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- Serapis, Volume 4. - 9/9 -

proclaimed that by this attack on the abomination of desolation--the blood-sacrifice of idolatry--he had won an eternal crown in Paradise.

But now the black ravens crossed Damia's vision once more, till presently a handsome young Greek gaily drove them off with his thyrsus. His powerful and supple limbs shone with oil, applied in the gymnasium of Timagetes, the scene of his frequent triumphs in all the sports and exercises of the youthful Greeks. His features and waving hair were those of her son Apelles; but suddenly his aspect changed: he was an emaciated penitent, his knees bent under the weight of a heavy cross; his widow, Mary, had declared him a martyr to the cause of the crucified Jew and defamed his memory in the eyes of his own son and of all men. Damia clenched her trembling hands. Again those ravens came swirling round, flapping their wings wildly over the prostrate penitent.

Then her husband appeared to her, calmly indifferent to the birds of ill- omen. He looked just as she remembered him many--so many years ago, when he had come in smiling and said: "The best stroke of business I ever did! For a sprinkling of water I have secured the corn trade with Thessalonica and Constantinople; that is a hundred gold solidi for each drop."

Yes, he had made a good bargain. The profits of that day's work were multiplied by tens, and water, nothing in the world but Nile water-- Baptismal water the priest had called it--had filled her son's money- bags, too, and had turned their plot of land into broad estates; but it had been tacitly understood that this sprinkling of water established a claim for a return, and this both father and son had solemnly promised. Its magic turned everything they touched to gold, but it brought a blight on the peace of the household. One branch, which had grown up in the traditions of the old Macedonian stock, had separated from the other; and her husband's great lie lay between them and the family still living in the Canopic way, like a wide ocean embittered with the salt of hatred. That he had infused poison into his son's life and compelled him, proud as he was, to forfeit the dignity of a free and high-minded man. Though devoted in his heart to the old gods he had humbled himself, year after year, to bow the knee with the hated votaries of the Christian faith, and in their church, to their crucified Lord, and had publicly confessed Christ. The water--the terrible thaumaturgic stream--clung to him more inseparably than the brand-mark on a slave's arm. It could neither be dried up nor wiped away; for if the false Christian, who was really a zealous heathen, had boldly confessed the Olympian gods and abjured the odious new faith, the gifts of the all-powerful water and all the possessions of their old family would be confiscated to the State and Church, and the children of Porphyrius, the grandchildren of the wealthy Damia, would be beggars. And this--all this--for the sake of a crucified Jew.

The gods be praised the end of all this wretchedness was at hand! A thrill of ecstasy ran through her as she reflected that with herself and her children, every soul, everything that bore the name of Christian would be crushed, shattered and annihilated. She could have laughed aloud but that her throat was so dry, her tongue so parched; but her scornful triumph was expressed in every feature, as her fancy showed her Marcus riding along the Canopic street with that little heathen hussy Dada, the singing girl, while her much-hated daughter-in-law looked after them, beating her forehead in grief and rage.

Quite beside herself with delight the old woman rocked backwards and forwards in her chair; not for long, however, for the black birds seemed to fill the whole room, describing swift, interminable spirals round her head. She could not hear them, but she could see them, and the whirling vortex fascinated her; she could not help turning her head to follow their flight; she grew giddy and she was forced to try to recover her balance.

The old woman sat huddled in her chair, her hands convulsively clutching the arms, like a horseman whose steed has run away with him round and round the arena; till at length, worn out by excitement and exhaustion, she became unconscious, and sank in a heap on the ground, rigid and apparently lifeless.


Christianity had ceased to be the creed of the poor He spoke with pompous exaggeration Whether man were the best or the worst of created beings

Serapis, Volume 4. - 9/9

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