here is not much time left.”Augustine turned to me, his body silhouetted against the fires that were beginning to burn in the outskirts of the city. “What did you say?””I said, there is not much time left.”The old man nodded slowly and sat down by the window. “I wrote once that the more I thought about time, the less I understood it.” He looked at me, his eyes still keen after a lifetime of reading and scholarship.
“But you are right: whatever time is, there is little of it left for us.” He turned to the fire-bright night. “Rome has fallen, the city of Man taken by men. Vandals besiege us. This city too will be lost–for if Rome falls, how can Hippo hold?–and then night will come. Will there be any spark of the Faith left to light the darkness?”A lamp sputtered on the desk where I sat, casting minimal light on the writing tools laid out before me. At its noise, he turned to me.
“It was good of Possidius to send you, and brave of you to come.””The siege is not tight. It was easy for me to slip through. Besides, I know Hippo quite well.
“”How so?””I was born here.””I don’t remember you. What family do you belong to?””Oh, we moved away a long time ago. You wouldn’t know us.
“”I try to know all my people.””We weren’t here long.””I see.” The bishop nodded.
“My brother bishop will send aid if there is any to send. But Possidius by name and prudens by nature; we will not hold our breaths. You have written down all I said?”I patted the paper on the desk before me.”Yes, Dominus.””Will you be able to get out through the siege?””Yes, although it grows more difficult and the bribes necessary larger. Is there anything else you want to say?”The old man got up, but stood irresolutely by the window. However, he was not looking out over his city, but rather staring at me.”There is something.
About my son.” Augustine fell silent. I sat with eyes downcast waiting for him to speak. He was the most revered bishop in the Church, after all. But though I did not look up I could feel his gaze, heavy upon me.”How did Adeodatus die?” I asked suddenly, unnerved by his scrutiny.
“You do not say what happened in your Confessions.””You’ve read…
” Augustine began quickly, then stopped and laughed. “It still gratifies me when men say they have read my work. Lord, when will I learn that this is vanity? But you are right, I do not say how he died.””Why not?”Augustine looked at me and his scrutiny was such that I looked to the desk and its papers and scrolls and wax and ink.”You have no son, I take it?””No, Dominus.”