BOOK THE FIFTH
5. Chapter V
'Fly! seek thy brethren!--Concert with them thy escape. Farewell!'
Olinthus did not answer, neither did he mark the retreating form of his
friend. High thoughts and solemn absorbed his soul: and in the enthusiasm
of his kindling heart, he exulted in the mercy of God rather than trembled
at the evidence of His power.
At length he roused himself, and hurried on, he scarce knew whither.
The open doors of a dark, desolate cell suddenly appeared on his path;
through the gloom within there flared and flickered a single lamp; and by
its light he saw three grim and naked forms stretched on the earth in death.
His feet were suddenly arrested; for, amidst the terror of that drear
recess--the spoliarium of the arena--he heard a low voice calling on the
name of Christ!
He could not resist lingering at that appeal: he entered the den, and his
feet were dabbled in the slow streams of blood that gushed from the corpses
over the sand.
'Who,' said the Nazarene, 'calls upon the son of God?'
No answer came forth; and turning round, Olinthus beheld, by the light of
the lamp, an old grey-headed man sitting on the floor, and supporting in his
lap the head of one of the dead. The features of the dead man were firmly
and rigidly locked in the last sleep; but over the lip there played a fierce
smile--not the Christian's smile of hope, but the dark sneer of hatred and
defiance. Yet on the face still lingered the beautiful roundness of early
youth. The hair curled thick and glossy over the unwrinkled brow; and the
down of manhood but slightly shaded the marble of the hueless cheek. And
over this face bent one of such unutterable sadness--of such yearning
tenderness--of such fond and such deep despair! The tears of the old man
fell fast and hot, but he did not feel them; and when his lips moved, and he
mechanically uttered the prayer of his benign and hopeful faith, neither his
heart nor his sense responded to the words: it was but the involuntary
emotion that broke from the lethargy of his mind. His boy was dead, and had
died for him!--and the old man's heart was broken!