The Capture of Chrysostom
Fortune? There is no fortune! All is trial, or punishment, or recompense, or foresight. -- Voltaire.

It was a morning in February. Chrysostom was arranging with the faithful and indefatigable Philip the duties of the day after they had shared the morning meal of bread and dates. Suddenly they heard a summons at the door, and old Phlegon came in to say that there stood outside a slave in the gorgeous livery of the governor of the city, who had brought a letter.

What can he want at this early hour?' said Philip as he cut the silken band; broke the Government seal, and handed the letter to the Presbyter. Chrysostom read with some surprise, 'Asterius, Count of the East, requests the Presbyter John to give him the honour of his company an hour hence at the Roman Gate, that he may have the advantage of visiting in his company the Martyry of St. Lucianus.'

He handed it to Philip with a smile.

Well, that upsets all our plans,' said Philip. But how odd! An interest in martyries was the last thing of which I should have suspected his Excellency. But it will be a delightful little excursion along the banks of the Orontes. You will let me walk with you as far as the Roman Gate? We must start almost immediately to get there in time.'

A few minutes later they set forth from the house in Singon Street, in which Chrysostom had been born, in which he had lived nearly all his life, and in which his father Secundus, his mother Anthusa, and his only sister had died. It was a burning morning of the Syrian spring, and as they passed in happy spirits through the streets -- gazing now at the great Charonium, now at the statue of the Fortune of Antioch, now at the house which had been Philip's former home, and now at the glancing river, seen in glimpses here and there, and at the long colonnades, and the palaces, and the distant hills gleaming in the sunshine -- the last thought which could occur to their minds would have been that thenceforth, to one of them for long years, and to the other for ever, those bright scenes would from that moment vanish from their lives, that they would never again tread, side by side, those old, familiar streets. Chrysostom could not have left the home of his parents, of his childhood, and of so many happy and fruitful years, without many a sob had he distantly suspected that when he walked from his paternal door so unconsciously he would never again set foot upon its threshold. Philip's heart would have been torn with reminiscences of his father's execution, his mother's sad death, his cruel punishment, the horrible fate of his boyish friends, if he could have dreamed how long it was before he could look on Antioch again.

A little before they reached the Roman Gate Asterius met them, all smiles and complaisance. Several of his bodyguard and slaves had escorted him, and fell back as Chrysostom and Philip approached. They were a little at a loss to know why he smiled so much, and was so very deferential; but they were soon to learn that

A man may smile, and smile, and be...

-- well, no, not exactly a villain, but the accomplice in a little plot.

The Martyry was not far beyond the city walls, and lay in an umbrageous grove of oaks and laurels. Asterius was walking with Chrysostom, and Philip followed them, a little in front of the escort. But no sooner had they turned into the path which led to the chapel than Asterius took Chrysostom by the arm, and requested him to step into a chariot which was there waiting.

I am sorry, Count,' said Chrysostom, but I have my duties at Antioch, and directly we have paid our devotions at the shrine of the martyr I must return.'

Pray oblige me,' said the Count, still all smiles; and meanwhile the escort had come up, and, with gentle and respectful violence, lifted the astonished and agitated Presbyter into the chariot, and instantly started off at full speed.

What is this, Count? What does this violence mean? Have you entrapped me? What has happened? Am I to be suddenly murdered, as Count Lucian was?'

Pray be at ease, Father,' said the Count. I cannot explain matters at present, but not the smallest harm or incivility is intended you.'

Incivility!' said Chrysostom. Is it, then, no incivility to seize an unoffending presbyter, entrap him into a chariot, and drive away with him he knows not where?'

Pardon me, dear Presbyter,' said the Count, still with a smile of provoking amiability. The chariot is bounding along at such a rate over this paved road that I can scarcely hear you. But, pray, do not be agitated. Not the least injury will be done. Quite the contrary. I am only taking you a little drive as far as Pagræ, the first station.'

Chrysostom sank into silence, for, though he was lost in the wildest conjectures, it seemed useless to attempt to obtain any more information from the sphinx-like Count.

But Philip?

When the chariot bounded off at full speed he was extremely alarmed, and all the more because before it disappeared in a cloud of dust the soldiers and slaves who had accompanied the Count burst into roars of laughter. They were not in the secret, but they knew that no crime was meditated, and to them the situation had considerable elements of amusement. To Philip's wildly-eager inquiries they could furnish no information, beyond the assurance of Asterius that all was well, and that they should hear more on the Count's return. One thing only they were sure of -- that Chrysostom would be detained away from Antioch for some time.

Philip was a youth of courage and swift decision. He instantly determined what to do. He hurried back through the Roman Gate, hired a horse, galloped to Singon Street, told the troubled servants that their master had been taken off by Count Asterius, and would be absent for some time. Then, not wasting a moment, he threw into a leathern bag some of Chrysostom's manuscripts and the things which he thought he would most immediately need, and once more galloped towards Pagræ at the utmost speed to which he could urge his horse.

A little before he reached the station, which was twelve miles from Antioch, he met the returning chariot of Asterius, in which, besides the Count, there was only one attendant and the charioteer. Asterius seemed still to be lost in smiles. He had a notion that the Presbyter John would be in a perfectly ecstatic state of mind when he first learnt the secret that he was to be Patriarch of Constantinople. [6]

Philip reined in his horse, and, forgetful of everything but his own alarm, called to the Count:

Oh, my lord! what has become of the Presbyter John?'

Don't be alarmed, my good youth,' said the Count, waving to him a gracious and much-ringed hand, but not stopping the chariot.

Philip again darted forward.

At Pagræ there was quite a commotion -- for there were two imperial chariots, with their gorgeously caparisoned horses, and by them stood two persons, evidently of the highest distinction, escorted by two decuries of mounted soldiers in full armour, which flashed in the sunlight.

There were again the same mysterious smiles, the same marked deference, but the same obvious determination to control the movements of Chrysostom. The two officials at once approached with most courteous salutations.

I,' said one of them, advancing, am Amantius, the almoner of the Empress Eudoxia, and I offer my most respectful greetings to John the Presbyter.'

And I,' said the other, am Aurelian, Magister Militum of the Emperor Arcadius. And these two bands of soldiers are at your service as an escort, for they are under my command.'

What do you want with me?' said Chrysostom, indignantly. 'The Count of the East has simply carried me hither against my will.'

I fear we shall have to take the liberty of conveying you a little farther,' said Aurelian, with polite deference.

Whither?' said Chrysostom.

Aurelian glanced at Amantius, to know whether it was safe to tell him his destination. The official shook his head.

At present, John, we cannot tell you,' he said; you shall know a little farther on.'

But I have brought absolutely nothing with me. I merely started from home for a morning walk. May I not send to Antioch for things absolutely necessary?'

We have everything which you can possibly require, and it is entirely at your disposal. But, pardon me, time is very precious. We have ample refreshments for you in the chariot, and at the next station we will sup.'

At this moment Philip galloped into the courtyard of the hostelry, and, catching sight of his master and adopted father, flung himself into his arms, and asked what had happened.

You must ask these gentlemen, my Philip,' said the Presbyter. They will give me no information.'

I have brought you some things from home,' said Philip, and wherever you go I will go.'

Nay, that cannot be, my good youth,' said Aurelian, kindly. We have no orders to conduct anyone but John.'

Philip glanced from the soldier to the kind face of the eunuch, who seemed to be higher in authority, and he said:

Oh, sir! may I speak to you privately?'

Only for one moment, then,' replied Amantius, stepping aside; we are wasting very precious time.'

Sir,' said Philip, the Presbyter John is a man of very delicate health. His digestion was utterly ruined when he lived as a hermit in the cave on Mount Silpius. In everything which concerns himself he is as simple as a child. He would never trouble himself about food or anything else unless someone attended to him. I have waited on him for years as a son. I entreat you, let me accompany him. I will be entirely faithful. I will make no plots. I am ready to go with him either to prison or to death.'

You are a brave and gracious youth,' said Amantius, gazing with admiration on Philip's flushed but beautiful face. Well, I will stretch a point, and will speak to the Commandant.'

He told Aurelian what the youth had said.

Will you be responsible for him?' asked the soldier.


Then he may come. But we must at once mount the chariots. Young man,' he said to Philip, we are sending one of our soldiers to Asterius. He can ride your horse back to Antioch, and you can borrow his.'

And feel no alarm, my young friend,' said Amantius. 'John is happy to have such a faithful attendant as you.'

I thank you, sir,' said Philip. He has twice saved my life. I owe him everything.'

Forward, soldiers!' shouted Aurelian; and the chariots, with their mounted escort, started at full gallop.

It was useless to ask any more questions. If he attempted to do so,

The Chamberlain, sedate and vain,

In courteous words returned reply,

But dallied with his golden chain,

And, smiling, put the question by.

But Chrysostom, who was accustomed to kind care in all personal matters, as greatly cheered and relieved, whatever should happen, by the company of his beloved and faithful Philip; and for the rest, wholly unable to conjecture in his simple mind what the future had in store for him, he resigned himself and his fortunes into the hand of God.


[6] The actual name Patriarch' is not found in public documents till rather later, but the historian Socrates uses it, and it was almost certainly current in common parlance.

chapter xiv another archbishop
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