A CHRISTIAN HOUSEHOLD
 WE will follow one party of worshipers to their own
home, a farmhouse lying about a mile further from the
city than the chapel which has just been described.
This party consists of four persons, a husband and
wife, and two daughters.
The head of this little family is a man who may perhaps
count seventy summers. But though seventy years
commonly mean much more in the East than they do in our
more temperate climate, he shows few signs of age,
beyond the white hair, itself long and abundant, which
may be seen under his broad-brimmed hat. His tread is
firm, his figure erect, his cheek ruddy with health,
his eyes full of fire; yet he had seen much service, of
one kind or another, during these threescore years and
ten. Bion, for that was the veteran's name, was a
Syrian by birth. He had followed Antiochus, son of the
tributary king who ruled part of
 Northern Syria under
the Romans, to the siege of Jerusalem. A more
hot-headed, hare-brained pair than the young prince and
his favourite aide-de-camp could not have been found.
They laughed to scorn the caution of the Romans in
attacking the great city by regular approaches. "We
will show you the way in," said the prince to the
centurion who showed him the works.
Of course this effort failed. If success had been
possible in this way the Romans would have achieved it
long before. Scarcely a third of the Syrian
contingent came back alive from the forlorn hope to
which they had been led. Bion was one of the
survivors, but he was desperately wounded, and had not
recovered in time to take part in the final assault.
He did not lose, indeed, either pay or promotion.
Before he was five-and-twenty he was commander-in-chief
of the army which the Syrian king was permitted to
This was a sufficiently dignified post, and his pay,
coming as it did from what was notoriously the best
furnished treasury in Asia, was ample. He might have
been satisfied, if he had been content to be a show
soldier. But he was not content; and unfortunately,
now that the turbulent Jews had been quieted, it
seemed, for good, there appeared no chance of being anything
else. His restless spirit led him into
intrigues with the
 Parthians: a compromising letter
fell into the hands of the Roman Governor, and he had
barely time to escape across the Euphrates. The
Parthians, with whom he now took service, gave him
fighting enough with the wild tribes who were
perpetually trespassing over their northern and eastern
Again his reckless valour brought him promotion; and his
promotion brought him enemies. An arrow which
certainly could not have come from any but his own men,
missed him only by a hair's-breadth; two nights
afterwards, the cords of his tent were cut, and he
narrowly escaped the dagger which was driven several
times through the canvas before he could extricate
himself from the ruins; and it was nothing but a vague
feeling of suspicion, for which he could not account,
that kept him from draining a wine-cup which had been
poisoned for his benefit. These were hints that it was
well to take. He left the camp without saying a word
to any one, and made the best of his way out of
The difficulty was where to go. The world in those
days consisted of Parthia and Rome, and he was not safe
in either. Nothing was left for him, he thought, but
becoming a brigand; and a brigand he accordingly
became. It was a perilous profession, for the Roman
governors of Asia kept
 a strict look-out, and did not
approve of any one plundering the provincials but
themselves. One band after another that he joined was
broken up, and at last he bound himself to one in the
neighbourhood of Ephesus. His chief here was a young
man of singular beauty, and of a fine, generous temper
who had been driven into this lawless life by the
oppression of the Roman officials. Bion, who was by
some years his senior, formed a great friendship for
him, and the two contrived to keep their rough
followers in as good order as was possible in a band of
And now came the strange incident that was to change
the course of Bion's future life. The two were
watching the road that ran from Ephesus across the
heights of Mount Tmolus to Smyrna for a tax-gatherer
who was expected to come that way with his money-bags.
It was not long before a solitary rider could be seen,
slowly making his way along the steep road which wound
up the wooded mountain side. The companions rushed
from their hiding-place, and in a few moments were at
his side. Bion seized the bridle of his mule, and the
chief called upon him to give up all the money that he
had with him. The rider, whose figure and face were
concealed by a traveller's cloak and cape, answered in a
voice of singular sweetness, "Silver and gold have I
none, but what I have I
 give thee." At the same time
he threw aside his disguise. If the brigand chief had
seen a grinning skull instead of the sweet and loving
face, with eyes full of compassion and tenderness, bent
upon him, he could not have been more startled. He
turned to fly.
The rider dismounted with an agility which no one would
have expected from so old a man, followed him, and
caught him by the cloak. "Listen to me, my son," he
said. "Four years since, I left you in the charge of
Polydorus of Smyrna. At the end of two years, when I
had finished my visiting of the churches of Asia, I
went to Smyrna. They told me that you had left the city.
Some said that you had fled to the
mountains, and were living by robbing. I went to
Polydorus. I said to him, 'Where is the treasure that I
left in your hands?' He did not know what I meant.
'You left no treasure in my hands,' he said. 'I left a
treasure which the Lord himself had committed to me,'
I answered, 'even the soul of the young man Eucrates.'
"Then I went out to seek you. For if I had trusted it
to an unfaithful steward, I should have myself to
answer for it to my Lord. But now, thanks to our
Father and His Christ, I have found it again. And you,
my son, will surely not take it from me."
 This good shepherd, who had thus sought and found his
wandering sheep upon the hills, was the Apostle St.
John. The persuasiveness of this constraining love was
such as no one could resist. Before he had finished
his appeal the young man was sobbing at his feet. The
three returned to Ephesus together, for Bion would not
leave his friend. He too had been touched by some
power that he did not understand, that seemed to dwell
in the old man's words.
The Apostle was a man of no small influence in Ephesus.
His character was of that rare sweetness and beauty
which even the world is constrained to love. And with
this love a certain awe was mingled. It was rumoured
that a Divine protection guarded him from danger. Had
he not been thrown into a caldron of burning oil and
come out unhurt? Hence he was able with little
difficulty to obtain from the Roman governor of the
province an amnesty for his two companions, and even to
get for Eucrates restitution of the property which had
been taken from him. The young man did not forget
Bion, but made him the tenant and afterwards the
purchaser of a farm which he owned in the neighbourhood
Meanwhile Bion had been listening with a heart disposed
to conviction to the instructions of
 St. John. It was
the late autumn when he had given up his brigand's
life, and he was among the candidates who presented
themselves for baptism at the Whitsuntide of the
No more devout and earnest soul was to be found among
the converts than Bion. The fiery temper which he
shared with the teacher who had brought him to Christ
was tamed rather than broken. He had found, too,
during his sojourn at Ephesus, earthly happiness as
well as heavenly peace.
One of the most trusted lay-helpers of the Church was a
devout centurion, who had served under Titus at the
siege of Jerusalem. Bion recognised in him, not
without a smile at his own foolish boastfulness in
times past, the very officer who had been appointed to
attend on his master, and who had afterwards helped to
nurse him during his tedious recovery. The old
comrades were glad to meet again.
But Bion found in Manilius' house a more powerful
attraction than friendship. This was the centurion's
adopted daughter, Rhoda. Manilius had found her, then
a girl of some seven years old, in a burning house on
that terrible day when the Holy City was destroyed.
Her father, mortally wounded in the last desperate
struggle which his countrymen had waged against the
 storming parties, had crawled back to his home,
and the child, made old beyond her years by the
dreadful experiences of those months of siege, was
sitting by the dying man, striving in vain to staunch
the flow of blood from his wounds.
Anxiety for his child mastered the Jew's hatred of
foreigners. In broken Latin he besought Manilius to
be good to his daughter. It was a strange
responsibility for a lazy and somewhat reckless
soldier, but it seemed to sober him in an instant. He
found his Tribune, and obtained permission to take his
young charge to the camp. From thence she was
transferred as soon as possible to the house of a
merchant of his acquaintance at Cæsarea.
No spoil that he could have carried off from the sack
of Jerusalem could have proved such a treasure to him
as the little Rhoda. She had learnt from her Christian
mother, who, happily for herself, had passed to her
rest just before Jerusalem was finally invested, some
Gospel truths, and Manilius listened with attention
which he might not have given to an older teacher when
she told him in her childish prattle the story of the
life and death of Jesus.
When the rewards for services in the great siege were
distributed, he received a permanent appointment at
Ephesus. Here he came under
 the influence of St.
John, and here he, his wife, and the little Rhoda were
received into the Christian community.
Rhoda was now a beautiful young woman of
two-and-twenty; but no suitor had hitherto touched her
heart. Bion, in the full strength of his matured
manhood, for he was now close upon the borders of
forty, with the double romance of his strange
conversion and his old life of adventure, took it by
storm. The lovers were married on the day after his
baptism, and took possession of the Bithynian farm
before the end of the year.
THE MARRIAGE OF BION AND RHODA
Rhoda's story has been given in the story of her
husband. She was a woman of a character gentle yet
firm, who never seemed to assert herself, whom a casual
observer might even suppose to be of a yielding temper,
but who was absolutely inflexible when any question of
right or wrong, or of the faith which she clung to with
a passionate earnestness of conviction was concerned.
The two girls, Rhoda and Cleoné, were singularly alike
in figure and face, and singularly different in
character. They were twins, and they had all the
mutual affection, one might almost say, the identity of
feeling, which is sometimes seen, a sight as beautiful
as it is strange, in those who are so related. Rhoda
was the elder,
 and the ruling spirit of the two. This
superior strength of will might be traced by a shrewd
observer in the girl's face. To a casual glance the
sisters seemed so exactly alike as to defy distinction.
But those who knew them well never confounded them
together. The dark chestnut hair and violet eyes,
rare beauties under that Southern sky, the delicately
rounded cheeks, with their wild-rose tinge of colour,
the line of forehead and exquisitely chiselled nose,
modified by the faintest curve from the severely
straight classical outline, were to be seen in both.
But Rhoda's lips were firmly compressed; Cleoné's were
parted in a faint smile; and the gaze of Rhoda's eyes
had a directness which her sister's never showed.
Rhoda's nature was of the stuff of which saints are
made; Cleoné's was rather that which gives peace and
sunshine to happy homes. Hitherto the quiet in which
the two lives had been passed had given little to
occasion anything like a divergence of will. In the
small questions that occurred in daily affairs Cleoné
had followed without hesitation the lead of her sister.
A time was now at hand which was to apply to their
affection and to Rhoda's influence a severe test.