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7. In those years, when I first began to teach rhetoric in my native town, I
had gained a very dear friend, about my own age, who was associated with me
in the same studies. Like myself, he was just rising up into the flower of youth.
He had grown up with me from childhood and we had been both school fellows and
playmates. But he was not then my friend, nor indeed ever became my friend,
in the true sense of the term; for there is no true friendship save between
those thou dost bind together and who cleave to thee by that love which is "shed
abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who is given to us." Still, it was
a sweet friendship, being ripened by the zeal of common studies. Moreover, I
had turned him away from the true faith--which he had not soundly and thoroughly
mastered as a youth--and turned him toward those superstitious and harmful fables
which my mother mourned in me. With me this man went wandering off in error
and my soul could not exist without him. But behold thou wast close behind thy
fugitives--at once a God of vengeance and a Fountain of mercies, who dost turn
us to thyself by ways that make us marvel. Thus, thou didst take that man out
of this life when he had scarcely completed one whole year of friendship with
me, sweeter to me than all the sweetness of my life thus far.
8. Who can show forth all thy praise
for that which he has experienced in himself alone? What was it that thou didst
do at that time, O my God; how unsearchable are the depths of thy judgments!
For when, sore sick of a fever, he long lay unconscious in a death sweat and
everyone despaired of his recovery, he was baptized without his knowledge. And
I myself cared little, at the time, presuming that his soul would retain what
it had taken from me rather than what was done to his unconscious body. It turned
out, however, far differently, for he was revived and restored. Immediately,
as soon as I could talk to him--and I did this as soon as he was able, for I
never left him and we hung on each other overmuch--I tried to jest with him,
supposing that he also would jest in return about that baptism which he had
received when his mind and senses were inactive, but which he had since learned
that he had received. But he recoiled from me, as if I were his enemy, and,
with a remarkable and unexpected freedom, he admonished me that, if I desired
to continue as his friend, I must cease to say such things. Confounded and confused,
I concealed my feelings till he should get well and his health recover enough
to allow me to deal with him as I wished. But he was snatched away from my madness,
that with thee he might be preserved for my consolation. A few days after, during
my absence, the fever returned and he died.
9. My heart was utterly darkened by this sorrow and everywhere
I looked I saw death. My native place was a torture room
to me and my father's house a strange unhappiness. And all
the things I had done with him--now that he was gone--became
a frightful torment. My eyes sought him everywhere, but
they did not see him; and I hated all places because he
was not in them, because they could not say to me, "Look,
he is coming," as they did when he was alive and absent.
I became a hard riddle to myself, and I asked my soul why
she was so downcast and why this disquieted me so sorely.
But she did not know how to answer me. And if I said, "Hope
thou in God," she very properly disobeyed me,
because that dearest friend she had lost was as an actual
man, both truer and better than the imagined deity she was
ordered to put her hope in. Nothing but tears were sweet
to me and they took my friend's place in my heart's desire.