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6. An Apprenticeship To The
The action of our characters during the night included in the last two chapters has
now come to a pause. Vetranio is awaiting his guests for the banquet; Numerian is
in the chapel, preparing for the discourse that he is to deliver to his friends; Ulpius
is meditating in his master's house; Antonina is stretched upon her couch,
caressing the precious fragment that she had saved from the ruins of her lute. All
the immediate agents of our story are, for the present, in repose.
It is our purpose to take advantage of this interval of inaction, and direct the
reader's attention to a different country from that selected as the scene of our
romance, and to such historical events of past years as connect themselves
remarkably with the early life of Numerian's perfidious convert. This man will be
found a person of great importance in the future conduct of our story. It is
necessary to the comprehension of his character, and the penetration of such of his
purposes as have been already hinted at, and may subsequently appear, that the
long course of his existence should be traced upwards to its source.
It was in the reign of Julian, when the gods of the Pagan achieved their last
victory over the Gospel of the Christian, that a decently attired man, leading by
the hand a handsome boy of fifteen years of age, entered the gates of Alexandria,
and proceeded hastily towards the high priest's dwelling in the Temple of Serapis.
After a stay of some hours at his destination, the man left the city alone as hastily
as he entered it, and was never after seen at Alexandria. The boy remained in the
abode of the high priest until the next day, when he was solemnly devoted to the
service of the temple.
The boy was the young Emilius, afterwards called Ulpius. He was nephew to the
high priest, to whom he had been confided by his father, a merchant of Rome.
Ambition was the ruling passion of the father of Emilius. It had prompted him to
aspire to every distinction granted to the successful by the state, but it had not
gifted him with the powers requisite to turn his aspirations in any instance into
acquisitions. He passed through existence a disappointed man, planning but never
performing, seeing his more fortunate brother rising to the highest distinction in
the priesthood, and finding himself irretrievably condemned to exist in the
affluent obscurity ensured to him by his mercantile pursuits.
When his brother Macrinus, on Julian's accession to the imperial throne, arrived at
the pinnacle of power and celebrity as high priest of the Temple of Serapis, the
unsuccessful merchant lost all hope of rivalling his relative in the pursuit of
distinction. His insatiable ambition, discarded from himself, now settled on one of
his infant sons. He determined that his child should be successful where he had
failed. Now that his brother had secured the highest elevation in the temple, no
calling could offer more direct advantages to a member of his household that the
priesthood. His family had been from their earliest origin rigid Pagans. One of
them had already attained to the most distinguished honours of his gorgeous