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'I saw his four-in-hand standing at her door, as I came down the Museum-street hither, half-an-hour ago.'
And twenty carriages besides, I
don't doubt ?'
'The street was blocked up with them. There! Look round the corner now.-Carriages, litters, slaves, and dandies.-When shall we see such a concourse as that where it ought to be?'
Cyril made no answer, and Peter went on-Where it ought to be, my father-in front of your door at the Serapeium?'
The world, the flesh, and the devil know their own, Peter: and as long as they have their own to go to, we cannot expect them to come to us.'
But what if their own were taken out of the way!'
They might come to us for want of better amusement. . . . devil and all. Well-if I could get a fair hold of the two first, I would take the third into the bargain, and see what could be done with him.
the Pharos, Raphael-fair for the
while these lecture-rooms last-these Egyptian chambers of imagerythese theatres of Satan, where the devil transforms himself into an angel of light, and apes Christian virtue, and bedizens his ministers like ministers of righteousness-as long as that lecture-room stands, and the great and the powerful flock to it, to learn excuses for their own tyrannies and atheisms, so long will the
'Are they gone yet?'
why? I sent the first fleet off three days ago; and the rest are clearing outwards to-day.'
‘Oh-ah-so !—Then you have not heard from Heraclian ?'
'Heraclian? What the-blessed saints has the Count of Africa to do with my wheat-ships ?'
'Oh, nothing. It's no business of mine. Only he is going to rebel. . . But here we are at your door.'
To what?' asked Orestes, in a horrified tone.
'To rebel, and attack Rome.'
"Good gods-God, I mean! A fresh bore! Come in, and tell a poor miserable devil of a governor -speak low, for heaven's sake!-I hope these rascally grooms haven't overheard you.'
'Easy to throw them into the canal, if they have,' quoth Raphael, as he walked coolly through hall and corridor after the perturbed
Poor Orestes never stopped till
face with a ludicrous terror and
Tell me all about it. Tell me
I have told you all I know,'
kingdom of God be trampled under quoth Raphael, quietly seating him
foot in Alexandria; so long will the
self on a sofa, and playing with a
princes of this world, with their jewelled dagger. I thought, of
gladiators, and parasites, and moneylenders, be masters here, and not the bishops and priests of the living
It was now Peter's turn to be silent; and as the two, with their little knot of district-visitors behind them, walk moodily along the great esplanade which overlooked the harbour, and then vanish suddenly up some dingy alley into the crowded misery of the sailors' quarter, we will leave them to go about their errand of mercy, and, like fashionable people, keep to the grand parade, and listen again to our two fashionable friends in the carved and gilded curricle with four white blood-horses.
'A fine sparkling breeze outside
course, that you were in the secret,
Orestes, like most weak and luxu-
'Hell and the furies! You damned provincial slave-you will carry these liberties of yours too far! Do you know who I am, you ac
A me the whole truth,
or, by the head of the emperor, I'll
Raphael's countenance assumed a dogged expression, which showed that the old Jewish blood still beat true, under all its affected shell of
Calm yourself, your excellency,' quoth Raphael, rising. The door is locked; the mosquito net is across the window; and this dagger is poisoned. If anything happens to me, you will offend all the Jew money-lenders, and die in about three days in a great deal of pain, having missed our assignation with old Miriam, lost your pleasantest companion, and left your own finances and those of the prefecture in a considerable state of embarrassment. How much better to sit down, hear all I have to say philosophically, like a true pupil of Hypatia, and not expect a man to tell you what he really does not know.'
Orestes, after looking vainly round the room for a place to escape, had quietly subsided into his chair again; and by the time that the slaves knocked at the door, he had so far recovered his philosophy as to ask, not for the torturers, but for a page and wine.
'Oh, you Jews!' quoth he, trying to laugh off matters. The same incarnate fiends that Titus found you!'
The very same, my dear prefect. Now for this matter, which is really important at least to Gentiles. Heraclian will certainly rebel. Synesius let out as much to me. He has fitted out an armament for Ostia, stopped his own wheat-ships, and is going to write to you to stop yours, and so starve out the Eternal City, Goths, senate, emperor, and all. Whether you will comply with his reasonable little request depends of course on yourself.'
And that, again, very much on his plans.'
'Of course. You cannot be expected to-we will euphemize-unless it be made worth your while.'
Orestes sat buried in deep thought. 'Of course not,' said he at last, half unconsciously. And then, in sudden dread of having committed
himself, he looked up fiercely at the Jew.
'And how do I know that this is not some infernal trap of yours? Tell me how you found out all this, or by Hercules (he had quite forgotten his Christianity by this time) -by Hercules and the Twelve Gods, I'll-'
'Don't use expressions unworthy of a philosopher. My source of information was very simple and very good. He has been negotiating a loan from the Rabbis at Carthage. They were either frightened, or loyal, or both, and hung back. He knewas all wise governors know when they allow themselves time-that it is no use to bully a Jew; and applied to me. I never lend money—it is unphilosophical-but I introduced him to old Miriam, who dare do business with the devil himself; and by that move, whether he has the money or not, I cannot tell: but this I can tell, that we have his secret-and so have you, now; and if you want more information, the old woman, who enjoys an intrigue as much as she does Falernian, will get it you.'
Well, you are a true friend,
Of course I am. Now, is not this method of getting at the truth much easier and pleasanter than setting a couple of dirty negroes to pinch and pull me, and so making it a point of honour with me to tell you nothing but lies? Here comes Ganymede with the wine, just in time to calm your nerves, and fill you with the spirit of divination. . . To the goddess of good counsels, my lord! What wine this is!'
True Syrian-fire and honey; fourteen years old next vintage, my Raphael. Out, Hypocorisma! See that he is not listening. The impudent rascal! I was humbugged into giving two thousand gold pieces for him two years ago, he was so pretty-they said he was only just rising thirteen-and he has been the plague of my life ever since, and is beginning to want the barber already. Now what is the count dreaming of?'
His wages for killing Stilicho.' What, is it not enough to be Count of Africa?'
I suppose he sets off against
that his services during the last three years.
'Well, he saved Africa.'
And thereby Egypt also. And you, too, as well as the emperor, may be considered as owing him somewhat.'
'My good friend, my debts are far too numerous for me to think of paying any of them. But what wages does he want?'
Orestes started, and then fell into thought. Raphael sat watching him awhile.
'Now, most noble lord, may I depart? I have said all I have to say; and unless I get home to luncheon at once, I shall hardly have time to find old Miriam for you, and get through our little affair with her before sunset.'
'Stay. What force has he?'
'Forty thousand already, they say. And those Donatist ruffians are with him to a man, if he can but scrape together wherewith to change their bludgeons into good steel.'
'Well, go. So. A hundred thousand might do it,' said he, meditating, as Raphael bowed himself out. He won't get them. I don't know, though; the man has the head of a Cæsar. Well-that fool Attalus talked of joining Egypt to the Western Empire. Not such a bad thought either. Anything is better than being governed by an idiot and a couple of canting nuns. I expect to be excommunicated every day for some offence against Pulcheria's prudery. Heraclian emperor at Rome... and I lord and master on this side the sea.... the Donatists pitted again fairly against the orthodox, to cut each other's throats in peace
no more of Cyril's spying and talebearing to Constantinople. Not such a bad dish of fare. But then-it would take so much trouble!'
With which words, Orestes went into his third warm bath for that day.
ON the very day and hour whereon the events of the last chapter took place, the young monk Philammon was sitting, three hundred miles from Alexandria, on the edge of a low range of inland cliffs, crested with drifting sand. Behind him the desert sand-waste stretched, lifeless, interminable reflecting its lurid glare on the horizon of the cloudless vault of blue. At his feet the sand dripped and trickled, in yellow rivulets, from crack to crack and ledge to ledge, or whirled past him. in tiny jets of yellow smoke, before the fitful summer airs. Here and there, upon the face of the cliffs which walled in the opposite side of the narrow glen below, were cavernous tombs, huge old quarries, with obelisks and half-cut pillars, standing as the workmen had left them centuries before; the sand was slipping down and piling up around them; their heads were frosted with the arid snow; everywhere was silence, desolation-the grave of a dead nation in a dying land. And there he sat musing
above it all, full of life and youth and health and beauty-a young Apollo of the desert. His only clothing was a ragged sheep-skin, bound with a leathern girdle. His long black locks, unshorn from childhood, waved and glistened in the sun; a rich dark down on cheek and chin showed the spring of healthful manhood; his hard hands and sinewy sun-burnt limbs told of labour and endurance; flashing eyes and beetling brow, of daring, fancy, passion, thought, which had no sphere of action in such a place. What did his glorious young humanity alone among the tombs ?
So perhaps he, too, thought, as he passed his hand across his brow, as if to sweep away some gathering dream, and sighing, rose and wandered along the cliffs, peering downward at every point and cranny, in search of fuel for the monastery from whence he came.
Simple as was the material which he sought, consisting chiefly of the low arid desert shrubs, with now and
then a fragment of wood from some deserted quarry or ruin, it was becoming scarcer and scarcer round Abbot Pambo's Laura of Scetis, and long before Philammon had collected his daily quantity, he had strayed further from his home than he had ever been before.
Suddenly, at a turn of the glen, he came upon a sight new to him.... a temple carven in the sandstone cliff; and in front, a smooth platform, strewn with beams and mouldering tools, and here and there a scull bleaching among the sand, perhaps of some workman slaughtered at his labour in one of the thousand wars of old. The abbot, his spiritual father-indeed, the only father whom he knew, for his earliest recollections were of the Laura, and the old man's cell-had strictly forbidden him to enter, even to approach any of those relics of ancient idolatry: but a broad terrace road led down to the platform from the table-land above; the plentiful supply of fuel was too tempting to be passed by... He would go down, gather a few sticks, and then return, to tell the abbot of the treasure which he had found, and consult him as to the propriety of revisiting it.
So down he went, hardly daring to raise his eyes to the alluring iniquities of the painted imagery which, gaudy in crimson and blue, still blazed out upon the desolate solitude, uninjured by that rainless air. But he was young, and youth is curious; and the devil, at least in the fifth century, busy with young brains. Now Philammon believed most utterly in the devil, and night and day devoutly prayed to be delivered from him; so he crossed himself, and ejaculated, honestly enough, Lord, turn away mine eyes, lest they behold vanity!'... and looked nevertheless.
And who could have helped looking at those four colossal kings, who sat there grim and motionless, their huge hands laid upon their knees in everlasting self-assured repose, seeming to bear up the mountain on their stately heads? A sense of awe, weakness, all but fear, came over him. He dare not stoop to take up the wood at his feet, their great stern eyes watched him so steadily.
Round their knees and their
thrones were mystic characters engraven, symbol after symbol, line below line-the ancient wisdom of the Egyptians, wherein Moses the man of God was learned of oldwhy should not he know it too? What awful secrets might not be hidden there about the great world, past, present, and future, of which he knew only so small a speck? Those kings who sat there-they had known it all; their sharp lips seemed parting, ready to speak to him.
Oh, that they would speak for once! . . . . and yet that grim sneering smile, that seemed to look down on him from the heights of their power and wisdom, with calm contempt.... him, the poor youth, picking up the leavings and rags of their past majesty.... He dare look at them no more.
So he looked past them, into the temple halls; into a lustrous abyss of cool green shade, deepening on and inward, pillar after pillar, vista after vista, into deepest night. And dimly through the gloom he could descry, on every wall and column, gorgeous arabesques, long lines of pictured story; triumphs and labours; rows of captives in foreign and fantastic dresses, leading strange animals, bearing the tributes of unknown lands; rows of ladies at feasts, their heads crowned with garlands, the fragrant lotus flower in every hand, while slaves brought wine and perfumes, and children sat upon their knees, and husbands by their side; and dancing girls, in transparent robes and golden girdles, tossed their tawny limbs wildly among the throng. What was the meaning of it all? Why had it all been? Why had it gone on thus, the great world, century after century, millennium after millennium, eating and drinking, and marrying and giving in marriage, and knowing nothing better... how could they know anything better? Their forefathers had lost the light ages and ages before they were born. And Christ had not come for ages and ages after they were dead... How could they know? ... And yet they were all in hell.... every one of them. Every one of those ladies who sat there, with her bushy locks, and garlands, and jewelled collars, and lotus flowers, and gauzy
dress, displaying all her slender limbs-who, perhaps, when she was alive, smiled so sweetly, and went so gaily, and had children, and friends, and never once thought of what was going to happen to herwhat must happen to her.... She was in hell... Burning for ever, and ever, and ever, there below his feet. He stared down on the rocky floors. If he could but see through, that... and the eye of faith could see through it. he should see her writhing and twisting among the flickering flame, scorched, glowing... in everlasting agony, such as the thought of enduring for a moment made him shudder. He had burnt his hands once, when a palm-leaf hut caught fire.... He recollected what that was like. She was enduring ten thousand times more than that, for ever. . . . He should hear her shrieking in vain for a drop of water to cool her tongue. He had never heard a human being shriek but once . . . . a boy bathing on the opposite Nile bank, whom a crocodile had dragged down. . . . and that scream, faint and distant as it came across the mighty tide, had rung intolerable in his ears for days.... and to think of all which echoed through those vaults of fire-for ever! Was the thought bearable ?-was it pos sible? Millions upon millions burning for ever for Adam's fall... Could God be just in that?...
It was the temptation of a fiend! He had entered the unhallowed precincts, where devils still lingered about their ancient shrines; he had let his eyes devour the abominations of the heathen, and given place to the devil. He would flee home to confess it all to his father. He would punish him as he deserved, pray for him, forgive him. And yet could he tell him all? Could he, dare he, confess to him the whole truth the insatiable craving to know the mysteries of learning-to see the great roaring world of men, which had been growing up in him slowly, month after month, till now it had assumed this fearful shape? He could stay no longer in the desert. This world which sent all souls to hell-was it as bad as monks declared it was? It must be, else how could such be the fruit
of it? But it was too awful a thought to be taken on trust. No; he must go and see.
Filled with such fearful questionings, half-inarticulate and vague, like the thoughts of a child, the untutored youth went wandering on, till he reached the edge of the cliff below which lay his home.
It lay pleasantly enough, that lonely Laura, or lane of rude Cyclopean cells, under the perpetual shadow of the southern wall of crags, amid its grove of ancient date-trees. A branching cavern in the cliff supplied the purposes of a chapel, a store-house, and a hospital; while on the sunny slope across the glen lay the common gardens of the brotherhood, green with millet, maize, and beans, among which a tiny streamlet, husbanded and guided with the most thrifty care, wandered down from the cliff foot, and spread perpetual verdure over the little plot which voluntary and fraternal labour had painfully redeemed from the inroads of the alldevouring sand. For that garden, like everything else in the Laura, except each brother's seven feet of stone sleeping-hut, was the common property, and therefore the common care and joy, of all. For the common good, as well as for his own, each man had toiled up the glen with his palm-leaf basket of black mud from the river Nile, over whose broad sheet of silver the glen's mouth yawned abrupt. For the common good, each man had swept the ledges clear of sand, and sown in the scanty artificial soil, the harvest of which all were to share alike. To buy clothes, books, and chapel-furniture for the common necessities, education, and worship, each man sat, day after day, week after week, his mind full of high and heavenly thoughts, weaving the leaves of their little palm-copse into baskets, which an aged monk exchanged for goods with the more prosperous and frequented monasteries of the opposite bank. Thither Philammon rowed the old man over, week by week, in a light canoe of papyrus, and fished, as he sat waiting for him, for the common meal. A simple, happy, gentle life was that of the Laura, all portioned out by rules and methods, which