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- Serapis, Volume 6. - 4/10 -
The horses were pulled up, the dust settled; Marcus, the Christian, had won the first missus. Cynegius held out the crown to the victor, who bowed to receive it. Then he waved his hand to his mother, who graciously waved hers in return, and he drove into the oppidurn and was lost to sight.
Hippias flung down his whip in a rage, but the triumphant shouts of the Christians drowned the music, the trumpet-blasts and the angry murmurs of the defeated heathen. Threatening fists were shaken in the air, while behind the carceres the drivers and owners of the red party scolded, squabbled and stormed; and Hippias, who by his audacious swagger had given away the race to their hated foe--to the Blues, the Christians-- narrowly escaped being torn in pieces.
The tumult and excitement were unparalleled; but Dada saw and heard nothing. She sat in a blissful dream, gazing into her lap, while tears of joyful reaction rolled down her cheeks. Demetrius saw her tears and was glad; then, pointing out Mary to the girl, he in formed her that she was the mother of Marcus. And he registered a secret vow that, cost what it might, he would bring his victorious brother and this sweet child together.
The second and third missus, like the first, were marked by serious accidents; both, however, were won for the Red party. In the fourth, the decisive race, there were but three competitors: Marcus and the two heathen winners. Demetrius watched it with less anxiety; he knew that his Arabs were far superior to the Egyptian breed in staying power, and they also had the advantage of having had a longer rest. In fact, the final victory was adjudged to the young Christian.
Long before it was decided Dada had been impatiently fingering her wreaths, and could hardly wait any longer to fling them into Marcus' chariot. When it was all over she might perhaps have an opportunity of speaking to him; and she thought how delightful his voice was and what fine, kind eyes he had. If only he were to bid her be his, she would follow him whither and wherever he desired, whatever Karnis and Herse might say to the contrary. She thought no one could be so glad of his success as she was; she felt as if she belonged to him, had always belonged to him, and only some spiteful trick of Fate had come between them.
There was a fresh blast of trumpets; the victor, in obedience to a time- honored custom, was to drive round the arena at a foot-pace and show his brave team to the multitude. He came nearer and nearer, and Demetrius proposed that they should cross the little watercourse that parted the podium from the arena and follow the chariot, so as to give his brother the wreaths instead of flinging them to him. The girl colored and could say neither yes or no; but she rose, hung one of the olive-crowns on her arm with a happy, bashful smile, and handed the other to her new friend; then she followed him across the little bridge on to the race-course which, now that the games were over, was crowded with Christians.
The brothers exchanged pleased greetings from afar, but Marcus did not see Dada till she was close to him and stood, with a shy but radiant glance of intense delight, holding out the olive-wreath for his acceptance. He felt as though Heaven had wrought a miracle in his favor. Never before had he thought her half so lovely. She seemed to have grown since he had seen her last, to have gained a deeper and nobler expression; and he observed, too, the blue favors on her shoulder and among the roses that crowned her fair curls. Gladness and surprise prevented his speaking; but he took the garland she offered him and, seizing her hands, stammered out: "Thanks--thank you, Dada."
Their eyes met, and as he gazed into her face he forgot where he was, did not even wonder why his brother had suddenly turned away and, beginning some long-winded speech, had rushed after a man who hastily covered his head and tried to escape; he did not notice that thousands of eyes were fixed on him, and among them his mother's; he could merely repeat: "thanks" and "Dada"--the only words he could find. He would perhaps have gone on repeating them, but that he was interrupted; the 'porta libitinaria'--the gate through which the dead or injured were usually carried out, was thrown open, and a rabble of infuriated heathen rushed in, crying: "Serapis is fallen! They have destroyed the image of Serapis! The Christians are ruining the sanctuaries of the gods!"
A sudden panic seized the assembled multitude; the Reds rushed down from their places into the arena to hear the details and ask questions--ready to fight for the god or to fly for safety. In an instant the victor's chariot was surrounded by an angry mob; Dada clutched it for protection, and Marcus, without pausing to reflect--indeed hardly master of his own actions--turned and lifted her into it by his side; then, urging his horses forward, he forced a way through the crowd, past the caiceres. He glanced anxiously up at the seats but could nowhere see his mother, so he guided the exhausted beasts, steaming with sweat and dappled with foam, through the open gate and out of the circus. His stable-slaves had run after him; he released himself from the reins on his hips and flung them to the grooms. Then he helped Dada to leap from the car.
"Will you come with me?" he asked her simply; and the girl's reply was: "Wherever you bid me."
At the news that Serapis was overthrown Dame Mary had started from her seat with eager haste that ill-became her dignity and, under the protection of the body-guard in attendance on Cynegius, had found her way to her litter.
In the Hippodrome the tumult rose to a riot; Reds and Blues rushed from the upper tiers, down the ranks of the podium and into the dusty race- course; falling on each other tooth and nail like wild beasts; and the bloody fray--no uncommon termination to the day, even in more peaceful times--lasted till the Imperial soldiery parted the unarmed combatants.
The Bishop was triumphant; his adherents had won the day at every point; nor was he sorry to learn that Olympius, Helladius, Ainmonius and many other spiritual leaders of the heathen world had succeeded in escaping. They might come back; they might preach and harangue as much as they chose: their power was broken. The Church had nothing now to fear from them, and their philosophy and learning would still and always be valuable in the mental training of her priests.
The great Hippodrome of Alexandria was outside the Canopic gate, on the northern side of the road leading to Eleusis which to-day was crowded with passengers, all moving in the same direction. The tumult roused by the intelligence that Serapis was overthrown made all the more peaceful and peace-loving of the spectators hurry homewards; and as these, for the most part, were of the richer classes, who came and went in litters or chariots, their conveyances left but scanty space on the wide causeway for foot passengers, still, there they were, in considerable numbers, all wending their way towards the city, and the heathen who came rushing towards the Hippodrome behind the first heralds of the disaster, had great difficulty in making their way against the stream.
Marcus and Dada allowed themselves to be carried onward by the throng which was tending towards the city-walls and the Canopic gate. Phabis, Mary's old steward, whose duty it had been to help his young master to dress after the races were over, had snatched the agitator's cap from the youth's head and flung a cloak over his shoulders, hastily following him as he went off with the young girl by his side. The old man quite understood what was in the wind for he it was who had conducted Dame Herse to his mistress' presence. He had thought her a shrewd and kind- hearted woman, and it now struck him that she must certainly have been in the right when she accused Marcus of designs on her pretty niece. At the time he had refused to believe it, for he had never in his life detected his young master in any underhand or forbidden courses; but, after all, Marcus was his father's son, and, in his younger days, the old man had often and often had to risk his skin in Apelles' love-intrigues. And now it was the Son's turn--and if he were to take his fancy for that pretty chit as seriously as he did most things, if he got the notion into his head of marrying the little singer--what a storm there was brewing between him and his mother!
The old man did his best to keep up with Marcus who did not see or heed him, for his eyes and attention were centered on the fair companion who was clinging to his arm, while he tried to force a passage through the mob, towards the gate. Miracle on miracle seemed to him to have been wrought in his behalf; for Heaven had not only sent him Dada, but she was wearing blue ribbands; and when he asked her why, she had replied "For your sake, and because I like your Faith."
He was tired to death; but as soon as Dada had put her hand through his arm he lead felt refreshed as if by magic. His swollen and blistered hands, to be sure, were painful and his shoulders ached and winced from stiffness; but as she pressed his arm to her side and looked up gladly in his face--telling him how happy she was while he responded: "And how I love you!"--he felt himself in Heaven, and pain and discomfort were forgotten. The crush did not allow them to say more than a few words; but the things their eyes and lips could smile were sweeter and dearer than anything they had ever known before.
They had got through the gate and were in the Canopic way when Dada suddenly perceived that his lips were white, and felt the arm tremble on which her hand was lying. She asked him what ailed him; he made no reply, but put his hand to his head, so she led him aside into the public garden that lay to their right between the little Stadium and the Maeandrian circus. In this pretty spot, fresh with verdure and spring flowers, she soon found a bench shaded by a semicircular screen of dark- tufted tamarisk, and there she made him lie down. He yielded at once, and his pale face and fixed gaze showed her that he was in a fainting state. Indeed, he must be quite worn out by the terrible struggle of the race, and after it was over he had not given himself time to take a cup of drink or a scrap of food for refreshment. It was only too natural that his strength should fail him, so, without feeling at all alarmed but only very pitiful and anxious to help, she ran back to a fruit-stall which they had passed at the entrance to the garden from the street.
How glad she was that she still had the four drachmae which she had coaxed out of Karnis in the Xenodochium that evening; she could buy whatever she liked for her lover. When she went back-loaded with oranges, apples, hard-boiled eggs, bread and salt, in the skirt of her dress that she gathered up with one hand, and with a flask of wine and water, and a gourdbowl in the other-she found him still lying unconscious. However, when she had moistened his forehead and lips he opened his eyes, and then she peeled him an orange as daintily as she could and begged him to try it, and as she was herself very hungry she took a hearty share. She was enchanted at making him her guest, and at finding that he enjoyed the simple meal and soon was quite revived. In fact, in a few minutes he had altogether recovered his strength and consciousness of satisfaction; and as he lay back with Dada's hand in his, gazing happily and thankfully into her sweet eyes, a sense of peace, rest and bliss came over him such as he had never before known. He thought he had never tasted such delicious food, or such exquisite wine as the wretched Mareotic from the fruitstall. He took the apple she had begun eating out of her hand and bit it where her white teeth had been; he made her drink first out of the gourd-cup, and, as one of the three eggs she had brought with her was bad, they had quite a little battle for
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