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- Serapis, Volume 6. - 6/10 -
last few hours, and where he had met this worthy Father.
While taking Dada down into the arena to join Marcus, he had caught sight of Anubis, the Egyptian slave who had been his father's companion in his last memorable journey to Syria, and who, since the death of Apelles, had totally disappeared, the countryman had instantly followed him, seized him--not without a struggle and some little danger--and then had him led off by the city-guard to the prison by the Prefect's house. Once secured he had been induced to speak, and his narrative proved beyond a doubt that Apelles had perished in a skirmish with the Saracens; the Egyptian slave had only taken advantage of his master's death to make off with the money he had with him. He had found his way to Crete, where he had purchased a plot of ground with his plunder; but then, craving to see his wife and children once more, he had come back to fetch them away to his new home. Finally, to confirm the truth of his story, which--clearing him apparently of the murder of his master--did not invite implicit belief, he told Demetrius that he had seen in Alexandria, only the day before, a recluse who had been present when Apelles fell, and Demetrius had at once set out to find this monk, enquiring among those who had swarmed into the city. He had very soon been successful; Kosnias, who since then had been elected abbot of the monastery to which he belonged, now again told Marcus the story of his father's heroic courage in the struggle with the freebooters who had attacked his caravan. Apelles, he said, had saved his life and that of two other anchorites, one of whom was in Alexandria at this very time. They were travelling from Hebron to Aila, a party of seven, and had placed themselves under the protection of the Alexandrian merchant's escort; everything had gone well till the infidel Saracens had fallen upon them in the high land south of Petra. Four of the monks had been butchered out of hand; but Apelles, with a few of the more resolute spirits in the company, had fought the heathen with the valor of a lion. He, Kosmas, and his two surviving comrades had effected their escape, while Apelles engaged the foe; but from a rocky height which they climbed in their flight they saw him fall, and from that hour they had always mentioned him in their prayers. It would be an unspeakable satisfaction to him to do his utmost to procure for such a man as Apelles the rank he deserved in the list of martyrs for the Faith.
Marcus, only too happy, wanted to hurry away at once to his mother and tell her what he had heard, but Demetrius detained him. The Bishop-he told his brother--had desired his immediate presence, to be congratulated on his victory; his first duty was to obey that mandate, and he should at once avail himself of its favorable opportunity to obtain for his deceased parent the honor he had earned.
It rather startled Marcus to find his brother taking its interest in a matter which, so lately, he had vehemently opposed; however, he proceeded at once to the episcopal palace, accompanied by the abbot, and half an hour later Demetrius, who had awaited his return, met him coming out with sparkling eyes. The Prelate, he said, had received him very graciously, had thanked him for his prowess and had bid him crave a reward. He at once had spoken of his father, and called the recluse to witness to the facts. The Bishop had listened his story, and had ended by declaring himself quite willing to put the name of Apelles on the list of the Syrian martyrs. Theophilus had been most unwilling hitherto to reject the petitions of so good and illustrious Christian as Mary; and now, after such ample testimony as to the manner of her husband's death, it was with sincere satisfaction that he bestowed this high mark of honor on the Christian victor and his admirable mother. "So now," added the young man, "I shall fly home, and how happy my mother will be...."
But Demetrius would not allow him to finish his sentence. He laid his hand on the young man's shoulder saying: "Patience, my dear fellow, patience! You must stay with me for the present, and not go to your mother till I have settled everything that is necessary. Do not contradict me I entreat you, unless you want to deprive me of the happiness of remedying an injustice to your pretty Dada. What you most desire for yourself and her is your mother's blessing--and do you think that will be easy to obtain? Far from it, lad! But I can manage it for you; and I will, too, if only you will do as I bid you, and if the old Heathen's niece can be induced to be baptized...."
"She is a Christian already!" exclaimed Marcus eagerly.
"Well then, she can be yours to-morrow," Demetrius went on calmly, "if you listen to the advice of your older and wiser brother. It cannot be very hard upon you, for you must own that if I had not fought it out with Anubis--and the rascal bit all he could reach like a trapped fox--if I had not got him locked up and almost run my legs off in hunting down the worthy abbot, our father would never have enjoyed the promotion which he is at last to obtain. Who would ever have believed that I should get any satisfaction out of this 'Crown of Martyrdom'? By the gods! It is by no means impossible, and I hope the manes of the deceased will forgive me for your sake. But it is getting late, so only one thing more: for my own share of the business all I claim is my right to tell your mother myself of all that has occurred; you, on your part, must go at once to Eusebius and beg him to receive Dada in his house. If he consents--and he certainly will--take him with you to our uncle Porphyrius and wait there till I come; then, if all goes well, I will take you and Dada to your mother--or, if not, we will go with Eusebius."
"Dada to my mother!" cried Marcus. "But what will she ......"
"She will receive her as a daughter," interrupted his brother, "if you hold your tongue about the whole business till I give you leave to speak.--There, the tall gate-keeper is closing the episcopal palace, so nothing more can come out of there to-night. You are a lucky fellow --well good-bye till we meet again; I am in a hurry."
The farmer went off, leaving Marcus with a thousand questions still unasked. However, the young man did his bidding and went, hopeful though not altogether free from doubts, to find his old tutor and friend.
While Marcus carried out his brother's instructions Dada was expecting him and Eusebius with the greatest impatience. Gorgo had charged her waiting-woman to conduct the girl into the music-room and to tell her that she would join her there if her father was in such a state as to allow of it. Some refreshments were brought in to her, all delicate and tempting enough; but Dada would not touch them, for she fancied that the merchant's daughter was avoiding her intentionally, and her heart ached with a sense of bereavement and loneliness. To distract her thoughts she wandered round the room, looking at the works of art that stood against the walls, feeling the stuffs with which the cushions were covered and striking a lute which was leaning against the pedestal of a Muse. She only played a few chords, but they sufficed to call up a whole train of memories; she sank on a divan in the darkest corner she could find in the brilliantly-lighted room, and gave herself up to reviewing the many events of the last few days. It was all so bright, so delightful, that it hardly seemed real, and her hopes were so radiantly happy that for a moment she trembled to think of their fulfilment--but only for a moment; her young soul was full of confidence and elation, and if a doubt weighed it down for an instant it was soon cast off and her spirit rose with bold expectancy.
Her heart overflowed with happiness and thankfulness as she thought of Marcus and his love for her; her fancy painted the future always by his side, and though her annoyance at Gorgo's continued absence, and her dread of her lover's mother slightly clouded her gladness, the sense of peace and rapture constantly came triumphantly to the front. She forgot time as it sped, till at length Gorgo made her appearance.
She had not deliberately kept out of the little singer's way; on the contrary, she had been detained by her father, for not till now had she dared to tell him that his mother, the beloved mistress of his house, was no more. In the Serapeum she had not mentioned it, by the physician's orders; and now, in addition, through the indiscretion of a friend, he had received some terrible tidings which had already been known for some hours in the city and which dealt him a serious blow. His two sons were in Thessalonica, and a ship, just arrived from thence, brought the news- only too well substantiated, that fifteen thousand of the inhabitants of that town had been treacherously assassinated in the Circus there.
This hideous massacre had been carried out by the Imperial troops at Caesar's command, the wretched citizens having been bidden to witness the races and then ruthlessly butchered. A general of the Imperial army--a Goth named Botheric--had been killed by the mob, and the Emperor had thus avenged his death.
Porphyrius knew only too well that his sons would never have been absent from any races or games. They certainly must have been among the spectators and have fallen victims to the sword of the slaughterer. His mother and two noble sons were snatched from him in a day; and he would again have had recourse to poison as a refuge from all, if a dim ray of hope had not permitted him to believe in their escape. But all the same he was sunk in despair, and behaved as though he had nothing on earth left to live for. Gorgo tried to console him, encouraged his belief in her brothers' possible safety, reminded him that it was the duty of a philosopher to bear the strokes of Fate with fortitude; but he would not listen to her, and only varied his lamentations with bursts of rage.
At last he said he wished to be alone and reminded Gorgo that she ought to go to Dada. His daughter obeyed, but against her will; in spite of all that Demetrius had said in the young girl's favor she felt a little shy of her, and in approaching her more closely she had something of the feeling of a fine lady who condescends to enter the squalid hovel of poverty. But her father was right: Dada was her guest and she must treat her with kindness.
Outside the door of the music-room she dried away her tears for her brothers, for her emotion seemed to her too sacred to be confessed to a creature who boldly defied the laws laid down by custom for the conduct of women. From Dada's appearance she felt sure that all those lofty ideas, which she herself had been taught to call "moral dignity" and "a yearning for the highest things," must be quite foreign to this girl with whom her cousin had condescended to intrigue. She felt herself immeasurably her superior; but it would be ungenerous to allow her to see this, and she spoke very kindly; but Dada answered timidly and formally.
"I am glad," Gorgo began, "that accident brought you in our way;" and Dada replied hastily: "I owe it to your father's kindness, and not to accident."
"Yes, he is very kind," said Gorgo, ignoring Dada's indignant tone. "And the last few hours have brought him terrible sorrows. You have heard, no doubt, that he has lost his mother; you knew her--she had taken quite a fancy to you, I suppose you know."
"Oh! forget it!" cried Dada.
"She was hard to win," Gorgo went on, "but she liked you. Do you not believe me? You should have seen how carefully she chose the dress you have on at this minute, and matched the ornaments to wear with it."
"Pray, pray say no more about it," Dada begged. "She is dead, and I have forgiven her--but she thought badly, very badly of me."
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