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- The Bride of the Nile, Volume 5. - 9/9 -


with tan spots over his eyes, whose leg had been smashed by a badly-aimed spear: I can see him now! Others followed; feathered or four-footed sufferers; and this was the beginning of my surgical career. The invalid birds on the trees I still owe to my old allies the barbers. I only occasionally take beasts in hand. The lame children, whom you saw in the garden, come to me from poor parents who cannot afford a surgeon's aid. The merry, curly-headed boy who brought you a rose just now is to go home again in a few days.--But to return to the story of my youth.

"The more serious events which gave my life this particular bias occurred in my twentieth year, when I had already left even the high school behind me; nor was I fully carried away by their influence till after my uncle had procured me several opportunities of proving my proficiency in my calling. I may say without vanity that my speeches won approval; but I was revolted by the pompous, flowery bombast, without which I should have been hissed down, and though my parents rejoiced when I went home from Niku, Arsmoe, or some other little provincial town, with laurel-wreaths and gold pieces, to myself I always seemed an impostor. Still, for my father's sake, I dared not give up my profession, although I hated more and more the task of praising people to the skies whom I neither loved nor respected, and of shedding tears of pathos while all the time I was minded to laugh.

"I had plenty of time to myself, and as I did not lack courage and held stoutly to our Greek confession, I was always to be found where there was any stir or contention between the various sects. They generally passed off with nothing worse than bruises and scratches, but now and then swords were drawn. On one occasion thousands came forth to meet thousands, and the Prefect called out the troops--all Greeks--to restore order by force. A massacre ensued in which thousands were killed. I could not describe it! Such scenes were not rare, and the fury and greed of the mob were often directed against the Jews by the machinations of the creatures of the archbishop and the government. The things I saw there were so horrible, so shocking, that the tongue refuses to tell them; but one poor Jewess, whose husband the wretches--our fellow Christians--killed, and then pillaged the house, I have never forgotten! A soldier dragged her down by her hair, while a ruffian snatched the child from her breast and, holding it by its feet, dashed its skull against the wall before her eyes--as you might slash a wet cloth against a pillar to dry it--I shall never forget that handsome young mother and her child; they come before me in my dreams at night even now.

"All these things I saw; and I shuddered to behold God's creatures, beings endowed with reason, persecuting their fellows, plunging them into misery, tearing them limb from limb--and why? Merciful Saviour, why? For sheer hatred--as sure as man is the standard for all things--merely carried away by a hideous impulse to spite their neighbor for not thinking as they do--nay, simply for not being themselves--to hurt him, insult him, work him woe. And these fanatics, these armies who raised the standard of ruthlessness, of extermination, of bloodthirstiness, were Christians, were baptized in the name of Him who bids us forgive our enemies, who enlarged the borders of love from the home and the city and the state to include all mankind; who raised the adulteress from the dust, who took children into his arms, and would have more joy over a sinner who repents than over ninety and nine just persons!--Blood, blood, was what they craved; and did not the doctrine of Him whose followers they boastfully called themselves grow out of the blood of Him who shed it for all men alike,--just as that lotos flower grows out of the clear water in the marble tank? And it was the highest guardians and keepers of this teaching of mercy, who goaded on the fury of the mob: Patriarchs, bishops, priests and deacons--instead of pointing to the picture of the Shepherd who tenderly carries the lost sheep and brings it home to the fold.

"My own times seemed to me the worst that had ever been; aye, and--as surely as man is the standard of all things--so they are! for love is turned to hatred, mercy to implacable hardheartedness. The thrones not only of the temporal but of the spiritual rulers, are dripping with the blood of their fellow-men. Emperors and bishops set the example; subjects and churchmen follow it. The great, the leading men of the struggle are copied by the small, by the peaceful candidates for spiritual benefices. All that I saw as a man, in the open streets, I had already seen as a boy both in the low and high schools. Every doctrine has its adherents; the man who casts in his lot with Cneius is hated by Caius, who forthwith speaks and writes to no other end than to vex and put down Cneius, and give him pain. Each for his part strives his utmost to find out faults in his neighbor and to put him in the pillory, particularly if his antagonist is held the greater man, or is likely to overtop him. Listen to the girls at the well, to the women at the spindle; no one is sure of applause who cannot tell some evil of the other men or women. Who cares to listen to his neighbor's praises? The man who hears that his brother is happy at once envies him! Hatred, hatred everywhere! Everywhere the will, the desire, the passion for bringing grief and ruin on others rather than to help them, raise them and heal them!

"That is the spirit of my time; and everything within me revolted against it with sacred wrath. I vowed in my heart that I would live and act differently; that my sole aim should be to succor the unfortunate, to help the wretched, to open my arms to those who had fallen into unmerited contumely, to set the crooked straight for my neighbor, to mend what was broken, to pour in balm, to heal and to save!

"And, thank God! it has been vouchsafed to me in some degree to keep this vow; and though, later, some whims and a passionate curiosity got mixed up with my zeal, still, never have I lost sight of the great task of which I have spoken, since my father's death and since my uncle also left me his large fortune. Then I had done with the Rhetor's art, and travelled east and west to seek the land where love unites men's hearts and where hatred is only a disease; but as sure as man is the standard of all things, to this day all my endeavors to find it have been in vain. Meanwhile I have kept my own house on such a footing that it has become a stronghold of love; in its atmosphere hatred cannot grow, but is nipped in the germ.

"In spite of this I am no saint. I have committed many a folly, many an injustice; and much of my goods and gold, which I should perhaps have done better to save for my family, has slipped through my fingers, though in the execution, no doubt, of what I deemed the highest duties. Would you believe it, Paula?--Forgive an old man for such fatherly familiarity with the daughter of Thomas;--hardly five years after my marriage with this good wife, not long after we had lost our only son, I left her and our little daughter, Pul there, for more than two years, to follow the Emperor Heraclius of my own free will to the war against the Persians who had done me no harm--not, indeed, as a soldier, but as a surgeon eager for experience. To confess the truth I was quite as eager to see and treat fractures and wounds and injuries in great numbers, as I was to exercise benevolence. I came home with a broken hip-bone, tolerably patched up, and again, a few years later, I could not keep still in one place. The bird of passage must need drag wife and child from the peace of hearth and homestead, and take them to where he could go to the high school. A husband, a father, and already grey-headed, I was a singular exception among the youths who sat listening to the lectures and explanations of their teachers; but as sure as man is the standard of all things, they none of them outdid me in diligence and zeal, though many a one was greatly my superior in gifts and intellect, and among them the foremost was our friend Philippus. Thus it came about, noble Paula, that the old man and the youth in his prime were fellow-students; but to this day the senior gladly bows down to his young brother in learning and feeling. To straighten, to comfort, and to heal: this is the aim of his life too. And even I, an old man, who started long before Philippus on the same career, often long to call myself his disciple."

Here Rufinus paused and rose; Paula, too, got up, grasped his hand warmly, and said:

"If I were a man, I would join you! But Philippus has told me that even a woman may be allowed to work with the same purpose.--And now let me beg of you never to call me anything but Paula--you will not refuse me this favor. I never thought I could be so happy again as I am with you; here my heart is free and whole. Dame Joanna, do you be my mother! I have lost the best of fathers, and till I find him again, you, Rufinus, must fill his place!"

"Gladly, gladly!" cried the old man; he clasped both her hands and went on vivaciously: "And in return I ask you to be an elder sister to Pul. Make that timid little thing such a maiden as you are yourself.--But look, children, look up quickly; it is beginning!--Typhon, in the form of a boar, is swallowing the eye of Horns: so the heathen of old in this country used to believe when the moon suffered an eclipse. See how the shadow is covering the bright disk. When the ancients saw this happening they used to make a noise, shaking the sistrum with its metal rings, drumming and trumpeting, shouting and yelling, to scare off the evil one and drive him away. It may be about four hundred years since that last took place, but to this day--draw your kerchiefs more closely round your heads and come with me to the river--to this day Christians degrade themselves by similar rites. Wherever I have been in Christian lands, I have always witnessed the same scenes: our holy faith has, to be sure, demolished the religions of the heathen; but their superstitions have survived, and have forced their way through rifts and chinks into our ceremonial. They are marching round now, with the bishop at their head, and you can hear the loud wailing of the women, and the cries of the men, drowning the chant of the priests. Only listen! They are as passionate and agonized in their entreaty as though old Typhon were even now about to swallow the moon, and the greatest catastrophe was hanging over the world. Aye, as surely as man is the standard of all things, those terrified beings are diseased in mind; and how are we to forgive those who dare to scare Christians; yes, Christian souls, with the traditions of heathen folly, and to blind their inward vision?"

ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Gratitude is a tribute on which no wise man ever reckons Healthy soul is only to be found in a healthy body Man is the standard of all things Persians never prayed for any particular blessing The immortal gods have set sweat before virtue Things you mean are only what they seem to us Would want some one else to wear herself out for Any woman can forgive any man for his audacity in loving her


The Bride of the Nile, Volume 5. - 9/9

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