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- Homo Sum, Volume 3. - 8/8 -


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

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


Homo Sum, Volume 3. - 8/8

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