318. Departure from Tyre on a Cretan Ship.

4th November 1945. prev home next

Tyre awakes among gusts of mistral. The sea is sparkling with bright white-blue little waves, under a blue sky and white cirri moving up there, as the foaming waves move down here. The sun is enjoying a clear day after so much dull bad weather.

« I see» says Peter, standing up in the boat where he slept. « It's time to go. And “it” (and he points at the sea, which is rough even within the entrance of the port) sprayed us with lustral water...

H'm! Let us go and fulfill the second part of the sacrifice... Tell me, James... Don't you think that we are taking two victims to be sacrificed? I do.»

« So do I, Simon. And... I thank the Master for thinking highly of us. But... I would have preferred not to see so much grief. And I would never have thought I was to see all this...»

« Neither would I... But... You know? I say that the Master would not have done this, if the Sanhedrin had not poked their noses into the matter...»

« He in fact said so... But who told the Sanhedrin? That is what I would like to know...»

« Who? Eternal God, make me be silent and do not let me think! I made this vow to get rid of the suspicion that tortures me. Help me, James, not to think. Speak of something else.»

« Of what? Of the weather?»

« Yes, it's better.»

« The trouble is that I know nothing about the sea...»

« I think that we are going to be tossed...» says Peter looking at the sea.

« No! Only small waves. It's nothing. It was worse yesterday. It will be lovely to look at this moderate sea from the upper deck of the ship. John will like it... It will make him sing. Which ship will it be?»

He stands up as well, looking at the ships on the other side, the high superstructures of which become visible particularly when their boat is raised by the up-and-down motion of the waves. They examine the various ships, guessing... The port is becoming alive with people.

Peter asks a boatman, or the like, who is bustling on the dock: « Can you tell me whether in the port over there, there is the ship of... wait a moment till I read his name... (and he takes out of his belt a tied parchment), here it is: Nicomedes Philadelphius of Philip, a Cretan from Paleocaster...»

« Oh! The great navigator! Who does not know him? I think that he is known not only from the Pearl Gulf to the pillars of Hercules, but also as far as the cold seas, where they say that night lasts for months! You are a sailor, how come you do not know him?»

« No. I don't know him, but I shall soon meet him, because I am looking for him on behalf of our friend Lazarus of Theophilus, formerly governor in Syria.»

« Ah! When I was a sailor - I am old now - he was in Antioch... Wonderful times... Your friend? And you are looking for Nicomedes, the Cretan? You need not worry, then. See that ship over there, the highest one, with flying colours? That's his ship. He will sail before the sixth hour. He is not afraid of the sea!...»

« In fact there is no need to be afraid of it. It's not really rough.» But a high wave gives him the lie, drenching both of them from head to foot.

« Yesterday it was too calm, today too rough. It's really mad. I prefer the lake...» grumbles Peter drying his face.

« I advise you to go into the basin. Everybody goes there.»

« But we are leaving. We are going in the ship of... of... wait: Nicomedes, and all the rest!» says Peter who cannot remember the strange names of the Cretan.

« You are not going to load your boat also on the ship?»

« Of course not!»

« Well, there is room in the basin for boats and men to look after them until you come back. A coin a day until you come back. I suppose you are coming back...»

« Certainly. We are going and will come back after seeing the state of Lazarus' garden, that's all.»

« Ah! You are his stewards?»

« Yes, and something more...»

« Well. Come with me. I will show you the place. It's really made for those who leave their boats there, like you...»

« Wait... Here are the others. We will be with you in a moment.» And Peter jumps on the quay and runs to meet his companions who are approaching.

« Did you sleep well, brother?» asks Andrew kindly.

« Like a baby in a cradle. And I was lulled to sleep with a lullaby...»

« I think that you had also a good wash» says Thaddeus smiling.

« Yes! The sea... is so kind that it washed my face to wake me up.»

« It looks very rough to me» remarks Matthew.

« Oh! But if you knew with whom we are going! One who is known even to the fish of the ice-cold seas.»

« Have you already seen him?»

« No, but I was told by one who says that there is a place for boats, a depot... Come, we will unload the chests and will go, because Nicodemus, no, Nicomedes, the Cretan, will be sailing soon.»

« In the Cyprus channel we shall be tossed about in good style» says John of Endor.

« Shall we?» asks Matthew anxiously.

« Yes. But God will help us.»

They are near their boat once again.

« Here we are, man. We are unloading this luggage and then we will go, since you are so kind.»

« We help one another...» says the man from Tyre.

« Of course! We help one another, we ought to help one another. We ought to love one another, because that is the Law of God...»

« I am told that a new Prophet has risen in Israel and that is what He preaches. Is it true?»

« Is it true! That and much more! And the miracles that He works!

Come on, Andrew, heave ho! heave ho! a little to your right. Right, when the wave lifts the boat... There you are, it's up!... I was saying, man: and what miracles! Dead people rise from death, sick people are cured, the blind see, thieves repent and even... See? If He were here, He would say to the sea: “Be still” and the sea would calm down... Can you manage, John? Wait, I'll come and help you. Hold the boat still and close... Up, up... a little more... Simon, take the handle... Watch your hand, Judas! Up, up... Thank you, man... Watch you don't fall into the water, you sons of Alphaeus... Up... Here we are! Praised be the Lord! We had less trouble in stowing them than in pulling them up... But my arms are sore after yesterday's exercise... So, I was saying about the sea...»

« But is it true?»

« True? I was there and saw it!»

« Were you? Oh!... But where was it?»

« On the lake of Gennesaret. Come in the boat, while going to the basin, I will tell you...» and he goes away with the man and James, rowing in the canal towards the basin.

« And Peter says that he does not know how to do...» remarks the Zealot. « Instead he has a talent for telling things in a simple way and he is more efficient than anybody else.»

« What I like so much in him is his honesty» says the man from Endor.

« And his perseverance» adds Matthew.

« And his humility. He does not pride himself on being our “head”! He works more than anybody and worries more about us than about himself...» says James of Alphaeus.

« And he is so virtuous in his feelings. A good brother. Nothing more...» concludes Syntyche.

« So it is all settled: you will be considered as brother and sister?» the Zealot asks the two disciples after some time.

« Yes, it is better so. And it is not a lie, it is spiritual truth. He is my elder brother, of different marriage, but of the same father. The Father is God, the different marriages: Israel and Greece; and John is older, as one can see, by age, and - and one cannot see it but it is true - by being a disciple before me. Here is Simon coming back...»

« It's all done. Let's go.»

Through the narrow isthmus they pass into the other port carrying the chests on their shoulders. The man from Tyre, familiar as he is with the place, takes them through the narrow passages between piles of bales of goods under very wide sheds, to the powerful ship of the Cretan, who is preparing to depart. He shouts to those on board to lower the gangway that they had already lifted.

« It's not possible. We have finished loading» shouts the head of the crew.

« He has letters to hand to you» says the man pointing to Simon of Jonah.

« Letters? From whom?»

« From Lazarus of Theophilus, the former governor of Antioch.»

« Ah! I will tell the boss.»

Simon says to the other Simon and to Matthew: « You will speak now. I am too coarse to speak to a man like him...»

« No. You are the head and you will speak because you are doing very well. We will help you, eventually. But there will be no need.»

« Where is the man with the letters? Let him come up» says a man as swarthy as an Egyptian: he is thin, handsome, agile, severe looking, about forty years old, or a little older, and looks down from the high ship's side. And he orders the gangway to be lowered.

Simon of Jonah, who has put on his tunic and mantle while waiting for a reply, goes up with a dignified bearing. The Zealot and Matthew follow him.

« Peace to you, man» greets Peter gravely.

« Hail. Where is the letter?» asks the Cretan.

« Here it is.»

The Cretan breaks the seal, unfolds the roll and reads.

« The messengers of Theophilus' family are welcome! The Cretans have not forgotten that he was good and kind. But be quick. Have you much to load?»

« What you see on the quay.»

« And how many are you...»

« Ten.»

« Good. We will find accommodation for the woman. You will adapt yourselves as best you can. Quick. We must set sail before the wind becomes stronger and that will happen after the sixth hour.»

With rending whistling he orders the chests to be loaded and stowed. Then the apostles and the two disciples go on board. The gangway is lifted, the ship's side is closed, the moorings are picked up, the sails are hoisted. And the ship sets out rolling steeply while leaving the harbour. Then the sails stretch out creaking, as the wind fills them, and pitching heavily the ship puts out to sea sailing fast towards Antioch...

Notwithstanding the very strong wind, John and Syntyche, one close to the other, holding on to a tackle, aft, are looking at the coast, the land of Palestine move away, and they weep...

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