being proclaimed in their very ears!  There were Christians everywhere
about me, and at that time they had no need to conceal themselves, but I
had nothing to do with them.  Twice only did they cross my path; once I
was not a little annoyed when, on the Hippodrome, a Christian's horses
which had been blessed by a Nazarite, beat mine; and on another occasion
it seemed strange to me when I myself received the blessing of an old
Christian dock-laborer, having pulled his son out of the water.

"Years went on; my parents died.  My mother's last glance was directed at
me, for I had always been her favorite child.  They said too that I was
like her, I and my sister Arsinoe, who, soon after my father's death,
married the Prefect Pompey.  At the division of the property I gave up to
my brother the manufactories and the management of the business, nay even
the house in the city, though, as the elder brother, I had a right to it,
and I took in exchange the land near the Kanopic gate, and filled the
stables there with splendid horses, and the lofts with not less noble
wine.  This I needed, because I gave up the days to baths and contests in
the arena, and the nights to feasting, sometimes at my own house,
sometimes at a friend's, and sometimes in the taverns of Kanopus, where
the fairest Greek girls seasoned the feasts with singing and dancing.

"What have these details of the vainest worldly pleasure to do with my
conversion, you will ask.  But listen a while.  When Saul went forth to
seek his father's asses he found a crown.

"One day we had gone out in our gilded boats, and the Lesbian girl
Archidike had made ready a feast for us in her house, a feast such as
could scarcely be offered even in Rome.

"Since the taking of our city by Diocletian, after the insurrection of
Achilleus, the Imperial troops who came to Alexandria behaved insolently
enough.  Between some of my friends, and certain of the young officers of
Roman patrician families, there had been a good deal of rough banter for
some months past, as to their horses, women--I know not what; and it
happened that we met these very gentry at the house of Archidike.

"Sharp speeches were made, which the soldiers replied to after their
fashion, and at last they came to insulting words, and as the wine heated
us and them, to loud threats.

"The Romans left the house of entertainment before we did.  Crowned with
garlands, singing, and utterly careless, we followed soon after them, and
had almost reached the quay, when a noisy troop rushed out of a side
street, and fell upon us with naked weapons.  The moon was high in the
heavens, and I could recognize some of our adversaries.  I threw myself
on a tall tribune, throttled him, and, as he fell, I fell with him in the
dust.  I am but dimly conscious of what followed, for sword-strokes were
showered upon me, and all grew black before my eyes.  I only know what I
thought then, face to face with death."

"Well--?" asked Stephanus.

"I thought," said Paulus reddening, "of my fighting-quails at
Alexandria, and whether they had had any water.  Then my dull heavy
unconsciousness increased; for weeks I lay in that state, for I was
hacked like sausage-meat; I had twelve wounds, not counting the slighter
ones, and any one else would have died of any one of them.  You have
often wondered at my scars."

"And whom did the Lord choose then to be the means of your salvation?"

"When I recovered my senses," continued Paulus, "I was lying in a large,
clean room behind a curtain of light material; I could not raise myself,
but just as if I had been sleeping so many minutes instead of days, I
thought again directly of my quails.  In their last fight my best cock
had severely handled handsome Nikander's, and yet he wanted to dispute
the stakes with me, but I would assert my rights!  At least the quails
should fight again, and if Nikander should refuse I would force him to
fight me with his fists in the Palaestra, and give him a blue reminder of
his debt on the eye.  My hands were still weak, and yet I clenched them
as I thought of the vexatious affair.  'I will punish him,' I muttered to
myself.

"Then I heard the door of the room open, and I saw three men respectfully
approaching a fourth.  He greeted them with dignity, but yet with
friendliness, and rolled up a scroll which he had been reading, I would
have called out, but I could not open my parched lips, and yet I saw and
heard all that was going on around me in the room.

"It all seemed strange enough to me then; even the man's mode of greeting
was unusual.  I soon perceived that he who sat in the chair was a judge,
and that the others had come as complainants; they were all three old and
poor, but some good men had left them the use and interest of a piece of
land.  During seed-time one of them, a fine old man with long white hair,
had been ill, and he had not been able to help in the harvest either;
'and now they want to withhold his portion of the corn,' thought I; but
it was quite otherwise.  The two men who were in health had taken a third
part of the produce to the house of the sick man, and he obstinately
refused to accept the corn because he had helped neither to sow nor to
reap it, and he demanded of the judge that he should signify to the other
two that he had no right to receive goods which he had not earned.

"The judge had so far kept silence.  But he now raised his sagacious and
kindly face and asked the old man, 'Did you pray for your companions and
for the increase of their labors?'

"'I did,' replied the other.

"'Then by your intercession you helped them,' the judge decided, 'and the
third part of the produce is yours and you must keep it.'

"The old man bowed, the three men shook hands, and in a few minutes the
judge was alone in the room again.

"I did not know what had come over me; the complaint of the men and the
decision of the judge seemed to me senseless, and yet both the one and
the other touched my heart.  I went to sleep again, and when I awoke
refreshed the next morning the judge came up to me and gave me medicine,
not only for my body but also for my soul, which certainly was not less
in need of it than my poor wounded limbs."

"Who was the judge?" asked Stephanus.

"Eusebius, the Presbyter of Kanopus.  Some Christians had found me half
dead on the road, and had carried me into his house, for the widow
Theodora, his sister, was the deaconess of the town.  The two had nursed
me as if I were their dearest brother.  It was not till I grew stronger
that they showed me the cross and the crown of thorns of Him who for my
sake also had taken upon Him such far more cruel suffering than mine, and
they taught me to love His wounds, and to bear my own with submission.
In the dry wood of despair soon budded green shoots of hope, and instead
of annihilation at the end of this life they showed me Heaven and all its
joys.

"I became a new man, and before me there lay in the future an eternal and
blessed existence; after this life I now learned to look forward to
eternity.  The gates of Heaven were wide open before me, and I was
baptized at Kanopus.

"In Alexandria they had mourned for me as dead, and my sister Arsinoe, as
heiress to my property, had already moved into my country-house with her
husband, the prefect.  I willingly left her there, and now lived again in
the city, in order to support the brethren, as the persecutions had begun
again.

"This was easy for me, as through my brother-in-law I could visit all the
prisons; at last I was obliged to confess the faith, and I suffered much
on the rack and in the porphyry quarries; but every pain was dear to me,
for it seemed to bring me nearer to the goal of my longings, and if I
find ought to complain of up here on the Holy Mountain, it is only that
the Lord deems me unworthy to suffer harder things, when his beloved and
only Son took such bitter torments on himself for me and for every
wretched sinner."

"Ah! saintly man!" murmured Stephanus, devoutly kissing Paulus' sheep-
skin; but Paulus pulled it from him, exclaiming hastily:

"Cease, pray cease--he who approaches me with honors now in this life
throws a rock in my way to the life of the blessed.  Now I will go to the
spring and fetch you some fresh water."

When Paulus returned with the water-jar he found Hermas, who had come to
wish his father good-morning before he went down to the oasis to fetch
some new medicine from the senator.



CHAPTER VI.

Sirona was sitting at the open window of her bedroom, having her hair
arranged by a black woman that her husband had bought in Rome.  She
sighed, while the slave lightly touched the shining tresses here and
there with perfumed oil which she had poured into the palm of her hand;
then she firmly grasped the long thick waving mass of golden hair and was
parting it to make a plait, when Sirona stopped her, saying, "Give me the
mirror."

For some minutes she looked with a melancholy gaze at the image in the
polished metal, then she sighed again; she picked up the little greyhound
that lay at her feet, and placing it in her lap, showed the animal its
image in the mirror.

"There, poor Iambe," she said, "if we two, inside these four walls, want
to see anything like a pleasing sight we must look at ourselves."

Then she went on, turning to the slave.  "How the poor little beast
trembles!  I believe it longs to be back again at Arelas, and is afraid
we shall linger too long under this burning sky.  Give me my sandals."

The black woman reached her mistress two little slippers with gilt
ornaments on the slight straps, but Sirona flung her hair off her face
with the back of her hand, exclaiming, "The old ones, not these.  Wooden
shoes even would do here."

And with these words she pointed to the court-yard under the window,
which was in fact as ill contrived, as though gilt sandals had never yet
trodden it.  It was surrounded by buildings; on one side was a wall with
a gateway, and on the others buildings which formed a sharply bent
horseshoe.

Opposite the wing in which Sirona and her husband had found a home stood
the much higher house of Petrus, and both had attached to them, in the
background of the court-yard, sheds constructed of rough reddish brown
stones, and covered with a thatch of palm-branches; in these the
agricultural implements were stored, and the senator's slaves lived.  In
front lay a heap of black charcoal, which was made on the spot by burning
the wood of the thorny sajala species of acacia; and there too lay a
goodly row of well smoothed mill-stones, which were shaped in the quarry,
and exported to Egypt.  At this early hour the whole unlovely domain lay
in deep shadow, and was crowded with fowls and pigeons.  Sirona's window
alone was touched by the morning sun.  If she could have known what a
charm the golden light shed over her figure, on her rose and white face,
and her shining hair, she would have welcomed the day-star, instead of
complaining that it had too early waked her from sleep--her best comfort
in her solitude.

Besides a few adjoining rooms she was mistress of a larger room, the
dwelling room, which look out upon the street.

She shaded her eyes with her hand, exclaiming, "Oh! the wearisome sun.
It looks at us the first thing in the morning through the window; as if
the day were not long enough.  The beds must be put in the front room; I
insist upon it."

The slave shook her head, and stammered an answer, "Phoebicius will not
have it so."

Sirona's eyes flashed angrily, and her voice, which was particularly
sweet, trembled slightly as she asked, "What is wrong with him again?"

"He says," replied the slave, "that the senator's son, Polykarp, goes
oftener past your window than altogether pleases him, and it seems to
him, that you occupy yourself more than is necessary with his little
brothers and sisters, and the other children up there."

"Is he still in there?"  asked Sirona with glowing cheeks, and she
pointed threateningly to the dwelling-room.

"The master is out," stuttered the old woman.  "He went out before
sunrise.  You are not to wait for breakfast, he will not return till
late."

The Gaulish lady made no answer, but her head fell, and the deepest
melancholy overspread her features.  The greyhound seemed to feel for the
troubles of his mistress, for he fawned upon her, as if to kiss her.  The
solitary woman pressed the little creature, which had come with her from
her home, closely to her bosom; for an unwonted sense of wretchedness
weighed upon her heart, and she felt as lonely, friendless, and
abandoned, as if she were driving alone--alone--over a wide and shoreless
sea.  She shuddered, as if she were cold--for she thought of her husband,
the man who here in the desert should have been all in all to her, but
whose presence filled her with aversion, whose indifference had ceased to
wound her, and whose tenderness she feared far more than his wild
irritability--she had never loved him.

She had grown up free from care among a number of brothers and sisters.
Her father had been the chief accountant of the decurions' college in his
native town, and he had lived opposite the circus, where, being of a
stern temper, he had never permitted his daughters to look on at the
games; but he could not prevent their seeing the crowd streaming into the
amphitheatre, or hearing their shouts of delight, and their eager cries
of approbation.

Sirona thus grew up in the presence of other people's pleasure, and in a
constantly revived and never satisfied longing to share it; she had,
indeed, no time for unnecessary occupations, for her mother died before
she was fully grown up, and she was compelled to take charge of the eight
younger children.  This she did in all fidelity, but in her hours of
leisure she loved to listen to the stories told her by the wives of
officials, who had seen, and could praise, the splendors of Rome the
golden.

She knew that she was fair, for she need only go outside the house to
hear it said; but though she longed to see the capital, it was not for
the sake of being admired, but because there was there so much that was
splendid to see and to admire.  So, when the Centurion Phoebicius, the
commandant of the garrison of her native town, was transferred to Rome,
and when he desired to take the seventeen-years-old girl with him to the
imperial city, as his wife--she was more than forty years younger than
he--she followed him full of hope and eager anticipation.

Not long after their marriage she started for Rome by sea from Massilia,
accompanied by an old relative; and he went by land at the head of his
cohorts.

She reached their destination long before her husband, and without
waiting for him, but constantly in the society of her old duenna, she
gave herself up with the freedom and eagerness of her fresh youth to the
delights of seeing and admiring.

It did not escape her, while she did so, that she attracted all eyes
wherever she went, and however much this flattered and pleased her at
first, it spoilt many of her pleasures, when the Romans, young and old,
began to follow and court her.  At last Phoebicius arrived, and when he
found his house crowded with his wife's admirers he behaved to Sirona as
though she had long since betrayed his honor.

Nevertheless he dragged her from pleasure to pleasure, and from one
spectacle to another, for it gratified him to show himself in public with
his beautiful young wife.  She certainly was not free from frivolity, but
she had learnt early from her strict father, as being the guide of her
younger sisters, to distinguish clearly right from wrong, and the pure
from the unclean; and she soon discovered that the joys of the capital,
which had seemed at first to be gay flowers with bright colors, and
redolent with intoxicating perfume, bloomed on the surface of a foul bog.

She at first had contemplated all that was beautiful, pleasant, and
characteristic with delight; but her husband took pleasure only in things
which revolted her as being common and abominable.  He watched her every
glance, and yet he pointed nothing out to her, but what was hurtful to
the feelings of a pure woman.  Pleasure became her torment, for the
sweetest wine is repulsive when it has been tasted by impure lips.
After every feast and spectacle he loaded her with outrageous reproaches,
and when at last, weary of such treatment, she refused to quit the house,
he obliged her nevertheless to accompany him as often as the Legate
Quintillus desired it.  The legate was his superior-officer, and he sent
her every day some present or flowers.

Up to this time she had borne with him, and had tried to excuse him, and
to think herself answerable for much of what she endured.  But at last--
about ten months after her marriage--something occurred between her and
Phoebicius--something which stood like a wall of brass between him and
her; and as this something had led to his banishment to the remote oasis,
and to his degradation to the rank of captain of a miserable maniple,
instead of his obtaining his hoped for promotion, he began to torment her
systematically while she tried to protect herself by icy coldness, so
that at last it came to this, that the husband, for whom she felt nothing
but contempt, had no more influence on her life, than some physical pain
which a sick man is doomed to endure all through his existence.

In his presence she was silent, defiant, and repellent, but as soon as he
quitted her, her innate, warm-hearted kindliness and child-like merriment
woke up to new life, and their fairest blossoms opened out in the
senator's house among the little troop who amply repaid her love with
theirs.

Phoebicius belonged to the worshippers of Mithras, and he often fasted
in his honor to the point of exhaustion, while on the other hand he
frequently drank with his boon companions, at the feasts of the god,
till he was in a state of insensibility.

Here even, in Mount Sinai, he had prepared a grotto for the feast of
Mithras, had gathered together a few companions in his faith, and when it
happened that he remained out all day and all night, and came home paler
even than usual, she well knew where he had been.  Just now she vividly
pictured to herself the person of this man with his eyes, that now were
dull with sleep and now glowed with rage, and she asked herself whether
it were indeed possible that of her own free will she had chosen to
become his wife.  Her bosom heaved with quicker breathing as she
remembered the ignominy he had subjected her to in Rome, and she clenched
her small hands.  At this instant the little dog sprang from her lap and
flew barking to the window-sill; she was easily startled, and she drew on
her morning-gown, which had slipped from her white shoulders; then she
fastened the straps of her sandals, and went to look down into the court-
yard.

A smile played upon her lips as she perceived young Hermas, who had
already been for some time leaning motionless against the wall of the
house opposite, and devouring with his gaze the figure of the beautiful
young woman.  She had a facile and volatile nature.  Like the eye which
retains no impression of the disabling darkness so soon as the rays of
light have fallen on it, no gloom of suffering touched her so deeply that
the lightest breath of a new pleasure could not blow her troubles to the
winds.  Many rivers are quite different in color at their source and at
their mouth, and so it was often with her tears; she began to weep for
sorrow, and then found it difficult to dry her eyes for sheer overflow of
mirth.  It would have been so easy for Phoebicius to make her lot a fair
one! for she had a most susceptible heart, and was grateful for the
smallest proofs of love, but between him and her every bond was broken.

The form and face of Hermas took her fancy; she thought he looked of
noble birth in spite of his poor clothing, and when she observed that his
checks were glowing, and that the hand in which he held the medicine
phial trembled, she understood that he was watching her, and that the
sight of her had stirred his youthful blood.  A woman--still more a woman
who is pleased to please--forgives any sin that is committed for her
beauty's sake, and Sirona's voice had a friendly ring in it as she bid
Hermas good-morning and asked him how his father was, and whether the
senator's medicine had been of service.  The youth's answers were short
and confused, but his looks betrayed that he would fain have said quite
other things than those which his indocile tongue allowed him to
reiterate timidly.

"Dame Dorothea was telling me last evening," she said kindly, "that
Petrus had every hope of your father's recovery, but that he is still
very weak.  Perhaps some good wine would be of service to him--not
to-day, but to-morrow or the day after.  Only come to me if you need it;
we have some old Falerman in the loft, and white Mareotis wine, which is
particularly good and wholesome."

Hermas thanked her, and as she still urged him to apply to her in all
confidence, he took courage and succeeded in stammering rather than
saying,--"You are as good as you are beautiful."

The words were hardly spoken when the topmost stone of an elaborately
constructed pile near the slaves' house fell down with a loud clatter.
Sirona started and drew back from the window, the grey-hound set up a
loud barking, and Hermas struck his forehead with his hand as if he were
roused from a dream.

In a few instants he had knocked at the senator's door; hardly had he
entered the house when Miriam's slight form passed across behind the pile
of stones, and vanished swiftly and silently into the slaves' quarters.
These were by this time deserted by their inhabitants, who were busy in
the field, the house, or the quarries; they consisted of a few ill-
lighted rooms with bare, unfinished walls.

The shepherdess went into the smallest, where, on a bed of palm-sticks,
lay the slave that she had wounded, and who turned over as with a hasty
hand she promptly laid a fresh, but ill-folded bandage, all askew on the
deep wound in his bend.  As soon as this task was fulfilled she left the
room again, placed herself behind the half open door which led into the
court-yard, and, pressing, her brow against the stone door-post, looked
first at the senator's house, and then at Sirona's window, while her
breath came faster and faster.

A new and violent emotion was stirring her young soul; not many minutes
since she had squatted peacefully on the ground by the side of the
wounded man, with her head resting on her hand, and thinking of her goats
on the mountain.  Then she had heard a slight sound in the court, which
any one else would not have noticed; but she not only perceived it, but
knew with perfect certainty with whom it originated.  She could never
fail to recognize Hermas' foot-step, and it had an irresistible effect
upon her.  She raised her head quickly from her hand, and her elbow from
the knee on which it was resting, sprang to her feet, and went out into
the yard.  She was hidden by the mill-stones, but she could see Hermas
lost in admiration.  She followed the direction of his eyes and saw the
same image which had fascinated his gaze--Sirona's lovely form, flooded
with sunlight.  She looked as if formed out of snow, and roses, and gold,
like the angel at the sepulchre in the new picture in the church.  Yes,
just like the angel, and the thought flew through her mind how brown and
black she was herself, and that he had called her a she-devil.  A sense
of deep pain came over her, she felt as though paralyzed in body and
soul; but soon she shook off the spell, and her heart began to beat
violently; she had to bite her lip hard with her white teeth to keep
herself from crying out with rage and anguish.

How she wished that she could swing herself up to the window on which
Hermas' gaze was fixed, and clutch Sirona's golden hair and tear her down
to the ground, and suck the very blood from her red lips like a vampire,
till she lay at her feet as pale as the corpse of a man dead of thirst in
the desert.  Then she saw the light mantle slip from Sirona's shoulders,
and observed Hermas start and press his hand to his heart.

Then another impulse seized her.  It was to call to her and warn her of
his presence; for even women who hate each other hold out the hand of
fellowship in the spirit, when the sanctity of woman's modesty is
threatened with danger.  She blushed for Sirona, and had actually opened
her lips to call, when the greyhound barked and the dialogue began.  Not
a word escaped her sharp ears, and when he told Sirona that she was as
good as she was beautiful she felt seized with giddiness; then the
topmost stone, by which she had tried to steady herself, lost its
balance, its fall interrupted their conversation, and Miriam returned to
the sick man.

Now she was standing at the door, waiting for Hermas.  Long, long did she
wait; at last he appeared with Dorothea, and she could see that he
glanced up again at Sirona; but a spiteful smile passed over her lips,
for the window was empty and the fair form that he had hoped to see again
had vanished.

Sirona was now sitting at her loom in the front room, whither she had
been tempted by the sound of approaching hoofs.  Polykarp had ridden by
on his father's fine horse, had greeted her as he passed, and had dropped
a rose on the roadway.  Half an hour later the old black slave came to
Sirona, who was throwing the shuttle through the warp with a skilful
hand.

"Mistress," cried the negress with a hideous grin; the lonely woman
paused in her work, and as she looked up enquiringly the old woman gave
her a rose.  Sirona took the flower, blew away the road-side dust that
had clung to it, rearranged the tumbled delicate petals with her finger-
tips, and said, while she seemed to give the best part of her attention
to this occupation, "For the future let roses be when you find them.  You
know Phoebicius, and if any one sees it, it will be talked about."

The black woman turned away, shrugging her shoulders; but Sirona thought,
"Polykarp is a handsome and charming man, and has finer and more
expressive eyes than any other here, if he were not always talking of his
plans, and drawings, and figures, and mere stupid grave things that I do
not care for!"



CHAPTER VII.

The next day, after the sun had passed the meridian and it was beginning
to grow cool, Hermas and Paulus yielded to Stephanus' wish, as he began
to feel stronger, and carried him out into the air.  The anchorites sat
near each other on a low block of stone, which Hermas had made into a
soft couch for his father by heaping up a high pile of fresh herbs.
They looked after the youth, who had taken his bow and arrows, as he
went up the mountain to hunt a wild goat; for Petrus had prescribed a
strengthening diet for the sick man.  Not a word was spoken by either of
them till the hunter had disappeared.  Then Stephanus said, "How much he
has altered since I have been ill.  It is not so very long since I last
saw him by the broad light of day, and he seems meantime to have grown
from a boy into a man.  How self-possessed his gait is."

Paulus, looking down at the ground, muttered some words of assent.  He
remembered the discus-throwing and thought to himself, "The Palaestra
certainly sticks in his mind, and he has been bathing too; and yesterday,
when he came up from the oasis, he strode in like a young athlete."

That friendship only is indeed genuine when two friends, without speaking
a word to each other, can nevertheless find happiness in being together.
Stephanus and Paulus were silent, and yet a tacit intercourse subsisted
between them as they sat gazing towards the west, where the sun was near
its setting.

Far below them gleamed the narrow, dark blue-green streak of the Red Sea,
bounded by the bare mountains of the coast, which shone in a shimmer of
golden light.  Close beside them rose the toothed crown of the great
mountain which, so soon as the day-star had sunk behind it, appeared
edged with a riband of glowing rubies.  The flaming glow flooded the
western horizon, filmy veils of mist floated across the hilly coast-line,
the silver clouds against the pure sky changed their hue to the tender
blush of a newly opened rose, and the undulating shore floated in the
translucent violet of the amethyst.  There not a breath of air was
stirring, not a sound broke the solemn stillness of the evening.  Not
till the sea was taking a darker and still darker hue, till the glow on
the mountain peaks and in the west had begun to die away, and the night
to spread its shades over the heights and hollows, did Stephanus unclasp
his folded hands and softly speak his companion's name.  Paulus started
and said, speaking like a man who is aroused from a dream and who is
suddenly conscious of having heard some one speak, "You are right; it is
growing dark and cool and you must go back into the cave."

Stephanus offered no opposition and let himself be led back to his bed;
while Paulus was spreading the sheepskin over the sick man he sighed
deeply.

"What disturbs your soul?" asked the older man.  "It is--it was--what
good can it do me!" cried Paulus in strong excitement.  "There we sat,
witnesses of the most glorious marvels of the Most High, and I, in
shameless idolatry, seemed to see before me the chariot of Helios with
its glorious winged-horses, snorting fire as they went, and Helios
himself in the guise of Hermas, with gleaming golden hair, and the
dancing Hours, and the golden gates of the night.  Accursed rabble of
demons!--"

At this point the anchorite was interrupted, for Hermas entered the cave,
and laying a young steinbock, that he had killed, before the two men,
exclaimed, "fine fellow, and he cost me no more than one arrow.  I will
light a fire at once and roast the best pieces.  There are plenty of
bucks still on our mountain, and I know where to find them."

In about an hour, father and son were eating the pieces of meat, which
had been cooked on a spit.  Paulus declined to sup with them, for after
he had scourged himself in despair and remorse for the throwing of the
discus, he had vowed a strict fast.

"And now," cried Hermas, when his father declared himself satisfied,
after seeming to relish greatly the strong meat from which he had so long
abstained, "and now the best is to come!  In this flask I have some
strengthening wine, and when it is empty it will be filled afresh."
Stephanus took the wooden beaker that his son offered him, drank a
little, and then said, while he smacked his tongue to relish the after-
taste of the noble juice,  "That is something choice!--Syrian wine! only
taste it, Paulus."

Paulus took the beaker in his hand, inhaled the fragrance of the golden
fluid, and then murmured, but without putting it to his lips, "That is
not Syrian; it is Egyptian, I know it well.  I should take it to be
Mareotic."

"So Sirona called it," cried Hermas, "and you know it by the mere smell!
She said it was particularly good for the sick."

"That it is," Paulus agreed; but Stephanus asked in surprise, "Sirona?
who is she?"

The cave was but dimly lighted by the fire that had been made at the
opening, so that the two anchorites could not perceive that Hermas
reddened all over as he replied, "Sirona?  The Gaulish woman Sirona?  Do
you not know her?  She is the wife of the centurion down in the oasis."

"How do you come to know her?" asked his father.

"She lives in Petrus' house," replied the lad, "and as she had heard of
your wound--"

"Take her my thanks when you go there to-morrow morning," said Stephanus.
To her and to her husband too.  Is he a Gaul?"

"I believe so--nay, certainly," answered Hermas, "they call him the lion,
and he is no doubt a Gaul?"

When the lad had left the cave the old man laid himself down to rest, and
Paulus kept watch by him on his son's bed.  But Stephanus could not
sleep, and when his friend approached him to give him some medicine, he
said, "The wife of a Gaul has done me a kindness, and yet the wine would
have pleased me better if it had not come from a Gaul."

Paulus looked at him enquiringly, and though total darkness reigned in
the cave, Stephanus felt his gaze and said, "I owe no man a grudge and I
love my neighbor.  Great injuries have been done me, but I have for
given--from the bottom of my heart forgiven.  Only one man lives to whom
I wish evil, and he is a Gaul."

"Forgive him too," said Paulus, "and do not let evil thoughts disturb
your sleep."

"I am not tired," said the sick man, "and if you had gone through such
things as I have, it would trouble your rest at night too."

"I know, I know," said Paulus soothingly.  "It was a Gaul that persuaded
your wretched wife into quitting your house and her child."

"And I loved, oh! how I loved Glycera!"  groaned the old man.  "She lived
like a princess and I fulfilled her every wish before it was uttered.
She herself has said a hundred times that I was too kind and too
yielding, and that there was nothing left for her to wish.  Then the Gaul
came to our house, a man as acrid as sour wine, but with a fluent tongue
and sparkling eyes.  How he entangled Glycera I know not, nor do I want
to know; he shall atone for it in hell.  For the poor lost woman I pray
day and night.  A spell was on her, and she left her heart behind in my
house, for her child was there and she loved Hermas so fondly; indeed she
was deeply devoted to me.  Think what the spell must be that can
annihilate a mother's love!  Wretch, hapless wretch that I am!  Did you
ever love a woman, Paulus?"

"You ought to be asleep," said Paulus in a warning tone.  "Who ever lived
nearly half a century without feeling love!  Now I will not speak another
word, and you must take this drink that Petrus has sent for you."  The
senator's medicine was potent, for the sick man fell asleep and did not
wake till broad day lighted up the cave.

Paulus was still sitting on his bed, and after they had prayed together,
he gave him the jar which Hermas had filled with fresh water before going
down to the oasis.

"I feel quite strong," said the old man.  "The medicine is good; I have
slept well and dreamed sweetly; but you look pale and as if you had not
slept."

"I," said Paulus, "I lay down there on the bed.  Now let me go out in the
air for a moment."  With these words he went out of the cave.

As soon as he was out of sight of Stephanus he drew a deep breath,
stretched his limbs, and rubbed his burning eyes; he felt as if there was
sand gathered under their lids, for he had forbidden them to close for
three days and nights.  At the same time he was consumed by a violent
thirst, for neither food nor drink had touched his lips for the same
length of time.  His hands were beginning to tremble, but the weakness
and pain that he experienced filled him with silent joy, and he would
willingly have retired into his cave and have indulged, not for the first
time, in the ecstatic pain of hanging on the cross, and bleeding from
five wounds, in imitation of the Saviour.

But Stephanus was calling him, and without hesitation he returned to him
and replied to his questions; indeed it was easier to him to speak than
to listen, for in his ears there was a roaring, moaning, singing, and
piping, and he felt as if drunk with strong wine.

"If only Hermas does not forget to thank the Gaul!"  exclaimed Stephanus.

"Thank--aye, we should always be thankful!" replied his companion,
closing his eyes.

"I dreamed of Glycera," the old man began again.  You said yesterday that
love had stirred your heart too, and yet you never were married.  You are
silent?  Answer me something."

"I--who called me?" murmured Paulus, staring at the questioner with a
fixed gaze.

Stephanus was startled to see that his companion trembled in every limb,
he raised himself and held out to him the flask with Sirona's wine, which
the other, incapable of controlling himself, snatched eagerly from his
hand, and emptied with frantic thirst.  The fiery liquor revived his
failing strength, brought the color to his cheeks, and lent a strange
lustre to his eyes.  "How much good that has done me!" he cried with a
deep sigh and pressing his hands on his breast.

Stephanus was perfectly reassured and repeated his question, but he
almost repented of his curiosity, for his friend's voice had an utterly
strange ring in it, as he answered:

"No, I was never married--never, but I have loved for all that, and I
will tell you the story from beginning to end; but you must not interrupt
me, no not once.  I am in a strange mood--perhaps it is the wine.  I had
not drunk any for so long; I had fasted since--since but it does not
matter.  Be silent, quite silent, and let me tell my story."

Paulus sat down on Hermas' bed; he threw himself far back, leaned the
back of his head against the rocky wall of the cavern, through whose
doorway the daylight poured, and began thus, while he gazed fixedly into
vacancy, "What she was like?--who can, describe her?  She was tall and
large like Hera, and yet not proud, and her noble Greek face was lovely
rather than handsome.

"She could no longer have been very young, but she had eyes like those of
a gentle child.  I never knew her other than very pale; her narrow
forehead shone like ivory under her soft brown hair; her beautiful hands
were as white as her forehead-hands that moved as if they themselves were
living and inspired creatures with a soul and language of their own.
When she folded them devoutly together it seemed as if they were putting
up a mute prayer.  She was pliant in form as a young palm-tree when it
bends, and withal she had a noble dignity, even on the occasion when I
first saw her.

"It was a hideous spot, the revolting prison-hall of Rhyakotis.  She wore
only a threadbare robe that had once been costly, and a foul old woman
followed her about--as a greedy rat might pursue an imprisoned dove--and
loaded her with abusive language.  She answered not a word, but large
heavy tears flowed slowly over her pale cheeks and down on to her hands,
which she kept crossed on her bosom.  Grief and anguish spoke from her
eyes, but no vehement passion deformed the regularity of her features.
She knew how to endure even ignominy with grace, and what words the
raging old woman poured out upon her!

"I had long since been baptized, and all the prisons were open to me, the
rich Menander, the brother-in-law of the prefect--those prisons in which
under Maximin so many Christians were destined to be turned from the true
faith.

"But she did not belong to us.  Her eye met mine, and I signed my
forehead with the cross, but she did not respond to the sacred sign.  The
guards led away the old woman, and she drew back into a dark corner, sat
down, and covered her face with her hands.  A wondrous sympathy for the
hapless woman had taken possession of my soul; I felt as if she belonged
to me, and I to her, and I believed in her, even when the turnkey had
told me in coarse language that she had lived with a Roman at the old
woman's, and had defrauded her of a large sum of money.  The next day I
went again to the prison, for her sake and my own; there I found her
again in the same corner that she had shrunk into the day before; by her
stood her prison fare untouched, a jar of water and a piece of bread.

"As I went up to her, I saw how she broke a small bit off the thin cake
for herself, and then called a little Christian boy who had come into the
prison with his mother, and gave him the remainder.  The child thanked
her prettily, and she drew him to her, and kissed him with passionate
tenderness, though he was sickly and ugly.

"'No one who can love children so well is wholly lost,' said I to myself,
and I offered to help her as far as lay in my power.

"She looked at me not without distrust, and said that nothing had
happened to her, but what she deserved, and she would bear it.  Before I
could enquire of her any further, we were interrupted by the Christian
prisoners, who crowded around the worthy Ammonius, who was exhorting and
comforting them with edifying discourse.  She listened attentively to the
old man, and on the following day I found her in conversation with the
mother of the boy to whom she had given her bread.

"One morning, I had gone there with some fruit to offer as a treat to the
prisoners, and particularly to her.  She took an apple, and said, rising
as she spoke, 'I would now ask another favor of you.  You are a
Christian, send me a priest, that he may baptize me, if he does not think
me unworthy, for I am burdened with sins so heavily as no other woman can
be.'  Her large, sweet, childlike eyes filled again with big silent
tears, and I spoke to her from my heart, and showed her as well as I
could the grace of the Redeemer.  Shortly after, Ammonius secretly
baptized her, and she begged to be given the name of Magdalen, and so
it was, and after that she took me wholly into her confidence.

"She had left her husband and her child for the sake of a diabolical
seducer, whom she had followed to Alexandria, and who there had abandoned
her.  Alone and friendless, in want and guilt, she remained behind with a
hard-hearted and covetous hostess, who had brought her before the judge,
and so into prison.  What an abyss of the deepest anguish of soul I could
discover in this woman, who was worthy of a better lot!  What is highest
and best in a woman?  Her love, her mother's heart, her honor; and
Magdalen had squandered and ruined all these by her own guilt.  The blow
of overwhelming fate may be easily borne, but woe to him, whose life is
ruined by his own sin!  She was a sinner, she felt it with anguish of
repentance, and she steadily refused my offers to purchase her freedom.

"She was greedy of punishment, as a man in a fever is greedy of the
bitter potion, which cools his blood.  And, by the crucified Lord!  I
have found more noble humanity among sinners, than in many just men in
priestly garb.  Through the presence of Magdalen, the prison recovered
its sanctity in my eyes.  Before this I had frequently quitted it full of
deep contempt, for among the imprisoned Christians, there were too often
lazy vagabond's, who had loudly confessed the Saviour only to be fed by
the gifts of the brethren; there I had seen accursed criminals, who hoped
by a martyr's death to win back the redemption that they had forfeited;
there I had heard the woeful cries of the faint-hearted, who feared death
as much as they feared treason to the most High.  There were things to be
seen there that might harrow the soul, but also examples of the sublimest
greatness.  Men have I seen there, aye, and women, who went to their
death in calm and silent bliss, and whose end was, indeed, noble--more
noble than that of the much-lauded Codrus or Decius Mus.

"Among all the prisoners there was neither man nor woman who was more
calmly self-possessed, more devoutly resigned, than Magdalen.  The words,
'There is more joy in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth than over
ninety and nine that need no repentance,' strengthened her greatly, and
she repented--yea and verily, she did.  And for my part, God is my
witness that not an impulse as from man to woman drew me to her, and yet
I could not leave her, and I passed the day by her side, and at night she
haunted my soul, and it would have seemed to me fairer than all in life
besides to have been allowed to die with her.

"It was at the time of the fourth decree of persecution, a few months
before the promulgation of the first edict of toleration.

"He that sacrifices, it is said, shall go unpunished, and he that
refuses, shall by some means or other be brought to it, but those who
continue stiff-necked shall suffer death.  For a long time much
consideration had been shown to the prisoners, but now they were alarmed
by having the edict read to them anew.  Many hid themselves groaning and
lamenting, others prayed aloud, and most awaited what might happen with
pale lips and painful breathing.

"Magdalen remained perfectly calm.  The names of the Christian prisoners
were called out, and the imperial soldiers led them all together to one
spot.  Neither my name nor hers was called, for I did not belong to the
prisoners, and she had not been apprehended for the faith's sake.  The
officer was rolling up his list, when Magdalen rose and stepped modestly
forward, saying with quiet dignity, 'I too am a Christian.'

"If there be an angel who wears the form and features of man, his face
must resemble hers, as she looked in that hour.  The Roman, a worthy man,
looked at her with a benevolent, but searching gaze.  I do not find your
name here,' he said aloud, shaking his head and pointing to the roll; and
he added in a lower voice, 'Nor do I intend to find it.'

"She went closer up to him, and said out loud, Grant me my place among
the believers, and write down, that Magdalen, the Christian, refuses to
sacrifice.'

"My soul was deeply moved, and with joyful eagerness I cried out, 'Put
down my name too, and write, that Menander, the son of Herophilus, also
refuses.'  The Roman did his duty.

"Time has not blotted out from my memory a single moment of that day.
There stood the altar, and near it the heathen priest on one side, and on
the other the emperor's officer.  We were taken up two by two; Magdalen
and I were the last.  One word now--one little word--would give us life
and freedom, another the rack and death.  Out of thirty of us only four
had found courage to refuse to sacrifice, but the feeble hearted broke
out into lamentations, and beat their foreheads, and prayed that the Lord
might strengthen the courage of the others.  An unutterably pure and
lofty joy filled my soul, and I felt, as if we were out of the body
floating on ambient clouds.  Softly and calmly we refused to sacrifice,
thanked the imperial official, who warned us kindly, and in the same hour
and place we fell into the hands of the torturers.  She gazed only up to
heaven, and I only at her, but in the midst of the most frightful
torments I saw before me the Saviour beckoning to me, surrounded by
angels that soared on soft airs, whose presence filled my eyes with the
purest light, and my ears with heavenly music.  She bore the utmost
torture without flinching, only once she called out the name of her son
Hermas; then I turned to look at her, and saw her gazing up to Heaven
with wide open eyes and trembling lips-living, but already with the Lord
--on the rack, and yet in bliss.  My stronger body clung to the earth;
she found deliverance at the first blow of the torturer.

"I myself closed  her  eyes, the  sweetest eyes in which Heaven was ever
mirrored, I drew a ring from her dear, white, blood-stained hand, and
here under the rough sheepskin I have it yet; and I pray, I pray, I pray
--oh! my heart!  My God if it might be--if this is the end--!"

Paulus put his hand to his head, and sank exhausted on the bed, in a deep
swoon.  The sick man had followed his story with breathless interest.
Some time since he had risen from his bed, and, unobserved by his
companion, had sunk on his knees; he now dragged himself, all hot and
trembling, to the side of the senseless man, tore the sheep's fell from
his breast, and with hasty movement sought the ring; he found it, and
fixing on it passionate eyes, as though he would melt it with their fire,
he pressed it again and again to his lips, to his heart, to his lips
again; buried his face in his hands and wept bitterly.

It was not till Hermas returned from the oasis that Stephanus thought of
his exhausted and fainting friend, and with his son's assistance restored
him to conscious ness.  Paulus did not refuse to take some food and
drink, and in the cool of the evening, when he was refreshed and
invigorated, he sat again by the side of Stephanus, and understood
from the old man that Magdalen was certainly his wife.

"Now I know," said Paulus, pointing to Hermas, "how it is that from the
first I felt such a love for the lad there."

The old man softly pressed his hand, for he felt himself tied to his
friend by a new and tender bond, and it was with silent ecstasy that he
received the assurance that the wife he had always loved, the mother of
his child, had died a Christian and a martyr, and had found before him
the road to Heaven.

The old man slept as peacefully as a child the following night, and when,
next morning, messengers came from Raithu to propose to Paulus that he
should leave the Holy Mountain, and go with them to become their elder
and ruler, Stephanus said, "Follow this high call with all confidence,
for you deserve it.  I really no longer have need of you, for I shall get
well now without any further nursing."

But Paulus, far more disturbed than rejoiced, begged of the messengers a
delay of seven days for reflection, and after wandering restlessly from
one holy spot to another, at last went down into the oasis, there to pray
in the church.



CHAPTER VIII.

It was a delicious refreshing evening; the full moon rose calmly in the
dark blue vault of the night-sky, and poured a flood of light down on the
cool earth.  But its rays did not give a strong enough light to pierce
the misty veil that hung over the giant mass of the Holy Mountain; the
city of the oasis on the contrary was fully illuminated; the broad
roadway of the high-street looked to the wanderer who descended from the
height above like a shining path of white marble, and the freshly
plastered walls of the new church gleamed as white as in the light of
day.  The shadows of the houses and palm-trees lay like dark strips of
carpet across the road, which was nearly empty in spite of the evening
coolness, which usually tempted the citizens out into the air.

The voices of men and women sounded out through the open windows of the
church; then the door opened and the Pharanite Christians, who had been
partaking of the Supper--the bread and the cup passed from hand to hand
--came out into the moonlight.  The elders and deacons, the readers and
singers, the acolytes and the assembled priesthood of the place followed
the Bishop Agapitus, and the laymen came behind Obedianus, the head-man
of the oasis, and the Senator Petrus; with Petrus came his wife, his
grown up children and numerous slaves.

The church was empty when the door-keeper, who was extinguishing the
lights, observed a man in a dark corner of an antechamber through which a
spring of water softly plashed and trickled, and which was intended for
penitents.  The man was prostrate on the ground and absorbed in prayer,
and he did not raise himself till the porter called him, and threw the
light of his little lamp full in his face.

He began to address him with hard words, but when he recognized in the
belated worshipper the anchorite Paulus of Alexandria he changed his key,
and said, in a soft and almost submissive tone of entreaty, "You have
surely prayed enough, pious man.  The congregation have left the church,
and I must close it on account of our beautiful new vessels and the
heathen robbers.  I know that the brethren of Raithu have chosen you to
be their elder, and that his high honor was announced to you by their
messengers, for they came to see our church too and greatly admired it.
Are you going at once to settle with them or shall you keep the high-
feast with us?"

"That you shall hear to-morrow," answered Paulus, who had risen from his
knees, and was leaning against a pillar of the narrow, bare, penitential
chamber.  "In this house dwells One of whom I would fain take counsel,
and I beg of you to leave me here alone.  If you will, you can lock the
door, and fetch me out later, before you go to rest for the night."

"That cannot be," said the man considering, "for my wife is ill, and my
house is a long way from here at the end of the town by the little gate,
and I must take the key this very evening to the Senator Petrus, because
his son, the architect Antonius, wants to begin the building of the new
altar the first thing to-morrow morning.  The workmen are to be here by
sunrise, and if--"

"Show me the  key," interrupted Paulus.  "To what untold blessing may
this little instrument close or open the issues!  Do you know, man, that
I think there is a way for us both out of the difficulty!  You go to your
sick wife, and I will take the key to the senator as soon as I have
finished my devotions."

The door-keeper considered for a few minutes, and then acceded to the
request of the future presbyter of Raithu, while at the same time he
begged him not to linger too late.

As he went by the senator's house he smelt the savor of roast meat; he
was a poor man and thought to himself, "They fast in there just when it
pleases them, but as for us, we fast when it pleases us least."

The good smell, which provoked this lament, rose from a roast sheep,
which was being prepared as a feast-supper for the senator and the
assembled members of his household; even the slaves shared in the late
evening meal.

Petrus and Dame Dorothea sat in the Greek fashion, side by side in a half
reclining position on a simple couch, and before them stood a table which
no one shared with them, but close to which was the seat for the grown up
children of the house.  The slaves squatted on the ground nearer to the
door, and crowded into two circles, each surrounding a steaming dish, out
of which they helped themselves to the brown stew of lentils with the
palm of the hand.  A round, grey-looking cake of bread lay near each, and
was not to be broken till the steward Jethro had cut and apportioned the
sheep.  The juicy pieces of the back and thighs of the animal were
offered to Petrus and his family to choose from, but the carver laid a
slice for each slave on his cake--a larger for the men and a smaller for
the women.  Many looked with envy on the more succulent piece that had
fallen to a neighbor's share, but not even those that had fared worst
dared to complain, for a slave was allowed to speak only when his master
addressed him, and Petrus forbid even his children to discuss their food
whether to praise it or to find fault.

In the midst of the underlings sat Miriam; she never ate much, and all
meat was repulsive to her, so she pushed the cut from the ribs that was
given to her over to an old garden-woman, who sat opposite, and who had
often given her a fruit or a little honey, for Miriam loved sweet things.
Petrus spoke not a word to-day to his slaves, and very little even to his
family; Dorothea marked the deep lines between his grave eyes, not
without anxiety, and noted how he pinched his lips, when, forgetful of
the food before him, he sat lost in meditation.

The meal was ended, but still he did not move, nor did he observe the
enquiring glances which were turned on him by many eyes; no one dared to
rise before the master gave the signal.

Miriam followed all his movements with more impatience than any of the
others who were present; she rocked restlessly backwards and forwards,
crumbled the bread that she had left with her slender fingers, and her
breath now came fast and faster, and now seemed to stop entirely.  She
had heard the court-yard gate open, and had recognized Hermas' step.

"He wants to speak to the master, in a moment he will come in, and find
me among these--" thought she, and she involuntarily stroked her hand
over her rough hair to smooth it, and threw a glance at the other slaves,
in which hatred and contempt were equally marked.

But Hermas came not.  Not for an instant did she think that her ear had
deceived her--was he waiting now at the door for the conclusion of the
meal?  Was his late visit intended for the Gaulish lady, to whom she had
seen him go yesterday again with the wine jar?

Sirona's husband, Phoebicius, as Miriam well knew, was upon the mountain,
and offering sacrifice by moonlight to Mithras with his fellow heathen in
a cave which she had long known.  She had seen the Gaul quit the court
during the time of evening-prayer with a few soldiers, two of whom
carried after him a huge coffer, out of which rose the handle of a mighty
cauldron, and a skin full of water, and various vessels.  She knew that
these men would pass the whole night in the grotto of Mithras, and there
greet "the young god"--the rising sun--with strange ceremonies; for the
inquisitive shepherdess had more than once listened, when she had led her
goats up the mountain before the break of day, and her ear had detected
that the worshippers of Mithras were performing their nocturnal
solemnities.  Now it flashed across her mind, that Sirona was alone, and
that the late visit of Hermas probably concerned her, and not the
senator.

She started, there was quite a pain m her heart, and, as usual, when any
violent emotion agitated her mind, she involuntarily sprang to her feet
prompted by the force of her passion, and had almost reached the door,
when the senator's voice brought her to a pause, and recalled her to the
consciousness of the impropriety of her behavior.

The sick man still lay with his inflamed wound and fever down in the
court, and she knew that she should escape blame if in answer to her
master's stern questioning she said that the patient needed her, but she
had never told a lie, and her pride forbade her even now to speak an
untruth.  The other slaves stared with astonishment, as she replied,
"I wanted to get out; the supper is so long."

Petrus glanced at the window, and perceiving how high the moon stood, he
shook his head as if in wonder at his own conduct, then without blaming
her he offered a thanksgiving, gave the slaves the signal to leave the
room, and after receiving a kiss of "good-night" from each of his
children--from among whom Polykarp, the sculptor, alone was missing--he
withdrew to his own room.  But he did not remain alone there for long: so
soon as Dorothea had discussed the requirements of the house for the next
day with Marthana and the steward, and had been through the sleeping-room
of her younger children, casting a loving glance on the peaceful
sleepers, arranging here a coverlet, and there a pillow--she entered her
husband's room and called his name.

Petrus stood still and looked round, and his grave eyes were full of
grateful tenderness as they met those of his wife.  Dorothea knew the
soft and loving heart within the stern exterior, and nodded to him with
sympathetic understanding: but before she could speak, he said, "Come in,
come nearer to me; there is a heavy matter in hand, and you cannot escape
your share of the burden."

"Give me my share!"  cried she eagerly.  "The slim girl of former years
has grown a broad-shouldered old woman, so that it may be easier to her
to help her lord to bear the many burdens of life.  But I am seriously
anxious--even before we went to church something unsatisfactory had
happened to you, and not merely in the council-meeting.  There must be
something not right with one of the children."

"What eyes you have!"  exclaimed Petrus.

"Dim, grey eyes," said Dorothea, "and not even particularly keen.  But
when anything concerns you and the children I could see it in the dark.
You are dissatisfied with Polykarp; yesterday, before he set out for
Raithu, you looked at him so--so--what shall I say?  I can quite imagine
what it is all about, but I believe you are giving yourself groundless
anxiety.  He is young, and so lovely a woman as Sirona--"

Up to this point Petrus had listened to his wife in silence.  Now he
clasped his hands, and interrupted her, "Things certainly are not going
on quite right--but I ought to be used to it.  What I meant to have
confided to you in a quiet hour, you tell me as if you knew all about
it!"

"And why not?"  asked Dorothea.  "When you graft a scion on to a tree,
and they have grown well together, the grafted branch feels the bite of
the saw that divides the stock, or the blessing of the spring that feeds
the roots, just as if the pain or the boon were its own.  And you are the
tree and I am the graft, and the magic power of marriage has made us one.
Your pulses are my pulses, your thoughts have become mine, and so I
always know before you tell me what it is that stirs your soul."

Dorothea's kind eyes moistened as she spoke, and Petrus warmly clasped
her hands in his as he said, "And if the gnarled old trunk bears from
time to time some sweet fruit, he may thank the graft for it.  I cannot
believe that the anchorites up yonder are peculiarly pleasing to the Lord
because they live in solitude.  Man comes to his perfect humanity only
through his wife and child, and he who has them not, can never learn the
most glorious heights and the darkest depths of life and feeling.  If a
man may stake his whole existence and powers for anything, surely it is
for his own house."

"And you have honestly done so for ours!"  cried Dorothea.

"For ours," repeated Petrus, giving the words the strongest accent of his
deep voice.  Two are stronger than one, and it is long since we ceased to
say 'I' in discussing any question concerning the house or the children;
and both have been touched by to-day's events."

"The senate will not support you in constructing the road?"

"No, the bishop gave the casting-vote.  I need not tell you how we stand
towards each other, and I will not blame him; for he is a just man, but
in many things we can never meet half-way.  You know that he was in his
youth a soldier, and his very piety is rough--I might almost say warlike.
If we had yielded to his views, and if our head man Obedianus had not
supported me, we should not have had a single picture in the church, and
it would have looked like a barn rather than a house of prayer.  We never
have understood each other, and since I opposed his wish of making
Polykarp a priest, and sent the boy to learn of the sculptor Thalassius
--for even as a child he drew better than many masters in these wretched
days that produce no great artists--since then, I say, he speaks of me as
if I were a heathen--"

"And yet he esteems you highly, that I know," interrupted Dame Dorothea.

"I fully return his good opinion," replied Petrus, "and it is no ordinary
matter that estranges.  He thinks that he only holds the true faith, and
ought to fight for it; he calls all artistic work a heathen abomination;
he never felt the purifying influence of the beautiful, and regards all
pictures and statues as tending to idolatry.  Still he allows himself to
admire Polykarp's figures of angels and the Good Shepherd, but the lions
put the old warrior in a rage.  'Accursed idols and works of the devil,'
are what he calls them."

"But there were lions even in the temple of Solomon," cried Dorothea.

"I urged that, and also that in the schools of the catechists, and in the
educational history of animals which we possess and teach from, the
Saviour himself is compared to a lion, and that Mark, the evangelist, who
brought the doctrine of the gospel to Alexandria, is represented with a
lion.  But he withstood me more and more violently, saying that
Polykarp's works were to adorn no sacred place, but the Caesareum, and
that to him is nothing but a heathen edifice, and the noble works of the
Greeks that are preserved there he calls revolting images by which Satan
ensnares the souls of Christian men.  The other senators can understand
his hard words, but they cannot follow mine; and so they vote with him,
and my motion to construct the roadway was thrown over, because it did
not become a Christian assembly to promote idolatry, and to smooth a way
for the devil."

"I can see that you must have answered them sharply!"

"Indeed I believe so," answered Petrus, looking down.  "Many painful
things were no doubt said, and it was I that suffered for them.
Agapitus, who was looking at the deacons' reports, was especially
dissatisfied with the account that I laid before them; they blamed us
severely because you gave away as much bread to heathen households as to
Christians.  It is no doubt true, but--"

But," cried Dorothea eagerly, "hunger is just as painful to the
unbaptized, and their Christian neighbors do not help them, and yet they
too are our flesh and blood.  I should ill fulfil my office if I were to
let them starve, because the highest comfort is lacking to them."

"And yet," said Petrus, "the council decided that, for the future, you
must apply at the most a fourth part of the grain allotted to their use.
You need not fear for them; for the future some of our own produce may go
to them out of what we have hitherto sold.  You need not withdraw even a
loaf from any one of your proteges, but certainly may now be laid by the
plans for the road.  Indeed there is no hurry for its completion, for
Polykarp will now hardly be able to go on with his lions here among us.
Poor fellow! with what delight he formed the clay models, and how
wonderfully he succeeded in reproducing the air and aspect of the
majestic beasts.  It is as if he were inspired by the spirit of the old
Athenian masters.  We must now consider whether in Alexandria--"

"Rather let us endeavor," interrupted Dorothea, "to induce him at once to
put aside his models, and to execute other more pious works.  Agapitus
has keen eyes, and the heathen work is only too dear to the lad's heart."

The senator's brow grew dark at the last words, and he said, not without
some excitement, "Everything that the heathen do is not to be condemned.
Polykarp must be kept busy, constantly and earnestly occupied, for he has
set his eyes where they should not be set.  Sirona is the wife of
another, and even in sport no man should try to win his neighbor's wife.
Do you think, the Gaulish woman is capable of forgetting her duty?"

Dorothea hesitated, and after some reflection answered, "She is a
beautiful and vain child--a perfect child; I mean in nature, and not in
years, although she certainly might be the grandchild of her strange
husband, for whom she feels neither love nor respect, nor, indeed,
anything but utter aversion.  I know not what, but something frightful
must have come between them even in Rome, and I have given up all
attempts to guide her heart back to him.  In everything else she is soft
and yielding, and often, when she is playing with the children, I cannot
imagine where she finds her reckless gaiety.  I wish she were a
Christian, for she is very dear to me, why should I deny it?  It is
impossible to be sad when she is by, and she is devoted to me, and dreads
my blame, and is always striving to win my approbation.  Certainly she
tries to please every one, even the children; but, so far as I can see,
not more Polykarp than any one else, although he is such a fine young
man.  No, certainly not."

"And yet the boy gazes at her," said Petrus, "and Phoebicius has noticed
it; he met me yesterday when I came home, and, in his sour, polite
manner, requested me to advise my son, when he wished to offer a rose,
not to throw it into his window, as he was not fond of flowers, and
preferred to gather them himself for his wife."

The senator's wife turned pale, and then exclaimed shortly and
positively, "We do not need a lodger, and much as I should miss his wife,
the best plan will be for you to request him to find another dwelling."

"Say no more, wife," Petrus said, sternly, and interrupting her with a
wave of his hand.  "Shall we make Sirona pay, for it because our son has
committed a folly for her sake?  You yourself said, that her intercourse
with the children, and her respect for you, preserve her from evil, and
now shall we show her the door?  By no means.  The Gauls may remain in my
house so long as nothing occurs that compels me to send them out of it.
My father was a Greek, but through my mother I have Amalekite blood in my
veins, and I should dishonor myself, if I drove from my threshold any,
with whom I had once broken bread under my roof.  Polykarp shall be
warned, and shall learn what he owes to us, to himself, and to the laws
of God.  I know how to value his noble gifts, and I am his friend, but
I am also his master, and I will find means of preventing my son from
introducing the light conduct of the capital beneath his father's roof."

The last words were spoken with weight and decision, like the blows of a
hammer, and stern resolve sparkled in the senator's eyes.  Nevertheless,
his wife went fearlessly up to him, and said, laying her hand on his arm,
"It is, indeed, well that a man can keep his eyes set on what is just,
when we women should follow the hasty impulse of our heart.  Even in
wrestling, men only fight with lawful and recognized means, while
fighting women use their teeth and nails.  You men understand better how
to prevent injustice than we do, and that you have once more proved to
me, but, in carrying justice out, you are not our superiors.  The Gauls
may remain in our house, and do you take Polykarp severely to task, but
in the first instance as his friend.  Or would it not be better if you
left it to me?  He was so happy in thinking of the competition of his
lions, and in having to work for the great building in the capital, and
now it is all over.  I wish you had already broken that to him; but love
stories are women's affairs, and you know how good the boy is to me.  A
mother's word sometimes has more effect than a father's blow, and it is
in life as it is in war; the light forces of archers go first into the
field, and the heavily armed division stays in the background to support
them; then, if the enemy will not yield, it comes forward and decides the
battle.  First let me speak to the lad.  It may be that he threw the rose
into Sirona's window only in sport, for she plays with his brothers and
sisters as if she herself were one of them.  I will question him; for if
it is so, it would be neither just nor prudent to blame him.  Some
caution is needed even in giving a warning; for many a one, who would
never have thought of stealing, has become a thief through false
suspicion.  A young heart that is beginning to love, is like a wild boy
who always would rather take the road he is warned to avoid, and when I
was a girl, I myself first discovered how much I liked you, when the
Senator Aman's wife--who wanted you for her own daughter--advised me to
be on my guard with you.  A man who has made such good use of his time,
among all the temptations of the Greek Sodom, as Polykarp, and who has
won such high praise from all his teachers and masters, cannot have been
much injured by the light manners of the Alexandrians.  It is in a man's
early years that he takes the bent which he follows throughout his later
life, and that he had done before he left our house.  Nay--even if I did
not know what a good fellow Polykarp is--I need only look at you to say,
'A child that was brought up by this father, could never turn out a bad
man.'"

Petrus sadly shrugged his shoulders, as though he regarded his wife's
flattering words as mere idle folly, and yet he smiled, as he asked,
"Whose school of rhetoric did you go to?  So be it then; speak to the lad
when he returns from Raithu.  How high the moon is already; come to rest
--Antonius is to place the altar in the early dawn, and I wish to be
present."



CHAPTER IX.

Miriam's ears had not betrayed her.  While she was detained at supper,
Hermas had opened the courtyard-gate; he came to bring the senator a
noble young buck, that he had killed a few hours before, as a thank-
offering for the medicine to which his father owed his recovery.  It
would no doubt have been soon enough the next morning, but he could find
no rest up on the mountain, and did not--and indeed did not care to--
conceal from himself the fact, that the wish to give expression to his
gratitude attracted him down into the oasis far less than the hope of
seeing Sirona, and of hearing a word from her lips.

Since their first meeting he had seen her several times, and had even
been into her house, when she had given him the wine for his father, and
when he had taken back the empty flask.  Once, as she was filling the
bottle which he held, out of the large jar, her white fingers had touched
his, and her enquiry whether he were afraid of her, or  if not, why his
hands which looked so strong should tremble so violently, dwelt still
in his mind.  The nearer he approached Petrus's house the more vehemently
his heart beat; he stood still in front of the gate-way, to take breath,
and to collect himself a little, for he felt that, agitated as he was, he
would find it difficult to utter any coherent words.

At last he laid his hand on the latch and entered the yard.  The watch-
dogs already knew him, and only barked once as he stepped over the
threshold.

He brought a gift in his hand, and he wanted to take nothing away, and
yet he appeared to himself just like a thief as he looked round, first at
the main building lighted up by the moon, and then at the Gaul's
dwelling-house, which, veiled in darkness, stood up as a vague
silhouette, and threw a broad dark shadow on the granite flags of the
pavement, which was trodden to shining smoothness.  There was not a soul
to be seen, and the reek of the roast sheep told him that Petrus and his
household were assembled at supper.

"I might come inopportunely on the feasters," said he to himself, as he
threw the buck over from his left to his right shoulder, and looked up at
Sirona's window, which he knew only too well.

It was not lighted up, but a whiter and paler something appeared within
its dark stone frame, and this something, attracted his gaze with an
irresistible spell; it moved, and Sirona's greyhound set up a sharp
barking.

It was she--it must be she!  Her form rose before his fancy in all its
brilliant beauty, and the idea flashed through his mind that she must be
alone, for he had met her husband and the old slave woman among the
worshippers of Mithras on their way to the mountain.  The pious youth,
who so lately had punished his flesh with the scourge to banish seductive
dream-figures, had in these few days become quite another man.  He would
not leave the mountain, for his father's sake, but he was quite
determined no longer to avoid the way of the world; nay, rather to seek
it.  He had abandoned the care of his father to the kindly Paulus, and
had wandered about among the rocks; there he had practised throwing the
discus, he had hunted the wild goats and beasts of prey, and from time to
time--but always with some timidity--he had gone down into the oasis to
wander round the senator's house, and catch a glimpse of Sirona.

Now that he knew that she was alone, he was irresistibly drawn to her.
What he desired of her, he himself could not have said; and nothing was
clear to his mind beyond the wish to touch her fingers once more.

Whether this were a sin or not, was all the same to him; the most
harmless play was called a sin, and every thought of the world for which
he longed, and he was fully resolved to take the sin upon himself, if
only he might attain his end.  Sin after all was nothing but a phantom
terror with which they frighten children, and the worthy Petrus had
assured him that he might be a man capable of great deeds.  With a
feeling that he was venturing on an unheard of act he went towards
Sirona's window, and she at once recognized him as he stood in the
moonlight.

"Hermas!"  he heard her say softly.  He was seized with such violent
terror that he stood as if spellbound, the goat slipped from his
shoulders, and he felt as if his heart had ceased to beat.  And again the
sweet woman's voice called, "Hermas, is it you?  What brings you to us at
such a late hour?"

He stammered an incoherent answer, and "I do not understand; come a
little nearer."  Involuntarily he stepped forward into the shadow of the
house and close up to her window.  She wore a white robe with wide, open
sleeves, and her arms shone in the dim light as white as her garment.
The greyhound barked again; she quieted it, and then asked Hermas how his
father was, and whether he needed some more wine.  He replied that she
was very kind, angelically kind, but that the sick man was recovering
fast, and that she had already given him far too much.  Neither of them
said anything that might not have been heard by everybody, and yet they
whispered as if they were speaking of some forbidden thing.

"Wait a moment," said Sirona, and she disappeared within the room, she
soon reappeared, and said solid and sadly, "I would ask you to come into
the house but Phoebicius has locked the door.  I am quite alone, hold the
flask so that I may fill it through the open window."

With these words she leaned over with the large jar--she was strong, but
the wine-jar seemed to her heavier than on other occasions, and she said
with a sigh, "The amphora is too heavy for me."

He reached up to help her; again his fingers met hers, and again he felt
the ecstatic thrill which had haunted his memory day and night ever since
he first had felt it.  At this instant there was a sudden noise in the
house opposite; the slaves were coming out from supper.  Sirona knew what
was happening; she started and cried out, pointing to the senator's door,
"For all the gods' sake! they are coming out, and if they see you here I
am lost!"

Hermas looked hastily round the court, and listened to the increasing
noise in the other house, then, perceiving that there was no possible
escape from the senator's people, who were close upon him, he cried out
to Sirona in a commanding tone, "Stand back," and flung himself up
through the window into the Gaul's apartment.  At the same moment the
door opposite opened, and the slaves streamed out into the yard.

In front of them all was Miriam, who looked all round the wide space-
expectant; seeking something, and disappointed.  He was not there, and
yet she had heard him come in; and the gate had not opened and closed a
second time, of that she was perfectly certain.  Some of the slaves went
to the stables, others went outside the gate into the street to enjoy the
coolness of the evening; they sat in groups on the ground, looking up at
the stars, chattering or singing.  Only the shepherdess remained in the
court-yard seeking him on all sides, as if she were hunting for some lost
trinket.  She searched even behind the millstones, and in the dark sheds
in which the stone-workers' tools were kept.

Then she stood still a moment and clenched her hands; with a few light
bounds she sprang into the shadow of the Gaul's house.  Just in front of
Sirona's window lay the steinbock; she hastily touched it with her
slender naked toes, but quickly withdrew her foot with a shudder, for it
had touched the beast's fresh wound, wet with its blood.  She rapidly
drew the conclusion that: he had killed it, and had thrown it down here,
and that he could not be far off.  Now she knew where he was in hiding-
and she tried to laugh, for the pain she felt seemed too acute and
burning for tears to allay or cool it.  But she did not wholly lose her
power of reflection.  "They are in the dark," thought she, "and they
would see me, if I crept under the window to listen; and yet I must know
what they are doing there together."

She hastily turned her back on Sirona's house, slipped into the clear
moonlight, and after standing there for a few minutes, went into the
slaves' quarters.  An instant after, she slipped out behind the
millstones, and crept as cleverly and as silently as a snake along the
ground under the darkened base of the centurion's house, and lay close
under Sirona's window.

Her loudly beating heart made it difficult for even her sharp ears to
hear, but though she could not gather all that he said, she distinguished
the sound of his voice; he was no longer in Sirona's room, but in the
room that looked out on the street.

Now she could venture to raise herself, and to look in at the open
window; the door of communication between the two rooms was closed, but a
streak of light showed her that in the farther room, which was the
sitting-room, a lamp was burning.

She had already put up her hand in order to hoist herself up into the
dark room, when a gay laugh from Sirona fell upon her ear.  The image of
her enemy rose up before her mind, brilliant and flooded with light as on
that morning, when Hermas had stood just opposite, bewildered by her
fascination.  And now--now--he was actually lying at her feet, and saying
sweet flattering words to her, and he would speak to her of love, and
stretch out his arm to clasp her--but she had laughed.

Now she laughed again.  Why was all so still again?

Had she offered her rosy lips for a kiss?  No doubt, no doubt.  And
Hermas did not wrench himself from her white arms, as he had torn himself
from hers that noon by the spring-torn himself away never to return.

Cold drops stood on her brow, she buried her hands in her thick, black
hair, and a loud cry escaped her--a cry like that of a tortured animal.
A few minutes more and she had slipped through the stable and the gate by
which they drove the cattle in; and no longer mistress of herself, was
flying up the mountain to the grotto of Mithras to warn Phoebicius.

The anchorite Gelasius saw from afar the figure of the girl flying up the
mountain in the moonlight, and her shadow flitting from stone to stone,
and he threw himself on the ground, and signed a cross on his brow, for
he thought he saw a goblin-form, one of the myriad gods of the heathen--
an Oread pursued by a Satyr.  Sirona had heard the girl's shriek.

"What was that?"  she asked the youth, who stood before her in the full-
dress uniform of a Roman officer, as handsome as the young god of war,
though awkward and unsoldierly in his movements.

"An owl screamed--" replied Hermas.  "My father must at last tell me
from what house we are descended, and I will go to Byzantium, the new
Rome, and say to the emperor, 'Here am I, and I will fight for you among
your warriors.'"

"I like you so!" exclaimed Sirona.

"If that is the truth," cried Hermas, "prove it to me!  Let me once press
my lips to your shining gold hair.  You are beautiful, as sweet as a
flower--as gay and bright as a bird, and yet as hard as our mountain
rock.  If you do not grant me one kiss, I shall long till I am sick and
weak before I can get away from here, and prove my strength in battle."

"And if I yield," laughed Sirona, "you will be wanting another and
another kiss, and at last not get away at all.  No, no, my friend--I am
the wiser of us two.  Now go into the dark room, I will look out and see
whether the people are gone in again, and whether you can get off unseen
from the street window, for you have been here much too long already.  Do
you hear?  I command you."

Hermas obeyed with a sigh; Sirona opened the shutter and looked out.  The
slaves were coming back into the court, and she called out a friendly
word or two, which were answered with equal friendliness, for the Gaulish
lady, who never overlooked even the humblest, was dear to them all.  She
took in the night-air with deep-drawn breaths, and looked up contentedly
at the moon, for she was well content with herself.

When Hermas had swung himself up into her room, she had started back in
alarm; he had seized her hand and pressed his burning lips to her arm,
and she let him do it, for she was overcome with strange bewilderment.

Then she heard Dame Dorothea calling out, "Directly, directly, I will
only say good night first to the children."  These simple words, uttered
in Dorothea's voice, had a magical effect on the warm-hearted woman--
badly used and suspected as she was, and yet so well formed for
happiness, love and peace.  When her husband had locked her in, taking
even her slave with him, at first she had raved, wept, meditated revenge
and flight, and at last, quite broken down, had seated herself by the
window in silent thought of her beautiful home, her brothers and sisters,
and the dark olive groves of Arelas.

Then Hermas appeared.  It had not escaped her that the young anchorite
passionately admired her, and she was not displeased, for she liked him,
and the confusion with which he had been overcome at the sight of her
flattered her and seemed to her doubly precious because she knew that the
hermit in his sheepskin, on whom she had bestowed a gift of wine, was in
fact a young man of distinguished rank.  And how truly to be pitied was
the poor boy, who had had his youth spoilt by a stern father.  A woman
easily bestows some tender feeling on the man that she pities; perhaps
because she is grateful to him for the pleasure of feeling herself
the stronger, and because through him and his suffering she finds
gratification for the noblest happiness of a woman's heart--that of
giving tender and helpful care; women's hands are softer than ours.
In men's hearts love is commonly extinguished when pity begins, while
admiration acts like sunshine on the budding plant of a woman's
inclination, and pity is the glory which radiates from her heart.

Neither admiration nor pity, however, would have been needed to induce
Sirona to call Hermas to her window; she felt so unhappy and lonely, that
any one must have seemed welcome from whom she might look for a friendly
and encouraging word to revive her deeply wounded self-respect.  And
there came the young anchorite, who forgot himself and everything else in
her presence, whose looks, whose movement, whose very silence even seemed
to do homage to her.  And then his bold spring into her room, and his
eager wooing--"This is love," said she to herself.  Her cheeks glowed,
and when Hermas clasped her hand, and pressed her arm to his lips, she
could not repulse him, till Dorothea's voice reminded her of the worthy
lady and of the children, and through them of her own far-off sisters.

The thought of these pure beings flowed over her troubled spirit like a
purifying stream, and the question passed through her mind, "What should
I be without these good folks over there, and is this great love-sick
boy, who stood before Polykarp just lately looking like a school-boy, is
he so worthy that I should for his sake give up the right of looking them
boldly in the face?"  And she pushed Hermas roughly away, just as he was
venturing for the first time to apply his lips to her perfumed gold hair,
and desired him to be less forward, and to release her hand.

She spoke in a low voice, but with such decision, that the lad, who was
accustomed to the habit of obedience, unresistingly allowed her to push
him into the sitting-room.  There was a lamp burning on the table, and on
a bench by the wall of the room, which was lined with colored stucco, lay
the helmet, the centurion's staff, and the other portions of the armor
which Phoebicius had taken off before setting out for the feast of
Mithras, in order to assume the vestments of one of the initiated of the
grade of "Lion."

The lamp-light revealed Sirona's figure, and as she stood before him in
all her beauty with glowing cheeks, the lad's heart began to beat high,
and with increased boldness he opened his arms, and endeavored to draw
her to him; but Sirona avoided him and went behind the table, and,
leaning her hands on its polished surface while it protected her like a
shield, she lectured him in wise and almost motherly words against his
rash, intemperate, and unbecoming behavior.

Any one who was learned in the heart of woman might have smiled at such
words from such lips and in such an hour; but Hermas blushed and cast
down his eyes, and knew not what to answer.  A great change had come over
the Gaulish lady; she felt a great pride in her virtue, and in the
victory she had won over herself, and while she sunned herself in the
splendor of her own merits, she wished that Hermas too should feel and
recognize them.  She began to expatiate on all that she had to forego and
to endure in the oasis, and she discoursed of virtue and the duties of a
wife, and of the wickedness and audacity of men.

Hermas, she said, was no better than the rest, and because she had shown
herself somewhat kind to him, he fancied already that he had a claim on
her liking; but he was greatly mistaken, and if only the courtyard had
been empty, she would long ago have shown him the door.

The young hermit was soon only half listening to all she said, for his
attention had been riveted by the armor which lay before him, and which
gave a new direction to his excited feelings.  He involuntarily put
out his hand towards the gleaming helmet, and interrupted the pretty
preacher with the question, "May I try it on?"

Sirona laughed out loud and exclaimed, much amused and altogether
diverted from her train of thought, "To be sure.  You ought to be a
soldier.  How well it suits you!  Take off your nasty sheepskin, and let
us see how the anchorite looks as a centurion."

Hermas needed no second telling; he decked himself in the Gaul's armor
with Sirona's help.  We human beings must indeed be in a deplorable
plight; otherwise how is it that from our earliest years we find such
delight in disguising ourselves; that is to say, in sacrificing our own
identity to the tastes of another whose aspect we borrow.  The child
shares this inexplicable pleasure with the sage, and the stern man who
should condemn it would not therefore be the wiser, for he who wholly
abjures folly is a fool all the more certainly the less he fancies
himself one.  Even dressing others has a peculiar charm, especially for
women; it is often a question which has the greater pleasure, the maid
who dresses her mistress or the lady who wears the costly garment.

Sirona was devoted to every sort of masquerading.  If it had been needful
to seek a reason why the senator's children and grandchildren were so
fond of her, by no means last or least would have been the fact that she
would willingly and cheerfully allow herself to be tricked out in colored
kerchiefs, ribands, and flowers, and on her part could contrive the most
fantastic costumes for them.  So soon as she saw Hermas with the helmet
on, the fancy seized her to carry through the travesty he had begun.  She
eagerly and in perfect innocence pulled the coat of armor straight,
helped him to buckle the breastplate and to fasten on the sword, and as
she performed the task, at which Hermas proved himself unskilful enough,
her gay and pleasant laugh rang out again and again.  When he sought to
seize her hand, as he not seldom did, she hit him sharply on the fingers,
and scolded him.

Hermas' embarrassment thawed before this pleasant sport, and soon he
began to tell her how hateful the lonely life on the mountain was to him.
He told her that Petrus himself had advised him to try his strength out
in the world, and he confided to her that if his father got well, he
meant to be a soldier, and do great deeds.  She quite agreed with him,
praised and encouraged him, then she criticised his slovenly deportment,
showed him with comical gravity how a warrior ought to stand and walk,
called herself his drill-master, and was delighted at the zeal with which
he strove to imitate her.

In such play the hours passed quickly.  Hermas was proud of himself in
his soldierly garb, and was happy in her presence and in the hope of
future triumphs; and Sirona was gay, as she had usually been only when
playing with the children, so that even Miriam's wild cry, which the
youth explained to be the scream of an owl, only for a moment reminded
her of the danger in which she was placing herself.  Petrus' slaves had
long gone to rest before she began to weary of amusing herself with
Hermas, and desired him to lay aside her husband's equipment, and to
leave her.  Hermas obeyed while she warily opened the shutters, and
turning to him, said, "You cannot venture through the court-yard; you
must go through this window into the open street.  But there is some one
coming down the road; let him pass first, it will not be long to wait,
for he is walking quickly."

She carefully drew the shutters to, and laughed to see how clumsily
Hermas set to work to unbuckle the greaves; but the gay laugh died upon
her lips when the gate flew open, the greyhound and the senator's watch-
dogs barked loudly, and she recognized her husband's voice as he ordered
the dogs to be quiet.

"Fly-fly-for the gods' sake!"  she cried in a trembling voice.  With that
ready presence of mind with which destiny arms the weakest woman in great
and sudden danger, she extinguished the lamp, flung open the shutter, and
pushed Hermas to the window.  The boy did not stay to bid her farewell,
but swung himself with a strong leap down into the road, and, followed by
the barking of the dogs, which roused all the neighboring households, he
flew up the street to the little church.

He had not got more than half-way when he saw a man coming towards him;
he sprang into the shadow of a house, but the belated walker accelerated
his steps, and came straight up to him.  He set off running again, but
the other pursued him, and kept close at his heels till he had passed all
the houses and began to go up the mountain-path.  Hermas felt that he was
outstripping his pursuer, and was making ready for a spring over a block
of stone that encumbered the path, when he heard his name called behind
him, and he stood still, for he recognized the voice of the man from whom
he was flying as that of his good friend Paulus.

"You indeed" said the Alexandrian, panting for breath.  "Yes, you are
swifter than I.  Years hang lead on our heels, but do you know what it is
that lends them the swiftest wings?  You have just learned it!  It is a
bad conscience; and pretty things will be told about you; the dogs have
barked it all out loud enough to the night."

"And so they may!"  replied Hermas defiantly, and trying in vain to free
himself from the strong grasp of the anchorite who held him firmly.
"I have done nothing wrong."

"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife!"  interrupted Paulus in a tone
of stern severity.  "You have been with the centurion's pretty wife, and
were taken by surprise.  Where is your sheepskin?"

Hermas started, felt on his shoulder, and exclaimed, striking his fist
against his forehead, "Merciful Heaven!--I have left it there!  The
raging Gaul will find it."

"He did not actually see you there?"  asked Paulus eagerly.

"No, certainly not," groaned Hermas, "but the skin--"

"Well, well," muttered Paulus.  "Your sin is none the less, but something
may be done in that case.  Only think if it came to your father's ears;
it might cost him his life."

"And that poor Sirona!"  sighed Hermas.

"Leave me to settle that," exclaimed Paulus.  I will make everything
straight with her.  There, take sheepskin.  You will not?  Well, to be
sure, the man who does not fear to commit adultery would make nothing of
becoming his father's murderer.--There, that is the way!  fasten it
together over your shoulders; you will need it, for you must quit this
spot, and not for to-day and to-morrow only.  You wanted to go out into
the world, and now you will have the opportunity of showing whether you
really are capable of walking on your own feet.  First go to Raithu and
greet the pious Nikon in my name, and tell him that I remain here on the
mountain, for after long praying in the church I have found myself
unworthy of the office of elder which they offered me.  Then get yourself
carried by some ship's captain across the Red Sea, and wander up and down
the Egyptian coast.  The hordes of the Blemmyes have lately shown
themselves there; keep your eye on them, and when the wild bands are
plotting some fresh outbreak you can warn the watch on the mountain-
peaks; how to cross the sea and so outstrip them, it will be your
business to find out.  Do you feel bold enough and capable of
accomplishing this task?  Yes?  So I expected!  Now may the Lord guide
you.  I will take care of your father, and his blessing and your mother's
will rest upon you if you sincerely repent, and if you now do your duty."

"You shall learn that I am a man," cried Hermas with sparkling eyes.
"My bow and arrows are lying in your cave, I will fetch them and then--
aye!  you shall see whether you sent the right man on the errand.  Greet
my father, and once more give me your hand."

Paulus grasped the boy's right hand, drew him to him, and kissed his
forehead with fatherly tenderness.  Then he said, "In my cave, under the
green stone, you will find six gold-pieces; take three of them with you
on your journey.  You will probably need them at any rate to pay your
passage.  Now be off, and get to Raithu in good time."

Hermas hurried up the mountain, his head full of the important task
that had been laid upon him; dazzling visions of the great deeds he was
to accomplish eclipsed the image of the fair Sirona, and he was so
accustomed to believe in the superior insight and kindness of Paulus that
he feared no longer for Sirona now that his friend had made her affair
his own.

The Alexandrian looked after him, and breathed a short prayer for him;
then he went down again into the valley.

It was long past midnight, and the moon was sinking; it grew cooler and
cooler, and since he had given his sheepskin to Hermas he had nothing on,
but his thread-bare coat.  Nevertheless he went slowly onwards, stopping
every now and then, moving his arms, and speaking incoherent words in a
low tone to himself.

He thought of Hermas and Sirona, of his own youth, and of how in
Alexandria he himself had tapped at the shutters of the dark-haired Aso,
and the fair Simaitha.

"A child--a mere boy," he murmured.  "Who would have thought it?  The
Gaulish woman no doubt may be handsome, and as for him, it is a fact,
that as he threw the discus I was myself surprised at his noble figure.
And his eyes--aye, he has Magdalen's eyes!  If the Gaul had found him
with his wife, and had run his sword through his heart, he would have
gone unpunished by the earthly judge--however, his father is spared this
sorrow.  In this desert the old man thought that his darling could not be
touched by the world and its pleasures.  And now?  These brambles I once
thought lay dried up on the earth, and could never get up to the top of
the palm-tree where the dates ripen, but a bird flew by, and picked up
the berries, and carried them into its nest at the highest point of the
tree.

"Who can point out the road that another will take, and say to-day, 'To-
morrow I shall find him thus and not otherwise.'

"We fools flee into the desert in order to forget the world, and the
world pursues us and clings to our skirts.  Where are the shears that are
keen enough to cut the shadow from beneath our feet?  What is the prayer
that can effectually release us--born of the flesh--from the burden of
the flesh?  My Redeemer, Thou Only One, who knowest it, teach it to me,
the basest of the base."



ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

He who wholly abjures folly is a fool
Some caution is needed even in giving a warning
Who can point out the road that another will take





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