BOOK THE FIRST
8. Chapter VIII
ARBACES COGS HIS DICE WITH PLEASURE AND WINS THE GAME.
THE evening darkened over the restless city as Apaecides took his way to the
house of the Egyptian. He avoided the more lighted and populous streets;
and as he strode onward with his head buried in his bosom, and his arms
folded within his robe, there was something startling in the contrast, which
his solemn mien and wasted form presented to the thoughtless brows and
animated air of those who occasionally crossed his path.
At length, however, a man of a more sober and staid demeanor, and who had
twice passed him with a curious but doubting look, touched him on the
'Apaecides!' said he, and he made a rapid sign with his hands: it was the
sign of the cross.
'Well, Nazarene,' replied the priest, and his face grew paler; 'what wouldst
'Nay,' returned the stranger, 'I would not interrupt thy meditations; but
the last time we met, I seemed not to be so unwelcome.'
'You are not unwelcome, Olinthus; but I am sad and weary: nor am I able this
evening to discuss with you those themes which are most acceptable to you.'
'O backward of heart!' said Olinthus, with bitter fervor; and art thou sad
and weary, and wilt thou turn from the very springs that refresh and heal?'
'O earth!' cried the young priest, striking his breast passionately, 'from
what regions shall my eyes open to the true Olympus, where thy gods really
dwell? Am I to believe with this man, that none whom for so many centuries
my fathers worshipped have a being or a name? Am I to break down, as
something blasphemous and profane, the very altars which I have deemed most
sacred? or am I to think with Arbaces--what?' He paused, and strode rapidly
away in the impatience of a man who strives to get rid of himself. But the
Nazarene was one of those hardy, vigorous, and enthusiastic men, by whom God
in all times has worked the revolutions of earth, and those, above all, in
the establishment and in the reformation of His own religion--men who were
formed to convert, because formed to endure. It is men of this mould whom
nothing discourages, nothing dismays; in the fervor of belief they are
inspired and they inspire. Their reason first kindles their passion, but
the passion is the instrument they use; they force themselves into men's
hearts, while they appear only to appeal to their judgment. Nothing is so
contagious as enthusiasm; it is the real allegory of the tale of Orpheus--it
moves stones, it charms brutes. Enthusiasm is the genius of sincerity, and
truth accomplishes no victories without it.