The Palace of Gondoforus
The Apostle Thomas—he that doubted, and was convinced of the very presence of his beloved Master after His death, only when he had with his own hand touched the Wounded Side—was, after the Saviour's ascension, preaching in Caesaria, when Christ one day appeared to him, saying: "The King of the Indies—Gondoforus—purposes to build a palace which shall be more beautiful than any other upon earth, yea, even more rich than that of the ruler of Rome. He sends his provost, Abbanes, to seek out men skilled in building. Do thou go and build this palace."
Thomas answered (ah, Thomas, Thomas, doubting still!): "Oh, my Lord, send me whither Thou wilt, only send me not to the people of India!"
But Christ replied: "Nay, thither must thou go, for am I not here to guard thee, and am I not thy Keeper? Carry the Gospel to the heathen of India, and thereafter shalt thou come to Me by the crown of martyrdom."
So, with Abbanes, the provost, Thomas journeyed, and arrived after many adventures in the kingdom of Gondoforus.
The King received him with kindness, and made known to him the manner of palace he desired. Fair must it be indeed, fashioned of most costly materials. Then into Thomas's hands he confided the store of gold and precious. stones with which the dwelling-place of kings was to be ornamented, and after many instructions, cautions, and words expressive of confidence and goodwill, Gondoforus departed for a distant province whither he must journey and where he must long remain.
For two years he was absent; he then returned, thinking to find his palace completed, or if not all complete, yet in such state that he might take pleasure in the sight of it, and picture in his mind how, in the end, it would appear.
At first with dismay, but soon with anger, he learned that of his palace not the least beginning had been made, not one stone had been laid upon another, not one beam hewn. Nor was this all: the treasure which he had left to be spent in its making was gone, all gone, for Thomas had given it, down to the last copper coin, to the sick and the poor, the needy, the hungry, and the distressed. Numberless men had the Apostle converted and baptized in those two years.
"Is this how thou dost carry out my commands, and how thou dost repay my trust?" questioned the King.
"Thus do I carry out the behests of my King, and even so do I fulfil His trust," replied Thomas.
In great wrath, Gondoforus bade his attendants cast Thomas into a dungeon, there to await his pleasure, for he purposed to devise for him, and for Abbanes as well, a death of long and carefully planned agony.
The King's brother, Gad, at this time became sick and died. Gondoforus grieved, for his brother was most dear to him. On the fourth day after Gad's death, as the King sat mourning beside him where he lay in state—suddenly the dead man arose upon his bed and was alive.
The King's joy was profound as he fell upon his brother's neck, but Gad, motioning him aside, said: "The man whom thou dost purpose to put to torture, to slay and to burn, is the friend of God, and the angels of God serve him. Send forthwith to release him, for black had been thy sin hadst thou done aught against him."
He then explained his meaning to the astounded King.
"When I had died, angels came to me and took me to Paradise. There they showed inc a palace more wonderful than any ever seen by mortal eyes. I approached it by a road of noble width bordered with gracious palms; in its centre stretched a limpid water-way whereon floated lotus-blossoms of many colours, and great white birds. Beside this pool wandered souls in bliss, singing heavenly chants, arrayed in garments of the hues of flowers, most delicate.
"When we had approached we mounted by gently gradual steps to the palace. Its walls arose like rosy mist from a terrace flagged with precious tiles. Those walls were more dazzling than alabaster, yea, more pure than the snow of the mountain-tops illumined by the first flush of dawn. And windows there were, some vast and open to the ineffable light of Heaven, and some screened with tracery subtle as tendrils of vines. The walls were crowned with domes iridescent as bubbles that form upon the sea's edge, and minarets lifted themselves into the air, light and slender like darts. Within, the floors were silver, reflecting all things as in a mirror; the walls were gold, wrought by artisans skilled beyond men of the earth. Everywhere gems burned with lustre unspeakable, radiant yet subdued, and fountains flowed cool and sweet to the ear . . .
"But enough, . . . what thou must know, my brother, is even this . . . that the accompanying angels showed me these wonders, saying: ' This is the palace built by Thomas for thy brother, King Gondoforus. He is not worthy to inhabit it, but thou mayest return to earth and buy it from him.'"
Having spoken, Gad hastened to the prison, released Thomas and Abbanes, and clad them in precious vestments.
The King then came, and in contrition fell at Thomas's feet, entreating his pardon, and Thomas said: "They that are rich in the treasure of Heaven have little care for the things of this earth. In the kingdom of Heaven are many mansions like that seen by thy brother, which have been there since the beginning. They that have faith, and they that do charity, may buy them. Thy riches, O King, may get thee such a palace, but they may not follow thee thither."
The King humbly answered "Since it pleases God that this one be mine, mine let it remain, and do thou now, most holy man, build another like unto it for my brother!"