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Marius the Epicurean, Volume Two by Walter Horatio Pater

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comes--watching the labour, but with a sorrowful distaste for the din
and dirt. He is regarding wistfully his own place in the world, there
before him. His mind, as he watches, is grown up for a moment; and he
foresees, as it were, in that moment, all the long tale of days, of
early awakings, of his own coming life of drudgery at work like this.

"A man comes along carrying a boy whose rough work has already begun--
the only child--whose presence beside him sweetened the father's toil
a little. The boy has been badly injured by a fall of brick-work,
yet, with an effort, he rides boldly on his father's shoulders. It
will be the way of natural affection to keep him alive as long as
possible, though with that miserably shattered body.--'Ah! with us
still, and feeling our care beside him!'--and yet surely not without
a heartbreaking sigh of relief, alike from him and them, when the
end comes.

"On the alert for incidents like these, yet of necessity passing them
by on the other side, I find [177] it hard to get rid of a sense that
I, for one, have failed in love. I could yield to the humour till I
seemed to have had my share in those great public cruelties, the
shocking legal crimes which are on record, like that cold-blooded
slaughter, according to law, of the four hundred slaves in the reign
of Nero, because one of their number was thought to have murdered his
master. The reproach of that, together with the kind of facile
apologies those who had no share in the deed may have made for it, as
they went about quietly on their own affairs that day, seems to come
very close to me, as I think upon it. And to how many of those now
actually around me, whose life is a sore one, must I be indifferent,
if I ever become aware of their soreness at all? To some, perhaps,
the necessary conditions of my own life may cause me to be opposed,
in a kind of natural conflict, regarding those interests which
actually determine the happiness of theirs. I would that a stronger
love might arise in my heart!

"Yet there is plenty of charity in the world. My patron, the Stoic
emperor, has made it even fashionable. To celebrate one of his
brief returns to Rome lately from the war, over and above a largess
of gold pieces to all who would, the public debts were forgiven.
He made a nice show of it: for once, the Romans entertained themselves
with a good-natured spectacle, and the whole town came to see the
great bonfire [178] in the Forum, into which all bonds and evidence
of debt were thrown on delivery, by the emperor himself; many private
creditors following his example. That was done well enough! But
still the feeling returns to me, that no charity of ours can get at
a certain natural unkindness which I find in things themselves.

"When I first came to Rome, eager to observe its religion, especially
its antiquities of religious usage, I assisted at the most curious,
perhaps, of them all, the most distinctly marked with that immobility
which is a sort of ideal in the Roman religion. The ceremony took
place at a singular spot some miles distant from the city, among the
low hills on the bank of the Tiber, beyond the Aurelian Gate. There,
in a little wood of venerable trees, piously allowed their own way,
age after age--ilex and cypress remaining where they fell at last,
one over the other, and all caught, in that early May-time, under a
riotous tangle of wild clematis--was to be found a magnificent
sanctuary, in which the members of the Arval College assembled
themselves on certain days. The axe never touched those trees--Nay!
it was forbidden to introduce any iron thing whatsoever within the
precincts; not only because the deities of these quiet places hate to
be disturbed by the harsh noise of metal, but also in memory of that
better age--the lost Golden Age--the homely age of the potters, of
[179] which the central act of the festival was a commemoration.

"The preliminary ceremonies were long and complicated, but of a
character familiar enough. Peculiar to the time and place was the
solemn exposition, after lavation of hands, processions backwards
and forwards, and certain changes of vestments, of the identical
earthen vessels--veritable relics of the old religion of Numa!--the
vessels from which the holy Numa himself had eaten and drunk, set
forth above a kind of altar, amid a cloud of flowers and incense,
and many lights, for the veneration of the credulous or the faithful.

"They were, in fact, cups or vases of burnt clay, rude in form: and
the religious veneration thus offered to them expressed men's desire
to give honour to a simpler age, before iron had found place in human
life: the persuasion that that age was worth remembering: a hope that
it might come again.

"That a Numa, and his age of gold, would return, has been the hope or
the dream of some, in every period. Yet if he did come back, or any
equivalent of his presence, he could but weaken, and by no means smite
through, that root of evil, certainly of sorrow, of outraged human
sense, in things, which one must carefully distinguish from all
preventible accidents. Death, and the little perpetual daily dyings,
which have something of its sting, he must [180] necessarily leave
untouched. And, methinks, that were all the rest of man's life framed
entirely to his liking, he would straightway begin to sadden himself,
over the fate--say, of the flowers! For there is, there has come to
be since Numa lived perhaps, a capacity for sorrow in his heart,
which grows with all the growth, alike of the individual and of the
race, in intellectual delicacy and power, and which will find its

"Of that sort of golden age, indeed, one discerns even now a trace,
here and there. Often have I maintained that, in this generous
southern country at least, Epicureanism is the special philosophy of
the poor. How little I myself really need, when people leave me alone,
with the intellectual powers at work serenely. The drops of falling
water, a few wild flowers with their priceless fragrance, a few tufts
even of half-dead leaves, changing colour in the quiet of a room that
has but light and shadow in it; these, for a susceptible mind, might
well do duty for all the glory of Augustus. I notice sometimes what
I conceive to be the precise character of the fondness of the roughest
working-people for their young children, a fine appreciation, not
only of their serviceable affection, but of their visible graces: and
indeed, in this country, the children are almost always worth looking
at. I see daily, in fine weather, a child like a delicate nosegay,
running to meet the rudest of brick- [181] makers as he comes from
work. She is not at all afraid to hang upon his rough hand: and
through her, he reaches out to, he makes his own, something from that
strange region, so distant from him yet so real, of the world's
refinement. What is of finer soul, of finer stuff in things, and
demands delicate touching--to him the delicacy of the little child
represents that: it initiates him into that. There, surely, is a
touch of the secular gold, of a perpetual age of gold. But then
again, think for a moment, with what a hard humour at the nature of
things, his struggle for bare life will go on, if the child should
happen to die. I observed to-day, under one of the archways of the
baths, two children at play, a little seriously--a fair girl and her
crippled younger brother. Two toy chairs and a little table, and
sprigs of fir set upright in the sand for a garden! They played at
housekeeping. Well! the girl thinks her life a perfectly good thing
in the service of this crippled brother. But she will have a jealous
lover in time: and the boy, though his face is not altogether
unpleasant, is after all a hopeless cripple.

"For there is a certain grief in things as they are, in man as he
has come to be, as he certainly is, over and above those griefs
of circumstance which are in a measure removable--some inexplicable
shortcoming, or misadventure, on the part of nature itself--death,
and old age as it [182] must needs be, and that watching for their
approach, which makes every stage of life like a dying over and over
again. Almost all death is painful, and in every thing that comes
to an end a touch of death, and therefore of wretched coldness
struck home to one, of remorse, of loss and parting, of outraged
attachments. Given faultless men and women, given a perfect state of
society which should have no need to practise on men's susceptibilities
for its own selfish ends, adding one turn more to the wheel of the
great rack for its own interest or amusement, there would still be
this evil in the world, of a certain necessary sorrow and desolation,
felt, just in proportion to the moral, or nervous perfection men have
attained to. And what we need in the world, over against that, is a
certain permanent and general power of compassion--humanity's standing
force of self-pity--as an elementary ingredient of our social atmosphere,
if we are to live in it at all. I wonder, sometimes, in what way man
has cajoled himself into the bearing of his burden thus far, seeing
how every step in the capacity of apprehension his labour has won for
him, from age to age, must needs increase his dejection. It is as if
the increase of knowledge were but an increasing revelation of the
radical hopelessness of his position: and I would that there were one
even as I, behind this vain show of things!

"At all events, the actual conditions of our [183] life being as they
are, and the capacity for suffering so large a principle in things--
since the only principle, perhaps, to which we may always safely trust
is a ready sympathy with the pain one actually sees--it follows that
the practical and effective difference between men will lie in their
power of insight into those conditions, their power of sympathy. The
future will be with those who have most of it; while for the present,
as I persuade myself, those who have much of it, have something to
hold by, even in the dissolution of a world, or in that dissolution
of self, which is, for every one, no less than the dissolution of the
world it represents for him. Nearly all of us, I suppose, have had
our moments, in which any effective sympathy for us on the part of
others has seemed impossible; in which our pain has seemed a stupid
outrage upon us, like some overwhelming physical violence, from which
we could take refuge, at best, only in some mere general sense of
goodwill--somewhere in the world perhaps. And then, to one's surprise,
the discovery of that goodwill, if it were only in a not unfriendly
animal, may seem to have explained, to have actually justified to us,
the fact of our pain. There have been occasions, certainly, when I
have felt that if others cared for me as I cared for them, it would
be, not so much a consolation, as an equivalent, for what one has
lost or suffered: a realised profit on the summing up [184] of one's
accounts: a touching of that absolute ground amid all the changes of
phenomena, such as our philosophers have of late confessed themselves
quite unable to discover. In the mere clinging of human creatures to
each other, nay! in one's own solitary self-pity, amid the effects
even of what might appear irredeemable loss, I seem to touch the
eternal. Something in that pitiful contact, something new and true,
fact or apprehension of fact, is educed, which, on a review of all the
perplexities of life, satisfies our moral sense, and removes that
appearance of unkindness in the soul of things themselves, and assures
us that not everything has been in vain.

"And I know not how, but in the thought thus suggested, I seem to take
up, and re-knit myself to, a well-remembered hour, when by some
gracious accident--it was on a journey--all things about me fell into
a more perfect harmony than is their wont. Everything seemed to be,
for a moment, after all, almost for the best. Through the train of my
thoughts, one against another, it was as if I became aware of the
dominant power of another person in controversy, wrestling with me.
I seem to be come round to the point at which I left off then. The
antagonist has closed with me again. A protest comes, out of the very
depths of man's radically hopeless condition in the world, with the
energy of one of those suffering yet prevailing [185] deities, of which
old poetry tells. Dared one hope that there is a heart, even as ours,
in that divine 'Assistant' of one's thoughts--a heart even as mine,
behind this vain show of things!"


172. Virgil, Aeneid Book 1, line 462. "There are the tears of
things. . ." See also page 175 of this chapter, where the same
text is quoted in full.

173. +Transliteration: enodioi symboloi. Pater's Definition:
"omens by the wayside."

175. +Sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt. Virgil, Aeneid
Book 1, line 462. Translation: "Here also there be tears for what men
bear, and mortal creatures feel each other's sorrow," from Vergil,
Aeneid, Theodore C. Williams. trans. Boston. Houghton Mifflin Co. 1910.


"Ah! voilà les âmes qu'il falloit à la mienne!"

[186] THE charm of its poetry, a poetry of the affections,
wonderfully fresh in the midst of a threadbare world, would have led
Marius, if nothing else had done so, again and again, to Cecilia's
house. He found a range of intellectual pleasures, altogether new to
him, in the sympathy of that pure and elevated soul. Elevation of
soul, generosity, humanity--little by little it came to seem to him
as if these existed nowhere else. The sentiment of maternity, above
all, as it might be understood there,--its claims, with the claims of
all natural feeling everywhere, down to the sheep bleating on the
hills, nay! even to the mother-wolf, in her hungry cave--seemed to
have been vindicated, to have been enforced anew, by the sanction of
some divine pattern thereof. He saw its legitimate place in the
world given at last to the bare capacity for [187] suffering in any
creature, however feeble or apparently useless. In this chivalry,
seeming to leave the world's heroism a mere property of the stage, in
this so scrupulous fidelity to what could not help itself, could
scarcely claim not to be forgotten, what a contrast to the hard
contempt of one's own or other's pain, of death, of glory even, in
those discourses of Aurelius!

But if Marius thought at times that some long-cherished desires were
now about to blossom for him, in the sort of home he had sometimes
pictured to himself, the very charm of which would lie in its
contrast to any random affections: that in this woman, to whom
children instinctively clung, he might find such a sister, at least,
as he had always longed for; there were also circumstances which
reminded him that a certain rule forbidding second marriages, was
among these people still in force; ominous incidents, moreover,
warning a susceptible conscience not to mix together the spirit and
the flesh, nor make the matter of a heavenly banquet serve for
earthly meat and drink.

One day he found Cecilia occupied with the burial of one of the
children of her household. It was from the tiny brow of such a
child, as he now heard, that the new light had first shone forth upon
them--through the light of mere physical life, glowing there again,
when the child was dead, or supposed to be dead. The [188] aged
servant of Christ had arrived in the midst of their noisy grief; and
mounting to the little chamber where it lay, had returned, not long
afterwards, with the child stirring in his arms as he descended the
stair rapidly; bursting open the closely-wound folds of the shroud
and scattering the funeral flowers from them, as the soul kindled
once more through its limbs.

Old Roman common-sense had taught people to occupy their thoughts as
little as might be with children who died young. Here, to-day,
however, in this curious house, all thoughts were tenderly bent on
the little waxen figure, yet with a kind of exultation and joy,
notwithstanding the loud weeping of the mother. The other children,
its late companions, broke with it, suddenly, into the place where
the deep black bed lay open to receive it. Pushing away the grim
fossores, the grave-diggers, they ranged themselves around it in
order, and chanted that old psalm of theirs--Laudate pueri dominum!
Dead children, children's graves--Marius had been always half aware
of an old superstitious fancy in his mind concerning them; as if in
coming near them he came near the failure of some lately-born hope or
purpose of his own. And now, perusing intently the expression with
which Cecilia assisted, directed, returned afterwards to her house,
he felt that he too had had to-day his funeral of a little child.
But it had always been his policy, through all his pursuit [189] of
"experience," to take flight in time from any too disturbing passion,
from any sort of affection likely to quicken his pulses beyond the
point at which the quiet work of life was practicable. Had he, after
all, been taken unawares, so that it was no longer possible for him
to fly? At least, during the journey he took, by way of testing the
existence of any chain about him, he found a certain disappointment
at his heart, greater than he could have anticipated; and as he
passed over the crisp leaves, nipped off in multitudes by the first
sudden cold of winter, he felt that the mental atmosphere within
himself was perceptibly colder.

Yet it was, finally, a quite successful resignation which he
achieved, on a review, after his manner, during that absence, of loss
or gain. The image of Cecilia, it would seem, was already become for
him like some matter of poetry, or of another man's story, or a
picture on the wall. And on his return to Rome there had been a
rumour in that singular company, of things which spoke certainly not
of any merely tranquil loving: hinted rather that he had come across
a world, the lightest contact with which might make appropriate to
himself also the precept that "They which have wives be as they that
have none."

This was brought home to him, when, in early spring, he ventured once
more to listen to the sweet singing of the Eucharist. It breathed
[190] more than ever the spirit of a wonderful hope--of hopes more
daring than poor, labouring humanity had ever seriously entertained
before, though it was plain that a great calamity was befallen. Amid
stifled sobbing, even as the pathetic words of the psalter relieved
the tension of their hearts, the people around him still wore upon
their faces their habitual gleam of joy, of placid satisfaction.
They were still under the influence of an immense gratitude in
thinking, even amid their present distress, of the hour of a great
deliverance. As he followed again that mystical dialogue, he felt
also again, like a mighty spirit about him, the potency, the half-
realised presence, of a great multitude, as if thronging along those
awful passages, to hear the sentence of its release from prison; a
company which represented nothing less than--orbis terrarum--the
whole company of mankind. And the special note of the day expressed
that relief--a sound new to him, drawn deep from some old Hebrew
source, as he conjectured, Alleluia! repeated over and over again,
Alleluia! Alleluia! at every pause and movement of the long Easter

And then, in its place, by way of sacred lection, although in
shocking contrast with the peaceful dignity of all around, came the
Epistle of the churches of Lyons and Vienne, to "their sister," the
church of Rome. For the "Peace" of the church had been broken--
broken, as [191] Marius could not but acknowledge, on the
responsibility of the emperor Aurelius himself, following tamely, and
as a matter of course, the traces of his predecessors, gratuitously
enlisting, against the good as well as the evil of that great pagan
world, the strange new heroism of which this singular message was
full. The greatness of it certainly lifted away all merely private
regret, inclining one, at last, actually to draw sword for the
oppressed, as if in some new order of knighthood--

"The pains which our brethren have endured we have no power fully to
tell, for the enemy came upon us with his whole strength. But the
grace of God fought for us, set free the weak, and made ready those
who, like pillars, were able to bear the weight. These, coming now
into close strife with the foe, bore every kind of pang and shame.
At the time of the fair which is held here with a great crowd, the
governor led forth the Martyrs as a show. Holding what was thought
great but little, and that the pains of to-day are not deserving to
be measured against the glory that shall be made known, these worthy
wrestlers went joyfully on their way; their delight and the sweet
favour of God mingling in their faces, so that their bonds seemed but
a goodly array, or like the golden bracelets of a bride. Filled with
the fragrance of Christ, to some they seemed to have been touched
with earthly perfumes.

[192] "Vettius Epagathus, though he was very young, because he would
not endure to see unjust judgment given against us, vented his anger,
and sought to be heard for the brethren, for he was a youth of high
place. Whereupon the governor asked him whether he also were a
Christian. He confessed in a clear voice, and was added to the
number of the Martyrs. But he had the Paraclete within him; as, in
truth, he showed by the fulness of his love; glorying in the defence
of his brethren, and to give his life for theirs.

"Then was fulfilled the saying of the Lord that the day should come,
When he that slayeth you will think that he doeth God service. Most
madly did the mob, the governor and the soldiers, rage against the
handmaiden Blandina, in whom Christ showed that what seems mean among
men is of price with Him. For whilst we all, and her earthly
mistress, who was herself one of the contending Martyrs, were fearful
lest through the weakness of the flesh she should be unable to
profess the faith, Blandina was filled with such power that her
tormentors, following upon each other from morning until night, owned
that they were overcome, and had no more that they could do to her;
admiring that she still breathed after her whole body was torn

"But this blessed one, in the very midst of her 'witness,' renewed
her strength; and to [193] repeat, I am Christ's! was to her rest,
refreshment, and relief from pain. As for Alexander, he neither
uttered a groan nor any sound at all, but in his heart talked with
God. Sanctus, the deacon, also, having borne beyond all measure
pains devised by them, hoping that they would get something from him,
did not so much as tell his name; but to all questions answered only,
I am Christ's! For this he confessed instead of his name, his race,
and everything beside. Whence also a strife in torturing him arose
between the governor and those tormentors, so that when they had
nothing else they could do they set red-hot plates of brass to the
most tender parts of his body. But he stood firm in his profession,
cooled and fortified by that stream of living water which flows from
Christ. His corpse, a single wound, having wholly lost the form of
man, was the measure of his pain. But Christ, paining in him, set
forth an ensample to the rest--that there is nothing fearful, nothing
painful, where the love of the Father overcomes. And as all those
cruelties were made null through the patience of the Martyrs, they
bethought them of other things; among which was their imprisonment in
a dark and most sorrowful place, where many were privily strangled.
But destitute of man's aid, they were filled with power from the
Lord, both in body and mind, and strengthened their brethren. Also,
much joy was in our virgin mother, the [194] Church; for, by means of
these, such as were fallen away retraced their steps--were again
conceived, were filled again with lively heat, and hastened to make
the profession of their faith.

"The holy bishop Pothinus, who was now past ninety years old and weak
in body, yet in his heat of soul and longing for martyrdom, roused
what strength he had, and was also cruelly dragged to judgment, and
gave witness. Thereupon he suffered many stripes, all thinking it
would be a wickedness if they fell short in cruelty towards him, for
that thus their own gods would be avenged. Hardly drawing breath, he
was thrown into prison, and after two days there died.

"After these things their martyrdom was parted into divers manners.
Plaiting as it were one crown of many colours and every sort of
flowers, they offered it to God. Maturus, therefore, Sanctus and
Blandina, were led to the wild beasts. And Maturus and Sanctus
passed through all the pains of the amphitheatre, as if they had
suffered nothing before: or rather, as having in many trials
overcome, and now contending for the prize itself, were at last

"But Blandina was bound and hung upon a stake, and set forth as food
for the assault of the wild beasts. And as she thus seemed to be
hung upon the Cross, by her fiery prayers she imparted much alacrity
to those contending Witnesses. For as they looked upon her with the
eye of [195] flesh, through her, they saw Him that was crucified.
But as none of the beasts would then touch her, she was taken down
from the Cross, and sent back to prison for another day: that, though
weak and mean, yet clothed with the mighty wrestler, Christ Jesus,
she might by many conquests give heart to her brethren.

"On the last day, therefore, of the shows, she was brought forth
again, together with Ponticus, a lad of about fifteen years old.
They were brought in day by day to behold the pains of the rest. And
when they wavered not, the mob was full of rage; pitying neither the
youth of the lad, nor the sex of the maiden. Hence, they drave them
through the whole round of pain. And Ponticus, taking heart from
Blandina, having borne well the whole of those torments, gave up his
life. Last of all, the blessed Blandina herself, as a mother that
had given life to her children, and sent them like conquerors to the
great King, hastened to them, with joy at the end, as to a marriage-
feast; the enemy himself confessing that no woman had ever borne pain
so manifold and great as hers.

"Nor even so was their anger appeased; some among them seeking for us
pains, if it might be, yet greater; that the saying might be
fulfilled, He that is unjust, let him be unjust still. And their
rage against the Martyrs took a new form, insomuch that we were in
great sorrow for lack of freedom to entrust their bodies to the

[196] "Neither did the night-time, nor the offer of money, avail us
for this matter; but they set watch with much carefulness, as though
it were a great gain to hinder their burial. Therefore, after the
bodies had been displayed to view for many days, they were at last
burned to ashes, and cast into the river Rhone, which flows by this
place, that not a vestige of them might be left upon the earth. For
they said, Now shall we see whether they will rise again, and whether
their God can save them out of our hands."


[197] NOT many months after the date of that epistle, Marius, then
expecting to leave Rome for a long time, and in fact about to leave
it for ever, stood to witness the triumphal entry of Marcus Aurelius,
almost at the exact spot from which he had watched the emperor's
solemn return to the capital on his own first coming thither. His
triumph was now a "full" one--Justus Triumphus justified, by far more
than the due amount of bloodshed in those Northern wars, at length,
it might seem, happily at an end. Among the captives, amid the
laughter of the crowds at his blowsy upper garment, his trousered
legs and conical wolf-skin cap, walked our own ancestor,
representative of subject Germany, under a figure very familiar in
later Roman sculpture; and, though certainly with none of the grace
of the Dying Gaul, yet with plenty of uncouth pathos in his misshapen
features, and the pale, servile, yet angry eyes. His children, [198]
white-skinned and golden-haired "as angels," trudged beside him. His
brothers, of the animal world, the ibex, the wild-cat, and the
reindeer, stalking and trumpeting grandly, found their due place in
the procession; and among the spoil, set forth on a portable frame
that it might be distinctly seen (no mere model, but the very house
he had lived in), a wattled cottage, in all the simplicity of its
snug contrivances against the cold, and well-calculated to give a
moment's delight to his new, sophisticated masters.

Andrea Mantegna, working at the end of the fifteenth century, for a
society full of antiquarian fervour at the sight of the earthy relics
of the old Roman people, day by day returning to light out of the
clay--childish still, moreover, and with no more suspicion of
pasteboard than the old Romans themselves, in its unabashed love of
open-air pageantries, has invested this, the greatest, and alas! the
most characteristic, of the splendours of imperial Rome, with a
reality livelier than any description. The homely sentiments for
which he has found place in his learned paintings are hardly more
lifelike than the great public incidents of the show, there depicted.
And then, with all that vivid realism, how refined, how dignified,
how select in type, is this reflection of the old Roman world!--now
especially, in its time-mellowed red and gold, for the modern visitor
to the old English palace.

[199] It was under no such selected types that the great procession
presented itself to Marius; though, in effect, he found something
there prophetic, so to speak, and evocative of ghosts, as susceptible
minds will do, upon a repetition after long interval of some notable
incident, which may yet perhaps have no direct concern for
themselves. In truth, he had been so closely bent of late on certain
very personal interests that the broad current of the world's doings
seemed to have withdrawn into the distance, but now, as he witnessed
this procession, to return once more into evidence for him. The
world, certainly, had been holding on its old way, and was all its
old self, as it thus passed by dramatically, accentuating, in this
favourite spectacle, its mode of viewing things. And even apart from
the contrast of a very different scene, he would have found it, just
now, a somewhat vulgar spectacle. The temples, wide open, with their
ropes of roses flapping in the wind against the rich, reflecting
marble, their startling draperies and heavy cloud of incense, were
but the centres of a great banquet spread through all the gaudily
coloured streets of Rome, for which the carnivorous appetite of those
who thronged them in the glare of the mid-day sun was frankly enough
asserted. At best, they were but calling their gods to share with
them the cooked, sacrificial, and other meats, reeking to the sky.
The child, who was concerned for the sorrows of one of [200] those
Northern captives as he passed by, and explained to his comrade--
"There's feeling in that hand, you know!" benumbed and lifeless as it
looked in the chain, seemed, in a moment, to transform the entire
show into its own proper tinsel. Yes! these Romans were a coarse, a
vulgar people; and their vulgarities of soul in full evidence here.
And Aurelius himself seemed to have undergone the world's coinage,
and fallen to the level of his reward, in a mediocrity no longer

Yet if, as he passed by, almost filling the quaint old circular
chariot with his magnificent golden-flowered attire, he presented
himself to Marius, chiefly as one who had made the great mistake; to
the multitude he came as a more than magnanimous conqueror. That he
had "forgiven" the innocent wife and children of the dashing and
almost successful rebel Avidius Cassius, now no more, was a recent
circumstance still in memory. As the children went past--not among
those who, ere the emperor ascended the steps of the Capitol, would
be detached from the great progress for execution, happy rather, and
radiant, as adopted members of the imperial family--the crowd
actually enjoyed an exhibition of the moral order, such as might
become perhaps the fashion. And it was in consideration of some
possible touch of a heroism herein that might really have cost him
something, that Marius resolved to seek the emperor once more, [201]
with an appeal for common-sense, for reason and justice.

He had set out at last to revisit his old home; and knowing that
Aurelius was then in retreat at a favourite villa, which lay almost
on his way thither, determined there to present himself. Although
the great plain was dying steadily, a new race of wild birds
establishing itself there, as he knew enough of their habits to
understand, and the idle contadino, with his never-ending ditty of
decay and death, replacing the lusty Roman labourer, never had that
poetic region between Rome and the sea more deeply impressed him than
on this sunless day of early autumn, under which all that fell within
the immense horizon was presented in one uniform tone of a clear,
penitential blue. Stimulating to the fancy as was that range of low
hills to the northwards, already troubled with the upbreaking of the
Apennines, yet a want of quiet in their outline, the record of wild
fracture there, of sudden upheaval and depression, marked them as but
the ruins of nature; while at every little descent and ascent of the
road might be noted traces of the abandoned work of man. From time
to time, the way was still redolent of the floral relics of summer,
daphne and myrtle-blossom, sheltered in the little hollows and
ravines. At last, amid rocks here and there piercing the soil, as
those descents became steeper, and the main line of the Apennines,
[202] now visible, gave a higher accent to the scene, he espied over
the plateau, almost like one of those broken hills, cutting the
horizon towards the sea, the old brown villa itself, rich in memories
of one after another of the family of the Antonines. As he
approached it, such reminiscences crowded upon him, above all of the
life there of the aged Antoninus Pius, in its wonderful mansuetude
and calm. Death had overtaken him here at the precise moment when
the tribune of the watch had received from his lips the word
Aequanimitas! as the watchword of the night. To see their emperor
living there like one of his simplest subjects, his hands red at
vintage-time with the juice of the grapes, hunting, teaching his
children, starting betimes, with all who cared to join him, for long
days of antiquarian research in the country around:--this, and the
like of this, had seemed to mean the peace of mankind.

Upon that had come--like a stain! it seemed to Marius just then--the
more intimate life of Faustina, the life of Faustina at home.
Surely, that marvellous but malign beauty must still haunt those
rooms, like an unquiet, dead goddess, who might have perhaps, after
all, something reassuring to tell surviving mortals about her
ambiguous self. When, two years since, the news had reached Rome
that those eyes, always so persistently turned to vanity, had
suddenly closed for ever, a strong desire to pray had come [203] over
Marius, as he followed in fancy on its wild way the soul of one he
had spoken with now and again, and whose presence in it for a time
the world of art could so ill have spared. Certainly, the honours
freely accorded to embalm her memory were poetic enough--the rich
temple left among those wild villagers at the spot, now it was hoped
sacred for ever, where she had breathed her last; the golden image,
in her old place at the amphitheatre; the altar at which the newly
married might make their sacrifice; above all, the great foundation
for orphan girls, to be called after her name.

The latter, precisely, was the cause why Marius failed in fact to see
Aurelius again, and make the chivalrous effort at enlightenment he
had proposed to himself. Entering the villa, he learned from an
usher, at the door of the long gallery, famous still for its grand
prospect in the memory of many a visitor, and then leading to the
imperial apartments, that the emperor was already in audience: Marius
must wait his turn--he knew not how long it might be. An odd
audience it seemed; for at that moment, through the closed door, came
shouts of laughter, the laughter of a great crowd of children--the
"Faustinian Children" themselves, as he afterwards learned--happy and
at their ease, in the imperial presence. Uncertain, then, of the
time for which so pleasant a reception might last, so pleasant that
he would hardly have wished to [204] shorten it, Marius finally
determined to proceed, as it was necessary that he should accomplish
the first stage of his journey on this day. The thing was not to be-
-Vale! anima infelicissima!--He might at least carry away that sound
of the laughing orphan children, as a not unamiable last impression
of kings and their houses.

The place he was now about to visit, especially as the resting-place
of his dead, had never been forgotten. Only, the first eager period
of his life in Rome had slipped on rapidly; and, almost on a sudden,
that old time had come to seem very long ago. An almost burdensome
solemnity had grown about his memory of the place, so that to revisit
it seemed a thing that needed preparation: it was what he could not
have done hastily. He half feared to lessen, or disturb, its value
for himself. And then, as he travelled leisurely towards it, and so
far with quite tranquil mind, interested also in many another place
by the way, he discovered a shorter road to the end of his journey,
and found himself indeed approaching the spot that was to him like no
other. Dreaming now only of the dead before him, he journeyed on
rapidly through the night; the thought of them increasing on him, in
the darkness. It was as if they had been waiting for him there
through all those years, and felt his footsteps approaching now, and
understood his devotion, quite gratefully, in that lowliness of
theirs, in spite of its tardy [205] fulfilment. As morning came, his
late tranquillity of mind had given way to a grief which surprised
him by its freshness. He was moved more than he could have thought
possible by so distant a sorrow. "To-day!"--they seemed to be saying
as the hard dawn broke,--"To-day, he will come!" At last, amid all
his distractions, they were become the main purpose of what he was
then doing. The world around it, when he actually reached the place
later in the day, was in a mood very different from his:--so work-a-
day, it seemed, on that fine afternoon, and the villages he passed
through so silent; the inhabitants being, for the most part, at their
labour in the country. Then, at length, above the tiled
outbuildings, were the walls of the old villa itself, with the tower
for the pigeons; and, not among cypresses, but half-hidden by aged
poplar-trees, their leaves like golden fruit, the birds floating
around it, the conical roof of the tomb itself. In the presence of
an old servant who remembered him, the great seals were broken, the
rusty key turned at last in the lock, the door was forced out among
the weeds grown thickly about it, and Marius was actually in the
place which had been so often in his thoughts.

He was struck, not however without a touch of remorse thereupon,
chiefly by an odd air of neglect, the neglect of a place allowed to
remain as when it was last used, and left in a hurry, till long years
had covered all alike with thick dust [206] --the faded flowers, the
burnt-out lamps, the tools and hardened mortar of the workmen who had
had something to do there. A heavy fragment of woodwork had fallen
and chipped open one of the oldest of the mortuary urns, many
hundreds in number ranged around the walls. It was not properly an
urn, but a minute coffin of stone, and the fracture had revealed a
piteous spectacle of the mouldering, unburned remains within; the
bones of a child, as he understood, which might have died, in ripe
age, three times over, since it slipped away from among his great-
grandfathers, so far up in the line. Yet the protruding baby hand
seemed to stir up in him feelings vivid enough, bringing him
intimately within the scope of dead people's grievances. He noticed,
side by side with the urn of his mother, that of a boy of about his
own age--one of the serving-boys of the household--who had descended
hither, from the lightsome world of childhood, almost at the same
time with her. It seemed as if this boy of his own age had taken
filial place beside her there, in his stead. That hard feeling,
again, which had always lingered in his mind with the thought of the
father he had scarcely known, melted wholly away, as he read the
precise number of his years, and reflected suddenly--He was of my own
present age; no hard old man, but with interests, as he looked round
him on the world for the last time, even as mine to-day!

[207] And with that came a blinding rush of kindness, as if two
alienated friends had come to understand each other at last. There
was weakness in all this; as there is in all care for dead persons,
to which nevertheless people will always yield in proportion as they
really care for one another. With a vain yearning, as he stood
there, still to be able to do something for them, he reflected that
such doing must be, after all, in the nature of things, mainly for
himself. His own epitaph might be that old one eskhatos tou idiou
genous+ --He was the last of his race! Of those who might come hither
after himself probably no one would ever again come quite as he had
done to-day; and it was under the influence of this thought that he
determined to bury all that, deep below the surface, to be remembered
only by him, and in a way which would claim no sentiment from the
indifferent. That took many days--was like a renewal of lengthy old
burial rites--as he himself watched the work, early and late; coming
on the last day very early, and anticipating, by stealth, the last
touches, while the workmen were absent; one young lad only, finally
smoothing down the earthy bed, greatly surprised at the seriousness
with which Marius flung in his flowers, one by one, to mingle with
the dark mould.


207. +Transliteration: eskhatos tou idiou genous. Translation: "[he
was] the last of his race."


[208] THOSE eight days at his old home, so mournfully occupied, had
been for Marius in some sort a forcible disruption from the world and
the roots of his life in it. He had been carried out of himself as
never before; and when the time was over, it was as if the claim over
him of the earth below had been vindicated, over against the
interests of that living world around. Dead, yet sentient and
caressing hands seemed to reach out of the ground and to be clinging
about him. Looking back sometimes now, from about the midway of
life--the age, as he conceived, at which one begins to redescend
one's life--though antedating it a little, in his sad humour, he
would note, almost with surprise, the unbroken placidity of the
contemplation in which it had been passed. His own temper, his early
theoretic scheme of things, would have pushed him on to movement and
adventure. Actually, as circumstances had determined, all its
movement [209] had been inward; movement of observation only, or
even of pure meditation; in part, perhaps, because throughout it had
been something of a meditatio mortis, ever facing towards the act of
final detachment. Death, however, as he reflected, must be for every
one nothing less than the fifth or last act of a drama, and, as such,
was likely to have something of the stirring character of a
dénouement. And, in fact, it was in form tragic enough that his end
not long afterwards came to him.

In the midst of the extreme weariness and depression which had
followed those last days, Cornelius, then, as it happened, on a
journey and travelling near the place, finding traces of him, had
become his guest at White-nights. It was just then that Marius felt,
as he had never done before, the value to himself, the overpowering
charm, of his friendship. "More than brother!"--he felt--like a son
also!" contrasting the fatigue of soul which made himself in effect
an older man, with the irrepressible youth of his companion. For it
was still the marvellous hopefulness of Cornelius, his seeming
prerogative over the future, that determined, and kept alive, all
other sentiment concerning him. A new hope had sprung up in the
world of which he, Cornelius, was a depositary, which he was to bear
onward in it. Identifying himself with Cornelius in so dear a
friendship, through him, Marius seemed to touch, to ally himself to,
[210] actually to become a possessor of the coming world; even as
happy parents reach out, and take possession of it, in and through
the survival of their children. For in these days their intimacy had
grown very close, as they moved hither and thither, leisurely, among
the country-places thereabout, Cornelius being on his way back to
Rome, till they came one evening to a little town (Marius remembered
that he had been there on his first journey to Rome) which had even
then its church and legend--the legend and holy relics of the martyr
Hyacinthus, a young Roman soldier, whose blood had stained the soil
of this place in the reign of the emperor Trajan.

The thought of that so recent death, haunted Marius through the
night, as if with audible crying and sighs above the restless wind,
which came and went around their lodging. But towards dawn he slept
heavily; and awaking in broad daylight, and finding Cornelius absent,
set forth to seek him. The plague was still in the place--had indeed
just broken out afresh; with an outbreak also of cruel superstition
among its wild and miserable inhabitants. Surely, the old gods were
wroth at the presence of this new enemy among them! And it was no
ordinary morning into which Marius stepped forth. There was a menace
in the dark masses of hill, and motionless wood, against the gray,
although apparently unclouded sky. Under this sunless [211] heaven
the earth itself seemed to fret and fume with a heat of its own, in
spite of the strong night-wind. And now the wind had fallen.

Marius felt that he breathed some strange heavy fluid, denser than
any common air. He could have fancied that the world had sunken in
the night, far below its proper level, into some close, thick abysm
of its own atmosphere. The Christian people of the town, hardly less
terrified and overwrought by the haunting sickness about them than
their pagan neighbours, were at prayer before the tomb of the martyr;
and even as Marius pressed among them to a place beside Cornelius, on
a sudden the hills seemed to roll like a sea in motion, around the
whole compass of the horizon. For a moment Marius supposed himself
attacked with some sudden sickness of brain, till the fall of a great
mass of building convinced him that not himself but the earth under
his feet was giddy. A few moments later the little marketplace was
alive with the rush of the distracted inhabitants from their
tottering houses; and as they waited anxiously for the second shock
of earthquake, a long-smouldering suspicion leapt precipitately into
well-defined purpose, and the whole body of people was carried
forward towards the band of worshippers below. An hour later, in the
wild tumult which followed, the earth had been stained afresh with
the blood of the martyrs Felix and Faustinus--Flores [212]
apparuerunt in terra nostra!--and their brethren, together with
Cornelius and Marius, thus, as it had happened, taken among them,
were prisoners, reserved for the action of the law. Marius and his
friend, with certain others, exercising the privilege of their rank,
made claim to be tried in Rome, or at least in the chief town of the
district; where, indeed, in the troublous days that had now begun, a
legal process had been already instituted. Under the care of a
military guard the captives were removed on the same day, one stage
of their journey; sleeping, for security, during the night, side by
side with their keepers, in the rooms of a shepherd's deserted house
by the wayside.

It was surmised that one of the prisoners was not a Christian: the
guards were forward to make the utmost pecuniary profit of this
circumstance, and in the night, Marius, taking advantage of the loose
charge kept over them, and by means partly of a large bribe, had
contrived that Cornelius, as the really innocent person, should be
dismissed in safety on his way, to procure, as Marius explained, the
proper means of defence for himself, when the time of trial came.

And in the morning Cornelius in fact set forth alone, from their
miserable place of detention. Marius believed that Cornelius was to
be the husband of Cecilia; and that, perhaps strangely, had but added
to the desire to get him away safely.--We wait for the great crisis
which [213] is to try what is in us: we can hardly bear the pressure
of our hearts, as we think of it: the lonely wrestler, or victim,
which imagination foreshadows to us, can hardly be one's self; it
seems an outrage of our destiny that we should be led along so gently
and imperceptibly, to so terrible a leaping-place in the dark, for
more perhaps than life or death. At last, the great act, the
critical moment itself comes, easily, almost unconsciously. Another
motion of the clock, and our fatal line--the "great climacteric
point"--has been passed, which changes ourselves or our lives. In
one quarter of an hour, under a sudden, uncontrollable impulse,
hardly weighing what he did, almost as a matter of course and as
lightly as one hires a bed for one's night's rest on a journey,
Marius had taken upon himself all the heavy risk of the position in
which Cornelius had then been--the long and wearisome delays of
judgment, which were possible; the danger and wretchedness of a long
journey in this manner; possibly the danger of death. He had
delivered his brother, after the manner he had sometimes vaguely
anticipated as a kind of distinction in his destiny; though indeed
always with wistful calculation as to what it might cost him: and in
the first moment after the thing was actually done, he felt only
satisfaction at his courage, at the discovery of his possession of

Yet he was, as we know, no hero, no heroic [214] martyr--had indeed
no right to be; and when he had seen Cornelius depart, on his blithe
and hopeful way, as he believed, to become the husband of Cecilia;
actually, as it had happened, without a word of farewell, supposing
Marius was almost immediately afterwards to follow (Marius indeed
having avoided the moment of leave-taking with its possible call for
an explanation of the circumstances), the reaction came. He could
only guess, of course, at what might really happen. So far, he had
but taken upon himself, in the stead of Cornelius, a certain amount
of personal risk; though he hardly supposed himself to be facing the
danger of death. Still, especially for one such as he, with all the
sensibilities of which his whole manner of life had been but a
promotion, the situation of a person under trial on a criminal charge
was actually full of distress. To him, in truth, a death such as the
recent death of those saintly brothers, seemed no glorious end. In
his case, at least, the Martyrdom, as it was called--the overpowering
act of testimony that Heaven had come down among men--would be but a
common execution: from the drops of his blood there would spring no
miraculous, poetic flowers; no eternal aroma would indicate the place
of his burial; no plenary grace, overflowing for ever upon those who
might stand around it. Had there been one to listen just then, there
would have come, from the very depth of his desolation, [215] an
eloquent utterance at last, on the irony of men's fates, on the
singular accidents of life and death.

The guards, now safely in possession of whatever money and other
valuables the prisoners had had on them, pressed them forward, over
the rough mountain paths, altogether careless of their sufferings.
The great autumn rains were falling. At night the soldiers lighted a
fire; but it was impossible to keep warm. From time to time they
stopped to roast portions of the meat they carried with them, making
their captives sit round the fire, and pressing it upon them. But
weariness and depression of spirits had deprived Marius of appetite,
even if the food had been more attractive, and for some days he
partook of nothing but bad bread and water. All through the dark
mornings they dragged over boggy plains, up and down hills, wet
through sometimes with the heavy rain. Even in those deplorable
circumstances, he could but notice the wild, dark beauty of those
regions--the stormy sunrise, and placid spaces of evening. One of
the keepers, a very young soldier, won him at times, by his simple
kindness, to talk a little, with wonder at the lad's half-conscious,
poetic delight in the adventures of the journey. At times, the whole
company would lie down for rest at the roadside, hardly sheltered
from the storm; and in the deep fatigue of his spirit, his old
longing for inopportune sleep overpowered him.--Sleep anywhere, and
under any conditions, [216] seemed just then a thing one might well
exchange the remnants of one's life for.

It must have been about the fifth night, as he afterwards
conjectured, that the soldiers, believing him likely to die, had
finally left him unable to proceed further, under the care of some
country people, who to the extent of their power certainly treated
him kindly in his sickness. He awoke to consciousness after a severe
attack of fever, lying alone on a rough bed, in a kind of hut. It
seemed a remote, mysterious place, as he looked around in the
silence; but so fresh--lying, in fact, in a high pasture-land among
the mountains--that he felt he should recover, if he might but just
lie there in quiet long enough. Even during those nights of delirium
he had felt the scent of the new-mown hay pleasantly, with a dim
sense for a moment that he was lying safe in his old home. The
sunlight lay clear beyond the open door; and the sounds of the cattle
reached him softly from the green places around. Recalling
confusedly the torturing hurry of his late journeys, he dreaded, as
his consciousness of the whole situation returned, the coming of the
guards. But the place remained in absolute stillness. He was, in
fact, at liberty, but for his own disabled condition. And it was
certainly a genuine clinging to life that he felt just then, at the
very bottom of his mind. So it had been, obscurely, even through all
the wild fancies of his delirium, from the moment which followed
[217] his decision against himself, in favour of Cornelius.

The occupants of the place were to be heard presently, coming and
going about him on their business: and it was as if the approach of
death brought out in all their force the merely human sentiments.
There is that in death which certainly makes indifferent persons
anxious to forget the dead: to put them--those aliens--away out of
their thoughts altogether, as soon as may be. Conversely, in the
deep isolation of spirit which was now creeping upon Marius, the
faces of these people, casually visible, took a strange hold on his
affections; the link of general brotherhood, the feeling of human
kinship, asserting itself most strongly when it was about to be
severed for ever. At nights he would find this face or that
impressed deeply on his fancy; and, in a troubled sort of manner, his
mind would follow them onwards, on the ways of their simple, humdrum,
everyday life, with a peculiar yearning to share it with them,
envying the calm, earthy cheerfulness of all their days to be, still
under the sun, though so indifferent, of course, to him!--as if these
rude people had been suddenly lifted into some height of earthly
good-fortune, which must needs isolate them from himself.

Tristem neminen fecit+--he repeated to himself; his old prayer
shaping itself now almost as his epitaph. Yes! so much the very
hardest judge [218] must concede to him. And the sense of
satisfaction which that thought left with him disposed him to a
conscious effort of recollection, while he lay there, unable now even
to raise his head, as he discovered on attempting to reach a pitcher
of water which stood near. Revelation, vision, the discovery of a
vision, the seeing of a perfect humanity, in a perfect world--through
all his alternations of mind, by some dominant instinct, determined
by the original necessities of his own nature and character, he had
always set that above the having, or even the doing, of anything.
For, such vision, if received with due attitude on his part, was, in
reality, the being something, and as such was surely a pleasant
offering or sacrifice to whatever gods there might be, observant of
him. And how goodly had the vision been!--one long unfolding of
beauty and energy in things, upon the closing of which he might
gratefully utter his "Vixi!"+ Even then, just ere his eyes were to
be shut for ever, the things they had seen seemed a veritable
possession in hand; the persons, the places, above all, the touching
image of Jesus, apprehended dimly through the expressive faces, the
crying of the children, in that mysterious drama, with a sudden sense
of peace and satisfaction now, which he could not explain to himself.
Surely, he had prospered in life! And again, as of old, the sense of
gratitude seemed to bring with it the sense also of a living person
at his side.

[219] For still, in a shadowy world, his deeper wisdom had ever been,
with a sense of economy, with a jealous estimate of gain and loss, to
use life, not as the means to some problematic end, but, as far as
might be, from dying hour to dying hour, an end in itself--a kind of
music, all-sufficing to the duly trained ear, even as it died out on
the air. Yet now, aware still in that suffering body of such vivid
powers of mind and sense, as he anticipated from time to time how his
sickness, practically without aid as he must be in this rude place,
was likely to end, and that the moment of taking final account was
drawing very near, a consciousness of waste would come, with half-
angry tears of self-pity, in his great weakness--a blind, outraged,
angry feeling of wasted power, such as he might have experienced
himself standing by the deathbed of another, in condition like his

And yet it was the fact, again, that the vision of men and things,
actually revealed to him on his way through the world, had developed,
with a wonderful largeness, the faculties to which it addressed
itself, his general capacity of vision; and in that too was a
success, in the view of certain, very definite, well-considered,
undeniable possibilities. Throughout that elaborate and lifelong
education of his receptive powers, he had ever kept in view the
purpose of preparing himself towards possible further revelation some
day--towards some ampler vision, which [220] should take up into
itself and explain this world's delightful shows, as the scattered
fragments of a poetry, till then but half-understood, might be taken
up into the text of a lost epic, recovered at last. At this moment,
his unclouded receptivity of soul, grown so steadily through all
those years, from experience to experience, was at its height; the
house ready for the possible guest; the tablet of the mind white and
smooth, for whatsoever divine fingers might choose to write there.
And was not this precisely the condition, the attitude of mind, to
which something higher than he, yet akin to him, would be likely to
reveal itself; to which that influence he had felt now and again like
a friendly hand upon his shoulder, amid the actual obscurities of the
world, would be likely to make a further explanation? Surely, the
aim of a true philosophy must lie, not in futile efforts towards the
complete accommodation of man to the circumstances in which he
chances to find himself, but in the maintenance of a kind of candid
discontent, in the face of the very highest achievement; the
unclouded and receptive soul quitting the world finally, with the
same fresh wonder with which it had entered the world still
unimpaired, and going on its blind way at last with the consciousness
of some profound enigma in things, as but a pledge of something
further to come. Marius seemed to understand how one might look back
upon life here, and its [221] excellent visions, as but the portion
of a race-course left behind him by a runner still swift of foot: for
a moment he experienced a singular curiosity, almost an ardent desire
to enter upon a future, the possibilities of which seemed so large.

And just then, again amid the memory of certain touching actual words
and images, came the thought of the great hope, that hope against
hope, which, as he conceived, had arisen--Lux sedentibus in
tenebris+--upon the aged world; the hope Cornelius had seemed to bear
away upon him in his strength, with a buoyancy which had caused
Marius to feel, not so much that by a caprice of destiny, he had been
left to die in his place, as that Cornelius was gone on a mission to
deliver him also from death. There had been a permanent protest
established in the world, a plea, a perpetual after-thought, which
humanity henceforth would ever possess in reserve, against any wholly
mechanical and disheartening theory of itself and its conditions.
That was a thought which relieved for him the iron outline of the
horizon about him, touching it as if with soft light from beyond;
filling the shadowy, hollow places to which he was on his way with
the warmth of definite affections; confirming also certain
considerations by which he seemed to link himself to the generations
to come in the world he was leaving. Yes! through the survival of
their children, happy parents are able to [222] think calmly, and
with a very practical affection, of a world in which they are to have
no direct share; planting with a cheerful good-humour, the acorns
they carry about with them, that their grand-children may be shaded
from the sun by the broad oak-trees of the future. That is nature's
way of easing death to us. It was thus too, surprised, delighted,
that Marius, under the power of that new hope among men, could think
of the generations to come after him. Without it, dim in truth as it
was, he could hardly have dared to ponder the world which limited all
he really knew, as it would be when he should have departed from it.
A strange lonesomeness, like physical darkness, seemed to settle upon
the thought of it; as if its business hereafter must be, as far as he
was concerned, carried on in some inhabited, but distant and alien,
star. Contrariwise, with the sense of that hope warm about him, he
seemed to anticipate some kindly care for himself; never to fail even
on earth, a care for his very body-that dear sister and companion of
his soul, outworn, suffering, and in the very article of death, as it
was now.

For the weariness came back tenfold; and he had finally to abstain
from thoughts like these, as from what caused physical pain. And
then, as before in the wretched, sleepless nights of those forced
marches, he would try to fix his mind, as it were impassively, and
like a child thinking over the toys it loves, one after another, that
it [223] may fall asleep thus, and forget all about them the sooner,
on all the persons he had loved in life--on his love for them, dead
or living, grateful for his love or not, rather than on theirs for
him--letting their images pass away again, or rest with him, as they
would. In the bare sense of having loved he seemed to find, even amid
this foundering of the ship, that on which his soul might "assuredly
rest and depend." One after another, he suffered those faces and
voices to come and go, as in some mechanical exercise, as he might
have repeated all the verses he knew by heart, or like the telling of
beads one by one, with many a sleepy nod between-whiles.

For there remained also, for the old earthy creature still within
him, that great blessedness of physical slumber. To sleep, to lose
one's self in sleep--that, as he had always recognised, was a good
thing. And it was after a space of deep sleep that he awoke amid the
murmuring voices of the people who had kept and tended him so
carefully through his sickness, now kneeling around his bed: and what
he heard confirmed, in the then perfect clearness of his soul, the
inevitable suggestion of his own bodily feelings. He had often dreamt
he was condemned to die, that the hour, with wild thoughts of escape,
was arrived; and waking, with the sun all around him, in complete
liberty of life, had been full of gratitude for his place there,
alive still, in the [224] land of the living. He read surely, now,
in the manner, the doings, of these people, some of whom were passing
out through the doorway, where the heavy sunlight in very deed lay,
that his last morning was come, and turned to think once more of the
beloved. Often had he fancied of old that not to die on a dark or
rainy day might itself have a little alleviating grace or favour
about it. The people around his bed were praying fervently--Abi!
Abi! Anima Christiana!+ In the moments of his extreme helplessness
their mystic bread had been placed, had descended like a snow-flake
from the sky, between his lips. Gentle fingers had applied to hands
and feet, to all those old passage-ways of the senses, through which
the world had come and gone for him, now so dim and obstructed, a
medicinable oil. It was the same people who, in the gray, austere
evening of that day, took up his remains, and buried them secretly,
with their accustomed prayers; but with joy also, holding his death,
according to their generous view in this matter, to have been of the
nature of martyrdom; and martyrdom, as the church had always said, a
kind of sacrament with plenary grace.




217. +"He made no one unhappy."

218. +"I have lived!"

221. +From the Latin Vulgate Bible, Matthew 4:16: "populus qui
sedebat in tenebris lucem vidit magnam et sedentibus in regione et
umbra mortis lux orta est eis." King James Bible translation: "The
people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in
the region and shadow of death light is sprung up."

224. "Depart! Depart! Christian Soul!" The thought is from the
Catholic prayer for the departing.

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