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Title: Serapis — Volume 01
Author: Ebers, Georg
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Serapis — Volume 01" ***

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By Georg Ebers

Volume 1.

Translated from the German by Clara Bell



The busy turmoil of the town had been hushed for some hours; the moon
and stars were keeping silent watch over Alexandria, and many of the
inhabitants were already in the land of dreams. It was deliciously fresh
--a truly gracious night; but, though peace reigned in the streets and
alleys, even now there was in this pause for rest a lack of the soothing
calm which refreshes and renews the spirit of man. For some few weeks
there had been an oppressive and fevered tension in the repose of night.
Every house and shop was closed as securely as though it were done, not
only to secure slumber against intrusion, but to protect life and
property from the spoiler; and instead of tones of jollity and mirth the
sleeping city echoed the heavy steps and ringing arms of soldiers.  Now
and again, when the Roman word of command or the excited cry of some
sleepless monk broke the silence, shops and doors were cautiously opened
and an anxious face peered out, while belated wanderers shrunk into
gateways or under the black shadow of a wall as the watch came past.  A
mysterious burden weighed on the Heart of the busy city and clicked its
pulses, as a nightmare oppresses the dreamer.

On this night of the year of our Lord 391, in a narrow street leading
from the commercial harbor known as Kibotus, an old man was slinking
along close to the houses.  His clothes were plain but decent, and he
walked with his head bent forward looking anxiously on all sides; when
the patrol came by he shrank into the shadow; though he was no thief he
had his reasons for keeping out of the way of the soldiery, for the
inhabitants, whether natives or strangers, were forbidden to appear in
the streets after the harbor was closed for the night.

He stopped in front of a large house, whose long, windowless wall
extended from one side street to the next, and pausing before the great
gate, he read an inscription on which the light fell from a lamp above:
The House of the Holy Martyr.  His widow here offers shelter to all who
need it.  He that giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord."

"At how much per cent I wonder?"  mattered the old man and a satirical
smile curled his bearuless lips.  A heavy thud with the knocker rang
through the silent street, and after a few short questions from within
and equally curt replies from without, a small door was opened in the
great gate.  The stranger was on the point of crossing the vestibule when
a human creature crept up to him on all fours, and clutched his ancle
with a strong hand, exclaiming in a hoarse voice: "As soon as the door
is shut--an entrance fee; for the poor, you know."

The old man flung a copper piece to the gatekeeper who tried it, and
then, holding on to the rope by which he was tied to a post like a watch-
dog, he whined out "Not a drop to wet a Christian's lips?"

"It has not rained for some time," retorted the stranger, who proceeded
to open a second door which led into a vast court-yard open to the blue
vault of heaven.  A few torches stuck against the pillars and a small
fire on the pavement added thin smoky, flickering light to the clear
glory of the stars, and the whole quadrangle was full of a heavy, reeking
atmosphere, compounded of smoke and the steam of hot food.

Even in the street the wanderer had heard the dull buzz and roar which
now met his ear as a loud medley of noises and voices, rising from
hundreds of men who were encamped in the wide space before him--in groups
or singly, sleeping and snoring, or quarrelling, eating, talking and
singing as they squatted on the ground which was strewn with straw.

The inn was full, and more than half of the humble guests were monks who,
during the last two days, had flowed into the city from every Cenoby,
Laura and hermitage in the desert, and from most of the monasteries in
the surrounding district--the 'Nitriote Nome'.  Some of them had laid
their heads close together for confidential whispering, others squabbled
loudly, and a large group in the northern angle of the court had raised
a psalm  which  mingled strangely with the "three," "four," "seven," of
the men who were playing 'mora', and the cry of the cook inviting
purchasers to his stall spread with meat, bread, and onions.

At the end of the court furthest from the gateway there was a covered
way, on to which a row of doors opened leading to the rooms devoted to
families of women and children, each apartment being divided into two by
a curtain across the middle.  The stranger made his way into one of these
rooms, where he was warmly welcomed by a young man, who was occupied in
cutting a Kopais reed into a mouth-piece for a double flute, and by a
tall matronly woman.

The new-comer's name was Karnis and he was the head of a family of
wandering singers who had arrived in Alexandria only the day before from
Rome.  His surroundings were poor and mean, for their ship had been
attacked off the African coast by a band of pirates, and though they had
saved their lives they had lost everything they possessed.  The young
owner of the vessel, to whom he owed his safety, had procured him
admission to this Xenodochium,--[a refuge or inn]--kept by his mother the
Widow Mary; Karnis had, however, found it far from comfortable, and had
gone forth at noon to seek other quarters.

"All in vain!"  said he, as he wiped the heat drops from his forehead.
"I have hunted Medius half the city through and found him at last at the
house of Posidonius the Magian, whose assistant he is.  There was singing
behind a curtain--wretched rubbish; but there were some old airs too with
an accompaniment on the flutes, in the style of Olympus, and really not
so bad.

"Then spirits appeared.  By Sirius a queer business altogether!  Medius
is in the midst of it all.  I arranged the chorus and sang with them a
little.  All I got for it was a little dirty silver--there!  But as for
a lodging--free quarters!--there are none to be found here for anything
above an owl; and then there is the edict--that cursed edict!"

During this speech the younger man had exchanged meaning glances with his
mother.  He now interrupted Karnis, saying in a tone of encouragement:

"Never mind, father; we have something good in view."

"You have?"  said the old man with an incredulous shrug, while his wife
served him with a small roast chicken, on a stool which did duty for a

"Yes father, we!" the lad went on, laying aside his knife.  "You know we
vowed an offering to Dionysus for our escape, since he himself once fell
into the hands of pirates, so we went at once to his temple.  Mother knew
the way; and as we--she, I mean, and Dada and myself. . ."

"Heh! what is this?"  interrupted Karnis, now for the first time noticing
the dish before him.  "A fowl--when we are so miserably poor?  A whole
fowl, and cooked with oil?"  He spoke angrily, but his wife, laying her
hand on his shoulder, said soothingly:

"We shall soon earn it again.  Never a sesterce was won by fretting.
Enjoy to-day's gifts and the gods will provide for to-morrow."

"Indeed?" asked Karnis in an altered key.  "To be sure when a roast fowl
flies into one's mouth instead of a pigeon ...  But you are right as
usual, Herse, as usual, only--here am I battening like a senator while
you--I lay a wager you have drunk nothing but milk all day and eaten
nothing but bread and radishes.  I thought so?  Then the chicken must
pretend to be a pheasant and you, wife, will eat this leg.  The girls are
gone to bed?  Why here is some wine too!  Fill up your cup, boy.  A
libation to the God!  Glory to Dionysus !"  The two men poured the
libation on the floor and drank; then the father thrust his knife into
the breast of the bird and began his meal with a will, while Orpheus, the
son, went on with his story:

"Well, the temple of Dionysus was not to be found, for Bishop Theophilus
has had it destroyed; so to what divinity could we offer our wreath and
cake?  Here in Egypt there is none but the great Mother Isis.  Her
sanctuary is on the shore of Lake Mareotis and mother found it at once.
There she fell into conversation with a priestess who, as soon as she
learnt that my mother belonged to a family of musicians--though Dame
Herse was cautious in announcing this fact--and hoped to find employment
in Alexandria, led her away to a young lady who was closely veiled.  This
lady," Orpheus went on--he not only played the flute but took the higher
parts for a man's voice and could also strike the lyre--"desired us to go
to her later at her own house, where she would speak with us.  She drove
off in a fine carriage and we, of course followed her orders; Agne was
with us too.  A splendid house!  I never saw anything handsomer in Rome
or Antioch.  We were kindly received, and with the lady there were
another very old lady and a tall grave man, a priest I should fancy or a
philosopher, or something of that kind."

"Not some Christian trap?"  asked Karnis suspiciously.  "You do not know
this place, and since the edict. . ."

"Never fear, father!  There were images of the gods in the halls and
corridors, and in the room where we were received by Gorgo, the beautiful
daughter of Porphyrius, there was an altar before an image of Isis, quite
freshly anointed.--This Porphyrius is a very rich merchant; we learnt
that afterwards, and many other things.  The philosopher asked us at once
whether we were aware that Theodosius had lately promulgated a new edict
forbidding young maidens to appear in public as singers or flute-

"And did Agne hear that?"  said the old man in a low voice as he pointed
to the curtain.

"No, she and Dada were in the garden on to which the room opened, and
mother explained at once that though Agne was a Christian she was a very
good girl, and that so long as she remained in our service she was bound
to sing with us whenever she was required.  The philosopher exclaimed at
once: 'The very thing!' and they whispered together, and called the girls
and desired them to show what they could do."

"And how did they perform?"  asked the old man, who was growing excited.

"Dada warbled like a lark, and Agne--well you know how it always is.  Her
voice sounded lovely but it was just as usual.  You can guess how much
there is in her and how deep her feeling is but she never quite brings
it out.  What has she to complain of with us?  And yet whatever she sings
has that mournful, painful ring which even you can do nothing to alter.
However, she pleased them better than Dada did, for I noticed that Gorgo
and the gentleman glanced at each other and at her, and whispered a word
now and then which certainly referred to Ague.  When they had sung two
songs the young lady came towards us and praised both the girls, and
asked whether we would undertake to learn something quite new.  I told
her that my father was a great musician who could master the most
difficult things at the first hearing."

"The most difficult!  Hm...  that depends," said the old man.  "Did she
show it you?"

"No; it is something in the style of Linus and she sang it to us."

"The daughter of the rich Porphyrius sang for your entertainment?
Yours?"  said Karnis laughing.  "By Sirius!  The world is turning upside
down.  Now that girls are forbidden to perform to the gentlefolks, art is
being cultivated by the upper classes; it cannot be killed outright.  For
the future the listeners will be paid to keep quiet and the singers pay
for the right of torturing their ears--our ears, our luckless ears will
be victimized."

Orpheus smiled and shook his head; then, again dropping his knife, he
went on eagerly:

"But if you could only hear her!  You would give your last copper piece
to hear her again."

"Indeed!"  muttered his father.  "Well, there are very good teachers
here.  Something by Linus did you say she sang?"

"Something of that kind; a lament for the dead of very great power:
'Return, oh! return my beloved, came back--come home!' that was the
burthen of it.  And there was a passage which said: 'Oh that each tear
had a voice and could join with me in calling thee!"  And how she sang
it, father!  I do not think I ever in my life heard anything like it.
Ask mother.  Even Dada's eyes were full of tears."

"Yes, it was beautiful," the mother agreed.  "I could not help wishing
that you were there."

Karnis rose and paced the little room, waving his arms and muttering:

"Ah! so that is how it is!  A friend of the Muses.  We saved the large
lute--that is well.  My chlamys has an ugly hole in it--if the girls were
not asleep...  but the first thing to-morrow Ague...  Tell me, is she
handsome, tall?"

Herse had been watching her excitable husband with much satisfaction and
now answered his question: "Not a Hera--not a Muse--decidedly not.
Hardly above the middle height, slightly made, but not small, black eyes,
long lashes, dark straight eyebrows.  I could hardly, like Orpheus, call
her beautiful. . ."

"Oh yes, mother.--Beautiful is a great word, and one my father has taught
me to use but rarely; but she--if she is not beautiful who is?--when she
raised her large dark eyes and threw back her head to bring out her
lament; tone after tone seemed to come from the bottom of her heart and
rise to the furthest height of heaven.  Ah, if Agne could learn to sing
like that!  'Throw your whole soul into your singing.'--You have told her
that again and again.  Now, Gorgo can and does.  And she stood there as
steady and as highly strung as a bow, every note came out with the ring
of an arrow and went straight to the heart, as clear and pure as

"Be silent!" cried the old man covering his ears with his hands.
"I shall not close an eye till daylight, and then...  Orpheus, take that
silver--take it all, I have no more--go early to market and buy flowers--
laurel branches, ivy, violets and roses.  But no lotuses though the
market here is full of them; they are showy, boastful things with no
scent, I cannot bear them.  We will go crowned to the Temple of the

"Buy away, buy all you want!"  said Herse laughing, as she showed her
husband some bright gold pieces.  "We got that to-day, and if all is
well. . ."  Here she paused, pointed to the curtain, and went on again in
a lower tone: "It all depends of course, on Agne's playing us no trick."

"How so?  Why?  She is a good girl and I will. . ."

"No, no," said Herse holding him back.  "She does not know yet what the
business is.  The lady wants her. . ."


"To sing in the Temple of Isis."

Karnis colored.  He was suddenly called from a lovely dream back to the
squalid reality.  "In the Temple of Isis," he said gloomily.  "Agne?  In
the face of all the people?  And she knows nothing about it?"

"Nothing, father."

"No?  Well then, if that is the case . . .  Agne, the Christian, in the
Temple of Isis--here, here, where Bishop Theophilus is destroying all our
sanctuaries and the monks outdo their master.  Ah, children, children,
how pretty and round and bright a soap-bubble is, and how soon it bursts.
Do you know at all what it is that you are planning?  If the black flies
smell it out and it becomes known, by the great Apollo! we should have
fared better at the hands of the pirates.  And yet, and yet.--Do you know
at all how the girl...?"

"She wept at the lady's singing," interrupted Herse eagerly, "and, silent
as she generally is, on her way home she said: 'To sing like that!  She
is a happy girl!'"

Karnis looked up with renewed confidence.

"Ah!"  he exclaimed, "that is my Agne.  Yes, yes, she truly loves her
divine art.  She can sing, she will sing!  We will venture it, if you, I,
all of us die for it!

"Herse, Orpheus, what have we to lose?  Our gods, too, shall have their
martyrs.  It is a poor life that has no excitement.  Our art--why,
all I have ever had has been devoted to it.  I make no boast of having
sacrificed everything, and if gold and lands were again to be mine I
would become a beggar once more for the sake of art:  We have always held
the divine Muse sacred, but who can keep up a brave heart when he sees
her persecuted!  She may only be worshipped in darkness in these days,
and the Queen of Gods and men shuns the light like a moth, a bat, an owl.
If we must die let it be with and for Her!  Once more let pure and
perfect song rejoice this old heart, and if afterwards . . .  My
children, we have no place in this dim, colorless world.  While the Arts
lived there was Spring on the earth.  Now they are condemned to death and
it is Winter.  The leaves fall from all the trees, and we piping birds
need groves to sing in.  How often already has Death laid his hand on our
shoulder, every breath we draw is a boon of mercy--the extra length
given in by the weaver, the hour of grace granted by the hangman to his
victim!  Our lives are no longer our own, a borrowed purse with damaged
copper coins.  The hard-hearted creditor has already bent his knuckles,
and when he knocks the time is up.  Once more let us have one hour of
pure and perfect enjoyment, and then we will pay up capital and interest
when we must."

"It cannot and will not be yet," said Herse resolutely, but she wiped her
eyes with her band.  "If Agne sings even, so long as she does it without
coercion and of her own free-will no Bishop can punish us."

"He cannot, he dare not!"  cried  the old  man.  There are still laws and

"And Gorgo's family is influential as well as rich.  Porphyrius has power
to protect us, and you do not yet know what a fancy he has taken to us.
Ask mother."

"It is like a story," Herse put in.  "Before we left, the old lady--she
must be eighty or more--took me aside and asked me where we were lodging.
I told her at the Widow Mary's and when she heard it she struck her
crutch on the floor.  'Do you like the place?' she asked.  I told her not
at all, and said we could not possibly stop here."

"Quite right!"  cried Karnis.  "The monks in the court-yard will kill us
as dead as rats if they hear us learning heathen hymns."

"That is what I told her; but the old lady did not allow me to finish;
she drew me close to her and whispered, 'only do as my granddaughter
wishes and you shall be safely housed and take this for the present'--
and she put her hand into the purse at her girdle, gave the gold into my
hand, and added loud enough for the others to hear: 'Fifty gold pieces
out of my own pocket if Gorgo tells me that she is satisfied with your

"Fifty gold pieces!"  cried Karnis clasping his hands.  "That brightens
up the dull grey of existence.  Fifty, then, are certain.  If we sing six
times that makes a talent--[estimated in 1880 at $1100]--and that will
buy back our old vineyard at Leontium.  I will repair the old Odeum--they
have made a cowhouse of it--and when we sing there the monks may come and
listen!  You laugh?  But you are simpletons--I should like to see who
will forbid my singing on my own land and in my own country.  A talent of

"It is quite enough to pay on account, and I will not agree to any bargain
that will not give me the field-slaves and cattle.  Castles in the air,
do you say?  But just listen to me:  We are sure you see of a hundred
gold pieces at least. . ."  He had raised his voice in his eagerness and
while he spoke the curtains had been softly opened, and the dull glimmer
of the lamp which stood in front of Orpheus fell on a head which was
charming in spite of its disorder.  A quantity of loose fair hair curled
in papers stuck up all over the round head and fell over the forehead,
the eyes were tired and still half shut, but the little mouth was wide
awake and laughing with the frank amusement of light-hearted youth.

Karnis, without noticing the listener, had gone on with his visionary
hopes of regaining his estates by his next earnings, but at this point
the young girl, holding the curtain in her right hand, stretched out her
plump left arm and begged in a humble whine:

"Good father Karnis, give me a little of your wealth; five poor little

The old man started; but he instantly recovered himself and answered
good-naturedly enough:

"Go back to bed, you little hussy.  You ought to be asleep instead of
listening there!"

"Asleep?"  said the girl.  "While you are shouting like an orator against
the wind!  Five drachmae, father.  I stick to that.  A new ribband for me
will cost one, and the same for Agne, two.  Two I will spend on wine for
us all, and that makes the five."

"That makes four--you are a great arithmetician to be sure!"

"Four?"  said Dada, as much amazed as though the moon had fallen.  "If
only I had a counting-frame.  No, father, five I tell you--it is five."

"No, child, four; and you shall have four," replied her father.  "Plutus
is at the door and to-morrow morning you shall both have garlands."

"Yes,  of violets, ivy and roses," added Dame Herse.  "Is Agne asleep?"

"As sound as the dead.  She always sleeps soundly unless she lies wide
awake all the night through.  But we were both so tired--and I am still.
It is a comfort to yawn.  Do you see how I am sitting?"

"On the clothes-chest?"  said Herse.

"Yes, and the curtain is not a strong back to the seat.  Fortunately if I
fall asleep I shall drop forwards, not backwards."

"But there is a bed for each of you," said the mother, and giving the
girl a gentle push she followed her into the sleeping-alcove.  In a few
minutes she came out again.

"That is just like Dada!"  she exclaimed.  "Little Papias had rolled off
the chest on which he was sleeping, so the good girl had put him into her
bed and was sitting on the chest herself, tired as she was."

"She would do anything for that boy," said Karnis.  "But it is past
midnight.  Come, Orpheus, let us make the bed!"

Three long hen-coops which stood piled against the wall were laid on the
ground and covered with mats; on these the tired men stretched their
limbs, but they could not sleep.

The little lamp was extinguished, and for an hour all was still in the
dark room.  Then, suddenly, there was a loud commotion; some elastic
object flew against the wall with a loud flap, and Karnis, starting up,
called out: "Get out--monster!"

"What is it?"  cried Herse who had also been startled, and the old man
replied angrily:

"Some daemon, some dog of a daemon is attacking me and giving me no
peace.  Wait, you villain--there, perhaps that will settle you," and he
flung his second sandal.  Then, without heeding the rustling fall of some
object that he had hit by accident, he gasped out:

"The impudent fiend will not let me be.  It knows that we need Agne's
voice, and it keeps whispering, first in one ear and then in the other,
that I should threaten to sell her little brother if she refuses; but I--
I--strike a light, Orpheus!--She is a good girl and rather than do such a
thing. . ."

"The daemon has been close to me too," said the son as he blew on the
spark he had struck.

"And to me too," added Herse nervously.  "It is only natural.  There are
no images of the gods in this Christian hovel.  Away, hateful serpent!
We are honest folks and will not agree to any vile baseness.  Here is my
amulet, Karnis; if the daemon comes again you must turn it round--you
know how."


Early next morning the singers set out for the house of Porphyrius.  The
party was not complete, however, for Dada had been forced to remain at
home.  The shoes that the old man had flung to scare away the daemon had
caught in the girl's dress which she had just washed, and had dragged it
down on to the earth; she had found it in the morning full of holes burnt
by the ashes into the damp material.  Dada had no other presentable
garment, so, in spite of her indignant refusal and many tears, she had to
remain indoors with Papias.  Agne's anxious offers to stay in her place
with the little boy and to lend Dada her dress, both Karnis and his wife
had positively refused; and Dada had lent her aid--at first silently
though willingly and then with her usual merriment--in twining garlands
for the others and in dressing Agne's smooth black plaits with a wreath
of ivy and violets.

The men were already washed, anointed and crowned with poplar and laurel
when a steward arrived from Porphyrius to bid them follow him to his
master's house.  But a small sacrifice was necessary, for the messenger
desired them to lay aside their wreaths, which would excite ill-feeling
among the monks, and certainly be snatched off by the Christian mob.
Karnis when he started was greatly disappointed, and as much depressed as
he had been triumphant and hopeful a short time before.

The monks, who had gathered outside the Xenodochium, glanced with
scowling suspicion at the party, who could not recover the good spirits
with which they had begun the day till they were fairly out of the
narrow, gloomy alleys, reeking with tar and salt fish, that adjoined the
harbor, and where they had to push their way through a dense throng.  The
steward led the van with Herse, talking freely in reply to her enquiries.

His master, he said, was one of the great merchants of the city, whose
wife had died twenty years since in giving birth to Gorgo.  His two sons
were at present absent on their travels.  The old lady who had been so
liberal in her treatment of the singers was Damia, the mother of
Porphyrius.  She had a fine fortune of her own, and notwithstanding her
great age was still respected as the soul of business in the household,
and as a woman deeply versed in the mysterious sciences.  Mary, the pious
Christian, who had founded the "House of the Holy Martyr," was the widow
of Apelles, the brother of Porphyrius, but she had ceased all intercourse
with her husband's family.  This was but natural, as she was at the head
of the Christian women of Alexandria, while the household of Porphyrius--
though the master himself had been baptized--was as thoroughly heathen as
any in Alexandria.

Karnis heard nothing of all this, for he came last of the party.  Orpheus
and Agne followed next to Herse and the steward, and after them came two
slaves, carrying the lutes and pipes.  Agne walked with downcast eyes, as
if she desired to avoid seeing all that surrounded her, though when
Orpheus addressed her she shyly glanced up at him and answered briefly
and timidly.  They presently came out of an obscure alley by the canal
connecting Kibotus with Lake Mareotis where the Nile-boats lay at anchor.
Karnis drew a deeper breath, for here the air was clear and balmy; a
light northerly breeze brought the refreshing fragrance of the sea, and
the slender palm-trees that bordered the canal threw long shadows
mingling with the massive shade of the sycamores.  The road was astir
with busy groups, birds sang in the trees, and the old musician drank in
the exciting and aromatic atmosphere of the Egyptian Spring with keen

As they reached the middle of the steep bridge across the canal he
involuntarily stood still, riveted by the view of the southwest.  In his
excitement he threw up his arms, his eyes glistened with moisture and
with the enthusiasm of youth, and, as was always the case when his
emotions were stirred by some glorious work of God or man, an image rose
to his mind, all unbidden--the image of his eldest son, now dead, but in
life his closest and most sympathetic comrade.  He felt as though his
hand could grasp the shoulder of that son, too early snatched away, whose
gifts had far transcended those of the surviving Orpheus--as though he
too could gaze with him on the grand scene that lay before him.

On a platform of rocks and mighty masonry rose a structure of wonderful
magnificence and beauty, so brilliantly illuminated by the morning sun
that its noble proportions and gorgeous colors showed in dazzling
splendor and relief.  Over the gilt dome bent the cloudless blue of the
African sky, and the polished hemisphere shone, as radiant as the sun
whose beams it reflected.  Sloping planes for vehicles, and flights of
steps for pedestrians led up to the gates.  The lower part of this
wonderful edifice--the great Temple of Serapis--was built to stand
forever, and the pillars of the vestibule supported a roof more fitted to
the majesty of the gods than to the insignificance of mortals; priests
and worshippers moved here like children among the trunks of some
gigantic forest.  Round the cornice, in hundreds of niches, and on every
projection, all the gods of Olympus and all the heroes and sages of
Greece seemed to have met in conclave, and stood gazing down on the world
in gleaming brass or tinted marble.  Every portion of the building blazed
with gold and vivid coloring; the painter's hand had added life to the
marble groups in high relief that filled the pediments and the smaller
figures in the long row of metopes.  All the population of a town might
have found refuge in the vast edifice and its effect on the mind was like
that of a harmonious symphony of adoration sung by a chorus of giants.

"All hail!  Great Serapis!  I greet thee in joyful humility, thankful
that Thou hast granted to my old eyes to see Thy glorious and eternal
temple once again!"  murmured Karnis in devout contemplation.  Then,
appealing to his wife and son, he pointed in silence to the building.
Presently, however, as he watched Orpheus gazing in speechless delight at
its magnificent proportions he could not forbear.

"This," he began with fervid enthusiasm, "is the stronghold of Serapis
the King of the Gods!  A work for all time.  Its youth has lasted five
hundred years, its future will extend to all eternity.--Aye, so it is;
and so long as it endures in all its glory the old gods cannot be

"No one will ever dare to touch a stone of it," said the steward.  "Every
child in Alexandria knows that the world will crumble into dust and ashes
if a finger is laid on that Temple, and the man who ventures to touch the
sacred image. . ."

"The god can protect himself!"  interrupted the singer.  "But you--you
Christian hypocrites who pretend to hate life and love death--if you
really long so vehemently for the end of all things, you have only to
fall upon this glorious structure.--Do that, do that--only do that!"

The old man shook his fist at the invisible foe and Herse echoed his

"Aye, aye, only do that!"  Then she added more calmly: "Well, if
everything comes to an end at once the enemies of the gods will die with
us; and there can be nothing terrible in perishing at the same time with
everything that is beautiful or dear to us."

"Nevertheless," said the steward, "the Bishop has put out his hand to
touch the sanctuary.  But our noble Olympius would not suffer the
sacrilegious host to approach, and they had to retire with broken heads.
Serapis will not be mocked; he will stand though all else perish.
'Eternity,' the priest tells us, 'is to him but as an instant, and while
millions of generations bloom and fade, he is still and forever the

"Hail, all hail to the great god!" cried Orpheus with hands outstretched
towards the temple.

"Yea, hail! for everlasting glory shall be his!"  repeated his father.
"Great is Serapis, and his house and his image shall last. . ."

"Till the next full moon!" said a passer-by in a tone of sinister
mockery, shaking his fist in the face, as it were, of the god.  Orpheus
turned quickly to punish the prophet of evil; but he had disappeared in
the crowd and the tide of men had borne him onwards.  "Till the next full
moon!"  murmured Agne, who had shuddered at her companion's rapturous
ejaculations, and she glanced uneasily at Orpheus; but by the time Herse
addressed her a minute or two later she had controlled the expression of
her features, and the matron's heart was gladdened by her bright smile.
Nay, many a young Alexandrian, passing the group on foot or in a
carriage, looked at her a second time, for that smile lent a mysterious
charm to her pale, calm face.  Nor had it faded away when they had
crossed the bridge and were nearing the shores of the lake, for an idea
once conceived lingered long in Agne's mind; and as she walked on in the
bright glory of the morning's sun her mind's eye was fixed on a nocturnal
scene--on the full moon, high in the sky--on the overthrow of the great
idol and a glittering army among the marble ruins of the Serapeum.
Apostles and martyrs soared around, the Saviour sat enthroned in glory
and triumph, while angels, cradled on the clouds that were his footstool,
were singing beatific hymns which sounded clearly in her ear above the
many-voiced tumult of the quays.  The vision did not vanish till she was
desired to get into the boat.

Herse was a native of Alexandria and Karnis had passed some of the best
years of his life there; but to Orpheus and Agne all was new, and even
the girl, when once she had escaped from the crowd and noise which
oppressed her, took an interest in the scene and asked a question now and
then.  The younger man had not eyes enough to see all that claimed his
attention and admiration.

There were the great sluice-gates at the entrance to the canal that
joined the lake to the sea--there, in a separate dock, lay the splendid
imperial Nile-boats which served to keep up communication between the
garrison of Alexandria and the military stations on the river--there,
again, were the gaudy barges intended for the use of the 'comes', the
prefect and other high officials--and there merchant-vessels of every
size lay at anchor in countless number.  Long trains of many-colored
sails swept over the rippling lake like flights of birds across a
cornfield, and every inch of the shore was covered with stores or
buildings.  Far away to the south long trellices of vine covered the
slopes, broken by the silvery glaucous tones of the olive-groves, and by
clumps of towering palms whose crowns mingled to form a lofty canopy.
White walls, gaudily-painted temples and private villas gleamed among the
green, and the slanting rays of the low sun, shining on the drops that
fell from the never-resting wheels and buckets that irrigated the land,
turned them into showers of diamonds.  These water-works, of the most
ingenious construction, many of them invented and contrived by scientific
engineers, were the weapons with which man had conquered the desert that
originally surrounded this lake, forcing it into green fertility and
productiveness of grain and fruit.  Nay, the desert had, for many
centuries, here ceased to exist.  Dionysus the generous, and the kindly
garden-gods had blest the toil of men, and yet, now, in many a plot--in
all which belonged to Christian owners--their altars lay scattered and

During the last thirty years much indeed was changed, and nothing to the
satisfaction of old Karnis; Herse, too, shook her head, and when the
rowers had pulled them about half-way across, she pointed to a broad
vacant spot on the bank where a new building was just rising above the
soil, and said sadly to her husband:

"Would you know that place again?  Where is our dear old temple gone?
The temple of Dionysus."  Karnis started up so hastily that he almost
upset the boat, and their conductor was obliged to insist on his keeping
quiet; he obeyed but badly, however, for his arms were never still as he
broke out:

"And do you suppose that because we are in Egypt I can keep my living
body as still as one of your dead mummies?  Let others keep still if they
can!  I say it is shameful, disgraceful; a dove's gall might rise at it!
That splendid building, the pride of the city and the delight of men's
eyes, destroyed--swept away like dust from the road!  Do you see?  Do you
see, I say?  Broken columns, marble capitals, here, there and everywhere
at the bottom of the lake--here a head and there a torso!  Great and
noble masters formed those statues by the aid of the gods, and they--
they, small and ignoble as they are, have destroyed them by the aid of
evil daemons.  They have annihilated and drowned works that were worthy
to live forever!  And why?  Shall  I  tell you?  Because they shun the
Beautiful as an owl shuns light.  Aye, they do!  There is nothing they
hate or dread so much as beauty; wherever they find it, they deface and
destroy it, even if it is the work of the Divinity.  I accuse them before
the Immortals--for where is the grove even, not the work of man but the
special work of Heaven itself?  Where is our grove, with its cool
grottos, its primaeval trees, its shady nooks, and all the peace and
enjoyment of which it was as full as a ripe grape is full of sweet

"It was cut down and rooted up," replied the steward.  "The emperor gave
the sanctuary over to Bishop Theophilus and he set to work at once to
destroy it.  The temple was pulled down, the sacred vessels went into the
melting-pot, and the images were mutilated and insulted before they were
thrown into the lime-kiln.  The place they are building now is to be a
Christian church.  Oh! to think of the airy, beautiful colonnades that
once stood there, and then of the dingy barn that is to take their

"Why do the gods endure it?  Has Zeus lost his thunderbolts?"  cried
Orpheus clenching his hands, and paying no heed to Agne who sat pale and
sternly silent during this conversation.

"Nay, he only sleeps, to wake with awful power," said the old man.
"See those blocks of marble and ruins under the waves.  Swift work is
destruction!  And men lost their wits and looked on at the crime,
flinging the delight of the gods into the water and the kiln.  They were
wise, very wise; fishes and flames are dumb and cannot cry to heaven.
One barbarian, in one hour can destroy what it has taken the sublimest
souls years, centuries, to create.  They glory in destruction and ruin
and they can no more build up again such a temple as stood there than
they can restore trees that have taken six hundred years to grow.  There
--out there, Herse, in the hollow where those black fellows are stirring
mortar--they have given them shirts too, because they are ashamed of the
beauty of men's bodies--that is where the grotto was where we found your
poor father."

"The grotto?"  repeated his wife, looking at the spot through her tears,
and thinking of the day when, as a girl, she had hurried to the feast of
Dionysus and sought her father in the temple.  He had been famous as a
gem-cutter.  In obedience to the time-honored tradition in Alexandria,
after intoxicating himself with new wine in honor of the god, he had
rushed out into the street to join the procession.  The next morning he
had not returned; the afternoon passed and evening came and still he did
not appear, so his daughter had gone in search of him.  Karnis was at
that time a young student and, as her father's lodger, had rented the
best room in the house.  He had met her going on her errand and had been
very ready to help her in the search; before long they had found the old
man in the ivy-grown grotto in the grove of Dionysus--motionless and
cold, as if struck by lightning.  The bystanders believed that the god
had snatched him away in his intoxicated legion.

In this hour of sorrow Karnis had proved himself her friend, and a few
months after Herse had become his wife and gone with him to Tauromenium
in Sicily.

All this rose before her mind, and even Karnis sat gazing dumbly at the
waves; for every spot where some decisive change has occurred in our
lives has power to revive the past when we see it again after a long
absence.  Thus they all sat in silence till Orpheus, touching his father,
pointed out the temple of Isis where he had met the fair Gorgo on the
previous day.  The old man turned to look at the sanctuary which, as yet,
remained intact.

"A barbarous structure!"  he said bitterly.  "The art of the Egyptians
has long been numbered with the dead and the tiger hungers only for the

"Nay, it is not such a bad piece of work," replied the steward, "but it
is out of their reach; for the ground on which it stands belongs to my
old mistress, and the law protects private property.--You must at your
leisure inspect the ship-yard here; it is perhaps the most extensive in
the world.  The timber that is piled there--cedar of Lebanon, oak from
Pontus and heavy iron-wood  from  Ethiopia--is  worth  hundreds  of

"And does all that belong to your master?"

"No; the owner is the grandson of a freedman, formerly in his family.
Now they are very rich and highly respected, and Master Clemens sits in
the Senate.  There he is--that man in a white robe."

"A Christian, I  should  imagine," observed the singer.

"Very true;" replied the steward.  "But what is good remains good, and he
is a worthy and excellent man notwithstanding.  He keeps a tight hand
over the ship-yard here and over the others too by the harbor of
Eunostus.  Only Clemens can never let other people have their own
opinions; in that he is just like the rest of them.  Every slave he buys
must become a Christian and his sons are the same; even Constantine,
though he is an officer in the imperial army and as smart and clever a
soldier as lives.--As far as we are concerned we leave every man to his
own beliefs.  Porphyrius makes no secret of his views and all the vessels
we use in the corn-trade are built by Christians.--But here we are."

The boat stopped at a broad flight of marble steps which led from the
lake into the garden of Porphyrius' house.  Karnis as he walked through
the grounds felt himself at greater ease, for here the old gods were at
home; their statues gleamed among the dark clumps of evergreens, and were
mirrored in the clear tanks, while delicious perfumes were wafted from
the garlanded shrines and freshly anointed altars, to greet the


The family of musicians were kindly received, but they were not
immediately called upon to perform, for as soon as Damia heard that the
pretty fair-haired child who had pleased her so much the day before had
been obliged to remain at home, she had one of her granddaughter's
dresses brought out, and requested Herse to go back to fetch her.  Some
slaves were to accompany Herse and transfer all her little property on
board a Nile-boat belonging to Porphyrius, which was lying at anchor just
off the ship-yard.  In this large barge there were several cabins which
had often accommodated guests, and which would now serve very well as a
residence for Karnis and his party.  Indeed, it was particularly well
suited for a family of musicians, for they could practise there
undisturbed, and Gorgo could at any time pay them a visit.

Herse went back to the Xenodochium with a lighter heart; her son also
returned to the city to replace a number of necessaries that had been
lost on board ship, and Karnis, rejoicing to be out of the monk-haunted
asylum had remained in the men's room in the house of his new patron,
enjoying the good things which abounded there.  He felt as though he was
here once more at home after years of exile.  Here dwelt the spirit of
his fathers; here he found men who enjoyed life after his own fashion,
who could share his enthusiasms and his hatreds.  He drank noble liquor
out of an elegantly carved onyx cup, all that he heard soothed his ears,
and all that he said met with entire sympathy.  The future prospects of
his family, till now so uncertain, were hardly inferior to those which
his vivid imagination had painted the night before.  And even if Fortune
should again desert him, the hours of present enjoyment should be written
down to the profit side of life, and remain a permanent gain at any rate
in memory.

The venerable Damia, her son Porphyrius, and the fair Gorgo were in fact
a trio such as are rarely met with.  The master of the house, more
cautious than the women, was inclined to think that his mother and
daughter had been somewhat overhasty and imprudent in their advances and
he had at first received Karnis with considerable reserve; but after a
short interview he had convinced himself that the musician was a man of
unusual culture and superior stamp.  The old lady had, from the first,
been predisposed in his favor, for she had read in the stars last night
that the day was to bring her a fortunate meeting.  Her wish was law, and
Karnis could not help smiling when she addressed her son, whose hair had
long been grey and who looked fully competent to manage his own
household, as "my child," not hesitating to scold and reprove him.  Her
cathedra was a high arm-chair which she never quitted but to be carried
to her observatory on the roof of the house, where she kept her
astrological tablets and manuscripts.  The only weakness about her was in
her feet; but strong, and willing arms were always at her disposal to
carry her about--to table, into her sleeping-room, and during the daytime
out to sunny spots in the garden.  She was never so happy as when Helios
warmed her back with his rays, for her old blood needed it after the long
night-watches that she still would keep in her observatory.  Even during
the hottest noon she would sit in the sun, with a large green umbrella to
shade her keen eyes, and those who desired to speak with her might find
shade as best they could.  As she stood, much bent, but propped on her
ivory crutches, eagerly following every word of a conversation, she
looked as though she were prepared at any moment to spring into the
middle of it and interrupt the speaker.  She always said exactly what she
meant without reserve or ruth; and throughout her long life, as the
mistress of great wealth, she had always been allowed to have her own
way.  She asserted her rights even over her son, though he was the centre
of a web whose threads reached to the furthest circumference of the known
world.  The peasants who tilled the earth by the Upper and Lower Nile,
the shepherds who kept their flocks in the Arabian desert, in Syria, or
on the Silphium meads of Cyrenaica, the wood-cutters of Lebanon and
Pontus, the mountaineers of Hispania and Sardinia, the brokers,
merchants, and skippers of every port on the Mediterranean, were bound by
these threads to the villa on the shore of Mareotis, and felt the tie
when the master there--docile as a boy to his mother's will--tightened or
released his hold.

His possessions, even in his youth, had been so vast that their increment
could bring no added enjoyment to him or his family, and yet their
increase had become his life's task.  He strove for a higher sum to
figure on the annual balance sheet, as eagerly as an athlete strives for
a prize; and his mother not only inspected the account, but watched every
important undertaking with keen interest.  When her son and his
colleagues doubted over some decision it was she who gave the casting
vote; but though her advice in most cases proved sound and profitable,
she herself ascribed this less to her own acumen and knowledge of the
world than to the hints she obtained from the stars and from magical
calculations.  Her son did not follow her in these speculations, but he
rarely disputed the conclusions that she drew from her astrological
studies.  While she was turning night into day he was glad to entertain a
few learned friends, for all the hours of leisure that he could snatch
from his pursuit of fortune, he devoted to philosophy, and the most
distinguished thinkers of Alexandria were happy to be received at the
hospitable table of so rich a patron.  He was charmed to be called

     [The noble Athenian family of Callias was famed for its wealth and

and the heathen teachers at the schools of the Museum and Serapeum
regarded him as a faithful ally.  It was known that he had been baptized,
but he never liked to hear the fact mentioned.  He won all hearts by his
perfect modesty, but even more perhaps by a certain air of suffering and
melancholy which protected the wealthy merchant against the envy of

In the course of her conversation with Karnis the old lady enquired
particularly as to the antecedent history of Agne, for if there had been
a stain on her character, or if she were by birth a slave, Gorgo could
not of course be seen with her in public, and in that case Karnis would
have to teach the lament of Isis to some freeborn singer.  Karnis in
reply could only shrug his shoulders, and beg the ladies and Porphyrius
to judge for themselves when he should have related the young girl's

Three years since, he said, he had been staying at Antioch at the time of
a violent outbreak against the levying of certain taxes.  There had been
much bloodshed, and he and his family had got out of the city as quickly
as they could.  It was growing dusk when they turned into a wayside inn,
where they found Agne and her little brother captives to a soldier.
During the night the girl had crept up to the little boy's bed, and to
comfort and lull him had begun to sing him a simple song.  The singer's
voice was so pure and pathetic that it had touched both him and his wife
and they had at once purchased the girl and her brother for a small sum.
He had simply paid what the soldier asked, not regarding the children in
the light of slaves; nor had he had any description of them written out,
though it was, no doubt, in his power to treat them as slaves and to sell
them again, since the sale had taken place before witnesses who might
still be found.  He had afterwards learnt from the girl that her parents
were Christians and had settled in Antioch only a few years previously;
but she had no friends nor relatives there.  Her father, being a tax-
collector in the service of the Emperor, had moved about a great deal,
but she remembered his having spoken of Augusta Treviroruin in Belgica
prima, as his native place.--[Now Trier or Treves, on the Moselle.]

Agne had witnessed the attack on her father's house by the angry mob who
had killed her parents, their two slaves, and her elder brother.  Her
father must certainly have been an official of some rank, and probably,
as it would seem, a Roman citizen, in which case--as Porphyrius agreed--
both the young girl and her little brother could legally claim their
freedom.  The insurgents who had dragged the two children out into the
street had been driven off by the troops, and it was from them that
Karnis had rescued them.  "And I have never regretted it," added the old
musician, "for Agne is a sweet, gentle soul.  Of her voice I need say
nothing, since you yourselves heard it yesterday."

"And were quite delighted with it!"  cried Gorgo.  "If flowers could sing
it would be like that!"

"Well, well," said Karnis.  "She has a lovely voice--but she wants wings.
Something--what, I know not, keeps the violet rooted to the soil."

"Christian scruples," said the merchant, and Damia added:

"Let Eros touch her--that will loosen her tongue."

"Eros, always Eros!"  repeated Gorgo shrugging her shoulders.  "Nay, love
means suffering--those who love drag a chain with them.  To do the best
of which he is capable man needs only to be free, true, and in health."

"That is a great deal, fair mistress," replied Karnis eagerly.  "With
these three gifts the best work is done.  But as to Agne--what can be
further from freedom than a girl bound to service? her body, to be sure
is healthy, but her spirit suffers; she can get no peace for dread of the
Christian's terrors: Sin, Repentance, and Hell. . . ."

"Oh, we know how their life is ruined!" interrupted the old lady.
"Was it Agne who introduced you to Mary's Asylum?"

"No, noble lady."

"But how then--that  prudent  saint  generally selects her guests, and
those that are not baptized . . ."

"She certainly sheltered heathens on this occasion."

"I am much surprised.  Tell me how it happened."

"We were at Rome," began Karnis, "and my patron there persuaded Marcus,
Mary's son, to take us on board his ship at Ostia.  We dropped anchor at
Cyrene, where the young master wanted to pick up his brother and bring
him also to Alexandria."

"Then is Demetrius here?"  asked Porphyrius.

"Yes, sir.  He came on board at Cyrene.  Hardly had we got fairly to sea
again when we saw two pirate ships.  Our trireme was at once turned
round, but in our hurry to regain the harbor we stuck fast on a sand
bank; the boats were at once put out to save the passengers and Cynegius,
the consul. . ."

"Cynegius--on his way here!"  exclaimed Porphyrius, much excited.

"He landed yesterday with us in the harbor of Eunostus.  The secretaries
and officers of his suite filled one boat and Marcus and his brother were
getting into the other with their men.  We, and others of the free
passengers, should have been left behind if Dada . . ."

"That pretty little blonde?"  asked Damia.

"The very same.  Marcus had taken a great fancy to her prattle and her
songs during the voyage--no nightingale can sing more clearly--and when
she begged and prayed him he gave way at once, and said: he would take
her in his boat.  But the brave child declared that she would jump into
the sea before she would leave without us."

"Well done!"  cried the old lady, and Porphyrius added:

"That speaks well for her and for you."

"So after all Marcus found room for us in the boat--for all of us, and we
got safely to land.  A few days after we all came on in a troop-ship:
Cynegius, the two brothers and the rest, all safe and sound; and, as we
had lost everything we possessed, Marcus gave us a certificate which
procured our admission into his mother's Xenodochium.  And then the gods
brought me and mine under the notice of your noble daughter."

"Then Cynegius is here, positively here?"  asked Porphyrius once more.
Karnis assured him that he was, and the merchant, turning to his mother,
went on:

"And Olympius has not yet come home.  It is always the same thing; he is
as rash as a boy.  If they should take him!  The roads are swarming with
monks.  There is something astir.  Bring out the chariot, Syrus, at once;
and tell Atlas to be ready to accompany me.  Cynegius here!--Ha, ha!
I thank the gods!"

The last exclamation was addressed to a man who at this instant came into
the room, muffled up to the eyes.  He threw off the hood of his cloak and
the wrapper that went round his throat, concealing his long white beard,
and as he did so he exclaimed with a gasp for breath:

"Here I am once more!--Cynegius is here and matters look serious my

"You have been to the Museum?"

"Without any obstruction.  I found them all assembled.  Brave lads.  They
are all for us and the gods.  There are plenty of weapons.  The Jews--
[At that time about two-fifths of the whole population.]--are not
stirring, Onias thinks he may vouch for that; and we must surely be a
match for the monks and the imperial cohorts."

"If the gods only stand by us to-day and tomorrow," replied Porphyrius

"For ever, if only the country people do their duty!"  cried the other.
"But who is this stranger?"

"The chief of the singers who were here yesterday," replied Gorgo.

"Karnis, the son of Hiero of Tauromenium," said the musician, bowing to
the stranger, whose stately figure and handsome, thoughtful head struck
him with admiration.

"Karnis of Tauromenium!" exclaimed the newcomer with glad surprise.
"By Hercules! a strange meeting.  Your hand, your hand, old man.  How
many years is it since we last emptied a wine-jar together at the house
of old Hippias?  Seven lustres have turned our hair grey, but we still
can stand upright.  Well, Karnis son of Hiero--and who am I?"

"Olympius--the great Olympius!"  cried Karnis, eagerly grasping the
offered hand.  "May all the gods bless this happy day!"

"All the gods?"  repeated the philosopher.  "Is that what you say?  Then
you have not crawled under the yoke of the cross?"

"The world can rejoice only under the auspices of the gods!"  cried
Karnis excitedly.

"And it shall rejoice still, we will  save it  from gloom!"  added the
other with a flash of vehemence.

"The times are fateful.  We must fight; and no longer over trifles; we
cannot now break each other's heads over a quibble, or believe that the
whole world hangs on the question whether the instant of death is the
last minute of this life or the first of the next.  No--what now remains
to be decided is whether the old gods shall be victorious, whether we
shall continue to live free and happy under the rule of the Immortals,
or whether we shall bow under the dismal doctrine of the carpenter's
crucified son; we must fight for the highest hopes and aims of humanity."

"I know," interrupted Karnis, "you have already done battle valiantly for
great Serapis.  They wanted to lay hands on his sanctuary but you and
your disciples put them to rout.  The rest got off scot-free .  .  ."

"But they have taught me the value of my head," said Olympius laughing.
"Evagrius prices it at three talents.  Why, you might buy a house with
the money and a modest man could live upon the interest.  This worthy man
keeps me concealed here.  We must talk over a few things, Porphyrius; and
you, Gorgo, do not forget the solemn festival of Isis.  Now that Cynegius
is here it must be made as splendid as possible, and he must tell the
Emperor, who has sent him, what temper we Alexandrians are in.  But where
is the dark maiden I saw yesterday?"

"In the garden," replied Gorgo.

"She is to sing at the foot of the bier!" cried Olympius.  "That must not
be altered."

"If I can persuade her--she is a Christian," said Karnis doubtfully.

"She must," said the philosopher positively.  "It will be a bad lookout
indeed for the logic and rhetoric of Alexandria if an old professor and
disputant cannot succeed in turning a young girl's resolutions upside
down.  Leave that to me.  I shall find time for a chat with you by and
bye, friend Karnis.  How in the world does it happen that you, who so
often have helped us with your father's coin, have come down to be the
chief of a band of travelling musicians?  You will have much to tell me,
my good friend; but even such important matters must give way to those
that are more pressing.  One word with you, Porphyrius."

Agne had been all this time awaiting Herse's return in the colonnade that
ran along the garden-front of the house.  She was glad to be alone, and
it was very comfortable to rest on the soft cushions under the gilt-
coffered ceiling of the arcade.  At each end stood large shrubs covered
with bunches of violet-blue flowers and the spreading branches cast a
pleasant shade on the couch where she sat; the beautiful flowers, which
were strange to her, were delightfully fragrant, and from time to time
she helped herself to the refreshments which Gorgo herself had brought
out to her.  All she saw, heard, and felt, was soothing to her mind;
never had she seen or tasted juicier peaches, richer bunches of grapes,
fresher almonds or more tempting cakes; on the shrubs in the garden and
on the grass-plots between the paths there was not a dead leaf, not a dry
stem, not the tiniest weed.  The buds were swelling on the tall trees,
shrubs without end were covered with blossoms--white, blue,  yellow, and
red--while, among the smooth, shining leaves of the orange and lemon
trees, gleamed the swelling fruit.  On a round tank close at hand some
black swans were noiselessly tracing evanescent circles and uttering
their strange lament.  The song of birds mingled with the plash of
fountains, and even the marble statues, for all that they were dumb,
seemed to be enjoying the sweet morning air and the stir and voice of

Yes, she could be happy here; as she peeled a peach and slowly swallowed
the soft fragrant mouthfuls, she laughed to remember the hard ship's-
biscuit, of the two previous days' fare.  And it was Gorgo's privilege to
revel in these good things day after day, year after year.  It was like
living in Eden, in the perpetual spring of man's first blissful home on
earth.  There could be no suffering here; who could cry here, who could
be sorrowful, who could die? . . .  Here a new train of thought forced
itself upon her.  She was still so young, and yet she was as familiar
with the idea of death as she was with life; for whenever she had
happened to tell any minister of her creed that she was an orphan and a
slave, and deeply sad and sorrowful, the joys of eternity in Paradise had
always been described to her for her consolation, and it was in hopes of
Heaven that her visionary nature found such a modicum of comfort as might
suffice to keep the young artist-soul from despair.  And now it struck
her that it must be hard, very hard to die, in the midst of all this
splendor.  Living here must be a foretaste of the joys of Paradise--
and in the next world, among the angels of Heaven, in the presence of the
Saviour--would it not be a thousand times more beautiful even than this?
She shuddered, for, sojourning here, she was no longer to be counted as
one of the poor and humble sufferers to whom Christ had promised the
Kingdom of Heaven--here she was one of the rich, who had nothing
to hope for after death.

She pushed the peaches away with a feeling of oppression, and closed
her eyes that she might no longer see all these perishable splendors
and sinful works of the heathen, which pandered only to the senses.
She longed to remain miserable and poor on earth, that she might rejoin
her parents and dwell with them eternally.

To her it was not a belief but a certainty that her father and mother
were dwelling in Heaven, and she had often felt moved to pray that she
might die and be reunited to them; but she must not die yet, for her
little brother still needed her care.  The kind souls whom she served
let him lack for nothing, it is true, that could conduce to his bodily
welfare; still, she could not appear before her parents without the
little one in her hand, and he would be lost eternally if his soul fell
into the power of the enemies of her faith.  Her heart ached when she
reflected that Karnis, who was certainly not one of the reprobate and
whom she affectionately revered as a master in the art she loved--that
Herse, and the light-hearted Dada, and Orpheus even, must all be doomed
to perish eternally; and to save Orpheus she would willingly have
forfeited half the joys of Paradise.  She saw that he was no less an
idolater than his parents; and yet, day by day, she prayed that his soul
might be saved, and she never ceased to hope for a miracle--that he too
might see a vision, like Paul, and confess the Saviour.  She was so happy
when she was with him, and never happier than when it was her fortune to
sing with him, or to his admirable accompaniment on the lute.  When she
could succeed in forgetting herself completely, and in giving utterance
by her lovely voice to all that was highest and best in her soul, he,
whose ear was no less sensitive and appreciative than his father's, would
frankly express his approval, and in these moments life was indeed fair
and precious.

Music was the bond between her and Orpheus, and when her soul was stirred
she could feel and express herself in music.  Song was the language of
her heart, and she had learnt by experience that it was a language which
even the heathen could both use and understand.  The Eternal Father
himself must find joy in such a voice as Gorgo's.  She was a heathen, and
yet she had thrown into her song all that Agne herself could feel when
she lifted up her heart in passionate prayer.  The Christian--so she had
often been taught--must have no part with the idolaters; but it was God
himself who had cast her on the hands of Karnis, and the Church commanded
that servants should obey their masters.  Singing seemed to her to be a
language in itself, bestowed by God on all living creatures, even on the
birds, wherein to speak to Him; so she allowed herself to look forward
with pleasure to an opportunity of mingling her own voice with that of
the heathen lady.


Not long after Porphyrius and the philosopher had retired to a private
room Herse returned with Dada.  Gorgo's blue spangled dress, which Damia
had sent her, suited the girl to perfection; but she was quite out of
breath, and her hair was in disorder.  Herse, too, looked agitated, her
face was red and she dragged little Papias, whose hand she held, rather
roughly at her heels.

Dada was evidently abashed; less by reason of the splendor that
surrounded her than because her foster-mother had strictly enjoined her
to be very quiet and mannerly in the presence of their patrons.  She felt
shy and strange as she made her low courtesy to the old lady; but Damia
seemed to be pleased with the timid grace of her demeanor, for she
offered her her hand--an honor she usually conferred only on her
intimates, bid her stoop, and gave her a kiss, saying kindly: "You are a
good brave girl.  Fidelity to your friends is pleasing in the sight of
the gods, and finds its reward even among men."

Dada, obeying a happy impulse, threw herself on her knees before the old
woman, kissed her hands, and then, sitting on her heels, nestled at her

Gorgo, however, noticing Herse's agitation, asked what had happened to
them.  Some monks, Herse explained, had followed them on the road hither,
had snatched Dada's lyre from the slave who was carrying it and pulled
the wreath out of her hair.  Damia was furious as she heard it, and
trembled with rage as she railed at the wild hordes who disgraced and
desecrated Alexandria, the sacred home of the Muses; then she began to
speak once more of the young captain, Mary's son, to whom the troupe of
singers owed their lives.

"Marcus," said she, "is said to be a paragon of chastity.  He races in
the hippodrome with all the gallants of the town and yet--if it is true
it is a miracle--he shuns women as though he were a priest already.  His
mother is very anxious that he should become one; but he, by the grace of
Aphrodite, is the son of my handsome Appelles, who, if he had gazed into
those blue eyes all the way from Rome to Alexandria, would have
surrendered at mercy; but then he would also have conquered them--as
surely as I hope to live till autumn.  You need not blush so, child.
After all, Marcus is a man like other men.  Keep your eyes open, Dame

"Never fear!"  cried Herse.  "And I have need to keep them open I am
sorry to say.  The young captain, who on board ship was so bashful and
retiring, as soon as he was on land altered his time.  While we were away
this morning he crept into his own mother's inn like a ferret, opened the
door of our room with the keys of which he has the command--it is
shameful!--and proposed to the girl to fly, to leave us--she is the
daughter of a dear sister of mine--and go with him; who but he knows

Damia struck the floor with her crutch and, interrupting the indignant
matron with a spiteful laugh, exclaimed:

"Ha, ha!  The saintly Mary's most saintly son!  Such wonders do not
happen every day!  Here, Dada--here; take this ring, it has been worn by
a woman who once was young and who has had many lovers.  Close--come
close, my sweet child."

Dada looked up at the old lady with puzzled eyes; Damia bent her head
close to the girl's, and whispered, softly but vehemently in her ear:

"Only turn that milksop's head, make him so madly and desperately in love
with you that he does not know which way to turn for delicious torment.
You can do it I know, and if you do--well, I make no promises; but on the
day when all Alexandria is talking of that woman's son as wandering out,
night after night, to watch under the window of the fair Dada, the
heathen singer--when he drives you out in the face of day and in his own
chariot, down the Canopic Way and past his mother's door--then child,
ask, claim whatever you will, and old Damia will not refuse it."

Then raising her head she added to the others:

"In the afternoon, my friends, you can take possession of your new
quarters.  Go with them, Dada.  By-and-bye we will find you a pretty room
in the tower.  Come and see me very often, sweet one, and tell me all
your prettiest tales.  When I am not too busy I shall always be glad to
see you, for you and I have a secret you know."

The girl stood up, looking uneasily at the old woman; Damia nodded
knowingly, as much as to say that they quite understood each other and
again offered her hand to Dada; but Dada could not kiss it; she turned
and followed the others more gravely than usual.

Gorgo guessed what the old lady would be at with Dada; as soon as the
party of singers had taken leave she went up to her grandmother and said

"That little fair thing will find no difficulty in making a fool of
Marcus; for my part I hardly know him, but why should he pay for his
mother's sins against you?  How can he help. . ."

"He cannot help it," interrupted Damia with decisive abruptness.  "He can
do nothing to save his mother, any more than you can help being a child
of twenty and bound to hold your tongue till your opinion is asked."


The family of musicians had all met on board the barge which was lying at
anchor in the lake, off the ship-yard.  Orpheus had just been an eye-
witness of the disturbance which prevailed throughout the city, and the
wild howls and cries that were audible in the distance confirmed his
report; but the waters of the lake were an unruffled mirror of blue, the
slaves in the ship-yard were at work as usual, and the cooing turtle-
doves flew from palm to palm.

No signs of troubled times were to be seen in the floating home of the
wanderers.  The steward had provided for everything.  There were rooms
and beds to spare in the vessel; the large deck-cabin was a comfortable
sitting-room, and from the little galley at the prow came a savory smell
of cooking and a cheerful clang of pots and pans.

"This is living!"  exclaimed Karnis, stretching himself comfortably on a
divan.  "This abode seems made on purpose for our noble selves!  Sit
down, mother, make yourself at home.  Here we are people of consequence,
and if it were only to make things pleasant for the slaves we must behave
as though we had never known people who take their meals squatted round
an earthen bowl, and clawing out the broken meat.  Enjoy the gifts of the
present--who knows how long this golden hour may last!  Ah, wife, it
reminds us of former times!  It would be very pleasant to be like this,
side by side, and help ourselves from a table all our own to dainty
dishes which we had not assisted in cooking.  For you, old woman, have
done everything with your own hands for so long, that you deserve to have
some one to wait on you for once."

A little table was placed by each divan and covered with appetizing food;
the steward mixed some fine wine of the country with fresh, clear water,
Orpheus offered the libation, and Karnis spiced the meal with jests and
tales of his youth, of which he had been reminded by his meeting with his
old friend and comrade Olympius.

Dada interrupted him frequently, laughing more loudly and recklessly than
usual; she was in a fever of excitement and Herse did not fail to remark
it.  The good woman was somewhat uneasy.  The very fact that her husband
always gave himself up heart and soul to the influences of the hour--
though she was glad that he should enjoy this good fortune to the utmost-
-made her look beyond the present into the future.  She had seen with her
own eyes the tumult that was rife in Alexandria, and felt that they had
arrived at an inauspicious moment.  If it should come to a struggle
between the Christians and the Heathen, Karnis, finding that his old
friend Olympius was the head of his party, would infallibly seize the
sword, and if, then, the victory remained with the Christians no mercy
would be shown to those who had fought for the old gods.  Gorgo's wish
that Agne should sing in the temple of Isis was another source of
anxiety; for if it came to that they might, only too probably, be accused
of perverting a Christian to heathen worship, and be condemned to a
severe penalty.  All this had worn a very different aspect yesterday when
she had thought of Alexandria as the gay home of her youth; but now she
saw what a change had taken place in these thirty years.  The Church had
risen on the ruins of the Temple, and monks had forced the sacrificing
priests into the background.

Karnis and his troupe were musicians of no ordinary stamp; still the law
concerning singing-girls might place him in peril, especially now that--
to make matters worse--a young Christian was paying court to his pretty
niece.  What catastrophes might not be called down on his hapless head if
so influential a woman as Marcus' mother Mary should come to know of her
son's backsliding!  Herse had long perceived how attractive that little
simpleton was to all men--old and young--and when one of the lovers, of
whom she had no lack, happened to take her fancy she was apt to forget
herself and play a too audacious game; but as soon as she found she had
gone too far and somewhat committed herself she would draw back and meet
him, if she could not avoid him, with repellent and even unmannerly
coldness.  Again and again had Herse scolded and warned her, but Dada
always answered her reproofs by saying that she could not make herself
different from what she was, and Herse had never been able to remain
stern and severe in the face of the foolish excuses that Dada put forward
so convincingly.

To-day the good woman could not quite make up her mind whether it would
be wiser to warn Dada against Marcus and desire her to repel any advances
he might attempt to make, or to let bygones be bygones.  She knew full
well how a trifling incident gains importance when undue emphasis is laid
on it; she therefore had merely asked the girl what secret she could have
with old Damia and had accepted some evasive subterfuge in reply, while,
at the same time, she guessed the truth and was quite determined not to
remit her watchfulness.  For a time, at any rate, she thought she would
let matters go their own way, and never mention the young fellow's name;
but her husband spoilt this plan, for with the eager jollity of a man
very much at his ease after a good dinner he called upon Dada to tell
their the whole history of the young Christian's invasion in the morning.
Dada at first was reticent, but the old man's communicative humor proved
infectious and she presently told her story:

"I was sitting alone with the poor little boy, like--well I do not know
what like--you must find a comparison for yourselves.  I was comforting
myself with the reflection that the key was on the inside and the door
locked, for I was getting frightened as the monks began to sing in the
yard below, one part going off to the left, as it were, and the other
part to the right.  Did you ever see two drunken men walking arm in arm,
and lurching first to one side and then to the other?  You may laugh,
but by the nine Muses it was just like that.  Then Papias grew tired and
cross and kept asking where Agne was, till at last he began to cry.  When
I asked him what he was crying for, he said he had forgotten, I really am
patient--you must all allow that--I did not do anything to him, but, just
to give him something to play with, I took out the key, for there was
nothing else at hand that he could not break, and gave it to him and told
him to play a tune on it.  This delighted him, and he really did it quite
prettily.  Then I looked over my burnt dress and was horrified to see how
large the holes were, and it struck me that I might turn it, because when
you turn a thing the spots, you know, do not show."

"You have invented that this very minute," cried Orpheus laughing.
"We know you.  If you can only turn the laugh against yourself. . ."

"No, really," cried Dada, "the idea flew through my head like a bird
through a room; but I remembered at once that a hole burnt through shows
on both sides, so I threw the dress aside as past mending and sat down on
the low stool to peep through the wicket by the door out at the yard; the
singing had stopped and the silence frightened me almost as much.  Papias
had stopped his piping too, and was sitting in the corner where Orpheus
sat to write his letter to Tauromenium."

"I know," said Orpheus, "the inkstand was there, that the steward of the
inn had lent us the day before."

"Just so; and when mother came in, there he was, dipping his finger in
the ink, and painting his white dress--you can study the pattern at your
leisure.--But no not interrupt me.--Well, I was looking into the court-
yard; it was quite empty; all the monks were gone.  Suddenly a tall young
man in a white dress with a beautiful sky-blue border appeared through
the great gate.  The gate-keeper crawled after him very humbly as far as
his rope would allow and even the steward spoke to him with both hands
pressed to his breast as if he had a faithful heart on the right side as
well as the one on the left.  This young man--it was our kind friend
Marcus, of course--crossed the court, taking a zigzag at first, as a
snipe flies, and then came towards our door.  The steward and the gate-
keeper had both vanished.--Do you remember the young Goths whom their
father took to bathe in the Tiber last winter, when it was so cold?  And
how they first stood on the brink and dipped their toes in, and then ran
away and when they came back again just wetted their heads and chests?
But they had to jump in at last when their father shouted some barbaric
words to them--I can see them now.  Well, Marcus was exactly like those
boys; but at last he suddenly walked straight up to our door and

"He remembered your pretty face no doubt," laughed Karnis.

"May be.  However, I did not stir.  I kept as still as a mouse, sitting
on my stool and watching him through the key-hole, till presently he
called out: 'Is no one there?'  Then I forgot and answered: 'They are all
out!'  Of course I had betrayed myself--but it is impossible to think of
everything at once.  Oh! yes--you may laugh.  And he smiled too--he is a
very handsome fellow--and desired me most pressingly to open the door as
he had something of the greatest importance to say to me.  I said he
could talk very well through the gap at the top; that Pyramus and Thisbe
had even kissed through a chink in a wall.  But he would not see the
joke; he got graver and more earnest, and insisted, saying that our fate,
his and mine, hung on that hour, and that not a soul must overhear what
he had to say.  The top of the door was too high to whisper through, so
there was nothing for it but to ask Papias for the key; however, he did
not know where he had put it.  I afterwards thought of asking him what he
had done with his flute and he fetched it then at once.--In short, the
key was nowhere to be found.  I told Marcus this and he wrung his hands
with vexation; but in a few minutes the inn-steward, who must have been
hiding to listen behind a pillar, suddenly appeared as if he had dropped
from the skies, took a key out of his girdle, threw the door wide open,
and vanished as if the earth had swallowed him.

"There we stood, Marcus and I, face to face.  He was quite agitated; I
really believe the poor fellow was trembling, and I did not feel very
confident; however, I asked him what it was that he wanted.  Then he
recovered himself a little: 'I wished,'--he began; so I went on: 'Thou
wishedst,'--and it might have gone on to the end: 'he wished, we wished'
---and so forth, like the children at school at Rome, when we were
learning Greek; but, Papias came to the rescue, for he ran up to Marcus
and asked him to toss him up high, as he used to do on board ship.
Marcus did as he was asked, and then he suddenly broke out into such a
torrent of words that I was quite terrified.  First he said so many fine
things that I quite expected a declaration of love, and was trying to
make up my mind whether I would laugh him out of it or throw myself into
his arms--for he really is a dear, good, handsome fellow--and if you
would like to know the truth I should have been very willing to oblige
him--to a certain extent.  But he asked me nothing, and from talking of
me--listen to this Father Karnis--and saying that the great Father in
Heaven had granted me every good gift, he went on to speak of you as a
wicked, perverse and reprobate old heathen."

"I will teach him!"  exclaimed Karnis shaking his fist.

"Nay, but listen," Dada went on.  "He praised you and mother for a great
many things; but do you know what he says is wrong?  He says you will
imperil my psyche--my soul, my immortal soul.  As if I had ever heard of
any Psyche but the Psyche whom Eros loved!"

"That is quite another thing," said Karnis very seriously.  "In many
songs, you know, I have tried to make you uplift your soul to a higher
flight.  You have learnt to sing, and there is no better school for a
woman's soul than music and singing.  If that conceited simpleton--why,
he is young enough to be my grandson--if he talks any such nonsense to
you again you may tell him from me . . ."

"You will tell him nothing," cried Herse, "for we can have nothing
whatever to do with the Christian.  You are my own sister's child and I
desire and order you--do you hear--to keep out of his way, if he ever
tries to come near you again . . ."

"Who is likely to find us here?"  said Dada.  "Besides, he has no such
ideas and motives as you suppose.  It is what he calls my soul that he
cares for and not myself; and he wanted to take me away, not to his own
house, but to some man who would be the physician of my soul, he said.
I am generally ready enough to laugh, but what he said was so impressive
and solemn, and so wonderfully earnest and startling that I could not
jest over it.  At last I was more angry at his daring to speak to me in
such a way than any of you ever thought I could be, and that drove him
half mad.  You came in, mother, just as the gentleman had fallen on his
knees to implore me to leave you."

"And I gave him my mind on the subject," retorted Herse with grim
satisfaction.  "I let him know what I thought of him.  He may talk about
the soul--what he is after is the girl.  I know these Christians and I
know what the upshot will be.  He will take advantage of the edict to
gain his ends, and then you will be separated from us and shut up in a
reformatory or a refuge or a cloister or whatever they call their dismal
prisons, and will learn more about your soul than you will care to know.
It will be all over then with singing, and laughter, and amusement.  Now
you know the truth, and if you are wise you will keep out of his way till
we leave Alexandria; and that will be as soon as possible, if you listen
to reason, Karnis."

She spoke with such earnest conviction that Dada remained silent with
downcast eyes, and Karnis sat up to think the matter over.

However, there was no time now for further reflection; the steward came
in and desired that he, with his son and Agne should go at once to Gorgo
to practise the lament of Isis.

This command did not include Herse and Dada, who remained on the barge.
Herse having plenty to occupy her in the lower rooms, Dada went on deck
and watched the others on their way to the house; then she sat looking at
the shipwrights at their work and tossed fruit and sweetmeats, the
remains of their dessert, for the children to catch who were playing on
the shore.  Meanwhile she thought over Marcus' startling speech, Damia's
injunctions and Herse's warnings.

At first it seemed to her that Herse might be right, but by degrees she
fell back into her old conviction that the young Christian could mean no
harm by her; and she felt as sure that he would find her out wherever she
might hide herself, as that it was her pretty and much-admired little
person that he sought to win, and not her soul--for what could such an
airy nothing as a soul profit a lover?  How rapturously he had described
her charms, how candidly he had owned that her image was always before
him even in his dreams, that he could not and would not give her up--nay,
that he was ready to lay down his life to save her soul.  Only a man in
love could speak like this and a man so desperately in love can achieve
whatever he will.  On her way from the Xenodochium to the house of
Porphyrius she had passed him in his chariot, and had admired the
splendid horses which he turned and guided with perfect skill and grace.
He was scarcely three years older than herself; he was eighteen--but in
spite of his youth and simplicity he was not unmanly; and there was
something in him--something that compelled her to be constantly thinking
of him and asking herself what that something was.  Old Damia's
instructions troubled her; they took much of the charm from her dream
of being loved by Marcus, clasped in his arms, and driven through the
city in his chariot.

It was impossible--yes, quite impossible, she was sure--that they should
have parted forever; as she sat, thinking still of him and glancing from
time to time at the toiling carpenters, a boat pulled up at the landing
close to the barge out of which jumped an officer of the imperial guard.
Such a handsome man! with such a noble, powerful, sunburnt face, a
lightly waving black beard, and hair that fell from under his gold
helmet!  The short-sword at his side showed him to be a tribune or
prefect of cavalry, and what gallant deeds must not this brilliant and
glittering young warrior have performed to have risen to such high rank
while still so young!  He stood on the shore, looking all round, his eyes
met hers and she felt herself color; he seemed surprised to see her there
and greeted her respectfully with a military salute; then he went on
towards the unfinished hulk of a large ship whose bare curved ribs one
or two foremen were busily measuring with tape and rule.

An elderly man of dignified aspect was standing close by, who, as Dada
had already discovered, was the head of the ship-yard, and the warrior
hastened towards him.  She heard him say: "Father," and in the next
instant she saw the old man open his arms and the officer rush to
embrace him.

Dada never took her eyes off the couple who walked on, arm in arm and
talking eagerly, till they disappeared into a large house on the further
side of the dockyard.

"What a handsome man!"  Dada repeated to herself, but while she waited to
see him return she gazed across the lake by which Marcus might find his
way to her.  And as she lingered, idly dreaming, she involuntarily
compared the two men.  There were fine soldiers in plenty in Rome, and
the ship-builder's son was in no particular superior to a hundred others;
but such a man as Marcus she had never before seen--there could hardly
be such another in the world.  The young guard was one fine tree among a
grove of fine trees; but Marcus had something peculiar to himself, that
distinguished him from the crowd, and which made him exceptionally
attractive and lovable.  His image at length so completely filled her
mind that she forgot the handsome officer, and the shipmaster and every
one else.


Christian hypocrites who pretend to hate life and love death
He may talk about the soul--what he is after is the girl
Love means suffering--those who love drag a chain with them
To her it was not a belief but a certainty
Trifling incident gains importance when undue emphasis is laid

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Serapis — Volume 01" ***

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