Serapis by Georg Ebers
The singer's wife and daughter had joined some neighbors in sacrificing a black lamb to Zeus, a ceremony that was usual on the occasion of earthquakes or very severe storms; but it was done very secretly, for the edicts prohibiting the sacrifice of victims to the gods were promptly and rigidly enforced. The more the different members of the family came into contact with other citizens, the more deeply rooted was their terror that the end of all things was at hand. As soon as it was dark the old man buried all his savings, for even if everyone else were to perish, he felt that he--though how or why he knew not--might be exempt from the common doom.
The night was warm, and great and small alike slept--or lay awake--under the stars so as not to be overwhelmed by the crash of roofs and walls; the next day was oppressively hot, and the family cowered in a row in the scanty shade of a palm and of a fig-tree, the only growth of any size in the singer's garden. Medius himself, in spite of the scorching sun, could not be still.
He rushed off to the town again and again, but only to return each time to enhance the anguish of the household by relating all sorts of horrors which he had picked up in his wanderings. They were obliged to satisfy their hunger with bread, cheese, and fruit, for the two slave-women positively refused to risk their lives by cooking in the house.
Medius' temper varied as he came and went; now he was gentle and affectionate, and then again he raged like a madman; and his wife outdid him. At one moment she would abandon him and the children, while she anointed the household altar and put up prayers; at the next she railed at the baseness and cruelty of the gods. When her husband brought the news that the Serapeum was surrounded by the Imperial troops, she scoffed and spit at the sacred images, and five minutes later she was vowing a sacrifice to the deities of Olympus. The general confusion was distracting; as the sun rose, the anguish, physical and mental, of the whole family greatly increased, and by noon had reached an appalling pitch.
Dada looked on intensely disgusted, and only shook her head when one or another of her companions was sure she felt a shock of earthquake or heard the roll of distant thunder. She could not explain to herself why she, who was usually timid enough, was exempt from the universal panic though she felt deeply pitiful towards the terrified women and children. None of them troubled themselves about her; the day dragged on with intolerable slowness, quenching all her gay vivacity, while she was utterly exhausted by the scorching African sun, of which, till now, she had never known the power. At last, in the afternoon, she found the little garden, which was by this time heated like an oven, quite unbearable, and she looked round for Papias. The child was sitting on the wall looking at the congregation streaming into the basilica of St. Mark. Dada followed his example, and when the many-voiced psalms rang out of the open door of the church, she listened to the music, for it seemed long since she had heard any, and after wiping the perspiration from the little boy's face with her peplos, she pointed to the building and said: "It must be nice and cool in there."
"Of course it is," said Papias.
"It is never too hot in church. I will tell you what--we will go there." This was a bright idea; for, thought Dada, any place must be pleasanter than this; and she felt strongly tempted, too, to see the inside of one of Agne's temples and to sing once more, or, at any rate, hear others sing.
"Come along," she said, and they stole through the deserted house to get into the street by the atrium. Medius saw them, but he made no attempt to detain them; he had sunk into lethargic indifference. It was not an hour since he had taken stock of his life and means, setting the small figure of his average income against his hospitality to Dada and her little companion; but then, again, he had calculated that, if all went well, he might make considerable profits out of the girl and the child. Now, he felt it was all the same to him whether he and his family and Dada met their doom in the house or out of it.
Dada and Papias soon reached the church of St. Mark, the oldest Christian basilica in the city. It consisted of a vestibule--the narthex--and the body of the church, a very long hall, with a flat roof ceiled with stained wood and supported on a double row of quite simple columns. This space was divided into two parts by a screen of pierced work; the innermost portion had a raised floor or podium, on which stood a table with chairs placed round it in a semicircle. The centre seat was higher and more richly decorated than the others. These chairs were unoccupied; a few deacons in 'talares' of light-colored brocade were busied about the table.
In the middle of the vestibule there was a small tank; here a number of penitents had collected who, with their flayed ribs and abject lamentations, offered a more melancholy spectacle than even the terrified crowd whom Dada had seen the day before, gathered round the temple of Isis. Indeed, site would have withdrawn at once but that Papias dragged her forward, and when she had passed through the great door into the nave she breathed a sigh of relief. A soothing sense of respite came over her, such as she had rarely felt; for the lofty building, which was only half full, was deliciously cool and the subdued light was restful to her eyes. The slight perfume of incense and the sober singing of the assembled worshippers were soothing to her senses, and, as she took a seat on one of the benches, she felt sheltered and safe.
The old church struck her as a home of perfect peace; in all the city, she thought, there could hardly be another spot where she might rest so quietly and contentedly. So for some little time she gave herself up, body and soul, to the refreshing influences of the coolness, the solemnity, the fragrance and the music; but presently her attention was attracted to two women in the seats just in front of her.
One of them, who had a child on her arm, whispered to her neighbor:
"You here, Hannah, among the unbaptized? How are you going on at home?"
"I cannot stay long," was the answer. "It is all the same where one sits, and when I leave I shall disturb no one. But my heart is heavy; the child is very bad. The doctor says he cannot live through the day, and I felt as if I must come to church."
Very right, very right. Do you stay here and I will go to your house at once; my husband will not mind waiting."
"Thank you very much, but Katharine is staying with the boy and he is quite safe there."
"Then I will stay and pray with you for the dear little child."
Dada had not missed a word of this simple dialogue. The woman whose child was ill at home, and who had come here to pray for strength or mercy, had a remarkably sweet face; as the girl saw the two friends bow their heads and fold their hands with downcast eyes, she thought to herself: "Now they are praying for the sick child . . ." and involuntarily she, too, bent her curly head, and murmured softly: "O ye gods, or thou God of the Christians, or whatever thou art called that hast power over life and death, make this poor woman's little son well again. When I get home again I will offer up a cake or a fowl--a lamb is so costly."
And she fancied that some invisible spirit heard her, and it gave her a vague satisfaction to repeat her simple supplication over and over again.
Meanwhile a miserable blind dwarf had seated himself by her side; near him stood the old dog that guided him. He held him by a string and had been allowed to bring his indispensable comrade into the church. The old man joined loudly and devoutly in the psalm which the rest of the congregation were singing; his voice had lost its freshness, no doubt, but he sang in perfect tune. It was a pleasure to Dada to listen, and though she only half understood the words of the psalm she easily caught the air and began to sing too, at first timidly and hardly audibly; but she soon gained courage and, following the example of little Papias, joined in with all her might.
She felt as though she had reached land after a stormy and uncomfortable voyage, and had found refuge in a hospitable home; she looked about her to discover whether the news of the approaching destruction of the world had not penetrated even here, but she could not feel certain; for, though many faces expressed anguish of mind, contrition, and a passionate desire--perhaps for help or, perhaps, for something quite different--not a cry of lamentation was to be heard, such as had rent the air by the temple of Isis, and most of the men and women assembled here were singing, or praying in silent absorption. There were none of the frenzied monks who had terrified her in the Xenodochium and in the streets; on this day of tumult and anxiety they are devoting all their small strength and great enthusiasm to the service of the Church militant.
This meeting, at so unusual an hour, had been convened by Eusebius, the deacon of the district, with the intention of calming the spirits of those who had caught the general infection of alarm. Dada could see the old man step up into a raised pulpit on the inner side of the screen which parted the baptized from the unbaptized members of the congregation; his silvery hair and beard, and the cheerful calm of his face, with the high white forehead and gentle, loving gaze, attracted her greatly. She had heard Karnis speak of Plato, and knew by heart some axioms of his doctrine, and she had always thought of the sage as a young man; but in advanced age, she fancied, he might have looked like Eusebius. Aye, and it would have well beseemed this old man to die, like the great Athenian, at a mirthful wedding-feast.
The priest was evidently about to give a discourse, and much as she admired him, this idea prompted her to quit the church; for, though she could sit still for hours to hear music, she found nothing more irksome than to be compelled to listen for any length of time to a speech she might not interrupt. She was therefore rising to leave; but Papias held her back and entreated her so pathetically with his blue baby-eyes not to take him away and spoil his pleasure that she yielded, though the opportunity was favorable for moving unobserved, as the woman in front of her was preparing to go and was shaking hands with her neighbor. She had indeed risen from her seat when a little girl came in behind her and whispered, loud enough for Dada's keen ears to catch the words: "Come mother, come home at once. He has opened his eyes and called for you. The physician says all danger is over."
The mother in her turn whispered to her friend in glad haste: "All is well!" and hurried away with the girl. The friend she had left raised her hands and eyes in thanksgiving, and Dada, too, smiled in sympathy and pleasure. Had the God of the Christian heard her prayer with theirs.
Meanwhile the preacher had ended his preliminary prayer and began to explain to his hearers that he had bidden them to the church in order to warn them against foolish terrors, and to lead them into the frame of mind in which the true Christian ought to live in these momentous times of disturbance. He wished to point out to his brethren and sisters in the Lord what was to be feared from the idols and their overthrow, what the world really owed to the heathen, and what he expected from his fellow-believers when the splendid and imminent triumph of the Church should be achieved.
"Let us look back a little, my beloved," he said, after this brief introduction. "You have all heard of the great Alexander, to whom this noble city owes its existence and its name. He was a mighty instrument in the hand of the Lord, for he carried the tongue and the wisdom of the Greeks throughout all lands, so that, in the fulness of time, the doctrine which should proceed from the only Son of God might be understood by all nations and go home to all hearts. In those days every people had its own idols by hundreds, and in every tongue on earth men put up their prayers to the supreme Power which makes itself felt wherever mortal creatures dwell. Here, by the Nile, after Alexander's death, reigned the Ptolemies; and the Egyptian citizens of Alexandria prayed to other gods than their Greek neighbors, so that they could never unite in worshipping their divinities; but Philadelphus, the second Ptolemy, a very wise man, gave them a god in common. In consequence of a vision seen in a dream he had the divinity brought from Sinope, on the shores of Pontus, to this town. This idol was Serapis, and he was raised to the throne of divinity here, not by Heaven, but by a shrewd and prudent man; a grand temple was built for him, which is to this day one of the wonders of the world, and a statue of him was made, as beautiful as any image ever formed by the hand of man. You have seen and know them both, and you know too, how, before the gospel was preached in Alexandria, crowds of all classes, excepting the Jews, thronged the Serapeum.
"A dim perception of the sublime teaching of the Lord by whom God has redeemed the world had dawned, even before His appearance on earth, on the spirit of the best of the heathen, and in the hearts of those wise men who--though not born into the state of grace--sought and strove after the truth, after inward purity, and an apprehension of the Almighty. The Lord chose them out to prepare the hearts of mankind for the good tidings, and make them fit to receive the gospel when the Star should rise over Bethlehem.
"Many of these sages had infused precious doctrine into the worship of Serapis before the hour of true redemption had come. They enjoined the servants of Serapis to be more zealous in the care of the soul than in that of the body, for they had detected the imperishable nature of the spiritual and divine part of man; they saw that we are brought into existence by sin and love, and we must therefore die to our sinful love and rise again through the might of love eternal. These Hellenes, like the Egyptian sages of the times of the Pharaohs, divined and declared that the soul was held responsible after death for all it had done of good or evil in its mortal body. They distinguished virtue and sin by the eternal law, which was written in the hearts even of the heathen, to the end that they, by nature, might do the works of the law; nay, there were some of their loftiest spirits who, though they knew not the Lord, it is true, required the repentance in the sinner, in the name of Serapis, and pronounced that it was good to give up the delusive joys and vain pleasures of the flesh and to break away from the evil--whether of body or of soul--which we are led into by the senses. They called upon their disciples to hold meetings for meditation whereby they might discern truth and the divinity; and the vast precincts of the Serapeum contained cells and alcoves for penitents and devotees, in which many a soul touched by grace, dead to the world and absorbed in the contemplation of such things as they esteemed high and heavenly, has ripened to old age and death.
"But, my beloved, the Light in which we rejoice, through no merits or deserts of our own, had not yet been shed on the lost children of those days of darkness; and all those noble, and indeed most admirable efforts were polluted by an admixture, even here, of coarse superstition, bloody sacrifices, and foolish adoration of perishable stone idols and beasts without understanding; and in other places by the false and delusive arts of Magians and sorcerers. Even the dim apprehension of true salvation was darkened and distorted by the subtleties of a vain and inconsistent philosophy, which held a theory as immutably true one day and overthrew or denied it the next. Thus, by degrees, the temple of the idol of Sinope degenerated into a stronghold of deceit and bloodshed, of the basest superstition, the pleasures of the flesh, and abominations that cried to Heaven. Learning, to be sure, was still cherished in the halls of the Serapeum; but its disciples turned with hardened hearts from the truth which was sent into the world by the grace of God, and they remained the prophets of error. The doctrines which the sages had associated with the idea of Serapis, debased and degraded by the most contemptible trivialities; lost all their worth and dignity; and after the great Apostle to whom this basilica is dedicated, had brought the gospel to Alexandria, the idol's throne began to totter, and the tidings of salvation shook its foundations and brought it to the verge of destruction in spite of the persecutions, in spite of the edicts of the apostate Julian, in spite of the desperate efforts of the philosophers, sophists, and heathen--for our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, has given certainty and actuality to the fleeting shadow of half-divined truth which lies in the core of the worship of Serapis. The pure and radiant star of Christian love has risen in the place of the dim nebulous mist of Serapis; and just as the moon pales when the sun appears triumphant, the worship of Serapis has died away in a thousand places where the gospel has been received. Even here, in Alexandria, its feeble flame is kept alive only by infinite care, and if the might of our pious and Christian Emperor makes itself felt-tomorrow, or next day--then, my beloved, it will vanish in smoke, and no power on earth can fan it into life again. Not our grandsons, no, but our own children will ask: Who--what was Serapis? For he who shall be overthrown is no longer a mighty god but an idol bereft of his splendor and his dignity. This is no struggle of might against might; it is the death-stroke given to a wounded and vanquished foe. The tree is rotten to the core and can crush no one in its fall, but it will cover all who stand near it with dust and rubbish. The sovereign has outlived his dominion, and when his fingers drop the sceptre few indeed will bewail him, for the new King has already mounted the throne and His is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever! Amen."
Dada had listened to the deacon's address with no particular interest, but the conclusion struck her attention. The old man looked dignified and honest; but Father Karnis was a well-meaning man, no doubt, and one of those who are wont to keep on the winning side. How was it that the preacher could draw so pitiable a picture of the very same god whose greatness her uncle had praised in such glowing terms only two days since? How could the same thing appear so totally different to two different people?
The priest looked more sagacious than the musician; Marcus, the young Christian, had a most kind heart; there was not a better or gentler creature under the sun than Agne--it was quite possible that Christianity was something very different in reality from what her foster parents chose to represent. As to the frightful consequences of the overthrow of the temple of Serapis, on that point she was completely reassured, and she prepared to listen with greater attention as Eusebius went on:
"Let us rejoice, beloved! The great idol's days are numbered! Do you know what that false worship has been in our midst? It has been like a splendid and richly-dressed trireme sailing, plague-stricken, into a harbor full of ships and boats. Woe to those who allow themselves to be tempted on board by the magnificence of its decorations! How great is their chance of infection, how easily they will carry it from ship to ship, and from the ships on to the shore, till the pestilence has spread from the harbor to the city! Let us then be thankful to those who destroy the gorgeous vessel, who drive it from amongst us, or sink or burn it. May our Father in Heaven give courage to their hearts, strength to their hands and blessing on their deeds! When we hear: 'Great Serapis has fallen to the earth and is no more, we and the world are free from him!' then, in this city, and wherever Christians dwell and worship, let a solemn festival be held.
"But still let us be just, still let us bear in mind all the great and good gifts that the trireme brought to our parents when it rode the waves manned by a healthy crew. If we do, it will be with sincere pity that we shall watch the proud vessel sink to the bottom, and we shall understand the grief of those whom once it bore over ebb and flow, and who believe they owe every thing to it. We shall rejoice doubly, too, to think that we ourselves have a safe bark with stout planks and strong masts, and a trustworthy pilot at the helm; and that we may confidently invite others to join us on board as soon as they have purified themselves of the plague with which they have been smitten.
"I think you will all have understood this parable. When Serapis falls there will be lamentation and woe among the heathen; but we, who are true Christians, ought not to pass them by, but must strive to heal and save the wounded and sick at heart. When Serapis falls you must be the physicians--healers of souls, as the Lord hath said; and if we desire to heal, our first task must be to discover in what the sufferings consist of those we wish to succor, for our choice of medicine must depend on the nature of the injury.
"What I mean is this: None can give comfort but those who know how to sympathize with the soul that craves it, who feel the sorrows of others as keenly as though they were their own. And this gift, my brethren, is, next to faith, the Christian grace which of all others best pleases our Heavenly Master.
"I see it in my mind's eye! The ruined edifice of the Serapeum, the masterpiece of Bryaxis laid in fragments in the dust, and thousands of wailing heathen! As the Jews wept and hung their harps on the trees by the waters of Babylon when they remembered Zion, so do I see the heathen weep as they think of the perished splendor. They themselves, indeed, ruined and desecrated the glory they bewail; and when something higher and purer took its place they hardened their hearts, and, instead of leaving the dead to bury their dead and throwing themselves hopefully into the new life, they refused to be parted from the putrefying corpse. They were fools, but their folly was fidelity; and if we can win them over to our holy faith they will be faithful unto death, as they have been to their old gods, clinging to Jesus and earning the crown of life. 'There will be more joy in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth than over ninety and nine that need no repentance,'--that you have heard; and whichever among you loves the Saviour can procure him a great joy if he guides only one of these weeping heathen into the Kingdom of Heaven.
"But perhaps you will ask: Is not the sorrow of the heathen a vain thing? What is it after all that they bewail? To understand that, try to picture to yourselves what it is that they think they are losing. Verily it is not a small matter, and it includes many things for which we and all mankind owe them a debt of gratitude. We call ourselves Christians and are proud of the name; but we also call ourselves Hellenes, and are proud of that name too. It was under the protection of the old gods, whose fall is about to be consummated, that the Greeks achieved marvellous deeds, nurturing the gifts of the intellect which the Almighty bestowed on their race, like faithful gardeners, and making them bring forth marvellous fruit. In the realm of thought the Greek is sovereign of the nations, and he has given to perishable matter a perfection of form which has elevated and vivified it to immortality. Nothing more beautiful has ever been imagined or executed, before or since, or by any other people, than was produced by Greece in its prime. But perhaps you will ask, why did not the Redeemer come down among our fathers in those glorious days? Because beauty, as they conceived and still conceive of it, is a mere perishable accident of matter, and because a race which thus devoted every thought and feeling to an inspired and fervent worship of beauty--which was so absorbed in the contemplation of the visible, could have no longing for the invisible which is the real life that came down among us with the only-begotten Son of God. Nevertheless Beauty is beautiful; and when the time shall come when the visible is married to the invisible, when eternal Truth is clothed in perfect form, then, and not till then, will the ideal which our fathers strove after in the great old days be realized, by the grace of the Saviour.
"But this visible beauty, which they so passionately cherished, does us good service too, so long as we do not allow it to dazzle us and lead us astray from the one thing needful. To whom, if not to the heathen Hellenes, do our great teachers owe, under God, the noble art of coordinating their loftiest feelings, and casting them in forms which are intelligible to the Christian and at once instruct, delight, and edify him? It was in a heathen school that each one of your pastors--that even I, the humblest of them--studied that rhetoric which enables me to utter with a flowing tongue the things which the Spirit gives me to speak to you; and if some day there are Christian schools, in which our sons may acquire the same power, they must adopt many of the laws devised by the heathen. If in the future we are rich enough to raise churches to the Almighty, to the Virgin Mary and the great Saints, in any way worthy of their sublime merits, we shall owe our skill to the famous architects of heathen Hellas. We are indebted to the arts of the heathen for a thousand things in daily use, beside numberless others that lend charm to existence. Yes, my beloved, when we consider all they did for us we cannot in justice withhold our tribute of gratitude and admiration.
"Nor can we doubt that the best of them were acceptable to the Almighty himself, for he granted to them to see darkly and from afar what he has brought nigh to us, and poured into our hearts by divine revelation. You all know the name of Plato. He, from whom Salvation was hidden, saw remotely, by presentiment as it were, many things which to us, the Redeemed, are clear and plain and near. He perceived the relation of earthly beauty and heavenly truth. The great gift of Love binds and supports us all and Plato gave the name of the divine Eros, that is divine love, to an inspired devotion to the Imperishable. He placed goodness--the Good--at the top of the great scale of Ideas which he constructed. The Good was, to him, the highest Idea and the uttermost of which we can conceive:--Good, whose properties he made manifest by every means his lofty and lucid mind could command. This heathen, my brethren and sisters, was well worthy of the grace bestowed on us. Do justice then to the blinded souls, justice in Plato's sense of the word; he calls the virtue of reason Wisdom; the virtue of spirit Courage, and the virtue of the senses Temperance. Well, well! 'Prove all things and hold fast that which is good.' That is to say: consider what may be worth anything in the works of the heathen that it may be duly preserved; but, on the other hand, tread all that is idolatry in the dust, all that brings the unclean thing among us, all that imperils our souls and bodies, or anything that is high and pure in life; but do not forget, my beloved, all that the heathen have done for us. Be temperate in all things; avoid excess of zeal; for thus, and thus only, can we be just. 'It is not to hate, but to love each other that we are here.' It was not a Christian but Sophocles, one of the greatest of the heathen, who uttered those words, and he speaks them still to us!"
Eusebius paused and drew a deep breath.
Dada had listened eagerly, for it pleased her to hear all that she had been wont to prize spoken of here with due appreciation. But since Eusebius had begun to discourse about Plato she had been disturbed by two men sitting just in front of her. One was tall and lean, with a long narrow head, and the other a shorter and more comfortable-looking personage. The first fidgeted incessantly, nudging and twitching his companion, and looking now and then as if he were ready to start up and interrupt the preacher. This behavior evidently annoyed his neighbors who kept signing to him to be quiet and hushing him down, while he took no notice of their demonstrations but kept clearing his throat with obtrusive emphasis and at last scraped and shuffled his feet on the floor, though not very noisily. But Eusebius began again:
"And now, my brethren, how ought we to demean ourselves in these fateful times of disturbance? As Christians; only--or rather, by God's aiding grace as Christians in the true sense of our Lord and Master, according to the precepts given by Him through the Apostles. Their words shall be mine. They say there are two paths--the path of Life and the path of Death, and there is a great difference between them. The path of Life is this: First, Thou shalt love God who hath created thee; next thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, and whatsoever thou wouldst men should do unto thee even so do unto them; but what thou wouldst not have done unto thee do thou not to them. And the sum of the doctrine contained in these words is this: Bless those that curse you, pray for your enemies and repent for those who persecute you, for 'if ye love them that love you what thank have ye? Do not even the heathen the same?' Love those that hate you and you will have no enemies.
"Take this teaching of the holy Apostles to heart this day. Beware of mocking or persecuting those who have been your enemies. Even the nobler heathen regarded it as an act of grace to respect the conquered foe, and to you, as Christians, it should be a law. It is not so hard to forgive an enemy when we regard him as a possible friend in the future; and the Christian can go so far as to love him when he remembers that every man is his brother and neighbor, and equally precious in the sight of the Saviour who is dearer to us than life.
"The heathen, the idolater, is the Christian's archfoe; but soon he will be in fetters at our feet. And, then, my brethren, pray for him; for if the Almighty, who is without spot or stain and perfect beyond words, can forgive the sinner, ye who are base and guilty may surely forgive. 'Fishers of souls' we all should be; try to fulfil the injunction. Draw the enemy to you by kindness and love; show him by your example the beauty of the Christian life; let him perceive the benefits of Salvation; lead those whose gods and temples we have overthrown, into our churches; and when, after triumphing over those blind souls by the sword, we have also conquered them by love, faith and prayer--when they can rejoice with us in the Redemption by our Lord Jesus Christ--then shall we all be as one fold under one shepherd, and peace and joy shall reign in the city which is now torn by dissension and strife."
At this point the preacher was interrupted, for a loud uproar broke out in the Narthex--[The vestibule of the early Christian basilica which was open to penitents.]--shouts and cries of men fighting, mingled with the dull roar of a bull.
The congregation started to their feet in extreme consternation, and the door was flung open and a host of heathen youths rushed into the nave, followed by an overwhelming force of Christians from whom they had sought refuge in the sanctuary. Here they turned at bay to make a last desperate resistance. Garlands, stripped of their leaves and flowers, still crowned their heads and hung over their shoulders. They had been attacked close to the church, by a party of monks when in the act of driving a gaily-decorated steer to the temple of Apollo, in defiance of the Imperial edict; and the beast, terrified by the tumult, had rushed into the narthex for shelter.
The fight in the church was a short one; the idolaters were soon vanquished; but Eusebius threw himself between them and the monks, and tried to save the victims from the revengeful fury of the conquerors. The women had all made for the door, but they did not venture out into the vestibule, for the young bull was still raging there, trampling or tossing everything that came in his way. At last, however, a soldier of the city-watch dealt him a sword-thrust in the neck, and he fell rolling in his own blood. At once the congregation forced their way out, shrieking with alarm and excitement, Dada among the number, dragging the child with her. Papias pulled with all his might to keep her back, declaring with vehement insistence that he had seen Agne in the church and wanted to go back to her. Dada, however, neither heard nor heeded; frightened out of her wits she went on with the crowd, taking him with her.
She never paused till she reached the house of Medius, quite out of breath; but then, as the little boy still asserted that he had seen his sister in the sanctuary, she turned back with him, as soon as the throng had dispersed. In the church there was no one to hinder them; but they got no further than the dividing screen, for on the floor beyond lay the mutilated and bleeding bodies of many a youth who had fallen in the contest.
How she made her way back to the house of Medius once more she never knew. For the first time she had been brought face to face with life in hideous earnest, and when the singer went to look for her in her room, at dusk, he was startled to find her bright face clouded and her eyes dim with tears. How bitterly she had been weeping Medius indeed could not know; he ascribed her altered appearance to fear of the approaching cataclysm and was happy to be able to tell her, in all good faith, that the danger was as good as over. Posidonius, the Magian, had been to see him, and had completely reassured him. This man, whose accomplice he had been again and again in producing false apparitions of spirits and demons, had once gained an extraordinary influence over him by casting some mysterious spell upon him and reducing his will to abject subjection to his own; and this magician, who had recovered his own self-possession, had assured him, with an inimitable air of infallibility, that the fall of the Temple of Serapis would involve no greater catastrophe than that of any old worn-out statue. Since this announcement Medius had laughed at his own alarms; he had recovered his "strong-mindedness," and when Posidonius had given him three tickets for the Hippodrome he had jumped at the offer.
The races were to be run next day, in spite of the general panic that had fallen on the citizens; and Dada, when he invited her to join him and his daughter in-the enjoyment of so great a treat, dried her eyes and accepted gleefully.