Philammon’s heart smote him all that day, whenever he thought of his morning’s work. Till then all Christians, monks above all, had been infallible in his eyes: all Jews and heathens insane and accursed. Moreover, meekness under insult, fortitude in calamity, the contempt of worldly comfort, the worship of poverty as a noble estate, were virtues which the Church Catholic boasted as her peculiar heritage: on which side had the balance of those qualities inclined that morning? The figure of Raphael, stalking out ragged and penniless into the wide world, haunted him, with its quiet self-assured smile. And there haunted him, too, another peculiarity in the man, which he had never before remarked in any one but Arsenius — that ease and grace, that courtesy and self-restraint, which made Raphael’s rebukes rankle all the more keenly, because he felt that the rebuker was in some mysterious way superior to him, and saw through him, and could have won him Over, Or crushed him in argument, or in intrigue — or in anything, perhaps, except mere brute force. Strange — that Raphael, of all men, should in those few moments have reminded him so much of Arsenius; and that the very same qualities which gave a peculiar charm to the latter should give a peculiar unloveliness to the former, and yet be, without a doubt, the same. What was it? Was it rank which gave it Arsenius had been a great man, he knew — the companion of kings. And Raphael seemed rich. He had heard the mob crying out against the prefect for favouring him. Was it then familiarity with the great ones of the world which produced this manner and tone? It was a real strength, whether in Arsenius or in Raphael. He felt humbled before it — envied it. If it made Arsenius a more complete and more captivating person, why should it not do the same for him? Why should not he, too, have his share of it?
Bringing with it such thoughts as these, the time ran on till noon, and the mid-day meal, and the afternoon’s work, to which Philammon looked forward joyfully, as a refuge from his own thoughts.
He was sitting on his sheepskin upon a step, basking, like a true son of the desert, in a blaze of fiery sunshine, which made the black stone-work too hot to touch with the bare hand, watching the swallows, as they threaded the columns of the Serapeium, and thinking how often he had delighted in their air-dance, as they turned and hawked up and down the dear old glen at Scetis. A crowd of citizens with causes, appeals, and petitions, were passing in and out from the patriarch’s audience-room. Peter and the archdeacon were waiting in the shade close by for the gathering of the parabolani, and talking over the morning’s work in an earnest whisper, in which the names of Hypatia and Orestes were now and then audible.
An old priest came up, and bowing reverently enough to the archdeacon, requested the help of one of the parabolani. He had a sailor’s family, all fever-stricken, who must be removed to the hospital at once.
The archdeacon looked at him, answered an off-hand ‘Very well,’ and went on with his talk.
The priest, bowing lower than before, re-presented the immediate necessity for help.
‘It is very odd,’ said Peter to the swallows in the Serapeium, ‘that some people cannot obtain influence enough in their own parishes to get the simplest good works performed without tormenting his holiness the patriarch.’
The old priest mumbled some sort of excuse, and the archdeacon, without deigning a second look at him, said —‘Find him a man, brother Peter. Anybody will do. What is that boy — Philammon — doing there? Let him go with Master Hieracas.’
Peter seemed not to receive the proposition favourably, and whispered something to the archdeacon. . . .
‘No. I can spare none of the rest. Importunate persons must take their chance of being well served. Come — here are our brethren; we will all go together.’
‘The farther together the better for the boy’s sake,’ grumbled Peter, loud enough for Philammon — perhaps for the old priest — to overhear him.
So Philammon went out with them, and as he went questioned his companions meekly enough as to who Raphael was.
‘A friend of Hypatia!’— that name, too, haunted him; and he began, as stealthily and indirectly as he could, to obtain information about her. There was no need for his caution; for the very mention of her name roused the whole party into a fury of execration.
‘May God confound her, siren, enchantress, dealer in spells and sorceress! She is the strange woman of whom Solomon prophesied.’
‘It is my opinion,’ said another, ‘that she is the forerunner of Antichrist.’
‘Perhaps the virgin of whom it is prophesied that he will be born,’ suggested another.
‘Not that, I’ll warrant her,’ said Peter, with a savage sneer.
‘And is Raphael Aben–Ezra her pupil in philosophy?’ asked Philammon.
‘Her pupil in whatsoever she can find where-with to delude men’s souls,’ said the old priest.
‘The reality of philosophy has died long ago, but the great ones find it still worth their while to worship its shadow.’
‘Some of them worship more than a shadow, when they haunt her house,’ said Peter. ‘Do you think Orestes goes thither only for philosophy?’
‘We must not judge harsh judgments,’ said the old priest; ‘Synesius of Cyrene is a holy man, and yet he loves Hypatia well.’
‘He a holy man? — and keeps a wife! One who had the insolence to tell the blessed Theophilus himself that he would not be made bishop unless he were allowed to remain with her; and despised the gift of the Holy Ghost in comparison of the carnal joys of wedlock, not knowing the Scriptures, which saith that those who are in the flesh cannot please God! Well said Siricius of Rome of such men —“Can the Holy Spirit of God dwell in other than holy bodies?” No wonder that such a one as Synesius grovels at the feet of Orestes’ mistress!’
‘Then she is profligate?’ asked Philammon.
‘She must be. Has a heathen faith and grace? And without faith and grace, are not all our righteousnesses as filthy rags? What says St. Paul? — That God has given them over to a reprobate mind, full of all injustice, uncleanness, covetousness, maliciousness, you know the catalogue — why do you ask me?’
‘Alas! and is she this?’
‘Alas! And why alas? How would the Gospel be glorified if heathens were holier than Christians? It ought to be so, therefore it is so. If she seems to have virtues, they, being done without the grace of Christ, are only bedizened vices, cunning shams, the devil transformed into an angel of light. And as for chastity, the flower and crown of all virtues — whosoever says that she, being yet a heathen, has that, blasphemes the Holy Spirit, whose peculiar and highest gift it is, and is anathema maranatha for ever! Amen!’ And Peter, devoutly crossing himself, turned angrily and contemptuously away from his young companion.
Philammon was quite shrewd enough to see that assertion was not identical with proof. But Peter’s argument of ‘it ought to be, therefore it is,’ is one which saves a great deal of trouble . . . and no doubt he had very good sources of information. So Philammon walked on, sad, he knew not why, at the new notion which he had formed of Hypatia, as a sort of awful sorceress — Messalina, whose den was foul with magic rites and ruined souls of men. And yet if that was all she had to teach, whence had her pupil Raphael learned that fortitude of his? If philosophy had, as they said, utterly died out, then what was Raphael?
Just then, Peter and the rest turned up a side street, and Philammon and Hieracas were left to go on their joint errand together. They paced on for some way in silence, up one street and down another, till Philammon, for want of anything better to say, asked where they were going.
‘Where I choose, at all events. No, young man! If I, a priest, am to be insulted by archdeacons and readers, I won’t be insulted by you.’
‘I assure you I meant no harm.’
‘Of course not; you all learn the same trick, and the young ones catch it of the old ones fast enough. Words smoother than butter, yet very swords.’
‘You do not mean to complain of the archdeacon and his companions?’ said Philammon, who of course was boiling over with pugnacious respect for the body to which he belonged.
‘Why, sir, are they not among the most holy and devoted of men?’
‘Ah — yes,’ said his companion, in a tone which sounded very like ‘Ah — no.’
‘You do not think so?’ asked Philammon bluntly.
‘You are young, you are young. Wait a while till you have seen as much as I have. A degenerate age this, my son; not like the good old times, when men dare suffer and die for the faith. We are too prosperous nowadays; and fine ladies walk about with Magdalens embroidered on their silks, and gospels hanging round their necks. When I was young they died for that with which they now bedizen themselves.’
‘But I was speaking of the parabolani.’
‘Ah, there are a great many among them who have not much business where they are. Don’t say I said so. But many a rich man puts his name on the list of the guild just to get his exemption from taxes, and leaves the work to poor men like you. Rotten, rotten! my son, and you will find it out. The preachers, now — people used to say — I know Abbot Isidore did — that I had as good a gift for expounding as any man in Pelusium; but since I came here, eleven years since, if you will believe it, I have never been asked to preach in my own parish church.’
‘You surely jest!’
‘True, as I am a christened man. I know why — I know why: they are afraid of Isidore’s men here. . . . Perhaps they may have caught the holy man’s trick of plain speaking — and ears are dainty in Alexandria. And there are some in these parts, too, that have never forgiven him the part he took about those three villains, Marc, Zosimus, and Martinian, and a certain letter that came of it; or another letter either, which we know of, about taking alms for the church from the gains of robbers and usurers. “Cyril never forgets.” So he says to every one who does him a good turn. . . . And so he does to every one who he fancies has done him a bad one. So here am I slaving away, a subordinate priest, while such fellows as Peter the Reader look down on me as their slave. But it’s always so. There never was a bishop yet, except the blessed Augustine — would to Heaven I had taken my abbot’s advice, and gone to him at Hippo! — who had not his flatterers and his tale-bearers, and generally the archdeacon at the head of them, ready to step into the bishop’s place when he dies, over the heads of hard-working parish priests. But that is the way of the world. The sleekest and the oiliest, and the noisiest; the man who can bring in most money to the charities, never mind whence or how; the man who will take most of the bishop’s work off his hands, and agree with him in everything he wants, and save him, by spying and eavesdropping, the trouble of using his own eyes; that is the man to succeed in Alexandria, or Constantinople, or Rome itself. Look now; there are but seven deacons to this great city, and all its priests; and they and the archdeacon are the masters of it and us. They and that Peter manage Cyril’s work for him, and when Cyril makes the archdeacon a bishop, he will make Peter archdeacon. . . . They have their reward, they have their reward; and so has Cyril, for that matter.’
‘Why, don’t say I said it. But what do I care? I have nothing to lose, I’m sure. But they do say that there are two ways of promotion in Alexandria: one by deserving it, the other by paying for it. That’s all.’
‘Oh, of course, quite impossible. But all I know is just this, that when that fellow Martinian got back again into Pelusium, after being turned out by the late bishop for a rogue and hypocrite as he was, and got the ear of this present bishop, and was appointed his steward, and ordained priest — I’d as soon have ordained that street-dog — and plundered him and brought him to disgrace — for I don’t believe this bishop is a bad man, but those who use rogues must expect to be called rogues — and ground the poor to the earth, and tyrannised over the whole city so that no man’s property, or reputation, scarcely their lives, were safe; and after all, had the impudence, when he was called on for his accounts, to bring the church in as owing him money; I just know this, that he added to all his other shamelessness this, that he offered the patriarch a large sum of money to buy a bishopric of him. . . . And what do you think the patriarch answered?’
‘Excommunicated the sacrilegious wretch, of course!’
‘Sent him a letter to say that if he dared to do such a thing again he should really be forced to expose him! So the fellow, taking courage, brought his money himself the next time; and all the world says that Cyril would have made him a bishop after all, if Abbot Isidore had not written to remonstrate.’
‘He could not have known the man’s character,’ said poor Philammon, hunting for an excuse.
‘The whole Delta was ringing with it. Isidore had written to him again and again.’
‘Surely then his wish was to prevent scandal, and preserve the unity of the church in the eyes of the heathen.’
The old man laughed bitterly.
‘Ah, the old story — of preventing scandals by retaining them, and fancying that sin is a less evil than a little noise; as if the worst of all scandals was not the being discovered in hushing up a scandal. And as for unity, if you want that, you must go back to the good old times of Dioclesian and Decius.’
‘Ay, boy — to the times of persecution, when Christians died like brothers, because they lived like brothers. You will see very little of that now, except in some little remote county bishopric, which no one ever hears of from year’s end to year’s end. But in the cities it is all one great fight for place and power. Every one is jealous of his neighbour. The priests are jealous of the deacons, and good cause they have. The county bishops are jealous of the metropolitan, and he is jealous of the North African bishops, and quite right he is. What business have they to set up for themselves, as if they were infallible? It’s a schism, I say — a complete schism. They are just as bad as their own Donatists. Did not the Council of Nice settle that the Metropolitan of Alexandria should have authority over Libya and Pentapolis, according to the ancient custom?’
‘Of course he ought,’ said Philammon, jealous for the honour of his own patriarchate.
‘And the patriarchs of Rome and Constantinople are jealous of our patriarch.’
‘Of course, because he won’t be at their beck and nod, and let them be lords and masters of Africa.’
‘But surely these things can be settled by councils?’
‘Councils? Wait till you have been at one. The blessed Abbot Isidore used to say, that if he ever was a bishop — which he never will be — he is far too honest for that — he would never go near one of them; for he never had seen one which did not call out every evil passion in men’s hearts, and leave the question more confounded with words than they found it, even if the whole matter was not settled beforehand by some chamberlain, or eunuch, or cook sent from court, as if he were an anointed vessel of the Spirit, to settle the dogmas of the Holy Catholic Church.’
‘Why, Valens sent his chief cook to stop Basil of Caesarea from opposing the Court doctrine. . . . I tell you, the great battle in these cases is to get votes from courts, or to get to court yourself. When I was young, the Council of Antioch had to make a law to keep bishops from running off to Constantinople to intrigue, under pretence of pleading the cause of the orphan and widow. But what’s the use of that, when every noisy and ambitious man shifts and shifts, from one see to another, till he settles himself close to Rome or Byzantium, and gets the emperor’s ear, and plays into the hands of his courtiers?’
‘Is it not written, “Speak not evil of dignities”? ‘said Philammon, in his most sanctimonious tone.
‘Well, what of that? I don’t speak evil of dignities, when I complain of the men who fill them badly, do I?’
‘I never heard that interpretation of the text before.’
‘Very likely not. That’s no reason why it should not be true and orthodox. You will soon hear a good many more things, which are true enough — though whether they are orthodox or not, the court cooks must settle. Of course, I am a disappointed, irreverent old grumbler. Of course, and of course, too, young men must needs buy their own experience, instead of taking old folks’ at a gift. There — use your own eyes, and judge for yourself. There you may see what sort of saints are bred by this plan of managing the Catholic Church. There comes one of them. Now! I say no more!’
As he spoke, two tall negroes came up to them, and set down before the steps of a large church which they were passing an object new to Philammon — a sedan-chair, the poles of which were inlaid with ivory and silver, and the upper part enclosed in rose-coloured silk curtains.
‘What is inside that cage?’ asked he of the old priest, as the negroes stood wiping the perspiration from their foreheads, and a smart slave-girl stepped forward, with a parasol and slippers in her hand, and reverently lifted the lower edge of the curtain.
‘A saint, I tell you!’
An embroidered shoe, with a large gold cross on the instep, was put forth delicately from beneath the curtain, and the kneeling maid put on the slipper over it.
‘There!‘whispered the old grumbler. ‘Not enough, you see, to use Christian men as beasts of burden — Abbot Isidore used to say — ay, and told Iron, the pleader, to his face, that he could not conceive how a man who loved Christ, and knew the grace which has made all men free, could keep a slave.’
‘Nor can I,’ said Philammon.
‘But we think otherwise, you see, in Alexandria here. We can’t even walk up the steps of God’s temple without an additional protection to our delicate feet.’
‘I had thought it was written, “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place where thou standest is holy ground.”’
‘Ah! there are a good many more things written which we do not find it convenient to recollect. — Look! There is one of the pillars of the church-the richest and most pious lady in Alexandria.’
And forth stepped a figure, at which Philammon’s eyes opened wider than they had done even at the sight of Pelagia. Whatever thoughts the rich and careless grace of her attire might have raised in his mind, it had certainly not given his innate Greek good taste the inclination to laugh and weep at once, which he felt at this specimen of the tasteless fashion of an artificial and decaying civilisation. Her gown was stuffed out behind in a fashion which provoked from the dirty boys who lay about the steps, gambling for pistachios on their fingers, the same comments with which St. Clement had upbraided from the pulpit the Alexandrian ladies of his day. The said gown of white silk was bedizened, from waist to ankle, with certain mysterious red and green figures at least a foot long, which Philammon gradually discovered to be a representation, in the very lowest and ugliest style of fallen art, of Dives and Lazarus; while down her back hung, upon a bright blue shawl, edged with embroidered crosses, Job sitting, potsherd in hand, surrounded by his three friends — a memorial, the old priest whispered, of a pilgrimage which she had taken a year or two before, to Arabia, to see and kiss the identical dunghill on which the patriarch had sat.
Round her neck hung, by one of half a dozen necklaces, a manuscript of the Gospels, gilt-edged and clasped with jewels; the lofty diadem of pearls on the head carried in front a large gold cross; while above and around it her hair, stiffened with pomatum, was frizzled out half a foot from a wilderness of plaits and curls, which must have cost some hapless slave-girl an hour’s work, and perhaps more than one scolding, that very morning.
Meekly, with simpering face and downcast eyes, and now and then a penitent sigh and shake of the head and pressure of her hand on her jewelled bosom, the fair penitent was proceeding up the steps, when she caught sight of the priest and the monk, and turning to them with an obeisance of the deepest humility, entreated to be allowed to kiss the hem of their garments.
‘You had far better, madam,’ said Philammon, bluntly enough, ‘kiss the hem of your own. You carry two lessons there which you do not seem to have learnt yet.’
In an instant her face flashed up into pride and fury. ‘I asked for your blessing, and not for a sermon. I can have that when I like.’
‘And such as you like,’ grumbled the old priest, as she swept up the steps, tossing some small coin to the ragged boys, and murmuring to herself, loud enough for Philammon’s hearing, that she should certainly inform the confessor, and that she would not be insulted in the streets by savage monks.
‘Now she will confess her sins inside — all but those which she has been showing off to us here outside, and beat her breast, and weep like a very Magdalen; and then the worthy man will comfort her with —“What a beautiful chain! And what a shawl — allow me to touch it! How soft and delicate this Indian wool! Ah! if you knew the debts which I have been compelled to incur in the service of the sanctuary! —” And then of course the answer will be, as, indeed, he expects it should, that if it can be of the least use in the service of the Temple, she, of course, will think it only too great an honour. . . . And he will keep the chain, and perhaps the shawl too. And she will go home, believing that she has fulfilled to the very letter the command to break off her sins by almsgiving, and only sorry that the good priest happened to hit on that particular gewgaw!’
‘What,’ asked Philammon; ‘dare she actually not refuse such importunity?’
‘From a poor priest like me, stoutly enough; but from a popular ecclesiastic like him. . . . As Jerome says, in a letter of his I once saw, ladies think twice in such cases before they offend the city newsmonger. Have you anything more to say?’
Philammon had nothing to say; and wisely held his peace, while the old grumbler ran on —
‘Ah, boy, you have yet to learn city fashions! When you are a little older, instead of speaking unpleasant truths to a fine lady with a cross on her forehead, you will be ready to run to the Pillars of Hercules at her beck and nod, for the sake of her disinterested help towards a fashionable pulpit, or perhaps a bishopric. The ladies settle that for us here.’
‘The women, lad. Do you suppose that they heap priests and churches with wealth for nothing? They have their reward. Do you suppose that a preacher gets into the pulpit of that church there, without looking anxiously, at the end of each peculiarly flowery sentence, to see whether her saintship there is clapping or not? She, who has such a delicate sense for orthodoxy, that she can scent out Novatianism or Origenism where no other mortal nose would suspect it. She who meets at her own house weekly all the richest and most pious women of the city, to settle our discipline for us’ as the court cooks do our doctrine. She who has even, it is whispered, the ear of the Augusta Pulcheria herself, and sends monthly letters to her at Constantinople, and might give the patriarch himself some trouble’ if he crossed her holy will!’
‘What! will Cyril truckle to such creatures?’
‘Cyril is a wise man in his generation — too wise, some say, for a child of the light. But at least, he knows there is no use fighting with those whom you cannot conquer; and while he can get money out of these great ladies for his almshouses, and orphan-houses, and lodging-houses, and hospitals, and workshops, and all the rest of it — and in that, I will say for him, there is no man on earth equal to him, but Ambrose of Milan and Basil of Caesarea — why, I don’t quarrel with him for making the best of a bad matter; and a very bad matter it is, boy, and has been ever since emperors and courtiers have given up burning and crucifying us, and taken to patronising and bribing us instead.’
Philammon walked on in silence by the old priest’s side, stunned and sickened. . . . ‘And this is what I have come out to see — reeds shaken in the wind, and men clothed in soft raiment, fit only for kings’ palaces!’ For this he had left the dear old Laura, and the simple joys and friendships of childhood, and cast himself into a roaring whirlpool of labour and temptation! This was the harmonious strength and unity of that Church Catholic, in which, as he had been taught from boyhood, there was but one Lord, one Faith, one Spirit. This was the indivisible body, ‘without spot or wrinkle, which fitly joined together and compacted by that which every member supplied, according to the effectual and proportionate working of every part, increased the body, and enabled it to build itself up in Love!’ He shuddered as the well-known words passed through his memory, and seemed to mock the base and chaotic reality around him. He felt angry with the old man for having broken his dream; he longed to believe that his complaints were only exaggerations of cynic peevishness, of selfish disappointment; and yet, had not Arsenius warned him? Had he not foretold, word for word, what the youth would find-what he had found? Then was Saint Paul’s great idea an empty and an impossible dream? No! God’s word could not fail; the Church could not err. The fault could not be in her, but in her enemies; not, as the old man said, in her too great prosperity, but in her slavery. And then the words which he had heard from Cyril at their first interview rose before him as the true explanation. How could the Church work freely and healthily while she was crushed and fettered by the rulers of this world? And how could they be anything but the tyrants and antichrists they were, while they were menaced and deluded by heathen philosophy, and vain systems of human wisdom? If Orestes was the curse of the Alexandrian Church, then Hypatia was the curse of Orestes. On her head the true blame lay. She was the root of the evil. Who would extirpate it?. . . .
Why should not he? It might be dangerous; yet, successful or unsuccessful, it must be glorious. The course of Christianity wanted great examples. Might he not-and his young heart beat high at the thought — might he not, by some great act of daring, self-sacrifice, divine madness of faith, like David’s of old, when he went out against the giant — awaken selfish and luxurious souls to a noble emulation, and recall to their minds, perhaps to their lives, the patterns of those martyrs who were the pride, the glory, the heirloom of Egypt? And as figure after figure rose before his imagination, of simple men and weak women who had conquered temptation and shame, torture and death, to live for ever on the lips of men, and take their seats among the patricians of the heavenly court, with brows glittering through all eternities with the martyr’s crown, his heart beat thick and fast, and he longed only for an opportunity to dare and die.
And the longing begot the opportunity. For he had hardly rejoined his brother visitors when the absorbing thought took word again, and he began questioning them eagerly for more information about Hypatia.
On that point, indeed, he obtained nothing but fresh invective; but when his companions, after talking of the triumph which the true faith had gained that morning, went on to speak of the great overthrow of Paganism twenty years before, under the patriarch Theophilus; of Olympiodorus and his mob, who held the Serapeium for many days by force of arms against the Christians, making sallies into the city, and torturing and murdering the prisoners whom they took; of the martyrs who, among those very pillars which overhung their heads, had died in torments rather than sacrifice to Serapis; and of the final victory, and the soldier who, in presence of the trembling mob, clove the great jaw of the colossal idol, and snapped for ever the spell of heathenism, Philammon’s heart burned to distinguish himself like that soldier, and to wipe out his qualms of conscience by some more unquestionable deed of Christian prowess. There were no idols now to break but there was philosophy —‘Why not carry war into the heart of the enemy’s camp, and beard Satan in his very den? Why does not some man of God go boldly into the lecture-room of the sorceress, and testify against her to her face?’
‘Do it yourself, if you dare,’ said Peter. ‘We have no wish to get our brains knocked out by all the profligate young gentlemen in the city.’
‘I will do it,’ said Philammon.
‘That is, if his holiness allows you to make such a fool of yourself.’
‘Take care, sir, of your words. You revile the blessed martyrs, from St. Stephen to St. Telemachus, when you call such a deed foolishness.’
‘I shall most certainly inform his holiness of your insolence.’
‘Do so,’ said Philammon, who, possessed with a new idea, wished for nothing more. And there the matter dropped for the time. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
‘The presumption of the young in this generation is growing insufferable,’ said Peter to his master that evening.
‘So much the better. They put their elders on their mettle in the race of good works. But who has been presuming to-day?’
‘That mad boy whom Pambo sent up from the deserts dared to offer himself as champion of the faith against Hypatia. He actually proposed to go into her lecture-room and argue with her to her face. What think you of that for a specimen of youthful modesty and self-distrust?’
Cyril was silent a while.
‘What answer am I to have the honour of taking back? A month’s relegation to Nitria on bread and water? You, I am sure, will not allow such things to go unpunished; indeed, if they do, there is an end to all authority and discipline.’
Cyril was still silent; whilst Peter’s brow clouded fast. At last he answered —
‘The cause wants martyrs. Send the boy to me.’
Peter went down with a shrug, and an expression of face which looked but too like envy, and ushered up the trembling youth, who dropped on his knees as soon as he entered.
‘So you wish to go into the heathen woman’s lecture-room, and defy her? Have you courage for it?’
‘God will give it me.’
‘You will be murdered by her pupils.’
‘I can defend myself,’ said Philammon, with a pardonable glance downward at his sinewy limbs. ‘And if not: what death more glorious than martyrdom?’
Cyril smiled genially enough. ‘Promise me two things.’
‘Two thousand, if you will.’
‘Two are quite difficult enough to keep. Youth is rash in promises, and rasher in forgetting them. Promise me that, whatever happens, you will not strike the first blow.’
‘Promise me again, that you will not argue with her.’
‘Contradict, denounce, defy. But give no reasons. If you do, you are lost. She is subtler than the serpent, skilled in all the tricks of logic, and you will become a laughing-stock, and run away in shame. Promise me.’
‘The sooner the better. At what hour does the accursed woman lecture to-morrow, Peter?’
‘We saw her going to the Museum at nine this morning.’
‘Then go at nine to-morrow. There is money for you.’
‘What is this for?’ asked Philammon, fingering curiously the first coins which he ever had handled in his life.
‘To pay for your entrance. To the philosopher none enters without money. Not so to the Church of God, open all day long to the beggar and the slave. If you convert her, well. And if not’. . . . And he added to himself between his teeth, ‘And if not, well also — perhaps better.’
‘Ay!’ said Peter bitterly, as he ushered Philammon out. ‘Go up to Ramoth Gilead, and prosper, young fool! What evil spirit sent you here to feed the noble patriarch’s only weakness?’
‘What do you mean?’ asked Philammon, as fiercely as he dare.
‘The fancy that preachings, and protestations, and martyrdoms can drive out the Canaanites, who can only be got rid of with the sword of the Lord and of Gideon. His uncle Theophilus knew that well enough. If he had not, Olympiodorus might have been master of Alexandria, and incense burning before Serapis to this day. Ay, go, and let her convert you! Touch the accursed thing, like Achan, and see if you do not end by having it in your tent. Keep company with the daughters of Midian, and see if you do not join yourself to Baal poor, and eat the offerings of the dead!’
And with this encouraging sentence, the two parted for the night.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:10