MALCHUS THE MONK
 WHEN the learned St. Jerome was living in Antioch with
Evagrius the priest, he heard much of a holy man named
Malchus, dwelling in a village three miles away, and
Jerome was filled with desire to go to see him. On his
side, many tales of the wonderful knowledge of Jerome
had reached the ears of Malchus, and gladly did he
welcome his guest and answer his questions.
"Tell me somewhat of yourself," said Jerome at last,
"and how you came here," and Malchus answered in this
"In Nisibis I was born, and as my parents had no other
child, they set great store by me, and thought I
deserved great riches and honour. When I came to be a
man they wished me to marry that they might have
grand-children to play with in their old age, but my
heart was not with them. "Let me become a monk," I said,
"and serve the Lord." But to this they would not
listen, and even threatened me with imprisonment and
punishment. For a while I tried to prevail with them to
grant me my wish, but all being of no use, I departed
secretly in the night, carrying with me only what money
I needed for my journey.
"In the beginning I had resolved to go into a
monastery of the East, but, as the Persians were about
to make war on the Greeks, I changed my mind, and
turned westwards beyond the river Euphrates, to the
south of Aleppo. There, in that desert country I
 several years, and the monks in the house held me to be
a holy man, because I obeyed the rules, and fasted
often and prayed much. But in this they were mistaken,
for the love of money, which is the root of all evil,
held its place deep down in my soul.
"This no one guessed, least of all I myself, till it
was made known to me after this manner.
"News came to me of my father's death, and the evil one
put it into my heart that it was my duty to return home
and comfort my mother and look after the property
which had come to me, lest any of it should be wasted;
and that after his death I should have the more to give
to the poor. And more than that, I might even build a
monastery myself, and die an abbot.
"These thoughts took possession of me, but for long I
kept silence concerning them, till at length the abbot
of the monastery perceived that all was not well with
me, and questioned me about the matter.
"When I told him that I desired to return home, he
shook his head and warned me against listening to the
voice of the tempter. But finding my resolve to go was
still unchanged, he ceased to urge me, saying sadly:
" 'My son, I see that the love of money has brought
this evil. You will not hearken to my words, yet know
that the sheep which strays from the flock, straightway
falls a prey unto the wolves.'
"So we parted, and next day I set forth and journeyed
as far as the town of Edessa, where I stayed, hoping to
hear of a company of travellers going towards Nisibis,
for greatly was that road infested with robbers.
"After some weeks, seventy people were gathered
together who were desirous of making the journey, and
we set forth. But we had not got very far when we
perceived a band of the terrible Arabs approaching us,
 and we were forced to surrender so as to save our
lives. I was seated by order of their leader upon a
camel, with a woman behind me, and much we both feared
that we should fall off, for we were not used to these
awkward beasts. Thus we travelled back to the camp and
there the Arab chief led the woman and me into his
tent, and commanded us to obey his wife, and to look on
her as our mistress. Then woolen garments were given me
and I was sent to tend the sheep and the goats, which
rejoiced me greatly, for I was alone, and felt myself
treading in the steps of the sons of Jacob, and of
David the King.
"Now it often happened that for the space of a month I
was left to do as I would, but if my master was passing
near the place of pasture, he would stop to see in what
case his sheep might be. And when he found them fat and
healthy he knew that I had tended them faithfully, and
he praised and rewarded me.
"In this manner I lived for some time, eating goat's
cheese, and drinking milk, and in my solitude I had
much time for pondering on the past, as well as on the
future. It was my own fault that I had fallen into
captivity, and often did I seem to behold the face of
the abbot of the monastery that I had left, in my
willfulness and greed of gain.
"I was sitting thus one day, thinking thoughts of
sadness and shame, when my eyes fell upon an ant's
nest, close at my feet. Busily the little creatures
came and went, and as I watched them day by day it
appeared as if they had some purpose in their goings,
and did not wander idly to and fro. They had made a
narrow passage which led into the nest, and though
multitudes were hurrying up and down it, none got in
the way of his fellows. Some carried seeds which they
had picked up from outside to store them in their
garner that they might not be without food in winter;
others were bearing
 on their backs their comrades who had met with
accidents in the world that was so full of great big
creatures, and these they seemed to be taking to some
spot where they might be healed. And as I looked, I
observed that at the entrance a crowd of ants which had
settled themselves, as I guessed, unlawfully in the
nest, were being thrust out to make room for those
whose home it was, while others again were loaded with
grains of dust, perhaps to strengthen the walls of
their nest, so that these might not be washed away in
the rains of winter.
"All this and more I saw, and wondered at the wisdom of
those small insects, and marvelled not that Solomon had
bidden us learn from them.
"So the days went by, and more and more I longed to
leave the tents of those Arab thieves, and to be once
more among my own people. And one evening I went to the
woman who was my fellow captive, and was employed by
the chief's wife to make cheeses out of the milk of the
beasts of the tribe, and told her that it was in my
mind to escape. On hearing this, she besought me to
take her also, that she might seek a nunnery in which
to end her days; to which I consented.
"Then I killed two large goats, and fashioned their
skins into water-bottles, and roasted the flesh, so
that we should not be without food on our journey, and
as soon as it was dark we set forth. In spite of our
terrors lest we should be pursued, the road seemed
short, for were we not free? and quickly we went till
we came to a wide river.
" 'How can we cross this?' asked
the woman. 'It is no
use; we must turn back, and they will assuredly kill
"But I soothed her, and bade her be of good courage,
for a way had been made plain to me. And this was the
 "I took the water skins, and blew them up till they
were quite tight, and tied the necks tightly so that
the air could not escape. Then I placed them in the
water, and we sat upon them, holding each other's hands
and paddling with our feet till we got towards the
middle of the river, when the current carried us down
and swept us to the other side.
"Crossing the River."
"Deep was our joy at finding ourselves on dry ground
again, and we drank of the river, not knowing when we
might again taste water; then we started afresh with
hope in our hearts, though we were ever looking behind
to see if the Arabs were pursuing after us.
"For this cause, and also by reason of the burning sun,
we hid ourselves in the day, and travelled only when
night had fallen.
"We had gone five days in this manner, and were
beginning to feel ourselves safe, when on turning our
heads as we had grown used to do almost without
thinking of it, we beheld the Arab chief and one of his
men riding after us, with naked swords in their hands.
Heretofore we had kept ourselves concealed till the sun
had set, but we had become somewhat careless, and
besides our water had failed us, and we were anxious to
reach some wells not very far off. Therefore when we
beheld our enemies, and knew that they had seen us, so
great was our agony that the sun itself appeared to
grow dark. Escape seemed impossible, yet were we
thankful to note a cave among the rocks, in which all
the snakes that dwell in the desert had taken refuge,
for they like not the heat of the sun. The woman who
was with me had at most times a great dread of
serpents, but now she heeded them not at all, in her
fear of the Arabs. Hardly able to walk from the
trembling of our legs, we staggered towards the cave,
saying to each other:
" 'If the Lord help us, this cave shall be unto us a
 house of deliverance, but if He leaves us to our
captors, it will be our grave.'
"Our master and his followers had no difficulty in
tracking our footsteps as far as the cave's mouth,
where they alighted from their camels and prepared to
enter. Crouching in the dark we watched, and felt that
only a few moments more of life were left us, and
already the sharp edge of the steel seemed to strike
cold against our throats.
" 'Come out you dogs!' cried the chief, but our tongues
were as if frozen, and we could not have spoken had we
" 'Do you think I do not know that you are there?' he
shouted again, but as we were still silent, he turned
to his comrade, and said,
" 'I will hold the camels; go you in and drive them out
with the point of the sword.' And the young man did his
bidding, and entered the cave about five paces. There
he stood still, for the light of the sun was yet in his
eyes, and all appeared black darkness inside the cave.
So near were we that he could have touched us with his
hand, had he been able to see us, but he could not; and
we scarcely dared to breathe.
" 'Come out, O wicked ones! do you think you can escape
me?' he cried, but even as he spoke, something large
and yellow flew past us in the air, and knocked him on
the ground, and there was silence, save for the sound
of the lioness dragging his dead body over the floor of
the cave, to where her cub was lying.
HOW THE LIONNESS SAVED MALCHUS.
"Now his master outside supposed that we had
overpowered the young man, so that he was unable to cry
out; therefore he drew his sword and ran to the mouth
of the cave, calling to us. But the light of the sun
was in his eyes also and what had befallen the young
man, befel him likewise.
 "And having slain the Arab chief as well as his
comrade, the lioness took up her cub in her mouth, and
went forth into the desert.
"So close had death been to us that we seemed to have
no strength left to move, and it was not till dawn next
day that we ventured forth, to where the camels were
lying, with food and skins of water on their backs.
After eating and drinking we felt strong again, and
mounting the camels we rode across the rest of the
desert, till we reached a camp which had been pitched
by the Greeks. Here we told our tale, and the officer
in command of it sent us with an escort of armed
soldiers to one Sabinus, then Duke of Mesopotamia, in
whose country we were at last safe. Sabinus gave us the
price of the camels, and we set forth to the nearest
convent, where I placed the woman who had shared so
many dangers with me. As for myself, the love of money
had departed from my heart, and with it my wish to go
to Nisibis. So I returned to my own monastery, where I
dwelt for many years, till in the end I came hither.
That is my tale."
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