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For I am long since weary of your storm
Of carnage, and find, Hermod, in your life
Something too much of war and broils which make
Life one perpetual fight.—Matthew Arnold, Balder.
What a long talk you have been having!’ said Eutyches, when David and Philip came out of the study. ’Tell me all about it.’
‘Well, first you told us all about St. Felix and the Bishop of Nola.’
‘You witty fellow!’ said Eutyches.
‘Then you pulled my ears, for which you shall catch it.’
‘It was less punishment than you deserved.’
‘Then Vigilantius told us all about Jerome of Bethlehem, who, according to him, must be a singularly amiable person.’
‘You are no good,’ said Eutyches; ’David is ten times as patient as you, and is never in a hurry, as you always are. So I shall ask him all the rest.’
David gave him a sketch of what had passed, though, with characteristic sweetness, he softened down all that seemed most unfavourable to Jerome. Eutyches listened with interest, and some surprise.
‘Have you written to Walamir?’ asked Philip. ‘If you have, I hope you gave our kindliest greetings to him and Thorismund.’
‘I have,’ said Eutyches. ‘One of Aurelian’s soldiers happened to be starting for Illyricum to-morrow, and he is going to take my letter. I must give it him at once. I shall have to pass through the Chalkoprateia.’
‘To the owls with your Chalkoprateia!’ said Philip; ’you know I am too busy to come with you.’341
‘And when are you going to pay me that bronze what’s-his-name which you have owed me for ever so long? I believe you go to the Chalkoprateia once a week, and pretend to choose it, but I have never got it; whereas David gave me the pentray at once, like a man.’
‘I don’t approve of bets,’ said Philip.
‘Then why are you always going to choose it at the Chalk——’
Philip chased the boy out; and when he had started, David turned to him, and said, ’Philip, I want to talk to you. What do you think of all that Vigilantius said?’
‘I agree with it heart and soul,’ said Philip.
‘And I,’ said David; ‘and it only deepens my conviction that I can never join the ranks of the clergy.’
‘I came to that decision long ago,’ said Philip, ‘but it was because I felt no vocation. I can serve God better in other ways. But you are different, David. And Vigilantius quoted saints and Councils, as well as the Scriptures, for his views.’
‘And yet,’ said David, ‘it is Paulinus, and Augustine, and Jerome who in some of these matters speak the voice of Rome and of the West; and though in these and other things their views are not those of the early Church, I do not wish to join a body by whom Vigilantius is treated as a monster, and to whom it is due that Jovinian, a profoundly good man, was beaten with leaded scourges, and banished to Dalmatia. I believe as little as Vigilantius in the exaltation of celibacy, and relic-worship, and the supreme meritoriousness of dirt and self-inflicted misery, and the trampling down of the sweet natural affections which God has given us. It seems to me un-Christlike and altogether unscriptural. It is based on human ordinances, or on false conceptions, twisted out of a few childishly misinterpreted texts.’
‘I agree,’ said Philip. ‘Our excellent Cassian was talking to us the other day about monkish saintliness. He exalted one monk above everything because, in holy obedience, he walked three miles every day for years, at his abbot’s order, to water an old stick. Could he find nothing better to do, and the abbot nothing more sane to command, in a world lying in wickedness? He told another story of 342 a monk named Marcus, who had a little son eight years old. To wean him of the crime of affection for this son his brother-monks purposely left the child dirty and neglected, and beat him that he might be always in tears. Finally, the abbot told Marcus to fling the boy into a river—and he did! And this unnatural Paganism is exalted as superhuman virtue! And, all the time, our Eutyches was listening to Cassian open-mouthed with admiration. That is just how young souls are spoiled. I cured him afterwards by telling him the story of Stagirius.’
‘Yes,’ said David; ‘and the strange thing is that a holy man like Cassian still upholds the system, though there is scarcely a monkish community, however small, which has not been a hotbed of enormous scandals—even the monastery of Jerome at Bethlehem; even the cœnobium of Augustine at Hippo. Jerome says that in the holy frightfulness of the Nitrian desert he found adders as well as monks, and Augustine speaks of the numbers of hypocrites under the guise of hermits. Cassian himself dwells on the horrible liability of the monks to the principal vices which infest human nature—gluttony, uncleanness, avarice, anger, vainglory, pride—above all, that despairing and unaccountable melancholy which they call acedia, and describe as “the demon that walketh in the noonday.” That is what comes of inventing our own sacrifices, instead of offering those with which God is well pleased.’
‘But you can be a presbyter without approving of dangerous and unnatural asceticism,’ said Philip.
‘Yes,’ said David; ‘a simple, true presbyter, if that were all, as St. Peter, and St. Paul, and St. John are content to call themselves. But nowadays every presbyter will arrogate to himself the exclusive name of a sacrificing priest, which the New Testament never once allows them.’
‘The Eucharist?’ said Philip.
‘Philip, is the name of “a sacrifice” so much as once given to the Eucharist by Christ, or the Apostles, or the Evangelists? The sacrifice of Christ, of His Incarnation, and His whole life, as well as His death, was offered once only, once for all. It cannot be re-offered. Three of the Evangelists record the institution of the Lord’s Supper. In which of them is there one syllable about its being a 343 sacrifice? How could it have been, when the Lord still stood a living man among His disciples?’
‘I don’t profess to be a theologian, David; but I have a profound trust in the Patriarch, and did not he talk in one of his homilies of “offering the tremendous sacrifice,” and speak of “the Lord” Himself sacrificed and lying there, and the priest standing at the sacrifice, and the receiver reddened by the blood?’
‘Rhetoric is not logic, Philip. I asked him about those very words, and, admitting at once that this was impassioned and metaphoric language, he pointed me to his Commentary on Heb. x. 9, where he says, “We do not offer another sacrifice, but we make a commemoration of a sacrifice.“ Philip, half the things which seem to me like superstitious and materialising aberrations from the pure and simple faith of the Gospel arise from teaching for doctrines the commandments of men, or from failure to interpret in their allegoric significance the simple metaphors of the East. This applies especially to the Lord’s Supper. The elements of bread and wine have already begun to be treated as though they were dreadful idols—actual flesh and actual blood—although the body of Christ is now a Spiritual Body glorified in Heaven.’
‘How do you understand the discourse at Capernaum?’ asked Philip.
‘To my mind,’ said David, ‘the fact that it was uttered two years before the Lord’s Supper is sufficient to prove that it referred generally to Christ as the Bread of Life. The simple Eastern metaphor of “eating” expresses the closest spiritual union, and has been grossly misapprehended. That discourse, had it referred to the Lord’s Supper, would at the time have been perfectly meaningless. It was not so because every Jew knew that “to eat of“ meant “to be united with.” They had read the words used about wisdom, “He that eateth Me shall even live by Me;” they knew the proverb, “To eat of the years of the Shechînah.”’
Philip mused awhile, and David added: ’But, dear Philip, opinions differ, and will differ; it is not by our opinions that Christ will judge us, but by our fruits. We may go to heaven with many wrong opinions, but not with 344 wicked hearts. I only spoke to you about these things to show you why I can never become so much as a deacon. The feeling was rendered invincible by the disgraceful spectacle of the Churches of Asia, when I went there with him. But that being so—— Oh, Philip! I am for many reasons very sorry—but in less than a month we shall all leave Constantinople.’
‘What!’ said Philip, with a movement of sudden alarm; ’you, and your father, and’—he bowed his face over his hands—’and Miriam?’
‘It is so, Philip; and our one pang, our sole pang, will be to part with the Patriarch, and Eutyches, and, above all, with you.’
‘Oh, David! But why is this?’
‘I will tell you. My father, being the descendant of Jude, whom Apostles and Evangelists called the “Lord’s Brother,” has never been in the least ashamed of his bronzesmith’s shop, any more than St. Joseph was ashamed of the shop of the carpenter at our Nazareth. But God has largely prospered my father: not only our own people, but all Constantinople, know his integrity; and, besides his prosperous trade, he is employed in many transactions which make him honourably rich, far above our simple needs. His brother Simon has long been farming our lands in Galilee, but we have just had news of his death. His only son was slain in a recent invasion of Isaurian robbers who swept down even as far as Bethlehem. My father now inherits those lands and we are going to fix our home there. He shares my views, and approves of my decision never to become a presbyter in the Church as it now is.’
‘Oh, David!’ said Philip, who was now very pale, and into whose eyes the tears had rushed. ’And Miriam? You know that I love her, and I had hoped that she loved me.’
‘She loves you, Philip. There is no levity in Miriam. She has never seen any youth whom she loves as she loves you, with a love pure and intense.’
‘And yet you doom us never to meet again.’
Why so, Philip? She is quite too young to marry yet, nor would it be right for you to leave him. But there 345 are thousands of pilgrims to Palestine every year, and what is to hinder you from hearing constantly of each other? We see not how—yet my father does not doubt that the changing years will bring you together.’
But to Philip at that moment the whole world seemed to have turned into ashes; he laid his head upon his hands, and wept.
‘Do not weep, Philip,’ said David. ’ God is love. Build your faith on that.’
‘I lose my friend,’ said Philip, ‘and I have but few; I lose my love, and I never had but one—and you bid me not to weep!’
‘Dear friend of my youth!’ said David, rising and embracing him; ‘but you still have your father, and you have Eutyches; and, more than all, you have duty, and you have hopes to shine on you like stars; and, most of all, you have God your father in heaven, and Christ your eternal friend.’ But David was himself in tears.
But Philip would not be comforted, and both were silent till, far off, they heard the voice of Eutyches in the garden, singing in his blithe young voice, as he approached, the Latin hymn of Ambrose:
Veni, Redemptor gentium,
Ostende partum Virginis;
Miretur omne sæculum!
Talis decet partus Deum.
As he approached the garden-entrance of the Patriarcheion he was in high and happy spirits. The soldier whom Aurelian was sending back to Æmona had come from Illyricum, and by him Walamir had sent Eutyches an ancient Gothic silver ornament of great beauty, in the shape of a gryphon, with a brief letter and the kindest messages. Eutyches had just been sending to him with his own letter two little pictures which he knew would delight him—one, a really good likeness of the Patriarch, painted on a blue ground, and the other a likeness of Wulfila, the apostle of the Goths.
He burst into the room full of his news, and said ’Aha, Philip! I have been where you would like to be—in the Chalkoprateia; and I saw by a certain door the veiled 346 figure of——’ He stopped short. ‘What is this? You cannot conceal from me that you have both been in tears. What is the matter? Is it possible that David and Jonathan have been quarrelling?’
The suggestion sounded so ludicrous to them that they both smiled. ’Ah! that is better,’ said Eutyches; ‘but, in the name of Heaven, what has happened?’
‘My boy!’ said Philip, and again his tears burst forth, ’you will never be able to chaff me again about my love for the Chalkoprateia. David has just told me that he and his father and—and my Miriam are about to leave us for ever.’
‘For ever?’ said Eutyches, thunderstruck at intelligence so wholly unexpected.
‘For ever is a very long word, Eutyches,’ said David.
‘But where are you going to live?’
‘In our old home, not far from Nazareth.’
‘Does he know?’ asked Eutyches.
‘Not yet,’ said David; ‘but the plan cannot be changed.’
‘My poor, poor Philip!’ said Eutyches. ‘I am so sorry that I hurt you. What will you do without David, and—— Oh! this is very sad.’
He laid one hand on Philip’s shoulder, and grasped his friend’s other hand. But Philip could not trust himself to speak. It was as though all the brightness of his life had been quenched in sudden midnight.
Chrysostom was deeply sorry to lose the services of David. After a long and solemn talk with him, and with his father Michael, he did not feel it right to interpose any obstacle, but he spoke anxiously about Philip and his love for Miriam.
‘They love each other with a true love,’ said Michael; ’but Miriam is not sixteen. She is too young to marry; nor would it be right for Philip to leave you yet.’
‘It might be easier in a few years,’ said the Patriarch. ’As far as means are concerned in these hard times, Philip will not be penniless. He is the owner of his father’s house in Antioch, which is let; and with it he also inherited a small sum of money, which is being faithfully husbanded for him. Besides this, though he does not yet 347 know it, I have, by my will, bequeathed to him my old house in Singon Street, which brings in a yearly income, and I have divided what remains of my own modest income between him and Eutyches. I did not include your David because you once told me that he was well provided for, and needed nothing.’
‘He whose desires are few is rich, Patriarch,’ said Michael; ’nor would there be any objection on the score of even poverty, for Miriam will have an ample dower. ’But——’ A very troubled look passed over his face. ’My Lord Bishop,’ he said, ‘God sometimes gives me the power to look dimly into future years. I know not how or why. I only know that I can sometimes see something of the future as though it were present. I know that I am bidding you farewell for ever. I thank you for all your goodness and kindness to David, and to me, who am but a humble artisan of Jewish birth. But forgive me if I speak. As I look into the future I see clouds before you, and thick darkness. Fain would I avert my gaze from those coming years. May the Christ of God be with you! I know that you daily hear the Voice saying, “Be thou faithful unto death, and”—you will need that promise to sustain you— “and I will give thee the crown of life.”’
‘I know it,’ said Chrysostom; ‘but He Who for our good sends our calamities to purge us as gold is purged in the furnace, never fails also to send grace to help in time of need. Let us both kneel down, and pray for His blessing—even if it comes veiled in darkness—for each other, and for us both.’
They knelt side by side—the Patriarch of Constantinople and the humble Desposynos—and they rose strengthened for any fate.
The last day of Michael’s sojourn in Constantinople came. Chrysostom, with a heavy and foreboding heart, had parted from David, and given him the kiss of peace, and blessed him. He presented him with a beautiful manuscript of the Commentary on the Hebrews as a token of his parting love. The family were to sail away at evening, and all their goods were on the barque which lay at 348 anchor by the quay to take them to the port of Accho. With the full consent of Michael, and in his presence, Philip and Miriam had pledged themselves to one another in solemn and sacred vows, and had exchanged their gifts of betrothal. Philip had given to Miriam a precious jewel which had belonged to his mother, and Miriam to Philip one of the little carcanets of gold coins which Eastern maidens often wear round their hair. It had been for years a treasure in the family of the Desposyni; and since it consisted of the Maccabean coins of the High Priest Simon, stamped with the lily, had once—it was whispered among them—been worn by the Virgin Mother herself, and so had acquired in their eyes an inestimable preciousness. One coin was missing, and it had purposely been left unreplaced, for they saw in it an illustration of ‘the woman and the lost coin,’ and a sign that Christ would regard all His work as marred if but one soul were missing of those whom His Father had given Him to keep. To no one—not even to Philip—would Miriam have thought of entrusting this priceless treasure if Michael had not solemnly told her that the day would certainly come when Philip would restore it to her own hands again. The two lovers had also exchanged locks of each other’s hair, to be worn on the heart till they met again. They had been suffered to clasp each other in one long embrace before they spoke the farewells which ‘press the life out of young hearts.’
‘Be brave, dear son,’ said Michael to Philip, as he started with Miriam and her female attendant to the barque.
‘It is through much tribulation that we must enter into the Kingdom of God.’
‘My father! my father!’ sobbed Philip; ‘I shall see your face no more. It is that which makes me weep most of all.’
‘Nay, Philip,’ said Michael, solemnly; ‘fear not. Something tells me, quite surely, that whether you and I meet again or not on this side the grave, you and Miriam will be one. I see dark, dark waves before us all—storm and tempest; but a sea of light encompasses them, and flows over them, and in that I behold the infinite love of God. Farewell! farewell!’349
David stayed on shore till the last, to make the last few final arrangements. The shadows of night were falling when Philip and Eutyches walked with him to the quay on the Bosporus. Philip had given David as his last gift a silver box made and beautifully chased by his father in Antioch, and had received from him a golden Eastern lamp of unknown age and perfect workmanship.
There was no more to say. They knew each other’s thoughts. They pressed each other to the heart. They could not speak; they parted in silent tears. David stepped on the deck, and the vessel spread her sails. It had very soon melted into the deepening dusk. The last thing which Philip saw was the waving of Miriam’s white scarf from the ship’s deck. Then the darkness rushed down. He turned away, and walked home with Eutyches in silence, only broken by the occasional sobs which shook his whole frame. It was not only the anguish of parting from his love, and from his friend, which shook him. It was an unspoken, immense foreboding. It was an horizon which looked to him as black as the gathering midnight. Eutyches knew that it was vain to try and comfort him. He could only press his hand in silence. The one thought which flapped its wings like a vulture over Philip’s mind, and returned again and again to tear his heart with obscene beak, was, ‘I have lost my friend; I have lost my love for ever—for ever; nothing remains for me but despair and woe.’
Many dark days ensued. All that the Patriarch could do, all that Eutyches and Olympias and Nicarete could do to lighten that heavy heart was done; and time laid on the youth’s misery a healing hand. The days were, fortunately, full of duties and occupations; but it was long before Philip’s manner resumed its natural brightness and elasticity, and long ere those who loved him best recognised upon his face the glad smile which played over it like an incessant gleam of sunlight in happier days.
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