About ten o’clock the next morning, as Hypatia, worn out with sleepless sorrow, was trying to arrange her thoughts for the farewell lecture, her favourite maid announced that a messenger from Synesius waited below. A letter from Synesius? A gleam of hope flashed across her mind. From him, surely, might come something of comfort, of advice. Ah! if he only knew how sorely she was bested!
‘Let him send up his letter.’
‘He refuses to deliver it to any one but yourself. And I think,’— added the damsel, who had, to tell the truth, at that moment in her purse a substantial reason for so thinking —‘I think it might be worth your ladyship’s while to see him.’
Hypatia shook her head impatiently.
‘He seems to know you well, madam, though he refuses to tell his name: but he bade me put you in mind of a black agate — I cannot tell what he meant — of a black agate, and a spirit which was to appear when you rubbed it.’
Hypatia turned pale as death. Was it Philammon again? She felt for the talisman — it was gone! She must have lost it last night in Miriam’s chamber. Now she saw the true purpose of the old hag’s plot —. . . . deceived, tricked, doubly tricked! And what new plot was this?
‘Tell him to leave the letter, and begone. . . . My father? What? Who is this? Who are you bringing to me at such a moment?’
And as she spoke, Theon ushered into the chamber no other than Raphael Aben–Ezra, and then retired.
He advanced slowly towards her, and falling on one knee, placed in her hand Synesius’s letter.
Hypatia trembled from head to foot at the unexpected apparition. . . . Well; at least he could know nothing of last night and its disgrace. But not daring to look him in the face, she took the letter and opened it. . . . If she had hoped for comfort from it, her hope was not realised.
‘Synesius to the Philosopher:
‘Even if Fortune cannot take from me all things, yet what she can take she will. And yet of two things, at least, she shall not rob me — to prefer that which is best, and to succour the oppressed. Heaven forbid that she should overpower my judgment, as well as the rest of me! Therefore I do hate injustice; for that I can do: and my will is to stop it; but the power to do so is among the things of which she has bereaved me-before, too, she bereaved me of my children. . . .
‘“Once, in old times, Milesian men were strong.”
And there was a time when I, too, was a comfort to my friends, and when you used to call me a blessing to every one except myself, as I squandered for the benefit of others the favour with which the great regarded me. . . . My hands they were — then. . . . But now I am left desolate of all: unless you have any power. For you and virtue I count among those good things, of which none can deprive me. But you always have power, and will have it, surely, now — using it as nobly as you do.
‘As for Nicaeus and Philolaus, two noble youths, and kinsmen of my own, let it be the business of all who honour you, both private men and magistrates, to see that they return possessors of their just rights.’ [Footnote: An authentic letter of Synesius to Hypatia.]
‘Of all who honour me!’ said she, with a bitter sigh: and then looked up quickly at Raphael, as if fearful of having betrayed herself. She turned deadly pale. In his eyes was a look of solemn pity, which told her that he knew — not all? — surely not all?
‘Have you seen the — Miriam?’ gasped she, rushing desperately at that which she most dreaded.
‘Not yet. I arrived but one hour ago; and Hypatia’s welfare is still more important to me than my own.’
‘My welfare? It is gone!’
‘So much the better. I never found mine till I lost it.’
‘What do you mean?’
Raphael lingered, yet without withdrawing his gaze, as if he had something of importance to say, which he longed and yet feared to utter. At last —
‘At least, you will confess that I am better drest than when we met last. I have returned, you see, like a certain demoniac of Gadara, about whom we used to argue, clothed — and perhaps also in my right mind. . . . God knows!’
‘Raphael! are you come here to mock me? You know — you cannot have been here an hour without knowing — that but yesterday I dreamed of being’— and she drooped her eyes —‘an empress; that to-day I am ruined; to-morrow, perhaps, proscribed. Have you no speech for me but your old sarcasms and ambiguities?’
Raphael stood silent and motionless.
‘Why do you not speak? What is the meaning of this sad, earnest look, so different from your former self?. . . . You have something strange to tell me!’
‘I have,’ said he, speaking very slowly. ‘What — what would Hypatia answer if, after all, Aben–Ezra said like the dying Julian, “The Galilean has conquered”?’
‘Julian never said it! It is a monkish calumny.’
‘But I say it.’
‘I say it!’
‘As your dying speech? The true Raphael Aben–Ezra, then, lives no more!’
‘But he may be born again.’
‘And die to philosophy, that he may be born again into barbaric superstition! Oh worthy metempsychosis! Farewell, sir!’ And she rose to go.
‘Hear me! — hear me patiently this once, noble, beloved Hypatia! One more sneer of yours, and I may become again the same case-hardened fiend which you knew me of old — to all, at least, but you. Oh, do not think me ungrateful, forgetful! What do I not owe to you, whose pure and lofty words alone kept smouldering in me the dim remembrance that there was a Right, a Truth, an unseen world of spirits, after whose pattern man should aspire to live?’
She paused, and listened in wonder. What faith had she of her own? She would at least hear what he had found. . . .
‘Hypatia, I am older than you — wiser than you, if wisdom be the fruit of the tree of knowledge. You know but one side of the medal, Hypatia, and the fairer; I have seen its reverse as well as its obverse. Through every form of human thought, of human action, of human sin and folly, have I been wandering for years, and found no rest — as little in wisdom as in folly, in spiritual dreams as in sensual brutality. I could not rest in your Platonism — I will tell you why hereafter. I went on to Stoicism, Epicurism, Cynicism, Scepticism, and in that lowest deep I found a lower depth, when I became sceptical of Scepticism itself.’
‘There is a lower deep still,’ thought Hypatia to herself, as she recollected last night’s magic; but she did not speak.
‘Then in utter abasement, I confessed myself lower than the brutes, who had a law, and obeyed it, while I was my own lawless God, devil, harpy, whirlwind. . . . I needed even my own dog to awaken in me the brute consciousness of my own existence, or of anything without myself. I took her, the dog, for my teacher, and obeyed her, for she was wiser than I. And she led me back — the poor dumb beast — like a God-sent and God-obeying angel, to human nature, to mercy, to self-sacrifice, to belief, to worship — to pure and wedded love.’
Hypatia started. . . . And in the struggle to hide her own bewilderment, answered almost without knowing it —
‘Wedded love?. . . . Wedded love? Is that, then, the paltry bait by which Raphael Aben–Ezra has been tempted to desert philosophy?’
‘Thank Heaven!’ said Raphael to himself. ‘She does not care for me, then! If she had, pride would have kept her from that sneer.’ Yes, my dear lady,’ answered he aloud, ‘to desert philosophy, to search after wisdom; because wisdom itself had sought for me, and found me. But, indeed, I had hoped that you would have approved of my following your example for once in my life, and resolving, like you, to enter into the estate of wedlock.’
‘Do not sneer at me!’ cried she, in her turn, looking up at him with shame and horror, which made him repent of uttering the words. ‘If you do not know — you will soon, too soon! Never mention that hateful dream to me, if you wish to have speech of me more!’
A pang of remorse shot through Raphael’s heart. Who but he himself had plotted that evil marriage? But she gave him no opportunity of answering her, and went on hurriedly —
‘Speak to me rather about yourself. What is this strange and sudden betrothal? What has it to do with Christianity? I had thought that it was rather by the glories of celibacy — gross and superstitious as their notions of it are — that the Galileans tempted their converts.’
‘So had I, my dearest lady,’ answered he, as, glad to turn the subject for a moment, and perhaps a little nettled by her contemptuous tone, he resumed something of his old arch and careless manner. ‘But — there is no accounting for man’s agreeable inconsistencies — one morning I found myself, to my astonishment, seized by two bishops, and betrothed, whether I chose or not, to a young lady who but a few days before had been destined for a nunnery.’
‘I speak simple truth. The one was Synesius of course; — that most incoherent and most benevolent of busybodies chose to betray me behind my back:— but I will not trouble you with that part of my story. The real wonder is that the other episcopal match-maker was Augustine of Hippo himself!’
‘Anything to bribe a convert,’ said Hypatia contemptuously.
‘I assure you, no. He informed me, and her also, openly and uncivilly enough, that he thought us very much to be pitied for so great a fall. . . . But as we neither of us seemed to have any call for the higher life of celibacy, he could not press it on us. . . . We should have trouble in the flesh. But if we married we had not sinned. To which I answered that my humility was quite content to sit in the very lowest ranks, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. . . . He replied by an encomium on virginity, in which I seemed to hear again the voice of Hypatia herself.’
‘And sneered at it inwardly, as you used to sneer at me.’
‘Really I was in no sneering mood at that moment; and whatsoever I may have felt inclined to reply, he was kind enough to say for me and himself the next minute.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘He went on, to my utter astonishment, by such a eulogium on wedlock as I never heard from Jew or heathen, and ended by advice to young married folk so thoroughly excellent and to the point, that I could not help telling him, when he stopped; what a pity I thought it that he had not himself married, and made some good woman happy by putting his own recipes into practice. . . . And at that, Hypatia, I saw an expression on his face which made me wish for the moment that I had bitten out this impudent tongue of mine, before I so rashly touched some deep old wound. . . . That man has wept bitter tears ere now, be sure of it. . . . But he turned the conversation instantly, like a well-bred gentleman as he is, by saying, with the sweetest smile, that though he had made it a solemn rule never to be a party to making up any marriage, yet in our case Heaven had so plainly pointed us out for each other, etc. etc., that he could not refuse himself the pleasure. . . . and ended by a blessing as kindly as ever came from the lips of man.’
‘You seem wonderfully taken with the sophist of Hippo,’ said Hypatia impatiently; ‘and forget, perhaps, that his opinions, especially when, as you confess, they are utterly inconsistent with themselves, are not quite as important to me as they seem to have become to you.’
‘Whether he be consistent or not about marriage,’ said Raphael, somewhat proudly, ‘I care little. I went to him to tell me, not about the relation of the sexes, on which point I am probably as good a judge as he — but about God and on that subject he told me enough to bring me back to Alexandria, that I might undo, if possible, somewhat of the wrong which I have done to Hypatia.’
‘What wrong have you done me?. . . . You are silent? Be sure, at least, that whatsoever it may be, you will not wipe it out by trying to make a proselyte of me!’
‘Be not too sure of that. I have found too great a treasure not to wish to share it with Theon’s daughter.’
‘A treasure?’ said she, half scornfully.
‘Yes, indeed. You recollect my last words, when we parted there below a few months ago?’
Hypatia was silent. One terrible possibility at which he had hinted flashed across her memory for the first time since;. . . . but she spurned proudly from her the heaven-sent warning.
‘I told you that, like Diogenes, I went forth to seek a man. Did I not promise you, that when I had found one you should be the first to hear of him? And I have found a man.’
Hypatia waved her beautiful hand. ‘I know whom you would say. . . . that crucified one. Be it so. I want not a man, but a god.’
‘What sort of a god, Hypatia? A god made up of our own intellectual notions, or rather of negations of them — of infinity and eternity, and invisibility, and impassibility — and why not of immortality, too, Hypatia? For I recollect we used to agree that it was a carnal degrading of the Supreme One to predicate of Him so merely human a thing as virtue.’
Hypatia was silent.
‘Now I have always had a sort of fancy that what we wanted, as the first predicate of our Absolute One, was that He was to be not merely an infinite God — whatever that meant, which I suspect we did not always see quite clearly — or an eternal one — or an omnipotent one — or even merely a one God at all; none of which predicates, I fear, did we understand more clearly than the first: but that he must be a righteous God:— or rather, as we used sometimes to say that He was to have no predicate — Righteousness itself. And all along, I could not help remembering that my old sacred Hebrew books told me of such a one; and feeling that they might have something to tell me which —’
‘Which I did not tell you! And this, then, caused your air of reserve, and of sly superiority over the woman whom you mocked by calling her your pupil! I little suspected you of so truly Jewish a jealousy! Why, oh why, did you not tell me this?’
‘Because I was a beast, Hypatia; and had all but forgotten what this righteousness was like; and was afraid to find out lest it should condemn me. Because I was a devil, Hypatia; and hated righteousness, and neither wished to see you righteous, nor God righteous either, because then you would both have been unlike myself. God be merciful to me a sinner!’
She looked up in his face. The man was changed as if by miracle — and yet not changed. There was the same gallant consciousness of power, the same subtle and humorous twinkle in those strong ripe Jewish features and those glittering eyes; and yet every line in his face was softened, sweetened; the mask of sneering faineance was gone — imploring tenderness and earnestness beamed from his whole countenance. The chrysalis case had fallen off, and disclosed the butterfly within. She sat looking at him, and passed her hand across her eyes, as if to try whether the apparition would not vanish. He, the subtle! — he, the mocker! — he, the Lucian of Alexandria! — he whose depth and power had awed her, even in his most polluted days. . . . And this was the end of him. . . .
‘It is a freak of cowardly superstition. . . . Those Christians have been frightening him about his sins and their Tartarus.’
She looked again into his bright, clear, fearless face, and was ashamed of her own calumny. And this was the end of him — of Synesius — of Augustine — of learned and unlearned, Goth and Roman. . . . The great flood would have its way, then. . . . Could she alone fight against it?
She could! Would she submit? — She? Her will should stand firm, her reason free, to the last — to the death if need be. . . . And yet last night! — last night!
At last she spoke, without looking up.
‘And what if you have found a man in that crucified one? Have you found in him a God also?’
‘Does Hypatia recollect Glaucon’s definition of the perfectly righteous man?. . . . How, without being guilty of one unrighteous act, he must labour his life long under the imputation of being utterly unrighteous, in order that his disinterestedness may be thoroughly tested, and by proceeding in such a course, arrive inevitably, as Glaucon says, not only in Athens of old, or in Judaea of old, but, as you yourself will agree, in Christian Alexandria at this moment, at — do you remember, Hypatia? — bonds, and the scourge, and lastly, at the cross itself. . . . If Plato’s idea of the righteous man be a crucified one, why may not mine also? If, as we both — and old Bishop Clemens, too — as good a Platonist as we, remember — and Augustine himself, would agree, Plato in speaking those strange words, spoke not of himself, but by the Spirit of God, why should not others have spoken by the same Spirit when they spoke the same words?’
‘A crucified man. . . . Yes. But a crucified God, Raphael! I shudder at the blasphemy.’
‘So do my poor dear fellow-countrymen. Are they the more righteous in their daily doings, Hypatia, on account of their fancied reverence for the glory of One who probably knows best how to preserve and manifest His own glory? But you assent to the definition? Take care!’ said he, with one of his arch smiles, ‘I have been fighting with Augustine, and have become of late a terrible dialectician. Do you assent to it?’
‘Of course — it is Plato’s.’
‘But do you assent merely because it is written in the book called Plato’s, or because your reason tells you that it is true?. . . . You will not tell me. Tell me this, then, at least. Is not the perfectly righteous man the highest specimen of men?’
‘Surely,’ said she half carelessly: but not unwilling, like a philosopher and a Greek, as a matter of course, to embark in anything like a word-battle, and to shut out sadder thoughts for a moment.
‘Then must not the Autanthropos, the archetypal and ideal man, who is more perfect than any individual specimen, be perfectly righteous also?’
‘Suppose, then, for the sake of one of those pleasant old games of ours, an argument, that he wished to manifest his righteousness to the world. . . . The only method for him, according to Plato, would be Glaucon’s, of calumny and persecution, the scourge and the cross?’
‘What words are these, Raphael? Material scourges and crosses for an eternal and spiritual idea?’
‘Did you ever yet, Hypatia, consider at leisure what the archetype of man might be like?’
Hypatia started, as at a new thought, and confessed — as every Neo — Platonist would have done — that she had never done so.
‘And yet our master, Plato, bade us believe that there was a substantial archetype of each thing, from a flower to a nation, eternal in the heavens. Perhaps we have not been faithful Platonists enough heretofore, my dearest tutor. Perhaps, being philosophers, and somewhat of Pharisees to boot, we began all our lucubrations as we did our prayers, by thanking God that we were not as other men were; and so misread another passage in the Republic, which we used in pleasant old days to be fond of quoting.’
‘What was that?’ asked Hypatia, who became more and more interested every moment.
‘That philosophers were men.’
‘Are you mocking me? Plato defines the philosopher as the man who seeks after the objects of knowledge, while others seek after those of opinion.’
‘And most truly. But what if, in our eagerness to assert that wherein the philosopher differed from other men, we had overlooked that in which he resembled other men; and so forgot that, after all, man was a genus whereof the philosopher was only a species?’
‘Do you not think, then, that as the greater contains the less, and the archetype of the genus that of the species, we should have been wiser if we had speculated a little more on the archetype of man as man, before we meddled with a part of that archetype — the archetype of the philosopher?. . . . Certainly it would have been the easier course, for there are more men than philosophers, Hypatia; and every man is a real man, and a fair subject for examination, while every philosopher is not a real philosopher — our friends the Academics, for instance, and even a Neo–Platonist or two whom we know? You seem impatient. Shall I cease?’
‘You mistook the cause of my impatience,’ answered she, looking up at him with her great sad eyes. ‘Go on.’
‘Now — for I am going to be terribly scholastic — is it not the very definition of man, that he is, alone of all known things, a spirit temporarily united to an animal body?’
‘Enchanted in it, as in a dungeon, rather,’ said she sighing.
‘Be it so if you will. But — must we not say that the archetype — the very man — that if he is the archetype, he too will be, or must have been, once at least, temporarily enchanted into an animal body?. . . . You are silent. I will not press you. . . . Only ask you to consider at your leisure whether Plato may not justify somewhat from the charge of absurdity the fisherman of Galilee, where he said that He in whose image man is made was made flesh, and dwelt with him bodily there by the lake-side at Tiberias, and that he beheld His Glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father.’
‘That last question is a very different one. God made flesh! My reason revolts at it.’
‘Old Homer’s reason did not.’
Hypatia started, for she recollected her yesterday’s cravings after those old, palpable, and human deities. And —‘Go on,’ she cried eagerly.
‘Tell me, then — This archetype of man, if it exists anywhere, it must exist eternally in the mind of God? At least, Plato would have so said?’
‘And derive its existence immediately from Him?’
‘But a man is one willing person, unlike to all others.’
‘Then this archetype must be such.’
‘I suppose so.’
‘But possessing the faculties and properties of all men in their highest perfection.’
‘How sweetly and obediently my late teacher becomes my pupil!’
Hypatia looked at him with her eyes full of tears.
‘I never taught you anything, Raphael.’
‘You taught me most, beloved lady, when you least thought of it. But tell me one thing more. Is it not the property of every man to be a son? For you can conceive of a man as not being a father, but not as not being a son.’
‘Be it so.’
‘Then this archetype must be a son also.’
‘Whose son, Raphael?’
‘Why not of “Zeus, father of gods and men”? For we agreed that it — we will call it he, now, having agreed that it is a person — could owe its existence to none but God Himself.’
‘And what then?’ said Hypatia, fixing those glorious eyes full on his face, in an agony of doubt, but yet, as Raphael declared to his dying day, of hope and joy.
‘Well, Hypatia, and must not a son be of the same species as his father? “Eagles,” says the poet, “do not beget doves.” Is the word son anything but an empty and false metaphor, unless the son be the perfect and equal likeness of his father?’
‘Heroes beget sons worse than themselves, says the poet.’
‘We are not talking now of men as they are, whom Homer’s Zeus calls the most wretched of all the beasts of the field; we are talking — are we not? — of a perfect and archetypal Son, and a perfect and archetypal Father, in a perfect and eternal world, wherein is neither growth, decay, nor change; and of a perfect and archetypal generation, of which the only definition can be, that like begets its perfect like?. . . . You are silent. Be so, Hypatia. . . . We have gone up too far into the abysses. . . .
And so they both were silent for a while. And Raphael thought solemn thoughts about Victoria, and about ancient signs of Isaiah’s, which were to him none the less prophecies concerning The Man whom he had found, because he prayed and trusted that the same signs might be repeated to himself, and a child given to him also, as a token that, in spite of all his baseness, ‘God was with him.’
But he was a Jew, and a man: Hypatia was a Greek, and a woman — and for that matter, so were the men of her school. To her, the relations and duties of common humanity shone with none of the awful and divine meaning which they did in the eyes of the converted Jew, awakened for the first time in his life to know the meaning of his own scriptures, and become an Israelite indeed. And Raphael’s dialectic, too, though it might silence her, could not convince her. Her creed, like those of her fellow-philosophers, was one of the fancy and the religious sentiment, rather than of the reason and the moral sense. All the brilliant cloud-world in which she had revelled for years — cosmogonies, emanations, affinities, symbolisms, hierarchies, abysses, eternities, and the rest of it — though she could not rest in them, not even believe in, them — though they had vanished into thin air at her most utter need — yet — they were too pretty to be lost sight of for ever; and, struggling against the growing conviction of her reason, she answered at last —
‘And you would have me give up, as you seem to have done, the sublime, the beautiful, the heavenly, for a dry and barren chain of dialectic — in which, for aught I know — for after all, Raphael, I cannot cope with you — I am a woman — a weak woman!’
And she covered her face with her hands.
‘For aught you know, what?’ asked Raphael gently.
‘You may have made the worse appear the better reason.’
‘So said Aristophanes of Socrates. But hear me once more, beloved Hypatia. You refuse to give up the beautiful, the sublime, the heavenly? What if Raphael Aben–Ezra, at least, had never found them till now? Recollect what I said just now — what if our old Beautiful, and Sublime, and Heavenly, had been the sheerest materialism, notions spun by our own brains out of the impressions of pleasant things, and high things, and low things, and awful things, which we had seen with our bodily eyes? What if I had discovered that the spiritual is not the intellectual, but the moral; and that the spiritual world is not, as we used to make it, a world of our own intellectual abstractions, or of our own physical emotions, religious or other, but a world of righteous or unrighteous persons? What if I had discovered that one law of the spiritual world, in which all others were contained, was righteousness; and that disharmony with that law, which we called unspirituality, was not being vulgar, or clumsy, or ill-taught, or unimaginative, or dull, but simply being unrighteous? What if I had discovered that righteousness, and it alone, was the beautiful righteousness, the sublime, the heavenly, the Godlike — ay, God Himself? And what if it had dawned on me, as by a great sunrise, what that righteousness was like? What if I had seen a human being, a woman, too, a young weak girl, showing forth the glory and the beauty of God? Showing me that the beautiful was to mingle unshrinking, for duty’s sake, with all that is most foul and loathsome; that the sublime was to stoop to the most menial offices, the most outwardly-degrading self-denials; that to be heavenly was to know that the commonest relations, the most vulgar duties, of earth, were God’s commands, and only to be performed aright by the help of the same spirit by which He rules the Universe; that righteousness was to love, to help, to suffer for — if need be, to die for — those who, in themselves, seem fitted to arouse no feelings except indignation and disgust? What if, for the first time, I trust not for the last time, in my life, I saw this vision; and at the sight of it my eyes were opened, and I knew it for the likeness and the glory of God? What if I, a Platonist, like John of Galilee, and Paul of Tarsus, yet, like them, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, had confessed to myself — If the creature can love thus, how much more its archetype? If weak woman can endure thus, how much more a Son of God? If for the good of others, man has strength to sacrifice himself in part, God will have strength to sacrifice Himself utterly. If He has not done it, He will do it: or He will be less beautiful, less sublime, less heavenly, less righteous than my poor conception of Him, ay, than this weak playful girl! Why should I not believe those who tell me that He has done it already? What if their evidence be, after all, only probability? I do not want mathematical demonstration to prove to me that when a child was in danger his father saved him — neither do I here. My reason, my heart, every faculty of me, except this stupid sensuous experience, which I find deceiving me every moment, which cannot even prove to me my own existence, accepts that story of Calvary as the most natural, most probable, most necessary of earthly events, assuming only that God is a righteous Person, and not some dream of an all-pervading necessary spirit-nonsense which, in its very terms, confesses its own materialism.’
Hypatia answered with a forced smile.
‘Raphael Aben–Ezra has deserted the method of the severe dialectician for that of the eloquent lover.’
‘Not altogether,’ said he, smiling in return. ‘For suppose that I had said to myself, We Platonists agree that the sight of God is the highest good.’
Hypatia once more shuddered at last night’s recollections.
‘And if He be righteous, and righteousness be — as I know it to be — identical with love, then He will desire that highest good for men far more than they can desire it for themselves. . . . Then He will desire to show Himself and His own righteousness to them. . . . Will you make answer, dearest Hypatia, or shall I?. . . . or does your silence give consent? At least let me go on to say this, that if God do desire to show His righteousness to men, His only perfect method, according to Plato, will be that of calumny, persecution, the scourge, and the cross, that so He, like Glaucon’s righteous man, may remain for ever free from any suspicion of selfish interest, or weakness of endurance. . . . Am I deserting the dialectic method now, Hypatia?. . . . You are still silent? You will not hear me, I see. . . . At some future day, the philosopher may condescend to lend a kinder ear to the words of her greatest debtor. . . . Or, rather, she may condescend to hear, in her own heart, the voice of that Archetypal Man, who has been loving her, guiding her, heaping her with every perfection of body and of mind, inspiring her with all pure and noble longings, and only asks of her to listen to her own reason, her own philosophy, when they proclaim Him as the giver of them, and to impart them freely and humbly, as He has imparted them to her, to the poor, and the brutish, and the sinful, whom He loves as well as He loves her. . . . Farewell!’
‘Stay!’ said she, springing up: ‘whither are you going?’
‘To do a little good before I die, having done much evil. To farm, plant, and build, and rescue a little corner of Ormuzd’s earth, as the Persians would say, out of the dominion of Ahriman. To fight Ausurian robbers, feed Thracian mercenaries, save a few widows from starvation, and a few orphans from slavery. . . . Perhaps to leave behind me a son of David’s line, who will be a better Jew, because a better Christian, than his father. . . . We shall have trouble in the flesh, Augustine tells us. . . . But, as I answered him, I really have had so little thereof yet, that my fair share may probably be rather a useful education than otherwise. Farewell!’
‘Stay!’ said she. ‘Come again! — again! And her. . . . Bring her. . . . I must see her! She must be noble, indeed, to be worthy of you.’
‘She is many a hundred miles away.’
‘Ah! Perhaps she might have taught something to me — me, the philosopher! You need not have feared me. . . . I have no heart to make converts now. . . . Oh, Raphael Aben–Ezra, why break the bruised reed? My plans are scattered to the winds, my pupils worthless, my fair name tarnished, my conscience heavy with the thought of my own cruelty. . . . If you do not know all, you will know it but too soon. . . . My last hope, Synesius, implores for himself the hope which I need from him. . . . And, over and above it all. . . . You!. . . . Et tu, Brute! Why not fold my mantle round me, like Julius of old, and die!’
Raphael stood looking sadly at her, as her whole face sank into utter prostration. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
‘Yes — come. . . . The Galilaean. . . . If He conquers strong men, can the weak maid resist Him? Come soon. . . . This afternoon. . . . My heart is breaking fast.’
‘At the eighth hour this afternoon?’
‘Yes. . . . At noon I lecture. . . . take my farewell, rather, for ever of the schools. . . . Gods! What have I to say?. . . . And tell me about Him of Nazareth. Farewell!’
‘Farewell, beloved lady! At the ninth hour, you shall hear of Him of Nazareth.’
Why did his own words sound to him strangely pregnant, all but ominous? He almost fancied that not he, but some third person had spoken them. He kissed Hypatia’s hand, it was as cold as ice; and his heart, too, in spite of all his bliss, felt cold and heavy, as he left the room.
As he went down the steps into the street, a young man sprang from behind one of the pillars, and seized his arm.
‘Aha! my young Coryphaeus of pious plunderers! What do you want with me?’
Philammon, for it was he, looked at him an instant, and recognised him.
‘Save her! for the love of God, save her!’
‘How long has her salvation been important to you, my good friend?’
‘For God’s sake,’ said Philammon, ‘go back and warn her! She will hear you — you are rich — you used to be her friend — I know you — I have heard of you. . . . Oh, if you ever cared for her — if you ever felt for her a thousandth part of what I feel — go in and warn her not to stir from home!’
‘I must hear more of this,’ said Raphael, who saw that the boy was in earnest. ‘Come in with me, and speak to her father.’
‘No! not in that house! Never in that house again! Do not ask me why: but go yourself. She will not hear me. Did you — did you prevent her from listening?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I have been here — ages! I sent a note in by her maid, and she returned no answer.’
Raphael recollected then, for the first time, a note which he had seen brought to her during the conversation.
‘I saw her receive a note. She tossed it away. Tell me your story. If there is reason in it, I will bear your message myself. Of what is she to be warned?’
‘Of a plot — I know that there is a plot — against her among the monks and Parabolani. As I lay in bed this morning in Arsenius’s room — they thought I was asleep —’
‘Arsenius? Has that venerable fanatic, then, gone the way of all monastic flesh, and turned persecutor?’
‘God forbid! I heard him beseeching Peter the Reader to refrain from something, I cannot tell what; but I caught her name. . . . I heard Peter say, “She that hindereth will hinder till she be taken out of the way.” And when he went out into the passage I heard him say to another, “That thou doest, do quickly!. . . . ”’
‘These are slender grounds, my friend.’
‘Ah, you do not know of what those men are capable!’
‘Do I not? Where did you and I meet last?’
Philammon blushed and burst forth again. ‘That was enough for me. I know the hatred which they bear her, the crimes which they attribute to her. Her house would have been attacked last night had it not been for Cyril. . . . And I knew Peter’s tone. He spoke too gently and softly not to mean something devilish. I watched all the morning for an opportunity of escape, and here I am! — Will you take my message, or see her —’
‘God only knows, and the devil whom they worship instead of God.’
Raphael hurried back into the house —‘Could he see Hypatia?’ She had shut herself up in her private room, strictly commanding that no visitor should be admitted. . . . ‘Where was Theon, then?’ He had gone out by the canal gate half an hour before, with a bundle of mathematical papers under his arm, no one knew whither. . . . ‘Imbecile old idiot!’ and he hastily wrote on his tablet — ‘Do not despise the young monk’s warning. I believe him to speak the truth. As you love yourself and your father, Hypatia, stir not out to-day.’
He bribed a maid to take the message upstairs; and passed his time in the hall in warning the servants. But they would not believe him. It was true the shops were shut in some quarters, and the Museum gardens empty; people were a little frightened after yesterday. But Cyril, they had heard for certain, had threatened excommunication only last night to any Christian who broke the peace; and there had not been a monk to be seen in the streets the whole morning. And as for any harm happening to their mistress — impossible! ‘The very wild beasts would not tear her,’ said the huge negro porter, ‘if she was thrown into the amphitheatre.’
— Whereat a maid boxed his ears for talking of such a thing; and then, by way of mending it, declared that she knew for certain that her mistress could turn aside the lightning, and call legions of spirits to fight for her with a nod. . . . What was to be done with such idolaters? And yet who could help liking them the better for it?
At last the answer came down, in the old graceful, studied, self-conscious handwriting.
‘It is a strange way of persuading me to your new faith, to bid me beware, on the very first day of your preaching, of the wickedness of those who believe it. I thank you: but your affection for me makes you timorous. I dread nothing. They will not dare. Did they dare now, they would have dared long ago. As for that youth — to obey or to believe his word, even to seem aware of his existence, were shame to me henceforth. Because he is insolent enough to warn me therefore I will go. Fear not for me. You would not wish me, for the first time in my life, to fear for myself. I must follow my destiny. I must speak the words which I have to speak. Above all, I must let no Christian say, that the philosopher dared less than the fanatic. If my Gods are Gods, then will they protect me: and if not, let your God prove His rule as seems to Him good.’
Raphael tore the letter to fragments. . . . The guards, at least, were not gone mad like the rest of the world. It wanted half an hour of the time of her lecture. In the interval he might summon force enough to crush all Alexandria. And turning suddenly, he darted out of the room and out of the house.
‘Quem Deus vult perdere-!’ cried he to Philammon, with a gesture of grief. ‘Stay here and stop her! — make a last appeal! Drag the horses’ heads down, if you can! I will be back in ten minutes.’ And he ran off for the nearest gate of the Museum gardens.
On the other side of the gardens lay the courtyard of the palace. There were gates in plenty communicating between them. If he could but see Orestes, even alarm the guard in time!. . . .
And he hurried through the walks and alcoves, now deserted by the fearful citizens, to the nearest gate. It was fast, and barricaded firmly on the outside.
Terrified, he ran on to the next; it was barred also. He saw the reason in a moment, and maddened as he saw it. The guards, careless about the Museum, or reasonably fearing no danger from the Alexandrian populace to the glory and wonder of their city, or perhaps wishing wisely enough to concentrate their forces in the narrowest space, had contented themselves with cutting off all communication with the gardens, and so converting the lofty partition-wall into the outer enceinte of their marble citadel. At all events, the doors leading from the Museum itself might be open. He knew them every one, every hall, passage, statue, picture, almost every book in that vast treasure-house of ancient civilisation. He found an entrance; hurried through well-known corridors to a postern through which he and Orestes had lounged a hundred times, their lips full of bad words, their hearts of worse thoughts, gathered in those records of the fair wickedness of old. . . . It was fast. He beat upon it but no one answered. He rushed on and tried another. No one answered there. Another — still silence and despair!. . . . He rushed upstairs, hoping that from the windows above he might be able to call to the guard. The prudent soldiers had locked and barricaded the entrances to the upper floors of the whole right wing, lest the palace court should be commanded from thence. Whither now? Back — and whither then? Back, round endless galleries, vaulted halls, staircases, doorways, some fast, some open, up and down, trying this way and that, losing himself at whiles in that enormous silent labyrinth. And his breath failed him, his throat was parched, his face burned as with the simoom wind, his legs were trembling under him. His presence of mind, usually so perfect, failed him utterly. He was baffled, netted; there was a spell upon him. Was it a dream? Was it all one of those hideous nightmares of endless pillars beyond pillars, stairs above stairs, rooms within rooms, changing, shifting, lengthening out for ever and for ever before the dreamer, narrowing, closing in on him, choking him? Was it a dream? Was he doomed to wander for ever and for ever in some palace of the dead, to expiate the sin which he had learnt and done therein? His brain, for the first time in his life, began to reel. He could recollect nothing but that something dreadful was to happen — and that he had to prevent it, and could not. . . . Where was he now? In a little by-chamber. . . . He had talked with her there a hundred times, looking out over the Pharos and the blue Mediterranean. . . . What was that roar below? A sea of weltering yelling heads, thousands on thousands, down to the very beach; and from their innumerable throats one mighty war-cry —‘God, and the mother of God!’ Cyril’s hounds were loose. . . . He reeled from the window, and darted frantically away again. . . . whither, he knew not, and never knew until his dying day.
And Philammon?. . . . Sufficient for the chapter, as for the day, is the evil thereof.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:56