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At the time of which we are speaking, the state of ecclesiastical affairs was anything but satisfactory, and Charlemagne, who deeply lamented that this should be the case, was very willing to be guided by Alcuin in the holy work of conducting a reformation of the Church of France. By his advice schools were founded in all the cities where a Bishop presided, and at all the great monasteries ; and to these were invited the most learned men that were to be found in other countries, many of whom had been pupils of Alcuin. But while Charlemagne occupied himself in promoting the spiritual advantage of his people, and in providing for their instruction in those studies which were to form and strengthen the mind for understanding the true faith, he did not lay aside his warlike inclinations, nor neglect to defend his kingdom against the incursions of his enemies. During the years which preceded 796, he had been occupied in wars against the Saxons and Huns, both which people he succeeded in reducing to obedience, and next turned his thoughts to the best means of introducing Christianity among the latter people.* He wrote to consult Alcuin on this point, wbo, after congratulating him on his success, advised him to proceed with mildness rather than harshness in the work of conversion. “Send to them gentle missionaries,” he said, “ and do not immediately require them to pay for their support.” He goes on to recommend the plan laid down by S. Augustine for their instruction. “ First teach them the immortality of the soul, the certainty of a life to come, the eternal reward of the righteous, and the judgment of the wicked, and what deeds they are by which man shapes his course to heaven or to hell. Then let them with great care be taught the faith in the Holy Trinity, and the coming of the Son of God into the world for the salvation of mankind.' Thus did the meek and gentle Alcuin seek to breathe into others that spirit of peace and love with which he was himself so richly endued; nor did he lose any opportunity of soliciting the emperor, whose friendship he enjoyed, to be merciful to his prisoners, and to spare the vanquished.
HERMAS AND IDONE.
(Concluded from p. 148.) In three days after the departure of Callistus, Idone was a second time ascending the hill where was built the hermitage of Geron. The old man knew his fair visitant, though time and sorrow had left their traces upon her cheeks, and she was no
* Wright's Biog. Brit. Literaria.
longer the Idone whom he had once seen. Himself seemed unchanged : his hair and beard were like the driven snow before, and they could grow no whiter; if the furrows on his brow were deeper, Idone's eyes could not discern it, his eye was still bright, and his mien still majestic. There was, however, an expression of deeper sympathy and commiseration on his countenance as he recognised Idone; and he hastened to prevent the question which he saw was trembling upon her lips. “ Yes, my daughter,” he said, “I have seen him. I could not fail to know thy son. Daughter, thou art blessed in thine offspring.” “Is he lost to me?” said Idone. “No! my daughter, he is not lost; thou wilt meet him hereafter.”
She received the blow without shrinking, though her pale face grew paler, and the old man feared that she would swoon. moment, she covered her eyes with her hands, and seated herself on a stone. " Tell me, father,” she said, “ tell me how he died.” He said, “I looked forth upon the plain betimes in the morning, and I saw a gallant young warrior speeding towards the castle. I saw him, and my heart yearned towards him; for I knew by the eagle on his shield, and by his noble and knightly bearing, that he must be the son of Hermas the son of Alciphron, and I guessed right well that thou hadst sent him to the rescue of his father. He paused not to look for the bridge as he approached the river, but he rode straight onward; and when he reached the bank, he gave his horse the spur, and both together plunged into the stream. I watched him as he emerged from the water, and climbed the steep pathway; I saw him strike upon the brazen gate, and blow the silver trumpet, and the stillness about me was so profound that I could well-nigh believe I heard the echoes of the horn; I saw how the castle gate was opened from within, and I marked the haughty stride of Biastes as he came forth to the fight. Methought his demeanour was scornful, but soon he learned that scorn was misplaced, for seldom has it been my lot to see a combat better disputed than that which followed. Thrice did the young Christian drive the foe back to the very threshold of his gate, and thrice was he foiled in his endeavours to force a passage into the stronghold. At length the fight began to flag; and as the sun beat fiercely upon their heads, the two warriors paused awhile, and each unlaced his helmet, and turned his face to the breeze. Lady, I saw how the page of Biastes brought him food and wine; I saw, too, how thy son took from his saddle-bow a flask of liquor, but ere" he could raise it to his lips, an arrow struck his hand; I looked and saw the page with a bended bow fitting another to the string, and still as the youth essayed to drink, another and another shaft succeeded. They pierced' not his armour, for they were shot by the hand of a boy, but while he sought to shelter himself from the annoyance, the giant came upon him in his strength.
Lady, I would spare thee the rest-enough, thy son has shown himself worthy of his sire; thou wilt see him no more on earth: in heaven thou mayest meet him, and ye shall rejoice together.”
Mother,” said the fair-haired Eunices, “why weepest thou so? Thou hast ever been sad since my brothers left us; but methinks to-night thou art sadder than is thy wont?” “ Knowest thou not this day, my son ?” said Idone. “ Dost thou not remember that this day is to me and to mine house a day of lamentation, yea, and shall so continue, as long as I have sighs to breathe, or tears to spend ?”
Alas, my mother,” said the youth, “I do remember me now, and repent that I have added to thy load of sorrow by my question. Yes, I do remember that on this day last year thou didst bid farewell to my brother Elfridas.” “Yes, my son, and on this day, two years ago, did I bid farewell to thy brother Callistus; and on this day ten years ago did I bid farewell to thy father Hermas. I am bereaved, oh my son; of all that were my dearest am I bereaved, save of thee; and thou, too, art thou to be taken from me, my child ?”
“Why should I be taken from thee, mother ?” said the youth,“ my father and my brothers left thee, and they returned not again; I will not leave thee, my mother, then who shall take me from thee ?”
.“ Will the young lion forsake the ways of his sire, my son ? will the youthful knight forget to desire honour, and the shout of victory, and the garland of immortality? And will he stay at home from the field while his young compeers turn in the midst of their triumphs to point with the finger of scorn at the laggard ? Canst thou do this, my son, for thy mother's sake?” “ I can," said Eunices, “I can resign the hope of fame; I can endure the finger of scorn, if so doing I may hope to cheer the sorrows of my mother. Mother, I will not leave thee.”
For a moment Idone wavered in her resolution ; she gazed fondly upon the bright countenance of her son; she pressed him to her bosom; and half formed a sentence of thanksgiving that she was yet permitted to save one, though it were but one, of those she loved from the destruction which had fallen upon the rest. But there was an expression in the face of the boy, as she looked again, which reminded her of his father. The moment of weakness was over. “ Thou art the son of Hermas,” said she, “and Hermas is a captive. Wilt thou linger now, Eunices ?" Her heart smote her ere the words were well uttered; but it was too late. Eunices drew himself to his full height and raised his hand to heaven. Mother,"
,” he said, “ that may not be. Tell me where my father is, that I may go and release him; and I will bring him back to thee, and we will live together.”
“ Alas, my
return to me.
son," said Idone, “when thy father went to the battle, I never trembled, for I looked assuredly that he would return in triumph; but he fell before his foe, and he returned not. Then went out thy brother Callistus, and he was goodly and brave. I trusted that he would return in triumph; but he fell, and he can never
Yet once more, when Elfridas went forth, I gathered up my courage, and I hoped even against hope, that the victory was now nigh at hand; but it was as before, and my son returned not. Oh! Eunices, my child, my child, I will not keep thee from thy glorious mission; go, and may Heaven be with thee; but I send thee not forth in hope ; I send thee forth to die, my son; for well am I assured that if we part now we shall not meet again until we meet in heaven."
The morning sun rose with unusual brilliancy, and the face of heaven and of earth appeared to smile as Eunices braced on his armour, now for the first time to be essayed in fight, and went forth to the chamber of his mother to bid her farewell.
She, too, seemed to have tasted of the joy of the morning, for her countenance beamed with an expression far different from the look of sorrow which she had worn on the preceding evening. “I have seen him, my son,” she said, as Eunices entered, “ I have seen my husband. For ten long years have we been parted, and never has his image visited my sleep, though my waking hours have still been given to his memory. Methought he came to me this night, not as was his wont, with a cheerful look, and with words of comfort, but mournful and dejected. I stretched out my arms to embrace him, I called him to me; a deeper gloom passed over his countenance. I shuddered and turned away; for it was strange to me to see him so. As I turned, my eye seemed to fall upon the bower which he named the bower of family affection, and I saw that the wreath which hung over the seat of my firstborn was faded away. Again I turned to embrace my lord, his face grew yet darker than before, and he pointed again to the bower. The wreath of Elfridas—that, too, was withered. Then methought a change came over me; my eyes were opened, and I seemed to see new life in all around me; the spirits of the unseen world were revealed to me, and the conflict which they tell us is continually being waged by the evil powers upon the good became manifest to my sight. Then saw I where the Angel of Death came flying past, with the sword of flame in his right hand, and his breath parched up all before him. He directed his flight to thy wreath, my child--a moment more and it, too, would have withered, but it was a moment of strength to me. I placed myself in his track, I raised my arm to heaven-methought he turned aside, and as he passed, his hot breath scorched my cheek; but a strong arm caught me as I fell, and I saw my lord, my Hermas, fairer than he was in his youth, bright as one of the angels of light around us, and he smiled upon me with a heavenly smile, and I revived. The sun which rose at that moment broke my sleep, and I awoke to life and joy.”
“ Mother," said Eunices, “thy sorrows are wellnigh ended. Farewell, I will return, and bring thee back my father.” “ Nay, my son,” said Idone, “Callistus fell, for he had no one with him to refresh him in the hour of need. Elfridas took with him a servant, one who had eaten of his bread and dwelt under his roof, but the recreant turned aside in the moment of need, and my son was overpowered. Shall it then be so with thee, my child ? Not so: for I will go with thee, and the pagan shall know whether a mother's heart can be daunted as the heart of an hireling."
It was in vain that Eunices endeavoured to turn her from her purpose. She was resolved, and all his efforts to dissuade her only made her more earnest. So they prepared themselves to go together.
Upon a splendid warhorse richly caparisoned, whose graceful neck was arched as though he were proud of his burden, sat Eunices armed in a complete suit of mail, with a nodding ostrich feather for his plume, and beneath the eagle on his shield, he bore the motto “ LOVE.”
Idone rode by his side upon a palfrey which had often borne her when she accompanied Hermas on his journeys, or to his sports. She had laden him with bread and wine, and by her side she also carried the ancient shield of Alciphron which she had taken down from the hall where for many years it had hung undisturbed. The countenance of the youth was frank and joyous; his mother also was cheerful, but there was a tinge of sadness on her brow, for she could not but remember the losses she had sustained, nor was her heart altogether free from apprehension even as to the result of this contest. She said nothing, however, which could discourage her young hero, but even stirred him up to fresh enthusiasm by recounting to him the deeds of his father, and the fair promise of his brothers.
So they rode together till they came to the castle of Biastes. The sun shone bright upon the battlements as they approached, and his rays touched the shield of Hermas where it hung, and the polished steel reflected them like a mirror. Idone pointed out to her son the proud trophy of the pagan. His blood boiled, but he spoke not. He set spurs to his charger, and crossing the bridge, rode boldly up to the brazen portal. Thrice he struck loudly upon the gate with the hilt of his cross-handled sword, but no answer was returned, and the echoes died away in the distance. Thrice he blew with all his might into the silver horn; the blasts woke the stag from his distant couch, but silence ensued, and no answer