Chapter IX.—Innocent Alypius, Being Apprehended as a Thief, is Set at Liberty by the Cleverness of an Architect.
14. But this was all being stored up in his memory for a medicine hereafter. As was that also, that when he was yet studying under me at Carthage, and was meditating at noonday in the market-place upon what he had to recite (as scholars are wont to be exercised), Thou sufferedst him to be apprehended as a thief by the officers of the market-place. For no other reason, I apprehend, didst Thou, O our God, suffer it, but that he who was in the future to prove so great a man should now begin to learn that, in judging of causes, man should not with a reckless credulity readily be condemned by man. For as he was walking up and down alone before the judgment-seat with his tablets and pen, lo, a young man, one of the scholars, the real thief, privily bringing a hatchet, got in without Alypius seeing him as far as the leaden bars which protect the silversmiths shops, and began to cut away the lead. But the noise of the hatchet being heard, the silversmiths below began to make a stir, and sent to take in custody whomsoever they should find. But the thief, hearing their voices, ran away, leaving his hatchet, fearing to be taken with it. Now Alypius, who had not seen him come in, caught sight of him as he went out, and noted with what speed he made off. And, being curious to know the reasons, he entered the place, where, finding the hatchet, he stood wondering and pondering, when behold, those that were sent caught him alone, hatchet in hand, the noise whereof had startled them and brought them thither. They lay hold of him and drag him away, and, gathering the tenants of the market-place about them, boast of having taken a notorious thief, and thereupon he was being led away to apppear before the judge.
15. But thus far was he to be instructed. For immediately, O Lord, Thou camest to the succour of his innocency, whereof Thou wert the sole witness. For, as he was being led either to prison or to punishment, they were met by a p. 97 certain architect, who had the chief charge of the public buildings. They were specially glad to come across him, by whom they used to be suspected of stealing the goods lost out of the market-place, as though at last to convince him by whom these thefts were committed. He, however, had at divers times seen Alypius at the house of a certain senator, whom he was wont to visit to pay his respects; and, recognising him at once, he took him aside by the hand, and inquiring of him the cause of so great a misfortune, heard the whole affair, and commanded all the rabble then present (who were very uproarious and full of threatenings) to go with him. And they came to the house of the young man who had committed the deed. There, before the door, was a lad so young as not to refrain from disclosing the whole through the fear of injuring his master. For he had followed his master to the market-place. Whom, so soon as Alypius recognised, he intimated it to the architect; and he, showing the hatchet to the lad, asked him to whom it belonged. “To us,” quoth he immediately; and on being further interrogated, he disclosed everything. Thus, the crime being transferred to that house, and the rabble shamed, which had begun to triumph over Alypius, he, the future dispenser of Thy word, and an examiner of numerous causes in Thy Church, 461 went away better experienced and instructed.
“Alypius became Bishop of Thagaste (Aug. De Gestis c. Emerit. secs. 1 and 5). On the necessity which bishops were under of hearing secular causes, and its use, see Bingham, ii. c. 7.”—E. B. P.