And I in my desire to rescue the man from such misery repeatedly implored the Empress, my mother, to come and see the procession. For to tell the truth we were concerned about the men for the Emperor’s sake, for in them he would be deprived of such good soldiers, especially Michael on whom the heaviest sentence had been pronounced. Accordingly, when I saw how humbled he was by his misfortune, I tried to force my mother, as I was saying, in order that the men might perchance, be saved from the danger which stood so near them. For the conductors were leading the procession very slowly with the purpose of giving an opportunity for pardon being granted to the guilty.
God before the Mother of God
But as she delayed coming (for she was sitting with the Emperor and they were conjointly making intercessions to God before the Mother of God) I went down and standing fearfully outside the doors, for I did not dare to go in, I tried to draw her out by signs. And finally she was persuaded and came out to see the sight. When she saw Michael she pitied him and ran back to the Emperor, shedding bitter tears, and besought him, not once or twice, but repeatedly, to spare Michael’s eyes. He at once dispatched a messenger to stop the executioners; and, by hurrying, the man got there just before they had passed inside the ‘Hands’ as they were called; for he who has once passed them, can no longer be saved from his fate.
For the Emperors had fixed up these bronze hands in a very conspicuous place on a lofty stone arch with the fixed intention that if a man, condemned to death by law, should be short of them, and on the way receive a pardon from the hand of the Emperor, he was to be freed from his punishment. For the Hands signified that the Emperor took the men back into his arms and held them firmly, and did not loose them from the hands of his mercy. But if they passed the Hands, this was a sign that in all truth the imperial majesty rejected them. The fate of men under punishment is therefore in the hands of fortune, which I interpret as the decree of God, and it is right, therefore, to implore His help. For either mercy reaches them short of the Hands and the wretches are delivered from danger, or they have passed beyond the Hands and are far from salvation.
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