Obrázky na stránke
[graphic][subsumed][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

Do you remember buying or selling a slave

named Dernetrius, a Jew?” asked Isidorus of Ezra, the slave-dealer of Milan. He wasted no words in circumlocution, for he knew that there was no use in trying to deceive the keen-eyed Jewish dealer in his fellowinan; and that his best chances of success were in coming directly to the point.

· Selling a Jew? Oh, no! I never sell my own kinsmen. That's against our law. It is like seething a kid in its mother's milk. I often ransom them from pirates and set them free.”

“But this Demetrius was a Christian Jew—a convert from Moses to Jesus," said the Greek.

“ A Christian dog," cried Ezra with a wicked execration.

no Jew. He had sold his birthright like Esau, and had no part nor

· He was

lot with Israel. Of course, I'd sell him if I got him—to the mines, or to the galleys, or the field gang, to the hardest master I could find. But I know naught about your Demetrius, who was he ?”

“He was a Jew of Antioch,” said Isidorus, "captured by Illyrian pirates and sold in the slave market of Ravenna.”

- That is a common tale,” replied Ezra.” There are many such. How long since this occurred ?”

“ 'Tis now five years since he was last seen by her who seeks him, and who will pay well for his recovery."

“ Just my luck,” grumbled the greedy Jew. "Some ore else will gain the prize. 'Tis not for me."

“Then you cannot help me in this quest ?” said the Greek.

“ How can I remember the scores and hundreds of Christian dogs that I have bought and sold ? Go ask these monks, they know more of the vermin than I do.”

Acting on this hint, Isidorus made his way to the Convent of San Lorenzo, the ancient chapel of which still remains. Knocking at a bronze-studded gateway he was admitted to a quadrangle surrounded by cloisters or covered galleries upon which opened the doors of the different apartments. It was more like a hospital and alms-house than like what is now understood as a convent. It served as a sort of school of theology, youthful acolytes and deacons being here trained for the office and work of presbyters in the Church. Isidorus presented his letter from Adauctus to the good Bishop Paulinus, and was most cordially received.

“Right welcome art thou, my son," said the bishop, “bearing, as thou dost, the commendation of the worthy Adauctus ; and right glad shall we be to promote thy search. I myself know naught that can throw light upon it, inasmuch as I lived not at Milan, but was bishop of Nola at the time of which thou speakest."

The scriptor, or secretary, of the convent was also consulted without avail, no record being found in the annals of the house that gave any hope of discovery.

“ Come lunch with us in the refectory,” said the bishop, “and I will ask if any of the brethren know aught of this mystery.”

The refectory was a large bare-looking room —its only furniture being a long and solid table with a shorter one across the end for the bishop, and presbyters, and visitors. Of this latter there were frequently several, as such houses were the chief places for entertaining the trave!ling clergy or even lay members of the Christian brotherhood. Upon the walls were certain somewhat grim-looking frescoes, representing Biblical scenes and characters like those in the Catacombs described in chapter VIII. At one side of the room was a bema, or readingdesk, at which one of the lectors—a distinct ecclesiastical office,* with its special ordination -read, while the brethren partook of their meals, the lessons for the day from the Gospels and Epistles, as well as passages from the writings of Clement, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, and Origen. For this usage the scarcity and high price of MS. books, and the desire to improve every moment of time was deemed a sufficient ground.

After the meal-which was almost ascetic in its simplicity, consisting chiefly of vegetable pottage, lentils, and bread—was over, and the reading ended, the bishop explained the cause of the presence among them of a stranger from Rome.

“ My brethren,” he said in conclusion, “this

* This office was possibly derived from the synagogue. As requiring good scholarship it was one of much honour, and was even sought by laymen. The Emperor Julian, in his youth, and his brother Gallus, were readers in the Church of Nicomedia. Many epitaplıs of readers occur in the Catacombs.

[ocr errors]

is a common story. Many are the victims of cruelty and wrong in this great empire. Be it ours, so far as God may give us power, to succour the oppressed and redress their wrongs."

As he sat down a venerable presbyter rose and said, “Father, five years have I been under this hospitable roof, ransomed from bondage by your predecessor in office. Five years have I mourned the loss of a son and daughter, sold from my arms to I know not what cruel fate. It may be that God is about to restore me my children, the flesh of my flesh. Hast thou, O stranger, any sign or token by which I may be assured of their identity ?”

“Of thy son I have no tidings; but know thou if this be a token of thy daughter's rescue,” and Isidorus exhibited the small cornelian tessara of the fish of which we have spoken.

Eagerly the old man clasped it, and scanned the inscription, and joyfully exclaimed, while tears of gladness flowed down his aged cheeks and silvery beard, “Thank God, my child yet lives. I shall again behold her before I die. See, here is her very name, ' Callirhoë, daughter of Demetrius. I carved it with my own hands one happy day in our dear home in Damascus. God is good. I never hoped to see her again. Tell me, stranger, is she, too, a slave ?”

“Nay,” said Isidorus with emotion, for even

« PredošláPokračovať »