And they were wroth with him and said to him, `Thou hast led us into the desert that we might hearken to thee. Wilt thou send us away hungry, and the great multitude that thou hast made to follow thee?'
And he answered them and said, `I will not talk to you about God.'
And the multitude murmured against him and said to him `Thou hast led us into the desert, and hast given us no food to eat. Talk to us about God and it will suffice us.'
But he answered them not a word. For he knew that if he spake to them about God he would give away his treasure.
And his disciples went away sadly, and the multitude of people returned to their own homes. And many died on the way.
And when he was alone he rose up and set his face to the moon, and journeyed for seven moons, speaking to no man nor making any answer. And when the seventh moon had waned he reached that desert which is the desert of the Great River. And having found a cavern in which a Centaur had once dwelt, he took it for his place of dwelling, and made himself a mat of reeds on which to lie, and became a hermit. And every hour the Hermit praised God that He had suffered him to keep some knowledge of Him and of His wonderful greatness.
Now, one evening, as the Hermit was seated before the cavern in which he had made his place of dwelling, he beheld a young man of evil and beautiful face who passed by in mean apparel and with empty hands. Every evening with empty hands the young man passed by, and every morning he returned with his hands full of purple and pearls. For he was a Robber and robbed the caravans of the merchants.
And the Hermit looked at him and pitied him. But he spake not a word. For he knew that he who speaks a word loses his faith.
And one morning, as the young man returned with his hands full of purple and pearls, he stopped and frowned and stamped his foot upon the sand, and said to the Hermit: `Why do you look at me ever in this manner as I pass by? What is it that I see in your eyes? For no man has looked at me before in this manner. And the thing is a thorn and a trouble to me.'
And the Hermit answered him and said, `What you see in my eyes is pity. Pity is what looks out at you from my eyes.'
And the young man laughed with scorn, and cried to the Hermit in a bitter voice, and said to him, `I have purple and pearls in my hands, and you have but a mat of reeds on which to lie. What pity should you have for me? And for what reason have you this pity?'
`I have pity for you,' said the Hermit, `because you have no knowledge of God.'
`Is this knowledge of God a precious thing?' asked the young man, and he came close to the mouth of the cavern.
`It is more precious than all the purple and the pearls of the world,' answered the Hermit.
`And have you got it?' said the young Robber, and he came closer still.
`Once, indeed,' answered the Hermit, `I possessed the perfect knowledge of God. But in my foolishness I parted with it, and divided it amongst others. Yet even now is such knowledge as remains to me more precious than purple or pearls.'
And when the young Robber heard this he threw away the purple and the pearls that he was bearing in his hands, and drawing a sharp sword of curved steel he said to the Hermit, `Give me, forthwith, this
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