The Bride of the Nile by Georg Ebers
Orion made his way home under the moonlit and starry night. He held his head high, and not since that evening on the water with Paula had he felt so glad or so hopeful. On the other side of the bridge he did not at once turn his horse's head homewards; the fresh night air was so delightful, his heart beat so high that he shrunk from the oppression of a room. Full of renewed life, freed from a burden as it were, he made his way at a round pace to the house that held his beloved, picturing to himself how gladly she would welcome the news that he had found Amru ready to encourage him in his projects, indeed, to be a fatherly friend.
The Arab general, whose lofty character, intellect, and rectitude his father had esteemed highly, had impressed him, too, as the ideal of noble manliness, and as he compared him with the highest officials and warriors he had met at the Court of Byzantium he could not help smiling. By the side of this dignified, but impetuous and warm-hearted man they appeared like the old, rigid idols of his ancestors in comparison with the freely-wrought works of Greek art. He could bless the memory of his father for having freed the land from that degenerate race. Now, he felt, that lost parent, whose image lived in his soul, was satisfied with him, and this gave him a sense of happiness which he meant to cling to and enhance by every thought and deed in the future. "Life is a function, a ministry, and a duty!" this watchword, which had been given him by those beloved lips, should keep him in the new path; and soon he hoped to feel sure of himself, to be able to look back on such deeds of valor as would give him a right in his own judgment to unite his lot to that of this noblest of women.
Full of such thoughts as these, he made his way to the house of Rufinus. The windows of the corner room on the upper floor were lighted up; two of these windows looked out on the river and the quay. He did not know which rooms were Paula's, but he looked up at the late-burning light with a vague feeling that it must be hers; a female figure which now appeared framed in the opening, showed him that he was not mistaken; it was that of Perpetua. The sound of hoofs had roused her curiosity, but she did not seem to recognize him in the dim starlight.
He slowly rode past, and when he presently turned back and again looked up, in the hope this time of seeing Paula, the place was vacant: however, he perceived a tall dark shadow moving across from one side of the room to the other, which could not be that of the nurse nor of her slender mistress. It must indeed be that of a remarkably big man, and stopping to gaze with anxious and unpleasant apprehension, he plainly recognized Philippus.
It was past midnight. How could he account for his being with Paula at this hour?--Was she ill?--Was this room hers after all?--Was it merely by chance that the nurse was in Rufinus' room with the physician.
No. The woman whom he could now see pass across the window and go straight up to the man, with outstretched hands, was Paula and none other. Isis heart was already beating fast, and now a suspicion grew strong in him which his vanity had hitherto held in check, though he had often seen the friendly relations that subsisted between Paula and the leech.--Perhaps it was a warmer feeling than friendship and guileless trust, which had led her so unreservedly to claim this man's protection and service. Could he have won Paula's heart--Paula's love?
Was it conceivable!--But why not?
What was there against Philippus but his homely face and humble birth? And how many a woman had he not seen set her heart on quite other things! The physician was not more than five years his senior; and recalling the expression in his eyes as he looked at Paula only that morning Orion felt more and more uneasy.
Philippus loved Paula.--A trifling incident suddenly occurred to his mind which made him certain on that point; he had only too much experience in such matters. Yesterday, it had struck him that ever since his father's death--that was ever since Paula's change of residence--Philippus dressed more carefully than had been his wont. "Now this," thought he, "is a change that does not come over so serious a man unless it is caused by love."
A mingled torment of pain and rage shot through him as he again saw the tall shadow cross the window. For the first time in his life he felt the pangs of jealousy, which he had so often laughed at in his friends; but was it not absurd to allow it to torture him; was he not sure, since that morning's meeting, quite sure of Paula? And Philippus! Even if he, Orion, must retire into the background before a higher judge, in the eyes of a woman he surely had the advantage!--But in spite of all this it troubled him to know that the physician was with Paula at such an hour; he angrily pulled his horse's head round, and it was a pleasure to him to feel the fiery creature, unused as it was to such rough treatment, turn restive at it now. By the time he had gone a hundred steps from those windows with their cursed glare, the horse was displaying all the temper and vice that had been taken out of him as a foal. Orion had to fight a pitched battle with his steed, and it was a relief to him to exercise his power with curb and knee. In vain did the creature dance round and round; in vain did he rear and plunge; the steady rider was his master; and it was not till he had brought him to quietness and submission that Orion drew breath and looked about him while he patted the horse's smooth neck.
Close at hand, behind a low hedge, spread the thick, dark groves of Susannah's garden and between them the back of the house was visible, being more brilliantly lighted than even Paula's rooms. Three of the windows showed lights; two were rather dim, however, the result probably of one lamp only.
All this could not matter to him; nevertheless he remained gazing at the roof of the colonnade which went round the house below the upper floor; for, on the terrace it formed, leaning against a window-frame, stood a small figure with her head thrust so far forth to listen that the light shone through the curls that framed it. Katharina was trying to overhear a dialogue between the Patriarch Benjamin--whose bearded and apostolic head Orion could clearly recognize--and the priest John, an insignificant looking little man, of whom, however, the deceased Mukaukas had testified that he was far superior to old Plotinus the Bishop in intellect and energy.
The young man could easily have watched Katharina's every movement, but he did not think it worth while. Nevertheless, as he rode on, the water-wagtail's little figure dwelt in his mind; not alone, however, for that of Paula immediately rose by her side; and the smaller Katharina's seemed, the more ample and noble did the other appear. Every word he had heard that day from Paula's lips rushed to his remembrance, and the vivid and lovely memory drove out all care. That woman, who only a few hours since, had declared herself ready, with him, to hope all things, to believe all things, and to accept his protection--that lordly maiden whom he had been glad to bid fix her eye, with him, on the goal of his future efforts, whose pure gaze could restrain his passion and impetuosity as by a charm, and who yet granted him the right to strive to possess her--that proud daughter of heroes, whom even his father would have clasped to his heart as a daughter--was it possible that she should betray him like some pleasure-seeking city beauty? Could she forget her dignity as a woman?--No! and a thousand times no. To doubt her was to insult her--was to wrong her and himself.
The physician loved her; but it certainly was not any warmer feeling than friendship on her part that made her receive him at this late hour. The shame would be his own, if he ever again allowed such base suspicion to find place in his soul!
He breathed a deep sigh of relief. And when his servant, who had lingered to pay the toll at the bridge, came up with him, Orion dismounted and desired him to lead his horse home, for he himself wished to return on foot, alone with his thoughts. He walked meditatively and slowly under the sycamores, but he had not gone far when, on the other side of the deserted road, he heard some one overtaking him with long, quick strides. He recognized the leech Philippus at a glance and was glad, for this proved to him how senseless and unjust his doubts had been, and how little ground he had for regarding the physician as a rival; for indeed this man did not look like a happy lover. He hurried on with his head bent, as though under a heavy burthen, and clasped his hand to his forehead with a gesture of despair. No, this nocturnal wanderer had left no hour of bliss behind him; and if his demeanor was calculated to rouse any feeling it was not envy, but pity.
Philippus did not heed Orion; absorbed in himself, he strode on, moaning dully, as if in pain. For a few minutes he disappeared into a house whence came loud cries of suffering, and when he came out again, he walked on, shaking his head now and then, as a man who sees many things happen which his understanding fails to account for.
The end of his walk was a large, palatial building. The stucco had fallen off in places, and in the upper story the windows had been broken away till their open ings were a world too wide. In former times this house had accommodated the State officers of Finance for the province, and the ground-floor rooms had been suitably and comfortably fitted up for the Ideologos--the supreme controller of this department, who usually resided at Alexandria, but who often spent some weeks at Memphis when on a tour of inspection. But the Arabians had transferred the management of the finances of the whole country to the new capital of Fostat on the other shore of the river, and that of the monetary affairs of the decaying city had been incorporated with the treasurer's department of the Mukaukas' household. The senate of the city had found the expense of this huge building too heavy, and had been well content to let the lower rooms to Philippus and his Egyptian friend, Horapollo.
The two men occupied different rooms, but the same slaves attended to their common housekeeping and also waited on the physician's assistant, a modest and well-informed Alexandrian.
When Philippus entered his old friend's lofty and spacious study he found him still up, sitting before a great number of rolls of manuscript, and so absorbed in his work that he did not notice his late-coming comrade till the leech bid him good-evening. His only reply was an unintelligible murmur, for some minutes longer the old man was lost in study; at last, however, he looked up at Philippus, impatiently tossing an ivory ruler-which he had been using to open and smooth the papyrus on to the table; and at the same moment a dark bundle under it began to move--this was the old man's slave who had long been sleeping there.
Three lamps on the writing-table threw a bright light on the old man and his surroundings, while the physician, who had thrown himself on a couch in a corner of the large room, remained in the dark.
What startled the midnight student was his housemate's unwonted silence; it disturbed him as the cessation of the clatter of the wheel disturbs a man who lives in a mill. He looked at his friend with surprised enquiry, but Philippus was dumb, and the old man turned once more to his rolls of manuscript. But he had lost the necessary concentration; his brown hand, in which the blue veins stood out like cords, fidgeted with the scrolls and the ivory rule, and his sunken lips, which had before been firmly closed, were now twitching restlessly.
The man's whole aspect was singular and not altogether pleasing: his lean brown figure was bent with age, his thoroughly Egyptian face, with broad cheekbones and outstanding ears, was seamed and wrinkled like oak-bark; his scalp was bare of its last hair, and his face clean-shaved, but for a few tufts of grey hair by way of beard, sprouting from the deep furrows on his cheeks and chin, like reeds from the narrow bed of a brook; the razor could not reach them there, and they gave him an untidy and uncared-for appearance. His dress answered to his face--if indeed that could be called dress which consisted of a linen apron and a white kerchief thrown over his shoulders after sundown. Still, no one meeting him in the road could have taken him for a beggar; for his linen was fine and as white as snow, and his keen, far-seeing eyes, above which, exactly in the middle, his bristly eyebrows grew strangely long and thick, shone and sparkled with clear intelligence, firm self-reliance, and a repellent severity which would no more have become an intending mendicant than the resolute and often scornful expression which played about his lips. There was nothing amiable, nothing prepossessing, nothing soft in this man's face; and those who knew what his life had been could not wonder that the years had failed to sweeten his abrupt and contradictory acerbity or to transmute them into that kindly forbearance which old men, remembering how often they have stumbled and how many they have seen fall, sometimes find pleasure in practising.
He had been born, eighty years before, in the lovely island of Philae, beyond the cataract in the district of the temple of Isis, and under the shadow of the only Egyptian sanctuary in which the heathen cultus was kept up, and that publicly, as late as in his youth. Since Theodosius the Great, one emperor and one Praefectus Augustalis after another had sent foot-soldiers and cavalry above the falls to put an end to idolatry in the beautiful isle; but they had always been routed or destroyed by the brave Blemmyes who haunted the desert between the Nile and the Red Sea. These restless nomad tribes acknowledged the Isis of Philae as their tutelary goddess, and, by a very ancient agreement, the image of their patroness was carried every year by her priests in a solemn procession to the Blemmyes, and then remained for a few weeks in their keeping. Horapollo's father was the last of the horoscope readers, and his grandfather had been the last high-priest of the Isis of Philae. His childhood had been passed on the island but then a Byzantine legion had succeeded in beating the Blemmyes, in investing the island, and in plundering and closing the temple. The priests of Isis escaped the imperial raid and Horapollo had spent all his early years with his father, his grandfather, and two younger sisters, in constant peril and flight. His youthful spirit was unremittingly fed with hatred of the persecutors, the cruel contemners and exterminators of the faith of his forefathers; and this hatred rose to irreconcilable bitterness after the massacre at Antioch where the imperial soldiery fell upon all his family, and his grandfather and two innocent sisters were murdered. These horrors were committed at the instigation of the Bishop, who denounced the Egyptian strangers as idolaters, and to whom the Roman prefect, a proud and haughty patrician, had readily lent the support of an armed force. It was owing to the narrowest chance--or, as the old man would have it, to the interposition of great Isis, that his father had been so happy as to get away with him and the treasures he had brought from the temple at Philae. Thus they had means to enable them to travel farther under an assumed name, and they finally settled in Alexandria. Here the persecuted youth changed his name, Horus, to its Greek equivalent, and henceforth he was known at home and in the schools as Apollo. He was highly gifted by nature, and availed himself with the utmost zeal of the means of learning that abounded in Alexandria; he labored indefatigably and dug deep into every field of Greek science, gaining, under his father's guidance, all the knowledge of Egyptian horoscopy, which was not wholly lost even at this late period.
In the midst of the contentious Christian sects of the capital, both father and son remained heathen and worshippers of Isis; and when the old priest died at an advanced age, Horapollo moved to Memphis where he led the quiet and secluded life of a student, mingling only now and then with the astronomers, astrologers, and calendar-makers at the observatory, or visiting the alchemists' laboratories, where, even in Christian Egypt, they still devoted themselves to attempts to transmute the baser into the noble metals. Alchemists and star-readers alike soon detected the old man's superior knowledge, and in spite of his acrid and often offensively-repellent demeanor, took counsel of him on difficult questions. His fame had even reached the Arabs, and, when it was necessary to find the exact direction towards Mecca for the prayer niche in Amru's new mosque, he was appealed to, and his decision was final.
Philippus had, some years since, been called to the old man's bedside in sickness, and being then a beginner and in no great request, he had given the best of his time and powers to the case. Horapollo had been much attracted by the young physician's wide culture and earnest studiousness; he had conceived a warm liking for him, the warmest perhaps that he had ever felt for any fellow-human since the death of his own family. At last the elder took the younger man into his heart with such overflowing affection, that it seemed as though his spirit longed to make up now for the stint of love it had hitherto shown. No father could have clung to his son with more fervent devotion, and when a relapse once more brought him to death's door he took Philippus wholly into his confidence, unrolled before his eyes the scroll of his inner and outer life from its beginnings, and made him his heir on condition that he should abide by him to the end.
Philippus, who, from the first, had felt a sympathetic attraction to this venerable and talented man, agreed to the bargain; and when he subsequently became associated with the old man in his studies, assisting him from time to time, Horapollo desired that he would help him to complete a work he hoped to finish before he died. It was a treatise on hieroglyphic writing, and was to interpret the various signs so far as was still possible, and make them intelligible to posterity.
The old man disliked writing anything but Egyptian, using Greek unwillingly and clumsily, so he entrusted to his young friend the task of rendering his explanations into that language. Thus the two men--so different in age and character, but so closely allied in intellectual aims--led a joint existence which was both pleasant and helpful to both, in spite of the various eccentricities, the harshness and severity of the elder.
Horapollo lived after the manner of the early Egyptian priests, subjecting himself to much ablution and shaving; eating little but bread, vegetables, and poultry, and abstaining from pulse and the flesh of all beasts--not merely of the prohibited animal, swine; wearing nothing but pure linen clothing, and setting apart certain hours for the recitation of those heathen forms of prayer whose magic power was to compel the gods to grant the desires of those who thus appealed to them.
And if the old man had given his full confidence to Philippus, the leech, on his part, had no secrets from him; or, if he withheld anything, Horapollo, with wonderful acumen, was at once aware of it. Philippus had often spoken of Paula to his parental friend, describing her charms with all the fervor of a lover, but the old man was already prejudiced against her, if only as the daughter of a patrician and a prefect. All who bore these titles were to him objects of hatred, for a patrician and a prefect had been guilty of the blood of those he had held most dear. The Governor of Antioch, to be sure, had acted only under the orders of the bishop; but old Horapollo, and his father before him, from the first had chosen to throw all the blame on the prefect, for it afforded some satisfaction to the descendant of an ancestral race of priests to be able to vent all his wrathful spite on any one rather than on the minister of a god--be that god who or what he might.
So when Philippus praised Paula's dignified grandeur, her superior elegance, the height of her stature or the loftiness of her mind, the old man would bound up exclaiming: "Of course--of course!--Beware boy, beware! You are disguising haughtiness, conceit, and arrogance under noble names. The word 'patrician' includes everything we can conceive of as most insolent and inhuman; and those apes in purple who disgrace the Imperial throne pick out the worst of them, the most cold-hearted and covetous, to make prefects of them. And as they are, so are their children! Everything which they in their vainglory regard as 'beneath them' they tread into the dust--and we--you and I, all who labor with their hands in the service of the state--we, in their dull eyes, are beneath them. Mark me, boy! To-day the governor's daughter, the patrician maiden, can smile at you because she needs you; tomorrow she will cast you aside as I push away the old panther-skin which keeps my feet warm in winter, as soon as the March days come!"
Nor was his aversion less for the son of the Mukaukas, whom, however, he had never seen; when the leech had confessed to him how deep a grudge against Orion dwelt in the heart of Paula, old Horapollo had chuckled scornfully, and he exclaimed, as though he could read hearts and look into the future--: "They snap at each other now, and in a day or two they will kiss again! Hatred and love are the opposite ends of the same rod; and how easily it is reversed!--Those two!--Like in blood is like in kind;--such people attract each other as the lodestone tends towards the iron and the iron towards the lodestone!"
But these and similar admonitions had produced little effect on the physician's sentiments; even Paula's repulse of his ardent appeal after she had moved to the house of Rufinus had failed to extinguish his hope of winning her at last. This very morning, in the course of the discussion as to the stewardship of her fortune, Paula had been ready and glad to accept him as her Kyrios--her legal protector and representative; but he now thought that he could perceive by various signs that his venerable friend was right: that the rod had been reversed, and that aversion had been transformed to love in the girl's heart. The anguish of this discovery was hard to bear. And yet Paula had never shown him such hearty warmth of manner, never had she spoken to him in a voice so soft and so full of feeling, as this evening in the garden. More cheerful and talkative than usual, she had constantly turned to address him, while he had felt his pain and torment of mind gradually eased, till in him too, sentiment had blossomed anew, and his intellectual power had expanded. Never--so he believed--had he expressed his thoughts better or more brilliantly than in that hour. Nor had she withheld her approval; she had heartily agreed with his views; and when, half an hour before midnight, he had gone with her to visit his patients, rapturous hopes had sprung once more in his breast. Ecstatically happy, like a man intoxicated, he had, by her own desire, accompanied her into her sitting-room, and then--and there. . . .
Poor, disappointed man, sitting on the divan in a dark corner of the spacious room! In his soul hitherto the intellect had alone made itself heard, the voice of the heart had never been listened to.
How he had found his way home he never knew. All he remembered was that, in the course of duty, he had gone into the house of a man whose wife--the mother of several children--he had left at noon in a dying state; that he had seen her a corpse, surrounded by loud but sincere mourners; that he had gone on his way, weighed down by their grief and his own, and that he had entered his friend's rooms rather than his own, to feel safe from himself. Life had no charm, no value for him now; still, he felt ashamed to think that a woman could thus divert him from the fairest aims of life, that he could allow her to destroy the peace of mind he needed to enable him to carry out his calling in the spirit of his friend Rufinus. He knew his house-mate well and felt that he would only pour vitriol into his wounds, but it was best so. The old man had already often tried to bring down Paula's image from its high pedestal in his soul, but always in vain; and even now he should not succeed. He would mar nothing, scatter nothing to the winds, tread nothing in the dust but the burning passion, the fevered longing for her, which had fired his blood ever since that night when he had vanquished the raving Masdakite. That old sage by the table, on whose stern, cold features the light fell so brightly, was the very man to accomplish such a work of destruction, and Philippus awaited his first words as a wounded man watches the surgeon heating the iron with which to cauterize the sore.
Poor disappointed wretch, sorely in need of a healing hand!
He lay back on the divan, and saw how his friend leaned over his scroll as if listening, and fidgeted up and down in his arm-chair.
It was clear that Horapollo was uneasy at Philippus' long silence, and his pointed eyebrows, raised high on his brow, plainly showed that he was drawing his own conclusions from it--no doubt the right ones. The peace must soon be broken, and Philippus awaited the attack. He was prepared for the worst; but how could he bring himself to make his torturer's task easy for him. Thus many minutes slipped away; while the leech was waiting for the old man to speak, Horapollo waited for Philippus. However, the impatience and curiosity of the elder were stronger than the young man's craving for comfort; he suddenly laid down the roll of manuscript, impatiently snatched up the ivory stick which he had thrown aside, set his heavy seat at an angle with a shove of amazing vigor for his age, turned full on Philippus, and asked him, in a loud voice, pointing his ruler at him as if threatening him with it:
"So the play is out. A tragedy, of course!"
"Hardly, since I am still alive," replied the other.
"But there is inward bleeding, and the wound is painful," retorted the old man. Then, after a short pause, he went on: "Those who will not listen must feel! The fox was warned of the trap, but the bait was too tempting! Yesterday there would still have been time to pull his foot out of the spring, if only he had sincerely desired it; he knew the hunter's guile. Now the foe is down on the victim; he has not spared his weapons, and there lies the prey dumb with pain and ignominy, cursing his own folly.--You seem inclined for silence this evening. Shall I tell you just how it all came about?"
"I know only too well," said Philippus.
"While I, to be sure, can only imagine it!" growled the old man. "So long as that patrician hussy needed the poor beast of burthen she could pet it and throw barley and dates to it. Now she is rolling in gold and living under a sheltering roof, and hey presto, the discarded protector is sent to the right about in no time. This mistress of the hearts of our weak and bondage-loving sex raises this rich Adonis to fill the place of the hapless, overgrown leech, just as the sky lets the sun rise when the pale moon sinks behind the hills. If that is not the fact give me the lie!"
"I only wish I could," sighed Philippus. "You have seen rightly, wonderfully rightly--and yet, as wrongly as possible."
"Dark indeed!" said the old man quietly. "But I can see even in the dark. The facts are certain, though you are still so blinded as not to see their first cause. However, I am satisfied to know that your delusion has come to so abrupt, and in my opinion so happy, an end. To its cause--a woman, as usual--I am perfectly indifferent. Why should I needlessly ascribe to her any worse sin than she had committed? If only for your sake I will avoid doing so, for an honorable soul clings to those whom it sees maligned. Still, it seems to me that it is for you to speak, not for me. I should know you for a philosopher, without such persistent silence; and as for myself, I am not altogether bereft of curiosity, in spite of my eighty years."
At this Philippus hastily rose and pacing the room while he spoke, or pausing occasionally in front of the old man, he poured out with glowing cheeks and eager gestures, the history of his hopes and sufferings--how Paula had filled him with fresh confidence, and had invited him to her rooms--only to show him her whole heart; she had been strongly moved, surprised at herself, but unable and unwilling to conceal from him the happiness that had come into her life. She had spoken to him, her best friend, as a burthened soul pours itself out to a priest: had confessed all that she had felt since the funeral of the deceased Mukaukas, and said that she felt convinced now that Orion had come to a right mind again after his great sin.
"And that there, was so much joy over him in heaven," interrupted Horapollo, "that she really could not delay doing her cast-off lover the honor of inviting his sympathy!"
"On the contrary. It was with the utmost effort that she uttered all her heart prompted her to tell; she had nothing to look for from me but mockery, warning, and reproach, and yet she opened her heart to me."
"But why? To what end?" shrieked the old man. "Shall I tell you. Because a man who is a friend must still be half a lover, and a woman cannot bear to give up even a quarter of one."
"Not so!" exclaimed Philippus, indignantly interrupting him. "It was because she esteems and values me,--because she regards me as a brother, and--I am not a vain man--and could not bear--those were her very words--to cheat me of my affection for even an hour! It was noble, it was generous, worthy of her! And though every fibre of my nature rebelled I found myself compelled to admire her sincerity, her true friendship, her disregard of her own feelings, and her womanly tenderness!--Nay, do not interrupt me again, do not laugh at me. It is no small matter for a proud girl, conscious of her own dignity, to lay bare her heart's weakness to a man who, as she knows, loves her, as she did just now to me. She called me her benefactor and said she would be a sister to me; and whatever motive you--who hate her out of a habit of prejudice without really knowing her--may choose to ascribe her conduct to, I--I believe in her, and understand her.
"Could I refuse to grasp the hand she held out to me as she entreated me with tears in her eyes to be still her friend, her protector, and her Kyrios! And yet, and yet!--Where shall I find resolution enough to ask of her who excites me to the height of passion no more than a kind glance, a clasp of the hand, an intelligent interest in what I say? How am I to preserve self-control, calmness, patience, when I see her in the arms of that handsome young demi-god whom I scorned only yesterday as a worthless scoundrel? What ice may cool the fire of this burning heart? What spear can transfix the dragon of passion which rages here? I have lived almost half my life without ever feeling or yearning for the love of which the poets sing. I have never known anything of such feelings but through the pangs of some friend whose weakness had roused my pity; and now, when love has come upon me so late with all its irresistible force--has subjugated me, cast me into bondage--how shall I, how can I get free?
"My faithful friend, you who call me your son, whom I am glad to hear speak to me as 'boy,' and 'child,' who have taken the place of the father I lost so young--there is but one issue: I must leave you and this city--flee from her neighborhood--seek a new home far from her with whom I could have been as happy as the Saints in bliss, and who has made me more wretched than the damned in everlasting fire. Away, away! I will go--I must go unless you, who can do so much, can teach me to kill this passion or to transmute it into calm, brotherly regard."
He stood still, close in front of the old man and hid his face in his hands. At his favorite's concluding words, Horapollo had started to his feet with all the vigor of youth; he now snatched his hand down from his face, and exclaimed in a voice hoarse with indignation and the deepest concern:
"And you can say that in earnest? Can a sensible man like you have sunk so deep in folly? Is it not enough that your own peace of mind should have been sacrificed, flung at the feet of this--what can I call her?--Do you understand at last why I warned you against the Patrician brood?--The faith, gratitude, and love of a good man!--What does she care for them? Unhook the whiting; away with him in the dust! Here comes a fine large fish who perhaps may swallow the bait!--Do you want to ruin, for her sake, and the sake of that rascally son of the governor, the comfort and happiness of an old man's last years when he has become accustomed to love you, who so well deserve it, as his own son? Will you--an energetic student, you--a man of powerful intellect, zealous in your duty, and in favor with the gods--will you pine like a deserted maiden or spring from the Leucadian rock like love-sick Sappho in the play while the spectators shake with laughter? You must stay, Boy, you must stay; and I will show you how a man must deal with a passion that dishonors him."
"Show me," replied Philippus in a dull voice. "I ask no more. Do you suppose that I am not myself ashamed of my own weakness? It ill beseems me of all men, formed by fate for anything rather than to be a sighing and rapturous lover. I will struggle with it, wrestle with it with all the strength that is in me; but here, in Memphis, close to her and as her Kyrios, I should be forced every day to see her, and day after day be exposed to fresh and humiliating defeat! Here, constantly near her and with her, the struggle must wear me out--I should perish, body and soul. The same place, the same city, cannot hold her and me."
"Then she must make way for you," croaked Horus. Philippus raised his bowed head and asked, in some surprise and with stern reproof:
"What do you mean by that?"
"Nothing," replied the other airily. He shrugged his shoulders and went on more gently: "Memphis has greater need of you than of the patrician hussy." Then he shook himself as if he were cold, struck his breast and added: "All is turmoil here within; I can neither help nor advise you. Day must soon be dawning in the east; we will try to sleep. A knot can often be untied by daylight which by lamplight seems inextricable, and perhaps on my sleepless couch the goddess may reveal to me the way I have promised to show you. A little more lightness of heart would do neither of us any harm.--Try to forget your own griefs in those of others; you see enough of them every day. To wish you a good night would probably be waste of words, but I may wish you a soothing one, You may count on my aid; but you will not let me, a poor old man, hear another word about flight and departure and the like, will you? No, no. I know you better, Philippus--you will never treat your lonely old friend so!"
These were the tenderest words that the leech had ever heard from the old man's lips, and it comforted him when Horapollo pressed him to his heart in a hasty embrace. He thought no more of the hint that it was Paula's part to make room for him. But the old man had spoken in all seriousness, for, no sooner was he alone than he petulantly flung down the ivory ruler on the table, and murmured, at first angrily and then scornfully, his eyes sparkling the while:
"For this true heart, and to preserve myself and the world from losing such a man, I would send a dozen such born hussies to Amentis--[The Nether world of the ancient Egyptians.]--Hey, hey! My beauty! So this noble leech is not good enough for the like of us; he may be tossed away like a date-stone that we spit out? Well, every one to his taste; but how would it be if old Horapollo taught us his value? Wait a bit, wait!--With a definite aim before my eyes I have never yet failed to find my way--in the realm of science, of course; but what is life--the life of the sage but applied knowledge? And why should not old Horapollo, for once before he dies, try what his brains can contrive to achieve in the busy world of outside human existence? Pleasant as you may think it to be in Memphis with your lover, fair heart-breaker, you will have to make way for the plaything you have so lightly tossed aside! Aye, you certainly will, depend upon that my beauty, depend upon that!--Here, Anubis!"
He gave the slave, who had fallen asleep again under the table, a kick with his bare foot, and while Anubis lighted his master to his sleeping-room, and helped him in his long and elaborate ablutions, Horapollo never ceased muttering broken sentences and curses, or laughing maliciously to himself.