Serapis — Volume 05

Serapis — Volume 05

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The Project Gutenberg EBook Serapis, by Georg Ebers, Volume 5. #66 in our series by Georg EbersCopyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloadingor redistributing this or any other Project Gutenberg eBook.This header should be the first thing seen when viewing this Project Gutenberg file. Please do not remove it. Do notchange or edit the header without written permission.Please read the "legal small print," and other information about the eBook and Project Gutenberg at the bottom of thisfile. Included is important information about your specific rights and restrictions in how the file may be used. You can alsofind out about how to make a donation to Project Gutenberg, and how to get involved.**Welcome To The World of Free Plain Vanilla Electronic Texts****EBooks Readable By Both Humans and By Computers, Since 1971*******These EBooks Were Prepared By Thousands of Volunteers*****Title: Serapis, Volume 5.Author: Georg EbersRelease Date: April, 2004 [EBook #5505] [Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule] [This file was first postedon June 5, 2002]Edition: 10Language: English*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK SERAPIS, BY GEORG EBERS, V5 ***This eBook was produced by David Widger [NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the file for those who may wish to sample the author'sideas before making an entire meal of them. D.W ...

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The Project Gutenberg EBook Serapis, by GeorgEbers, Volume 5. #66 in our series by Georg EbersCopyright laws are changing all over the world. Besure to check the copyright laws for your countrybefore downloading or redistributing this or anyother Project Gutenberg eBook.This header should be the first thing seen whenviewing this Project Gutenberg file. Please do notremove it. Do not change or edit the headerwithout written permission.Please read the "legal small print," and otherinformation about the eBook and ProjectGutenberg at the bottom of this file. Included isimportant information about your specific rights andrestrictions in how the file may be used. You canalso find out about how to make a donation toProject Gutenberg, and how to get involved.**Welcome To The World of Free Plain VanillaElectronic Texts****EBooks Readable By Both Humans and ByComputers, Since 1971*******These EBooks Were Prepared By Thousandsof Volunteers*****Title: Serapis, Volume 5.
Author: Georg EbersRelease Date: April, 2004 [EBook #5505] [Yes, weare more than one year ahead of schedule] [Thisfile was first posted on June 5, 2002]Edition: 10Language: English START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG***EBOOK SERAPIS, BY GEORG EBERS, V5 ***This eBook was produced by David Widger<widger@cecomet.net>[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, orpointers, at the end of the file for those who maywish to sample the author's ideas before makingan entire meal of them. D.W.]SERAPIS
By Georg EbersVolume 5.CHAPTER XX.Gorgo, when she had left her grandmother, couldnot rest. Her lofty calmness of demeanor had givenway to a restless mood such as she had alwayscontemned severely in others, since she hadceased to be a vehement child and grown to be awoman. She tried to beguile the alarm that madeher pulses beat so quickly, and the heart-sicknessthat ached like a wound, by music and singing; butthis only added to her torment. The means bywhich she could usually recover her equanimity ofmind had lost their efficacy, and Sappho's longinghymn, which she began to sing, had only served tobring the fervid longing of her own heart to light—to set it, as it were, in the full glare of the sun. Shehad become aware that every fibre, every nerve ofher being yearned for the man she loved; shewould have thrown away her life like a hollow nutfor one single hour of perfect joy with him and inhim. The faith in the old gods, the heathen worldwhich contained the ideal of her young soul, herdetestation of Christianity, her beautiful art—everything, in short, that had filled the spiritual sideof her life, was cast into the shade by the oneabsorbing passion that possessed her soul. Every
feeling, every instinct, urged her to abandonherself entirely to her lover, and yet she never forone instant doubted which side she would take inthe approaching conflict of the great powers thatruled the world. The last few hours had onlyconfirmed her conviction that the end of all thingswas at hand. The world was on the eve ofdestruction; she foresaw that she must perish—perish with Constantine, and that, in her eyes, wasa grace from the gods.While Damia was vainly struggling to liberate hersoul from the bondage of the flesh, Gorgo hadbeen wandering uneasily about the house; nowgoing to the slaves, encouraging them with bravewords, and giving them employment to keep themfrom utter desperation, and then stealing up to seewhether her grandmother might not by this time bein need of her. As it grew dark she observed thatseveral of the women, and even some of the men,had made their escape. These were such as hadalready shown a leaning towards the new faith, andwho now made off to join their fellow- Christians, orto seek refuge in the churches under the protectionof the crucified God whose supreme power might,perhaps, even yet, avert the impendingcatastrophe.Twice had Porphyrius sent a messenger to assurehis mother and daughter that all was well with him,that a powerful party was prepared to defend theSerapeum, and that he should pass the night in thetemple. The Romans were evidently hesitating toattack it, and if, next morning, the heathen should
succeed in repelling the first onset, reinforcementsmight yet be brought up in time. Gorgo could notshare these hopes; a client of her father's hadbrought in a rumor that the Biamites, afteradvancing as far as Naucratis, had been dispersedby a few of the Imperial maniples. Fate wasstalking on its way, and no one could give it pause.The evening brought no coolness, and when it wasalready quite dark, as her grandmother had not yetcalled her, Gorgo could no longer control herincreasing anxiety, so, after knocking in vain at thedoor of the observatory, she went in. Her old nursepreceded her with a lamp, and the two womenstood dumb with consternation, for the old lady laysenseless on the ground. Her head was thrownback against the seat of the chair off which shehad slipped, and her pale face was lifeless andhorrible to look at, with its half-closed eyes anddropped jaw. Wine, water, and strong essenceswere all at hand, and they laid the unconsciouswoman on a couch intended for the occasional useof the wearied observer. In a few minutes they hadsucceeded in reviving the old lady; but her eyesrested without recognition on the girl who knelt byher side, and she murmured to herself: "Theravens—where are they gone? Ravens!"Her glance wandered round the room, to thetablets and rolls which had been tossed off thecouch and the table to make room for her, and forthe lamps and medicaments. They lay in disorderon the floor, and the sight of this confusionproduced a favorable excitement and reaction; she
succeeded in expressing herself in husky accentsand broken, hardly intelligible sentences, so far asto scold them sharply for their irreverence for theprecious documents, and for the disorder they hadcreated. The waiting-woman proceeded to pickthem up: but Damia again became unconscious.Gorgo bathed her brow and tried to pour somewine between her teeth, but she clenched them toofirmly, till the slave-woman came to her assistanceand they succeeded in making Damia swallow afew drops. The old woman opened her eyes,smacking her tongue feebly; but she took the cupinto her own hand to hold it to her lips; and thoughshe trembled so that half the contents were spilt,she drank eagerly till it was quite empty. "More,"she gasped with the eagerness of intense thirst,"more—I want drink !"Gorgo gave her a second and a third draughtwhich Damia drank with equal eagerness; then,with a deep breath, she looked up fully conscious,at her granddaughter."Thank you, child," she said. "Now I shall do verywell for a little while. The material world and all thatbelongs to it weighs us down and clings to us likeiron fetters. We may long and strive to be free, butit pursues us and holds us fast. Only those whoare content with their miserable humanity canenjoy it. They laugh, as you know, at Praxilla, thepoetess, because she makes the dying Adonislament, when face to face with death, that he isforced to leave the apples and pears behind him.But is not that subtly true? Yes, yes; Praxilla is
right! We fast, we mortify ourselves—I have felt itall myself—to partake of divinity. We almost perishof hunger and thirst, when we might be so happy ifonly we would be satisfied with apples and pears!No man has ever yet succeeded in the great effort;those who would be truly happy must be contentwith small things. That is what makes children sohappy. Apples and pears! Well, everything will beat an end for me ere long—even those. But if thegreat First Cause spares himself in the universalcrash, there is still the grand idea of Apples andPears; and who knows but that it may please Him,when this world is destroyed, to frame another tocome after it. Will He then once more embody theideas of Man—and Apples and Pears? It would beplagiarism from himself. Nay, if He is merciful, Hewill never again give substance to that hybrid ideacalled Man; or, if He does, He will let the poorwretch be happy with apples and pears—I meantrivial joys; for all higher joys, be they what theymay, are vanity and vexation…. Give me anotherdraught. Ah, that is good! And to-morrow is theend. I could find it in my heart to regret the goodgifts of Dionysus myself; it is better than applesand pears; next to that comes the joy that Erosbestows on mortals, and there must be an end toall that, too. That, however, is above the level ofapples and pears. It is great, very great happiness,and mingled therefor with bitter sorrow. Raptureand anguish—who can lay down the border linethat divides them? Smiles and tears alike belong toboth. And you are weeping? Aye, aye— poor child!Come here and kiss me." Damia drew the head ofthe kneeling girl close to her bosom and pressed
her lips to Gorge's brow. Presently, however, sherelaxed her embrace and, looking about the room,she exclaimed:"How you have mixed and upset the book-rolls! Ifonly I could show you how clearly everythingagrees and coincides. We know now exactly how itwill all happen. By the day after to-morrow therewill be no more earth, no more sky; and I will tellyou this, child: If, when Serapis falls, the universedoes not crumble to pieces like a ruinous hovel,then the wisdom of the Magians is a lie, the courseof the stars has nothing to do with the destinies ofthe earth and its inhabitants, the planets are merelamps, the sun is no more than a luminousfurnace, the old gods are marsh-fires, emanationsfrom the dark bog of men's minds—and the greatSerapis… But why be angry with him? There is nodoubt—no if nor but ….Give me the diptychon andI will show you our doom. There—just here—mysight is so dazzled, I cannot make it out.—And if Icould, what matter? Who can alter here belowwhat has been decided above? Leave me to sleepnow, and I will explain it all to you to-morrow ifthere is still time. Poor child, when I think how wehave tormented you to learn what you know, andhow industrious you have been! And now—to whatend? I ask you, to what end? The great gulf willswallow up one and all"."So be it, so be it !" cried Gorgo interrupting her."Then, at any rate, nothing that I love on earth willbe lost to me before I die!"
"And the enemy will perish in the same ruin!"continued Damia, her eyes sparkling with revivedfire. "But where shall we go to—where? The soul isdivine by nature and cannot be destroyed. It mustreturn—say, am I right or wrong?—It will return toits first fount and cause; for like attracts andabsorbs like, and thus our deification, our unionwith the god will be accomplished.""I believe it—I am sure of it!" replied Gorgo withconviction."You are sure of it?" retorted the old woman. "But Iam not. For our clearest knowledge is butguesswork when it is not based on numbers.Nothing is proved or provable but by numbers, butthey are surer than the rocks in the sea; that iswhy I believe in our coming doom, for, on thosetablets, we have calculated it to a certainty. Butwho can calculate evidence of the future fate of thesoul? If, indeed, the old order should not passaway—if the depths should remain below and theempyrean still keep its place above—then, to besure, your studies would not be in vain; for thenyour soul, which is fixed on spiritual, supernaturaland sublime conceptions, would be drawn upwardsto the great Intelligence of which it is the offspring,to the very god, and become one with him—absorbed into him, as the rain-drop fallen from acloud rises again and is reunited to its parentvapor. Then—for there may be a metempsychosis—your songful spirit might revive to inform anightingale, then . . ."
Damia paused; and gazed upwards as if inecstasy, and it was not till a few minutes later thatshe went on, with a changed expression in herface: "Then my son's widow, Mary, would behatched out of a serpent's egg and would creep awrithing asp… Great gods! the ravens! What canthey mean? They come again. Air, air! Wine! Icannot—I am choking—take it away!—To-morrow—to-day… Everything is going; do you see—doyou feel? It is all black—no, red; and now blackagain. Everything is sinking; hold me, save me; thefloor is going from under me.—Where isPorphyrius? Where is my son?—My feet are socold; rub them. It is the water! rising—it is up to myknees. I am sinking—help! save me! help!" Thedying woman fought with her arms as if she weredrowning; her cries for help grew fainter, her headdrooped on her laboring chest, and in a fewminutes she had breathed her last in hergrandchild's arms, and her restless, suffering soulwas free.Never before had Gorgo seen death. She could notpersuade herself that the heart which had been socold for others, but had throbbed so warmly andtenderly for her, was now stilled for ever; that thespirit which, even in sleep, had never been at rest,had now found eternal peace. The slave-womanhad hastily taken her place, had closed the deadwoman's eyes and mouth, and done all she couldto diminish the horror of the scene, and the terribleaspect of the dead in the sight of the girl who hadbeen her one darling. But Gorgo had remained byher side, and, while she did everything in her power